Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 15, 2009
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Report: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Arrested in Egypt - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
Egyptian sources told the Lebanese newspaper Almustaqbal that, some five months ago, Egyptian authorities arrested four members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds unit who set up an intelligence ring on Egyptian soil.
See also Egypt Finds 266 Rockets in Massive Arms Cache along Israel Border (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
Egyptian security forces have uncovered hundreds of weapons and explosive devices hidden along the Sinai Peninsula's border with Israel, the Arabic-language Al-Quds al-Arabiyeh reported on Friday.
Egyptian forces found 266 rockets, 40 mines, 50 mortar shells, 20 hand grenades and at least three anti-aircraft missiles.
The Mideast Nuclear Arms Scramble - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
Fears that the U.S. intends to let Iran become a nuclear power has sent other Middle Eastern countries shopping around for partners to help them join the nuclear club.
Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it's reached an "agreement in principle" with France to develop a "nuclear industry for peaceful purposes." It becomes the third Arab country - after Egypt and Qatar - to seek French help in joining the nuclear club.
Iraq also intends to seek a return to the nuclear club. Last month, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki set up an effort to bring together Iraq's nuclear scientists and invite those in exile to return home.
Having triggered the nuclear race, Iran is also playing an active role in proliferation, with signed agreements to help Syria and Venezuela achieve "nuclear capacity."
China is negotiating with Iran to build 20 nuclear power stations over the next decade. With no international control over what happens to the spent fuel generated by those stations, Iran could end up having enough material to make hundreds of bombs.
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French Poll: 73% See Iranian Nukes as Threat - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
In a poll in France conducted in April, 35% said they viewed Israel unfavorably, while 21% viewed Israel in a positive light.
The Palestinians enjoy nearly twice as much support (27%) as the Israelis (14%), though even more (32%) said they did not support either side.
Yet more blamed Hamas for Gaza's humanitarian situation (36%) than Israel (26%).
83% feel that a two-state solution is the "only realistic solution" to the conflict, but an identical 83% said it was "not realistic right now."
73% believed an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a threat to France, up from 64% in December 2007.
"Lawfare" Against Israel Complicates the Search for Peace - Josh Goodman (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Last week a Spanish judge decided to pursue an investigation in a case brought by a group of Palestinians accusing Israel of "crimes against humanity" for a 2002 strike against the military leader of Hamas in Gaza.
That strike took place during a year in which waves of suicide bombings rocked Israel's cities. As a result of the war in Gaza last January, Israel expects to face a slew of similar probes and lawsuits in foreign courts.
The misuse of legal concepts in public discourse is often designed to give one-sided criticism of Israel the appearance of a judicious assessment of international law.
Political philosopher Michael Walzer correctly points out that the term "disproportionate violence" as used by many commentators today "is simply violence they don't like, or it is violence committed by people they don't like."
Hamas' Mistake - Guy Bechor (Ynet News)
Hamas leaders believed their own rhetoric and that of Hizbullah. They truly believed that Israel will bow down before them, that it would be scared to enter Gaza, and that it would certainly refrain from going in deep.
Their arrogant and belligerent displays have disappeared. Hamas now understands: It is merely a small organization that jailed itself and its society in a bottle.
In contradiction to its own lies, Hamas sustained a decisive military blow and has trouble recovering from it.
The smuggling tunnel network it built is indeed helping it to get stronger, yet improved Egyptian efforts are making this more difficult.
The Fatal Glitch with "Land for Peace" - George Jonas (National Post-Canada)
The peace plan outlined by Jordan's King Abdullah would entail the gradual recognition of Israel by 57 Arab and/or Muslim countries in return for Israel's gradual withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders. It sounds reasonable, except for three things.
One, 57 Arab/Muslim countries are 56 too many. They aren't likely to agree with each other on the time of day, let alone the recognition of Israel. Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going to recognize Israel? And if only one nuclear ayatollah doesn't, what does it matter who does?
Two, the peace-for-land concept has been a historic failure, not because Israel wouldn't dole out land for peace - it has, to all comers, sometimes unasked - but because the Arab/Muslim side won't dole out peace for land.
