Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Palestinians Murder Two Israelis in Shooting Attack in West Bank - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Egypt's Mubarak Says Israel Faked Smuggling Evidence (Reuters)
Internal Power Struggle Shakes Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
PA Negotiator's Bodyguard Was Tanzim Terrorist (IDF Spokesperson/IMRA)
Former Al-Qaeda Official in Charge of Training in Iraq Describes Syrian Role in Iraqi Insurgency (MEMRI)
Priests Brawl at Jesus' Birthplace (AP/CNN)
Fearful Iraqi Hairdressers Go Underground - Diaa Hadid (AP/Seattle Times)
Possible Oral Treatment for Diabetics Being Tested in Israel (UPI)
American Football in Israel - Steve Leibowitz (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
At the top of the list of suspects in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is the al-Qaeda terrorist network and its legion of allies, including loosely affiliated groups that espouse similar views and, in some cases, share training facilities and other resources. But several officials said it is equally plausible that the assassination was carried out with the support - or at least the tacit approval - of Pakistani government employees.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, former chief of Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East, said there is "no doubt in my mind" that the culprits are linked to al-Qaeda. Bruce Reidel, a former CIA official and onetime member of the National Security Council, said of al-Qaeda: "They had means, plenty of martyr wannabes. And they probably had inside information on her route and security." (Washington Post)
See also Al-Qaeda Seen as Top Suspect in Bhutto's Slaying - Jonathan S. Landay
Within Pakistan, Osama bin Laden's group has worked with more than a dozen radical fundamentalist Islamist organizations that have grown in power and mainstream popularity. Two of them, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, changed their names in recent years in order to avoid U.S. and Pakistani sanctions. All of them are Sunni Muslim-based and oppose Bhutto in part because she was female and from the Shiite sect. (McClatchy/Tacoma [WA] News Tribune)
See also U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan - Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
See also Olmert: Bhutto Could Have Been Bridge to Muslim World - Herb Keinon and Michal Lando
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "I saw her [Bhutto] as someone who could have served as a bridgehead to relations with that part of the Muslim world with whom our ties are naturally limited." Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said Bhutto was interested in normalizing relations with Israel. "She was interested in me relaying that information to Washington and the U.S., which I did." (Jerusalem Post)
Iran received the second of eight shipments of nuclear fuel from Russia on Friday for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor back to Russia to ensure it doesn't extract plutonium to make atomic bombs. (AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that heading off the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, with tougher sanctions if needed, remains a "vital interest" for the world community. Iran's nuclear program is "one of our biggest security policy concerns," Merkel wrote in the daily Handelsblatt on Friday. "It is dangerous and still grounds for great concern that Iran, in the face of the UN Security Council's resolutions, continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment....The Iranian president's intolerable agitation against Israel also speaks volumes....It remains a vital interest of the whole world community to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran - if necessary, with the further toughening of sanctions." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Ali Larijani, head of Iran's powerful National Security Council, held talks this week with Egyptian officials and religious leaders in Cairo on ways of restoring diplomatic ties, severed nearly thirty years ago over bilateral and regional disputes. Tehran cut diplomatic ties after Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Relations further deteriorated when Egypt backed Iraq during the 1980-1988 Gulf War.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said that a resumption of ties could only take place if Iran takes down a large mural of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's assassin, Khaled el-Islambouli, and changes the name of a street honoring him. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas agreed during their meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday that the matter of construction in the territories, as well as in Jerusalem, will be discussed during the negotiations on the core issues. The two agreed to resume biweekly meetings, and to have their negotiating teams meet again next week to discuss a framework for talks on the core issues. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rice telephoned both Olmert and Abbas and told them: "It is important to me that you progress." (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel: Building in Existing Communities Does Not Prejudice Final Agreement - Herb Keinon
Building in Ma'aleh Adumim and Har Homa does not prejudice a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official said after Olmert met with Abbas. Both Ma'aleh Adumim and Har Homa were already existing facts and therefore adding to them does not prejudice any possible agreement, the official said. The Israeli position was that if you build in an existing community you are not creating any new facts on the ground that prejudge a final agreement. (Jerusalem Post)
During Thursday's meeting, Olmert reiterated pledges not to build any new settlements or expand existing settlements beyond their current borders, an Israeli official said. However, Israel maintains the right to build within the existing limits of major West Bank settlements to account for natural growth. Olmert reiterated that policy Thursday. (AP)
See also Hamas Demands that Abbas Stop Meeting Olmert (IMEMC-PA)
The Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service killed eight Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen in three separate incidents in Gaza Thursday. Mohammed Abdallah Abu Murshad, head of rocket and explosive manufacturing for Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was killed together with two other operatives when he was struck by Israel Air Force missiles in central Gaza. In another incident, an Israel air force aircraft fired at a car containing a large quantity of munitions in Al-Bureij, killing two Islamic Jihad operatives who were on their way to a terror attack. Also Thursday, three Hamas men were killed near Khan Yunis by fire from an IDF helicopter and a unit on the ground after the militants fired an antitank missile at an IDF bulldozer. (Ha'aretz)
See also Islamic Jihad Leader in Nablus Arrested by Undercover Israeli Unit
On Thursday an undercover unit of Israeli forces arrested Samer al-Sa'di, 23, from Jenin, a leader of the al Quds brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. (IMEMC-PA)
Hamas' political wing is showing interest in a cease-fire. If Hamas can get the splinter groups to agree, it will find in Israel a silent partner. Until this question is resolved, the IDF will continue doing more of the same: raids up to three kilometers inside the fence that surrounds Gaza; targeted interceptions, mainly of senior Islamic Jihad figures; and a continuation of the economic pressure. Soon the money collected at the meeting of donor countries in Paris by Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in Ramallah, will start pouring into Gaza. If Fayyad manages to ensure that the money reaches only Fatah supporters, Hamas' distress will increase. (Ha'aretz)
The latest truce initiative launched by some Hamas representatives is seen as a direct result of the economic sanctions on Gaza and Israeli threats to target leaders of the Islamist movement in response to rocket attacks on Israel. Hamas leaders are beginning to feel the heat, and that's why some of them are now openly talking about the need to do something "for the sake of the higher national interests of the Palestinian people."
