Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 3, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Terrorist Planned to Attack Dimona Reactor - Nir Hasson and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Ramzi Salah, 22, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in Gaza, was arrested in December carrying an explosives belt near Kibbutz Nir Am on the Gaza border.
    Salah was charged on Monday in Beersheva District Court with planning a string of "strategic" attacks in Israel, including simultaneous suicide bombings in various cities, as well as an attack on the nuclear reactor in Dimona.

Palestinian Police Hide Wanted Terrorists (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF forces operating in Jenin this weekend surrounded a headquarters for Palestinian military intelligence following information that several wanted Islamic Jihad terrorists were hiding in the building.
    Subsequent searches revealed equipment and other evidence of the wanted terrorists having been present recently in the building.
    The Palestinian commander admitted that he had aided the Islamic Jihad terrorists, who had hidden in the building overnight.
    The IDF views with severity the phenomenon of PA officials knowingly aiding wanted Islamic Jihad terrorists, members of a terror organization that recently dispatched murderous terror attacks to be carried out inside Israel, instead of operating against them.

Wahhabis Destroying Islamic Landmarks in Saudi Arabia - Sherrie Gossett (CNS News)
    At the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Mecca on Dec. 7-8, a uniting theme was concern for the safety of historic Islamic sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
    Yet according to Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi scholar and director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, less than a mile from the meeting place "there are Islamic landmarks much more important in Islamic history than all Islamic landmarks in Jerusalem, that are being destroyed."
    Islamic architecture expert Sami Angawi said earlier this year that at least 300 historic buildings have been leveled in Mecca and Medina over the past 50 years.
    "A telling example is the house where the Prophet Mohammed was born and [another] house he lived in until he was 29 are going to be demolished," Al-Ahmed said.
    Other reportedly destroyed sites include: the first house in Islam, where the prophet Mohamed held secret meetings with his followers, which was destroyed in the 1980s; the houses of the prophet in Medina, where he lived for the last 10 years of his life; the Al-Fadik mosque in Medina built during Mohammed's life and destroyed in July 2003; and the Ali Al-Oraidi Mosque and Shrine in Medina, which had been in operation for 1,200 years until it was destroyed in 2004.
    Behind the destruction is the Wahhabist strain of Islam, which seeks to destroy any revered physical structures that clerics believe could lead believers to idolatry, said Al-Ahmed.
    The late Sheikh Mohammed bin Othaimeen, described as the "number one Wahhabi cleric," said, "We hope one day we'll be able to destroy the dome of the Prophet Mohammed," in reference to the "Green Dome" (Gunbad-e-Khadra), under which Mohammed is buried in the Al Nabawi Sharif mosque in Medina.
    However, if a historic Islamic site in Jerusalem such as the Dome of the Rock were ever to be destroyed, Al-Ahmed said, "we'd have a bloodbath."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Kidnapped Aid Worker: "I Feel Like I've Been Stabbed in the Back; I Was Here to Help" - Ian MacKinnon
    Kidnapped British aid worker Kate Burton, held for three days with her parents in Gaza, had a blazing row with her captors shortly before their release, she told The Times Monday. As the two Palestinian gunmen who had abducted them prepared to video their captives as a condition of their release, "The kidnappers...started shouting at me," she said. "They told me I was being disrespectful, despite all the food and blankets they'd given us. I got really mad. I screamed at him, 'Do you want me to get down on my knees and say thank you?'" "I told them, 'I came to work with these people and I feel like I've been stabbed in the back.'" "I can't forgive them for what they did to me, but I think they will keep doing it in future."
        Burton expressed guilt at having taken her parents to Gaza, despite Foreign Office travel advice not to make such a visit. "I wanted them to see it was safe and feel a bit calmer about where I lived. But I've given them their worst Christmas and their worst holiday ever....The last thing they said was, 'We're never coming back.'" (Times-UK)
        See also Two Japanese Peace Activists Escape Kidnapping Attempt in Gaza (Albawaba-Jordan)
        See also Gaza Spirals into Lawlessness - Guy Raz
    The argument that Israel decimated the Palestinian security forces and helped render them impotent is an increasingly thin one. More than a quarter of the Palestinian budget is allocated towards the security services. Compare that to less than 10% for both health care and education. Today, there are tens of thousands of Palestinian men who are, formally, members of the security forces. Some have doubled as militants. Others have refused to carry out the orders of PA chairman Abbas. (CNN)
  • U.S. Forces Reduce Flow of Al-Qaeda Insurgents from Syria to Iraq - Kim Gamel
    Recent offensives near the Iraqi border with Syria have dealt a significant blow to al-Qaeda and cut off the group's ability to smuggle in foreigners to join the insurgency, Maj.-Gen. Steve Johnson, commander of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, said on Sunday. He said the operations had "neutralized" the group's ability to use the vast Euphrates River valley to organize and attract followers. "There's been a significant decrease in the smuggling of fighters from Syria," he said. Johnson said a largely local insurgency persisted in western Iraq, although they sometimes worked with al-Qaeda and other rogue elements. (AP/Guardian-UK)
        See also Iraq Oil Exports Fall to Lowest Level Since War
    Iraq's oil exports fell to 1.1 million barrels per day in December, the lowest since the war in 2003. Shamkhi Faraj, Director General of Economics and Oil Marketing, said, "The exports fell back because of the security situation. Exports from the north are totally on hold." (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire Ten Kassam Rockets at Israel; Airstrike Kills Three Islamic Jihad Terrorists - Amos Harel
    Palestinians fired ten Kassam rockets at Israel's Negev early Tuesday. The IDF said the rockets were fired far from the northern Gaza border area which Israel has declared off limits to Palestinians in an effort to foil rocket fire. On Monday, an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip killed three Islamic Jihad leaders involved in rocket launchings, including senior Jihad militant Sayid Judyan and his aide, Akram Gadasas. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Senior Islamic Jihad Terrorist Targeted
    Judyan, 41, had been imprisoned in 1997-2002 for his activities as a member of Islamic Jihad and resumed his terror activities after his release from prison. Judyan was involved in the planning and implementation of suicide attacks, infiltration of Israeli facilities, and detonation of explosive devices against IDF forces. In recent weeks Judyan headed an Islamic Jihad terror cell responsible for numerous rocket launchings at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israel Prepares for Post-Election PA - Tovah Lazaroff
    In light of expectations that Hamas will gain a significant number of seats in the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Prime Minister's Office spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said, "Israel is not going to negotiate with a Palestinian government that is controlled by Hamas." "Hamas has never accepted the road map, let alone Israel's right to exist," Gissin said. Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Israel Radio Saturday that if Hamas led the PA, it would put the entire road map in question. "A Hamas takeover would endanger any aid offered to the Palestinians, since no country would provide financial or any other kind of aid to an authority headed by an armed organization of terrorists," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What to Do About the Kassam Rockets? - Efraim Inbar
    No defensive system to intercept Kassams is yet available. The Palestinians count on Israel's reluctance to attack targets in dense population areas and/or to employ land operations inside Gaza. Most observers accept that the buffer zone strategy alone will not defeat the threat. The key operators of the Kassam attacks have to be identified and eliminated. Asking the Egyptians to intervene undermines Israel's deterrence, since such pleas underscore our helplessness.
        International law definitely permits military response, including artillery shelling, aimed at the sources of fire, even in urban areas. Creating a refugee wave - by the threat of force in urban areas and by precise fire on empty buildings - would exact a high price for Kassam attacks, which might result in some Palestinian restraint. Israel has no obligation whatsoever to be nice to the Palestinians if they are indiscriminately killing, or trying to kill, civilians and damaging, or trying to damage, vital infrastructure installations. Israeli policy should be to clearly signal that life on the Palestinian side of the border will be invariably affected by Palestinian violence intent on deteriorating the quality of life on Israel's side of the border. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also A Measured Response - Editorial
    It is hard to expect a sovereign state to put up with Kassam rocket fire without striking back. Every effort must be made to make sure that Israel's reactions are measured and reasonable, and avoid striking at crowds of innocent people. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Continuing Struggle of Palestinian Journalists for Freedom of the Press in the Palestinian Authority - Khaled Abu Toameh
    When Arafat arrived in Gaza in 1994, there was a lot of hope that now the Palestinians would have a free media. However, the first thing the PLO did was to order an immediate crackdown on the Palestinian media. Many local journalists had their offices torched. Some were arrested, beaten, or had their equipment confiscated. Those who came with Arafat from Tunis came with what can be called an "Arab regime" mentality, the mentality of Nasser, the mentality of Arab dictatorships. They wanted to make sure that the Palestinian media was 100% under control. They secured control by appointing editors, by closing down newspapers, and by funding competing newspapers.
        What is the difference between the young guard and the old guard? Abu Mazen believes in the political track, that the only way to achieve something is through negotiations. The young guard believes there should be a two-track policy: negotiations and "resistance." The young guard is not prepared to give up the military option. So a victory for the young guard is not necessarily a victory for moderate voices.
        The Palestinians want freedom and democracy. Democracy might happen, but not in the near future. As long as you have armed gangs in the streets and as long as the Palestinian security forces are not real security forces and as long as there is no rule of law, you can't have democracy. (ICA/JCPA)
  • Observations:

