Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 28, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Barak Secretly Meets Pakistan President - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak secretly met last week with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Israel's Channel 2 reported Sunday.
    The two met in Paris and discussed the Iranian nuclear threat and the situation in the Middle East.
    Musharraf reassured Barak that his country's nuclear weapons were well-secured and that there was no risk they would end up in the wrong hands.

Terrorism's Christian Godfather: George Habash Dies - Scott MacLeod (TIME)
    You could call George Habash, a Palestinian leader who died in Amman on Saturday at the age of 82, the godfather of Middle East terrorism.
    Habash's group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), pioneered the hijacking of airplanes as a Middle East terror tactic - one eventually employed by the al-Qaeda hijackers on 9/11 - way back in 1968 when three PFLP armed operatives commandeered an Israeli El Al airliner enroute from Rome to Tel Aviv.
    Checking in for a flight has never been the same since.
    In 1970, PFLP terrorists hijacked four airliners at one time, flew three of them to Jordan, blew them up, and triggered the Black September civil war between Jordan's Hashemite monarchy and Palestinians.
    In 1972, Japanese Red Army terrorists working with the PFLP massacred 24 people at Israel's international airport.
    In 1976, the PFLP's last hijacking ended in the daring rescue by Israeli counter-terrorism commandos in Entebbe, Uganda.
    Habash succeeded in raising awareness of the Palestinian cause, yet his extreme, vengeful methods also helped drench it in blood, and likely brought Palestinians no closer to freedom and dignity.

Al-Qaeda "Strapping Bombs to Children" in Iraq - Bryan Pearson (AFP)
    Al-Qaeda is using teenagers as suicide bombers in Iraq, U.S. Rear Admiral Gregory Smith claimed on Sunday, as Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarraie, moderate but influential head of the Sunni endowment, urged the jihadists to stop "strapping bombs to children."
    Smith said two suicide attacks in Iraq last week had been carried out by 15-year-olds. "We are not sure whether one of these children even knew he was being used to deliver a bomb."
    See also Yemen's Deals with Jihadists Unsettle the U.S. - Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    When the Yemeni authorities released convicted al-Qaeda terrorist Jamal al-Badawi from prison last October, American officials were furious. Badawi helped plan the attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000, in which 17 American sailors were killed.
    But a high-level Yemeni government official said Badawi had agreed to help track down five other members of al-Qaeda who had escaped from prison.

