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May 18, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Cancels Gaza Trip over Hamas Assassination Plot (AFP/France 24)
    Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas canceled a trip to Gaza on Thursday after it was discovered that militants from Hamas planned to blow up his convoy, a senior security official said.
  "Abu Mazen's (Abbas') visit to Gaza was canceled after the discovery of a tunnel under Salaheddine Road full of explosives placed by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigade to blow up (Abbas') convoy," said the official.
    "The explosives were found on the route that Abu Mazen takes to travel to Gaza," the source added.

Israel HighWay
- May 17, 2007

Issue of the Week:
    Terrorist Rockets Rain Down on Israel as Chaos Reigns in Gaza

Palestinian Rockets Ignored Abroad - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot have received very little coverage in world media, despite the heavy barrages that have been going on for the past three days.
    Only when Israel began to respond to the attacks by aerial bombings, cannons and tanks did this part of the world receive attention from the American media.
    An American television producer explained that, as sad as it may sound, Sderot is a story that has been going on for years, and is no longer news.
    The producer added that there are very few injuries in Sderot, and images of shock victims do not sell.
    The moment that the IDF began to retaliate, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict went back to making headlines.

Sarkozy Accedes - Editorial (New York Sun)
    On May 10, incoming French President Sarkozy joined outgoing President Chirac for talks with Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, leader of Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, underscoring the incoming president's commitment to the outgoing president's policy in respect to Syria and Lebanon.
    Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Doctors Without Borders and one of the rare Frenchmen who, in 2003, broke with France's anti-American consensus over the Iraq war, is now touted as the new foreign minister.
    That follows a scare that Sarkozy was considering bringing back the hostile former socialist foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine.
    In the midst of the intifada, Kouchner received an award from an Israeli university, a sign of backbone amidst the wave of boycotts and extremist anti-Israel rhetoric sweeping Europe at the time.
    France's current envoy in Washington, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, is reportedly to be appointed as National Security Adviser.
    See also Levitte, National Security Advisor - Rob Eshman (Jewish Journal - April 2006)
    Jean-David Levitte, France’s ambassador to the United States, is arguably its most effective defender against charges of anti-Semitism, in no small part because he himself is Jewish.
    Levitte’s own grandparents were sent to Auschwitz. His father and uncle joined the resistance, and his father later became the leader of the American Jewish Committee in France for 30 years.

Iranians Find Tenuous Refuge in Syria - Rania Abouzeid (Christian Science Monitor)
    The young Iranian thought he would find a safe haven among his fellow Sunni Arabs in Damascus. He's a young political leader who belongs to the small Ahwaz ethnic minority in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan Province, where local activists contend that for decades they have been forcibly uprooted by Iran's Shiite government.
    But, now, as a result of the strengthening alliance between Iran and Syria, he's worried that he and about 250 Ahwazi refugees will become the little noticed casualties of the anti-Western axis forming in the Middle East. Five of his political activist friends were nabbed by Syrian security services in early March.
    If he's sent back to Iran, he says, he could be killed. He received the death penalty in absentia after fleeing Iran in December 2005.
    The five Ahwazis seized on March 5 this year were the second batch to be detained by Syrian authorities in the past year. According to Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, five others were arrested in May 2006 and handed over to Iranian authorities.
    "That should never have happened," says Laurens Jolles, UNHCR representative in Damascus. "It was clear they were refugees sent back to an uncertain fate."
    Forbidden from speaking Arabic, the Ahwazi population of Khuzestan Province is one of the most economically and socially deprived in Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Beating by Guards Fails to Stop Voting, Iranian Students Say - Nazila Fathi (New York Times)
    Students at Tehran's Amir Kabir University fended off club-wielding university security guards last week and went ahead with elections for a pro-democracy association.
    Student associations, a powerful center of support and communication among student democracy advocates, are a constant irritant to the government, which seeks to maintain strict control over politics and cultural norms.

India's Arms Purchases from Israel Touch $5 Billion (Times of India)
    Arms purchases from Israel have reached $5 billion between 2002-2007, India's Defense Minister A. K. Antony said on Wednesday.

