Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 13, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

From Lebanon to Hizbullahstan - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
    Christians have been fleeing Lebanon for decades. Though a census hasn't been taken in 75 years, Nizar Hamze of the American University of Beirut estimates that there are between eight and nine births per Shiite household, compared to five for Sunnis and two for Christians and Druze.
    These numbers must ultimately count against an outmoded constitutional order geared to favor Christians first, Sunnis second, and Shiites third.
    But even if Lebanon cannot escape its Shiite destiny, it is not ordained that it must also become a Hizbullah state, taking its orders from Tehran.

Former Arab Warlord Ready for Coexistence with Israel - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
    As a leading figure in Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, Mohammed Ghawanmeh, 52, of Jalazone spent most of his working life in and out of Israeli prisons.
    "But since I was released from prison (in 2000), I have looked away from the past. There is no other option but to form peace with Israel and get on with building a state."
    "We are not going back [to homes in Israel] and we know it," he says.
    "If they offered anything like what Barak, Arafat and Clinton talked about in 2000, we should absolutely, positively take it, no questions asked," he says.

Why Israel Is the World's Happiest Country - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    Envy surrounds no country on Earth like the State of Israel, and with good reason: by objective measures, Israel is the happiest nation on Earth.
    It is one of the wealthiest, freest and best-educated; and it enjoys a higher life expectancy than Germany or the Netherlands.
    But most remarkable is that Israelis appear to love life and hate death more than any other nation.
    As a simple index of life-preference, I plotted the fertility rate versus the suicide rate of 35 industrial countries - that is, the proportion of people who choose to create new life against the proportion who choose to destroy their own. Israel stands alone at the top.
    "As much as you love life, we love death," Muslim clerics teach; the same formula is found in a Palestinian textbook for second graders.
    Apart from the fact that the Arabs are among the least free, least educated, and (apart from the oil states) poorest peoples in the world, they also are the unhappiest, even in their wealthiest kingdoms. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia ranks 171st on an international quality of life index, below Rwanda.
    The contrast of Israeli happiness and Arab despondency is what makes peace an elusive goal in the region.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizbullah Capture of Lebanese Mountain Village Seen as Threat to Israel - Hugh Macleod
    Hizbullah Monday took control of the Druze village of Niha in the Chouf mountains, 25 miles southeast of Beirut, after fierce fighting. Analysts said the village provides Hizbullah with a crucial supply route between its stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley and the coastal highway that leads to Hizbullah's bases in Beirut's southern suburbs. "Hizbullah will very soon spread all over," said Ahmad Moussali, a professor at the American University of Beirut. (Guardian-UK)
  • Bush Calls Iran "Single Biggest Threat" to Mideast Peace
    President Bush on Monday called Iran the "single biggest threat" to peace in the Middle East because of its nuclear program and its support of groups like the Lebanese Hizbullah militia. (AFP)
  • As Bush Term Wanes, Mideast Peace Appears as Elusive as Ever - Sheryl Gay Stolberg
    With President Bush headed to the Middle East this week for the second time in five months, peace seems as elusive as ever. "It's hard to remember a less auspicious time to pursue Arab-Israeli peacemaking than right now," said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The politics on the ground are absolutely miserable. U.S. power and influence are at low ebb in the region. The Bush administration is beset by challenges - the combination of a faltering economy, persistent difficulties in Iraq and a growing threat from Iran - all at a time that the president's popularity is at a historical low, and his administration is settling more and more into lame duck status."  (New York Times)
  • U.S. Victims of Attacks in Israel Sue Swiss Bank
    American victims of bombings and rocket attacks in Israel have sued Swiss bank UBS AG for more than $500 million, accusing the bank of helping fund the militants behind the attacks through dealings with Iran. The lawsuit seeks damages from Switzerland's largest bank for more than 50 U.S. citizens hurt or relatives of those killed in bombings in Israel between 1997 and 2006 that it said were carried out by militant groups Hizbullah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Because of U.S. sanctions on financial dealings with Hamas and Hizbullah, Iran's financial backing "substantially increased" the militants' ability to carry out bombings, the lawsuit said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: No Gaza Truce If Israeli Soldier Is Not Released - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel will not agree to an Egyptian proposal for a truce in Gaza unless it includes the issue of arms smuggling and the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Monday. "Hamas must not only halt its attacks but also the arms smuggling that has allowed the group to turn itself from a ragtag militia into a well-armed force," Israeli officials told Suleiman. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Kills Israeli Woman - Yonat Atlas
    Shuli Katz, 70, of Kibbutz Gvaram, was killed Monday by a Palestinian Kassam rocket while she was visiting Moshav Yesha, 15 km. east of Gaza near the Negev town of Ofakim. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Asks UN Security Council to Condemn Palestinian Rocket Attacks
    Israel's UN mission submitted a complaint Monday to the Security Council over Kassam attacks from Gaza, hours after Shuli Katz was killed by a Palestinian rocket. Israel asked the UN to condemn Palestinian terror as well as those countries providing assistance to terror organizations. It is the second such complaint filed by Israel in as many days. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanon Turns into Iranian Colony - Alex Fishman
    The events in Lebanon are a painful reminder that in a year Iran will be officially situated on Israel's northern border. Barring any surprises, in the next parliamentary elections Lebanon will fall into the hands of Hizbullah and turn into an Iranian colony. Hizbullah's siege on government offices was meant to remind everyone who the master of the house is.
        An Iranian base in Lebanon is a base for eliminating the State of Israel. We should keep in mind that Israel's ability to take care of this base while Iran does not yet possess nuclear weapons is completely different from the abilities we shall have once Iran does possess nukes. Therefore, the question is not whether we should be taking care of this problem, but rather, when. (Ynet News)
        See also Nasrallah Lost, For Now - Guy Bechor
    The latest developments completely exposed Hizbullah's grave deception, which in the past argued that it will be using its arms only against Israel. Shiite Hizbullah entered Sunni areas of Beirut it doesn't belong in and lost quite a few points in Lebanese public opinion in the past few days. Through this belligerent move Nasrallah united many Lebanese around the position that he is the greatest danger to Lebanon's stability. Yet it is only a matter of time before the Shiites take over Lebanon, a move feared by all other ethnic groups. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bush's Inauspicious Middle East Visit - Editorial
    The occasion of Israel's 60th-anniversary celebrations has drawn President Bush into a Middle East trip he would be better off not taking. In Israel, Mr. Bush will face the crumbling Israeli-Palestinian peace process he attempted to launch last year; in Saudi Arabia, he will find a regime that has been deaf to his pleas to help with soaring oil prices or support the Iraqi government. In Egypt, Mr. Bush will meet a ruler, Hosni Mubarak, who not only defied the president's "freedom agenda" but also forced the administration to retreat to its old policy of backing corrupt autocracies.
        Then there is Lebanon, where what was once one of the administration's clearest achievements is unraveling. The pro-Western government of Fouad Siniora, in which the administration invested some $1.3 billion in aid over the past two years, has already meekly retreated from an attempt to curb Hizbullah's creeping takeover. The Lebanese army, which has received $400 million of the U.S. aid, has been facilitating Hizbullah's disarmament of pro-government militias and its destruction of pro-government television stations and political offices. (Washington Post)
  • Jihadists Unfazed By Israel's Many Attempts to Make Peace - Robert Fulford
    Maclean's magazine headlines the article, "Why Israel Can't Survive," by Michael Petrou, who argues that the future is bleak because West Bank settlements enrage the Arabs. But eliminating settlements wouldn't impress a single jihadist warrior and wouldn't alter the program of Hamas. The jihadists don't want a nicer Israel, they want no Israel at all. Closing the settlements would make conversation more agreeable at thousands of dinner parties. But it would contribute nothing to Israel's security.
        Petrou doesn't mention Israel's many attempts to make peace. He writes as if the Oslo Accords and everything following them hadn't happened. And he doesn't realize that Fatah, the likeliest peace partner now on offer, is a chaotic parody of a government, without popular support. (National Post-Canada)
  • Countering Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Iran is on a roll. Its development of a nuclear weapon progresses. Anxiety in Tehran about the possibility of an American military strike against the regime's nuclear facilities almost vanished in December with the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate, which incongruously asserted that Iran had stopped its quest for a bomb in 2003. Spurred by its nuclear success against the Europeans and Americans, the clerical regime is causing trouble on the West Bank and in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq. The Hamas-Hizbullah axis is a dream come true for Tehran. They allow Iran's rulers to be frontline combatants against the Jewish state. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Right to a State - Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe)