Three, the Middle East conflict has zip all to do with Israel's 1967 borders. It has to do with Israel's 1948 borders. Had Israel's Arab/Muslim neighbors accepted Israel's 1948 borders, there would be no 1967 borders to dispute today.
The irony of King Abdullah lecturing Israel on a two-state solution isn't lost on anyone who remembers that the Hashemite Kingdom occupies about 80% of the former Palestinian Mandate.
There Are 70 Conflicts Worldwide, So Why Do We Focus on Just One? - Stephen King (Irish Examiner)
The media has a fixation on Israel (and its supposed crimes) which is, for want of a better word, disproportionate. The fact that Israel is the world's one and only Jewish state - amidst a vast ocean of Muslim states - inevitably makes many Jewish people think it's them, and not Israel as such, which is in the media's sights.
The International Crisis Group is currently tracking 70 conflicts around the world, from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zimbabwe. So why the obsession with Israel? It's the only country in the world whose existence is queried.
Could it be some wrongheaded notion of guilt for having set up Israel after the Holocaust, when actually Israel fought British imperialism for its independence? Could it be, as many Israelis believe, that we see Israelis as Jews in the latest manifestation of centuries-old anti-Semitism?
Monitoring Anti-Semitism in Europe - Michael Whine (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Governments and the relevant intergovernmental agencies now accept that anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish communities has increased.
The murder of Ilan Halimi in February 2006 in Paris, the torching of synagogues in France and the UK, the continuous cemetery and synagogue desecrations, and the rash of anti-Jewish graffiti throughout Europe, North America, and the former Soviet Union have finally roused governments and agencies to take action.
Awareness of the increase in racist and anti-Semitic violence has led the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU) to adopt moves to monitor and combat the phenomenon.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
* U.S. Envoy Says Iran Top Issue in Mideast - Nicholas Kralev
Iran's nuclear program and its increased regional influence have replaced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the main concern of governments in the Middle East, the Obama administration's chief envoy for the region said Thursday. Jeffrey D. Feltman, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that the fears about Iran have become "the key development in the region." "When you traveled around the [Middle East] five, six, seven years ago, almost everywhere you went, the first thing that came up was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Feltman said. "When you travel around today, what you are going to hear about is Iran." He reiterated the administration's goal of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Feltman called Iran a "spoiler" in the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace through its support for Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Lebanon's Hizbullah. Nevertheless, he said, "we want to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to remove one of the tools that Iran uses to distract the region from what Iran is doing." (Washington Times)
See also below Observations: America Must Deal First with the Threat from Iran - Efraim Halevy (Financial Times-UK)
* Israel: Netanyahu's Message in Tune with Obama's - Tobias Buck
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's officials confidently dismiss talk of an impending clash at his keenly awaited first meeting with President Barack Obama. Insisting there is no substantial disagreement between the two men, they suggest Monday's encounter should be a smooth and amicable affair. Netanyahu's message, they say, will be entirely in tune with that of Obama - from the need to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions to Israel's willingness to engage in peace talks with the Palestinians. With regard to the political process, Netanyahu will raise his idea of a "triple-track" approach aimed at achieving parallel progress with the Palestinians on the economic, security and political fronts. (Financial Times-UK)
See also No Crisis Expected in Obama-Netanyahu Talks
Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told AFP: "There is no reason, need...for a fight." Neither side wants a breakdown in trust that would flow from a major crisis. At this point, Miller said, he has also seen no sign of a "fully-formed" Obama administration strategy to deal with either Iran or the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. "They don't have their ducks in line," he said. For example, he said, there is no sign that the administration is promoting a quid pro quo in which the Netanyahu government endorses a two-state solution and the Arabs begin taking steps to normalize ties with Israel.