Foreign R&D Centers Employ 35,000 Workers in Israel - Amir Ben-Artzi (EE Times)
    At least 110 foreign research and development centers, employing over 35,000 workers, are active in Israel, according to the Israel Venture Capital Research Center.
    Most of these R&D centers are part of international technology firms that acquired Israeli companies and transformed them into local research facilities. For example, Cisco Inc. has bought at least nine Israeli companies.
    Mergers and acquisitions activity involving Israeli companies that were either acquired or merged totaled $10.58 billion in 76 deals in 2006.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Olmert Visits Israeli Town Where Residents Flee Rocket Fire - Isabel Kershner
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert paid an unannounced visit to Sderot on Thursday night to show solidarity with its residents after days of rocket fire from the nearby Gaza Strip. Sderot, about a mile from the Gaza border, has been struck hardest by the Kassams. The continual rocket fire has traumatized the local population, particularly the children, say social services officials in the town. Mayor Moyal said about 40-50% of the town’s 24,000 residents had left, but not for good. "We are not evacuating the place," he said. "People just need to decompress for a while." (New York Times)
  • U.S. Credits Israel with "Great Restraint" in the Face of Attacks
    Israel has shown "great restraint" in responding to repeated Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli targets, the State Department said Thursday. Spokesman Sean McCormack said Israel was acting on its right to defend itself in carrying out retaliatory air strikes on a compound and other targets in the Gaza Strip. McCormack said the cross-border violence started with attacks on Israel from Palestinian territory. (AP/Fox News)
  • Bush and Blair Discuss Middle East and Iran. Bush: "The Iranians Must Not Have a Nuclear Weapon"
    President Bush said Thursday: We talked about the Middle East, and we're concerned about the violence we see in Gaza. We strongly urge the parties to work toward a two-state solution. I've instructed my Secretary of State to be actively engaged. She represents the position of the Bush government, which is two states living side by side in peace. We believe that vision is possible, but it requires strong leadership on both sides of the issue.
        The Prime Minister and I discussed the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. We recognized the deep humiliation that can come as a result of living in a land where you can't move freely, and where people can't realize dreams. We talked about the need to reject and fight terrorism. We understand the fright that can come when you're worried about a rocket landing on top of your home.
        We talked about Iran. We fully recognize that the Iranians must not have a nuclear weapon. And therefore it's important to continue to work in the international arena to speak with one voice. And if we're unable to make progress with the Iranians, we want to work together to implement new sanctions through the United Nations, to continue to make it clear that Iran with a nuclear weapon is not in the interests of peace in the world. (White House)
  • Fatah Troops Enter Gaza with Israeli Assent - Scott Wilson
    Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah has left about 45 Palestinians dead since Sunday. The forces belong to units loyal to the elected Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate Fatah leader whom the Bush administration and Israel have sought to strengthen militarily and politically.
        "We're not the ones giving these forces operational orders. That will be up to Abbas," said Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, asserting that Hamas' arms smuggling from the Sinai and military training in Iran have given the movement a battlefield advantage. "The idea is to change the balance, which has been in favor of Hamas and against Fatah. With these well-trained forces, it will help right that imbalance." (Washington Post)
  • Saudi Prince: Gaza Strife "Senseless" - Scott MacLeod
    Denouncing the latest outbreak of Palestinian in-fighting as "senseless" and "shocking," Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal says that the Gaza warfare threatens to become a "catastrophic" setback to Arab-Israeli peace prospects. Prince Saud said on Wednesday that four days of renewed Palestinian fighting had jeopardized the Mecca Agreement mediated by Saudi Arabia in February, which ended months of internal clashes and established a Palestinian national unity government.
        The blow to Saudi diplomacy was reflected in what the Kingdom's top diplomat described as the "stern" messages he has delivered to Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh, and Khaled Meshaal on behalf of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud. (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Kassam Hits Sderot Synagogue after Olmert Visit
    At least three rockets landed in the southern town of Sderot at around midnight Thursday, one of them hitting a synagogue just minutes after the end of a celebration. A number of people suffered from shock and the building was damaged. The incident took place shortly after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Sderot and heard the Color Red alert system being activated. (Ynet News)
        See also Barrage Continues: 9 Rockets Hit West Negev - Shmulik Hadad
    Residents of Sderot and the west Negev woke up to another day of Palestinian rocket attacks Friday. A rocket hit a Sderot gas station, lightly wounding one person. Two more people suffered shock. A second rocket hit a house in the town and caused structural damages. (Ynet News)
  • At Least 11 Hamas Operatives Killed as Gaza Strike Continues - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF continued its crackdown on Gaza rocket attacks on Friday morning, striking a Palestinian rocket crew that fired rockets at the western Negev earlier in the day, and killing at least one of its members. On Thursday, the IDF made its first foray into northern Gaza to take over the rocket launch sites. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Prelude to the Six Days - Charles Krauthammer
    There has hardly been a Middle East peace plan in the past 40 years - including the current Saudi version - that does not demand a return to the status quo of June 4, 1967. Why is that date so sacred? Because it was the day before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in which Israel scored one of the most stunning victories of the 20th century. The Arabs have spent four decades trying to undo its consequences.
