Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 13, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria, Iran Supporting Terrorism in Iraq - Max Boot (Los Angeles Times)
    While visiting Iraq recently, I was told by U.S. military sources that an estimated 50 to 80 foreign jihadists a month are still infiltrating Iraq from Syria. They have simply changed their route from Anbar province, which has turned decisively against al-Qaeda, to further north in Salahaddin and Nineveh provinces.
    Syria has become the headquarters of a new Iraqi Baathist party that is working with al-Qaeda to facilitate and finance attacks in Iraq. There is evidence to indicate that Abu Ayyub Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, is hiding in Syria.
    Iran continues to train and support the Shiite terrorist "Special Groups" and to smuggle dangerous munitions for use against coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

3 Arrested in Plot to Kill Danish Cartoonist - Dan Bilefsky (New York Times)
    Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin were arrested in Denmark on Tuesday to prevent what the Danish police said would have been "a terror-related assassination" of one of 12 cartoonists behind caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in 2005 that provoked fury across the Muslim world.
    The Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Aarhus said the suspects had been planning to kill its cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, 73, who drew a cartoon depicting Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb with a burning fuse.

Gulf Arabs See Israel Stopping Iran Bomb - Mark Trevelyan (Reuters)
    Gulf states believe Israel will destroy Iran's nuclear program rather than allow it to acquire an atomic bomb, an adviser to the Kuwaiti government and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Tuesday.
    If Iran did build the bomb, said adviser Sami Alfaraj, then the Jewish state might be one of the countries - along with the U.S. and Pakistan - Gulf Arab nations would ask to provide a "nuclear umbrella" to guarantee their security.
    Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, said Israel might bomb Iranian nuclear facilities in the same way it destroyed Iraq's atomic reactor at Osirak in 1981.

