Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 13, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli General: Iranians Told Me They're Determined to Acquire Nuclear Weapons - Anne Penketh (Independent-UK)
    Former Israeli general Uzi Dayan said he recently met Iranian figures in Europe who told him Tehran was "very determined" to acquire nuclear weapons.
    He said his informants represented "the official Iranian position."
    Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector who headed the UN nuclear watchdog, said: "I think some of the Iranians want to go to nuclear weapons."
    He pointed to a 40-megawatt heavy-water plant at Arak, which could produce enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb, as a sign that Iran may not have purely peaceful intentions.

    See also Israel Air Force Intelligence: Iran Beefing Up Air Defenses - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
    According to intelligence, Iran has beefed up its air defenses around various nuclear sites as a precaution against a possible pre-emptive strike.
    Iran's air defense contains Russian SA-2, SA-5, SA-6, as well as shoulder-launched SA-7 missiles, according to The Military Balance published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. They also have aged U.S.-made Hawk missiles.
    A senior Israel Air Force officer said that Iran is increasingly fearful of attack, "but they are limited in their ability to create an effective air defense."

Israel HighWay
- January 12, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    Ariel Sharon's Greatest Battle

Gunmen Shoot Up PA Interior Minister's House in Ramallah (Reuters)
    Palestinian security forces wounded three gunmen on Thursday after they shot at the home of Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef while he was inside, Palestinian security sources and medics said.

The Syrian Economy Under Bashar al-Assad; Oil Production Falling - Nimrod Raphaeli (MEMRI)
    Syria is categorized by the World Bank as a middle-income country with 18 million people and a per capita of $1,200.
    The country's gross domestic product (GDP) has remained stagnant in the last four years.
    The oil sector provides half of the government's revenues. Oil production in Syria reached its peak in 2000 with 540,000 b/d but is declining, with projected production in 2006 of 394,000 b/d.
    The Syrian government has called on international companies to invest in the country's oil and gas sector, but given the political uncertainties faced by Syria and particularly the risk of economic sanctions, it is unlikely that many international oil companies would agree to set up shop in Syria at this time.

Iraq - The New Nerve Center of Global Terrorism - Martin Abbugao (Daily Times-Pakistan)
    Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the nerve center of global terrorism by militant groups whose ability to regenerate, despite setbacks, means that suicide bombings and other mass-casualty attacks remain a serious danger in 2006.
    Singapore-based terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said, "Iraq is the new land of jihad. Like we saw the last generation of jihadists coming from Afghanistan, we will see the next generation of jihadists will come from Iraq."

Study: Israelis Resisted Intifada's Psychological Warfare - Haviv Rettig (Jerusalem Post)
    According to a new study released by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University - "Israel's National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada on Israeli Society," by Meir Elran - Israel's social networks were stable and Israelis remained basically optimistic throughout the years of Palestinian terrorism since 2000.
    "Even in the most difficult periods, the Israeli public as a whole believed that it has the ability to withstand the Palestinian onslaught," the study found.

Foreign Investment Up 67% in 2005 - Sharon Wrobel (Jerusalem Post)
    Foreign investment in Israel increased by 67% in 2005 to $9.7b from $5.8b. in 2004, the Bank of Israel reported Sunday.

Israeli Diamond Exports Topped $10b in 2005 - Hadas Manor (Globes)
    For the first time, Israel's polished and rough diamond exports broke the $10 billion threshold in 2005, with polished diamond exports totaling $6.7b and rough diamond exports $3.5b.
    Israel's net polished diamond exports rose by 5.8% in 2005, while rough diamond exports rose by 20.5%.

8.5M Passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2005 (Port2Port)
    The Israel Airport Authority announced last week that 8.5 million passengers passed through Ben-Gurion Airport in 2005, 11% more than in 2004.

