Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 22, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Jane's: Iran to Buy Russian Arms via Syria (Reuters/Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    Syria has agreed to supply Iran with at least 10 out of 50 Pantsyr-S1E air defense systems that Damascus is in the process of buying from Russia, Jane's Defense Weekly reported.
    Iran would take delivery of them in late 2008. To reward Syria, Tehran would part-finance Syria's Pantsyrs as well as paying for its own.
    Syria struck a $730 million deal with Russia earlier this year for the self-propelled short-range gun and missile air defense systems.
    A Security Council resolution in March urged all states to exercise "vigilance and restraint" in the supply, sale or transfer of weaponry to Iran, including missile systems.

Israel HighWay
- May 21, 2007

Issue of the Week:
    Israel's Good Deeds around the World

Fatah al-Islam and Al-Qaeda - Scheherezade Faramarzi and Zeina Karam (AP/Washington Post)
    Shaker al-Absi, the fugitive leader of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, openly embraces Osama bin Laden and has recruited Arab fighters to carry out attacks around the region.
    Al-Absi has for years been interwoven with the al-Qaeda-linked underground, reportedly visiting Iraq and Afghanistan and associating with the late al-Zarqawi.
    A U.S. counterterrorism official called al-Absi a double threat from his past in Syria and his al-Qaeda connections.

Iran's Secret Plan for Summer Offensive to Force U.S. Out of Iraq - Simon Tisdall (Guardian-UK)
    Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaeda elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces, U.S. officials say.
    "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine U.S. will and British will....The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]," a senior U.S. official in Baghdad warned.

Internal Fighting in Gaza Is Far from Over - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Members of both Hamas and Fatah said Monday that internal infighting was far from over, just one day after Egyptian mediators announced a new cease-fire aimed at ending nine days of fighting that has left roughly 50 people dead.
    More than 14 previous truces have come and gone in recent months.

Iran Accuses American of Revolution Plot - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
    Noted American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, 67, director of the Middle East program at the Smithsonian's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been charged with "seeking to topple the ruling Islamic establishment," Tehran's state-controlled television reported Monday.
    Esfandiari, a dual U.S.-Iranian national, was imprisoned on May 8 after more than four months under house arrest and weeks of interrogations.

