Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 25, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Boycott UN Conference on Racism - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Israel will boycott the UN's "Durban II" conference on racism, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Sunday in Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.

Seven Islamic Extremists Charged in Attack on Israeli Embassy in Mauritania (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Seven men believed to be Islamic extremists have been charged in the attack earlier this month on the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania.
    Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Talhata said Sunday that five Mauritanians and two Tunisians have been charged with "participating in an organization whose aim is to carry out terrorist acts."
    The judge described the men as "Salafist jihadists," a reference to an extremist Islamic movement based in Algeria.

Jordan to Supply Electricity to Jericho (Jordan Times)
    Jordan's National Electricity Power Company (NEPCO) said it would start supplying the West Bank city of Jericho with electricity as of Sunday.

Abbas Clears Himself Over Gaza Defeat - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
    A report commissioned by Mahmoud Abbas into the Hamas takeover of Gaza last June has exempted himself and his strongmen from blame, but slated mid-level officers for military trials.

Gunmen Damage Christian School in Gaza, Shoot Guard (MEMRI)
    Gunmen burst into the Al-Nour Baptist School in Gaza and caused much destruction to the premises after beating and humiliating the guards and even wounding one of them with gunfire, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported Friday.
    See also Hamas Arrests Jaysh al-Islam Members in YMCA Bombing in Gaza (MEMRI)
    Clashes broke out in Gaza between Hamas and Jaysh al-Islam (which took part in the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit) following the arrest by Hamas of several Jaysh al-Islam members on suspicion of involvement in the bombing of the YMCA library in Gaza.
    During the clashes, Jaysh al-Islam fighters shot at the house of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar, and abducted Hamas members for the purpose of exchanging them for the detainees, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported Friday.

