Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 19, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Arab Financial Offensive on U.S. Companies Concerns Analysts - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    As the American economy reverberates with fears that a recession has begun, affluent Gulf states are seizing the opportunity to increase their control of the U.S. economy, leaving some analysts concerned over negative consequences for Israel.
    "There is concern that the purchase of strategic assets provides the owners with the ability to intervene politically," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, chairman of the political studies department at Bar-Ilan University.
    "The problem is not investment, but control. You could start to see subtle aspects of a boycott [of Israel], even though that is illegal under American law. You might find that some of these firms place obstacles to deals with Israel," Steinberg said.
    Petrodollar investment in the U.S. economy was nothing new, Steinberg noted, but "what makes this period potentially different is if it marks a significant decline in American economic power," leaving the door open to an Arab petrodollar buyout.

Palestinian Opinion Leaders Becoming Shi'ites - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Last week, Israeli security forces operating in Bethlehem killed Mohammed Shehadeh, a senior commander in Islamic Jihad who had become a Shi'ite Muslim.
    One of Shehadeh's friends said that many Palestinian opinion leaders are now joining the ranks of the Shi'ites.
    He named Issa Batat, one of Islamic Jihad's senior commanders in the Bethlehem area, who is serving a sentence inside an Israeli prison, and Mohammed Kawamleh, a Jihad member who is still wanted by Israel's security services.

Israel Seizes 2,000 Cell Phones from Palestinian Official (AFP/Khaleej Times-Dubai)
    Israeli authorities on Tuesday seized 2,000 cell phones found in the car of senior Palestinian official and Abbas aide Rawhi Fattuh - who enjoys VIP status - as he was returning from Jordan, IDF military spokesman Peter Lerner said on Wednesday.

