Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org
July 31, 2009
Distorted View of Arab Population Growth in Jerusalem - Andrea Levin (Boston Globe)
U.S.-Trained PA Forces Can't Even Protect a Music Festival - Aaron Klein
U.S. Financed Illegal Palestinian Construction in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
Syria and Hizbullah After the Lebanese Elections - David Schenker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Palestinian Economic Situation Improves Following IDF Easing of Restrictions (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Number of Druze, Arabs in Israeli Civil Service on the Rise - Aviad Glickman (Ynet News)
British MPs Display Their Famed Grasp of Logic and Principle - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)
Israel Targeted by Foreign Protest-Tourists - Seth Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Octogenarian Seeks Recognition as Terror Victim 80 Years after Hebron Massacre - Chaim Levinson (Ha'aretz)
Finding King Herod's Tomb - Barbara Kreiger (Smithsonian Magazine)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, made a statement in Cairo calling on the Arab countries to take measures toward the partial normalization of ties with Israel in order to facilitate launching peace negotiations on all Arab-Israeli tracks. Meanwhile, knowledgeable diplomatic sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Gulf States and the Arab countries have reservations about responding [positively] to Mitchell's request and that they feel "annoyed" by the U.S. insistence that they take certain steps that these countries consider "premature" and that "there is no reason to take them at this point in time."
Mitchell defended his request by stressing two key issues: First, he said that what he calls for "is intended to help the U.S. President" in his current confrontation with the right-wing Israeli government. So if the Arab countries want to benefit from the diplomatic momentum the U.S. administration is displaying, "they should not stand by with folded arms." They should "start moving" so that Washington will not look as though it "is pressuring Israel only." Second, he said that the Arab peace initiative, which Washington sees as one of the peace frameworks and points of reference, "has remained an empty overture, seven years after it was launched. So it is time for the Arabs to activate this initiative and give it a practical substance."
What are the conditions that the Arabs want? The Arabs want to know what the U.S. plan is, the U.S. view of a final solution, the mechanism that governs it, and the time frame to which Washington will cling to achieve the goals of its plan. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
See also Saudi Rejects Israel Recognition Without Withdrawal - Paul Handley
Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia on Wednesday rebuffed U.S. calls for diplomatic overtures toward Israel and said the Jewish state's settlement expansion is jeopardizing efforts to revive peace talks. "It is Israel that has to move seriously towards the peace process," Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nugali said.
"Israel should withdraw from the Arab lands and put an end to its occupation and resolve the major issues of the conflict," he said, citing the future of Palestinian refugees, water-sharing issues, and Jerusalem's future status. Such issues must be resolved "in order to achieve a permanent, just and lasting peace which is based on the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state," Nugali said. "In the Arab peace process, normalization comes after achieving these goals, not before it. So we should not put the cart before the horse." (AFP)
Iranian police fired tear gas and beat protesters to disperse thousands chanting "Neda lives!" Thursday at a memorial for victims of post-election violence held at the gravesite of the woman whose death made her an icon of the pro-reform movement, witnesses said. Demonstrations that drew thousands more later spread to other parts of Tehran. When opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi tried to approach the grave, hundreds of police surrounded him and forced him to leave. Afterward, his supporters remained at the grave, chanting, "Death to the dictator." The police charge came when an ally of Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi - who was also a candidate in the election - tried to give a speech. Thursday's protests showed the opposition movement still has momentum, fueled by growing anger over abuses of detainees and continuing arrests. (AP/Washington Post)
Former PA minister Hatem Abd Al-Qader told Al-Quds TV on July 13, 2009: "Fatah must remain a Palestinian national liberation movement, until the Palestinian people accomplishes all its goals - freedom, independence, the creation of a state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of the refugees. Without this, the Fatah movement cannot become a political party. It will remain a liberation movement, whose strategy relies on resistance." "Whoever thinks that it is possible to reach peace with the Israelis in light of the present circumstances and the [political] constellation in Israel is definitely deluding himself....I believe that there is no alternative but to restore Palestinian unity and cohesion, and to reactivate the option of resistance against the occupation." (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
American officials briefed Israel this week on the administration's ideas for intensifying sanctions against Iran if it fails to respond to President Obama's offer of dialogue. U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones indicated that Tehran has until the UN General Assembly in the last week of September to respond. If no satisfactory answer is received, the Americans said, they would work to form an international coalition to impose harsh sanctions on Iran. New sanctions would mainly aim to significantly curb Tehran's ability to import refined petroleum products.
