Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 3, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Photo: Antiquities Exposed by Arab Digging on Temple Mount - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
    A photo of a massive trench the Islamic authorities are digging on the Temple Mount - Judaism's holiest site - shows what appears to be a chopped up carved stone from Jewish Temple-era antiquity.
    Archaeologist Eilat Mazar analyzed the photo and said it might be part of a Jewish Temple wall Israeli archaeologists charge the Muslim authorities found and have been attempting to destroy.
    If authenticated, the wall would be one of the most important Temple Mount archaeological discoveries in recent history.
    "It certainly looks like Second Temple antiquity and could very well be part of a Second Temple courtyard wall," Mazer said.
    "It's crucial this wall is inspected. The Temple Mount ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform, meaning anything found is likely from the Temple itself," she said.
    See also Additional Photos: Temple Mount Destruction (One Jerusalem)

Israel Campus Beat
- September 2, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    Is Syria Serious about Peace?

Pentagon Three-Day Blitz Plan for Iran - Sarah Baxter (Sunday Times-UK)
    The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians' military capability in three days.
    Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that U.S. military planners were not preparing for "pinprick strikes" against Iran's nuclear facilities. "They're about taking out the entire Iranian military," he said.
    President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East "under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust." He warned that the U.S. and its allies would confront Iran "before it is too late."

