Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Iran to Hamas: "Wait Quietly; In Four Months We'll Have a Dramatic Announcement" - Ben Caspit (Maariv-Hebrew, 15Dec06)
See also Iranian Envoy: Return of Golan to Syria Is Iranian Goal - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Israel Campus Beat
- December 17, 2006
Israel's Policy of Nuclear Ambiguity
PA Daily: Arab Leaders Caused Palestinian Refugee Problem - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
Poll: Israel Right in Lebanon Attack (UPI)
Are There Troubles in the House of Saud? - Elaine Shannon and Adam Zagorin (TIME)
UK Jews Far More Likely than Muslims to Be Victims of Faith Hatred - Tom Harper and Ben Leapman (Sunday Telegraph)
Ankara Concerned over Iran's Denial of Holocaust (Turkish Daily News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced Saturday that he has decided to call early elections, including for his own office. The decision drew a defiant response from Hamas officials, who said the party would not accept a new election less than halfway into its four-year parliamentary term, and challenged Abbas' right to call an early vote. "We were elected by the Palestinians, and we are not willing to go through with this experiment," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.
It was unclear, however, whether Abbas will follow through with his decision, which would lead to general elections around the middle of next year that his deeply divided Fatah party is by no means assured of winning. A Fatah loss of Abbas' office would leave the government entirely in the hands of Hamas, a radical Islamic movement considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, and Israel. (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Welcomes Call for Early Palestinian Elections - Caren Bohan (Reuters)
See also Blair Backs New Palestinian Elections - Jill Lawless (AP/Washington Post)
Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to dominate elections for a powerful Iranian clerical body and local councils, according to early results Sunday, in what analysts said was a setback to the hard-line leader's standing. (Reuters/Washington Post)
See also What Iran Vote Says About Ahmadinejad's Support - Scott Peterson
Reform-leaning politicians appeared to have broken the four-year grip by conservatives on the Tehran City Council by winning a handful of seats there and on a string of local councils across Iran. The biggest surprise is the support for Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who was defeated by Ahmadinejad in last year's presidential runoff. Rafsanjani was leading the race in Tehran for the Assembly of Experts, and took almost twice the votes as Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, seen as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, who came in seventh. (Christian Science Monitor)
Iran has effectively created a Shi'ite "state within a state" in neighboring Iraq, defying both Iraqi Sunnis and neighboring Sunni nations, according to a Saudi security report. Iranian military forces are providing Shi'ite militias with weapons and training, Iranian charities are pouring funds into schools and hospitals, and Tehran is actively supporting pro-Iranian Iraqi politicians, said the report by the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, commissioned by the Saudi government.
The report states that the insurgency is run mainly by former military officers of the Ba'athist regime. Only a smaller group is religiously inspired and includes foreign fighters. The Sunni insurgency numbers about 77,000, with the "jihadis" numbering about 17,000, of which some 5,000 are from North Africa, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The remaining 60,000 are members of the former Iraqi military or paramilitary forces. The officer corps of the insurgency has "command and control facilities in Syria."
