Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 6, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Considering Changing Policy towards Syria (Jerusalem Post)
    Senior U.S. officials said Washington was considering a possible change of policy towards Syria in the near future, which would entail canceling sanctions against the country but would not include returning the U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
    The officials said discussions were being held over the best way for the U.S. to influence Syria, in light of its improved relations with France.

    See also Syria Rebuffs Nuclear Inspectors (BBC News)
    The head of Syria's nuclear program, Ibrahim Othman, has said that the country's military sites will remain off-limits to international nuclear inspectors.
    Syria's announcement comes after it dropped a bid to win a place on the board of the IAEA nuclear watchdog.

Syrian Officer Involved in Hariri Death Killed in Damascus Car Bomb (Jerusalem Post)
    A Syrian intelligence officer who was involved in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in February 2005 was killed in the car bomb attack in Syria on Sep. 27, Syrian opposition representative Sheikh Abdullah Hamidi told Israel Radio on Sunday.
    Hamidi said Syrian intelligence officer Abed al-Karim Abbas drove the booby-trapped truck to Beirut which was used to target Hariri.

Oil Discovered in Egypt's Gulf of Suez (AP/Forbes)
    UK-based Circle Oil and Premier Oil announced Friday they had struck oil in Egypt, with initial sustained production at over 3,000 barrels per day of crude and 4 million standard cubic feet per day of natural gas, 300 km. southeast of Cairo in the Gulf of Suez basin.

PA Bracing for Possible Hamas Takeover (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas may try to carry out a "hostile takeover" of the West Bank and bring down the current Fatah-led government, officials in the PA security forces warned in a report published by the London-based Asharq Alawsat on Saturday.
    According to the report, PA security forces are doing their utmost to prevent such an event through continued arrest and interrogation operations.

Useful Reference:

