Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 18, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Leadership Council Meets Regularly in Iran - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
    One of two known al-Qaeda leadership councils meets regularly in eastern Iran, where the American intelligence community believes dozens of senior al-Qaeda leaders have reconstituted a good part of the terror conglomerate's senior leadership structure.
    That is a consensus judgment from a new National Intelligence Estimate, titled "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," which represents the opinion of America's intelligence agencies.

FBI: Iraqis Being Smuggled Across the Rio Grande - Brian Ross (ABC News)
    The FBI is investigating a human smuggling operation based in Chaparral, N.M., that has been bringing "Iraqis and other Middle Eastern" individuals across the Rio Grande from Mexico for more than a year.
    An FBI report issued last week says the smuggling organization "used to smuggle Mexicans, but decided to smuggle Iraqi or other Middle Eastern individuals because it was more lucrative." Each individual paid $20,000 to $25,000.

Stakes High in Holy Land Trial - Jason Trahan (Dallas Morning News)
    Three months after 9/11, President Bush shut down the Holy Land Foundation, saying millions of dollars it sent to the Middle East helped "indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers."
    Jury selection has begun in Dallas in the nation's biggest terror-financing case yet.
    The federal government says that seven foundation organizers illegally sent at least $12 million overseas to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Historical Precedents for the Fatah-Hamas Rift - Ghada Karmi (Guardian-UK)
    What a nadir in Palestinian fortunes for one side in Ramallah to trumpet Western support while the other starves in Gaza.
    This shocking spectacle is a sad echo of an earlier scenario, then as now, infinitely more damaging to the Palestinians than to their enemies.
    The split involved rivalry between two Jerusalem families, the Husseinis and Nashashibis, during the 1930s.
    The Nashashibis wanted compromise and accommodation with the British Mandate authorities, while the Husseinis refused to deal with the British government.

