Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 29, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: Hamas Headquarters in Syria Orders Attack in Israel - Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay and Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    The military headquarters of Hamas in Damascus has ordered militants in the West Bank to carry out a major attack inside Israel, Y., the deputy chief of the Shin Bet security service, told government ministers on Sunday.
    A sense of frustration is rippling through the ranks of Hamas in Gaza because its efforts to obtain international legitimization have been fruitless, and because Fatah refuses to renew reconciliation efforts.
    "Hamas is frustrated that the Rafah crossing [to Egypt] has remained closed, and the organization is considering escalating its activities against Egypt in order to open the crossing," he added.
    Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza, weapons smuggling from Egypt is on the rise, prompted by a decrease in preventative action on Egypt's part, he said.

Iran May Give Russian-Made Anti-Ship Missiles to Syria and Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The recent delivery of an advanced Russian-made anti-ship missile to Iran has Israeli defense officials concerned that it will be transferred to Syria and Hizbullah.
    The SSN-X-26 Yakhont is a supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from the coast and hit sea-borne targets up to 300 km. away.
    The missile carries a 200-kg. warhead and flies a meter-and-a-half above sea level, making it extremely difficult to intercept.
    "There is a real fear that if this missile is in Iran it will also be in Syria and Lebanon," one defense official said.

Bahrain Petition Launched to Ban Hizbullah Game (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    An online petition calling for a ban on a new Hizbullah computer video game for children has been launched. It claims that the 3-D game, Special Force 2, promoted violence and facilitated "Hizbullah's manipulation and recruitment of Bahraini children."
    Designed by Hizbullah computer experts, Special Force 2 allows players to take on the role of a Hizbullah fighter and collect points and weapons by killing Israeli soldiers.
    The 26-year-old Bahraini woman who launched the petition said, "As a Muslim, I should not promote violence against a social sect or religion."
    "Surely, most Israelis are Jews, but a lot are Arabs too, so we are fighting against ourselves and we are promoting ourselves as savages to the world," said the Bahraini, who is an avid video game player.