The Americans are proposing financial sanctions such as banning insurance on trade deals with Tehran, which would make it difficult for Iran to trade with other countries. They also want to impose sanctions on any company that trades with Iran and use this to pressure other countries, mainly in Asia, to resist making deals with Iran. In the next stage, the Americans will consider banning Iranian ships from docking in Western ports and banning Iranian airplanes from landing in Western airports. (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. Losing Faith in Usefulness of Tehran Dialogue - Amos Harel
The talks in Israel this week by senior U.S. officials, which focused largely on blocking Iran's nuclear program, indicate that the Americans are more skeptical about the likelihood that a diplomatic dialogue, or even harsh sanctions should that option fail, will dissuade the Iranians. (Ha'aretz)
Recent revelations about foreign government funding for local NGOs involved in political activity have triggered discussions by senior Israeli officials about the possibility of making such aid illegal. Senior officials are looking into whether it might be possible to ban donations from foreign governments to political NGOs, just as it is forbidden for foreign residents, let alone governments, to contribute to Israeli political parties. The discussion follows revelations that foreign governments are funding a number of NGOs that have issued scathing reports of the IDF's activities in Gaza.
Ron Dermer, chief of policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office, decried the funding of political NGOs by foreign governments as a "blatant and unacceptable" intervention into Israel's internal affairs. "Just as it would be unacceptable for European governments to support anti-war NGOs in the U.S., it is unacceptable for the Europeans to support local NGOs opposed to the policies of Israel's democratically-elected government." Moreover, Dermer said, some of the NGOs are not merely opposed to specific policies, but "are working to delegitimize the Jewish state."
There is a new government policy to take a more proactive stance against NGOs very critical of Israel, after reports that Human Rights Watch, a consistently harsh critic of Israel, had engaged in fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, using its criticism of Israel as a sales pitch. (Jerusalem Post)
Last winter the Sea of Galilee only received about 56% of the water it receives in an average season, the fifth year in a row of less-than-average rainfall, the Israel Water Authority said this week. The Sea of Galilee has dropped more than two meters in the past two years. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
U.S. Middle East Policy
President Obama and Mr. Mitchell claim they are making progress, but so far there is little sign of it. Saudi Arabia, which has pushed Washington hard to revive negotiations, has been especially resistant. Mr. Mitchell would do well to remind them that a prolonged stalemate will only feed extremism across the region. Israeli leaders do not often risk being at odds with an American president, but polls show broad support for Mr. Netanyahu's resistance. (New York Times)
President Obama would do well to pay attention to a growing chorus rising from the Israeli left, people who largely agree with the administration's overall goals. Israeli peace activists are all but begging Obama to adjust his course before he destroys the chances for peace. Their principal worry is that Obama is losing the Israeli public.
Israelis generally greeted Obama's election as a breath of fresh air. However, Israelis of all stripes have come to believe that Obama is deliberately putting all the pressure on Israel and essentially none on the other side. As worried commentators have noted, he risks permanently losing the support of the Israeli people. And in Israel, unlike many of the neighboring countries, the government cannot make major decisions if the public does not support it. Obama may be hoping that his cold-shoulder, tough-love attitude will prompt Israelis to dump their leader. In fact, his actions are having the opposite effect, weakening opposition to Netanyahu.
Israelis want to hear Obama say - and to Arabs - that Israel has a right to exist that goes far beyond the Holocaust. That Jews have lived there for thousands of years, and that for thousands of years of exile - long before the word "Holocaust" came to mean the genocide of the Jewish people - Jews around the globe yearned to return to the land of their ancestors. This is not a right-wing view. That has been a fact of life for Jews across the ages. (World Politics Review)
Mideast envoy George Mitchell informed Syrian President Bashar Assad this week that the U.S. will help Syria obtain spare aircraft parts, information-technology systems and telecommunications equipment that had been limited under the 2003 Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. This policy takes engagement too far, too soon. The Syria Accountability Act lists 34 findings related to Syria's international misbehavior, including support for terror groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs, production of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, and development of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.
In 2007 it was revealed that Syria cooperated with Iran and North Korea in operating an illegal nuclear facility probably related to the Iranian atomic weapons program. Israel destroyed the facility. More than 90% of foreign suicide bombers in Iraq arrived via Syria, and recently the network has surged. We await proof that rapprochement with Syria is possible. (Washington Times)
See also Obama Extends Syria Sanctions
President Obama decided to extend for one year sanctions decreed August 1, 2007, by former President Bush who froze the assets of individuals accused of undermining Lebanon's sovereignty on Syria's behalf. The Obama administration recently eased trade sanctions against Syria in one recent gesture toward Damascus. (AFP)
As a former deputy assistant secretary of the treasury, I am often asked why I support the use of targeted financial measures if the use of these tools has not stopped Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon. Sanctions are no silver bullet. On their own, these financial tools can only do so much. But coupled with other tools - especially robust diplomacy, but also a credible military presence in the region - financial measures can effectively create leverage for diplomacy. That diplomacy should focus not only on Iran, but on Russia, China, our European and Asian allies, the Gulf States, and others.
