Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 1, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Military Intelligence Head: Nuclear Talks with Iran Pointless after March '06 - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    "If by the end of March 2006 the international community will have failed to halt Iran's attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, diplomatic efforts on the matter will be pointless, and international attempts to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons will have failed," Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi said at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on Wednesday.

    See also Sharon: Iran's Nuclear Program is Unacceptable (Ha'aretz)
    Prime Minister Sharon stressed on Thursday that Israel is watching with growing concern Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities, and that this situation is unacceptable by Israel.
    Sharon said, however, that "Israel does not spearhead the international struggle against Iran's nuclear arming."
    Sharon said the West has the military capabilities to handle Iran, but "before anyone decides on a military step, every effort would be made to pressure Iran to halt this activity."

    See also Iran Revolutionary Guards Chief Vows to Defeat U.S. in Iraq (Iran Focus)
    The Commandant of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards declared that Iran was exporting its Islamic revolution to other Muslim countries including Iraq which would inevitably bring about the downfall of the U.S. in the Middle East.
    On Sunday, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi said the U.S. had failed to prevent Tehran from exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries in the region.

    See also below Observations: Can Diplomacy Still Prevent Iran from Going Nuclear? - Gerald M. Steinberg (ICA/JCPA)

Israelis Training Kurds in Iraq - Anat Tal-Shir (Ynet News)
    Dozens of Israelis with a background in combat training have been working for private Israeli companies in northern Iraq helping the Kurds establish anti-terror units, Yediot Ahronot revealed Thursday.
    The Kurdish government contracted Israeli security and communications companies to train Kurdish security forces and provide them with advanced equipment.
    One contract is for the construction of an international airport in the northern Kurdish city of Ibril.
    Israeli experts conducted live fire and self-defense exercises with Kurdish security forces at a training camp in northern Iraq until warning of an al-Qaeda attack prompted a hasty exit of all Israeli trainers from the region.

