Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 27, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Dismantling Gaza Border Fence - Amos Harel, Mijal Grinberg, and Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinians have recently dismantled large parts of the Gaza-Israel border fence north of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip to sell the metal for scrap.

Abandoned Jordan Valley Settlement to be Repopulated by Former Gaza Settlers - Nadav Shragai and Yuval Yaoz (Ha'aretz)
    Defense Minister Amir Peretz Monday authorized the repopulation of Maskiot, an abandoned Nahal settlement in the Jordan Valley that currently houses a premilitary academy.
    The proposal to relocate the families in Maskiot was approved in principle by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
    Peretz approved the construction of 30 new homes in Maskiot that are intended for families evacuated from Shirat Hayam and other uprooted Gaza Strip settlements.

Saudis Bark, Wait for America to Bite - Youssef Ibrahim (New York Sun)
    Between 1990 and 2004, Saudi Arabia spent $268.6 billion on arms.
    Why is it that Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Gulf Arab states - Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates - spend billions on state-of-the-art arms that they are unwilling and in all likelihood unable to use?
    The primary purpose of such weapons expenditures is to generate billions of dollars of commissions for the ruling families.
    The secondary purpose is to win favors with the countries from which the weapons were purchased by supporting their military industries so they can come to the royals' defense.
    Had it not been for Uncle Sam in 199091, Saddam, who had Kuwait for breakfast, would have had Saudi Arabia for dinner.