Hamas Issues Glossy Magazine Praising Its Army (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    A new 80-page glossy magazine published by Hamas in Gaza shows off its Islamic fighters. The magazine, which is free of charge, aims to "educate Palestinians," said Abdul Latif Qanou, a Hamas official who helped oversee its publication.
    Inside, the magazine describes Hamas' military wing: "It has more than 10,000 fighters with weapons who are a real army under military formations."
    A chart details Hamas attacks, including 2,252 rockets it said it has fired at Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Top Hizbullah Terrorist Leader Killed in Damascus Bombing
    Hizbullah says one of its leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, has been killed in a bombing in Damascus. (BBC News)
        Imad Mughniyeh, head of special overseas operations for Hizbullah, was originally a member of Fatah in southern Lebanon and served in Force-17, Arafat's personal guard. In the 1980s he was responsible for planning the kidnapping of Western hostages in Lebanon and the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine headquarters in Beirut that killed 241 Americans. He planned two bomb attacks in Argentina against the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center. In 2003 he was involved in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq. (Daily Alert-1Dec03)
        See also Hizbullah Terror Chief Was More Wanted than Nasrallah - Yossi Melman
    Imad Mughniyeh first started as head of security for Hizbullah, afterwards leading their operational command, until he reached his current status of "super chief of staff." Mughniyeh was the number one wanted terrorist on Israel's list, ahead of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. (Ha'aretz)
            See also Hizbullah Commander on U.S. "Most Wanted" List Killed (CNN)
  • Olmert: Iran "Moving Forward" on Atom Bomb
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday in Berlin that Israel still "is of the opinion that the Iranians are moving forward with their plans to create a capacity for non-conventional weapons." "Tell me, why does Iran need enriched uranium at a time when they are supplied by (the) Russians the nuclear fuel for the civilian projects?...What else do they plan for which they need the most sophisticated ballistic missiles?" "Iran is a force that is talking explicitly about using the power in order to liquidate other countries, and I think this is a good enough reason why we should focus on Iran and do everything to prevent Iran from having nuclear capacity," he said. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
        See also German Chancellor to Olmert: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself - Roni Sofer
    Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that her country would support an Israeli operation in Gaza, in view of the ongoing Kassam rocket fire. During her meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Berlin, Merkel said the situation has only one solution and that is for Hamas to stop the rocket attacks. Should the fire persist, said Markel, Israel has every right to defend itself. People in Gaza are suffering, but this shall continue as long as the rocket fire continues, she added. (Ynet News)
  • Iran Celebrates Anniversary of Islamic Revolution - Scott Peterson
    Tens of thousands of Iranians rallied in central Tehran on Monday to honor the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Heated anti-U.S. rhetoric has been a constant in Iranian political theater for a generation. State television showed large turnouts in cities across Iran, with chants of "Death to America" and Israel overshadowing those in support of the Islamic system or current leadership. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Official: Talks on Jerusalem Taking Place - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hatem Abdel Qader, the Jerusalem affairs adviser to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, confirmed Tuesday that Jerusalem is one of the issues currently being discussed by Israeli and PA negotiators. He told the Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem "is not only on the table, it's also under the table....This means that the negotiations with the Israelis are taking place both openly and secretly." The Palestinians are insisting on a full Israeli withdrawal from the eastern part of Jerusalem that was captured by Israel in 1967.
        Abdel Qader said the negotiations were not only focusing on the Arab part of Jerusalem, but on its west as well. "There are Jews who say they have rights and property in the eastern part of Jerusalem, and that's fine with us," he said. "At the same time, there are Arabs who have a lot of property in the western section of Jerusalem. So the talks are not only over the eastern part."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Knifes Soldier at Checkpoint - Yuval Azoulay
    An Israel Defense Forces soldier was wounded on Tuesday when a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member stabbed him in the back at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Jenin. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Mortars Hit Army Base near Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    Several mortar shells were fired at an IDF base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz Tuesday, hitting one of the buildings. Another four mortars landed near Israeli communities. IDF forces operating in the northern Gaza Strip in the Sajaiya area Tuesday detained ten suspected Palestinian terrorists and transferred them to Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Conference of Presidents to Focus on Iran During Visit to Georgia - Haviv Rettig
    One of the weathervanes of consensus among American Jews is its senior political umbrella, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Composed of 51 organizations, the Conference represents the broadest consensus among organized American Jewry. Each year, the Conference visits a country in order to meet its leaders and lobby them on issues relevant to American Jewry. The list of recent visits includes Qatar, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and, this year, Georgia. "Georgia is a pro-U.S. and pro-Israel country that has resisted anti-Semitism for 2,600 years," explains Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents.
        More than anything else this visit will be about Iran. "Iran is on the agenda everywhere we go. These countries, which are closer to Iran, feel it more, the possibility that Iran will go nuclear," said Hoenlein. "We'll say that Iran is a leading state sponsor of terrorism, that it's a barbaric regime that executes people in barbaric ways." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Bush Administration and the Middle East - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    The Levant has not been kind to the Bush administration. The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is as it was in 2000: an event controlled by the continuing Islamist evolution of the Palestinian people, who do not in sufficient numbers countenance peace with a Jewish state. The only real question remaining is whether the Fatah dictatorship on the West Bank will evolve quickly or slowly into a spiritual twin of Hamas. President Bush got the order backwards in his post-Annapolis speeches, suggesting that the Palestinians need to be able to envision a complete state living side by side with Israel so that democracy can triumph. Democracy did triumph among the Palestinians - Hamas won. Arab autocrats sign peace treaties with Israel; Arab democrats won't.
        Increasingly, Muslims, especially devout Muslims, are backing democratic politics because they see this as the only way to restore legitimacy to government. Democracy, not dictatorship, opens societies to debates, which fundamentalists may well win. Elections that allow fundamentalists a chance to triumph - not police-state repression - is the key to eventually destroying the appeal of the extremists. As always, bin Laden is a helpful guide: If he loathes democracy among Muslims, it's a good reason to support it.
        Hamas' triumph in the Palestinian elections of January 2006 probably put the last nail in the coffin of the Bush administration's efforts to encourage reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two countries that drove the spread of modern Islamic radicalism. Even the relatively moderate, state-supported version of the Saudi Wahhabi faith is inimical to what Muslims historically have considered mainstream. It is also organically anti-American. On a global level, it is more dangerous than anything that has ever come out of Iran. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Weekly Standard)
  • Annapolis - Road to Nowhere - Zalman Shoval
    In an unimplementable "shelf agreement," Israel will be seen to have committed itself to certain far-reaching steps that it has not implemented. On the one hand, this will be seen as the starting point for any future negotiations, and on the other hand, it will invite increasing pressure on Israel, with the added element of ongoing terror.
        When Israel originally accepted the Roadmap, it was stipulated that there would be no negotiations on the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza (Phases 2 and 3) until the Palestinians first fulfill their security commitments in accordance with Phase 1. If those pre-conditions for negotiations from 2003 have already melted away four years later, then why shouldn't Annapolis pre-conditions for implementation of the "shelf agreement" melt away four years from now? The writer served as Israel's ambassador to the Washington (1990-93, 1998-2000). (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    If They Fire on Us, We Have to Fight Back Without Hesitation - President Shimon Peres (President of Israel Spokesperson's Office/IMRA)

    President Shimon Peres said Tuesday:

    • "Three things must be done in view of the situation in Sderot and Gaza. The first, there must be complete solidarity among the society in Israel. All the people must be united with and must strengthen the citizens of Sderot - not only Tel Aviv but all the cities in Israel must identify with Sderot. When the leg of the small boy, Osher Tawito, was amputated, it was as if the leg of an entire generation was amputated. Everyone must be part of the pain of the family and the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot."
    • "The second thing that needs to be done - If they fire on us, we must fight back without hesitation and without compromise. The people of Israel are a people which defends itself and does not want war. We do not want to harm innocent citizens, but we will not permit our enemies to harm our citizens."
    • Third, "worldwide public opinion must be recruited - both in the political and diplomatic track and in widespread international information, as despicable crimes are being perpetrated against Sderot, crimes which are against international law. The moment the firing of missiles on Israel stops - quiet will reign in Gaza. The world must understand this. The head of the Hamas in Gaza must know that those who are harmed, eventually, will be those who break the law itself."

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