Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 18, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Livni Wins Kadima Primaries - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni defeated Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz by 43% (16,936 votes) to 42% (16,505 votes) in the Kadima party primary elections held Wednesday.
    See also Livni Will Not Automatically Succeed Olmert as Israeli Prime Minister (Ha'aretz)
    Tzipi Livni will not automatically become prime minister.
    Prime Minister Olmert will formally submit his resignation. The cabinet resigns with him.
    After consulting with party leaders, President Shimon Peres will pick a member of the Knesset, most likely Livni, to form a new coalition government.
    If no new government is formed, a general election is held.
    Olmert remains in office as caretaker prime minister until a new government is approved by the Knesset.

Scenes from "The World's Largest Concentration Camp" (Honest Reporting-BBC News)
    Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British premier Tony Blair, entered Gaza aboard a protest boat on August 23.
    While most of her fellow protesters left on the same boat they arrived on, she and several other activists chose to remain behind.
    In an interview with Ynet News, Booth described Gaza as "the largest concentration camp in the world today" and a "humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur."
    Booth was later photographed at a seemingly well-stocked grocery store in the so-called "concentration camp."
    View Photo: Lauren Booth Shopping at Gaza Grocery (AFP/Getty Images)

Cairo Cool to Tehran's Clinch - Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    Egypt appears adamant in its refusal to reestablish diplomatic relations with Iran - frozen for almost 30 years.
    Predictions of looming Egypt-Iran rapprochement were dashed with the appearance in July of an Iranian documentary film that portrayed the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat as a "traitor" for signing the 1979 Camp David peace agreement with Israel. The film, entitled "Execution of a Pharaoh," praised Khaled al-Islambouli, who assassinated Sadat two years later, as "a martyr."
    Mohammed al-Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of Egypt's al-Azhar religious establishment, which represents the highest religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, issued a statement in which he accused the producers of the film of committing "the most heinous of crimes," while stressing Sadat's status as martyr.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Embassy Bombing Kills 16 in Yemen, Al-Qaeda Blamed - Pamela Hess and Matthew Lee
    Attackers armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and at least one suicide car bomb assaulted the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday. Sixteen people were killed, including six assailants, officials said. No Americans were hurt in the deadly attempt to breach the compound walls, which the U.S. said bore "all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack."
        Ted Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said recently that "Yemen is rapidly re-emerging as a jihadist battleground and potential base of operations." Yemenis make up the largest population of detainees - at least 108 - held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP)
  • Russia Eyes Naval Bases in Syria - Martin Sieff
    Russia is stepping up its rhetoric about redeploying its Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean if Ukraine pushes ahead with plans to evict it from its home port base of Sevastopol in the Crimea. "New bases in the Mediterranean Sea could make up for the departure," Rear Adm. Andrei Baranov stated Monday. The most likely Mediterranean base for the Black Sea Fleet would be Tartus in Syria, which served as a maintenance port for the old Soviet navy during the Cold War.
        The RIA Novosti news agency said that "about 10 Russian warships and three floating piers" were already based at Tartus and Russian engineers and construction crews are at work enlarging the naval base. A new pier for the use of Russian warships was also being constructed at nearby Latakia. If Russia were to base significant naval forces in Syria, that could have the effect of deterring or limiting Israel's ability to strike at targets in Syria because it might then run the risk of Russian retaliation. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Hamas Urges West Bank Gunmen to Fight Arrest by Fatah
    The armed wing of Hamas called Wednesday for militants in the West Bank to use force if security men loyal to Mahmoud Abbas try to arrest them, after Fatah security forces detained two of its gunmen in Hebron. "We call upon our people and the (fighters) to defend themselves by all available means against any attempt to arrest them by (Fatah security) services, which are now working as a unit of the Zionist army," the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades said in a statement. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Postpones Talks with Syria - Roni Sofer
    Syria said Wednesday that a fifth round of indirect peace talks with Israel scheduled for Thursday had been postponed at Israel's request. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, "Israel remains committed to the Turkish initiative and to the indirect talks with the Syrians. We are hopeful that the next round of talks will be able to begin shortly." (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rights Group Calls for Probe Against Hamas
    The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) called on Wednesday for an investigation into the conduct of Hamas' security forces in clashes with a pro-al-Qaeda group that killed 12 Palestinians, and urged Hamas to ensure that "excessive force" is not used during security crackdowns. A video clip posted on the Internet showed what it said were the bloody bodies of several Dughmush family members. One man in the group could be seen moving his head. "Let him die. He was the one who fired against our men," an unidentified person said. (Reuters/Ynet News)
        See also Gaza Mother Witnesses Hamas Security Forces Execute Sons
