Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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New Worry Rises After Iran Claims Nuclear Steps - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
See also Iran Expanding, Reinforcing Atomic Sites - Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
See also Iran Raises Efforts to Obtain U.S. Arms Illegally - John Pomfret (Washington Post)
Israel Campus Beat
- April 16, 2006
Prospects for a Renewed Peace Process?
Ahmadinejad's Demons - Matthias Kuntzel (New Republic)
Iran Suicide Bombers "Ready to Hit Britain" - Marie Colvin, Michael Smith, and Sarah Baxter (Times-UK)
Passover Tourism to Israel Up 20% (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Tehran hosted a "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conference on April 14-16, the third time it has organized the conference. Through its activism on this issue, Iran is portraying itself as a committed leader - more Palestinian than the Arabs, and more Muslim than the Sunnis.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to Iran on March 9 as "a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions, like Lebanon, through Hizballah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian territories, and we have deep concern about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq." The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a "state sponsor" of terrorism since 1984, and it lists Hamas, Hizballah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as "terrorist organizations" backed by Iran. (Radio Free Europe)
See also Iran Leader: Israel Will Be Annihilated in One Storm - Tim Butcher
President Ahmadinejad of Iran appeared to threaten Israel with a nuclear attack on Friday when he described it as a "rotten, dried tree" that would be annihilated by "one storm." In his most vitriolic and anti-Semitic attack to date at the opening of a conference in Tehran to support the Palestinian cause, Ahmadinejad warned that Israel faced imminent destruction. (Telegraph-UK)
See also Hamas Leader Mashaal: We'll Never Recognize Israel - Roee Nahmias
Speaking in Tehran, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal warned Saturday that "the Palestinians will never recognize Israel." Mashaal also congratulated the Iranian people on the progress in their nuclear ambitions. (Ynet News)
See also Iran to Give PA $50 Million
Iran will give the PA $50 million in aid, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki announced Sunday. (AP/Washington Post)
The U.S. government barred Americans from doing most business with the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, officials said Friday. The U.S. Treasury Department said, "transactions with the Palestinian Authority by U.S. persons are prohibited, unless licensed," basing the decision on "existing terrorism sanctions." (AP/Washington Post)
See also Aid Workers Fear America Now Sees Them as Terrorists - Tim Butcher
America's decision to outlaw contact between its officials and the Palestinian government because it is run by Hamas, a terrorist group in Washington's eyes, has alarmed the aid community. Aid workers are worried that if they carry on working in the territories they will be in breach of strict U.S. laws that make it a crime to provide "material support" for known terrorist groups. Many of the aid workers fear arrest by U.S. authorities and even the sequestration of funds held in American bank accounts. Many aid groups have cut back operations dramatically and a senior aid source said all major projects were now on hold. (Telegraph-UK)
Two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up on a Jerusalem boulevard where an American college student, Jason Kirschenbaum, was strolling one night in December 2001. The blast shattered his left arm and hammered chunks of metal into his leg. But at least, he says, it left him alive. Five months later, a suicide bomb blast hurled Gloria Kushner, a nurse, against a stand in an outdoor market, wrenching her spine. They are Americans who went to Israel and came home with enduring wounds after they were caught in attacks claimed by Hamas. They are among some 50 Americans - either survivors or relatives of people killed in attacks - who have filed multimillion dollar suits in federal court in Brooklyn against three prominent international banks, Arab Bank, NatWest, and Credit Lyonnais.
The first was filed in July 2004 against Arab Bank, based in Jordan, which with $27 billion in assets is a leading financial institution in the Middle East. It is accused of moving money from the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds, a private charity in Saudi Arabia, to Hamas front organizations. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A Kassam rocket launched by Palestinians in Gaza landed near the dining hall in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai south of Ashkelon on Friday while it was crowded with kibbutz members having Sabbath dinner with guests. Damage was caused to the building. Palestinian sources reported that Islamic Jihad was behind the strike. (Ynet News)
The Hamas leadership is in a panic. Just two weeks have elapsed since the government headed by Ismail Haniyeh was sworn in and it appears helpless. Embittered cops rampaged Saturday through the streets of Khan Yunis, commandeered parliament offices, and blocked traffic. Associates of PA chairman Abbas have estimated that the Hamas government will fall within a matter of weeks or months. The question is what will take its place? (Ha'aretz)
See also Rallying Around Hamas - Danny Rubinstein
A few of the Arab states pay lip service to Hamas in the form of empty declarations of support, but everyone knows that they, too, want to bring down this government because its success would send a clear message of encouragement to the Islamic opposition in all Arab states.
The Hamas government may fall, but that will not greatly harm the Hamas movement. Just the opposite. It will increase support for the movement among Palestinians. The only candidates for replacing the Hamas government are the Fatah activists, but the clear impression in the territories today is that the public will not let them do so. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Had the Palestinians possessed a better understanding of "democracy," they would realize that the world, led by the U.S. and Europe, has very much "respected" the Palestinian people's choice - and is now acting accordingly. Hamas leaders are members of an organization committed to the destruction of another country, and have refused to clearly declare they would recognize Israel and put an end to terror attacks. Add to that the Palestinians' poor track record when it comes to diverting aid money to "other purposes" ("Suha Arafat's millions," anyone?), and it appears a tougher international approach is an obvious necessity.
Indeed, the world has fully "respected and recognized" Hamas' election victory as a legitimate democratic triumph - and has changed its policies in a way that reflects an intimate familiarity with Hamas' nature. Being led by a terror organization is not bound to arouse favorable response abroad in the post-September 11 world, a bitter fact the PA is discovering all too well these days. (Ynet News)
Does the U.S. have a war plan for stopping Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons? The diplomatic effort directed at Iran would be mightily enhanced if that country understood that the U.S. is so serious about deterring the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons that it would be willing to go to war to stop that quest from reaching fruition. Iran needs to understand that the U.S. isn't hamstrung by a lack of options. It needs to realize that it can't just stonewall and evade its international obligations, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes that it will "win" merely because war is messy.
Iran controls the two basic triggers that could set off U.S. military action. The first would be its acquisition of nuclear capability in defiance of the international community. The second trigger would be Iran's lashing out militarily (or through proxy terrorism) at the U.S. or its allies, or closing the Strait of Hormuz to international oil traffic. (Washington Post)
Last Monday, just before he announced that Iran had gatecrashed "the nuclear club," President Ahmadinejad disappeared for several hours. He was having a khalvat (tete-a-tete) with the Hidden Imam, the 12th and last of the imams of Shiism who went into "grand occultation" in 941. Last year, after another khalvat, Ahmadinejad announced his intention to stand for president. Now, he boasts that the Imam gave him the presidency to provoke a "clash of civilizations" in which the Muslim world, led by Iran, takes on the "infidel" West, led by the U.S., and defeats it in a prolonged contest that sounds like a low intensity, asymmetrical war.
While Bush is determined to create a Middle East that is democratic and pro-Western, Ahmadinejad is equally determined that the region should remain pro-Iranian. Ahmadinejad has reactivated Iran's network of Shia organizations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Yemen, while resuming contact with Sunni fundamentalist groups in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco. The Imam's return will coincide with an apocalyptic battle between the forces of evil and righteousness, with evil ultimately routed. If the infidel loses its nuclear advantage, it could be worn down in a long, low-intensity war at the end of which surrender to Islam would appear the least bad of options. And that could be a signal for the Imam to reappear. The writer is a former executive editor of Kayhan, Iran's largest daily newspaper. (Telegraph-UK)
Zero Tolerance - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
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