Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 12, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

North Korea Funneled Reactor Parts to Damascus - Robin Wright and Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    According to U.S. officials, European intelligence officials and diplomats, North Korean businessman Ho Jin Yun's Namchongang Trading (NCG) provided the critical link between Pyongyang and Damascus, acquiring key materials from vendors in China and probably from Europe, and secretly transferring them to a construction site near the Syrian town of Al Kibar.
    Western spy agencies were able to track the movement of NCG employees and purchases to Syria in 2003, where the outlines of the reactor scheme eventually became apparent.
    The Syrian site was closely scrutinized by Western intelligence officials for months before it was destroyed by Israel.
    Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen said, "The reactor which was being built was not very far from being operational and needed to be hit."
    U.S. officials say that as the government cleared the site of debris after the bombing, some telltale reactor components that had been deliberately hidden became visible.

EU Condemns Iran Leader's Anti-Israel Remarks (AFP)
    The EU presidency on Friday condemned "in the strongest possible terms" anti-Israeli remarks made by Iran's hardline President Ahmadinejad, who called the State of Israel "a stinking corpse."
    Ahmadinejad's comments "are unacceptable, damaging and uncivilized," the EU's Slovenian presidency said in a statement.

Preparations for Bush Visit Move into High Gear - Zohar Blumenkrantz (Ha'aretz)
    Preparations for U.S. President George W. Bush's arrival in Israel on Wednesday have moved into high gear.
    Five enormous C-17 cargo planes carrying mainly security equipment for the visit are scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday. The cargo includes armored cars and helicopters that will escort the president throughout his visit.

Hamas Militant Killed in Gaza Explosion (AP/Washington Post)
    A member of the militant group Hamas has been killed in an explosion along Gaza's fence with Israel, the group said Sunday.
    The group said a member was killed and another injured during a "holy mission," the language used when explosives meant for an attack on Israel explode prematurely.

