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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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April 2, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Fatah Training New Force in Egypt for Renewed Infighting - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Fatah has established a new security apparatus in Gaza and is recruiting militants in preparation for another round of violent clashes with Hamas.
    So far, the "Special Force" has recruited 1,400 combatants, a thousand of whom have undergone military training.
    Palestinian sources say some 350 combatants from the Special Force were sent to Egypt at the beginning of March to train under the tutelage of officers from the PA and Egyptian army.
    They were joined in Egypt by several hundred soldiers of the Presidential Guard.

Israel Campus Beat
- April 1, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    How Should Israel Improve Its Image?

Jordan to Build Nuclear Power Plant - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Jordan intends to build its first nuclear power plant by 2015, Jordanian Energy Minister Khaled Sharida said Sunday.

New Generation of Al-Qaeda Chiefs Is Seen on Rise - Mark Mazzetti (New York Times)
    As al-Qaeda rebuilds in Pakistan's tribal areas, a new generation of leaders has emerged under Osama bin Laden to cement control over the network's operations, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
    According to a reassessment within the American intelligence community, al-Qaeda's core leadership was not as weakened as once thought, bringing new urgency to joint Pakistani and American intelligence operations in Pakistan to dismantle al-Qaeda's infrastructure there in order to disrupt nascent large-scale terrorist plots that may already be underway.

Peace Process No Priority for Palestinians (Angus Reid Global Monitor-Canada)
    According to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 43% of Palestinians believe the new PA administration should focus on the enforcement of law and order.
    26% think the government should work on restoring relations with international donors, 17% call for political reform and the eradication of corruption, and only 13% believe their leaders should work on political negotiations involving a peace process.

Hamas Gains in Teachers Union Election - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    A Hamas-affiliated list has scored a major victory in elections for the Palestinian Teachers Union in the West Bank and Gaza, winning 75% of the vote.
    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the victory was similar to achievements made by Hamas in elections for the engineers, accountants, and nurses unions.