Israelis Win Grand Slam Doubles Crown in Tennis (AFP)
    Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram won Israel's first Grand Slam doubles tennis title at the Australian Open on Saturday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Barak: Iran Nuclear Program "Quite Advanced" - Lally Weymouth
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview: "Clearly the Iranians are aiming at nuclear capability....We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project. We suspect they are probably already working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles...[and] that probably they have another clandestine enrichment operation beyond the one in Natanz."
        Regarding Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, "There has never been a shortage of goodwill on Israel's side. What we have found is that the Palestinian side is unable to live up to the most basic commitments; stopping indiscriminate terror against our civilians." (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Amassing Raw Material for Uranium Enrichment
    The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said on Thursday that Iran was continuing to amass the raw material for uranium enrichment. Aghazadeh said Iran had now stockpiled 250 tons of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6), the feedstock that is injected into centrifuges for enrichment into fuel. Mark Fitzpatrick, nuclear non-proliferation analyst at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said 250 tons of UF6, if enriched to 90% or higher, would yield enough fuel for up to 50 nuclear warheads. Iran has so far enriched token amounts of UF6 only to 3-5%. Iran's parliament passed a bill last week obliging the government to accelerate its nuclear work. (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Islamists Planned Attacks Across Europe
    Islamist extremists were planning attacks across Europe, especially against public transport, before their recent arrests in Barcelona, the Spanish paper El Pais reported Saturday. Two pairs with explosive-filled bags were to enter separate Barcelona subway stations and other members of the group were to detonate their bombs by remote control, a would-be attacker turned informant said. Two other suicide bombers had been assigned targets elsewhere in Spain, another was to attack Germany, three were given objectives in France and two more were to strike Portugal. (Reuters)
  • World Remembers Victims of Holocaust
    At former Nazi death camps and many other places worldwide - in Europe, Israel, the U.S. and the UN - people remembered victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27, declared by the UN in 2005 to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (VOA News)
  • Gandhi's Grandson Quits Peace Center After Remarks about Jews - Michelle Boorstein
    The grandson of Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi resigned Friday as president of the board of a conflict resolution institute at the University of Rochester after writing an online essay calling Jews and Israel "the biggest players" in a global culture of violence. Arun Gandhi wrote that his Jan. 7 essay "was couched in language that was hurtful and contrary to the principles of nonviolence." Gandhi had originally written that Jewish identity is "locked into the holocaust experience," which Jews " the point that it begins to repulse friends."  (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Abbas Meet in Jerusalem - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Hamas' dramatic border breach was the focus of a meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem on Sunday. The prime minister assured Abbas that Israel would not cut off the supply of food and medicine to Gaza. Palestinian sources who attended the meeting said Olmert is seeking to transfer the responsibility for humanitarian problems in Gaza to Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Restoring Gaza Diesel Fuel Supply - Etgar Lefkovits
    Israel will resume the supply of industrial-use diesel needed to run Gaza City's power plant in order to meet the basic humanitarian needs of the civilian population, the state told the High Court of Justice on Sunday. The move followed an appeal filed by human rights groups. However, the state told the court that if rocket attacks increase again, Israel will consider limiting the supplies once again. (Jerusalem Post)
  • First Fatah Congress in 18 Years Planned - Khaled Amayreh
    Fatah, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is planning to hold its sixth general congress on March 21. The last congress was held 18 years ago, before the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), when Arafat dominated Fatah with his near absolute power. The person in charge of preparations is Ahmed Qurei, former Palestinian prime minister and head of the Palestinian negotiating team.
        Various Fatah camps have first to agree on the composition of delegates to the conference - who has the right to participate and vote. Most Fatah members don't pay membership fees, which means that tens of thousands of nominal members can't prove their membership. There are also thousands of "independents" that are considered de facto but not formal Fatah members. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bush Hits a Wall in the Mideast - Jim Hoagland
    Bush is a long shot to pull off a diplomatic triumph that has eluded a long line of outside negotiators. The stretches of peace that have come to the Middle East have been created locally - out of desperation - not through grand designs whipped up in Washington.
        In Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal called on Egypt to stop cooperating with Israel in policing the Gaza frontier. Hamas is in fact calling the great Arab bluff that has prevailed for more than half a century. Arab leaders profess to harbor nothing but feelings of brotherhood and unity for the Palestinians and their cause. But fear actually drives their policies - fear of the radicalism of Palestinian politics and of public opinion in their own countries. Arab leaders were telling Bush that the Palestinian plight is the creation and responsibility of the West. Arab states will not take financial, social or political responsibility for the Palestinians just to help out Bush, Abbas, Israel - or even the Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • No Easy Solution While Hamas Keeps Warring - Fania Oz-Salzberger
    As elated Gazans poured into Egypt amid the ruins of the blown-up border wall, Israelis gazed at their television screen with mixed feelings. We are not blind to the plight of innocent Palestinians, but no one is naive enough to think that militants are not busy shopping too, for the next Kassam rocket and the next suicide bomb. "Israel refuses to rule out retaliatory attack," said a headline of The Age on Jan. 26 - wording that many Israelis find infuriating. The world, it seems, expects Gazans to keep firing their rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot and the surrounding villages. Israel, in return, is expected to stand firm, chin up, and declare that it will not respond. In the words of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel will keep defending its citizens as long as Hamas does not recognize "the right of anyone who is not Muslim" to exist.
        Would Australia keep its calm if Darwin and vicinity took constant fire? And would it keep providing most of the attackers' electricity and take their seriously ill civilians into their own hospitals? Israel does. The writer is professor and Leon Liberman chairman of modern Israel studies at Monash University, and director of the Posen Research Forum for Political Thought at the University of Haifa. (The Age-Australia)
  • Holocaust Inversion - Manfred Gerstenfeld
    63 years after the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, one of the most perfidious forms of contemporary anti-Semitism is Holocaust inversion - the portrayal of Israelis and Jews as modern-day Nazis. The charge is that Israel supposedly behaves toward the Palestinians as Germany did to the Jews in World War II. Portraying Jews as Nazis, Israeli prime ministers as Hitler, and the Star of David as equal to the swastika is almost routine in the Arab world. In the Netherlands you can buy T-shirts and greeting cards showing Anne Frank wearing a kaffiyeh. In other words, the Palestinians are the new Jews, which makes the Israelis the new Nazis.
        Holocaust Memorial Day should not only be a day of commemoration. Its meaning is undone when at the same time new versions of the old anti-Semitic demonizations are gaining ground. The writer is chairman of the board of fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel's Right to Self-Defense - Abraham Bell (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • International law authorizes Israel to initiate military countermeasures in Gaza. If Gaza is properly seen as having independent sovereignty, Israel's use of force is permissible on the grounds of self-defense. If Gaza is properly seen as lacking any independent sovereignty, Israel's use of military force is permissible as in other non-international conflicts.
    • The rule of "distinction" includes elements of intent and expected result: so long as one aims at legitimate targets, the rule of distinction permits the attack, even if there will be collateral damage to civilians. The rule of "proportionality" also relies upon intent. If Israel plans a strike without expecting excessive collateral damage, the rule of proportionality permits it. Israeli attacks to date have abided by the rules of distinction and proportionality.
    • Israel's imposition of economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip is a perfectly legal means of responding to Palestinian attacks. Since Israel is under no legal obligation to engage in trade of fuel or anything else with Gaza, or to maintain open borders, it may withhold commercial items and seal its borders at its discretion.
    • The bar on collective punishment forbids the imposition of criminal-type penalties to individuals or groups on the basis of another's guilt. None of Israel's actions involve the imposition of criminal-type penalties.
    • There is no legal basis for maintaining that Gaza is occupied territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention refers to territory as occupied where the territory is of a state party to the convention and the occupier "exercises the functions of government" in the territory. Gaza is not territory of another state party to the convention and Israel does not exercise the functions of government in the territory.
    • The fighting in Gaza has been characterized by the extensive commission of war crimes, acts of terrorism and acts of genocide by Palestinians, while Israeli countermeasures have conformed with the requirements of international law. International law requires states to take measures to bring Palestinian war criminals and terrorists to justice, to prevent and punish Palestinian genocidal efforts, and to block the funding of Palestinian terrorist groups and those complicit with them.

      The writer is a member of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University and Visiting Professor at Fordham University Law School.

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