Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 11, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Bin Laden Has Ordered an Attack Bigger than 9/11 (MEMRI)
    The London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Sunday, citing "a source close to the Al-Qaeda leadership in Yemen," that Osama bin Laden had ordered a new attack on the U.S. which will be "far greater than the 9/11 attacks."

Merrill Lynch: Israel Less Vulnerable to Economic Crisis than U.S. and Europe - Rotem Sella (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's economy is less susceptible to risk than many more developed countries such as the U.S., Canada and the Euro Bloc, according to a Merrill Lynch report on the financial and economic vulnerability of 44 nations.
    Australia is considered the most vulnerable, due to a huge influx of foreign capital over the past five years, while Israel is only the 24th most vulnerable.
    Switzerland is number two, with the U.S. in 10th place.

Israel Offers to Desalinate Water for Jordan - Ehud Zion Waldoks (Jerusalem Post)
    Jordan is one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of water. Under the 1994 peace treaty with Israel, Jordan is entitled to 50 million cubic meters per year from the Jordan River.
    Recently, Israel offered to desalinate water from the Mediterranean and pass it on to Jordan, according to a source.

2,000-Year-Old Golden Earring Found in Jerusalem - (AP/FOX News)
    Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old gold earring beneath a parking lot next to the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.
    The find is luxurious: A large pearl inlaid in gold with two drop pieces, each with an emerald and pearl set in gold.
    Click link to see photo.

Swedish Court: Civil Servant Unlawfully Demoted for Pro-Israel Views - Cnaan Liphshiz (Ha'aretz)
    A Swedish court Sunday ruled in favor of Lennart Eriksson, 51, an employee of the Swedish Migration Board who sued his organization for demoting him over voicing his support for Israel and the U.S. on his personal website.
    During the trial, the Swedish Migration Board's attorney branded the Palestinian militant group Hamas a "liberation movement."

Israel Offers More Help to Vietnam in Agricultural Training (VietNamNet Bridge)
    Increasing numbers of Vietnamese people are to be sent to Israel for on-site agricultural training in accordance with a recent cooperation agreement signed by the Ramat Negev Research and Development Center of Israel and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
    Vietnam and Israel have implemented a cooperation program on agricultural training for the past four years, with a total of 300 Vietnamese trained.

