Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah Meet in Damascus - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
See also Israel Slams Iran-Syria Alliance (AFX/Forbes)
Life Sentence for Palestinian Who Murdered Italian Peace Activist - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
Army of Islam Activist in Gaza Praises Connection with Al-Qaeda (MEMRI)
Doctor Born in Saudi Arabia Is 4th Charged in UK Bomb Plot - Jane Perlez (New York Times)
In Kiryat Shmona, Residents Live in the Shadow of Hizbullah Rockets - Carolynne Wheeler (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Anti-Semitic Cartoons on Hamas' Russian-Language Website (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
In Middle East, Rodents' Worst Enemy Unites Israelis, Jordanians (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism in Sweden - Interview with Zvi Mazel (JCPA)
Deutsche Bank: Israel One of Most Robust Economies in Region - Adi Ben Israel (Globes)
Revealing an Israel that Goes Beyond the Headlines - Jane Wooldridge (McClatchy)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israel released more than 250 Palestinian prisoners on Friday as part of a series of goodwill gestures designed to bolster Mahmoud Abbas in his standoff against Hamas. (CNN)
See also Amnesty Reflects Fatah's Lost Faith in Fighting - Harvey Morris
For Amjad Khalami, the Palestinian uprising is over. The 35-year-old emerged from five years in hiding at the weekend and gave himself up at the Palestinian security headquarters in Bethlehem to take advantage of an Israeli amnesty for wanted men. Armed resistance was, in effect, broken in 2002 when Israel reoccupied the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield. Since then, the gunmen have concentrated on avoiding capture.
Soul-searching Fatah officials have begun to acknowledge that the armed intifada was a mistake and even to claim that Islamist extremists in Hamas pose a greater threat than the Israeli occupation. Muhammad Laham, a PA and PLO legislator who served 14 years of a 30-year sentence for his activities in the first intifada, says, "It was a mistake to militarize the intifada." "I am a secularist. I didn't spend 14 years in an Israeli jail to see the creation of a Taliban regime in Palestine," he added. (Financial Times-UK)
Tony Blair was told by the U.S. Thursday that he had no authority to tackle political negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as he spent his first full day as special envoy to the Middle East. Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, insisted at a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Lisbon that America would retain leadership of the "political track" while Blair would work on raising funds for the Palestinians, as well as building their economy and infrastructure. He will be more an envoy to the Palestinians than a peace envoy. The Quartet reiterated its policy of refusing to deal with Hamas on the grounds that it is a terrorist group, instead backing Mahmoud Abbas. (Telegraph-UK)
Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, 37, was named by President Bush as an enemy combatant in 2003 - the only foreigner arrested on U.S. soil to be so designated. In May at the Coast Guard Academy, Bush said the intelligence community believes that among Marri's potential targets were "water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange and United States military academies such as this one." The Pentagon stopped questioning him after the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that alleged enemy combatants held in the U.S. have a right to counsel. But beneath the legal maneuvers are mysteries that Marri has never addressed: What was behind his travels between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the U.S.? What was the purpose of his computer research on hacking, and on how to buy and mix large quantities of chemicals into deadly hydrogen cyanide gas? Why did he possess more than 1,000 stolen credit card numbers?
