Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 28, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Israelis Missing, Wounded in SE Asia (Maariv-Hebrew)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that some 820 Israel travelers in Southeast Asia had yet to make contact with their families in the wake of the massive earthquake and tidal waves that struck the region Sunday.
    12 Israelis are listed as missing. 33 Israelis were wounded, 4 seriously.

New Bin Laden Tape Opposes Iraqi Vote, Names al-Zarqawi as Deputy (AP/New York Times)
    An audiotape message attributed to Osama bin Laden, broadcast Monday by Al Jazeera, called for Muslims to boycott elections in Iraq next month and endorsed Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as bin Laden's deputy in that country.

Al-Qaeda Plotting Attack on London's New Year Celebrations - Sean Rayment (Telegraph-UK)
    British security chiefs believe al-Qaeda may target New Year celebrations across Britain.
    A "restricted" report has been distributed to every military base in Britain warning that "crowded places or events" are under "a severe threat" of attack from terrorist bombers.
    The report warns that military personnel and establishments within the Government Security Zone in central London, which includes Horse Guards in Whitehall, and Buckingham and St James's Palaces, face a "substantial" threat of attack.
    Military bases across the country are also facing a similar threat.

Egypt Trains British MI6 Agents to Combat Islamic Terrorists - Uzi Mahnaimi (Times-UK)
    Egypt has been training British MI5 and MI6 agents in how to combat Islamic terrorists as part of a cooperation program that began after the September 11 attacks.
    The training is believed to have included instruction in specialized interrogation techniques and in the terminology used by terrorists.

