Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 4, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Defense Minister Mofaz: Al-Qaeda Increasing Focus on Israel - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    "In the past two years we have noticed that al-Qaeda is focusing more and more on the Middle East and Israel," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday during a tour of Israel's northern border.
    Al-Qaeda last week claimed responsibility for the recent Katyusha rocket attacks on Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi.
    According to security officials, Palestinian terror factions operating in southern Lebanon assist al-Qaeda operatives.

Israel Considers Moving Eilat Airport Due to Al-Qaeda Missile Threat (Israel Insider)
    Israel's Channel 10 reported Monday that Israel is considering moving the airport in the southern resort city of Eilat because of security threats from al-Qaeda.
    The city is close to the Jordanian port of Aqaba and to Saudi Arabia.
    Several months ago a rocket fired in Aqaba exploded in Eilat.
    The report said the Eilat airport might be moved to the Uvda air base in the Negev desert, which already handles overflow from the tiny Eilat airport.

IDF Chief of Staff: West Able to Destroy Iran's Nukes - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    Speaking at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz was asked whether Western countries are capable of launching a military operation to neutralize Iran's nuclear project without getting Israel involved.
    Halutz replied: "Professionally speaking, the answer is 'yes.'"
    See also Halutz: Technology Trumps Terror - Erik Schechter (Jerusalem Post)
    Halutz listed terrorism as the number one priority of the IDF in the coming years. The second IDF concern was the development of enemy rockets and missiles.
    "The chances of [a conventional war] occurring are low, in fact very low," said Halutz. "But if we are not ready for it, it will happen. That's the paradox."

Donor Countries Balk at Additional Support for PA - Lior Greenbaum (Globes)
    A $950 million deficit is expected in the PA 2006 budget following the refusal of donor countries to donate additional budget support.
    The refusal is mostly motivated by anger over the PA's violations of its commitments to the international community not to increase salaries in the public sector.
    The resignation of PA Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad also contributed to the lack of confidence.
    Foreign aid to the PA totaled $240 million in the first half of 2005, and may not exceed $480 million for all of 2005, compared with expectations of $900 million.
    The PA continues to draw up its budget on the basis of unrealistic estimates of donations.

