Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 16, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Second UK Suicide Bomb Plot Failed Due to Good Fortune - John Steele and Sally Peck (Telegraph-UK)
    A plot to kill innocent commuters in a series of suicide bombings two weeks after the July 7, 2005, bombings failed at the last moment because of problems with the explosive mixture and simple "good fortune," a London court heard Monday.
    Six alleged Muslim extremists plotted to bring carnage to the London transport system with home-made chemical bombs loaded with shrapnel, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London was told.
    Four of the men tried to detonate their bombs - three on Tube trains and one on a bus. However, the bombs failed to go off.
    The plot was hatched before the July 7 attacks and was not a "copy cat" attack, but was, rather, a long-planned operation.

Israel, Syria Deny Report of "Understandings" for a Peace Agreement (Ha'aretz)
    A senior Israeli cabinet minister said Tuesday that there were no contacts between Israel and Syria and that a Ha'aretz report on understandings between the two nations was "a bluff."
    Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said: "We have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians."
    Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in meetings with Syrian representatives, said "there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

Iran "Taking Control of Southern Iraq by Stealth" - Thomas Harding (Telegraph-UK)
    Iranian intelligence is preparing for complete dominance of southern Iraq when the British withdraw by penetrating Basra's security network and political parties.
    Iraqi intelligence sources said Iran plans to reap the huge financial rewards presented by Iraq's southern oil fields.
    Commanders are anxious that once they pull out of Basra in May, the Iranian-backed militias will take over the political and security structures, undoing four years of work that has cost 129 British lives and billions of pounds.

