Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 2, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Confirms: Al-Qaeda Fired Katyusha Rockets at Northern Israel - Alex Fishman (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 1Jan06)
    After the world Jihad took responsibility for the rocket attacks on Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi last week, Israel checked the information published on the Islamic Internet website and concluded that the announcement was authentic, and that the Katyusha attacks were indeed carried out by people connected to Zarqawi's organization.

    See also Al-Qaeda Terrorists Establishing Cells in West Bank - Felix Frish (Maariv-Hebrew, 1Jan06)
    Al-Qaeda operatives have recently succeeded in recruiting a number of Palestinians in the West Bank and ordered them to set up cells of the organization to act as bases for attacks in Israel.
    Israel's security services are aware of this effort but have not yet arrested the recruits.

Israeli Security Officials Confirm: Rocket Fired at Israel from West Bank Last Month - Ronny Shaked (Ynet News)
    The Islamic Jihad and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades fired a Kassam rocket at Israel from the West Bank town of Jenin about three weeks ago, Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday.
    The rocket landed in a Palestinian area in proximity to the Israeli community of Ram-On.
    Kassam rockets found in the West Bank are currently more primitive than those in Gaza, with a range of no more than 5 kilometers.
    However, this puts quite a few Israeli communities in range of West Bank rocket attacks.
    In recent months, Palestinian terrorists stepped up their efforts to transfer know-how from Gaza to the West Bank in a bid to produce a weapon that can circumvent the Israeli security fence.
    The technology required to produce the rockets is transferred by phone, through the Internet, and by taking advantage of prisoners released from Israeli jails after learning how to produce the rockets in prison.
    See also Fatah Fires Rocket at Northern Israel - Jonathan D. Halevi (NewsFirstClass-Hebrew; 12Dec05)
    In Jenin, the al-Aqsa Brigades announced for the first time that they had launched a Kassam rocket from the northern West Bank at an Israeli community near Afula (as reported in Daily Alert on Dec. 12).

Wanted Hamas Military Commander Returns to Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Bashir Hammad, a founder of Hamas's armed wing, Izzaddin al- Kassam, returned to Gaza on Sunday through the Rafah border crossing, Palestinian security sources said.
    Hammad had been wanted by Israel since 1988 and had fled the Gaza Strip in 1992.
    At least 45 Hamas and Fatah fugitives have returned to Gaza since the Rafah border crossing was handed over to the PA four months ago.
    See also Israel Concerned Over Terrorists Entering Gaza - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
    Senior Israeli officials say Israel is worried over the crossing of a number of Palestinians on "the black list" of wanted security individuals, who are forbidden from entering Gaza through Rafah.

