Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 18, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria on the Warpath? - Claude Salhani (UPI/Washington Times)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad is reported to be on the verge of striking the largest arms deal for his country in the last 20 years, as reports emerged last week of Syria's intention to re-equip itself with updated Russian armament, including long-range surface-to-surface missiles capable of targeting most cities in Israel.
    Assad is due in St. Petersburg on Jan. 24.

    See also Russian Missiles to Syria? - Pavel Felgenhauer (Moscow Times)
    Syria already has mid-range ballistic missiles: Soviet-made Scud-Bs with a 300-kilometer range and North Korean-made Scud-C and Scud-D modifications with an extended range.
    However, the Scuds can miss their target by hundreds or thousands of meters, while the Iskander is reported to have an accuracy of several meters.
    Russian traders and producers desperately hope to make a ballistic missile export breakthrough in a market that has been dominated by the North Koreans since 1991.
    There are several semiofficial entities in Russia that can negotiate and deliver almost any modern weapon while the authorities turn a blind eye, provided the buyer has the cash.
    Since 1998, the Tula-based KBP arms factory has sold Syria up to a thousand updated Kornet-E guided antitank missiles. The Pentagon alleged that some of the missiles were smuggled into Iraq and used against Allied forces.
    The latest Russian-Israeli missile crisis once again highlights the issue of who (if anyone) really controls the export of sensitive technologies and weapons from Russia.
    See also Russian Arms Factories Negotiate Own Contracts (AFP/SpaceWar)
    The Iskander missile is developed by the KB Mashinostroyeniya Institute, one of five Russian arms factories that has a right to negotiate its own contracts with foreign customers, skirting the Russian government.

