Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


February 11, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Gas Discovery Off Israel Larger than Initial Estimate - Jim Polson (Bloomberg)
    Noble Energy Inc. said its Tamar natural-gas discovery off the coast of Israel is probably 61% larger than initially estimated when announced last month.
    The Tamar discovery may provide enough gas to supply Israel for 15 years, Noble Energy Chief Executive Officer Charles Davidson said Feb. 5. "This discovery is clearly of a size for commercial development."

Iranian Mob Attacks Ex-President Khatami - Catherine Philp (Times-UK)
    Iran's former president Mohammed Khatami was set upon by an angry stick-wielding mob Wednesday in Tehran, just two days after he announced he would be running against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June's presidential elections.
    The attackers, shouting "Death to Khatami. We do not want American government," were repelled by Khatami supporters.

Washington's Man in Iran - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    Philippe Welti served as both Switzerland's envoy to Iran and as Washington's representative to the Islamic Republic for the past four years. During a series of interviews last year, Welti, now about to serve as Switzerland's envoy to India, described his experiences.
    He saw mendacious officials manipulate public opinion and was disappointed by some top officials who rationalized away concerns about human rights and freedom of expression by labeling them "Western" concepts.
    He found himself frustrated with both the stubbornness of Iran's conservative camp and the weakness of its reformists.
    After watching the transition from Khatami to Ahmadinejad, he concluded that it would be tough to change Iran's foreign policies.
    "As long as there is a gap between fundamentalist positions and international standards of intergovernmental exchange and relations, it will be difficult for Iran to engage fully with the world," he said.
    Welti anticipates little progress in unraveling the disagreement between Iran and the West on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

No Holocaust in Gaza - Editorial (The Australian)
    Australian Muslim leader Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali says the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month was "another Holocaust." No it wasn't.
    The Holocaust was an act of German state policy, a systematic attempt to murder every Jew in Nazi-controlled Europe. It was an attempt to slaughter an entire people.
    When they were not murdering Jews, the Nazis and their allies were happy to kill as many gypsies and Slavs and homosexuals as they could.
    But the death camps existed primarily to kill Jews.
    In contrast, the Israelis went into Gaza to stop Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel.
    Given Israeli firepower, it is astonishing there were not more casualties. But civilians were not the targets.

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

  • Livni, Netanyahu Both Claim Victory in Israeli Election - Griff Witte
    Israeli voters delivered a split decision in national elections Tuesday, sparking competing claims by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu over who will be the next prime minister. (See more below.) (Washington Post)
        See also Israel's Electoral System: Proportional Representation - David Blair
    Israel uses a pure form of proportional representation, ensuring that any party which gets, for example, 10% of the vote will win exactly 10% of the seats in the Knesset. So no party can truly "win" an election. The best they can hope for is to capture enough seats to be invited by Israel's president to form a coalition. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran's Ahmadinejad "Ready" to Talk with America - Scott Peterson
    Determined chants of "Death to America" rang out in city after city in Iran Tuesday, even as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a mass rally in Tehran that Iran was "ready" to talk to its arch-enemy if the U.S. showed "real change." Speaking as Iranians marked the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad declared Iran to be "officially...a real and genuine superpower" and said, "The Iranian nation is ready to hold talks but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect." Despite the nod toward dialogue, state-run TV news on IRIB Channel 1 devoted 25 minutes to scenes of rallies, with primary emphasis on the "Death to America" chant. (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Is Tehran Ready to Talk? - David Sanger
    When President Ahmadinejad on Tuesday took up President Obama's oft-repeated invitation for direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, he seemed to be signaling the start of a long-delayed war-or-peace drama that may define the Obama administration's first engagement with the rest of the world. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Palestinians Press for War Crimes Inquiry on Gaza - Marlise Simons
    The PA is pressing the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate accusations of war crimes committed by Israeli commanders during the recent war in Gaza. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, had initially said he lacked the legal basis to examine the case. But since the PA signed a commitment on Jan. 22 recognizing the court's authority, the prosecutor has appeared more open to studying the Palestinian claim. "The prosecutor has agreed to explore if he could have jurisdiction in the case," said Beatrice Le Fraper, the director of jurisdiction for the prosecution. The issue has raised the question of whether Palestinian officials hope to obtain an implicit recognition of statehood through the court. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Kadima, Likud Both Claim Victory in Israeli Elections
    With 99% of the votes counted Wednesday, Tzipi Livni's Kadima party had 28 of the Knesset's 120 seats and Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party had 27 seats. Yet it is not certain that Livni will be able to muster the 61-seat coalition needed to form a government. Netanyahu in fact has a better chance of forging a coalition because of gains by parties that are his natural allies.
        By law, President Shimon Peres must consult with all the parties as to who they prefer as prime minister, and whoever is recommended by more Knesset members is given the nod to try and form a government. The final election results may not be known until Thursday when election officials finish counting the soldiers' votes. (Ha'aretz)