Hamas' leaders are said to have been in a panic following the recent killings of top Islamic Jihad operatives by the IDF. "Most of the Hamas leaders are afraid for their lives and don't want to join [slain Hamas leaders] Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi," a former Hamas sympathizer said this week. Yet others in Hamas, led by Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, remain as defiant as ever and want to continue the fight against Israel regardless of the price.
There is no doubt that at the end of the day most Hamas representatives would welcome a lull in the fighting. Hamas needs some breathing space to consolidate its grip on Gaza and prevent a total collapse of civil and security institutions there. But the crucial question that needs to be addressed is whether Hamas would be able to enforce a truce with Israel, given the fact that Islamic Jihad and other armed groups [in addition to Syria and Iran] are completely opposed to the idea. When Abbas once tried to stop the rockets, he was condemned as a traitor working for Israel and the CIA. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
"In Pakistan there are two fault lines. One is dictatorship versus democracy. And one is moderation versus extremism." Thus did Benazir Bhutto describe the politics of her country during an August visit to the Wall Street Journal's offices in New York. She was assassinated for standing courageously on the right side of both lines.
The attack had every hallmark of an al-Qaeda or Taliban operation. With the jihadists losing in Iraq and having a hard time hitting the West, their strategy seems to be to make vulnerable Pakistan their principal target, and its nuclear arsenal their principal prize. Bhutto's is the highest profile scalp the jihadists can claim since their assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. She also uniquely combined broad public support with an anti-Islamist, pro-Western outlook and all the symbolism that came with being the most prominent female leader in the Muslim world. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Bhutto's Death Is Victory for Islamic Hardliners - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
See also The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is yet another brutal peek into the world's future if the jihad threat is not confronted and defeated. Just as Syria routinely assassinates its democratic opponents in Lebanon, and just as Iraqi politicians and citizens fear for their lives while trying to escape a legacy of tyranny, we see how Islamo-fascists will stop at nothing to destroy their archenemies: democracy and freedom. We also see that no country or faith is safe from the jihadis and their favorite weapon, the suicide bomber, since they have no compunction at slaughtering fellow Muslims in a Muslim country.
The problem of Pakistan cannot be viewed in isolation, but rather in the continuum of the West's battle to defend itself against jihad. The Muslim world itself is a primary target of the jihadis, who see it as the springboard for confronting the West. The most important thing the West can do to help Pakistan and all other Muslim countries, themselves torn between battling and appeasing the jihadis, is to stand up to jihadi central: Iran. The entire jihadi front, including Hamas, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, and even the Taliban, will benefit from a nuclear Iran. The sense of inevitability surrounding an Iranian bomb must be broken, or struggles and tragedies like that of Pakistan will multiply in both the Muslim world and the West. (Washington Post)
The Prime Minister's Office is anxious about U.S. Secretary of State Rice's tendency to push ahead too quickly. After the conference of donor countries to the Palestinians that took place in Paris last week, Rice wanted to proceed on to Jerusalem. But David Welch, her aide on Middle East affairs who had visited Israel a few days before that, felt she wouldn't be able to achieve much with a lightning visit so soon after Annapolis. The Americans say they don't want Rice's visits to become routine.
In private conversations - and as she said in Annapolis - Rice tends to compare the Israeli occupation in the territories to the racial segregation that used to be the norm in the American South. Checkpoints remind her of buses she rode as a child in Alabama with separate seats for blacks and whites. This is an uncomfortable comparison, of course, for Israelis, who view it as "over-identification" on her part with Palestinian suffering.
