Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 31, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Bin Laden Vows Jihad to Liberate Palestinian Land - Inal Ersan (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden vowed in a recording posted on the Internet on Saturday that Islamist militants will expand their holy war to liberate Palestinian land.
    He also said that peacekeepers dispatched to expand a UN force in Lebanon after the war in 2006 were there to "protect the Jews."
    See also Bin Laden Decries "Defeatists" at Annapolis (SITE Institute)
    Bin Laden said: Currently the Mujahideen fight the "heart" of global disbelief in Islam, America, and its "agents" in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and Somalia, but will ultimately come to Palestine.
     Bin Laden decries those who recognize the existence of Israel and have sacrificed land to it, including the "defeatists" at Annapolis.
    See also Israel Takes Bin Laden's Threats Seriously - Mark Lavie (AP)
    Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said al-Qaeda operatives have been inching closer to Israel in recent years, and Israel is aware of the danger.
    "Israel takes bin Laden's threats seriously. We have seen al-Qaeda activity to the north of Israel, in Lebanon, to the east of Israel, in Jordan, and to the south of Israel, in Sinai."
    "There is also evidence of al-Qaeda activities in the Palestinian territories. As a result, we will be irresponsible not to take this rhetoric seriously," he said.

Warning: Al-Qaeda Planning Attacks on Israelis in Turkey - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Israeli security services have received specific intelligence that al-Qaeda cells in Turkey are planning to carry out terror attacks on Israeli targets and sites affiliated with the U.S., Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.

Iran, France Offers Egypt Cooperation on Nuclear Program - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Iran is willing to cooperate with Egypt on its nuclear program, Ali Larijani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's representative to the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, said in Cairo on Sunday.
    France stands ready to help Egypt develop civilian nuclear technology, French President Sarkozy told Egypt's Al-Ahram ahead of meetings in Egypt with President Mubarak.
    "Egypt has considerable energy needs and it naturally envisages constructing nuclear reactors.... France, which probably has the best expertise and the greatest experience in the matter, is ready to cooperate with Egypt," he said.
    France generates almost 80% of its electricity from nuclear power.

Useful Reference:

