Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 4, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Iran Likely Restarted Nuclear Arms Program (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Israeli intelligence believes Iran is still trying to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel's defense minister said Tuesday, disputing a U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran has halted its program.
    "It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio.
    Barak said, "We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend."

Israel Delays Transfer of Armored Personnel Carriers to Abbas (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Israel has delayed a planned transfer of 25 armored personnel carriers from Russia to the Palestinian Authority, planned for this week, because the Palestinians want to have them mounted with machine guns, security officials said Monday.
    Housing Minister Zeev Boim said Israel feared that the equipment and weapons could fall into Hamas' hands.
    "We do need to strengthen Abbas' security forces," Boim said. "But it's way too early for them to have APCs with mounts for heavy weapons."

Report: Palestinian Prisoners Released by Israel Killed 177 Israelis - Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinian militants freed in past prisoner releases by Israel were responsible for at least 30 terror attacks which claimed the lives of 177 Israelis, according to a study published Monday by Almagor, an organization representing the victims of Palestinian terrorism.
    According to the report, 6,912 militants were released between the years 1993 and 1999, and nearly 80% of them returned to terrorist activity.

Jordan's Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA - Craig Whitlock (Washington Post)
    Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated at the headquarters of Jordan's General Intelligence Department in Amman.
    The spy center served as a covert way station for CIA prisoners captured in other countries. It was a place where they could be hidden after being arrested and kept for a few days or several months before being moved on to Guantanamo or CIA prisons elsewhere in the world.
    The GID is perhaps the CIA's most trusted partner in the Arab world and has received money, training and equipment from the CIA for decades.
    In recent years, U.S. officials have praised their Jordanian counterparts for the depth of their knowledge regarding al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Finds Iran Halted Its Nuclear Arms Effort in 2003 - Mark Mazzetti
    A new National Intelligence Estimate released Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen. The assessment, the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely to keep its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies "do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that could provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of the next decade. But the new report essentially disavows a judgment that the intelligence agencies issued in 2005, which concluded that Iran had an active secret arms program intended to transform the raw material into a nuclear weapon.
        Administration officials said the intelligence findings would not lessen White House concern about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The fact that Iran continues to refine its abilities to enrich uranium, they said, could lead Iran to a bomb in relatively short order. (New York Times)
        See also A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy - Peter Baker and Robin Wright
    The new intelligence estimate not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions, but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency. "On balance, the estimate is good news," said national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. "On the one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen." (Washington Post)
        See also Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (White House)
  • Neighbors Still Fear Tehran Threat - Richard Beeston
    While U.S. intelligence may not regard Iran's nuclear program as an immediate threat, that does not mean other nations in the region will be mollified. The Arab Gulf states regard a resurgent Iran, with or without nuclear weapons, as the greatest threat to regional stability. Above all, Israel remains very concerned about the threat posed by Iran, whose leader, President Ahmadinejad, has suggested the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."  (Times-UK)
  • Rice: U.S. to Boost PA Economic Aid to $400 Million
    The U.S. plans to boost its economic development aid to the Palestinians in this year's budget to around $400 million, Secretary of State Rice said Monday. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas' West Bank Rule an Optical Illusion - Amir Rappaport
    Israel's security services believe that if they were not making arrests in the West Bank every night, it is quite probable that Hamas would overcome Fatah there as it did so easily in Gaza. In practical terms, this means that, to a great extent, Fatah control in the West Bank is an optical illusion. Israel's security services are concerned at clear signs of Hamas strengthening in the West Bank. Even in the Fatah stronghold of "secular" Ramallah, the number of mosques has doubled in recent years as the number of worshippers has increased. At the same time, Israel has been unable to block the large flow of Hamas money to its welfare institutions, which function much better than the failed PA institutions.
