Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 10, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Bribery Suspected in Hamas Salary Scandal - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    PA Finance Ministry senior official Yusef al-Zumur has been arrested for illegally transferring yearly salaries to 3,500 members of the Hamas security forces.
    The incident was proof of unauthorized cooperation between senior Fatah officials and Hamas.
    It appears that the case is a criminal one and Hamas bribed Finance Ministry workers to attain the money.
    One of the main sources of the money which reached Hamas was the roughly $400 million in taxes that Israel transferred to the PA. The U.S. and Europe have also renewed the flow of money to the PA.
    Officials in Jerusalem said they viewed the incident with great severity. "It was promised to Israel that the money would not reach Hamas," an official said.

Abbas Asks Mubarak to Dig Moat Along Gaza-Egypt Border (Jerusalem Post)
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Thursday and appealed to him to authorize the construction of a moat that would prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt, Israel Television Channel 1 reported Thursday.
    Terror groups dig tunnels in order to move weapons and ammunition. Digging a trench and flooding it with sea water would cause any tunnels beneath it to collapse.
    See also Anywhere You Stamp Your Foot on the Ground, You Will Find Tunnels (CTV-Canada)

Law and Order in the PA (IMEMC-PA)
    A Palestinian court in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday ordered the release of Yasser Abed al-Majeed, a Hamas fighter, but the local security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah refused to release the man.
    Abed al-Majeed and 12 other Palestinians were accused of attempting to form a unit of the Hamas Executive Force in Bethlehem.

Gaddafi's Son: Bulgarians Were Tortured - Molly Moore (Washington Post)
    Six Bulgarian medical workers imprisoned on charges of infecting children with the HIV virus were tortured by electric shock during their captivity, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi told al-Jazeera television.
    The doctor and five nurses were released last month after eight years in prison, and several have described ordeals of electric shock, rape, attacks by dogs and other torture during their incarceration.

South Korean Troops Begin Lebanon Mission (Yonhap News-South Korea)
    A contingent of South Korean troops are set to start their mission to monitor a cease-fire between the Israeli and Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon as part of the UN peacekeeping forces, the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.
    The unit of 350 South Korean soldiers includes combatants, engineers, medics and other supporting forces.

Israel to Send Emergency Firefighting Equipment to Macedonia (ReliefWeb-UN)
    Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sending aid to the Republic of Macedonia to help it battle extensive fires rampant in the country, caused by the extreme heat wave that has swept over Southern Europe in the past few days.

Anti-Israeli Bias in France - Interview with Nidra Poller (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The French media are government-influenced in a subtle manner. It is hard for a journalist to find work. If one gets fired, it is difficult to get another job.
    This is a powerful incentive to stay in line, and almost all journalists do. That line is Third Worldist, anti-American, and anti-Zionist.
    Much of the foreign news comes from Agence France Presse, a news agency that is partly owned by the French government and is biased against Israel.
    The writer is an American journalist and writer of fiction who came to France in 1972.

