Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 13, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Silence Dissent in West Bank, Gaza - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP/Washington Post)
    A West Bank professor is thrown into a police jeep and beaten with pipes. Detainees in Gaza are prevented from seeing lawyers. Club-wielding troops in the West Bank break up a peaceful march, and their counterparts in Gaza keep journalists from covering a police raid.
    It's all part of a widening crackdown on political opponents, both by the Western-backed Fatah movement in the West Bank and by the Islamic militant Hamas in Gaza.
    The U.S. and Europe have said little about violations in the West Bank, even as they're spending millions of dollars on police training.
    Analysts say a desire to prevent the West Bank from falling to Islamists appears to override other Western concerns.
    "The West is supporting one Palestinian faction over the other. It's all about politics, not human rights," said George Giacaman, a political scientist from the West Bank's Bir Zeit University.

Islamist Website Discusses Poisoning Water Systems of Major European Cities (MEMRI)
    On August 9, 2008, a member of the Islamist website forum Al-Boraq proposed poisoning the water systems of major European cities, explaining that this is just one of many options - some "more powerful and more damaging" - but that the posting was meant to "prompt the mind [to generate] innovative [ideas]."

Israel, Turkey and U.S. to Hold Search and Rescue Drill (Turkish Press)
    Reliant Mermaid, a trilateral humanitarian search and rescue exercise involving naval ships and aircraft from Israel, Turkey and the U.S., will take place between August 17 and 22 in international waters off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea.

The End of Al-Qaeda? - Philippe Gohier (Maclean's-Canada)
    Al-Qaeda's remarkable resiliency in Afghanistan and Pakistan is evidence the group remains a distinct threat to security worldwide.
    A retired CIA officer told the New York Times last June that al-Qaeda training compounds in the tribal areas of Pakistan may now be housing as many as 2,000 prospective fighters, a significant jump from the several hundred trainees who were there in 2005.