    • It is not unheard-of for a nation to vanish from the map and later reappear. Poland, for example, was partitioned out of existence in 1795 and regained its independence in 1918. But the restoration of Israel was unlike anything the world had ever seen.
    • Through all the generations of dispersion that followed, the Jews never lost their self-awareness as a nation or their connection to the Land of Israel. By the 1860s, a majority of Jerusalem's population was Jewish once more. Zionism - an organized movement to renew Jewish independence in the Jewish homeland - was formally launched in 1897. Five decades later, against steep odds and every historical precedent, Israel was reborn.
    • Under siege since the day it was born, Israel has never known a day of true peace. It is the only nation in the world whose legitimacy is routinely called into question. It still has enemies who want it wiped off the map. Uniquely, the Jewish state came into being with the imprimatur of both the League of Nations and the United Nations. Few nations can present a birth certificate as storied as Israel's.
    • Ultimately, the right of statehood accrues only to those who can fashion and sustain a nation. "Why does the United States belong to Americans?" Yale's David Gelernter wrote in 2002. "Because we built it. We conceived the idea and put it into practice bit by bit."
    • For the same reason, the Land of Israel belongs to Israelis: "Because Israelis conceived and built it - and what you create is yours. If you want a homeland, you must create one. You drain swamps, lay out farms, build houses, schools, roads, hospitals." "That's how America got its homeland. And that is why Israel belongs to the Israelis."

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