Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 6, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Loosen Limits on Gaza Scholars - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    Senior Israeli officials said Thursday that they would no longer stop all Palestinians who had foreign study grants from leaving Gaza and would look favorably upon their applications for exit permits.
    "We are going to let out students, but in limited numbers," one senior official said. "We're not talking about hundreds."
    Because Israel hopes in the future to have a neighbor that is less poor and better educated, encouraging some study grants abroad is very much in Israel's interest, Defense Ministry officials said.
    But the central policy of closing Gaza, after the Hamas takeover, remains in place.
    All Gazans with grants to study abroad will submit their names for clearance to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
    Then the names will go to the Defense Ministry's coordinator of government activities in the territories, who will try to move their applications forward for exit permits.

Militant West Bank Bastion Now Open to Visits from Israeli Arabs - Josh Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor)
    Once the cradle of suicide bombers, Jenin in the northern West Bank now sees its militant gangs subdued and local police units fighting crime.
    Prodded by the U.S., the Israeli army and a reinforced Palestinian security force have tightened their security cooperation, attracting a stream of foreign dignitaries who are directing millions of dollars of aid to stoke renewed economic prosperity in the region.
    For nearly a year, the local branch of the Aqsa Martyr's Brigades has complied with a program that gives them amnesty from arrest in return for a promise to give up their weapons.
    It's a pretty big deal," says David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. "Jenin was the archetype during the uprising as the place that was the most dangerous. Now, ironically, it is the most quiet area."

Turkey and Iran Unite to Attack Kurdish Rebels (AP/New York Times)
    Turkey and Iran have been carrying out coordinated strikes against Kurdish PKK rebels based in northern Iraq, Gen. Ilker Basbug, Turkey's land forces commander, said Thursday.

New York City's Salute to Israel Parade - Marissa Gross (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Salute to Israel Parade officially began in 1965 and today draws over 100,000 marchers.
    The presence of politicians has significantly increased since the parade's founding, when only the Israeli ambassador and a few American politicians appeared.
    The parade is a barometer for the community and the attendance suggests American Jews' sense of comfort and security in the U.S.
    The participants, the themes that are chosen, and the dynamics of the parade itself reflect how American Jews relate to Israel and to themselves.