"Honor" Killing Comes to the U.S. - Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe)
    While honor killings may be more prevalent in the Middle East, no longer are they unknown in the U.S., as seen in recent cases in the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro, in upstate New York, and in Irving, Texas.
    It is appalling that such lethally barbaric attitudes could persist anywhere at this late date - and all the more alarming, now that the shame of honor killing has made its way here.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Reject Reported "Shelf-Agreement" Proposal - Adam Entous
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has rejected an Israeli peace proposal, Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas' spokesman, said on Tuesday. Under the proposal, Israel would give the Palestinians 92.7 percent of the West Bank, plus all of Gaza, according to Western and Palestinian officials briefed on the negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's proposal does not offer a solution to competing claims to Jerusalem, and would only be implemented once Abbas reined in militants and re-established control of Gaza, which Hamas seized a year ago.
        Olmert's proposal first emerged several months ago and was published in greater detail on Tuesday, prompting Abu Rdainah's response. "The Israeli proposal is not acceptable," he said. "The Palestinian side will only accept a Palestinian state with territorial continuity, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, without settlements, and on the June 4, 1967 boundaries." He called the Israeli proposal a "waste of time." Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said, "We are committed to continuing the effort to try to reach a joint Israeli-Palestinian document." (Reuters)
        See also Chief PA Negotiator Discounts Reported Peace Proposal - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians were unaware of the existence of such a proposal. "At no time were the Palestinians presented with a detailed set of proposals by Ehud Olmert or any Israeli official," he said. "All the details mentioned in this report are either completely untrue or are not linked to reality." Erekat said the Palestinians would not accept any solution that excludes the issues of Jerusalem and the "right of return" for Palestinians.  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Sanctions Five Iranian Companies over Nuclear Work
    The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday imposed sanctions against five more Iranian firms that had provided support or materials to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The move bans Americans from doing business with them and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction. "These five nuclear and missile entities have been used by Iran to hide its illicit conduct and further its dangerous nuclear ambitions," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "Responsible financial institutions and businesses worldwide are taking steps to avoid doing business with Iranian nuclear and missile entities, as well as with the front companies and cut-outs the Iranian regime uses to disguise its activities," Levey said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Rejects Israeli Request for Advanced Military Equipment - Aluf Benn
    The U.S. has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. The Americans viewed the request, which was rejected at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. When President Bush visited Jerusalem in May, he held a private meeting on the Iranian threat with Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak. The Israelis presented requests for specific items of military equipment, along with diplomatic and security backing.
        Two weeks ago, Barak visited Washington and warned that Iran was liable to advance its nuclear program under cover of the endless deliberations about sanctions. In an attempt to compensate Israel for having rejected all its proposals, Washington then offered to bolster Israel's defenses against ballistic missiles. However, it would not agree to supply Israel with any offensive systems. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israelis, New Immigrants Flee Clashes in Georgia - Yael Branovsky
    Some 210 Israelis and 30 new immigrants from Georgia arrived in Israel on Tuesday night, with an additional 400 Israelis to follow shortly. Pini Avivi, the Israel Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for Central Europe and Eurasia, said, "600 Israelis and Jews assembled at the embassy. The objective was to get them out of Georgia by midnight. They're happy to go back home." Israel's Health Ministry announced that it will send two and a half tons of medical supplies to Georgia. (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Reporter Wounded in Georgia
    Yediot Ahronot reporter Tzadok Yehezkeli, 52, was seriously injured Tuesday in Georgia while covering the fighting in Gori, near the South Ossetian border. Three Israeli doctors landed in Georgia at midnight to help treat Yehezkeli, who was then flown to Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lessons of the War in Georgia - Gerald Steinberg
    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's strategy, which relied on wide international support for an embattled democracy and quick intervention by NATO, was never realistic. Vladimir Putin's resurgent Russia has been steadily eating into Georgian territory by supporting breakaway movements, and Saakashvili sought to reverse this process. He thought Georgia could make its move during the Beijing Olympics, when Putin would not want to be seen as a ruthless attacker. This was a foolish and costly mistake - Putin had no interest in protecting his image. At the same time, Washington is focused on nuclear threats from Iran and the ongoing war in Iraq. Both require some cooperation from Moscow.
        For Israel, the speed and brutality of the Russian attack on Georgia are another reminder that our survival in the Middle East requires a realistic assessment of the power balance in the region. In Lebanon and Gaza, the hope that European and UN forces will prevent Hizbullah and Hamas from acquiring and using weapons is dangerously naive. In the case of Iran's nuclear program, Israel's own power and ability to defend against and deter attacks remain the most effective forms of insurance. The writer is chairman of the Political Studies Department of Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • What Russia Gained and Lost in Georgia - Yitzhak M. Brudny
    This is the beginning of a larger international effort to find a permanent resolution to the South Ossetian and Abkhazian problem. The self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia seceded from Georgia in the early 1990s, with the Russian military providing crucial help. In practice, Russian policies amounted to de facto annexation: most residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were granted Russian citizenship, and both republics were given various forms of economic aid. Moreover, Russian military contingents in both regions - officially the OSCE-sponsored peacekeeping force - provided shields against potential Georgian efforts to bring the seceding regions back under effective Georgian sovereignty.
        By inflicting a military knock-out punch on Georgian President Saakashvili, perceived by Russia as a mere puppet of the U.S., Russia sent the message that it would neither tolerate hostile regimes in bordering states nor permit its economic hegemony in the region to be challenged.
        Russia's use of force could in the long run completely undermine Russian credibility when it speaks against the use of force in Iran or condemns potential future confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah (in 2006, Russia condemned in the harshest terms Israel's "excessive use of force"). Finally, as Israelis know well, bombing and invading small countries never looks good on TV in the West, however justified it might be. In the court of public opinion, Russia has already lost. The author is the Jay and Leonie Darwin Chair in Russian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Iranian "Giant" - Jamil Theyabi
    Iranian leaders constantly issue "aggressive" statements against the Gulf countries. At times, they declare their intention to burn the region, the military bases, and the oil wells if their country comes under a U.S. military attack - as stated by Ali Shamkhani, military adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At others, they meddle in the domestic affairs of the countries of the region or declare illegitimate the ruling regimes in the Gulf countries - as said by Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Research Manuchehr Mohammadi. In his opinion, the legitimacy of the Arab Gulf regimes will trigger the upcoming crisis in the Middle East. Mohammadi's declarations will not be the last ones made by an Iranian official against the regional countries.
        Iran's role is not "veiled" anymore but "exposed." Iran is active in Lebanon and in the south of Iraq, it cooperates with Hamas leaders and supports the Hawthi's followers in Yemen. Iran is trying to create a Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Gulf region and on Arab borders, in order to expand its influence and win more supporters, either through buying in "dollars" or by exporting the Khomeini revolution. (Dar Al Hayat-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Russia and China Subverting Iran Sanctions - Editorial (Washington Times)

    • While the U.S. emphasizes the need to halt investment in Iran's energy sector, Russia and China continue to forge ahead with billions of dollars in new investments that will enable Iran to finance its military buildup and fund terrorist groups.
    • During the past year, Washington has had some success in persuading European allies not to go forward with projects that would provide capital for Iranian weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and terror. U.S. diplomatic pressure caused the French firm Total and Royal Dutch Shell to delay energy investment projects in Iran and has led European banks to withdraw financing for oil exploration there.
    • Yet Russia appears determined to expand its oil and gas investments in Iran. Between 2000 and 2007, the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom invested $4 billion in Iran. In February, Gazprom announced it would expand its involvement in developing Iran's South Pars natural-gas field in the Persian Gulf and would aid Tehran's oil-exploration efforts. Gazprom last month signed a multibillion-dollar agreement with the Iranian National Oil Co. to help Iran develop its oil and gas fields.
    • The Iranian government has also announced a $100 billion agreement with the Chinese oil giant Sinopec, in which the firm agreed to purchase Iranian natural gas and help develop one of Iran's largest oil fields.
    • The bottom line is that, even as Washington and its allies work to tighten sanctions against Tehran, Russia and China are doing everything they can to negate any beneficial effect that sanctions could have.

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