Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 18, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

The Collapse of Mahmoud Abbas - Ben Caspit (Maariv-Hebrew)
    The estimate in Israel is that the Palestinian Authority in Gaza has totally collapsed and has ceased to operate as a governing body.
    Abbas recently returned practically empty-handed from a fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia to raise money for the Fatah election campaign.
    In addition, the Egyptians are threatening to pull their security advisors out of Gaza if Abbas doesn't take action to reduce the anarchy there.

Foiled Islamic Jihad Bombers Had Planned Double Hannukah Attack - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    A suicide bombing that killed an Israel Defense Forces officer and three Palestinians at a checkpoint south of Tulkarm on Dec. 29 had been planned as a double suicide bombing in a city in the center of the country, security forces said Tuesday.
    IDF officials had at first thought that only one suicide bomber was in the taxi, but security forces discovered in the course of their investigation that one of the Palestinians killed in the blast had also intended to carry out a suicide bombing.
    The Palestinian passenger who was meant to guide the two bombers is in custody.

Fatwa: Don't Vote in PA Elections - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    The Islamic Liberation Party (ILP), most of whose members are also Hamas members, publicized a fatwa saying it was illegal to vote in the upcoming PA elections according to the Islamic religion, and that Muslims must not take part in the vote.
    The ILP has attacked Hamas for its participation, claiming the elections are taking place in the context of the Oslo agreements, "which give up sections of Palestine."
    See also Islamic Jihad Urges Boycott of Palestinian Elections (Xinhuanet-China)
    Gaza Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam on Monday urged supporters to boycott the upcoming Palestinian elections.