Intel to Build Chip Plant in Israel - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    Intel Corp. will build a $3.5 billion chip plant in Israel, the company said on Thursday.
    The news of Intel's second plant in Israel confirms an announcement made in July by Prime Minister Sharon.
    Intel said the project will create more than 2,000 new jobs at the new plant in Kiryat Gat, the site of the existing facility that employs about 3,500 people.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Leader Says His Group Won't Renew Truce After Palestinian Elections: Attacks Must Accompany Political Process - Albert Aji
    The leader of Hamas said Wednesday that his Palestinian militant group will not renew a truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year. Khaled Mashaal, whose group has carried out dozens of deadly suicide attacks on Israelis, also restated Hamas' rejection of U.S. calls for Hamas to disarm and join the political process. "The resistance must go hand in hand with political work," he said. "It is not accepted to pressure the resistance to choose between resistance and politics." (AP/Washington Post)
  • UN Halts Talks on Terrorism Treaty; U.S. Funding Cut Threatened
    Diplomats at the UN, divided over Iraq and Palestinian violence, broke off talks on an anti-terrorism treaty, increasing the likelihood that the U.S. will cut funding of the world body, UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said. Eliasson said Washington lawmakers told him two weeks ago that progress on the treaty was critical to stopping Congress from withholding $132 million of the proposed $427 million U.S. contribution to the UN's 2006 budget. The House has passed a bill requiring the funding cut, while a Senate version leaves it to the State Department's discretion. (Bloomberg)
  • U.S. Moves to Shrink Palestinian Programs at UN
    U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is leading a behind-the-scenes effort to eliminate or shrink "outdated" UN programs, including activities relating to Palestinians. Targets include the UN Division for Palestinian Rights, which comes under the Department of Political Affairs, and two longstanding committees created by the General Assembly in the 1970s: the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories. (Inter Press Service)
  • Merkel Condemns Iran's Statements on Israel - Zhang Bihong
    In her first speech Wednesday to the German parliament, German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to a recent remark by Iranian President Ahmadinejad last month that Israel should be "wiped off the map," saying this was "absolutely unacceptable in every respect." "Germany has a very special responsibility with regard to Israel....On behalf of the new government, I would like to use this opportunity to stress Israel's right to exist and the right of its citizens to live free from terror, fear, and violence." (Xinhuanet-China)
  • Iran Buying Satellite Know-How - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran's space agency is trying to snap up technology from abroad as fast as possible for its satellite program, fearing the West will seek to impose restrictions like those put on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has major ambitions in space, looking to monitor its neighborhood - where the U.S. has hundreds of thousands of troops - and establish itself as a regional superpower. Others - particularly Israel, whose existence is opposed by the hard-line Islamist regime in Iran - are concerned about the program's military applications. Iran's Shahab-3 missile, with a range of 1,240 miles, already can reach Israel as well as U.S. forces across the Middle East. (AP/Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • The Situation at the Rafiah Crossing - Total Neglect - Yossi Yehoshua
    Less than a week has gone by since the Rafiah crossing was opened between Gaza and Egypt and the Israeli security establishment is extremely worried by the new reality, which was defined Wednesday by a senior security source as "total neglect." Army sources argue that because of pressure by Secretary of State Rice, the agreement had been signed too hurriedly, without providing an answer to Israeli security needs.
        According to the Israeli understanding of the agreement, the Israeli-Palestinian joint command center was supposed to obtain comprehensive information about whomever is passing from Gaza to Egypt and the reverse. In actuality, since the crossing has been opened, Israel only receives pictures of whomever is crossing and only eight minutes or so later information arrives about the identity of the person passing through. In that time, it is possible to go through the crossing without Israeli security authorities knowing the identity of the person. A senior member of the General Security Services remarked: "It's like watching a movie without any voice or subtitles."
        After raising the matter with the EU representative, it became clear that there was no common understanding. The EU's Italian general argued that he doesn't recognize a requirement to pass on data to Israel in real time. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who heads the political-military section of the Ministry of Defense, stated that the critical clause exists: "With this situation, the agreement is worthless." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 1Dec05)
        See also Commander of the Gaza Division: "This Isn't the Border We Intended" - Yossi Yehoshua
    Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz: "This isn't the border we intended." He explained that "the number of incidents since we left Gaza is enormous." In the last week alone, six explosive charges were discovered - eighteen since the withdrawal. The smallest charge weighed forty kilograms. The Gaza Division reports 75 incidents of light weapons fire and 130 Kassam rockets and mortar rounds. There have also been eight clashes with terrorist cells along the security fence. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 1Dec05)
        See also Mofaz Warns PA over Operation of Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened Wednesday to shut down crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel if the Palestinians don't improve operations at the Gaza-Egypt border. Israel has expressed concern that Palestinian militants and weapons would enter Gaza once the Palestinians are in charge of the border. "If it doesn't improve and the Palestinians don't cooperate we will close the Erez and Karni crossings" (into Israel), Mofaz said. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Israel
    Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket from the Gaza Strip into the Negev late Wednesday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinian Reformists Fight the Old Guard - Harvey Morris
    Palestinian reformists in the ruling Fatah movement said on Wednesday they would consider running on a rival ticket in the general elections if the so-called Old Guard tried to "steal" party primaries being held this week. Young Guard reformists made sweeping gains in West Bank primaries this week before voting was halted in Gaza when Fatah gunmen stormed polling stations and set fire to ballot boxes, claiming fraud. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Abbas Seeks to Salvage Flawed Fatah Election - Wafa Amr
    "You cannot say that the elections were really democratic," Central Committee member Nabil Shaath said about the ballot in the West Bank and Gaza. "There was a lot of fraud and cheating."  (Reuters)
  • PA to Pension Off Terrorists? - Rachel Ehrenfeld
    PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad, who recently resigned, was said to be particularly upset because Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei arranged that $350 million being donated to the PA in 2005 is being used to pay 60,000 people in the security services. "We don't know if 10-15,000 of these people are even still working or not," said the head of the parliament's economic committee, Azmi Shuabi.
        Saadi al-Wahidi, a senior official at the PA's Civil Service Administration, told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda on Nov. 16 that the PA has created a special committee to determine the pension eligibility of all members of Palestinian armed organizations such as the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the Kassam Brigade, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. The payments will be retroactive and include current and former Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Can Diplomacy Still Prevent Iran from Going Nuclear? - Gerald M. Steinberg
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The decision of the International Atomic Energy Agency on September 24, 2005, to declare Iran in non-compliance with respect to its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a major diplomatic development, opening the door to consideration of Iran's nuclear weapons program by the UN Security Council.
    • The proposal was supported by India, which had been seen by Iran as a key supporter. In addition, two other traditional allies - Russia and China - suddenly stopped their support. Security officials from both countries had quietly stated their concerns regarding the threat that Iranian nuclear weapons would pose in the wider context of Islamic radicalism.
    • The diplomatic option is serious in large part because, unlike North Korea, or Iraq under Saddam, or even Libya, Iran seeks to be part of the international community and not a rogue state or a member of the "axis of evil." Iran is very active in international institutions and arms control frameworks.
    • The Iranian leadership has taken some measures and engaged in negotiations that only make sense when seen as efforts to avoid sanctions. It is also dependent to a degree on foreign technology for its nuclear weapons and missile development programs.
    • Iranian progress toward the development of nuclear weapons will likely trigger regional proliferation involving Egypt, Syria, Libya (again), Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have maintained biological, chemical, and lower-level nuclear weapons programs, which have become more active lately as Iran has accelerated its efforts.

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