Israeli Chosen as World's Best Debater - Lior El-Chai (Ynet News)
    Haifa University graduate philosophy student Anat Gelber, 25, won the World Debate Championship in Ireland this week and was crowned as "the world's best debater."
    Gelber won the European Debate Championship during the years 2003-2005.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Europe Joins U.S. in Urging Action by UN on Iran - Richard Bernstein and Steven R. Weisman
    The leading nations of Europe joined with the U.S. on Thursday to declare an end, for now, to negotiations with Iran over dismantling its suspected nuclear weapons program and to demand that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. "From our point of view, the time has come for the UN Security Council to become involved," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after meeting in Berlin with his French and British counterparts and the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. Secretary of State Rice declared that the U.S. fully supported the European action.
        American and European diplomats said that several days of intense diplomacy had convinced them that Russia and China would join in a growing consensus that the International Atomic Energy Agency should refer Iran to the Security Council. (New York Times)
  • Israel Wants West to Deal More Urgently With Iran - Steven Erlanger
    With Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map," Israeli officials have special reasons for concern now that Iran has defied the West and said it will resume enriching uranium. The Israelis are pressing the U.S. and the Europeans to deal more urgently with Iran. Israel has no intention for now of trying to deal with Iran alone or through military means, officials say. Israeli officials are worried that politicians are focusing on estimates of when Iran might actually have a bomb - rather than concentrating on the "point of no return," perhaps within the next year, when they argue Iran may gain enough technical knowledge to make the fissile material needed for a weapon.
        In a report released Thursday, David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security described a number of technical problems Iran had to solve before it could begin testing its enrichment technology. "Iran will need roughly six months to one year to demonstrate successful operation" of its pilot operation. The Israelis think Iran can produce its first bomb within four to five years, Europeans estimate five years, and American officials have offered estimates of 6 to 10 years. "How long will it take? No one really knows," said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington. "But I think that if the Iranians decide to go all out, they could make a bomb's worth of material a year with 2,000 centrifuges running." (New York Times)
  • Stampede During Pilgrimage to Mecca Kills 345, Injures 1,000 - Hassan M. Fattah
    A stampede on Thursday at the annual pilgrimage to Mecca killed 345 people, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. The Saudi Red Crescent Society said as many as 1,000 had been injured. The pilgrims, most of them from the Indian Subcontinent, were trampled to death when they tripped over luggage left at the entrance to the Jamarat Bridge and were overrun by a crowd rushing behind them. In 1990, 1,400 were killed in a stampede at the site; in 2004, 245 people were crushed to death in a similar incident. (New York Times)
  • Robertson Apologizes for Comments on Sharon
    Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has sent a letter apologizing to Ariel Sharon's son Omri, for suggesting that Sharon's massive stroke was divine punishment for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip. Robertson's comments drew widespread condemnation from other Christian leaders, President Bush, and Israeli officials, who canceled plans to include the American evangelist in the construction of a Christian tourist center in northern Israel. "My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," the letter said. (AP/USA Today)
  • Norway: U.S. Threats after Boycott Support
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice threatened Norway with "serious political consequences" after Finance Minister and Socialist Left party leader Kristin Halvorsen admitted to supporting a boycott of Israeli goods. The reaction was reportedly given to the Norwegian embassy in Washington, and it was made clear that the statements came from the top level of the U.S. State Department, the newspaper VG reports. VG claims that two classified reports promised a "tougher climate" between the U.S. and Norway if Halvorsen's remarks represented the foreign policy of the new red-green alliance of the Labor, Socialist Left, and Center parties.  (Aftenposten-Norway)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Four Al-Qaeda-Linked Palestinians Heading for Gaza Arrested in Lebanon - Haim Issarovitch
    Four Palestinians arrested Saturday in northern Lebanon said they were planning to carry out military attacks against Israeli targets along the Gaza coast, the London-based Al-Hayat reported Thursday. The Palestinians were detained by the Lebanese Army as they attempt to leave the country in a ferryboat packed with weapons and explosives, a high-ranking official said. He said the Palestinians confessed they belonged to Asbat al-Ansar, an Islamist armed group considered a branch of al-Qaeda, based in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon. They also said a key figure in the group from the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in the north had planned the operation and provided the boat.
        Asbat al-Ansar leader Abdel-Karim al-Saadi, who has been sentenced to death for murder, is widely believed to be holed up in Ain al-Hilweh, which is controlled by Palestinian armed groups. (Daily Star-Lebanon/Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Israel to U.S.: We're Awaiting PA Plan to Dismantle Terror Groups - Aluf Benn
    Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told U.S. envoy David Welch on Thursday that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will be required to present a detailed plan for dismantling militant organizations on the day after the Palestinian parliamentary elections. "Excuses are over," Mofaz said, adding the plan must include a schedule for the measures to be taken against these groups.
        He said that Israel would allow the PA elections to be held in an orderly way, including in eastern Jerusalem, as long as Hamas does not participate in the poll. Mofaz warned that should a victorious Hamas seek to join the Palestinian government after the elections, there would be no room for any dialogue with Israel as long as Hamas remained a terror organization. Mofaz also said that a plan to allow the passage of Palestinian convoys from Gaza to the West Bank could not be implemented because of attempts to smuggle capabilities for the production of Kassam rockets. (Ha'aretz)
  • Suicide Bomber Blows Up Near IDF Force in Jenin - Amos Harel
    Two senior wanted Islamic Jihad militants, including one suicide bomber, were killed on Thursday during an IDF arrest operation in the West Bank town of Jenin. There were no casualties among the IDF troops. The Islamic Jihad network in the area of the northern towns of Jenin and Tulkarm was responsible for the murder of 24 Israelis in 2005. (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Palestinian Rockets Land Near Kibbutz South of Ashkelon
    Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip on Friday morning that landed near Kibbutz Carmia south of Ashkelon, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
        Mid-morning Friday, a Kassam rocket hit Kibbutz Zikim, also south of Ashkelon. The early-warning system in Sderot identified two additional rockets, but they apparently landed in Palestinian territory. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran and the Bomb - Editorial
    Every new addition to the roster of nuclear weapons states significantly raises the odds that nuclear weapons will be used in war, or will become available to terrorists. Those dangers are especially acute in the case of Iran under its radically belligerent leadership, which has called for the elimination of Israel and maintains close ties with groups that have embraced terrorism. China and Russia should join the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany in putting Iran's behavior before the Security Council and condemning it as a steadily growing threat. (New York Times)
  • We Should Be Very Worried About Iran - John Keegan
    Saddam merely pretended to have weapons of mass destruction, largely to feed his own fantasies of power. Iran is actually turning itself into a nuclear weapons state. Iran wants them for practical purposes, including, according to its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to "wipe Israel from the map." Iran's record must cause not only the West but all Iran's neighbors to take the threat seriously.
        What is to be done when a report to the Security Council fails to bring Iran to desist from nuclear enrichment? While the interruption of trade and the supply of technical equipment would cause Iran's government serious inconvenience, it is much more doubtful whether sanctions would make Iran change its policy. America and the EU3 must therefore consider other, harsher methods to restrain Iran, while mindful that Iran, as the possessor of the second largest oil reserves in the world and occupier of a strategic position athwart the sea routes delivering oil to most of the consuming world, has its own means of retaliation ready at hand. (Telegraph-UK)

