Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 20, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

The Danger of the Saudi Aircraft Deal - Rafi Buchnik (Omedia)
    A mammoth arms sale finalized in December 2005 between Britain and the Saudi monarchy will deliver 72 of the most advanced bombers in the world, the "Eurofighter-Typhoon," to Saudi Arabia over the next ten years.
    Yet the military-strategic import implicit in the quantitative and qualitative revamp of the Saudi Air Force has not been absorbed.
    Israeli apprehensions stem from the threat that elements connected with al-Qaeda would recruit Saudi Air Force personnel to plan or implement a qualitative terrorist attack from the air against Israeli targets.
    The "Eurofighter" represents a quantum leap in terms of increased aerial threat to Israel and is considered the "latest word" in technology.
    The presence of these advanced jets in the hands of the Saudi Air Force, especially given the terror threats against the stability of the regime in Riyadh, should not be taken lightly.
    Israel's objective must be to assure that this fleet of new aircraft will be deployed at a distance that will allow Israel to prevent or at least discover aerial activity that could threaten sensitive Israeli targets.
    Understandings like those formulated by the Americans and Saudis regarding limitations to the deployment of American-made F-15s would be the minimum Israeli requirement in this new situation.

Libya Sentences Six to Die in HIV Case - Craig S. Smith (New York Times)
    A Libyan court on Tuesday again sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to be shot by a firing squad for deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV, more than 50 of whom have died. The decision complicates Libya's efforts to improve relations with the West.
    International AIDS experts concluded that the virus predated the nurses' arrival and was probably spread by contaminated needles.

Hussein's Trial Sees Videotapes of Chemical Attacks on Kurds - Marc Santora (New York Times)
    Images of villagers dying from a chemical attack on Kurds were shown in Baghdad on Tuesday at the trial of Saddam Hussein.
    Hussein is facing charges of genocide in connection with the deaths of 50,000 Kurds in a campaign that ultimately killed 180,000 Kurds in the 1980s.
    Shot in April 1987 and May 1988, the videotape shows attack helicopters flying low over the mountains as villagers scatter. Women cluster near tents, crying as white smoke gathers.
    The aftermath of the chemical attacks was seen in videotape that showed bodies frozen in death.

