Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 7, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Encountering Obstacles to Uranium Enrichment - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    While predicting Iran will still obtain nuclear power by the end of the decade, Western sources have said that Iran has recently encountered major technological complications in its attempts to enrich uranium.

PLO Takes Pride in Being Source of International Terror - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The PLO takes pride in the fact that it has been the source of world terror, and that terrorists around the world have copied its tactics and techniques.
    The Secretary of Fatah in Gaza, Ahmed Hales Abu Maher, told PA TV on Nov. 14:
    "This is a nation that gives an example every day that is imitated across the world. We gave the world the children of the RPG [rocket-propelled grenades], we gave the world the children stone [-throwers], and we gave the world the male and female martyrdom-seekers [suicide bombers]."

U.S. Targets Hizballah Fundraisers in South America - Jeannine Aversa (AP/Fox News)
    The U.S. Treasury Department took action Wednesday aimed at choking off a major fundraising channel for Hizballah operating in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
    Americans are forbidden from doing business with nine people and two entities in Paraguay, and any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to them in the U.S. must be frozen.
    The department says those designated have provided financial and logistical support to Hizballah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

UN to Ask for $450M in Palestinian Aid - Ravi Nessman (AP/ Washington Post)
    The UN will ask donor countries to contribute a record $450 million in aid to the Palestinians, UN officials said Wednesday.
    See also EU: Aid to Palestinians Has Increased - Sarah El Deeb (AP/Washington Post)
    The EU said Tuesday its contribution to the Palestinians has increased by 27 percent from last year to $865 million, although the EU, U.S., and Israel have banned direct aid to the Palestinian government.

