Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 4, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Iran Behind Gaza Rocket Fire - Rebecca Anna Stoil and Sheera Claire Frenkel (Jerusalem Post)
    Iranian technology and intelligence was used by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza in the recent fighting, a senior official in Military Intelligence told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. "Iran's influence and effect is very clear," he said.
    Terrorists fired at least 20 Iranian-assembled Katyusha rockets, he said. In the course of the recent IDF operation, the air force bombed the largest rocket factory in Gaza.
    "Hamas was surprised by the weight and strength of the IDF operation in Gaza," he noted.
    See also Iran's Proxy in Gaza - Noah Pollak (Commentary)
    Iran has invested heavily in Palestinian terrorism in recent years, both financially and logistically.
    Scores of millions of dollars have been funneled directly and indirectly to Hamas and other Palestinian groups and numerous Palestinian terrorists have been brought to Iran for advanced training, to the point where today Gaza exists for the Iranians as another forward operating base, a projection of power similar to but not as capable as Hizbullah.
    The defeat of their proxy in Gaza would be a serious loss to Iran.
    The writer is assistant editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

Israel Says Hizbullah Has 30,000 Rockets - Edith M. Lederer (AP/Washington Post)
    Israel has said Hizbullah is rearming and has an arsenal that includes 10,000 long-range rockets and 20,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon, according to a report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ashkelon Children Know Things Have Changed - Or Kashti (Ha'aretz)
    Harel Elementary School principal Ruti Ben-Walid stood at the school's entrance Monday to welcome the children and hustle them inside. The Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command has issued orders prohibiting kindergarteners and elementary school students from going outside during the school day.
    High-schoolers can go outside, but they must be within sprinting distance of a shelter.

