Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 11, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Death Toll of Israeli Civilians Killed by Palestinians Hits Six-Year Low - Dion Nissenbaum (McClatchy)
    Palestinian militants killed 23 Israelis and foreign visitors in 2006, down from a high of 289 in 2002 and 43 deaths in 2005.
    Only two Palestinian suicide bombers managed to sneak into Israel for attacks that killed 11 people and wounded 30 others in 2006.
    The figures highlight Israel's success in insulating most of its citizens from the conflict with the Palestinians.

Why Isn't U.S. Military Using Israel's Anti-RPG "Trophy" in Iraq? - Adam Ciralsky and Lisa Myers (NBC News)
    Officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense believe an Israeli-made system that shoots rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) out of the sky can save American lives in Iraq.
    The Trophy works by scanning and automatically detecting when an RPG is launched. The system then fires an interceptor that destroys the RPG safely away from the vehicle.
    The Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found it is "more than 98%" effective at killing RPGs.
    In an interview with NBC News on June 26, 2006, a U.S. Army official said Trophy simply is not ready.
    To check out the Army's claims, we went back to Israel. We found that the Israeli military has indeed begun to integrate and field Trophy on tanks, buying at least 100 systems.
    IDF Brig. Gen. Amir Nir said, "It's the most mature, and it can do the job....We cannot afford waiting for the next generation."
    Nir says the Trophy is able to engage targets from all directions - "360 degrees" - and has "the ability to reload automatically."

Sa'd al-Hariri: "Iran is Playing a Dangerous Role in Lebanon"  (MEMRI)
    In an interview with Algerian TV, Sa'd al-Hariri, son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and one of the leaders of the March 14 Forces, accused Hizbullah of being a militia taking orders from Iran.
    "The rift that Iran is creating between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites is forbidden. Iran is playing a dangerous role in this matter," he added.

Israeli Population in West Bank Grew by 6% in 2006 - Shahar Ilan (Ha'aretz)
    According to the Interior Ministry, there were 268,379 Israelis living in the West Bank at the end of 2006, compared with 253,748 in 2005, a 5.8% increase.