"Leave, Crusaders, or Have Your Heads Cut Off" - Aqeel Hussein and Colin Freeman (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
    The Christians of the Iraqi city of Mosul are scared to put festive decorations outside their homes this year.
    Their ancestors settled here in the 1st century AD, yet as teacher Jamal Fadi has discovered, some of their Muslim neighbors want this Christmas to be their last.
    "A letter was delivered to my door with two bullets placed on top of it," said Fadi, 32. "It said: 'Leave, crusaders, or we will cut your heads off.'"
    Iraq's Christian minority fears that al-Qaeda-backed zealots want to end 1,500 years of coexistence with an onslaught of ethnic cleansing.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iraqi Court Says Hussein Must Die Within 30 Days - James Glanz
    An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and ruled that he must go to the gallows within 30 days. No further appeals are possible, but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani must approve the death sentence. (New York Times)
  • Hamas Befriends Pakistani Terror Groups - Vijay Dutt and Aloke Tikku
    Hamas has sought alliance with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, two Pakistan-based groups involved in terrorist activities in India, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported, saying ties were forged during the visit of a Hamas Palestinian minister to Pakistan this summer. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen's Sayyid Salah al-Din and LeT's Hafez Said, possibly with the help of Pakistani Intelligence, offered the Hamas representative a briefcase containing $2 million.
        The Palestinian minister also explored the possibility of strengthening "military relations" between the Hamas army and the Pakistan-based militants. Agreement was reached to allow the two Pakistani groups to go to West Asia (Syria and Lebanon) to learn new terror techniques. In addition, Palestinian "elements" will be allowed refuge in the Waziristan areas managed by the Pakistani groups, and there could be an exchange of information relating to the use of explosives and methods to smuggle them. (Hindustan Times-India)
        See also The Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    In March 2006, high-level Hamas officials attended events in Pakistan and Yemen where members of the al-Qaeda network were present and in one case offered monetary support for the new Hamas government. On March 26, 2006, a senior Hamas figure, Muhammad Sayyam, met in Peshawar, Pakistan, with Sayyid Salah al-Din, leader of the Kashmiri terror organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. (JCPA)
  • The War on Children: Violence Turns Israeli Kids' Lives Upside Down - Stephanie L. Freid
    Thousands of students in southern Israel have missed school this year because of the barrage of rockets near their homes. Half a million students in northern Israel were affected by the war with Hizballah last summer. "Only now - two months into the school year - are we beginning to see the (deeper) effects of the war," said Bilha Noy, head of the Psychological and Counseling Department for Israel's Ministry of Education. "Children are having trouble concentrating, and for roughly 5 percent, return to so-called normal life has not happened."  (San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Gaza Children Becoming Assassination Victims - Cesar Chelala
    It is a miracle that 6-year-old Lydia Abu Eid is still alive. She was being driven to school in Gaza with her three cousins - Osama, 9; Ahmed, 6; and Salam, 3 - when their car was riddled with more than 70 bullets by masked gunmen. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Severely Injures Two Israeli Teens in Sderot - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Israel Tuesday evening that wounded two teenagers in Sderot. Adir Basad, 14, sustained critical wounds and was rushed into surgery. Matan Cohen, 14, was also severely injured. A security officer who saw the two youths said, "The rocket landed really close to them, and there was a puddle of blood beneath them." Several houses and cars in the area were damaged. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Matan's uncle, Nir Ohanan, said that "this is the third time Matan escapes death by a Kassam rocket. The first time the rocket landed in their home and almost completely destroyed the house, the second time the rocket landed right next to him, and this time the rocket hit him." Palestinians have fired eight rockets at Israel since Tuesday morning. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF to Resume Targeting Rocket Cells - Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
    The Israel Defense Forces was instructed on Wednesday by the prime minister and defense minister to resume pinpoint operations targeting Palestinian rocket launching cells. At the same time, the IDF has been instructed to uphold the cease-fire in general. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Rejects U.S. Plan for State with Temporary Borders - Yaakov Lappin
    The PA Hamas government has turned down an American proposal to form a Palestinian state in two years with temporary borders, Hamas' English-language website said Tuesday. According to recent reports, the U.S. State Department is weighing a proposal to form a Palestinian state with interim borders as part of a renewed U.S. peace drive in the Middle East. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sderot's Shattered Windows - Editorial
    Israel has dutifully halted its fire, but the rockets keep coming from Gaza nevertheless. It has become a curious game of Palestinian Roulette. The rocket that hit a sensitive strategic target near Ashkelon could have, with a little less luck, released poisonous chemicals over a densely populated urban center. The rocket that fell in a Sderot nursery school playground could have, with a little less luck, taken the lives of many toddlers. When we hear that only minor damage to Sderot was caused by a Kassam rocket salvo, it means that window panes in entire apartment blocks were blown in by shock waves.
        International opinion is not even aware that some 60 rockets have been unleashed on Israel during what's purported to be a cease-fire. Hence Israel's restraint wins no merit points. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Syria Talks Would Legitimize Damascus Internationally - Dore Gold
    According to Israel's experience with Egypt, a stable agreement is ensured first and foremost by securing quiet between Israel and its neighbors as a precondition to substantive talks. At the time, Cairo was not home to terror organizations' headquarters, and terrorists did not cross the border in order to carry out attacks. Today, too, Israel must ensure that Syria first dismantles terror groups and training camps in its territory, thus proving both to Israel and the U.S. that it is serious in its desire to reach peace.
        What does Israel have to lose should it engage in talks with Syria in order to test the seriousness of its intentions? Photos from the negotiations would be used as a "kosher certificate" for Damascus in the eyes of the international community, at a time when Washington is making an effort to create a coalition that would press Syria to change its conduct towards Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinians. The writer is Israel's former UN ambassador and currently heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Ynet News)
        See also Syria Hallucinations: Assad Won't Be Disengaging from Iran or Hizballah - Zalman Shoval
    As the chief of the Mossad made clear, Syria is not looking for peace with Israel, but rather the preservation of a limited state of war that allows the Alawite minority in Damascus to justify its continued dictatorship. Shiite Iran serves as an "insurance policy" for the Alawite regime against its internal and external enemies. Iran has replaced the Soviet Union, which played this role for Syria in the past. Moreover, can anyone imagine that Syria would accept the demand to end its support for Hizballah when the organization is the main tool used to advance Syria's plans in Lebanon? The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Prime Minister's Office: No Negotiations with Syria as Long as It Supports Terror - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)

    • "There will be no negotiations, as long as Syria continues to support terror and to be involved in the axis of evil," a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office clarified Tuesday.
    • "Syria in its deeds and in Assad's deeds proves that it stands behind Damascus' four crimes:
      1. Arms smuggling to Hizballah in Lebanon while violating UN Resolution 1701;
      2. Sheltering [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal and the terror organizations in the Syrian capital in a bid to thwart any move for peace and release [kidnapped IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit on the Palestinian route;
      3. Increasingly close connections with Tehran, which calls for Israel's destruction;
      4. Active involvement in terror attacks carried out in Iraq against the Americans."
    • "These acts prove that the Syrians are still deep inside the axis of evil and have not changed their ways. As long as they fail to change their deeds, we have no reason to start discussing the possibilities of negotiations," a diplomatic source in the Prime Minister's Office said.

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