Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Congress Works to Ban Hamas - Nathan Guttman (Jerusalem Post)
Jenin Terrorist Commander: "Move the Bulldozers, The Wanted Men Give Up" - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular (Ha'aretz)
Israelis Warned of Abductions Abroad - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
IAI Denies Its Drones Crashed in India - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
Barricaded in Paris - Mireille Silcoff (National Post-Canada)
The Jews, Israel, and India - Interview with Nathan Katz by Manfred Gerstenfeld (JCPA)
Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Iran Nonproliferation Amendments Act of 2005, signed Tuesday, significantly toughens existing law by enabling sanctions against third parties or countries that deal with Syria. Currently, sanctions are limited to direct U.S.-Syria trade.
President Bush may choose to suspend the provisions of the bill for now, but his administration has suggested in recent weeks that sanctions may be toughened because of Syria's failure to cooperate with a UN investigation into the murder of a former Lebanese prime minister, its alleged support for Iraqi insurgents, and its failure to shut down the Damascus offices of Palestinian terrorist groups. (JTA)
See also Syrians Preparing for Sanctions - Ziad Ghisn
The majority of Syrians are convinced that sanctions are inevitable, though official economic teams underscore several indicators of the economy's ability to cope with sanctions. Syria has foreign currency reserves exceeding $18 billion which are sufficient to finance the country's imports for 29 months. Moreover, Syrian agricultural production is high and it is self-sufficient in cereals, cotton, and olives.
According to Abdullah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, any siege will not be limited to Syria but will affect its neighbors, especially Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Arab Gulf countries. Dardari explained that 40% of Iraq's foreign trade is processed through Syrian ports, especially imports. Lebanon depends completely on Syria as a land outlet for its exports to Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Arab Gulf countries. Turkey also looks at Damascus as its only gate for reaching Gulf markets. (UPI)
Iran has documents that serve no other purpose than showing how to produce nuclear warheads, it was revealed Thursday. The news came from Mohamed El Baradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who told a meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board in Vienna that the country was in possession of what appeared to be drawings of the core of an atomic warhead. (Scotsman-UK)
See also Iran Dumps Russian Nuke Plan - Pyotr Goncharov
Under a discussed compromise plan, Russia would enrich Iran's uranium and produce nuclear fuel. But Golamreza Aghazadeh, president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, rejected the initiative, saying that "Iranian nuclear fuel should be produced in the national territory." (UPI)
See also U.S. and EU "Losing Patience" with Iran - Daniel Dombey
The U.S. and EU Thursday tried to build a common international front on Iran's nuclear program when they told a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog that Tehran had to increase its cooperation quickly. They warned patience was wearing thin, especially after the uncovering of a document in Iran's possession on casting uranium into hemispheres, a process whose primary use is for engineering nuclear explosions. (Financial Times-UK)
The U.S. appears resigned to waiting for Israeli and Palestinian elections to wrap up in the spring before making any significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. "In the short run, it probably slows things down," said a senior U.S. official. "It's hard to believe you're going to get very ambitious negotiations on anything in this three-month period before elections." The U.S. administration says that "technical" discussions between Israelis and Palestinians on implementing existing agreements will continue. (AFP/Yahoo)
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people, mostly women and children. Four American troops were wounded. (Washington Post)
See also Iraq Army Seizes Booby-Trapped Toy Dolls
The Iraqi army said it had seized a number of booby-trapped children's dolls, each one containing a grenade or other explosive, in the western Baghdad district of Abu Ghraib. "This is the same type of doll as that handed out on several occasions by U.S. soldiers to children," said government spokesman Leith Kubba. (AFP/Yahoo)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Rafik al-Hasanat, a senior member of Hamas who has been wanted by Israel for more than a decade, returned to Gaza on Wednesday through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt. A senior member of the armed wing of Hamas, Izzaddin Kassam, Hasanat fled to Egypt in 1993 and has been hiding in Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Jordan. Sources close to Hamas said many of its activists, including top leaders, have managed to return to Gaza since the Israeli pullout. (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF confirmed reports that a large bomb factory had been uncovered by troops operating in Jenin on Tuesday. The troops found mortar shells, large amounts of explosives, components for making explosives, and IDF equipment inside the factory. (Jerusalem Post)
A Palestinian carrying guns and explosive devices was nabbed Thursday at the Hawara checkpoint, south of the West Bank town of Nablus. In the past two months, the IDF has thwarted more than 17 attempts to smuggle weapons through the checkpoint. Pvt. Gal Zavatsky described the incident: "I stood next to the metal detector at the checkpoint. A 16-year-old Palestinian arrived, looking frightened. He approached me, carrying a bag which looked like a school bag....I opened one of the zippers and saw two improvised pipe bombs. I became suspicious, opened the other zipper and found two improvised handguns."