Tehran: 120 People a Day Die from Toxic Fumes - Robert Tait (Guardian-UK)
    In Tehran, 3,600 people were reported to have died from air pollution-related illnesses in four weeks during October and November - 120 people a day.
    Mohammed Hadi Haidarzadeh, head of the Tehran city council's clean air office, said life in the city amounted to "mass suicide."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • CIA Gets Go-Ahead to Take on Hizbullah - Toby Harnden
    The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has been authorized to take covert action against Hizbullah as part of a secret plan by President George W. Bush to help the Lebanese government prevent the spread of Iranian influence. The finding was signed by Bush before Christmas after discussions between his aides and Saudi Arabian officials. It authorizes the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies to fund anti-Hizbullah groups in Lebanon and pay for activists who support the Siniora government. The secrecy of the finding means that U.S. involvement is officially deniable.
        Bush's move is at the center of a fresh drive by America, supported by the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, as well as Israel, to stop Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. "There's a feeling both in Jerusalem and in Riyadh that the anti-Sunni tilt in the region has gone too far," said an intelligence source. "By removing Saddam, we've shifted things in favor of the Shia and this is a counter-balancing exercise." (Telegraph-UK)
  • Bush: U.S. Facing "The Decisive Ideological Struggle of Our Time" in Middle East
    In a televised address Wednesday, President Bush said: "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States. The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities."
        "Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
        "The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region." (White House)
  • Prosecutor: U.S. Student Was Hamas Terrorist Leader - Mike Robinson
    Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, who was a graduate student at the University of Mississippi in the early 1990s, was an important Hamas terrorist leader directing thousands of dollars to families of members who were jailed or killed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Ferguson said Tuesday in closing arguments at the trial of two accused militants. "He's Hamas, and he's assisting the murderous terrorist activities of Hamas," Ferguson told jurors. "We're talking about someone who is a graduate student...and you see hundreds of thousands of dollars coursing through his accounts," Ferguson said. Federal agents found that Ashqar spoke 568 times by phone with Mousa Abu Marzook, a top Hamas leader believed to be living in Syria. (AP/FOX News)
  • Gaza Preacher Criticizes Hamas and Is Slain Moments Later - Ibrahim Barzak
    Assailants gunned down Muslim preacher Adel Nasar, known for his anti-Hamas views, moments after he exited a mosque last Friday where he delivered a sermon criticizing the Islamic group's role in a wave of Palestinian violence. (AP/Boston Globe)
        See also Photo Essay: Fatah vs. Hamas in the Palestinian Territories (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Chinese PM "Surprisingly Positive" on Iran Nuclear Issue - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged from his meeting Wednesday in Beijing with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao saying that he heard things from his Chinese counterpart regarding the Iranian nuclear issue "that were surprising - surprisingly positive and unexpected." Diplomatic officials said that in private contacts between Israeli and Chinese diplomats recently, the Chinese have emphasized their opposition to the Iranian nuclear program and have reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate with attempts to stop it.
        While China is heavily dependent on Iran for oil, importing roughly 300,000 barrels of Iranian crude a day, that dependence is not as great today as it was a year ago. In January 2006, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah reportedly told the Chinese leadership that Saudi Arabia would make up for any oil shortfall that might arise were the Iranians to cut back oil to China as punishment for sanctions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Denies It Would Consider Recognizing Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas denied Wednesday that its Damascus-based political chief Khaled Mashaal said in a Reuters interview that his group would consider recognizing Israel once a Palestinian state is established. Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said Mashaal said, "Israel exists - and that's a fact." However, Hamad maintained that Mashaal did not say anything about recognizing Israel. "There was no change in our stance that Hamas does not recognize Israel," he said. (Ha'aretz)
  • First Arab Israeli Minister Named - Attila Somfalvi
    MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) has been appointed Minister of Science, Technology, Culture, and Sports, the first Arab to be appointed a minister in Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Case Against Talks with Syria - Ehud Yaari
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is apparently proposing peace talks with Israel for a simple reason: He is afraid of the international court that is supposed to be set up in the next few months to try the suspects in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and other political assassinations in Beirut. The Syrians well know that the UN investigating committee headed by Serge Brammertz is taking its time because it already has enough evidence in hand for indictments against senior figures in Syria, including some who are members of the Assad family itself, or at least very close to it.
        Basically, Assad is asking Israel to cover for him and his crimes, and for Syria and Hizbullah to be allowed to behead the Lebanese government with Israel's silent acquiescence. All this without a hint of a guarantee that Assad is genuinely prepared to cut his alliance with Iran and Hizbullah and turn instead to the moderate Arab Sunni camp that sees Israel as a partner against the extremists. Would it not be better to continue insisting that Syria first shows some proof that it is serious, for example by reining in Hamas and Hizbullah, instead of handing Assad an open check? (Jerusalem Report/Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Maybe Israel Should Bust Iran's Bunkers - Zev Chafets
    Israel is certainly thinking about how to stop Tehran from getting its hands on nukes. And why wouldn't it? Given the evident failure of American diplomacy and UN sanctions, Israel has two basic choices. It can sit and wait, hoping the Iranians do not drop a bomb on Tel Aviv; or it can preemptively attack, hoping to destroy, or at least retard, the Iranians' nuclear capacity. Israel is a small, crowded country with a very poor civil defense infrastructure and a population traumatized by its own recent history. Perhaps the Iranian government doubts that the Holocaust happened, but there are 6 million Israeli Jews who don't doubt it.
        There are some who believe that it is in Israel's interest for the U.S. to solve this problem. But they are mistaken. The truth is, the U.S. is not directly menaced by Iranian weapons. When President Bush says an Iranian bomb would threaten U.S. friends and interests in the region, he is speaking primarily about Israel. The Iranians frighten a lot of Sunni Arab countries, but they pose an existential threat only to the Jewish state. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    Ending Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Won't Resolve Other Mideast Problems - Youssef Ibrahim (New York Sun)

    • Some claim that settling the 100-year-old dispute between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs is a sine qua non to resolving other Middle East catastrophes, but the whole argument is a red herring from start to finish.
    • The catastrophes in the Middle East lie in five areas:
      • Internecine conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and among Palestinian Arabs;
      • Absence of representative governments for 350 million Arabs;
      • Uneven distribution of wealth and corruption;
      • Widespread illiteracy, poverty, and illness;
      • Disenfranchisement of women.
    • Why does resolving any of these depend on good will in the Palestinian Arab areas?
    • Another canard is that the Palestinian Arabs themselves are ready for anything in the way of peace. Yet Palestinian Arabs are gearing up for a civil war of their own. Should Israel unilaterally leave much of the West Bank, the follow-up will be a Palestinian Arab blood bath.
    • Gaza, evacuated by Israeli troops more than a year ago, stands as a vivid example - a mess of armed factions, extortion, corruption, and Islamic fundamentalism. Palestinian Arabs need rule of law before a settlement with Israel.

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