The Shi'ite militia forces total about 35,000. Iran also is infiltrating Iraq through its al Quds forces - the special command division of the Revolutionary Guards - which specialize in intelligence operations and unconventional warfare. (Washington Times)
Sen. John McCain, who spent five grueling years as a prisoner of war during Vietnam, met with the families of two captured Israeli soldiers Sunday, sharing his own story of survival and promising to work for their release. Reserve soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured July 12 by Lebanon's Hizballah in a cross-border raid that ignited a 34-day war. Their captors have not provided any signs that they are still alive. (AP/Boston Globe)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A very senior source at the Prime Minister's Office said Sunday that "the conditions for opening a dialogue with Damascus are clear to the Syrians.... Unfortunately, the Syrians are not even implementing the minimal steps they could implement. In such a situation, there is no reason in the world for Israel to hold a dialogue or negotiations with the Syrians, and certainly not against the position of George Bush." "The Israeli prime minister stands by the U.S. and its demands that Syria renounce terror and disconnect from the axis of evil," said the source. (Ynet News)
Despite reports of a cease-fire between Hamas and Fatah on Sunday, Palestinian gunmen waged a street battle outside the Gaza residence of Mahmoud Abbas at dawn Monday. An intense gun battle broke out Sunday outside Fatah security service head Muhammed Dahlan's house in Gaza. At least four Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded in Sunday's clashes. Adnan Rahami, 42, a senior Fatah official in Gaza who serves in the PA National Security Forces, was kidnapped and murdered in Gaza City. At least three mortar shells were fired at Abbas' headquarters in Gaza City. Seven people were wounded when Hamas gunmen fired at a Fatah rally in northern Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
See also How Rival Palestinian Forces Stack Up (Reuters)
Mahmoud Abbas and his associates have no more illusions. Neither about the possibility of a unity government, nor of ideological change in Hamas. Without such a change, a Fatah-Hamas government cannot arise whose guidelines would meet the three international demands for lifting the siege on the PA: recognition of Israel, cessation of violence, and acceptance of past agreements. Hamas believes it possible to fight the siege without giving up the ideology of non-recognition of Israel, by bringing suitcases full of money from Iran.
Abbas did not say when he intends to hold early elections. Everyone knows why: Fatah is not ready for a campaign against Hamas, and needs time to prepare. (Ha'aretz)
If Abbas does not name an election date within a few weeks, he will appear weak. But he needs the agreement of Hamas for a date, and that does not seem to be in the offing. Even if Hamas only sits on the fence, without its participation, elections will be meaningless. The Fatah Central Committee has made clear it does not want early elections, because its chances of gaining a majority of the parliament are thin, and Abbas will have trouble winning the chairmanship against Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, Palestinian law requires the PA chairman to resign close to the time a date for elections is set. The speaker of the PA parliament, Aziz Duek, of Hamas, now in an Israeli prison, would be appointed in his stead. Abbas would be giving the chairmanship on a silver platter to Hamas on the day he sets the election date. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice obviously thinks that former secretary of state James Baker just doesn't get how the Mideast has changed since he last plied the peacemaking shuttle 15 years ago. That's one thing that becomes clear when you listen to her talk for any length of time, as she did during a visit to the Washington Post last week. Rice says the U.S. needs to "act smartly in that new strategic context rather than being drawn back to the old strategic context in search of, I think, a stability that no longer exists." Which is why she resists talks on Iraq with Syria's strongman and Iran's mullahs. If they perceive it in their national interest to help stabilize Iraq, they will do so in any event; if not, the price they demand will be exorbitant - the U.S. standing aside as Syria regobbles Lebanon and Iran pursues its nuclear dreams. (Washington Post)
Underneath the struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah lies the question of whether or not to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Hamas remains stubbornly committed to violence, terrorism, and "martyrdom" as the only means to achieve its aim: an independent Palestinian state that incorporates Israel. Everyone knows that this is not a realistic aspiration - except, it seems, the Palestinian electorate, a majority of whom voted Hamas into power, and a majority of whom would appear to be willing to do so again. It is difficult to see how there can be any hope at all for anyone in the region unless Hamas softens its implacable opposition to Israel. (Telegraph-UK)
Last week, a distinguished group of public figures called for the international community to seek the indictment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the charge of incitement to genocide. This call should be immediately and widely heeded. The Genocide Convention, whose full title is the Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide, explicitly lists "public incitement to commit genocide" among "punishable" acts prohibited by the treaty.
The requirements of the Genocide Convention are so clear, the incitement is so unabashed, and the threat is so real that we do not see why all nations and organizations, including those who champion the causes of peace and human rights, will be indifferent to our cause. (Jerusalem Post)
A Mideast Counteroffensive: Before "Engaging" with Syria and Iran, the U.S. Needs to Answer Their Aggression - Editorial (Washington Post)
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