Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 2, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Jerusalem Day
Monday, June 2

      Jerusalem Throughout History - Eli E. Hertz (Myths and Facts)
    Given the central role Jerusalem plays throughout Jewish history, Israel has a legal, historical and moral right to control Jerusalem as its undivided capital.

Thousands Celebrate Israel's 60th Anniversary on National Mall in D.C. (AP/WTOP News)
    Thousands of people celebrated Israel's 60th anniversary at a festival on the National Mall in Washington.
    See also Joy at 60: Israel Fest Fills Fifth Avenue - Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News)
    Fifth Ave. was transformed into one giant birthday party Sunday as tens of thousands of people turned out to celebrate Israel's 60th year.
    See also Photo Gallery: New York Celebrates Israel - Enid Alvarez (New York Daily News)

Israel Surprised at Report on Gaza Fulbright Scholarship Students - Ehud Zion Waldoks and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Officials in the Prime Minister's Office Saturday night expressed "surprise" at State Department criticism of Israel for reportedly not letting seven Gazan students with Fulbright scholarships leave the Strip.
    "In the past, many countries have approached us, and we have made it possible to facilitate study abroad. In this case they just did not approach us," an official said. Israeli officials said the students would be allowed to leave for their studies.
    See also State Department Reinstates Gaza Fulbright Grants - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)

"Erase Israel" Call Repeated by Iranian Foreign Minister (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki Sunday called on the world's Muslims to work to "erase" Israel.
    "As the Imam Khomeini said, if each Muslim even throws a bucket of water on Israel, Israel will be erased," said Mottaki in Tehran.

Third Batch of Israeli Relief Supplies Arrives in China Quake Zone (Xinhua-China)
    Another batch of relief supplies from Israel was flown to earthquake-hit Sichuan Province in southwest China on Monday.
    The 73-ton consignment, valued at $545,000, includes 9,600 blankets, 150 outsize tents, each covering the needs of 24 people, and other supplies donated by the Israel Defense Forces.
    Previous relief supplies sent by the Israeli government, worth $1.5 million, included sleeping bags, blankets, water purifiers, electrocardiographs, mobile X-ray machines, therapy beds and generators.

