Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 22, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Bolstering Forces, Troops Moving Closer to Border - Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    The Syrian armed forces are being strengthened in an unprecedented way with the help of generous funding from Iran and its troops are moving closer to the border with Israel.
    The main emphasis of the efforts has been missiles and long-range rockets.
    Lately, the Syrians test-fired a Scud-D surface-to-surface missile with a 400-km. range that covers most of Israel.
    Damascus is close to concluding a deal with Russia to procure thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles.

Hamas Military Wing: Truce Is Over - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
    Hamas' Qassam Brigades have declared an end to a ceasefire with Israel, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
    The call to end the truce appeared on Hamas' official website, in both English and Arabic.
    Abu Obaida, spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, cited the death of Islamic Jihad commander Mahmoud Qassem in Jenin as the reason.
    Qassem was shot by Israeli Border Police on Tuesday, after security forces traced a foiled suicide bomb attack planned for Tel Aviv back to him.
    "The time has come to restore the honor of the Palestinian resistance," Abu Obaida said.

Egypt: Palestinian with Suicide Belt Caught in Sinai (Reuters)
    A Palestinian man wearing a suicide belt who planned to attack Israeli tourists was arrested on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah Tuesday after entering Egypt through a tunnel on the Gaza border, Egyptian police sources said Wednesday.
    "Under questioning he said that he intended to travel to south Sinai to carry out a suicide bombing at one of the villages or resorts frequented by large numbers of Israelis," a source said.

Briton Leads UN Mission to Train Fatah Militia - Tim Butcher (Telegraph-UK)
    A former Royal Marine is leading a UN operation to train 250 members of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Presidential Guard to improve security at the Karni cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel.
    The project involves training in border management, including search techniques and perimeter security, and is jointly funded by Holland, Canada and Britain.
    The security plan for the crossing is to include a formidable perimeter wall featuring a steel fence mounted with motion detectors that will pass real-time data to a control room.

