Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 5, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Official in Syria: Truce With Israel Is Over (AP/Ha'aretz)
    The Hamas truce with Israel has expired, Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy leader of the Hamas political bureau, said in Syria on Wednesday, leaving the Palestinian militant group free to resume attacks.
    "The truce formally ended with the end of the year," he said.
    However, Hamas' top electoral candidate in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, reiterated Tuesday that the group would continue to act in the "national interest" until after the Jan. 25 PA parliamentary elections.

Modernizing Emir of Dubai Dead at 62 - Hassan M. Fattah (New York Times)
    Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, emir of Dubai and prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, died Wednesday in Australia.
    Maktoum had presided over Dubai since 1990, overseeing the development of the emirate from a trading town into a rapidly growing metropolis and business hub.

214 Jews Elected to Parliaments Outside of Israel - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    214 Jews are currently serving as lawmakers and parliamentarians in countries outside of Israel, a study conducted by a major U.S. Jewish organization revealed.
    Britain hosts 7 Jewish Barons, 37 Lords, and 17 MPs.
    The U.S. has 11 Jewish Senators and 26 Congressmen.
    France and Ukraine each have 15 Jewish members of parliament, while Brazil has 11.

Bangladesh: The New Hub of International Terrorism (South Asia Network)
    Security experts believe that Bangladesh has now emerged as the second front of Islamic terror in South Asia as many Islamic groups linked to al-Qaeda have set up training camps there.
    While Bangladesh has denied all allegations that any militant camps operate from its soil, India's Border Security Force (BSF) has given a list of more than 192 camps of various militant outfits active in Bangladesh.
    Most of these insurgent bases are being funded by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
    A former director general of India's Border Security Force, Prakash Singh, has revealed that more than 3,000 al-Qaeda and ISI terrorists have entered India from Bangladesh this year.

Useful Reference:

A Constitutional Transfer of Power - Ze'ev Segal (Ha'aretz)
    The Basic Law on the Government states that if the prime minister is temporarily unable to discharge his duties, the deputy prime minister will take his place and is authorized to make all prime ministerial decisions, whether urgent or not.

Major Events in the Life of Ariel Sharon (AP/Washington Post)

