Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 17, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Iran "Optimizing" Missile that Can Reach Israel (AFP/IranMania-Iran)
    "Iran does not have any plan to build a Shahab-4. Instead we are optimizing the Shahab-3," Hossein Dehqan, a deputy to Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, said Tuesday.
    Tehran finalized its testing of the Shahab-3 in June. The missile is thought to be capable of carrying a 1,000 kilogram (one-ton) warhead at least 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) - bringing arch-enemy Israel within range.
    Six Shahab-3 missiles were paraded in Tehran in September, with one of them carrying a banner declaring, "We will wipe Israel from the map."

PA Cancels Christmas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem will be restricted to low-profile religious ceremonies for the third year in a row and there would be no public celebrations, Mayor Hanna Nasser announced Tuesday.

British Special Forces Issued Israeli Guns that Shoot Around Corners - Toby Harnden (Telegraph-UK)
    The SAS has been issued with a new Israeli weapons system that could revolutionize its urban warfare and anti-terrorist operations by letting soldiers fire aimed shots around corners.
    At a live firing demonstration Monday near Tel Aviv, Lt. Col. Amos Golan said he spent years pondering how to fire at right angles.
    The system can be fitted to most commonly used pistols, with a small, high-resolution camera and monitor giving a full view around the corner.
    In the three months that the system has been on the market, Corner Shot Holdings, a Florida-based company manufacturing in Israel, has sold units to 15 countries including Israel, Russia, the U.S., and Britain.

