Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 12, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian PM Says No Peace Deal in 2008 (Reuters)
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday he believed it would be impossible to reach a peace deal with Israel this year.
    "I have a strong feeling that is tantamount to certainty that a solution won't be achieved this year," he said, ahead of a planned visit to the region this weekend by U.S. Secretary of State Rice.

Jordan Fears New Pressure to Merge with West Bank - Randa Habib (AFP)
    Jordanian officials fear renewed proposals for a merger with part of the West Bank. "To get half or less of the West Bank with all the Palestinian population would be suicide," a senior Jordanian official said.
    A significant proportion of Jordan's 5.8 million inhabitants are already of Palestinian origin and officials worry that the addition of the West Bank's Palestinians would fundamentally alter the population balance.
    "We would prefer to be at war with Israel rather than accept such a situation, which would be a security nightmare and which would in the long term cause Jordan to lose its identity," the Jordanian official said, adding that such a move would allow the Palestinians control of Jordanian politics.

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Dead Sea Drying Up, Receded 10 Cm in May - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    The Dead Sea is drying up at an increasingly rapid pace, with the water level dropping by 10 centimeters in May and 8 in April, according to Mishmar Hamiflas, a group of area residents fighting for the Dead Sea's right to life.
    The receding sea level has damaged hotels built when the water level was higher, caused the development of underground swallow holes, and led sweetwater to enter the sea, melting underground salt blocks and ultimately causing collapse.