        In fact, the real anniversary should be now, three weeks earlier. On May 16, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser ordered the evacuation from the Sinai Peninsula of the UN buffer force that had kept Israel and Egypt at peace for 10 years. That three-week period between May 16 and June 5 helps explain Israel's 40-year reluctance to give up the fruits of that war - the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza - in return for paper guarantees of peace. With troops and armor massing on Israel's every frontier, jubilant broadcasts in every Arab capital hailed the imminent final war for the extermination of Israel.
        The world will soon be awash with 40th-anniversary retrospectives of the war - and exegeses on the peace of the ages that awaits if Israel would only to return to lines of June 4, 1967. But Israelis remember the terror of that June 4 and of that unbearable May when, with Israel in possession of no occupied territories whatsoever, the entire Arab world was furiously preparing Israel's imminent extinction. And the world did nothing. (Washington Post)
  • A War this Summer? - Ze'ev Schiff
    Will there be war this summer? Apart from Israel, there are four parties - Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas - who must be asked this question. Iran will determine whether Hizbullah launches a new war. Tehran is involved in large-scale military operations in a number of places. A major war today, initiated by Iran, could endanger its main objectives. Hizbullah will not embark on an all-out war if Iran is against it. If it could, Hizbullah would renew its war of attrition, but the organization's freedom of action in Lebanon is limited.
        Hamas could ignite a war in Gaza. The more serious leaders of Hamas know that a war this summer would be too early to serve their purposes. In a year from now, Gaza will pose a greater threat to Israel, especially if the government doesn't come up with better solutions to the conflict. What is happening today to Sderot could happen someday to Ashkelon.
        There is no question that Syria is readying for combat. Again, the question is whether it has plans to initiate a war. The cautious conclusion is that none of the parties today are interested in an all-out war. But war could erupt by mistake. (Ha'aretz)
  • Rocket from Gaza - Editorial
    The growing willingness of Arab and European states to tolerate and even aid the Hamas movement has been based on the notion that Hamas could be coaxed toward more civilized behavior and tacit recognition of Israel; that is why many supported the creation of a "unity" government of Hamas with the secular and more moderate Fatah. But Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and his sponsors in Syria and Iran have a very different agenda: to use force to intimidate and eventually dominate Fatah, and to wage an unending war of attrition against Israel.
        Western and Arab intervention offers the best hope of heading off a war in Gaza that could easily spread back to Lebanon, and beyond. Egypt, which has allowed Hamas to smuggle hundreds of tons of weapons and explosives, needs to act decisively to seal its border with Gaza. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states should step up pressure on Hamas and on Syria, which is helping Hizbullah rearm in Lebanon. (Washington Post)
  • Factional Fighting in Gaza Imperils Unity Government - Henry Chu
    An increasingly violent struggle threatens to bring down what had been touted as a Palestinian "unity" government. When their new political power-sharing coalition was unveiled in March, amid smiles and congratulations, leaders of Fatah and Hamas pledged to put an end to their fighting. But the ferocious violence shredding the Gaza Strip this week has made a mockery of the agreement.
        The events this week have made it increasingly clear that, from the outset, the "unity" effort was almost set up to fail, with neither of the two leading parties willing to give much ground where it counted most. Power in Gaza still flows largely from the barrel of the gun, and the rival organizations never really agreed who got to control the weapons.
        The end of factional fighting in Gaza was supposed to be near in March when Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah member, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas appointed Hani Kawasmeh as their interior minister after a rancorous dispute over the politically sensitive post that lasted for weeks. Kawasmeh, widely viewed as an independent compromise candidate, was charged with drafting a plan to integrate the competing Palestinian security agencies into a unified force able to quell the violence. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Palestinian Government "Pointless" - Sonia Verma
    Many see the sharply increasing level of violence in Gaza as further evidence of the pointlessness of the current unity administration, because it has plainly failed to end the factional fighting that killed hundreds at the start of the year. It also aimed to restart international funding, which has not restarted, largely because of Hamas' continuing refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce terrorism. The most recent violence has had a particularly brutal and ominous edge to it. Sunday alone saw dozens of kidnappings and the execution of two Hamas-affiliated newspaper workers, dragged from their car at gunpoint at a Fatah checkpoint.
        In an atmosphere like this, many Palestinians will ask: "What is the point of having a government which seems incapable of presiding over its territory?" In truth, the only thing holding it together is that there is no will at the head of either Fatah or Hamas to leave the government and call a general election because both parties would not be confident of their chances in such a poll. (Times-UK)
  • Martyr Mouse Exposes Islamic Fanaticism; Hamas Must Go - Ray Hanania
    On the Hamas-owned TV station in Gaza, "Martyr Mouse," a Mickey Mouse look-alike, urges Palestinian children to "take up arms" against America and Israel. It is about time that Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims stop trying to justify this kind of hateful garbage and stand up and not only denounce this, but also denounce Hamas, Hamas hatred, and Hamas leaders. Why do Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims allow Hamas extremists to get away with what they get away with? Is it because they really believe Jews are "monkeys," as is described in the Hamas "charter?" I blame the mainstream Palestinians. They claim they just want justice, but all they do is scream hate. I blame the Palestinians who complain about how badly they are treated, and yet they cheer on the fanatics when innocent Israelis are murdered in cold blood on buses, at restaurants and in schools.
        In any other civilized community on earth, political leaders behind the kind of pathetic hatred of "Martyr Mouse" would be chased out of office by an embarrassed public. There is no other answer. Quit making excuses. The writer is a Palestinian American columnist. (Ynet News)

