Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Britain Signs Landmark Eurofighter Contract with Saudis - Angela Jameson (Times-UK)
See also Saudi Boycott of Israel to Continue (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
- December 22, 2005
Issue of the Week:
The fate of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East
Lebanon Slams U.S. Request to Hand Over Hizballah Hijacker - Rym Ghazal (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Witness Upstages Saddam - Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph-UK)
U.S. Army Finds Ammunition Buried in Iraq - Ryan Lenz (AP/ABC News)
IDF Chief in Turkey to Discuss Military Cooperation with Ankara (AP/Ha'aretz)
Jordan Picks New Spy Chief to Fight Militants - Suleiman al-Khalidi (Reuters)
Gunmen Block Gaza Road to Demand Jobs (Reuters)
IDF Gets Three New Female Pilots - Yossi Yehushua (Ynet News)
U.S. Halts Arabic Magazine Meant to Boost U.S. Image - Saul Hudson (Reuters)
World's Debts to Israel Double to $23B - Zeev Klein (Globes)
From Russia with Love, Via the U.S. - Daphna Berman (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The head of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition force in parliament, echoed Iran's president on Thursday in describing the World War Two Holocaust of European Jews as a myth. "Western democracy has attacked everyone who does not share the vision of the sons of Zion as far as the myth of the Holocaust is concerned," Mohamed Mahdi Akef said. He accused the U.S. House of Representatives of hypocrisy when it threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Islamist movement Hamas takes part in January elections. He also criticized EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana for saying that Europeans might think twice about aid to the Palestinians if Hamas members were in parliament. Hamas says it is an extension of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and believes in armed struggle to replace Israel with an Islamic state. (Reuters)
See also Hamas Coordinating with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas and Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood, which have historical ties, have begun coordinating their moves ahead of next month's Palestinian parliamentary elections, PA security officials said on Monday. Meanwhile, Said Siam, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, announced on Monday that his movement was planning to form the new PA cabinet after it wins a majority of seats in parliament.
One of the Hamas candidates for the parliamentary elections, Miriam Farhat, met in Cairo over the weekend with Mahdi Akef, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Farhat emerged as the "mother of martyrs" after she appeared on a Hamas videotape encouraging her 17-year-old son, Muhammad, to participate in a suicide mission. Farhat said that Hamas's decision to participate in the parliamentary elections does not mean that the Islamic movement has abandoned the "military option." Akef, who held a warm reception for her, declared that the "resistance was the only way to end the Israeli presence in Palestine." He added: "We welcome the Jews in Palestine only as individuals, but we don't agree to their presence there as a state." (Jerusalem Post)
The UN Development Program's Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People announced Thursday that it has received a $25 million grant from the government of Israel for the clearance and rehabilitation of the sites of the evacuated Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. UNDP was asked to undertake the rehabilitation project by Israel, the PA, and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Quartet, James Wolfensohn. More than 1.2 million tons of debris and rubble are to be cleared and recycled for use as road paving and building materials, employing several hundred Palestinian workers. (United Nations)
Since results from Iraq's national assembly election trickled out this week showing that Shiite Muslims - many backed by neighboring Iran - would dominate the new parliament, Sunni Muslims have begun to ask: Is Israel really Iraq's enemy, or is it neighboring Iran? "I think that Iran is more dangerous to Iraq than Israel because of the assassinations that the Iranians have been doing," said Added Hamid Hashim, 30, referring to recent killings of prominent Sunnis. "I hated Israel before the war, but now I hate Iran even more."
Mithal al-Alusi ran for the new parliament while calling for stronger ties between Israel and Iraq, and appears to have won a seat. In May 2004, al-Alusi publicly admitted to visiting Israel the year before. His only two sons were assassinated in January because of his support of Iraqi-Israeli cooperation, he said. But he said that some Iraqis are warming to a stronger relationship with Israel, in part because they are frightened of Iran's influence. "We don't have border problems with Israel. We don't have historical problems with Israel," he said, just Iran. (Knight Ridder/Miami Herald)
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained.
