Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 30, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Sentences Man to Death for Spying for Israel (Reuters)
    A court has sentenced an Iranian man to death on charges of spying for Israel, Iranian media said on Monday.
    "Ali Ashtari, who had been accused of spying for the Zionist state and charged with engaging in espionage for (Israel's) Mossad intelligence service, has been given the death sentence," the ISNA news agency said.
    An official in Israel's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Israel was not familiar with the case.

U.S. Steps Up Secret Moves Against Iran - Seymour M. Hersh (New Yorker)
    Last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran involving support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations.
    U.S. Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with presidential authorization, since last year, but the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran have now been significantly expanded.

Boycott Undermined by Wave of Israel-UK Collaboration (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    John Levy, the director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East who is sending five working groups to Israel this year, said last week that the enthusiastic participation by British academics gave the lie to the belief that there was strong support for an academic boycott.
    Almost all the participants were first-time visitors to Israel, he said.
    Two weeks ago in London, more than 170 scientists and researchers took part in a conference on systems biology, hosted by University College London and organized with Weizmann UK and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

Salafis in Gaza: A Religous Alternative to Hamas - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The number of those praying at the A-Sahabah mosque in Gaza City - controlled by the salafis (believers) - has skyrocketed since Hamas' takeover of Gaza a year ago.
    Salafis, who have long beards and seek to imitate the ways of the prophet Mohammed, now number between 40,000 to 50,000 Gazans.
    They are not a political group, yet some Hamas members see them as a threat.
    Violent brawls have broken out over attempts by Hamas to throw salafis out of the mosques where they have taken control.
    The salafis' avoidance of politics makes Hamas look like a gang of power-hungry politicians, especially in light of its mistakes over the past year: the violent takeover, torture and corruption.

Giant Saudi Field Is Key to Boosting Oil Output - Sebastian Abbot (AP)
    Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company, Aramco, is spending $10 billion to build the infrastructure to pump 1.2 million barrels of oil per day by next June from the Khurais field and its two smaller neighbors.
    That alone would be more than the total individual production of OPEC members Qatar, Indonesia and Ecuador.

