Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 18, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Oil Production Dropped a Third Since 1996 (SANA-Syria)
    Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sufian Alao said Friday that "the production of oil in Syria was about 600,000 BPD in 1996 while it has recorded now about 400,000 BPD."
    He expected a "fall in oil production in a gradual and slow way in coming years."

Iran Finances Pro-Assad Militias in Syria (Middle East Newsline)
    Syrian opposition sources said Teheran has transferred tens of millions of dollars to organize, equip and finance at least two major Shi'ite militias under the direct control of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
    Many militia members were trained in Iran.

Saudi Arabia Casts Wary Eye on its Shiites - Michael B. Farrell (Christian Science Monitor)
    Over the past decade, Shiites have managed to gain a larger stake in Saudi Arabian society, where they comprise 10-15% of the population.
    They've seen incremental reforms, getting elected to local councils and being allowed to observe religious holidays openly.
    But now, with a Sunni-Shiite cold war descending on the region, Saudi Arabia may once again regard its Shiite minority solely as enemies of the state.

Teacher's Anti-Israel Resolution Splits Union - Colin Perkel (Canadian Press)
    Two Ontario high school teachers who want their union to condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians have angered Jewish groups and raised questions about the politicization of classrooms.
    Pro-Jewish groups such as B'nai B'rith argue that egregious human-rights abuses in other countries are ignored, and there's no condemnation of Palestinian violence.

Sudan-Israel Friendship Group Breaks Taboos - Brian Adeba (Sudan Tribune)
    Coming from a country where government media constantly refer to Israel as "the enemy Israel" in Arabic, Taraji Mustafa was raised on a daily diet of Jew and Israel bashing in Sudanese media, school textbooks and government policy.
    So last fall, when the Hamilton, Ont.-based immigrant formed the Sudanese-Israeli Friendship Association, she caused a lot of angst in the Arab world.
    Mustafa says the turning point for her came when she interacted with Jews and discovered all she had been taught in Sudan was not true.
    To cap it all off, one of her teachers was Jewish, as was her daughter's teacher at school, and her family doctor. "They are people just like us," she says.
    See also Video: Interview with Taraji Mustafa (MEMRI TV)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Resists Seeking Talks with Iran - Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Berlin on Wednesday that now is not the time for the U.S. to talk to adversary Iran. The Iranians "refuse to do what the international community insists that they do," a reference to a UN demand that Iran roll back nuclear activities. Until the Iranians comply, "this is not the time to break a long-standing American policy of not engaging with the Iranians bilaterally," Rice said.
        Rice also announced that the Quartet - the U.S., EU, Russia, and the UN - will convene a Mideast strategy session early next month in Washington. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel, Palestinians Gird for Talks - Richard Boudreaux
    Secretary of State Rice will return to the region next month for three-way talks with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert's aides said he views the encounter as part of a "pre-negotiation stage" in which the two sides build trust through initial steps, such as Israel's easing of cargo restrictions, a halt to Palestinian rocket attacks, and an exchange of prisoners. "We're still at the early stages of building the confidence necessary to open peace negotiations," said Miri Eisin, the prime minister's spokeswoman. "We're not there yet, and we're not going to be cutting corners."
        Israelis feel burned for having tried to negotiate a peace deal with Yasser Arafat, only to see those talks give way in 2000 to a Palestinian uprising. Israel is also distrustful of Abbas' authority, which was weakened by the militant Hamas movement's victory in parliamentary elections a year ago, and is loath to discuss territorial concessions with a leader it sees as unable to restrain large-scale violence against the Jewish state. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Israel to Introduce Pilot ID System to Foil 9/11-Style Attacks - Dan Williams
    Israel will issue all commercial airlines that fly to its territory with a pilot identification system designed to prevent September 11-style attacks, Israeli officials said Tuesday. Planes without the "Code Positive" system, developed by the Israeli firm Elbit, will be turned back from Israeli airspace. Israel is widely considered to have the world's most sophisticated aviation security.
        Danny Shenar, head of security at the Transportation Ministry, told Israel's Army Radio, "This system was developed to prevent aviation mega-terror over Israel, in the form of a plane coming through one of the borders and crashing into a target in Israel....The system should be operational by the end of the year....Using this card, it will be possible to verify that the person flying the aircraft is indeed the person qualified to fly it." Shenar said it would be impossible for a hijacker to force a pilot to hand over identifying details. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Objects to U.S. Plans to Give Abbas' Forces Battle Equipment - Amos Harel
    The Israel Defense Forces has raised objections to U.S. plans to equip Mahmoud Abbas' forces with battle gear as part of an $86 million U.S. program to strengthen the PA presidential guard, an Israeli security source and European diplomats said Wednesday. "The IDF's objections in this case center on equipment, such as body armor, that is liable to wind up in the wrong hands and be used for terrorism," an Israeli security source said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the western Negev on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lost in the Middle East - Editorial
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is making a high-profile effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - in spite of an unfavorable situation in the region - in order to solidify an alliance of "the mainstream" against Iran and in support of U.S. policy in Iraq. The administration has decided to seek $98 million in funding for Palestinian security forces - the same forces it rightly condemned in the past as hopelessly corrupt and compromised by involvement in terrorism. Those forces haven't changed, but since they are nominally loyal to "mainstream" Mahmoud Abbas and serve as a check on the power of the "extremist" Hamas, they are on the right side of Ms. Rice's new divide. So is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a thuggish autocrat who was on the wrong side of Ms. Rice's previous Mideast divide between pro-democracy forces and defenders of the illiberal status quo.
        The administration's concern about Iran is well founded. Yet the new U.S. policy betrays President Bush's freedom agenda, giving a free pass to dictators who support the new geopolitical cause. Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice have said again and again that such trade-offs during the Cold War helped lay the groundwork for groups such as al-Qaeda - which was founded and is led by Saudis and Egyptians. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Repeating Mideast Mistakes? - Steven A. Cook
    Iran consistently has sought to use its position on the Palestine issue to extend its influence throughout the Middle East at the expense of U.S. allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Unlike those states, the Iranians have followed through with financial support. The $35 million that Hamas-affiliated Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was recently discovered carrying into Gaza was reported to be Iranian money. To the Iranians, assisting Hamas financially against Fatah is just another facet of what has become a successful effort to build Tehran's prestige among average Arabs. Washington's support for Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah is not only an effort to cripple Hamas, but also to blunt Iran's growing regional power. Abbas' defeat would cede yet another important part of the Middle East to Iranian influence, reinforcing the sense that the U.S., Israel and major Arab powers are on the defensive and unable to deter Iran's drive for power.
        On one level it makes sense to arm forces loyal to Abbas against Hamas, but the policy is based on the assumption that Fatah can either weaken Hamas or fight the organization to a draw. It is entirely possible that Hamas would prevail; after all, Hamas is better equipped and better organized than the Fatah-affiliated forces. The policy of training forces loyal to Abbas is in many ways similar to the mistakes the U.S. made in Iraq, where Washington essentially trained one set of militias to fight their rivals. The writer is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Newsday)
  • The Arab Lobby "Network" - John Perazzo
    According to the Arab American Institute, there are approximately 3.5 million people of Arab heritage in the U.S. today. Nearly 40% are Lebanese, mostly Christians, who are largely unsympathetic to the Arab lobby's anti-Israel perspectives. Only about 70,000 Palestinian Americans reside in the U.S., a small percentage of the Arab American population, but the Palestinian cause heads the Arab lobby's list of concerns.
        The Atlanta-based Carter Center has been a longtime recipient of Arab funding. Saudi Arabia's King Fahd made several large donations to the Center, including a 1993 gift of $7.6 million. As of 2005, the king's nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, had given at least $5 million to the Carter Center. (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Observations:

