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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 25, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Congress Votes to Salute Israel's 60th Anniversary (Conference of Presidents)
    The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed resolutions this week saluting Israel on its 60th anniversary, underscoring the special ties between the two countries.
    The Senate version of the resolution was cosponsored by the entire 100-member Senate and was passed on Tuesday.
    The House version passed by a vote of 417-0 on Wednesday.

Groups with Iran's Backing Blamed for Baghdad Attacks - Stephen Farrell and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times)
    Nearly three-quarters of the attacks that kill or wound American soldiers in Baghdad are carried out by Iranian-backed Shiite groups, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Gap Opens between Al-Qaeda and Allies - Josh Meyer (Los Angeles Times)
    Al-Qaeda increasingly faces sharp criticism from once-loyal sympathizers who openly question its ideology and tactics, including attacks that kill innocent Muslims, according to U.S. intelligence officials, counter-terrorism experts and the group's own communications.
    In March, al-Qaeda's chief strategist, Ayman Zawahiri, released a 188-page Internet book to rebut complaints, particularly those saying Zawahiri and Bin Laden should be held accountable for violence against Muslims.

Few Clear Court Wins in U.S. Anti-Terror Cases - Carrie Johnson and Walter Pincus (Washington Post)
    In the most recent disappointment for federal prosecutors in a domestic terrorism case, a jury last week did not reach a verdict in the Miami case for the second time. The case involved a bizarre plot to blow up the FBI Miami office and Chicago's Sears Tower.
    In the Holy Land case, involving a Dallas charity which was said to have provided "blood money" to finance overseas suicide bombings, one defendant was cleared of the charges and jurors deadlocked on charges against the others.
    Jurors in a 2003 case against a Tampa-area man and his associates, who allegedly supported a reign of terror by a violent Palestinian group, acquitted two men and could not agree on the charges against the main defendant.
    The Justice Department's domestic terrorism record to date has provoked criticism of its early strategy of going after homegrown terrorist cells and the people who fund plots well before deadly events occur.
    Yet independent commissions have urged the FBI to become more aggressive at detecting threats and neutralizing them before they explode.
    See also U.S. to Make Third Attempt to Prosecute Miami Group - Julienne Gage (Washington Post)
    Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will try for the third time to convict six men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and attack other buildings.

Israel Pardons Ten Fatah Operatives - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Israel agreed to pardon ten more wanted gunmen from Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, after a security meeting between Israeli representatives and Palestinians.
    Israel also decided to extend the probation periods of 150 other wanted men, who will have to prove that they are no longer involved in anti-Israel activities.
    The Palestinians expressed satisfaction with the amnesty agreement, and said that the wanted men involved in the program were very committed to it.

Fearing a War, Lebanese Prepare by Buying Up Arms - Alia Ibrahim (Washington Post)
    Many Lebanese, increasingly worried about the country's political paralysis devolving into violence, are preparing themselves by buying weapons.
    An AK-47 that went for $75 to $100 a year ago now costs $600 to $1,000. RPG launchers cost $500, up from $50.

