Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 25, 2008

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In-Depth Issue:

Israel's Economy Grew at 4.2% Annual Pace in Second Quarter - David Rosenberg (Bloomberg)
��Israel's economy this year will probably expand at its slowest pace since 2003, with the Bank of Israel in June forecasting growth of 4.2 percent. That would still leave Israel ahead of the world's developed economies, which the International Monetary Fund said July 17 will grow 1.7 percent this year.

An Israeli's Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road - Daniel Roth (Wired)
��The problem, Shai Agassi decided, was oil-consuming, CO2-spewing cars. The solution was to get rid of them. Not just some, and not just by substituting hybrids or flex fuels. No half measures. The internal combustion engine had to be retired. The future was in electric cars.
��Agassi dealt with the battery issue by simply swatting it away. Previous approaches relied on a traditional manufacturing formula: We make the cars, you buy them. Agassi reimagined the entire automotive ecosystem by proposing a new concept he called the Electric Recharge Grid Operator.
��Instead of gas stations on every corner, the ERGO would blanket a country with a network of "smart" charge spots. Drivers could plug in anywhere, anytime, and would subscribe to a specific plan.
��Once Agassi had $200 million to fund the grid and an Israeli government serious about tax breaks, Renault began developing an electric car that would be ready for the market by 2011. Agassi promises that 50 Renault prototypes will be on Israeli roads this winter � and 1,000 stations will be there to recharge them.