Saudi Arabia Fires Security Consultant Who Wrote Saudis Would Back Iraq's Sunnis (Reuters/ Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it had fired Nawaf Obaid, a security adviser who wrote in the Washington Post on Nov. 29 that the kingdom would back Iraq's Sunni Muslims once the U.S. withdrew troops.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Panel Urges Basic Shift in U.S. Policy in Iraq - David E. Sanger
    The bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission Wednesday issued 79 specific policy recommendations that included calls for direct engagement with Syria and Iran as part of a "new diplomatic offensive" and for jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. Administration officials said they expected President Bush to announce his own "way forward" this month. But some suggested that the diplomatic strategy in the report better fit the Middle East of 15 years ago, when Mr. Baker served as secretary of state. (New York Times)
        See also Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (New York Times)
        See also Olmert Rejects Linkage of Iraq War and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Sees No Talks with Syria - Shmuel Rosner, Akiva Eldar, and Yoav Stern
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday rejected linkage of the Iraqi war with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the Iraq Study Group. "The attempt to create linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue - we have a different view," Olmert said. He also said conditions were not ripe to reopen talks with Syria, adding that he received no indications from President Bush during his recent visit to Washington that the U.S. would push Israel to start such talks. "The question of what Israel can offer Syria has been raised before. The question is, what can we get from the Syrians if we enter negotiations," Olmert said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Sen. Biden: Linking Iraq to Israel-Palestinian Peace is "Dangerously Naive" - Marc Perelman
    Senator Joseph Biden, incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, derided proposals to link progress in Iraq to the revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as "dangerously naive." "The notion that an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement would end a civil war in Iraq defies common sense," Biden said. "Israeli-Palestinian peace should be pursued aggressively on its own merits, period - not as some sort of diplomatic price to make the Arab states feel good so they will help us in Iraq." (Forward)
        See also Initiative: Middle East Peace Conference Without Israel - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
  • Israel Predicts No Switch of U.S. Policy - Sharmila Devi
    In response to the Iraq Study Group report, which called on Wednesday for a revived commitment to Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts and talks between Syria and Israel, Israeli officials were confident that Washington would neither ease its policy against Iran's nuclear weapons program nor exert undue pressure over the Palestinian issue as part of efforts to reverse the crisis in Iraq. Few Israeli officials expected to see sustained U.S. engagement on the Palestinian issue, such as that displayed by the Clinton or first Bush administrations, despite the latest recommendations. Israel has common cause with Washington and Sunni regional states that fear rising Iranian hegemony. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Former Aide Parts With Carter Over Book - Brenda Goodman and Julie Bosman
    Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern history and political science at Emory University and a former executive director of the Carter Center, resigned as a fellow of the center on Tuesday, ending a 23-year association with the institution. Stein cited concerns with the accuracy and integrity of Carter's latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Stein called the book "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments." (New York Times)
        Stein wrote to Carter: "Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: IDF Soldiers Captured by Hizballah Were Badly Hurt - Amos Harel and Jack Khoury
    According to an Israel Defense Forces report that was cleared for publication Wednesday, both Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are thought to have been seriously injured during their abduction last July by Hizballah forces. One of the soldiers is thought to have sustained critical injuries, while the other's injuries are thought to have been serious. The IDF Spokesman repeated that the army's working assumption remains that the soldiers are still alive and emphasized that the IDF is continuing its efforts to bring about their return. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Despite Cease-Fire - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel Wednesday that landed near a kibbutz in the western Negev. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Smuggled $66M in Eight Months - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas officials have managed to smuggle more than $66 million in cash through the Rafah border crossing in the past eight months, a member of the Hamas-led PA government said Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Iraq Muddle Group - Editorial
    The Iraq Study Group's proposal to negotiate with Iran and Syria is a very old idea that isn't likely to go anywhere. The report argues that because both Iran and Syria have an "interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq," they will want to cooperate in some larger regional settlement. Come again? Iran's leadership proclaims its satisfaction with the U.S. troubles in Iraq on an almost daily basis. They seem to believe their interest lies in bleeding the U.S. so much that no president will ever contemplate regime change anywhere else for a very long time. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Iraq Study Group Report - Editorial
    Securing U.S. objectives involves seeking simultaneously to ensure that Iraqi politicians place national interests above sectarian spoils, convincing rogue states in Damascus and Tehran to be reasonable without rewarding their past misbehavior, and aspiring to secure some progress between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, despite the very malign influence exercised over the Middle East peace process by Hamas and Hizballah in recent years. (Times-UK)
        See also Lack of Palestinian Leadership Frustrates New Peace Talks - Bronwen Maddox:
    In calling for new meetings between Israel and Palestinians, the Baker-Hamilton commission does not address the obstacle currently frustrating that goal - the lack of Palestinian leadership with which to negotiate. (Times-UK)
  • Martyr - Cynthia Ozick
    Rachel Corrie was in Gaza as a member of the International Solidarity Movement. The ISM is a front: a creature of the PLO, and under its vigilant supervision. In the U.S., recruits are encouraged, partly funded, and trained by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Though the ISM is touted as non-violent, in reality it acts not merely as a shield for violence but as its proponent. Every Friday, the ISM organizes riots at Israel's security fence, erected to deter infiltration by suicide bombers.
        Once in Gaza, the new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage. For the opportunistic leaders of the ISM, Rachel Corrie's death is neither piteous nor pointless: it is pure bonanza. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Baker Report: Israel Must Prepare for a Different Reality - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)

    • "Israel will have to prepare for a completely different reality," says former UN Ambassador Dore Gold in response to the submission of the Baker-Hamilton report. "Within two years American presence in Iraq will be minimal." The majority of the report deals with Iraq, but a significant portion addresses the Israel-Arab conflict, which the report sees as the heart of Mideast unrest.
    • "The very willingness of the reports' authors to start a dialogue with both Iran and Syria is an alarming development. It's alarming because the United States isn't requiring any preliminary conditions for this dialogue, and there is no mention of the Iranian nuclear program which continues to advance."
    • "The recommendation in this report to talk to Syria and Iran, despite the fact that they're responsible for the growing instability in Iraq, will only encourage them to continue employing their policies."
    • "The report proves that Israel has been unsuccessful in conveying a clear message to the U.S. elite regarding the Iranian threat. How can the United Stated see Iran as a stabilizing force in Iraq when Iran is funding and supplying arms to terror factions, both in Iraq and in Lebanon?"
    • "In the immediate sense, the U.S. will try to renew the political process as part of a general regional strategy." "Will the U.S. demand that Syria stop supporting terror? Will Israel be dragged into negotiations with those who will not even recognize it? Will America come to terms with the Iranian nuclear program?"

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