Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 29, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Russian Weapons Sold to Syria End Up in Terrorists' Hands - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
    Hizballah has been using Russian-made RPG rockets purchased by Syria to target Israel, IDF Intelligence Chief Aharon Zeevi-Farkash said in an interview with Yediot Ahronot.
    "The Russians...sell weapons with a commitment not to pass them on, yet those weapons are used against us in a blatant manner," he said.
    Farkash noted that Hizballah terrorists fired RPG-29 rockets in an attempt to abduct soldiers on the Lebanese border a month ago.
    "Those are Russian-made rockets purchased by the Syrians in recent years and handed over to Hizballah," he said.
    "We are talking about a high-impact weapon because it has deep penetration capabilities."
    "The usage of rockets against us explains why Israel strongly opposed the sale of [Russian] SA-18 missiles to Syria."
    The rockets fired at Kiryat Shmona this week were also Russian-made, he said.
    "We know that in April 2005, ahead of the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon, Bashar Assad made sure to transfer military equipment and combat means to Palestinian groups and to Hizballah," he said.

Saudi Militant Held after Clash (BBC News)
    Saudi authorities have captured Muhammad Suwailmi, who was number 7 on a list of 36 wanted militants published six months ago, after gun battles in which five policemen died near Buraida, the capital of the ultra-conservative northern Qassim province.
    The Saudi-owned television network al-Arabiya described Suwailmi as an Internet specialist who helped post militant statements on websites linked to the al-Qaeda network.

Death Penalty for Six Qaeda Militants in Kuwait (AFP/Yahoo)
    Six Islamists from a group linked to the al-Qaeda network were sentenced to death by a Kuwaiti court for their roles in deadly clashes with police in January.
    Three are Kuwaiti nationals, while the other three are Bedouin, Arabs without nationality; all are members of a group calling itself the "Peninsula Lions Brigades."

