Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 15, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Discovery of Mosaic Halts Work at Jerusalem Walkway - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
    A geometric patterned fifth or sixth century AD Byzantine mosaic fragment was exposed by archaeological workers Wednesday at the bottom of an underground shaft where one of the pillars for a walkway connecting to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is intended to go.
    "We have a real time discovery," reported Gideon Avni, director of excavations and surveys at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
    Dr. Avni vehemently denied claims by some Islamic leaders - and echoed by demonstrators from Cairo to Damascus - that the excavations posed a threat to the foundations of the mosques, saying they were all taking place in a limited area outside the walls of the compound.
    The Israeli authorities are arranging for webcam pictures of the dig to prove his case.

Mahdi Army Commanders Withdraw to Iran During Baghdad Security Crackdown - Michael Howard (Guardian-UK)
    Senior commanders of the Mahdi army, the militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have been spirited away to Iran to avoid being targeted in the new security push in Baghdad, a high-level Iraqi official said Wednesday.
    "The strategy is to lie low until the storm passes, and then let them return," said the official.

Saudi Terrorists Urge Attacks on Oil Facilities in Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela - Maamoun Youssef (AP/Washington Post)
    Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Saudi Arabian terrorist faction, has urged Muslim militants to attack oil facilities all over the world, including Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, to stop the flow of oil to the U.S., according to an article by the group posted on the Internet.
    Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for last year's attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen after bin Laden called on militants to stop the flow of oil to the West.

French Police Arrest Eleven for Recruitment for Al-Qaeda - Ariane Bernard (New York Times)
    The French antiterrorism police have arrested 11 people, most of them accused of connections to Iraqi insurgency recruitment rings linked to al-Qaeda, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Useful Reference:

The Mughrabi Ramp - The Real Story - Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem Region Archaeologist (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Why Must Excavations Be Conducted Next to the Temple Mount? - Dr. Gideon Avni, Head of Excavations and Surveys (Israel Antiquities Authority)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Congress Freezes $86M Meant for Abbas - Eli Lake
    Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chairwoman of the House subcommittee that funds the federal foreign operations budget, has placed a hold on $86 million in proposed security assistance to Mahmoud Abbas, at the request of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Lowey said, "It is imperative that we have a fuller understanding of exactly what the funding is for and what the situation is on the ground....Last Thursday's Mecca agreement raised additional questions." The $86 million was to be used, essentially, to train soldiers loyal to Abbas to fight Hamas. (New York Sun)
  • Bush: Iran's Arms Role in Iraq Is Certain - Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Marc Santora
    President Bush said Wednesday that he was certain that factions within the Iranian government had supplied Shiite militants in Iraq with deadly roadside bombs that had killed American troops. But he said he did not know whether Iran's highest officials had directed the attacks. Bush publicly endorsed assertions that an elite branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons that have been responsible for killing at least 170 American soldiers and wounding more than 600. "I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops."
        The chief American military spokesman in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said people, including Iranians, detained in Iraq in the past 60 days, "have told us that the Quds Force provides support to extremist groups here in Iraq in the forms of both money and weaponry." (New York Times)
  • Gaza Battle between Fatah, Hamas Scars Two Universities - Dion Nissenbaum
    The smell of charred books drifted through the ravaged rooms of the Islamic University's main library. "I can't recognize it," said math student Rihan Riha, 20. "It's totally destroyed." The attacks on competing colleges allied with the two factions are visible reminders of how deep the divisions between Hamas and Fatah run, how fragile their power-sharing deal may be and what could happen if the two return to open warfare.
        Forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas stormed the Islamic University after claiming that Hamas was using it as a launching pad for mortar attacks. Virtually every building was set ablaze. Thousands of books in the central library were destroyed. The student union hall was ransacked. Offices across campus were torched. The Islamic University has long served as an intellectual incubator for Hamas. Virtually every major leader of the militant Islamist movement has taught or studied at the university.
        Afterward, masked gunmen believed to be with Hamas attacked Al Quds Open University with rocket-propelled grenades, stormed the three-story building, doused classrooms with gasoline and set them on fire. Dozens of computers were stolen, and scores more were destroyed, said university spokesman Assad Keita. (McClatchy/Kansas City Star)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Delays Formation of PA Unity Government - Avi Issacharoff
    Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday postponed the appointment of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to form a unity government after Hamas presented a number of conditions. Hamas wants the unity government to recognize every decision made by the current Hamas government, including the establishment of a Hamas security force and various political appointments. On Tuesday a Fatah leader in Gaza, Maher Mekdad, said that Abbas wanted to appoint Mohammed Dahlan as deputy prime minister, but Hamas sees Dahlan as a sworn enemy and is fiercely opposed to the appointment. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi Sworn In as IDF Chief of Staff
    Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi took office on Wednesday as the Israel Defense Force's 19th Chief of General Staff. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gen. Ashkenazi: "Despite Our Yearning for Peace, the Time Has Not Yet Come to Sheath Our Sword" (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gen. Ashkenazi: CV (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Condi's Summit Won't Bridge Palestinian Gaps - Zev Chafets
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem next Monday. The event is already being called, in Hebrew, "the delusional summit." Rice wants to talk with the parties because that's what diplomats do, but it is doubtful that she expects results. The gaps are too wide and the animosities are too deep, not just between Israel and the Arabs but among the Palestinians themselves. If the two Palestinian sides can keep the peace until next Monday, Abbas will meet with Rice not as the leader of the unified Palestinian people, but as Hamas' junior partner and mouthpiece. And nothing he can say will move the peace process an inch. (New York Post)
  • Absurd to Call Israel an Apartheid State - Irshad Manji
    I respectfully challenge Jimmy Carter's recent critique of Israel as an apartheid state. Would an apartheid state have several Arab political parties, as Israel does? Would the vast majority of Arab Israeli citizens turn out to vote in national elections, as they've usually done? Would an apartheid state extend voting rights to women and the poor in local elections, which Israel did for the first time in the history of Palestinian Arabs? Would an apartheid state award its top literary prize to an Arab? Israel honored Emile Habibi in 1986. Would an apartheid state encourage Hebrew-speaking schoolchildren to learn Arabic? Would an apartheid state be home to universities where Arabs and Jews mingle at will, or apartment blocks where they live side by side? Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East? The writer is the author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith. (Australian)
  • Temple Mount Wisdom - Gilad Kariv
    Anyone with eyes in their head and an honest heart knows that repairing a bridge at the Mughrabi Gate isn't part of an Israeli conspiracy to take over the Temple Mount, and that those are indeed renovation works whose time has come. The scope of the hypocrisy of Islamic Movement leaders is further clarified in light of the fact that in recent years the Waqf authorities, with the Islamic Movement's encouragement, removed hundreds of tons of Temple Mount soil that contained archeological findings holding immense religious and historical significance. The Waqf also dug huge halls under the al-Aqsa Mosque and almost brought about the collapse of the holy Mount's supporting walls. With this being the daily reality at the Mount, the arguments articulated by leaders of the Islamic Movement and those who back them show nothing but a lack of religious, public, and leadership integrity. The writer is a Reform rabbi and attorney. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    The International Implications of the Hamas-Fatah Mecca Agreement
    - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah does not presage a favorable diplomatic turn. It is merely a tactical political measure calculated to create a false impression regarding Hamas' political flexibility in order to whitewash the organization into being accepted as a legitimate player in the international arena without it having to meet the three preconditions of the Quartet.
    • In practice, Gaza under Hamas rule continues to be a hotbed of terror organizations, including those with ties to al-Qaeda.
    • The political flexibility of Hamas, as expressed in the Mecca agreement, derives first and foremost from Hamas' inability to score a decisive triumph, as well as from the international political and economic pressure which eroded public support for the Hamas government and the carrot and stick policy of Saudi Arabia (Hamas' financial patron). Hamas' main objective is the removal of the international boycott on the Palestinian Authority.
    • Despite the desire of the EU countries to see a stable and democratic Palestinian government, past experience demonstrates that the billions of dollars poured into the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo process commenced have only served to strengthen the radical forces. If assistance is now extended to a Palestinian government where Hamas predominates, the West would be sawing off the limb of the tree which constitutes its Middle Eastern perch.
    • Hamas, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, does not conceal its aspirations to foment Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East, which would topple the moderate regimes allied with the West and establish an Islamic caliphate which will threaten Europe.

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