The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). At its peak, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle. In Washington, the sites monitored have included prominent mosques and office buildings in suburban Maryland and Virginia. (U.S. News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
To defend Israel from Palestinian Kassam rocket attacks, the Israel Air Force will aerially monitor districts in the Gaza Strip most likely to be launching-sites and open fire if suspicious activity is spotted. Unlike recent army responses to rocket attacks, potential air force targets will be populated areas, and not empty spaces. The IDF said it would notify civilians in targeted areas a number of hours before any attacks occur.
"Until now, the rockets have been terrorist acts, but now they constitute an act of war," said Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, "and we will react with commensurate severity." Gissin said that a new operation would aim to create an "intolerable situation" for the population in Gaza to pressure the Palestinian Authority into clamping down on cross-border attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Mofaz Orders Creation of "Security Zone" in Northern Gaza to Protect Israel Against Palestinian Rockets - Uri Glickman
In light of the continuing Kassam rocket fire, Defense Minister Mofaz ordered the security establishment to continue targeted interceptions of terrorists and to ban the movement of Palestinians in areas from which rockets are being fired; anyone who enters these zones risks being fired upon. (Maariv-Hebrew)
A Palestinian man who was allowed to live in Israeli as part of the family reunification program drove the suicide bomber and his handler to Hadera where they carried out an attack last October which killed six people. Fakri Mantzur, originally from Atil near Tulkarm, had moved to the Israeli Arab town of Jat. According to security sources, Mantzur knew full well his passenger was a suicide bomber. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Three Molotov Cocktails Thrown at Israeli Car
Three Molotov cocktails were thrown at an Israeli car near Ramallah on Thursday, Army Radio reported. No injuries were reported. (Jerusalem Post)
Last week Yossi Shok, a resident of Beit Haggai, was killed in the Hebron area. Shok, the father of five, picked up two sisters, girls from his settlement, on his way home. A car overtook them just one kilometer from home and a hail of deadly gunfire hit Shok and the girls. The lives of the two hitchhikers were saved thanks to a toolbox that stopped the terrorists' bullets. Within seconds, the murderers turned onto a dirt road that leads to one of the nearby Palestinian villages. The murderous Hamas cell in Hebron had struck again. This cell has been operating in the area for more than half a year.
Traditionally in this area, the quality of intelligence has been problematic. The Islamic Jihad and Hamas networks that operate in the town and its environs maintain strict compartmentalization, and rely on a clan structure - a brother, a cousin, at most a neighbor. It is difficult to penetrate them. The target is always easy: a group of children at a hitchhiking post near a settlement or an unarmored civilian car in which the only person bearing arms inside will not be able to react before he is hit. In this way six Israeli civilians have been killed, three of them children, in three shooting attacks. (Ha'aretz)
The West Bank Civil Administration sponsored a tour for diplomats of the new Kalandia crossing terminal north of Jerusalem last Monday. While representatives of the EU boycotted the tour, representatives of the American Consulate and the Australian mission participated.
The pedestrian component consists of a roofed waiting area, five roofed lanes leading up to a number of iron turnstiles, and an electromagnetic gate with X-ray equipment to check belongings and coats. One lane is reserved for school children in the morning. Soldiers in three closed buildings between the lanes examine the identity cards of those crossing. A pedestrian who sets off a buzzer is taken to a side room to be searched. Two special gates are for the passage of wheelchair users and baby carriages. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Egypt's Ayman Nour, a 41-year-old member of parliament and a secular democrat, is back in prison, having been deprived by fraud of his parliamentary seat. On Saturday, an Egyptian judge notorious for handling Mubarak's dirty work is expected to sentence him to prison. Nour is one of Egypt's foremost proponents of a secular liberal democracy, credited with 8% of the vote in the presidential election. The charge against him, forgery, was proved a fabrication five months ago, when one of the principal witnesses recanted in court, saying he had been forced by state security police to invent his testimony. If Bush's commitment to freedom fighters means anything at all, he cannot allow this blatant act of injustice to go unchallenged.