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  • Palestinian Militants Call Off Truce - Harry de Quetteville
    Palestinian armed groups ended a year-long truce with Israel Sunday in a move which could lead to new violence. Islamic Jihad marked the end of the truce, which it has barely observed, by firing rockets at Israel from Gaza. Hamas too officially ended its truce, but analysts say it is unlikely to make an immediate return to violence because it hopes to do well in elections at the end of the month. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Abbas's Fatah movement, also said it was ending the truce and claimed joint responsibility for the rocket attacks with Islamic Jihad. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Syrian Ex-Official Says Assad Threatened Hariri - Scott Wilson
    Syria's former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam told al-Arabiya television Friday that Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in the months before Hariri's assassination and that the sophisticated operation to kill him could not have been carried out on the authority of only one agency. Khaddam's comments suggested the participation of senior Syrian officials in Hariri's slaying. (Washington Post)
        See also Assad Accused - Zvi Bar'el
    The accusation by former Syrian vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam against Syrian President Bashar Assad corroborated the suspicion by many in the Syrian regime that Khaddam had betrayed Assad. They say he was the one who told German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis about the regime's part in murdering Lebanon's former prime minister. Khaddam, one of the only Sunnis to reach a senior position, has been seeking revenge for five years for being pushed out of government by Bashar Assad. Khaddam was also a close friend of Rafiq Hariri. In November, following the suspicion that he gave Mehlis information, Khaddam's vast property was confiscated by the Syrian government. (Ha'aretz)
        See also UN Team Seeks to Quiz Assad (CNN)
        See also Syrian Parliament: Try Former VP for "High Treason"
    The Syrian parliament has unanimously called for the trial of former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam on charges of high treason. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Kidnapped Britons Freed in Gaza - Conal Urquhart and Jamie Doward
    On Friday evening the kidnappers agreed to free British aid worker Kate Burton and her mother and father once the group had produced a video attacking Britain's role in the Middle East and threatening further kidnappings if the international community failed to put pressure on Israel. (Observer-UK)
        See also Palestinian Gunmen Blow Up UN Club in Gaza City - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Masked gunmen stormed into a club for UN workers in Gaza City on Sunday, tied up the security guard, and struck him with gun butts. Then they set explosives in front of the bar, unrolled a detonator cable, and blew up the charges, ripping up the roof and shattering the windows. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire More Rockets at Israel - Hanan Greenberg
    Palestinians fired at least three Kassam rockets from Gaza at Israeli targets in the western Negev on Sunday. The rockets were fired from areas not targeted during the IDF's Operation Blue Skies aimed at curbing rocket fire at Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Airstrike on Rocket Cell Kills Two - Hanan Greenberg
    The Israel Air Force launched missiles at Palestinian gunmen attempting to launch Kassam rockets at southern Israeli communities Saturday evening, killing two and injuring a third. The strike is part of Operation Blue Skies. (Ynet News)
  • Shin Bet: Anti-Aircraft Missiles and Other Weapons Flooded Across Egypt-Gaza Border; 2,990 Terror Attacks During 2005 "Truce" - Margot Dudkevitch
    In September 2005, after Israeli troops no longer maintained a presence between Egypt and Gaza, terror groups succeeded in smuggling vast quantities of explosives and weaponry into Gaza from Egypt, the Shin Bet security service reported. Over five tons of explosives, 200 anti-tank grenades, 350 anti-tank rockets, and a number of anti-aircraft missiles were among the arms smuggled from Egypt to terror groups in Gaza during September 12-18 alone. In many instances, members of the Palestinian security forces received bribes in order to "turn a blind eye" to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, as terror groups continued to strengthen their capabilities in preparation for the renewal of violence, the security agency said.
        The fact that anti-aircraft missiles have reached Gaza terror groups is cause for concern, having the potential of growing into a far more dangerous threat if the missiles reached terror groups in the West Bank, said the Shin Bet.
        According to the Shin Bet, Palestinians launched 2,990 terror attacks against Israeli targets in 2005. Motivation among all the terror groups to attack Israel remains high, with the number of monthly terror alerts averaging 57. In 2005 security forces arrested 160 potential suicide bombers in the West Bank, 59 affiliated with Islamic Jihad, 29 with Hamas, 47 with Fatah Tanzim, 14 with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and 11 with other terror groups. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Shin Bet: Truce with Hamas Main Cause for Reduced Terror - Amos Harel
    The Shin Bet reported Sunday that terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 45 Israelis in 2005, compared to 117 in 2004. In 2002, 450 Israelis were killed by terrorists. The fact that Hamas, in general, stopped engaging in terror activities changed the picture. The Islamic Jihad network in the West Bank upgraded its capability and was responsible for the murder of 23 Israelis in 2005, but during that time, Hamas scaled back its engagement in terror.
        The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it. The fence does make it harder for them, but the flawed inspection procedures at its checkpoints and the uncompleted sections enable suicide bombers to enter Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • EU Election Monitors to Deploy Monday - Herb Keinon
    Mathias Eick, spokesman for the EU Election Observation Mission, said that 32 "long-term" election monitors are to fan out across the West Bank and Gaza on Monday, prior to the Jan. 25 PA elections. Another 128 "short-term" observers, as well as 30 members of the European Parliament, are slated to arrive just a few days before the elections. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Gunmen Expel Election Monitors - Khaled Abu Toameh
    On Saturday, a group of Palestinian gunmen stormed a hotel in Nablus and kicked out a number of foreign monitors who had arrived in the city to prepare for the vote. The gunmen, members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, said they were determined to foil the PA's plan to hold the elections next month. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Military Intelligence: "2006 - A Year of Escalation" - Roee Nahmias
    A senior official in Military Intelligence has warned that 2006 will see a number of escalations. "Escalation is expected in the north, due to Hizballah operations, from mistaken judgments of Bashar Assad, or maybe from the global Islamic Jihad operations; on the Iranian front, we could be heading for a crisis in March after Iran will renew its enrichment program; and on the Palestinian front - formally at least, the calm in the territories ended" Sunday, the source said. "In the short term, Military Intelligence's main message is that 2006 may take the form of escalation and deterioration."
        The recent Katyusha attack on northern Israel, which was claimed by a jihad group identifying itself with al-Qaeda, presents an additional threat. "We are in the midst of a fundamental change, as the international jihad heads in the direction of the countries of the Levant, and especially Israel," said the source. "If, in the first four years of the intifada, the same global jihad was not supposed to deal with Israel, because of the massive involvement of local terrorism, the calm has created a vacuum, being filled by the global jihad itself. Israel has turned into a target for the international jihad, and threats take a number of forms - the firing of rockets or other weapons, or a mega-terrorist attack such as a strike on Jewish and Israeli centers around the world." (Ynet News)
  • Questions the Islamic Society of Boston Should Answer - Jeff Jacoby
    When completed, the $24 million mosque being built by the Islamic Society of Boston will be the largest Muslim house of prayer in the northeastern U.S. But for more than two years, questions have been raised about just how committed the Islamic Society really is to moderation and interfaith understanding.
        The society's original founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is now serving a 23-year prison term for his role in an assassination plot. The Treasury Department identified him as a fund-raiser for al-Qaeda, and he has publicly proclaimed his support for two notorious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hizballah. Yusef al-Qaradawi, who for several years was listed as a trustee, is a radical Islamist cleric who has endorsed suicide bombings and the killing of Americans in Iraq. Another Islamic Society trustee, Walid Fitaihi, is the author of writings that denounce Jews as ''murderers of the prophets." When Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian-born Muslim scholar, examined the Islamic Society's library in 2003, he found books and videotapes promoting hostility toward the U.S. and insulting other religions. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam - Abdurrahman Wahid (Wall Street Journal)

