Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 26, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Badr Brigade Not Ready to Reinforce Abbas - Barak Ravid (Maariv-Hebrew)
    PA Chairman Abbas is counting on the Jordan-based Badr Brigade to change the balance of forces in his struggle with Hamas.
    Israel has already agreed in principle to allow the unit to enter Gaza to reinforce pro-Abbas forces there.     However, senior political and security sources say the Badr Brigade is not yet ready to operate.
    Jordanian sources say that during the past two weeks senior U.S. and British officers have arrived at the unit's base near Zarka in Jordan to speed up training of the force.
    The unit's officers presented a list of urgent requests including funding for salaries, vehicles, communications equipment, weapons, and ammunition.
    A senior American diplomat explained that the soldiers had formerly been paid by the PLO and had not received salaries for at least the last six months.
    A senior Israeli security source said, "Their level of preparedness is very low and the unit requires at least six months of training."

Hamas Takes Care of Its Own in Gaza - Michel Moutot (AFP/Yahoo)
    Mid-level civil servant Khaled is having a hard time adjusting to the Western aid freeze against the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
    Khaled says, "What revolts me the most is that the Hamas people, they aren't lacking in anything. They bring enough cash in to pay their employees, their fighters. You see the new cars, the latest models of mobile phones, the tables in restaurants... everything that we, ordinary people, can no longer afford," he said.
    The Gaza Strip is far from suffering a famine - reserves of flour imported from Israel never dip below a critical level.

"Turkish Hizballah" Issuing Terror Threats (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    A Kurdish Islamic militant group with reported ties to al-Qaeda is re-emerging in Turkey after six years underground - and has started issuing vague but worrying threats, authorities say.
    Turkish Hizballah's rise parallels developments across the broader Muslim world, where the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon are believed to have served as powerful recruiting tools for radical Islamic groups.
    Turkish Hizballah, which has no formal links to the Lebanon-based Hizballah, was largely eradicated six years ago when its leader was killed and more than 6,000 of its members were arrested in a massive police crackdown.
    Like the Lebanese Hizballah, the Turkish group is allegedly backed by Iran.

