Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 17, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

GAO Report Challenges Effect of Longtime U.S. Sanctions on Iran - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
    In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, challenged the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran dating to 1987.
    Tehran has circumvented many economic sanctions, and "Iran's overall trade with the world has grown since the U.S. imposed sanctions," it concluded.
    The Treasury Department countered that Iran faces "increased economic, financial and political isolation" because of U.S. and UN sanctions, with about 25,000 transactions worth more than $5 billion rejected since 1997, said Stuart A. Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

EU Told It Infringed Rights of Blacklisted Saudi - (Reuters/Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    The EU infringed the rights of a Saudi businessman by following a UN order to put him on a terror blacklist, an EU adviser said on Wednesday in a new legal setback for the European sanctions regime.
    EU Advocate General Poiares Maduro advised the bloc to annul a regulation freezing the funds of Yassin Kadi, 52, who had been included on a UN list of individuals suspected of supporting Osama bin Laden directly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

No Trickle Down from Egypt's Growing Economy - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    In Egypt, where about 45% of the population survives on just $2 a day, crowds gets aggressive trying to buy up subsidized bread that can be resold for double the original price.
    Much of what ails Egypt seems to converge in the story of subsidized bread. Egypt started subsidizing staples like bread, sugar and tea around World War II, and has done so ever since.
    When it tried to stop subsidizing bread in 1977 there were riots. So the bread subsidy continues, costing Cairo about $2.74 billion a year.
    Overall, the government spends more on subsidies, including gasoline, than it spends on health and education.
    The Egyptian economy has been growing at a healthy rate - 7% last year - but there has been virtually no trickle down. Instead of making life more stable, the strong economic performance has only made people more annoyed.

