Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 1, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Officer: We Would Have Given Up If Not for Cease-Fire (Jerusalem Post)
    "The cease-fire acted as a life jacket for the organization [at the end of the Second Lebanon War]," a Hizbullah officer said in an interview aired by Israel's Channel 10 television on Tuesday.
    The officer said Hizbullah gunmen would have surrendered if the fighting last summer had continued for another ten days.
    He said the gunmen had been running low on food and water and faced rapidly diminishing arms supplies.

Russia "Downgrades" Relationship with Hamas - Andrew E. Kramer (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    "Recently, we have somewhat downgraded the level of contacts with Hamas," said Andrei Denisov, a first deputy foreign minister, after PA Chairman Abbas met with President Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.
    Russia is the only member of the Quartet of international mediators that recognizes Hamas.
    Denisov said future Russian contact with Hamas would be more "pragmatic" and focused on pressuring the group to accept Abbas' authority.
    In his comments, Putin told Abbas, "we will support you as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people."
    Russian officials said they would provide 50 armored personnel carriers to Abbas' government.

Jordan Won't Send Troops to West Bank - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Jordan has ruled out Prime Minister Olmert's suggestion that Jordanian forces assist the PA in combating terrorism in the West Bank, an idea first reported in the Jerusalem Post on Monday.
    The Jordanian news service Petra quoted government spokesman Nasser Judeh as saying the idea of sending Jordanian troops to the West Bank "was absolutely rejected by Jordan."

Islamic Opposition Pulls Out of Jordanian Municipal Elections - Hassan M. Fattah (New York Times)
    The Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and the most influential political opposition group, abruptly withdrew from nationwide Jordanian municipal council elections on Tuesday, citing voting irregularities in the elections, which were seen as a test for the more politically sensitive parliamentary elections this fall.
    Marouf al-Bakhit, Jordan's prime minister, said the Islamic Action Front's withdrawal was illegal.
    Jordan has long tried to engage and co-opt its Islamic opposition, which is one of the few officially sanctioned Islamist political parties in the Middle East.
    However, with the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian territories and growing fears of an Islamist ascendancy throughout the region, the government has worked to ensure the group does not make any major political gains.

