Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 13, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Syria's Anti-Aircraft System Most Advanced in World - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    The Syrians have purchased the most advanced ground-to-air missiles from the Russians, considered the cutting edge in aircraft interception technology, said a senior Israeli military source.
    According to one estimate, the Syrians have more than 200 anti-aircraft batteries of different types.
    The Institute for National Security Studies recently issued a memo on the strengthening of the Syrian army. Researcher Yiftah Shapir writes that the anti-aircraft deals between Syria and Russia include the purchase of SA-24 missile systems, an armored vehicle which carries four Igla-S missiles - among the most advanced shoulder-fired missiles on the market.
    In addition, the Syrians purchased 36 to 50 Pantsir S-1 (SA-22) systems that combine missiles and shells. It is installed on a high-mobility vehicle and has a launcher of 12 missiles.

Shortages in Gaza Hamper Rocket Fire - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    With the closure of border crossings into Gaza, shortages in fertilizer and steel used by Palestinian terror groups to produce rockets have led to a decrease in the number of rockets fired towards Israel.
    Palestinian operatives confirmed the shortages, but said they still had large quantities of rockets stored in secret caches.
    Rockets continued to be fired towards Israel, with three rockets landing in the western Negev on Sunday.

Indonesia: Islamic Caliphate Conference to Attract 100,000 (AKI-Italy)
    More than 100,000 people were expected to attend the world's largest Islamic Caliphate conference in Jakarta on Sunday.
    Hizb ut-Tahrir, the pan-Islamist political party staging the conference, is expecting people from all over the world to hear speakers from England, Australia, Palestine, Japan and Sudan.
    Abu Bakar Bashir, the controversial leader of Indonesia's Mujahiddin Council, who is committed to transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state, will address the conference.
    He is the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and was jailed for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings.

    See also Over 10,000 Palestinians Attend West Bank Rally to Restore Islamic Caliphate (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    A crowd of more than 10,000 Palestinians Saturday heard denunciations of the PA leadership in the West Bank as infidels at a Liberation Party rally on the sports field of the Quaker-run Friends School in Ramallah.
    The party calls for re-establishing the caliphate, or Islamic state, across the Muslim world.
    "The caliphate is coming," read a large poster on the wall of the field.

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  • Hizbullah Buys Frontier Land to Attack Israel - Charles Levinson
    Hizbullah is buying up large tracts of land owned by Christians and other non-Shias in southern Lebanon as the militant group rebuilds its defenses in preparation for a new war with Israel. The forested wadis, or valleys, north of the Litani River make ideal terrain for Hizbullah's brand of guerrilla warfare and, just 10 miles from the border, are within rocket range of Israeli cities. "Christians and Druze are selling land and moving out, while the Shia are moving in. There is an extraordinary demographic shift taking place," said Edmund Rizk, a former Christian MP for the area. Wealthy Shia businessman Ali Tajeddine, who made his fortune trading diamonds in Sierra Leone, is said to be using Iranian funds to buy land from destitute villagers at up to four times the going rate.
        Critics fear a grand scheme to create a strip of Shia-controlled land connecting southern Lebanon to Hizbullah's other power center in the Bekaa Valley. "It is part of Hizbullah's plan to create a state within a state," said Walid Jumblatt, a Druze leader. He also pointed to the four-lane road being built to connect the Hizbullah stronghold of Nabatiye in the south to the western Bekaa. Banners openly proclaim the source of the road's funding: "510 km of new roads paid for by the Iranian Organization for Sharing in the Building of Lebanon." (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • British Lawmakers Say Country Should Talk to Hamas, Hizbullah, Muslim Brotherhood - Raphael G. Satter
    Britain should begin talking directly with three of the Middle East's most prominent radical Islamic groups - Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood - a committee of lawmakers said in a report released Monday. British diplomats should speak with moderate elements from such groups and continue engaging Iran and Syria because their influence can no longer be discounted, Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said. "The Muslim Brotherhood is strong in Egypt, and Hamas and Hizbullah cannot be ignored," the report said. The lawmakers urged former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the new envoy for the Quartet, to negotiate directly with the militant Islamic organization Hamas. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Hamas Militia Breaks Up Fatah Wedding in Gaza
    Hamas militiamen detained at least 10 members of the rival Fatah movement after breaking up a wedding and beating guests in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun. At least 10 people were hurt in the confrontation. After the incident, about 150 relatives of those arrested staged protests outside Hamas offices in the town. (VOA News)
        See also Video: Hamas Troops Trash Fatah Wedding Party (YouTube)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Lantos Downplays Mideast Conference - Tovah Lazaroff
    Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, warned Sunday in Jerusalem against the premature removal of West Bank checkpoints. "The Palestinian Authority is not capable of providing security at this stage," he said. "The premature removal of these checkpoints is a guarantee of violence and terrorism erupting." "Having conquered Gaza, Hamas is determined to conquer the West Bank, and to destroy Israel," he said. "Arms and funds are pouring in through the tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. It is long overdue that the vast Egyptian army take the necessary steps to stop this outrageous flow perpetrated by the merchants of death."
        Lantos said Saudi Arabian leaders should talk with Israel if they wanted to be serious actors in the peace process. "The time is long overdue for the Saudis to recognize that if there is to be peace in this region, they and the Israeli leadership must meet face to face many times to move this difficult process forward." Lantos doubted whether President Bush's planned international summit would yield significant results. "We must not exaggerate any expectations with respect to that meeting," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Forces Infiltrating Gaza - Ali Waked
    Two months after Hamas' takeover of Gaza, Fatah units have begun infiltrating the Strip and operating there undercover in a bid to topple the current regime. Several groups numbering five to ten members each have started operating in Gaza City and the southern Strip, under the name al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - Samih al-Madhoun Cells, named after a former commander who was executed by Hamas in Gaza. The Fatah members have planted explosive devices and carried out several shooting attacks. They are former officers of Fatah's Preventative Security Force who are being sponsored by several wealthy families affiliated with Fatah. (Ynet News)
  • PA Forces Resuming Police Control in the West Bank - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    The Palestinian police recently resumed its law-enforcement activities in Area B of the West Bank, where the Israel Defense Forces is responsible for security. The renewed police patrols, whose focus is on countering criminal activity and ensuring law and order, are being carried out in coordination with Israeli security elements. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Good Statecraft Treats State and Non-State Actors Differently - Dennis Ross
    Negotiations confer recognition. For that reason, it is essential to draw a distinction between states like Iran or Syria and non-state actors like Hizbullah and Hamas. For non-state actors, recognition is a major achievement. It creates legitimacy, builds momentum and creates a sense of inevitability about the achievement of their agendas. None of this should be given for free. Thus, while I am not prepared to exclude direct negotiations or meetings as a tool of statecraft with states, it is essential to treat non-state actors differently.
        Take the example of Hamas, a non-state actor now dominant in Gaza. There is a need to avoid a humanitarian crisis. But if Hamas wants developmental assistance or investment coming to Gaza, they should have to play by the basic rules of the game - one of which is stopping attacks against Israel. Hamas should have to adjust to the world, not the other way around. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Donors Beware - Editorial
    3,500 Hamas "security-force" salaries have been paid by the Fatah-led Salaam Fayad government in the West Bank. At first this was passed off as a computer error. The latest version is that a higher-up in the PA Finance Ministry may have been bought off by Hamas. The fact that money from ostensible moderates made its way to incontrovertible fanatics is telling.
        Something is seriously wrong in Abbas' Palestinian Authority if, quite apart from continuing to pay the salaries of Hamas parliamentarians and, reportedly, planning to buy them all new $70,000 cars as well, it ends up underpinning the very militiamen who so violently expelled Fatah from Gaza in June. It can only deepen the doubts about how far the PA can be trusted, even under the financial stewardship of the ostensibly responsible Fayad.
        The Israeli government, following much heated public debate, reluctantly decided to transfer to Ramallah NIS 400 million of tax revenues that had been withheld out of the fear that such funds would reach Hamas and be used to bankroll its terrorist schemes. Now some of these funds have ended up precisely where Israel was solemnly assured they would not. If this proves indicative of a wider financial malaise then, as with Fatah's chronic failure to stem terror, it becomes immaterial whether Fatah couldn't or wouldn't live up to its undertakings. The end result is what counts. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    America's Latest Efforts Merely Entrenched Al-Qaeda in Gaza - Dore Gold (Wall Street Journal)

    • The U.S. and other Western powers are pushing for a new Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough to help contain Iran and undercut the appeal of al-Qaeda and radical Islam. The underlying assumption is that radical Islam has something do to with Israel-related political grievances. But is this really the case?
    • In August 2005, the U.S. and its Western allies thought that Israel's Gaza pullout would establish the foundations of a Palestinian state and thus reduce the flames of radical Islamic rage. Instead they got an al-Qaeda sanctuary on the shores of the Mediterranean.
    • What the Gaza pullout showed was that mishandling the Israeli-Palestinian issue can exacerbate the threat of radical Islam, especially if it deepens the sense in radical Islamic circles that their military efforts have paid off. The gasoline fueling al-Qaeda has been its sense of victory, not political grievances. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration devoted more time to Arab-Israeli diplomacy than most of its predecessors, arranging numerous diplomatic agreements. But al-Qaeda only grew in strength. In other words, there was no correlation between U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to ameliorate the grievances voiced by radical Islamic groups and the appeal of al-Qaeda.
    • Today, leading Western diplomats have been praising the Arab League Peace Initiative - based on the 2002 Saudi Plan - which calls on Israel to fully withdraw to the pre-1967 lines (i.e., leave the Golan Heights and entire West Bank) in exchange for "normal relations" with the Arab world. The Saudi Plan re-divides Jerusalem.
    • Pushing Israel back to the pre-1967 lines will not satisfy al-Qaeda, nor will it bring peace. Right now, what the Palestinians need is help to build a stable civil society with governing institutions that work, not a return to the ceremonial diplomacy of the 1990s.

      The writer, Israel's ambassador to the UN in 1997-99, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and author of The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007).

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