Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

January 20, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda's Mad Scientist: The Significance of Abu Khabab's Death - Dan Darling (Daily Standard)
    Before his untimely demise last week in Pakistan, Abu Khabab al-Masri was one of the most reclusive members of the al-Qaeda leadership.
    A senior member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, he was among the dozens of Islamists arrested in the 1980s for participation in the conspiracy to kill Anwar Sadat.
    The U.S. government offered a $5,000,000 reward for his capture.
    In the late 1990s he was in charge of his own facility at al-Qaeda's Darunta training camp in Afghanistan.
    In May 1999 the al-Qaeda leadership, spearheaded by the group's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, decided to establish an unconventional weapons program codenamed "al-Zabadi" ("curdled milk"), to be headed by Khabab.
    Al-Qaeda videotapes aired on CNN in 2002 showed Khabab and several assistants killing three dogs in crude chemical weapons experiments using what is believed to have been hydrogen cyanide, the same agent used in gas chambers in Nazi death camps.
    Following the fall of the Taliban, Khabab resurfaced in a February 2003 CNN report on a series of suspected chemical and biological terrorist plots in France and the UK. CNN reported that "some of the men recently arrested in Europe were trained by Khabab not only in Afghanistan, but also in the Caucasus."


Israel HighWay
- January 19, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    The Iranian Threat to Israel, the U.S., and the West

Threat from Al-Qaeda's Anti-Aircraft Missiles Increasing - Jonathan D. Halevi (NewsFirstClass-Hebrew)
    Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq have shot down three American helicopters in recent weeks using "Stinger" missiles.
    Concern is growing in Israel over the threat posed by al-Qaeda's anti-aircraft missiles, after a Katyusha rocket fired by al-Qaeda last August from the Jordanian port of Aqaba landed near Israel's Eilat civilian airport.


Hamas Threatens to Kidnap Israeli Soldiers (UPI)
    Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar threatened Wednesday to kidnap Israeli soldiers to swap for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
    "We will have no rest until all prisoners are released unconditionally," he said.
    Al-Zahar said his group will not negotiate with Israel and that the issue is not on its agenda.


New-Look Hamas Spends £100k on an Image Makeover - Chris McGreal (Guardian-UK)
    Hamas is paying a spin doctor $180,000 (£100,000) to persuade Europeans and Americans that it is not a group of religious fanatics who relish suicide bombings and hate Jews.
    The organization has hired media consultant Nashat Aqtash, who teaches at Birzeit University in Ramallah, to improve its image at home and abroad because it wants recognition and acceptance by the U.S. and EU.
    Aqtash has his work cut out. Hamas is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, killing and maiming hundreds of civilians (many of them children).
    Hamas's founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and it wants to impose an Islamic state on all Palestinian territory.
    Aqtash, who does not know where Hamas got the money to pay him, says he has told the leadership it has to change its rhetoric.
    He advises against celebrating suicide bombings and has told Hamas leaders not to talk about destroying Israel.


"Accident" at Fatah Election Rally Kills One (IMRA/Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
    Bassel Kamel al-Sha'er, 20, from Rafah, was killed accidentally on Wednesday by a live bullet to the head during an election rally when a number of armed members of Fatah fired into the air.


Tourism in Israel Increased 28% in 2005 (Jerusalem Post)
    The Ministry of Tourism reported that almost two million tourists came to Israel in 2005, a 28% increase over 2004.


Viet Nam, Israel Enhance Cooperation in Agriculture (Viet Nam News Agency)
    Over the past 12 years, Israel has sent experts to Viet Nam and organized 18 courses on agriculture, attracting 850 trainees.
    The courses mainly focused on dairy cattle farming, aquaculture, orchards, and agricultural marketing.
    More than 180 Vietnamese have been trained in Israel since 1995, with 60 Vietnamese agricultural students taking part in 11-month training programs in Israel over the past two years.


Israeli-Developed Sambucol 99% Effective Against Avian Flu - Gadi Golan (Globes)
    Retroscreen Virology, a medical research institute subsidiary of Queen Mary College, University of London, announced Wednesday that a medical preparation, Sambucol, developed by Israeli company Razei Bar Industries (1996) Ltd., reduced the quantity of cells infected with the H5N1 strain of avian flu virus by 99%.


