Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 4, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Former PA Minister to Al-Qaeda: "We Hate the Americans More than You" - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
    Fatah leader and former PA minister Abu Ali Shahin, responding to a statement by al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, criticizing Palestinian Fatah leaders for contacts with the U.S., addressed al-Qaeda on PA TV on Jan. 1, saying:
    "Do to Bush whatever you want, and we wish you success....We are fighting the Americans and hate the Americans more than you!"
    View video (Palestinian Media Watch)

Jewish Members Assume Key Committee Positions in New Congress - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
    In the new 110th Congress, Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) will become chairman of the House International Relations Committee and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) is set to chair its Middle East subcommittee.
    Nita Lowey (D-NY) should be chairing the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.
    In the Senate, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will head the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, while Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is expected to take over the Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee.
    Many Republican backers of Israel, who no longer head committees, will continue to serve in minority leadership roles.

Arabs vs. Israel: A View from Pakistan - Farrukh Saleem (Jang Group-Pakistan)
    Of the 330 million Muslims living under Arab rulers, a mere 486,530 live in a democracy.
    The only "parliamentary democracy" in the region with universal suffrage, multi-party, multi-candidate, competitive elections is Israel.
    Knowledge makes Israel grow by 5% a year, while "rates of productivity" in Arab countries are negative.
    Israel now has six universities ranked as among the best on the planet, while the 22-member Arab League does not have a single university in the top 400.
    In the Arab world, one in two women can neither read nor write.
    Roughly 23% of Arab engineers and 50% of Arab doctors emigrate.