This is exactly the time to use financial tools to build leverage for diplomacy. With the hardline regime so significantly delegitimized, the regime's ability to easily deflect criticism over the state of the Iranian economy has been significantly undermined. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Iranian doctrine of walayat faqih ("government of the theologian"), the cornerstone of the Khomeinist system, is dead. The late Ayatollah Khomeini invented the doctrine to justify the claim that he drew his legitimacy from Allah and was accountable solely to Him. Although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current "Supreme Leader," remains a powerful player thanks to the vast financial and security assets at his disposal, he is no longer above the melee. With the mystique gone, the reality of a brutal regime that kills unarmed protestors in the streets is increasingly noticed.
For 30 years, walayat faqih was a barrier to creating a broad coalition for genuine reform and change. But now, Khamenei's behavior has fostered a growing consensus that it is time for Iran to move beyond Khomeinism. Only a shrinking segment of the Khomeinist constituency still clings to the bizarre and unworkable walayat faqih concept. And that is perhaps the true miracle that happened last month. (National Review)
Even if PLO and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas wanted to make a compromise deal with Israel - which he doesn't - he couldn't deliver his own purported followers, much less his Hamas rivals. Of the Fatah Central Committee's 17 surviving members, only three can be classified as relative moderates. At least seven can be called radicals - many still oppose the original 1993 Oslo agreement. Many in the younger Fatah generation are sympathetic to a more equal coalition with their Hamas "brothers" to fight Israel. At present, 14 of 17 members could never make a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, and Abbas himself is so firm on demanding all Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to live in Israel that he could be added to this group. They, and not Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are the ones who really control Fatah, the main Palestinian institutions, and the West Bank.
The end of Abbas' career is in sight. There is no conceivable consensus candidate to become head of Fatah, the PA, and/or the PLO. Equally, there's no leadership willing to make any comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. How can such huge factors be ignored by those in the West who act as if a quick resolution of the conflict is both possible and such a high priority? (Jerusalem Post)
While most governments in the Middle East are reconciled, albeit uncomfortably, to Israel's existence, popular opinion in the region is adamantly opposed to the Jewish state. And Iran is keen to keep the Palestinian problem center stage, in part out of a hatred of Israel, but also to divert Arab attention away from its nuclear ambitions. The way the Palestinian people are used as pawns in a bigger game by the Iranians is rarely acknowledged in the West, where what is commonly seen as Israeli intransigence is wrongly portrayed as the sole stumbling block to peace. A region-wide commitment to peace will be hard to secure while Palestinian politics remain dominated by single-issue extremists whose response to every issue is to demand the destruction of Israel. (The Australian)
The Islamic world is ideologically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel for deep-seated religious, nationalistic and historical reasons. According to Islam, the Jewish religion was invalidated by the birth of Christianity, which in turn was invalidated by the arrival of Islam. Islam's basic approach is not that it came to the world to exist alongside other religions as equal among equals, but to replace them.
Jews are perceived in the Islamic world as members of a religion without an ethnic or national basis. Thus, in Iraq, there are Arab Iraqi Muslims, Arab Iraqi Christians and Arab Iraqi Jews, all members of the Arab nation. From an Islamic perspective, a French Jew is a member of the French nation. How can one recognize Israel as the "State of the Jewish People" - an ethnic group that does not really exist?
Palestine was conquered during the period of Khalif Omar bin al-Khattab in the third decade of the seventh century. This placed Palestine within the group of countries which were under Islamic rule, like Spain, Sicily and part of the Balkans, and which must be returned to the bosom of Islam. Khalif Omar declared Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, as Waqf (holy endowment) land, consecrated for all Muslim generations forever. So how can the Jews demand that Muslims recognize the Jewish conquest of the land of Palestine which is holy to Muslims alone? The writer, a research associate at the BESA Center, is a 25-year veteran of IDF Military Intelligence. (BESA Center/Bar-Ilan University)
From 2006 to the present, Human Rights Watch's reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict have been almost entirely devoted to condemning Israel, accusing it of human rights and international law violations, and demanding international investigations into its conduct. It has published some 87 criticisms of Israeli conduct against the Palestinians and Hizbullah, versus 8 criticisms of Palestinian groups and 4 of Hizbullah for attacks on Israel. It was during this period that more than 8,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
In response to the rocket war, Israel imposed a partial blockade of Gaza. Human Rights Watch then published 28 statements and reports on the blockade, accusing Israel in highly charged language of an array of war crimes and human rights violations. Human Rights Watch has never recognized the difference between Hamas' campaign of murder against Israeli civilians and Israel's attempt to defend those civilians, unwilling to distinguish between aggression and self-defense.