150 American Youths to Join IDF - Israel Moskovitch (Ynet News)
    "The number of soldiers who will arrive here this year is larger than ever before, and everybody asked to be recruited into combat units," said Tsvika Levy, who supervises young people who make aliya in order to join the army.
    The last two years have seen 120 and 90 American teenagers volunteering to serve in the IDF, with 150 arriving this year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Islamic Terrorists Teaming with Mexican Drug Cartels - Sara A. Carter
    Islamic extremists embedded in the U.S. - posing as Hispanic nationals - are partnering with violent Mexican drug gangs to finance terror networks in the Middle East, according to a DEA report. "Since drug traffickers and terrorists operate in a clandestine environment, both groups utilize similar methodologies to function," said the confidential 2005 report. It outlines an ongoing scheme in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells operating in the U.S. fund terror networks overseas, aided by established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes. An El Paso, Texas, law enforcement report documents the influx of "approximately 20 Arab persons a week utilizing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver's licenses from Arabic to Hispanic surnames." (Washington Times)
        See also Congressman Seeks Hearing on Islamic, Mexican Ties - Sara A. Carter
    Rep. Ed Royce, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee, said the DEA document highlights how vulnerable the nation is when fighting the war on terrorism. "I'll be asking the terrorism subcommittee to hold a hearing on the DEA report's disturbing findings," he said. "A flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels on the Texas border with Middle East terrorism needs to be thoroughly investigated." According to the DEA report, a Middle Eastern member of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in narcotics sales and other crimes, married into a Mexican narcotics family. (Washington Times)
  • Israeli Defense Minister: No Peace Deal Imminent
    A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will not be reached for at least three to five years, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported Israel's defense minister as saying. In private conversations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the idea of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians anytime soon was a "fantasy." He also said that Israel would not withdraw from the West Bank before finding a solution to Palestinian rocket attacks. "What will determine the situation in the end is if Abu Mazen (Abbas) and (Palestinian Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad are capable of implementing anything in the West Bank," Barak was quoted as saying. (Reuters)
  • Holy Land Trial Turns to Israeli Agent - Jason Trahan
    The federal judge presiding over the Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial ordered his courtroom cleared of spectators Thursday as a secret agent for the Israel Defense Forces took the stand. The agent testified about a cache of documents, videos and posters that his team of commandos seized during raids on several charity committees in the Palestinian territories between 2002 and 2004. Prosecutors say these committees are controlled by Hamas and contend that Holy Land's support of them amounts to illegal support of terrorists. Prosecutors are expected to get into the details of what is in the evidence later, when an agent with the Israeli Security Agency is to testify in the case. (Dallas Morning News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Ten Injured After Palestinian Steals Security Guard's Gun in Jerusalem's Old City - Jonathan Lis
    According to Jerusalem District Police Commissioner Aharon Franco, near Jaffa Gate a Palestinian attacker succeeded in taking a guard's gun and shot him. As the attacker escaped from the scene, another guard ran after the man, shooting and killing him during the chase, during which bystanders were injured. (Ha'aretz)
  • Senior Hamas Members Return to Gaza from Egypt Despite Ban - Ali Waked
    A number of senior members of Hamas' armed-wing who were stuck in Sinai for the past few weeks recently managed to return to Gaza. 79 Izz al-Din al-Qassam men had been banned from entry into Gaza in light of information indicating they had been training in Iran. During the last few days some of the men managed to infiltrate Gaza through the border fence, while others returned to the countries from which they came, mainly Syria. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Two Kassam rockets landed near Sderot Thursday evening, raising the day's total number of rocket strikes to four. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bankrolling Iran - Mark Kirk
    Both the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency have found Iran in breach of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The IAEA reports that Iran ignored the Security Council's February deadline to stop enriching uranium and has even expanded its nuclear program. As Iran's Atomic Energy Organization moves toward its announced goal of operating 50,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz, the World Bank is funding nine government projects in Iran totaling $1.35 billion - one of which operates in Isfahan, where Iran's nuclear program is headquartered.
        As the Treasury acts to dry up funding for Tehran, the World Bank is providing support to the Iranian government through 2010. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledges the destruction of Israel, funds Hizbullah and Hamas, and defies Security Council resolutions, the bank's board will approve further Iran disbursements. The writer is a Republican congressman from Illinois. (Washington Post)
  • Syria Must Show It's Serious About Progress Before Negotiations Can Be Held - Malcolm Hoenlein
    Israel should do what it believes is necessary based on the facts on the ground. The United States says it will not negotiate with Syria because Syria has failed every test, and has not taken a single step to indicate that it's serious about peace and about improving the situation in the region. There are clear benchmarks and Assad has not met even one.
        If Mr. Assad is prepared to say that he has changed like Gaddafi, let him prove it. When Gaddafi wanted to signal his new direction, he produced and the West responded. Mr. Assad has not produced....Israel as an independent country has the right to pursue whatever avenues it determines to be necessary to serve the security and well-being of the state and its people.
        The goal of Syria was to talk to the U.S., not to Israel. If they want to talk to Israel, they know how to do it. Prime Minister Olmert said he was prepared for unconditional negotiations on all issues. But the fact is that Syria keeps insisting that there will be a go-between. Why shouldn't there be direct contact? If the Syrians are truly interested in talking peace with their neighbor, they don't have to have somebody from Washington mediating. (Conference of Presidents)
  • U.S. Promotes Free Elections, Only to See Allies Lose - Hassan M. Fattah
    Last Sunday's pivotal by-election in Lebanon saw a relatively unknown candidate from the opposition narrowly beat a former president, Amin Gemayel. Gemayel's doom seems to have been sealed by his support from the Bush administration. "It's the kiss of death," said Turki al-Rasheed, a Saudi reformer. "The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win." The paradox of American policy in the Middle East - promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West - is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose. "No politician can afford to identify with the West because poll after poll shows people don't believe in the U.S. agenda," said Mustafa Hamarneh, until recently the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. (New York Times)
  • Hizbullah's Christian Soldiers? - Andrew Lee Butters
    Michel Aoun, a charismatic former general who heads the country's largest Christian political party, the Free Patriotic Movement, is openly allied with Hizbullah. What could Lebanese Christians possibly have in common with Hizbullah, the Islamist resistance movement? Perhaps it is the fact that Aoun's Christian supporters and Hizbullah's rank and file are motivated by a shared animus towards Lebanon's political elite, a handful of families such as the Gemayel, whose progeny resurface in government after government.
        In fact, many of the supporters of the current government are civil war-era militia leaders who accommodated themselves rather nicely to the years of Syrian occupation, but who have now emerged wearing business suits and talking U.S.-friendly language about democracy and independence. Neither Aoun nor Hizbullah is a poster child for democratic civil society. Still, both popular movements tap into the general resentment of average people who have watched as a relatively small number of Lebanese - well represented in the anti-Syria ruling coalition - have cashed in on the post civil-war reconstruction of the country. (TIME)

