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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 10, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Hamas Serious About Blowing Up Gaza-Egypt Border Again - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas is determined to forcefully breach the border between Gaza and Egypt in the coming days, a senior Israeli defense official said Wednesday.
    "They have most likely already planted explosives along the border with Egypt," the official said.
    Egyptian officials said they received intelligence that Hamas was preparing to bulldoze the rebuilt border and to blow up the main crossing gate with mines.

Senior Al-Qaeda Commander Believed Dead - Craig Whitlock and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post)
    Al-Qaeda's chief operational planner, Abu Obaidah al-Masri, is believed to have died in December of hepatitis in a remote part of Pakistan, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Wednesday.
    Al-Masri, an Egyptian, is suspected of overseeing the London transit bombings in 2005 and the failed transatlantic airliner plot a year later.

Ethnic Cleansing of Jews - Ashley Perry (Jerusalem Post)
    Drazen Petrovic defined "ethnic cleansing" as "a well-defined policy of a particular group of persons to systematically eliminate another group from a given territory."
    In 1947 there were about 740,000 Palestinians living in the area formerly called Palestine. Today, there are over five million Palestinians (including Israeli Arabs) living in the same territory.
    Before 1948 there were nearly 900,000 Jews in "Arab lands" and only 6,500 in 2001.
    When compared with the demographic trends for the Palestinians, there appears to be only one type of ethnic cleansing in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In Egypt, Bread Shortage Exposes Inequities - Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post)
    For Egypt's more than 30 million poor, subsidized bread means survival.
    In 1977, a government move to lift the subsidies on bread sparked the only mass popular uprising in Egypt in the past half-century, that left more than 70 people dead. Anwar Sadat, who was president at the time, quickly restored the subsidies.
    Wheat prices worldwide have more than doubled in the past year, spurred by increased demand, rising fuel costs and bad weather.
    Egypt's economy is expected to grow by 7% this fiscal year, but the inequities between Egypt's poor and rich are stark.
    The luxury carmaker BMW reported a 20% annual growth in sales last year, but about 40% of Egypt's population lives in poverty, the World Bank said. The average monthly salary of an Egyptian civil servant is less than $100.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas in Largest Arms Buildup Yet - Ethan Bronner
    Hamas is engaged in the broadest and most significant military buildup in its history with help from Syria and Iran, according to a study by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an independent research group with close ties to the Israeli military. Although the buildup will take some years to complete, it is in an intensive phase that has already led to better infiltration into Israel and a rise in the breadth and precision of rocket fire. Hamas has obtained advanced anti-tank devices like those used by Hizbullah against Israel in its war in 2006, as well as powerful roadside bombs for use against Israeli vehicles. Hundreds of fighters have been trained in Iran, Lebanon and Syria.
        The study asserts that any kind of truce would allow Hamas to build its military structure further. It also says the military buildup is being run largely from Damascus. (New York Times)
        Read the Report (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Former President Carter to Meet with Hamas Chief - Glenn Kessler
    Former president Jimmy Carter plans to meet next week in Damascus with Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in a direct rebuke of the Bush administration's campaign to isolate it. No senior American representative, in or out of the government, has met with Hamas' leadership since it was named a terrorist group in the mid-1990s. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "United States Government policy is unchanged: Hamas is a terrorist organization. They can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terror." (Washington Post )
        See also below Observations: The Trouble with Talking to Hamas - Lee Smith (Power Line)
  • Egyptian Municipal Elections Fizzle - Liam Stack
    After a two-year postponement, Egypt's polls opened Tuesday for municipal council elections. But hardly anyone came. Candidates loyal to President Mubarak ran unopposed in 90% of the races. Public discontent with the regime is widespread, but opposition groups appear unable to successfully mobilize this growing dissent. Fewer than two dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's main opposition group, managed to get their names on final election lists. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Terrorists Murder Two Israeli Truck Drivers at Gaza Fuel Depot - Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Two Israeli truck drivers were shot dead and two other Israelis were wounded Wednesday when four Palestinian terrorists from Gaza infiltrated the fuel depot near Nahal Oz. The victims were Oleg Lipson, 37, and Lev Cherniak, 53. IDF soldiers killed two of the terrorists. Later in the day, a Palestinian sniper wounded an IDF soldier in the area. An IDF spokesman said the Palestinians fired mortar shells before the attack as a diversion. The infiltration occurred after the latest delivery of fuel to Gaza, funded by the EU. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Attack Fuel Terminal
    Israel views Hamas, which controls Gaza, as responsible for Wednesday's terror attack on the Nahal Oz fuel crossing terminal. The terrorists in Gaza not only attack Israelis, but also try to harm the civilian infrastructure in Gaza and undermine any example of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, such as occurs at the crossing points. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Murder at the Border - Editorial
    Our enemies in Gaza expect Israelis to feel compassion over the deprivations suffered by Gazans - lack of fuel, for instance - even as they try to kill us at every opportunity. Palestinians have exploited every vulnerable target where Israel tries to partner with Gazans for their own benefit - including joint industrial zones, supply depots and border crossings - to carry out attacks. Thousands upon thousands of tons of humanitarian aid have been transferred by Israel to an entity that is at war with us because that's what the civilized world expects from the only democracy in the Middle East. But Israel must have its limits.
        Israel cannot be expected to deliver food and fuel to an enemy that won't stop shooting at its civilians and trying to kidnap or kill its soldiers. It cannot maintain points of contact with Gaza when terrorists cynically utilize the vulnerability of such points to commit murder. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Proposes Temporary Israel-PA Agreement that Postpones Issues of Jerusalem, Refugees - Ali Waked
    A new diplomatic proposal submitted by the U.S. seeks to reach a general Israel-PA agreement on principles by the end of the year that would not include reference to Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees, a Palestinian source said. According to the proposal, the agreement would be a temporary one - valid for five years - during which the PA would be granted some municipal sovereignty in Jerusalem and would be allowed to provide various services to the Palestinian residents of the city. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Continues to Set Israel-Palestinian Agenda - Noah Pollak
    Wednesday's infiltration of terrorists from Gaza into Israel is another reminder that Hamas and its regional patrons continue to drive events, not the other way around. Not only will the peace process be overwhelmed by war in Gaza, but so will the political saliency of Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas today is a walking anachronism. If there is real progress in the peace process, Hamas and Iran will unleash violence and the ensuing battle will force Abbas to suspend negotiations; if Israel tries to negotiate with Hamas, Abbas' credibility will be fatally undermined; if he negotiates with Hamas, he will face abandonment from the U.S. and Israel; if a prisoner exchange for [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit is accomplished, he will be shown among the Palestinians to be even weaker opposite Hamas than he already looks. (Commentary)
  • The Club of Tyranny's Falked Tongue - Melanie Phillips
    The UN has appointed a man to investigate Israel's behavior who is incapable of telling the difference between genocide and the attempt to defend a people from becoming its victims. Professor Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, has compared Israel's behavior in Gaza to the Nazis, and tells the BBC he is unrepentant about this comparison. The UN now stands for the abandonment of free societies, the demonization of their defenders and the extinction of truth and justice, and the endorsement, justification and incitement of terror, tyranny and hatred. (Spectator-UK)
  • Understanding Middle East Terror: Islam or Tribalism? - Stanley Kurtz
    McGill anthropology professor Philip Carl Salzman's new book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, is the most penetrating, reliable, systematic, and theoretically sophisticated effort yet made to understand the Islamist challenge the U.S. is facing in cultural terms. The U.S. finds itself locked in a struggle with fierce jihadi warriors shaped by the pervasively tribal culture of the Islamic Near East. Whether hidden in the mountain sanctuaries of Waziristan or in the fastness of the Iraqi desert, the heart of the jihadi rebellion is tribal. Yet tribalism has been vastly overshadowed by Islam in our attempts to understand the jihadist challenge.
        Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups. Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam.
        Decades before 9/11, the rise of terrorism as a tactic in the Palestinian struggle against Israel suggested continuities between the endemic violence of traditional tribal life and the present. The most disturbing lesson of all is that, in the absence of fundamental cultural change, the feud between the Muslim world and the West is unlikely ever to end. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    The Trouble with Talking to Hamas - Lee Smith (Power Line)

