Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 30, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

American Muslims Gaining Political Ground - Michelle Boorstein (Washington Post)
    Gaithersburg software engineer Saqib Ali was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates this month, part of a concerted march of Muslims into American civic and political life.
    Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.
    In the Washington, D.C. area, eight Muslims ran for office in Maryland this year.
    Zahid H. Bukhari, director of Georgetown University's Project MAPS, a long-term research project on American Muslims, estimates there are 1.5 to 2 million registered American Muslim voters.
    "More Muslims are running for office; Islamic centers are becoming more of community centers; everybody is much more involved," Bukhari said.

UN Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon Reaches 11,500 (United Nations)
    The enhanced UN peacekeeping force sent to Lebanon this summer to monitor the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizballah now totals 11,500 troops from 21 countries, just 3,500 below its mandated maximum strength, with additional personnel arriving from Indonesia, Portugal, and Italy.

Is Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel or Palestine? - Tali Heruti-Sover (Ynet News)
    When L. returned from Bangkok to Tel Aviv, like hundreds of other Israelis, he flew on Royal Jordanian Airlines.
    "During the flight I flipped through the official magazine of the airline called Royal Wings," said L.
    "I looked for our tiny country and I found that on one map the name of Israel wasn't listed, and on another map was the name Palestine."
    "I would expect a Jordanian state company, whose leaders signed a peace agreement and whose planes transport no small amount of Israelis, to behave differently. Personally, I won't fly with this airline anymore, and I think that if other Israelis follow suit, maybe the treatment will change."