    A Gaza mother said Wednesday that her four sons were "executed" in front of her by Hamas security forces on Tuesday. Makram Dughmush said that when she and Kafa Dughmush, a relative, attempted to rescue the men, security forces fired at their feet, leaving Kafa with a gunshot wound to her left thigh and Makram with two bullets in her leg.
        Kafa said forces entered a room where family members had gathered. There they found Ibrahim Dughmush, who was injured, hiding under a women's veil. Kafa claims that police opened fire directly at the young man as family members looked on. Kafa says she then watched security forces shoot each person in the room, killing Jamil Dughmush, Mohammad Farouq Dughmush, Yousef Dughmush, Faraj Dughmush, Jamil Dughmush, Mohammad Akram Dughmush, and Sa'eb Akram Dughmush. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinian Politics More Important than Kadima Primary - Herb Keinon
    The fate of the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process will be determined more by whom the Palestinians select as their leader than on the Kadima primary. The Israeli leader might want a deal, but if the leadership of the other side doesn't want it, or can't impose a deal on the Palestinian population, then all of his or her best intentions won't matter that much.
        Israelis like to think we're in control, that we dictate the pace and outcome of events. But we don't. There is another side, and what is happening over there domestically is equally important, if not more important. The question of whether Hamas manages to wrangle control of the PA from Fatah or whether Fatah succeeds in wresting back control in Gaza is more important in the long run for the peace process than whether Tzipi Livni becomes Kadima's leader and - possibly - the prime minister for a few months. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel More Popular than Palestinians in U.S., Germany
    Transatlantic Trends 2008, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and the Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy), asked respondents in various countries in June to rate their feelings toward countries, with 100 meaning very warm and favorable and 0 unfavorable.
    U.S. respondents: US-83, Russia-48, Israel-62, PA-36, Iran-25
    French respondents: US-47, Russia-41, Israel-41, PA-40, Iran-24
    German respondents: US-51, Russia-49, Israel-47, PA-39, Iran-29
    UK respondents: US-56, Russia-47, Israel-45, PA-45, Iran-33
    Turkish respondents: US-14, Russia-18, Israel-8, PA-44, Iran-32 (Transatlantic Trends)
        See also Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims on the Increase in Europe
    Growing numbers of people in several major European countries say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews and Muslims. A spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project finds 46% of the Spanish rating Jews unfavorably, with 34% of Russians and 36% of Poles echoing this view. Significant numbers of Germans (25%) and French (20%) also express negative opinions of Jews. Other figures reported include Great Britain (9%), Australia (11%), and the U.S. (7%).
        Fully half of Spanish (52%) and German respondents (50%) rate Muslims unfavorably. Negative opinions about Muslims are found in Poland (46%), France (38%), Britain (23%) and the U.S. (23%). (Pew Global Attitudes Project)
  • A New Dialogue in the Arab Middle East - Zvi Bar'el
    Ranged against hundreds of websites supporting bin Laden's teachings are new, powerful sites whose writers do not hesitate to denounce his zealous preachings. Millions of participants in Internet forums, freed from the bonds of political or religious censorship, criticize daily not only the preachers or their teachings but also the way they were educated by their regimes. They do not support President Bush, but they distinguish between his policies and the domestic failings of their own regimes that are responsible for their problems.
        In Algeria, the state with the largest number of victims in the war with extremist organizations, a national reconciliation was achieved and most Islamic movements laid down their weapons. In Egypt, the Islamic group that produced the murderer of Anwar Sadat expressed remorse and its members wrote a "new book of principles" that eschews violence. In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of bin Laden and most of the 9/11 perpetrators, a new dialogue is taking place on religious education, and preachers who once taught bin Laden's creed changed their positions. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Place Onus for Peace Where It Belongs - on Palestinians - David A. Harris (Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)

    • Israel faces an unprecedented security environment - obvious threats from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Iran. The vast majority of Israelis desperately yearn for peace and would support a deal tomorrow with the Palestinians (and Syrians), entailing major territorial concessions, if they believed such an accord were possible - and durable.
    • If anyone believes the Israeli government is hesitant to make peace, then we're living on different planets. It speaks openly of a two-state settlement, discusses the most sensitive issues with its Palestinian counterparts and acknowledges the suffering that Palestinians have endured without a state of their own.
    • In Gaza, Israel has shown remarkable restraint in the face of endless provocation. I don't know of many other nations that would have endured daily barrages without a robust military response.
    • The real reasons for the absence of peace lie elsewhere. Too many in the Arab world have been fed a steady diet of Israel as an illegitimate nation, a colonial project of the West that must be eliminated.
    • To make matters worse, Israel has damaged the self-image and self-respect of the Arab world by refusing to be defeated in battle. How can it be that this tiny nation, deprived of any significant natural resources, has withstood the Arab onslaught for six decades and emerged not only as the strongest military power in the region, but also the most politically and economically advanced?

      The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

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