Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 8, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Looks to Neutralize Russian-Made Iranian Air Defenses - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    If Russia delivers its most advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Israel will use an electronic warfare device now under development to neutralize it and as a result present Russia as vulnerable to air infiltration, a top Israeli defense official told the Jerusalem Post.
    The Russian S-300 system has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time at a range of about 200 km.
    The defense official said, "no one really knows yet if and when Iran will get the system."
    "No country will want to buy the system if it is proven to be ineffective.... For this reason, Russia may not deliver it in the end to Iran."

Why Do Arab Nationalists Demand the Liberation of Palestine If They Gave Up on Other Occupied Regions? (MEMRI)
    Palestinian author Dr. Ahmad Abu Matar said on Al-Jazeera TV on July 22, 2008:
    "To be honest, I do not understand these priorities. [Syrian] Alexandretta was occupied [by Turkey] in 1936, and we have forgotten about it, and [Arab] Al-Ahwaz was occupied [by Iran] in 1925, and we have forgotten about it. Palestine was occupied in 1948 - so what are the priorities?"
    "Do you want to liberate the first region to fall, or the last? If you want to start with the last region - go ahead and issue just one statement about the UAE islands occupied by Iran. This proves that there is a defect in the thinking of the anti-normalization committees."

Israel Sends Bank Notes to Gaza (Reuters)
    Israel will allow banks to transfer 72 million shekels ($20 million) into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to ease a shortage of bank notes, Palestinian officials said Friday.
    The cash infusion will replenish reserves used to pay this week's salaries of Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority workforce.

Israel Opens West Bank Roadblock (Reuters)
    To ease curbs on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, Israel opened a roadblock to commercial traffic on Thursday. Residents said the measure reduces travel time between Hebron and the Tarqumiya commercial crossing point into Israel to less than 20 minutes from about 45.

Pro-Israel Editor Goes on Trial in Bangladesh - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
    The trial of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a Bangladeshi Muslim editor arrested for advocating ties with Israel, began in Dhaka on Wednesday.
    Facing charges that include sedition, if convicted, Choudhury could be sentenced to death.
    In November 2003, Choudhury was arrested at Dhaka's international airport just prior to boarding a flight on his way to Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver an address on promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews.

Photo Essay: Palestinians in Gaza Train for War (Foreign Policy)
    Fifty masked Palestinian fighters of the hard-line, Hamas-affiliated Popular Resistance Committees displayed their military skills at a graduation ceremony on August 7 in Gaza.

Germany: A Hotbed of Hizbullah Activity - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Alexander Ritzmann, a Hizbullah expert and senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, said Wednesday that mosques and Iranian cultural centers in such cities as Hamburg, Berlin and Munster were hotbeds of Hizbullah activity.
    Hizbullah has not been outlawed in Germany, and its approximately 900 supporters are permitted to raise funds and call for the destruction of Israel.
    Ritzmann said he favored a ban on Hizbullah and stressed that it was "totally unacceptable that a democratic state" had failed to outlaw a "super-professional and dangerous group" that sought to launch terror attacks against Israeli, American and Jewish institutions.

Pentecostal Latino Pastors Visit Israel (AP/Monterey County Herald)
    The Los Angeles office of the American Jewish Committee recently took a group of Pentecostal Latino pastors to Israel, offered a course called "The Essence of Judaism" at a southern California Pentecostal seminary, and invited Latino pastors and their families to Passover seders and Sukkot harvest celebrations.
    While Latino immigrants in the U.S. are mostly Catholic, evangelicals comprise a notable 15 percent of the population, according to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Project.