Useful Reference:

Iran's President - His Own Words (BBC)
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has set out his vision for the future in comments on foreign and domestic policy since he took office in August 2005.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Suicide Bomber Wounds Thirty in Tel Aviv - Rami Amichai
    A Palestinian suicide bomber wounded 30 people at a popular sandwich stand in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Islamic Jihad, which like Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction, claimed responsibility for the bombing. "The Tel Aviv terror attack is a direct consequence of the Palestinian Authority's total refusal to take any steps to prevent terror against Israelis," said David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office. Several hundred women at a Hamas election rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah cheered when they heard news of the bombing. (Reuters)
        See also Israel: Iran Funded Tel Aviv Bombing - Arnon Regular and Amos Harel
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel has "decisive proof that the attack in Tel Aviv was a direct result of the Axis of Terror that operates between Iran and Syria. Iran supplied the money, and [Islamic] Jihad's headquarters in Damascus directed the organization's operatives in Nablus, giving operational orders and instructions." Israel has given details of the intelligence behind Mofaz's statements to the U.S., the EU, and Egypt.
        Mofaz noted that the blast occurred while Iranian President Ahmadinejad was in Damascus meeting with Syrian President Assad in "the terror summit." "Damascus is the only place where the Iranian president is still welcomed," Mofaz noted. "The Iranian-Syrian terror axis is not Israel's private problem." According to police, the bomber blew himself up in the restaurant's bathroom and may have been trying to prepare the explosive device when it went off prematurely. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Witnesses Recount Moments of Horror - Miri Chason (Ynet News)
  • Bin Laden Warns of More Attacks; Proposes Undefined Truce - Hassan M. Fattah
    Osama bin Laden warned Americans in an audiotape broadcast Thursday on Al Jazeera that al-Qaeda was planning more attacks on the U.S. "The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes," he said. The CIA verified the authenticity of the tape. Vice President Dick Cheney said it seemed likely that bin Laden, whom some had believed dead, was alive. But, the vice president said, bin Laden has clearly had trouble getting his message out and added, "We don't negotiate with terrorists." Bin Laden was last heard from in an audio recording in December 2004. (New York Times)
        See also Text of Bin Laden Tape (New York Times)
  • ElBaradei Rejects EU's Request to Condemn Iran - Daniel Dombey and Roula Khalaf
    Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's nuclear monitor, has turned down an EU request to issue a far-reaching condemnation of Iran's nuclear program when the IAEA board meets in extraordinary session next month, a decision that could weaken U.S.-European efforts for a speedy referral of Iran to the UN Security Council. European diplomats say they are confident of winning a majority of votes to send the Iran dossier to New York, but a thin majority could slow down the momentum for censuring Iran at the UN. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Syria Backs a Nuclear Iran - Patrick Bishop
    Syria Thursday backed Iran in its nuclear confrontation with the West as their leaders met in Damascus in a defiant show of solidarity. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, while Ahmadinejad asserted his host's right to freedom from foreign interference. Both men face confrontations with the UN Security Council. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Iran-Syria: United in Hatred for Israel (AKI-Italy)
        See also Germany: Israel No Excuse for Spread of Nukes
    Israel's nuclear program does not justify allowing the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday during a visit to Egypt. The two sides discussed Iran's nuclear program during the visit. "This excuse which you call 'double standards' does not justify allowing us to see a nuclear power, which will worsen the situation. Rather we should use all possibilities to eliminate nuclear proliferation," Steinmeier said. (Reuters/Ynet News)
  • Cheney: Important to be Consistent about Democracy
    Asked if the electoral success of Hamas and of the Iran-backed fundamentalist parties in Iraq prompted any second thoughts, Vice President Richard Cheney told the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York on Thursday: "I think the basic principle is still sound....There's an unelected group of clerics, basically, that dominate in Iran. They're the ones who have to certify before someone is allowed on the ballot."
        "Hamas in the Palestinian areas...if you believe in democratic practices, as we do; believe in a freedom agenda for the Middle East, as we do; then I think it's important for us to be as consistent as possible going forward....The President believes very deeply and I share his conviction that the solution to the long-term problems in the Middle East lies in having democratically elected governments in places like Iraq that won't spawn the ideology of hatred and violence that has dominated so much of the region, that will offer people opportunities and hope, and will reduce the prospects for war in the future."
        "So it doesn't mean you're always going to get a perfect result, but I would argue that we're going to get a much better result out of that process than we have [with] the system that's been in place in the past that has produced the likes of Saddam Hussein, for example, or of Yasser Arafat." (White House)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Fires Rocket at Israel, Ending Truce
    The Ez Addin al-Kassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching a rocket toward the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday night. Hamas refrained from carrying out attacks during the truce, signed in March 2005, that expired at the end of the year. (Maan News-PA)
  • Israeli Mother in Rocket Zone: "I Want to Stop Being So Scared Every Moment" - Ruth Sinai
    When Tahel Maman, 4, comes home from kindergarten, she crawls under the kitchen table and stays there. It was the girl's way of dealing with the Kassam rockets fired on Sderot by Palestinians in Gaza that have blighted her short life. Tahel jumps at any little noise, so does her 7-year-old brother. When the early-warning system Red Dawn sounds against an incoming rocket, the children freeze on the spot. Their mother hasn't slept well in more than four years, constantly fearful of another rocket.
        A recent examination of 120 families in Sderot with small children found that in more than half, the parents and/or the children are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At a Sderot high school, every time a rocket lands, students faint. The students are ready at any moment to leap out of their seats and pin themselves to the classroom wall, as they've been taught.
        Mrs. Maman is not willing to leave. She was born in Sderot and loves the town. "I want to return to a sane life, to what I had before; to stop being so scared every moment, every day, every night," she says. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Troops Kill Palestinian Throwing Firebombs - Amos Harel
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a Palestinian throwing a firebomb on Thursday night near Telem west of Hebron in the West Bank. Military sources said two Palestinians were throwing firebombs at vehicles passing through the area. The dead man was carrying several more firebombs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Palestinian Elections

