Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
IDF Military Intelligence: Iran Could Have Nuke by 2009 - Mark Weiss and Sheera Claire Frenkel (Jerusalem Post)
Thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem Apply for Israeli Citizenship - Ronny Shaked (Ynet News)
Peace Index: Israelis Unenthused by Annapolis - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann (Ha'aretz)
Birthrate Up for Jews, Down for Muslims - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Speaking in Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal warned Mahmoud Abbas on Monday against making concessions to Israel at a proposed peace conference sponsored by the U.S. "No Palestinian is authorized to offer concessions. With Palestinian divisions and the absence of institutions, no one has the right to conduct negotiations as they please," Meshaal said. "I tell my brothers in Ramallah. Your game is dangerous. Don't gamble with your political future. The Palestinian people won't accept negotiating on the core of the Palestinian cause." (Reuters)
The head of the Iranian opposition group in exile that supplied early intelligence on Iran's clandestine nuclear program says President Ahmadinejad has engineered a clever disinformation campaign to convince foreign experts that Iran is 8-10 years away from developing a nuclear bomb. But in fact, she says, the regime is less than two years away from producing such a weapon, as part of its plan to "create an Iranian empire" in the Middle East. Maryam Rajavi, who heads the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told me that Ahmadinejad has purged between 40 and 50 senior military officers who are in disagreement with his plans.
Rajavi praised the Bush administration for its recent branding of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. The U.S. government's action against it, she says, is a "clear testament and an indispensable prelude to democratic change in Iran." (Christian Science Monitor)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday told the Central Council of Jews in Germany she felt a moral duty to protect Israel and would stand firm in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions and its threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map. "It means intervening to protect the safety of Israel today and in the future." "I believe that in the face of the threat Iran's nuclear program poses to Israel, our responsibility must be more than empty words. These words must be backed up by deeds. My government will follow its words with action....Part of this process is a readiness on the part of Germany to agree to wider, stricter sanctions if Iran does not comply" with the demands of the international community to halt sensitive nuclear work. (AFP)
Israeli UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman told the UN's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) Tuesday that the moral bankruptcy and numerous shortcomings of the dysfunctional Commission on Human Rights continued in the new Human Rights Council. He said real burning situations were not reflected in Council deliberations, which focused primarily on Israel, subjecting it to three special sessions and 12 discriminatory resolutions. He accused the new organ of being blind to the human rights of Israelis and asked where its condemnation was of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Moreover, he questioned what had been done in response to calls by Iranian President Ahmadinejad for Israel's destruction and for his denial of the Holocaust. Israel was not asking for special treatment, but, like all other states, it should be subject to review and constructive criticism on a fair and impartial basis. (ReliefWeb-UN)
See also Statement on the UN Human Rights Council - Ambassador Dan Gillerman (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reportedly views the Annapolis conference as the last opportunity to resuscitate the peace process. If he steps down in the wake of a failure of the talks, without a successor acceptable to Fatah, Abbas' departure would increase Hamas influence. According to Military Intelligence, Abbas' inner circle is cut off from the Fatah rank and file, and has difficulty exerting its authority over the various military wings of Fatah (the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the various West Bank cities) and its political activists. This lack of full control at the grass-roots level might make it difficult for the PA to fulfill its obligations as part of a diplomatic process. As Ha'aretz reported a few weeks ago, Military Intelligence believes the chances for success at Annapolis are "close to nil." (Ha'aretz)
Israel will not grant the Palestinians a direct territorial passage between the two parts of the Palestinian Authority, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. The passage between Gaza and the West Bank - which may be worked out in the framework of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians - will remain under Israeli control and will either run underground or through bridges, Barak said. (Ha'aretz)
See also Linking the Gaza Strip with the West Bank: Implications of a Palestinian Corridor Across Israel - Justus Reid Weiner and Diane Morrison (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that landed in Sderot Tuesday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
For the past year, Mohamed ElBaradei has been running an independent foreign policy from his IAEA perch. In August, he announced a nuclear agreement he had reached with Iran's mullahs, without consulting his political superiors at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even the Europeans protested that one. ElBaradei has coasted on the IAEA's reputation as the authoritative source of information on the world's nuclear secrets. Yet this is the same agency that was taken by surprise by nuclear projects in Libya, North Korea and Iraq in the 1980s. And now in Syria, which in September was voted co-chair of the IAEA's General Conference.
All this is reason enough for the U.S., Israel and any other country serious about stopping nuclear proliferation to refuse ElBaradei's not-so-good diplomatic offices. (Wall Street Journal)
In the New York Times, Steven Erlanger reports that Gaza faces another sewage disaster similar to the one last March in Um Al Nasser, in which five people died. He quotes an Israeli official, Shlomo Dror, as saying that the lagoon broke last March because "people were stealing the sand." As the Age (Australia) reported last spring: "Gaza City Mayor Majid Abu Ramadan... accused local residents of stealing the sand and selling it to building companies for 300 shekels a truckload."
The Palestinian Jerusalem Times reported on Gaza municipality health warnings about sand thieves back on June 18, 2004: "The Municipality of Gaza recently warned local, international and environmental media from the expected collapse and destruction of...the sewage treatment water tank [that] will convert Gaza province into a catastrophic area....The municipality's representatives said that some vandals were able to remove the sand surrounding these huge establishments for commercial use."
Erlanger reports in great detail about the shortage of steel pipes due to Israeli restrictions, minimizing Israeli security concerns about their use in making rockets. But as the Jerusalem Post reported last spring: "On February 9, the Shin Bet arrested Amar Azk, 37 [a metal merchant in Gaza]. During his interrogation, he confessed selling the pipes to Hamas and other terrorist organizations that manufactured Kassam rockets, fired almost daily at Israel....The pipes that were sold to Zak were intended for the construction of a sewage system in Gaza." (CAMERA)
See also Gaza's Reflection in a Foul Threat - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
See also IDF Helps Expedite Gaza Sewage Plant - Yaakov Katz
Ahead of the winter and fearing that sewage cesspools in Gaza could once again spill over and flood nearby villages, the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) has stepped up efforts to enable the Palestinians to complete the construction of a new $60 million sewage plant south of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. The IDF has tracked down non-metal pipes that can be used without fear of their going toward Kassam rocket production, as metal pipes imported into Gaza have in the past. In addition, the IDF has allowed the Palestinian water authority officials to work alongside the border fence, even though construction has been used in the past as a cover for launching rockets and attacks against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Prepares for Annapolis (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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