Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hizbullah Know-How in Gaza: IDF Uncovers Underground Tunnels Used by Hamas to Conceal Rocket Launchers - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg (Ha'aretz)
Report: Advanced Weapons Smuggled into Gaza - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
Egypt: Gazans Used Counterfeit Money in Sinai - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
Children Taught to Kidnap and Kill at Al-Qaeda Camp in Iraq - Martin Fletcher (Times-UK)
Government Reminds Court of CAIR/MAS Ties to Terrorists (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
Saudi Religious Police Arrest American Businesswoman for Sitting with a Man - Sonia Verma (Times-UK)
Israeli Companies Follow Money to Silicon Valley - Stefanie Olsen (C/Net News)
Bank of Israel: No Signs of Economic Slowdown - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
As the border with Gaza was sealed off, the Egyptian state-owned media launched a campaign apparently seeking to overturn public sympathy for the Palestinians. Newspapers have become harsh on the Palestinians, with front-page news about Palestinians shooting at Egyptian soldiers, weapons smuggling, terrorism and reports of false currency in Sinai, posing a threat to Egypt's national security. The new content replaces earlier headlines that showed sympathy with the Palestinians.
Rose-al-Youssef, a state-owned paper known for being the most vocal mouthpiece of the regime, has spearheaded the anti-Palestinian campaign. The paper even denied that Gaza had a humanitarian crisis, hinting that Gazans were well-off. Abdullah Kamal, the paper's editor in chief, wrote, "Each [Gazan] comer spent an average of $260 in three days...the total spending during that period reached $220 million. These figures raise real questions about the financial situation in Gaza." (Los Angeles Times)
See also Egypt Threatens to Break the Legs of Gaza Infiltrators
Egypt said on Thursday it would no longer tolerate Palestinians infiltrating the country from Gaza, and threatened to break the legs of anyone crossing the Rafah border illegally. "Anyone who breaches the border will have their legs broken," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told the official MENA news agency. Abul Gheit also reproached Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, and said some rockets misfire and hit the Gaza Strip itself, wounding Palestinians. (AFP)
The leader of Lebanon's pro-Western majority in parliament said on Thursday the country was in direct confrontation with Syria and Iran, which back Hizbullah in its conflict with the Beirut government. Saad al-Hariri, whose coalition is supported by the U.S., said Syria and Iran and "their local tools" were seeking to "impose a terror, security and political siege" on Lebanon. Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005. (Reuters)
Iran's reformists have drastically scaled down their expectations for parliamentary elections next month after the authorities disqualified half their candidates. The spokesman for the umbrella coalition of reformist parties, Abdollah Nasseri, said his forces were only competitive in 10% of parliamentary constituencies after the mass vetoing of candidates by interior ministry committees. Even the reformist-minded grandson of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Ali Eshraghi, was disqualified, the Kargozaran newspaper reported. (AFP/Gulf Times-Qatar)
Bernhard Falk, vice president of Germany's Federal Crime Office, told the German daily Die Welt on Friday that al-Qaeda forces based on the Pakistani-Afghan border were eyeing German targets. "The basic decision has been made there to carry out attacks in Germany," he said, adding that security risks in Germany had recently intensified. Germany agreed on Wednesday to send more troops to Afghanistan. (Reuters/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A solution to threats from Gaza will have to be found before the establishment of a Palestinian state, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told James Jones, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East security, on Thursday. Jones is in the process of drawing up a plan about how to provide security when Israel leaves large swaths of the West Bank under a peace agreement. Government officials said that, considering the situation today in Gaza, an Israeli withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank seems like "science fiction." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel to U.S.: We Must Respond to Increasing Rocket Fire from Gaza
Foreign Minister Livni told Gen. Jones: "The firing of Kassam rockets has not abated, and we are currently facing a significant increase. The necessary action to be taken regarding security issues is not only in relation to what will be written in a future agreement, and we must relate to our response to the situation on the ground right now."
"The situation in Gaza must be taken into account in any political process - especially in light of the effects of this process on future security arrangements. This is not a territorial issue - we have withdrawn from Gaza, and the rocket attacks continue and intensify. A real response must be given to the threats from Gaza prior to the establishment of a Palestinian state - as long as the Palestinians see Gaza as part of the state they intend to establish. A solution to Israel's security requirements is not an obstacle to peace - it is a basic condition of any peace agreement." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Syria, with Iranian support, has successfully developed a new surface-to-surface missile that would enable it to target with greater accuracy Israeli installations - such as airports, ports and factories - according briefings recently presented to senior ministers. Syria has upgraded the Iranian-made Zelzal surface-to-surface missile which has an operational range of 250 km. and is capable of carrying an especially large warhead. At the same time, Syria has acquired the Russian-made Pantsyr air defense missile system that can pose a substantial threat to Israeli air force aircraft. Damascus has also procured modern anti-tank missiles.
According to Israeli estimates, Syria has tens of thousands of short-range rockets, as well as Scud-C and Scud-D missiles with ranges of 500-800 km., which can effectively strike every part of Israel. However, Mossad head Meir Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that at this stage there are no indications that Damascus has any plans to initiate a military action against Israel. (Ha'aretz)
Fourteen trucks with humanitarian aid sent by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society to the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza were confiscated by Hamas police on Thursday. A spokesman for the Hamas police said Hamas would decide how to distribute the aid. (DPA/Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in Gaza launched nine Kassam rockets toward Israeli communities on Friday. Two of the rockets landed in Netiv Ha'asara and damaged several greenhouses, while one of the rockets crashed into Ashkelon's industrial zone. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Following many weeks of rocket barrages against Israeli communities, the likelihood of a major IDF operation in Gaza is once more at the forefront. The change is mainly linked to developments along the border between Gaza and Egypt. While smuggling had previously been rampant, the absence of any border controls in recent weeks has enabled Hamas to intensify its effort to bolster its arsenal. At the same time, terrorist organizations have sent a number of teams into Sinai, with the aim of carrying out attacks in Israel. (Ha'aretz)
See also Ill Winds Blowing from the South - Yoel Marcus
Hamas is getting stronger and chalking up strategic successes, says ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy. It has morphed from a small fundamentalist religious organization into the sole ruler of Gaza and its million and a half inhabitants, and a serious obstacle to peace. In a carefully planned strategic maneuver - the Gaza-Egypt border breach - it has opened another front on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Under circumstances like these, our efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority are pointless.
Some say it would be wrong to break off contact. On the contrary, they say. Now is the time to continue the talks and reach an accord with Abbas that can be displayed on the shelf. Their hope is that Hamas supporters will see it, be bit by the bug, and switch sides. Happy is the believer. (Ha'aretz)
Egypt's demand that it be permitted to increase the size of the forces stipulated in the security addendum to the peace treaty is justified only in its less important aspect: They need reinforcements in order to repel a rioting mob at Rafah. Israel turned its head when the 750 Egyptian border police sent to replace the local officers were instead added to them, doubling their number. The Egyptians also need the systematic recruitment of human resources - agents from among the local Bedouin. Cairo has so neglected Sinai that it has come to resemble the tribal areas in Pakistan which have eluded central control from Islamabad.
The emerging consequence of this situation is that the option that was most rejected in recent months - a ground assault in Gaza - will become the lesser of evils. The IDF will have to return to the rocket launch sites in northern Gaza and encircle the dozen or so kilometers between Kerem Shalom and the sea in order to trap the terror activists and recover their weapons in meticulous house-to-house searches. It may make do with the Rafah and Khan Yunis area. (Ha'aretz)
If someone were to ask the Egyptians to compare the degree of their hostility toward Israel with that toward Hamas, Hamas would come out the worse. The wounding of Egyptian policemen, a large photo in the Egyptian media of a bearded Hamas man aiming a revolver at the head of an Egyptian citizen who tried to cross over into Gaza, and the reports about terrorist squads in Sinai have all had an effect. Egypt now faces a reality that requires it to apply the brakes to Hamas' intention to set up an independent Palestinian entity in Gaza reliant on Egypt, and Israel's desire to transfer responsibility for security on the Gaza border to Egypt. Egypt understands that if the issue of the border crossings is not resolved soon, it will face another invasion of Palestinians in the future. (Ha'aretz)
President Ahmadinejad of Iran and his hard-line allies rail against the U.S. and other external "enemies," but who they really fear are their own citizens. The president and his crowd are increasingly nervous about losing next month's parliamentary elections, and next year's presidential vote. Their cowardly solution? Keep potential rivals off the ballot and silence anyone who can give Iran's people a voice - like Zanan, the country's premier women's magazine shut down last week.
In an era of $100 a barrel oil, Iran's people are struggling with food shortages, high unemployment and spiraling inflation. Ahmadinejad has tried to divert attention from those failures with threats against Israel, Holocaust denials, and a confrontation with the UN Security Council over nuclear ambitions. Iranians are not so easily fooled.
The only threat Zanan posed was to the regime's authoritarian and anti-feminist pathology. Ahmadinejad may be able to stifle debate, for a while longer. If Iran's mullahs think that he's strengthening the country, they don't understand Iran's people. (New York Times)
Last week, Germany marked the 75th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, on January 30, 1933. Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that Iran would produce nuclear energy within a year and that Israel would soon collapse. As Hitler justified rearmament to combat the "Zionist Marxist" menace of communism, Ahmadinejad links Iran's nuclear ambitions to what he calls "the filthy Zionist entity."
Ahmadinejad has spoken of the need to "wipe Israel off the map." It's hard to see how talk like this fails to qualify as a violation of the UN Charter, Article 2, which prohibits member states from threatening the "territorial integrity or political independence" of any state. Yet no UN or EU diplomats have ever suggested that the principles of the Charter be applied to Iran.
Since the Iranian president's arrival, Iran has been ignoring UN Security Council resolutions to stop its nuclear program. We know that hostility to the West and a violent, apocalyptic vision of Islam have become interwoven in Tehran. We know that political opponents are tortured in prisons run by the Revolutionary Guards, and that free speech and peaceful assembly are fictions. The writer is a senior fellow at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy. (Weekly Standard)
Wael Abbas, with keyboard, digital camera and a bit of cunning, has become one of Egypt's most popular bloggers. His posts, often with scratchy video, catalog police torture, political oppression, labor strikes, sexual harassment, and radical Islam. Recent videos posted by Abbas and other bloggers have found their way into the mainstream media and forced the Interior Ministry and the courts to more swiftly investigate officers accused of torture and abuse. "The U.S. should stop aiding Egypt, because it's paying for military and police forces that are suppressing the Egyptian people with pepper spray and tear gas," said Abbas. (Los Angeles Times)
When a five-year-old boy from a small village in Kazakhstan was diagnosed with a severe blood disease requiring a bone marrow transplant, his family sold its herd of sheep to send him and his mother to Israel for an operation at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Another man came to Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem from England after learning that his knee-replacement surgery, for which he would have had to wait 18 months, could be performed in Israel within 10 days.
Israel is emerging as a popular destination for medical tourists. In 2006, some 15,000 foreigners flew to Israel for complex procedures such as bone marrow transplants, heart surgery and catheterization, oncological and neurological treatments, rehabilitation after a car accident and more, bringing $40 million into Israel's coffers. (Ha'aretz)
Iranian Nuclear Rewrite - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
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