Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. Provided Information about Syrian Air Defenses Before Israeli Attack - David A. Fulghum and Robert Wall (Aviation Week)
Something Far More Vicious than a Syrian Nuclear Reactor Targeted by Israel - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
List of Palestinians Slated for Release with Description of Crimes Committed (Israel Prison Service/IMRA)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In a bit of last-minute diplomacy, President Bush called the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the PA Wednesday to discuss details of the U.S. peace conference set to begin in Annapolis next week. The Bush administration is engaged in intense efforts to ensure that key countries will send top officials to the first Middle East peace conference since the 2000 Camp David talks. Saudi Arabia and Syria are not expected to respond to the U.S. invitation until after the Arab League meeting in Egypt on Thursday and Friday. Secretary of State Rice said Wednesday that the wider Arab world needs to be engaged to give confidence to Israel that when a Palestinian state becomes a reality, the wider Arab-Israeli conflict will end. (Washington Post)
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the U.S. in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60% of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials. A trove of documents and computers discovered in September by American forces near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border, listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006. Saudis accounted for 41% of the fighters listed, while Libya accounted for 18%. (New York Times)
Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 49, a former associate professor of business at Washington's Howard University, accused of taking part in a Palestinian terrorist network, was sentenced to 11 years in prison Wednesday for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve found that Ashqar's refusal to testify was motivated by a desire to "promote terrorism." That toughened the federal sentencing guidelines and guaranteed that he would get a stiff sentence. (AP)
Supporters of King Abdullah II handily defeated the country's Islamist opposition in parliamentary elections, dropping their number of parliament seats by nearly two-thirds, final results showed Wednesday. The Islamic Action Front fielded 22 candidates and won only six seats, down from 17 in the outgoing parliament. (AP/Washington Post)
U.S. Secretary of State Rice told Syria on Wednesday to stop interfering in Lebanon's stalled election process and allow its neighbor to chose a new president without intimidation. Rice said she telephoned France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has been in Beirut since Sunday trying to resolve the presidential crisis, as well as Arab League chief Amr Moussa, on Wednesday to discuss how to break the deadlock. Lebanon's presidential vote in parliament has been postponed four times. (Reuters)
See also Trying to Save Lebanon, Again - Editorial (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
At Wednesday's security cabinet meeting, Israel's defense establishment - including the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet - was extremely pessimistic about what will happen the day after the Annapolis peace meeting. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin warned that Mahmoud Abbas was too weak to implement an agreement after the summit. At the same time, he said, if Israel did not engage Abbas as a partner today, it might find itself without a partner tomorrow.
According to recent intelligence assessments, and contrary to public thinking, Hamas is just as strong in the West Bank as it is in Gaza. While in Gaza Hamas men walk around in the open with assault rifles and anti-tank missiles, in the West Bank the group's power core can be found in the mosques as well as in welfare and financial institutions. (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF Tuesday released a video of a Palestinian terror cell in Gaza preparing to launch Kassam rockets towards Israel last week. After army intelligence makes a positive identification and confirms the men are not civilians, the IDF attacks the cell, killing all four cell members and destroying the rocket launchers.
Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi said that the air strikes were effective in targeting 1-3% of the cells. "We have to hurt those who manufacture the Kassams, issue the orders, transport the cells, and develop the explosives...everything else related to this industry. We cannot ignore the other 97%." (Ynet News)
Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot Wednesday evening. Several mortar shells were fired at the Erez crossing Wednesday morning. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The day after the Annapolis conference we shall discover what various mediators have been repressing time and again: A peace agreement between Israel and Palestine is not viable. We're late, as the Palestinians have not been one people or one entity for a while now. The PLO is not the Palestinian people's exclusive representative. Mahmoud Abbas represents at most the non-representative population of the "Ramallah enclave." In Gaza we are dealing with a junta of religious clerics that swore to forever live by the sword. (Ynet News)
One of Israel's gestures towards the PA was the amnesty plan for 170 Fatah operatives on Israel's wanted list, whose implementation began on July 12, 2007. Some of the wanted operatives who surrendered their arms and fulfilled all their obligations are now moving on to the second phase, in which they will be granted complete pardon (the case of every wanted operative will be assessed individually, based on the severity of his past actions). A small part of the wanted operatives who continued or resumed terrorist activities have once again become immediate targets for counter-terrorist operations of the Israeli security forces. Other wanted Fatah operatives, who have come to realize the futility of their past terrorist activities, are currently being gradually put into the probation phase.
The amnesty plan makes it possible to take numerous terrorist operatives out of the circle of terrorism using a precise, monitored apparatus. The dynamic created by the plan has a positive influence on the Palestinian street, and might prompt other wanted operatives to abandon the path of terrorism. The implementation of the plan is not dependent upon the progress of the PA buildup, which is still far from demonstrating any enforcement capabilities. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
The premise of Western policy is to tread lightly upon Muslim sensibilities. That is an error of first magnitude, for Muslim sensibilities are what prevents the Islamic world from creating modern states. Free elections in Muslim lands tend to hand power to fanatical despots. For the Muslim world, what matters is not that Israel is a functioning democracy located in the Middle East, but rather that it is Israel that humbled the House of Islam.
Because success is central to Islam's promise, and the restoration of the Jewish commonwealth in its historic territory along with its ancient capital seems to validate Jewish scripture rather than the Koran, Israel offers an existential challenge to the Muslim world. Muslims will never accept the permanent presence of Israel unless compelled. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
The Consensus Conference - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Why is it worth Olmert's while to go to Annapolis?
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