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DAILY ALERT

October 14, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Russian Security Officials Operating Inside PA (ITAR-TASS-Russia)
    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday in Paris that representatives of the Russian Defense and Interior Ministries are working on security in Palestinian lands.
    "Few people know that official representatives of the Russian Defense and Interior Ministries are staying in Palestinian lands with Israeli consent. They are helping to build up security," Ivanov said.


Weapons Continue to Flow from Egypt (Middle East Newsline)
    Israel has determined that the bolstered Egyptian police presence has not stemmed the flow of weapons and ammunition from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.
    Israeli officials said that nearly every night boxes of weapons and components were smuggled over the 14-kilometer Egypt-Gaza border.
    "It's no longer a massive flow," an official said. "But it's a steady flow and much greater than what it used to be during our presence along the border."


Iranians Still Deployed in Lebanon (Maariv-Hebrew, 7Oct05/Federal News Service)
    IDF Northern Command head Brig.-Gen. Benny Gantz was asked in an interview:
  Q: Who murdered the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, Syrian's biggest adversary?
  Gantz: I assume that at some point in time, the truth will come out.
  Q: Do you know the truth?
  Gantz: I think I do.
  Q: Are the Syrians responsible for the murder? After all, it is one of the options that is being examined by the UN investigation committee.
  Gantz: I do not like to say it in that way, but listen, those who did it were no lovers of Lebanon. This was done by people whose interests were not Lebanese. Whoever was in charge of the murder had strategic thoughts, although in my opinion, erroneous ones.
  Q: Are there still Iranians in Lebanon, who come to aid Hizballah?
  Gantz: Yes, we even see them hanging around Hizballah's outposts which are opposite our outposts.


Quake Impact on Jihadi Terrorism - B. Raman (South Asia Analysis Group-India)
    An earthquake struck Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan on October 8, 2005.
    Of the jihadi terrorist organizations belonging to bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), only the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) has admitted extensive damage to its infrastructure as well as the death of at least 70 of its cadres.
    Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, a spokesman of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), said in Karachi on October 11: "The group has taken a severe blow. The casualty figure may cross 100 and even more."
    More than a dozen members died when the roof of the party office collapsed during a meeting, he said.
    One should not overestimate the damages suffered by the training infrastructure of the jihadi terrorist organizations. Their training camps generally consist of tents which can be shifted to evade detection and targeting by U.S. intelligence agencies.
    Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where most of the sanctuaries and training camps of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Jundullah, and other similar organizations are located, have not been affected by the quake.

    See also Lashkar Front Bleeds (Reuters/Calcutta Telegraph-India)
    Scores of activists from an Islamist charity linked to Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba died in Saturday’s earthquake.
    A spokesman for Jamat-ud-Dawa, a group drawn from the ranks of Lashkar, said the charity’s mosques, hospitals, schools and Islamic seminaries were obliterated.
    Lashkar, accused by Delhi of having taken part in the December 2001 attack on Parliament, is banned in both India and Pakistan.
    Analysts say the outfit is based on Wahhabism, the austere brand of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, and has prospered from overseas donations, especially to charities linked with it.


Militants Killed in Volatile Caucasus Region (CNN)
    An estimated 80 to 100 Islamist militants attacked the southern Russian town of Nalchik in the Kabardino-Balkariya region on Thursday.
    Vladimir Kolesnikov, Russia's deputy prosecutor, said 20 militants died during the clashes, along with 12 police officers and 12 civilians.
    "A law enforcement source earlier said that the gunmen launched the attack after security forces detained a group of Wahhabis, whom their supporters are currently trying to release." Wahhabi is a strict, legalistic sect of Islam, and is the dominant sect in Saudi Arabia.

    See also Russian Islamic Researcher: Wahhabism is the Ideological Basis of Most Terrorist Organizations (Interfax-Russia)
    Wahhabism is the ideological basis of al-Qaeda and related organizations, maintains Alexander Ignatenko, a well-known Russian researcher of radical Islam and director of the Institute of Religion and Politics.


Terror Suspect's Trial Focuses on Confession Video (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
    Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen accused of joining al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush, said in a videotaped confession that he was motivated by his hatred of the U.S.'s support for Israel.
    The confession was videotaped in 2003 by authorities in Saudi Arabia, where Abu Ali attended college.