    • News organizations report that Osama bin Laden has obtained a religious edict from a misguided Saudi cleric, justifying the use of nuclear weapons against America and the infliction of mass casualties. Can anyone doubt that those who joyfully incinerate the occupants of office buildings, commuter trains, hotels and nightclubs would leap at the chance to magnify their damage a thousandfold?
    • The armed ghazis (Islamic warriors) raiding from New York to Jakarta, Istanbul, Baghdad, London and Madrid are only the tip of the iceberg, forerunners of a vast and growing population that shares their radical views and ultimate objectives. The formidable strengths of this world-wide fundamentalist movement include: 1) An aggressive program with clear ideological and political goals; 2) immense funding from oil-rich Wahhabi sponsors; 3) the ability to distribute funds in impoverished areas to buy loyalty and power; 4) a claim to and aura of religious authenticity and Arab prestige; 5) a well-oiled "machine" established to translate, publish, and distribute Wahhabi/Salafi propaganda and disseminate its ideology throughout the world; 6) scholarships for locals to study in Saudi Arabia and return with degrees and indoctrination, to serve as future leaders.
    • We must employ effective strategies to counter each of these fundamentalist strengths. This can be accomplished only by bringing the combined weight of the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, and the non-Muslim world, to bear in a coordinated global campaign whose goal is to resolve the crisis of misunderstanding that threatens to engulf our entire world.
    • An effective counterstrategy must be based upon a realistic assessment of our own strengths: 1) nearly 1,400 years of Islamic traditions and spirituality, which are inimical to fundamentalist ideology; 2) appeals to local and national - as well as Islamic - culture/traditions/pride; 3) traditional and Sufi leadership and masses, who are not yet radicalized (strong numeric advantage: 85% to 90% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims); 4) the ability to harness networks of Islamic schools to propagate a peaceful and tolerant Islam; 5) the existence of a counterideology, in the form of traditional, Sufi, and modern Islamic teachings, and the ability to translate such works into key languages.
    • Only by recognizing the problem, putting an end to the bickering within and between nation-states, and adopting a coherent long-term plan (executed with international leadership and commitment) can we begin to apply the brakes to the rampant spread of extremist ideas and hope to resolve the world's crisis of misunderstanding before the global economy and modern civilization itself begin to crumble in the face of truly devastating attacks.
    • Muslims themselves can and must propagate an understanding of the "right" Islam, and thereby discredit extremist ideology. Our goal must be to illuminate the hearts and minds of humanity, and offer a compelling alternate vision of Islam, one that banishes the fanatical ideology of hatred to the darkness from which it emerged.

      The writer is former president of Indonesia.

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