Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 3, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

"Palestinians Will Reject Any Agreement that Does Not Make Jerusalem the Palestinian Capital"  (Maan News-PA)
    Palestinian leaders will not sign a peace agreement with Israel that does not guarantee the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, said Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmad Qurei on Tuesday.
    Qurei also said that excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the area of the Mughrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem have sparked concern that the iconic mosque is under threat.

    See also New Animated Video on Hamas TV Accuses Jews of Digging Under Temple Mount - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Hamas' Al-Aqsa television previewed a new animated film Tuesday portraying Jews digging under the Temple Mount and endangering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian Media Watch reported.
    The message that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in immediate danger from Jews is a theme that has been repeated often over the years to create an atmosphere that encourages extreme steps by Palestinians.
    View the Video (Palestinian Media Watch-Ynet News)

Hizbullah Still Targeting Israelis Abroad - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli intelligence experts believe Hizbullah is determined to attack an Israeli target - most likely institutions or officials abroad, especially in third-world countries - to avenge the assassination of top Hizbullah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February.
    Another possibility is that Hizbullah will attempt to kidnap Israeli businessmen abroad.
    See also Thwarting Hizbullah's "Terror Spectacular" - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)

Sinai Terror Attacks Feared During Holiday Season - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Israeli security officials have expressed concern that terror organizations may attempt to carry out attacks against Israelis vacationing in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula during the upcoming holiday season.
    Officials said Tuesday that Global Jihad terrorists were training in Sinai and Gaza.

Gaza Strike Deepens Palestinian Rift - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Some 85% of education workers and 70% of primary health care personnel have walked off their jobs in Gaza since Saturday, paralyzing services, a UN source said. They accuse Hamas rulers of transferring Fatah supporters from their posts.
    Bassem Zakarna, head of the pro-Fatah union, said the Gaza sanctions, initially planned for four days, would continue for another week to press Hamas to reverse its policy and end its seizure of a teachers' union headquarters in Gaza City.

Iran Expels Al-Arabiya Reporter - Barbara Surk (AP)
    Iran on Tuesday banned the Tehran bureau chief for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel and told him to leave the country as soon as possible, the network said.
    Hassan Fahas is the third Al-Arabiya correspondent expelled from Iran since 2003.
    Iran's official news agency IRNA suggested that a program about the 1979 Islamic Revolution could have prompted the move because it was allegedly insulting to the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