New Negev Research Center to Test Solar Technology - Stephanie Rubenstein (Jerusalem Post)
    The newly built Negev-based Solar Energy Development Center is on track to move forward the initiative of a U.S.-Israeli company to build the world's largest solar plant in California's Mojave desert.
    The site features more than 1,600 glass mirrors, known as heliostats, which track the sun and reflect light onto a 60-meter-high tower. The concentrated energy is then used to heat a boiler atop the tower to 550 degrees Celsius, generating steam that is piped into a turbine, where electricity can be produced.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Warns Iran that World Has Lost Its Patience - Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Rice warned on Wednesday in Paris that the world has lost patience for Iranian foot-dragging regarding a possible return to bargaining over its nuclear program. Rice welcomed Europe's new willingness to consider additional coercive sanctions against Iran, and suggested European nations expect a quick answer from Iran once it receives a repackaged offer this weekend. "I think that no one is of a mind to allow them to stall very much longer," Rice said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Lebanon Rejects Israel Offer for Talks - Rana Moussaoui
    Lebanon rejected on Wednesday a call by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on Tuesday for peace talks, a government statement said. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Israel, Syria Set for More Indirect Talks in Turkey Next Week
    Israel and Syria were set to hold a new round of indirect peace talks next week, officials said on Wednesday. "We will stand by our declaration to have ongoing talks. I expect their resumption shortly," said Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • EU Not Ready for Major Upgrade with Israel
    The European Union is unlikely to agree to any wide-ranging upgrade of relations with Israel at a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday, EU diplomats said on Wednesday. The Israelis sent a memorandum to the EU last year suggesting a range of possible upgrades in relations, with greater access to EU markets, agencies and spending programs. However, an EU diplomat said: "That is not going to happen. One reason is that there wasn't much appetite at this point among member states, given the uncertainty of the situation on the ground in Israel and its immediate neighborhood."
        Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wrote to Brussels last month urging the EU not to upgrade ties with Israel. Diplomats said Egypt had also lobbied the EU against boosting ties with Israel. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Gives Gaza Truce Talks More Time - Barak Ravid and Amos Harel
    Israel's leadership on Wednesday decided against any broad military action in Gaza in order to give Egyptian-brokered truce efforts more time, Prime Minister Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev announced. Egypt has been trying to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas for several months. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Why No Gaza Operation? - Yaakov Katz
    There are a number of reasons behind the decision not to launch an operation in Gaza. First, Israel does not want to insult Egyptian President Mubarak. Israel values its strategic ties with Egypt, one of the few Arab and Muslim countries that have formalized ties with Jerusalem. Secondly, if Israel had rejected the offer and embarked on an operation, it would have been perceived as the aggressor since Hamas would be able to claim that it was prepared for a truce but Israel was not. Lastly, there remains the question of an exit strategy following an invasion of the Strip. Fatah is incapable of returning to control Gaza, and the likelihood of a multinational force deploying there remains slim. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Official: Israel Has No Illusions on Truce, Expects Gaza Flare-up - Barak Ravid
    A senior Israeli political official said Wednesday, "We want to check if this cease-fire can hold up, but it is clear that a conflict with Gaza is inevitable in the end." Meanwhile, Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad headed to Cairo on Thursday in an attempt to reignite the Egyptian-brokered truce talks. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Reservists: If We're Captured, Don't Negotiate for Our Bodies
    Israel Defense Forces reserves soldiers from a decorated infantry battalion wrote to the IDF chief of staff, saying, "If we are captured by the enemy, we ask that the State of Israel does not release many hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for our freedom," Channel 2 reported Tuesday. The soldiers and officers emphasize in the letter that they are "ready to sit in an enemy prison for as long as it takes," and demand that Israel refrain from paying a high price for their freedom. The soldiers also ask that no negotiations be held over their dead bodies or parts of their dead bodies. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel and Hizbullah: 2006-2008 - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Looking at Hizbullah and Israel two years after the war, Hizbullah no longer has outposts along the Israeli border and has been forced to relocate much of its personnel and equipment further north. However, it has acquired longer-range rockets than it had before the war, and has a much larger presence in Beirut. Israel has begun to train its soldiers and reservists with much more intensity and vigor. If there is another war, Israel wants a decisive victory, and it is preparing for that outcome. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran and the New York Times - Editorial
    The New York Times editorialists think a military attack on Iran aimed at dismantling its nuclear program "would be a disaster." Back in 1981, the Times asserted Israel's attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor, ordered by Prime Minister Begin, was also a disaster and termed it "an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression." Years later, Max Frankel, the paper's editorial page editor at the time, conceded in his memoir that the editorial had been a "major mistake." It's certainly possible that a military attack on Iran could be a disaster. What's definite is that it would be a disaster were Iran's regime to build an atomic bomb. (New York Sun)
  • Troubling Tehran - Shahram Akbarzadeh
    Ahmadinejad's government revels in its world pariah status. Ahmadinejad is characterized by missionary zeal and a deep suspicion of international organizations. In this worldview, the UN and the IAEA are little more than instruments of domination for the "Great Satan." Harking back to the early days of the revolution, Ahmadinejad emphasizes Iran's revolutionary mission in the region, openly embracing Hizbullah and Hamas. Under Ahmadinejad a peculiar new organization has emerged inviting volunteers for suicide operations "in defense of Islam." Those critical of Ahmadinejad's policies argue that a willful antagonization of the West is not advancing the interests of Iran or Islam. (The Australian)
  • Observations:

    Jerusalem Day on Al-Jazeera TV - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)

    • On Jerusalem Day last week, following reports of Israel's intentions to construct housing in areas of Jerusalem located beyond the 1967 borders, Al-Jazeera interviewed Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a lecturer from Bar-Ilan University's Department of Arabic Studies. Al-Jazeera's top journalist Jamal Rayyan opened with the question, "Is this decision meant to constitute another nail in the coffin of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?"
    • Keidar answered, "To tell you the truth, I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods." (Keidar was referring to a period which prevailed in the Arab world before the time of Islam.)
    • Rayyan continued, "If you would like to speak about history, let's talk about the Koran as well." "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran," Keidar replied. Rayyan stated the verse that, according to Muslim belief, refers to Jerusalem, but Keidar objected. "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran even once."
    • Rayyan then asked: "Doesn't this decision oppose the Roadmap, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?" "The Roadmap does not mention Jerusalem," Keidar answered. "Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Roadmap. My brother, go and read the Roadmap."

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