Two Arrested in Chicago on Terrorism Charges (AP/Fox News)
    Zubair A. Ahmed, 27, and Khaleel Ahmed, 26, two Chicago-area cousins who are both American citizens, were arrested Wednesday on charges of conspiring to commit terrorist acts against Americans overseas, including U.S. military forces serving in Iraq.
    According to the indictment, the conspiracy included finding fresh recruits to wage "violent jihad" against Americans and locating sites for training them in the use of firearms, explosives and hand-to-hand combat.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Quartet: Palestinian Government Must Recognize Israel, Renounce Violence, Accept Past Agreements
    A statement by the Middle East Quartet following its meeting in Berlin on Wednesday said: "The Quartet reaffirmed its statements regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap." (United Nations)
        See also Quartet: Palestinian Government Must Abide by Our Terms - Assaf Uni
    The Quartet has said it will withhold judgment on the unity coalition until its policies are known. British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday told PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in London that the new Palestinian unity government must abide by the conditions laid out by the Quartet. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. and Europe Minimize Differences on Palestinian Accord - Glenn Kessler
    European and U.S. officials on Wednesday sought to play down emerging differences over the new Palestinian unity government during a meeting of the Quartet. (Washington Post)
        See also Splits Emerge Between U.S. and Europe Over Aid for Palestinians - Helene Cooper (New York Times)
  • Israel: No Peace Solution with Hamas - Joshua Brilliant
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled Wednesday there would be no agreement with the Palestinians as long as the majority there supports the Islamic Hamas. He did, however, state he would like to continue a dialogue with Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert said that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal "says openly, publicly and formally in any platform in the world that he doesn't want to negotiate with Israel and he doesn't want to make peace with Israel....The fact that the leader of more than 50 percent of the Palestinian electorate openly says he will do everything to destroy the State of Israel is very sad but it is a reality." Israel cannot sit with someone "who is aiming a gun at your head."
        Olmert indicated there was no sense in trying to make a deal with someone [like Abbas] who cannot deliver. "A body which does not represent the majority today among the Palestinians will not be able to actually carry out any commitment that will make any such talks valuable and meaningful."  (UPI)
        See also Transcript of Prime Minister Olmert's Meeting with the Foreign Press (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Iran Continues Nuclear Work Despite Deadline, Sanction Threat - Dafna Linzer and Colum Lynch
    Despite the threat of new sanctions, Iran is advancing work at its largest nuclear facility and has informed international inspectors in writing that it will not comply with a UN order to suspend the program. The Security Council on Dec. 23 set a 60-day deadline for the Tehran government to halt its nuclear work. Since then Iran has installed nearly 400 centrifuges, in two separate lines, at its uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz. U.S., British, and French officials said they will respond to Iran's defiance by pressing for additional economic sanctions, including an enforced travel ban on senior Iranian officials, asset freezes, and an end to government-backed loans and credits. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Accelerating Nuclear Enrichment Activities - Daniel Dombey
    Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN's chief nuclear inspector, suggested Iran's test centrifuges were now functioning smoothly after early teething pains. He said Iran could be six months to a year away from operating an industrial size cascade of 3,000 centrifuges. If 3,000 centrifuges ran smoothly for a year, they could produce enough material for a bomb. Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in December told the Knesset that by 2008, Iran would be able to develop 25 kg. of highly enriched uranium - enough for a bomb - and a weapon the following year. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also India Bans Atomic Exports to Iran
    India has banned the export to Iran of all material, equipment and technology which could contribute to Tehran's nuclear program, the government said Wednesday. The restrictions bring India, a longtime Iranian ally, into compliance with the UN Security Council resolution passed in December. (AP/Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Lebanon Shoots at Israeli UAV
    The Lebanese army said it fired on an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the southern city of Tyre on Wednesday. The IDF reported that the shooting had not endangered the aircraft. (Reuters/Ynet News)
  • UN Marks 15 Years Since Repeal of "Zionism Equals Racism" - Michal Lando
    The UN will mark the 15th anniversary of the repeal of the General Assembly Resolution that equated Zionism with racism on Thursday. A panel discussion held by the UN's Department of Public Information will be the first ever commemoration of the repeal at the world body. "At a time when we see the odious canard of 'Zionism equals racism' reasserted, I felt it would be an ideal opportunity to remind the world that this notion was rejected by the international community," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in northern Gaza landed near a kibbutz in the western Negev on Wednesday. Another rocket landed near Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Blame Hamas: Israel Still Lacks a Partner for Peace - Editorial
    Don't blame Secretary of State Rice for the meager results obtained in her latest trip to Jerusalem. The problem here isn't with the Americans, who desperately want and would so clearly benefit from a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Nor is Israel the problem. Olmert and his government remain committed in principle, as have all recent Israeli governments, to a two-state solution encompassing the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The problem lies with the Palestinians. Until they sort out their internal differences over whether they should even negotiate with Israel, there will be only barren ground for nurturing the compromises peace would require.
        Hamas, which won last year's legislative elections and thus controls the PA's parliament, refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, refuses to renounce violence against Israelis, and refuses to honor past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Until Hamas relents, and so long as it holds a whip hand among the Palestinians, the Israelis can reasonably ask whether Abbas and his Fatah party can deliver on anything that might be negotiated. Israel will have no reliable, or even feasible, partner for peace so long as Hamas remains intransigent and rejectionist. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Aid to Palestinians Increases Since Hamas Election - Steven Stotsky
    Following Hamas' victory in last year's Palestinian elections, the international community suspended direct aid to the PA government. But in fact, aid to the Palestinians has substantially increased since Hamas took over. In order to bypass Hamas, Western governments simply redirected aid to the office of Mahmoud Abbas, who at least in theory recognizes Israel.
        Total donations to the Palestinians in 2006 amounted to at least $775 million, more than doubling total foreign donations reported by the IMF in 2005. This leaves the Palestinians as the largest recipients per capita of charitable assistance in the world. The decline in the Palestinian economy has occurred despite the increase in foreign support, and not because of any supposed decrease in aid. (CAMERA)
  • Observations:

    The Dangerous Iran-China Partnership - Ilan Berman (Wall Street Journal, 22Feb07)

    • Financial pressure by the U.S. and other Western governments is beginning to have a real impact, chilling investment into Iran's energy sector, but these gains are in danger of being erased, thanks to the growing economic partnership between Tehran and Beijing.
    • In December, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Cnooc) signed a memorandum of understanding to develop Iran's massive North Pars natural gas field. At the same time, PetroChina inked a deal to annually import three million tons of liquefied natural gas from Iran. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is finalizing a $3.6 billion project to explore and exploit Iran's South Pars gas field.
    • Cnooc and PetroChina are publicly traded companies on the New York Stock Exchange and potentially are subject to the provisions of the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act which is intended to curb Iran's "ability to support acts of international terrorism and to fund the development and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them."
    • But Cnooc, PetroChina and CNPC are appendages of the Chinese Communist Party, and the application of sanctions against them would be tantamount to an act of economic warfare with China.
    • Other foreign multinationals have begun to take their cues from Beijing and signed energy-related agreements with Iran, such as Royal Dutch Shell, Spain's Repsol, and Malaysia's L1.
    • Bilateral sanctions are a critical tool in the U.S. economic arsenal. By actively enforcing such measures, policy makers in Washington have the ability to hammer home the point that trade with an increasingly intransigent Iranian regime is not cost-free - and to force Iran's trading partners to choose between doing business with Tehran and conducting commerce with the U.S.
    • U.S. policy must be geared toward making China and its economic fellow travelers aware of the gravity of the unfolding Iranian nuclear crisis - and providing them with the political rationale to make the right choices about partnership with Tehran. Raising the costs for China to do business in the Islamic Republic seems like a very good place to start.

      The writer is vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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