Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 25, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: Fatah Has No Chance of Winning PA Elections - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the Israeli cabinet Sunday that Fatah's chances of winning elections in the Palestinian Authority would be close to zero.
    He said the Fatah faction is in bad shape, and Israel should expect Hamas to register a sweeping victory in any election.
    Diskin said the ongoing rocket fire is being carried out by the Islamic Jihad, not Hamas.
    Asked whether Hamas has the ability to impose a halt to the rocket fire, Diskin responded that from a military standpoint Hamas is strong enough, but from an ideological standpoint it will not act against the activities of another terrorist organization.

    See also Hamas Leader Mashaal: PA Elections Will Not Take Place (AP/Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal vowed Saturday that PA elections will not take place.
    "Is it possible to speak of early elections, and the (previous) elections are still fresh? Is it possible to violate the law and the constitution?" he told Al-Jazeera. "Any step that violates the law will not be (allowed)."

Egyptian FM: Eilat to Remain Israeli - Yaakov Ben Zvi (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday rejected calls by parliament members and journalists in Cairo for the return of Umm Rashrash - or Eilat, in Hebrew - to Egypt, and said that anyone who brought the subject up for discussion was only trying to create problems.

Ethiopia Intervenes in Somali Civil War - Mike Pflanz (Christian Science Monitor)
    Ethiopia's Air Force launched bombing and missile raids on towns across central Somalia Sunday.
    The attacks were the first official reaction by Ethiopia's military to powerful Islamists who have taken control of much of Somalia since June and which Addis Ababa fears will boost hardline Islam inside its own borders.
    The U.S. government says four al-Qaeda leaders, believed to be behind the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, have become leaders in Somalia's Islamic militia.

Iran: 600,000 Jailed Since Start of Year - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
    Well over half a million Iranians have been imprisoned by their regime since the start of the year, Director-General of the Cultural and Disciplinary Committee of the Iranian Prisons Organization Mansour Moqareh-Abed told the Iranian newspaper Jomhouri Islami.