Christians Are Leaving the Middle East - Zlatica Hoke (VOA News)
    There are between 12 and 15 million Christians in the Middle East, almost half of them living in Egypt.
    Demographers say the Christian population has declined noticeably in most Middle Eastern countries since the beginning of the 20th century.
    Fred Strickert, professor of religion at Wartburg College, says there also appears to be a decline in Christian populations in Iraq and territories under Palestinian control.
    A 2003 Israeli study shows that about 12,000 Christians have fled historically Christian Palestinian towns such as Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala since 2000.
    See also Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society - Justus Reid Weiner (JCPA)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • EU Suspends Some Palestinian Aid
    The European Union has suspended 35 million euros ($42 million) in aid to the Palestinians, citing their lack of budgetary discipline, EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Tuesday. "We have not paid because the benchmarks have not been fulfilled," she said. "There has to be a credible finance minister, but there also has to be a budget and the budget should also remain within the limits of what the budget has foreseen," she said. (Reuters)
  • Islamist Movement Poised to Win in Gaza - Chris McGreal
    The Islamist movement Hamas is almost certain to be the second largest party in the Palestinian parliament, and to win outright in the Gaza Strip. "Our aim is not to cooperate with the Israelis....They are the enemy," said Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the most prominent Hamas leaders in the territories. Zahar said that if Hamas were to win the election, the aim would not be to fight Israel but to ignore it. "We have to run very effective self-defense and take responsibility economically, politically, and socially through cooperation with the Arabs, not with the Israelis," he said. "We are ready to establish an independent state on one square meter, but at the same time we will not renounce one square meter. Our first priority is not Israel but Palestine." "Nobody among our sons and grandsons will accept Israel as a legal state." (Guardian-UK)
  • Powell: Iran Cannot Be Trusted - Gethin Chamberlain
    Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Tuesday in an interview that Iran was heading down the same path as Iraq before the 2003 invasion and could not be trusted to tell the truth about its nuclear program. He said he believed Iran posed a serious threat to the rest of the world in the same way as Iraq, and he refused to apologize for the action the U.S. took against Saddam Hussein's regime. Powell said it was clear that negotiations with Iran had come to a dead end and efforts now had to concentrate on preventing it taking the same path as Iraq. "Iraq actually had nuclear weapons capability that they were within a couple of years of bringing to weapons status. The UN found that after the war," he said. (Scotsman-UK)
        See also below Observations: The Iran Charade, Part II - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)
  • Pakistanis Say U.S. Raid Killed Foreign Militants - Carlotta Gall
    The provincial government in Peshawar, Pakistan, said Tuesday that in addition to 18 civilians, four or five foreign militants were killed by the American airstrikes on Damadola on Friday, but that their bodies were removed from the scene by companions. "It is highly regrettable that this attack led to the killing of 18 innocent local people," said Fahim Wazir, the political administrator of the Bajaur region, "but this is also an undeniable fact, that at least 10 to 12 foreign miscreants were invited to a dinner in this village on that night." An American counterterrorism official said Tuesday that the attack had been based on good intelligence about the location of al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert Staying True to Road Map - Herb Keinon
    Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in his first diplomatic comments Tuesday, said he hoped after the elections in the PA and Israel that he could enter negotiations with PA Chairman Abbas, "depending on their fulfilling their commitments, and we can reach a final status agreement." Olmert said it would be a mistake "not to demand that [Abbas] fight terrorism and disarm the [terrorist] organizations." When asked whether there would be another unilateral disengagement, he said he was committed to the road map. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Ready for Peace Talks If Palestinians Disarm Hamas - Greg Myre (New York Times)
  • Expert Sees More Palestinian Rocket Fire - Rafael D. Frankel
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, an expert on Palestinian affairs, warned Tuesday that after the Palestinian elections, "all the energy that was contained [during the cease-fire] may explode." In such an event, Harari predicted a third, "ballistic" intifada characterized by more rocket fire and fewer suicide bombers due to the separation fence and better intelligence. Harari characterized Hamas's rise in popularity as a carefully orchestrated strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region over the last two decades. "Hamas knows most Palestinians do not want more fighting," he said. But the organization is not "ready to give up weapons and disarm its military wing."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Towards Palestinian Elections: The Democracy of the Rifles - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari (ICA/JCPA)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at Israel Tuesday night, the IDF said. One rocket landed in the western Negev and the other landed north of Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Jewish Community in Israel Now Equals U.S. - Amiram Barkat
    This year there will be as many Jews living in Israel as in the U.S., according to statistics presented at a Jewish Policy Planning Institute conference on Sunday by Hebrew University Prof. Sergio Della Pergola. The number of Jews in the diaspora shrunk by about a quarter in the past 35 years, from slightly more than 10 million to 7.75 million. Overall, the Jewish population as a percentage of the world population has decreased by about a third since 1970, to 0.21% percent, down from 0.35%. There were nearly 13 million Jews in 2005. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Spielberg's "Munich" Based on the Walter Mitty Tales of a Former El Al Gate Guard - Yossi Melman and Steven Hartov
    Our investigations show that Israeli Yuval Aviv, who teamed up with Canadian George Jonas to write Vengeance, the bestseller on which Spielberg's "Munich" is based, never served in the Mossad or any Israeli intelligence organization. His nearest approximation to spy work was as a lowly gate guard for the airline El Al in New York in the early '70s. The tale he had woven was apparently nothing more than a Walter Mitty fabrication. Yossi Melman specializes in intelligence affairs with the Israeli daily Ha'aretz; Steven Hartov is editor-in-chief of the U.S. quarterly Special Operations Report. (Guardian-UK)
  • Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Veers into Anti-Semitism - Aaron Mannes
    On Christmas eve, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez drifted into anti-Semitism. "A minority, the descendents of the same ones that crucified Christ...has taken possession of all of the wealth of the world." Chavez has established an alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has long been the leading state sponsor of terrorism internationally and against Israel. When then Iranian President Mohammed Khatami visited Caracas in March 2005, Chavez voiced his support for Iran's nuclear program. (Weekly Standard)
        See also The Tehran-Caracas Axis - Mary Anastasia O'Grady (Wall Street Journal)
  • German Intelligence Agents Helped U.S. in Baghdad - Colin Nickerson
    Germany's intelligence service helped the U.S. identify bombing targets in Baghdad during the opening days of the Iraq war, even though Germany had objected to the U.S.-led invasion. Officials of the intelligence service and other ministries confirmed that the government of former chancellor Gerhard Schroder authorized exchanges of intelligence information with the U.S. about installations in Baghdad. The officials insisted that German agents in Baghdad only provided the U.S. with information intended to prevent accidental attacks against civilian installations, such as precise coordinates for schools, hospitals, and diplomatic compounds. But a German newspaper and public television, quoting an unidentified ''Pentagon official," reported this week that intelligence agents in Baghdad also helped the U.S. identify bombing targets. Public television reported that one of the German agents received a medal from the U.S. for his service in the war. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    The Iran Charade, Part II - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

    • Britain, France, and Germany admitted that their two years of talks to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program had collapsed. This negotiating exercise, designed as an alternative to the U.S. approach of imposing sanctions on Iran for its violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, gave Iran time to harden its nuclear facilities against bombardment, acquire new antiaircraft capacities and clandestinely advance its program.
    • Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an Iranian bomb, as we were before we allowed Europe to divert anti-proliferation efforts into transparently useless talks, Iran is probably just months away, and now led by a president who fervently believes in the imminence of the apocalypse.
    • Having delayed two years, we now have to deal with a set of fanatical Islamists who we know will not be deterred from pursuing nuclear weapons by any sanctions. Even if we could get real sanctions. Which we will not.
    • The Chinese in particular have secured in Iran a source of oil and gas outside the American sphere to feed their growing economy and are quite happy geopolitically to support a rogue power that - like North Korea - threatens, distracts, and diminishes the power of China's chief global rival, the United States.
    • The Europeans have no appetite for real sanctions either. A cutoff of investment and high-tech trade from Europe would be a minor irritant to a country of 70 million people with the second-largest oil reserves in the world and with oil at $60 a barrel. It is the Iranians who have the world over a barrel. On Jan. 15, Iran's economy minister warned that Iran would retaliate for any sanctions by cutting its exports to "raise oil prices beyond levels the West expects."

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