Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 19, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: We Won't Recognize Israel (MEMRI)
    Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt General Guide Muhammad Mehdi 'Akef has stated that his movement does not and never will recognize Israel, the London-based Al-Hayat reported Thursday.
    He added, "The Muslim Brotherhood does not have anything called 'Israel' in its lexicon....If they want to live among us, this must be in the framework of Palestine. If they want [their own] state - we will respond with resistance."

U.S. to Build "Strategic Partnership" with Lebanese Army (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Eric Edelman, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said Thursday in an interview aired on Lebanese television that the U.S. military would like to see a "strategic partnership" with Lebanon's army to strengthen the country's forces so that Hizbullah would have no excuse to bear arms.

Iranian Christians Deemed Apostates, Flogged (International Religious Freedom News)
    The Farsi Christian News Network reports that an Iranian Christian couple were flogged after being declared apostates.
    The couple, a woman from an Assyrian-Iranian family and a man who had converted to Christianity, were denied a Christian marriage ceremony due to the rules governing the marriage of ex-Muslims, and thus married in accordance with Islamic law.
    However, the courts consider marriage by Islamic law equivalent to re-conversion, and when the couple were later found at a Christian prayer meeting, they were denounced as apostates.
    In September, agents of the Revolutionary Court visited the couple at their home to execute the sentence of flogging.

Saying "No" to the Saudis - Stephen Schwartz (New York Post)
    Next Monday at 1 p.m. outside the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington, Al-Baqee - a new coalition of American Muslims - has called a protest against Saudi Arabia's support - by preaching, money and recruitment - of terrorism in Iraq.
    Al-Baqee declares, "We appeal to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to end all governmental support and ties to the Wahhabi structure in the Saudi kingdom and worldwide."
    "Al-Baqee... encourages the Saudi government to use its influence to restrain Wahhabi rhetoric that is fueling much destruction around the world."

Rights Group Hits at Syrian Repression - Andrew England (Financial Times-UK)
    In a report released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on Syrian authorities to stop repressing human rights organizations, complaining of a crackdown that has seen several activists detained in the past 18 months.

Amnesty Slams Lebanon for Discrimination Against Palestinians - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    The Lebanese government must take concrete steps to end all discrimination against Palestinian refugees and to protect their human rights, Amnesty International said in a report launched in Beirut on Wednesday.
    Unlike refugees in Syria and Jordan, who have been largely integrated into society, Palestinians in Lebanon live under severe restrictions on work, travel and education.

New Israeli-Indian Software to Bring Information Technology to Indian Masses (Hindustan Times-India)
    Not knowing English would no longer be a handicap to learn computers, thanks to a software developed by an Indian institution and an Israeli company which supports all of India's recognized languages.
    "Lekhika 2007" - a software application developed by the Center for Development of Advanced Computing of India's information technology ministry, and Israel's FTK Technologies - covers ten scripts and 3,000 characters.
    The application is expected to enable masses in India, who do not know English, to gain IT skills in their own language thanks to its user-friendly, comprehensive, cost-efficient format.

Weizmann's Answer - Noah Pollak (Commentary)
    In the years before the Balfour Declaration, a member of the House of Lords asked Chaim Weizmann, "Why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many undeveloped countries you could settle in more conveniently?"
    Weizmann said: "That is like my asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street."