Each year, the U.S. provides Mubarak's regime with $1.8 billion in military and economic aid; without that money for his generals it's doubtful the aged president could remain in office. Mubarak's vindictive persecution of Nour, whom he perceives as a political rival to his son Gamal, has outraged much of Egypt's political establishment, which would quietly welcome U.S. intervention. The imprisonment of Nour will provide Bush with an opportunity - and an imperative - to fight for the cause of democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East. Standing with Ayman Nour means standing against military aid for Mubarak until this democratic reformer is free. (Washington Post)
For the first time in months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can relax. After facing international pressure for its presumed role in the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syria last week made the UN Security Council blink. The consequences will be felt hardest in Lebanon, which has yet to break free from Syria's stranglehold. Unless the Bush administration and its European allies, particularly France, reverse this trend, they risk losing everything they have worked for in the country during the past year.
The Lebanese worry that the Bush administration has cut a deal, whereby Syria will give it assistance in Iraq in exchange for breathing space in Lebanon. The complexities of a Security Council investigation are becoming all too apparent: To retain unanimity in the Council, the U.S. and France have ceded much ground to Russia and China, who hesitate to punish Syria. Russia in particular fears that collapse of the Assad regime might lead to chaos, and is backed in this by the Arab states. In Washington, where Iraq withdrawal mode has taken over, "realists" enamored with stability are making a comeback, and also seem to prefer Assad to the unknown. The international community cannot continue backing a UN investigation of the Syrian regime while also saving Assad's bacon.
The Security Council must use the next two months to definitively determine if Syria is serious about cooperating with the UN inquiry. If it is not, the Council can impose sanctions on senior Syrian officials, or on the economy as a whole, including oil exports. It can issue a new resolution that places the burden of forming an international or mixed tribunal on the UN's shoulders, rather than on that of the Lebanese. And it can expand the UN commission's mandate to include all recent political crimes, on the grounds that these are extensions of the Hariri affair. The writer, a Lebanese national, is opinion editor at the Daily Star in Beirut. (Wall Street Journal, 23Dec05)
For the past 40 years, a small, historically marginal religious minority has dominated and ruled Sunni-majority Syria. This Alawi people, never considered to be Arab, adhere to a religious stream so divergent from Islam that its members were not considered Muslims. Indeed, they turned mosques that intermittent alien Muslim rulers imposed upon them into horse stables. They did not fast during Ramadan, or go on the haj to Mecca. Yet the Alawis, only 12% of Syria's population, seized power in Damascus in 1966, holding it until today.
The disintegration of the Alawi tribal state in Damascus could unleash the forces of centrifugal fragmentation in Syria to encompass, in addition to the Alawis based in northwestern Syria, the Druse in the south and Kurds in the northeast. The "Zionist virus," as the Arabs call it, would then spread and grant liberty to small peoples on the model of the Jews of Israel. Buoyed by a dialectical twist of history, the political transformations would serve Israel's strategic benefit. A tamed or divided Syria would neutralize Israel's last major Arab protagonist, after Egypt and Iraq, from active aggression. (Jerusalem Post)
Iran's president is a menace. A nation led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs to be kept as far from nuclear weapons as possible. Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and call for destruction of Israel should sound alarms far beyond the Middle East and Europe; the UN needs to be ready with sanctions if Tehran refuses to yield on atomic weapons and open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. (Los Angeles Times)
The way Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells it, the Islamic Republic is well on the way to establishing itself as "the leader of the Muslim world" in what he describes as "the coming clash of civilizations." In a speech in Teheran last Sunday, Ahmadinejad claimed that the Islamic Republic had already won the first round against "arrogant Crusader-Zionist powers" led by the U.S. One sign of that victory, according to Ahmadinejad, is the decision by the EU trio of Britain, Germany, and France to resume negotiations on the Iranian nuclear dossier. The trio had walked out of the talks five months ago and stated it would not return until Iran stopped uranium processing at a plant in Isfahan. Well, Iran did not stop, and the Europeans returned to the negotiating table. "The Europeans have returned with their tails between their legs," says Shariat Madari, editor of the daily Kayhan. (Jerusalem Post)
At a time when most Arab governments, including the elected Palestinian leadership, have come to accept Israel's existence as an unalterable fact, non-Arab Iran continues to call for eradication of the Jewish state. In actuality, however, the Middle Eastern country where Ahmadinejad's declarations resonate least is Iran. By pressing a dogmatic position on Israel, Ahmadinejad may perceive an opportunity to rekindle the long-extinguished revolutionary fires and reclaim Iran's leadership of radical Islam.
