Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 1, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Preparing Abbas Guard to Take on Hamas - Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The Bush administration has undertaken efforts to arm and train the Presidential Guard of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in order to prepare it for a potential violent confrontation with Hamas forces in Gaza.
    Palestinian sources say the training of 400 Force 17 troops in a "Special Presidential Guard" started a month ago in Jericho under the guidance of an American military instructor.

Hamas Receives Advanced Anti-Tank Missiles (Middle East Newsline)
    Israel has determined that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has received advanced, Russian-made, AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missiles with a range of 5.5 km. and a high level of accuracy.
    Officials said the weapons were capable of changing the strategic balance in the region since they could significantly threaten Israeli military operations in Gaza.
    They said the missiles could also target civilian and military sites inside Israel.
    "The Palestinians have received dozens of the anti-tank missiles that were used by Hizballah in the Lebanon war," said Shalom Harari, a senior consultant to the Defense Ministry.
    "These are weapons that break the strategic balance."
    See also IDF: Hamas Setting Up Anti-Tank Unit - Ilan Marciano (Ynet News)

UK Minister: Iranians "Hell-Bent" on Getting Nuclear Weapons (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    Iran is "hell-bent" on trying to build a nuclear bomb and should try to resolve its domestic problems rather than threaten Israel, British Foreign Office minister Kim Howells said Tuesday in parliament.
    "When I speak with the Iranian ambassador, for example, he tries to tell me that [Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'] is a kind of a rhetorical device."
    "I don't think that's what international diplomacy can afford to be about these days. Especially not from a country that is hell-bent, as far as I can read it, on developing a nuclear bomb," he said.

Palestinian Preachers: Ramadan Prayers Caused U.S. Deaths in Iraq - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
    With October becoming the most deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq in nearly two years, Palestinian preachers in several major mosques in the West Bank and Gaza are celebrating the anti-American violence as a gift from Allah bestowed upon Muslims through prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, according to congregants.