    Weekend Features

  • Ebbing Violence Eases Fears - Jane Wooldridge
    Tourism to Israel is on an upswing, with officials predicting a 10 to 20% increase over the two million visitors to Israel last year. About 25% come from the U.S. Since the beginning of 2007, Israel has suffered only one suicide bombing - down from 60 in 2002, according to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The reasons, say security experts, are a cease-fire between Israel and some Palestinian groups, and the security fence separating the West Bank territories from Israel.
        Bruce McIndoe, CEO of iJET Travel Intelligence, likens the risk to traveling in the Philippines, Indonesia or Spain. "There's a lot of territory in Israel that is extremely low-risk for terrorism. You have the same thing in Spain." (Miami Herald)
  • Ancient Byzantine Church Discovered in Tiberias
    In excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Tiberias impressive and unique finds were uncovered in the last three months that shed light on the history of the ancient city. A Byzantine church (from the fourth-fifth centuries CE) was exposed that is paved with magnificent polychrome mosaics decorated with geometric patterns and crosses. Three dedicatory inscriptions written in ancient Greek are incorporated in the mosaics. In addition, the remains of a Jewish neighborhood that dates to the tenth-eleventh centuries were discovered in the excavations. (Israel Antiquities Authority/Scoop-NZ)
  • Deeper Connection with Her Culture: Program Aims to Link Young Jews to Israel - Kim Vo
    Amy Blasberg, a 23-year-old preschool teacher, always wanted to visit Israel. Then a friend went last year - for free. He came back raving about "his amazing time, how cool the people were." A bold program has been enticing young Jews with free trips for those who are age 18 to 26. When Taglit Birthright started in 2000, it sent 12,000 young adult Jews to Israel, program officials said. Today, it's nearly 30,000 annually - and the group claims it's shepherded about 150,000 people to Israel over the years.
        During the 10-day visits, participants tour Jerusalem and meet with other Jews like themselves in a land where they are not the minority. Israel has historically played a central role in Judaism, said Rabbi Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. People face Jerusalem when they pray and mention Israel in their prayers. She encourages people in her congregation, young and old, to go if they can and has led her congregation on several trips. Toward the end of her trip, Blasberg wandered the streets of Jerusalem alone. A shopkeeper asked if she was with Birthright. Yes, she said, but we're going home tomorrow. "He replied: 'You're already home,'" Blasberg recalled. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • Observations:

    Syrian Rockets Aimed at Tel Aviv - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • The latest IDF intelligence assessment is that Syria is not planning to attack Israel, at least not in the coming months. The accelerated preparations for war undertaken by the Syrian army recently are not aimed at launching an offensive, but rather stem from fears in Damascus that the IDF plans to attack Syria. The Syrian army has not fundamentally changed its deployment, which is still mostly defensive, vis-a-vis Israel.
    • Yet this is not the complete picture. The truth is that there is no certainty within Israel's intelligence community that Syria is not planning to initiate a military confrontation with Israel. We're talking about a Hizbullah-style war - but on an immense scale. Syria is currently completing the accelerated deployment of a large rocket arsenal on the Golan aimed at Israel. We're not talking about Katyusha rockets with a few dozen kilograms of explosives, but rather heavy rockets that can carry hundreds of kilograms of explosives and can reach Tel Aviv.
    • Dozens of launchers have already been deployed on the Golan and they can fire, in one barrage, hundreds of such rockets. This comes in addition to the various types of Scud missiles positioned deep within Syrian territory and capable of hitting southern Israel. The Arrow missile is supposed to intercept the Scuds. Yet at this time the IDF has no good technological response to the heavy rockets.
    • The Syrian army is quickly equipping itself with hundreds of advanced anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets made by Russia and funded by Iran with the aim of thwarting an IDF ground or air assault - an assault aimed at paralyzing the missile arsenal. Since the end of last year, the Syrian army has accelerated the training of all its formations, both regular and reserve, and already views them as fit for confrontation. The military implication is that Syria is preparing and able to embark on a Hizbullah-style war of attrition even without changing its military deployment from defensive to offensive.
    • Syria's president is currently confident of his military power and truly believes that if he only adopts the Hizbullah model, he has the ability to force Israel to accept his demands regarding the Golan Heights, and ease some of the international pressure over the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. A military achievement, even a partial one, in a confrontation with Israel may boost the regime internally.
    • The Iranians tell the Syrians that President Bush intends to strike Iran in the summer or fall, and they expect Damascus to join Iran's counter-attack on Western interests in the region. Therefore, Teheran says, there is a need to prepare and possibly even launch a pre-emptive strike, before Israel possesses effective systems for intercepting rockets. Iranian figures who visited Syria convinced Damascus that the Israeli home front is the Zionist enemy's Achilles heel and that hitting it gravely would force Israel to accept Arab dictates on the Golan.
    • A senior Syrian official told the New York Sun about a month ago: Should the Golan not be in Syrian hands by August-September, Syria would be allowed to embark on a "resistance" campaign, including raids and attacks on Jewish targets. His words make it appear that Syria is planning a war of attrition that would start with border attacks and continue, after the IDF responds, with severe blows to the Israeli home front.

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