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

  • Israel Swaps Prisoners for Soldiers' Bodies - Ethan Bronner
    Israel's government voted Sunday to trade a Lebanese murderer for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers whose cross-border capture led to a month-long war with Hizbullah in summer 2006. "Our initial theory was that the soldiers were alive," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but "now we know with certainty there is no chance that that is the case." (New York Times)
        See also below Observations: The Deal for the Release of the Israeli Soldiers Kidnapped in the North (Israel Prime Minister's Office) and Agreement on the Release of Israel's Missing and Captive Soldiers in Lebanon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • France, U.S. and UK Reject UN Condemnation of Israeli Settlements
    France, the U.S. and Britain are opposing Saudi Arabia's bid for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank that was circulated Sunday. Such a resolution "will not be helpful,'' said Daniel Carmon, Israel's deputy ambassador to the UN. "It will be received very negatively because it will be seen as something that has to be debated inside the bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. There is no need for such outside pressure.'' (Bloomberg/Gulf News-Dubai)
  • West Bank Torturers Funded by Britain - Marie Colvin
    Millions of pounds of British government money is going to Palestinian security forces which use methods of torture including hanging prisoners by their feet and putting them in "stress" positions for hours at a time, according to evidence to be published next month in a report by Human Rights Watch. Prisoners who have emerged from Palestinian Authority jails - many of whom have never been charged with any offence or even seen a lawyer - said they had been subjected to mock executions, kicked, punched and beaten with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses. A total of £4 billion overall has been promised to the government of Mahmoud Abbas, who is the commander-in-chief of the Palestinian security forces. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • The Debate in Israel on the Prisoner Deal - Amos Harel
    In the end, the Cabinet ministers listened mainly to a harsh debate between Mossad chief Meir Dagan and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Many of them could see the logic in the warnings by Dagan and his colleague, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, about the expected victory celebrations in Lebanon. But Ashkenazi was evidently more persuasive in his steadfast argument for bringing his soldiers home, alive or dead. And the ministers doubtless had ringing in their ears the sentiments of the hostages' families, who spent last week lobbying every minister to go through with the deal. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Festive Welcome Awaits Prisoners in Lebanon - Yoav Stern
    Hizbullah is marketing the deal as a major success for its militant ideology. "Our prisoners are freed not by words and not by diplomacy or tears and kisses," the Al Manar newscast began on Sunday. "Only blood liberated the land and liberates man." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings After Closures Over Palestinian Rocket Fire - Yuval Azoulay
    Israel reopened its border crossings with Gaza on Sunday after Palestinian rocket fire last week led to a closure of the passages. Israeli military liaison official Peter Lerner said the Sufa and Karni commercial crossings, the Nahal Oz fuel transfer depot and the Erez border terminal for travelers resumed operations. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Fire Mortars at Gaza Crossing Saturday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians fired a number of mortars Saturday evening toward the Karni crossing on the Gaza-Israel border. (Ynet News)
        See also Egypt to Open Gaza Border for Two Days
    Egypt is to open its border with Gaza for two days from Tuesday for Palestinians needing to leave the territory, an Egyptian security official said. (AFP)
  • Hamas Won't Recognize Abbas Presidency After January 2009 - Avi Issacharoff
    The acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Bachar of Hamas, announced Sunday that Hamas will not recognize the Abbas presidency past January 9, 2009. The move comes in reponse to a resolution passed by a special judicial panel over the weekend extending Abbas' term in office for a fifth year instead of four years, as in the Palestinian constitution. (Ha'aretz)
  • Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Visits Israel
    The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, ended a two-day visit as the guest of the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Admiral Mullen's previous visit was in December. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What Would the Sages Say about the Prisoner Agreement? - Matthew Wagner
    Jews have developed an extensive rabbinic literature dealing with the redeeming of hostages. Over the centuries, Jews have been kidnapped, imprisoned and ransomed by criminals armed with the knowledge that Jewish sensibilities would not permit a Jewish hostage to remain in captivity. There were times in history when kidnappings were so common that extreme measures had to be taken. For example, Rabbi Meir of Rotenberg (1215-1293) was taken hostage by a German vassal named Rudolph who demanded an exorbitant ransom. The imprisoned rabbi issued a ruling from his cell ordering his students and followers not to pay. The rabbi knew that if the ransom were paid this time, there would be no end to extortion attempts against the Jewish community. Rabbi Meir died in captivity after seven years.
        However, there is no Jewish legal precedent for freeing terrorists in exchange for the body of a Jew. Only for the sake of saving a life is a Jew obligated to go to extreme lengths. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Europeans Stop Foot-Dragging on Iran - Editorial
    It has been nearly two years since the UN ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium. Tehran continues to defy that order, and its scientists are getting closer to mastering a process that is the hardest part of building a nuclear weapon. So we welcome the EU's decision - after much foot-dragging - to impose new sanctions on Iran that go beyond what the UN Security Council has mandated. Europe's patience, we hope, is finally wearing thin and the tightening financial squeeze may yet have impact. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    The Deal for the Release of the Israeli Soldiers Kidnapped in the North (Israel Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Olmert told the Cabinet on Sunday:

    • Our approach to the release of living soldiers must be different than our approach to bringing back soldiers who are no longer alive. As far as we know - two soldiers, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - are no longer alive. As far as we know, they were killed during the kidnapping or died from their wounds soon after the incident.
    • We live in a region in which the rules of the game and the basic human patterns of behavior according to which we act are not shared in our environment. For several years, alongside the completely understood emotion of the families of the kidnapped soldiers, there is a gnawing doubt that this same expression of our obligation [to return our soldiers], at almost any cost, is an incentive to continue this pattern of kidnappings, of blackmail, of undermining our internal morale, of an attempt to forcibly erode our deterrence capability, and eventually our ability to withstand the challenges which we will continue to face, against the enmity, the extreme fanaticism and the cruelty of our neighbors.
    • The strength of the pain over returning our dead will not be less than the feeling of affront from the celebrations that will be held by the opposing side.
    • I hope that the satisfaction that comes from the resolution of the doubts of the Regev and Goldwasser families will grant us the peace of mind and perhaps the comfort that we must take this step. This will bring an end to this painful episode - even at the painful price it costs us.
    Agreement on the Release of Israel's Missing and Captive Soldiers in Lebanon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • The abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev will be returned to Israel, a report on the disappearance of Ron Arad will be delivered to Israel, and remains from the Second Lebanon War will be received.
    • Prisoner Samir Kuntar and four Lebanese fighters will be released to Lebanon. The bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists, including eight members of Hizbullah, will be delivered to Lebanon. Palestinian prisoners will be released, as determined solely by Israel.

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