Planes Known to Carry CIA Terror Suspects Landed in Tel Aviv - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Airports Authority has confirmed that planes known to have been used by the CIA to transport suspects to detention and interrogation facilities stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
    According to the British civil liberties organization Statewatch, at least four flights through Tel Aviv occurred between 2003 and 2004.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IDF: Hamas Building an Army in Gaza - Joshua Brilliant
    The Israeli defense establishment maintains Hamas is building an army in Gaza, partly to fight Israel and partly for a showdown with Fatah. Hamas already has thousands of armed men whose uniforms and conduct demonstrate "elements characteristic of an army," a military source said. The head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that Hamas is building battalion and brigade formations. It smuggles into Gaza two to three tons of explosives a month and is engaged in serial production of weapons. Unless checked, Israel could find itself facing a force "in the scale of a division [10,000 soldiers - similar to the size of Hizballah]."
        A military source said Palestinians have smuggled large quantities of anti-tank missiles, and over the past year hundreds of thousands of guns, mostly through tunnels. Israel "must not let Hamas and (other) terror organizations build a terrorist infrastructure similar to the one Hizballah built in Lebanon," Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday. (UPI)
  • Hizballah Sets Deadline for New Lebanon Government - Nadim Ladki
    Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday gave Lebanon's majority anti-Syrian coalition until mid-November to agree to the formation of a national unity government or face protests demanding new elections. He said Hizballah and its allies should have at least a third of the cabinet. The group, and Nabih Berri's Amal faction, currently have five ministers in the 24-member government. A third of votes in the government can block the passage of decisions in any cabinet vote. (Reuters)
        See also Hizballah Says Talks about Release of Two Israeli Soldiers Have Begun - Michael Slackman
    Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that "serious negotiations" were under way over the release of two Israeli soldiers captured in June. (New York Times)
  • Palestinian Classrooms Stay Closed, Hamas Views Teachers Strike as Fatah Power Play - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    800,000 Palestinian students are locked out by an open-ended teachers' strike called over the Hamas-led government's failure to pay salaries and a quick end to the strike appears unlikely. Hamas says there's much more behind the walkout than a wage dispute: They accuse the rival Fatah movement, which dominates the teachers' unions, of keeping the strike going in an effort to bring down the government. Palestinian parents are increasingly worried that students will lose the entire school year due to the standoff. (AP/Houston Chronicle)
  • Angry Protests at St. Andrews as Former Iranian Leader Is Honored - Louise Gray
    Scotland's oldest university Tuesday took the controversial step of honoring former President of Iran Mohammad Khatami, amid angry protests that he allowed students to be persecuted in his home country. As he was presented with an honorary degree, exiles from Iran and student protesters branded the award "shameful." They claimed human rights abuses, including the stoning of women and persecution of students, had worsened while Khatami was president between 1997 and 2005. (Scotsman-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Decision Soon on How to Deal with Gaza - Gideon Alon
    Israel is considering the appropriate method with which to counter the arms smuggling and Kassam rocket attacks by Palestinians in Gaza, and a decision will be made in the coming days, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Olmert described the efforts as aiming to "end the launching of Kassam rockets and strike at the stores of weapons and ammunition that have been accumulating in the Gaza Strip," adding that there is significant smuggling going on through the Philadelphi Route, on the border separating Gaza from Egyptian Sinai. "It is clear to me that we must act," he said, adding, "Individuals who we have marked as having links to terrorism or belonging to various terrorist organizations are passing through the Rafah crossing, and according to the agreements, they should not be passing there." (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Expands Operations in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Israeli infantry troops backed by armored forces and supported by air strikes entered northern Gaza before dawn Wednesday as gun battles ensued. The IDF reported that at least eight Palestinian gunmen were killed and about 20 others were wounded near Beit Hanoun. During the operation, a number of antitank missiles were fired at IDF soldiers. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Views of a Palestinian State - Cal Thomas
    During a recent interview, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and I disagreed on the issue of a Palestinian state. I think the Palestinians want the state to obliterate Israel, the proof being the five wars fought by Arab states, terrorism, and the continuing anti-Israel rhetoric from mosques and media throughout the region. According to Rice, "The great majority of the [Palestinian] people just want a better life. I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers." Then she added: "If human beings don't want a better future, don't want their children to grow up in peace and have opportunities, then none of this is going to work anyway."
        Exactly right. We cannot impose our morality on those who don't share it. And the propaganda, religious teachings, and historical revisionism coming from every pore of the Palestinian structure convinces me they mean it and regard the State Department view over several administrations as self-delusional. (Washington Times)
  • Facing Down Ahmadinejad - Amnon Rubinstein
    President Ahmadinejad's latest outburst removes the fog of misunderstanding surrounding the major issue of the Middle East - the survival of the Jewish state. Arab and Muslim opposition to Israel's existence has not really disappeared since 1948, when the Arabs sought to annihilate the fledgling state. Nevertheless, in recent years there were encouraging signs that the Arab world, having failed to crush Israel militarily, would learn to co-exist with the "Zionist entity."
        Ahmadinejad does not joke. He has the means to carry out his threat: Iran already has substantial missile capabilities and will soon have, unless forcibly stopped, nuclear arms. Israel is not only tiny - a speck on the map - but is totally unprepared for such a destructive blow. It has no shelters suitable to withstand a nuclear bombardment, and has no alternative sites to which people can retreat while awaiting clean-up of contaminated areas. Retaliation and the balance of terror that saved the world from nuclear Armageddon during the Cold War may not be sufficient to deter a fanatical regime that regards "wiping Israel off the map" as a divine duty necessary for ushering in a new, blissful Islamic era. This new era will place missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of madmen, who seek to destroy civilization as we know it. The writer is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (New York Sun)
  • Classical Anti-Semitism from Abbas' Media - Yaakov Lappin
    A new article blaming Jews for "fanning the flames of evil and provoking wars" has appeared in the official PA newspaper Al Hayat Al Jadida, written by Muhammad Khalifa, Executive Director of the United Arab Emirates-based Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up. Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch, described the piece: "It's pure classical anti-Semitism, and a perfect example of the type of incitement to hatred that is regular." "Al Hayat Al Jadida is a paper owned by the Palestinian Authority and controlled by Fatah....This is coming from Mahmoud Abbas. This isn't coming from Hamas."
        "The media is in the hands of Mahmoud Abbas. Right after the (Palestinian) elections, he transferred the control of the newspaper and television to the office of the president....And we have seen an increase in incitement to hatred." Such programming ensured the conflict will continue, and "wouldn't be happening if there was any intention of bringing about peace," Marcus added. "Right now, it's not in the interest of Abbas to have violence, so he's stopping the (incitement to) violence, but he doesn't want the violence to disappear from the mentality, so he's keeping up the (incitement to) hatred. There is no indication of any change in the long-term policy." (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    New Deputy Defense Minister Sees Regional Conflict - Roee Mandel (Ynet News)

    Incoming Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who took office Monday, told a Tel Aviv University conference on the Lebanon war:

    • "We need to tell the Palestinians: A large-scale regional conflict is impending. If you do not turn against Israel, your country and economy will prosper. If you take the other side, you will look like Bint Jbeil [a town in southern Lebanon damaged in the war]."
    • "The first lesson drawn from what happened in the north is that unilateral steps were useless. If you withdraw without an agreement, you leave a hostile military element behind you and you will return to fight there."
    • "It has been made clear that the fundamental conflict in the region is between the moderate forces, headed by Israel, and the extremists, headed by Iran."
    • Sneh said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was preventing many moderate Arab countries from supporting Israel in the battle against a common foe.
    • He said the Lebanon war has emboldened the different resistance organizations in the PA, reinforcing their belief that Israel's status can be eroded.
    • "On the other hand, the moderate elements realized that it's better not to mess with the IDF's fortitude, and that in the imminent conflict ahead...they don't want to support the side that's against us."

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