Arab Students Visit Israeli Embassy in Washington - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Dozens of students from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar visited the Israeli embassy in Washington this week in the framework of an international young leadership training program sponsored by the U.S. government.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice: U.S. Doesn't Say Yes or No to Israeli Military Operations
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday in an interview:
        Q: Since we're such a close ally of Israel, do you worry that if Israel were to act against Iran, that we [the U.S.] would be blamed?
        Rice: We don't say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country. But we are in very close contact with the Israelis and we talk about the diplomatic track that we're on. I think they believe that diplomacy - they've said that diplomacy can work here. And I know they're doing their part to talk to all of the countries with which they have good relations to explain why it's important to have a tough edge to our diplomacy.
        Q: Twenty percent of the world's oil goes through water controlled by Iran. Is oil Iran's secret weapon?
        Rice: I don't know what the Iranians would do without the revenue that they receive from selling oil. And so the idea that they would somehow deprive the world of Iranian oil exports would have to have a pretty devastating effect on Iran itself. (State Department)
  • Tunnels to Egypt Keep Hamas in Business - Juliane von Mittelstaedt
    Abu Ibrahim, 38, the king of the Gaza tunnel builders, is the richest man in Rafah and is believed to be worth millions. He drives a gold-colored Jeep and has built a multistory commercial building. Hamas owes its power in Gaza to Abu Ibrahim. It was Ibrahim who helped arm the Islamists and provided them with the weapons they have used since assuming power in June of last year. According to Israel, 175 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza since June 2007, along with 10 million rounds of ammunition, tens of thousands of machine guns, grenades, land mines and precision-guided missiles.
        Abu Yakub, an assistant of Ibrahim, squats next to a new shaft where his men are in the process of digging a new tunnel. Using satellite images from Google Earth, they install power cables, oxygen lines and intercom systems underground. Hamas is believed to collect about $10,000 a day from the tunnel owners in the form of "usage fees," as well as "value-added taxes" - all payable in cash to armed money collectors who wait at the tunnel exits. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Hold Lebanon Responsible for Hizbullah's Actions - Barak Ravid
    Israel will hold Lebanon responsible for any attacks against Israel, in particular for any Hizbullah efforts to avenge the death of its military leader Imad Mughniyeh. This decision on Wednesday by the security cabinet represents a change in Israeli policy, which had always firmly separated Hizbullah and the Lebanese government. Israel will treat the Lebanese unity government, which is headed by Fouad Siniora and includes Hizbullah, as responsible for any event that takes place in its sovereign territory or events for which Lebanese nationals are responsible. A senior Jerusalem source said if Hizbullah attacks Israel from Lebanese territory, shoots at Israel Air Force aircraft, or carries out a terror attack abroad, Israel will hold Lebanon responsible and respond appropriately.
        In the Second Lebanon War, Israel avoided damaging Lebanese civilian infrastructure such as power stations, ports or government institutions, despite the recommendation of then-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, due to pressure from Washington on Israel. Defense officials noted that the guidelines of the new Lebanese government, approved by President Michel Suleiman, allow Hizbullah to continue its military activity against Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Subtly, Syria Is Taking Over Lebanon - Jonathan Spyer
    Syria's return to Lebanon is a work in progress. The formation of the new Lebanese government after the Beirut clashes in May represented a very significant gain for the pro-Syria element in Lebanese politics. Hizbullah now controls a blocking 11 of the 30 cabinet seats. With a Lebanese government of this type, there is no reason for Syria to be in dispute there. The short period when Damascus felt the need to express its will in Lebanon solely in a clandestine way is drawing to a close.
        The Syrians hope the May 2009 general election will see the establishment of a government more fully dominated by Hizbullah and its allies, in which the pro-Western element will have been marginalized. This would mark the effective final reversal of the events of the spring of 2005, when the Cedar Revolution compelled the Syrian army to leave Lebanon. This would represent the enveloping of Lebanon into the regional alliance led by Iran, of which Syria is a senior member. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Battles Spanish Arrest Warrants - Ksenia Svetlova
    Israel is battling hard to overturn a Spanish court's decision to issue arrest warrants against six current and former politicians and senior military officials, a source in the Spanish Attorney-General's Office told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Late last month, the National Court of Spain (the highest Spanish judicial council), issued arrest warrants against Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Doron Almog, Moshe Ya'alon, Dan Halutz, Giora Eiland and Mike Herzog - accepting a petition from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that suggested they were guilty of war crimes in Gaza in 2002. The source said active negotiations between Madrid and Jerusalem are taking place to overturn the warrants.
        "Some elements with very clear motives and intentions use these lawsuits as a weapon against Israel. The combat between Israel and terrorists continues on different scenes, and the legal scene is just one of them," said former head of the IDF Southern Command Doron Almog. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No More Gestures - Miki Goldwasser
    On Wednesday I met with Noam Shalit, the father of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The same day, we heard about Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' request for a goodwill gesture. Abbas asked that Israel release 150 prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat, the man who planned Minister Rehavam Ze'evi's assassination.
        We too want gestures. We want Gilad Shalit to be handed over to the Egyptians. We want Gilad to be granted the basic humanitarian right of Red Cross visits. We have made plenty of gestures already. Sick Gazans receive medical treatment in Israel, and Israeli doctors have been saving lives in Gaza without asking whose children they are saving. The children of Hamas men have also been treated. Yet somehow we do not get any gestures. Goodwill gestures must secure something in exchange. Miki Goldwasser is the mother of fallen IDF reserve soldier Ehud Goldwasser. (Ynet News)
  • Regional Leaders Readjust Their Posture toward the Pro-Iranian "Resistance Front" - Israel Elad Altman
