Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 2, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Hikers' Killer Was from PA Security Force - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The terrorists who gunned down David Rubin and Ahikam Amihai, who were hiking near Hebron on Friday, are both PA workers, and one is a member of the PA security forces, the Israel Security Agency revealed Tuesday.
    Ali Dandis, 24, a Fatah operative, worked as a clerk at the Sharia courts in Hebron, while Amar Taha, 26, was a member of the PA National Security Force.
    Security officials said the attack was premeditated and that the terrorists' goal had been to kill the hikers and steal their weapons.
    Last month, Ido Zoldan was gunned down in the West Bank by Palestinian terrorists who turned out to be members of the PA security forces.
    See also Israeli Minister: PA Will Be Tested in Punishment It Gives Attackers (Jerusalem Post)

Suspicious Powder Sent to Embassies in Australia (Reuters)
    Australian police on Wednesday launched a criminal investigation after the embassies of Israel, the U.S., and Britain were sent packages containing white powder.
    Staff from the U.S. and Israeli embassies were evacuated. Police later said the powder at the Israeli mission was harmless.

"Sudden Jihad Syndrome" Poses U.S. Risk - Sara A. Carter (Washington Times)
    Sympathy for al-Qaeda has produced "sudden jihad syndrome" in domestic terror cells unaffiliated with foreign terrorists and people seeking to carry out attacks in the U.S., a law-enforcement intelligence analysis says.
    The Dec. 6 report by the Texas Public Safety Department's Bureau of Information Analysis warns officials not to dismiss homegrown terror cells as "wannabes," saying they pose a credible threat to homeland security.

Israeli Druze Commando Dies in Training Accident (JTA)
    The first Druze member of Israel's Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Sgt. Tami Nabuani, 19, fell to his death from a cliff Tuesday during a navigation exercise.
    His family and friends only found out the identify of his unit after his death.

Kinneret at Lowest Level in Five Years - Ehud Zion Waldoks (Jerusalem Post)
    The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel's main source of drinking water, has reached its lowest level in five years, the Water Authority announced Monday.

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  • Gaza Tallies Casualties after Hamas-Fatah Clashes - Taghreed El-Khodary and Isabel Kershner
    Seven Palestinians were killed and 40 wounded in clashes between Hamas and Fatah gunmen Monday and Tuesday, said Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of the emergency medical service in Gaza. He said 25 had been wounded by gunfire, and the rest had been beaten. Wael Abu Najja, the son of Ibrahim Abu Najja, a Fatah leader in Gaza, accused Hamas of abducting his father on Monday and of shaving his head and mustache to humiliate him before releasing him. (New York Times)
  • Iran's Khatami Returns from the Shadows
    Former president Mohammad Khatami, who embodied hopes for Iranian reform in the late 1990s, has launched a series of bitter attacks on President Ahmadinejad's economic policies. He is underpinning a moderate coalition aiming to challenge conservative dominance of parliament in March 14 legislative elections. Khatami, president from 1997-2005, has also questioned the role of the hardline Guardians Council in screening election candidates. "What right do we have to decide in place of the electorate and prevent the candidacy of people who have the confidence of the people only because six or twelve people do not approve them?" he asked at Teheran University. (AFP)
  • Gunmen Kill U.S. Official in Sudan - Carolyn Thompson
    John Granville, 33, a USAID official, and his driver were shot to death in the Sudanese capital Tuesday when another vehicle intercepted his car and gunmen opened fire. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Signals It Would Agree to a Lull in Fighting with Israel - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern
    Hamas has signaled to Israel, through various interlocutors, that it would agree to a tahdiye (lull) in the fighting in Gaza, even though there is still no agreement within the radical Islamist group about such an option. Hamas is trying to reach agreement with other radical groups in Gaza to halt rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. A source close to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said, "the tahdiye must include an opening of the border crossings for the passage of goods and people, and the lifting of the economic embargo on Gaza." He explained that "a tahdiye is different from a hudna (cease-fire). The meaning is that a tahdiye will be of short duration, only a few months, and not a hudna which may be a temporary solution, but can be the start of a longer diplomatic framework." (Ha'aretz)
  • Some Gazans Return from Egypt via Israel - Yoav Stern and Avi Issacharoff
    Several hundred Palestinians who have been stranded in Sinai for months returned to Gaza Tuesday. According to Egyptian officials, the Palestinians were first taken to the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, where their travel documents were checked. Then they were taken to the Kerem Shalom checkpoint between Egypt and Israel, where Israeli officials checked their documents. They were then bused through Israel to the Erez checkpoint, where they entered Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Official: Egypt Has Been Working Against Us Diplomatically for Years - Herb Keinon
    Egypt has worked to thwart Israel diplomatically in various international forums for years, so Egyptian Foreign Minister Gheit's recent threat to turn up the diplomatic heat on Israel is nothing new, Israeli officials said Tuesday. Egypt's foreign minister warned that Cairo would "retaliate" diplomatically against Israel if its complaints against Egyptian inaction on arms smuggling into Gaza hurt U.S.-Egyptian ties. According to one official, Egypt originally led the bloc of countries at the UN General Assembly last month that tried to prevent Israel's resolution on the transfer of agricultural technologies from being accepted. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire Rockets at Sderot
    Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot. Army Radio reported that one of the rockets hit inside a residential area while the other landed outside the town. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Cease-Fire with Hamas in Gaza Is No Solution - Ely Karmon
    Israel's acceptance of a cease-fire would constitute a strategic victory for Hamas and its allies. Hamas would quickly receive international legitimacy, establish its economic and political control through the generous assistance of the international community, and be able to develop a deterrent military capability vis-a-vis Israel through massive arms smuggling across the Egyptian border. In a year or two, an extremist state, allied with Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, will emerge on Israel's southern border, with a good chance of taking over the West Bank and affecting the stability of Jordan, Egypt, and possibly also the Islamic movement in Israel.
        Israel must keep up its effort against a strengthening of Hamas in Gaza. Only by bolstering the moderates in the Palestinian leadership and population in the West Bank, while politically and socially weakening Hamas in Gaza, will it be possible, perhaps, for fissures to occur in the Islamic movement and for a joint struggle with the Fatah moderates and the pragmatic leaders among Hamas against the radicals in control in Gaza. The writer is a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Inter-Disciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why America Is in the Gulf - Walter Russell Mead
    For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global power - with help from allies and other parties - maintains the security of world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in an orderly way. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India do not need to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War.
        Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran's drive for power in the Gulf. Israel, a country which has its own reasons for opposing Iran, remains an important component in the American strategy. American opposition to Iran's nuclear program not only reflects concerns about Israeli security and the possibility that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to project conventional forces into the Gulf. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Wall Street Journal)