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

  • U.S. Fights Islamic Push at UN - Betsy Pisik
    The Bush administration, European governments, and religious rights organizations are mounting a new effort to defeat a General Assembly resolution that demands respect for Islam and other religions but has been used to justify persecution of religious minorities. The resolution, called "Combating Defamation of Religion," is sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The Bush administration and European governments warn that the resolution - which specifically mentions Islam but no other religions - is an Orwellian text that has been used to shut down free speech. The resolution "replaces the existing objective criterion of limitations on speech where there is an intent to incite hatred or violence against religious believers with a subjective criterion that considers whether the religion or its believers feel offended by the speech," said a brief by the European Center for Law and Justice.
        Felice Gaer, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal body that investigates abuses, said, "We are seeing a clear attempt by OIC countries to mainstream the concept and insert it into just about every other topic they can....They are turning freedom of expression into restriction of expression." U.S. officials working on human rights said the resolution is being used to justify harsh blasphemy laws in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan and Afghanistan. (Washington Times)
  • Rice to Visit Libya, First Such U.S. Trip in 55 Years - Sue Pleming
    Condoleezza Rice will make a landmark trip to Libya this week, the first by a U.S. secretary of state in more than half a century, the State Department announced on Tuesday. Her trip is a tangible sign of warming U.S.-Libya relations, which first began to thaw when Tripoli gave up its weapons of mass destruction program in 2003. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also U.S., Libya Neither Friends Nor Enemies, Gaddafi Says - Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post)
  • Terrorist Indictment Hints of Plan to Attack U.S. Landmarks - Benjamin Weiser
    A Pakistani neuroscientist was carrying handwritten notes when she was detained in Afghanistan that referred to a "mass casualty attack" and listed landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, according to a federal indictment announced on Tuesday. The scientist, Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is being held on charges that she tried to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. Siddiqui, who has been described by American officials as an al-Qaeda operative, was taken into custody in July after being found loitering outside an Afghan police station with suspicious items in her handbag. After being in custody, she picked up an unsecured rifle and fired at least two shots toward one of the soldiers who was part of an American team of FBI agents and military personnel who were about to question her. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Denies Report It Will Cede Ghajar on Lebanese Border - Brenda Gazzar
    Israeli officials say no decisions have been made regarding withdrawing from the northern side of the village of Ghajar, despite unconfirmed media reports indicating Israel has recently expressed a willingness to withdraw. "No new decisions have yet been taken," government spokesman Mark Regev said on Tuesday. The London-based Asharq Alawsat reported this week that Israel had informed the U.S. of its readiness to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, but the State Department said Tuesday it was unaware of any such communication. Israel has been willing to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar in the past under certain conditions, but despite assurances from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), these conditions have not yet been met, according to Israeli diplomatic officials. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Halts Gas Supply to Israel - Avi Bar-Eli
    Egypt halted the supply of natural gas to Israel on Friday, most of which is used by the Israel Electric Corporation. In 2006 the Egyptian-Israeli consortium EMG began laying a 100-kilometer undersea pipeline to bring the gas from El-Arish in Egypt to Ashkelon, at a cost of $470 million. Gas began to flow on May 1, 2008, but only about a third of the promised amount has been forthcoming. Meanwhile, opposition has been rising in Egypt, partially against the sale of gas to Israel, but mainly against the relatively low price set in the contract. Sources in Israel's energy market say that Egypt simply doesn't have the production capacity to supply its own consumption of gas and its contractual obligations to clients.
        Israel's National Infrastructures Ministry said, "We have no doubt that Egypt will stand by the agreement it signed with the government in Israel....The ministry is in constant contact with government officials in Cairo and in parallel is making great effort to assure additional sources of gas, including Russia and Azerbaijan." (Ha'aretz)
  • 17 Georgians Wounded in Caucasus War to Be Treated in Israel - Meital Yasur-Beit Or
    Seventeen Georgian citizens who suffered severe injuries in the recent conflict arrived in Israel on Tuesday for medical treatment. The cost of the care is funded by the hospitals and Magen David Adom as part of the humanitarian assistance offered to Georgia. Another medical mission is scheduled to leave for Georgia on Thursday, sponsored by IsraAid - the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • With Two-State Solution Increasingly Unlikely, Time to Reconsider the Jordanian Option - Giora Eiland
    The most that any Israeli government can offer the Palestinians (and still survive politically) is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian regime could agree to accept (and still survive politically). The real gap between the sides is huge, and it keeps on growing. With the rise of Hamas, it is clear that should a final-status agreement be secured, and should Hamas not torpedo it, there is high likelihood that a Palestinian state in the West Bank would be controlled by Hamas. For Israel, this is not only a question of "painful concessions," but rather also of taking an unreasonable risk. In addition, the conviction by Israelis that the Palestinians want "only" a small state split between Gaza and the West Bank is waning.
        A final-status agreement cannot be secured in the foreseeable future and the time has come to think about other solutions. One of them is a return not to the 1967 borders, but rather to the reality that prevailed in 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is the former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Death of a Hizbullah Warlord - Borzou Daragahi and Sebastian Rotella
    Western security forces spent 25 years pursuing Hizbullah warlord Imad Mughniyeh, a pioneer of brutal tactics later emulated by al-Qaeda. He oversaw foreign networks that he built after his terrorism campaign in Lebanon, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks. His cells carried out operations in France and Argentina, where two car bombings of Jewish targets left more than 100 dead. He also met in Sudan in the early 1990s with Osama bin Laden, whose militants got explosives training from Hizbullah experts.
        On the evening of Feb. 12, 2008, he left a safe house in Damascus. He had just held a sit-down with a Syrian spy chief and was preparing for a secret meeting that night with President Bashar Assad, Western anti-terrorism officials say. Seconds after Mughniyeh got behind the wheel of his sport utility vehicle, an explosion incinerated him.
        Mughniyeh's duties included aiding Palestinian militant groups with training and arms procurement, and running security for Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. On May 13, 2006, he met in Lebanon with Hassan Zarkani, a representative of Iraqi Shiite strongman Muqtada Sadr, and agreed to provide smuggled anti-tank missiles to Iraqi fighters and train them in their use. But his prime obsession was the destruction of Israel. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Hizbullah Shrine to Mughniyeh Enthralls Lebanese Children - Robert F. Worth
    The children crowd forward around the glass case, eager for a glimpse of the martyr's bloodstained clothes. The dead man being shown such veneration is Imad Mughniyeh, the shadowy Hizbullah commander. Hizbullah has hailed him as one of its great military leaders in the struggle against Israel. Now, the group has opened an exhibit in Nabatiye in honor of Mughniyeh. The eerie heart of the exhibit is the glass-encased room displaying his possessions, as if they were a saint's relics. In addition to an extraordinary array of weaponry and martyrs' paraphernalia, the exhibit includes a large indoor room that was remodeled to resemble "what we believe the martyrs' heaven is like," according to a guide on duty. (New York Times)
        View Slide Show: Exhibit Honors Hizbullah Commander (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Can Ahmadinejad Lose the Election? - Benedetta Berti (Jerusalem Post)

    • Is Ahmadinejad's reelection in the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections assured?
    • Three years after his decisive victory in June 2005, Ahmadinejad's popularity has been steadily declining both within his own constituency and among his former allies. Inflation has risen from 10.9% in 2005 to 25.3% this summer and the administration's economic mismanagement and massive increase in overhead are partially to blame. Last week, former president and current head of the Assembly of Experts Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani blamed Ahmadinejad's administration for the ongoing economic and energy crises, saying the country was ready for change.
    • Given this decline in popularity, Ahmadinejad's reelection now depends even more on the support of the conservative coalition. Yet growing divisions within the conservative bloc represent a substantial internal challenge for Ahmadinejad. In the spring 2008 parliamentary elections, an ad hoc alliance in opposition to Ahmadinejad's group, which includes Teheran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qaliba and Majlis Speaker (and main nuclear negotiator) Ali Larijani, won 53 out of 117 seats assigned to the conservative bloc.
    • Even if Ahmadinejad could count on Supreme Leader Khamenei's endorsement, it would be hard to know whether such support alone will ensure his reelection, given the rift within the conservative ranks and the depth of the economic crisis. In 1997, Mohammad Khatami won the presidential race and defeated Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri despite Khamenei's support for the latter.

      The writer is the Earhart Doctoral Fellow in International Security Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

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