    • Next week Jimmy Carter is headed to Damascus to speak with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
    • Meshaal is not a Hamas "hardliner" ostensibly at odds with more "moderate" Hamas figures; rather he is the man who calls the shots. This is why chief of Egyptian military intelligence Omar Suleiman dealt primarily with Meshaal during the Gaza breakout in February, and not Ismail Haniyeh. In Damascus, Meshaal gets his marching orders from Tehran, which means that the former American president, during whose tenure the U.S. lost a pillar of its Persian Gulf security strategy to the Khomeinist revolution, will effectively be talking to a representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    • One of the goals of the Iranian revolution is to overthrow the established order by routing the U.S. and driving it from the region. In the Persian Gulf, Iran is bullying Washington's Sunni allies and, as Gen. Petraeus' Senate testimony made plain, waging open war against the U.S. in Iraq. In the Eastern Mediterranean it is fighting U.S. allies in Lebanon and Israel and threatening Egypt.
    • Egypt's alliance with the U.S. is the fruit of the 1978 Camp David accords, and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is the one foreign policy achievement the Carter White House can point to with pride. The Iranian project is to put an end to all that, and this is what lay behind Hamas' breakout in Gaza, to force Cairo eventually into a situation that would lead to it breaking the treaty with Israel. Unfortunately, it is difficult not to conclude that Jimmy Carter is unaware that the man he will be sitting down with is plotting to turn his legacy into dust.

      The writer is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Future Security Strategies.

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