Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 7, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel at 60: Population 7.282 Million (Jerusalem Post)
    On the eve of Israel's 60th Independence Day, the country's population stands at 7,282,000, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
    5,499,000 (75.5%) are Jews and 1,461,000 (20.1%) are Arabs.

New Assessment: Iran Could Have Bomb by Mid-2009 - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    A senior Israeli defense official said on Tuesday that Iran was now on track to master the technology needed to enrich uranium within six months.
    This means Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the middle of next year.
    Israel is also concerned that Iran is developing a cruise missile that can evade interception by Israel's Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system.

Israeli Aid Teams Head to Devastated Myanmar - Danielle Singer and Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    After a devastating cyclone, Israel will be sending to Myanmar a highly trained search-and-rescue team and a 10-member team of doctors and nurses.
    The teams will bring with them crucial supplies, including plastic sheeting, food, household appliances and water filters.

Survey: Israelis Expecting War - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann (Tel Aviv University)
    On the eve of Israel's 60th Independence Day, 75% of the Israeli Jewish public thinks that Israel will find itself at war with one or more Arab states in the next five years.
    Only 19% support an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights for a full peace treaty with Syria while 75% oppose it.
    As for the Palestinians, 70% support the formula of "two states for two peoples."
    Regarding Jerusalem, 55% vs. 40% are not willing to see Arab neighborhoods handed over to Palestinian sovereignty, 60% are not in favor of joint Israeli-Palestinian administration of the Temple Mount and the Jerusalem holy places, and 83% oppose handing over the Old City to the Palestinians.
    Tel Aviv University's War and Peace Index was launched as the Peace Index in September 1993. The change in name reflects the worsening of relations between Israel and the Arab and Islamic world in recent years.

Palestinians Learn about the Israeli Enemy - Nathan Jeffay (Guardian-UK)
    Azizha Noful, a student in the Israel studies course at the Palestinian Al-Quds University, says of Israel: "It had nothing, and in a very short period has built this very strong economy. We should be amazed by this."
    "Israelis are great developers and we can learn from everything they are doing," she says.
    However, she insists that this learning process must take place from a safe distance and shuns dialogue. "We have to know about Israel but not forget they are our enemy. I can't be on good relations with my enemy."