Meanwhile, Egypt has also maintained a blockade on Gaza, although it is not even under attack from Hamas. Human Rights Watch has never singled out Egypt for criticism over its participation in the blockade. In 2007, the Lebanese Army laid siege to the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp for over three months, killing hundreds. Human Rights Watch produced two anemic press releases. At this very moment, Jordan is stripping its Palestinians of citizenship without the slightest protest from the organization. Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch seems only to care about Palestinians when they can be used to convince the world that the Jewish state is actually a criminal state. (Wall Street Journal)
See also NGO Monitor: Detailed Israeli Foreign Ministry Gaza Report Disproves NGO Allegations (IMRA)
With 45,000 residents and 60 births a week, Modiin Ilit is the largest and fastest-growing Jewish community in the West Bank. Modiin Illit and its sister community, Beitar Illit, situated just inside the pre-1967 boundary, are entirely Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), a world apart, one of strict religious observance and study. Unlike settlers who believe they are continuing the historic Zionist mission of reclaiming the Jewish homeland, most Haredim do not consider themselves settlers and express no commitment to being in the West Bank. The people here came for affordable housing no longer available in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
Yet even if they appear to be less ideologically committed to the West Bank, the longer they live here, the more invested some have become. Yoseph Shilhav of Bar-Ilan University said that almost every Haredi family now had a member beyond the 1967 border, subtly shifting their attitudes about settlement and withdrawal. The Chabad movement and the Sephardic Shas party have increasingly adopted the nationalist agenda. (New York Times)
See also Video: Ultra-Orthodox Settlements in the West Bank - Jaron Gillinsky and Ethan Bronner (MSNBC-New York Times)
In reviewing the terminology used in the resolutions of the Human Rights Council that serve as the mandate of the UN Fact Finding Mission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, one is led to assume that Israel suddenly attacked peace-loving Gaza for no reason and without any provocation. There is no reference to the Hamas terror organization that administers the area, or the slightest hint as to the nature of the eight-year, indiscriminate rocket barrage directed against southern Israel's population centers. There is also the false and misleading equivalence drawn between Israel - whose citizens had been under constant armed attack and which acted in self-defense - and a group of terror organizations that proudly and openly use terror to achieve their ideological objectives.
The basic norm prohibiting attack on or bombardment of towns or dwellings which are undefended was laid down in article 25 of the 1907 Hague Rules respecting the laws and customs of war. Article 51 of Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions clearly determines that "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack." The Protocol goes on to prohibit attacks not directed at specific military objectives. The writer served as former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and as ambassador to Canada. (Jerusalem Post)
Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit represents the core of Israel's defense against the legal onslaught by unfriendly countries and organizations across the world. The NGO approach is to take the sum total of Israeli operations during the Gaza operation and paint the IDF as an immoral army that uses vastly disproportionate force. The view in Israel is that this approach produces a deeply distorted picture whose aim is to create deterrence against future use of force by the IDF.
Away from the battlefields, there are hundreds of pending actions against Israel cropping up in courts across the world, driven by a lot of money and support from countries and people not friendly to Israel. Israeli authorities have now realized the scope of the problem and are starting to invest in the tools to fight on this legal front.
And, just as important, every complaint and accusation leveled at the IDF is thoroughly investigated. There is no need to be afraid of the truth, the army argues. Indeed, there is a strong belief within the military that every operation and attack during the Gaza operation was limited to what is allowed. Millions of fliers were dropped, thousands of phone calls were made warning people to flee, and dozens of attacks were stopped because there was a chance civilians would be harmed. Legal officers are present when target banks are drawn up and when questions are asked about whether the target is purely military or dual purpose. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel: Gaza Operation Was "Necessary and Proportionate" (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
The Israeli government released a comprehensive, 160-page report on Thursday on the IDF's operation in Gaza in December and January entitled Israel's Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects:
See also Video: "The IDF Did More to Safeguard Civilians than Any Other Army" - Col. Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan (Global Law Forum)
See also Test Yourself: How Do We Apply International Humanitarian Law During Wartime? (Global Law Forum)
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