Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 30, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Muslim "Charity Worker" Planned to Kidnap British Muslim Soldier and Behead Him - John F. Burns (New York Times)
    Parviz Khan, 37, from Birmingham, England, has pleaded guilty to plotting to behead a British soldier.
    Khan, who described himself as a Muslim charity worker, was heard in covert recordings made by Britain's security services outlining a plan to kidnap a soldier from Birmingham's nightclub district and have him beheaded.
    Prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt said Khan planned to videotape the killing and release the tape "to cause panic and fear within the British armed forces and wider public."
    Three other men, all Muslims, have admitted offenses in the case. Khan was said to have shown the other men videos of terrorist beheadings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Egypt's Hard Choices on the Gaza Border Debacle - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has issued strict orders to his security services to closely monitor the stream of Palestinians coming into Egypt, who must on no account be allowed to cross the Suez Canal and reach the mainland.
    Hamas terrorists must be prevented from making contact with Sinai Bedouin hostile to the regime and must also be prevented from crossing back into Israel from Sinai to carry out terror attacks.

UN Envoy: Women in Gaza Feel Coerced to Cover Their Heads - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, says women in Gaza have recently felt coerced into covering their heads, while Christians there have faced rising intolerance.
    "Women seem to be in a particularly vulnerable situation and bear the brunt of religious zeal. I was informed about cases of honor killings carried out with impunity in the name of religion," she said.
    She faintly praised Israel, saying: "During my talks with members of religious minorities in Israel, my interlocutors have by and large acknowledged that there is no religious persecution by the state."
    "Within the Israeli democracy, I would like to emphasize the important role that the Supreme Court has played in the past and can play for safeguarding freedom of religion or belief."