Elliot Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser in the administration of George W. Bush, wondered aloud whether President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt might agree with Netanyahu that priority be given to dealing with Iran. Egypt, Abrams said, is increasingly alarmed at the "subversive" role played by non-Arab, Shiite Muslim Iran in mainly Sunni Muslim Arab countries. He added: "I don't see a clash mostly because I don't think it's in the interests of either side to have one. Even where there are disagreements, some of these will be postponed, some of them will be covered over." (AFP)
* Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon: Two-State Solution Will Lead to the Collapse of Israel
PLO Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki told ANB TV on May 7: "Even Ahmadinejad, leader of the rejectionists throughout the region, said he supports a two-state solution....With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status....If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward." (MEMRI)
* U.S. Judge OKs $116M Ruling in Palestinian Terror Attack - Ray Henry
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux on Wednesday upheld a $116 million verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority over a June 1996 terror attack in Israel that killed U.S. citizen Yaron Ungar and his wife, Efrat. (AP/Forbes)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
* Jordan King Tells Netanyahu of Concerns over Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran - Roee Nahmias
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Thursday, officials at the prime minister's office confirmed that King Abdullah had expressed concern over the growing power of extremist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah, as well as the Iranian nuclear threat. Jordan "doesn't want a Hamastan in the (West Bank), and a nuclear Iran is a problem for Jordan as well as Israel," one official said.
Netanyahu told Abdullah that he was "aware of the need to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and I intend to focus the talks on political, security and financial issues." (Ynet News)
* For Syria, Alliance with Iran Outweighs Rapprochement with U.S. - Jonathan Spyer
In his letter to Congress announcing the renewal of U.S. sanctions on Syria, President Obama said Syria was "supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq." Syria's activity reflects the regime's strategic choice to align itself with Iran.
With regard to supporting terrorism, the leaderships of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are domiciled in Damascus. In addition, Syria has over the last decade built a close, mutually beneficial strategic relationship with Hizbullah. On weapons of mass destruction, Syria possesses one of the largest and most advanced chemical warfare programs in the Arab world - including chemical warheads for all its major missile systems. It is known to possess a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin, and is attempting to develop the more powerful VX nerve agent, according to the CIA's bi-annual report on WMD proliferation. Damascus is also thought to possess a biological warfare development program.
Four months into Washington's courting of the Assad regime, there has been no improvement in Syria's stances regarding issues of concern to the U.S. The regime has evidently concluded that it has nothing to gain by loosening its relationship with the Iranians at the present time. The firmness of the Syrian stance suggests that Damascus expects U.S. attempts at engagement with Iran to fail. The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Netanyahu Goes to Washington
* Netanyahu's Visit: Remember, the Real Problem Isn't Israel - Cal Thomas
Last week in London, I spoke with Liam Fox, a Conservative member of Parliament and "shadow defense secretary." Fox told me, "There is a belief in some quarters that if only you can resolve the problems between Israel and Palestine, all the other problems in the Middle East, in a domino-like fashion, will fall into place. That is absolute nonsense." Fox said that on a recent visit to Iran, Iranian politicians told him that Hizbullah and Hamas "are part of our defense policy against Israel." Fox quoted them as saying, "Hamas is not part of the Palestinian problem. Hamas is the foreign-policy wing of Iran in Israel."
The pressure from the U.S. ought not to be on Israel, which has mostly lived up to every agreement, from Oslo to Madrid to Wye River. U.S. pressure should be directed at those bent on Israel's destruction. Israel's enemies lost land through military action aimed at destroying Israel. They are winning it back through diplomacy, pressure and terrorist acts carried out by their proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel's enemies have used this newly acquired land to launch attacks.
