Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hizballah Paying Gaza Terrorists for Rocket Attacks - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Iran Accused of Promoting Shiism in Sudan (AKI-Italy)
EU Bank Ends Israel Loans Freeze (BBC News)
U.S. Admits Arafat
Murdered American Officials - Joseph Farah
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
An Israeli plan to construct 30 new homes in Maskiot in the Jordan Valley for families evacuated from uprooted Gaza Strip settlements has been questioned by the U.S. State Department. But David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said "the settlement is not a new one." It was legally established in 1982, housed an army unit and a school, and has had civilians living there for several years. The plan is to build within the confines of the existing settlement, he said. (AP/Washington Post/Ha'aretz)
Syria's first domestically manufactured cars will have an Iranian name, be produced in a plant partly financed by a state-controlled Iranian car company, and be made of parts from Iran. Syria hopes to open two new multimillion-dollar wheat silos, add 1,200 new buses in Damascus, open another Iranian car factory in the north, and start operating a cement plant - all in partnership with Iran.
Some Western analysts contend that Syria can be pried away from Iran's influence. But Washington has spent years trying to isolate Syria, while Iran has for decades moved to entwine itself with Syria on many levels - political, military, economic, and religious. As a result, some Western diplomats in Iran say that even if the U.S. tried, it might be impossible to extricate Syria from Iran's orbit.
Political analysts in Syria say the government remains fearful of alienating the Sunni majority, especially amid widespread rumors that Iran is trying to convert Sunni Syrians to Shiism. Syria is a major destination for Iranian religious tourists; as many as 500,000 a year visit Shiite shrines in Syria, which Iranian organizations have spent millions of dollars restoring and enlarging. Iran's efforts to spread its influence around the Middle East have increased in the last two or three years, regional analysts say. (New York Times)
Hundreds of Iraqis have offered to act as hangman in the execution of Saddam Hussein, according to senior officials in the Baghdad government. Some requests have been e-mailed to the office of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, from around the world. (Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Egypt transferred 2,000 AK-47 rifles and two million rounds of ammunition to PA security organizations in Gaza Wednesday with Israel's approval in an effort to bolster Fatah-affiliated groups following clashes with Hamas. Senior members of Fatah-affiliated groups have complained of their inferior firepower when confronted by Hamas forces, since Hamas controls most of the smuggling tunnels for weapons flowing into Gaza from Egypt.
The decision to reinforce Fatah forces was made during the meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Abbas on Saturday. During the meeting, Abbas also promised to deploy men from his Presidential Guard along the Philadelphi Route to prevent smuggling, and also in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent rocket fire at Israeli towns. (Ha'aretz)
Adir Basad, a 15-year-old Sderot resident, was out of danger on Wednesday after undergoing 12 hours of surgery at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital. Hit by shrapnel from a Kassam rocket, he suffered severe wounds to his whole body. Matan Cohen lost four toes on one foot and will undergo further surgery to remove shrapnel in his heart. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Study: Sderot Teenagers Suffering from Chronic Anxiety - Mijal Grinberg
The pupils at the state religious school Nativ Yeshivati in Sderot are particularly exposed to the difficult situation. Two of its pupils were wounded by a Kassam rocket on Tuesday night. In June, their school was hit by a rocket. A month ago, another schoolmate, Snir Suissa, was seriously injured.
Research at the Education Department of Ben-Gurion University shows that the youth in Sderot suffer from chronic anxiety. "The symptoms of chronic anxiety are physical," said researcher Professor Shifra Sagy. "They are expressed in headaches, stomachaches, shivers, and difficulties in sleeping." (Ha'aretz)
PA security forces in Gaza recently foiled an attempt by Hamas to assassinate former PA security minister Muhammed Dahlan, Fatah activists said Wednesday. A large roadside bomb was discovered that had been planted along the route used by Dahlan's motorcade near Khan Yunis. A PA security source claimed that a Hamas gunman who was later arrested by the PA security forces admitted that he and his friends were planning to assassinate Dahlan. (Jerusalem Post)
For the last month we've had a phony cease-fire around the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim to be holding their fire while Islamic Jihad continues launching Kassam rockets daily at Sderot and Ashkelon. If the Egyptians had kept their side of the Philadelphi deal, Islamic Jihad would have run out of explosives long ago. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Since a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza was announced on November 26, 2006, Palestinians have violated it on a near-daily basis, launching over 65 Kassam rockets toward Israel. For nearly a month, media coverage of these steady violations remained limited as Israel refused to respond to the attacks against its civilians. It was only when Israel announced it would allow pinpoint attacks against rocket launchers that the media sprung into action, running AP headlines and story leads holding Israel responsible for "threatening" the supposed cease-fire. "Israel to Renew Attacks against Gaza Rocket Launchers, Puts Truce at Risk" blared a headline to an AP article in USA Today. The story becomes newsworthy only when Israel can be blamed for trying to protect its citizens. (CAMERA)
The sanctions adopted by the UN are too weak, too puny, and too late to have any deterrent effect on Iran's drive to build a nuclear bomb. But there is something we can do: We can stop investing in companies that help Iran exploit the oil and gas resources on which its economy depends. Sarah Steelman, Missouri's state treasurer, has pulled state pension fund investments from any company that abets terrorism. Steelman's first targets were the Swiss giant UBS Finance and the French firm BNP Paribas Finance. UBS got the message and pulled out of Iran.
Former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney's group, disinvestterror.org, has targeted Royal Dutch Shell, with extensive holdings in the Iranian offshore oil fields of Soroush and Nowruz, where its investments have raised Iran's total oil output by 8%. Companies should persuade their banks to join the disinvestment project. Unions should direct their pension funds to do the same. (New York Post)
The Iraq Study Group and others naively insist on linking progress in Iraq to the revival of Syrian-Israeli peace talks. If Israel returns the Golan Heights to Syria, the advocates of this line argue, the Assad regime will become more agreeable to helping the U.S. in Iraq and to reining in Hizballah and Hamas. But Assad may not be in a position to help achieve any of these things once the UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri is completed. The regime's real interest lies more in killing the Hariri investigation than in retrieving the Golan.
It is also not really clear that Damascus actually can deliver the containment of Hizballah and Hamas, seeing that their real financial backer is Iran. So, unless the Assad regime suddenly becomes willing to turn against Iran, it is unlikely to cause a serious break in the flow of arms and funds to Lebanon and Gaza. The writer, a Syrian blogger and author, is a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. (Forward)
Jimmy Carter's Book: An Israeli View - Michael B. Oren (Wall Street Journal)
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