Israel's Christian Population: 148,000 - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Christian population numbers 148,000, 2.1 percent of the total population.
    About 120,000 are Arabs, while 28,000 came to Israel with their Jewish families, mainly from Russia and Ethiopia.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Security Council Votes to Impose Sanctions on Iran - Maggie Farley
    The UN Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran intended to curtail its nuclear program. The resolution bans the transfer of technology and materials that could help Iran build nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. It also demands that Iran immediately suspend uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent fuel within 60 days or face further sanctions. Washington is urging its allies to build on the resolution with their own national sanctions. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Iran Vows to Press On with Uranium Enrichment - Parisa Hafezi (Reuters)
        See also Text of Sanctions Resolution (United Nations)
  • U.S. Judge Blames Iran for 1996 Bombing Deaths in Saudi Arabia - Neil A. Lewis
    A federal trial judge ruled Friday that the government of Iran bore significant responsibility for the June 25, 1996, bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and ordered Tehran to pay more than $253 million in damages to surviving family members of American airmen killed there. Judge Royce C. Lamberth overturned an earlier ruling by a U.S. magistrate judge who had found that there was insufficient evidence to tie Iran to the terrorist attack, in which 19 military service members were killed.
        "What we have to do now is take the judgment and go all over the world and find assets that belong to the government of Iran," said Shale D. Stiller, the lawyer who brought the case. Prof. Ruth Wedgwood of Johns Hopkins University said such rulings had great value because "they officially categorize the behavior as illegal and often make clear facts everybody knows to be true" but are not acknowledged by governments for diplomatic reasons.
        Louis J. Freeh, the former director of the FBI, testified that six of the people who participated in the attack were trained by Iranian officials, sometimes in Iran, and received money and materials from the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. The perpetrators were recruited by a senior official of the Revolutionary Guard at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. (New York Times)
        See also Text of Court Ruling (pdf file)
    "The truck bomb was assembled at a terrorist base in the Bekaa Valley which was jointly operated by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard and by the terrorist organization known as Hizballah. The individuals recruited to carry out the bombing referred to themselves as 'Saudi Hizballah,' and they drove the truck bomb from its assembly point in the Bekaa Valley to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia." (Paragraph 12) (U.S. Courts)
  • Taliban Leader Killed After RAF Tracks Phone - Michael Smith
    The Taliban commander in charge of attacks on British and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan was killed in a U.S. airstrike after an RAF aircraft intercepted his satellite telephone. Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, the Taliban treasurer, was the most senior member of the group's leadership to die in the war on terror, according to U.S. officials. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • English Channel Tunnel Is Terror Target - Jason Burke
    The English Channel tunnel has been targeted by a group of Islamic militant terrorists aiming to cause maximum carnage during the holiday season, according to French and American secret services. The plan, revealed in a secret report to the French government on threat levels, dated December 19, indicates that the tip-off came from the American CIA.
        According to the French sources, the plan was put together in Pakistan and is being directed from there. The plotters are believed to be Western Europeans, possibly Britons of Pakistani descent. The French DGSE foreign intelligence service says that levels of communication between militants has not been so high since 2001. The DGSE report also mentions an al-Qaeda project for a "wave of attacks in an unidentified European country planned and run from Syria and Iraq." (Observer-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert Meets Abbas, Israel to Release $100 Million to PA - Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday and said Israel would allow the transfer of $100 million in frozen Palestinian tax money to the PA to meet humanitarian needs. Israel is to transfer the funds directly to Abbas' office and not to the Hamas-led government. Olmert also told Abbas Israel would have difficulty continuing to show restraint if Kassam rocket fire on Israel continued. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Strategic Facility in Ashkelon - Anat Bereshkovsky
    Palestinian gunmen Monday launched a Kassam rocket from northern Gaza which landed in the industrial area in Ashkelon, hitting a strategic facility and damaging a number of structures. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Damages Sderot Nursery School - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Sunday that landed near a Sderot nursery school, damaging the building. Several children were inside the kindergarten at the time of the attack. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Since the beginning of the cease-fire, Palestinians have launched 55 Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip, including two Monday morning and four on Sunday. An additional four rockets were launched towards the western Negev throughout the weekend. One boy from Sderot was injured by shrapnel. A Sderot man was injured when a rocket blew in the door of his house Friday evening. (Ynet News/Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Wounded in West Bank Shooting Attack - Efrat Weiss
    An Israeli man was shot in the leg Sunday when fire was opened on his vehicle near the West Bank settlement of Halamish. A pregnant woman in the car at the time of the attack was not injured. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Think Tank: Only Military Strike Will Stop Iran - Yaakov Katz
    "Our conclusion is that without military action you won't be able to stop Iran," said Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvi Shtauber, co-author with former IAF Intelligence officer Yiftah Shapir of the 2005-2006 edition of the Middle East Strategic Balance, compiled by the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and released Thursday. "There is no longer a possibility for effective sanctions to stop Iran," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lebanese Druse Leader Sees Arab Axis vs. Persian Axis - Thair Abbas
    Jumblatt: I will talk about an Arab axis and a Persian axis....The main Arab forces are today in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. We hope Algeria and Morocco will join us against Persia; that is, Syria and Iran. Syria is annexed to Iran.
    Q: Are you saying that the Iranian element is superior to the Syrian element in the current crisis?
    Jumblatt: This is how the picture looks. The ruler of Damascus betted his destiny and sold his Arabism for the sake of his existence.
    Jumblatt: Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said that he had 12,000 missiles and that he fired 4,000. He now has 20,000 missiles. Twelve thousand minus 4,000 equals 20,000! He does not admit that the supply (of weapons) is continuing. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Why Radical Islam, Why Now? - Victor Davis Hanson
    Read any newspaper or turn on any news broadcast and you're bound to encounter stories of Islamic radicals fighting, killing, and threatening each other - and just about everyone else. Why has this violent, intolerant strain of Islam taken hold in so many unstable places - and at this particular time? Islamists claim to wage jihad against the modernism and globalization of the outside, mostly Westernized world. Such a message resonates in stagnant, impoverished Muslim countries. Of course, while the people of the region may be poor, the Islamist movement isn't. Huge oil profits filter throughout the Muslim world, allowing Islamists to act on their rhetoric.
        Another reason for the rise of Islamists is that they sense a new hesitation in the West. So they have also waged a brilliant propaganda war, adopting the role of victims of Western colonialism, imperialism, and racism. In turn, much of the world seems to tolerate their ruthlessness in stifling freedom, oppressing women, and killing nonbelievers. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    "Strengthening the Moderates" - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

    • The newest buzzword in Middle East diplomacy is "strengthening the moderates." How do you prop up the moderates? By providing the moderates with money to help combat Islamic extremists.
    • British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week said the West had the right to support financially those who shared its principles. This argument takes on added weight in light of the fact that Iran is successfully smuggling hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas.
    • The money Israel freed up is intended to prop up Abbas and buy him support on the Palestinian street.
    • The problem with this approach is that it underestimates the strength of religion and ideology in the society, and reduces everything to money, a throwback to the thinking of the early 1990s that if you just improved the Palestinian economic situation, peace would spring up.
    • In this part of the world - where religion and ideology have such a powerful pull - throwing money at the problem won't necessarily solve it.

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