Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 26, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

State of Emergency Declared in Amman - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Jordan's security authorities declared a state of emergency and introduced heavy security at all hotels, restaurants, and recreation centers in Amman, the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Sunday.
    The reason for the increased alert is the threats made by al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to carry out additional terror attacks in Jordan if the country continues to assist the U.S. in its war in Iraq and does not cut off its relations with Israel.
    See also Zarqawi and Israel: Is There a New Jihadi Threat Destabilizing the Eastern Front? - Dore Gold and Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)

Al-Qaeda Targeted Bush Last Spring - James Gordon Meek (New York Daily News)
    Before he was captured last May, al-Qaeda's No. 3 leader and top operational commander, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was solely focused on killing President Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharaff, said a senior Pakistani official, whose information was corroborated by two senior U.S. counterterrorism officials.
    Al-Libi organized several failed assassination attempts on Musharraf before he was nabbed by Pakistani and CIA operatives in Pakistan's mountainous North-West Frontier province.
    Al-Libi replaced 9/11 attacks mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.
    Al-Libi's aide and successor, Abu Hamza Rabia, was killed this month in Pakistan by a missile fired from an unmanned CIA predator drone.

Polls: Fatah Will Be a Minority in New PA Parliament - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)
    Based on the polls of the last few days, the balance of power is 35% for Hamas, 30% for Fatah (both old guard and young guard factions), and the rest divided between independents and others.
    Therefore, Fatah will almost certainly be a minority in the new parliament. That will be a real revolution.
    But all this, of course, is provided that the elections take place at all.
    And even if they do, there is definitely a possibility that they will turn into a battlefield, as happened during the Fatah primaries, and that the PA will deteriorate into a new spiral of violence and rioting.
    See also Palestinians Against Fatah - Sever Plocker (Ynet News)
    Over the past decade, the international community has donated $10 billion to the PA, money that has been used to create an ocean of corruption and inefficiency.

Useful Reference:

What is Hanukkah? - Paul Greenberg (Washington Times)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Poll: 65% of Palestinians Support Al-Qaeda Attacks in U.S. and Europe
    According to a survey of Palestinian opinion financed by Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 65% support al-Qaeda actions in the U.S. and Europe, 32% support al-Qaeda actions in Iraq, and 13% support al-Qaeda actions in Jordan.
        Some 69% of Palestinians see violent action as legitimate and half believe that suicide attacks are necessary to force Israel to make political concessions. However, 57% believe the intifada should stop and 74% think that attacks from Gaza should cease. 83% think it is in the Palestinian people's interest to keep the ceasefire with Israel, but only 26% support the use of force by Palestinian security services against those who break the calm. (FAFO-Norway)
  • AIPAC Criticizes White House Policy on Iran - Dafna Linzer
    After years of unwavering support for the Bush administration, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC has begun to sharply criticize the White House over its handling of Iran's nuclear program. In lengthy news releases and talking points circulated to supporters on Capitol Hill, AIPAC describes the Bush administration's recent policy decisions on Iran as "dangerous," "disturbing," and "inappropriate." At issue for AIPAC is Bush's decision last month to hold off on pushing to report Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council. (Washington Post)
  • Testing Egypt, Mubarak Rival Is Sent to Jail - Michael Slackman
    An Egyptian court sentenced Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure, to five years at hard labor on Saturday after convicting him in a forgery case widely seen as a political prosecution aimed at silencing a challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's monopoly on power. The White House released a statement within hours of the verdict calling for Mr. Nour's release and saying that his conviction "calls into question Egypt's commitment to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law." (New York Times)
  • Bethlehem Hosts Huge Christmas Crowds - Nasser Shiyoukhi
    About 30,000 pilgrims converged on Bethlehem on Sunday for Christmas celebrations, about twice as many as last year. For the first time in six years, restaurants were crowded, souvenir sales were brisk, and hotels were full of tourists. More than 1,000 people attended a special service for Filipino worshippers, many of whom work in Israel as health aides. (AP/Newsday)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas: Gaza Rockets Are "Israel's Problem" - Amos Harel
    Senior Israel Defense Forces officials and Shin Bet security service officials have said recently during internal discussions that Abbas has said that the Kassam rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel are "Israel's problem" and that he does not intend to interfere. "Let the Israelis deal with it," he said. The Israeli officials attribute the continuing launches, including the recent focus on Ashkelon, to specific directives from the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad in Damascus. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel to Implement Anti-Rocket "Security Zone" in Northern Gaza - Herb Keinon
    Israel will implement its "no-go" policy in the northern Gaza Strip as soon as weather permits the IDF's state-of-the-art technology to accurately identify and fire on anything that moves in the area, a senior government official said Sunday. In a special meeting of top security officials, Prime Minister Sharon ordered the implementation of the buffer zone policy designed to keep terrorists launching Kassam rockets from entering the areas in northern Gaza where they have been able to fire on southern Ashkelon. When the policy is implemented, the Palestinians would be warned that anyone who entered the two-kilometer no-go zone would be fired upon.
        Defense Minister Mofaz asked the government to allocate an additional NIS 125 million to reinforce homes and public institutions in communities bordering Gaza that are at high risk of Palestinian rocket attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Islamic Jihad Vows Harsh Response to "Security Zone" - Ali Waked (Ynet News); Palestinian Resistance Committees: "We Have Detailed Maps of Israeli Military Camps" - Saed Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
  • Gaza Gunmen Turned Back at Egypt Border - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Several Palestinian militiamen who tried to cross the Rafah border into Egypt on Sunday were turned back by PA policemen and European monitors. One was Jamal Abu Samhadana, the overall commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group responsible for many attacks including the attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy in October 2003 in which three Americans were killed. A senior PA security official said that the Egyptian authorities were responsible for the ban. "The Egyptians don't want these guys," the official explained. "They threatened to arrest Abu Samhadana if he entered Egypt." Abu Samhadana was recently recruited to the PA security forces as a senior officer. He quoted PA security officials as saying that his name appeared on a "blacklist" of 15 Palestinians who were not permitted to travel through the border crossing. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Reining in Iran - Bill Frist
    For years, the U.S. has maintained sanctions on Iran that prohibit most trade, investment and assistance. And because Iran is on our list of state sponsors of terrorism, U.S. law requires the president to oppose all multilateral assistance to Iran in international forums and impose sanctions on those who aid its weapons programs or invest in its energy sector. Now, we should persuade other countries to follow our lead.
        Although we should continue IAEA discussions with Iran - a process that has given us insights into its nuclear program - we need to ask allies who trade with Iran to join a sanctions campaign against Tehran. A multinational sanctions regime might begin with an embargo on technologies that Iran can use in its nuclear program. If we let Tehran develop nuclear weapons covertly while IAEA negotiations slog forward, Iran's theocrats will have little reason to negotiate with anyone. The writer is Senate majority leader. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also The Elephant in the Gulf: Arab States and Iran's Nuclear Program - Simon Henderson
    At the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), held in Abu Dhabi on December 18 and 19, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman avoided confronting Iran directly on its suspected nuclear weapons program. Instead, these member states confronted Israel. At a news conference after the end of the summit, GCC secretary-general Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Attiyah - asked why the final communique had not mentioned Iran's nuclear program - simply acknowledged that the leaders had discussed it, giving no indication it was a central component of the summit. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Ending the Silent War in Egypt - Hala Mustafa
    The real threat of Egypt's state security apparatus, as in many other Middle Eastern states, is that it continues to secretly manipulate the entire political system. American and domestic efforts to promote political reform in the region will achieve only cosmetic changes, of the kind we've seen so far, unless this clandestine chokehold is broken.
        The media are subjected to the same control. Even private, independent papers are held hostage to the security services, which have the power to license and shut down any newspaper and which exercise similar control over the granting of licenses to journalists. The same goes for TV stations - including al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored satellite channel, which is supposed to be providing uncensored news from an American point of view. From the beginning, al-Hurra's operation in Egypt was subject to the covert control of the security services. While al-Hurra is supposed to be a vibrant, fresh forum for freedom, it has failed to provide a real space for balanced views, and so it has been incapable of competing with the "Islamic" al-Jazeera and "pan-Arabist" al-Arabiya channels.
        Unless the security services are reined in, real political change and efforts to implement "reform from within" will continue to be blocked in Egypt and across the Middle East. The enlightened political elite will remain powerless, individuals who can make genuine contributions will be systematically targeted, moderate groups and trends will continue to be excluded, and most citizens will remain absent from political life (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    A Shah With a Turban - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, 23Dec05)

    • Since Iran's president has raised the subject of "myths," why stop with the Holocaust? Let's talk about Iran. Let's start with the myth that Iran is an Islamic "democracy" and that Ahmadinejad was democratically elected. Sure he was elected - after all the Iranian reformers had their newspapers shut down and parties and candidates banned by the unelected clerics who really run the show in Tehran.
    • Sorry Ahmadinejad, they don't call it "democracy" when you ban your most popular rivals from running. So you are nothing more than the Shah with a turban and a few crooked ballot boxes sprinkled around.
    • And before we leave this subject of myths, let me add one more - the myth that anyone in the world would pay a whit of attention to the bigoted slurs of Iran's president if his country were not sitting on a dome of oil and gas. Iran has an energetic and educated population, but the ability of Iranians to innovate and realize their full potential has been stunted ever since the Iranian revolution.
    • "The West has lost its leverage," notes Gal Luft, an energy expert at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. Europe is addicted to Iran's oil and to Iran's purchases of European goods. At the same time, the Iranian regime has been very clever at petro-diplomacy.
    • After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, "the Iranians knew they needed an insurance policy," added Luft, "So they did two things: They concentrated on developing a bomb and went out and struck gas deals with one-third of humanity - India and China," the world's two fastest growing energy consumers. As such, it is very unlikely that China would ever allow the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran.

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