Germans in Lebanon May Be Targets - (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The German embassy in Beirut is concerned that German citizens and installations in Lebanon could be in danger as a result of the German navy's participation in peacekeeping operations there.
    According to an internal memo circulated inside the embassy, Berlin's participation in the UN mission in Lebanon has "led to a changed and potentially violent attitude toward Germany and toward Germans in Lebanon among some radical Lebanese circles."
    "It cannot be ruled out that isolated hostile, or even violent, acts against Germans in Lebanon" may occur.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Announces Three-Way Talks on Palestinian State - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Monday after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would meet with her for a three-way informal discussion of issues that must be cleared away to establish a Palestinian state. No date or location has been set for the gathering, but it would signal deepening involvement by the Bush administration in stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
        Rice said she was going "to try to help the parties come together, to look at how they can move through the road map." The road map set out detailed sequential steps which, among other things, required the Palestinian government to crack down on anti-Israeli radical groups. Rice hopes to use the prospect of renewed U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process to help win Arab support for the Iraqi government and a campaign to combat the rising influence of Iran. (Washington Post)
  • Fatah Accuses Hamas of Digging Tunnels for Assassination Plots
    Fatah accused its Hamas rivals Monday of digging tunnels in Gaza to plant explosives and target senior officials, including Mahmoud Abbas. Abdel Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman in Gaza, said a network of tunnels laden with explosives was discovered - with some starting inside mosques. He gave details of four tunnels, including one under a road used by Abbas, and another under the house of a Fatah activist. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • In Iraq, the Jihad Is Now Against the Shias, Not the Americans - Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
    Rami, a former Sunni insurgent, explained: "I used to attack the Americans when that was the jihad. Now there is no jihad....It's only the young kids that are fighting now, and they are not fighting Americans any more, they are just killing Shia." "It's not a good time to be a Sunni in Baghdad," Abu Omar told me. "In my area some ignorant al-Qaeda guys have been kidnapping poor Shia farmers, killing them and throwing their bodies in the river. I told them: 'This is not jihad. You can't kill all the Shia!...Why provoke them?'"
        Then he said: "I am trying to talk to the Americans. I want to give them assurances that no one will attack them in our area if they stop the Shia militias from coming." This man, who had spent the last three years fighting the Americans, was now willing to talk to them because he saw the Americans as the lesser of two evils. Many Sunni insurgent leaders are beginning to doubt the wisdom of their alliance with al-Qaeda extremists. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Improving Quality of Roadside Bombs - Yaakov Katz
    Under Hizbullah guidance, Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank have recently obtained high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against IDF patrols, senior defense officials said Monday. "The Palestinian IEDs are a point of concern," said one senior official. In 2006, IDF troops discovered 109 IEDs in the West Bank in addition to 11 suicide belts.
        At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin reported growing Hizbullah efforts to establish infrastructure and gain a foothold in the West Bank and Gaza.
        According to a high-ranking IDF officer, Palestinians were continuing efforts to manufacture and fire Kassam rockets from the West Bank. "They are constantly trying to get the development off the ground," the officer said. "The only reason they fail is that the IDF retains a presence in the territory."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Uncovers Nine Bombs in Bethlehem
    An IDF force arrested a wanted Palestinian in Bethlehem Tuesday morning. Soldiers found nine pipe bombs, two assault rifles, three ammunition clips, knives, and a large amount of ammunition. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinian gunmen on Tuesday morning fired a Kassam rocket from northern Gaza that landed south of Ashkelon. On Monday, Palestinians fired a rocket that landed near the town of Sderot. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Provisional Palestinian State? - Martin Peretz
    Mahmoud Abbas opposes a provisional Palestinian state and wants a final settlement based on the 1949 cease-fire lines, with 4 million Arab refugees having the right to "return" to 1949 Israel, and with Jerusalem as its capital. He is living in a world of fantasy. He can't even get his own people to agree about who is the Palestinian government and who is not, whether he's actually in power or whether power belongs to Hamas and Prime Minister Haniyah. A Palestinian government does not exist, and it is already making demands for a permanent resolution of Arab-Israeli conflict. Abbas' signature won't be worth a fig. A provisional government is actually the best that the Palestinians will get right now, but, since they are recalcitrant, they won't even get that. (New Republic)
  • The End of Deterrence - S. Enders Wimbush
    Iran is fast building its position as the Middle East's political and military hegemon, a position that will be largely unchallengeable once it acquires nuclear weapons. The opportunities nuclear weapons will afford Iran far exceed the prospect of using them to win a military conflict. Nuclear weapons will empower strategies of coercion, intimidation, and denial that go far beyond purely military considerations. Acquiring the bomb as an icon of state power will enhance the legitimacy of Iran's mullahs and make it harder for disgruntled Iranians to oust them.
        Iran's leadership has spoken of its willingness - in their words - to "martyr" the entire Iranian nation as a way to accelerate an inevitable, apocalyptic collision between Islam and the West that will result in Islam's final worldwide triumph. What constitutes deterrence in this world? Many European strategists speak of "managing" a nuclear Iran. This is a lethal naivete. We have no idea how to deter ideological actors. We do not know what they hold dear enough to be deterred by the threat of its destruction. We should be under no illusion that talk alone - "engagement" - is a solution. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of its Center for Future Security Strategies. (Weekly Standard)
  • A Time for Middle East Peace? - Clifford D. May
    For more than a half century, every American president has attempted to find a magic formula that would bring peace to the tiny territories between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In a recent op-ed, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft argues that "a vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict" could produce "real progress" which would cause Hizbullah and Hamas to "lose their rallying principle." How would that work? What could Israel offer Hamas and Hizbullah to induce them to give up "their rallying principle" - which is the annihilation of Israel? At this moment, given the current Palestinian leadership and the support it receives from Tehran, the chance of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is as low as it's ever been. Why those who style themselves as foreign-policy "realists" claim otherwise is a mystery.
        More plausibly, it is only when al-Qaeda, the Iranian mullahs, and other militant Islamists are seen as having failed, that Palestinians will choose leaders who seek peace alongside Israel rather than the destruction of Israel. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Should the U.S. Insist Hamas Accept Israel's Right to Exist? - Lawrence J. Haas (McClatchy-Tribune/Charlotte Observer)

    • Assume the following: A terrorist group gains control of Canada's Parliament and commits itself to America's destruction, crossing the border to launch a series of suicide bombings of shopping centers, pizza parlors and cafes that leave hundreds dead from Michigan to Montana. The group, which refuses to acknowledge America's right to exist, receives its funding, arms, training and other support from Iran, which seeks to "wipe America off the map." The group also works with like-minded terrorists in Mexico that, when not trying to topple the government there, are crossing America's southern border to cause murder and mayhem.
    • The world community, worried about instability in North America, calls on Washington to negotiate with Canada's terrorists even as they refuse to accept America as a sovereign nation. Absurd? Of course!
    • America would never negotiate with such an adversary. Nor should it ask the same of Israel, which faces a real-life adversary of the kind described above in Hamas.
    • Hamas is an international outlaw. It seeks the destruction of a sovereign nation, respecting neither the borders between states nor the international system that blessed Israel's creation.
    • We do not negotiate with terrorists that seek our demise. We should not ask others to do so.

      The writer is visiting senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute in Washington.

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