Advanced Israeli Battlefield Management System for Netherlands Army (Defense News)
    Elbit Systems of Israel will supply Enhanced Tactical Computers to the Royal Netherlands Army's (RNLA) Ground Forces.
    The systems, to be installed in more than 1,800 vehicles, including tanks and armored vehicles, will provide an integrated and actual view of the situation in the operation area, improving operational effectiveness of the forces.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Egypt-Hamas Tensions Rise Over Border - Salah Nasrawi
    Egyptian state-owned newspapers were filled with harsh criticism of Hamas, blaming it for violating Egypt's border and undermining its security. One newspaper, Rose El Youssef, contended that Hamas had used the breach to smuggle weapons and explosive-laden suicide belts into Egypt. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Report: Egypt Thwarts Suicide Terror Attack Against Israel - Yoav Stern
    Five Palestinian terrorists carrying explosives belts and reportedly planning a suicide attack against Israel were apprehended by the Egyptian authorities in recent days, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Wednesday. Al-Ahram reported that Egypt intends to erect a new border fence equipped with technological advances in order to "absolutely prevent infiltration, in keeping with the national security of Egypt." Other Palestinians were caught in Egypt with blueprints of the border crossings between Israel and Egypt, including the location of security posts and deployment of security personnel. Egyptian authorities also discovered sniper rifles and explosives among the suspects' belongings. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S.-Libya Dispute Deadlocks Security Council on Gaza - Louis Charbonneau
    The UN Security Council ended a week of haggling on Tuesday and abandoned efforts to adopt a statement on the crisis in Gaza after Libya and the U.S. were unable to agree on the wording. Washington objected to what Deputy U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff described as the failure to address the core issue - the "illegal coup usurping power from the legitimate Palestinian Authority by the terrorist group Hamas." "It is imperative not to equate acts of self-defense with terrorist rocket attacks," Wolff added. The U.S. delegation on Friday proposed a series of amendments that resulted in a near consensus; that proposal was acceptable to every council member except Libya. (Reuters)
  • A Visit to a Gaza Rocket Factory - Ulrike Putz
    Abdul builds bombs for Islamic Jihad. He and his fellow militants can produce up to 100 per night. The rocket factory is housed in a kind of garden shed. Metal pipes with small wings lean against the wall: half-finished Kassam rockets. There are several tightly packed garbage bags on a shelf with "TNT" - the explosive looks like lumpy sugar. A large cauldron is sitting ready on a gas cooker while bags of fertilizer for the rocket fuel are piled up high up against the wall. "We get it in Israel," Abdul says.
        Instead of the usual 12, only three of Abdul's men have turned up. "The other guys are over in Egypt, shopping," he says. Will they be looking for ingredients for building rockets? "Hardly....We have enough raw materials to last for a few years." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Fatah, Hamas Fight for Gaza Border Control - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PA has warned Egypt against striking a deal with Hamas over controlling the Rafah border crossing separating Gaza from Egypt, a senior PA official in Ramallah said Monday. Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit Cairo on Wednesday. "Hamas can't be a legitimate party to any deal because it seized power [in Gaza] through a violent coup," the official said. Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is reported to have won the backing of Saudi Arabia for including Hamas in any deal on the border, sources close to Hamas said.
        A U.S.-brokered 2005 agreement gave Abbas and his Fatah party control over the Rafah border crossing, and also saw EU monitors stationed there. Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, voiced strong opposition to the return of the EU monitors or any other third party to the Rafah border crossing. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Moves to Close Gaza Border
    The Egyptian security services started to resume control of the Egyptian frontier with Gaza on Tuesday using barbed wire to close gaps in the border wall. Witnesses said Egyptian security has closed 11 openings in the wall so far, and only two remained open. The Egyptian city of Rafah has virtually run out of goods, while Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuwaid have been shut down by Egyptian security forces. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Palestinians stranded in Al-Arish announced they will begin a hunger strike on Wednesday if the Egyptian authorities do not allow them to leave Egyptian territory for other countries. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace - Victor Davis Hanson
    Why not hold an international conference on all displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s? Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Were these refugees ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuing solutions might shed light on Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.
        Another international panel could take up the issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten percent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15% of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1951. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights. (National Review)
  • Give Gaza to Egypt - Daniel Pipes
    Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers' tunnels). Calling Gazans "Palestinians" is less accurate than politically correct.
        It's hard to divine what benefit American taxpayers have received for the $65 billion they have lavished on Egypt since 1948; but Egypt's absorbing Gaza might justify their continuing to shell out $1.8 billion a year. (National Post-Canada)
  • Iranian Threats and the UN Sanctions Debate - Patrick Clawson
    On Jan. 26, Hussein Shariatmadari - the publisher of Iran's most influential newspaper and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - stated that attacks on "Zionists, Americans, and European countries that support Israel," as well as on compliant regional rulers, were both morally permissible and easily carried out.
        Despite the regime's provocations, a total ban on all Iranian exports is not the best approach. Instead, the Security Council should design "smart sanctions" based on careful consideration of the following criteria: Do the sanctions pressure Iran's political elite? Will the sanctions slow Iran's nuclear program? Is there an enforcement mechanism? Do the sanctions preserve people-to-people contact? The longer Iran's nuclear program is slowed, the more likely the regime's fundamental weaknesses will be evident. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also The Iranian Policy in the Gulf Is Indeed Puzzling - Zaki Taleb
    Could the editorial penned recently by editor-in-chief Hussain Shariatmadari of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan saying Bahrain is "part and parcel" of Iran be looked upon as a trial balloon? Is it not absurd for a man like Shariatmadari, an advisor to Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, to write such an extremely sensitive editorial without a "go-ahead" from senior Iranian officials? (Arab Times-Kuwait)
  • Observations:

    Israeli Strategists Weigh Gaza Options - Leslie Susser (JTA)

    • The collapse of the border wall between Gaza and Egypt has opened up new strategic options for Israel while exposing it to grave new dangers.
    • Guy Bechor of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center argues that the border breach has created conditions for a total Israeli disengagement that would leave Egypt responsible for Gaza. "For the first time since 1967, Egypt has been sucked into Gaza, and worse, Gaza has been sucked into Egypt," he says. The fall of the wall, he says, has reopened the possibility of close working ties between Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which could threaten the Egyptian regime. He says, if left alone to deal with Gaza, Egypt will keep a much tighter rein on Hamas than Israel ever could.
    • Former Israeli national security adviser Giora Eiland also sees an excellent opportunity for Israel to rid itself of responsibility for Gaza. He proposes detaching Gaza from the customs union with Israel and the West Bank, and force Gaza to turn to Egypt for sustenance and trade. The huge Gazan shopping spree on Egyptian soil in the wake of the wall's collapse demonstrates that Egypt can provide a realistic economic alternative.
    • Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, a former head of Israel's Southern Command, says Israel must act quickly to reinforce its control along the border with Egypt "from the Mediterranean to Eilat." This includes reasserting Israeli control over the Philadelphi route dividing Gaza from Egypt. Otherwise, terrorists will be able to move out of Gaza into Sinai and threaten Israeli civilian populations across the weakly defended Israeli-Egyptian border - to say nothing of the free flow of heavy weapons from Egypt into Gaza.

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