    Can a Conventional Army Vanquish a Terrorist Insurgency?
    - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Total victory is not the sole model of victory which history recognizes. Israel enjoyed a temporary victory over Palestinian terror in Gaza in the beginning of the 1970s, when Ariel Sharon was head of the IDF Southern Command. The terror did indeed return to Gaza, but this was after fifteen years of quiet. Historically, successful counterinsurgency campaigns were waged by the U.S. in the Philippines (1899-1902) and by the British in Malaya (1948-1960).
    • It is necessary to adopt an alternative concept of victory, which should be called "minimal victory," in which terror is not destroyed, but is contained at a minimal level, and one must invest constant energy in order to prevent its eruption.
    • Temporary victory and minimal victory do not provide a solution to the ideological conflict. Nonetheless, a political solution is not the affair of the army, and efforts to obtain it cannot be divorced from the obligation to fight determinedly against any attempt by the enemy to secure achievements through violence, as in the case of the present attempt by the Palestinians to attain political achievements through terror.
    • This "minimal victory," in which terror is contained and checked before it strikes, becomes more significant if, due to the terror organizations' prolonged lack of success, they consciously or not decide to reduce the number of their terror attempts. Such an achievement is possible, for example, when the terror bodies are too busy protecting their own lives instead of planning terror and carrying it out.
    • Israel went to war in the West Bank in April 2002 in Operation "Defensive Shield" after it counted 132 dead, the majority civilians, in the preceding month (meaning the equivalent of 1,400 deaths a year). In a continuous and uninterrupted effort since that campaign, Israel's terror casualty rate declined to 11 civilians for all of 2006. This is the type of victory over terror that one can demand of the army.
    • If the decision on the battlefield does not lead the political bodies to an understanding that the situation permits them to withstand the demands of the terror organizations, and they elect for one reason or another to compromise or surrender, withdraw or concede, then all the work invested by the military echelon will be in vain.

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