Israeli Radar Detects Rubber Boat at 30 Km. - Sean Douglas (Newsday-Trinidad & Tobago)
    The $130 million Israeli radar system bought for Trinidad & Tobago's Ministry of National Security can spot a rubber dinghy that is 30 km. away.
    The Advanced Coastal Surveillance Radar is deployed along Israel's coastline and linked to the radar systems of aircraft and helicopters to detect and classify vessels and automatically identify hostile targets.
    See also India Seeks Israeli Help for Surveillance System - (Press Trust of India)
    Hit by heavy time over-runs and technical hitches in the production of a key surveillance system designed to give early warning on incoming missiles, India's Defence Research and Development Organisation has sought Israeli expertise.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iraq Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops - David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud
    The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal. As described by the people involved in the deliberations, the bulk of the report focused on a recommendation that the U.S. devise a far more aggressive diplomatic initiative in the Middle East than Mr. Bush has been willing to try so far, including direct engagement with Iran and Syria. Initially, those contacts might be part of a regional conference on Iraq or broader Middle East peace issues, like the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but they would ultimately involve direct, high-level talks with Tehran and Damascus. (New York Times)
        See also Baker Panel Aide Expects Israel Will Be Pressed - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
  • Rice Meets Israeli, Palestinian Leaders - Steven Erlanger
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Israeli and Palestinian political leaders in a quick visit on Thursday, but with the Palestinians unable to agree on a new unity government, little significant movement was expected. The Israeli and Palestinian governments have established a shaky cease-fire in Gaza. But they have been unable to agree on a prisoner exchange, which is regarded as the minimum required before Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas can meet. (New York Times)
        U.S. officials say the renewed attempt to promote peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is separate from efforts to bring stability to Iraq. A senior State Department official briefing reporters Wednesday said he felt uncomfortable with the idea that the plights of Iraq and the Palestinians were linked. "I don't like the idea of lumping these things together," he said. Still, the official acknowledged that there was a "core of moderate Arab support" for action on the Israeli-Palestinian front. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Denies Trade-Off Between Iraq, Israel (FOX News)
  • Assad: Syria to Challenge U.S. Efforts - Salah Nasrawi
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday his country will continue to challenge U.S. efforts in the Middle East, sounding a defiant tone ahead of President Bush's arrival in the region for talks on Iraq. "In the past they used to call it colonialism, today it is called liberation of people....As colonialism continues, revolution and resistance continue," Syrian official media quoted Assad as saying. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Thousands Rally for Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers in Brussels - Yossi Lempkowicz and Sarah Williams
    3,500 people joined a rally in Brussels Wednesday in front of the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers headquarters on the day the European Parliament opened its monthly session, to show solidarity and support for the families of the three Israeli soldiers abducted this summer. "Europe has a particular responsibility to make that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 be applied," said Roger Pinto, head of the French Siona organization. The resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the three soldiers.
        Speakers criticized the fact that the International Red Cross was unable to give the families any information about their sons. Roger Cukierman, head of the French umbrella group CRIF, denounced the use of European money to help "bloodthirsty people for whom the human being is a bargaining chip."  (European Jewish Press)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Tanks to Have Missile Defense by 2007 - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF plans to purchase and install Trophy active protection anti-missile systems on its Merkava tanks by the end of 2007, a high-ranking military officer said Wednesday. The Ground Forces Command has also asked Israel Military Industries to continue development of its own original tank missile defense system, called the Iron Fist, which is in the final stages of testing and could be operational by the end of 2007. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Supreme Court: Security Fence Route in Jerusalem Legal - Aviram Zino
    A special nine-judge High Court panel, headed by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, ruled Sunday that the route of the West Bank security fence in the Bir Naballah area north of Jerusalem is legal. Barak wrote: "We accept the state's position that there is a need to build a separation wall to advance the security objectives of protecting Jerusalem, nearby communities, and roads leading to it from terror activities." (Ynet News)
  • IDF to Establish Enemy Training Unit - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF is establishing a "Red Unit" which will study enemy tactics and impersonate Hizballah guerrillas, Hamas fighters, or Syrian ground troops during exercises. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Gunmen Attack Internet Cafes in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Unidentified gunmen attacked several Internet cafes in Gaza with hand grenades and bombs before dawn on Wednesday, causing heavy damage. Cafe owners accused Muslim fundamentalists who have been campaigning against Internet cafes. "Those behind these attacks are trying to turn Palestine into a Taliban-style country, where people were executed for watching TV," said a Fatah official. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Talking to the Rogues - Editorial
    One of the worst-kept secrets in Washington is the Iraq Study Group's expected recommendation that the U.S. negotiate over Iraq's future with rogue regimes in Iran and Syria - whose support for terrorist groups and militias helped turn post-Saddam Iraq into a powderkeg in the first place. The Bush administration - like many of its predecessors - has tried time and again to resolve differences with Tehran and Damascus at the most senior levels. With both governments, the result has been a nearly unbroken series of diplomatic failures dating back to Jimmy Carter's presidency. (Washington Times)
        See also Iran and Syria Aren't Our Friends in Iraq - Max Boot
    We would have to offer Syria and Iran some mighty enticing carrots to get them to cooperate in a U.S.-led rescue effort for Iraq. Tehran would most likely demand, at a minimum, a guarantee that we would do nothing to foster regime change in Iran or stop its nuclear program. Syrian President Bashar Assad, for his part, would most likely seek an end to the international tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri because any trial would probably implicate Syrian officials. Are these wishes that Washington could or should accommodate? Do we want to betray the democratic revolution in Lebanon? Do we want to give Iran's loony president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, carte blanche to build nuclear weapons? And all in return for dubious promises that may not make any difference in Iraq? (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Global Reach of Iran's Ballistic Missiles - Uzi Rubin
    Iran's missile and space programs are progressing with singular urgency. No other country in the world comes close to Iran in the number and variety of ballistic missiles in development or already deployed. Iran seems poised to add a cruise missile component to its strategic forces, and its development of a space launch vehicle may well be a harbinger of an ICBM. The range of Iran's missiles is likely to dominate the entire European continent by the end of the decade.
        Heralding the missile program with a great deal of transparency, Iran has exploited it as a psychological tool, adding it to its force of "deterrence enhancers." There is some doubt as to the quality and precision of the more advanced missiles, with Iran's claims likely exceeding the missiles' actual capabilities. The writer served as head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization between 1991 and 1999, and oversaw the development of Israel's Arrow anti-missile defense system. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
        See also Hizballah's Rocket Campaign Against Northern Israel - Uzi Rubin (ICA/JCPA)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Offer - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the release of "numerous" Palestinian prisoners, a significant reduction in controls on the movement of people and goods in Gaza and the West Bank, and a full reopening of negotiations to create a Palestinian state. The Olmert initiative represents a genuine opportunity for Arab governments and Mr. Abbas.
    • The challenge for the Palestinians is to break the deadlock on forming a government that can release abducted IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit and commit itself to a peaceful settlement. That would unlock Israel's concessions on prisoners and movement, renew frozen international aid, and allow discussions on a final settlement. But it will require Hamas to soften the intransigent policy of rejection it has held since taking office.
    • Do Palestinians really want their own state, or an endless war of attrition against Israel?
    • Arab and European governments that have been insisting an Israeli-Palestinian settlement is the key to stabilizing the region must now insist that Hamas answer that question.

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