Iran: Assessing U.S. Strategic Options - James N. Miller, Christine Parthemore, Kurt M. Campbell, Dennis Ross, Suzanne Maloney, Ashton B. Carter, Vali Nasr, Richard N. Haass (Center for a New American Security)
    This study, prepared by a bipartisan group of experts, explores the full range of options available to the next president for coping with Iran's nuclear program.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Accuses North Korea of Mideast Proliferation - George Jahn
    Israel accused North Korea on Saturday of covertly supplying at least half a dozen Mideast countries with nuclear technology or conventional arms, at an IAEA meeting in Vienna. Israeli delegate David Danieli appeared to be referring in part to Iran and Syria, which are both under IAEA investigation, and Libya, which scrapped its weapons program in 2003. U.S. officials have said that North Korea's customer list also included Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also IAEA Urges Non-Nuclear Mideast - Mark Heinrich
    The annual assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Saturday passed a resolution urging all Middle East nations to renounce atom bombs in a vote most Arabs boycotted over amendments they felt took pressure off Israel. The vote was 82-0 with 13 abstentions, including Israel. Almost all Arab League states stalked out before the vote. Israel, echoed by Washington and close allies, says that while a nuclear weapons-free zone is a commendable ideal, it is not feasible as long as some Arab neighbors continue not to recognize the Jewish state, with Islamist Iran openly calling for its elimination. (Reuters)
  • Iran Defiant on Uranium Enrichment
    Iran will not stop uranium enrichment even if it is guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel from abroad, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Sunday. Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted as saying on Thursday in Brussels that Iran would consider renouncing enrichment if it was assured of fuel supplies from abroad. But Mottaki, asked on Sunday whether Tehran would shelve enrichment with such a guarantee, said: "No...Iran's uranium enrichment policy remains unchanged."  (Reuters)
        See also Interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki - Lally Weymouth (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Drops Plan to Put Diplomats in Iran
    The Bush administration has shelved plans to set up a diplomatic outpost in Iran. Officials said a decision had been made to leave the decision to the next U.S. president. (AP)
  • Israeli General Warns Hizbullah - Josef Federman
    Israel will use "disproportionate force" if Hizbullah or Syria attack Israel, Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot told Yediot Ahronot in comments published Friday. "What happened in the Dahiya quarter in Beirut [Hizbullah’s operational and residential center] in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired upon. We will apply disproportionate force upon it and cause great damage and destruction there," he said. "From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases." Eizenkot stressed that this is "not a recommendation," but a plan approved at the highest levels.
        Eizenkot said "dozens of rockets" are concealed in homes in Shiite villages throughout southern Lebanon. He said Hizbullah has sent fighters to Iran for training, and Iranian military trainers have been spotted in Lebanon. (AP)
        See also Disproportionate Force: Israel's Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War - Col. (res.) Gabriel Siboni (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Poll: Israelis Remain Proud and Patriotic - Andrew Tobin
    According to a survey by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, 92% of those questioned said they were proud to be Jewish, while 90% said they considered themselves patriotic. 85% said they opposed dividing Jerusalem in exchange for peace with the Palestinians, while 92% said they would actively engage in a military battle for Israel. Despite the threats Israel faces, 87% of those polled said they preferred being Israelis than citizens of any other country; 86% said they would prefer living in Israel, even if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Gives Russia Ownership of Jerusalem Property - Herb Keinon, Dan Izenberg, and Ehud Zion Waldoks
    The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved transfer of ownership of Sergei's Courtyard, part of the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem, to the Russian government. The property currently houses the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The decision ends years of negotiations between Moscow and Jerusalem. The site was built in 1890 to accommodate Russian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land and was named after Tsar Alexander II's son, Sergei Alexandrovich. Israel acquired some 90% of the Russian Compound in 1964, paying the former Soviet Union $3.5 million. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Caught at West Bank Checkpoint with Two Pipe Bombs - Efrat Weiss
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers thwarted a terrorist attack on Sunday when they discovered two pipe bombs in a parcel carried by a Palestinian man at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Ordered Attack on U.S. Marines in Lebanon - Amir Oren
    The assassination of senior Hizbullah operative Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February was "long overdue justice," said Col. (ret.) Timothy J. Geraghty, the commanding officer of the Marine unit devastated by the suicide bombing of its barracks near Beirut in 1983, writing in Proceedings Magazine, the flagship publication of the U.S. Naval Institute. "Unknown to us at the time, the National Security Agency had made a diplomatic communications intercept on 26 September in which the Iranian Intelligence Service provided explicit instructions to the Iranian ambassador in Damascus (a known terrorist) to attack the Marines at Beirut International Airport. The suicide attackers struck us 28 days later, with word of the intercept stuck in the intelligence pipeline until days after the attack." (Ha'aretz)
        See also 25 Years Later: We Came in Peace - Col. Timothy J. Geraghty (Proceedings-U.S. Naval Institute)
  • Despite Terror Attacks, Israeli Approvals of Medical Entry for Gaza Palestinians Rise 45 Percent - Elihu D. Richter MD, MPH
    For several years, human rights groups have criticized the Israeli government for denying access to Gazans seeking to receive permits for care in hospitals in Israel, the PA and Jordan. Yet the data shows that the number of patients receiving permits for referrals to hospitals in Israel - or the PA or Jordan - increased by 45 percent from 4,932 in 2006 to 7,176 in 2007, and continued to increase in the first six months of 2008, despite increasing rocket attacks on Israel's civilian population, including mortar and terror attacks directed at the Erez crossing used by patients. At the same time, there have been at least 20 incidents where Palestinians used medical missions to attempt terror attacks.
        The longer-term solution to the problem of delays associated with referrals is to promote medical capacity-building in Gaza's hospital and health care systems so that patients should not have to travel elsewhere for critical care. The writer is head of the Genocide Prevention Program and Injury Prevention Center, and is the retired head of the occupational and environmental medicine unit, at Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Future of U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon - David Schenker
    Lebanese president Michel Suleiman met with President Bush at the White House and reportedly pressed for a continued U.S. commitment to military assistance. Since the election of the pro-West "March 14" coalition in 2005, the U.S. has provided nearly $400 million in foreign military financing to Beirut. While Washington continues to back Beirut, Hizbullah's recent political gains will likely prevent the administration from expanding either the quantity or quality of the military requests.
        Hizbullah now heads Lebanon's foreign ministry. If March 14 loses the spring 2009 parliamentary elections, and a Hizbullah-led coalition heads the new government, U.S. assistance would likely end altogether. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Israel Is Not Apartheid - David Hirsh (Mail and Guardian-South Africa)

    • The Israel-apartheid analogy portrays Israel as an evil, like the South African apartheid regime, and so implies that Palestinian freedom requires the dismantling of Israel - an aspiration which the overwhelming majority of Jews strongly oppose - and with justification.
    • The analogy is also a shortcut to the conclusion that Israelis should be boycotted. In truth, a mass movement for the exclusion of Jews, even if not all Jews, from the academic, cultural, sporting and economic life of humanity resonates with an altogether different memory from the boycott of white South Africa.
    • There is a temptation to treat the Middle East as an empty vessel which we can fill with our own issues. In England thinking is often influenced by colonial guilt; in Germany Israel is understood through the lens of the Holocaust; in Ireland the Palestinians become Republicans and the Israelis Unionists. This kind of analytical self-centeredness is disrespectful to Palestinians and to Israelis; our thinking should not be about us but about them. We should be suspicious of a movement which seeks to appropriate the memory of the anti-apartheid struggle to do political work elsewhere.
    • The apartheid analogy does not encourage us to think in terms of reconciliation and peace. Anti-Semitism has always thought of Jews as being decisive in everything bad that happens in the world. The apartheid analogy now tries to position Israel at the center of all that is threatening by building a global movement for its destruction.
    • If we listen to Hamas we will be confronted by one key difference between Israel and apartheid. The Hamas Charter sows hatred of Jews and it promises a war against them to the finish. Veterans of the struggle speak with a moral authority when they talk about apartheid. It is important that they use that moral authority to help peace, not to single out the Jewish state as a moral evil on a global scale.

      The writer is a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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