Federal agents allege that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who would become the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, became Marri's al-Qaeda handler. U.S. intelligence officials believe that Marri, whose family is Saudi, trained for two years in Afghanistan, among other things receiving instruction in the use of poisons and toxins at the Derunta camp near Jalalabad. Intelligence source said, "We think al-Marri was here to carry out attacks, as part of a second or third wave." On March 1, 2003, Mohammed was captured in a safe house in Pakistan, along with a treasure-trove of material from his computer and telephones. He revealed several "second wave" plotters and facilitators who were dispatched before the 2001 attacks. Marri was among them, counterterrorism sources said. (Washington Post)
An escalating crackdown by the U.S. on foreign companies and banks doing business with Iran is provoking opposition in Britain and Europe. Congress wants all international companies to end their investment in Iran and is pushing through a bill that would penalize companies which fail to do so. A senior British banking source said Thursday there was a great deal of annoyance with the U.S. approach. The two British banks most frequently mentioned in Washington in relation to Iran are HSBC and Standard Chartered. The source said both banks have scaled down their operations in Iran, but much of their former business has been picked up by German and French banks whose governments have resisted pressure from Washington. (Guardian-UK)
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler and other Canadian scholars presented the U.S. Congress Thursday with its first testimony on Jews driven from Arab lands following Israel's creation in 1948. The group was among experts helping U.S. lawmakers decide on a pair of bills that would oblige the Bush administration to actively oppose the Arab-led practice in Middle East peace efforts to speak only of Palestinian refugees. General discourse for decades has all but ignored tens of thousands of Jews, Christians and other minorities who were similarly turned into refugees. "The time has come to rectify this historical injustice," Cotler told members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington. (National Post-Canada)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
"In the two years since the IDF left the Philadelphi Corridor (along the border between Gaza and Egypt), Hamas has leapt forward by a generation," a senior IDF officer said in a briefing. The relative quiet in Gaza in the past month has been maintained by Hamas only in order to be able to build up its forces and arsenal more easily, he said. "Sooner rather than later, there will be Katyusha rockets in Gaza....Katyushas are only a matter of time." The officer said Hamas forces currently number 12-13,000 in four trained divisions. "An additional element is the hundreds of operatives traveling to Iran in order to acquire new (military) knowledge to bring back to Gaza."
"The Gaza Strip, which used to be surrounded by the IDF, has become porous," he explained. Arrangements for the operation of the Gaza border crossings, agreed upon when IDF forces left the area in 2005, are not being implemented because Palestinian forces ignore them and European forces at the crossings are not effective, he said. (Ynet News)
See also Hamas Significantly Strengthening But Is Not Yet Hizbullah - Amos Harel
A senior military source said the Philadelphi Route is entirely out of control. Smuggling has transformed into importing. (Ha'aretz)
Israel has no intention at this time of transferring security responsibility for Palestinian cities in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, Israeli government officials said Thursday in response to a report in the London-based Arabic paper Al Quds, which quoted Palestinian sources as saying Israel would soon stop its counterterrorism activities in Jericho and Kalkilya and place security responsibility for those two cities in the PA's hands. "They first have to have an effective security service in place," one official said. While transferring security control of the cities could ultimately take place, it is currently not even on the table, one official said. A senior officer in the IDF Central Command said, "The Palestinians first need to prove their sincerity. Until then, there is no reason to grant them control of security over a city in the West Bank." (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket on Thursday that hit a home in the city of Sderot. A number of buildings were damaged in the strike and seven people suffering from shock were taken to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. "It's a miracle no one was killed in the attack," said one resident. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Is there a way to find a peaceful way to stop Iran going nuclear? The Europeans hoped they had stumbled on such a solution last year, when they at last talked Russia and China into imposing sanctions and George Bush into dangling the prospect of normal relations with Iran once enrichment stopped. But the mild sanctions imposed so far are not working, and now the technological clock in Natanz is outrunning the diplomatic clock at the United Nations. Iran may soon work out how to spin its centrifuges at full speed for long periods; and once it learns how to do that the odds of stopping it from building a bomb will rapidly lengthen. This suggests that a third sanctions resolution, with sharper teeth, needs to be enacted without delay.
Iran is obstinate, paranoid and ambitious. But it is also vulnerable. A young population with no memory of the revolution is desperate for jobs its leaders have failed to provide. Sanctions that cut off equipment for its decrepit oilfields or struck hard at the financial interests of the regime and its protectors in the Revolutionary Guards would have an immediate impact on its own assessment of the cost of its nuclear program. (Economist-UK)
The notion of military action to prevent a nuclear Iran is under serious consideration in the White House - with Bush apparently leaning towards Dick Cheney's view that it may be necessary to use force before they leave office in January 2009. The flock of U.S. presidential candidates are all at pains not to rule out military action and so, strikingly, was David Miliband in his first interview as British foreign secretary. Nowhere is the Iranian peril assessed more closely than in Israel, which would, after all, be target number one for any Iranian bomb. The way Israel sees it, the combination of a nuclear bomb and an ideology that yearns for a world without the Jewish state adds up to the threat of annihilation.