Qatari Troops for Lebanon (AFP/Gulf Times-Qatar)
    Qatari troops are to head to Lebanon Wednesday as the first Arab contingent in a UN peacekeeping force deployed near the border with Israel, the Qatari armed forces announced Tuesday.
    Qatar pledged in September to send up to 300 troops to join UNIFIL.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush to Expand Army for Struggle Against Islamic Extremists - Peter Baker
    President Bush acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists. U.S. officials said the administration is preparing plans to bolster the nation's permanent active-duty military with as many as 70,000 additional troops. Bush tied his decision to the broader struggle against Islamic extremists around the world rather than to Iraq specifically. "It is an accurate reflection that this ideological war we're in is going to last for a while and that we're going to need a military that's capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace," he said. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Threatening Hamas Rule, Says PA Prime Minister - Rory McCarthy
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday accused the U.S. of trying to bring down the elected Hamas government. "There was a direct decision to bring down this government and make it collapse, and the Americans are behind this policy," Haniyeh said on Palestinian television. Haniyeh has dismissed Abbas' call for early elections as "unconstitutional."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also Al-Qaeda No. 2 Condemns Abbas' Election Plan - Tim Butcher
    In a videotaped statement broadcast on al-Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, embraced the cause of Hamas in its opposition to early elections. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Rice: U.S. to Step Up Support for Abbas - Nicholas Kralev and Joshua Mitnick
    The U.S. will not wait for Palestinians to agree on a unity government or to hold elections in order to push for a renewed peace effort with Israel and will step up its support for Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday. She said the chief mission of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East in the next two years will be to strengthen the "alignment" of moderate forces so they can take on extremists who have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. "We are pushing forward on helping [Abbas] with reconstruction and security forces," she said, referring to tens of millions of dollars the Bush administration plans to give his office. (Washington Times)
        See also Western Powers to Try to Boost Abbas - Adam Entous
    Western powers and their Arab allies will try to boost Mahmoud Abbas by pumping money into his office and programs that could benefit him politically, diplomats say. The effort dovetails with a U.S.-led push to strengthen forces loyal to Abbas. Western diplomats said in interviews this week that the goal would be to persuade Palestinians, hard hit by Western sanctions against the Hamas-led government, that backing moderate leaders would benefit them. But Palestinian analysts said it could backfire if Hamas succeeded in painting Abbas and his Fatah faction as beholden to U.S. and Israeli interests. (Reuters)
        See also below Observations: Abbas Needs Help Against Hamas - Editorial (Washington Post)
  • Ahmadinejad: Sanctions Won't Stop Iran's Nuclear Program
    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that possible UN Security Council sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program. He again warned Britain, France, and Germany that Iran will consider their support for any sanctions as an act of hostility: "These three European countries should know that if they insist on preventing the Iranian nation from its path, the Iranian nation will consider their behavior as enmity and an act of hostility, and will change its behavior towards them accordingly."  (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Battle in Gaza: 6 Killed, 20 Injured - Ali Waked
    Six Palestinians, including two Hamas members and four affiliated with Fatah, were killed in internal Palestinian fighting in Gaza Tuesday. Palestinian sources said the lifeless bodies of two Fatah members of the Palestinian Intelligence Forces who had been kidnapped by Hamas gunmen were found in Gaza City. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that landed near Netiv Ha'asara in the western Negev on Tuesday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Meets Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman - Ronny Sofer
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the PA. According to the Jordanian news agency Petra, Olmert briefed the king on the steps Israel may take to resume the peace process with the Palestinians. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Plan to Kidnap Israeli Thwarted - Efrat Weiss
    Three Palestinians in a Hamas cell, who planned to kidnap a Jewish victim in the Jerusalem area, were arrested last month, security officials said Tuesday. The cell members were in the advanced stages of the operation. They had purchased weapons and attempted to recruit other Palestinians, including a resident of Jerusalem, to act as the driver. Large sums of money and a Kalashnikov rifle were discovered in their possession. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iraq Study Group Wrong to Link Iraq to Israel - James A. Phillips
    If Israelis and Palestinians reached peace tomorrow, it would be ludicrous to expect a therapeutic spillover effect in Iraq. The fighting in Iraq is caused by a brutal struggle for power, a proxy war fueled by Iran's growing ambitions in the region and al-Qaeda's ruthless campaign to establish a base of operations to export its totalitarian Islamic revolution. Iraq's Sunni insurgents and Shia militias, provoked by insurgent atrocities, would continue their bloody handiwork regardless of events between Israelis and Palestinians.
        James Baker, the ISG co-chairman, maintains that Syria can be "flipped" and persuaded to reverse course and drop its longstanding alliance with Iran, and stop stoking terrorism and factional bloodletting in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. This advice represents the triumph of hope over experience. As Secretary of State in 1990-1991, Baker failed to "flip" Syria, despite extensive diplomatic efforts. Secretary of State Colin Powell also failed to "flip" Syria.
        Syria and Iran should be isolated and punished for their bloody subversion of their neighbors, not rewarded with invitations to participate in an illusory "peace process" that sacrifices the interests of American allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq. The writer is Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. (Heritage Foundation)
  • Imperialist Iran Imitates Ambitions of Ancient Persia - Amir Taheri
    Although presented in religious terms, Ahmadinejad's ambition to restore Iran's position as the dominant regional power has deep roots in Persian nationalism. Ever since it emerged as a state over 25 centuries ago, Iran has always tried to extend its western frontiers and reach the Mediterranean. With the shattering of the balance of power in the Middle East, partly thanks to U.S. intervention that destroyed Iran's enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, such moves are no longer regarded as a fantasy in Tehran.
        Iran is already present in Iraq and hopes to dominate the county once the U.S. has abandoned it. Iranian influence is also expanding in Syria, where Iran maintains a major security presence while thousands of Syrians are converting to the Khomeinist brand of Shiism. Iran is also trying to seize control of Lebanon through its Hizballah proxies, who have declared war on Premier Siniora's democratic government.
        Ahmadinejad has claimed that the U.S. was already defeated in the Middle East. "They are like rubble, and we are like the flood," he said. "That kind of talk can only lead to war," says Sami Faraj, an expert in regional security. "Ahmadinejad feels that, with the U.S. wavering in Iraq, nothing can stop him. The region may have to pay a high price to prove him wrong." (New York Post)
  • Toward the Brink in Gaza - Editorial
    On Sunday, officials of Hamas asked supporters to devise new slogans for use in rallies against their Palestinian rivals in the Fatah party. The Palestinians, who long demanded the right to govern themselves, have done little to show they are ready for that responsibility. By their willingness to give power to extremists, they have done terrible harm to their own future. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Abbas Needs Help Against Hamas - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • Each time Mahmoud Abbas has attempted to break the impasse between Fatah and the Islamic Hamas movement - the essential precondition for a resumption of the Middle East peace process - extremists backed by Syria and Iran have intervened to block any progress. On Saturday Abbas proposed that new elections be held for both his post and for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian legislature; armed attacks, including one on his own compound, began the next day.
    • Abbas described how Hamas and its sponsors had paralyzed Palestinian government and made peace talks impossible. Khaled Mashaal, from a base in Damascus, has blocked political agreements between Hamas and Fatah, and has prevented the release of a captured Israeli soldier. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh flew to Tehran this month to accept tens of millions of dollars from the Iranian regime - and to announce that Hamas would never compromise with Israel.
    • As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear in a speech last month, a Palestinian government ready to recognize Israel and accept a two-state solution could advance rapidly toward that goal. For the process to start, Hamas' extreme leaders and their foreign sponsors have to be defeated or sidelined.
    • Bargaining by Israel or the West with Syria or Iran is unlikely to be fruitful as long as the militants and their sponsors pay no price for their aggression. In Gaza, as in Lebanon, the moderates favored by the West need help that goes beyond offers to "engage" their enemies.

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