Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


January 29, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Massive Hizbullah Attack Against Israeli Target Thwarted in Europe (Ha'aretz)
    A massive terror attack by Hizbullah against an Israeli target in Europe has been thwarted in recent weeks, Israel Television Channel 2 reported Wednesday, quoting security officials.

UN Official Blasts Hamas for "Cynical" Use of Civilian Facilities (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes blasted Hamas Tuesday for its "cynical" use of civilian facilities during recent hostilities in Gaza.
    "The reckless and cynical use of civilian installations by Hamas and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations are clear violations of international humanitarian law," Holmes told the UN Security Council.

Israel Expels Venezuelan Ambassador (CNN)
    Israel has expelled Venezuela's ambassador in response to Venezuela's expulsion of an Israeli envoy earlier this month.

Israel's Chief Rabbinate Severs Ties with Vatican - Ian Deitch (AP/Washington Post)
    Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson who publicly denied six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
    The Jewish state's highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See saying: "It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before."

Hamas Used Israeli Bomb Shelters During War - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    During Israel's Gaza operation, the IDF and the Israel Security Agency killed approximately 20 commanders of the Hamas military wing, who held positions ranging from company commander to brigade commander.
    Israel also killed three of Hamas' top ten leaders: Nizar Riyyan, Said Siam and Salah Abu-Shreikh.
    Most of the senior Hamas figures hid in a bunker - which had been built by Israel - under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as well as in bunkers under the buildings housing foreign delegations, such as that of Qatar.
    Hamas also made use of nearly 100 public bomb shelters that had been built in the settlements of Gush Katif and were not destroyed by the IDF during the disengagement. The shelters were used as arms depots and hideouts for militants.

Survey: 88% Proud to Be Israeli (Ynet News)
    88% of Israel's Jews are proud to be Israeli, and 95% are willing to fight for their country, according to the annual patriotism survey conducted by Prof. Ephraim Yaar of Tel Aviv University and Mano Geva of Midgam Research and Consulting.
    The number of Arab respondents who are proud to be Israeli dropped from 53% last year to 45%. However, 81% of Arabs said they would encourage their children to live in Israel, up from 56% last year.