Israel Leads the Way to Combat Effects of Global Warming - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is leading the world in finding solutions to combat global warming and desertification, the Agriculture Ministry's chief scientist said Thursday at the UN food forum in Rome.
    Dr. Yuval Eshdat said Israel was at the forefront of efforts to fight the effects of climate change, and was assisting other nations with technology, skills and policy exchanges.
    "Israel has been dealing with the problem of desertification since its inception, and over the years has developed tools to turn desert into arable lands for agriculture," Eshdat said.
    "Through the use of research we have developed tools to make the most effective use of water, including waste and marginal water, to advance farming on even the most arid lands."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Assad: Israel Insisting that Negotiations Restart Without Previous Concessions
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the Israelis were insisting that negotiations with Syria restart from scratch, canceling the Israeli concessions proposed in previous talks in the 1990s. Assad also dismissed Israeli demands that Syria give up its alliance with Iran as a condition for peace. Israeli officials have said a peace deal depends on Syria distancing itself from Iran and severing ties with Hizbullah and Hamas. "Should we establish relations with Israel and lose our relations with the world?" he asked. (Reuters)
  • Blair Firm on Boycott of Hamas - Ian Black
    Tony Blair, representing the Quartet of international powers, on Thursday ruled out talks with Hamas until it recognizes Israel and stops firing rockets. Soon to mark a year as Middle East envoy, Blair defended the policy of boycotting the Islamist movement until it ended violence, recognized Israel and abided by existing peace agreements. "The Quartet principles are very clear. Without Hamas accepting them it is difficult to see how we can make progress," he said. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Gaza Agency Working with Blair Seized by Hamas - Adam Entous and Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Hamas has seized control of the Palestinian water agency that is spearheading Middle East envoy Tony Blair's signature project in Gaza - the North Gaza Sewage Treatment Works, Palestinian and Western officials said on Thursday. Rebhi al-Sheikh, deputy chairman of the Water Authority, said Hamas gunmen took over the main building at midday on Wednesday, seizing vehicles and keys to the building. He said the $60 million sewage treatment facility may now be in jeopardy, citing a U.S.-led boycott on financial dealings with Hamas. (Reuters)
  • Father of Pakistan's Bomb Insists Government Officials Had Role in Proliferation - Candace Rondeaux
    Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was banished to house arrest by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf after admitting in 2004 to selling nuclear weapons-making technology and know-how to Iran, North Korea and Libya. But last week, Khan, 72, publicly disavowed his confession, telling reporters that it was coerced. In a telephone interview with the Washington Post, Khan said, "I did whatever my government wanted me to do. I gave them whatever they wanted." Khan led Pakistan's nuclear development program under the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Khan said he would not identify his associates, but said others in the military and in Musharraf's government were culpable in the proliferation of nuclear technology. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Threatens to Sue Western Nations
    Iran is threatening to sue countries that it says have damaged its reputation and pushed to have UN Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. It is also accusing the U.S. of pressuring the International Atomic Energy Agency to base its latest probe of Iran's nuclear program on fake evidence suggesting Tehran has tried to make nuclear arms. The comments were made Thursday to the IAEA board by Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the agency. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert Aides: Progress Made with U.S. on Forging Common View on Iran - Barak Ravid
    After his visit to the U.S., Prime Minister Olmert's aides said progress was made in forming a common view on Iran's nuclear program. The sources said there had also been progress in Israel's request for advanced F-35 warplanes, and the inclusion of the Israel Air Force in the USAF global early warning system against incoming ballistic missiles. (Ha'aretz)
  • Father of Three Killed in Thursday Mortar Attack - Yonat Atlas
    The Israeli killed Thursday in a Palestinian mortar attack has been identified as Amnon Rosenberg, 51, of Kibbutz Nirim, who is survived by a wife, Tali, and three children - Dor, Eldar and Yarden. The mortar crashed into the Nirlat factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz, wounding four others. An Israeli airstrike targeted a gunman in the area from which the mortar attack was launched. (Ynet News)
        See also Gillerman to UN: Israel Will Defend Itself - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, launched a formal complaint to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council over the Palestinian mortar shell barrage that killed Amnon Rosenberg. "Excellency, the killing of an Israeli civilian this morning and the attack on Nahal Oz yesterday underscore the malicious and murderous intentions of Hamas. It is a terrorist organization that has no compassion or concern for civilians, neither Israeli nor Palestinian. Hamas' commitment to violence and disregard for the Palestinian people are reminders that it has no interest in peace nor is it suited for engagement with the international community," wrote Gillerman.
        "Israel will not stand idly by as its citizens are subjected to indiscriminate and lethal rocket attacks. Israel will defend itself, as any other nation would, in accordance with its inherent right under article 51 of the United Nations Charter." (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Defense Minister: Operation in Gaza "Closer than Ever" - Yonat Atlas
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday, "Military action is closer than ever; it appears likely there will be an operation prior to the calm (truce)."  (Ynet News)
  • The Weakening of Hizbullah - Guy Bechor
    In contradiction to the common perception, Hizbullah has undergone a process of weakening in the past two years. In the 2006 war, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah was forced to utilize the arsenal he possessed and was able to enforce a tie on Israel, which he leveraged via the claim of "divine victory," while the war resulted in extensive civilian destruction, the killing of hundreds of Hizbullah fighters, and harsh accusations leveled against it. In the wake of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mugniyah's assassination, Nasrallah feared that Israel would do it again, and renewed negotiations with German mediators. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Slaying of RFK Gave U.S. a First Taste of Mideast Terror - Sasha Issenberg
    Some scholars see the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy as America's first taste of the political violence of the Middle East. "I thought of it as an act of violence motivated by hatred of Israel and of anybody who supported Israel," said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who had worked on Kennedy's campaign as a volunteer adviser. "It was in some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time." A year after Kennedy's death, former UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg - for whom Dershowitz had clerked on the Supreme Court and with whom he shared a fervent Zionism - told Dershowitz that [the Palestinian assassin] Sirhan had identified Goldberg as a potential target, too.
        A generation of revelations about Sirhan's motives - and a changed environment in which Americans have come to fear political violence with origins abroad - have drawn out his crime as a prelude to the kidnappings at the Munich Olympics, the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the two assaults on the World Trade Center. "Even though it wasn't perceived at the time as an act of political terrorism, on a visceral level - on a subliminal level - the Kennedy assassination planted a seed of concern in Americans about the Palestinian issue and the issue of terrorism," said Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Boston Globe)
  • Iran's Lebanese "Aircraft Carrier" - Hugh Sykes
    "Hizbullah was set up, established, trained, armed, financed...wholly by Iran," said Paul Salem at the Carnegie Endowment think tank in Beirut. He says Hizbullah has 50,000 salaried employees and "a large modern army" - most of whom are paid with money from Tehran. "For Iran it's like an aircraft carrier. The U.S. parks aircraft carriers in the Gulf next to Iran; Iran parks its own aircraft carrier in Lebanon - Hizbullah - which can wreak great destruction on Israel at a moment's notice."
        "The Iranian drive to gain more influence in Lebanon is to give them a direct influence without having to go through Syria," said Oussama Safa, director of the Lebanon Center for Policy Studies. "That's possibly in preparation for an eventual peace deal between Syria and Israel." (BBC News)
  • Soviet Weapons Proved Ineffective in Arab Hands - Andrei Murtazin
    Why did the Arabs suffer such an overwhelming defeat in the Six-Day War that broke out on June 5, 1967? In the early hours of June 5, an Israeli attack destroyed 400 aircraft of the Egyptian Air Force in one go. During the war, Soviet weapons proved to be ineffective in Arab hands. During parades, or aerobatic performances, Egyptian pilots displayed their skills, but when it came to real fighting they forgot everything they had learned. They did not have combat experience.
        Communications is another major reason for the Egyptian Army's defeat. At the lowest level, it had Soviet communication equipment, whereas the general headquarters and the command had bought communication systems in the West, and they were completely under U.S. control. Russian Oriental studies expert Anatoly Yegorin recalls: "At the X-hour, the Americans (their ships were located 14 miles away from Egypt in the Mediterranean) switched off all communication lines linking the general headquarters with the Sinai-based troops." In other words, the U.S. paralyzed the Egyptian forces at the right moment.
        Egyptians made one more major mistake during the war. While retreating from the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian Army abandoned 450 functional tanks. Tank crews jumped out of their combat vehicles and ran to the Suez Canal in order to get to the other side. "They could have retreated in these tanks until they reached the canal," Yegorin said, "but they were getting out of tanks, leaving them, and running." As a result, in those six days, Israel lost 776 officers and men, and Egypt, more than 11,000. (RIA Novosti-Russia)
  • The Legal Aspects of Jewish Rights to a National Home in Palestine - Eli E. Hertz
    Between 1917 and 1947, thousands of Jews throughout the world left their homes and moved to Palestine because they heard that a future national home for the Jewish people was being established there. The "Mandate for Palestine," an historic League of Nations document, laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law. Fifty-one member countries - the entire League of Nations - unanimously declared on July 24, 1922: "Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."
        It is important to note that political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the same League of Nations in four other mandates - in Lebanon and Syria (the French Mandate), Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [the British Mandate]. Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine - the Land of Israel - and to deny them access and control in the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, is a serious infringement of international law. (Myths and Facts)
  • Observations:

    Iran Sanctions Figure Large in AIPAC Lobbying - Ron Kampeas (JTA)

    • As 5,000 AIPAC activists ascend Capitol Hill this week, they will be pushing a multifaceted agenda with a clear bottom line - Iran sanctions. The most dramatic proposal is to cut off refined petroleum exports to Iran, hitting 40% of that country's gas market.
    • AIPAC has led the way since the mid-1990s in advocating for sanctions aimed at crippling the Iranian economy until the Islamic Republic ends its suspected nuclear weapons program. In recent years, the notion of sanctioning Iran has gained traction, with the UN Security Council imposing three sets of sanctions in the past 18 months.
    • The activists are pressing for Senate passage of the Iran Counter Proliferation Act, a bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives last year. It would expand existing sanctions by hitting companies and nations that deal with Iran's energy sector. It also would cut off Iran entirely from the U.S. finance system.
    • A nonbinding resolution put forward last week by U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) urges President Bush to immediately impose some of the sanctions in the Counter Proliferation Act and adds the new proposal: cut off the export of refined petroleum to Iran.
    • "Despite sitting on some of the largest oil reserves in the world, Iran has been forced to import 40% of its refined petroleum - gasoline and diesel - because of a lack of investment in its oil refining infrastructure," states a memo prepared for AIPAC activists. "Limiting Iran's ability to import gasoline will severely impact Iran's economy and could lead to dramatically greater domestic pressure on the regime to change course."

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