There exists no inherent reason why the Israeli-Palestinian struggle should be an overriding concern to the average Iranian. Iran has no territorial disputes with Israel, no Palestinian refugee problem, a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and an even longer history of tolerance vis-a-vis the Jewish people. To this day, the Jewish community in Iran is the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel. Karim Sadjadpour is an analyst with the International Crisis Group. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Boston Globe)
"We are Muslims," says Munir, a Hamas activist and former member of Fatah, who is not an official Hamas spokesman. "We vote for Islam because Islam is the solution - on every level....From a religious perspective, Muslims cannot legitimize a State of Israel in this region. The Islamic movement would lose its identity if it recognized Israel as a state."
"People don't turn to religion out of despair. Palestinians are religious by nature. They are what you call mesorati [Munir uses the Hebrew word] - traditional. An overwhelming majority are mesorati. And secondly, the PA may have failed, but in the meantime, the Palestinians have grown up. This process of maturation has led them to seek a better alternative." (Ha'aretz)
On Dec. 13, I attended an emergency conference at the UN's New York headquarters to discuss "Protection of Religious Sites and Prevention of the Use of Violence to Incite Terrorism/Violence." It was called by the Ethics Initiatives Consortium (EIC) and the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). EIC co-chairs Prof. Amir al-Islam and Shoshana Bekerman wrote in their invitation that they hoped "to prevent future tragedies such as the desecration of the Gush Katif synagogues." Unfortunately, the conference suggested that the UN will do nothing to stop murder or desecration of holy sites in the name of religion - for it seems that no one is willing to confront Muslim denial that fanatics use Islam to incite religious hatred and destruction - much less stop the fanatics.
Talal A. Turfe, co-chairman of the National Conference for Community and Justice, proposed that the conference adopt a project to protect holy sites in Jerusalem. No one, not even the Israeli rabbis, protested. In reality, the only Jerusalem religious site in danger from human destruction is the Temple Mount, which Muslims have excavated, thereby destroying priceless Jewish artifacts and undermining the Mount's foundation itself. (FrontPageMagazine)
A $2.5 million endowment was made to the Harvard Divinity School by Sheikh Zayed, the dictatorial ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, for the creation of a chair of Islamic studies. Upon learning of this donation, Rachel Fish, a graduate student at the school, took the initiative to expose Sheikh Zayed's multiple abuses of human rights, including the use of child slave labor, and his indulgence in anti-Semitic propaganda. This led to the closure of the Zayed Center, the sheikh's think tank in Abu Dhabi. Fish's almost single-handed action led Harvard to suspend the funding for lengthy investigations. Ultimately, Sheikh Zayed withdrew his donation. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
For Israel's high-tech industry, it's beginning to look a lot like the 1990s. Demand for high-tech workers is up almost 19% this year, foreign investment rose sharply in 2005, and exports continue to climb. The number of new startups rose for a second year in a row. Economic recoveries in the U.S., Western Europe, and the Far East have sparked an upturn in demand, with 85% of the local high-tech industry's production earmarked for foreign markets.
Israeli civilian high-tech exports rose by nearly 10% in 2005, to $16.6 billion, representing nearly half of Israel's industrial exports, the highest percentage anywhere in the world. In 2005, local and foreign venture-capital funds plowed $1.5 billion into new ventures in communications, software, the Internet, and life sciences. Foreign investment totaled $6.8 billion in the first three quarters of 2005.
On Dec. 1, Intel announced that it was building a $3.5 billion chip plant in Israel, the largest investment ever by an industrial company in Israel. Israel was responsible for the development of Intel's Centrino mobile technology that powers millions of laptops. Other big names in high tech - including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Vishay Intertechnology, IBM, and Siemens - have all announced large-scale investments or have acquired Israeli startups in recent months. Most projections are for Israel's economy to grow by more than 5% in 2006. (Business Week)
Within the Gates - Fouad Ajami (U.S. News)
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