Several voices in Israel's military and political establishment speak of pursuing diplomacy and precisely targeted sanctions to the very end. They reckon that if the Iranian elite is denied international financial credit and the refined oil on which they rely, the regime could begin to crack under the strain. "Iran is not North Korea," one Israeli insider argued - there is a civil society and an elite which might pressure the leadership to drop the nuclear dream if it proved too costly. (Guardian-UK)
The recently released National Intelligence Estimate stressed that the sort of Islam taking root in Muslim communities of America and Europe is a "radical" and "especially Salafi" type of Islam. "Salafi" is a synonym for Saudi or Wahhabist Islam, the extremely unforgiving religious ideology spread for the last 40 years by the religious wings of the Saudi royal government, using billions of the country's oil dollars and relying on Western acquiescence. If you know the carrier - Saudi Arabia - and the disease - jihadist Islam spread with Saudi funding through mosques staffed with Wahhabist imams in America and Europe - why blithely allow it to continue?
Every month, Saudi dollars flow in to build and staff more mosques, from one end of Europe to the other and in every American city. Saudi-trained imams originally from Egypt or Pakistan are streaming into America using visas that identify them as "religious guides." America should get a National Intelligence Estimate that tells us how many of the imams coming into this country have an "elemental knowledge" of America's essential values, such as freedom of speech and the rights of women. Saudi Islam is not what we want to promote in America. (New York Sun)
The entire Syrian regime is premised on the animosity and conflict with Israel. If there is no conflict with Israel there will be no minority Alawite regime ruling Syria either. In a speech this week to parliament, Assad announced new conditions for engaging in talks: Prime Minister Olmert must transfer "written guarantees" in an official document, according to which Israel is prepared to hand over to Syria all of the Golan Heights up to the borders of July 4, 1967, without any dispute. Does Assad really think that either side would agree to the demands of the other side without actually engaging in talks? And what is he giving in exchange? Syria is in need of some kind of process with Israel that would save it from an international tribunal regarding the Rafik Hariri assassination. On the other hand, peace with Israel would mark the end of the regime. (Ynet News)
According to IDF Military Intelligence, Israel is heading toward a number of major military conflicts in the coming year, possibly even in the next few months. Hizbullah is rearming and is back at the level of strength it possessed before the war. Syria is in the midst of an unprecedented weapons shopping spree and making final preparations for war. Iran is racing toward nuclear power and, if not stopped, might obtain a nuke as early as 2009. Hamas has established an enemy Islamic state five minutes south of Ashkelon. And al-Qaeda has declared Israel as one of its primary targets for the coming year.
Senior officers warned last week of growing enemy strength and a continuous deterioration of the IDF's level of deterrence in the eyes of its enemies. Israel's deterrence began declining in May 2000, following the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. It increased with America's entry into Iraq in 2003, but quickly dropped again with the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005, which was perceived - as was its Lebanese predecessor - as a victory for Islamic terror. In 2006, deterrence again suffered a heavy blow with the failure to destroy Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War, and it continues to decline with America's failure to stabilize the situation in Iraq. (Jerusalem Post)
There will always be those among the Palestinians and Arab countries and in the Muslim world who will obstruct any attempt to reach a settlement that recognizes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, to say nothing of one that does not guarantee the "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees.
The peace in Jordan is being maintained, with great difficulty, by the royal family and the elite surrounding it, contrary to the view held by the majority of the Jordanian public and despite vehement opposition from the Jordanian intelligentsia. The situation in Egypt is similar, with relations with Israel evoking intense opposition from both the general public and the intellectuals. The Jordanian crown is somewhat shaky, and the Egyptian regime could be overthrown by an uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood - and Israel could find itself surrounded by enemies in the south and east. And in the north, the government of Lebanon could fall at any moment to Hizbullah.
There are dozens of countries in the world that don't live in peace with their neighbors, and which nevertheless manage over time to maintain a normal lifestyle - even for generations on end. That is our fate too. (Jerusalem Post)
Less than six years after 9/11, the great Clash of Civilizations has fizzled out. It's been replaced by a civil war within a single civilization. Everywhere, the basic plot is the same: traditional Muslim sheiks and autocrats battling with murderous jihadis for control of Muslim lands. In each case, it is Muslims themselves - not Western soldiers or politicians - who will decide the outcome. Of course, Muslims are still trying to blow up infidels in London and Glasgow, not to mention Tel Aviv, Kashmir and a hundred other places. But with every passing month, Muslim violence becomes more self-directed.