Secret Files Against Terror Suspects Revealed in Canada - Colin Freeze, Tu Thanh Ha, and Omar El Akkad (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    In hundreds of pages of court documents Friday, Canadian ministers signed new security certificates against alleged members of an al-Qaeda network in Canada.
    Syrian Hassan Almrei, accused of document forgery, is alleged to have gained access to a restricted area at Toronto's Pearson Airport in September 1999.
    Egyptian Mahmoud Jaballah, long alleged to be a communications conduit for terrorist cells involved in the 1998 African embassy bombings, is said to have "communicated closely" with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda No. 2, from Canada.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Gaza Protest Passes Peacefully - Amy Teibel
    Israel deployed thousands of troops and police along the border with Gaza on Monday, but a Hamas demonstration against Israel appeared to pass without incident. Organizers had hoped to form a human chain running the length of the 25-mile strip, but turnout was well below expectations. About 5,000 people, many of them schoolchildren, joined the chain outside of Beit Hanoun, about four miles from the border. After the protest ended, some 2,000 Hamas loyalists marched toward the Erez crossing until Hamas police blocked the road. (AP)
        See also below IDF Readies for Mass Gaza March - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
  • UN Agency Worried about Iran's Ability to Build Nuclear Weapons - Maggie Farley and Borzou Daragahi
    The UN's nuclear watchdog agency said in a report released Friday that it has "serious concern" about Iran's potential to assemble a nuclear bomb because it has not addressed questions about weapons designs. The UN report describes a computer image, which was made available to Iran, showing "a schematic layout" of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle that is called "quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device." "This is a matter of great concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear program," the report says. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei asked Iran to quickly respond to the new weapons questions and cautioned that until Iran gives inspectors full access to suspect nuclear-related sites, the IAEA cannot give it a clean bill of health on whether its nuclear program can be diverted for military purposes. (Baltimore Sun)
        See also Nuclear Agency Says Iran Has Used New Technology - David E. Sanger
    The International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday described for the first time the evidence it has shown to Iran that strongly suggests the country had experimented with technologies to manufacture a nuclear weapon, but Iranian officials dismissed the documents as baseless and fabricated. Since 2005, the IAEA has urged the U.S. and other countries to allow it to show Iran the evidence obtained on a laptop computer which intelligence officials said once belonged to an Iranian technician with access to the country's nuclear program. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Stepping Up Its Uranium Work
    Iran said Sunday that it had started using new centrifuges that can enrich uranium at more than twice the speed of the machines that now form the backbone of its nuclear program. The announcement confirmed reports earlier this month by diplomats with the UN nuclear watchdog agency that Iran was using 10 of the new IR-2 centrifuges. (AP/New York Times)
  • U.S. Weighs Sanctions on Iran's Central Bank - Glenn R. Simpson
    The Treasury Department is gathering evidence it says shows that the central bank of Iran is helping other Iranian institutions elude U.S. economic sanctions, in what could be a prelude to penalties against the central bank. Now, financial-intelligence officials say the Iranian central bank, also known as Bank Markazi, is handling U.S.-dollar transactions for the blacklisted private banks, and is also helping them by backing their existing dollar-denominated letters of credit. The central bank is the keystone of Iran's financial system and its principal remaining lifeline to the international banking system. U.S. sanctions against it could have a severe impact on Iranian trade if other nations in Europe and Asia choose to go along with them.
        In a Feb. 8 speech, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt asserted that Iranian banks are attempting to remove their names from transaction records when conducting business internationally. Between 2001 and 2006, Kimmitt alleged, Bank Saderat, an Iranian bank, "moved $50 million from the central bank of Iran through its subsidiary in London to its branch in Beirut to the benefit of Hizbullah front organizations in Lebanon that support acts of violence." (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The Nexus Between Iranian National Banks and International Terrorist Financing - Dr. Shimon Shapira (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In Israel, Some See No Option But War - Griff Witte
    With each new barrage of rockets, Israel's government comes under greater pressure to conduct a massive military operation that might improve conditions in Sderot, but could also entail heavy casualties on both sides and further undermine the already anemic U.S.-backed peace process. As Hamas gains military strength through support from Iran, that assistance could in time mean rockets with much longer range and far greater accuracy and lethality, said Shalom Harari, a former top Israeli military intelligence official. (Washington Post)
        See also Teams Set to Push Mideast Peace Talks - Adam Entous
    After months of delay, Israel and the Palestinians set up teams of government experts on Sunday to try to jumpstart U.S.-backed peace talks. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Readies for Mass Gaza March - Amos Harel
    Israel's concern about Hamas marching masses of civilians to the fence separating Gaza from Israel is based on intimate knowledge of the intentions of its leadership. Over the past few days, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior army officers have spent hours deliberating the possible scenarios. Additional troops have been deployed and the units on the ground have been given clear directives not to allow Palestinians to enter Israeli territory under any circumstances.
        There is an Achilles heel in Hamas' plans to bring down the Gaza wall as it breached the wall separating Gaza from Egypt last month: Hamas no longer has the element of surprise. Israel is already enforcing sterile buffer zones near the fence, especially in areas near Israeli settlements. Which is to say the IDF shoots anyone who attempts to approach the fence in those areas. This means Hamas will have a hard time assembling masses of people without being detected by the IDF when they are still kilometers from the fence. The army intends to prevent the marchers from advancing on the fence when they are still inside the Strip, using various means for crowd dispersal. (Ha'aretz)
  • Enraged Hamas Loyalists Protest Against PA at Preacher's Funeral
    Some 3,000 angry Hamas loyalists on Sunday marched at the funeral of Majed Barghouti, 44, a Muslim preacher who died in the custody of Palestinian Authority interrogators on Friday, accusing the PA of killing the man, in a rare show of defiance against Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. Marchers loudly condemned Abbas' intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi, whom they blamed for Barghouti's death. Four men who were arrested alongside Barghouti told his family that they were all tied up in painful positions during interrogation.
        ''Torture has become a phenomenon,'' said Shawan Jabareen, head of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, and Palestinian security forces routinely beat Hamas loyalists. Jabareen said his group had documented some 120 cases of mistreatment in detention. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Ali Waked
    Palestinians in Gaza have fired six Kassam rockets at Israel since Sunday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas' Illegitimacy - Editorial
    Sderot lies entirely within the "green line." Even those who beseech Israel's government to negotiate with Hamas, despite its overt dedication to Israel's destruction, do not question the legitimacy of Sderot as an incontestable part of Israel. The fact that Sderot is publicly described by Hamas as a usurping "Zionist settlement" underlines the problematics of dialogue. You negotiate with your enemies, but it is wrongheaded to negotiate with enemies implacably committed to your destruction.
        Dialogue with Hamas has been rightly conditioned by Israel, and most of the international community, on Hamas recognizing Israel's right to exist, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and disavowing terrorism. The notion of Hamas actually meeting these conditions seems all but unthinkable. The notion of Israel legitimizing Hamas in the absence of such a fundamental shift in its orientation - and thus opening the door to the widespread international legitimization of Hamas, with the accompanying assistance that would ensure the sustaining of Hamas rule in Gaza and its strengthening in the West Bank, to the detriment of any and all moderate alternatives - is still more unthinkable. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Imad Mughniyeh: Earthly and Heavenly Perspectives - Mshari Al-Zaydi
    Even if Hizbullah were to liberate the Shebaa farms and free the prisoners held in Israeli prisons, it would still not mean that it would shift into becoming a civil party with a civil ideology and a civil vision. The party will not stop generating individuals who are obsessed with death and martyrdom since its very structure is built upon "resistance," as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the "understanding" General Michel Aoun. And yet, the very thing that makes Nasrallah proud of the nature and essence of his party is precisely what concerns and alarms us about it.
        But this time Hizbullah's leader and the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jaafari, have raised the ceiling of their demands and the party's arms and ideology have now become entangled with Israel. As such, the aim behind Hizbullah's armament, and therefore its culture and exceptional nature, is to annihilate Israel. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Observations:

    Uphold Judgment Against Terrorists - Neal Sher (JTA)

    • By Feb. 29, the State Department must advise a federal court if it will succumb to Palestinian pressure and take the side of murderers by sabotaging a final judgment of $174 million against the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization.
    • The judge overseeing the case, which was brought in 2003 by the widow of a man killed by Palestinian terrorists in Hadera, Israel, has asked the State Department to declare whether enforcing the judgment would be harmful to U.S. national interests - something the Palestinians feverishly have been demanding.
    • The case was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was designed to hit terrorists where it hurts: in the pocketbook. As a reflection of how serious Congress was, the law even allows for the award of treble damages.
    • It would be an utter perversion of justice to allow the terrorists literally to get away with murder.

      The writer has served as executive director of AIPAC and as director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department.

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