Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 25, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Mossad: Iran to Reach Point of No Return on Nukes This Year - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    Mossad chief Meir Dagan warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that by the end of this year, Iran will have reached the point of no return in its technology for manufacturing nuclear bombs.
    Three to four years later, the Iranians will be able to build a nuclear bomb.
    Dagan said there are hints of nuclear programs underway in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
    Dagan said Iran was almost finished building a facility for manufacturing nuclear fuel and had reached industrial-scale production of enriched uranium.
    He said Syrian calls for peace talks were only meant to please the Americans, and that fundamentally there is no difference between Bashar Assad's positions and those of his late father, Hafez Assad.

Russian Missiles May End Up in Syria - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    While confident Russia won't finalize a deal selling Igla SA-18 shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to Syria during Bashar Assad's current trip to Moscow, Israel is concerned Moscow may mount the missiles on armored personnel carriers and sell them in a few months' time.
    While mounting the missiles on APCs would make them more difficult to transfer to terror groups, such a configuration would not lessen Israel's objection to the sale, a senior diplomatic official said.

Islamic Revival Sweeping Syria - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
    A religious revival is sweeping Syria, challenging the secular, ruling Baath Party to allow more Muslim influence in government.
    Growing religious feeling can be seen in the proliferation of head scarves and an enormous privately funded mosque nearing completion in Aleppo.
    Muslim clerics are growing increasingly bold in asking for democratic political reforms that could give them a larger role in government.
    Alarmed by the trend, some within Syria's secular intelligentsia have begun writing and organizing against it.

Useful Reference:

Al-Qaeda's New Front (PBS)
    "Al-Qaeda's New Front," airing Tuesday, January 25, at 9 P.M. on PBS FRONTLINE, investigates the alarming threat radical Salafist jihadists pose to Western Europe and its allies, including the U.S.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Marks Liberation of Nazi Camps 60 Years Ago - Warren Hoge
    The UN General Assembly commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camps on Monday. "I am convinced if the world had listened to those of us who tried to speak, we may have prevented Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia, and naturally Rwanda," said Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, author, and Auschwitz survivor. "On occasions like this, rhetoric comes easily," Secretary General Kofi Annan said. "We rightly say, 'Never again.' But action is much harder. Since the Holocaust the world has, to its shame, failed more than once to prevent or halt genocide." (New York Times)
        See also Address by Israeli Foreign Minister to the UN General Assembly Special Session (Foreign Ministry)
  • U.S.: Ceasefire, While Welcome, Is Only a First Step
    State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said Monday: "Ceasefires, while welcome and important, are not an end in themselves, but are rather a first step towards reaching a larger goal which is outlined in the roadmap, a complete end to violence and terror, and establishing the rule of law over all Palestinian territories."  (State Department)
  • Captured Al-Qaeda Terrorist Masterminded Assault on UN Headquarters in Baghdad - Edward Wong
    An al-Qaeda lieutenant in custody in Iraq has confessed to masterminding most of the car bombings in Baghdad, including the bloody 2003 assault on the UN headquarters in the capital, authorities said Monday. Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, "confessed to building approximately 75% of the car bombs used in attacks in Baghdad'' since the Iraq war began, according to the interim Iraqi prime minister's spokesman, Thaer al-Naqib. (New York Times)
  • Would-Be Suicide Bomber Angry At Those Who Sent Him - Steven Komarow and Sabah al-Anbaki
    Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, left Saudi Arabia for Syria in October and was smuggled over the border into Iraq. He spent weeks in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi with like-minded Muslims from Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and Macedonia, where he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up.
        But on Dec. 24, he was given the job of driving a butane-gas delivery truck that was rigged with bombs. It wasn't supposed to be a suicide mission, "but they blew me up in the truck" near the Jordanian Embassy. Nine people were killed, including a family of seven whose house collapsed on them, but Shaya survived, though badly burned. Shaya says he regretted his mission now and can no longer support bin Laden because "he is killing Muslims." "I want revenge for what they have done to me," he says about the Zarqawi network that sent him on the mission that left him permanently disfigured. (USA Today)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Relative Quiet in Gaza - Amos Harel
    On Monday there were only a few cases of isolated gunfire in the Gaza Strip. The PA will deploy forces in the southern Gaza Strip near Rafah and Khan Yunis on Tuesday, Israel Radio reported. The Popular Front and the Democratic Front, Abu Rish's breakaway Fatah faction, and the Popular Resistance Committees are apparently moving into areas where Hamas and Islamic Jihad have ceased activity, and the shooting incidents are being interpreted as attempts to raise the price the PA will have to pay for them to cease their fire.
        Overnight Monday, Palestinians opened fire on Israeli cars traveling on the Kissufim route. A large explosion was heard near Gaza City and IDF officials said it was caused when Palestinians tried to fire a rocket. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas's Actions Prove that Arafat Led the Armed Intifada - Aluf Benn
    The new Palestinian leadership has fomented a significant change in the diplomatic and security situation. Abbas's recent actions against terrorism prove that his predecessor, Arafat, indeed led the armed intifada and supported attacks against Israel. Arafat never took even the minimal steps that Abbas has now taken. Sharon wants to strengthen Abbas, but he also wants to ensure that Abbas's war on terror does not end with last week's steps. (Ha'aretz)
  • A Fragile Chance for Calm - Danny Rubinstein
    The strategy of Hamas is to agree to a let-up that will enable the Israeli withdrawal and after that the rehabilitation of life in Gaza, and thereafter to participate in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas is setting out to become a political party that wants to gain control. This can certainly arouse hope for relative quiet in the near term. But even during the calm, the production of mortar shells and rockets in Gaza continues at full throttle. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • All the Players Want a Cease-Fire - Joshua Brilliant
    At the moment all the players want a cease-fire, said Boaz Ganor, deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Abu Mazen and Israel want it so that he can strengthen his position and organize his forces. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad want it to recover from the blows they have sustained in the fighting with Israel. Egypt and Jordan want the situation to stabilize, and Syria is concerned with U.S. pressure, he said. But Hamas will not disarm and eventually there will be a showdown, he predicted. A senior source in the IDF Southern Command told Army Radio, "If, in the past, I gave Abu Mazen a 10% chance of success, now I give him 25%." (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Listen to What the Man Says - Editorial
    It's a sign of how low the expectations are for Mideast peace that we wanted to publish this editorial about a possible cease-fire in Gaza as soon as we could, lest the possible cease-fire be broken before we could congratulate those who agreed to it. We hope that the Palestinian militant groups who say they are suspending attacks on Israel for a while actually do so. Both sides, but particularly the Palestinians, are notorious for dashing those hopes. Still, Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian leader, is saying and doing the right things. (New York Times)
  • Arabs and the Holocaust - Robert Satloff
    Of the more than 100 countries that have formally endorsed convening the special UN General Assembly session on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, not one is Arab. The Holocaust, although overwhelmingly a European story, was an Arab story, too. Algeria and Morocco were the site of the first slave labor camps liberated by Allied troops.
        To many Arabs, discussing the Holocaust is radioactive because they fear it lends justification to Israel and its policies. But even that deep political dispute cannot obscure the fact that Arabs have a relationship with Jews that predates the establishment of Israel, a complex history that provides sources of pride as well as reasons for shame. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Observations:

    Palestinian Elections - A Time Bomb for Arab Regimes? - Shlomo Avineri (Beirut Daily Star)

    • Mahmoud Abbas's election was far from flawless, and the parades of armed men brandishing guns at his rallies were not exactly what democratic norms call for. Yet the Palestinians did elect a leader in a relatively free and competitive election.
    • For years, Arafat avoided holding elections under the pretense that they could not be held under occupation: but, lo and behold, two months after his demise, an election was held - and with resounding success.
    • The impact of the Palestinian vote will be watched closely in the Arab world, because what happened is unparalleled in the annals of Arab politics. Indeed, Abbas is now the only Arab leader who came to power in a more or less free election.
    • One factor at work was that Palestinians have been exposed for the better part of four decades to Israel's liberal democracy - a free press, an independent judiciary, and political pluralism.
    • The Palestinian elections were seen all over the Arab world on Arab satellite channels. They must have focused people's minds on their own stunted political conditions. If the Palestinians could choose their own leaders, why can't the same happen in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, or Algiers?

      The writer, a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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