Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 25, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Captured IDF Soldier Held in Booby-Trapped Gaza Building (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    Israel Channel 2 television reported Sunday that Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, captured a year ago in a cross-border raid into Israel, was being held in an underground room inside a booby-trapped building near Shaboura close to Rafah.
    Shalit's living quarters are accessible down a ladder through a 15-meter deep shaft lined with explosives, the report said.

Kidnapped BBC Journalist Shown Wearing Explosives Belt - Sarah El Deeb (AP/Washington Post)
    A video released Monday shows kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston wearing an explosives belt and warning it will be detonated if an attempt is made to free him by force.
    "Captors tell me that very promising negotiations were ruined when the Hamas movement and the British government decided to press for a military solution to this kidnapping," Johnston says in the recording, looking nervous and stressed.
    "I have been dressed in what is an explosive belt, which the kidnappers say will be detonated if there is an attempt to storm the area," he added.

U.S. House Bans Aid to Saudi Arabia (AFP/Peninsula-Qatar)
    The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to deny all aid to Saudi Arabia, despite repeated assurances by the Bush administration that the desert kingdom is cooperating in its "war on terror."
    The ban is contained in a little-publicized amendment quietly slipped by a bipartisan group of lawmakers into a $34.2 billion bill that finances U.S. foreign operations in the 2008 fiscal year.

Egyptian Militant Leader Calls for Attacks in Support of Hamas (Reuters)
    A leader of al-Qaeda's wing in Egypt, Mohamed Hakaima, called for attacks on Israeli and Western targets in Egypt in support of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in a statement posted on the Internet.
    The deputy leader of al-Qaeda, Egyptian Islamist Ayman al-Zawahri, named Hakaima last year as one of a group of Gama'a Islamiya members who had joined force with al-Qaeda.
    But Egyptian experts said that Hakaima was not a major player and they cast doubt on Zawahri's claim that the numbers who had joined amounted to a "big faction."

Egyptian Gets Life on Israeli Spy Charge - Maggie Michael (AP/Washington Post)
    A state security court sentenced an Egyptian nuclear engineer to life in prison Monday after convicting him of spying for Israel, a court official said.
    Mohammed Sayed Saber, 35, an employee with Egypt's atomic agency, had been charged with harming the country's national security by giving stolen documents to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
    Israel has dismissed allegations that Saber was working for Mossad.

In Israel, It's "Play Ball!" for New League - (AP/New York Times)
    The first professional baseball game of the new Israel Baseball League Sunday looked and sounded like real baseball on a minor league level, although it seemed as out of place in the Holy Land as polo in Manhattan.

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  • Six UN Peacekeepers Killed in Lebanon - Nada Bakri
    A car bombing killed six UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Sunday. Three Colombian and three Spanish peacekeepers were killed and two other Spanish soldiers were wounded. Suspicion immediately fell on militant Islamists, who are fighting the Lebanese Army in the country's north. On Sunday the Lebanese Army raided a militant hide-out in the northern city of Tripoli, killing six Islamists including three Saudi nationals. (New York Times)
        See also Al-Qaeda Suspected in Attack on UNIFIL - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli defense officials believe the blast was caused either by a roadside bomb or a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed car. Israeli officials said there have been warnings that peacekeepers would come under attack by terror groups in southern Lebanon, particularly al-Qaeda and global Jihad. Head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz warned in December of increasing signs that global Jihad elements were setting up a presence in Lebanon and were planning attacks against UNIFIL. He said global Jihad terror cells posed a direct threat to the multinational force in southern Lebanon and particularly to French, Italian and Spanish soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Takes Step Nearer to a Nuclear Bomb - David Blair
    Iran moved significantly closer towards acquiring the essential material for a nuclear bomb Friday when the regime claimed to have stockpiled 100 kg of enriched uranium. So far, this uranium has only been enriched to the level needed to run civilian nuclear power stations. But if Iran chooses to enrich it to 84% purity, the uranium would reach weapons-grade level. Iran would need 50 kg of weapons-grade uranium to make one atomic weapon of the kind that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
        Uranium is enriched using centrifuges. These have been installed in Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz. A snap inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency last month found that 1,312 centrifuges were operating. But Mustapha Pourmohammedi, Iran's interior minister, told the official news agency that 3,000 were in action. In theory, these centrifuges could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in about a year. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S., Egypt at Odds on Gaza Border Curbs - Paul Richter
    The U.S. and Egypt are parting ways on how to control Gaza's dangerous southwestern border. U.S. officials are urging Egypt to step up efforts to halt the illegal flow of militants, arms and cash into Gaza, warning that it could become a lawless haven for militants affiliated with al-Qaeda and Hizbullah. But Cairo insists the threat is greatly exaggerated. "The truth of the matter is that the problem is not nearly as large as the [U.S.] allegations imply, and we're doing quite a bit already," said Egypt's ambassador to the U.S. Nabil Fahmy.
        Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives Friday adopted a foreign aid bill that would cut $200 million of the $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt unless it halts smuggling at the Gaza border and curbs human rights abuses. Matthew Levitt, a senior intelligence official at the Treasury Department until earlier this year, said Iran might be tempted to send personnel to Gaza because of Tehran's current regional rivalry with the U.S. At the same time, foreign Islamic militants would be drawn to Gaza because it is a lawless zone near the heart of militant Islam's clash with the West. "This is an important location for them, close to the holy city of Jerusalem and on the border of two of the greatest enemies of al-Qaeda - Israel and Egypt," said Levitt, who is now director of the terrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He also said members of Hizbullah had been reported circulating in Gaza. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Saudi Says No More Mediation between Palestinians
    Saudi Arabia will not repeat its efforts to mediate between warring Palestinian factions, after a Saudi-brokered unity government fell apart this month, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in comments published in Saudi media on Sunday. "The kingdom played its part at the right time and so it will not return to the same effort," he said. The Mecca agreement had been the jewel in the crown of a Saudi diplomatic push to regulate regional disputes. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israelis, Arabs Meeting to Shore Up Abbas - Aluf Benn, Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern
    Prime Minister Olmert will announce a series of steps to bolster PA Chairman Abbas at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit Monday with Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah. Israel will undertake the following to bolster Abbas: Release PA customs duties and VAT funds collected by Israel while ensuring that none of the money is given to militant groups. Continue humanitarian assistance to Gaza and open the Kerem Shalom crossing to the passage of people and cargo. Reissue VIP cards to Palestinians. Allow the transfer of armored cars to Fatah forces in the West Bank. Renew security cooperation in the West Bank. Resume the work of the combined security committee - Israel, Egypt, PA, U.S. - particularly in efforts to curtail arms smuggling to Gaza from Sinai. (Ha'aretz)
  • Shin Bet Chief: Hamas Planning Terror Attack - Ronny Sofer
    Hamas plans a suicide attack inside Israel, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin warned the Israeli cabinet on Sunday. Hamas would not settle for conquering Gaza, but also planned to take over the West Bank and the PLO, he said. Diskin said Hamas "is examining the option of carrying out a suicide attack in order to prevent (Abbas') strengthening." "Fatah is dismantled and divided in the West Bank, and its strength is in Hamas' weakness. It has no leadership; there is no one person running things," he added.
        Diskin said last week's rocket attack on Kiryat Shmona was a result of clashes between the Lebanese military and the Fatah al-Islam terror group operating from the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. "Following these events, they tried to take that conflict out on Israel. The conflict is with Fatah al-Islam, which is a global Jihad organization. As far as we are concerned, this is the entrance of al-Qaeda into the Arab world," Diskin said. (Ynet News)
  • Olmert Shelves Rice's Shelf Agreement - Aluf Benn
    During his visit to the U.S. last week, Prime Minister Olmert rejected a proposal by Secretary of State Rice that Israel negotiate a permanent settlement with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Rice supports talks on a "shelf agreement" that would outline a permanent settlement but not be implemented immediately because of Abbas' weak standing. In Rice's view, merely reaching such an agreement in principle would provide the Palestinians with a "political horizon" and hope.
        But Olmert is strongly opposed to the idea. He fears a situation in which Israel approves the agreement, but Abbas fails to sell it to the Palestinian public and then Israel might be pressured to make further concessions. Olmert agreed several months ago to launch talks with Abbas over "a political horizon," on condition that these not deal with the three core issues - Jerusalem, permanent borders, and refugees - but only with the nature of the future Palestinian state, its systems of government and law, and security arrangements for the territories. (Ha'aretz)
  • Three Injured in Palestinian Rocket Attack - Shmulik Hadad
    Three Israelis were injured when a Kassam rocket launched by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the backyard of a Sderot home Sunday morning. The rocket caused damage to the home, which was also hit by a rocket in May. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Shell Israeli Border Area Near Gaza Crossing
    Palestinian terrorists fired 11 mortars towards Israel Sunday afternoon, hitting an area near the Karni crossing. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Getting Up Close and Personal with Hamas - Joel Brinkley
    I know the leaders of Hamas. During three decades in daily journalism, working in more than 50 nations around the world, I have never met as determined a group of dogmatic ideologues. "From our ideological point of view," said former Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, "it is not allowed to recognize that Israel controls one square meter of historic Palestine." After the Arabs retake "historic Palestine," Zahar continued, the 4 million Palestinians who live in other states would be encouraged to return and retake the homes their grandparents lost during the 1948 war. Then, he allowed, "the Jews could remain living in an Islamic state with Islamic law." Zahar offered this with a polite smile. His manner was cheerful, even serene.
        One of his colleagues, Ismail Abu Shanab, said he had an even better idea, described in the same earnest, genial manner: "There are a lot of open areas in the United States that could absorb the Jews." When I asked him if he were joking, he looked puzzled. Last year, Hamas won an election and had a chance to work in the open to achieve some of its goals. The Hamas legislators ruled in the Palestinian parliament for 16 months. During that time, they passed no new laws, made no significant proposals - did nothing but object, obstruct and complain. More than a year in power has changed them not at all. They have proved incapable of looking beyond their dogma. The writer is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Is Al-Qaeda Threat Growing? - Yoram Schweitzer
    The establishment of global Jihad elements in Iraq may also present a threat to Israel. The possibility of coalition forces - headed by the U.S. - leaving Iraq will provide global Jihad members with a sense of victory and power. This may put all the enemies of global Jihad - including Israel - in the line of terror carried out by the "Iraq graduates." If this indeed does occur and al-Qaeda pronounces Israel the next Jihad arena, it will succeed in enlisting all its partners, which has not happened thus far, and may mark a significant turning point in the level of threat to Israel. The writer is a terror expert at the Institute for National Security. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Leverage in Hamastan - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)

    • In the words of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, the former national security adviser, here is how Israel should be grappling with Hamastan and its repercussions:
    • First, Israel should set out its immediate interests in Gaza, which he lists as: 1) an end to Kassam rocket attacks, 2) a prevention of the further arming of Hamas, mainly via the Philadelphi Corridor, and 3) the return of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
    • Next, he recommends, Israel should recognize that it enjoys a certain leverage to try and achieve those interests. To that end, the last thing Israel should do is throw away its leverage by declaring that it recognizes that it must provide humanitarian aid, electricity and water, and must open the border crossings and so on. Rather, on the declarative level, it must say that "Gaza is an enemy political entity, in its activity and its orientation."
    • As a consequence, Israel should further say that it must insist on keeping border crossings closed in order to stop arms smuggling, and that it is prepared to attack not only Kassam cells but also Gaza government targets and supply routes in order to improve security for Israel. This would prompt international protests, "but Israel's response would be, 'Well, that's how we have to act because we are up against Hamas.'" However, Israel should also declare that "if our three immediate interests are met, we'll be able to step back."
    • The guiding principle, Eiland stresses, is that it is not in Israel's interest to maintain supplies to Gaza, "so why do it for nothing? Why give up on our interests? If we give Gaza all it needs, and Hamas is able to keep firing and keep rearming, we are left with no leverage."

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