Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 7, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Concerned North Korean Nuclear Know-How, Material Reached Iran - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The U.S. and Israel seek to pressure North Korea to cease its nuclear cooperation with Iran, which is one of the motives behind their agreement to disclose details on the air force strike in Syria last September.
    According to information obtained by Washington and Jerusalem, North Korea transferred technology and nuclear materials to Iran to aid Tehran's secret nuclear arms program.
    Foreign news sources reported that in addition to helping Syria build the nuclear facility that Israel attacked, North Korea sent engineers and various materials to the site.
    Israel and the U.S. fear that Pyongyang could be doing even more to boost Iran's nuclear program.

Head of Syrian Military Intelligence Says Hizbullah Terror Chief's Assassins Came from Syria (Jerusalem Post)
    Former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal that the head of Syrian military intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Assef Shawkat, has been put under house arrest after claiming that the probe he was conducting into Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh's death showed that the assassins came from Syria.
    "Following this revelation, Shawkat was removed from the investigation, which was transferred to [President Assad's cousin] Hafez Mahlof, who mulled over who to accuse in the assassination," said Khaddam.

Yemen: Empty Jewish Homes Destroyed - Haviv Rettig (Jerusalem Post)
    Rebel Houthi militiamen destroyed several homes belonging to the now-absent Jewish community in Yemen's northwestern Saada province.
    All 67 members of Saada's Jewish community fled to San'a, the capital, following threats from the Houthis. The Jews now live in a compound protected by state security forces.

Report: 21 Palestinians Killed in Internal Mishaps in March - Ghassan Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
    The International Solidarity Society for Human Rights issued a report on Saturday stating that 21 Palestinians were killed in internal mishaps during March 2008.
    In Gaza, five residents were killed in family fighting or were shot by unknown gunmen, and three were killed during resistance training.
    Another six Palestinians died when tunnels on the Gaza/Egypt border collapsed on top of them.
    In the West Bank seven Palestinians were killed due to family fighting and fire from unknown gunmen.

