Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 12, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Boycott Al-Jazeera TV Over Incitement to Terror (Ha'aretz)
    Israel will impose an official embargo of Al-Jazeera television over the Qatar-based station's unfair portrayal of the Israel Defense Forces' operation in Gaza.
    Israel says the station incited the Palestinian public and cooperated with Hamas during the latest period of fighting.
    "The Foreign Ministry has held discussions on the matter, and decided to embargo the station," Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahabe told Army Radio, adding: "These reports are untrustworthy and they hurt us, and they arouse people to terrorist activities."

U.S.: 90 Percent of Foreign Fighters in Iraq Come Via Syria (AP)
    The Defense Department's quarterly report on progress in Iraq, released Tuesday, said that as much as 90% of the foreign fighters in Iraq cross the border from Syria.
    "It is not clear that Syria has made a strategic decision to deal with foreign terrorists using Syria as a transit point into Iraq," said the report, which covers events from December through February.
    In January, Iraqi officials suggested that about 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters slipped into the country from Syria a few months earlier and were responsible for a devastating explosion in northern Iraq that killed 38 people and wounded 200.
    On the other border, meanwhile, Tehran's support for Shiite militant groups remains a sizable threat to stability in Iraq. The report asserts that the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, still provides much of the explosives for the militants.

Paris Book Burning - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    One by one, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Iran, Muslim governments have signed up for the boycott of the international book fair opening Friday in Paris.
    The reason? It showcases Israeli literature this year - which happens to be the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state.
    The assault on words - merely for being written in Hebrew by writers who happen to carry Israeli passports - adds a revealing wrinkle to a familiar story.
    The coordinated Muslim assault ahead of the book fair expresses a not so latent anti-Semitism.

Weapon of Terror: The Kassam Rocket - Margaret Weiss (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Kassams and other rockets have transformed the strategic balance between Israel and the Palestinians, giving terrorist groups an alternative means of attacking Israeli civilians and raising the level of fear among a large fraction of the Israeli population.
    In the long term, the presence of these rockets will force all parties to rethink the security arrangements for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement, since this threat did not exist during previous peacemaking efforts at Camp David and Taba.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Fire Rocket at Ashkelon - Isabel Kershner and Taghreed El-Khodary
    Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket at the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, fracturing a tenuous lull. The rocket landed south of the city and caused no casualties, an Israeli police spokesman said. Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 10 miles north of Gaza, was struck by at least 20 foreign-made, Katyusha rockets during the recent increase in hostilities. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Roadmap Assessment Seen Critical of Israel - Adam Entous
    The U.S. is not satisfied with the pace at which Israel is moving to implement the peace "road map," U.S. and Western officials said. Officials said Washington also believed the Palestinians needed to do far more to meet their obligations to boost security and rein in militants in the West Bank, though U.S. officials have privately complained to Israel that its frequent raids were undermining those efforts. Washington believes that Abbas' security capabilities will improve by summer when Palestinian forces return from advanced U.S.-funded training in Jordan. (Reuters)
  • France Eyes New Israeli Ties - Jamey Keaten
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to rebuild France's frayed ties with Israel and hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres in Paris this week. "Those who call in a scandalous, scandalous way for the destruction of Israel will always find France in front of them to block their route," said Sarkozy. Paris lined the Champs-Elysees with French and Israeli flags - an image not lost on many French Jews. Sarkozy said at a state dinner that Israel "is not alone" in its concerns about Iran's nuclear program, which will require "a reaction of great firmness."
        Sarkozy also said France, during its presidency of the EU later this year, will monitor the planning for the UN anti-racism conference scheduled to take place in South Africa in 2009. He said he "will not stand" for a possible replay of "intolerable deviations" that could mar the so-called Durban II conference. (AP)
        See also French Banks Release Iran's Frozen Assets
    Presidential advisor for legal and parliamentary affairs Majid Jafarzadeh said on Tuesday that the assets of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which were seized by French banks, have been released. The case is regarded as a significant achievement for Iran, Jafarzadeh said. (IRNA-Iran)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Will Gaza Lull Last? - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The current quiet on the Gaza front is a result of a rare congruence of interests among Israel, Hamas, and Egypt, who have a clear interest to prevent the fighting from going on. The lull aims to allow for negotiations on an agreement with Egyptian mediation and active American support. The negotiations are being held in el-Arish and in Cairo, as Egyptian representatives are simultaneously meeting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as well as with Amos Gilad, who represents Israel's defense minister.
        For Hamas, the main motive is the fear of a major Israeli operation in Gaza. Hamas was badly beaten in Israel's recent operation; it sustained a much harder blow than what emerged from media reports. Hamas estimates that if it continues to fight, Israel will topple Hamas' Gaza regime and prevent the group from realizing its strategic objective: Taking over the West Bank and ruling the Palestinian people.
        Israeli officials estimate that one or two more rounds of escalation may be needed in order to prompt Hamas to soften its demands. For that reason, the lull may end at any moment. (Ynet News)
  • Egypt Increasing Efforts to Curb Gaza Smuggling - Yaakov Katz
    Egypt has noticeably increased its efforts in recent weeks to curb the smuggling of weaponry and explosives from Sinai into Gaza, senior Israeli defense officials say. Egypt began significantly increasing its efforts following the firing of Katyusha missiles into Ashkelon two weeks ago. "The Egyptians finally understood that they could no longer deny that the smuggling was taking place," one official said this week. A senior Egyptian official said that U.S.-made tunnel-detection systems would be deployed along the border in the coming weeks. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Ms. Rice's Retreat - Editorial
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit couldn't conceal his smug satisfaction as he stood next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a news conference in Cairo last week. In the past, Mr. Aboul Gheit fumed in such situations as Ms. Rice spoke out about the need for Egypt to move toward democracy or criticized the unjust imprisonment of liberal reformers such as Ayman Nour. Now he watched as, at the prompting of an Egyptian state television reporter, Ms. Rice acknowledged that the Bush administration had quietly waived a congressional hold on $100 million in military aid to Egypt.
        The government of Hosni Mubarak hasn't come close to meeting the conditions Congress attached to the money, which are that it protect the independence of the judiciary, stop police abuses and curtail arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. (Washington Post)
  • The Iranian-Israeli War - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Regardless of the affiliation of the actual perpetrator of the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, the ultimate responsibility for this attack, as for almost all the terror attacks on Israel in recent years, lies with Iran. The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran.
        After Yasser Arafat launched a war against Israel in September 2000, he initiated an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Until then, Iran's only client within the Palestinian national movement had been the Islamic Jihad, the smallest of the Palestinian terrorist factions. According to a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, Arafat promised the Iranians that he would turn Gaza into a second southern Lebanon, and Iran began providing weapons and funds to Arafat's Fatah. In January 2002, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets and mortars and C-4 explosives for use in suicide bombings.
        Three years ago, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal orchestrated a formal alliance and today Hamas is an integral part of the Iranian war against Israel. Iran has trained hundreds of Hamas operatives - and continues to fund individual members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigades. The writer is a senior fellow at the Adelson Center for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (New Republic)
  • Six Ways Not to Deal with Hamas - Chuck Freilich
    Negotiations with an organization that explicitly avows Israel's destruction at every opportunity are anathema to many Israelis. What could Israel and Hamas actually talk about? Is there anything short of voluntary national suicide that would satisfy Hamas? Negotiating with Hamas would prove that terrorism, not diplomacy, is the way to gain Israeli concessions. It would also gravely undermine whatever residual legitimacy Mahmoud Abbas still enjoys. Hamas' proposal to negotiate a long-term ceasefire is entirely unacceptable. If Hamas had its way, Israel would have to cease all counterterrorist operations not only in Gaza, but the West Bank, as well - the only thing that has kept Abbas in power and the rockets out of Tel Aviv. The writer is a senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for International Affairs. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Palestinian Twins Under Rocket Fire from Gaza - Christoph Schult (Der Spiegel-Germany)