    The Jordanian regime is thawing to Hamas and to the Muslim Brotherhood after years of alienation. Yemen's President Salih stopped the war on the al-Huthi insurgency without winning it. Lebanon's Druze leader, Walid Jumblat, appears to be edging away from the "March 14" Coalition and is making amends with Hizbullah. Each of these developments should be understood in its own particular context, but they may have a common denominator: These actors seem to be seeking to readjust their positions to a situation where the "moderate camp" is losing ground to the "Resistance Front." The writer is Director of Studies at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Delphi Global Analysis, 7Aug08)
  • Al-Qaeda Is Shifting Its Tactics and Finding New Followers - Peter Brookes
    Nearly seven years after Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda is bloodied, but not bowed - leaving it still capable of dealing a devastating blow. Al-Qaeda is a different organization than it was in 2001. Today, bin Laden is more inspirational than operational. Although he is still dangerous, for the moment, he is more of a terrorist icon than a terrorist operative. It is believed he is not directing al-Qaeda's day-to-day terrorism operations around the world like he did before 9/11.
        Al-Qaeda has long sought to recruit terrorist operatives already in place in the West and bin Laden has been especially keen to recruit converts to Islam. These new adherents can often easily overcome the challenges of racial profiling. There is a sinking sense that Islamist radicalization is catching fire in Europe, based on the increased number of plots in recent years involving homegrown terrorists there, as well as Europeans serving in violent jihad overseas. An April Europol report indicated that terrorist attacks in the EU were up almost 25 percent in 2007 and that Pakistan-based al-Qaeda groups are the main drivers of extremism and terrorism concerns in the EU.
        We've also had terrorism attempts in the U.S., too, by "self-radicalized" people who were inspired by, but had little or no physical contact with, al-Qaeda. Terrorist cells in Ohio, Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey targeted the U.S. government, the military and critical infrastructure. The writer is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. (Armed Forces Journal)
  • Fear Stalks Muslim Apostates in the West - David J. Rusin
    Persuading Western Muslim leaders to repudiate Shari'a-sanctioned violence against apostates can be a frustrating exercise, as Prince Charles discovered in 2004. Troubled by the treatment of Muslims who convert to Christianity in Islamic nations, the prince convened a summit of senior figures from both religious communities. However, the Islamic representatives failed to issue a declaration condemning the practice, which the Christians had requested.
        All major schools of Islamic jurisprudence stipulate that a sane adult male must be put to death for abandoning Islam, though varying interpretations persist on whether females should be killed or merely imprisoned. Many Islamic states outlaw apostasy and seven list it as a capital offense. The writer is a research associate at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. (American Thinker)
        See also Iran's Nobel Peace Laureate Denies Iranian Media Report on Daughter's Conversion
    Iran's Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has denied a state media report that her daughter had converted from Islam to the outlawed Bahai faith and suggested it was prompted by her legal defense work on behalf of seven Bahais arrested on charges of having contact with Israel. (AFP)
  • Expanding Holocaust Denial and Legislation Against It - Michael Whine
    Over half the states of Europe now criminalize Holocaust denial. They accept the premise that deniers are extremists who use denial, among other means, to rehabilitate Nazism. Their legal rationale is usually that denial negates the historical facts established at Nuremburg in 1945, rather than that it constitutes offensive or threatening speech.
        International agreements take the same line, and this was reinforced and given a legal basis in April 2007 by the EU Common Framework Decision, which requires European states to criminalize denial. Legislation, however, has not stopped extremists from continuing to promote Holocaust denial and they are now joined and invigorated by Iran, which promotes it as state policy. Nevertheless, states now accept that Holocaust education is vital and several intergovernmental initiatives offer hope for the future. The writer is director of government and international affairs at the Community Security Trust and director of the Defense and Group Relations Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel and China - Adi Schwartz
    The China of 2008 is a superpower. The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation is digging the Carmel Tunnel, a 4.7-km. underground road below Haifa's city center. Some 550 Chinese are currently residing in Haifa while they work on the project. The firm is also involved in Tel Aviv's light-rail project. Chinese manufacturer ZPMC this week won the tender to supply seven bridge cranes to Haifa port. Prof. Marvin Samuels, an adviser to the Chinese Ministry of Communications and a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says, "In the past year, Israel has received an amazing positive spin in China," as reflected in news reports in both the governmental and semi-independent media. "If Chinese companies have begun to do business in Israel, it is very probable that senior officials in the Chinese politburo gave them the green light to do so."
        Zhou Hui, the commercial attache at China's Embassy in Tel Aviv, says trade between the two countries has increased from $50 million in 1992 to about $4.5 billion in 2007. China exports goods and services worth $3.5 billion to Israel, and imports $1 billion-worth from Israel.
        Amos Nadai, Israel's ambassador to China, says, "I keep hearing compliments about the ancient culture of the Jewish people and the old tradition, and about the ability to build a modern country out of them in a span of 60 years. These comparisons make the Chinese feel close to us: They, too, have a glorious tradition and they, too, are trying to develop a modern country quickly. They feel that they have something to learn from us."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Ordinary Israelis Can Read 2,100-Year-Old Hebrew Scroll - Isabel Kershner
    Some Israelis have described being moved almost to tears by a rare viewing of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved and most complete Dead Sea biblical scroll, on special exhibit this summer at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum for the first time in 40 years. Ordinary people are able to read, and at least partly understand, the ancient Hebrew text on the 2,100-year-old scroll. "The Bible is first of all our connection to the land," said Ruvik Rosenthal, a popular Israeli language guru. (New York Times)
  • Jerusalem Dig Turns Up Gold Coins from Second Temple Period - Ofri Ilani
    Last month, archeologists from Tel Aviv University digging at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel near Jerusalem found a hoard of coins dating from the time of the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). A ceramic cooking pot from the 1st century CE containing 15 large gold coins was found under the floor of a cave. Dr. Oded Lipschits described the find: "We discovered the hoard with a metal detector, and then we went down into the niche and found this small cooking pot inside it." According to Lipschits, the pot was covered up in a way that indicates that it had been concealed in a hurry. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    There Won't Be "Peace" Without Democracy - Natan Sharansky and Bassem Eid (Wall Street Journal)