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Photo Essay: Iraqi Boy Saved by Israeli Doctors (Sky News)
    Kirwan, an 11-year-old Kurd from northern Iraq with a hole in his heart, is being treated in Israel.
    See also Israeli Doctors Perform Heart Surgery on Iraqi Children - Sheri Shefa (Canadian Jewish News)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syrians Disassembling Ruins at Site Bombed by Israel - Robin Wright and Joby Warrick
    Syria has begun dismantling the remains of a site Israel bombed Sept. 6 in what may be an attempt to prevent the location from coming under international scrutiny, said U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the aftermath of the attack. Based on overhead photography, the officials say the site in Syria's eastern desert near the Euphrates River had a "signature" or characteristics of a small but substantial nuclear reactor, one similar in structure to North Korea's facilities. The dismantling of the damaged site, which appears to be still underway, could make it difficult for weapons inspectors to determine the precise nature of the facility and how Syria planned to use it. (Washington Post)
  • Rice: Carry Out Roadmap Obligations, Recognize Israel's Security Concerns
    Following talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Secretary of State Rice said Thursday: "Obviously, this is the beginning of a process and it's the most serious process that they've had in some time. And so I talked not only about the [joint Israel-PA] document but also about how they could, in advance of any meeting that would take place, enhance confidence that they are indeed moving to a new set of conditions. And that means carrying out phase one roadmap obligations."
        "While the document is important as a signal of intent, I think that the idea that somehow it's going to have to be...very specific on each of the issues, that that's not what they're looking for. And at one level, the more that they are pointed toward the day after November or December, the better."
        "I spent a lot of time on security would you envision the security of two states living side by side, because they're going to have to come up with a security concept between them. It's one of the problems that we're dealing with, frankly, in the Israeli population. And I heard it not just from the Israeli officials but from a broad range of Israelis. They had the withdrawal from Lebanon and it brought instability in Lebanon. They had the withdrawal from Gaza, and look what happened in Gaza. If, in fact, they're going to be asked to withdraw from the West Bank at some point, what does that mean for the security of Israel? That's a fair question. It really is." (State Department)
        See also Progress Eludes Rice in Middle East Talks - Richard Beeston
    After five days of shuttle diplomacy, Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, returned home empty-handed, having failed to pin down participants, an agenda or a firm date for a planned Middle East peace conference. (Times-UK)
        See also Rice Leaves Palestinians Frustrated - Ashraf Khalil
    Rice essentially shot down the primary Palestinian demands. Hani Masri, a Palestinian analyst, said, "The pressure was put instead on the Palestinians....They are now asked to lower their expectations and accept a generally worded document without timelines." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: U.S. Can Strike Iran - Bill Gertz
    U.S. military forces are capable of conducting operations against Iran if called on to bomb nuclear facilities or other targets, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, said Thursday. "From a military standpoint, there is more than enough reserve to respond if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do, and so I don't think we're too stretched in that regard," he said in his first press conference since becoming chairman Oct. 1.
        Defense and military officials have been preparing U.S. forces within striking distance of Iran. The forces would be dominated by Navy and Air Force weapons and forces since Army and Marine Corps forces are focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. There are two main targets of any Iranian military action, according to the officials. First, U.S. forces are set to attack Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps facilities because of the paramilitary's support and provision of armor-piercing roadside bombs. A second target would be Iranian nuclear facilities, which are in numerous underground facilities across the country. "There is a significant amount of activity right now to try to influence them diplomatically," Adm. Mullen said. The use of military force would be an option "of the last resort," he said. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Putin Discuss Iranian Nukes in Moscow - Ronny Sofer
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went to Moscow Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladmir Putin for discussions on Iran's nuclear program, a day after the Russian leader returned from a visit to Iran where he discussed future nuclear cooperation with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. (Ynet News)
        See also Before It's Too Late - Shimon Shiffer
    Prime Minister Olmert entered the Kremlin with an unequivocal message to the Russian president: Under circumstances whereby Iran possesses a nuclear weapon, while Russia supplies Syria with advanced weaponry, Israel will be forced to weigh its options vis-a-vis such threats. (Ynet News)
  • Israel, EU to Hold Holocaust Conference in 2008 - Ronny Sofer
    Israel and the EU will hold a joint Holocaust conference at the beginning of 2008, according to an agreement reached Thursday in Brussels. The conference is aimed at finding ways to educate European youth on the subject. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Mortar Fire from Gaza Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three mortar shells that landed in Israel's western Negev on Friday morning, damaging a hothouse. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Israel and Iran