U.S. Ambassador Apologizes for Remarks on Pollard - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones apologized Tuesday for remarks about Jonathan Pollard, and said that they did not reflect his personal views, nor those of the U.S. Jones called the comments "misinformed and misleading."
    Jones had told a university conference that the U.S. had been lenient with Pollard as it did not execute him for spying for Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Rocket Kills Israeli Woman - Scott Wilson
    Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza killed a 32-year-old Israeli woman Monday night and seriously wounded another civilian in the city of Sderot. Shirel Friedman was the 9th Israeli to be killed by Palestinian rockets. "No nation would tolerate such terror," said David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman. "Israel certainly won't. We will put an end to these rocket attacks, and we will do so with determination." Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 160 rockets from Gaza into Israel over the past week, Israeli military officials said, including 13 on Monday. (Washington Post)
  • Lebanese Army and Islamists Battle for 2nd Day - Hassan M. Fattah
    Lebanese tanks and artillery pounded a Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli for the second straight day on Monday, battling members of a radical Islamist group. Government officials said at least 60 people had been killed - 30 soldiers, 15 militants and 15 civilians. The militant group, Fatah al-Islam, which is thought to have links to al-Qaeda, fired antiaircraft guns and mortars and had night vision goggles and other sophisticated equipment. The Lebanese Army does not have such gear. Lebanese television reported that among the dead militants were men from Bangladesh, Yemen and other Arab countries. Some of the men wore explosive belts used by suicide bombers. Among those killed on Sunday was Saddam al-Hajdib, a fugitive suspect in a failed train bombing in Germany last year. (New York Times)
        See also Fingers Point towards Damascus - Ian Black
    Both the Lebanese government and the main Palestinian factions see the fighting as a crude attempt to prove that the Lebanese will have to pay the price if Syria is put under pressure. Sultan Abu al-Aynan, the Fatah leader in Lebanon, had no hesitation in condemning Fatah al-Islam as a "gang of criminals" answering to an "external agenda." The clashes were linked to the expected ratification in the UN Security Council of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. (Guardian-UK)
  • Israel's UN Ambassador: Moderate Muslims Not Doing Enough to Curtail Terrorism
    Israel's UN ambassador on Monday accused moderate Muslim and Arab leaders of standing by in "eerie silence" while Islamic extremists terrorize people around the world. "We live in a world where when Christians kill Muslims, it's a crusade. When Jews kill Muslims, it's a massacre. When Muslims kill Muslims, it's the weather channel. Nobody cares," Ambassador Dan Gillerman said in New York. He cited recent incidents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Turkey, Algeria and Morocco. "Hundreds of Muslims are killed by Muslims and you don't see a single Muslim leader that stands up and says enough is enough."
        Gillerman commended moderate Arab leaders for their work on the Saudi peace initiative. He said that although Israel would not accept the plan without amendments, he believed that moderate Arab leaders had reorganized their priorities in the region, focusing less on Israel and more on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Teheran Behind Escalation of Violence from Gaza; Officials Fear Longer Range Rocket Fire - Yaakov Katz, Khaled Abu Toameh, and Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Iran's fingerprints were all over the recent escalation in Gaza and the Palestinian rocket attacks, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Monday. Teheran ordered the terrorist groups to escalate the conflict in an effort to distract the world's attention from its nuclear program, he said. "Everything is being organized by Iran," Sneh said. "All of the terrorist groups are supported directly by Iran, which pays for all of the military training and the weapons."
        Government officials expressed concern that Palestinian rockets could reach southern Ashdod and the western reaches of Beersheba. "We are getting ready for the possibly that the range will increase," Sneh said. "They can increase the range and we need to be ready." A Hamas official in the Gaza said on Monday: "We call on our fighters to launch rockets attacks on the settlement of Ashkelon....We will force the settlers to run away from Ashkelon as they have already done in the settlement of Sderot. We will continue to fight until the Jews leave all of Palestine."
        The IDF Home Front Command began distributing pamphlets to residents of Netivot and other southern towns on Monday, explaining what to do if the rockets come. Sneh said that fear of longer-range rockets was behind the decision to distribute the pamphlets throughout southern Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU's Solana Tours Sderot, Denounces Rocket Attacks
    European Union Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana toured Sderot on Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and denounced the ongoing rocket attacks. (AP/Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S., UK Back Israel's Right to Defend Itself Against Rocket Fire
    The United States and the United Kingdom backed Israel's right to defend itself in the face of ongoing Kassam rocket fire from Gaza on Monday. "Israel is faced with the difficult challenge of countering these continued rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli territory," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "They have a right to defend themselves." British Ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips visited Sderot on Monday. "It is terrible that civilian life in southern Israel is under daily fire," he said. "The Palestinians must stop these attacks." "Israel is in a difficult position, and has the right to defend itself from such attacks against its civilians," continued Phillips. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Uncivil War in Gaza - Edward S. Walker Jr.
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on May 17, when asked about the possibility of Hamas signing a peace agreement with Israel, answered: "With Hamas? No way....Hamas will never sign a peace agreement with Israel if it stays in power." And therein lies the secret. It is time for Hamas to go. Egypt, Israel, Jordan or the United States would be justified to take steps to bring an end to its illegitimate posture as the government of the Palestinian territories.
        Hamas came to power through a so-called democratic election, and too many assumed that this established legitimacy. But the reality is that you cannot have a democratic election in a state that is not a democracy. You cannot have a democratic election when the state does not control the levers of power. And you cannot have a democratic election when the electorate is under the control of competing armed militias. Now is the time to work with the Palestinians, the Egyptians and Jordanians on an exit strategy for Hamas. The writer is adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and its former president. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt and as assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Rice's "Political Horizon" - Dennis Ross
    From the beginning of Secretary Rice's decision to pursue a "political horizon" between Israelis and Palestinians, I have argued that no political process will be credible or sustainable if it is divorced from the day-to-day realities of Palestinian and Israeli life. Rice's recent efforts might have made sense if she could produce a willingness on the part of Arab leaders to embrace the core tradeoffs involved in a political end game for settling the conflict. (New Republic)
        See also Condi's Dangerous Fantasy - Editorial
    Secretary of State Rice's peacemaking initiatives have once too many times now bordered on the absurdly naive, premised as they are on the supposition that Hamas might at some point decide to conduct itself in reasonably civilized fashion. This is a dreadful joke. Hamas will decide no such thing. Hamas will bomb and shoot and kidnap and slaughter. That is what Hamas does. Fundamentally, the secretary is pressing for a peace agreement when no one on the Palestinian side has both the interest and the capability of entering one. Rice should give it up. (New York Daily News)
  • Lessons of Six-Day War in Face of Ongoing Rocket Attacks - Michael Oren
    The Palestinians are resorting to terrorism to attack Israel, Syria is threatening to embark on a war, hostile elements exploit southern Lebanon as a base for launching attacks on Israel - and the world condemns any Israeli attempt to defend ourselves through revenge attacks. This scenario also describes the situation Israel found itself in 40 years ago, during the process that led to the Six-Day War's outbreak.
        It would be worthwhile to note lessons from the Six-Day War: Instead of rushing into battle, we should utilize the period of (relative) "restraint" in 2007 to make Israel's case - we cannot sustain Kassam rocket attacks on a daily basis. And there is no alternative to addressing the source of the threat. In other words, we should be waiting enough time in order to strengthen, improve our just argument, and prepare to thoroughly address those who stand behind the attacks - the Palestinians and Syrians. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Last Chance: Inside Condoleezza Rice's Ploy to Defuse a Nuclear Middle East - David Samuels (Atlantic Monthly, June 2007)

