Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 1, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

FBI Expands List of Wanted Terrorists - Jerry Seper (Washington Times)
    The FBI has updated its list of "Most Wanted Terrorists" to include 26 persons indicted by federal grand juries, many of whom also have State Department rewards posted for them of $5-25 million.
    Added to the list was Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, 45, born in the Gaza Strip and now a resident of Damascus, Syria, who is the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
    He served as executive director of the World Islam and Studies Enterprise in Tampa, Fla., and was an instructor at the University of South Florida.
    Also added was Abd Al Aziz Awda, 52, imam of the Al Qassam Mosque in Gaza and a founder and spiritual leader of Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad Commander Killed in Gaza (Ha'aretz)
    Senior Islamic Jihad commander Khaled Dahdouh, 39, was killed in a car explosion in Gaza on Wednesday.

Hamas Accuses PA Security Chiefs of Seizing Land in Gaza (Xinhuanet-China)
    Salah al-Bardaweil, the Hamas spokesman in the Palestinian Legislative Council, on Tuesday accused Palestinian security chiefs and leaders of armed groups of seizing lands in former settlements Israel left last summer.

Google to Open R&D Center in Israel - Leah Krauss (UPI)
    Internet search giant Google will open a research and development center in the Israeli city of Haifa in 2006, the company announced Tuesday.
    "As a country renowned for its thriving economy and passion for new technologies, Israel is home to many outstanding computer scientists and engineers and Google is looking to establish long partnerships with institutes and universities."
    "Google is also continuing to look at other locations in Israel for future engineering centers," the company said.

Unemployment Rate Down to 8.8% for First Time in Decade - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    For the first time in a decade, Israel's unemployment rate fell to 8.8% in the fourth quarter of 2005.

