Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 5, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: PA Infighting to Escalate - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
    The clashes in the Palestinian Authority will escalate, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) deputy chief Y. said during Sunday's cabinet meeting. "Each side is attempting to arm itself and is preparing for the next wave of clashes," he added.
    When asked whether Israel could consider releasing Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, Y. replied, "There is a gap between the public image and the intelligence we have on Barghouti's stances and his role as a moderating element."
    Asked about reports that Iranian arms experts were seized during Fatah's raid Thursday on the Islamic University in Gaza, he said, "We have no confirmation that there were Iranian elements there. This information should be taken with a grain of salt."
    "We do not expect an agreement [between Fatah and Hamas] on a unity government. We believe the parties don't want a civil war, don't want total chaos, but that is exactly what is happening."
    "The Fatah organizations are not controlled by the Fatah leadership today.... These organizations have no central command and no father figure, and this is one of the main problems...which has been going on for three years now."
    See also Shin Bet: Hamas Strength Much Lower in West Bank - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    "The political level's orders to stop the violence are not being implemented," the Shin Bet official said. "The street is deciding and determining things."
    He said Hamas' strength in Judea and Samaria was about 15% of what it was in Gaza.
    In addition to the ideological element, he said that since so many bystanders have been killed in recent days, the element of revenge killing had entered into play as well.

Israel Campus Beat
- February 4, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    Should Israel Retain the Presidency?

Syria a Haven for Bombers, Says Iraq - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    In the aftermath of a truck bomb attack on a Baghdad market that killed 135 Shia Muslims, Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said that Syria must bear heavy responsibility for the loss of life in Iraq.
    "Fifty percent of murders and bombings are by Arab extremists coming from Syria," Dabbagh said.

U.S. Gets Israeli Security for Super Bowl - David Machlis (Jerusalem Post)
    An Israeli-developed system for identifying potential security threats has been adopted at Miami International Airport to help keep Super Bowl and other visitors to South Florida safe.
    Rafi Ron, CEO of New Age Security Solutions in Rockville, Md., and former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport and the Israel Airports Authority, developed Behavior Pattern Recognition as an answer to the problem of racial profiling.
    BPR outlines a long list of behavioral cues that should draw the attention of everyone working at the airport.
    Airports that have adopted the program include Boston, Indianapolis, Houston, and San Francisco.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Tightens Hold in Gaza - Steven Erlanger
    Hamas forces appeared to consolidate their hold on northern Gaza and much of Gaza City on Saturday, overrunning and sometimes destroying headquarters of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security forces. Ghada Abu Daoud, who works for the Gaza office of a Persian Gulf emirate, said: "It's Hamas that seems to initiate every raid, and the number of Fatah wounded seems higher." Dr. Jumaa al-Saqqa, a spokesman for Al Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest, said Hamas forces had taken over the hospital and were using it as a protected firing position. He said blood supplies were low, and that "people aren't willing to give blood for this internal fighting." Many senior Fatah leaders left Gaza to go to the West Bank, taking their families. (New York Times)
        See also In Gaza Battle, Even Home Is Not Safe - Ibrahim Barzak
    Gaza's civilians have no place to hide. With war raging in the streets between Hamas and Fatah loyalists, bullets, grenades and ceiling-piercing mortar shells are flying from all directions, battering homes, shops and schools. Fighting has left parts of Gaza a moonscape of burned cars and wrecked buildings. Mosques and universities have been heavily damaged from fires set by combatants or rockets punching holes in the walls. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Rice, Allies at Odds on How to Revive Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks - Farah Stockman
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and some U.S. allies agreed Friday to try to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but clashed over how to handle the Palestinian militant group Hamas and one of its key backers, Syria. While Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany argued in favor of engagement, Rice defended the U.S. policy of shunning Syria and Hamas. A senior State Department official described efforts to engage Syria and Hamas as a "waste" of time. (Boston Globe)
        See also World Leaders Stay Firm on Hamas - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The Quartet reaffirmed Friday its commitment to the conditions Hamas must meet to end the economic blockade. The Quartet statement, which Foreign Minister Lavrov said "fully reflected" the Russian position, repeated the three conditions the international community has set for dealing with the Hamas government: stopping terrorism, recognizing Israel and honoring all existing agreements. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizballah Raises Flags Along Israel's Northern Border
    Some 30 large Hizbullah flags were raised Friday across southern Lebanon, several meters from the Israeli border, for the first time since last summer's war, as UN peacekeepers there changed commanders. The act was seen as a message from Hizbullah to Israel that despite the deployment of an expanded UNIFIL force and the Lebanese army, the group was still present in southern Lebanon. Italian Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano took over command of the UNIFIL forces, which currently stand at 12,000. (UPI)
  • Iran Plays Big Role in Lebanon - Scheherezade Faramarzi
    Iranian political influence in Lebanon is backed up by the biggest donation it has made to Hizbullah - an estimated $1.2 billion in 2006. Iran has already provided $300 million in cash to Hizbullah to repair the war damage. "The Zionist enemy destroys, and Iran's Islamic Republic builds," says a banner near bombed buildings in a Shiite-populated suburb of Beirut. (AP/Houston Chronicle)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Nasrallah Admits Hizbullah Gets Arms from Iran - Jack Khoury
    Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam that it is no secret that Iran is aiding Hizbullah by sending money and weapons via Syria. He was interviewed by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a vocal critic of the Egyptian regime. "Perhaps we erred, only God does not make mistakes, and we have apologized to the Lebanese people for this and have paid a heavy price in blood. We do not hesitate to sacrifice our children in the name of our righteous struggle," Nasrallah said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Security Forces Nab Two Palestinian Terror Cells in Jerusalem - Jonathan Lis
    The Shin Bet security service and the police last week arrested members of two Palestinian terror cells operating in Jerusalem, one linked to Hamas and the other to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Members of the cells carried out a number of attacks including opening fire and hurling explosives at Israeli military and civilian cars in the Jerusalem area. The cells produced dozens of pipe bombs, based on information gathered from the Internet. Members of the Hamas cell were recruited by a 40-year-old clergyman from a Bethlehem mosque. During a search of the terror cell members' houses, security forces found materials for creating explosives, IDF uniforms, rifles, and an ax. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Escapes Palestinian Kidnapping Attempt in West Bank - Amos Harel
    Palestinians tried to kidnap an Israeli man at a bus stop at the Eli Junction north of Ramallah in the West Bank on Sunday. The man reported to the IDF that Palestinians had tried to force him into their car, but he escaped. Border Policemen stopped a car that matched the description given by the man and found three Palestinians with two pistols and a large quantity of ammunition. Another kidnapping attempt was reported by hitchhikers at the Tapuah Junction north of Eli, who said the car's occupants were dressed as Jews. The army has received several intelligence warnings of plans by terrorist groups to kidnap Jewish civilians or soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No Chance to Change Hamas - Danny Rubinstein
    After a full year of talks between Fatah and Hamas, the picture emerging is that it is impossible to settle the disagreements between the sides. Fatah cannot renege on the agreements of the past and retreat from its recognition of Israel. And if there was once a belief that Hamas might change and its positions would become more moderate, it is now clear that this cannot happen. As a religious movement and a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is not able to change its positions. The way to deal with Hamas is therefore not to try to change it but to push it to the sidelines - to try to return it to the status and size it had before the last elections. (Ha'aretz)
  • A Moderate Muslim Voice Is Missing - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Former Dutch parliament member Ayaan Hirsi Ali was asked: Have you seen any ideology coming from within Islam that gives young Muslims a sense of purpose without the overlay of militancy?
        Ali: "There is no active missionary work among the youth telling them, do not become jihadis....Every time there is a debate between a real jihadi and what we have decided to call moderate Muslims, the jihadis win. Because they come with the Koran and quotes from the Koran. They come with quotes from the Hadith and the Sunnah, and the traditions of the prophet. And every assertion they make, whether it is that women should be veiled, or Jews should be killed, or Americans are our enemies, or any of that, they win. Because what they have to say is so consistent with what is written in the Koran and the Hadith. And what the moderates fail to do is to say, listen, that's all in there, but that wasn't meant for this context. And we have moved on. We can change the Koran, we can change the Hadith. That's what's missing." (New York Times)
  • Al-Qaeda and the Sunni-Shiite Cleavage - Fareed Zakaria
    During the Reformation, Christians of differing sects massacred each other as they fought to own the true interpretation of their religion. Something similar seems to be happening within Islam. Here the divide is between the Sunnis, who make up 85% of the Muslim world, and the Shiites, who represent most of the other 15%. What does the Sunni-Shiite cleavage mean for al-Qaeda? Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, both Sunnis, created al-Qaeda to be a pan-Islamic organization, uniting all Muslims as it battled the West, Israel, and Western-allied regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Neither was animated by hatred of Shiites.
        Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination. This necessarily limits al-Qaeda's broader appeal and complicates its basic anti-Western strategy. (Newsweek)
  • Observations:

    Religious War in Gaza - Ronny Shaked (Ynet News)

    • A war is being waged between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas embarked on this war with some 10,000 fighters - 6,000 from the Executive Police Force founded by the Hamas government and 4,000 armed members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The force has been training for the past two years and is ready for battle. They are equipped with Kalashnikov rifles, sniper rifles, communications devices, flack jackets, night vision equipment, hand grenades, RPGs, and almost limitless munitions.
    • Fatah and Abbas loyalists total some 60,000 gunmen, the majority of whom lack any formal military training and suffer from a lack of munitions and logistic means. In the last few days of fighting Hamas dispatched 100% of its forces, while Fatah dispatched no more than 10% of its combatants. The majority of fatalities over the weekend came from Fatah.
    • Hamas is fighting passionately backed by religious edicts that define Fatah members as heretics and justify the killing of Muslims.
    • Fatah members, on the other hand, regard themselves as true Muslims and view Hamas as a group that detached itself from the Islamic community.

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