Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 17, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Says U.S. Report a "Declaration of Surrender" (Reuters)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad said on Sunday the publication of a U.S. intelligence report saying Iran had halted a nuclear weapons program in 2003 amounted to a "declaration of surrender" by Washington in its row with Tehran.

Israel Officials in U.S. to Discuss Iran - Amy Teibel (AP/Washington Post)
    Israeli intelligence officials are in the U.S. trying to convince the Bush administration that Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapons - contrary to the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence report, security officials said.
    On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Barak said Israel was in contact with the U.S. on the report, "to try to better understand its intelligence content, and to examine the public and political implications."
    Israeli intelligence experts have concluded that Iran did in fact suspend its atomic weapons development in 2003, after the U.S. invaded Iraq.
    But Israel is convinced the Iranians set up a new production line whose details aren't known fully to Western intelligence agencies.
    See also U.S.-Israeli Dialogue on Iran's Nuclear Program - Chuck Freilich (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Guilty Pleas in Terror Plot Against Southern California Jewish Targets - Gillian Flaccus (AP/Newsweek)
    A California prison gang cell of radical Muslims was planning attacks on military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate, and El Al airline facilities in the Los Angeles area in 2005.
    Two members of the group, Kevin James, 31, and Levar Haley Washington, 28, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to wage war against the U.S.
    Members of the group also did Internet research on Jewish holidays.

Palestinian Children on Hamas TV: "We Will Wipe Out the People of Zion and Will Not Leave a Single One" (MEMRI-TV)
    Excerpts from a children's show on Hamas Al-Aqsa TV aired on Dec. 3, 2007:
    Boy: Let me tell you how the Al-Aqsa Mosque will be returned, how we shall rescue it from the shackles of the occupation, from the shackles of the Zionist entity. Will it be through conferences? No, not through conferences, but by means of force.
    Girl: To Al-Aqsa, to Al-Aqsa - we shall unite our ranks. We will wipe out the people of Zion, and will not leave a single one of them.

Palestinian Militants in Nablus Halting Attacks Against Israel (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Abu Ghazalah, head of the "Knights of the Night" in Nablus in the West Bank, said Sunday that he is calling off attacks on Israel and taking his group underground, after Israel refused to grant his gang amnesty.
    Of the 45 armed men in his cell, 25 have been killed by Israeli security forces over the past three years. Abu Ghazalah said the rest would leave the Old City of Nablus.
    Abdullah Kumeil, head of PA intelligence in Nablus, said, "They were the last group of Al Aqsa Brigades members in Nablus."
    In recent weeks, Palestinian security forces have deployed in Nablus as a test case to determine to what extent Abbas' forces can control the West Bank.

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  • Rice: Hamas to Blame for Gaza Conditions - Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Rice said Sunday militant Palestinians, not Israel, are to blame for deteriorating conditions in Gaza. "The responsibility for what is happening in Gaza should be put directly on the shoulders of Hamas," Rice said as she flew to Paris for a gathering of world donors to the Palestinians. "It is the policies of Hamas that have led to its own isolation and by implication Gaza as well," Rice said. "Of course we're very concerned, but let's put the blame where it should be, and that's on Hamas," she added. (AP)
  • World Powers Gather in Paris to Bankroll Palestinian State
    Major powers and key donors meet in Paris Monday for a one-day conference aimed at raising billions of dollars to help the emergence of a viable Palestinian state and give political impetus to the newly-relaunched peace process with Israel. The Middle East Quartet is expected to meet on the sidelines of the conference. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Saudis' $1.4B Support for Palestinians in Doubt - Donald Macintyre
    Saudi Arabia has so far refused to commit to budget support for the emergency government set up by Mahmoud Abbas, in a political move casting a shadow over Monday's international donors' conference in Paris. One key reason may be Saudi Arabia's reluctance to be seen throwing its weight behind one of the two parties to the coalition deal which it brokered and which then collapsed in Hamas' seizure of Gaza in June. (Independent-UK)
        See also Israel: "Arabs Will Pay Little to PA" - Herb Keinon
    Arab states participating in Monday's donor conference in Paris are likely to pledge generously to the Palestinian Authority, but not pay much of their pledges, partly so as not to antagonize Hamas, Israeli diplomatic officials said Sunday. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who arrived in Paris Sunday for the conference, said: "The formula that needs to guide us is on the one hand that a Palestinian economy and the road to a Palestinian state is in Israel's interest, just as Israeli security needs to be a Palestinian interest." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Wounds 2-Year-Old on Israeli Kibbutz
    A rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza scored a direct hit on a house in Kibbutz Zikim, an Israeli communal farm less than a mile from Gaza, wounding a 2-year-old boy. The toddler was hit by shrapnel and taken to hospital, and his mother was being treated for shock, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. (AP/Washington Post)
        Yair Farjun, who leads the regional council which includes Kibbutz Zikim, told the Israeli Web site Ynet: "Everybody here is terrified. It's like being in a shooting range, like living on borrowed time." (New York Times)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Kibbutz Factory - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that slammed into a kibbutz factory near Gaza on Friday evening. The plant normally operates 24 hours a day, but fortunately was empty at the time. It destroyed equipment, but there were no casualties. Shrapnel was scattered throughout the coffee corner, where workers take their breaks. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 200,000 Gazans Rally in Support of Hamas - Steven Erlanger and Taghreed El-Khodary
    About 200,000 Gazans rallied in support of Hamas on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of its founding, in a significant show of force. It was easily as large as one a month ago for its rival, Fatah, on the anniversary of Arafat's death. Central Gaza City was filled with green flags, and a large banner reading "We will not recognize Israel" adorned the back of the stage. (New York Times)
        See also Hamas Vows Never to Recognize Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said that whoever declares he will never recognize Israel earns "the people's love." The crowd chanted: "We will never recognize Israel." In a fiery speech, Haniyeh cited the achievements of Hamas and "the resistance" throughout the region. He cited Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He also listed Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S.-led forces. Hamas parliament member Mushir al-Masri warned against a possible Israeli incursion into Gaza, saying that Hamas "has already begun to dig graves for the Jews." (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF General: "World Doesn't Appreciate Gravity of Iranian Nuclear Threat - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    The world does not yet appreciate the gravity of the Iranian nuclear threat, Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the IDF's incoming military attache to the U.S., said in an interview. Gantz said that despite the U.S. NIE report's findings, it was possible that Iran was continuing its development of nuclear weapons. "In a large country like Iran, in a culture like Iran, the ability to do things covertly is not something that seems so farfetched." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. May Help Egypt Build Barrier to Block Arms Smuggling to Gaza - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. is examining the possibility of helping Egypt build a physical barrier to foil the weapons-smuggling tunnels that run from Sinai to Gaza. A few weeks ago, Robert Danin of the State Department and Mark Kimmitt of the Defense Department went to Sinai to investigate Israel's claim that the Egyptians were not doing enough to stop weapons-smuggling into Gaza. In their report, the two proposed several possible solutions: give the Egyptians sophisticated tunnel-detection and demolition equipment; dig a deep canal the entire length of the Gaza-Egypt border, filled with water; create an obstacle comprised of piles driven deep into the earth. (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Observations: The Smuggling Tunnels - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
  • Study: West Bank Pollution Threatening Israeli Groundwater - Zafrir Rinat
    For several years now, a white river has run through the Hebron Hills with waste from a sawmill near Hebron, threatening the groundwater inside Israel and impeding attempts to rehabilitate Israel's rivers. Israel has tried to deal with the problem by collecting and purifying the waste at the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. But that is insufficient because much pollution enters the groundwater in the West Bank and spreads to Israel underground.
        The problem is documented in a two-year study conducted by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University and the Palestinian Water and Environmental Development Organization. The study found that the Basor River, which runs from near Hebron to Gaza, is now full of both municipal waste and toxins emitted by the stone- and leather-working industries around Hebron. It estimated that from 45 to 90% of the pollution seeps into the ground before the river reaches the Israeli treatment plant. While the Alexander River has improved substantially, the study said, it still is being polluted by municipal waste and the olive oil industries around Nablus and Tulkarm, and about half of the pollution on the Palestinian side seeps into the groundwater before reaching the "green line." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Syria's Remote Control - Editorial
    Wednesday's car bombing of Lebanese General Francois Hajj is something of a mystery because he was not an overt foe of Syria. Hajj made a name for himself earlier this year by routing Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni terrorist group that had been hiding out in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. This led to speculation that Hajj was killed by that group to avenge its defeat. While that may be true, what's more significant is that Fatah al-Islam is widely suspected of being controlled and aided by Damascus. The sophistication of the bomb that killed Hajj - a remote-control device similar to the one that killed anti-Syrian figures Gebran Tueni, Walid Eido and Antoine Ghanem - underscores that suspicion.
        On Tuesday, Syrian Vice President Farouq Sharaa remarked that "no one in Lebanon, even with foreign support, can win the battle against Syria." The next day Hajj was dead, which was a perfect illustration of Sharaa's point. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Strategic Significance of Har Homa - Lenny Ben-David
    Last month the Ministry of Housing issued a tender for the construction of some 300 apartment units in the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem. Immediately, Palestinian spokesmen screamed bloody murder and U.S. Secretary of State Rice joined the chorus and expressed her opposition.
        Seven years ago enemy snipers attacked southern Jerusalem. During the first two years of the second intifada, more than 400 shooting attacks were unleashed on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and its 40,000 residents from the nearby Arab town of Beit Jala. Ignoring the fact that the neighborhood consisted of major apartment complexes, schools and shopping centers, much of the world press condoned the attacks on the "Israeli settlement." The British press was quick to claim that Gilo was "illegal under international law."
        Har Homa, established in 1997, is another Jewish neighborhood on Jerusalem's southern flanks. With an estimated 6,000 residents, the suburb is a strategic impediment to Palestinian attempts to link up northern Bethlehem with Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem is ringed by neighborhoods built after 1967. They house about one-third of Jerusalem's burgeoning population, and they also serve to protect the city. The neighborhood of Ramot serves as a buffer to the north; Mount Scopus, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, and Sanhedria protect Jerusalem's east; and Gilo and Har Homa serve as a buffer to the south. The writer served as Israel's deputy chief of mission in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    The Smuggling Tunnels - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)

    • The U.S. administration's willingness to talk with the Egyptians about ideas for halting weapons smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border reflects Washington's belated recognition of the severity of the problem.
    • But the first solution to the problem must be substantive, not technical: As long as Cairo does not view the war on weapons smuggling as a genuine Egyptian interest, no real progress will occur.
    • The challenge is first and foremost an intelligence problem: Egyptian intelligence must identify the various links in the smuggling chain, which begins at the Sudanese border.
    • The problem is that Washington is already leaning toward accepting the Egyptians' claim that only by increasing their forces along the border (which would require amending the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979) can they contend with the threat.
    • But the U.S. has erred in its assessments of this part of the world before - from the border-crossings agreement that Secretary of State Rice forced on the parties in November 2005 (which was never fully implemented) to the exaggerated confidence that U.S. security coordinator Dayton demonstrated in Fatah's ability to fight Hamas in Gaza just six months ago.

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