Jews in Rome Light Hannukah Candles at Iran Embassy - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Members of Rome's Jewish community lit Hannukah candles in front of the Iranian Embassy on Wednesday in what they said was a peaceful response to comments by the Iranian president that the Holocaust was a "myth."
    Two of the people who lit candles were concentration camp survivors, and a third was an Iranian Jew.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Bomber Kills Israeli at Checkpoint - Muin Shadid
    A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up when Israeli soldiers tried to search him at a roadblock in the West Bank on Thursday. (Reuters)
        An Israel Defense Forces officer and two Palestinians were killed, and three Israeli soldiers and six Palestinians were wounded. Military officials said the bomber was on his way to carry out a suicide bombing inside Israel, but decided to blow up at the checkpoint when he realized he wouldn't be able to reach Israel. Military officials believe the Islamic Jihad was behind the attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • Quartet: No Militants in Palestinian Cabinet - Harry Dunphy
    The Quartet - the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia - issued a statement Wednesday saying that a future Palestinian Cabinet "should include no member who has not committed to the principles of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism," referring to Hamas or other militant groups. The Quartet said there is a "fundamental contradiction" between militia activities and building a democratic state. The Quartet called on the PA "to take immediate steps to ensure law and order, prevent terrorist attacks, and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Text of Quartet Statement (United Nations)
  • Gunmen Kidnap Three Britons in Gaza - Ian MacKinnon
    A British aid worker, Kate Burton, 25, and her visiting parents were kidnapped by masked Palestinian gunmen Wednesday in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Numerous foreign citizens working in Gaza have been snatched by Palestinian groups over the past year. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Keeps Up Attacks on Palestinian Rocket Launch Sites in Gaza - Erik Schechter
    As part of "Operation Blue Skies," IDF artillery batteries fired on an uninhabited area in northern Gaza used by Palestinians to launch Kassam rockets at Israeli communities. One rocket crewman was wounded by the shelling, Palestinian sources said. Palestinians have fired ten Kassam rockets at Israel since Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Katyusha Survivor Recounts Rocket Attack on Her Home in Northern Israel
    Hila Ben Hemo lived in Kiryat Shmona for 34 years and never imagined that a Katyusha could hit her home until a rocket blew out her dining room wall on Tuesday night. When the Katyusha rocket hit her home at 11:15 p.m., she was sleeping in her bedroom with her husband, while her three children were sleeping in their rooms. Kiryat Shmona, a city in the northern Galilee, has experienced many such attacks since the late 1970s. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also A Katyusha Doesn't Make a Lot of Noise - But Hits Hard - Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
  • Collision Course in the North - Amos Harel
    The launchers of the Katyusha rockets that bombarded Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi on Tuesday were assumed to be Palestinian (and the Israel Air Force retaliated by attacking a base of Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), but there is almost no doubt that the real perpetrator was Hizballah. Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, southern Lebanon is "Hizballah-land." No military operation goes ahead without its approval. The PFLP and Hizballah have a common patron, Syria. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hosni Mubarak's Democracy - Editorial
    So much for holding Egypt up as a beacon of burgeoning democracy in the Middle East. Last Saturday an Egyptian court, in a move worthy of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, sentenced Ayman Nour, the prominent liberal opposition leader, to five years at hard labor for supposedly forging signatures on petitions used to create his political party. If Mubarak doesn't take heed, then it might be time to start thinking about the $2 billion a year in financial and military aid that American taxpayers have spent bankrolling Mubarak's despotic rule. (New York Times)
        See also Stand Up to Mubarak - Editorial
    Now comes the real test: Will President Bush use the considerable means of American leverage over the Egyptian regime in defense of Mr. Nour? A first step would be to suspend all discussions between his administration and Egypt over a free-trade agreement. Mr. Bush should also order a long-overdue review of U.S. aid to Egypt, beginning with its military component. By helping Mubarak's generals, the U.S. merely props up his dictatorship. (Washington Post)
        See also Democracy on the Nile - Editorial (Los Angeles Times);
    The Bumpy Road of Reform for Egypt - Scott Macleod (TIME)
  • An Iraqi Politician Who Takes Risks - Ilene R. Prusher
    Iraqi politician Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni who has made two trips to Israel, says his goal is to form an antiterrorism alliance that would include the U.S., European countries, Turkey - and Israel. "How can we have a new Iraq if we push the same agenda as Saddam Hussein?" asks Alusi, a tall and well-dressed man in his 50s. After Alusi went to Israel in the fall of 2004, he found himself thrown out of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). In February, gunmen missed Alusi in an assassination attempt outside his home, but killed his two grown sons. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Arabs Will Hate "Munich" - Ray Hanania
    To most Arabs, Spielberg's film is just another part of the vast "Jewish media conspiracy." All I ever hear is that "the Jews control the media." It may be true that there are many more Jews in American journalism than there are Arabs. But who's stopping Arabs from becoming journalists?
        Part of the problem is the Arab world itself. Arabs come from societies that are not free in a real sense. The Arab world doesn't believe in free speech because if they did, Arab filmmakers would not only be making movies bashing Israel and promoting Arab and Palestinian causes, but they would also be bashing the tyrants who dominate our world. They would also be exposing the lies that drive the corruption of government and the sins of our society, such as honor killings and the restrictions we impose on women. The writer is a Palestinian American journalist. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Towards Palestinian Elections: The Democracy of the Rifles - Brig. Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Arafat was the cement that held all the Palestinian factions together including, unofficially, the Muslim factions. This cement has now disappeared. All the divisions that we see in Palestinian society today, that have been there all along, have reemerged. He was able to control both the Fatah outsiders who came from Tunis, and those who were in the territories during the first intifada.
    • Around 200,000 people came in from outside after Oslo, including a great many PLO activists. The main power of this group derived from the fact that they were close to the "old man." But the old man is gone and all the outsiders are in a much more problematic position today.
    • Palestinians today are primarily concerned with the loss of control in their society - in dimensions and to depths never seen before. Civilians have their own weapons, and the weapons of the security forces are barely under the control of any central authority. When Arafat was operating from Lebanon, he would speak about "the democracy of the rifles." Today, the Palestinians are indeed living with the democracy of the rifles.
    • Who is stronger: Hamas or Fatah? Some Israeli intelligence officials say the ratio of armed forces is 22,000 for the PA and 6,000 for Hamas - a four-to-one ratio - which is enough for the PA to overcome Hamas. But every Hamas and Jihad member is worth four or five or six Fatah members because he's much more committed and fanatical and has more self-discipline.

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