Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 12, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Tough Swagger Can't Disguise a Basic Weakness. - Bronwen Maddox (Times-UK)
    This week Iran said it was ready to start uranium enrichment. It may be ready in the sense of wanting to start, but that does not mean that it can.
    This is a country, after all, that has been prevented by sanctions and lack of expertise from building refineries to turn its own oil into petrol. It has been forced to spend the bounty from high oil prices on subsidizing imported petrol to fend off protests that might threaten the regime.
    Nor has Iran been able to make spare parts for its national airline, which has a safety record so poor that buying a ticket carries a significant risk of death.

Hamas Criticizes U.S. Security Aid for Abbas (Reuters)
    Hamas Islamists have criticized as "dirty" money a $59 million U.S. program to bolster Mahmoud Abbas' presidential guard.
    Senior Hamas lawmaker Yehya Moussa said Wednesday that the U.S. has "malicious intentions" to fuel fighting between Hamas and the once-dominant Fatah.
    See also Forces Loyal to Abbas Get Newer Bases, Training - Adam Entous (Reuters)

Militant Groups Turn on Each Other Near Afghanistan-Pakistan Border - Jeremy Page (Times-UK)
    For the first time since 2001, the Waziri tribesmen in Pakistan who probably harbored bin Laden and remain loyal to the Taleban are fighting against the foreign militants in their midst.
    In the past two weeks an estimated 250 people have been killed in fighting between the tribesmen and militants, mainly from Uzbekistan.
    A council of tribal elders in South Waziristan is said to have declared jihad (holy war) against the Uzbeks.

U.S., Israeli Firms to Tap Need for Small Satellites - Jim Wolf (Reuters)
    Northrop Grumman Corp. said on Wednesday it had teamed with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. to pitch small surveillance satellites to the U.S. government.
    The satellites weigh less than 800 pounds and cost $175-200 million, including launch costs.
    Designed for 24-hour surveillance in all weather conditions from a low earth orbit, they could deliver critical new capabilities to U.S. military and intelligence customers.