The Palestinians will deserve a state when they and their Arab- Muslim supporters prove by their actions that they are prepared to allow Israel to exist in peace and have no intention of flooding a Palestinian state with "refugees" who might very well be used to finish the job so many of them wish Adolf Hitler had completed. The question Netanyahu should ask President Obama is whether the U.S. wants to sustain the first democracy in the Middle East or whether it wishes to create another terrorist state. (Sacramento Bee)
* Israel Sees Iran as Biggest Threat to Region - Aluf Benn
No crisis will erupt at the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House on Monday. The prime minister will explain that Iran is the biggest problem in the region, not the Palestinians, and that the moderate Arab countries share Israel's concerns. He will advise that a Palestinian state be built "from the ground up" to ensure that it doesn't threaten Israel's security. He will propose a "regional" process and hint that if the Arab initiative is amended and the right of return is removed from it, there will be something to talk about. (Ha'aretz)
* Political Disparity Unlikely to Cloud Israel-U.S. Alliance - Zhang Yanyang
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Chair of the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University, said that perceived tensions between the Israeli prime minister and the Obama administration were blown out of proportion and were unlikely to cloud the alliance between the two countries. "I certainly would not say that the situation is in a conflict phase," Steinberg said. "Neither Obama nor Netanyahu would find any benefit in a souring in the alliance between the U.S. and Israel." "The Obama administration is sending mixed signals but it is all in line with a particular strategy. They want to bring Syria closer to the U.S. and distance Syria from Iran," he said. "But at the same time they set restrictions on a closer relationship with Syria that involves the need to address terrorism and support against nuclear proliferation," he added.
Menahem Blondheim, professor of American Studies at Hebrew University, said, "It is a little premature to say that there is going to be a showdown." "Given the very high stakes and tensions in the Middle East, especially between Egypt and the moderate Arab countries on the one side and Iran on the other, Israel is a stable entity that carries a tremendous significance." (Xinhua-China)
* The U.S. and the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Israel on the Line? - Emily B. Landau
When Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller noted that "universal adherence to the NPT itself - including by India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea - also remains a fundamental objective of the United States," the immediate context of the statement underscores that it does not in itself indicate a break with past positions. The timing of the speech was determined by the NPT Preparatory Committee session she attended, and within this context it is standard U.S. practice to express support for the NPT, including the hope that all states eventually join.
However, placing states on equal footing in the nuclear realm, per their NPT commitments, and downplaying the important differences among them is a theme that could have problematic implications for Israel down the road, and is in and of itself flawed. The cases of Iran and North Korea drive home that when states have a strong incentive to proliferate, even if they have joined an international treaty that prohibits this, some will nevertheless ignore commitments and work to achieve a nuclear capability. These states are noteworthy for having cheated on their past commitments; moreover, they are seeking nuclear weapons not only for their security value but to wield influence over other states, if not to directly threaten their security and existence. Indeed, the primary concern in these cases is not the weapons per se, rather the threat that these states pose to other states in their region and beyond. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
* Why It's Dangerous to Talk to Armed Islamists - Michael Young
You know an idea is making headway when the New York Times finally picks up on it. The head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, was afforded space in the paper recently. Hamas' primary goal is to become the leading interlocutor on all matters related to the Palestinians. Meshaal knows that once the West engages Hamas it will undermine the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, a key step in allowing Hamas to fulfill its dream of taking control of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. No wonder Assad wants the U.S. to deal with Hamas. What the movement gains, Syria and Iran gain too, as both have substantial sway over Hamas decision-making.
Is that an objective Western states should help to advance? Recently the British government resumed a dialogue with Hizbullah at a moment of dangerous polarization in Lebanon before elections in June. Forget that a dialogue existed several years ago and led nowhere; this latest step implied that Hizbullah's Lebanese political adversaries, who are closer to positions the British government advocates, were losing ground. In fact, engaging Hizbullah made that outcome more likely. The foolish decision caused an angry reaction, irritating the U.S. especially, which may be why the UK has now backtracked. The writer is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon. (The National-UAE)
* A Misreading of History - Benny Morris
As implied by Max Hastings in his essay in the Guardian last Saturday, in recent times the Zionists/Israelis have grown brutal. The simple truth is that since before its inception, the Arab world has laid siege to the Zionist enterprise and tried to destroy or badly weaken it, in war after war and terrorist campaign after terrorist campaign, by continuous political delegitimization, assault and boycott. Even today, after two Arab states (Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994) have formally signed peace agreements with the Jewish state, the Arab League is offering Israel a "peace" settlement that must include Israel's acceptance of a mass refugee return. Flooding Israel, with its 5.7 million Jews and 1.4 million Arabs, with the refugees would instantly turn it into just another Arab-majority state (the world already benefits from 23 such states). And that is the goal of the "moderate" PLO and Palestine Authority.