Hitting Age 60, Israel Gets Nostalgic for the Old Days - Matti Friedman (AP)
    As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, Israelis have their gaze set firmly backward. Turn on the TV and you'll see grainy archive footage and old-timers reminiscing about desert wars and pioneering days on the kibbutz.
    The hottest new CD features contemporary singers covering Israeli favorites from decades past.
    The failure of peace talks with the Palestinians in 2000 and the violence that ensued have left Israelis deeply cynical about prospects for resolving the conflict.
    "Today, most Israelis don't believe in peace anymore. This wasn't the case when the country turned 50," said historian Tom Segev.
    Yet in an anniversary poll published in the daily Yediot Ahronot, 91% of Israelis said it was "fairly good" or "very good" to live in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Marks Memorial Day
    Sirens wailed across Israel and the nation came to a standstill in a solemn two-minute ritual Wednesday as the country marked its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks. Pedestrians stood at attention, traffic came to a standstill as motorists stepped out of their cars, and radio and TV programming was halted. Throughout the day, people attended ceremonies at military cemeteries, radio stations played somber music and devoted programs to retelling the stories of soldiers killed in battle, and places of entertainment, such as movie houses and restaurants, were closed. On Wednesday evening, the country will kick off celebrations marking its 60th anniversary of independence. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Methodists Reject Israel Divestment Resolutions
    Methodists at last week's United Methodist Church General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, overwhelmingly defeated measures calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel like Caterpillar and Motorola. An alliance of grassroots church activists who nurture ties to the Jewish community helped defeat five divestment resolutions, often in the early stages of the conference. Those activists also helped pass resolutions opposing the proselytizing of Jews and promoting Holocaust awareness and the fight against anti-Semitism. (JTA)
  • Pro-Hizbullah Protesters Paralyze Beirut - Nadim Ladki
    Activists loyal to Hizbullah blocked main roads in Beirut with burning barricades on Wednesday, paralyzing the city and deepening a political conflict with the U.S.-backed government. Hizbullah has been leading a campaign against Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government since November 2006 in a standoff that has left Lebanon without a president for five months. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • Egypt's Tax, Price Hikes Fuel Concern of More Discontent
    Last week, President Hosni Mubarak ordered that the salaries of all government and public sector employees - almost 6 million people - be raised by 30%, in a move to assuage a population increasingly restive over stagnant wages and rising food prices. Then on Monday, parliament passed a bill to muster the $3.6 billion needed for the salary raises. It increased taxes and cigarette prices, reduced fuel subsidies and removed tax breaks from private education and heavy industry. The average price of gasoline and diesel jumped 46%. Analysts said Egypt's economic woes would deepen. Ahmed el-Seyyed el-Nagar, editor of Egypt's Economic Report, said the hikes would fuel inflation which in turn would "devour" the salary raise. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Seven Wounded in Palestinian Infighting - Ali Waked
    Seven Palestinian men were wounded Tuesday in exchanges of fire between PA security forces and residents of the West Bank town of Kabatiya, near Jenin. A group of local residents, some of them armed and some affiliated with Islamic Jihad, did not approve of the PA's activity in the area. Residents claimed that the security forces fired at them massively and indiscriminately. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Unit Battles Gunmen in Test for U.S.-Funded Program - Griff Witte
    The PA operation in Kabatiya marked the first major test for a group of Presidential Guards who are at the forefront of a $28 million U.S. effort to bolster the PA's security capabilities. Islamic Jihad said two of its fighters were among the injured. (Washington Post)
  • Airstrike Targets Hamas Mortar Squad
    An Israel Air Force strike Tuesday on a Hamas mortar launching squad near Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza killed one gunman and wounded three others, according to Palestinian officials. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that landed in Sderot on Tuesday. In addition, Palestinian terrorists fired six mortar shells at southern Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Israel at 60