Female Muslim Soldier Joins Elite Israel Air Force Rescue Unit - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    A female Muslim Arab soldier is serving as a medic with the Israel Air Force's elite Combat Search and Rescue Unit.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Joined Militias in Battle for Basra - Sarah Baxter and Marie Colvin
    Iranian forces were involved in the recent battle for Basra, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to tell Congress this week. Military and intelligence sources believe Iranians were operating at a tactical command level with the Shi'ite militias fighting Iraqi security forces; some were directing operations on the ground. (Times-UK)
  • Document Shows Tehran Pursued a Military Nuclear Program after 2003 - Laurent Zecchini
    Le Monde has obtained documents showing that Tehran has pursued a military nuclear program after 2003, contrary to an American National Intelligence Estimate published in December 2007. On Feb. 25, Olli Heinonen, the Finnish Deputy Director General of the IAEA, presented evidence of the existence of an Iranian military nuclear program. A letter in 2004 by Engineer Mahdi Khaniki, one of the main interlocutors of the IAEA and former Iranian ambassador to Syria, to Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), confirms the charge.
        The letter refers to purchase orders for the spare parts used in the development of centrifuges, copies of which were to be delivered to the IAEA. "However, portions of these contracts, which this writer [Khaniki] viewed at the Ministry of Defense, were crossed out with black lines and the quantities did not appear." This letter represents clear evidence of the Defense Ministry's involvement in the Iranian nuclear project. This confirms suspicions about the military nature of the program, while attesting to the efforts of the Iranians to conceal it. (Le Monde-France/NCR-Iran)
  • A Town Under Fire Becomes a Symbol for Israel - Ethan Bronner
    Sderot, an Israeli town a mile from Gaza, has been pounded by Palestinian rockets for the past seven years. The sense that Sderot is actually Israel's front line in its battle for legitimacy and self-respect has gained real currency. Sderot is a bitter sample of what more distant parts of Israel may face if the threat here is ignored. (New York Times)
  • Hamas Rule Brings Stability to Gaza, But Also Fear - Erica Silverman
    Ibrahim Al-Najar used to operate his own egg distribution business in Gaza City until about a year ago, when he was beaten and robbed at gunpoint. Politically independent until then, he sold his business and joined Hamas' security forces. "At least now I know that my family is safe," he said. For many Gazans, the security has come at a heavy price. Women and young people feel pressured by the police presence to conform to Hamas' religious norms. "Security has been achieved through fear," said political analyst Talal Okal, "but we do not want the corrupt leaders back."
        Hamas has adopted a number of measures that have reduced the type of gang-style violence that was typical when Gaza was ruled by Fatah. Police are deployed across the city, civilians are forbidden from carrying arms in the street, face masks are banned and Hamas police are quick to respond to complaints. Carjackings, kidnappings and violent family disputes have declined significantly. (JTA)
  • U.S. Deploys Airport Behavior Screeners - David B. Caruso
    The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has set up over the past four years at the nation's major airports a rapidly expanding "behavior detection" program to spot terrorists or other dangerous air travelers by way of subtle clues in the way they act. The agency's efforts drew attention last week when screeners trained in behavior detection in Orlando arrested an Army veteran after he tried to check luggage containing pipe bomb-making materials onto a flight to Jamaica. The TSA began experimenting with behavior agents in Boston nearly five years ago, in part because of the perceived success of a similar program in Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Massive Home Front Drill Opens Simulating "Attacks" on Israel by Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas - Yaakov Katz and Yaakov Lappin
    Israel's largest-ever emergency exercise opened Sunday in a scenario that began with the firing of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel by Hizbullah. Israel also envisioned being hit by Syrian missiles and Hamas-fired Kassam and Katyusha rockets. During the exercise, rescue services will drill mass evacuations from "hit zones" - including chemical and biological attacks - and hospitals will drill their ability to treat thousands of injured.
        "This exercise is aimed at optimizing the complex inter-organizational response that is needed for a mass-casualty incident," said Yoram Ohayon, head of the Israel Police operations division. The recently formed National Emergency Authority, which helped design the exercise, emerged from the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Veterans Fear "Young Guard" Coup - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Veteran Fatah officials in Ramallah warned over the weekend that some of their "young guard" colleagues were planning to stage a "coup" against the faction's leadership, amid preparations for Fatah's General Conference - the first since 1989. The power struggle between the old guard and young guard has cast doubts over Fatah's ability to hold the conference. Moreover, it has raised doubts as to Fatah's ability to pursue peace talks with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Kills Gaza Farmer - Ali Waked
    Gaza residents say a Palestinian farmer was killed on Saturday after a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists toward Israel fell short and hit him. Medical sources in Gaza initially claimed he was wounded in an IDF artillery strike. (Ynet News)
  • Two Palestinian Rockets Land Near Ashkelon Saturday - Roni Sofer
    Two Palestinian rockets landed on the outskirts of Ashkelon on Saturday. Rocket alert sirens sounded throughout the city a short while before two loud explosions were heard. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Sunday
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three Kassam rockets into Israel Sunday night. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Talk To Hamas? Bad Idea - Robert O. Freedman
    It is argued that it is necessary to talk to a terrorist organization in order to get it to change its policy, just as Britain did with the Irish Republican Army. But the example of the IRA is misleading. The IRA never had as one of its goals the destruction of Great Britain. For Israel, the U.S. and/or the EU to begin talks with Hamas before it changed its policy would give diplomatic legitimacy to its call to destroy Israel, and reward its terrorist actions, something that would only encourage more terrorism in the future. The writer is professor of political science at Baltimore Hebrew University and visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. (Baltimore Jewish Times)
  • Democracy and the Mideast - Editorial
    Of the 22 members of the Arab League, hardly one can truly claim to practice democracy as it is understood by the West. Eight of the 22 - Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - have hereditary rulers; monarchies where the power passes from father to son, or brother to brother. Several have experienced military coups. Perhaps one simple guideline for judging a democracy is the number of living former presidents a country still has. You'd be hard pressed finding more than one or two. (Middle East Times)
  • Israel: The Next Generation
    Israel's present is prosperous and secure. But its future is as uncertain as at any time in its 60 years of history. The country has emerged stronger from the second Palestinian intifada, which between 2000 and 2004 killed 946 Israelis and over 3,100 Palestinians. Israelis are now much safer thanks to aggressive security measures in the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile, the high-tech boom that began in the 1990s has not only survived the intifada but gone from strength to strength, fuelling impressive economic growth. Tourism is rebounding and property prices have shot up. (Economist-UK)
  • Observations:

    Road Map to a Gaza War - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

    • Seven years ago George W. Bush's incoming foreign policy team blamed the Clinton administration for an eleventh-hour rush for a Middle East peace agreement that ended with the explosion of the second Palestinian intifada. Now, with less than 10 months remaining in office, Bush and Secretary of State Rice are engaged in a similar last-minute push - yet they don't seem to recognize the growing risk that their initiative, too, will end with another Israeli-Palestinian war.
    • That battle seemed on the verge of beginning a month ago, when Hamas for the first time began firing Iranian-made missiles at the Israeli city of Ashkelon - in addition to the volleys of rockets it has been aiming at the smaller town of Sderot for several years. After a punishing series of Israeli airstrikes the fighting subsided, and with the State Department's encouragement Egypt began to broker discussions about a more enduring truce.
    • Bush and Rice would like Israel to hold off against Hamas until Olmert can complete an agreement on principles for a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement with Abbas. While Olmert still wants that deal, it's become increasingly clear to the Israelis that an Abbas-led government will never be able to implement it. Despite extensive international aid, the West Bank Palestinian administration remains little more than a shell kept in power by Israel's troops.
    • The Israelis say the coming confrontation won't necessarily involve a full-scale reoccupation of Gaza. Given the predictable international backlash against any Israeli offensive, and the inevitable satellite television coverage of suffering Palestinians, Olmert is likely to wait for a clear provocation from Hamas. Perhaps it won't happen for a few more months. But what concerns some Israelis is the lack of readiness by the Bush administration for the possibility that its drive for Mideast peace will be overwhelmed by a Mideast war.

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