Sheikh Dead in Gaza Power Struggle - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The assassination over the weekend of sheikh Adnan Manasreh, 30, in Gaza City has brought to the surface a recent power struggle between Hamas and a new al-Qaeda-affiliated group identified with Salafism - a branch of Islam often referred to as Wahhabi.
    The Salafis have been trying to establish a presence in Gaza and at least two other Salafi sheikhs have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank over the past six months.
    Tensions between the Salafis and Hamas have been mounting in Gaza ever since Ayman Zawahiri, the No. 2 in al-Qaeda, accused Hamas of abandoning its ideology and "selling out" to Israel and the U.S.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Olmert Invites Arab Leaders to Hold Peace Talks - Isabel Kershner
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel on Sunday invited Arab leaders to join him for talks in a regional peace meeting in Jerusalem. The invitation, made at a news conference in Jerusalem with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, was described by Miri Eisin, Olmert's spokeswoman, as a "new initiative," "influenced" by the Arab leaders' talk of resolving the conflict with Israel through dialogue at an Arab summit meeting in Saudi Arabia last week. "I invite for a meeting all the heads of Arab states - including, of course, the king of Saudi Arabia, who I see as a very important leader - to hold talks with us," Olmert said. (New York Times)
        See also Pelosi Conveying Israel Message to Syria - Laurie Copans
    U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will tell Syrian leaders when she visits Damascus this week that Israel will only engage in peace talks if Syria stops supporting Palestinian militants, Israel said Sunday. Pelosi met Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during the Israel part of her Mideast tour. "Pelosi is conveying that Israel is willing to talk if they (Syria) would openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism," Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said. "But at this point the Syrian government, by openly backing terror all around the Middle East, is not a partner for negotiations."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel Warns of Hamas Military Buildup in Gaza - Steven Erlanger
    Hamas, the dominant faction in the Palestinian government, is building its military capacity in Gaza, constructing tunnels and underground bunkers, and smuggling in ground-to-air missiles and military-grade explosives, senior Israeli officials say. An Israeli commander said Hamas has now recruited 10,000 fighters to its Executive Force, which is receiving more military training and shares a common headquarters with Hamas' military wing. The commander said that Hamas' improved rockets had a range of about 10 miles, which would allow them to hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon. In the past two weeks alone, the army says, more than 20 Kassam rockets have been launched toward Israel.
        The commander noted that Fatah was so far doing little to resurrect itself, and he suggested that Mahmoud Abbas "has given up" and taken a junior role to Hamas. He said Israel wanted to give Washington space to try diplomacy. Israel also knows that any large operation in Gaza would take months, not days. Presumably, Hamas would be badly damaged by such an operation, but Israel also knows that however hurt, Hamas would not be wiped out, and that Fatah is not ready to replace it. (New York Times)
        See also Is Hamas Preparing for War? - Tim McGirk and Elaine Shannon (TIME)
  • Olmert: The PA Prime Minister Is a Terrorist - Interview
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: Abu Mazen [Abbas] said time and again that "I will not agree to have a government with [Ismail] Haniyeh as prime minister." And I'm talking about a person, Haniyeh, who is a terrorist. There should be no misunderstanding about that. Just lately, Haniyeh transferred over a million dollars for a group of terrorists to carry out terrorist actions against Israeli citizens.
    Q: Transferred from where to where?
    Olmert: Funds that were received from outside to one of the military branches of Hamas for the explicit purpose of carrying out terrorist actions. He's a terrorist. You have a terrorist who is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority now. (TIME)
        See also Israel: Haniyeh Gave Saudi Cash to Hamas Armed Wing - Adam Entous
    Israeli officials on Sunday said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas received funds from a Saudi donor and had $1 million of it transferred to Hamas' armed wing on March 15, two days before he formed a unity government. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • UN Secretary-General: Arms Smuggling Threat to Beirut Truce
    UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Saturday that arms smuggling from Syria could threaten the ceasefire in Lebanon and urged full compliance with a UN resolution that ended the summer war between Hizbullah and Israel. UN Resolution 1701 calls for a stop in arms shipments to Hizbullah and demands the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers the militants captured, triggering the conflict.
        Noting allegations that the arms embargo on Hizbullah was not being enforced, Ban met security chiefs to discuss ways of enhancing the Lebanese army's monitoring capabilities along the border with Syria, one of Hizbullah's principal patrons. The leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported Saturday that Ban told the Lebanese security chiefs that Israel had provided him with "evidence and pictures" of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons. (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
  • Hamas Tried to Take Control of the Palestinian Police in the West Bank - Amit Cohen
    It was supposed to be a quiet, secret mission - that would lead to Hamas taking over the Palestinian police in the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas activists were recruited and trained in the West Bank prior to their entry into the police, but the quick reaction of the Israeli security services and the IDF cut short the plan. In mid-2006, just a few months after winning the elections, Hamas decided to establish the Executive Force in Gaza, a police unit answering directly to the Interior Minister. Soon afterward, it decided to set up a similar force in the West Bank, in opposition to the security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas. Since an independent Hamas unit would be an easy target for the Israeli security services, Hamas decided on "quiet penetration" of the Palestinian police.
        Released Hamas prisoners with a terror background formed the initial force, numbering some 80 activists, whose purpose was to recruit hundreds more. Some 300 were recruited and underwent training, where they received instructions on what to say if questioned, and to hide any affiliation with Hamas. Israel began to arrest the Hamas operatives, and by January had arrested some 250, which has effectively blocked the plan. (Maariv-Hebrew, 30Mar07)