    Lessons from the Fight Against Terrorism - Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Israel considers the morality of counterterrorist measures within the framework of three tests: the "mirror" test, in which the counterterrorist executor asks whether the policy meets his own ethical standards; the "our own society" test, in which a policymaker must consider whether the policy meets the moral standards of his broader society; and the "international" test, which considers whether the policy satisfies internationally recognized moral standards, as well as what would be the response of the international community.
    • The short-term battle against the terrorists is ultimately a cost-benefit analysis of lives lost versus lives saved by a given operation. Preventing collateral damage while targeting terrorists is therefore essential; during the past five years of conflict, Israel often declined to attack terrorist leaders when they were in densely populated areas for fear of inflicting collateral damage. Yet the consequence for not acting against terrorists due to concern for civilian casualties was often more terrorist attacks and Israeli deaths.
    • Terrorism can be fought surgically - focusing exclusively on the terrorists - by achieving three advantages: intelligence dominance, which includes the capability to intercept terrorists, foil their financial support systems, and prevent the smuggling of weapons; information dominance, which includes the ability to deliver the intelligence to decision makers, so intelligence can be used effectively and quickly; and operational flexibility and creativity, which include the ability of all arms of the military to arrest or kill terrorists on short notice.
    • Effective counterterrorism should be based on two guiding principles. The first is that the best defense is a good offense. The second is the imperative never to surrender to terrorism.

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