The New Muslim Anti-Semitism: Exploring Novel Avenues of Hatred - Raphael Israeli (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Anti-Semitism in Islamic culture has been reinforced over the centuries both by themes imported from Christian anti-Semitism, such as the Protocols, the blood libel, and well-poisoning, and by the impact of the Arab-Israeli dispute.
    Since 2000, Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism has become more concrete, with the Believers encouraged to take actual violent measures against the Jews and Israel that have climaxed in "Islamikaze" acts of terror.


Foreigners Spend $500M on Israel Software Firms (Reuters/Boston Globe)
    Foreign companies spent more than $500 million in acquiring 15 Israeli software firms over the past 12 months, Israel's Manufacturers Association said on Sunday.
    Over the past decade, foreign companies have bought more than 30 Israeli software firms for about $6 billion.
    Over the first half of 2005, Israel's software exports grew about 6% from a year earlier to $3.18 billion.


Turkish Company to Build $360 Million Power Station in Israel (AP/Ha'aretz)
    A Turkish company signed an agreement Tuesday to build a $360 million power station in southern Israel.
    Turkish-Israeli trade is expected to reach $2.5 billion this year, and some 400,000 Israeli tourists are expected to visit Turkey.


After Triplets, Israeli Mother Gives Birth to Quadruplets - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Healthy quadruplets, three girls and a boy, were born last Thursday at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.
    The 30-year-old mother and her husband, who live in a settlement in Samaria, already have five-year-old triplets and two other children.


Useful Reference:

Remembering the Yom Kippur War - Abraham Rabinovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was severely shaken by the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, 1973. He spoke of the destruction of the Third Temple.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • "Suicide" of Syrian General Who Ruled Lebanon - Nicholas Blanford
    The Syrian general who, in effect, ran Lebanon for 20 years was found dead in Damascus Wednesday, nine days before the release of a potentially explosive UN report that could implicate senior Syrian officials in the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. The Syrian government said that Ghazi Kanaan, 63, the interior minister and former head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, had committed suicide in his office in central Damascus.
         General Kanaan was a powerful figure from the Alawite community that forms the backbone of the Baathist regime in Syria. Some analysts believe that he was a potential candidate to replace the youthful President Assad. "Washington has been talking about the adults taking over from the children, and Kanaan was one of the last of the so-called 'old guard.' He was considered a real force," Joshua Landis, a professor of history based in Damascus, said. "It's hard to believe Kanaan would commit suicide."
        On Tuesday, the Lebanese New TV channel broadcast allegations that General Kanaan had admitted to UN investigator Mehlis that he had amassed millions of dollars during his "reign in Lebanon." (Times-UK)
        See also Death of a Syrian Minister - Nicholas Blanford
    Kanaan's death seems to kill two birds with one stone. The Syrian regime can now use Kanaan as a scapegoat over the UN investigation into the assassination of Hariri. It also eliminates a potential challenge to the current regime and the presidency. (Times-UK)
        See also Former U.S. Mediator Doubts Suicide - Donna Abu-Nasr
    Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Mideast mediator, said, "I don't believe it was a suicide. The timing is extraordinarily coincidental. It certainly would look as if someone was trying to create the impression the person responsible for (the Hariri murder) is dead." (AP)
        See also Suicide in Syria? - Editorial (New York Sun);
    Theories Abound Over Syrian Minister's Death (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Bush Warns Syria on Lebanon - Scott Stearns
    "I think it is very important for Syria to understand that the free world respects Lebanese democracy and expects Syria to honor that democracy," President Bush said Wednesday. "We expect Syria to do everything in its power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq....We expect Syria not to agitate killers in the Palestinian territory," he added. (VOA News)
  • Lebanon Creates Commission on Armed Palestinians
    The Lebanese government formed a commission to deal with the issue of armed Palestinians. "The government has unanimously approved the position of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who has rejected all Palestinian armed presence outside refugee camps," said Information Minister Ghazi Aridi. The Lebanese government has been increasing its efforts to end the armed presence of pro-Syrian Palestinian groups no longer protected by the Syrian military after its departure from Lebanon in April. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Threat of U.S. Church Divestment Over Israel Eases - Michael Conlon
    Some U.S. Protestant churches are turning their back on the idea of dumping investments in Israel, people involved in the issue said on Thursday. Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, along with a debate over whether divestment is the right move in the first place, may have helped cool what looked like a growing trend just a few months ago. "My reading, as a central Jewish player in this, is that there never was a (general) move toward divestment," said David Elcott, director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee. "Here is the reality: No church in the United States except the Presbyterians has voted for divestment." (Reuters)
  • French Envoys Admit Taking Oil Payoffs - Charles Bremner
    Two former French ambassadors have admitted earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of oil that Iraq had assigned to them under the UN Oil-for-Food program. The disclosure tarnished France's moral stand against the invasion of Iraq, and its Foreign Ministry scrambled to distance itself from the alleged illicit activities of Serge Boidevaix, a former director of the ministry, and of Jean-Bernard Merimee, a former French Ambassador to the UN. Both are facing corruption charges. (Times-UK)
        See also The Chirac Doctrine - Olivier Guitta
    With just one-fifth the population of the U.S., France boasts the world's second largest contingent of diplomats, and its consulates and embassies number just eight fewer than the State Department's 260. While Chirac inherited a French foreign policy already tilted toward the Arab world, his pursuit of close personal ties to Arab leaders and his outreach to Islamists, rejectionist Arab states, and groups considered terrorists by the U.S. government is part of a broader strategy to increase French influence in the region. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 14-Year-Old Palestinian Asked to Carry Out Suicide Bombing
    A Palestinian youth aged 14 who had been asked to carry out a suicide attack was arrested in his house in Nablus on October 10. The youth revealed that he had been coerced to carry out a suicide attack by Rabi'ah Farid Mousah Abu Alil, 23, a wanted Tanzim operative from Balata in Nablus. The youth was taken to an apartment where he met with several more wanted men, and his picture was taken with different weapons and flags. Despite the youth's pleas that he be released to his home and left alone, another wanted Tanzim operative from Balata, Jamal Abed El Hamid Mahmad Tirawi, 39 - a high-ranking intelligence official in the Palestinian Authority - and Abu Alil threatened him that if he did not cooperate, they would kill him and claim he had been collaborating with Israel.
        Since the beginning of 2005, the number of Palestinian minors drafted to carry out terror attacks has risen dramatically, despite the period of calm. The youth's testimony raises once more the cynical use of minors and young children by Tanzim operatives in Nablus for the purpose of terror attacks. (Israel Defense Forces, 12Oct05)
  • Fatah Gangs Run Rampant Throughout Gaza Strip - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Al-Azhar University in Gaza City has been shut down after some 20 Fatah gunmen on Wednesday beat university president Dr. Adnan al-Khaldi and forced him to flee. The university administration decided to suspend studies until PA security forces put an end to anarchy. Sources in Gaza City said the attack was apparently in response to the university's decision to expel six Fatah-affiliated students for their involvement in previous cases of violence on campus.
        A report published by the PA Interior Ministry showing that Fatah's armed wing, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, was involved last August in 20 incidents of lawlessness and Hamas in 18 incidents. On Thursday, a family from Khan Yunis announced that their son Fayez Sawwali, 33, who working for the PA Ministry of Waqf, had been kidnapped and that his captors were demanding a $140,000 ransom. In Kabatya near Jenin, Ala Sabaneh, a policeman who was wanted by Israel, was killed and two others injured in armed clashes between rival Fatah gangs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Gunmen in Gaza Release Two Foreign Journalists - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Jerusalem-based American correspondent Dion Nissenbaum and British photographer Adam Pletts, who work for Knight Ridder newspapers, were seized Wednesday by assailants who stopped their car near the town of Khan Yunis and took them away at gunpoint. The two were freed seven hours later, after Palestinian officials made contact with the kidnappers. (Ha'aretz)
        PA Civil Police Chief Ala Hosni said the kidnappers were members of the al-Najjar family, one of the biggest clans in Khan Yunis. He said they wanted jobs in the Palestinian security forces and higher ranks for the clan's members who are already serving in these forces. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Does Pakistan Want Israeli Aid? - Herb Keinon
    Despite an American Jewish Congress press release Tuesday saying Pakistan will accept aid from Israel and American Jewish groups, Jerusalem has still not heard from Islamabad whether it is interested in Israeli assistance, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Palestinians