Kurds Flee as Iran Shells Northern Iraq - Yahya Barzanji (Associated Press)
    "Some 20 shells hit our village in a single day last week. We were crying as we prayed to God to protect us from the bombs of the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Serwa Ibrahim, one of the few remaining villagers in Mardow, Iraq, about 25 miles from the Iranian border.
    Iranian troops have been bombing border areas for weeks against suspected positions of the Free Life Party, or PEJAK.
    Iran says PEJAK - which seeks autonomy for Kurds in Iran - launches attacks inside Iran from bases in Iraq.
    The Kurdish region's interior minister, Othman Haji Mahmoud, told the Kurdish regional parliament Tuesday that the Iranian shelling led to the displacement of some 450 families in 20 villages, adding that several people were wounded in addition to material damages.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Babies Evacuated After Palestinian Rocket Lands Next to Israeli Day Care Center
    A Palestinian rocket landed in a courtyard next to a crowded day care center in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Monday morning, one of seven rockets fired at the town. At the day care center, caregivers and female soldiers tried to calm screaming children as mothers hurried in to take them home. Nearby, police sappers investigated the rocket's remnants. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Iran Claims 3,000 Uranium Centrifuges - Nasser Karimi
    Iran's president said Sunday that his country is now running 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium for its nuclear program. A report by the UN nuclear watchdog Thursday had put the number closer to 2,000. "We have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week," said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Hamas Forces Shoot Own Supporters at Rally; One Dead - Isabel Kershner
    Shots from Hamas security forces hit the group's own supporters in Gaza on Saturday during a rally near the Egyptian border. Muhammad Qdaih, 17, was killed and several other demonstrators were wounded at the rally, called by Hamas to protest the closing of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Members of the Hamas police force fired into the air to disperse protesters who were trying to dash into Egypt, witnesses said.
        Tensions mounted in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah. Early Saturday, a bomb destroyed the car of a Palestinian affiliated with Hamas. On Friday, thousands of Palestinians joined a Fatah-inspired protest, clashing with Hamas forces. Several protesters were injured and dozens detained. A Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, called the protest the start of "a new era in the Palestinian national struggle to cleanse the homeland of Hamas gangs."  (New York Times)
        See also Palestinians Demand Hamas Release Detainees
    Several dozen Palestinians rallied in front of a Hamas headquarters in Gaza on Sunday, demanding the Islamists release political foes arrested during demonstrations two days ago. To be released, they must pay a fine of 1,000 shekels ($243). (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Increased Signs of Anti-Hamas Intifada in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    There are increasing indications that Fatah is trying to organize an intifada against Hamas in Gaza. Over the past two weeks, Fatah supporters have twice clashed with Hamas militiamen following Friday prayers. Hamas arrested around 100 people on Friday after 10,000 people prayed outside in the biggest protest since the Islamists overran forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza on June 15. Half of those detained remain in custody. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rice Thought Palestinian Leader Weak - Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Rice thought Mahmoud Abbas a weak disappointment, and she once judged President Bush's signature Mideast peace program unworkable, according to a new biography, The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy, by Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler. In 2005, Rice considered Abbas "a nice man but ineffective," and she worried Abbas was unworthy of the investment in trust and money the U.S. had placed in him, the book says. "The road map is at best a marginal plan. It doesn't work," the book quotes Rice as telling an Israeli counterpart. The book quotes Bush as calling Abbas predecessor, Yasser Arafat, "a loser" on whom Bush was unwilling to waste political capital. (Associated Press)
  • Lebanese Army Claims Victory Against Islamic Militants in North - Nada Bakri
    The Lebanese Army wrested the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp from the control of Islamic militants on Sunday, ending three months of fierce fighting that took more than 300 lives. The surprise end to the camp standoff came when about 70 militants tried to escape at dawn Sunday. Soldiers fired on them, killing at least 31, including the group's leader, Shakir al-Abssi, and capturing 32, the army said. Five soldiers were killed in the gunfire. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Waiting for Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that Hizbullah has significantly increased its supply of long-range missiles and short-range rockets to some 20,000 today. Hizbullah has basically rebuilt itself and is continuing to receive large amounts of weapons, including advanced anti-tank missiles, from Syria. The IDF Northern Command's current assessment is that war with Hizbullah could break out any day, any hour, any minute.
        According to senior officers, the IDF has learned its lesson, and will utilize its advantage in massive firepower and large numbers of tanks and infantry units in any future battle against Hizbullah. Under Col. Ofek Bouchriss, commander of Brigade 300, which is responsible for maintaining the defenses along the Lebanese border, there are new rules of engagement along the border. If an armed Hizbullah guerrilla is spotted, the soldiers have the right to immediately open fire. "Hizbullah will not be allowed to return to the border," he has told his subordinates. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Says It Fired at Israeli Helicopter - Ali Waked
    Hamas gunmen opened fire at an IDF helicopter in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, Palestinian sources reported. (Ynet News)
  • Abbas Amends PA Election Law to Boost Fatah - Avi Issacharoff
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday announced changes in the Palestinian election law aimed at bolstering his Fatah party. Under the new law, Palestinians will vote solely for party lists, while district voting will be eliminated. In the last legislative election in early 2006, half the seats were chosen on a national list and the other half by districts. While the national voting appeared to be close, Hamas had won a large majority in the district races. Fatah fielded multiple candidates in many districts, splitting the Fatah vote. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Abbas' decision is illegal. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Israel-Bashing Club - Daniel Schwammenthal
    "Israel is an apartheid state," was the most often-heard charge, closely followed by calls for a boycott. The West should cut its economic ties with the Jewish state, the speakers urged, and engage the "democratically elected" Islamists now running Gaza. No, this was not a Hamas rally somewhere in the Palestinian territories. This was Brussels, where the European Parliament last week played host to the "United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace." Speaker after speaker presented the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an exclusively Palestinian perspective. Israel was accused of human rights violations while Palestinian terrorism and incitement went unmentioned.
        The only attempt to present the other side came from an Arab-Israeli. Nadia Hilou, a member of the Israeli Parliament (so much for the "apartheid" charge), explained why her countrymen are pessimistic about the prospects for peace. "It's the disappointment that the withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon, which were seen as gestures of good will, have worsened, not improved, Israel's security situation." By hosting this conference, the European Parliament has lent its good name to propaganda and helped to make radical anti-Israeli claims more mainstream. It's a huge disservice to the search for Mideast peace, which must be based on compromise and dialogue. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Book Review: A People and a Nation - Anthony Julius
    Jews and Power by Prof. Ruth Wisse of Harvard celebrates the Jewish return to sovereign power, in all its promise and complexity. It offers a simple argument: Zionism is the solution to Jewish powerlessness; Israel is the guarantor of the Jews' safety. Further, the Jewish nation's resumption of sovereignty in 1948 created opportunities for the Jews to bring benefits to humanity as a whole. Wisse begins her book, "The loss of Jewish sovereignty was the defining political event in the life of the Jewish people." And she ends it, "In defending themselves, Jews have been turned into the fighting front line of the democratic world."  (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Fatah-Hamas-Israel: A Problematic Relationship - Yossi Alpher (

    • Israel and Fatah/Ramallah have embarked on a two-track process that involves confidence- and institution-building along with an attempt to draw up a new declaration of principles for final status. The underlying concept of this approach holds that success in creating peace and prosperity in the West Bank, coupled with misery in Gaza, will somehow topple Hamas through grassroots pressure.
    • Alternatively, it holds out the prospect that the Hamas leadership will passively accept Fatah's two-state deal with Israel and breathe a sigh of relief because this would allow Hamas to have its ideological cake - refusal to recognize Israel - and eat it too, with Fatah taking care of coexistence issues with Israel.
    • According to this approach, Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza last June, which by any standard signaled the abject failure of American and Fatah policy, is now defined as a "window of opportunity" for those actors to regroup and outflank Hamas at the peace table.
    • This concept willfully ignores Hamas' capacity to torpedo the new process through violence. It downplays the real, extreme nature of the Hamas leadership. It makes light of Abbas' weakness as a leader. And it falls into the old fallacy that economic prosperity will win the hearts and minds of Palestinians who are otherwise committed to a more extreme agenda.
    • In Damascus, the Hamas leadership is fomenting new suicide bombings against Israel as well as attacks on Fatah, all aimed at derailing current peace efforts.

      The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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