    See also PA Faces Cash Crunch (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
    The PA has turned to Arab countries for help after European donors froze their funding.
    But with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Arab countries have largely failed to keep their financial pledges to the Palestinians, sending only about one-third of the promised assistance last year.
    About $60 million in money reserved for Palestinian salaries has been frozen, said Nigel Roberts, the World Bank's director for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
    "The PA's commitment to maintain a salary containment plan was breached in a major way in the second half of the year," he said.
    The spending levels are "completely unsustainable over time," he said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Western Intelligence: Iran is Trying to Assemble a Nuclear Missile, Italy and Other European Countries within Range - Ian Cobain and Ian Traynor
    The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest Western intelligence assessment. Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, the report concludes. The 55-page intelligence assessment, dated July 1, 2005, draws upon material gathered by British, French, German, and Belgian agencies. It concludes that Syria and Pakistan have also been buying technology and chemicals needed to develop rocket programs and to enrich uranium.
        The detailed assessment of Iran's nuclear purchasing program declares that Iran has developed an extensive web of front companies, official bodies, academic institutes, and middlemen dedicated to obtaining - in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union - the expertise, training, and equipment for nuclear programs, missile development, and biological and chemical weapons arsenals. The document lists scores of Iranian companies and institutions involved in the arms race. It also details Tehran's growing determination to perfect a ballistic missile capable of delivering warheads far beyond its borders. The next generation of the Shahab missile should be capable of reaching Austria and Italy. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Iran to Resume Nuclear Fuel Research
    Iran has decided to resume research into nuclear fuel production, but would not enrich uranium, Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Tuesday. Saeedi did not say what nuclear activity Iran would now resume, but stressed the resumed work would not actually produce nuclear fuel. "Research will resume in cooperation and coordination with the IAEA," Saeedi said. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Iran President Says Anti-Israel Comments "Awakened" Muslims
    Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a parliamentary committee that his remarks calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and describing the Holocaust as a "myth" had a profound impact on Muslims around the world, providing a "shock" that was needed "to awaken the Muslims who are in a state of lethargy." "Some in Iran and abroad thought that we were making these speeches without a specific plan and policy, but we have been pursuing a specific strategy in this regard," he told Islamist student activists last week. (Iran Focus)
  • Israel Will Not Prevent Palestinians in Jerusalem from Voting - Rafael D. Frankel
    Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin says Israel will not stand in the way of Palestinians living in Jerusalem from casting ballots in the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections. "We will find a way to fulfill our obligations to allow them to exercise their right to vote," he says. While the exact formula has not yet been decided, he says, it would likely be similar to the 1996 Palestinian elections when Israel allowed mail-in balloting from Jerusalem as well as easier access to areas in the West Bank with voting booths.
        "The Palestinians are looking for an excuse to blame Israel because they are incapable of controlling their own streets," Gissin says. "If they decide they want to cancel the election, they do it on their own merit, they can't hang it on us." (Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinian political activities are prohibited in Jerusalem, as is participation in the PA by parties, such as Hamas, that do not recognize Israel's right to exist.) (Christian Science Monitor )
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • The Danger: Katyushas on Ashdod - Zvika Brot
    The Fatah organization in the Gaza Strip has Grad missiles, similar to Katyushas, which can reach a range of 30km. This was revealed Tuesday by the Head of the General Security Services, Yuval Diskin, in a survey presented to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The significance: Israeli towns like Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ofakim are now in striking range. The assessment is that Fatah has 7-10 missiles of this sort. Additionally, the terrorist groups possess Strella SA7 anti-aircraft missiles. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 4Jan05)
        See also Shin Bet: Israel in "Deep Trouble" If Hamas Wins Poll - Gideon Alon
    Diskin also told the committee that Israel would be in "deep trouble" if Hamas emerged victorious in parliamentary elections scheduled for late January. According to Diskin, following a victory or strong showing, Hamas would install its activists in Palestinian security arms, thus assuring that there would be no efforts made to head off terrorism launched from Palestinian-controlled areas. A Hamas triumph could also affect the educational curriculum taught in Palestinian schools. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Israeli Gas Station - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Tuesday night that landed near a gas station in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. "I don't want to think what would have happened had the rocket, God forbid, landed inside the station, blowing up fuel tanks," said Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. (Ynet News)
        See also Six Palestinian Rockets Land in Israel - Amos Harel
    Six Kassam rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed inside Israel Tuesday. One rocket hit a factory in the Sderot industrial area. The Israel Defense Forces said at least ten rockets were launched from Gaza, but half landed in PA territory. Islamic Jihad and Fatah were behind the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Denies Temple Mount Excavation - Etgar Lefkovits
    Israel dismissed as "blatant lies" the claims voiced Tuesday by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, and Sheik Raed Salah, the firebrand leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, that Israel built a synagogue and was trying to destroy a mosque on the Temple Mount by its recently-completed construction of a visitor's center near the Western Wall. Islamic leaders have been fuming for weeks over the visitor's center, angered over the project which highlights Judaism's connection to Jerusalem and the Western Wall. The new tourist center at the Western Wall tunnels includes an elaborate sound and light show that highlights recent discoveries of artifacts and infrastructure dating back thousands of years.
        "Archaeological excavations have never been carried out, and are not being carried out today, under the Temple Mount compound," Israel's Antiquities Authority said in a statement. The visitor's center is hundreds of meters away from the Temple Mount compound. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also "Israel Digging under Al-Aksa," or Not? - Joshua Brilliant
    This reporter, who visited the alleged underground site, saw no evidence of a dig towards the mosque. (UPI)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Jihad Coming: Israel Had Better Start Taking Al-Qaeda Terrorism Seriously - Dore Gold
    Al-Qaeda operations around Israel are becoming more prominent. Israel has to understand that the new terrorism of al-Qaeda involves attacks of far greater lethality than those carried out by the Palestinians in the past. It would be a cardinal error for Israel to conclude that after the U.S. war in Iraq, the region to Israel's east is moving in the direction of greater stability and, therefore, Israel can take the risk of conceding strategic assets in the West Bank. Zarqawi now wants to destabilize Jordan, but clearly seeks to target Israel as well.
        Were Israel to withdraw from the strategic barrier it controls in the Jordan Valley and open its doors to the east, then Israeli vulnerability could very well attract more global jihadi elements to Jordan, who would seek to use the kingdom as a platform to reach the West Bank and then Israel. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew/Ynet News)
  • Fed Up with Fatah - Amira Hass
    Three weeks before the elections, the Palestinian ruling party is doing all it can to make the public fed up. The armed men and the kidnappers in Gaza are almost always connected to Fatah or the "security apparatus." And the PA is not prosecuting the kidnappers and rioters, even though it knows precisely who they are. On Monday in Khan Yunis, according to a report by the independent Palestinian news agency Maanan, civilians did what the security apparatus has not managed to do: They prevented kidnappers from grabbing two Japanese citizens.
        The united list Fatah is presenting to the electorate, which forcefully expresses Fatah's traditions of tribalism and localism, is not so attractive. In the West Bank they are bitter that Gaza is better represented on the list; in Jenin, they are bitter that the representatives from Bethlehem are ranked higher. And despite all the talk of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, Fatah was unable to find a single well-known Jerusalemite who is attractive and popular to be included on the list. (Ha'aretz)
        See also After Israel, Who Can Run Gaza? - Rafael D. Frankel
    As the first year devoid of an Israeli presence since 1967 dawns in the Gaza Strip, armed militias roam the streets freely, foreigners are kidnapped with regularity, and the measure of a man is not his political title, or even the size of his house, but the number of AK-47-wielding bodyguards he employs. The best-armed gangs or families are effectively the law now. Throughout the days here gun shots ring out. From time to time, explosions from homemade bombs, rockets, and the countering Israeli artillery fire echo through the graffiti-ridden streets. (Christian Science Monitor )
  • Observations:

    Warning Shots - Martin Peretz (New Republic)

    • The withdrawal from Gaza by Israel was supposed to be a test. That the hudna (ceasefire) would hold. It didn't. What about security undertakings with regard to Gaza's border with Egypt? Again a failure. Is there elemental public order on the streets? Chaos rules in Gaza, utter mayhem.
    • The fact is that almost no one in Israel any longer believes in a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. Not because sensible and humane Israelis can't imagine a fair divide of the land between the river and the sea. But because Gaza has truly shown them that there are - let's be perfectly frank - no Palestinians with whom to treat. Not a single security assurance from the Palestinians has ever held. There is no dispute: This is the record.
    • All this has consequences for the West Bank. Sooner or later, and particularly if there is a withdrawal from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, rockets and missiles will be as common there as they are in Gaza and Lebanon. Already, al-Qaeda has claimed (and Israeli intelligence has confirmed) that it was responsible for at least one rocket attack on Israel proper.
    • Those who casually promote the notion that Israel should disengage from here, there, nearly everywhere close to the 1949 lines are proposing that the Jewish state commit suicide. Virtually the entire country, including Ben-Gurion Airport, would be vulnerable to even simple weaponry.

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