Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 14, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda's Hand In Istanbul Plot, Turks Met with Bin Laden - Karl Vick (Washington Post)
    About a week before Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden met in the Afghan city of Kandahar with guests from Turkey who had arrived with a plan for a spectacular terrorist strike.
    Al-Qaeda's military commander gave the visitors $10,000 in cash and crucial words of guidance.
    So began a plot that ended in November 2003 with the staggered detonation of four powerful truck bombs in Istanbul, which killed 58 people and wounded 750.
    The continuing trial of about 70 defendants in Istanbul provides a rare, fine-grained look at the inner workings of a terrorist bomb plot.
    Al-Qaeda operative Louai Sakka, a Syrian, delivered $100,000 to the conspirators.

Car Bomb Explodes Next to Revolutionary Guards Bus in Iran, Kills 18 (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Eighteen people were killed on Wednesday when a bomb exploded next to a bus owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Zahedan in southeast Iran, where security forces and armed groups often clash, Iran's IRNA news agency said.

Sectarian Tensions Boil Over into Syria - Rania Abouzeid (Christian Science Monitor)
    For more than four decades, Syria has been a fiercely secular state. Its majority-Sunni population is ruled by a minority Shiite sect, the Alawites.
    But the country's majority Sunni population now views Syria's deepening relationship to Shiite Iran with creeping suspicion.
    "Syrians are speaking of Shiitization," says Redwan Ziade, a political analyst and human rights activist in Damascus.
    Whisperings of new Iranian-funded Shiite religious institutions abound, as do rumors that Iran is offering cash and other incentives to persuade Sunnis to convert.
    Regardless of whether the rumors are true, the Syrian state is working to allay concerns among Sunnis.

Palestinian Molotov Cocktail Hits Palestinian Vehicle (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians hurled a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli vehicle near Hirbet a-Dir, south of Bethlehem, Tuesday night - and hit a Palestinian vehicle instead, wounding one of the passengers.
    The wounded man received first aid from IDF soldiers at the scene.