    Correction: Islamist Groups in Lebanon by Gary C. Gambill appeared in the MERIA Journal published by the Gloria Center at IDC Herzliya. The title above includes a corrected link.

  • Observations:

    After Annapolis: What Chance for Agreement with Abbas and the PLO? - Efraim Karsh (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • In reality, there is no fundamental difference between the ultimate goals of Hamas and the PLO vis-a-vis Israel: Neither accepts the Jewish state's right to exist and both are committed to its eventual destruction. The only difference between the two groups lies in their preferred strategies for the attainment of this goal.
    • Whereas Hamas concentrates exclusively on "armed struggle," the PLO has adopted since the early 1990s a more subtle strategy, combining intricate political and diplomatic maneuvering with sustained terror attacks. In the candid words of Farouq Qaddoumi, the PLO's perpetual foreign minister: "We were never different from Hamas. Hamas is a national movement. Strategically, there is no difference between us."
    • Such attitudes are commonplace among supposed moderates, notably Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Arafat's successor and perhaps the foremost symbol of supposed Palestinian moderation. For all their drastically different personalities and political style, Arafat and Abu Mazen are warp and woof of the same fabric: dogmatic PLO veterans who have never eschewed their commitment to Israel's destruction and who have viewed the "peace process" as the continuation of their lifetime war by other means.
    • By categorically refusing to recognize Israel's Jewishness, the Palestinian leadership has effectively rejected the two-state solution, based, in the words of the UN partition resolution of November 29, 1947, on the creation of "independent Arab and Jewish States" in Palestine.
    • In his Annapolis address, Abbas insisted that "the plight of Palestinian refugees...must be accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." Yet Resolution 194 (passed on December 11, 1948) puts the return of Palestinian refugees on a par with the "resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees" in other countries; indeed, that provision made the resolution anathema to the Arab states, which opposed it vehemently and voted unanimously against it because the measure was seen, correctly, as establishing no absolute "right of return."
    • To deny the depth of the PLO's commitment to Israel's destruction is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased through Israeli concessions is to play into its hands. Only when Palestinians reconcile themselves to the existence of the Jewish state and eschew their genocidal hopes will the inhabitants of the Holy Land, and the rest of the world, be able to look forward to a future less burdened by Arafats and their gory dreams.

      Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, and author, most recently, of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).

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