Charities Dependent on Dollar Donations Fear for Future - Ruth Sinai (Ha'aretz)
    Hundreds of charities and nonprofit groups in Israel that depend on funding from abroad fear that the continuing decline of the dollar exchange rate, combined with the growing U.S. economic crisis, will force them to dismiss employees and curtail the services they provide in education, welfare and health.
    Prof. Benjamin Gidron, the director of the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research at Ben-Gurion University, estimated that the dollar's 20% decline amounts to a loss of over NIS 1 billion for Israeli hospitals, universities and non-profit associations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Poll: Palestinians Support Rocket Attacks and Want Peace Talks to End - Ethan Bronner
    A new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians - 84% - support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers. The survey also shows that 64% support the firing of rockets on Israeli towns from Gaza and 75% support the end of peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The poll also showed that the militant Islamist group Hamas is gaining popularity in the West Bank while its American-backed rival, Fatah, is losing ground. (New York Times)
  • Ahmadinejad Supporters Tighten Grip on Power in Iran - Nazila Fathi
    Conservative politicians close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to tighten their grip on power in Iran as the government on Monday announced final results of the first round of parliamentary elections. Conservatives controlled about three-quarters of the more than 200 races decided so far in the 290-seat Parliament, said the Interior Ministry. The winners of the remaining seats will be determined in runoff elections in May. None of the 35 reformists who took seats are prominent politicians. 154 members of the previous Parliament were either kept off the ballot or lost their races. The European Union, in a statement issued Friday in Brussels, denounced the election as "neither fair nor free." (New York Times)
  • Incentives Package Prepared for Iran - Nicholas Kralev
    The U.S. and four other veto-wielding states on the UN Security Council are preparing a package of incentives aimed at Iran's newly elected parliament in hopes of ending the country's uranium-enrichment program. The proposal includes economic, technological and security benefits, spare parts for Iran's aging fleet of Boeing aircraft and help developing a civilian nuclear energy program, U.S. and European officials said Monday.
        In a separate development, U.S. officials criticized a deal signed Monday for Iran to supply Switzerland with natural gas. "We are disappointed, and will continue our discussions with the Swiss regarding the need to maintain pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations," the U.S. Embassy in Bern said. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • German Chancellor Addresses Israel's Knesset - Amnon Meranda
    "Standing here before you is a great honor," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hebrew, as she addressed the Knesset Tuesday. "The Shoah fills us Germans with shame. I bow before the victims. I bow before the survivors and before all those who helped them survive," she said, this time in German.
        As for the Iranian threat, the German chancellor said: "It is not up to the world to prove that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb, but rather up to Iran to prove that it is not. If Iran does not accept this, Germany will push for further sanctions. If Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, it would have disastrous consequences."
        "Especially in this place, I emphasize: Every German government and every chancellor before me was committed to the special responsibility Germany has for Israel's security. This historic responsibility is part of my country's fundamental policy. It means that for me, as a German chancellor, Israel's security is non-negotiable," she added. (Ynet News)
  • Airstrike Targets Palestinian Rocket Crew
    An Israel air force aircraft on Tuesday attacked a Palestinian rocket squad in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding four of its members. Earlier in the day, Palestinians fired three rockets into Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peace Index Poll: Israelis Against Cease-Fire with Hamas - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    71% of Jewish Israelis said Israel should not accept Hamas' offer to stop the fire in return for Israel ceasing its operations in Gaza and the West Bank and its pursuit of Hamas leaders, according to Tel Aviv University's February 2008 Peace Index poll, conducted on March 3-4. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Ceasefire - But Only in Gaza - Yossi Alpher
    The moment Hamas insists that a tahdiya, or pause in the fighting, extend to the West Bank as well, Israel has every reason to reject this demand, and the West Bank-based PA and neighboring Jordan have every reason to be suspicious. The Hamas ceasefire demand regarding the West Bank must be understood as a blatant attempt to weaken Fatah, Israel's peace negotiating partner, and even to replace it as ruler of the West Bank as well as Gaza.
        Given the PA's difficulty in combating West Bank terrorists - it is only beginning to deal successfully with criminal (not terrorist) activity in some key areas - Israeli compliance with Hamas' demand to cease all efforts to intercept terrorists in the West Bank would have a double negative effect. In the short run, it would portray Hamas as the stronger and more effective representative of Palestinian needs and aspirations, thereby weakening Fatah and the PA. In the long run, by allowing Hamas to operate freely in the West Bank, it would open the door to a Hamas takeover there. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (
  • The Cold, Cold Heart of Hamas - Nat Hentoff
    Imagine yourself living in a city or a rural area and being targeted almost every day for months, and even years, by missiles that keep you in constant fear. You might expect your government to negotiate with these faceless people who want to destroy you. But what if they don't recognize the right of your government to exist? What then?
        Insisting that it had no choice but to retaliate, Israel maintains it had no intention to kill civilians and has always tried not to. The deadly problem is that, like Hizbullah, Hamas deliberately operates its rocket attacks from deep inside civilian Palestinian neighborhoods, and sometimes in the very homes of noncombatants. Yet the great majority of those describing Israel's retaliation as inhuman because of the civilians killed do not mention that using civilians as human shields is a war crime under international law. (Village Voice)
  • West Bank Feels Pinch of Chinese Imports - Karin Laub and Dalia Nammari
    Yasser Herbawi once supplied much of the West Bank and Gaza with black-and-white checkered scarves, but now most of his looms in Hebron stand idle, his product edged out by cheap imports from the world's newest keffiyeh capital: China. After a decade of being flooded with Chinese goods, the West Bank is struggling to compete - yet another obstacle to economic independence for Palestinians. Two-thirds of Hebron's textile workshops have closed and 6,000 shoe factory workers have lost their jobs in the last eight years. Herbawi's son, Izzat, noted that even Arafat's Fatah movement buys some keffiyehs from China. (AP/Washington Post)
  • A Profile of the Profiled - Hillel Halkin
    I may as well admit it: I'm a suspected terrorist. That's what U.S. Homeland Security thinks. My current passport was issued in 2004 by the American embassy in Tel Aviv, which is apparently what incriminates me. For some reason, Homeland Security thinks that native-born American citizens living in Israel are more likely to bomb or hijack airplanes than other people. I'll agree that there's a certain logic to it - after all, Israel is in the Middle East and the Middle East is a hotbed of terrorism. The fact that Israelis, far more than Americans, are themselves the victims of Middle-East terror, that they are engaged in fighting it on a daily basis, and that no Israeli on record has ever committed an act of terror outside of Israel does not seem to enter into it. (New York Sun)
  • Observations:

    "Try Ahmadinejad for Genocide Calls" - Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)

    • Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler on Monday called on the world community to act against Iranian President Ahmadinejad before he carries out his threats of genocide against Israel.
    • Speaking at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Cotler said: "There is more evidence on a factual basis with respect to the state-sanctioned incitement to genocide in Ahmadinejad's Iran than we had with regard to" a Rwandan convicted of incitement to genocide in Canada.
    • "That gives you a sense, therefore, of how the principles and precedents on both matters of fact and conclusion of law feed into Iran, where what you have today is the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes, namely genocide, embedded in the most virulent of ideologies, namely anti-Semitism, dramatized by the parading in the streets of Teheran of a Shihab-3 missile draped in the emblem with the words, 'Wipe Israel off the map, as the imam says,' proving that this is state-sanctioned incitement to genocide."

          See also Referral of Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the Charge of Incitement to Commit Genocide (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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