Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 29, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Peretz Ousted as Labor Party Leader, Barak to Face Ayalon in Runoff - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    In the Labor Party primary election held Monday, former prime minister Ehud Barak won 36% of the vote, former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon received 31%, and current party chairman and defense minister Amir Peretz got 22% in a five-way race.
    Since no candidate passed the 40% threshold, Barak and Ayalon will face off in a June 12 runoff.

Jihadists Moving into Lebanon from Syria - Christopher Allbritton (Washington Times)
    Heavily armed foreign jihadists have been entering Lebanon from Syria from around the time Western authorities noticed a drop in the infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq, Lebanese officials say.
    Syrian authorities, hoping to disrupt Lebanon so they can reassert control of the country, "have stopped sending [the jihadists] to Iraq and are now sending them here," charged Mohammed Salam, a specialist in Palestinian affairs in Lebanon.
    UN officials running the Nahr el-Bared camp near Tripoli in northern Lebanon said a large band of foreigners carrying mortars, rockets, explosive belts and other heavy weapons entered the camp in a group several months ago.
    That is near the time that infiltration of militants from Syria into Iraq fell off, according to Lebanese authorities, who suspect the jihadists were simply redirected by Damascus.

Tehran's Secret "Department 9000" - Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    U.S. intelligence has identified the principal unit behind Tehran's efforts to supply Shia insurgent cells in Iraq, a supersecret group called Department 9000, which is part of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
    Department 9000 acts as a liaison between the insurgents and the IRGC, the Iranian regime's principal internal-security mechanism, providing guidance and support.
    More recently, these secret Iranian paramilitaries have begun to help Sunni insurgent groups in order to keep the Americans bogged down.
    See also Iran's Quds Force: Lessons Learned - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)

