Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 15, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Tunnel Smugglers Grow Under Hamas - Kevin Frayer (AP/Guardian-UK)
    The southern Gaza town of Rafah has long been a key conduit for underground weapons-smuggling - mostly controlled by a handful of local clans.
    With closure of Gaza's borders in the wake of Hamas militants' violent seizure of the territory in June, more and more smugglers are taking a piece of the action.
    Smugglers find themselves pursued by Israel, which fears militants' growing arsenal; by Egypt, which is under growing pressure to crack down on tunnel diggers; and by Hamas, which does not oppose tunnels but wants to control them.
    Some tunnels are squarely in Hamas' hands - and Israeli officials say arms smuggling by the militant group is going strong.
    "The Hamas terror organization continues to busy itself with the smuggling of huge quantities of weapons for use against Israel. These tunnels continue to be the main source of the weapons supplies to Palestinian terrorists,'' said Israeli government spokesman David Baker.

Saudis Are Leading Nationality Engaged in Suicide Bombing in Iraq (Newsweek)
    In a list of 139 suicide bombers in Iraq, 53 came from Saudi Arabia.
    Suicide bombers also came from European countries including Italy (8), Belgium (2), France (2), Spain (2), and Britain (1).

Israel, Turkey, U.S. to Hold Joint Military Exercises (DefenceTalk)
    Navy and air forces of Israel, Turkey and the U.S. will stage joint search-and-rescue exercises in late August south of the Turkish coast, the Israeli army announced on Tuesday.

Rwandan Children Arrive in Israel for Heart Surgery (IMRA)
    Five Rwandan children suffering from heart disease arrived Tuesday to be operated on at Wolfson Medical Center.
    The Israeli-based humanitarian organization Save A Child's Heart has brought over 1,700 children from 27 countries to Israel over the last 12 years for heart surgery.
    Nearly half of the children treated are Palestinian or from Arab countries including Jordan and Iraq.