IMF Ups Israel Growth Forecast - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
    The IMF has raised its growth outlook for Israel by 0.3 percentage points in a new World Economic Outlook report published Wednesday.
    The IMF now predicts 4.8% growth in 2007, and 4.2% growth in 2008, one of the highest for developed countries.
    It also projects negative inflation for Israel in 2007 of minus 0.1%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • EU Says No to Aiding Palestinian Unity Government
    Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has failed to convince the EU to agree to resume aid to the PA. EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner repeated Wednesday in Brussels the international demands that the Palestinian government renounce violence, formally recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by former agreements. She said until that happened, the EU would only deal with what it considered to be Western-friendly members of the new Palestinian unity government.
        In 2006, the EU redirected its funding for the Palestinians through a special mechanism to help the neediest people while bypassing the government to avoid contact with Hamas - which it considers a terrorist organization. Ferrero-Waldner said this temporary mechanism would continue, but offered Fayyad technical assistance for his ministry. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
  • Both Sides in Iraq Using Weapons Made in Iran, U.S. Says - Alissa J. Rubin
    Arms believed to have been manufactured in Iran as recently as last year have turned up in Sunni-majority areas as well as in the hands of Shiite extremists, U.S. Maj.-Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday at a news conference where the weapons were put on display. The U.S. also had information from detainees that Iranian intelligence operatives had given support to Sunni insurgents and that surrogates for Iranian intelligence were training Shiite extremists in Iran. The link between Iranian intelligence and Sunni Arab insurgents is new.
        The military knew the mortar rounds were of Iranian origin by their structure, the geometry of the tail fins, and the stenciling on the warheads. 81-mm. mortar rounds are made regionally only by Iran. Other nearby countries make 82-mm. rounds. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Al-Qaeda Branch Claims Algeria Blasts - Craig Whitlock
    Al-Qaeda's new affiliate in North Africa - "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" - asserted responsibility Wednesday for the deadliest attacks in Algeria's capital in a decade as 24 people were reported killed and 222 injured in bombings that shattered the prime minister's headquarters and a police base. (Washington Post)
        See also Sarkozy Says Al-Qaeda Group that Bombed Algeria Targets France - Gregory Viscusi (Bloomberg)
        See also How North African Nations Are Dealing with Islamist Resurgence - Jill Carroll (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Rift Splits Hamas into Three Factions - Yaakov Katz and Khaled Abu Toameh
    As negotiations over the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit continue, grave concern was expressed within the Israeli defense establishment on Wednesday over the growing rift within Hamas, which officials warned could jeopardize the deal. Hamas is seen to have split into three central groups. The first is led by Khaled Mashaal, the exiled political leader based in Damascus.
        The second group is led by former Interior Minister Said Siam, former Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, and former Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who enjoy the backing of many members of Hamas' armed wing, Izaddin Kassam. The "rejectionists" accuse Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Mashaal of betraying Hamas voters by agreeing to form a coalition with Fatah. They argue that the Mecca agreement is a plot designed to remove Hamas from power. The third group is led by Ahmed Jaabri - the Hamas "Chief of Staff" in Gaza - believed to have directed and carried out Shalit's abduction in June. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Security, Gunmen Exchange Fire in Nablus
    PA security officers and militants from the Aksa Martyrs Brigades exchanged heavy fire in downtown Nablus on Monday, wounding three people. "I saw, from where I was, dozens of Palestinian police and gunmen chasing each other and shooting," said Ghassan Tabila, a street vendor. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Amnesty: "Egypt Abuses Its Detainees" - Jonny Paul
    The Egyptian authorities are committing systematic abuses of human rights in the name of national security, and planned anti-terror legislation could make the situation worse, according to an Amnesty International report released on Wednesday in Cairo. Thousands of Egyptians have been locked up, with many sentenced after unfair trials in emergency and military courts, according to Amnesty. Torture and prolonged detention without trial are rife. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A War of Narratives - David Brooks
    The Walt and Mearsheimer paper on the Israel lobby has had a profound effect on Arab elites. It has encouraged them not to be introspective, not to think about their own problems, but to blame everything on the villainous Israeli network. And so we enter a more intractable phase in the conflict, a war over narratives. The Arabs will demand that the U.S. and Israel adopt their narrative and admit historical guilt. Failing politically, militarily and economically, they will fight a battle for moral superiority, the kind of battle that does not allow for compromises or truces.
        Americans, meanwhile, will simply want to get out. Most Americans have given up on their ability to transform the Middle East and on Arab willingness to change. Faced with an arc of conspiracy-mongering, most Americans will get sick of the whole cesspool, and will support any energy policy or anything else that will enable them to cut ties with the region. What we have is not a clash of civilizations, but a gap between civilizations, increasingly without common narratives, common goals or means of communication. (New York Times, 8Apr07)
  • Dangers of the Saudi Initiative - Zalman Shoval
    The objective of the Saudi initiative is to diplomatically achieve everything the Arab world was unable to achieve through war and terror: The return of refugees and return to the borders of June 4, 1967, that invited aggression. And the Arabs are not relating to these issues as points for negotiation, but rather as a precondition to their actual willingness to engage in talks. Their refusal to make any amendments to the plan only confirms it.
        The Saudi initiative also seeks to convene a conference attended by the international Quartet (U.S., Europe, Russia, and the UN,) the Palestinians (namely, the Hamas government), and a new creature called "The Arab Quartet" (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE). In other words, Israel will find itself in a situation it has always tried to avoid: isolated in an international forum whose composition is bad. (Ynet News)
  • Saudi Columnist: "The Right of Return Is an Illusion"
    Saudi columnist Yousef Nasser al-Sweidan wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa on March 5, 2007: "It is patently obvious that uprooting the descendents of the refugees from their current homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other countries, and returning them to Israel, to the West Bank, and to Gaza is a utopian ideal and [a recipe for] anarchy. More than that - it is an idea that cannot be implemented." "The Arab countries where the Palestinians live in refugee camps must pass the laws necessary to integrate the inhabitants of these camps into society."
        In a second article on March 16, he wrote: "The Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon - who have for many long years been fed by their Arab hosts on impossible dreams and on shiny promises that were soon broken - do not need another 60 years of misery, wretchedness and order to figure out for the thousandth time that all the talk about the 'bridge of return' is nonsense and deceit - a fairytale that exists only in the old, worn-out demagogy of the Arab propaganda." "In reality, there is no 'bridge'...except for the bridge that we now must pass...called the peace process and normalization of relations between the Arabs and Israel." (MEMRI)
  • Observations:

    Terrorists Released in Prisoner Exchanges Revert to Terror - Interview with Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)

    • From previous prisoner-exchanges, we saw that 20-25 percent of released terrorists return to terrorist activity. Another 30 percent are involved after their release in organizational aspects of terror: recruitment, direction, and indoctrination of terrorists.
    • In the exchange being discussed, we will see higher percentages of released prisoners who return to terror activity because they are affiliated with organizations that have dedicated themselves to continued struggle against Israel until its eventual annihilation, unlike at the time of the Oslo Accords when thousands of prisoners were released with the intent that they would bring about support for the Oslo process.
    • In the document that came to be known as the Palestinian prisoners' document, there were some positive indications with regard to the right of return and to limiting the armed struggle. But that document no longer exists, because the document of national conciliation (the Mecca accord) - the only one spoken of now by the Palestinian public - has been stripped of all the elements that showed any moderation towards Israel.
    • The Minister of Information in the Palestinian government, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, announced that the government is in no way associated with the list of prisoners to be released submitted to Israel and did not put it together. He paints a picture whereby it is the splinter factions who have assembled the list and it is they who are negotiating with Israel. So what is the PA government doing? It is not even a partner; it is a disinterested bystander. That is the current chaotic status in the territories.
    • Palestinian peace activists, which constitute a very small group, will see the prisoner release as an act of reconciliation, but the vast majority of the Palestinian public - supporters of Hamas, Jihad, the Popular Front, and the Democratic Front, as well as all of those who are released - will indisputably see it as a sign of Israeli weakness.

      Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, formerly Palestinian Affairs Adviser to the Ministry of Defense, is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

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