Iran Police Step Up Crackdown on UnIslamic Dress (Reuters)
    Iranian police stepped up a crackdown on Monday on women ignoring strict Islamic dress codes, including sending newly trained women officers to help "guide" violators.
    Police in the Islamic Republic had said they would intensify a drive against women whose veils do not cover their hair properly, or whose overcoats are too short.
    Mehdi Ahmadi, head of the police information center, said women who ignored police advice would be taken to police stations "to improve their behavior."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush's Middle East Meeting "Not a Peace Conference"
    White House Press Secretary Tony Snow clarified on Tuesday President Bush's call for an international meeting on the Middle East: "I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not. This is a meeting to sit down and try to find ways of building fundamental and critical institutions for the Palestinians that are going to enable them to have self-government and democracy....It was being spun up as a major peace conference where people are going to be talking about final status issues, and that is not the case."
        "The first thing you've got to do is build the capability within the Palestinian areas, to have those institutions that are going to be able to not only sustain democracy, but also to sustain peace and security within the area, and to be able to fulfill the Quartet conditions, which are renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, and abiding by international treaties. I mean, all those things are still capabilities that they have to work on developing. So you do first things first."
        "The idea that somehow we've been disengaged is simply false. What the United States has not done is wrap its arms around those who are committed to terror and, therefore, engage in fruitless negotiations that would have led nowhere. Bill Clinton, upon leaving office, famously expressed frustration that he had trusted Yasser Arafat and, therefore, had been deceived when it came to trying to pursue peace." (White House)
        See also Israel: No Talks on Core Issues "At This Stage" - Adam Entous
    Israel on Tuesday ruled out negotiations "at this stage" on the borders of a future Palestinian state. "Israel has openly stated that we're willing to talk about issues of 'political horizon' and about how to achieve the vision of two states for two peoples," said Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin. "But we have been very clear that we are not willing to discuss at this stage the three core issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem." A senior Israeli official said Israel was counting on Bush insisting that Palestinians rein in militants before advancing to talks about borders. (Reuters)
  • New Intelligence Estimate: Al-Qaeda's Gains Keep U.S. at Risk - Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus
    Al-Qaeda has reestablished its central organization, training infrastructure and lines of global communication over the past two years, putting the U.S. in a "heightened threat environment" despite expanded worldwide counterterrorism efforts, according to a new intelligence estimate. Intelligence officials attributed the al-Qaeda gains primarily to its establishment of a safe haven in ungoverned areas of northwestern Pakistan. Its affiliation with the Sunni insurgent group Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said, has helped it to "energize" extremists elsewhere and has aided bin Laden's recruitment and funding.
        The estimate concluded that "the U.S. Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years." The report stressed the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures, in cooperation with other countries, in disrupting terrorist networks and preventing attacks against the U.S. in the years immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. (Washington Post)
        See also Six Years Later, the Same Threat - Scott Shane (New York Times)
  • Texas Governor Eyes Pension Funds Tied to Iran - Peggy Fikac
    Gov. Rick Perry wants state pension funds to divest any holdings in companies doing business with Iran, Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson said Tuesday. "One thing that people can understand and respect is economic pressure," Wilson said. "And we do not need to be holding assets in companies that are continuing to do business with individuals that are intent on causing harm."  (San Antonio Express-News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Asks to Keep Gaza-Egypt Border Closed - Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis
    Mahmoud Abbas requested that Israel and Egypt prevent the movement of people from Egypt to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing after Hamas' mid-June takeover of the Strip, Palestinian sources said Tuesday. Abbas said if the crossing is opened, Hamas will be able to bring thousands of people into Gaza without supervision - including activists who would strengthen the group. Abbas asked that the Kerem Shalom Israel-Gaza border point be used for Gazans stranded in Egypt, but Hamas refused. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Riots Erupt in Egypt-Gaza Border Airport
    About 100 Palestinians smashed doors and windows inside an airport building in el-Arish in Egypt Tuesday after being trapped there for more than a month since the Gaza-Egypt border's closure. The Palestinians had first arrived at Cairo airport from trips abroad and were transferred under security supervision to el-Arish airport, where they had expected to travel onward to Gaza. But they have been stuck in el-Arish airport since Egypt sealed its border with Gaza after the Hamas takeover last month. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bush Not Giving Up - Ron Ben-Yishai
    None of the regional players have a recipe for handling the split in the Palestinian camp created by Hamas' Gaza takeover. The Palestinians are in deep depression and many of them have given up the possibility of having their own state. In Israel, Hamastan in Gaza and Fatahland in the West Bank are starting to be seen as a permanent situation; politicians and academicians in Washington and Israel have begun reviving the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, a prospect that horrifies the Jordanian king.
        Bush's speech Monday outlined clear guidelines for handling the situation that has emerged in the Palestinian arena. The policy formulated would be adopted by all players in the theater (with the exception of Iran and Syria), thus enabling them to work together in order to secure clear objectives and goals. It would deprive Hamas of international legitimacy and boost Mahmoud Abbas' status. An important component in the speech was the decisive anti-Hamas line adopted by Bush. No negotiations, no cooperation, and no aid until Hamas agrees to recognize Israel and renounce the armed struggle against it. Abbas received a pledge for about $400 million should he undertake the required reforms and refrain from terror. (Ynet News)
        See also Bush's Farewell Speech - Nahum Barnea
    Five years ago Bush delivered his first two-state speech. He spoke of a final-status agreement within three years. On Monday, he reiterated the key points of that address with one difference: This time he was careful not to specify a timeline. The two men currently heading the PA, Mahmoud Abbas and Salim Fayyad, oppose terror and are refraining from incitement, giving Bush a Palestinian leadership he can support. In his address Monday, Bush promised to pad PA leaders with cash. But the authority does not lack funds at present. Its lacks a public basis. All Bush is promising to do is to convene a regional conference in the fall headed by Condoleezza Rice. These meetings are nothing more than castles in the air. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Institution-Building Before Statehood - Michael B. Oren
    Bush called on those Arab governments that have yet to establish relations with Israel to recognize its right to exist and to authorize ministerial missions to the Jewish state. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, which has offered such recognition but only in return for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, will have to accept Israel prior to any territorial concessions. By insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Bush effectively reversed the process set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution-building. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Bribing Abbas - John Podhoretz
    America is raining half a billion dollars on the Palestinian government solely because it's kinda-sorta acting a little bit like it's maybe possibly giving up on terror. We have no reason to expect that a single cent of that money is going to go anywhere helpful or do anything good. In the three years since Arafat's death, the Palestinian government has remained a corrupt kleptocracy. President Bush made it clear in his speech that, in the American perspective, there will only be a Palestinian state if there is a Palestinian revolution in consciousness. "The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope - not a future of terror and death," Bush said. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Palestinians Lacking a Coherent Body Politic - Shlomo Avineri (Daily Star-Lebanon)

    • Palestinians see their history as one of struggle against Zionism and Israel. But the reality is more complicated, and marked by repeated failures to create a coherent body politic, even when historical opportunities beckoned.
    • In the 1920s, the British Mandatory government in Palestine encouraged the two national communities - Jewish and Arab - to establish communal institutions of self-government to look after education, welfare, housing, and local administration. The Jews set up a National Committee, based on an elected body, the Representative Assembly of Palestinian Jews. Regular elections took place, sometimes with more than a dozen parties competing.
    • The Palestinians, however, never created similar embryonic state structures: an Arab Higher Committee was established, made up of regional and tribal notables, but no elections ever took place. It never succeeded in creating a generally accepted national leadership or in providing the Arab community the panoply of educational and welfare services offered to the Jewish community by its elected institutions.
    • In 1947-1948, Palestinian Arabs rejected the UN partition plan, which envisaged separate Arab and Jewish states after the departure of the British. While Jews accepted this compromise, the Palestinian Arabs, supported by the Arab League countries, rejected it and went to war against the emerging state of Israel.
    • What sometimes gets lost in this narrative is that the Palestinians were unable to devise coherent political institutions and a unified military command with which to confront the much smaller Jewish community. By contrast, the besieged Jewish community was able to mobilize the resources needed for a successful military campaign. Indeed, many Palestinian political leaders absconded to Beirut or Cairo once violence broke out.
    • When the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization set up the autonomous Palestinian Authority under Arafat, instead of creating the infrastructure of the future Palestinian state, Arafat created a security state. He established a dozen competing security services - sometimes indistinguishable from clan-based militias - which consumed more than 60% of the PA budget, at the expense of education, housing, welfare, and refugee rehabilitation. Into this vacuum burst Hamas, with its network of schools, welfare services, community centers, and support organizations.

      The writer is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry.

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