Paul McCartney Will Finally Play in Israel - Sarah Knapton (Telegraph -- UK)
��Sir Paul McCartney will perform in Israel next month, 43 years after The Beatles were banned from playing in the Holy Land. The legendary rock star's concert in Tel Aviv, announced earlier this year, has now been scheduled for September 25, according to reports in Israel.
��Sources close to Sir Paul say the 66-year-old is "desperate" to play the Holy Land. He will either perform at the nation's football station Ramat Gan or put on an open air gig in Hayarkon Park.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Rice Heads to Middle East to Push for Peace Deal - Robert Berger
    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading back to the Middle East for a new peace mission, but there are few expectations for a major breakthrough. She is still pushing for a peace agreement by the end of the year. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to resign next month over a corruption scandal, but under Israel's complicated system of government, Mr. Olmert could remain in office for many months as caretaker prime minister, even after his Kadima party chooses a new leader in September. Mr. Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, says Israel will do all it can to reach a peace deal before U.S. President George Bush leaves office in January.
    ��As a goodwill gesture to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel free Palestinian prisoners on Monday to coincide with Rice's arrival. While Palestinian officials have welcomed the prisoner release as an important step, they are pessimistic about the chances of a broader peace deal. (Voice of America)
  • Boats with Pro-Palestinian Activists Reach Gaza - Ibrahim Barzak
    Two boats carrying dozens of international activists sailed into the Gaza Strip Saturday in defiance of an Israeli blockade, receiving a jubilant welcome from thousands of Palestinians. Since setting sail from Cyprus early Friday, the mission by the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement had been in question. Israel initially hinted it would prevent the vessels from reaching Gaza. But late Saturday, Israel said it would permit the boats to dock in Gaza after determining the activists did not pose a security threat. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Israel wanted "to avoid the media provocation" that the group was seeking. (AP/San Francisco Gate)
    ����See also Blockade-Running Activists Vow to Bring 10 Students on Return
    The group said it plans to bring 10 Palestinian students to Cyprus on the return voyage in another bid to highlight Israel's strict restriction of movement into and out of Gaza. The group also met Ismail Haniya, leader of the Hamas-run government in Gaza. Haniya gave the activists honorary Palestinian citizenship and passports to Palestine. (AFP/Daily Star - Lebanon)
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Endorses Ahmadinejad for Second Term
    Iranian state media say the country's supreme leader has urged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to plan for a second four-year term in office. It is the first time that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made such a strong public endorsement of Ahmadinejad, who faces re-election next year. The ayatollah has the final say on all the country's affairs. Ayatollah Khamenei met Mr. Ahmadinejad and the Cabinet Saturday and praised them for defying international pressure to stop Iran's nuclear program. (Voice of America)
  • Iran: Second Nuclear Power Plant in Design Stage
    Iran's official news agency says the country has begun designing its second light-water nuclear power plant, a 360-megawatt facility in the southwest. Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says experts have chosen the site where the light-water nuclear reactor will be built. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israel Releases 199 Jailed Palestinians, in Gesture to Abbas - Jonathan Lis
    Israel began releasing 199 Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank on Monday, as a gesture of good will to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Israel Prison Service was to take the prisoners from Ofer Prison, close to Jerusalem, to the Beituniya checkpoint near Ramallah, Israel Radio reported. Upon their arrival, Abbas was to welcome them at a formal ceremony in his Muqata headquarters in the West Bank city. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's American-Staffed Missile Shield against Iran - Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid
    Earlier this month the U.S. and Israel agreed on the deployment of a high-powered early-warning missile radar system in the Negev, to be staffed by U.S. military personnel. The station will receive information from the U.S. team in Europe that will aid it in its work. The deployment of the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) system, is widely seen as a kind of parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem as President George W. Bush prepares to leave office. The new system is significantly more accurate than Israel's "Green Pine" radar system, which supports the Arrow anti-missile system. The system will protect Israel's skies from missile attacks, but the flip side of the deal is that Israel's freedom of action against Iran or Syria will be significantly curtailed.
    ��Senior Israeli defense officials view the radar system deployment as a signal of Washington's opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Police Shut Down Islamic Movement Institution - Sharon Roffe-Ofir
    Israeli police and Shin Bet forces raided the Islamic Movement's al-Aqsa institution offices in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm on Saturday night and shut down the place. The operation was carried out in accordance with an "unlawful organization" order issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, following information that the institution had ties with the Hamas headquarters in Jerusalem. Simultaneously, some of the movement's bank accounts were frozen. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Wake-Up Time for Rice - Editorial
    Is Condoleezza Rice the last person who still believes that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible by January? As the Secretary of State makes her way to the Mideast for yet another round of talks, it would be wise for her and the Bush administration to acknowledge the obvious: that no agreement is possible at a time when the leaders of the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian Authority are either lame ducks (George Bush and Ehud Olmert) or have little clout or leverage to begin with (Mahmoud Abbas).
    ��Rice no doubt will find Olmert and Abbas ready to talk, setting off another round of diplomatic and political rhetoric about the importance of negotiations. But none of the leading players in this drama can overcome the reality that they have overplayed the peace hand, at least for now. They should be focusing on putting the process on hold and paving the way for new and creative paradigms to deal with a very old problem: refusal to acknowledge a legitimate Jewish state in the Middle East. (The Jewish Week)
  • What Georgia Crisis Means for Israel - Frida Ghtis
    The rumblings of a new model of Cold War could mean that cooperation between the West and Russia on matters crucial to Israel, particularly Iran, is coming to an end. Even worse, a possible new cycle of strategic competition between Moscow and Washington could become a game-changer in the Middle East. Russia has been a reluctant partner in efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program. Russians are helping build one of Iran's nuclear facilities in Bushehr, and they have worked to stall U.N. efforts to impose sanctions. Israel, however, faces other threats besides Iran. There, too, Russia could create problems if it decides to start arming Israel's enemies, as it did during the Cold War, to tweak the United States. (Miami Herald)
  • Observations:

    EU Aid to Palestine Is Funding the Conflict - Daniel Hannan (Telegraph -- UK)

  • The EU is to increase its aid to the Palestinian Authority by �40 million, in order to pay the salaries of government employees. The EU's generosity with our money - it has paid the Palestinian Authority �256 million so far this year - creates two problems. First, the PA in Gaza is run by Hamas, which is on the EU's list of designated terrorist operations. Under Brussels rules, funding such an organization is a criminal offence. Euro-lawyers have sought to circumvent the letter of the law by funneling aid money through NGOs, but this is sheer sophistry.
  • Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that overseas aid is arresting a political settlement in the region. Palestinians receive more assistance, per capita, than any other people on Earth, and live in one of its most violent spaces. The two facts are connected.
  • The idea that aggression can be buried under a landslide of euros sounds reasonable, but it is based on a false premise, namely that political violence is caused by economic deprivation.
  • Palestinians are a naturally enterprising people who, in other Arab states, often form the professional and administrative class. A capitalist Palestine, in which citizens looked to themselves rather than to the state, would be more stable. Its propertied classes would have a stake in civil order. Its businessmen would have an incentive to remain on cordial terms with their customers, including those in Israel.
  • None of this will happen, however, as long as Palestinians remain trapped in the squalor of dependency. The author is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament.

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