Tel Aviv More Crowded than Gaza - Joseph M. Hochstein (Israel: like this as if)
    Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab and others have written that Gaza is "one of the most densely populated places on earth, with 3,823 people per square kilometer."
    The Tel Aviv metropolitan area has a density of more than 5,000 people per square kilometer, which is considerably more crowded than Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizbullah Leaves West Beirut After Beating Lebanese Government Challenge - Daniel Williams
    Hizbullah, Lebanon's powerful Shiite Muslim party and militia, handed sections of Beirut to the Lebanese army Sunday after forcing pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to abandon efforts to curb its military activities. Siniora had instructed the army to shut down Hizbullah's electronic surveillance operation at Beirut's international airport and a vast land-line telephone network it controlled. The military overturned the government's plans. By occupying parts of the Lebanese capital for five days, Hizbullah forced Siniora to back down. (Bloomberg)
        See also Clashes in Lebanon Continue - Alia Ibrahim
    Clashes between government supporters and opponents erupted in a mountainous area just south of the Lebanese capital Sunday. A tense calm fell over Beirut, where pro-government factions decided to stop fighting. Many roads across the city remained closed. 42 people have been killed in the crisis. (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah Redrawing Mideast Map - Joshua Mitnick
    Hizbullah's dramatic gains in Lebanon are just part of a regional process that began last year in Gaza and will continue in Jordan and Egypt, Sheikh Yazeeb Khader, a Ramallah-based Hamas political activist and editor, said in an interview. "What happened in Gaza in 2007 is an achievement; now it is happening in 2008 in Lebanon. It's going to happen in 2009 in Jordan and it's going to happen in 2010 in Egypt." "We are seeing a redrawing of the map of the Middle East where the forces of resistance and steadfastness are the ones moving the things on the ground."
        His remarks highlight a growing alliance linking Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah. The notion of new countries falling under Islamist influence reflects a goal of Hamas' parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, of replacing secular Arab regimes with Islamist governments. (Washington Times)
  • Israel Considers Truce Offer from Hamas - Robert Berger
    Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman will present Israel on Monday with a truce offer from the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Israeli spokesman Arieh Mekel says Israel would welcome a halt to the daily rocket attacks. "The ball is in Hamas' court. If they were to stop these attacks, Israel will have no reason to react and there will be peace and quiet," said Mekel.
        But some Israeli officials, as well as the army, strongly oppose a ceasefire. They say Hamas would use a truce to regroup and rearm for the next round of violence. "Therefore, it is inevitable with the acquisition of weapons by Hamas, based on its creed of warfare against Israel, based on its training in Iran, based on its jihadic war effort and ethos, that fighting will continue," said Israeli analyst Mordechai Nissan. Hamas is seeking a ceasefire because it has been hit hard by Israeli sanctions and military incursions. (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Kibbutz Man Killed in Hamas Mortar Attack - Yuval Azoulay and Or Kashti
    Jimmy Kedoshim, 48, a father of three, was killed in a Palestinian mortar attack on Friday as he was tending the garden of his home on Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Palestinians in Gaza fired 21 Kassam rockets at Israel Saturday, causing injuries as well as damage to buildings, including a Sderot synagogue and a structure near Sapir College. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near School Bus in Sderot - Shmulik Hadad
    A Palestinian rocket landed in Sderot near a bus carrying schoolchildren on Sunday. The bus windows were shattered, a fire broke out nearby, and three children were treated for shock. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near School in Ashkelon Monday - Shmulik Hadad
    The first Palestinian rocket that struck Ashkelon on Monday landed near an elementary school. One woman suffered from shock and several houses sustained damage. Another landed in the Ashkelon National Park. (Ynet News)
  • As Lebanon Turns into Gaza - Barry Rubin
    At present, Hizbullah and its sponsors seek not the full conquest of Lebanon but to control the government by violence and intimidation. They want veto power over the government to ensure it does nothing they dislike: no strong relations with the West, no ability to stop war against Israel, no disarming Hizbullah militias or challenging its control over much of the country, and certainly no investigation of Syrian involvement in internal terrorism there. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Showdown between Hizbullah and Beirut - David Schenker
    Sadly, for Washington, there are few realistic policy options to reverse the Hizbullah coup. It is highly unlikely that the UN - which failed to even prevent the rearming of Hizbullah - would agree to more dangerous deployments in Lebanon. The U.S. may have some influence with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) since Washington has provided it nearly $250 million in assistance since 2006, including key logistical support. Last spring, Washington dispatched forty C130 aircraft loaded with military material to Lebanon that helped tip the balance in favor of the LAF in its battle against the al-Qaeda-affiliated Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared camp.
        With so much at stake, now is the time for Washington to use whatever leverage it might have to encourage the LAF to fulfill its national responsibility to protect Lebanese institutions. If the LAF does not act soon, Lebanese sovereignty may become a thing of the past. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Lesson of Lebanon - Noah Pollak
    The crisis in Lebanon teaches us the same lesson we learned from Hamas when it took Gaza: Islamic supremacist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas cannot be integrated into states or democratic political systems. For many years an array of pundits has said that Hamas and Hizbullah are social movements that are susceptible to diplomatic engagement. The Hizbullah rampage in Lebanon should make it obvious to any sentient observer that Hizbullah's claims to democratic political legitimacy have always been intended only to manipulate.
        Participation in politics requires the willingness to compromise and to stand down when you don't get your way. But there is no record of Hamas or Hizbullah ever observing such restrictions: the moment Hizbullah was confronted with political pressure, it responded not within the political sphere, but with warlordism - with an exhibition of violence intended to make clear that Hizbullah is the most powerful force in the country. In the streets of Beirut, Hizbullah is making it abundantly clear that its participation in Lebanese politics ends when it is asked to submit to the state's authority. (Commentary)
  • Syria Exemplifies Challenge of Detecting Nuclear Proliferation - Joby Warrick
    Syria went to extraordinary lengths to conceal its undeclared construction of a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor from spies in the sky and on the ground, according to a draft report by independent nuclear experts briefed by Bush administration officials. "This case serves as a sobering reminder of the difficulty of identifying secret nuclear activities," the Institute for Science and International Security concluded. U.S. and Israeli officials have said the facility was a nearly completed nuclear reactor built with North Korean help and fitted with a false roof and walls that altered its shape when viewed from above.
        Syrian engineers went to "astonishing lengths" to hide cooling and ventilation systems, power lines and other features that normally are telltale signs of a nuclear reactor, wrote authors David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, and Paul Brannan. "The current domestic and international capabilities to detect nuclear facilities and activities are not adequate to prevent more surprises in the future," the report warned. (Washington Post)
        See also Spread of Nuclear Capability Is Feared - Joby Warrick
    At least 40 developing countries have recently approached UN officials to signal interest in starting nuclear power programs, a trend that concerned proliferation experts say could provide the building blocks of nuclear arsenals in some of those nations. At least half a dozen countries have also said they are planning to conduct enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear fuel. "We are concerned that some countries are moving down the nuclear path in reaction to the Iranians," a senior U.S. government official said. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    The Myth of Occupied Gaza - David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey (Washington Post)

    • Israel's critics argue that Gaza remains "occupied" territory, even though Israeli forces were unilaterally withdrawn from the area in August 2005.
    • Israel, however, is not an occupying power, judging by traditional international legal tests. Such tests ask: Does a state exercise effective governmental authority over the territory? As early as 1899, the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land stated that "[t]erritory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation applies only to the territory where such authority is established, and in a position to assert itself."
    • The Israeli military does not control Gaza; nor does Israel exercise any government functions there. Claims that Israel continues to occupy Gaza suggest that a power having once occupied a territory must continue to behave toward the local population as an occupying power until all outstanding issues are resolved.
    • This "principle" can be described only as an ingenious invention; it has no basis in traditional international law.

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