Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 15, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Russian Expert: Iran Can Create Nuclear Bomb - Viktor Litovkin (Novosti-Russia)
    Viktor Mikhailov, director of the Strategic Stability Institute of Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, and minister of nuclear energy from 1992 to 1998, said an interview:
    I was among the initiators...[of Iran's] Bushehr nuclear power plant.
    During my visits there I saw that Iran had very high nuclear research standards, which is not surprising. Nearly all Iranian scientists, researchers, and nuclear engineers graduated from U.S. and Western European universities.
    Iran continues to train its specialists there. As far as I know, about 10,000 Iranians are studying in Europe and the U.S.
    Iranian laboratories had highly efficient computer equipment, which the U.S. prohibited to sell to Russia.
    I am sometimes asked if Iran wants to create such [nuclear] weapons or is thinking about the possibility, and I always reply that it does and is. It is impossible to retain national independence and sovereignty now without nuclear weapons.
    Q: Can Iran create its own nuclear weapons or not?
    Mikhailov: Of course it can. Any developed country can do this now, even through the Internet, but this takes much time and money.
    Iran can create its nuclear bomb in five to ten years. It will not be as sophisticated as the nuclear weapons of Russia or the U.S., but it will do.

Powerful Voices Within Tehran Criticize Iran's Nuclear Policy - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    Some people in powerful positions have begun to insist that the confrontational tactics of President Ahmadinejad have been backfiring, making it harder instead of easier for Iran to develop a nuclear program.
    One senior Iranian official said: "For 27 years after the revolution, America wanted to get Iran to the Security Council and America failed. In less than six months, Ahmadinejad did that."

Lebanon to Disarm Palestinians Outside Camps - Lin Noueihed and Alaa Shahine (Reuters/ABC News)
    Rival Lebanese leaders have agreed on removing weapons from Palestinian factions outside refugee camps.
    Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the leaders backed a government decision to disarm Palestinians outside refugee camps in six months and to "tackle the issue of the arms inside the camps," while also pledging to improve Palestinian living conditions in Lebanon.
    Radical Palestinian groups close to Damascus run several military bases along the eastern border and near Beirut.
    Many Lebanese see the bases as remaining vestiges of Syria's influence and Lebanon plans to close the bases.

Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital Firebombed - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    Two firebombs were hurled Tuesday night at the back entrance to Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus, police said.
    The explosives failed to ignite. The hospital lies adjacent to an Arab neighborhood.