  • Mideast Knot - Steven Erlanger
    At their first summit meeting last February, at Sharm el-Sheik, Prime Minister Sharon described to Mahmoud Abbas the case of Hasan al-Madhoun, a Gazan and former member of the Palestinian preventive security forces who was responsible for organizing a suicide bombing at Ashdod in March 2004. Sharon asked Abbas to "at least make a start," and provided Madhoun's Gaza address. Abbas promised to arrest him within 48 hours. More than 48 days later, Secretary of State Rice again raised the case of Madhoun to Abbas. Again, he promised an arrest. This time, Madhoun was called into a police station and spent the evening using his cellphone. He left the next day.
        Then, in June, Madhoun recruited a Gazan woman receiving burn treatment at Soroka hospital to blow it up as a suicide bomber. The woman was caught trying to leave Gaza, with a permit to visit the hospital and explosives attached to her underclothes. This story, confirmed by Palestinian officials, is a serious factor in the loss of confidence that both Israel and the U.S. have in the ability of Abbas to show strong leadership in the face of threats to his own rule.
        Among Palestinians themselves, there is a sense that the chaos is only increasing. Abbas is admired by Israel and the U.S., and neither wants him to fail. But at 70 he portrays himself as a transitional figure, meaning that few are willing to make sacrifices for him, especially to save a dysfunctional system. (New York Times)
  • Arab Solidarity? Why Don't They Care About Palestinian "Brothers"? - Editorial
    Last month we noted that Iraqis are getting little help from their fellow Arabs. The other largely unreported - and related - scandal is that Arab governments aren't doing much to help their Palestinian brethren either. According to IMF estimates, Arab countries contributed last year $98 million out of the $332 million in international budget support for the Palestinian Authority. And despite $60-plus oil, the Gulf states still let the West and the World Bank carry most of the burden.
        Arab states have also been reluctant to help out on the diplomatic front. There have been a number of meetings between Arab and Israeli leaders following the Gaza withdrawal but the Arabs still refuse to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Saudi columnist Yousef al-Suwaidan, writing in the Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah, recently urged Arabs to normalize relations with Jerusalem. "A positive Arab response at this particular time will boost the political peace process and a historic reconciliation in the Middle East." Mr. al-Suwaidan is correct, but he assumes that Arab leaders are actually interested in ending a conflict that has served them so well in distracting their peoples from leadership failures. (Wall Street Journal, 13Oct05)
  • Should Hamas be Made Kosher? - Ze'ev Schiff
    An intensive public relations campaign has been conducted on behalf of Hamas in various parts of Europe and the U.S. of late, and not necessarily by Muslims. Among those active in this campaign is Alistaire Crooke, formerly of British intelligence, who worked on behalf of EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana. Even the PA regarded Crooke as a security risk because of his contacts with Hamas, and his work on behalf of the EU has been halted. Lately, he has linked up with other former intelligence officials to act in support of Hamas.
        At a conference at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, IDF Brigadier General Michael Herzog reminded Crooke of a conversation that he had with the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The sheikh told Crooke not to forget that Hamas' position is that Israel won't exist, even within the 1949 borders. Hamas is in many ways similar to bin Laden's organization, and like it, employs terror. That's how it should be treated and it must be fought aggressively, unless it changes its goals and methods. The former CIA station chief in Israel, Stan Moskowitz, asked the conference attendees: can the American president view a terrorist attack that blows up a bus full of passengers in Tel Aviv differently from an attack that blows up a bus full of passengers in London? (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Situation Tests Abbas' Power to Bring Law and Order - Martin Patience
    The struggle to establish law and order in Gaza, the first significant piece of territory under full Palestinian control, is a key test for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the governing Palestinian Authority. The Gaza turmoil has raised concern that Abbas and his government won't be able to contain the factions and militants there, a necessary step toward gaining more territory and establishing a Palestinian state. Mahmoud Zaher, a Hamas leader, says his group won't put down its weapons: "You think the people are foolish enough to run an effective armed struggle against the Israelis...and lastly to give it as a gift for Mr. Abbas, who is running a corrupt system?" (USA Today)
  • Hamas's Participation in the PA Elections - Khaled Amayreh
    Participation or otherwise of Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections presents Abbas and the PA with a real dilemma. On the one hand, the exclusion of Hamas would eviscerate the elections of credibility and democratic substance. Palestinians would view the poll as a big joke. On the other hand, Hamas's participation could result in victory for Islamic candidates and drastically change the Palestinian political panorama. Abbas would be forced to adapt politically to a new reality. This would certainly include a hardening in the overall Palestinian posture vis-a-vis Israel. The PA could be forced to reassert more determinedly erstwhile Palestinian constants, especially with regard to the inviolable status of East Jerusalem and the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.
        Ironically, any Israeli interference would only vindicate groups, such as Islamic Jihad, who have long argued it is pointless to organize elections under occupation and that force must free Palestinians first. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)