Qatar Hosts Forum on Resisting Arab Normalization with Israel (Al Bawaba-Jordan)
    Qatar is hosting the 4th Arab Gulf people's conference to resist normalization with Israel.
    Head of the Arab Studies Center organizing the conference, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Nuaimi, said the two-day event will host 20 politicians and academicians from the Arabian Gulf states in addition to Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine.
    It should be noted that an Israeli consulate has been operating in the Qatari capital of Doha.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arafat's Death Spurs Militant Rocket Race
    Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip are proud to show off the latest addition to their arsenal of homemade rockets - the "Yasser Arafat." Designed to fly further and strike harder than other makeshift missiles, it is also a powerful symbol of an arms race which defies hopes that Arafat's death last month could be a catalyst for peace. "Al-Yasser rockets show our love and admiration for our historical leader and symbol of our fight," said Abu Qusai, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The militant factions in the intensifying race to build better weapons are not only struggling to bloody Israel, they also face competition against each other to prove their strength and stake a claim to power in the post-Arafat era. (Reuters)
  • Jordan Jails Islamists Said Targeting U.S. Troops
    Jordan's military court sentenced a radical Muslim preacher and three Saudi fugitives sympathetic to al-Qaeda to 15 years in jail Monday for possessing arms in an alleged plot to attack U.S. troops in Jordan. Cell members were originally charged with targeting Jordan's army bases where they believed American troops were stationed. But the military tribunal dropped the main charge of "conspiracy," with chief judge Fawaz al-Baqour telling the court, "The defendants' search for U.S. troops in Jordan was deemed an impossible target as there are no troops on Jordanian soil." (Reuters)
  • Palestinian Factions Slam Blair's Middle East Conference
    The National and Islamic Forces, an umbrella organization of 13 different Palestinian factions including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, has called British Prime Minister Blair's plans to host a Middle East conference an unwanted "interference in Palestinian internal affairs."  (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon: Gaza Terrorists Have Anti-Aircraft Missile Launchers - Gideon Alon and Aluf Benn
    Gaza terrorist organizations now have shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles, and there are mounting concerns that they will shoot down Israeli aircraft near the Strip, Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. Israel has warned that if any Israeli aircraft is damaged in the area, Israel will respond harshly.
        Sharon also said the evacuation of Gaza settlements will go ahead according to plan, but not under fire. "We have passed on to the Palestinians severe warnings through the U.S. and EU that we will not allow shooting during the evacuation," he said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Military Intelligence: Hamas Won't Halt Terror - Amos Harel
    A high-ranking security source said Monday that Hamas believes it is vital to perpetuate the image that Israel is fleeing the Gaza Strip under fire, and primarily due to Hamas attacks. Intelligence officials believe Hamas has no intentions of ceasing to use Kassam rockets and is making supreme efforts to increase their range and accuracy. Intelligence officials note a recent tightening of ties between Hamas and Iran, which is pressing for continued terror attacks.
        The defense establishment believes Abbas will refrain from direct confrontations with the terror groups, instead conducting lengthy persuasive talks and creating a public mood that has reservations about continued terror attacks. A high-ranking security source said that it will take "a year or two at least" before the PA reassumes control of the security situation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Barghouti: Disengagement Is a Win for Palestinians - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israel's decision to withdraw from Gaza and the northern West Bank is a victory for the Palestinian resistance, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti told former PA security minister Muhammad Dahlan on Monday. Dahlan quoted Barghouti as saying the Palestinians should turn the "liberated areas" into a model of political success in order to prove to the world that they are capable of controlling their own state in the future. Dahlan, who served as security minister when Mahmoud Abbas was prime minister for four months last year, is expected to play a key security role after the election. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mubarak: Foreign Troops Can't Do the Job in Iraq
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview: "Only the rapid and large-scale development of a new Iraqi military and police force can stabilize the country. It's important that these forces are truly substantial. We've been helping the Iraqis in this regard, and so have the Jordanians. The Germans have been providing future Iraqi security personnel thorough training in the United Arab Emirates....[The Iraqis] should be able to control the situation on their own....The urban centers can only be secured by Iraqi soldiers and police officers....Only the Iraqis know how to deal with Iraqis. Foreign troops are not equipped to do so."
        "It would be catastrophic if the Americans pulled their troops out of Iraq now. It would lead to complete chaos. The terrorist attacks would increase, hostile foreign elements would flood into the country, and the situation throughout the region would become even more volatile. Everyone would suffer, including us. The Americans can only withdraw once they've made sure the Iraqis can manage their security problems on their own."  (Der Spiegel/New York Times)
  • The Al-Qaeda Threat to Saudi Arabia's Oil Sector - Mordechai Abir
    On December 15, 2004, Bin Laden said "oil prices should be at least $100 a barrel," and called upon Persian Gulf militants to exert themselves to prevent the West from getting Arab oil by attacking oil facilities all over the region. The following day, NYMEX crude spiked by 5 percent to $46.28 a barrel. Although no longer a serious threat to the Saudi regime, the remaining al-Qaeda cells have now been directed to target the region's oil industry.
        While Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf oil production facilities are largely in Shi'a eastern Arabia, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to totally prevent extremists ready to sacrifice their lives in Allah's name from infiltrating Aramco's workforce, or otherwise hitting weak spots in the oil industry. Even an abortive attack on the Arabian oil network would seriously spike oil prices. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Reform in the Arab World - Fareed Zakaria
    Consider the contrast between two conferences on reform held recently. The first, the official Forum for the Future held in Morocco, ended with the foreign ministers of the region endorsing reform, but adding that it couldn't happen until the establishment of a Palestinian state. "Until foreign-policy problems are solved," the governments seem to be saying, "we have no choice but to keep punishing our people."
        But at Dubai's Arab Strategy Forum a few days later, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, said pointedly, "I cannot see why a crisis, no matter how severe, should delay economic reform or plans to eradicate illiteracy." "What is the relation," he asked, "between foreign affairs and corruption?" These voices are mainly being heard from the Persian Gulf, which has now become the center of reform in the Arab world. (Newsweek)
  • Observations:

    Europe's Muslims May Be Headed Where the Marxists Went Before
    - Craig S. Smith (New York Times)

    • Today, Islam reaches out to the poor and disillusioned in France's working-class neighborhoods. Young Arabs and Africans have turned to Islam with the same fervor that the idealistic youth of the 1960s turned toward Marxism. As with Marxism in the 1960s, Islam in Europe has its radical fringe and its pragmatic mainstream. The narrower, but in many ways more potent, stream draws its inspiration from the fundamentalist clerics of Saudi Arabia.
    • Islam's growth in Europe as the most vibrant ideology of the downtrodden is part of a wave of religiosity that has swept the Arab world in the past 30 years, propelled by frustration over feeble economies, uneven distribution of wealth, and the absence of political freedom.
    • Many people see the religion's return as opening another chapter in a centuries-long struggle between Christendom and Islam for the domination of Europe. But the religion's appeal reaches beyond the communities of Arab and African immigrants born to the faith. There are an estimated 50,000 Muslim converts in France.

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