Israel Has 7.2M Residents (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is a country of 7.241 million residents, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced.
    75.6% are Jewish (5.472 million), 20% are Arab (1.449 million), and 4.4% (320,000) are others.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Finds Explosive Chemicals Labeled as Sugar in EU Aid to Palestinians
    Israel said on Saturday it had seized 6.5 tons of potassium nitrate several weeks ago in bags marked as sugar from a Palestinian truck traveling in the West Bank with EU aid for Gaza. Potassium nitrate can be used to make explosives and to power homemade rockets. (Reuters)
  • France to Boycott Syria over Lebanon Crisis - Philippe Alfroy
    France "will have no more contact with Syria...until we have proof of Syrian willingness to let Lebanon appoint a president by consensus," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday in Cairo. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • U.S. Court Overturns $156 Million Award in Terror Case - Darryl Fears
    The U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned a lower court's $156 million jury award Friday, saying the plaintiffs failed to prove that financial contributions to Hamas by the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, and the American Muslim Society/Islamic Association for Palestine, played a direct role in the slaying of David Boim, an American teenager in Israel, by Hamas operatives in 1996. (Washington Post)
        See also Boim Family Disappointed by Court Ruling - Maurice Possley (Chicago Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Israel Won't Take Security Risks Until PA Tackles Terror
    At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Olmert paid tribute to Cpl. Ahikam Amihai and Sgt. David Rubin, who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Friday not far from Hebron: "This incident, perhaps more than any other, again highlights what the State of Israel has been saying throughout the diplomatic process between us and the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinian Authority does not take the necessary measures, with the necessary strength, in order to act against the terrorist organizations, the State of Israel will be unable to carry out any changes on the ground that could expose it to dangers and create problems for the security of the country, both for the Jewish residents in the areas in which they live and in any other area."
        "We do not intend to compromise on these issues and they will certainly be an inseparable part of any dialogue that we hold with the PA. The Government of Israel sends its condolences to the bereaved families and salutes the heroism of the two soldiers, who fought bravely for their lives even when caught by total surprise." (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Olmert: No West Bank Construction Without My Prior Approval - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Olmert sent an official letter on Sunday to government ministers with an order to refrain from authorizing any construction in the West Bank without his and Defense Minister Barak's prior approval. Olmert did not address construction in eastern Jerusalem in the letter. However, he said Sunday, "the sweeping order regarding all of Judea and Samaria [West Bank] won't touch upon Jerusalem, but even on Jerusalem, we must act wisely and cautiously."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Surviving Hiker Recounts Shooting Attack in Hebron Hills - Nadav Shragai
    The sole survivor of Friday's terror attack on hikers near Hebron, Naama Ohion, is a first-year law student. She told friends that the hike was to have ended at the springs in Wadi Iskha, where there is a cave hundreds of meters long with numerous levels. According to one theory, the cave served as a hideout for the second-century CE rebel against Rome, Bar Kokhba. Amihai, who served for a year with Hebrew University's Cave Research Unit, knew the cave and wanted to show his friends. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Families Recall Sons' "Inner Flame" - Matthew Wagner (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Involved in Terror Shooting - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Some of the gunmen who participated in Friday's shooting attack near Hebron belong to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, Fatah activists in the West Bank have confirmed. They said the attack was carried out jointly by Fatah and Islamic Jihad. The attack shows that several armed Fatah groups continue to operate in the West Bank despite statements by top PA officials to the effect that most of these groups had been dismantled. Although many members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, have in recent months handed over their weapons to the PA security forces in return for jobs and salaries, dozens of Fatah gunmen are still refusing to follow suit.
        The PA's plan to dismantle all the Fatah-affiliated militias in the West Bank is still far from achieving its goal. Shortly after PA Interior Minister al-Yahya announced Saturday that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades had ceased to exist, the group responded by distributing thousands of leaflets throughout the West Bank scoffing at the claim and vowing to continue the armed struggle against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Armed Wing Rejects PA Declaration of Its Dissolution (Xinhua-China)
        See also Aksa Martyrs Brigades Calls for PA Prime Minister Fayad's Assassination - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizbullah Repositioned on Southern Lebanese Border
    Hizbullah has again positioned itself on Lebanon's southern border with Israel, Channel 1 television reported on Sunday. Several Knesset members toured the northern border to witness the terror group's presence there firsthand. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also UNIFIL Steps Up Activity to Deter Hizbullah Rearmament - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Palestinians Returning from Mecca to Undergo Egyptian Security Check - Ali Waked
    Israel, Egypt, and the PA agreed on Sunday to allow thousands of Palestinians returning from the haj pilgrimage to Mecca to return to Gaza. Palestinian sources claimed the agreement stipulated that Egypt would check the Palestinians and report any suspected smuggling incidents to Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Gaza Palestinians on Haj Refuse to Return via Israel
    Thousand of Palestinians returning from Mecca Saturday resisted Egypt's attempts to have them return to Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing. Some are members of the radical Islamic group Hamas, and they fear Israel will arrest them. Israel fears that if the group is allowed to return to Gaza through Rafah, Hamas militants might get through with smuggled cash. Egyptian President Mubarak said the problem with using the Rafah crossing was that the EU no longer had monitors posted there. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bhutto Opposed Transforming Pakistan into an "Islamic State" - Amir Taheri
    Whoever killed Benazir Bhutto belonged to one of the nebulae of organizations that have vowed to kill not only those who stand for election but also those who vote. To people in the West, voting in an election might appear banal. In the Muslim world, over the past decade, thousands of people, from top politicians to ordinary voters, have been murdered by Islamists (in Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia).
        Islamist opposition to democracy is based on the claim that allowing men to legislate would be a form of sherk, associating man with God, who is the "sole and ultimate legislator." Man-made law cannot rival God-made Shariah. Referring to Islam's history, in which the murder of leaders, including three of the first four caliphs, was the surest way of coming to power, the Islamists hope that by assassinating senior politicians they would kill hopes of democracy in the Muslim world.
        Bhutto believed that the only way to save Pakistan from a Taliban-style regime was to mobilize the masses through democratic means. For her, dictatorship and terror were political twins that kept each other alive. "Only the fresh air of democracy can kill the monster [of Islamism]," she liked to say. "When the people are allowed to speak, they will not speak in support of terror." The terrorist who killed Benazir believed that Islam is worth killing for. Benazir proved that democracy is worth dying for. (Times-UK)
  • Egypt-U.S. Relations: Military Aid - Jeremy M. Sharp
    With U.S. military aid, Egypt has purchased 36 Apache helicopters, 220 F-16 aircraft, 880 M1A1 tanks, and the accompanying training and maintenance to support these systems, among other items. In 2007, the Defense Department notified Congress of several possible Foreign Military Sales to Egypt including: M1A1 Abrams tank kits, rolling airframe missiles, TOW anti-armor guided missiles, Stinger missiles, and E2C airborne early warning command and control aircraft (AWACS). (Congressional Research Service)
  • Observations:

    How to Pressure for Peace - Saul Singer (Jerusalem Post)

    • Symmetry is often not a good guide to policy. Before World War II, many saw something in the Nazi claim that it was "unfair" to prevent Germany's rearmament while allowing France to rearm. Winston Churchill responded: "if France rearms there will be peace. If Germany rearms there will be war." He was right.
    • The idea that a peace process consists of "pressing both sides" fails to recognize a basic asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians - that Palestinian compliance leads to more Israeli compliance, while Israeli compliance leads to less Palestinian compliance.
    • This dynamic was most recently demonstrated by Rice's decision to come out against Israel's building a new section of Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood. It had the immediate effect of giving the Palestinians something to complain about, in order to divert all attention from what they have to do. If Rice continues to squeeze Israel into a total settlement freeze and dismantling outposts, the Palestinians will continue to hide behind these demands rather than fulfill their own part of the bargain.
    • The opposite, however, is not true. If Palestinians were to demonstrate meaningful movement on ending incitement, accepting Israel's national rights, and cracking down on terrorism, this would generate much more internal political pressure for Israeli concessions than anything Rice could do.
    • The underlying reality is that Israelis want the two-state solution more than the Palestinians. This means that the Israeli political system will automatically enter into peace euphoria mode if there are credible signs of Palestinian movement, while the Palestinian side will use any U.S. claims of Israeli non-compliance as an excuse to do nothing.
    • However difficult it may be, pressing the Palestinians and, better yet, the Arab states is potentially more productive, because it is the Arab side that keeps the war going, not Israel, which desperately wants and will pay almost any price for peace.

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