  • Hamas Poses a New Threat - at the Ballot Box - Stephen Farrell
    During half a decade of merciless bloodshed, Hamas has inflicted more than 50 suicide bombings on Israel and killed 430 soldiers and civilians. In March 2002 one of its bombers slaughtered 30 celebrants at a Passover dinner. Another blew up 21 Israeli teenagers at a disco in Tel Aviv. Under the label Change and Reform it is poised to inflict serious electoral damage on the dominant Fatah movement of Arafat and Abbas, capitalizing on discontent with Fatah's corruption, inefficiency, and inability to curb its own armed gangs. (Times-UK)
  • Hamas Preens Feathers for Power
    With Syria and Iran the principal powers believed to be bankrolling Hamas, the prospect of burgeoning ties between an empowered Hamas and arch-enemies of the Jewish state raises the prospect of increased Middle East instability. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Hamas Ahoy!
    With less than a week to go, the reality has sunk in. When Palestinians elect a parliament on January 25 for the first time in a decade, they are expected to give the Islamist movement Hamas a good proportion of seats, in a resounding protest vote against the failures of the PA and its ruling Fatah party, and against Israel. A lot of the blame can be put on PA and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who seems to have the right intentions, but has been unable to provide what opinion polls show matters most to Palestinians: domestic law and order. Now it is harder to blame anyone but the PA, which, to top it all, is facing a fiscal crisis entirely of its own making. (Economist-UK)
  • The Palestinian Vote in Eastern Jerusalem - Graham Usher
    The only sure thing about the Palestinian suffrage in eastern Jerusalem is that the turn-out will be extraordinarily low. One reason is the enormous alienation eastern Jerusalem Palestinians have toward the PA. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)

    Iran

  • Containing Tehran - David Ignatius
    How should the U.S. think about Iran? What explains the fanaticism of President Ahmadinejad, and what can America and its allies do to change it? In crafting their Iran policy, administration officials don't want the nuclear issue to be isolated from the more basic problem of Tehran's erratic and potentially destabilizing role in the Middle East. Unless the Iranian president moderates his line, officials predict that his extremism will be increasingly unpopular with the Iranian people, who want to be more connected with the rest of the world rather than more isolated. (Washington Post)
  • From Iran, a Nuclearized Mideast? - Ze'ev Schiff
    The declarations by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about Israel and the Jews have done Israel a service. They drag Iran into a conflict with the international community and raise opposition even in the Arab world. His blather strengthens those who claim a nuclearized Iran is a danger to its neighbors and world stability, and makes it easier to enlist international public opposition against a nuclear Iran.
        In recent weeks, the Europeans were convinced that they were being taken for fools in their negotiations with the Iranians. The Arab states caught on including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the new Iraq, and the Persian Gulf countries, and some of them expressed their concern to the U.S. about the worrisome nuclearization of Iran. I heard from a Kuwaiti personality that it would be good for the Arabs if Israel were to destroy the Iranian nuclear capability. (Ha'aretz)
  • Doing Nothing in Iran Is Not an Option - Simon Heffer
    What is Iran's response to a Security Council warning likely to be? "Get lost." So what do we do then? There have been various mock-terrifying suggestions about forcing Iran to withdraw from soccer's World Cup (for which it has qualified for the first time), or of preventing high Iranian potentates from going abroad on jollies. That this grave matter can be treated in such a fashion suggests that its gravity continues to escape some of the world's senior politicians and their officials.
        Any military action against Iran, whatever it is and whoever takes it, is likely to be provocative to the wider Islamic community - but none is likely to be quite so internationally combustible as a unilateral decision by Israel to bomb Iran. This seems to leave only one feasible option, which is for a UN-endorsed series of air strikes on suspected nuclear installations in Iran, made after due and reasonable warning and only as a last resort. It must also be made clear by the united powers of the UN that any insistence by Ahmadinejad on pursuing his present policy will be met with such a response. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran's Nukes, Europe's Follies - Amir Taheri
    The Europeans are not prepared to acknowledge that the problem is not uranium enrichment but the nature of the Iranian regime. More than 20 countries, from Argentina to Ukraine, enrich uranium without anyone making a fuss. But who can trust the present leadership in Tehran not to embark upon some tragic mischief in the name of its ideology? European-style appeasement has encouraged Tehran's most radical faction, helping bring Ahmadinejad to power. All the diplomatic gesticulations to follow will only compound that effect.
        The Islamic Republic has also signed $70 billion in oil and gas contracts with China and $30 billion in arms and industrial contracts with Russia, ensuring that one or both would veto any harsh resolution against Iran. (New York Post)
  • Defusing Iran with Democracy - Shirin Ebadi and Muhammad Sahimi
    Respect for human rights and a democratic political system are the most effective deterrent against the threat that any aspiring nuclear power, including Iran, may pose to the world. Iran's nuclear program began accelerating around 1997. The reformists supported the nuclear program but wanted it to be fully transparent and in compliance with Iran's international obligations. Although a vast majority of Iranians despise the country's hard-liners and wish for their downfall, they also support its nuclear program because it has become a source of pride. A military attack would only inflame nationalist sentiments.
        Democracy, in the end, will provide the ultimate safeguard against nuclear disaster, because a truly democratic Iran, backed by a majority of Iranians, would feel secure enough not to pursue dangerous military adventures. Shirin Ebadi, a human rights advocate, was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Muhammad Sahimi is a professor of chemical engineering at USC. (Los Angeles Times)

