Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
IDF: Palestinian Terror Declining - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
Lawyer Accused of Plotting With Sheik - Gail Appleson (Reuters/ Washington Post)
The Arab Silence on Darfur (MEMRI)
Roadblocks to Peace - Part 2: Militants (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Extremists set off bombs and battled with police in Riyadh Wednesday, leaving nine Saudi attackers and one bystander dead. A car bomb was detonated by remote control near the Interior Ministry, followed by an explosion when two suicide attackers tried to bomb a troop recruitment center. (AP/Washington Post)
"R" is a full-time tunnel-digger with ten years' experience tunneling under the Israeli-Egyptian-Palestinian borders. After the Palestinian Authority was set up in Gaza in 1994, PA officials forced the diggers to either shut down or take them in as partners. "We were making less profit due to the partnership of those people, but at least they kept competition down by shutting down the tunnels they don't own, and guarding the houses that harbor the entrances to their tunnels," R told the Seoul Times.
"By the beginning of 2001...weapon smuggling became the primary aim of digging tunnels, as militant groups started funding tunnel-diggers," R said. Today R says he has only one tunnel and does not operate it constantly "due to the tight Israeli security and constant searching for tunnel entrances." On Dec. 17, R was almost killed when the tunnel he was digging collapsed on him and five others. (Seoul Times)
Intelligence reports indicate that Osama bin Laden received fresh approval last year from a Saudi cleric for the use of a doomsday bomb against the United States. Even a small nuclear weapon detonated in a major American population center would be among history's most lethal acts of war.
Counterterrorism and nuclear experts say they consider the danger more distant than immediate, pointing to enormous technical and logistical obstacles confronting would-be nuclear terrorists. Yet "while it is extremely difficult, we have highly motivated and intelligent people who would like to do it," said Daniel Benjamin, a former National Security Council staff member and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Washington Post )
See also Attack With Dirty Bomb More Likely, Officials Say - Dafna Linzer (Washington Post )
See also Technical Hurdles Separate Terrorists From Biowarfare - John Mintz
Specialists say it is all but inevitable that al-Qaeda or another terrorist group will gain the expertise to launch small-scale biological attacks and eventually inflict mass casualties. Information on the mechanics of creating bioweapons is easily accessible on the Internet. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
27 Israelis are still missing in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India after Sunday's tsunami. There is evidence that at least five were killed. Red Cross officials said Thursday the overall death toll could rise to 100,000. (Ha'aretz)
See also Desperate Relatives Search for Tsunami Victims - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
In an effort to minimize Kassam rockets and mortar shell attacks from Gaza, IDF forces entered Khan Yunis Wednesday. During the operation, IAF helicopters fired at groups of armed Palestinians attempting to detonate bombs near troops. Two more were shot as they attempted to plant bombs. At least five Palestinians affiliated with Hamas were killed, including senior Hamas commander Yahiyah Abu Baka. (Jerusalem Post)
The Prime Minister's Office Thursday published a statement rejecting remarks by deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert that Israel will need to carry out a large-scale withdrawal from the West Bank after the disengagement from Gaza. The Prime Minister's statement said there would be no further disengagement after the Gaza pullout, and that there was no plan for a further disengagement.
Olmert had also said it was far from certain that PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to win the Jan. 9 election for the PA chairmanship, will become a workable peace partner since his hard-core stance on major negotiating issues, such as final borders, Jerusalem, and refugees, may make it impossible to reach a deal with him. Olmert noted that Abbas has not yet proved that he has the ability to struggle effectively against terror or to build a democratic infrastructure for PA institutions. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Israel is in the midst of a dispute between two world powers: the U.S. and China. Israeli officials are seeking ways to deal with a U.S demand that they confiscate parts of Harpy drones they sold China in the 1990s and Chinese expectations that they repair, or upgrade, them. The U.S. reportedly fears the drones could threaten U.S. troops in Taiwan. Israel is committed to obtaining U.S. approval for the sale of any system that includes American components or know-how. However, an Israeli official said there is "nothing American" in those drones.
According to Yediot Ahronot, Israel reported the Harpy's original sale to China. "The Americans did not like the deal but did not express determined objections. In Israel, they understood (that to mean) everything is permitted," wrote defense specialist Alex Fishman. In March 2004 the Pentagon asked Israeli Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron whether Israel sold China more such drones. Yaron replied it provided spare parts in 2002. China asked for seven more kits in 2004, and because of the U.S. sensitivity, Yaron ordered that they not be delivered.
An Israeli defense official said the agreement with China provides for maintenance and upgrading, and Israel was following that old agreement. "The Americans are exaggerating a bit with their demands....All along they think they are being conned, but Israel is acting with transparency," said MK Uri Ariel. (UPI/Washington Times)
The hereditary president of Syria, Bashar Assad, has earned a reputation for reckless behavior, the antithesis of his father Hafez Assad's careful, calculating statecraft. Recent disclosures by officials of Iraq's interim government suggest that Bashar's most flagrant and dangerous blunder is to tolerate, or perhaps even collude with, exiled former officials from Saddam Hussein's regime.
It would be better for all concerned if Bashar heeds Baghdad's plea to cease colluding with Iraqi Ba'athists in Syria who are using enormous sums of money stolen from Iraqis to fund a guerrilla war aimed at restoring Ba'athist rule in Iraq. Bashar's Ba'athist order is as much a police state as his father's was, and Syrian security services would hardly overlook the activities of rich Iraqi Ba'athists living in luxury in the poshest neighborhoods of Damascus. (Boston Globe)
With the approval of the president, the secretary of state could commit to lead - and sustain - U.S. efforts toward peace, traveling to the region frequently and meeting eyeball-to-eyeball with the parties for extended negotiations. The problem is that this assignment would demand a great deal of Ms. Rice's energy. Therefore, the preferable option would be the appointment by the president of a high-ranking U.S. emissary to the Middle East. Ms. Rice's famous closeness to the President should obviate any risk that the appointment would diminish her authority. (New York Times)
Enough of Grievance Politics - David Howell (Japan Times)
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