Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 13, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF on High Alert at Lebanese Border - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Defense Forces went on high alert Sunday evening along the northern border with Lebanon due to warnings of a possible Hizballah attack.
    The last time such a step was taken, in November 2005, Hizballah attempted to kidnap an IDF soldier in Ghajar. Four Hizballah terrorists were killed and 11 IDF soldiers were wounded in the attack.

    See also Terror Warnings Ahead of Purim (AP/Scotsman-UK)
    Israeli security officials have had some 70 warnings of possible Palestinian attacks during the Purim Jewish holiday, of which 15 are regarded as specific threats, Israel Radio reported.

Israel Campus Beat
- March 12, 2006

Point Counter-Point:
    Is Mahmoud Abbas Still Relevant?

As Syria's Influence in Lebanon Wanes, Iran Moves In - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    With Syria gone, or at least its troops gone, Iran, long a powerful player in Lebanon, has been able to increase its influence, partly through its ties to the Lebanese Shiite group Hizballah.
    Syria was a filter between Tehran and Hizballah, and now that Syria has been uprooted, Iran and Hizballah can work much more closely.
    "There is without any doubt a growing Iranian influence not only in Lebanon but in the whole region," said Nassib Lahoud, a Maronite Christian who is a former ambassador to the U.S.

U.S. Hints at New Measures Against Damascus - Shmuel Rosner (Ha'aretz)
    A senior U.S. official told Ha'aretz last week that "if the Syrians think they've managed to get off the hook because there are other things on the agenda, they are mistaken."
    "The Syrians have not been punished yet for their actions and we are continuing to study their conduct. Their luck will run out eventually."
    Sources at the U.S. Department of Defense and at intelligence agencies say that Syria is continuing to allow terrorists to use it as a conduit to Iraq and to support terrorist organizations that undermine American policy in the Middle East.
    "They are aiding directly in the killing of American soldiers, and we have still not settled accounts with them on that score," said a U.S. official.
    Last Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department instructed American financial institutions to sever all links with the Commercial Bank of Syria and its subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, which the administration says have been used to launder terror funds.

