Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 13, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Tests New Solid Fuel Missile (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran tested a newly-developed ballistic missile on the day of the Annapolis conference, Israel TV Channel 10 reported Wednesday.
    The Ashoura missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers and is capable of reaching Israel, U.S. Army bases in the Middle East, and eastern European cities, including Moscow.
    An improvement on the existing Shihab-3 missile, the Ashoura uses solid fuel instead of the Shihab's liquid fuel, giving it a significantly faster launch sequence which is harder to detect.

Poll: 82% of American Jews Believe Arabs Seek Destruction of Israel (American Jewish Committee)
    According to the 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, 82% agree that "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel," while 12% disagree.
    37% can envision Israel and its Arab neighbors settling their differences and living in peace, while 55% disagree.
    36% said Israel should be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians, while 58% disagree.
    The survey, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, polled 1,000 self-identifying Jewish respondents on Nov. 6-25.

No Nukes, No War - David Frum (National Post-Canada)
    Some have questioned the value of America's new intelligence estimate on Iran. Intelligence agencies often have institutional biases, and the CIA in particular has been waging a long-term insurgency against the Bush administration through damaging leaks.
    But this particular NIE seems to owe a great deal to information provided by Ali Reza Asghari, the Iranian deputy minister of defense who defected to the U.S. in February 2007, and it would be irresponsible to mark it down as the work of disgruntled internal political opponents.
    The NIE is a foundational political fact that will make it politically impossible for the Bush administration to launch a strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. In one sense, this changes nothing. Hype aside, the Bush administration has never had any real intention of striking the Iranian nuclear facilities.
    But with force off the table, suddenly the world is noticing that nothing much else is on the table.

Useful Reference:

Document Reveals Details of Previous Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    A document entitled "The Status of the Diplomatic Process with the Palestinians: Points to Update the Incoming Prime Minister" was prepared in February 2001 for incoming Prime Minister Sharon by the office of outgoing Prime Minister Barak, detailing the differences in negotiating positions between the two sides at the point when the talks were frozen.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Is Confident of Broad Support on Iran - Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker
    The Bush administration expressed confidence on Tuesday that it had rallied international support to intensify diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran. Senior administration officials now increasingly express chagrin that last week's National Intelligence Estimate incorrectly focused on the suspension of a secret weapons program and not on the accelerated effort to enrich uranium. That undercut the administration's main rationale for confronting Iran, and left the administration seeking to regain the diplomatic initiative for continued sanctions.
        Acknowledging this, administration officials said that a UN vote on new sanctions, originally scheduled for this month, would most likely be deferred until next year. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We're not talking about whether or not there's going to be a resolution [to tighten sanctions on Iran], but we're talking about what are the elements to a new Security Council resolution." (New York Times)
  • U.S. Report: North Korea Gave Arms and Training to Hizbullah - Arshad Mohammed
    North Korea may have given arms and possibly training to Lebanon's Hizbullah, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service. In September 2006, Paris Intelligence Online, a French Internet publication that specializes in political and economic intelligence, published details of an extensive North Korean program to give arms and training to Hizbullah. The French publication said the program began in the 1980s with visits by Hizbullah members to North Korea for training and expanded after 2000 with the dispatch of North Koreans to Lebanon to train Hizbullah members how to build underground bunkers to store arms, food and medical facilities. This training "significantly improved Hizbullah's ability to fight the Israelis" during the 2006 war.
        The CRS also cited a report by South Korean academic Moon Chung-in that the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency believed that "vital missile components" used by Hizbullah against Israel came from North Korea. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Begin in Jerusalem - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    The long-awaited launch of Israeli-Palestinian bilateral final-status negotiations began Wednesday in Jerusalem. One Israeli diplomat, describing the atmosphere at the meeting as "tense," said the sides had widely different ideas of what the meeting was meant to accomplish. While Israel saw the meeting as "a festive resumption of the peace process" that would deal with procedural issues about how to move the process forward, the Palestinians saw it as a forum for airing grievances. "This was supposed to be the kickoff of the post-Annapolis process," one Israeli official said. "But if every time we meet there will be nothing but a discussion of current events, we will get nowhere." The two sides agreed to hold another meeting at the end of the month. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Security Cabinet Weighs IDF Action in Gaza - Barak Ravid
    Israel's security cabinet met on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Gaza. Senior security officials told the cabinet that there has been a marked decline in Palestinian support for Hamas in Gaza, due to Israeli sanctions. The cabinet told the defense establishment to continue its pinpointed activities in Gaza against Hamas and other militant groups responsible for firing rockets and mortars. A total of 970 rockets and 1,200 mortar shells have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the start of 2007. Since May 2007, 158 Palestinian militants have been killed and 173 injured in IDF operations in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Chief: Gaza Operation Unavoidable - Roee Nahmias
    The current situation in Gaza cannot continue, and ongoing Kassam rocket attacks on Israel may force the IDF to launch a large-scale operation there, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. "You cannot defeat a terror organization without eventually taking control of the territory," he said. "The only reason we have been successful in Judea and Samaria is because we control the area." While the current limited army operations in Gaza impair the capabilities of terror organizations, they would never completely curb all attacks against Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel from Gaza Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza launched two Kassam rockets into Israel Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Al-Aqsa Brigades Fire on Israeli Bus in West Bank
    Fatah's armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, announced on Tuesday that they had fired at an Israeli bus near Kedumim, east of the West Bank city of Kalkilya. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Misreading the Iran Report - Henry Kissinger
    The new NIE holds that Iran may be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2009 and, with increasing confidence, more warheads by the period 2010 to 2015. That is virtually the same timeline as was suggested in the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate. It is therefore doubtful that the evidence supports the dramatic language of the NIE summary and, even less so, the broad conclusions drawn in much of the public commentary.
        If my analysis is correct, we could be witnessing not a halt of the Iranian weapons program - as the NIE asserts - but a subtle, ultimately more dangerous, version of it that will phase in the warhead when fissile material production has matured. The NIE does not reject this theory; it does not even examine it. (Washington Post)
  • American Intelligence - Claude Moniquet
    No fewer than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have just told us that the Iranian nuclear program really is not so dangerous. Before rolling out the peace banners, though, it's worth looking at the agencies' track record in getting these sorts of "estimates" right. As a matter of fact, U.S. intelligence services have so far failed to predict the nuclearization of a single foreign nation. But on the possible nuclearization of a regime that sounds fanatic enough to use this doomsday weapon, the NIE is suddenly to be trusted?
        The NIE has little in common with intelligence as it is understood by professionals. Through this sleight of hand, the intelligence services effectively sabotaged the Bush administration's efforts to steer its allies toward a tougher position on Iran. Paris in particular won't be amused about what appears almost like a betrayal. President Nicolas Sarkozy took a great political risk when he turned around French foreign policy and became Europe's leading opponent of a nuclear Iran. The report also betrays a rather naive view of the nature of the Iranian regime. Are the mullahs' intentions really so hard to discern? The writer, a former field operative for the French foreign intelligence service, heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Former National Security Council Head: Israel Has Concrete Evidence that Iran Is Developing a Nuclear Weapon - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Outgoing National Security Council head Ilan Mizrahi claimed Tuesday that Israel had concrete evidence that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon. Its unprecedented development of long-range missiles was also an indication that it aspired to nuclear capability and planned to project its power throughout the entire Middle East and South Asia. "The evidence that we in the State of Israel have is such that I have no doubt that Iran is advancing toward a [nuclear] weapons program," said Mizrahi, who in the past served as deputy head of the Mossad. "I cannot provide more details, but I am convinced that they are moving toward a military program."
        Turning to the Palestinian issue, Mizrahi said, "I don't think it will be possible within a year to reach an agreement on the core issues with the Palestinians." Regarding the possibility of Israel talking with Hamas, Mizrahi said, "The Israeli interest, in my mind, is to strengthen the pragmatists and to stop the radicals....Any Israeli agreement of dialogue with Hamas will weaken the pragmatists." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    What Abbas Can Do - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said on Monday that he would be seeking a $5.6 billion, three-year aid package at a donors conference next week.
    • Between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 2002, the Palestinians received over $4 billion in aid, according to the World Bank. This amounted to $214 per capita, which is more aid than any other people in the world received. After the Oslo Accords dissolved into a terror war, the Palestinians actually received more assistance, and even more since Hamas' rise to power.
    • Clearly, as Quartet envoy Tony Blair himself recognizes, any new money earmarked for the Palestinians must be tightly linked to crackdowns on corruption, to establishing the rule of law, to dismantling armed gangs and to economic cooperation with surrounding countries, including Israel. But even this is not enough.
    • The PA that Abbas controls is still teaching, believe it or not, that the "Palestine"-to-be will be in Israel's place, not Israel's peaceful neighbor. On Nov. 28, the day after the Annapolis conference, official PA television broadcast a map of all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza covered with a Palestinian flag. A month earlier, PA television repeatedly broadcast a song that described Palestine as including Jerusalem, Acre, Haifa, Beersheba, Ramle, the Galilee, and Tiberias [- all parts of today's Israel].
    • Abbas may not control Gaza, or even much of Fatah, but he does control his own official media. There is no point to throwing more money at him if he does not take minimal steps to show that these funds will not be put toward a state dedicated to Israel's destruction.
    • Ending the incitement against Israel in the PA-controlled media would mark a vital step toward creating an atmosphere in which Abbas could begin to impress upon his own people the legitimate sovereign rights of the Jewish state and the consequent need to compromise with it.

          See also Where Is the Issue of Education for Peace in the Olmert-Rice-Abbas Initiative? - Dore Gold (ICA/JCPA)

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