The End of Tolerance in Amsterdam - Erich Wiedemann (New York Times)
    For one Amsterdam mayor, the Netherlands' famous tolerance has gone too far.
    Moroccan-born Ahmed Marcouch is taking the tough cop approach in a rough Amsterdam neighborhood, pushing his fellow immigrants to integrate.
    Mohammed Bouyeri's murderer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh marked a turning point in Holland's warm and fuzzy take on democracy, and a tougher police approach is suddenly popular with the no-longer-quite-so-relaxed Dutch.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Revolutionary Guard to Be Labeled "Terrorist" - Robin Wright
    The U.S. has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances. The move against the Revolutionary Guard is because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East. The main goal of the new designation is to clamp down on the Revolutionary Guard's vast business network, as well as on foreign companies conducting business linked to the military unit and its personnel.
        For weeks, the Bush administration has been debating whether to target the Revolutionary Guard Corps in full, or only its Quds Force wing, which U.S. officials have linked to the growing flow of explosives, roadside bombs, rockets and other arms to Shiite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Quds Force also lends support to Shiite allies such as Lebanon's Hizbullah and to Sunni movements such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Revolutionary Guard Corps - with its own navy, air force, ground forces and special forces units - is a rival to Iran's conventional troops. Its naval forces abducted 15 British sailors and marines this spring, sparking an international crisis, and its special forces armed Lebanon's Hizbullah with missiles used against Israel in the 2006 war. (Washington Post)
  • A Summer of Power Failures in Syria - Hugh Naylor
    Syria has had a summer of power failures and electricity shortages. In Damascus, which has had daily blackouts lasting as long as five hours, the roar of gas generators is drowning out the city's notoriously loud traffic. In some suburbs, the lights are on for only six hours a day. Unconfirmed reports say Syria, a regional supplier of electricity, has had to suspend exports to Lebanon and northern Iraq several times this summer to conserve energy. "These power interruptions are costing the country dearly," said Issam Zaim, a former minister of industry. "This is affecting our ability to pump water around the country, which not only affects human consumption, but industry, agriculture, just about everything."
        Syrian officials say now that foreign sanctions are affecting power generation. Construction contracts for two large power plants, needed to keep pace with rising energy demand, have gone up for bid on the international market five times over the last two years with no takers. Of the companies capable of building them, Prime Minister Otari accused the American company General Electric of declining to bid on the job and then persuading Japanese-owned Mitsubishi not to bid, either. Alstom, a French company, was "pressured by Jacques Chirac (the former president of France) not to work in Syria," Otari said. Energy businesses like Conoco Phillips and Marathon Oil have pulled out over the past three years. (New York Times)
  • Judge Bars Some Evidence in Hamas-Holy Land Foundation Trial - Jason Trahan
    A month into the Holy Land Foundation trial, U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish on Tuesday dealt the first blow to U.S. prosecutors, throwing out a dozen documents seized by the Israeli government meant to further tie the former Texas charity to Hamas. Defense attorneys had argued that many of the documents seized by the Israelis from PA offices and charity committees between 2002 and 2004 were not signed. Jurors, however, will still see much of the Israeli government's evidence implicating Holy Land, which was the largest U.S. Muslim charity until it was shut down in 2001. On Monday, Judge Fish allowed nearly 40 other items into evidence, including posters, key chains and other articles praising Hamas and suicide bombers which had been seized from charity committee offices by Israeli security forces. (Dallas Morning News)
        See also Shocking Video from the Holy Land Foundation Trial - Rich Lowry Interviews Steve Emerson
    In the video, the person who makes the statement, "I am Hamas and I'm going to kill Jews" is Mufid Abdul Qatar, a defendant in the trial, and the half brother of Khalid Mashaal, the Hamas supreme commander-in-exile. At the very end of the skit, which is pretty horrifying, Abdul Qatar actually kills the Jew. And you can actually hear children in the audience laughing and applauding. (FOX News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Raids South Gaza, Says Hamas Operated Like Hizbullah - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF forces operating in the Khan Yunis area in south Gaza since Monday killed at least 11 terrorists. Most of the fighting was against Hamas cells equipped with advanced weapons and transmitters. IDF officials said Hamas' method of operation resembled that of Hizbullah's. During the operation dozens of Palestinians were questioned and an assortment of weapons, including anti-tank missiles and explosive belts, were discovered. (Ynet News)
        The Israel Air Force confirmed hits on four different groups of men armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers who approached the area where soldiers were conducting operations, IDF officials said. They said the "pinpoint" incursion was the latest in a string of operations meant to "negate terror threats in the area." An official in the IDF Southern Command said troops witnessed instances during Tuesday's fighting in which Palestinian gunmen used civilians as human shields. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Forces Raid Compound of Powerful Clan - 2 Dead, 20 Wounded - Ali Waked
    Two Hamas security men were killed on Tuesday in heavy clashes with members of the Dogmush clan in Gaza. Palestinian sources reported 20 more men had been wounded in the exchanges of fire as Hamas lay siege to a house west of Gaza City. The clan, one of the largest and most powerful in Gaza, was responsible for the March kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston and involved in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006. Sources in Gaza said Hamas is determined to disarm the clan in the hopes of making an example of them to all other armed clans and groups which may threaten Hamas' rule in the region. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket, Mortar Fire at Israel Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the western Negev Tuesday night. Mortars were also fired from Gaza, landing near the perimeter fence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Europe Has Leverage with Iran - Roger Stern
    The U.S. stopped investing in Iran's energy industry in the 1990s thanks to sanctions imposed during Bill Clinton's presidency. Unfortunately, Europe stepped in to fill the void, with state-owned oil firms providing capital and energy technology. Today 80% of the Iranian government's revenue comes from oil exports and sales. Without Europe's support, the theocracy's fiscal lifeline would be a very thin thread. Credit and technology flow to Iran from the state-owned or -controlled oil firms of France (Total), Norway (Statoil), Italy (ENI) and Spain (Repsol). Clearly, standalone European sanctions could do a lot. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why the Northern Ireland Comparison Doesn't Fit - Herb Keinon
    On the day that the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee called for a dialogue with Hamas, the Labor Party chairman of the committee, Mike Gapes, said: "I think from experience in Northern Ireland, you know that sometimes you have to engage with people in a diplomatic way, sometimes quietly." If only Hamas would be willing to renounce violence and decommission its arms as the IRA did, but the difference between the two situations is enormous.
        The IRA never posited as its goal the replacement of England with Ireland, while the stated goal of Hamas is Palestinian rule not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as well. While the IRA saw Britain as the enemy, they never denied the legitimacy of the British state. The IRA was a brutal terrorist organization, but it sometimes sent warnings before the bombs blew up; it did not have the support of the Catholic Church; and it did not carry out suicide attacks or perpetuate a death cult. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Syrian General Wants War: Head of Syrian Military Intelligence Has Convinced Assad There Is No Chance to Win Golan Heights Through Negotiations - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)

    • Arab officials believe Gen. Asef Shawkat, the head of Syrian military intelligence and Assad's brother-in-law, wants to drag Israel into a conflict in Lebanon, and possibly Syria, next month.
    • Shawkat told Assad that in a future war with Israel, rocket attacks on Israeli cities would force Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hold talks on the return of the Golan.
    • Shawkat, who has been linked to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, fears that Assad might hand him over to an international tribunal to ease U.S. pressure on his regime.
    • The interrogation of Ahmad Marai, the deputy commander of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist group which has been fighting for months against the Lebanese Army in a northern Lebanon Palestinian refugee camp, has also revealed a connection to Shawkat.

          See also Syrian VP: We Don't Want War to Get Golan Back
      Syria is not interested in embarking on a military conflict with Israel in order to win back the Golan Heights, Syrian Vice President Farouk Ashara said Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)

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