    • A tragic peace process turned to farce after bloody clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists in Gaza killed 11 Palestinians and injured 120 more, and nearly 200 Palestinians associated with Fatah sought asylum in Israel.
    • The irony of the present situation boggles the mind. Oslo proponents believed a strong Arafat, unconstrained by the inherent checks of democratic rule, would be able to fight Hamas and forge a final peace with Israel. Yet 15 years later, a peace process that undermined Palestinian democracy created a "peace partner" so hated by its own people that the Israeli Army must now protect them.
    • As Arafat and his Fatah party were busy hollowing out Palestinian civil society and turning control of the Palestinian economy over to corrupt cronies, the world showered them with money and diplomatic support. Hundreds of millions of dollars were transferred to Arafat's private slush fund so that he could "strengthen" his standing among the Palestinians. But the corrupt dictatorship he built would win him and his party only the lasting scorn of his people.
    • Last November's Annapolis "peace" conference once again focused primarily on who is ruling and not on how they rule. Abbas replaced Arafat as the recipient of international largess, but the emphasis remains on empowering a particular leader, rather than empowering Palestinian civil society and creating democratic institutions. Palestinians have suffered greatly for this neglect of democracy.
    • Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, internecine violence has reached unprecedented heights. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, the death toll includes: 122 killed in the streets (suspected collaborators), 41 by capital punishment, 34 honor killings, 48 stabbed to death, seven beaten to death, 258 killed under mysterious circumstances and 818 cases of gunfire. So far no one has been charged, let alone tried, for any of these unlawful killings.
    • If Israelis and Palestinians are to pave a path toward peace, the peace process must be linked to building and strengthening Palestinian civil society. It is high time that Palestinian civil society be fully recognized by the international community as a prerequisite to peace. If Palestinian civil society is not empowered, the Fatah-controlled West Bank may soon be ruled by Hamas.

      Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician, is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Bassem Eid is the founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, based in Jerusalem.

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