    War on Islamic Radicalism

  • Rejection of the War of Attrition - Amir Oren
    The common denominator of Israeli and American policy is the rejection of the war of attrition which adversaries are trying to impose. American policy since September 11, 2001, has been a reaction to the attrition efforts being fomented by errant organizations and regimes and, if there must be attrition, to wage the war far from home. Sources in the General Staff and in Southern Command say that a significant change by new IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is the breathing space he gives the air and ground forces to complete an operation instead of stopping it on the brink of success. (Ha'aretz)
  • America as the Muslim World's Liberator - Joseph Braude
    Bush's latest speech on Islamic radicalism went further than speeches past in defining the Islamist threat: Extremists, he said, "believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia." He slammed Syria and Iran for aiding and abetting militants, while employing "terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America, and on the Jews." And he faulted "elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories and speak of a so-called American war on Islam - with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan, and Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq." There is no denying the boldness and clarity of his counter-narrative, which casts America as the Muslim world's liberator rather than its oppressor.
        Hizballah's television network, Al-Manar, aired large portions of his speech and quoted him accurately in Arabic translation on its website. Perhaps the reason is that when Al-Manar's audiences are confronted head-on with Bush-speak, what they hear is dramatic irony. For every country mentioned by Bush as having been protected by America, Arab popular memories conjure an alternative Islamist account of the same intervention. Whenever Bush slams autocrats for scapegoating Jews, Arab Muslims hear proof that Bush is in the pocket of Jews. (New Republic)
  • Bush's Churchillian Speech - Zalman Shoval
    On October 6, President George W. Bush made what was perhaps the most important speech of his career. Equating Islamist militant ideology with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, Bush said: "Against such an enemy, there's only one effective response; we never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory." Perhaps the most significant aspect of Bush's speech was his reminding the American people of the real sources of Islamist terrorism and explaining why, as was the case with Nazism, there could be no accommodation with it.
        This brings us to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his forthcoming trip to Washington. Fact is that the PA so far has done absolutely nothing to fight terror. None of the terrorist organizations have been disarmed or dissolved - while the PA's own media go on with their customary incitement against Israel and Jews. Israel will surely not repeat the tragic mistake of Oslo and the 2000 Camp David summit, namely giving the Palestinians undeserved credit for something they do not, and probably never intended to do. We will not once again be led astray by the illusion that by ignoring their failure to act that we shall somehow strengthen the forces of peace on the Palestinian side. (Jerusalem Post)

    Iran

  • U.S. Study: World May Have to Live with Nuclear Iran
    Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons and the U.S. may find it less costly to deter a nuclear-armed Iran than to dismantle its weapons program, according to two U.S.-funded researchers who advise the Pentagon. "Can the United States live with a nuclear-armed Iran? Despite its rhetoric, it may have no choice," concluded the report by Judith Yaphe and Air Force Col. Charles Lutes, released Thursday. The potential for rolling back Iran's program, once it produces a nuclear weapon, "is lower than preventing it in the first place and the costs of rollback may be higher than the costs of deterring and containing a nuclear Iran," they said. The two analysts are senior fellows at the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies, which does policy research for the Defense Department.
        The U.S. researchers warned that a U.S. or Israeli pre-emptive military strike likely would rally Iranians around a religious fundamentalist government in Tehran that they might otherwise want to replace, and spur new attacks by Iran-allied groups like Hizballah. The analysts said Tehran was unlikely to use its nuclear capability unless facing an overwhelming threat and while it might become more assertive in the region, superior U.S. capabilities could probably deter significant mischief. (Reuters)
        See also Rumsfeld on Iran
    Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday: "Number one, it does appear to the world, certainly to the European countries that have been working with Iran or trying to work with Iran, that Iran is on a path towards the development of a nuclear capability, much to the distress of the IAEA and the European countries that have been attempting to have them move in a different direction.
        Second, it is true that we have found weaponry from Iran of recent vintage in Iraq recently. And the weapons didn't just walk in there, they were brought in. With what degree of complicity or lack of complicity with the government is something that one can't know with certainty at this stage, but there is a clear concern about the fact that weaponry is coming out of Iran.
        Third, there are certainly Iranian intelligence agents in Iraq attempting to affect the nature of the playing field there." (Federal News Service, 11Oct05)