Smuggling Tunnel between Gaza and Egypt Collapses (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    A smuggling tunnel under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt collapsed Thursday morning, Palestinian security officials said.
    Israel says antitank missiles, tons of explosives, and thousands of rifles have reached militants in Gaza through the tunnels.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Secret Plan for Mayhem - Eli Lake
    Iran is supporting both Sunni and Shiite terrorists in the Iraqi civil war, according to secret Iranian documents captured by Americans in Iraq. Iranians captured by American forces were carrying documents that offer insight into Iranian activities in Iraq. The documents show how the Quds Force - the arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard that supports Shiite Hizbullah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads - is working with individuals affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna. An American official said, "We found plans for attacks [and] phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys."
        While the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, the news that Iran's Quds Force would be in contact, and clandestinely cooperating, with Sunni Jihadists who attacked the Golden Mosque in Samarra (one of the holiest shrines in Shiism) on February 22 could shake the alliance Iraq's ruling Shiites have forged with Tehran. Many Iraq analysts believe the bombing vaulted Iraq into the current stage of its civil war. (New York Sun)
  • U.S. Aims to Stop Islamic Extremists Fleeing Somalia - Paul Eckert
    U.S. forces are deployed near Somalia to block the escape of members of that country's ousted Islamist government with ties to al-Qaeda and other extremists, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Wednesday. "We of course have a presence off the coast of Somalia and Horn of Africa to make sure there are no escape routes by sea where these individuals could flee," McCormack said. U.S. officials said before the war the top layer of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) was controlled by a cell of al-Qaeda operatives. The head of the council, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, is on UN and U.S. extremist lists. (Reuters)
  • Fears of a Gaza-Based Reporter - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    When Israel pulled troops and Jewish settlers out of Gaza in 2005, we had hoped that it might bring some peace. But the violence did not stop. Militants continued rocket attacks on Israel. When I navigate Gaza's streets, I often think about who is driving in front of and behind me. Are they militants from Islamic Jihad, Hamas, or Fatah? Driving at night, I fear that gunmen will stop my car and steal it. Passing Palestinian police stations, I worry I will get caught in a gunfight between rival factions. More than 300 Palestinians were killed in factional and clan fighting in 2006. Hundreds of cars have been stolen in the past few months alone. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Inter-Palestinian Fighting in Gaza Kills Five - Avi Issacharoff
    Five Palestinians, including four Fatah members and a woman bystander, were killed Wednesday in Gaza. In Khan Yunis, three security officials loyal to PA Chairman Abbas were killed when gunmen attacked their vehicles. Abbas' Preventive Security force blamed Hamas for the attack. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Fatah Suffers Losses in Clashes with Hamas - Ali Waked
    On Wednesday, ten Palestinians were kidnapped by both Hamas and Fatah. Palestinian sources reported that senior Fatah military leader Hassan al-Qasas narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after gunmen fired an RPG towards him on Wednesday. Ahmad Sarur, a resident of Beit Lahiya, said, "Everywhere you go there are masked Hamas fighters."
        Also Wednesday, a Hamas member who serves as Interior Minister Sayeed Siyam's bodyguard was wounded after a bomb he was working on apparently detonated prematurely in Gaza City. Another Hamas member died Tuesday under similar circumstances. (Ynet News)
        See also Gunmen Target Hamas Officials in West Bank
    Assailants targeted three senior Hamas officials in the West Bank, kidnapping one, torching the car of a second, and shooting in the air as a third emerged from a mosque, officials said Thursday. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • PA Warns Americans and Europeans to Leave Gaza
    The Palestinian security establishment has advised American and European citizens to leave Gaza following kidnapping warnings, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. The warning came as searches continued for Jaime Razuri, 50, an Agence France Presse photographer from Peru kidnapped in Gaza on Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Attacks Continue - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Wednesday evening that landed in Israel north of the Erez Crossing. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • America's Many Failed Attempts at Mideast Peace - Michael Oren
    American attempts at Arab-Israeli peacemaking began in 1947, when Harry S Truman supported the UN plan to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. But the Palestinian Arabs rejected that compromise, and Arab armies tried to destroy the Jewish nation. U.S. leaders tend to view the Middle East as an arena for demonstrating their diplomatic prowess and for affirming America's status as a world power. A deeper impetus may be the desire of Americans, many of whom are religiously observant, to bring tranquility to the Holy Land.
        Nearly six decades of American mediation have registered only one lasting success: the 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel. But that agreement was only made possible by the courage of Anwar Sadat, who became the first Arab leader to visit Israel. American mediation can succeed only after the emergence of local leaders who, like Sadat and Begin, have both the will and the strength to make peace. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Boston Globe)
  • Iran Has Some Radical Plans for the New Year - Joel C. Rosenberg
    The Islamic messiah known as the "Twelfth Imam" or the "Mahdi" may come to earth in 2007 and could be revealed as early as this spring. The official Iranian government news website IRIB says the world is now in its "last days." It claims that the Mahdi will first appear in Mecca, and then Medina. He will conquer all of Arabia, Syria, Iraq, destroy Israel, and then set up a "global government" based in Iraq. Such Islamic beliefs are driving the Iranian regime and help explain why Iran has no interest in helping the U.S. and EU create peace in Iraq or the region.
        An Iranian television series called "The World Towards Illumination" has been running since last November to help answer questions about the end of the world as we know it. The program also says that Jesus is coming back to earth soon as a Shiite Muslim leader to serve as a deputy to the Mahdi to destroy the infidels. Bottom line: The leaders of Iran are preparing for an apocalyptic war with the U.S. and Israel. It's not a question of "if" but "when." (National Review)
  • Al-Qaeda TV, Based in Syria, Carried by Egyptian Satellite - Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Nick Grace
    Al-Qaeda and its allies now have their own 24-hour television station. Based at a secret studio in Syria, its signal is broadcast to the entire Arab world from Nilesat, a satellite owned by the Egyptian government. In the past, al-Qaeda tapes were generally released to Al Jazeera, but Al-Zawraa, the 24-hour insurgent station, hit the airwaves on November 14. The easiest route to shutting down Al-Zawraa is to persuade Egypt, which receives $2 billion a year in U.S. aid, to remove the station from Nilesat. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Why Are Arabs Upset by Saddam's Execution? - Efraim Karsh (New Republic)

    • While Saddam Hussein's execution was greeted with delight by many of his victims - Iranians, Kuwaitis, and Iraqi Shia - it also generated widespread criticism among many Arabs and Muslims. This evokes one of the more confounding paradoxes relating to Saddam - the wide discrepancy between his actual track record and the adulation in which he was held by non-Iraqi Arabs.
    • Saddam transformed Iraq into the most repressive police state in the world, where a joke or a reported thought could cost a person his life, where tens of thousands of civilians were brutally murdered by their government, and where millions starved while their unelected ruler spent incredible sums of money on monuments and palaces for himself.
    • Saddam embroiled his country in a string of catastrophic foreign adventures that claimed more than one million lives and wrought untold physical and economic wreckage. Upon his ascendance in 1979, Iraq was a regional economic superpower, boasting some $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Twenty-three years later, it had been reduced to dire poverty and underdevelopment, with tens of billions in foreign debt.
    • Why has such an abysmal record been widely applauded by Arabs and Muslims?
    • It is the Middle East's violent political culture that has created and perpetuated the monstrosity of Saddam (and his ilk). Only when this culture is fully eradicated will the region's inhabitants be able to look forward to a better future. Saddam's execution, at long last, sets a precedent of holding a local tyrant accountable for his crimes.

      The writer is head of the Mediterranean Studies Program at King's College, University of London.

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