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  • Palestinians Scorn Their Leaders as Territories Tumble into Factional Fighting - Rory McCarthy
    Zuhair Abu Latifa, 51, of Kalandia in the West Bank, who was a lifetime Fatah supporter, voted for Hamas, the hardline Islamic movement that won the last elections. It was his way of punishing Fatah for its many failings. "They were crooks, thieves, and warlords," he said. "They still haven't cleaned themselves up." "Each of our leaders has his own gang and every one of them tries to impose his own agenda," said Abu Latifa. "That makes it hard to have real democracy, where the decision of the people is respected. They have let us down."
        Ayad Awad, 34, a committed Fatah loyalist, said, "We know it is we the people who are paying the price of this fighting between factions.... Our ultimate loyalty is not for the country but for one particular faction. If we were truly loyal to our country, none of this would happen."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also PA Soldier By Day, Hamas Fighter By Night
    During the day Abu Khaled serves as a soldier in the National Security Force, the national army of the Palestinian Authority. But when night comes, he takes off his army uniform and puts on the black mask and fatigues of the al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas. "It's miserable and terrible right now," he said, only agreeing to be interviewed in a moving car. "We are afraid all the time that we could be hit, either by the Israelis or by our own factions....I'm afraid that Fatah guys could get information that I'm a Qassam Brigades guy and come and shoot me." (Sunday Herald-UK)
  • Iran's Spies - Neil Mackay
    Last week, Cpl. Daniel James, a British soldier of Iranian extraction, was charged under the Official Secrets Act with passing secrets to the enemy. He was a trusted aide and interpreter for Lt.-Gen. David Richards, head of NATO forces in Afghanistan. If the allegations are true, Iranian intelligence has penetrated the very heart of the British military. In addition, Iranian intelligence has run a relentless covert war against dissident Iranians in Western Europe and America for over two decades.
        Clare Lopez, a former high-ranking CIA officer, says: "The Iranian regime deploys its intelligence agents and assets in a very sophisticated campaign to infiltrate and influence Western academia, media, non-governmental organizations, and policy-making structures." Lopez says that "Iranian intelligence agents have been implicated in assassinations, bombings, and terrorist attacks around the world since the 1979 Iranian revolution." According to Lopez, as well as sources in British intelligence, the pace of Iranian espionage has increased dramatically since Ahmadinejad became Iran's president in 2005. (Sunday Herald-UK/Persian Journal)
  • Report: Iran's Oil Exports May Disappear - Barry Schweid
    Iran is suffering a staggering decline in revenue from its oil exports, and its oil income could virtually disappear by 2015, according to an analysis published Monday by Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Stern said oil production is declining, while Iran is neglecting to reinvest in oil production. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Hamas Using Cease-Fire to Beef Up Arsenal, Forces - Gideon Alon
    "In another few months, in the Gaza Strip we will have to deal with military capabilities of the terror organizations that we haven't been familiar with until now, especially in the realm of anti-tank missiles," Brig.-Gen. Sami Turjeman, who heads the operations directorate in the IDF General Staff, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. There has also been a significant improvement in the terror groups' capabilities regarding sniping and defense, he said. The head of the Military Intelligence research department, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Beidetz, said the threat from Gaza will be significantly greater a year from now because Hamas is using the cease-fire to strengthen its forces. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues, Israel to Protest to UN - Amos Harel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel Tuesday morning. Nearly 30 rockets have been fired over the last week. One rocket landed in Sderot, causing damage to a building. Another landed near a strategic facility in Ashkelon. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Monday that Israel's ambassador to the UN has been instructed to submit an urgent protest to the UN Security Council, "strongly condemning Palestinian violations of the November 25 cease-fire." (Ha'aretz)
  • Bethlehem Fears Return of Palestinian Terror
    Reports that Israel is considering allowing a group of gunmen who were deported in 2002 after hiding inside the Church of the Nativity to return to Bethlehem have left some Christian residents seriously concerned for their safety. Thirteen of the gunmen were deported to different European countries, while another 26 were expelled to Gaza. Christian families expressed fear that the deportees would once again impose a reign of intimidation and terror in the city. "These men were responsible for a spate of attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property," said a local businessman. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mahmoud Abbas and the "Cease-Fire" - Editorial
    In its effort to marginalize Palestinian rejectionists, the Bush administration is seeking to prop up PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, despite a considerable body of evidence that Abbas is not a serious partner for peace. The cease-fire forestalled an Israeli invasion of Gaza to thwart the terrorists who routinely fire rockets into neighboring Israeli towns. Most important of all, the "cease-fire" has permitted the terrorists to continue smuggling arms from Egypt into Gaza for use against Israel - smuggling made possible by the lethargic performance of Egyptian security forces on the other side of the border.
        Meanwhile, in Gaza, the Hamas-dominated PA government actively encourages a who's who of Iranian- and Syrian-backed terrorist organizations to establish their presence, while Abbas and security services loyal to him do nothing to stop them. Indeed, his own Fatah organization includes the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of the most deadly terrorist organizations. Under current conditions - with Israeli forces no longer patrolling the Gaza/Egypt border and no Palestinian security force in place to stop the terrorist organizations from smuggling heavy weaponry into Gaza (or conducting military operations against the terrorists already operating there) - Islamofascist forces are growing stronger and Israel's deterrent capability grows weaker. (Washington Times)
  • Wounded But Alive: Could Ahmadinejad Become More Dangerous? - Amir Taheri
    The elections in Iran last week dealt Ahmadinejad his first significant political defeat. It is clear that the electorate wanted to serve notice on Ahmadinejad about its concerns over his populist domestic policy and poker-like foreign strategy. The politically more important election concerned the choice of 86 mullahs to form the new Assembly of Experts (AOE) who elect the "Supreme Guide," the true powerhouse of the Khomeinist system. The incumbent, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is said to be in declining health that might force him to step down.
        Before the election, there was a feeling that Ahmadinejad was planning to seize control of the AOE and use it to replace Khamenei with his own religious guru, Ayatollah Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. However, Ahmadinejad has failed to secure the extra 17 seats he reportedly needed to win control of the AOE. The real winner of the AOE election is Khamenei who can count on a solid bloc of 40 seats held by his own allies, while the two rival factions, respectively led by Ahmadinejad and former President Rafsanjani, would be in no position to muster a majority against him. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Observations:

    Mideast Rules to Live By - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, 20Dec06)

    • I'd like to offer my updated rules of Middle East reporting:
    • What people tell you in private in the Middle East is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in their own language. Anything said to you in English, in private, doesn't count. In the Mideast, officials say what they really believe in public and tell you what you want to hear in private.
    • In the Middle East, when one side is weak, it will tell you, "I'm weak, how can I compromise?" And when it's strong, it will tell you, "I'm strong, why should I compromise?"
    • The Israeli-Arab conflict is not just about borders. Israel's mere existence is a daily humiliation to Muslims, who can't understand how, if they have the superior religion, Israel can be so powerful.

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