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  • Israel Arrests Palestinians in Jericho Jail as Western Monitors Slip Away - Steven Erlanger and Greg Myre
    Israeli military forces besieged a Palestinian prison in Jericho for 10 hours on Tuesday before seizing six Palestinian inmates. The men - five of whom were wanted in the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli tourism minister, in 2001 - had been held for four years in an unusual arrangement that involved the U.S. and Britain. Palestinian leaders had hinted recently at freeing them.
        The raid unleashed a wave of anger among Palestinians. Mobs attacked sites linked to Western countries. Gunmen in Gaza entered aid agencies, hotels, and news offices looking for Westerners to kidnap. Eight American and 12 British monitors worked at the jail. Neither the U.S. nor Britain told Israel or the Palestinians when they intended to withdraw, "for operational reasons," a senior American official said. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Denies Coordination with Israel - Glenn Kessler
    U.S. officials said Tuesday that months of fruitless discussions with Palestinian officials to bolster security to protect U.S. and British monitors at the Jericho prison left them no choice but to abandon the facility. The "situation really, truly was becoming untenable," said a senior administration official. The U.S. and Britain delivered a tough letter to Abbas a week ago warning they would immediately terminate the 2002 agreement to monitor the Jericho prison - part of a deal that ended an Israeli siege on Arafat's compound in Ramallah where the men were hiding - unless he took steps to improve security.
        A senior State Department official said it appeared the letter to Abbas did not get the "high level of attention it deserved" from the Palestinians. He said Assistant Secretary of State C. David Welch raised the problem in a meeting with Abbas during a trip to the West Bank on Feb. 25. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Knew that Israel Planned to Raid Jericho Prison - Nathan Guttman
    Israel briefed the U.S. on its plan to raid the Jericho prison a short time before the IDF forces reached the area and kept the Americans updated on the progress of the raid. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How the Walls of Jericho Were Breached - Harry de Quetteville
    Britain's tiny contingent of monitors left Jericho's jail soon after 9 am Tuesday, telling Palestinian staff that they were taking their car to be fixed. The Foreign Office later said they were leaving because of fears for their "security" and few doubt that inside Jericho jail the inmates ran the show.
        The cell of Ahmed Saadat, the man accused of masterminding the assassination of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Rehavam Zeevi, was more of an office. He had telephones and television sets. The jail's Palestinian guards stayed away from his quarters, which included a kitchen and an area to receive guests. The British monitors stayed even further back. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Diplomatic Ruse Lasted Four Years and Ended in Failure - Tim Butcher
    Some of the West's finest diplomatic minds devised the idea of a mission at the Jericho jail by a team of British and American security personnel. (Telegraph-UK)
  • EU Threatens to Cut Palestinian Help
    The EU may cut back assistance to the Palestinians if attacks on EU property there and kidnappings of Westerners do not stop, a senior EU official said. External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner also criticized Israel's raid on a West Bank jail to seize a militant Palestinian leader. "I think we have to condemn this action by Israel," she told reporters after meeting Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Strasbourg.
        EU foreign ministers last week vowed to pursue their calls for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist or risk seeing EU aid cut off to the PA. But the ministers were presented with an EU study showing how difficult it would be to separate essential aid to ordinary Palestinians, which it wants to maintain, from financial support to the PA. (Reuters/Sydney Morning Herald)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Who Are the Six Captured Palestinian Terrorists?
    The six terrorists arrested in Jericho include the two top commanders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmed Saadat and Ahed Ulmeh, and three PFLP terrorists who were directly involved in the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi - Majdi Rimawi, Bassel Assamer, and Hamdi Quran. Both Saadat and Ulmeh continued to guide and direct the organization's terror activity from within the jail. The sixth, Fuad Shubaki, was responsible for the smuggling of large amounts of weaponry including the "Karine A" weapons ship. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        Saadat was suspected of masterminding a suicide bombing in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv from his jail cell. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Justice in Jericho - Editorial
    The identity of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi's killers is not disputed. A photomontage of the killers, weapons brandished, standing over a coffin with Zeevi's picture on it, appears on the PFLP website.
        View PFLP website (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Monitors Flee Gaza Crossing - Ali Waked
    European monitors at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt left their posts Tuesday after being instructed to do so in light of fears for their safety, after more than a dozen foreign nationals were abducted in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in protest of the IDF's Jericho operation Tuesday. The crossing operates under EU supervision. (Ynet News)
        See also PA: 17 Foreign Nationals Kidnapped - Ali Waked
    Palestinian gunmen Tuesday abducted 14 foreigners in Gaza and three more in the West Bank. Following the wave of abductions, foreign nationals from France, Britain, Germany, and South Korea sought refugee at Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City. (Ynet News)
        See also Foreigners Flee Gaza after Abductions - Orly Halpern
    Following a flurry of abductions Tuesday, foreigners in the Gaza Strip fled for the Israeli border. "Everyone has left," said Grant Leaity of the humanitarian aid organization Medicins Sans Frontier. "The UN is fully evacuated and the journalists have left too." By nighttime, the Strip was almost completely empty of foreigners. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire Five Rockets at Israel - Hanan Greenberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel Wednesday morning. One landed in Israeli territory, near the border fence in northern Gaza, and the rest landed in Gaza. On Tuesday, at least eight rockets were fired at Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Terrorists Injured Launching Rockets at Israel
    Three Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Resistance Committees were injured Wednesday during an attempt to fire Kassam rockets at Israel, Palestinian security forces reported. The rockets prematurely exploded before they were launched. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Saving Face for Abbas - Danny Rubinstein
    From the moment jailed PFLP leader Ahmed Saadat was elected six weeks ago to the Palestinian parliament, PA Chairman Abbas was put into an impossible position. How dare you hold an elected member of parliament in a Palestinian jail, the masses of Saadat's voters contended. Abbas heard Hamas saying that the moment they formed the government, they would release Saadat, and he understood he could not stop it. (Ha'aretz)
  • Britain's Diplomacy Counts for Little Now - Richard Beeston
    The British pullout of three monitors from a jail in Jericho prompted Israeli forces to storm the prison and seize the men, angering Palestinians who felt that they had been betrayed by the British. "In Palestinian eyes we can no longer be considered an honest broker," said Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer who helped negotiate the deal. "The essence of the agreement was the protection of the Palestinians and the understanding that they would not end up in Israeli hands." Last year Britain spent £60 million in support of the PA and projects in the Palestinian territories, but there is little to show for the effort. (Times-UK)
        See also British Relations with Palestinians at Breaking Point - Anne Penketh and Colin Brown
    Even before the dramatic events at Jericho prison, Britain's support for the PA had been strained by Gaza's gradual descent into chaos and by the election of the extremist Hamas. All bets are now off between Britain and the PA. (Independent-UK)
  • Observations:

    Hamas' Trigger - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

    • Hamas leaders began saying they planned to release the Jericho prisoners. What finally sparked Israel's operational preparations was when the PA began releasing Islamic Jihad operatives from jails in the territories, and, at about the same time, Abbas said the PA should consider freeing the Jericho prisoners as well.
    • Last Wednesday, the British and American consuls in Jerusalem sent a letter to Abbas informing him that they were canceling the 2002 agreement. The letter said: "The pending handover of governmental power to a political party that has repeatedly called for the release of the Jericho detainees also calls into question the political sustainability of the monitoring mission."
    • They gave Abbas an ultimatum: Either implement the agreement in full, at once, or reach a different agreement with Israel. And should he fail to do either, "we will have to terminate our involvement with the Jericho monitoring mission and withdraw our monitors with immediate effect." Israel was informed that the British and American jailers would leave Jericho by March 15.

          See also Text of British/American Letter on Jericho Prison (New York Times)

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