West Bank Samaritans Mark Passover with Blood and Fire (AFP)
    Men chant in ancient Hebrew over the sheep, their white garments and knives lit by the fading dusk as they ready a sacrifice for the God of Israel in the heart of the West Bank.
    The faithful are Samaritans, a community of 710 people who trace their lineage to the ancient Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, an event they remember every year on a grassy hilltop on Mount Gerizim near Nablus - in a region known to Jews as Samaria.
    Over the years, their numbers dwindled from 1.5 million in the fifth century AD to fewer than 150 in 1917.
    The Samaritans' fortunes started improving under the British Mandate, when colonial officials sought to rescue the community they associated with the "Good Samaritan" parable.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Had Extensive Discussions with Israel Before Airstrike on Syrian Reactor - David E. Sanger
    The Bush administration released detailed photographic images on Thursday to support its assertion that the building in Syria that Israel destroyed in an airstrike last year was a nuclear reactor constructed with years of help from North Korea. The administration said it withheld the pictures for seven months out of fear that Syria could retaliate against Israel and start a broader war in the Middle East.
        A senior administration official said the White House had extensive discussions with Israel before the airstrike. The White House raised the possibility of confronting Syria with a demand that it dismantle the reactor or face the possibility of an attack. But that idea never gained traction with the Israelis or some in the administration, and in the end, the official said, Israel cited satellite evidence to declare that the Syrian reactor constituted "an existential threat" to Israel because it might soon be ready for operation. The official added that Israel's attack proceeded "without a green light from us." "None was asked for, none was given." A senior intelligence official said the U.S. agreed that Syria was "good to go" in turning on the reactor, though it would have been years before it could have produced weapons fuel. (New York Times)
        See also Syria's Nuke Facility Was Nearly Completed When Israel Bombed It - Nicholas Kralev and Sara A. Carter (Washington Times)
        See also Video: CIA Report on Syrian Nuclear Reactor (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Syria's Covert Nuclear Activities (White House)
  • Israel's Air Force Chief: Iran Threat Real - Bob Simon
    The commander of the Israeli air force, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy, spoke to 60 Minutes about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel. "I think it is a very serious threat to the State of Israel, but more than this, to the whole world," Shkedy says. "They are talking about destroying and wiping us from the earth." It reminds him of the Holocaust. "We should remember. We cannot forget. We should trust only ourselves....In those days, people didn't believe that Hitler was serious about what he said. I suggest not to repeat this way of thinking, and to prepare ourselves for what they are planning."
        Col. Ziv Levy, an air base commander, says, "We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in training and being prepared for the worst. We cannot lose a single war. The first war we lose, Israel will cease to exist." (CBS News)
        See also Dennis Ross: Iran Could Be a Nuclear Power by 2009
    By 2009, Iran "could be a nuclear power, if not a nuclear weapon state," former special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said in Toronto, as reported by the Canadian Jewish News. If not stopped by next year, Iran will have "crossed the threshold of stockpiling fissionable material....Once they cross that threshold, we're going to be in a different ball game. We have to approach this with a high degree of urgency. We're running out of time." Even former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said it would "take only one bomb" to annihilate Israel, Ross said. "Can you ignore what they say?" he asked. (Newsmax)
  • Bush Tells Palestinian Leader Peace Is Possible - Michael Abramowitz
    President Bush sought to assure PA leader Mahmoud Abbas that a peace agreement with Israel remains possible, during a meeting at the White House Thursday. Abbas did most of the talking in his session with Bush, said White House press secretary Dana Perino. "The president let him have his say about his hopes, his concerns, his commitment, his frustration, his seriousness," she said. "The president reaffirmed for him his belief...they can define a Palestinian state by the end of the year." (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Two Israeli Guards Killed by Palestinian Terrorists in Israeli-Palestinian Industrial Zone - Amos Harel
    Two Israeli security guards - Shimon Mizrachi, 53, and Eli Wasserman, 51 - were shot dead Friday at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone on the boundary between Israel and the Palestinian-ruled West Bank city of Tulkarm. Hundreds of Palestinians work at Nitzanei Oz.
        Also Friday, three Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck southern Ashkelon. A fourth rocket was fired toward Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. (Ha'aretz)
  • UN Suspends Aid to Gaza; Israel: Hamas Preventing Fuel Deliveries
    The UN stopped distributing aid to Gaza on Thursday after running out of fuel. The Nahal Oz terminal, which supplies the Strip with commodities, remained shut due to the terror attacks on the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings, during which five Israelis were killed. Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about a million liters that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of the fuel depot. UNRWA said the stored fuel was not destined for UN agencies in Gaza, which buy their own supplies but also have to import them through Nahal Oz.
        Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arye Mekel told the UN that "they should take it up with Hamas and demand they get fuel from the million liters stored on the Palestinian side of the border." "We did try today to transfer fuel directly to UNRWA, but a farmers' demonstration supported by Hamas prevented us from doing so," he said. "Hamas has prevented the use of this fuel stocked for humanitarian purposes such as ambulances, generators, hospitals and water pumps, and is creating an artificial and dishonest crisis." (AFP/Ynet News)
        See also No Fuel Crisis for Hamas Leaders - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas figures are almost the only ones not to be affected by the fuel crisis. The well-guarded convoy of the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, continues to drive through the streets of Gaza. Activists of Hamas' Executive Force were also seen this week traveling in the unit's vehicles and distributing food to their pals. In the past weeks, Hamas filled the organization's gasoline and diesel reservoirs so that it would be able to continue its daily activity without interruption.
        According to a survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center this week, support for Haniyeh is higher than that for Mahmoud Abbas. The main reason lies in Fatah's failure to demonstrate change. Elections to the Fatah leadership are not on the horizon, and talk of injecting young blood sounds more like a joke than a real possibility. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Dismisses Hamas Truce Bid as Ruse to Recover from Fighting - Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, and Yuval Azoulay
    Israel dismissed on Friday a proposal by Hamas to call a conditional six-month truce in Gaza, calling it a ruse aimed at allowing the Palestinian Islamist group to recover from recent fighting. "Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup. There would be no need for Israel's defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis," said David Baker, a spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office.
        A delegation from Hamas on Thursday told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas is prepared to accept a temporary cease-fire with Israel, to begin in Gaza, and then extend to the West Bank after a predetermined time. According to Hamas' proposal, Israel will cease all military activity in Gaza and, in return, Hamas will ensure an end to cross-border rocket fire at Israel or other militant operations, including arms smuggling into Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas: We Won't Stop Arms Smuggling or Weapons Development
    Hamas spokesman in Gaza Ayman Taha told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya that Hamas will stop rocket fire if Israel lifts the blockade on Gaza. Nevertheless, he said that Hamas would not stop arms smuggling or weapons development. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Hamas Wants a Cease-Fire - Moshe Elad
    The economic siege in Gaza is indeed taking its toll, and the public is impatient and conveys dissatisfaction with its leaders. Hamas heads are the ones who need the lull more than anyone. When he appeared before hundreds of graduates at Gaza's Islamic University, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was asked whether "you need the lull with Israel in order to protect us, or yourselves?" The outbursts of laughter and embarrassed stares among the crowd came in place of the real answer.
        Haniyeh, al-Zahar and their comrades "are fed up with the need to be walking in tunnels stooped over while constantly staring at the sky," a Hamas opponent in Gaza explained recently, "so they decided to refer to the solution as a process of national self-examination." The cease-fire's purpose is to prepare for the continuation of the struggle and boost the capabilities of the fighters. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace with Syria?