    • The key to Rice's new Middle Eastern strategy, which some administration officials hope will end in a "grand bargain" that will stabilize Iraq, keep the Syrians out of Lebanon, and force Iran to give up its ambitions to build a nuclear bomb, lies in a renewed drive to create a Palestinian state.
    • This is the price that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are demanding if they are to support the administration's stance on Iraq and Iran. For this diplomatic gambit to succeed, Rice will have to make swift progress toward solving a conflict where the prospects for peace look dimmer than they have at any point in the last twenty years.
    • The United States could choose to do business with the Palestinian unity government, pleasing the Saudis and gaining Arab support for future diplomatic and military moves in Iran and Iraq, at the cost of legitimizing terrorism. Or the United States could refuse to deal with Hamas, angering the Saudis and risking the collapse of its strategy.
    • The prospect of a grand bargain, one that will rejigger a complicated region of the world to America's satisfaction, seems like yet another illusion, whose price is likely to be high.

        See also Statecraft and Stagecraft - Excerpts from Interviews with Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and George Shultz - David Samuels (Atlantic Monthly)

    • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell: Is it our fault that the [Palestinians and Israelis] haven't gotten a peace agreement? I don't think so. I mean, believe me, I worked hard for a year and a half on Arafat before I had to give up, he was hopeless. And I found out just what Clinton had told me the last day in office, when he said to me, "Colin, he almost drove me crazy. And it's his fault."
    • Former Secretary of State George Shultz: What is going on at our universities about the world of Islam right now? Damn little. What there is is sort of a romanticized version of Palestinian interest.
    • Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: It's very easy to criticize Saudi Arabia, until you begin to think of the alternatives. And I have not heard anyone come up with what they would like to see in Riyadh that would be better for us than what's there. The part about Saudi Arabia that bothers me is the continued acquiescence in the financing of the Madrassas, and my inclination would be to crack down much harder on them.

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