    The Palestinians

  • "This is the Way to Hell," Palestinian Fatah Candidate Warns - Mark MacKinnon
    Jihad Abu Zneid, 38, a long-time women's-rights advocate in Shuafat in eastern Jerusalem and a candidate for the ruling Fatah movement in parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 25, believes her party has done enough wrong to deserve to lose. "Nobody follows the rules, nobody believes in the law....All the world is watching us as we build our state and our institutions, but this is the way to hell," says Ms. Abu Zneid. She hears the complaints of a fed-up electorate every time she goes campaigning. "They complain the Palestinian Authority doesn't touch their needs. They talk about the corruption."
        Ms. Abu Zneid says she expects Hamas could win as many as 70 seats, enough to form a majority in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council. Though she worries about a rollback in women's rights if that happens, she's not sure that a Hamas victory would be an entirely bad thing since it would finally introduce a batch of new, uncorrupted faces to Palestinian politics. A changing of the guard seems to be the primary desire of many Palestinians. A random street sampling revealed that eliminating corruption, rather than a renewed peace process or the return of Jerusalem, is the main concern for a significant part of the electorate. "They [Hamas] must be better than what we have now," said Abu Mohammed, a pharmacist in Ramallah. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • The Bush Administration, Hamas, and the PA Elections - Robert Satloff
    The Bush administration, which has taken such a praiseworthy stand against terrorism in general, has decided to bless an election that will legitimize Hamas, one of the world's worst terrorist groups. Bush has embraced the power of elections to transform politics even in places thought to be inhospitable to democracy. By applying the lesson it drew - with some justification - from the experience of courageous Iraqi and Afghan voters, the Bush team has extolled the "pothole" theory of elections, the idea that even extreme radicals can be transformed into civic-minded do-gooders when they have to face the electorate.
        In addition, Abbas has said that only after elections will he begin to implement any steps to curb Hamas. Of course, he has yet to explain why he will be better positioned to do this once Hamas wins a large bloc of seats in the Palestinian legislature than he is now, when he has no Islamist parliamentary opposition to overcome. (New Republic/Washington Institute for Near East Policy )
  • More Anarchoterror in Gaza - Editorial
    Security conditions in Gaza have rapidly deteriorated in the wake of the IDF withdrawal. The PA does not function as a government, democratic or otherwise, in Gaza. Right now, Gaza resembles Lebanon during its 15-year civil war and Afghanistan throughout the 1990s: nations with weak to nonexistent central governments, where local warlords and militias ruled individual regions and the rule of law was absent. In Gaza today, more than 1 million Palestinians are "governed" by terrorist groups and criminals.
        Al-Qaeda, which is already operating in parts of the Egyptian-controlled Sinai, is trying to infiltrate Gaza, and Hizballah is already operating there. Given the facts on the ground, it is delusional to believe that the Palestinian elections scheduled for Jan. 25 will improve things anytime soon. (Washington Times)
  • Not a Peace Process - Ira Sharkansky
    News media from many countries are concerned that without Sharon there can be no peace process. My own perception is that there has been no peace process at least since the year 2000. What Sharon did in his disengagement was to signal frustration at the lack of a Palestinian partner, and to leave some territory in order to simplify Israel's problems of security. Since then, Palestinians have been a long way from anything that looks like a peace process. Chaos does not provide the setting from which a government can negotiate. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • Who Are Those Guys? Understanding the Ties between Ansar al-Islam, the GSPC, the Sudanese Islamic Army, and al-Qaeda - Dan Darling
    As noted by the U.S. State Department, Ansar al-Islam "is closely allied with al-Qaeda and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's group." Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported in September 2001 that it was al-Qaeda emissary Abu Abdul Rahman who provided Ansar al-Islam with $300,000 in "seed money" at its inception. Al-Qaeda's close involvement in the formation of Ansar al-Islam was likewise demonstrated in an al-Qaeda memorandum from August 2001 which was recovered in Afghanistan and reported by the New York Times in January 2003. It noted the existence of the "Iraqi Kurdistan Islamic Brigade" and urged the unification of the various Kurdish Islamist groups based around Shinerwe Mountain in northern Iraq into an enclave modeled after that of the Taliban. As the 2002 Patterns of Global Terrorism noted, "al-Qaeda operatives in northern Iraq concocted suspect chemicals under the direction of senior al-Qaeda associate Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and tried to smuggle them into Russia, Western Europe, and the U.S. for terrorist operations." (Weekly Standard)