Hey, Disney Lawyers: Hamas TV At It Again (AP/CBS News)
    After killing off its Mickey Mouse-look-alike, Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV has enlisted a "Lion King" wannabe to portray Hamas' victory over Fatah in Gaza.
    The cartoon depicts Fatah members as sneaky rats, brandishing guns and being showered with U.S. dollars, while Hamas is portrayed as a confident, calm lion that resembles Simba.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Saudi Extremist in Iraq Linked to Wahhabi Clerics - Salah Nasrawi
    Saudi Arabia has indefinitely banned the distribution of Al Hayat, a leading Arab newspaper, after the paper disclosed that a Saudi extremist had played a key role in a violent Iraqi al-Qaeda front group. Al Hayat is owned by Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the son of the Saudi crown prince and defense minister, Prince Sultan. The article said Mohammad al-Thibaiti, a Saudi thought to be a key figure in the Islamic State of Iraq, a group that is a front for al-Qaeda, had close links to leading Wahhabi clerics inside Saudi Arabia. Al-Thibaiti had studied at Imam Mohammad bin Saud University, which is widely believed to be a stronghold for radical Islamist Saudis. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Palestinian Government Closes Scores of Islamist Charities
    The Palestinian government said it has ordered more than 100 charities closed following a review that the rival Hamas movement has slammed as a crackdown on the Islamists. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Tuesday that the charities and local associations affected had "committed legal, financial and administrative violations." "When there are violations of the law, should we do nothing because the...association can be linked to Hamas and the subject is sensitive? That is not possible." (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Hamas Shuts Fatah-Linked Clinics in Gaza - Ibrahim Barzak
    The Hamas rulers of Gaza ordered the shutdown Monday of private clinics run by doctors loyal to the West Bank-based Fatah government, a new blow to a medical system already crippled by the Palestinian power struggle. (AP/ABC News)
  • Israeli Archaeologists Angered Over Holy Site Work - Martin Asser
    A group of Israeli archaeologists is protesting about fresh excavations at Jerusalem's holiest religious shrine, saying it threatens priceless relics. Muslim authorities at the Temple Mount are digging a 150-meter trench for water pipes and electricity cables. Israeli critics say the work is causing irreparable damage, indiscriminately piling up earth and carved stones. Jewish tradition reveres the area as the remains of King Solomon's temple.
        The Waqf resumed working this week, using a mechanical digger on a meter-deep trench, cutting through the subsoil. Dr. Gabriel Barkai of Bar-Ilan University, on behalf of the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, called it an act of barbarism. "They should be using a toothbrush, not a bulldozer." He accuses the Islamic authorities of wanting to "show who is the boss" by destroying Jewish remains at the site. "The earth here is saturated by history. All we can do is alert the world to what is happening and try to stop the next disaster," he says. (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Abbas Meet in Jerusalem - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Abbas met in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Israeli government officials say that discussions on Jerusalem, refugees and borders are being conducted at a very general level, with details to be filled in at negotiating sessions that will be held after the international summit in the fall. Israeli officials said the sides talked about ways to bolster the PA security apparatus and to enhance security coordination, with the goal being to reach a point where Israel would be able to transfer security control over West Bank cities to the PA. But for this to happen, one official said, the PA would have to prove it could impose its control. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Slams into Sderot Home; One Hurt - Mijal Grinberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket that struck a home in the Israeli town of Sderot on Tuesday. One man was wounded by shrapnel, and several people were treated for shock. The armed wing of Fatah - the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - claimed responsibility. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Bomb Two Hamas Buildings in Gaza City
    Palestinian gunmen set off two bombs in Gaza City on Tuesday at locations belonging to forces of the Islamist group Hamas, causing damage but no casualties. (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Missing the Point - Ben Fishman
    The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt consistently misrepresents U.S. decision-making in the Middle East. Mearsheimer and Walt manufacture causal connections between the lobby's activities and American actions that Bush Administration insiders rebuke. The book does not include any interviews with current or former government officials about the lobby's influence on foreign policy. Although the book appears to contain much documented research, its authors fail to capture the realities of policy formation and present a series of letters, statements and rallies by supporters of Israel as evidence of the lobby's manipulation of Washington. Their description of American foreign policy is often inaccurate or misleading, and their overall thesis is contradicted by central figures in their story. The writer is a researcher and special assistant to former Ambassador Dennis Ross at the Washington Institute. (National Interest/Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Two Professors Fail to Clean Up Their Act - Ira Stoll (New York Sun)
  • No Capitulation to Hamas Kidnappers - Editorial
    The Israeli government is coming under a degree of pressure to acknowledge Hamas' growing weight and power and engage with it. But interaction now with an unreformed Hamas represents capitulation to terrorism, and can only further reduce any small likelihood of the Islamic group ever opting for reform. Meanwhile, it would discredit and further weaken the faint voices of genuine Palestinian moderation. The way forward requires Olmert and Abbas to reaffirm a partnership whose earliest concrete stages must involve concerted PA action to publicly oppose and practically counter acts of terrorism - including rocket attacks, bombings and kidnappings such as the one to which IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit fell victim. Rather than exulting in the belief that, sooner or later, directly or via a third party, Israel will come crawling to its door, imploring it to release Shalit in an exchange deal, Hamas needs to be made to feel that Shalit is a liability who must be let go. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Muslems Threaten British "Way of Life" - William F. Buckley
    Western Europe has a Muslim problem, and it is particularly acute in Great Britain, which is more intimately linked to constitutional traditions and procedures. For many years Britain faced the problem of its commitment to members of its empire: Any citizen could leave Malaysia or Pakistan or India or Jamaica and simply show up, declaring himself a British resident. The Muslim community has demanded its own schools. Wherein what, exactly, will be taught? There are many interpreters of the true meaning of the commandments of the Quran. But among them are men and women who are prepared to end their own lives for the satisfaction of defying the British way of life. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Observations:

    Full Gas in Neutral? - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

    • As swell as it might be that Olmert and Abbas are holding these talks, all the optimism and good cheer and willingness to revisit what are essentially the Clinton parameters of 2001 cannot paper over the fact that Abbas can't implement any agreement on Jerusalem, borders, or refugees. Abbas does not rule Gaza, and his grip on the West Bank is not all that tight.
    • The Israeli public, following seven years of unrelenting terror, is - according to all opinion polls - not in the same giving mood that it was before the onslaught of Palestinian violence that began in September 2000.
    • The major challenge facing both Olmert and Abbas is not producing a paper that will please Secretary of State Rice, but rather what to do with Hamas - Iran's new local proxy. Any agreement that Olmert and Abbas might work out will be meaningless if Hamas retains its current strength in Gaza. Unless Hamas is defanged, it will retain its ability to scuttle any agreement through terrorist actions.
    • The idea that if you just show the Palestinians a skeleton of a potential agreement, then they will eject Hamas and hop on board the peace train seems somewhat simplistic. What if they don't (as they didn't in the past when this same political horizon was offered by Clinton and Barak), or what if Hamas simply doesn't let them?

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