  • The Military Option Is Now on the Table - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sat in the Kremlin on October 18 and told Russian President Vladimir Putin the Iranians needed to fear that if they continued with their nuclear march, "something will happen to them that they don't want." That was on October 18, 2006. Exactly a year later, Olmert was back in the Kremlin. The urgent manner in which Olmert dropped everything and jetted off to Moscow Thursday for a three-hour meeting with Putin indicates that Israel has changed phases. It has gone from treating the Iranian problem as an international one, that the world has to deal with, to taking steps indicating that it sees it increasingly as an Israeli problem, that might necessitate an Israeli solution.
        Nobody is tiptoeing around the possibility of military action against Iran any more. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner raised the possibility of war a few weeks ago. Even British Prime Minister Gordon Brown didn't rule anything out in comments he made in October, and President George W. Bush said Wednesday a nuclear Iran could trigger World War III.
        Regardless of comments Putin made in Iran that there was no concrete evidence Teheran is after nuclear weapons, the former KGB man knows full well what the Iranians want. Putin knows the facts, and the problem is not with Moscow's intel. The problem is with Russia's own interpretation of its interests. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Striking Iran's Nuclear Facilities: A Complex, But Not Impossible Mission - Amir Oren
    According to Brig.-Gen. Yohanan Locker of the Israel Air Force, the IAF is preparing for three kinds of missions: a potential war with a country that borders on Israel, an operation in Gaza, and actions against distant targets deep in enemy territory. Israel has declared in every possible language that it will see a military nuclear device in the hands of a hostile Iran as a red line. In the Iranian context, Israel is hoping for an American operation, but is prepared to assume that in Washington they will ultimately not have the nerve to opt for one.
        In the air force they like to note that the physical area of Iran is like that of Germany, France and Britain combined. A mission would be complex, but not impossible, and - in the opinion of a clear majority at the top of the defense establishment - essential. (Ha'aretz)
  • From Israel, It Looks Different - Aluf Benn
    This is the assessment of the situation at the top diplomatic and military levels in Israel: Iran is moving, unhindered, toward a nuclear bomb. Blocking it with economic sanctions has failed, mainly because Russia, Germany and Italy refuse to stop doing business with the Iranians. Two options remain on the table: to come to terms with Iran's nuclearization because there is no alternative, or to stop it by force. The chances of an American attack appear small. Israel, it seems, is waiting for Bush's decision, which will be taken during the coming year, before it decides to attack Iran itself.
        From Jerusalem, the Iranian threat looks much more palpable and scarier and the response much simpler and more focused. Presumably, Iran, like Iraq and Syria in their turn, will find it hard to respond. Perhaps it will launch some missiles at Israel plus Hizbullah rockets from Lebanon, and perhaps it will initiate a terror attack on an Israeli target abroad. This would be painful but bearable and would be perceived as a justified price for getting rid of an existential threat.
        Someone who lives in Chicago or Miami can live comfortably with an Iranian bomb, just as he lived under the Soviet threat. An inhabitant of Tel Aviv must be far more worried. In its refusal of sanctions and serious organization against Iran, the world is quietly pushing Israel toward a decision to attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • Threats the First Step to Genocide - Dore Gold
    The debate over the applicability of the genocide convention to the threats of mass murder made by Iran's President Ahmadinejad is part of a larger global movement to find effective ways of stopping Iran from carrying out its declared plan to dominate its neighbors and wipe Israel off the map. During a recent military parade in Tehran, Ahmadinejad's threatening slogan was draped over a Shihab-3 missile, capable of reaching Israeli territory.
        In 1946, as the horrors of the Holocaust sank into the conscience of the newly formed UN, the genocide convention evolved into a binding international treaty, conceived to punish the crime of genocide and to prevent genocide. To accomplish this goal, article three of the convention stated that "direct and public incitement to commit genocide" was a punishable act.
        The most recent case where legal proceedings were initiated on the crime of incitement to genocide was in the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, established by the UN Security Council in 1994. Ultimately, the UN's Rwanda tribunal convicted more than a half dozen Rwandan Hutus for incitement to genocide, as well as the Rwandan prime minister at the time, Jean Kambanda.
        To threaten the use of force against a fellow UN member state is a blatant violation of the UN charter. Yet Ahmadinejad gets away with it. The failure of the international community to even register any serious complaint only whets his appetite. (The Australian)