    Weekend Features

  • The Subjection of Islamic Women - Christina Hoff Sommers
    The subjection of women in Muslim societies - especially in Arab nations and in Iran - is today very much in the public eye. Accounts of lashings, stonings, and honor killings are regularly in the news, and searing memoirs by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi have become major best-sellers. One might expect that by now American feminist groups would be organizing protests against such glaring injustices, joining forces with the valiant Muslim women who are working to change their societies. This is not happening.
        The reasons are rooted in the worldview of the women who shape the concerns and activities of contemporary American feminism. That worldview is - by tendency and sometimes emphatically--antagonistic toward the United States, agnostic about marriage and family, hostile to traditional religion, and wary of femininity. The contrast with Islamic feminism could hardly be greater.
        Professor Phyllis Chesler has been a tireless and eloquent champion of the rights of women for more than four decades. Unlike her tongue-tied colleagues in the academy, she does not hesitate to speak out against Muslim mistreatment of women. The sisterhood has rewarded her with excommunication.
        The good news is that Muslim women are not waiting around for Western feminists to rescue them. "Feminists in the West may fiddle while Muslim women are burning," wrote Manhattan Institute scholar Kay Hymowitz in a prescient 2003 essay, "but in the Muslim world itself there is a burgeoning movement to address the miserable predicament of the second sex." The number of valiant and resourceful Muslim women who are devoting themselves to the cause of greater freedom grows each and every day. (Weekly Standard)
  • Israeli Trauma Nurse Shares Emergency Room Experiences - Tracy Wheeler
    Zmora Zohar, a trauma nurse at Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Israel, has seen mass casualties. Last summer, after a rocket attack launched by Hizbullah from Lebanon, her emergency department was told to expect three victims with minor shrapnel wounds. "Suddenly the E.D. is full of people screaming, with shrapnel wounds, and I was the only nurse there," she told members of the Stark County Emergency Preparedness Health Care Planning Committee at Aultman Hospital on Tuesday. "No doctors, no other nurses."
        At Western Galilee Hospital, everyone knew their role, she said, thanks to "many, many drills." The first rule of making a plan is following the plan, she said. Next, call in staffers and evacuate patients from E.D. before victims arrive. Get necessary equipment (fluids, bandages, tubes) by the E.D. beds. Line up stretchers at the emergency entrance, where triage teams will sort patients by the severity of their injuries. Registration teams will also be at the entrance to take down names or to take photographs of children and the unconscious so relatives can identify them at the information center, which will be set up away from the emergency department.
        In mass-casualty situations, medical care changes, she said. The goal is not "optimal care," but rather "minimal acceptable care." "Save those you can," she said. "As many as you can, as fast as you can." In July, a Hizbullah rocket hit Zohar's 700-bed hospital. All hospital operations moved to its underground facility. (Akron Beacon Journal)
        See also Israeli Nurse Knows Trauma - Diana Rossetti (Canton Repository)
  • Book Review: The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West and the Future of the Holy City - Jonathan Schanzer
    Wearing the hats of historian, archeologist, theologian and political analyst, Dore Gold provides a short but thorough tour of Jerusalem's complex history, demonstrating persuasively that the interests of Jews, Christians and Muslims there were always safeguarded best when Jews were the city's custodians.