After 9/11, George W. Bush and his international supporters were swept up in a grand Wilsonian project to revamp the political culture of the Muslim world. But six years later, we're largely back on the sidelines, feebly exhorting our chosen autocrats - Musharraf, Abbas, Siniora, al-Maliki, King Hussein, Mubarak, King Abdullah - to "do more to fight terrorism." Most of the Muslim leaders we now are supporting are not democratic folk heroes, but compromised autocrats, although these men are a lot saner than the Islamists they're fighting. (National Post-Canada)
James D. Wolfensohn, 73, an Australian-born American Jew who was president of the World Bank for 10 years, spent 11 months as the Middle East envoy of the Quartet until April 2006. He arrived in the region in May 2005, three months before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, brimming with good intentions and raised $9 billion to bolster the Palestinian economy. He also donated money of his own to help the Palestinians buy Israeli-owned greenhouses in Gaza.
"All the dreams that we had then have now gone, and beyond that you now have an elected Hamas government and a split with Fatah," he said. "I'm not at all sure that Israel can determine what happens in Palestine, the Palestinian territories. There's been no evidence up to now that a decision taken by the Israelis will determine what the Palestinians do." "Over the last four years, the war in Israel and Palestine has cost the international community - including military expenditure - somewhere between $10 and $20 billion. The Iraq war has cost $600 billion. The Afghanistan war has cost between $50 billion and $100 billion....There has to be a moment when Israelis and Palestinians understand that they are a sideshow." (Ha'aretz)
That the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the Temple Mount, should wish to install new electric and telephone lines is understandable - provided that the necessary trench is first dug as a professional archaeological excavation. That is the required procedure everywhere in Israel before work can be undertaken at sites with archaeological significance. At the Temple Mount, even more care is required. This is the holiest site in the world to Jews: Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple built by Herod once stood on this site. Significant remains - pottery, parts of ancient mosaics, tiles and even architectural fragments - have already been observed in the soil from the excavated part of the trench.
The Waqf has a long history of ignoring Israel's antiquities laws. In 1970, the Waqf excavated a pit without supervision that exposed a 16-foot-long, six-foot-thick wall that scholars believe may well be the eastern wall of the Herodian Temple complex. The wall was dismantled, destroyed, and covered up. Israel's Supreme Court found in 1993 that the Waqf had violated Israel's antiquities laws on 35 occasions, many involving irreversible destruction of important archaeological remains.
In 1999, the Waqf dug an enormous stairway to accommodate a major expansion of an underground mosque in the southeastern part of the Temple Mount. Hundreds of truckloads of archaeologically rich dirt were dug with mechanical equipment and then dumped into the adjacent Kidron Valley. For over two years Prof. Gabriel Barkay of Bar-Ilan University has been engaged in a major sifting operation of this dirt, finding thousands of artifacts going back more than 3,000 years. (Wall Street Journal)
At the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which was stormed by the Pakistani military last week, the chief cleric at the mosque was Mohammed Abdul Aziz, brother of the deputy chief cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was quoted before his death as saying: "We have decided that we can be martyred, but we will not surrender!" Mohammed Abdul Aziz had tried to flee the mosque dressed in a burqa, the black robe for women.
The four men convicted last week of conspiring to bomb London's public transit system in July 2005 included Yassin Omar, 26, a Somali, who had fled to Birmingham after the bombing dressed in a full-length black burqa. Now, what better way to disguise yourself, if you are a young foreign terrorist, than to play the burqa-covered woman?
The covering of women in the Middle East is a mark of subjugation, a signal that they belong to men and not to society. In fact, there is nothing in the Koran instructing women to cover themselves totally, only to dress modestly, and the practice is of fairly recent origin. Employed in the West, it is actually an in-your-face gesture of disrespect for Western principles. (Chicago Tribune)
Iran's Renewed Threats to Take Over the Arab Gulf States - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert