Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 19, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Gaza's Christians Fear for Their Lives: Latin Church Torched - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Christians living in Gaza City on Monday appealed to the international community to protect them against increased attacks by Muslim extremists. Many Christians said they were prepared to leave Gaza as soon as the border crossings are reopened.
    The appeal came following a series of attacks on a Christian school and church in Gaza City over the past few days. Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in Gaza, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.
    "The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church," he said. "Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book, computers and other equipment."
    Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, noting that the gunmen destroyed all the Crosses inside the church and school. "Those who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations," he said.

    See also "Christians Must Accept Islamic Rule" - Aaron Klein (World Net Daily/Ynet News)
    Christians can only continue living safely in Gaza if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza said in an interview.
    Christians in Gaza who engage in "missionary activity" will be "dealt with harshly," he said.
    The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza were attacked following the seizure of power by the Hamas terror group.
    "I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza," said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

Saudis Funded Hamas Terror Activities - Aviram Zino (Ynet News)
    Millions of shekels have been transferred from the Charity Coalition in Saudi Arabia to Hamas operatives in Jerusalem, according to two indictments served Monday.
    The money was received as charity although, in reality, it was earmarked for terrorist activities.
    Hamas charities also support families of known terrorists and those in prison or detention. According to the indictment, NIS 1 million was transferred in the past year.

As UN Aid Efforts Are Restored in Gaza, UN Warehouse Is Looted in West Bank (UN News Center)
    The UN agency tasked with helping Palestinians says its operations in Gaza have returned to normal, but a warehouse in Nablus in the West Bank containing several tons of food as well as office equipment was looted by armed men on Saturday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Announces Return of Direct Aid to Palestinian Government
    The U.S. is lifting financial and diplomatic restrictions on the PA and will donate $40 million to UN programs serving the Palestinian territories, Secretary of State Rice said Monday. "We intend to lift our financial restrictions on the Palestinian government, which has accepted previous agreements with Israel and rejects the path of violence," Rice said. The EU also announced that it would resume direct financial aid to the PA.
        "Hamas has made its choice. It has sought to attempt to extinguish democratic debate with violence and to impose its extremist agenda on the Palestinian people in Gaza," Rice said. "It is the duty of the international community to support those Palestinians who wish to build a better life and a future of peace." (State Department)
  • Russia Starts Delivery of Sophisticated Fighter Jets to Syria
    The business daily Kommersant said that Russia had begun delivering five MiG-31E jets under a US$1 billion deal apparently negotiated during Syrian President Bashar Assad's trip to Moscow last autumn. The contract with Syria will be the first export deal for the MiG-31E, an interceptor fighter capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound and simultaneously shooting several targets at ranges of over 110 miles away. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • UN Condemns Rocket Attack on Israel
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, followed by a statement to the press by the UN Security Council, on Monday condemned rockets attacks from southern Lebanon on the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. (UN News Center)
  • NY Pension Fund Linked to Rogue Nations - Erin Durkin
    The New York State pension fund has $12 billion invested in companies that do business with nations identified by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism. A report released Sunday by state senator Jeff Klein found that 16% of the $140 billion fund is invested in companies that do business with Syria, Iran, Sudan, and North Korea. Klein is sponsoring legislation dubbed the Terror Free Investment Act, calling on the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, to divest the pension fund from companies that do business with state sponsors of terrorism. DiNapoli announced last week that he would use the state pension fund to pressure the Sudanese government to end the genocide in Darfur, taking steps that will eventually include divestment if companies refuse to pull out of Sudan. (New York Sun)
  • House Action on Charging Ahmadinejad with Genocide Postponed
    H.Con.Res.21, cosponsored by 103 members of the House of Representatives, which calls on the UN Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Genocide Convention, was not voted upon after the Chair announced on June 18 that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. The House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed on May 23 to have this legislation considered by the full House of Representatives. (Library of Congress)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israeli Factory, Causes Poisonous Gas Leak - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that hit a factory in the Sha'ar Hanegev industrial zone near Sderot on Monday, resulting in a gas leak of caustic soda. Fire-fighting teams specializing in handling dangerous materials located the leak, sealed it, and cleared the poisonous materials. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Attacks Palestinians at Israel-Gaza Crossing - Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Yoaz
    One Palestinian was killed Monday and at least 10 others were wounded when a gunman attacked a group of Palestinians waiting to cross from Gaza into Israel near the Erez crossing. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack. The IDF believes the attack was intended to frighten Palestinians seeking to flee Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Barak Becomes Defense Minister - Yuval Azulay and Mazal Mualem
    The Knesset approved Monday the appointment of newly elected Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak to the post of defense minister, replacing Amir Peretz. Barak will assume the post on Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Brothers to the Bitter End - Fouad Ajami
    Some envision a secular Fatah-run state living peacefully alongside Israel and a small, radical Gaza hemmed in by Israeli troops. But in this case it's sheer fantasy. No other national movement has had the indulgence granted the Palestinians over the last half-century, and the results can be seen in the senseless violence and the inability of a people to come to terms with their condition and their needs. An accommodation with Israel is imperative - if only out of economic self-interest and political necessity - but the Palestinians, in a democratic experiment some 18 months ago, tipped power to a Hamas movement whose very charter is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and the imposition of Islamist rule. (New York Times)
        See also "West Bank First": It Won't Work - Robert Malley and Aaron David Miller
    Having embraced one illusion - that it could help isolate and defeat Hamas - the Bush administration is dangerously close to embracing another: Gaza is dead, long live the West Bank. It is premised on the notion that Fatah controls the West Bank. Yet Fatah has ceased to exist as an ideologically or organizationally coherent movement. Behind the brand name lie a multitude of offshoots, fiefdoms and personal interests. Most recent attacks against Israel were launched by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the unruly Fatah-affiliated militias, notwithstanding Abbas' repeated calls for them to stop. Given this, why would Israel agree to measurably loosen security restrictions?
        We should not be fooled by Abbas' rhetoric. Sooner or later he will be forced to pursue new power-sharing arrangements between Hamas and Fatah and restore unity among Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • Gaza Has Joined the Expanding Jihadistan Terrorist Landscape - Youssef Ibrahim
    Gaza is only the most recent addition to Jihadistan's several cities in Iraq, the tribal regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, much of Somalia, and the Hizbullah-controlled areas of southern Lebanon - yet another place for terrorist-masters to meet, organize, plan, and operate. It will be a farce if President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert spend their meeting Tuesday discussing a two-state solution or how many millions of dollars are needed to shore up the non-existent authority of Fatah. What is needed is a plan to stop the addition of Gaza to Jihadistan, to contain it, and to bleed it.
        Throwing money at the problem will not do. If the Gaza collapse has proved anything, it is that Western funding ends up either in the hands of Muslim fundamentalists or in the pockets of corrupt Fatah officials. Many Palestinian Arabs are cared for with funds from the UN and Western charities. This humanitarian aid, unfortunately, has relieved Palestinian Arab terror groups, such as Hamas and Fatah, from the obligation of feeding their own and allows them to use all their money for war. (New York Sun)
  • Time to Postpone the "Political Horizon" - Dennis Ross
    Since January, the administration's objective has been to produce a "political horizon" between Israelis and Palestinians - meaning an agreement (or plan) on the contours of a permanent status deal on Jerusalem, refugees and borders. The feasibility of such an objective needs to be reassessed now. With two Palestinian regimes, one led by Fatah in the West Bank and one led by Hamas in Gaza, does it make sense to be defining what permanent status would look like? Pushing for an objective that is demonstrably not achievable now is not going to enhance our already shaky position in the Middle East. (Wall Street Journal, 19Jun07)
        See also Frame Work - Dennis Ross (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Hamas and the Second Six-Day War: Implications, Challenges, and Opportunities - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The same Palestinians who reportedly tell pollsters they support a two-state solution with Israel gave their vote to the party that opposes any peace with Israel in January 2006. Mahmoud Abbas, who has repeatedly said he rejects violence and endorses the two-state solution, legitimized Hamas' rejectionist alternative by entering into a power-sharing agreement with the group in the February 2007 Mecca accord.
    • For Arab states - whose definition of courage is to endorse a vague offer of eventual peace with Israel that is fifteen years out of date, and then do virtually nothing to implement it - the Hamas victory should awaken them to the danger within.
    • How did Hamas acquire the weapons it used to defeat Fatah? Through Egypt. How did Hamas acquire the funds it used to pay its foot soldiers? Through Arab donors (and Iranians, too). How did Hamas acquire the legitimacy to lay claim to leadership of the Palestinian people? Through Arab diplomacy (the Mecca accord).
    • The U.S. should urge Israel to complete the process of disengagement that it began in 2005. Israel is alone in the world as being the only country responsible for providing food, water, and electricity to a political entity that daily lobs missiles against its citizens. This is madness. Israel should leave Egypt as Gaza's outlet to the world, with food, water, electricity, and other humanitarian goods flowing over the Gaza-Egypt border. Unless Israel takes such a step, Hamas will continue taking advantage of Israeli humanitarianism while lobbing missiles at Israel.
    • We should not believe the simplistic logic that says the West Bank is totally controlled by Fatah while Gaza is totally supportive of Hamas; indeed, there is quite a lot of Hamas support in the West Bank, too. But Hamas has not succeeded in penetrating nearly as far in the West Bank primarily due to the active presence of the Israeli army. Ironically, the political horizon that some in the administration would like to talk about would raise premature hopes about the removal of precisely that factor that is the most important barrier to the spread of Hamas in the West Bank today.
    • One of the most serious flaws in the original Oslo Accords was Israel's formal decision to consider the West Bank and Gaza a "single territory unit." These were, of course, territories that Israel occupied from two different countries, territories with no contiguity between them, territories with very different historical roots as well as populations with very different economies and socioeconomic characteristics. The de facto situation is that this situation has now ended.

      The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute.

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