  • Israel Is Now America's Closest Ally - Michael B. Oren
    Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the American flag is rarely (if ever) burned in protest - indeed, some Israelis fly that flag on their own independence day. Arguably, there is no alliance in the world today more durable and multifaceted than that between the U.S. and Israel. Yet America has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital - imagine if Israel refused to recognize Washington. Most fundamentally, though, is the amity between the two countries' peoples. The admiration which the U.S. inspires among Israelis is overwhelmingly reciprocated by Americans, more than 70% of whom, according to recent polls, favor robust ties with the Jewish state. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's 60-Year Test - Bret Stephens
    A considerable segment of world opinion thinks that Israel is the world's foremost abuser of human rights. Between January 2003 and March 2008, Israel was condemned by the UN no fewer than 635 times. The runners-up were Sudan at 280, the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 209, and Burma at 183. I would argue the opposite: that no other country has been so circumspect in using force against the provocations of its enemies. Nor has any so consistently preserved the civil liberties of its own citizens. (Wall Street Journal)
  • President Truman's Decision to Recognize Israel - Clark Clifford with Richard Holbrooke
    The charge that domestic politics determined our policy on Palestine angered President Truman for the rest of his life. In fact, the President's policy rested on the realities of the situation in the region, on America's moral, ethical, and humanitarian values, on the costs and risks inherent in any other course, and on America's national interests. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Washington's Battle Over Israel's Birth - Richard Holbrooke
    Israel was going to come into existence whether or not Washington recognized it. But without American support from the very beginning, Israel's survival would have been at even greater risk. Truman's decision, although opposed by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, was the right one - and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire. (Washington Post)
  • "I Was at Israel's Founding"
    Arieh Handler, 93, a member of the Zionist General Council [the governing body of the Jewish people in Palestine], recounts that historic day of 14 May 1948 when the State of Israel was declared. "I still have the original invitation. It reads: 'From the Administration of the Nation, Tel Aviv, 13 May 1948. We are honored to send to you this invitation to the session of the declaration of independence.'" After the state was declared, "Egyptian planes were already bombing Tel Aviv, and Glubb Pasha [the British commander of the army of Transjordan] was leading an Arab army." "Despite all these troubles, there was tremendous excitement. People were dancing in the streets, day and night, even as the planes were bombing." (BBC News)
  • No Alternative to Jewish Sovereignty - Gerald M. Steinberg
    In the modern world, the Jewish people could only survive, both physically and culturally, by regaining and maintaining national independence. Yet for the Arab and Muslem "rejectionists" (including the Iranians, who are claiming leadership of this group), the idea of Jewish sovereignty in the "Muslem Middle East" remains unacceptable. This fundamental conflict, and not differences over borders, post-1967 settlements and occupation, is the core of the conflict and has led to the wars of aggression and mass terror attacks against Israel. Progress towards the acceptance of Jewish sovereignty among the nations of the world is painfully slow, and the struggle will continue to be exhausting. But there are no better choices - there are no alternatives for Israel and the Jewish people. The writer is the Executive Director of NGO Monitor and chairman of the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Gift to the World - Alan M. Dershowitz
    As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, the world should recognize the enormous gifts the Jewish state has given the world. Israel has exported more lifesaving medical technology to the far-flung corners of the earth than any nation of comparable size. It has done more to protect the environment, to promote literature, music, the arts and sciences, to spread agricultural advances and to fight terrorism within the rule of law. Yet despite these disproportionate contributions to the world, Israel has proportionally more enemies than any nation on earth. Moreover, the intensity of the enmity directed against the Mideast's only democracy is unexplainable on any rational basis. (New York Post)
  • Few Nations Can Claim the Same Legitimacy as Israel - David Brumer
    For some in academia, the media and even the UN, Israel's very "Right to Exist" is considered a subject for legitimate debate. It's ironic, since few nations can claim the kind of historic legitimacy and connection to a place as can the Jewish people. For more than 3,000 years, Jews have been spiritually as well as corporeally bonded to the Land of Israel. In 1921, Winston Churchill proclaimed, "It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national center and a national home. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?"
        Israel has said yes to virtually every partition plan put forth in modern times while the Palestinians have said no. In 2000 Israel offered the Palestinians more than 96% of the West Bank and all of Gaza; the Palestinian response was a terror war unleashed against the Jewish state. The world might better applaud the miracle of Israel's rebirth in its tiny ancestral land as a model of decency, tolerance and intellectual vibrancy, for these are the true criteria of legitimacy. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • Observations:

    Land Without Regret - Hillel Halkin (National Post-Canada)

    • It is difficult to live with uncertainty and there are those who, no longer able to believe in the certainty of success, would rather believe in the certainty of failure. But we almost never know how things will turn out and Israel is an excellent example. How many people would have believed a hundred years ago, in 1908, that 40 years later, in 1948, there would be a Jewish state in Palestine?
    • Israel is a tiny speck on the map, surrounded by a hostile Arab and Muslim world that is growing all the time in wealth, influence, population, military power, self-confidence and religious zealotry; and that continues to be convinced that a Jewish state in its midst is a historical anomaly and a moral injustice that must one day be wiped out.
    • Meanwhile, Israel has been an extraordinary success, a country that has gone in 60 years from being the poor, bankrupt, imperiled home of less than a million Jews to a militarily powerful, economically thriving, financially independent state of five-and-a-half million Jews. Already at peace with some of their Arab neighbors, they can hold out against the others until accepted by them as well.
    • For all its shortcomings, Israel is and will always be one of the most glorious historical adventures in the history of mankind. A 3,000-year-old people, the victim of the greatest act of mass murder ever committed on this planet, has the indomitable will to reconstitute itself in its ancient homeland, to revive its ancient language, to assert its right to live, to create new life, to nourish it and maintain it in defiance of all odds - there's never been anything else like it before and never will be again.

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