Hamas "Work Accident" Kills Militant, Wounds 16 in Gaza (AP/Washington Post)
    An explosion in the house of Hamas militant Nader Abu Shaban killed him and wounded 16 of his relatives and neighbors, Gaza health officials said Saturday. Hamas officials say Abu Shaban was handling explosives just before the blast.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Seeks U.S. Role in Talks - Jay Solomon
    As Syria and Israel begin pursuing peace negotiations, Damascus is calling for the U.S. to play a direct role in brokering the talks, arguing that a successful outcome is unlikely without American participation. In an interview, Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, said Damascus believes the U.S. is the only country that could realistically deliver a peace deal between the two countries.
        U.S. officials say the Bush administration is placing a priority on supporting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks in a bid to reach a comprehensive agreement before President Bush leaves office in January. They say they see the Israel-Syria track as too undeveloped to embrace aggressively. State Department officials say none of the parties has formally requested the U.S. to become directly involved. "If Syria and Israel jointly came to us, we'd certainly consider their request," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.
        Some U.S. strategists say Syria's openness to talks is driven by its need to reduce diplomatic and financial pressure from the Bush administration - not a real commitment to a settlement. Washington charges Syria with covertly developing nuclear technologies and undermining pro-Western governments in Lebanon and Iraq. Private American representatives who have met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent months said he is intent on lifting U.S. financial sanctions. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Assad Aide Denies Progress in Syria-Israel Talks
    A close associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday said media reports of progress in peace talks between Israel and Syria are inaccurate and detrimental to any real effort at negotiations. In a statement quoted in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anbaa, Dr. Samir Taki, a member of Assad's negotiating team, said the contentious issues of water, security, borders and normalization of relations have been discussed. However, Tarki added, discussions were still in their preliminary stages (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Frees Convicted Spy, Gets Soldiers' Remains - Ariel Schalit
    Israel freed a convicted Hizbullah spy on Sunday and the militant group turned over the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the 2006 war in Lebanon. Israeli authorities released Nissim Nasser, an Israeli of Lebanese descent, after he completed a six-year sentence for espionage. Nasser, 39, was born in Lebanon to a Jewish Lebanese mother and a Shiite Muslim father. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Release of Prisoner Who Completed His Sentence Is Painted by Hizbullah as a Deal - Yossi Melman
    Hizbullah's transfer of bodies following Israel's release and deportation of convicted Hizbullah spy Nissim Nasser, who completed his sentence, paints the release as part of a deal. However, Israeli officials involved in prisoner exchange talks with Hizbullah stressed their surprise at the return of the remains on Sunday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Putin: Iran Not Seeking to Build Nuclear Weapons; Nukes in Mideast Means the Palestinians Would Cease to Exist
    Iran is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons but Tehran should avoid "irritating" its neighbors, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Saturday in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde. Asked if Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, Putin replied: "I don't believe so. Nothing indicates it....On a legal level, Iran has infringed nothing at the moment. They have the same right to enrichment (of uranium). The paperwork says so. Iran is accused of not displaying all its programs to the IAEA. This point remains to be resolved."
        Putin stressed that Russia was opposed to Iran achieving a nuclear-power status. "That is our principled position," he said. "Using nuclear weapons in a region as small as the Middle East would be synonymous with suicide. Whose interests would it serve? The Palestinians? Hardly, the Palestinians would cease to exist." (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Faces New Anti-Aircraft Missile Threat from Gaza - Yaakov Lappin
    Air force combat helicopters flying over Gaza "will have to take a new threat into account" following the discovery of 30 anti-aircraft missiles by Egyptian police in Sinai, said to be destined for Gaza. "There's no doubt that the appearance of these weapons represents a very significant change," said Yoram Schweitzer, director of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Wounded in Palestinian Rocket Attack - Yonat Atlas
    A foreign worker from Thailand sustained moderate injuries Saturday when a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck a moshav in Israel. Another man was lightly injured. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Dismisses PA Protests over Jerusalem Building Plans - Herb Keinon
    Israel on Sunday dismissed as public posturing PA protests of the government's announcements of plans to build nearly 900 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev. "There is no contradiction whatsoever between this building and moving forward on the peace process," Prime Minister Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said. "Israel never committed itself to a freeze in Jerusalem. On the contrary, we always said that a construction freeze in Jerusalem was unrealistic and impossible." Regev said there was an "international consensus" that in any final status arrangement, the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would remain part of Israel, and building in those neighborhoods in no way undermined the peace process. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S.: Syria's Unwillingness to Stop Supporting Terrorists a Key Obstacle to Peace - Donald Kerr
    On May 29, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald Kerr discussed emerging threats, challenges, and opportunities in the Middle East at the Washington Institute:
        The regime in Damascus continues to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and security through its proxies; to harbor and support terrorists and terrorist organizations opposed to progress on peace talks; and to allow terrorists and criminals to cross its borders into Iraq and Lebanon. The Syrian regime, Hizbullah, and pro-Syrian opposition elements in Lebanon have attempted to stymie international efforts to disarm militia groups which threaten Lebanese security and sovereignty. In addition, Damascus continues to support Palestinian rejectionist groups, including Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. These organizations continue to base their external leadership in Syria, and, despite repeated demands from the international community, Syria refuses to expel them or their leaders from their safe haven in Damascus.
        Last week, the Israeli and Syrian governments announced that they have begun indirect peace talks through Turkey. However, Syria has not dropped its longstanding precondition for direct talks, namely that Israel essentially agree in advance to a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights. While the resumption of dialogue could help reduce tensions between the two countries, Syria's unwillingness to stop supporting terrorists and distance itself from Iran is a key obstacle to a peace agreement. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • No Room for Israel in Egyptian Hearts
    Sixty years after its creation, and 30 years after the Camp David accords paved the way for a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, Israel exists only virtually as far as its neighbor to the west is concerned. Maps sold in Cairo's main bookshops omit Israel, with the area comprising Israel and the territories simply labeled "Palestine" in Arabic. "No, there are no maps with the name Israel. We follow the rest of the Arab world in this, peace treaty or not," snapped Ibrahim Mahmud, who works in a bookshop. A widespread boycott of "normalization" with Israel means there are no Israeli books in libraries and no Israeli films shown on Egyptian screens for fear of lodging Israel into people's consciousness, observers say.
        "A cold peace does exist. At the top of the social ladder there is dialogue and business, but at the bottom there is a void," said Emad Gad, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, who edits a monthly publication of Arabic translations of Israeli texts. In a reflection of predominant opinion, widely read journalist Salam Ahmed Salama described Israel as a "dangerous cancer" in a column headlined "60 terrible years" in the state-owned daily Al-Ahram. (Moneybiz-South Africa)
  • Observations:

    Why Bush Must Still Confront Rogue States - David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey (Wall Street Journal)

    • With less than a year to go in office, the Bush administration may feel powerless as it attempts to deal with rogue states that support terrorists and proliferate weapons of mass destruction. But there is still a lot President Bush and his team can do about the likes of Iran and Syria if they act now to keep these regimes in the international spotlight. On Sunday, the U.S. assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council (the seat rotates every month). This gives Mr. Bush an opportunity to launch a campaign to isolate these countries. The first step could be to present the known and internationally accepted facts of the regimes' misdeeds.
    • The case against Iran is especially strong. Even among rogue governments, Tehran stands alone, mixing disgusting deeds and despicable words. The State Department has fingered Iran as a state sponsor of terror since 1984. Tehran has signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but has pursued a nuclear weapons program anyway. There is compelling evidence that the regime has trained and funded Iraqi insurgents who target U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Iran has furnished weapons - particularly long-range missiles - and training to Hamas and Hizbullah. These weapons are used for indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians.
    • There is a similarly compelling case to be made against Syria, which has been listed as a state sponsor of terror since 1979. Damascus gives sanctuary to terrorists from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. It has also, judging by recent intelligence disclosures, embarked on a clandestine nuclear program in conjunction with North Korea and in defiance of NPT obligations. Syria's brutal campaign to dominate Lebanon also makes it an international problem.
    • Opening up talks at this point with Iran and Syria - while these regimes are engaging in abhorrent behavior - would be a serious mistake, particularly when the West faces a major security challenge from state-sponsored terrorism. Doing so would certainly bolster these leaders in the region and normalize their behavior. Our policy should be to isolate Tehran and Damascus.

      The authors served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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