Israeli Armored Vehicles in Demand in Iraq (Israel21c)
    An Israeli company - MDT Armor, a subsidiary of Arotech Corporation - has recently supplied four armored vehicles to be operated in Iraq, including two vehicles for an unnamed embassy in Baghdad.
    "Our armored vehicles have proven themselves in battlefield conditions," said Robert Ehrlich, Arotech Chairman and CEO. "MDT vehicles will help protect the lives of those serving in Iraq."
    "A Land Rover Defender took 29 bullets during a terror attack in Hebron in November 2002, and none of them penetrated the vehicle," said company spokesman Jonathan Whartman.
    "In another incident, a U.S.-built Savannah van with MDT armor was being used as a school bus when a bomb exploded just outside. None of the children inside were hurt."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hussein Document Exposes Iraqi Resistance Network
    A document discovered during the capture of Saddam Hussein has enabled U.S. military authorities to assemble detailed knowledge of a key network behind as many as 14 clandestine insurgent cells, Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said Tuesday. Acting quickly after realizing the significance of the document, troops conducted raids Sunday and Monday that netted three former Iraqi generals suspected of financing and guiding insurgent operations in the Baghdad area. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinian Hijacker Spared Death Penalty
    The leader of a group of Palestinian terrorists who took over a Pan Am jet in Pakistan in 1986 and killed 22 people, Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini, avoided the death penalty Tuesday under a plea bargain with the U.S. government. "The criminal conviction, life sentence, and cooperation secured by today's guilty plea reinforce our commitment to bringing all perpetrators of terrorist plots to justice, no matter how long it takes," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Winning Arab Hearts and Minds
    In the most ambitious U.S. government-sponsored international media project since the Voice of America began broadcasting in 1942, the slickly produced Al Hurra ("The Free One") Arab-language news and entertainment network is to be beamed by satellite to the Middle East - America's "fair and balanced" answer to Al Jazeera. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Dichter: The Fence for the Existence of Israel - Bradley Burston
    Israel security service chief Avi Dichter Tuesday told the Herzliya Conference, "It is critical to accelerate the building of the [security] fence in Judea and Samaria and the 'Jerusalem envelope' far as I'm concerned it can be called the 'Fence for the Existence of Israel.'" The sections of the barrier already built have hampered, slowed, and redirected would-be suicide attackers to the extent that security forces have seized three bombers laden with explosives en route to attacks within Israel in the last 10 days alone, the Shin Bet chief said.
        Dichter also said: "I do not expect dramatic changes from the PA with respect to battling terrorism." However, he voiced belief that the proponents of democratic reforms within the PA had the power to institute them, if they acted on their will. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Iran Called Top Terrorism Sponsor
    Iran is the world's "No. 1 terror nation" and is plotting relentlessly to attack Israeli targets, the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter, said Tuesday. Iran is trying to attack Israel not only by sponsoring Hizballah and Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza, but also "Iran has marked the Israeli Arabs as a potential fifth column for them to exploit," Dichter said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel Eases Conditions for Palestinians - Margot Dudkevitch and Arieh O'Sullivan
    In Hebron, where restrictions have already been lifted, public transportation runs between the city and Bethlehem, there is unrestricted access to and from the city, hundreds of truckloads of goods transfer their provisions, and laborers are permitted to enter Israel to work, said a senior IDF officer. "Today things there are different," he said. "While there are pockets of terror, we are able to control the situation, and therefore the local population benefits. Those living in Jenin can see what happens when there is no terror - that is the carrot, the light at the end of the tunnel. Hebron residents realize that if they allow the terror to resume, the situation there will change." The most problematic areas in the West Bank remain Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm, he said. "One of our problems is bringing about a change in the Palestinian leadership....Ahmed Qurei is a straw man, Arafat's mask," he added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Nablus Remains a Terrorist Haven - Margot Dudkevitch
    Nablus remains the terrorist haven of the West Bank. Terrorists there attempted to launch 13 suicide attacks inside Israel and five against targets in the West Bank. There were five attempts by the terrorist infrastructure in Jenin to launch attacks, and four attacks stemming from Bethlehem were thwarted, as were two from Tulkarm and two from Hebron. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Nablus, Byword for Crime in Palestinian Territories - Ezzedine Said
    According to the mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Al-Shaka, strings of revenge killings and vendettas have left 33 "innocent" people dead since September 2000, including the mayor's brother, a Jordan-based businessman gunned down on November 25. "The security services are strong enough to take action if they are ordered to do so," said Hazem Zhokan, who heads the ruling Fatah party's branch in the Balata neighborhood. Zhokan admits that a large proportion of the crime in Nablus was the work of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a radical offshoot of Arafat's Fatah. (Middle East Online-UK)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tell Us Why, Latifa - Isaac Herzog
    Latifa Abu Thra'ar, 40, mother of seven, from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, was arrested last week after smuggling an explosive belt on behalf of a suicide bomber who planned to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Rosh Ha'ayin. Latifa relied on the fact that the Israel security forces do not usually perform body searches on women. If I had been one of her interrogators I would have asked her: "Latifa, why did you do it? Didn't you think for one moment of the mothers like you who were liable to lose their lives because of you? And the children like yours who could have been permanently crippled or been blown to pieces?" "Even worse, because of you and others like you, our soldiers will be forced from now on to examine every Palestinian woman and regard her as a security risk....Your innocent friends, on their way to the doctor or visiting their families, will pay the price of your act at the checkpoints." Latifa returns me and others like me to cruel reality. For lack of an alternative, and since no one will do it in our place, we shall continue to make life tough for them in order to save our own lives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Geneva Accord: A Shaky Foundation - Asher Susser
    Supporters of the Geneva Accord have raised four main claims: Israel is recognized in the accord as the state of the Jewish people; they do not hold out the right of return of refugees to Israel; it is Israel that exclusively decides on the entry of refugees into its territory; and the accord makes it possible to close the refugee file, enabling the end of the conflict. A close reading of the accord shows these statements are not exactly true. The refugee chapter is a shaky foundation for the accord, and it is more reasonable that it will be a source of discord and strife in which Israel will often find itself in splendid isolation. The writer is head of the Dayan Center for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
        For a contrasting view, see Read It Before You Criticize It - Ron Pundak The writer is executive director of the Peres Center for Peace and was one of the authors of the Oslo and Geneva Accords. (Ha'aretz)
  • Americans and Shiite Muslims - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Ever since 1979, Shiite Muslim clerics have scared Americans, after Ayatollah Khomeini's theocratic revolution in Iran held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The common breakdown of the Iraqi population is 55% Shiite Arab, 20% Sunni Arab, 20% Kurd, and 5% Turkoman/Christian Arab. After the brutal repression the Shiites have endured in Iraq since the collapse of the Ottoman empire, it is most unlikely that they will again accept Sunni Arab suzerainty. The old legitimizing engine of Sunni domination - Arab nationalism - is dead among the Shiites. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    The Middle East to 2020 - U.S. National Intelligence Council (CIA)

    The U.S. National Intelligence Council, operating under the guidance of CIA director George Tenet and chaired by Ambassador Robert Hutchings, is responsible for providing short- and middle-term strategic assessments to the U.S. government. Excerpts from the new, unclassified, experts' report:

    • The outbreak of a new war between Israel and one or more Arab states, especially Syria [is possible]. Neither side would seek a war, but there will be continuing potential for an unintended outbreak of hostilities. A new war might entail use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, possibly initiated by Syrian employment of chemical weapons.
    • Another crushing Arab military defeat at the hands of Israel would exacerbate the disillusionment of Arabs with their ineffective regimes.
    • Perhaps the death of Arafat - which is likely before 2020 - would set in motion events leading to a final, comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Although an accord would be at least initially a "cold peace," if it were regarded as acceptable to the great majority of Palestinians it would mean the biggest change in regional discourse since Israel's creation.
    • It also would be a moment of truth for several Arab regimes, which would lose their most effective distraction from their own shortcomings and major excuse for not facing up to needed reforms.

        See also CIA Report: No Full Peace Settlement Before 2020 - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)

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