        Gold notes that Jerusalem was an obscure backwater during the Abbasid era (750-945). Islamic scholar Taqiyy al-Din ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) ruled it inappropriate to pray toward Jerusalem. Broadly speaking, the Muslim world grew enraged over Christian or Jewish attempts to control Jerusalem, but often neglected the city when other religions were uninterested in its conquest. On the other hand, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jews comprised nearly 50% of the population in 1842 and 65% in 1914.
        Israel's leaders hoped Jordan's King Hussein would sit out the 1967 Six-Day War. However, Jordan launched 6,000 artillery shells into Jewish Jerusalem, causing indiscriminate death and destruction. Israel captured the entirety of Jerusalem on June 8, 1967, in what can only be seen as a defensive war. The writer, a former U.S. Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    The Growing Hamas/Al-Qaeda Connection - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Al-Qaeda generally thrives wherever central authority of governments is collapsing and therefore its current success in the war-torn Gaza Strip should not come as a surprise.
  • Just after Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, there were reports that al-Qaeda had exploited the new security vacuum that had been created and begun to dispatch its operatives to this territory. By March 2006, Mahmoud Abbas told the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat, "We have signs of the presence of al-Qaeda in Gaza and the West Bank."
  • In the meantime, across the Middle East, the external Hamas leadership maintained close ties with well-known figures associated with the al-Qaeda network, like the leader of the Kashmiri organization, Hezb ul-Mujahidin, Sayyid Salahal-Din, in Pakistan and Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, a bin Laden loyalist, in Yemen, who met with Khaled Mashaal on March 20, 2006.
  • Significantly, Al-Hayat reported on April 4, 2006, "a definite presence" of al-Qaeda operatives in Gaza, who had infiltrated from Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen. A little over a month later, Egypt's Ministry of the Interior disclosed that two terrorist operatives involved in the April 2006 attack on the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Dahab underwent training in the use of weapons and explosives in Gaza.
  • On May 9, 2007, the "Army of Islam" (Jaish al-Islam) published, on a website identified with al-Qaeda, an official announcement in which it took responsibility for the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, and called for the release of Palestinian sheikh Abu Qatada, who is considered one of the main ideologues of al-Qaeda in Europe and is known to be the one with whom the heads of the group that carried out 9/11 consulted. Hamas spokesperson Ayman Taha acknowledged the fact that Hamas and the "Army of Islam" had cooperated on the military operational level.
  • See also Afghansomaligaza - Is Gaza Worse Off than Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia? - Shmuel Rosner (Slate)

  • The Gaza Strip is burning, drifting into chaos, turning into hell - and nobody seems to have a way out of this mess. These are the days of chaos, leading to violence, leading to cruelty and to new heights of brutality. It is the Iraq-ization, the Afghan-ization, the Somali-ization, of the Palestinian Authority: executions Iraqi-style, clan rule Afghanistan-style, and absence of government Somali-style.
  • And there's no NATO to stabilize the situation, no U.S. military to surge its forces. It needs someone to rule its many inhabitants, but no one seems to want it.
  • If America is counting on the Palestinian Presidential Guard to maintain law and order in Gaza, it must be hallucinating. A guard is only as strong as its leaders. No leader or legislator in his right mind would ask to send an international force to calm things in Gaza, as was done in Lebanon after the summer war. The so-called "benchmarks" for Israel and the Palestinian Authority - laid out by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to promote peace - seem like a joke: No Israeli leader can agree to the opening of a "safe passage" between Gaza and the West Bank, which could spread the infighting.

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