Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hamas Clinging On in West Bank - Martin Patience (BBC News)
Egypt Summons Danish Ambassador over Cartoons (Reuters)
Russia's Gazprom Signs Oil, Gas Deal with Iran (AP/CNN)
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradhawi Barred from UK (MEMRI)
"The Israel Lobby" and the American Interest (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Egyptian troops recently resealed the border with Gaza. The border incident, initiated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, allowed some otherwise unwelcome guests to enter Gaza. The Bethlehem-based Maan news agency quoted Hamas sources as estimating the number of Arab men who had entered Gaza as new residents at 2,000. According to Arab sources, some had recently fled from Iraq, where they had been carrying out attacks against U.S. troops. A Sunni Muslim website that carries statements of al-Qaeda reported last week on the arrival of at least four Saudi militants to Gaza through Egypt. "Hamas has turned Gaza into an international center for global jihad," said one PA official. Another PA security official said that dozens of al-Qaeda operatives have managed to enter Gaza in the past two weeks. (Weekly Standard)
The threat of terror attacks by Islamic radicals in Norway is rising in part due to the country's military presence in Afghanistan, the Norwegian intelligence agency PST said on Tuesday. In a report evaluating the threat of terror attacks, it said Islamic militants represented a "significant challenge" for Norway in the coming years and some evidence suggested local groups were becoming increasingly radical. (Reuters)
See also Teachers and Police among Moroccan Jihadist Suspects
Teachers, lecturers, a police officer and a journalist were among 32 people arrested by Morocco's security services in an operation to break up a suspected jihadist cell, the government said on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Palestinians should declare an independent state unilaterally if peace talks with Israel continue to falter, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said on Wednesday. "Kosovo is not better than us. We deserve independence even before Kosovo," Abed Rabbo said. However, Saeb Erekat, another senior Palestinian negotiator, voiced opposition to any unilateral declaration of independence and said the PLO had already declared independence in 1988. (Reuters)
See also International Recognition of a Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State: Legal and Policy Dilemmas - Tal Becker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted Mahmoud Abbas for two hours at his Jerusalem residence on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing peace negotiations between the sides. Olmert and Abbas will meet again in two weeks' time, and in the interim, the negotiators will continue to meet on an ongoing basis.
Ahead of the meeting, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that any agreement reached with the Palestinians would be subject to the implementation of their road map commitments. "The road to a Palestinian state goes through renunciation of violence and terrorism, responding to the situation in Gaza, and being more effective in the West Bank," Livni said. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel and Egypt have been conducting EU-backed negotiations in an effort to reopen the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border. Amos Gilad, head of the political-military bureau at the Defense Ministry, was in Cairo this week for talks. Egypt is insisting that Hamas supervise the crossing on the Palestinian side, a demand Israel vehemently opposes. Israel has agreed to reopen the crossing under the same conditions as in the past: With EU monitors' supervision, Fatah control on the Palestinians side, Egyptian control on the Egyptian side, and Israeli monitoring of traffic through the crossing via screens at the Kerem Shalom crossing. (Ynet News)
The U.S. is reviewing the feasibility of deploying a NATO force in the West Bank as a way to ease IDF security concerns and facilitate an Israeli withdrawal from the area, defense officials say. The plan, spearheaded by U.S. special envoy to the region Gen. James Jones, is being floated among European countries which could be asked to contribute troops to a West Bank multinational force.
An official close to Defense Minister Barak said the deployment of such a force could create operational challenges for the IDF if it decided to respond to Palestinian terror attacks following a withdrawal. "If they fire a Kassam rocket into Israel, will we be able to respond, or will we need to rely on the foreign troops stationed there?" one defense official asked. On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones told a meeting in Jerusalem of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that it would take several years before any such plan was implemented. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired five rockets at Israeli communities on Tuesday. One hit a chicken coop, causing heavy damage. Ofer Beider, who owns the chicken coop hit by the rocket, said: "Large parts of the structure were destroyed, at exactly the same spot where the workers were sitting only a short time earlier." (Ynet News)
Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli bus near Nablus Tuesday evening, Army Radio reported. There were no casualties, but damage was caused to the bus. (Jerusalem Post)
The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, took responsibility for shooting at the bus. Al-Aqsa Brigades spokesperson Abu Mujahed claimed the bus was full of settlers. (Maan News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The unclassified "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate of November reveal that the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency did not - and in all probability, still do not - have human and technical sources inside the inner circles of the Iranian nuclear program.
For selfish and malevolent reasons, China and Russia will not back tough sanctions. Neither likely will the trade-obsessed Germans and the increasingly self-absorbed British. Washington and Paris cannot play bad cop alone. We must find a way to restore the resolve of all those parties and hit Iran with a tsunami of sanctions if we are to diminish the victorious esprit in Tehran and the centrifuge production at Natanz. The writer, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (New York Times)
In the Middle East, more than ever, Islam has become the cornerstone of identity, replacing other, failed ideologies: Arabism, socialism, nationalism. In Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Algeria, leaders who once headed secular states or played down religion have struggled to reposition themselves as the guardians of Islamic values. More and more parents are sending their children to religious schools, and some countries have infused more religious content into their state educational systems. In 1986, there was one mosque for every 6,031 Egyptians. By 2005, there was one mosque for every 745 people - and the population has nearly doubled. (New York Times)
Unidentified gunmen blew up the YMCA library in Gaza on Friday. While no one was hurt, two guards were temporarily kidnapped while the offices were looted, a vehicle stolen, and all 8,000 books destroyed. Sources in Gaza said the attack was in response to the reprinting of the Muhammad cartoons in Danish newspapers last week.
There are only some 3,500 Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, in Gaza. Over the past two years, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for attacks against Christian figures and institutions with the stated goal of driving Christians out of Gaza. Christians in Gaza and the West Bank try to live quietly, never knowing whether a newspaper in Denmark or a papal speech in Germany or nothing in particular might be the pretext for violence coming to their doors. (National Post-Canada)
Hizbullah's Latest Setback - Michael Young (Slate)
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