Aksa Martyrs Brigades Murder Two More "Collaborators" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The first murder took place on Friday in a public square in Balata, south of Nablus.
     Eyewitnesses said Mahmoud Mansour, 23, was shot in the head with at least 25 bullets by gunmen from Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
    The assailants refused to allow an ambulance to take the body to a hospital and, instead, threw it into a dumpster.
    The second victim, Ramzi Assi, 18, a resident of Nablus, was murdered on Saturday, also by Fatah gunmen.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush Won't Rule Out Action Against Iran
    President Bush told NBC News Monday he would not rule out military action against Iran if Tehran is not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program. "I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the table," Bush said, adding that he could act if Iran "continues to stonewall the international community about the existence of its nuclear weapons program."  (Reuters/Boston Globe)
  • U.S. Punishes Chinese Firms for Aiding Iran - David E. Sanger
    The Bush administration imposed penalties this month against some of China's largest companies for aiding Iran's efforts to improve its ballistic missiles as part of an effort by the White House and American intelligence agencies to identify and slow important elements of Iran's weapons programs. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Orders Forces to Block Rocket Attacks; IDF: No Activity Yet - Arnon Regular, Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued orders for Palestinian security services in Gaza to deploy in the area from which rockets and mortars are launched at Israeli targets. However, as of Monday night, the IDF had not spotted any activity indicating that the Palestinian security forces are moving into new positions. The army is preparing a wide-scale operation into the three main areas from which rockets are launched - Khan Yunis, Jabalya, and Beit Lahia-Beit Hanun - if the Palestinians do not take action. Israeli government sources are doubtful that Abbas will manage to deploy PA forces in all these areas. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    On Tuesday morning, Palestinian terrorists fired three more Kassam rockets at Sderot in the western Negev. There were no casualties. (Ha'aretz)
  • Seriousness Does Not Guarantee Success - Danny Rubinstein
    Abbas is serious about wanting to end terror attacks against Israel, but that does not mean he will succeed. He could give an order, but the execution of it could fail. Even Arafat announced decisions to end the terrorism, but nothing happened. Abbas currently enjoys the support of the international community, but he could easily deteriorate to the same standing, regarded as one who only talks and whose orders are ineffective. (Ha'aretz)
  • Wary Israel Grants Abbas More Time - Herb Keinon
    Wary of PA promises, Israel responded unenthusiastically to Abbas's Monday directive to stop terrorist attacks, but at the same time gave him additional time to prove himself. Prime Minister Sharon told visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutake Machimura on Monday that while Israel understands the PA leadership is facing a tough situation, "Israel will not agree to pay in lives for Abu Mazen's difficulties." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Aksa Martyrs Brigades Rejects Abbas's Offer to Join PA Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Abbas has issued instructions to recruit gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, into the PA security forces. "These men will play a role in building the PA and its institutions," he said, referring to scores of Fatah gunmen wanted by Israel for their involvement in terrorism. However, a spokesman for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus rejected the offer, saying his men would continue to fight against Israel.
        Top members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip criticized Abbas's decision to prevent attacks against Israel. In Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said his movement would not comply with the new orders. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad also rejected the call to halt attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hunting the Elusive Kassam - Arieh O'Sullivan
    The IDF, with its digital battlefield that includes flying cameras, has been able to foil about 70% of the Kassam attacks. But it cannot stop them completely, which is what the nation demands. There are those in the IDF who are convinced there is an operational solution to vanquishing the Kassams. The key is eliminating the entire chain of rocket production, but senior officers argue that this is contingent upon better intelligence.
        Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Doron Tamir, a former chief intelligence officer, noted that while the success of the Shin Bet in the West Bank is a result of the IDF's nearly ubiquitous presence, Gaza is still mostly off-limits. Without a presence on the ground, the sources that can be utilized by agents are weakened. "We all know about the other types of intelligence gathering, the electro-optic and eavesdropping, but it is the Humint [spies] and the agents who bring in the intelligence. When you control the territory it is easier," Tamir told Army Radio. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "Enough" in Egypt - Editorial
    An Egyptian official has said that the ruling party intended to nominate President Hosni Mubarak to run unopposed this fall for a sixth consecutive term. That would mean the perpetuation of the dictatorship that has ruled Egypt for more than 50 years, nearly half of them under Mubarak, who is now 76.
        Egyptians can only be frustrated by Mubarak's refusal to liberalize a political system that has brought them decades of economic stagnation and rampant corruption while nourishing Islamic extremists, including many of the leaders of al-Qaeda. Mubarak's renomination would be a serious blow to the Bush administration's project for promoting democratic change in the Middle East. Mubarak has received more than $50 billion in U.S. aid over the years even as he ruthlessly suppressed Egyptian civil society and democratic movements and encouraged anti-Israeli and anti-American incitement in his state-controlled media. (Washington Post)
  • Should We Be Up in Arms over Egypt's Buildup? - Amnon Barzilai
    As defense officials talk of warming ties with Egypt, some are concerned that Egypt will take advantage of Israel's dependence on its assistance in the fight against terrorism to pressure the U.S. into supplying it with sophisticated weapons systems. "We have a problem today," says a senior defense official, "but on the eve of disengagement we don't want to create opposition, because we have an interest in having public opinion support peace with Egypt."
        In Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies' annual Middle East Strategic Balance, Brigadier General (res.) Shlomo Brom and researcher Yiftah Shapir state that since the 1980s the gap in the quality of the aerial and ground platforms of the Egyptian and Israeli armies has narrowed substantially. However, in assessing Egypt's intentions, the Israeli intelligence community believes that, despite the cold peace and blatant incidences of anti-Semitism, Egypt has no intention to go on the offensive. Nevertheless, Brom and Shapir say it is impossible to completely rule out a scenario of military confrontation between Israel and Egypt in the long term, especially if an Iran-style Islamic revolution takes place in Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    An Eye for an Eye - Yoel Marcus (Ha'aretz)

    • The prime minister's decision to give Abu Mazen the cold shoulder until the terror stops is perfectly justified. To criticize Sharon for not giving Abu Mazen 100 days of grace is ridiculous. Abu Mazen knows who's doing the shooting and how to handle the operators who send out suicide bombers.
    • Abu Mazen denounced the attacks, but like his predecessor he rolled his eyes heavenward, cleverly disguising a wink to the dearly departed. Israelis are tired of this wise guy stuff.
    • What really makes me blow my top is when the intellectuals and peaceniks huddle around Abu Mazen and say that if we want quiet, we have to pay for it with gestures, like a prisoner release, to boost his image among the Palestinians. Gestures? What gestures? We don't owe this guy a thing. The burden of proof that something has changed in the Palestinian world is on Abu Mazen.
    • We cannot sit back and resign ourselves to artillery fire on civilian settlements in Israeli territory. Every day, towns like Sderot are sentenced to a game of chance. An entire population - men and women, children and elderly - holds its breath, waiting to see if and when a mortar will fall, who will be hit, and who will be the next to die. No country in the world would be willing to endure this kind of daily bombardment of its cities.

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