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

  • Diplomats Say Uranium Traces Found at Bombed Syrian Site
    Samples taken from a Syrian site bombed by Israel last year contained traces of uranium combined with other elements that merit further investigation, diplomats said Monday. (AP/MSNBC)
        See also Formal Report Drafted on Syria Atom Probe - Mark Heinrich
    The UN nuclear watchdog is drafting an investigative report on Syria for the first time, suggesting to Western diplomats the agency has found some sign of undeclared activity at a site bombed by Israel last year. Moreover, Syria has been made an official agenda item at the year-end November 27-28 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, unlike previously when IAEA officials said initial inquiries were inconclusive. (Reuters)
  • Obama May Talk to Iran as Part of New Approach in Afghanistan - Karen DeYoung
    The incoming Obama administration plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan - including possible talks with Iran, according to Obama national security advisers. The Bush administration has kept Tehran at arm's length, but "as we look to the future, it would be helpful to have an interlocutor" to explore shared objectives, said one senior U.S. military official. The Iranians "don't want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than we do," he said. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Urges Biden Not to Go Soft on Iran, Hamas
    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden in a telephone call to keep up a tough line on Iran and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, her ministry said on Monday. "Iran, Hamas and other extremists are testing our attitude, and they must understand that the world will not be tolerant towards extremists and terrorism," she said. "It is of the utmost importance that we keep up our coordination against the Iranian threat because time is not on the side of the moderates," she said, in the call initiated by Biden. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Gaza Blackouts Are Hamas Propaganda
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the goods crossings into Gaza to remain closed on Tuesday in response to Palestinian rocket attacks that have pounded southern Israel in recent days. Palestinian sources reported that fuel shortages were forcing Gaza's main power station to shut down, causing blackouts.
        Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Hamas is using Gaza's electricity to attack Israel. "It's a pity that we are falling for this propaganda. I can confirm one thing, if there is only one kilowatt in all of Gaza it will be in one place only - a workshop that manufactures rockets," he told Army Radio. The Foreign Ministry published a statement saying, "The ongoing fire of rockets and mortar shells is causing an impossible situation in which Israel cannot supply Gaza with the supplies necessary," adding that electricity and water were still being transferred. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Won't Give Gaza-Bound Boats PR - Yaakov Lappin
    Pro-Palestinian activists who have been sailing to Gaza in a bid to break Israel's siege of the Strip are seeking a confrontation with the authorities, which is why they have not been stopped so far, an Israeli official involved in handling the issue said Sunday. "We judge every incident individually. The past three times, the boats have been allowed entry because it was decided that an operation to stop them was not worth conducting," the official said.
        The Israeli official described the sailing activists as "ridiculous people who play into Hamas' hands. They want to be stopped and they are looking for a confrontation, so we decided not to give them one....This has no significance, other than being a gimmick. The people on board are professional anarchists and pro-Hamas activists." (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU MPs Discuss Resettling Palestinian Refugees in Third Countries - Etgar Lefkovits
    A conference sponsored by the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel attended by hundreds of European parliamentarians concluded over the weekend in Paris with a discussion on the rehabilitation of Palestinian refugees. The debate came amid a groundswell of parliamentary activity around the world, including in the U.S. and Canada, to reroute funding from UNRWA, the UN body that deals with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, towards the resettlement of some of the refugees in third countries.
        "Instead of helping the refugees we are helping those who want to [use] the refugees against the State of Israel," said Paulo Casaca, a member of the European Parliament from Portugal. "The EU has a moral obligation to examine the root of the problem instead of throwing money at the problem, as we have in the past," said Hannu Takkula, a member of the European Parliament from Finland. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Caught with Pipe Bomb near Jenin - Efrat Weiss
    IDF soldiers on Monday detained a Palestinian who attempted to smuggle a pipe bomb through the Taysir checkpoint, southeast of Jenin. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Latin America Push - John Kiriakou
    Iran, the ultimate mischief maker with global reach, astounding patience, a shameless marriage to mayhem and terrorism, and interests that fall squarely in opposition to those of the U.S., is making major diplomatic inroads under Washington's nose. Over the last year, Iran has worked diligently to expand relations with a host of Latin American countries, most of which have populist leaders who harbor a strong distrust of the U.S. and are looking for a powerful friend to help them rebuff Washington's influence. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has received an Iranian ammunition factory, a car assembly plant, and a cement factory. Paraguay's new president, Fernando Lugo Mendez, was lauded in the Iranian media as "an enemy of the Great Satan" after naming Hizbullah sympathizer and fundraiser Alejandro Hamed Franco as the country's new foreign minister.
        Bolivian President Evo Morales lifted visa restrictions on Iranian citizens in exchange for a $1.1 billion Iranian investment in Bolivia's gas facilities. Visa-free Iranian travel means the potential creation of a terrorist base of operations in America's backyard. If anyone with an Iranian passport may enter Bolivia without a visa, the country will soon be open to covert officers of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which the State Department recently declared a terrorist organization, and the Quds Force, an Iranian military group whose mandate is to spread Islamic revolution around the world. The writer served as a CIA counter-terrorism official in 1998-2004. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Syria Not Interested in Real Peace Agreement with Israel - Yossi Melman
    The Turkish-sponsored indirect talks between Israel and Syria have not changed the regional status. The Syrian government is interested in having the Golan Heights back but not in signing a real peace with Israel. Syrian presidents Hafez and Bashar Assad were not and are not ready to establish full diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. They won't agree to demilitarize the Golan Heights, to address Israeli security needs and fears, or to allow deployment of early warning intelligence posts on their soil, manned by either Israeli or international observers. A peace accord with Israel would force Syria to expel all Palestinian terrorist organizations which have headquarters in Damascus and minimize its relations with Iran. Since Syria perceives its relations with Tehran as a strategic alliance, its leadership doubts whether a peace treaty with Israel is worth it. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    The Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem - Rabbi Marvin Hier (Jerusalem Post)

    • When the idea to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem was first conceived, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had no particular location in mind. We were offered the current site in the center of Jerusalem, which was jointly owned by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality.
    • For almost half a century, that parcel functioned as the city's municipal car park. During that time, no Muslim group, including today's most vociferous critics of the museum, raised a word of protest. When the project was in its design stage and newspaper ads announced it in Hebrew, Arabic and English, not a word of protest was heard from anyone.
    • They were silent because, as Israel's High Court said, "the area has not been classified as a cemetery for decades." The bones found during construction were between 100 and 300 years old. They were unaccompanied by a single marker or monument identifying any individual name, family or religion.
    • Jerusalem is more than 3,000 years old and hardly a street or neighborhood is without bones or relics. We could declare Jerusalem one large cemetery, off limits to everyone.
    • Muslim scholars and religious leaders have dealt with such issues for centuries, and have ruled that a cemetery not in use for 37 years is considered mundras - an abandoned cemetery that has lost its sanctity. In 1946, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, a supporter of Hitler, presented plans to build a Muslim university of 15 buildings on the entire Mamilla cemetery.
    • To suddenly demand that Jews be held to a higher standard than the Muslims hold for themselves is preposterous and dishonest. It is not those who lie beneath the ground who threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is the blind hatred and intolerance of extremists above the ground which impede any prospects for civility and peace.

      Rabbi Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.

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