First Temple Seal Found in Jerusalem - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, Israeli archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said Wednesday.
    The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, engraved with the name "Temech," was found this week in an excavation just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Accelerating Missile Work, U.S. Says
    The head of the U.S. missile defense program sought Wednesday to bolster Washington's argument for anti-missile sites in Europe by warning that Iran has sped up development of long-range missiles. "They are developing missiles today in an accelerated pace," Lt. Gen. Henry Obering said in Prague. "They're developing ranges of missiles that go far beyond anything they would need in a regional fight, for example, with Israel," Obering said. "Why are they developing missiles today that...will be possible to reach Europe in few years?" he asked. (AP/USA Today)
        See also U.S.: Iran Still Training Iraq Militants - Bryan Pearson
    Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said Wednesday that Tehran was still training militants despite its pledge to cut support for the insurgency, and that this continued to pose a serious threat to Iraq's stability. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • U.S. Lawmakers Renew Opposition to U.S. Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia - Dan Robinson
    A group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives is renewing objections to any sale of sophisticated U.S. precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, with 51 Democrats and one Republican signing on so far to a resolution disapproving the proposed transaction. "Very often people we perceive as being our allies one day we arm and they turn out to be our enemies further down the road," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). "Repeatedly, and on and on, we have seen Saudi Arabia be the source of exporting more and more terrorism. At least 50% of the budget of Hamas comes from Saudi Arabia and [they have] funneled more than $4 billion to finance terrorism in the territories since 2000," he added.
        Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) asked, "Will this arms sale increase democracy in the Middle East, will it increase democracy in Saudi Arabia? No. Will this arms sale increase the opportunity for the advancement of human rights in Saudi Arabia [and] in the broader Middle East? No. Will this arms sale increase stability in the Middle East, in the Gulf states? No." (VOA News)
  • Former Congressman Indicted in Terror Case - Kirsten Scharnberg
    A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Mark Siljander, 56, a former Republican member of the U.S. House from Michigan, on charges that he was connected to a terrorist funding network that channeled money to an Afghan warlord who supported al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Authorities allege that Siljander lied about lobbying on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency, a Missouri-based charity accused of sending funds to terrorists. Authorities further allege that Siljander accepted a payment of $50,000 for his efforts to lobby senators to restore the charity's eligibility to receive government work. The money Siljander was paid turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the indictment. (Chicago Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 50 Palestinian Rockets Pound Israel - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas fired 50 Kassam rockets and at least a dozen mortar shells at Israel on Wednesday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel will step up the pressure against militants in Gaza. "We are doing everything in order to target the terrorists so that the Kassam rocket attacks will stop," he said. Mahmoud Abbas telephoned former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar to offer his sympathy for the death of his son on Tuesday during clashes with IDF forces east of Gaza City. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Six Hurt in Palestinian Rocket Barrage Wednesday Evening - Shmulik Hadad
    At least six people were hurt Wednesday evening after several rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in and around Sderot and south of Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Barrage Continues Thursday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired 17 Kassam rockets Thursday morning at the Israeli city of Sderot. Three people were injured in the attack and a number of others suffered from shock. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks. (Ynet News)
  • Study: Most Sderot Children Exhibit Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms - Mijal Grinberg and Eli Ashkenazi
    After seven years of rocket barrages by Palestinians in Gaza, 28% of adults and 30% of children in Sderot have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study by Natal, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War. Some 75-94% of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as problems sleeping and concentrating. Dalia Yosef, director of Sderot's Hosen trauma center, asks, "How do you treat and prevent post-traumatic stress when it is not 'post'"? (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Open Fire on Jewish Neighborhood in Hebron - Nadav Shragai
    Palestinian militants on Wednesday opened fire on the Jewish neighborhood of Beit Hadassah in the West Bank city of Hebron. Fifteen bullets were fired, two of which penetrated houses and another hit the playground of the neighborhood's nursery school. No one was injured. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bad Reviews for Bush in the Mideast - Scott Macleod
    President Bush's efforts to rally an Arab coalition to isolate Iran during his eight-day tour of the Middle East seemed to fall flat. Only days after he visited Kuwait, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah was standing beside Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran, declaring: "My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy, and Iran is our friend." Arab commentators gave Bush little credit for being the first American president to publicly support an independent Palestinian state, focusing instead on what they regarded as his administration's failure to pressure Israel. (TIME)
        See also Bush Ends Mideast Trip Upbeat Despite Skeptics (AFP)
  • Bush's Impossible Task - David Frum
    Bush has staked much of the prestige and credibility of the U.S. - and all the energy of his final year in office - to a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Palestinian side continues to demand both a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza - and also the right of Palestinians to migrate to and colonize Israel proper.
        In any peace process, Israel will have to concede territory, water and other hard material benefits. In exchange, Israel seeks only one thing: full and true peace, acceptance by its neighbors, recognition as a normal state entitled to define itself as its citizens decide. But even this one thing is more than any Palestinian leader can afford to concede. They have said it again and again: Israel as a Jewish state can expect no peace. (National Post-Canada/American Enterprise Institute)
  • Islamic Law Scholar: It Is the Innocent Who Pay the Price for the Incitement by the Preachers of Hatred
    The former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, told Al-Jazeera TV on Dec. 9, 2007: "When we follow those who preach hatred, confrontation, and conflict, we are the ones who end up losing."
        "I would like to tell you about something I read in the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper, [about] a mother who wrote a letter to Saudi journalist Layla al-Ahdab. In it, she wrote that her eight-year-old daughter, in the third grade, was told by the teacher, during a lesson on monotheism, that...we should hate non-Muslims....The mother wrote in her letter: Do they expect me to hate the Jewish scientist who discovered insulin, which I use to treat my mother? Am I supposed to teach my daughter that she should hate Edison, who invented the light bulb, which lights up the Islamic world?...I would like to know how this can possibly be, when Allah allows me to marry a woman from among the People of the Book."  (MEMRI)
  • Observations:

    Bush and Rice Pushing for "Shelf" Agreement - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The Middle East peace conference in Annapolis marked the first time the U.S. did not mandate a purely sequential approach to the peace process. Instead, Washington now wants issues to be solved in parallel, with the implementation of past obligations occurring simultaneously with final agreement on the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and security. Secretary Rice believes that if the core issues were resolved, the Palestinians and Israelis would be motivated to fulfill their earlier obligations.
    • Bush's statements during his visit focused on the final-status issues, with less emphasis on Palestinian institution-building and terrorism. "Just saying two states really doesn't have much bearing until borders are defined, right of return issues are resolved, Jerusalem is understood, and common security measures are in place," he said in Ramallah.
    • But Bush also endorsed the Israeli view that even if these issues were resolved in 2008, a final agreement would "be subject to implementation of the Roadmap." As such, the actual Palestinian state would not exist until the Palestinians improve their security and institutional performance - something that is called a "shelf" agreement.

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