Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 26, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Establishes Missile Defense Shield in Syria - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK/New York Sun)
    Iran is deploying missiles in Syria in preparation for military action if it is attacked over its nuclear program, UN officials in the region said.
    Under a mutual defense pact signed between Damascus and Tehran in 2005, Syria agreed to the deployment of sophisticated weaponry on its territory. The Iranians have now decided to implement the agreement.
    Iran is preparing to transfer dozens of medium-range Shahab-3 and Russian-made Scud-C missiles, together with Scud-B missiles. Most of the missiles can be fired from mobile launchers and are capable of hitting targets across Israel.
    "If Iran is attacked, then this will give it a number of retaliation options," a senior UN official in Lebanon said.

Iran Supplied Missile that Hit UK Helicopter - Richard Miniter and Michael Smith (Times-UK)
    A British Royal Navy helicopter that crashed in flames in Basra last year, killing all five on board, was shot down by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile supplied to Iraqi militants by Iran, according to U.S. officials.
    Three days before the attack, State Department officials interviewed an Iraqi linked to the Mahdi Army who told them Iran had supplied the militia with the Russian surface-to-air missile.
    British and U.S. troops fought pitched battles with the Mahdi Army near the southern town of Amara last week as they broke up a network smuggling equipment from Iran to make armor-piercing shaped-charge bombs.

Hamas Has Rockets that Can Reach Ashkelon - Yuval Azoulay (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Channel 2 TV news reported this weekend that Hamas has 50 rockets with a range of 22 km that would be able to hit Ashkelon from the heart of Gaza.
    An additional Hamas threat is its 20 Strella anti-aircraft missiles that could hit any aircraft flying over Gaza.

Fatah Officers Cooperated with Hamas in Gaza Takeover - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    "Dozens of officers in the (Fatah-affiliated) security forces are suspected of cooperating with Hamas during the Islamist group's takeover of the Gaza Strip," a senior Palestinian security official said Sunday.
    He said the officers received money from Hamas in exchange for transferring information on the deployment of PA forces.
    "During the fighting the extent of Hamas' infiltration into the Palestinian security forces became abundantly clear," he said.

Hamas, Clan Rivalries, and Alan Johnston's Dangerous Predicament - Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The Dughmush clan that is holding BBC journalist Alan Johnston numbers some 2,500 members and possesses an enormous arsenal of weapons.
    Clan members were not especially wealthy until the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
    Their well-developed network of smugglers, coupled with close personal contacts to Fatah, allowed them to enter the profitable arms trade that was the foundation for their empire.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Al-Qaeda Leader Urges Support for Hamas
    Al-Qaeda's deputy leader called on Muslims worldwide to back Hamas with weapons, money and attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests, urging the Palestinian militant group on Monday to unite with al-Qaeda after its takeover of Gaza. The Internet audio message from Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's top deputy, marked a major shift by al-Qaeda, which in the past criticized Hamas for joining a government with the U.S.-supported Fatah faction. (AP/CBS News)
        See also White House Hopes Hamas Does Not Offer Al-Qaeda Refuge
    The U.S. on Monday said it hoped Hamas would not offer al-Qaeda refuge in Gaza after bin Laden's right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri voiced backing for Hamas. "We certainly hope that Hamas does not encourage nor allow al-Qaeda operatives to use the Gaza Strip as a safe haven. That would do nothing for the Palestinian people," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Washington. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Al-Qaeda Looming Large in Gaza - Karin Laub
    Al-Qaeda is looming increasingly large in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Palestinian intelligence officials believe al-Qaeda has formed some sleeper cells in Gaza and suspect possible al-Qaeda involvement in several spectacular attacks on Palestinian security chiefs since 2004. As early as 2003, an Israeli military court sentenced a Gaza man to 27 years in prison on charges he was recruited by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to form a network in the Palestinian territories. Still, quiet cooperation between some Gaza militants and al-Qaeda is increasingly possible. Smuggling tunnels run under the Gaza-Egypt border, and al-Zawahri specifically called on Bedouins in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula - implicated in three major attacks since 2004 and heavily involved in smuggling - to help Hamas. (AP/Houston Chronicle)
        See also The Growing Al-Qaeda Presence in the Hamas-Controlled Gaza Strip - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (JCPA)
  • Japanese Banks Put Pressure on Iran - Guy Dinmore and David Pilling
    Japan's private sector has responded to signals from Washington by restricting loans to Iran and rejecting an Iranian request to pay for oil imports in currencies other than dollars, banking and official sources say. A senior banker said three banks - Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho, and Sumitomo Mitsui - had informed the Iranian authorities in April that they would not conduct new business in Iran. This development places Japanese banks "ahead" of many European counterparts, he said. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Release 250 Fatah Prisoners - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    Prime Minister Olmert, in a surprise gesture intended to strengthen PA Chairman Abbas, announced at Monday's summit in Sharm e-Sheikh the unilateral release of 250 Fatah prisoners. Olmert said he was taking this step "because it is important that every Palestinian know that those who are willing to establish peaceful relations and conciliation with us will get from us a conciliatory hand extended in return." Olmert said he told Abbas Israel would release frozen PA tax revenue, renew security and economic cooperation, "significantly improve" freedom of movement in the West Bank, and renew and widen commerce between Israel and the West Bank. Olmert also said he acceded to Abbas' request to continue to supply Gaza with electricity, water, medical services, food and drugs. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Prime Minister Olmert's Statement at Sharm e-Sheikh Summit (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • The Anti-Hamas Alliance Gathers - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The four leaders who met in Sharm e-Sheikh on Monday all have one common enemy: Hamas. Egyptian and Jordanian journalists said their governments were not afraid of Hamas as much as they were afraid of Iran. "It's widely believed that the Iranians were behind the Hamas coup," said a Jordanian newspaper correspondent. "Our government is convinced that Iran is trying to overthrow pro-Western regimes in the Arab world." An Egyptian journalist said Mubarak was "furious" when he heard that Hamas militiamen had received training in Iran and other Islamic countries.
        Abdel Bari Atwan, the Palestinian editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said Monday's summit was part of an unprecedented effort to create an Israeli-Arab alliance against Hamas. He said the new alliance was the first step toward confronting the bigger threat: Iran and its major Arab ally, Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Releases Audio Message from Kidnapped Israeli Soldier - Ronny Sofer
    An audio message from captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was posted on the Hamas website Monday. A source in Prime Minister Olmert's office said, "There is no doubt that the text was dictated to Shalit by Hamas." According to the source, "There is no change in Israel's stance. Hamas is no partner and this is another example of its cruelty." (Ynet News)
        See also Pawns in a Hamas Power Play - Anshel Pfeffer
    Since it took over Gaza, the increasingly isolated Hamas government has been trying to bring about BBC reporter Alan Johnston's release. It is part of the struggle still going on within Gaza for control of a number of strongholds controlled by tribal gangs and clans. Hamas' hope is that by delivering Johnston safely, it will achieve a degree of legitimacy from the Western governments currently supporting Abbas. Last week, Hamas was poised to attack the compound of the Dughmush clan who are holding the journalist, but backed off when it realized that a dead Johnston would only make things worse.
        The release of the Shalit tape is based on the same motive - Hamas' effort to break the international isolation. It is a sign of Hamas' desperation for recognition and contact with the outside world that it is so eager now to prove he is alive. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Damages Building in Sderot - Mijal Greenberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Tuesday morning. One rocket hit a building in Sderot, causing extensive damage. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Who Killed Palestine? - Bret Stephens
    No matter how much diplomatic, military and financial oxygen is pumped into Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority, it's oxygen flowing to a corpse. Israelis have held on to their state because they were able to develop the political, military and economic institutions that a state requires to survive, beginning with its monopoly on the use of legitimate force. In its nearly 14 years as an autonomous entity, the PA has succeeded in none of that, despite being on the receiving end of unprecedented international goodwill and largesse. What the experience of an unoccupied Gaza Strip has shown is the Palestinians' unfitness for political sovereignty. Nothing has so completely soured the world on the idea of a Palestinian state as the experience of it. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Geneva Conventions - Anne Bayefsky
    A year ago, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan dissolved the UN Commission on Human Rights under pressure, after the commission discredited itself repeatedly, even electing a Libyan chairman. Now its successor - the UN Human Rights Council - is proving itself to be worse than what it replaced. Last week the council marked its first anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland, by adopting an agenda that is an affront to the civilized world. It deletes the job of investigating human rights violations in the brutal dictatorships of Belarus and Cuba and instead focuses its attention uniquely on Israel.
        The UN General Assembly created the council without specifying membership criteria, such as, say, actually respecting human rights. On Sudan, the council waited six months and then decided to start another UN fact-finding mission. When Sudan refused to let the human rights monitors into the country, the council created an "expert group" that remained in Geneva to focus on reviewing UN documents. Now the council has given the group six more months. Meanwhile, two million people have been displaced and up to 400,000 have died in Darfur. The writer edits, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and is a professor at Touro College in New York. (Wall Street Journal, 21Jun07)
  • Observations:

    Is This the End of Palestine? - Martin Peretz (New Republic)

    • So what is Palestine? It is an improvisation from a series of rude facts. Palestine was never anything of especial importance to the Arabs or to the larger orbit of Muslims. Palestine was never even an integral territory of the Ottomans but split up in sanjaks that crossed later post-World War I borders, a geographical and political jumble.
    • When the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine was passed, envisioning a "Jewish" state and an "Arab" (not, mind you, Palestinian) state, even the idea of a separate Arab realm was met at best with a yawn. Though almost no Arab wanted Jewish sovereignty in any of Palestine, virtually no Arab seemed to crave Arab sovereignty, either. Foreign Arab armies did the fighting against the Haganah, and foreign states sat for the Palestinians at the cease-fire negotiations.
    • Indeed, from 1949 through 1967, what was the West Bank of Arab Palestine was annexed - yes, annexed - by Jordan, and what was the Gaza Strip was a captive territory of Egypt, unannexed so that Gazans had no rights as Egyptians (whereas the West Bankers had rights as Jordanians). The Palestine Liberation Organization, founded in 1964, was not founded to liberate these territories. It was founded to liberate that part of Palestine held by Israel.
    • The final fall of Gaza to Hamas puts the whole question of Palestine and the Palestinians into a new perspective. There are now three cohorts of Palestinians between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. (Four, if you count the Palestinian majority under Hashemite rule.)
    • The most serious near-term danger actually comes from the West Bank. Rockets and more precise weapons aimed at the thickly populated heart and narrow waist of Israel from almost any place in what is now Fatah land would revive both the anxieties and military reflexes of Israel. That is why U.S. policy must not assume that there are facile ways to render the West Bank peaceful. What keeps that area more orderly than Gaza is the presence of Israeli troops.

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