  • Assad Wants Peace Process More than Peace - Herb Keinon
    Syrian President Bashar Assad confirmed Syrian press reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had declared a willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace. Some say the Syrian president is trying to divert attention from the fallout expected to follow testimony about Damascus' nuclear collusion with North Korea. Assad's confirmation of Olmert's message is not really hot news, since previous prime ministers have made clear to the Syrians since 1993 that Israel would be willing to withdraw from the Golan in exchange for peace.
        It is important to note that Damascus is insisting on public - not secret - negotiations, with the U.S. playing an active role in the process. Assad said in an interview Thursday in Qatar's Al-Watan that direct negotiations needed a sponsor "and this can only be the United States." Syria wants the hullabaloo of the peace process more than the peace, hoping the process itself will help pave its way back into the good graces of the West. Israel is not interested in giving the Syrians a helping hand in gaining America's favor. While some analysts say nothing is lost in testing Assad's intentions, others argue that even if he wanted to, Syria is already too heavily dependent on Teheran to split with Iran. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: Syria Must Cut Terror Ties - Herb Keinon
    Western diplomatic officials said reports that Israel had expressed a willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal missed a major part of the story: what the Syrians would have to do. The officials, who confirmed that messages between Jerusalem and Damascus have been going through Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's office for months, said Israel made clear that any peace agreement would necessitate Syria ending its support for Hamas and throwing Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal out of Damascus; ceasing support for Hizbullah; and distancing itself from Iran. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peres: The Golan Must Not Be Given to the Iranians - Ben Caspit and Avishai Ben-Haim
    While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad continue to signal to one another their intention to reach a peace agreement at the center of which is an Israeli concession of the Golan Heights, President Shimon Peres expressed in a closed meeting a strongly opposing position: Under present circumstances Israel must not withdraw from the Golan Heights and reach an agreement with Assad. "Assad prefers Lebanon and the connection with Hizbullah over the Golan Heights," Peres said.
        One of the president's advisors who was present at the meeting said Peres greatly doubts if the Syrian president wants peace and that Assad faces a choice of cutting himself from Iran, to which he is connected. According to Peres, the Golan must not be given to Iran's neighbor and Assad wants to continue to assist Hamas and Hizbullah. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • We Already Have Peace with Syria - Guy Bechor
    There is not much difference between the peace we have with Syria today and the peace we have with Egypt, with the exception of the written agreement whose exact details nobody remembers. Bashar Assad has not traveled to Jerusalem, but when did Hosni Mubarak visit Israel? Moreover, our border with Syria is quiet and stable and no clash has taken place there for dozens of years, as opposed to the "border of peace" with Egypt, which is replete with criminal and terror infiltrations. (Ynet News)