    Knesset Election Results - 2009 (Previous # of Seats)
    Kadima (Livni)28 (29)-1
    Likud (Netanyahu)27 (12)+15
    Israel Our Home (Lieberman)15 (11)+4
    Labor (Barak)13 (19)-6
    Shas11 (12)-1
    3 Arab parties11 (10)+1
    United Torah Judaism5 (6)-1
    National Union4*
    Jewish Home3*
    Meretz3 (5)-2
    * National Union and Jewish Home together received 9 seats in 2006
    (Source: Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Fire Rocket from Gaza, Shoot at Israeli Car in West Bank - Amos Harel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Tuesday that exploded near the Israeli city of Sderot. Also Tuesday, Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli car near Beit El in the West Bank. Security personnel who examined the scene of the shooting found 17 bullet shells on the ground. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Has Chosen Defiance Over Compliance - Jeremy Issacharoff
    Each day, the incessant hum of several thousand centrifuges enriching uranium in Natanz brings Iran closer to a military nuclear capability. A military nuclear capability underwriting Iran's support of terror in the region will threaten moderate Arab countries and enable Iran to project its power in a more dangerous way as well as expand its footprint in the region. Emblematic of this growing footprint has been Iran's substantial assistance to Hamas and Hizbullah, both of which have fired thousands of rockets at Israel.
        All international action should flow from the principle that Iran cannot be allowed to develop and acquire a nuclear-weapons capability. Merely enhancing incentives will not entice Iran to give up its nuclear program. Pressure must be intensified as a preamble to any renewed engagement with Iran. The absence of such pressure thus far is the reason Iran has chosen defiance over compliance. The writer is deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Israel in Washington. (Washington Times)
  • Palestinian Actions Have Reduced Israeli Society's Hope for Peace - Herb Keinon
    On innumerable occasions over the last 15 years, since the signing of the Oslo accords, Israel has been warned by both the well-meaning and the patronizing that it had better watch its steps, lest it radicalize the Palestinians. What we didn't hear much of during this period were entreaties to the Palestinians not to take actions that would radicalize Israeli society, that would rob it of hope, that would push it to despair of ever reaching a peace agreement in the region.
        Palestinian suicide bombing attacks, rockets, and kidnapping of soldiers over the last 15 years have transformed Israeli society. The country has gone from believing in the 1990s that it had reached safe shores to believing in 2009 that no matter what it does - be it negotiating a peace deal based on ceding some 95% of the territories, or unilaterally evacuating settlements - it will not be accepted in the region. Everyone has been so concerned over the years about what reaction Israel's actions would generate among the Palestinians, that they overlooked the degree to which Palestinian and Israeli Arab actions have caused a reaction among the Israeli public. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    UNRWA Is a Principal Cause of the Conflict - David Warren (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)

    • Since the complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 (that was supposed to bring an enduring peace), Hamas has consolidated Gaza's economy around two industries: terrorism and foreign aid.
    • The UN Relief and Works Agency has acted as the great enabler. Set up in 1949 as a temporary agency to house, feed and resettle fewer than one million Arab refugees (Israel received an approximately equal number of Jewish refugees from around the Arab world), UNRWA has grown into a vast, permanent welfare organization for the 4.6-million descendants of its original "client base" - and for their descendants, into the indefinite future. It provides for them with a staff and budget several times larger than the combined UN effort on behalf of all the other refugees on the planet.
    • The agency's camps, which have grown into permanent settlements, are distributed not only through Gaza and the West Bank, but around Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Arab governments in each of these jurisdictions absolutely refuse to naturalize these permanent residents, almost all of whom were born on their soil, on the claim that they must rightfully be "returned" to the territory Israel now "occupies." Thus UNRWA facilitates the use of these so-called "refugees" as a dagger pointed at Israel's throat.
    • There are root causes of the current conflict, going back to the foundation of Israel (by the UN) in the late 1940s. The continued existence of UNRWA is the principal one, creating the conditions for Islamist terrorism to flourish, and it is time that root cause was addressed.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert