Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 6, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Headmaster at UN School Was Islamic Jihad Rocket-Maker - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at an UNRWA school in Gaza. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad. An Israeli air strike killed Qiq, 33, last week.
    His family denied he had any militant links, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home. But militant leaders hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's "engineering unit."

Israel to Send Disaster Relief to Myanmar - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said Monday that Israel would send medical assistance and water sanitation supplies to Myanmar to help cope with the devastating effects of a cyclone that may have killed more than 10,000 people.

Political Leader from German Left Backs Israel - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    "Anti-Zionism cannot be, or at least can no longer be, a tenable position for the left in general, for the party, the Left, especially," said Gregor Gysi, the co-chairman of the Left, the successor political party to the Socialist Party of the now defunct East Germany, in mid-April.
    Gysi broke ranks with the pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab foreign policy of his party, and his groundbreaking speech in which he castigated anti-Israeli sentiments within the party may help to trigger a long-overdue discussion covering left-wing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.
    Gysi, whose father Klaus was Jewish and served as minister of culture and secretary of church affairs in East Germany, asserts that Israel's existence ought to be defined by the Left as part of Germany's "national interest."
    According to a recent poll, the Left party is supported by 12% of Germany's public.

Israel Greets 400 Immigrants Ahead of 60th Birthday (AFP)
    Four hundred new Jewish immigrants from 23 countries landed on Monday in Israel, as the country this week marks the 60th anniversary of its founding.
    In the past six decades, three million immigrants have come to settle in Israel.

Useful Reference:

Israel's Fallen Soldiers: 22,437 - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    When the nation bows its head on Tuesday evening for Remembrance Day for the Fallen in Israel's Wars, it will mourn the 22,437 servicemen and women who fell defending the Land of Israel since 1860.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Embraces Mideast Errands - Anne Gearan
    After initially resisting the idea, Secretary of State Rice, the top envoy for a Bush administration that once sniffed at Mideast peacemaking as a fool's game, is shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and getting into nitty-gritty obstacles that have blocked progress. Rice left the region Monday but plans to return in less than two weeks. She's deep in the Mideast weeds now, tossing off jargon about roadblocks and checkpoints and asking for assessments on whether Israel should lift this roadblock or that one.
        The situation on the ground makes the goal of a deal by year's end look somewhat absurd. The Palestinians, while stationing police in key cities to keep down crime gangs, have done little to dismantle what Israel calls "the terrorist infrastructure" of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
        The big elephant in the room is Hamas, whose control of Gaza makes implementing any peace deal extremely problematic. After Hamas capitalized on Israel's 2005 Gaza withdrawal to launch rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Jewish state is highly unlikely to evacuate any more territory unless it can be assured against a repeat. Olmert himself has said no deal will be implemented until Abbas regains control of Gaza. (AP/Yahoo)
        See also U.S. Monitors to Study West Bank Roadblocks - Arshad Mohammed
    The U.S. said on Monday it would send monitors to study whether the removal of Israeli roadblocks was making life easier for Palestinians in the West Bank. Rice spent much of her recent trip discussing steps to dismantle some of the checkpoints and roadblocks Israel has erected to prevent Palestinian suicide bombings. Rice said she thought Israel was acting in good faith, but that the monitors would "actually talk to villagers" about how to get their crops to market. (Reuters)
  • In Lebanon, Hizbullah Arms Stockpile Bigger, Deadlier - Sebastian Rotella
    Hizbullah now has about 27,000 rockets and missiles, more than double its supply before the 2006 war, Israeli officials say, including Iranian missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv. "We know without a doubt that the international embargo on the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah has been deliberately violated by the governments of Iran and Syria," said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman. Israeli officials say Hizbullah's most potent weapons include about 500 Iranian Zilzal guided missiles, with ranges of 77, 136 and 186 miles. In addition, Hizbullah has 4,000 to 6,000 Iranian Fajr 3 and Fajr 5 rockets with ranges of 27 and 46 miles, respectively. And Syria has provided an estimated 20,000 rockets.
        "The Syria-Iran-Hizbullah axis is closer than it has been since 2006," an Israeli security official said. "In operational planning, the Syrians know that Hizbullah is part of their defense architecture. Hizbullah is stronger than before the war. They have improved their antitank capabilities, the number and quality of their rockets." Western security officials say they discovered last year that Iran was procuring telescopic sights for antitank guns and rocket-propelled grenades from an Eastern European country. Communications among Iranian diplomats revealed that the sights were earmarked for Hizbullah, say the officials. Iran also furnished night-vision equipment and binoculars, the officials say.
        Patrick Haenni, a senior analyst in Lebanon for the International Crisis Group, said, "All the signs on the ground show that Hizbullah is in a concerted phase of preparation, and concentrated on its military reactivation." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran Suspends Talks with U.S. on Security in Iraq - Nasser Karimi
    Iran said Monday it would not hold a new round of talks with the U.S. on security in Iraq until American forces end their current assault against Shiite militias. Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of ambassador-level talks on security in Iraq since last May. The U.S. has accused Iran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Rice Pushing for Israel-PA Memo of Understanding Before Next Week's Bush Visit - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel and the PA are both unhappy over a request by U.S. Secretary of State Rice that they publish a memorandum of understanding on the progress of their final-status negotiations to date before President Bush arrives on a visit next week. "The work of drafting such a document will merely halt the progress and the momentum," argued one Israeli official. Both Israel and the PA would prefer to keep this progress under the media's radar for now. Israeli officials who met with Rice said their impression is that she is determined to produce an achievement at almost any price, given the political capital that both she and Bush have invested in the Palestinian issue over the last year. (Ha'aretz)
  • Arab Holds Three Brazilian "March of the Living" Participants Captive in Poland - Etgar Lefkovits
    An intoxicated Arab man from Kuwait who claimed he had a bomb briefly held three Jewish teenagers captive in their Polish hotel room on Monday. Police forces stormed the room at central Warsaw's Holiday Inn and released the captives unharmed. No explosives were found in the hotel, which was evacuated during the incident. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Smuggler Killed, Five Wounded in Gaza Tunnel Collapse
    The Gaza Health Ministry said one man was killed, five were wounded and one is still missing after a cross-border smuggling tunnel collapsed on Monday. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Must Finally Pay a Price - Fouad Ajami
    Three decades of playing cat-and-mouse with American power have emboldened Iran's rulers. We have played by their rules, and always came up second best. The low-level warfare against American soldiers in Iraq by Shiite groups - aided and abetted by Iran - may be responsible for hundreds of American deaths. The hope entertained a year ago, that Iran would refrain from playing with fire in Iraq, has shown to be wishful thinking.
        Iran's nuclear ambitions are of a wholly different magnitude. But before we tackle that Persian menace, the Iranian theocrats will have to be shown that there is a price for their transgressions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Funding Israel's Detractors - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Some of the recent friction between Israel and Europe results from EU funding for anti-Israel "civil society organizations." While supposedly promoting peace and coexistence, these groups often preach division and confrontation - taking every Palestinian complaint at face value and writing inflammable reports castigating Israel as the aggressor. The EU was also one of the main funders of the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Saudi Fundamentalist Cleric's Fatal Ruling - Joel Brinkley
    A few weeks ago, Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, one of Saudi Arabia's most senior religious authorities, directed that Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi and Yousef Aba al-Khail, two reporters for a mainstream Saudi newspaper, be executed for publishing stories suggesting that religions other than Islam are worthy of respect. Barrak, a leading authority on Wahhabism, the country's fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, is not just some cranky old miscreant. He is a member of the Saudi legislature, appointed by the king. Two weeks after he issued that fatwa, the legislature soundly defeated a proposal to adopt a law promoting respect for other religions.
        In Saudi Arabia, malefactors are beheaded by sword, often in public, outside a mosque just after Friday prayers. By official count, authorities beheaded 151 people last year. The debate over the reporters offers a window into Saudi thinking and helps explain why so many Saudis dedicate themselves to anti-Western jihads. If a respected religious authority calls for the execution of someone who simply suggests that people holding other faiths deserve respect, doesn't that tell Saudis that the lives of Christians, Jews, Hindu and Buddhists are of lesser value? (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Observations:

    War of the Rockets - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

    • For months now, Israel has been mired in an unwinnable war against Hamas and allied militias in Gaza, who fire missiles at civilians in Israel and then hide among their own women and children, ensuring that retaliatory fire will produce innocent victims for the Middle East's innumerable satellite television networks.
    • A growing number of the militiamen have been to Iran for training, and some of the missiles they launch are Iranian-made. Their objective is to exhaust Israelis with an endless war of attrition while making it impossible for Israel's government to reach a political settlement with the more moderate Palestinian administration in the West Bank.
    • Now U.S. forces have been drawn into a similar morass in Sadr City in Baghdad where Iranian-made rockets rain down on the Green Zone and nearby neighborhoods.
    • It's not hard to grasp the common strategy at work here. The rockets fired from Gaza and from Sadr City are two prongs of an offensive aimed at forcing the U.S. out of Iraq, putting Israel on the defensive - and leaving Iran as the region's preeminent power.
    • The third front, in Lebanon, is also the model. There the Hizbullah militia has armed itself with thousands of rockets and long-range missiles in preparation for a repeat of its 2006 war with Israel.

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