    Other Issues

  • Armenian Issue Presents a Dilemma for U.S. Jews - Neela Banerjee
    A proposed Congressional resolution condemning the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey 90 years ago as genocide has created an international furor and deeply offended the Turkish government, both a key ally of Israel's and a crucial logistics player for the American presence in Iraq. It has also put American Jews in an anguished dilemma as they try to reconcile their support of Israel with their commitment to fighting genocide. Rabbi David Lerner of Temple Emunah in Lexington, Mass., explained: "Israel is in a very vulnerable position in the world, and Turkey is its only friend in the Middle East. Genocide is a burning issue for us, now and in the past. It's something of who we are."  (New York Times)
  • What We Can Learn from the Tutu Affair - Mark B. Rotenberg
    University of St. Thomas President Dennis Dease decided to uninvite and then invite Desmond Tutu to speak on his campus. Many thought Tutu's canceled invitation was part of a pattern of widespread Jewish pressure to censor Israel's critics, but President Dease demolished that idea. "I was under no pressure from any pro-Israeli groups or individuals, nor did I receive any requests from them to refrain from inviting Archbishop Tutu to speak," he declared. That an esteemed Catholic university leader would feel compelled to make such a public denial is sad testimony to an upsurge of sinister theories about Jewish power in America today.
        The truth is that university campuses are awash with anti-Israel sentiment. Those who bewail secret Jewish influences in American politics are not describing reality, but are dabbling in a dangerous cesspool of prejudice. The writer is general counsel and adjunct law professor at the University of Minnesota. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
  • Palestinian-Israeli Woman Working at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum - Manar Fawakhry
    As part of my work as a Palestinian-Israeli woman at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I have had the unique experience of introducing audiences from all over the world to the subject of the Holocaust. In the Arab world, the Holocaust is not a story about human suffering, capacity for evil or indifference. It is understood only as an excuse for Israel to exist. It is perceived as a political vehicle through which Israel gets U.S. aid and is thus paid to be strong, stable and annoying to its Arab neighbors. There is no place for Jewish suffering when that suffering is associated with Israel.
        It is rather astonishing to watch Arab men visiting a Holocaust museum. Their visit is a gesture for positive change. The fact that they are here, and I am here, even as we both maintain our commitment to a just solution for the Palestinians, is evidence that there is a wind of change moving people to face history, their enemies and, most important, themselves. The writer is a graduate student at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. (Baltimore Sun)
  • The Intellectual Assault on Israel and Pro-Israel Advocacy: How the American Jewish Community Should React - Steven Bayme
    American support for Israel historically has rested on four main pillars: the high esteem Jews enjoy within American society; the strong base of Christianity within American culture; the kinship Americans have for a fellow democracy; and, especially since 9/11, the common foes that confront both America and Israel. None of these pillars may be taken for granted; nor are they necessarily unequivocal. The critical ingredient in the success of pro-Israel advocacy has been the question of how compelling is the case for Israel.
        Supporting Israel assumes an American Jewish community that is knowledgeable, committed, and surefooted in its pro-Israel mindset and its Jewish identity. As American Jews become increasingly assimilated, as a distinctive Jewish identity erodes, continued American Jewish support for Israel may well attenuate. Dr. Steven Bayme is director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department of the American Jewish Committee and of the Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza's Coastal Waters Threaten Israel's National Security? - Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • British Gas is supposed to be the crown jewel of the Palestinian economy, and provide part of the solution to Israel's pressing energy needs. The British energy giant, now called the "BG Group," and its local partners - the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and the private, Palestinian-owned Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) - are currently involved in advanced negotiations to sell to Israel massive amounts of natural gas - reserves of nearly 1.4 trillion cubic feet - that BG first discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast. The market value of the gas has been estimated at $4 billion. Therefore, sale of the gas to Israel would mean a billion-dollar windfall for the PA and, potentially, for the Palestinian people.
    • Unfortunately, British assessments, including those of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state, are misguided. Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel. No less threatening is the fact that terror organizations associated with the global Jihad, like al-Qaeda, will be highly motivated to attack any British Gas installation off Gaza's shores that provided fuel to Israel.
    • For Israel, the need for BG's gas may have already taken a toll. It is possible that the prospect of an Israeli gas purchase may have played a role in influencing the Olmert cabinet to avoid ordering a major IDF ground operation in Gaza, despite at least 1,000 rocket and mortar attacks against southern Israel since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007.
    • Clearly, Israel needs additional natural gas sources, while the Palestinian people sorely need new sources of revenue. However, with Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel's funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel's bankrolling terror against itself. Therefore, an urgent review is required of the far-reaching security implications of an Israeli decision to purchase Gaza gas.

      The writer, a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center, served as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2002 to 2005.

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