World Owes Israel $23 Billion - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    Since 2002, Israel has changed from being a borrower to a lender.
    At the end of 2005, the world owed Israel over $23 billion, compared with $12 billion at the end of 2004, the Bank of Israel reported Monday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran-PA Fund Transfers Hard to Stop - Steven Gutkin
    Israel would have a hard time stopping Iran and other Muslim nations from sending large sums of money to a Hamas-led Palestinian government to make up for a threatened cutoff in Western aid. Money could be sent by electronic transfers or be carried in suitcases through a Palestinian-controlled border crossing into the Gaza Strip, financial officials said. Israeli intelligence officials estimate Iran is already giving Hamas about $10 million a year.
        While Israel has vowed to stem any significant money flow from Iran, international banks that do business in both Iran and the Palestinian territories could secretly transfer money from Iran's Finance Ministry to the PA, because neither has been the target of international sanctions or declared illegal by the UN Security Council. That means the transfers would not be subject to the anti-terror financing regulations imposed after Sept. 11, which prohibit the international transfer of funds to terrorist organizations. However, banks that handle the transfers, if exposed, could face lawsuits, boycotts, and other pressure. (AP)
  • President Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan (AP/New York Times)
        See also Intelligence Chief: Afghanistan Violence on Upswing
    The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, told Congress on Tuesday that violence in Afghanistan increased 20% last year. "We judge insurgents now represent a greater threat to the expansion of Afghan government authority than at any point since late 2001, and will be active this spring," he said. He also said that Sunni Arab leaders hold no influence over foreign fighters operating in Iraq, including terrorists working for the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Maples said DIA believes local dissatisfaction with foreign fighters in Iraq appears to have grown, yet he said that tension has not hurt the insurgency's strength. (AP/FOX News)
  • Troops Clash with Islamists in Jordan Prisons - Suleiman al-Khalidi
    Jordanian troops clashed with prisoners on Wednesday in three major prisons where al-Qaeda's sympathizers and followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are held. Security sources confirmed the unrest was triggered by the prison authorities' move to transfer Libyan Salem bin Suweid, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for murdering U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman in October 2002. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Murdered in West Bank Shooting Attack - Margot Dudkevitch
    An Israeli resident of Migdalim, age 30, was murdered Wednesday in a terrorist attack at a gas station just outside the West Bank settlement. Two terrorists shot the gas station attendant in the head and chest, then fled in a waiting car. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah claimed responsibility. (Jerusalem Post/Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Palestinian Stabs Two Israelis in Gush Etzion - Efrat Weiss
    A Palestinian terrorist from Hebron stabbed two Israelis at the Gush Etzion junction on Tuesday before being shot by soldiers at the scene. A 25-year-old man sustained moderate wounds and a 17-year-old girl was lightly injured. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in northern Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel south of Ashkelon on Wednesday. Two Kassam rockets landed in the western Negev on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Reject Use of Alternative Gaza Cargo Crossing - Margot Dudkevitch and Orly Halpern
    The PA has rejected an Israeli offer to use the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip for the passage of goods while the Karni crossing is closed for security reasons. The Karni crossing was closed for three weeks in January after a series of attempted attacks by Palestinian terrorists. It was shut down again in mid-February following an explosion that Israeli security officials believed was a terror-related "work accident" caused when a tunnel mined with explosives blew up prematurely. Israeli officials said PA security officials failed to address the situation, forcing Israel to close down the crossing until the threat is lifted.
        "The proposal to open Kerem Shalom and alleviate the situation can be implemented immediately," said Lt.-Col. Michael Cirulnik. Reports of a shortage of wheat and flour in Gaza proved false, said Cirulnik, who discovered there were enough stocks to last a month. Cirulnik said Palestinian businessmen supported using Kerem Shalom and accused PA officials of hurting their own people. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gen. Gilad: Iran Not Existential Threat Yet
    Head of the diplomacy-security branch of the Defense Ministry Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad told Army Radio that the Iranians are determined to obtain nuclear arms capabilities and that they would deceive the world in any way they can to attain that goal. Today they are surprised at the intensity of the world's determination to stop them, Gilad said. He noted that the security establishment refers to Iran as a severe or a strategic threat, but not an existential one. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "Iran Declined" - Editorial
    A forthcoming report by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran's nuclear program, to be considered by the IAEA Board of Governors next week and then by the UN Security Council, offers evidence of an alarming cover-up. The stonewalling it exposes can be summed up in the words "Iran declined," which appear repeatedly. Thus, "Iran declined" to make the head of its Physics Research Center (PHRC) available for an interview with IAEA inspectors, or when the IAEA sought information about Iranian tests "related to high explosives and the design of missile re-entry vehicles," Iran "declined to address" the subject.
        With its calibrated disclosures to the IAEA, Iran seems only to be playing the international community for time as it continues to develop its nuclear capabilities. Eventually, the clock will run out. When it does, either the Iranians will have a nuclear weapon or somebody else will have taken decisive action to stop them. (Wall Street Journal, 1Mar06)
  • The Right to Make Bad Choices - Hillel Halkin
    Recognizing a government as a legitimate expression of popular will that is therefore entitled to rule is one thing. Supporting a government by extending financial or other aid to it is something else. It is patronizing to treat the Palestinian people as ignorant innocents who did not know what they were doing when they elected a party that calls for the destruction of Israel. They were aware of it and knew whom they were voting for. To now argue that financial assistance to a Hamas-led PA should continue as before, because if it doesn't the PA will collapse financially, is absurd. It is treating the Palestinians like children who are not responsible for what they do.
        Just as it took decades of communist regimes in Europe to convince the world that communism is a system that never works, the only way to rid the Muslim world of the illusion that Islamic governments can cure it of its ills may be to let such governments reign and fail. But to do this, it is imperative not to save them from failure by propping them up financially or otherwise. (New York Sun)
  • Observations:

    Is Palestinian Statehood Still a Valid Option? - Zalman Shoval
    (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The cornerstone of Hamas' program, its very raison-d'etre, is the destruction of Israel, replacing it with an Islamist, fundamentalist, intolerant state reaching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and beyond. The dominant theme of all their statements includes no territorial compromise - no peace even if Israel were to hand over all the territories and eastern Jerusalem; at most, some sort of temporary armistice (hudna).
    • The world attaches much too great an importance to the question of whether Hamas will recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel doesn't need approval from the likes of Hamas - rather it's the other way around: Should Israel recognize, under present circumstances, the Palestinians' right to a state?
    • The fact that Hamas and its future government refuse to take upon themselves the most fundamental obligations under the "roadmap," let alone previous agreements such as Oslo, Paris, Wye, and Sharm E-Sheik, and to do away with the "right of return," dictates a reevaluation of Palestinian statehood as an American and Israeli goal.
    • An often-cited argument for Palestinian statehood is that it would solve the Palestinian refugee problem once and for all. Yet it should be clear to anyone that the future Palestinian state won't be able, economically and demographically, to absorb more than about 10-15 percent of the total refugee population, and the refugee issue will continue to be a ticking time-bomb endangering the stability of the whole Middle East.
    • Putin's invitation to Hamas to visit the Kremlin is part of the former Soviet, as well as the present Russian, government's policy to counterbalance America's dominance in the world by establishing a political base for itself in the Arab and Islamic worlds - thus Iran, thus Hamas.

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