Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 10, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: New Palestinian Rockets Could Reach North of Ashkelon - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Rockets launched by Islamic Jihad in July and August 2006 registered ranges of 15 and 16.3 km.
    If fired from the northernmost point in the Gaza Strip, they could land just north of Ashkelon, the Israel Defense Forces estimates.

Sunni Muslims Fear "Shiite Bomb" - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
    The Iranian nuclear project will never be viewed as the production of an "Islamic bomb," but rather a "Shiite bomb," says Dr. Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
    In the eyes of some Arab leaders, Shiites can't be loyal to any Arab country, but will always be loyal to Iran, Bar said.
    "Iran's doctrine of exporting its revolution," as well as its attempt to gain hegemony over the region, was being perceived "by Sunni Muslims as an attack on Arab Sunnis."
    He cited an argument between the late al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the al-Qaeda deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, who debated "at what stage in the jihad we should convert the Shiites or kill them all."

Al-Qaeda Member Killed in Jordan (Jordan Times)
    Al-Qaeda member Suleiman Ghayyadh Anjadi was killed in a shoot-out during a raid on a house in Irbid by Jordanian security forces on Tuesday and Ramadan Mustafa Mansi, a Jordanian, was arrested.
    The raid was launched after security forces received a tip-off that al-Qaeda was plotting attacks in Jordan.

The Iranian Thought Police - Nir Boms and Niv Lilian (
    Iran is waging a fierce battle against freedom of expression, including invasive censorship of electronic communication.
    Teheran has blocked the New York Times website, the video clip site YouTube, and the free encyclopedia Wikipedia.
    Iranian Internet providers were also ordered to narrow the bandwidth to 128 kb/sec., to prevent Internet telephone communication (VoIP) and prevent people from downloading files.
    Add to this other measures like removing satellite dishes, actively blocking broadcast frequencies, and arresting bloggers and Iranian opposition activists.
    Iran's head of the Communication Development Agency announced that text messaging would also be monitored.