Standard & Poor's Upgrades Israel's Credit Rating - Adi Ben Israel (Globes)
    International rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) has upgraded its outlook for Israel's credit rating from "Stable" to "Positive," in light of the Israeli economy's resilience in the face of external shocks.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Running into Trouble Selling Unity Deal - Wafa Amr
    Mahmoud Abbas is having trouble persuading Western powers to lift sanctions on a unity government with Hamas that does not fully meet their demands, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday. They said Western policymakers generally feel the deal did not go far enough toward recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting interim peace deals as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East mediators. Western diplomats said the Quartet was unlikely to make any major decisions on lifting sanctions until the unity government takes office and begins implementing its policies, a process that could take weeks. "There is a consensus that no decision will be taken too quickly," said a Western diplomat involved in the deliberations. (Reuters)
  • Palestinian PM: Unity Issues Unresolved - Diaa Hadid
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas warned that key issues remain unresolved despite the Mecca agreement over a unity government, especially the matter of control over the disparate armed forces. Those issues could still cause the deal to unravel. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also PA Fires "Mutinous" Security Officers - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PA has fired hundreds of security officers who refused to participate in the recent fighting against Hamas in Gaza. According to officials, the officers are suspected of sympathizing with Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees. "If they want to work with Hamas and other groups, they should not stay in the Palestinian security forces," the officials said. At least 150 officers belonged to Abbas' Presidential Guard. In a related development, Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas' Executive Force, announced that Hamas was opposed to any attempt to incorporate the force into the PA security services. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Too Late to Halt Iran's N-Bomb, EU Is Told - Daniel Dombey and Fidelius Schmid
    Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, says a document compiled by the staff of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The document says Iran's atomic program has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. "The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone," it concludes. The EU document is embarrassing for advocates of negotiations with Iran. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Text of EU Report on Iran (Financial Times-UK)
  • West Adds to Strains on Iran's Lifeline - Jad Mouawad
    Western political and economic pressure on Iran over its nuclear program has chilled foreign investment to the extent that it is now squeezing the country's long-fragile energy industry, adding strains to a government that is burdened by sanctions and wary of unrest at home. To curb demand, which has been driven in part by subsidies that keep the domestic pump price at a mere 35 cents a gallon, the government plans to begin rationing gasoline in March, a measure so unpopular, and potentially explosive, that rationing plans have been put off several times in the past.
        In recent weeks, senior American officials warned several European oil companies that if they invested in new energy projects, they risked financial sanctions in the U.S. Foreign investors have been scarce since the 1979 revolution, and the country's oil industry has now suffered decades of economic, political and technical problems. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • EU Warns Palestinians Over Terror - Yitzhak Benhorin
    The European Union reissued calls for the unconditional cessation of violence and terror by Palestinian groups against Israel, German Ambassador to the UN Thomas Matussek said Tuesday in a speech to the Security Council. The EU condemned the terror attack in Eilat and urged the Palestinian leadership to do everything to stop terrorism and bring those responsible for terror attacks to justice. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed in an Israeli locality just north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening, damaging several hothouses. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Peace Agreement Between Hamas and Fatah - Editorial
    The Mecca agreement disappointed the hopes of the international community by failing to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, renounce violence against it or do more than promise "respect" for previous peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Is it any surprise the deal drew praise from Islamic Jihad?
        Being that Hamas leader Khaled Meshal lives not in Gaza or the West Bank but in Syria, where Hamas is based, the notion of "self government" in Gaza takes a big hit. And his residence in Damascus only underscores the destructive role of Syria and Iran, a major backer of Hamas. (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Peace, Hamas-Style - Editorial
    The Palestinians have demonstrated the ability to manage their own state affairs by demolishing that state block by block, blowing one another to smithereens, taking boastful pride in positioning themselves as international pariahs, and blindly raining down unrelenting misery and woe upon thousands of their own people. But without calm in Gaza and without a facsimile of a functioning government, Israel, the U.S., and all other right-thinking, civilized parties will forever waste time and energy, spinning their wheels in search of peace in the Mideast.
        The Mecca accord says not one word about what the signatories know full well they must say if the crippling economic embargoes against the murderous Hamas regime are to be lifted. Which is that Israel's right to exist must be recognized and that terrorism must be dismantled. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, tapped by Mahmoud Abbas to form the new government, days ago visited his friends in Iran and restated Hamas' worldview that Israel must be annihilated ASAP. (New York Daily News)
  • The Temple Mount Riots - Hillel Halkin
    The most depressing thing about the riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is how they have revealed once again the depths of paranoia that lurk in the Muslim mind: the Jews are secretly planning to raze the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build their Temple there instead. The Jews, needless to say, are planning nothing of the sort. The Temple Mount traditionally has been a powder keg for anti-Jewish riots, often whipped up by Friday sermons in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and rioters have frequently poured forth from it and stoned Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below. (New York Sun)
  • Iran's Obsession with the Jews: Denying the Holocaust, Desiring Another One - Matthias Kuntzel
    The Tehran Holocaust deniers' conference marks a turning point not only because of its state sponsorship, but also because of its purpose. Up until now, Holocaust deniers have wanted to revise the past. Today, they want to shape the future: to prepare the way for the next Holocaust. In his opening speech to the conference, the Iranian foreign minister, Manucher Mottaki, left no doubt on this point: If "the official version of the Holocaust is called into question," Mottaki said, then "the nature and identity of Israel" must also be called into question.
        If it should turn out, however, that the Holocaust did happen after all, Ahmadinejad explains that it would have been a result of European policies, and any homeland for the Jews would belong not in Palestine but in Europe. Either way, the result is the same: Israel must vanish. The writer is a Hamburg-based political scientist and a research associate at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    The Palestinians' Blind Eye to History - Michael Coren (National Post-Canada)

    • The Israel-Palestine conflict presented its contorted face to Canada with a steaming, hysterical anger last week. In Jerusalem a bus full of unsuspecting Canadian tourists was attacked by rock-wielding Palestinian youths.
    • Palestinians and their Muslim comrades in other countries have turned to violence. They complain that the Israelis are rebuilding a ramp that connects to the Temple Mount.
    • The last remaining icon of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Wailing Wall, is at the very epicenter of Judaism. The Israelites under King David conquered Jerusalem around 1000 BCE and rebuilt and expanded the city. David's son Solomon built the great Jewish Temple and it stood for half a millennium until destroyed by the Babylonians.
    • It was rebuilt and remained in place until the Roman defeat of the Jewish uprising in 70 CE. Muslim forces arrived, very much as latecomers, in 638 CE. Shortly afterwards, Caliph Umar asked the Christian Patriarch Sophronius to show him the exact spot of the Jewish Temple. It was here that the al-Aqsa Mosque would be built.
    • But according to the Palestinian leadership there was no Temple. This is the mythology driving the stone-wielding Palestinians. In spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, many in the Muslim world refuse to accept that the Jews have any historical claim to live in Israel and continue to deny that the Temple of Jewish, Christian and secular history ever existed.
    • In other words, the world is flat if it suits one's political purposes.

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