This is the third time that Zavatsky has thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons through the Hawara checkpoint. "The first time, a Palestinian tried to smuggle five improvised explosive devices, and the second time a Palestinian tried to smuggle an IDF mortar shell." "I live in Tel Aviv, and when I am here doing my job together with all my friends, I know that my family in Tel Aviv can live in peace," he said. (Ynet News)
The army revealed Thursday that Border Police and IDF forces thwarted an attempt to smuggle arms from Egypt into Israel. Security forces spotted three suspects crossing the border near Mount Sagi, and searching the area uncovered three sacks containing 15 Kalachnikov rifles and 15 ammunition clips. Since the beginning of the year security forces have captured 138 rifles near the Israeli-Egyptian border. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
In a talk he delivered in Washington two months ago, former Israeli security chief Avi Dichter said that Israel, along with the U.S., Britain and other countries, had erred in believing that a tough reaction to terrorism would heighten suicide bombings and other attacks. The determining variable, according to Dichter, is intelligence. In the absence of good intelligence, terror will strike first. If the reaction to the first terrorist attack is flaccid, the next attack will be even more vicious. In order to cripple the infrastructure and forge deterrence, Dichter believes, there must be no recoil from the use of massive means, including warplanes.
Hamas' agreement to a cease-fire was obtained after its leaders were targeted in a no-holds-barred fashion, using all available methods; states under attack must not make do with delicate rules of balance and "fair play." IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz shared this school of thought and implemented it in the form of Operation First Rain, which restrained Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. (Ha'aretz)
At the end of last week, the French were notified of a "Red Alert" - the highest level warning, from concern with a wave of al-Qaeda attacks. Christof Shabu, the head of French counter-terrorism, told Yediot Ahronot that the terrorist groups may not have been behind the outburst in the suburbs, but they are going to profit from it. Shabu rejects the argument that France had not been attacked because of its policy on Iraq. He says there are hundreds of terrorists in France and the reason there have been no attacks is because of the French success in thwarting them.
"We have the toughest laws and enforcement policy against terrorism. Last year 120 individuals were stopped who belonged to radical Islamic groups and we thwarted many planned attacks." Shabu reveals that the next objective of global terrorism is a "dirty bomb" containing radiological material. "We are witnessing a constant effort by al-Qaeda and other organizations to obtain fissionable material in Eastern Europe. We know that they have devleoped certain strains of anthrax, but we are not sure of the extent of their success." Shabu has only praise for the Israeli security services. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 24Nov05)
See also France: A New Commonality of Interests with Israel - Amos Harel
The French - yes, the French - are taking positions almost identical to Israeli policy. France is now taking a tough, rightist European stand with respect to the Iranian nuclear plan and Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Senior French officials stress they are viewing the threat from Tehran with eyes similar to Israel's. The new French line is not connected to the riots in the poor quarters. (Ha'aretz)
Bashar al-Assad is perceived as politically condemned, a dead president walking, whose remaining time in office is loudly ticking away. In the past two weeks, there have been growing signs that Assad is beginning to lose his grip on Syria. The challenge is how to ease Assad out of power without causing Syria to collapse, and how to do away with the ruling Baath Party without inviting terror organizations to fill the vacuum, as happened in Iraq. The next moment of truth will probably come on Dec. 15, when the extension granted to Detlev Mehlis, the special investigator appointed by the UN to probe Hariri's murder, runs out. The chances are growing that one of those Syrians under investigation will open his mouth to save his own skin. (Jerusalem Report)
See also Former Head of Lebanese Intel Branch Arrested as Time Runs Out for Syria to Cooperate - Rym Ghazal
The former head of the Lebanese monitoring services of military intelligence, Ghassan Tufeili, was arrested Thursday by the Internal Security Forces at the orders of UN probe team chief Detlev Mehlis. It is understood that Tufeili has information about phone calls placed by the slain former Premier Rafik Hariri and other officials.