    Other Issues

  • Syria's Nuclear End Run - Editorial
    The Syrians apparently were following in Iran's dodge-and-deceive footsteps, building a nuclear program in secret, probably hoping to spring it on the world as a fait accompli. Israel has done the world a favor, as it did when it bombed Iraq's nuclear plant in 1981. A nuclear Syria would be as dangerous and destabilizing as a nuclear Iran. (Chicago Tribune)
  • How to Make Deals with Devils - Leslie H. Gelb
    Washington sages are now debating whether to negotiate with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran or with Hamas; some are considering trying to reconcile with supposedly repentant Islamist insurgents in Iraq and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The U.S. almost always deals with devils at some point or another. There is no alternative if a president wants to test nonmilitary solutions to the nastiest of problems. The real issue is not whether to talk to the bad guys but how, under which conditions, with which mix of pressure and conciliation, and with what degree of expectation that the bad guys will keep their word.
        Does this mean that we should just talk to every devil, no matter how evil? No. There is a crucial difference between a bad man and a madman. If that line is crossed, there really isn't much sense in negotiating. Hitler's rhetoric, fanatical anti-Semitism and palpable aggression were beyond debate, and it was self-delusion to think he could ever be remotely reasonable. The same can be said of the words and deeds of Osama bin Laden - and probably those of Ahmadinejad and Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of Hamas, as well. To deal with these detestable fanatics without any real prospects for a breakthrough serves only to legitimize and empower them.
        But their followers are not monolithic. It's almost always worth exploring the cracks and crevices for people who are disillusioned, tired or just plain ambitious. Even devils have interests other than threatening the U.S. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Washington Post)
  • The Motives of the FBI - Yoel Marcus
    What made the FBI wake up now and charge an 84-year-old American Jew with spying for Israel 23 years ago? The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, is correct in expressing astonishment at the timing. If Ben-Ami Kadish's actions were so serious, how come they waited 23 years? This is the same FBI that for five years had no idea a plot to blow up the Twin Towers was being hatched under its nose, while it spent a large part of its time harassing the Jewish aides of U.S. senators and congressmen. It didn't like the sight of Israeli leaders buttonholing U.S. officials at resource and policy institutes. So this is not a conspiracy masterminded by the U.S. administration, but part of the FBI's scare campaign to keep sensitive information from being relayed to Israel by American Jews. This is the reason for the investigations and legal proceedings against AIPAC executives. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rule Comes with Bills
    Palestinians are learning that independence has a price: They have to start paying their utility bills. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is cracking down as part of his effort to bring law and order to the West Bank and to reassure donor countries that they are not subsidizing deadbeats with their billions of dollars in aid. West Bank residents who haven't paid a bill in seven years or more are being told that until they settle up they can't do simple things like renew a driver's license. The result has been a storm of protest. The Palestinian Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against the practice.
        But Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist, is saying it is time that the Palestinians learned a little discipline. "This is an important step on the way to strengthening our standing as a government and will strengthen our self-reliance," he said. "It's also an important element of building a state." "It doesn't make sense to keep speaking about reform while a quarter of the budget each year goes to paying electricity and water bills," he said. "Subsidizing those who don't deserve it is a waste of the public's money."  (AP/Baltimore Sun)
  • Observations:

    Syria's Covert Nuclear Activities (White House)

    • Until Sept. 6, 2007, the Syrian regime was building a covert nuclear reactor in its eastern desert capable of producing plutonium. We are convinced that North Korea assisted Syria's covert nuclear activities. We have good reason to believe that reactor, which was damaged beyond repair, was not intended for peaceful purposes.
    • In defiance of its international obligations, Syria did not inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the construction of the reactor, and, after it was destroyed, the regime moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence. This cover-up only served to reinforce our confidence that this reactor was not intended for peaceful activities.
    • The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities. The Syrian regime supports terrorism, takes action that destabilizes Lebanon, allows the transit of some foreign fighters into Iraq, and represses its own people. If Syria wants better relations with the international community, it should put an end to these activities.
    • This development serves as a reminder that often the same regimes that sponsor proliferation also sponsor terrorism, and cooperate with one another in doing so. This underscores that the international community is right to be very concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and the risks those activities pose to the stability of the Middle East.
    • To confront this challenge, the international community must take further steps, beginning with the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions dealing with Iranian nuclear activities. The U.S. calls upon the international community to redouble our common efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction in this critical region.

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