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  • U.S. Wants Israel to Expand Scope of Talks with Abbas - Adam Entous
    The U.S. wants Israel to expand the scope of talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to begin tackling border and possibly other statehood issues, diplomats and Israeli officials said Tuesday. A Western diplomat involved in the deliberations said Washington was now eager to "expand the range of things discussed" between Olmert and Abbas. "They're more than testing the waters. The Americans are trying to see how much they can expand the envelope of 'political horizon'," a senior Israeli official said.
        Israeli officials said Olmert was prepared to discuss borders and other core issues in "general terms" that could lead to an "agreement of principles" for establishing a Palestinian state. But Olmert has not agreed to full-fledged negotiations over the three main final status issues - borders, the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees - as proposed by Abbas. Israeli officials said any commitment now could raise expectations and lead to further violence if talks break down.(Reuters)
  • U.S. Pressing Arab Nations to Increase Support for Iraq - Helene Cooper and David S. Cloud
    Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates on Tuesday coupled their military assistance package for Arab allies with a public request for Arab leaders to do more to back the Shiite-led government in Iraq. The Bush team has gotten a little less than hoped for, particularly given the size of the military and aid package announced Monday. In addition to the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the gathering at Sharm El-Sheikh included Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
        The group issued a statement supporting a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, but made no promises that Saudi Arabia, or indeed any of the Persian Gulf countries, would attend an international conference that President Bush has proposed for this fall. American officials have said privately that they want Arab countries to confront Iran more robustly. (New York Times)
        See also Joint Statement after Sharm El-Sheikh Meeting (State Department)
        See also U.S. Gets No Specific Arab Promises of Iraq Help
    The U.S. won no specific new promises of Arab help for struggling Iraq after a gathering Tuesday of several nations listed as recipients of an expanded aid and weapons package for friendly states in the region. President Bush's top diplomatic and military managers have a tough assignment to convince skeptical, mostly Sunni-led Arab nations that they have more to lose if Iraq fails than they stand to gain by waiting until the U.S. leaves or Bush's term ends. Arab money and diplomatic support has lagged behind Europe's, and some of Iraq's neighbors quietly tolerate, or may secretly support, attacks inside Iraq. Some of the violence targets U.S. forces and some of it Shiite militias and neighborhoods. (AP/CNN)
  • Academics Oppose Israel Boycott
    More than 10,000 academics, including 32 Nobel prize winners, have signed a declaration saying they would not join any project which barred Israelis. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who drafted the statement for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), said that should the UK's University and College Union "go forward with a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions, the end result will be a self-inflicted wound on British academia." (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Al-Qaeda Has Penetrated the Saudi Military - Yaakov Lappin
    An impending $20 billion American arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in which the Saudis would receive state-of-the-art military equipment over the next decade, is fraught with potential dangers for Israel, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold said Tuesday in an interview. "There are a broad set of very possible scenarios that Israel certainly has to take into consideration. Several years ago, Israel received reports of the interrogation of al-Qaeda captives who admitted that their organization had penetrated the Saudi Arabian air force, and that it was planning to take control of several Saudi F-15s based at Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia, near Eilat, and fly the planes into skyscrapers in Tel Aviv," Gold said. "From the pattern of past al-Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia, many Western observers have concluded that elements of the Saudi national guard colluded with the attackers," he added.
        "Israel doesn't have to roll back to 1967 lines in order to get a Saudi foreign minister to attend a Middle East peace summit." "Up until recently, Saudi Arabia was the primary funder of Hamas during the high point of the suicide bombing attacks against Israel." Citing a written pledge made by Bush to former prime minister Sharon, according to which Israel would not be expected to withdraw to the 1967 lines, Gold said: "By embracing the Arab peace initiative (which calls for an Israeli retreat to the '67 lines), the Bush administration is creating some confusion over whether Bush's assurances to Sharon still stand. And therefore, it should issue a clarification in this regard."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Bombs West Bank Jail - Ali Waked
    An explosive device was detonated Tuesday at the PA's Jenaid prison in Nablus, where Hamas prisoners are being held. Palestinian sources said the event is considered a "warning sign" to the PA to stop its arrests of Hamas operatives. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why the Saudi Arms Deal Is So Dangerous - William M. Arkin
    The political debate that has begun over the Bush administration's recently announced $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations is missing the point. The real threat is the army of contractors and U.S. service members that will have to go to Saudi Arabia to support the deal. They will just fuel more Arab anger and more terrorism.
        The Saudi military is even less dangerous than the gang who couldn't shoot straight. After gazillions in arms sales during the heyday of oil, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia demonstrated that it wasn't capable, even with its advanced American-supplied military, of defending its country. When Desert Storm unfolded in 1991, Saudi ground forces were given a sector to operate in where they wouldn't get in the way. The Saudi monarchy has methodically focused its military on pomp and equipment and spiffy uniforms, ensuring that it not acquire any real offensive capacity or the ability to operate as a coherent force. It does not want a competent, independent military contemplating a coup.
        We will buy nothing in terms of security, and we will just put our own people in danger. But most important, we will once again renew the cycle of American penetration into the heart of Islam, one of bin Laden's original and most compelling rallying points. That's why the Saudi deal is so dangerous. (Washington Post)
  • Endgame for Palestine - Harvey Sicherman
    Since June 2002, as an essential element of an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, American policy has sought to foster the creation of a democratic Palestinian state that is opposed to terrorism. The U.S. attributed the failed Camp David Summit of 2000 and the subsequent intifada largely to Arafat's malevolence. Hamas' January 2006 election victory dealt a blow to U.S. policy. Apparently, Arafat's Palestine was to be displaced not by Bush's democratic vision, represented by Abbas, but rather by Hamas, an Islamist party (its ideology not far from that of bin Laden's) and increasingly influenced by Syria and Iran. The Palestinians had elected a party that repudiated Oslo and sought Israel's destruction through terrorism.
        U.S. policy has no answer to the most important recent military developments. This is the view, shared by Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and Syria, that they have found a way to deter if not negate Israel's military advantages, thereby enabling them to damage Israel with relative impunity. By deploying well-trained troops that use Palestinian civilians as shields and Israeli civilians as the targets, largely through missile fire, Hamas hopes to duplicate Hizbullah's feat during the Second Lebanon War. Without a military solution to this challenge, Hamas will be able to bring about a violent interruption of any negotiation that looks like success. The author is president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former aide to three U.S. secretaries of state. (ISN-Swiss Federal Institute of Technology/FPRI)
  • Observations:

    The Iran-Hizbullah Alliance - Matthew Levitt and Jake Lipton (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Last week saw the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) warning of an increased likelihood that Hizbullah could attack U.S. soil if it, or Iran, feels directly threatened by the United States. Washington continues to take action against the organization, but given Hizbullah's impressive fundraising capabilities and Iranian support, the task is challenging.
    • On July 18, 1994, a car bombing carried out by Hizbullah at Iran's behest targeted the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), a Jewish community organization, killing 85 and wounding more than 200.
    • In late 2006, an Argentinean special prosecutor released a detailed report on the AMIA bombing, issuing arrest warrants for high-level Iranian officials and Hizbullah members involved in the attack. According to a U.S. State Department assessment, "members of the Iranian government's highest echelons planned out how the attack would occur and entrusted its execution to the Lebanese terrorist organization [Hizbullah]."
    • The bombing was an archetypal example of Iran's direct sponsorship of Hizbullah. The Argentinean investigation concluded that Tehran transferred at least $152,812 to accounts controlled by Mohsen Rabbani, a Shiite cleric who at the time held diplomatic immunity as a cultural attache at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires. Rabbani was responsible for coordinating logistical details and procuring materials (e.g., vehicles and explosives) for the attack.
    • Arrest warrants were issued for nine others, including former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Hizballah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh. Rafsanjani was charged with "heading the intelligence office whose main function was to devise a preliminary plan to attack Argentina," Mughniyeh with "overseeing the complex operations of Hizbullah overseas, and was a specialist in recruiting soldiers for foreign operations, reporting to no one else but Iran."
    • Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department designated a parastatal Iranian organization as a key link between Tehran and Hizbullah, targeting the Iran-based Martyrs Foundation (Bonyad-e shahid) for "provid[ing] financial support to the families of killed or imprisoned Hizbullah and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] members." In the U.S., a Martyrs Foundation satellite office in Dearborn, Michigan - the Goodwill Charitable Organization (GCO) - was also designated for instructing "Hizbullah members in the United States to send their contributions to GCO."

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