Rice hoped that in Annapolis principles would be set down for a final-status accord, but Israel told her that wasn't going to happen. She thinks that the PA is making satisfactory progress with the reform of its security forces, while officials in Israel say she's exaggerating and that the reform is still very far from accomplishing anything. She wanted Israel to make more good-will gestures, but the Israelis remind her that this will be hard to do as long as Palestinian rockets continue to fall on Sderot. (Ha'aretz)
Unlike most other Arab armies since 1948, Hizbullah demonstrates a high proficiency in the maintenance and employment of its weapons systems, it performs well in small-unit light infantry operations, and it uses a decentralized command structure that allows its subordinate leaders to exercise a high degree of initiative on the battlefield.
The Shia who make up Hizbullah's constituency think giving up their arms means a return to the days when the concerns of the Shia living in the south, the Bekaa Valley, and the suburbs of Beirut were largely forgotten by the central government. Furthermore, many of the young men who joined Hizbullah were lured by the promise of fighting Israel. Hizbullah must worry that if they were to abandon their military campaign against Israel, these young men would simply split off in the same way that so many of the Amal militia's gunmen left for Hizbullah in the early 1980s. In order to keep these young men under arms, it is necessary to continue some form of armed conflict against Israel. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard University)
Life is pretty good right now for Gaza's professional tunnel smugglers. The blockade means that all but basic foodstuffs are frequently scarce or unavailable, pushing up demand for the smugglers' wares. In Rafah, large plastic tents have sprouted up along the border with Egypt, amid the rubble of houses bulldozed to prevent smuggling when the Israelis still held a strip of territory along the frontier. The tents, complete with generators and water supplies, shelter the entrances to new tunnels brazenly operating under the eyes of IDF drones.
Abu Mussab, 38, one of Rafah's biggest commercial smugglers, said, "Last week I smuggled 100 rifles in. They cost me $700 each and when I sold them here I could only get $500 for them," he said. "Now there is no internal fighting and Hamas controls everything. Nobody wants weapons any more." According to Abu Mussab, "We are completely dependent on our Egyptian sources, and they have a certain amount of space they are allowed to play in. An RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) is the maximum weapon that they can get away with selling us, because they aren't really much use against a tank any more. If you ask the Egyptians for modern anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles, they'll say 'No way.'" (The Age-Australia)
Security analysts and terrorism experts see an emerging threat facing both Western and Arab countries: younger jihadis who have been recruited over the Internet or inspired to act through militant Islamist literature or videos. "Terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country. They are radicalizing, indoctrinating, and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism," said Jonathan Evans, the director general of the British MI5 security service, in November. He warned that teenagers as young as 15 and 16 have been implicated in "terrorist-related" activities as a result of a deliberate strategy pursued by radical Islamist groups. On Wednesday, Pakistani police arrested a 15-year-old boy for allegedly trying to blow himself up at a rally for opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was killed Thursday at an election rally in Rawalpindi. In September, a 15-year-old killed 30 people when he drove a truck full of explosives into an Algerian naval barracks. (Christian Science Monitor)
See also A Teenage Terrorist Tells His Story - Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel-Germany)
The Iran NIE Report
Crompton: Much of the reporting in the United States about the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been misleading. The European and international concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions has never been about weaponization, but rather the other elements essential to having nuclear weapons, namely uranium enrichment and missiles.
Hinrichsen: The NIE has not had a significant impact on Germany's policy towards Iran. German policy has never been based on Iran's hidden nuclear program, but on its large enrichment program and the heavy water reactor it is building. That reactor has no civilian use.
Roche: The NIE has made more noise in Washington than in Europe. France's strategy has always been based on certain simple facts, not intelligence judgments. The Iranians have developed an enrichment program with no foreseeable civilian use. The appropriate course now is to continue the sanctions and to finalize a third UN resolution.
Neil Crompton is a political counselor at the British embassy in Washington who served until recently as Iran coordinator and head of the Iraq Policy Unit at the British Foreign Office. Dr. Hans-Peter Hinrichsen is first secretary for political affairs at the German embassy. Nicholas Roche is a counselor at the French embassy. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The immediate conventional wisdom spurred by the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran was that its conclusions were good news for those favoring a diplomatic track with Tehran - and a devastating rebuke to those who desire military action. But as the dust settled, some foreign-policy wonks looking to put the brakes on the bomb-Iran crowd have become concerned about the NIE's possible consequences. They say that just because the regime stopped its weapons program doesn't mean the threat posed by a nuclear Iran should be underestimated. And they worry that the NIE may make it harder to rally international support to pressure Tehran, and, thereby, paradoxically, may make future military action more and not less likely.
"The more I digest everything...the more and more I begin to fear that the manner in which this NIE was written and released to the public is a disaster and a serious setback to an intelligent U.S. policy," says a Democratic Hill staffer who works on Iran proliferation. "Our best hope for derailing the Iranian nuclear program and stop[ping] short of military action was for a concerted international campaign of diplomatic and economic sanctions coordinated at the UN Security Council. With the release of this NIE, and the inevitable distortions and simplifications echoing in press coverage, a third [Security Council] resolution is dead." Further, he continued, it will now be harder to convince international financial institutions to boycott Iran, as the U.S. government has been trying to do for some time. (Mother Jones)
What Will the Palestinian Authority Do With All That Money? - Shmuel Rosner (Slate)
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