    Weekend Features

  • Journey to al-Qaeda Land: Yediot Ahronot Reporter Joins American Commandos in Search for Bin Laden - Orly Azoulay
    Thousands of troops are taking part in this manhunt, 24 hours a day. Every day, dozens of patrols head to the Tora Bora mountains in the hopes of finding, if not Bin Laden himself, than at least a lead, or new information about him. When the armored vehicles can no longer proceed, the commandos use donkeys, just to make sure they don't miss a remote cave that hasn't been searched yet. When necessary, soldiers lower themselves to cliffs from helicopters.
        The U.S. tasked the Pakistani military with searching for Bin Laden in Pakistani territory. In Afghanistan, residents are convinced Pakistani President Musharraf is the one who prevents a Bin Laden manhunt in his country. In one interview, Musharraf admitted Bin Laden is more popular in Pakistan than the Americans, and made it clear that if he catches the terrorist leader he would raise his people's ire. (Ynet News)
  • Dutch Unveil the Toughest Face in Europe with a Ban on the Burka - Anthony Browne
    The Netherlands' hardline Integration Minister, Rita Verdonk, told Parliament that she was going to investigate where and when the burka should be banned. The burka, traditional clothing in some Islamic societies, covers a woman's face and body, leaving only a strip of gauze for the eyes. Verdonk warned that the "time of cozy tea-drinking" with Muslim groups had passed and that natives and immigrants should have the courage to be critical of each other. She recently cancelled a meeting with Muslim leaders who refused to shake her hand because she was a woman.
        The Netherlands has become preoccupied by Islamic terrorism after the investigation into the murder of the film-maker Theo van Gogh uncovered a network of Muslim extremists dedicated to destroying the country. Attention has turned to the burka because police authorities have become concerned that a terrorist could use one for concealment. (Times-UK)
  • Vatican Offers Swap Deal to Regain Site of Last Supper - Richard Owen
    The Vatican is hoping to regain control of the Room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in Christianity. It will, in exchange, hand over to the Jewish community the historic synagogue at Toledo in Spain, at present a Catholic church. The proposals, contained in a draft agreement between the Israeli Government and the Vatican, come on the eve of a state visit to the Vatican next month by President Katzav. The Room of the Last Supper is the fourth most holy place in Christendom after the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (Times-UK)
  • Ramadan Ritual: Fast Daily, Pray, Head to the Mall - Hassan M. Fattah
    For a holy month, Ramadan is not what it used to be. Once an ascetic month of fasting, prayer and reflection on God, Ramadan has gradually taken on the commercial trappings of Christmas and Hannukah, from the hanging lights that festoon windows to the Ramadan greeting cards and Ramadan sales and advertising campaigns that have become the backbone of commerce for the month. "Ramadan is changing from a religious month to a cultural or social event," said Muhammad el-Kuwaiz, a Saudi management consultant based in Dubai. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    No Moderate Palestinian Majority - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • The PA continues to disintegrate. Yet there seems to be some mystical belief that the disorder in Gaza is a temporary phenomenon. A single clash between PA and Hamas forces is reported as if the PA "government" was going to move against the terrorist group, but there was no follow-up.
    • Reporting about the recent third round of local Palestinian elections, the Associated Press headline was "Results show Fatah defeats Hamas in vote." In the four rounds of voting for local governments (the fourth will take place on Dec. 8 in the largest cities including Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, and Gaza City), the recent third round took place in areas where Hamas tends to be weakest. Hamas did not run candidates in many areas and Fatah won almost half the councils without opposition. In Beitunya, the largest community in this round of elections, Fatah won six of 13 council seats but Hamas has five.
    • The threat in the general elections is not that Hamas will seize power but that it will form a large part of a blocking majority which will stop Abbas from conducting serious negotiations with Israel. After all, the majority in Fatah is also hard-line. With support for Hamas at about one-third of Palestinians and another 5-10% supporting radical groups (including Islamic Jihad and PFLP), it is hard to see how he is going to build a support base for stopping terrorism or making the compromises necessary to reach peace with Israel.
    • It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is no basis for a moderate majority in Palestinian politics and thus no serious partner for peace with Israel. The key factor here is the unlikelihood there is anyone on the Palestinian side who can negotiate seriously or fulfill their commitments at all, no matter what the West or Israel does.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and edits Middle East Review of International Affairs.


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