Pilotless Planes Emerge as Top Israeli Weapon in War with Hamas - Ibrahim Barzak and Aron Heller (AP/MSNBC)
    Palestinians say pilotless planes have been a major weapon in Israel's latest offensive in Gaza.
    Drones provide a cost effective alternative for armies to target enemies, without risking their own pilots' lives while reducing civilian casualties in heavily populated areas.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Faults Hamas in Gaza Violence - Jennifer Loven
    The White House on Monday blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for causing the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians that has killed dozens and put a halt to peace talks. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council, said: "The No. 1 thing that has to happen is that Hamas has got to stop targeting Israeli citizens with rockets. It must stop." (AP)
        See also Rice to Raise Humanitarian Issues with Israelis - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Rice said Monday she planned to tell Israeli officials to ease the humanitarian suffering in Gaza and avoid attacks that might kill civilians, but she repeatedly refused to say whether she supported a cease-fire. "First and foremost, Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israeli cities," Rice said. At the same time, she said, "Israelis have to be very concerned about the innocent people in Gaza who were caught in this crossfire, and the Israelis need to be very concerned about the humanitarian situation." (Washington Post)
  • UN Imposes New Sanctions on Iran - Robin Wright and Colum Lynch
    The UN imposed new sanctions on Iran Monday, capping a year of difficult diplomacy that may represent the Bush administration's final bid to mobilize international action against Tehran over its controversial nuclear program. The White House had to settle for a watered-down UN resolution that makes most trade and financial sanctions voluntary. U.S. diplomacy was undercut by China's growing oil trade with Iran, Russia's ties to Tehran's nuclear energy program, and skepticism among four developing countries on the council about the need for yet another UN resolution. But Washington's own National Intelligence Estimate in December - which concluded with "high confidence" that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003 - did more than anything else to undermine the prospects for a hard-hitting resolution. (Washington Post)
  • Sderot, Israeli Town Under Rocket Attack - Carolynne Wheeler
    Hanit Kuchnik's two-year-old son Alon knows to run to the protective room when an alarm sounds. His first words were the Hebrew for "red," learned from the "red alerts," and "boom." Ruti and Kobi Gabbay try to spare their three-year-old son Sarel the trauma of the rockets, each day driving him to a nursery school on a nearby kibbutz, just out of rocket range. At least half of the 20 children in Sarel's nursery class are also from Sderot, and their teacher, Naomi Ohnunu, said the differences among the children are obvious. "The kids from Sderot are more nervous," said Ohnunu, herself a Sderot resident. "They are more easily frightened."
        The stress is mounting among adults, too. A local trauma center has treated more than 1,000 for psychological problems caused by the attacks in the past month, and nearly everyone complains of insomnia or nightmares, headaches or depression. (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits House in Sderot Tuesday - Tani Goldstein
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that hit a house in Sderot on Tuesday morning, causing heavy damage. On Monday, Ashkelon was hit by two Katyusha rockets. One hit a seven story-building and the second landed in a playground. Twenty-eight people were evacuated to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, two lightly injured and the rest suffering from shock. The military censor cleared for publication that earlier this week a Katyusha rocket landed near the home of Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter. (Ynet News)
        See also A Day of Close Calls in Ashkelon - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  • Municipal Inspectors Narrowly Escape Palestinian Mob in Eastern Jerusalem - Etgar Lefkovits
    Hundreds of Arab teens pelted Israeli cars, police and passersby with rocks in eastern Jerusalem on Monday as rioting over the violence in Gaza continued in the Arab sections of Jerusalem. The graphic images of two city workers who were inside their vehicle when they came under attack topped the TV newscasts in Israel on Monday night. Minutes later an elite unit of undercover Jerusalem police, aided by a Border Police anti-terror unit, arrested the leaders of the attack (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Organizes Anti-Israel Riots in Eastern Jerusalem - Zvi Yehezkeli
    Palestinian youth organized by Fatah nearly lynched two Jerusalem municipal inspectors in eastern Jerusalem on Monday. Why did Fatah push people to take to the streets? If they didn't demonstrate against Israel, they would demonstrate against the Palestinian Authority and support Hamas. This raises the question of how much control Abbas really has. (Channel 10 TV-Hebrew)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Nuclear Threat - Zalmay Khalilzad
    The UN Security Council has passed another resolution concerning Iran because its nuclear program is an unacceptable threat. Iran's violations of Security Council resolutions not only continue, but are deepening. Iran is dramatically expanding the number of operating centrifuges and developing a new generation of centrifuges, testing one of them with nuclear fuel. The IAEA presented Iran with documents detailing Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear warhead, including designs for a missile re-entry vehicle. Iran dismissed these documents as "baseless and fabricated," but the IAEA does not share that conclusion.
        The Iranian government has been a destabilizing force in the broader Middle East and beyond. Iran has been funding and supporting terrorists and militants for operations in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their lethal assistance has harmed countless innocent civilians. The president of Iran has made many reprehensible statements - embracing the objective of destroying a member state of the UN. Because of all these factors, the international community cannot allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The writer is U.S. Ambassador to the UN. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What Did the IDF Operation in Gaza Achieve? - Ron Ben-Yishai
    What did Israel's combined ground and aerial operation in Gaza achieve? Hamas lost about 70 men in three days, and that's a lot - even for a group that sanctifies death. Furthermore, the operation eroded Hamas' status in the eyes of local residents. It doesn't matter how often Hamas spokesmen repeat "the people is behind us," phone conversations with Gaza residents create a wholly different impression.
        The operation creates legitimacy among the international community to a situation of fighting in Gaza. This legitimacy is also created as a result of the fact that the media no longer view fighting in Gaza as "news," and also because the ongoing attacks on Ashkelon make it clear that Israel did not pounce on the Palestinians for no reason. A testament to this legitimacy could be seen in the fact that no real pressure was exerted on Israel to end the operation on the part of official political elements, including in the Arab world. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Wants Lull in Gaza, But Only On Its Own Terms - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas, like Hizbullah, wants to be the one to fire last. It does not want it to look like it was the one that gave in. The primary objective of Israel's Gaza move is to get Ashkelon out of the firing line and to prevent Hamas from launching a large number of Kassam rockets at Sderot in response to the death of every Hamas operative. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Options in Gaza - Nahum Barnea
    What Hamas is offering is an understanding that would see an end to rocket attacks in exchange for the IDF ending its targeted eliminations. The smuggling of arms and munitions would continue until Hamas builds up enough strength to attack again, this time to an even longer range, all the way to Ashdod, or Tel Aviv. This is a proposal that an Israeli government cannot accept.
        Israel also cannot reconcile itself to the existing reality whereby a growing number of civilians in the south are exposed to daily fire. It is immoral and illogical. We can expect Israeli citizens to sustain a certain level of risk, but it is unfair to expect them to face danger over an extended period of time without seeing light at the end of the tunnel. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Israel's War to Halt Palestinian Rocket Attacks - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The Kassam rocket threat started in 2001 and grew when the Palestinian Authority was under Fatah control. Even after the death of Arafat in November 2004, Kassam rocket fire from Gaza continued under the regime of Mahmoud Abbas. True, Abbas called on Palestinians to stop firing rockets into Israel in 2006, but on the ground, he and the Fatah leadership were either unwilling or unable to halt the Hamas attacks as they increased
    • After Israel's disengagement from Gaza, the number of confirmed rocket strikes against Israel increased by more than 500 percent. The 2005 Gaza disengagement provided Hamas with a sense of empowerment and self-confidence that led to a clear-cut escalation in the employment of the rocket capabilities that they had previously acquired. The disengagement from Gaza led to the loss of Israeli control over the Philadelphi route between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Sinai, allowing for a significant increase in the range and quantity of rockets in the Palestinian arsenal.
    • Israeli security forces recently discovered in the western Negev the remains of a new 175 mm. rocket of Iranian origin that has a range of 26 kilometers. Israeli security sources are also concerned that Iran will try to smuggle its Fajr rockets to Gaza in the future. A 45-kilometer-range Fajr 3, for example, could be smuggled in sections and assembled in Gaza. As long as the Philadelphi route is open for Hamas smuggling, the risk to Israel will grow as Iran exports rockets of increasing range to the Gaza Strip. The port of Ashdod is the next likely target, but should Fajr rockets reach Gaza, there is no reason why Hamas cannot pose a threat to Tel Aviv.
    • Presently, the Hamas leadership understands that repeated Katyusha attacks against Ashkelon will result in an Israeli ground incursion that can cost them nearly one hundred of their personnel. But without addressing the Philadelphi route or the northern Gaza launch sites, it is doubtful that these kinds of deterrence calculations alone will bring the Hamas rockets to a halt and alleviate the misery of the Israeli residents of Sderot.

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