  • "Twin Brothers": European Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism - Andrei S. Markovits
    In the new anti-Semitism, hostility to Israel is directed against the existence of an entire country in its capacity as a "collective Jew." It is mainly, among other things, a consequence of anti-Americanism. The left's anti-Semitism, rather than the right's conventional version of this hatred, comprises the key ingredient of anti-Semitism's current European existence. Nazifying Israel has the objective of delegitimizing Israel by associating it with the symbol of evil par excellence. Furthermore, it frees Europeans of any remorse or shame for their history of a lethal anti-Semitism that lasted centuries. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Rebranding Israel - Haim Handwerker
    In recent years, behind the scenes, a group of senior public relations professionals has been active in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group came to the conclusion that it is necessary to "sell" Israel by the same means used to market any other product. In fact, branding of countries has become quite common. Research findings showed that Israel is perceived in the U.S. as a militaristic place and as a very religious, male-controlled society. Older people admired Israel's struggle to exist and identified it as an ally, but people under the age of 50 did not feel sympathy toward Israel. The "brand Israel" group concluded that the way to succeed is to emphasize Israel's human face, to add a human lens, to show that in Israel there is life and the joy of life, there is entertainment, culture, business, technology, medicine, and democracy. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Sharon's Strategic Legacy for Israel: Competing Perspectives - Dan Diker
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Some Israeli opinion-makers, seeking to define Sharon's political legacy, are determined to transform him into a political dove due to his unilateral disengagement plan that pulled Israel out of Gaza. They claim that the "new" Sharon was willing to lead Israel in another major pullback - this time from at least 90 percent of the West Bank. This interpretation assumed the West Bank security fence would constitute Israel's eastern border.
    • However, a careful examination of Sharon's major speeches and interviews since he first proposed disengagement suggests the very opposite. Indeed, on January 6, 2006, Israel Channel 2 television's chief diplomatic correspondent, Udi Segal, disclosed that Sharon told him privately that it was his policy to hold onto eight settlement blocs in the West Bank and not only the three blocs usually mentioned - Ariel, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion. Segal added that Sharon did not want to evacuate the Jordan Valley.
    • Explaining to the Knesset the significance of the U.S. Letter of Assurances he received from President Bush on April 14, 2004, Sharon said: "There is American acknowledgment that in any final status agreement there will be no Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines....This acknowledgment appears in two ways: understanding the facts determined by the large Israeli settlement blocs such as making it impossible to return to the 1967 lines, and implementation of the concept of 'defensible borders.'"
    • Thus, Sharon saw the disengagement plan as a mechanism for trading land with a dense Palestinian population, like the Gaza Strip, in exchange for land that was critical for Israel's future security: "I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement will strengthen Israel's hold over territory which is essential to our existence."
    • In private conversations with close friends, Sharon has repeated the traditional "defensible borders" position, and has reiterated in various interviews and public statements since the Gaza disengagement that Israel would retain close to half of the West Bank, as opposed to the single digit percentages that his advisors appear to be advancing.

          See also Maximum Territory, Minimum Arabs - Tom Segev
      Sharon didn't believe in peace with the Palestinians mainly because he was never able to believe the Palestinians. He also held onto the principles of the map he liked to show visitors whom he took on tours of the territories. The idea was to annex to Israel as much territory as possible along the "green line" and the Jordan Rift Valley. (Ha'aretz)

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