Photo Gallery: Ariel Sharon's Life and Career (Washington Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Prime Minister Sharon Fights for Life After Stroke
    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in "serious" condition after suffering a major stroke, the director of Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, said Thursday. Sharon's powers were transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In Washington, President Bush issued a statement saying he was praying for Sharon's recovery. (CNN)
        See also Doctors Doubt Full Recovery for Sharon - Emma Ross and Marilynn Marchione
    Doctors said Wednesday that the chances of Prime Minister Sharon making a full recovery from the massive stroke he suffered are slim. "It's among the most dangerous of all types of strokes," said Dr. Robert A. Felberg, a neurologist who directs the stroke program at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Bush at Risk of Losing Closest Mideast Ally - Glenn Kessler
    The cerebral hemorrhage suffered by Prime Minister Sharon threatens to deprive the Bush administration of its closest working partner in the Middle East. Much of the administration's policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as its decision in 2002 to refuse to deal with then-Palestinian leader Arafat, has been influenced by Sharon, who first won election shortly after Bush took office in 2001. Sharon also persuaded Bush to back his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, winning from the president a written pledge that appeared to acknowledge that Israel could keep large settlements on the West Bank and refuse the resettlement of Palestinians in any eventual peace deal. (Washington Post)
        See also Sharon Era Is Over - Attila Somfalvi
    Following the prime minister's stroke, nothing will bring him back into the political game: Not the surging popularity, not the concern and aching heart of the public, and not even the waves of sympathy. Even if Sharon is able to function, national responsibility will require him to retire from political life. If up until now, Israeli citizens put their trust in Ariel Sharon, from now on everything will change. The pressure of terror attacks, the Kassam rockets, and the overall complex security situation will look completely different with different people heading the government, and it is clear the public will treat them differently.
        Israel's democracy is able to cope with this challenge. Even if there's a sense that the person "who couldn't be replaced" is no longer fit, there are still plenty of worthy individuals to compete for the post of Israel's prime minister. (Ynet News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Acting Prime Minister Olmert Convenes Cabinet
    Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a special cabinet meeting on Thursday: "At this time, we are all praying and full of hope for the prime minister's quick recovery....Our eyes, and those of the entire world, are directed towards the hospital in the hope of seeing the prime minister, who has been in so many previous battles, emerging from this battle as well and taking his seat here."
        "I also received the necessary security updates. This is a difficult and unusual situation. The strength of the State of Israel will know how to deal with it." (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Fatah Gunmen Kill Two Egyptian Soldiers, Wound 30 on Gaza Border - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Two Egyptian border guards were killed and at least 30 wounded when scores of Fatah gunmen opened fire at Egyptian army posts after demolishing parts of the concrete slabs along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, enabling many Palestinians to cross into Egypt. Eyewitnesses said the gunmen used a bulldozer and explosives to create a hole in the wall. The gunmen were protesting the arrest of Ala al-Hams, a senior commander of Fatah's armed wing in southern Gaza, by PA security forces on charges of kidnapping three British nationals last week.
        Egyptian Gen. Essam el-Sheikh, the chief of security forces in the northern Sinai, said the Palestinians were firing automatic weapons and shotguns, and that Egyptian troops were forced to pull back one kilometer from the border. Brig. Adel Fawzi said the Egyptian troops were hampered initially because they had no orders to shoot. El-Sheikh, however, said Egyptian forces now were firing back.
        In a separate incident, several Palestinian gunmen also tried to kidnap the parents of Rachel Corrie, an American woman who was killed in 2003 when she tried to stop an IDF bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian house. The kidnapping attempt failed, but the Corries later left the Gaza Strip out of fear for their lives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire Seven Rockets at Israel from Gaza - Shmulik Haddad
    On Wednesday Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched at least seven Kassam rockets at southern Israel. Two rockets landed not far from a gas station near the southern town of Sderot. Another five rockets, launched from the northern Gaza Strip, landed in the Zikim area, south of Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas and Fatah Clash While Hanging Election Posters in Gaza, One Dead
    Hamas supporter Rami al-Dalou, 24, was killed in a firefight Thursday by activists of the rival Fatah Party while they were hanging election posters in Gaza City. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Unraveling Syria's Cover-Up - Editorial
    Bashar al-Assad faces a moment of truth that he has worked hard to evade. The Syrian dictator has been asked to meet with a UN team investigating last February's murder of former Lebanese prime minister Hariri. If Assad stonewalls or refuses to meet with the team, even those Security Council members who have shielded Syria - like Russia, China, and Algeria - will find it hard to claim that Damascus is cooperating enough to avoid imposing tough sanctions. Syria's efforts to thwart this inquiry are not only shielding Hariri's killers from justice, but are also making it impossible for Lebanon's people to regain full control of their country. Firm pressure from the Security Council will be needed to finally end Syria's deadly meddling in Lebanese affairs. (New York Times)
  • Mob War in the Mideast - David Ignatius
    I spoke by telephone Tuesday with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community, who described the disclosures by Syria's former vice president, Abdul Halim Khaddam, as "quite a blow" for Assad and his key Lebanese ally, the Shiite militia Hizballah. But as Assad is backed deeper into a corner, he cautioned, "the more you squeeze the Syrians, the more they get aggressive here." What makes the Syria-Lebanon situation especially volatile, Jumblatt explained, is that it is linked to the radical new Iranian regime of President Ahmadinejad, which is aligned with Assad and Hizballah. (Washington Post)
  • Iran and the Bomb - Salim Mansur
    The world must ask, can it risk a religiously autocratic Iran, which stifles democracy at home and promotes terrorism abroad, acquiring nuclear capability? If the world fails to stop Iran, nuclear proliferation will receive a boost, and countries such as Hugo Chavez's Venezuela will be next to push forward with their nuclear ambitions. It is inevitable that another "coalition of the willing" will have to dispatch Iran's nuclear ambition (just as Saddam's was eliminated by Israel in 1981), unless the Security Council acquires new resolve to hold Tehran accountable to IAEA safeguards. The world seems to be similarly situated as it was in the 1930s. Then Hitler, like Ahmadinejad today, made public his views of what he intended to do, and European powers took him to be a clown - only to discover the clown was lethal. (Toronto Sun)
  • Observations:

    Dropping the Pretense: The IAEA Must Respond to Iran's Nuclear Challenge - Editorial (Times-UK)

    • At least Iran has now been honest. Its announcement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it is to resume nuclear research and development puts an end to Tehran's absurd pretense of negotiating a continued suspension. It has been clear, from the start, that the minuet danced with the Europeans was merely a device to win time and confuse the West.
    • Tehran never had any intention of halting efforts to enrich uranium and build a nuclear bomb. Indeed, President Ahmadinejad has told the Iranian Parliament that the policy of detente with the West was a waste of time.
    • How the world reacts to this new challenge is critical to the credibility of any attempt to enforce nuclear non-proliferation. The responsibility lies unambiguously with the IAEA.
    • Iran's intentions could not be more obvious, nor its attempt to thwart a full inspection and veto safeguards against the development of a nuclear potential more forcefully expressed. It has rebuffed Russia's recent offer to let Iranian scientists work on the peaceful development of nuclear energy inside Russia.
    • The IAEA must refer Iran to the UN Security Council forthwith. The issue for the rest of the world is what threats can credibly be made. This arrogant challenge cannot be ignored. It is up to the IAEA to take an overdue lead.

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