Friday is the last day for Syria to cooperate with Mehlis and allow him to interrogate six senior Syrian intelligence officers over their role in the assassination. Security Council Resolution 1636 says Syria "must fully cooperate" with Mehlis or face serious consequences. Diplomatic sources at the UN stated these consequences may be sanctions on Syria, starting with prohibiting the sale of Syrian oil and preventing the sale of arms to Syria from Russia and other countries and possible military punishment. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
If you see it at first hand, you will have no doubt that this is a very nasty and dangerous regime. I will never forget talking in Tehran to a student activist who had been confined and abused in the prison where Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten so severely that she later died of her wounds. Half the Iranian population are subjected to systematic curtailment of their liberty simply because they are women. Two homosexuals were recently executed. The backbone of the political system is still an ideological dictatorship with totalitarian aspirations: not communism, but Khomeinism.
If you go there, you find that many Iranians - especially among the two-thirds of the population who are under 30 - hate their regime much more than we do. Given time, and the right kind of support from the world's democracies, they will eventually change it from within. But most of them think their country has as much right to civilian nuclear power as anyone else, and many feel it has a right to nuclear arms. These young Persians are pro-democracy and rather pro-American, but also fiercely patriotic.
Our problem is that the nuclear clock and the democracy clock may be ticking at different speeds. To get to peaceful regime change from within could take at least a decade, although President Ahmadinejad is hastening that prospect as he sharpens the contradictions within the system. (Guardian-UK)
See also Iran's Parliament Rejects President Ahmadinejad's 3rd Pick for Oil Post - Nazila Fathi
Iran's Parliament on Wednesday rejected President Ahmadinejad's third nominee for oil minister. Many conservative members of Parliament who supported Ahmadinejad's election have become his most serious critics since he took office in August. (New York Times)
For all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow 17% next year. According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations, and more than 100 newspapers. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Iraq Index: Tracking Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (Saban Center for Middle East Policy-Brookings Institution)
The Italian political left - long accused by its critics of at best, lacking objectivity by espousing the Palestinian cause against Israel, or, at worst, being blatantly anti-Semitic - is in the throes of reevaluating its stance on the Jewish state. For many, a demonstration earlier this month at the Iranian embassy in Rome organized by the right-wing Rome daily, Il Foglio, in the wake of remarks by Iran's president who called for Israel to be wiped off the map, signaled a turning point. Piero Fassino, leader of Italy's largest political party, the Left Democrats - created from the ashes of the Italian Communist party - together with many flag-waving party militants joined other demonstrators at the gates of the Iranian embassy.
On Thursday, Fassino participated in a debate on "The Left and Israel" held in Rome. Fassino suggested that in the past the left, not just in Italy but also elsewhere in Europe, may have been guilty of "cultural relativism" when approaching the conflict in the Middle East - an attitude that led to the condemnation of Israel, but tolerance of some of the autocratic practices of its Arab neighbors. "The lack of democracy in an Islamic nation was 'justified' on the basis that that nation was Islamic," Fassino said, adding that "It is time that certain universal rights are accepted as being absolute."
Federico Steinhaus, an historian and president of the Jewish community in the northern city of Merano, argued that the left, and much of its media and newspapers, continued to display typical historical anti-Jewish "prejudices" akin to those adopted by Israel's Islamist enemies. (AKI-Italy)
South African Muslims have a very simplistic view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and do not seem to understand the complexity of tensions emanating from various factions inside Israeli and Palestinian society. Our simplistic understandings lead us to applaud when Iranian President Ahmadinejad says that Israel should be wiped off the map. The fact that this was tried in 1948, 1967, and 1973 and failed seems to have been ignored.
In South African Muslim circles, Hamas often gets a lot of positive press whereas Mahmoud Abbas and the PA are seen as either ineffective in securing concessions from Israel, or worse, seen as collaborators. However, the destructive and counter-productive nature of violence as a strategy to secure territorial concessions is increasingly recognized by Palestinian society. The writer is Director of the Center for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria. (Jerusalem Post)
Hizballah Rocks the Boat - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
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