    • After fertility treatment, Iman Shafii, 32, finally became pregnant. After two of the four small embryos died, the two remaining embryos became increasingly fragile. "You have to go to Israel," the doctor told her. She reached Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon just in time, giving birth on Feb. 25, by Caesarean section, to a girl, Bayan, and a boy, Faisal. Today is the first day she is permitted to hold her babies in her arms. As the tears well up in her eyes, Shafii says, "If the children had stayed in Gaza, they would not have survived."
    • In Ashkelon, Shafii is encountering, for the first time, victims of the acts of terror committed by her own people. One of them is nine-year-old Yossi. A steel frame holds his left shoulder together after it was fractured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in Sderot. "The people in Sderot are suffering just as we are in Gaza," she says.
    • Dr. Shmuel Zangen, the director of the hospital's neonatal unit, notes, "It certainly is odd that we take care of Palestinian children while they shoot at us." On the second day after the birth, a Grad rocket landed on the hospital grounds. Shafii says, "I heard it hit, 200 meters away."
    • "The groups that are firing the rockets are not fighting a just war," says the Palestinian mother, adding that they are not abiding by what the Prophet Muhammad said: that wars may only be waged between soldiers, but not against civilians.
    • In Beit Lahia in Gaza, her husband, Ashraf Shafii, describes how masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses. "They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable," says Shafii. "And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back."
        See also Saving Baby Mohammed - David Byers (Times-UK)
    • I witnessed eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian being carried across the Erez crossing to Israel by a doctor from the Gazan Ministry of Health and handed to his counterpart from Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross. Mohammed - crippled by a chest infection, and heart and gastric problems - was then transferred along with his mother to the Dana Children's Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was to get the emergency treatment needed to save his life. MDA says that around five patients a week are transferred into Israel for treatment.
    • Yonni Yogadovsky, of the Israeli MDA, said, "This is an established procedure and people from the hospitals [in Gaza] and Hamas know about it. We are neighbors and it happens that we don't like each other very much. But when it comes to emergencies that save human lives, this is beyond political disputes."

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