Saddam Saw Iraqi Unrest as Top Threat - Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor (New York Times)
    A U.S. military study titled "Iraqi Perspectives on Operation Iraqi Freedom, Major Combat Operations" shows that Saddam Hussein did not see the U.S. as his primary adversary. His greater fear was a Shiite uprising.
    Two weeks after the U.S. invasion began, Lt.-Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani drove to Baghdad to plead for permission to blow up the Euphrates River bridge south of the city to block the American advance.
    But convinced that the main danger to his government came from within, Hussein sought to keep Iraq's bridges intact so he could rush troops south if the Shiites got out of line.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Tells Palestinian Moderates to Stay Out of Hamas Cabinet - Harvey Morris
    U.S. officials are exerting pressure on moderate Palestinian politicians not to serve in a Hamas-led government and have warned that Washington would sever existing contacts with them if they did. Washington has targeted a number of independents the Islamist movement was considering for cabinet posts. The Bush administration favors a situation in which Hamas would be forced to govern alone and would bear the full consequences of failures that could be exacerbated by a cut-off of Western aid to the PA. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Iran Rejects Russian Uranium Proposal - Karl Vick
    Iran has rejected a Russian proposal to enrich uranium on its behalf. "The Russian proposal is not on our agenda any more," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday. Asefi's dismissal "destroys the last and real possibility of a compromise," said Konstantin Kosachyov, who chairs the international affairs committee of the Duma. "By all accounts, Tehran's decision will seriously radicalize the upcoming debates over the IAEA report in the UN Security Council, since trust in Tehran's plans and ambitions has been strongly undermined." Kosachyov said it was "increasingly clear that Tehran has never seen the Russian proposal as a replacement for a national uranium enrichment program and only considered it as an addition to it." (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Loses Russian Backing After Rejecting Nuclear Deal - Anne Penketh (Independent-UK)
  • Iran Builds Secret Underground Command Center - Philip Sherwell
    Iran's leaders have built a secret underground emergency command center beneath the Abbas Abad district in north Tehran as they prepare for a confrontation with the West over their illicit nuclear program. The recently completed command center is connected by tunnels to other government compounds near the Mossala prayer ground. The Revolutionary Guard has overseen the development of subterranean chambers and tunnels - some more than half a mile long and an estimated 35ft high and wide - at sites across the country for research and development work on nuclear and rocket programs.
        The Iranian regime is also reviewing its contingency plans to attack tankers and American naval forces in the Persian Gulf and to mine the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 20% of world oil production passes each day. The naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard has in recent years practiced "swarming" raids, using its flotilla of small rapid-attack boats to simulate assaults on commercial vessels and U.S. warships, according to Ken Timmerman, an American expert on Iran. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Campaign Is Aimed at Iran's Leaders - Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler
    Iran has vaulted to the front of the U.S. national security agenda amid Bush administration plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran. Although administration officials do not use the term "regime change" in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy. (Washington Post)
  • Jordan Hangs Two Islamist Militants for Killing U.S. Diplomat - Suleiman al-Khalidi
    Jordan on Saturday executed two Islamist militants found guilty of the murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman in October 2002, the first Muslim militants the country had hanged for years. Earlier this month rioting broke out in three big Jordanian prisons after security forces transferred the two for execution. Jordanian intelligence accused Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, of masterminding Foley's murder. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iran Urging Islamic Jihad to Hit Israel Ahead of Election - Amos Harel
    Iran continues to urge Islamic Jihad to carry out terror attacks against Israel ahead of the Knesset elections, Israeli intelligence sources say. According to a senior source in the General Staff, the Islamic Jihad terror group seeks to confront Hamas with a dilemma - "whether to uphold the policy of calm toward Israel, as it has done until now."
        General Staff officials have identified a worrying trend among the independent Fatah groups - primarily in the West Bank - that have openly returned to terror since the movement's defeat in the elections. The fact that the PA is finding it hard to support these cells financially is pushing them into the arms of Islamic Jihad and Hizballah. (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Palestinians Arrested at West Bank Checkpoint with 15-Kilogram Bomb - Amos Harel
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers arrested two Palestinians at the Beit Iba checkpoint north of Nablus on Sunday who were carrying a 15-kilogram bomb. IDF sources believe the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades sought the bomb for a terrorist attack within Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Greenhouse in Israeli Moshav
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three Kassam rockets at Israel's western Negev on Sunday. One rocket damaged a greenhouse and agricultural equipment near Moshav Shuva. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Weekend of Rockets - Anat Bershkovsky (Ynet News)
  • Lebanon Nabs Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Cell - Margot Dudkevitch
    Four Palestinians and four Lebanese nationals with suspected links to al-Qaeda, who are believed to have been involved in rocket attacks on northern Israel in December, were recently arrested by Lebanese security officials. A large stockpile of weapons, including missiles, rockets and explosives, were also seized. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the December katyusha attacks on Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, and the western Galilee. According to Israeli security officials, Palestinian terror factions operating in southern Lebanon assist al-Qaeda operatives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas, Hamas Reach Impasse - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The incoming Hamas government remains committed to "resistance" against Israel and is not prepared to recognize the Jewish state, Hamas officials said Sunday. Hamas' platform, published on a Palestinian website on Saturday, declared violent resistance, including terror attacks, legitimate tools for the Palestinian people, and said that Hamas would like to learn "more efficient" ways of achieving Palestinian goals, which include the right to return to "every centimeter" of their land.
        PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has warned Hamas that he won't approve its new cabinet unless it recognizes all agreements signed with Israel, sources close to Hamas said. "Abbas said that all the Palestinian ministers must be prepared to hold meetings in the future with Israeli officials," a top Hamas official said. "Abbas has apparently forgotten that Hamas won the parliamentary election." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Text of the Hamas Platform - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
  • EU Hinges Further Aid on Moderate Hamas Stance
    The EU is providing short-term assistance but has threatened to cut off links with the PA unless Hamas, whose charter commits it to the destruction of Israel, changes its policy once in government. Severing EU ties with the PA would hit not only direct aid to the PA but could also disrupt EU support for infrastructure projects, food aid, and assistance to Palestinian refugees, according to an EU study presented to EU foreign ministers meeting in Salzburg, Austria. Hamas lawmaker Mahmoud Zahhar reacted angrily to the demand his group fall in line with the peace process. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Nightmare This Time - Graham Allison
    Can we live with a nuclear Iran? A new nuclear state goes through a period of ''nuclear adolescence" that poses special dangers of accidental or unauthorized use - and Iran would be no different. When a state first acquires a small number of nuclear weapons, those weapons become a tempting target: Successful attack would disarm any capacity to retaliate with nuclear weapons. Fearing preemption, new nuclear weapons states rationally adopt loose command and control arrangements. But control arrangements loose enough to guard against decapitation inherently mean more fingers on more triggers and consequently more prospects of a nuclear weapons launch.
        Could rogue elements within Iran's nuclear or security establishment divert nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to other nations or to terrorists? Over the decade of the 1990s, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, became the first global nuclear black marketer, running what Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called a ''Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation." His network sold to Libya, North Korea, Iran, and others, nuclear warhead designs, technologies for producing nuclear weapons, and even the uranium hexafluoride precursor of nuclear bomb fuel. The writer is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. (Boston Globe)
  • In No Uncertain Terms - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
    Just a few days before the Palestinian election, Iran's Ahmadinejad met Hamas' Mashal in Damascus, along with the leaders of nine other Syria-based terrorist groups. The Palestinian conflict, they concluded, will become a "focal point of the final war" between Islam and the West. Hizballah has already moved its operational headquarters from Beirut to Gaza; al-Qaeda elements are already there.
        Hamas' election victory, on top of advances by Islamists in Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt, has energized and unified the radicals. This is no longer a political conflict about borders and identity. Militant Islam has declared a religious war in which the destruction of Israel is seen as but the first step in establishing a Muslim caliphate. This wider jihad against the West will either gather momentum and succeed or be confronted and defeated. (U.S. News)
  • Observations:

    A Memo to the New Hamas Prime Minister - Efraim Halevy (New Republic)

    • The Americans have decided that the destiny of the entire Western world hinges on major changes in the Middle East, including regime change. They will not quit halfway, because they believe the fate of their civilization depends on defeating "international Islamic terrorism."
    • The U.S. is well aware that yours is the first national faction of the Muslim Brotherhood in the entire region to reach power. If you act in a way that seriously jeopardizes the allies of Washington, the U.S. will permit you to go down to a resounding armed and political defeat.
    • If the Israelis conclude that your government's ties to the Iranians are meaningful, they will not wait for this alliance to flourish and prosper. They will see your government as the extension of President Ahmadinejad, who has openly stated his aim to destroy Israel, and will move with all their power to remove Hamas from the scene. And they will receive international and regional support for this mission.
    • You can only avoid this by beginning to come to terms with Israel.

      The author served as head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, and is currently head of the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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