Hastings takes Israel to task for failing to negotiate peace and preferring "its military capability." What of the Begin government, which gave up the Sinai peninsula in exchange for peace with Egypt? What of the Rabin government, which gave up slices of territory for peace with Jordan? What of the Barak government, which agreed to give up the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and 95% of the West Bank in December 2000? What of the Sharon government, which unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip? (Guardian-UK)
* Al Jazeera and Qatar: The Muslim Brothers' Dark Empire? - Zvi Mazel
In 1996, the Emir of Qatar established the Al Jazeera satellite channel which is today the most viewed station in the Arab world with an estimated audience of some 60 million. There was never any doubt about the station's political orientation. Al Jazeera launched scathing attacks on Israel during the Second Intifada and went on to incendiary broadcasts against the U.S. at the time of the Afghanistan conflict and over Iraq. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Al Jazeera behaved as a Hizbullah spokesman. During the Gaza war, a senior Al Jazeera reporter stationed himself at Shifa Hospital, from where he broadcast a stream of carefully selected horror pictures.
Al Jazeera has become a weapon in the hands of an ambitious emir who may be driven by the Muslim Brothers and who is threatening the stability of the Middle East. With the Muslim Brothers increasingly aligned in recent years with Iran, by repeatedly attacking the Sunni Arab regimes and inciting against them, Al Jazeera is serving as an important instrument for Tehran and its effort to undermine their internal stability. The writer, who served as Israel's Ambassador to Romania, Egypt, and Sweden, currently directs the Jerusalem Center's Arabic-language website - infoelarab.org. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
* The Jordanian Option Is Back - Michael Bar-Zohar
The West Bank is less than half the size of Los Angeles County. The Judean Desert comprises one-third of the area. Does anybody believe that this tiny slice of territory, sandwiched between Israel and Jordan, will provide enough living space for the local 2.4 million Palestinians, for millions of Palestinian refugees, and for Palestinians from overcrowded Gaza? It appears that the supporters of the two-state solution are determined to give the Palestinians a state that would not be able to sustain itself economically.
There is a solution, but it must be a regional one that includes at least Jordan or, even better, Jordan and Egypt. It is based on the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian federation. Jordan is a largely uninhabited country that possesses huge tracts of land where the excess population of the West Bank, Gaza and the returning refugees can establish new towns and villages and find a little breathing space. Most of Jordan's citizens are Palestinians. The writer is a former Labor Party MK and the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres. (Jerusalem Post)
* For Next Round of Mideast Peace Talks, Let the Palestinians Go First - Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper
Like clockwork, just as a new U.S. president hit the 100-day milestone, comes another push to "jump-start" the Middle East peace process. As in past administrations, concessions from "both sides" means: Israel, you go first. But perhaps the time has come for peacemakers to try a fresh approach: Ask the Palestinians to make the first move. Israelis have been making difficult concessions at least since 1993, repeatedly trading land for promises of peace. When they turned over the major West Bank cities and Gaza to Yasser Arafat, all they got in return was broken promises.
To start the ball rolling toward real peace, Mahmoud Abbas should begin now to carry through on his repeated promises to end "anti-Israel incitement" in state-controlled Palestinian mosques and media that remain as vicious today as ever in preaching hatred of the Jewish state and Jews everywhere. Rabbis Hier and Cooper are the dean and associate dean respectively of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. (New York Daily News)
* Heart of Darkness - Editorial
IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped 1,054 days ago, remains the ill-treated, abused, tormented human pawn of an inhuman, cynical regime of genocidal terrorists and haters of Jews. "The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers has become a strategic vision for Hamas," said Abdel Latif Qanou, a Hamas spokesperson, last month. It is difficult to understand how individuals who are moved by the plight of the people of Gaza are so little-moved by the plight of young Gilad Shalit. It is also difficult to understand how and why those same individuals who inveigh in the highest pitch of vehemence and umbrage against the Jewish state will not find a single word of criticism for the Hamas rulers who have kept Shalit beyond the reach even of the Red Cross.