Royal Intrigue, Unpaid Bills Preceded Saudi Ambassador's Exit - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
    For more than a year, Saudi Arabia's ambassador journeyed across the U.S. in an ambitious campaign to improve his country's image.
    But Prince Turki al-Faisal's goodwill tour, instead, produced millions of dollars in unpaid bills, owed to the very lobbyists, advisers, and event organizers hired to promote the kingdom.
    Qorvis Communications LLC, which oversees Saudi image-building, was not paid more than $10 million in 2006, its entire annual contract.
    Because Qorvis subcontracts to smaller firms, the unpaid bill has left the most high-profile American lobbyists for the kingdom unpaid all year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. to Send 20,000 More Troops to Iraq - Meredith Buel
    President Bush is scheduled to unveil his new strategy for the war in Iraq Wednesday night in a televised address to the nation. The president is expected to call for an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops to quell the violence in Baghdad. He is also expected to propose renewed American diplomacy in the Middle East. (VOA News)
  • U.S. Blacklists Iranian Bank - Steven R. Weisman
    The U.S. on Tuesday barred American financial institutions from doing business with Bank Sepah, a major Iranian bank, after concluding that it had been involved in illicit weapons programs. Last year, the U.S. took similar action against Bank Saderat. "Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network, and has actively assisted Iran's pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Levey also said the U.S. had been in touch with Britain, France, Italy, and Germany to discuss the need to stop doing business with Bank Sepah. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Calls Draft UN Statement on Mideast "Unbalanced"
    Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff called an Indonesian draft UN statement on the Middle East Tuesday "an unbalanced snapshot of the situation." "We have Israelis retaliating to terrorist attacks. We've got a security vacuum as a result of the military conflict between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian territories....The Israelis have every right to defend their citizens, and so without some sense of context or reference, this sort of one-sided statement does not contribute to the effort to promote peace and security and stability in the region. On the contrary, it makes people think that the United Nations can't view this issue objectively." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Hizbullah Widens Anti-Government Campaign in Lebanon - Anthony Shadid
    Hizbullah and its allies widened their campaign Tuesday to force the Lebanese government's resignation, backing what they vowed would be a series of daily protests scattered across the capital. So far, the government has refused to resign. But by paralyzing the government, Hizbullah has stanched what it saw as growing U.S. influence, and delayed the convening of an international court to try suspects in the 2005 slaying of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, an assassination that government supporters blame on Syria. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Opens New Goods Passage for Palestinians in West Bank
    Israel opened a new passage for goods in the northeastern West Bank Tuesday morning, as part of promised goodwill gestures, the Israeli military announced. The newly-built passage allows direct transportation of agricultural produce from the Jordan Valley to northern Israel, said a military spokesman, Captain Zidki Maman. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Military Intelligence: Al-Qaeda Sent to Lebanon to Attack UNIFIL, Iran Rearming Hizbullah, Hamas Is Strengthening - Gideon Alon
    The head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday: "Between several dozen and several hundred al-Qaeda activists have arrived in Lebanon from Iraq and Pakistan, in accordance with instructions from the group's leadership to deploy in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt in order to carry out terror attacks." He added that the targets could be UNIFIL and other Western interests. He said a small number of al-Qaeda operatives had infiltrated Gaza, and a few have been found in Nablus in the West Bank.
        According to Yadlin, Hizbullah has not left southern Lebanon and arms transfers from Syria are continuing apace, It is currently focused on rehabilitating its strength with the help of large quantities of arms from Iran.
        Yadlin said Hamas' financial situation is improving, along with its standing in relation to Fatah, adding that Hamas members have received training in Syria and Iran. He said Fatah incurred most of the casualties during the recent Palestinian clashes in Gaza, but Fatah remains the main power broker in the West Bank. Yadlin said 77 Palestinian suicide bombers were arrested in 2006, 45 of whom were en route to an attack. Terrorists fired 1,200 Kassam rockets at Israel in 2006, 700 of which hit populated areas. (Ha'aretz)
  • Dahlan Rehabilitating Fatah in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    In the midst of a bloody civil war in Gaza, and persistent threats against him by Hamas, Mohammed Dahlan was all smiles and jokes - and curses - perfectly coiffed, stylishly suited. Few today doubt the identity of the strongest man in Fatah - and Abbas' heir apparent. On Sunday he headed the biggest rally in the history of Fatah in Gaza, where he taunted Hamas: "Please, shoot me." Dahlan says the Palestinian security organizations are at the height of a process of change: retiring officers over 60, uniting the forces into three branches: national security (the army), internal security (police), and preventive security (intelligence). With the backing of Abbas, the young commanders previously sidelined by the older leadership have been appointed as grassroots leaders.
        Q: How will the war [with Hamas] end?
        Dahlan: "It is not a war. It is an attack by Hamas on Fatah....In the end we will have to go forward together. But to do this we must make sure Fatah is strong enough. And the rally, from my point of view, was just the beginning. We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs."
        Q: What would you expect from Israel? How should it help?
        Dahlan: "Stay away from us. You don't help, you only do damage. Every time somebody on your side talks about 'helping Abbas,' they hurt him....At the moment, I am interested only in rehabilitating Fatah." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Threatens Fatah Strongman It Brands an Agent of Israel - Ben Lynfield
    Hamas implied Monday that Fatah's strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, is a collaborator with Israel and also accused him of being a stooge of the U.S. (Scotsman-UK)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Saddam, a Rope, and a Great Escape - Michael Young
    Saddam Hussein's execution was a fitting finale for an aging despot who once dispatched tens of thousands of people in a like manner. Much offense was taken from the fact that in his final moments he had to endure the insults of onlookers. As fate would have it, those Shiites for whom Saddam had displayed such contempt were the ones dropping him into the pit. There was also much commotion about the fact that Saddam was hanged on the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha. But the criticism missed the point. For a man who had ordered the bombing or plundering of myriad holy sites, whose intelligence services had murdered thousands of prisoners in their cells just to make more room for new ones, whose soldiers had slaughtered with unflinching barbarism hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, the hangman's rope was almost too polite a way to go. What justified the reaction of so many Arabs outside Iraq, who could never work up indignation over the regime's crimes, yet now stand in condemnation of Saddam's hanging? (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Measure for Measure - Fouad Ajami
    We have been asking the Iraqis to claim responsibility for their country. On that morning in Baghdad, three years after he had been flushed out of his spider hole, Saddam Hussein came face to face with the wrath and hurt he had bequeathed Iraqis. Those vengeful men taunting him as he fell through the gallows' trapdoor were in the most direct way the children of his cruel reign of terror. (U.S. News)
        See also Aftermath of a Hanging - Nibras Kazimi
    If you wanted Saddam executed, then all you took from the spectacle was the end result: Saddam is no more. If you didn't want Saddam executed or were conceptually against the death penalty, then you nitpicked every detail and decried what happened. Saddam's mortal remains were respected and returned to his clan, who promptly turned his grave into a shrine. Back in Saddam's era, should you be a lucky family to get the corpse of a loved one back after an execution, you would have received a bill from the regime for the price of the bullets used. (New York Sun)
  • Israel's Olmert Has a "Spiritual Connection" to China
    Prior to his official visit to China, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told Xinhua press agency, "I have a spiritual connection to China. China is the country which hosted my parents. They studied in China, they grew up in China and they spoke Chinese....The Chinese culture is part of my upbringing and my memories as a young boy in Israel. China is not just another country for me." Olmert's grandfather is buried in Harbin. Olmert visited the grave in 2004 as the Minister of Trade and Industry, but said he won't have time during this visit. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
        See also China Renovates Jewish Cemetery Ahead of Israeli PM Visit - Mu Xuequan
    China has spent $385,000 dollars repairing the Jewish cemetery in the city of Harbin in northeast China, ahead of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is a son of a former Jewish resident of China. Olmert's grandparents moved to Harbin from Russia to flee persecution in the late 19th century. The number of Jewish people living in Harbin topped 25,000 in the 1920s. (Xinhua-China)
  • Observations:

    The Connection Between Elections and Militias - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)

    • The emerging civil war in Gaza is reminiscent of the way the Arab Revolt in British Palestine fizzled out in 1939. After three years of attacks against the British and the Jewish population, the two major Palestinian armed groups, mainly identified with the radical pro-Husseinis and the more moderate pro-Nashashibis, descended into an orgy of internecine killings that killed thousands of Palestinians. More Palestinians were killed by their brethren than by either the British or the Jews.
    • The emergence of armed militias is characteristic of societies in the Arab world that have either experienced a failure of their relatively more democratic structures - or that have been going through processes of democratization.
    • Lacking an effective civil society with its traditions of tolerance, pluralism and an effective party structure, each political player needs its armed wing.
    • When the conditions for democracy are lacking, suddenly introducing elections into authoritarian societies fosters militias.

      The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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