    Other Issues

  • Hizballah's Identity Crisis - Michael Young
    The focus in next week's Palestinian legislative elections is on the Islamic group Hamas, with both Israel and the PA wary of its entry into mainstream politics. Optimists want desperately to believe that democratic processes make Islamist militants more moderate. But is that really so?
        Lebanon's Hizballah illustrates how Islamists can exploit elections (and entry into state institutions) to defeat efforts to stifle their militancy. Hizballah has become a fixture of the Lebanese political scene and has emerged as the country's dominant Shiite representative. Yet that has not made it any less combative, particularly vis-a-vis Israel or the U.S. Hizballah continues to describe itself as a "national resistance," retains its weapons, and is arguably the most effective military force in Lebanon. It rejects UN demands that it disarm, despite growing domestic sentiment that an autonomous armed militia should not be fighting the nation's battles in lieu of the army - especially a group so attuned to Syrian and Iranian interests. The writer is opinion editor at the Beirut Daily Star. (Newsweek International)
  • Golden Globes: An Award for Terror - Yossi Zur
    This week the Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film to the Palestinian movie "Paradise Now." The film follows the path taken by two young Palestinians from their decision to become suicide bombers until the moment they board a Tel Aviv bus crowded with children. "Paradise Now" is a very professional production, created with great care for detail. It is also an extremely dangerous piece of work.
        My son Asaf was almost 17 years old when one day after school he boarded a bus later boarded by a suicide bomber. Of the 17 people killed, nine were schoolchildren aged 18 or younger. Asaf was killed on the spot. Awarding a movie such as "Paradise Now" only implicates the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in the evil chain of terror that attempts to justify these horrific acts. (Israel Project)
  • Progress in the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism in Europe - Michael Whine
    Jewish NGOs and international organizations were responsible for two initiatives in 2004 that are intended to define, monitor, and combat anti-Semitism within the European region. The Berlin Declaration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) differ from past initiatives as they allow for monitoring implementation. They recognize that anti-Semitism comes both from traditional sources and from new and different directions, and is frequently a consequence of Middle East tension. Jewish NGOs must continue to press for recognition that anti-Semitism remains deeply embedded in Europe, and that a serious, long-term effort to eradicate it not only benefits Jews but also stabilizes democracy. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Israelis Willing to Fight for Their Country - Uzi Arad and Gal Alon
    (IMRA/Institute for Policy and Strategy-Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya)

    • It is impossible to measure a country's strength without addressing the patriotic component among its citizenry. According to an in-depth survey, citizens of Israel possess a large degree of patriotism according to two criteria - willingness to fight for it (85%) and the desire to remain planted on its soil (87%).
    • In comparison to other developed countries in the West, there is none that surpasses Israel in this declared readiness to fight for one's country.
    • The current spirit of Israeli patriotism - more than being fed by ideology or Israel's historic heritage - is anchored in a deep attachment to country and a sense of its being under threat.
    • Most Israeli Arabs are not proud of their citizenship (56%), and are not ready to fight to defend the state (73%). But the rate of Arab Israelis who believe that Israel is better than most other countries (77%) is among the highest in the developed world.


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