Some members of the U.S. Congress have recently launched an initiative that would tie the $900-million Gaza reconstruction aid to Shalit's release. Gaza is a place of darkness. Ordinary Gazans are exploited even as their pressing needs are neglected by their rulers. Only a concerted effort by fair-minded people, governments and NGOs can penetrate that darkness and bring Gilad Shalit home. (Canadian Jewish News)
* Israel's Clean Technology Pioneers - Roben Farzad
At a kibbutz in Israel's Negev Desert, entrepreneur Amit Ziv recycles runoff water from a nearby spa to raise sea bass and barramundi, a white fish in demand at high-end restaurants. He then channels the water from his desert fish farm to grow olives, which he exports to, of all places, Spain. Israel leads the world by recycling 70% of its wastewater, three times the figure for No. 2 Spain. At a time when most other investment prospects are bleak, just about every major VC firm in Silicon Valley is prospecting across Israel for cleantech investments.
In the decade before Israel won statehood, Simcha Blass was captivated by an abnormally large tree he spotted in a grove, he shoveled underneath it and discovered a cracked drainpipe feeding steady droplets directly to the tree's roots - just enough water to allow the tree to flourish. In 1965, Blass patented and sold his vision of "drip irrigation" to Kibbutz Hatzerim. Today the company has grown into Netafim, a $500 million high-tech drip-irrigation giant employing 2,600 people in 110 countries. (Business Week)
* Helping Terror Victims' Families Heal - Sara K. Eisen
Last Friday was the anniversary of the death of Koby Mandell, the 8th grader who, along with his friend, Yosef Ishran, had cut school one day in May 2001 to explore the caves near their home in Tekoa in the West Bank. They were found the next day, bludgeoned to death with large rocks.
What Sherri Mandell, Koby's mother, and her husband, Seth, have done with the tragedy is astounding. The Mandells launched and continue to run the Koby Mandell Foundation to provide support to families - especially mothers and children - who have lost loved ones to terror. The foundation runs workshops, retreats and summer camps, all subsidized, to bring some joy and empathy into the lives of people who live daily with the pain of having had a loved one disappear. Despite their grief, they seek only to help others heal. (Ynet News)
America Must Deal First with the Threat from Iran - Efraim Halevy (Financial Times-UK)
* The Obama administration is openly telling Israel that its policies on the Palestinian dispute must be crafted in such a way as to enable Washington to build a credible and powerful anti-Iranian coalition including the moderate Arab regimes.
* While Iran's nuclear threat, coupled with its policy denying Israel's right to exist, is a predominant factor demanding an extraordinary international response, other aspects of Iran's involvement in the Israel-Palestinian conflict are assuming ever-growing importance. In addition to Iran's traditional sponsorship of the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon, for close to ten years Iran has invested heavily in Hamas, upgrading training and equipment.
* If the convoy of Iranian equipment sent via Sudan in January had not been destroyed, its arrival in Gaza would have put most of Israel within accurate missile range. All-out regional war might have been unavoidable. Iran, through Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, is constantly upping the ante.
* Iranian support has been a key factor in solidifying Hamas' political power base in the Palestinian territories. Not only is Gaza firmly in its hands, but all the combined efforts of Israel, Fatah, the U.S., Europe and the moderate Arab regimes to reduce Hamas' status in the West Bank have proven futile. Polls show Hamas would win a majority in the West Bank.
* Fatah, still struggling to try to hold its party congress, not convened for 20 years, has become a politically hollow movement. Even if the Palestinian Authority signed a peace agreement with Israel, it could not implement it in the West Bank, let alone Gaza.
* Iran has emerged as a spoiler of the "peace process." Its nuclear ambitions pose an unprecedented strategic challenge to Israel and the free world, and its activities on the ground are the biggest block to efforts to reinvigorate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It is essential to rid the Palestinian scene of Iran's destructive involvement. In the absence of this, efforts to aid the Palestinians in nation-building are doomed to failure.
The writer heads the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a former head of the Mossad.
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