        Hamas is building up its military capabilities in the West Bank. Its forces are training and building bunkers in cities like Nablus and Kalkilya, while its activists plan attacks on Israeli civilian targets. Given this reality, is there any point in conducting negotiations with the heads of Fatah when the issue being discussed is the transfer of land that Fatah is unable to control without the continued presence of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shabak). Of additional concern are the thousands of rifles and millions of bullets that were brought in from Jordan for the Palestinian police. In recent years, due to intensive IDF activity against weapons smuggling, the price of a bullet had risen to tens of shekels. It has now fallen drastically as ammunition from PA police warehouses finds its way into the hands of terrorists. (Maariv-Hebrew, 30Nov07)
        See also Abbas Shuts Hamas Charities in West Bank - Karin Laub
    Mahmoud Abbas has closed 92 charities linked to Hamas in the West Bank, Abbas' information minister, Riad Malki, said Monday. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is to announce Tuesday the formation of 11 new charity committees to take the place of those dissolved. (AP)
  • Palestinian Mortar Strikes House in Israeli Kibbutz - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a mortar shell towards Israel on Monday night that landed on a residential home in a kibbutz in the western Negev, causing substantial damage to the structure. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hopes for Peace - Mortimer Zuckerman
    Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader presuming to speak for the Palestinians at the Annapolis conference, no longer controls Gaza and his grip on the West Bank is so weak that even in his capital of Ramallah, Fatah lost to Hamas in the most recent mayoral election. Most intelligence assessments agree that Fatah has virtually ceased to exist in the West Bank. Remove Israeli forces in the West Bank and Hamas takes over. And where would that leave the Israelis, given the vulnerability of major cities like Tel Aviv to rocket fire? The harsh reality is that every time Israel has transferred security to the PA and its police, terrorism has followed. In the decade before the Oslo "peace" agreement, 41 Israelis were murdered. In the decade after, 945 were murdered.
        Anybody who has visited the West Bank knows how much Fatah is dedicated to peace with Israel. The Fatah-controlled press and TV and the mosques reverberate with continuous incitement to violence and hate. Suicide bombers are depicted as heroes. In recent polls, almost half the Palestinian population would not accept Israel, even if there was a settlement. And Fatah still maintains its own terrorist wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Nobody wants Annapolis to fail. But it was prematurely arranged, and the sequence is wrong. The Palestinians should have had to build up a civil administration and an effective and reliable security force first. (U.S. News)
  • The Price of Annapolis: Lebanese Democracy - Lee Smith
    Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Michel Suleiman is Damascus' number one choice to be Lebanon's president. Up until now, Saad al-Hariri and his Cedar Revolution allies had resisted Suleiman's candidacy, as did Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt and leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea. Why the about face? Because of Annapolis. They feared Washington was going to cut a deal with Syria over Lebanon, so they made their own bargain to protect themselves since it is now obvious Washington will not. Thus, the wages of peace processing. (Weekly Standard)
  • Islam and Teddy Bears - Editorial
    Sudan's president Monday pardoned British teacher Gillian Gibbons, jailed last Sunday for insulting Islam by allowing her mostly Muslim students at an English school in Khartoum to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." In a rally on Friday, thousands of protesters, many armed with clubs and swords, called for Ms. Gibbons' death. In the paranoid vision of Muslim fanatics, even a stuffed toy can be part of the "plot against Islam." Where believers are determined to feel insult where none was intended and, worse, use violence to revenge any slight, imagined or real, interreligious dialogue becomes, let's say, problematic. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Iran Laughing at U.S. Lack of Nuclear Intelligence - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)

    • A hearty Persian laugh was heard in Tehran after looking at U.S. intelligence's website with the unclassified version of "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." The document enables the ayatollahs' nuclear and operations officials and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards to conclude that the Americans have no understanding of what is really happening in Iran's nuclear program. They have no solid information, they have no high-level agents and they have nothing more than a mix of guesswork and chatter. The dissemblance and concealment have succeeded.
    • On one level, this is a philosophical debate: How should the lack of "indicative signs" be interpreted, in the face of a devious enemy, a certified cheat who is determined in his pursuit of the goal (according to the intelligence assessors). The suspicious Bush and Cheney believe the absence of evidence is in fact evidence of the existence of an additional, hidden channel of nuclear development. Their intelligence services say that without proof there is no place for such an evaluation.
    • Behind the heap of words, the differences between the worst-case and the best-case views on when Iran will be capable of producing a nuclear weapon are not that great. These range from somewhere between 2009 and the following five years, starting in 2010. And even U.S. intelligence officers agree that Iran can buy nukes off the shelf - from Syria, North Korea and maybe Pakistan.

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