  • Why Foreign Journalists Are Kidnapped in Gaza - Yuval Hyman
    For the last three years Gaza has been a hothouse for the kidnapping of foreign journalists. Payment for their release can reach as much as $2 million. The Durmoush family, implicated in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, has monopolized the trend in Gaza, with the help of local photographers who assist in the kidnapping of their foreign colleagues who encroach on their territory. As of Wednesday, British citizen Alan Johnston of the BBC counted 17 days as a hostage. (Kol Hazman, Ma'ariv-Hebrew, 30Mar07/GPO-IMRA)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed in the western Negev on Sunday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why the Iran Sanctions Are Working - Fareed Zakaria
    UN sanctions are targeted not at the general population but specifically at the regime. The financial measures, aggressively pursued by the Bush administration, have hit where it hurts - at the Tehran ruling elite's bank accounts. Iran appears to have miscalculated. Its abduction of the British sailors will only confirm to many key countries that it is a reckless and untrustworthy state. Tehran's release of letters and a video of the British sailors making obviously coerced concessions has backfired, strengthening British resolve and European unity. (Newsweek)
        See also How We Can Fight Tehran - David Frum
    It's time now for Europeans to join the American ban on investment in Iran's energy sector. Not all firms investing in Iran are European. Malaysia's Petronas and Russia's Gazprom both play major roles. Till now, firms doing business in Iran have been allowed to do business not only in the EU but also in the U.S. It's time now to impose a secondary boycott, and to force firms like Petronas to decide: Either you do business with Iran or you do business with the rest of the planet. You choose. (National Post-Canada)
  • Iran Must Face Isolation If It Fails to Free Britain's Forces - Editorial
    There has been something deeply repellent about the sight of Britain's 15 seized sailors being paraded on Iranian television in a tacky propaganda circus. There is simply no case, as Tehran has tried to argue, that they entered Iranian territory. The stilted televised "confessions" that Tehran has produced are an embarrassing confection full of clumsy denunciations of UK foreign policy. Tellingly their delivery by the British captives is framed in the language of a Revolutionary Guards barracks and not the Royal Navy wardroom. If the affair so far has posed a painful dilemma for the UK as it has struggled to find the appropriate response, it is clear that the longer it drags on, the more offensive the continued captivity of the 15 Britons will be to world opinion. Iran's remaining allies should remind it that the only result of this crisis is that - day by day - the country comes closer to being an international pariah. (Observer-UK)
  • First They Came for the Jews - Dorothy Rabinowitz
    The indictment of two AIPAC lobbyists for activities that go on every day in Washington, and that are clearly protected under the First Amendment, far exceeds any other in the now long list of non-crimes from which government attorneys have constructed major cases, or more precisely, show trials. The government could succeed in this prosecution of two non-government professionals doing what they had every reason to view as their jobs - talking to government officials and reporters, and transmitting information and opinions. If such activities can be charged, successfully, as a "conspiracy," every professional, every business, every quarter of society - not to mention members of the press - will have reason to understand that this is a bell that tolls not just for two AIPAC lobbyists, but also for countless others to face trials in the future, for newly invented crimes unearthed by willing prosecutors. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    The Bush Administration Relearns the Fact that Saudi Arabia Is Not a "Moderate" State - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • Several months ago the Bush administration abruptly embraced a new strategy in the Middle East based on aligning "mainstream" Sunni Arab states against Iran and its "extremist" allies, coupled with a renewal of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Last week it began to run up against the predictable limits of that poorly conceived policy.
    • At an Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia orchestrated the reissuance of a five-year-old initiative offering Israel normal relations if it retreated to its 1967 borders and settled with its neighbors, but the Saudis refused either to amend the plan or to embrace the idea of participating in direct negotiations with Israel. Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah delivered a speech that condemned the "illegitimate foreign occupation of Iraq" - a direct rebuff of the Bush administration's attempt to obtain full Arab recognition and support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
    • The Arab summit followed several days of shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Israel and the West Bank, during which Israel resisted her attempt to start talks on a final settlement with Palestinians. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won't conduct those negotiations because the newly formed Palestinian "unity" government - brokered by Saudi Arabia - does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Olmert did express eagerness to begin contacts with the Saudis - but the Saudis say they won't engage with Israel until after it settles with both the Palestinians and Syria.
    • The Bush administration imagined that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, along with fellow Sunni autocracies such as Egypt and Jordan, shared common interests in containing Iran, stabilizing Iraq, defending the Lebanese government, and settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What's becoming clear is that the Arab rulers see these issues very differently than Washington. The Saudi government's strategy has aimed at detaching the Palestinian Hamas movement from Iranian tutelage but not from its rejection of Israel.
    • What the administration is discovering is that attempting to achieve U.S. strategic ends through partnerships with Arab autocracies yields mixed results. When she first unveiled the new strategy, Rice described the Arab alliance against Iran as one of "moderates." She shouldn't have been surprised to find last week that in terms of America's fundamental interests, Middle Eastern dictators are neither moderates nor good allies.
        See also The Failure of the Riyadh Summit - Dore Gold (ICA-JCPA)

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