Hamas and Fatah Clash in Gaza (Reuters)
    Hamas gunmen and members of a Fatah-dominated national security force fought a gun battle on Monday in a Gaza refugee camp in the first outbreak of factional fighting in more than a week, local residents said.
    Hamas and other militant groups have turned their attention instead to rocket attacks against southern Israel, drawing Israeli forces into an air campaign in Gaza that has killed more than 40 Palestinians, mostly fighters.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Aid Flows into Palestinian Account after U.S. Shift - Adam Entous
    With U.S. backing, donor funds have started flowing into an account controlled by Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to pay partial government salaries, Palestinian and Western officials said on Monday. Fayyad was expected to receive enough money through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) account to pay government workers, including members of the security forces, at least half of their normal monthly wages. In a May 14 letter to the EU, the U.S. government said donor funds can be channeled to Palestinians through the PLO account controlled by Fayyad. Some Israeli officials decried what they saw as a shift in U.S. policy that would reduce pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept interim peace deals. (Reuters)
  • U.S. and Iranian Officials Meet in Baghdad, But Talks Yield No Breakthroughs - Kirk Semple
    The U.S. and Iran held rare face-to-face talks in Baghdad on Monday, adhering to an agenda that focused strictly on the war in Iraq and on ways to help improve conditions there. The meeting between U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi was held in the offices of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.
        Crocker said he "laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq." The U.S. has repeatedly accused Iran of meddlesome activities in Iraq, including training Shiite militiamen and shipping highly lethal weaponry into Iraq for use in attacks by Shiite and Sunni Arab militants against American troops. Crocker said he told his Iranian counterpart that those activities "needed to cease." Crocker said the Iraqi government planned to invite the U.S. and Iran to another meeting, but that the U.S. is "going to want to wait and see" whether the Iranians change their "behavior" in Iraq to bring it in line with their stated principles. (New York Times)
  • Iran Divestment Targeted in Illinois
    Illinois' five state retirement systems would have to divest their holdings in Iran-connected companies in energy and other natural resource-related areas under an amendment to a bill in the House State Government Administration Committee adopted Wednesday. (Pensions and Investments)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 17 Palestinian Rockets Strike Israel on Monday - Amos Harel, Mijal Grinberg, Amiram Barkat and Or Kashti
    Seventeen Palestinian rockets struck Israel's western Negev region on Monday, including three that hit Sderot, lightly injuring one resident and causing five others to suffer from shock. Another rocket sparked a fire in a wheat field near Kibbutz Miflasim. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Sheriff of Sderot - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Uri Bar-Lev, the commander of the Israel Police's Southern District, has temporarily relocated the district headquarters to Sderot and is cruising around town when the emergency siren sounds. He notices a young woman who has stopped her car and is paralyzed with fear, unable to turn off the engine or leave the vehicle. As the first rocket falls in the distance, Bar-Lev coaxes the woman, a Sderot resident who has witnessed one too many barrages in recent days, to leave the vehicle and take cover. A second later, a rocket shrieks overhead, plunging into a nearby house. Arriving first on the scene where the Palestinian rocket has barreled through the house's wall, Bar-Lev crouches down next to the house's owner, who is holding his ears and rocking back and forth in shock.
        Bar-Lev muses: "Against terror, the deciding factor is not the army....The deciding factor is the fortitude of the people. Not just to stay because of economic motives, but also on an ideological level. The most important answer to terror is that statement: 'Nobody is going to force me out of here. Another 1,000 rockets might fall, but I will stay here because it is my home.'"  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Senior Fatah Terrorist Arrested in Ramallah
    IDF forces arrested Haled Jamal Mussah Shawish, the head of the Tanzim terror infrastructure in Ramallah, who was actively involved in recent years in several terror attacks. Shawish also trained other Tanzim operatives in bomb-making and explosive belt construction, executed bomb attacks, and directed a number of suicide bombings. (IDF Spokesman/Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Another Iranian Milestone - Editorial
    In 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iran would be unable to produce sufficient quantities of weapons-grade uranium until "early to mid-next decade." Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was operating 1,312 centrifuges - up from 164 just last year - and could be operating as many as 3,000 within a month. That's enough to produce one bomb's worth of uranium every year. At the current rate at which they are adding capacity, the Iranians are expected to have 8,000 centrifuges by December, enough to produce several bombs' worth of weapons-grade uranium a year. The IAEA report also notes that "Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures" demanded by the nuclear watchdog, and should put to rest the illusion that we can take our sweet diplomatic time dealing with Iran's nuclear file.
        Iran has for nine months been in material breach of a binding UN resolution requiring that it suspend its enrichment programs. With neither Russia nor China inclined to impose, much less honor, any kind of effective sanctions regime, don't look to the UN for much progress. Are there better options? Iran imports nearly half of its refined gasoline. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Nicolas Sarkozy could demonstrate their Atlanticist credentials by putting a halt to their combined $8 billion in export guarantees to companies doing business with Iran. If you don't like the look of the Middle East today, wait until the region's most fanatical regime gets its hands on the world's worst weapon. (Wall Street Journal, 29May07)
  • Israel Faces Dilemma on Hamas - Karin Laub
    Israel can halt the rocket barrage on its border towns only if it reoccupies Gaza for good, military experts conclude. However, that sabotages Israel's goal of separation from the Palestinians. Yet, if Israel doesn't take dramatic action, large amounts of weapons will continue to reach Hamas through smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. And an uninterrupted arms flow means Hamas can strike even harder - with longer-range rockets.
        In the past two weeks, Hamas launched more than 250 Kassam rockets, with many slamming into the border town of Sderot. Two Israeli civilians were killed in Sderot, and several thousand of its 24,000 residents have fled. In response, Israeli planes hit Hamas training bases and rocket squads. Missiles destroyed 14 of 16 training camps, but they can easily be rebuilt because they consist of little more than open fields and a few shacks. For now, Israel seems to be going for limited goals: reducing rocket fire and weakening Hamas. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also At War with "No Good Options" - Oakland Ross
    "There are no good options," says Gerald Steinberg, director of the Program on Conflict and Diplomacy at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, regarding a coherent strategy for dealing with an adjoining territory that seems to be devouring itself in fratricidal conflict, and whose ruling authority is divided, corrupt, and largely ineffectual. In addition, its more belligerent residents are bent on pelting nearby Israeli civilians with daily barrages of lethal rockets. "The only option that's really out there is containment," says Steinberg. This is the course Israel seems to be following, using quick military strikes to drive Hamas fighters farther south into Gaza, in the hopes of pushing their rocket launchers out of the range of Israeli population centers.
        "The Palestinians have never been as divided as they are today," says Khaled Abu Toameh, West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. "The clans are running the show in Gaza. Abbas can't even control the people in his own office." (Toronto Star)
  • Observations:

    You Can't Play Nice with Syria - Barry Rubin (Ottawa Citizen)

    • Syria is using a Palestinian front group to start a war inside Lebanon, just as it employed another Lebanese client organization, Hizbullah, to battle Israel last year. The Syrian government's message is simple: Lebanon will know no peace until it again becomes our satellite.
    • In two years, 15 major terrorist attacks targeted Lebanon's independent-minded leaders.
    • Like other Middle Eastern dictatorships, Syria's rulers face a paradox. How to stay in power after failing so completely? The economy is a mess, there is little freedom, and the regime is dominated by a small Alawite minority which is historically secular.
    • Bashar Assad sends terrorists against Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and even the U.S. military, but nobody retaliates in kind against him. At home, the regime sounds increasingly Islamist; abroad it is the biggest sponsor of radical Islamist groups in the region.
    • As a matter of survival, Syria's rulers need anti-Americanism and the Arab-Israeli conflict to mobilize support and distract from their failings.
    • Years of dialogue and numerous visits by secretaries of state could not even get Syria to close the terrorist offices in Damascus, much less make any policy changes.

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