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

  • Palestinian Arms Smuggling Must Halt, U.S. Middle East Envoy Says - Griff Witte
    Arriving in Israel for his first visit as the Obama administration's Middle East envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell on Wednesday pushed for a more durable truce in Gaza, calling for a halt to weapons smuggling and for the territory's border crossings to be opened. After a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Mitchell said the U.S. is "committed to vigorously pursuing lasting peace and stability in the region." The U.S. has been working with Egypt to hammer out a system for halting the smuggling of weapons across the Egypt-Gaza border, and Mitchell said that an end to smuggling will be essential for any cease-fire. (Washington Post)
        See also Mitchell Reaffirms Previous U.S. Commitments to Israel - Barak Ravid
    Visiting U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell told Israeli officials Wednesday that the new administration was committed to Israel's security, to the road map, and to the 2004 letter by President George W. Bush stating Palestinian refugees would not return to Israel and the border between Israel and the PA would take into consideration facts on the ground, meaning large settlement blocs would remain in Israeli hands. A government source in Jerusalem also said that Obama expects Israel and the PA to renew diplomatic talks right after the Israeli elections, to be held on Feb. 10. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Attacks Iran and Allies in Arab World
    Egypt aired its grievances against Iran, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, and the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hizbullah, saying they worked together in the fighting over Gaza to provoke conflict in the Middle East. "(They tried) to turn the region to confrontation in the interest of Iran, which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure...on the nuclear file," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on the Orbit satellite channel Wednesday. (Reuters)
  • PLO Official Rabbo Accuses Hamas of New Atrocities Against Fatah
    PLO Executive Committee secretary Yasser Abd Rabbo told Al-Jazeera TV on Jan. 22: "Today, Hamas gangs are unleashed like packs of animals on the streets of Gaza against Fatah members. Because the military bases and the prisons have been destroyed, they have turned Gaza schools, Al-Nasser Hospital, the radiology department at Shifa Hospital, Al-Aqsa University, and other places, including mosques, into centers for the detention, interrogation, and torture of Fatah members and members of other national Palestinian factions....Dozens of people have been shot in the leg, been beaten savagely, and had their bones broken, because they are members of the Fatah movement." (MEMRI)
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Stresses Strategic Importance of Ties with Israel
    Relations between Turkey and Israel remain of "strategic" importance despite Ankara's severe criticism of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Wednesday. Turkey and Israel have maintained contact throughout the crisis, the minister said, and stressed that Hamas should renounce violence. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Rejects Israeli Truce Proposal - Ali Waked
    Hamas rejected Wednesday the Israeli truce proposal, with particular opposition to Prime Minister Olmert's demand that it be conditioned on progress in negotiations to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas also rejects the establishment a 500-yard security corridor along Gaza's border with Israel. A member of the Hamas delegation to the Cairo negotiations, Salah al-Bardawil, added that Hamas does not believe that it lost the war. "They did not damage the motivation of the resistance. This is the basis on which we are negotiating, both on the truce and on releasing Shalit," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rockets Strike Israel - Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel on Thursday morning, after firing a rocket on Wednesday. The Israel Air Force responded to the continued rocket fire on Wednesday night, striking a weapons manufacturing facility in southern Gaza. "If Hamas acts to undermine the cease-fire, it will have no one but itself to blame for the consequences," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's Peace Push May Collide with Reality - Alistair Lyon
    President Obama's assertion that "the moment is ripe" to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks seems to fly in the face of several harsh realities. Hamas' grip on Gaza is one, along with the Islamist group's pursuit of armed struggle and denial of Israel's right to exist. The fading influence and contested legitimacy of the PA's Mahmoud Abbas is another.
        Hanging over their quarrels is a regional struggle pitting Iran, Syria and Lebanon's Hizbullah against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states whose governments rely on American support, but whose people are mainly hostile to U.S. policy. So far Obama's statements suggest little change in U.S. policy beyond a sense of urgency partly designed to underpin his outreach to the "Muslim world." (Reuters)
  • Why Israelis Worry - Editorial
    No one has to pressure Israel into making peace - because no one wants peace more than Israel. What is holding up a deal? The chronically fragmented Palestinian polity is in no position to make one. There would be virtually no support among Israelis for concessions to a Palestinian unity government in which an unreformed Hamas plays any role. Conversely, if the Obama administration could devise a strategy of sidelining the radicals and defanging their chief backer and the most destabilizing force in the region - Iran, the prospects for a sustainable peace would improve dramatically.
        New York Times star columnist Tom Friedman would have Obama draw a false parallel between "Hamas in Gaza and the fanatical Jewish settlers in the West Bank." Friedman knows that only a splinter group of settlers can reasonably be labeled fanatics. What he should be telling Obama is that the surest way of closing Israeli minds is to adopt this revolting moral equivalence. It is legitimate for friends of Israel to differ over West Bank settlements. But anyone who calls themselves "pro-Israel," while demanding a withdrawal to the perilous 1949 Armistice Lines in an environment where that would represent national suicide, needs to do some serious soul-searching. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also This Is Not a Test - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times)
  • Obama and a Settlement Freeze - Steven J. Rosen
    Israel understands that, since the 2004 Bush letter, settlements in the blocs that would remain part of sovereign Israel will be treated differently by the U.S. than settlements outside the blocs, even before a future agreement is reached. The government of Israel believes it has a commitment from the U.S. to accept that a "freeze" need not apply to settlements inside these blocs, provided that the construction remains within the territorial limits understood at Camp David in July 2000.
        Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert, said in April 2008: "It was clear from day one to Abbas, Rice and Bush that construction would continue in population concentrations - the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter. I say this again today: Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It's clear that these areas will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement." (Middle East Forum)
  • Observations:

    Obama and the Muslim Cold War - Hillel Frisch (Jerusalem Post)

    • Relations among the Muslim states of the Middle East have never been worse. A razor-sharp cold war separates the moderate Arab Sunni states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and most of the Gulf states, from an Iranian-led axis that includes Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Qatar. Meeting the Iranian threat is the most important issue dividing these two camps.
    • Hamastan is anathema to the first camp, for it sets a number of bad precedents. Gaza is the first area in the Arab world to be ruled by an organization that rose from the ground up, a fundamentalist movement that can claim a certain democratic legitimacy. Hamas is creating a revolutionary theocracy in the area under its control. It is the "deepest" Iranian bridgehead in the Arab world.
    • Obama will be surprised to discover that objection to any substantial movement on a Palestinian state will come less from Israel, and more from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - which fear that Hamas would probably take over Judea and Samaria via an expanded Palestinian state. As far as they are concerned, Israel did not batter Hamas sufficiently to allay their suspicions. These states prefer "process" over meaningful movement regarding the Palestinian problem.
    • Nor will these Arab countries be pleased about the newfound American desire to engage Iran and Syria. Saudi Arabia remains committed to seeing Bashar Assad tried in an international court, not letting him off the hook by engaging him. The mainstream Arab countries, like Israel, seek U.S. resolve in confronting the Iranian-led axis, not an "outstretched American hand" to the radical part of the Muslim world.

      The writer is a senior research associate and Arab affairs specialist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert