Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 17, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Revokes Awards to Terrorists (Jerusalem Post)
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas confirmed Wednesday that plans to present two female Palestinian terrorists who helped kill Israelis with PLO medals of honor have been withdrawn.

Qassem Suleimani: Commander of Iran's Quds Brigade - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Iranian Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the al-Quds brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is credited with brokering a cease-fire between the Shiite militias in Iraq and the Iraqi government.
    Suleimani's achievement underscores the deep involvement of Iran in Iraq, and its control, in effect, of the Mahdi Army and the other pro-Shiite militias operating in that country.
    Suleimani is also the coordinator of Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Hizbullah.
    The al-Quds force was set up at the beginning of the 1980s in the framework of the Revolutionary Guards as an elite unit for special tasks behind enemy lines.
    A former U.S. army intelligence officer, David Dionisi, says that al-Quds is divided into eight geographic departments, with responsibility for the West; Iraq; Afghanistan (including India and Pakistan); Lebanon; Israel and the Palestinians; North Africa; Turkey; and the Arabian Peninsula.
    According to Western intelligence sources, Suleimani was the main person responsible for equipping Hizbullah with missiles and long-range rockets.
    Suleimani created especially close ties with Imad Mughniyeh, the military commander of Hizbullah, who, according to American sources, used to sleep at Suleimani's house whenever he went to Tehran.
    See also Iran's Quds Force - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)

Iran's Sly Games in Iraq - Fouad Ajami (U.S. News)
    In the Iraqi theater, Iran has been sly and duplicitous. It can dial up the violence and dial it down; it can arm and wink at the forces of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr while professing fidelity to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
    The Iranians have done well by the British abdication in Basra. The Iranians and the militias and the criminal gangs rushed to fill the vacuum and to lay claim to the spoils.
    In a perfect world, the Arab neighbors of Iran ought to balance and contest Iran's power. But the Arabs today are mere spectators to their own destiny and are hopelessly divided. They've had nothing to offer Iraq save subversion and incitement.
    Iran is left with a role far greater than its own weight should allow.

Iranian Vice Chief "Caught in Brothel" - Alexi Mostrous (Times-UK)
    Iranian media reported that Gen. Reza Zarei, the police chief in charge of fighting vice in Tehran, was jailed Tuesday for reportedly consorting in an underground brothel.
    Zarei was in charge of a program to arrest young men and women for illicit relationships and not respecting the Islamic dress code.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ahmadinejad: "Iran Is the Most Powerful Nation in the World"
    "Iran is the most powerful and independent nation in the world," Iranian President Ahmadinejad proclaimed on Thursday at a military parade marking the Islamic republic's annual Army Day, as dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft flew over the parade ground. Among the weapons on display was Iran's Shahab-3 missile, whose range includes Israel and even the fringes of Europe. A truck carrying other missiles also carried the slogan "Death to Israel," while "Death to America" had been written on another vehicle.
        Ahmadinejad repeated his belief that the power of Iran meant the prevailing world order was set to be turned on its head. "Thanks to the resistance of the Iranian people, the great powers have become bogged down. The region and the world must prepare for great changes and the disappearance of satanic powers." (AFP)
  • Hamas Says Carter Visit a Boost to Militants' Legitimacy - Katarina Kratovac
    Hamas officials said Wednesday that Jimmy Carter's meetings with leaders of the Palestinian militant group will boost its legitimacy. A delegation of senior Hamas officials from Gaza arrived in Cairo and said Carter planned to meet with them Thursday. Carter is scheduled to meet in Damascus on Friday with Hamas' top leader, Khaled Meshaal. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Palestinian Leader Abbas Arrives in Russia for Talks
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for talks with Russia's leaders. Abbas said he and Putin would discuss "the international peace conference planned in Russia and its agenda." Abbas is to hold talks in Washington next week with President Bush. (AFP)
  • Hamas Cleric Tortured to Death in PA Custody - Griff Witte
    When Hamas preacher Majd Barghouti's body arrived at the hospital, his back was scarlet where he had been whipped with pipes. His legs were black with bruises. His wrists were sliced open and bloodied. The PA, which had been holding him in an intelligence-service prison, declared that he had died of a heart attack. Barghouti's killing offers a rare glimpse into a subterranean war that plays out daily in the West Bank, where Fatah and Hamas vie for power. An independent Palestinian investigation released this month found evidence that torture is regularly used against political prisoners in PA facilities. Congress last year appropriated $86 million in assistance to the PA's security services. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Twenty Gazans Killed in Airstrikes after Three IDF Soldiers Killed in Hamas Ambush - Yaakov Katz and Khaled Abu Toameh
    After three IDF soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush on Wednesday opposite Kibbutz Be'eri, the air force carried out a series of strikes throughout Gaza, killing close to 20 Palestinians and wounding dozens more. Defense officials said the IDF would continue to operate along the border with Gaza and within a 1-3 kilometer depth inside the Strip in an effort to prevent Hamas from fortifying its border positions. "They are now closer to the border than they used to be," a top officer in the Southern Command said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Barrage on Israel Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired more than 30 Kassam rockets at Israel on Wednesday. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Steps Up Attacks Along Gaza Border Fence - Ron Ben-Yishai
    In recent days we have seen a significant change in the nature of the fighting in Gaza. Hamas and the organizations that are inspired by it and operate under its wing are focusing more on attacking along the border fence. Palestinian groups are realizing that initiating activity along the fence exacts a greater Israeli casualty toll than inaccurate rocket fire does. Clashes along the fence also grant the terrorists a military advantage: They are able to determine the timing, location, and circumstances of the clashes, as seen in Wednesday's clash that left three soldiers dead. In this incident, two terrorists approached the fence in order to plant explosive devices. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Palestinian force remained well-hidden and lying in wait for the IDF force to respond. This modus operandi is virtually identical to that of Hizbullah in Lebanon. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Considering Gaza Incursion after Bush Visit - Herb Keinon
    There is a heightened sense in the security establishment that a broad-scale ground incursion inside Gaza is necessary this summer to deal a severe blow to Hamas' infrastructure, sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday, following the death of three soldiers in a Gaza ambush. The operation is being considered out of a widespread sense that the current situation in Gaza cannot continue festering indefinitely. The idea would be to "clean Gaza out" and deliver a devastating blow to the considerable Hamas military infrastructure that has been built up there over the last few years with Iranian and Syrian support. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas' Growing Strength - Editorial
    When Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and civilians from Gaza in August 2005, it created a massive strategic void that has been filled by Hamas with extensive support from Iran and Syria. Today, there are approximately 20,000 armed operatives in Gaza who answer directly to Hamas. These fighters often undergo training in Iran and Syria. Hamas also possesses a substantial arsenal of 122-mm Grad rockets, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and machine guns, patrol boats and explosives. It is likely just a matter of time until this strengthened Hamas arsenal confronts the Israeli military for control of Gaza. (Washington Times)
  • Jimmy Carter: Granting Legitimacy to Rejection of the Entire Oslo Process - Michael Young
    To many engagers the problem is mainly one of communication. If only everyone could just sit around a table and talk, things would work out. You can almost hear Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal gasping at the naivete of such sweeping positivism, as he prepares to score points off his solemn American visitor. Meshaal knows the snag is hardly one of miscommunication. It makes no sense today to damage Abbas by opening a channel to Hamas, which has never endorsed the agreements reached with Israel during the Oslo years. In fact, to bring Hamas into negotiations would only grant legitimacy to the movement's rejection of those agreements, and of the entire Oslo process.
        There is also a valid case to be made that Hamas is not interested in a peace treaty with Israel, because its ultimate ambition is to liberate the whole of Palestine. Certainly, that's what the movement demonstrates day in and day out. Peace may be a long way away between Palestinians and Israelis, but Carter won't speed things up any by turning into Meshaal's patsy. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Carter Lifts Terrorists, Undercuts Peace - Michael B. Kraft
    Terrorists should not be rewarded for their criminal actions. Hamas is a terrorist organization that conducts premeditated, politically motivated violence deliberately targeted against noncombatants. Despite repeated public and behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade the group to change its stance, Hamas refuses to renounce terrorism, and its policy calls for Israel's destruction. Its media continue their incitement against Jews as "pigs" and "monkeys."
        For a high-profile person such as Mr. Carter to put the gloss on Hamas and publicly meet with its leader at this stage only encourages Hamas to believe that if it remains steadfast in its "resistance" and rejectionist rhetoric, the West will try to make deals or concessions without Hamas having to end terrorism and its opposition to Israel's existence. Carter's meeting with the Hamas commander in chief for death and destruction is more likely to prolong and exacerbate that conflict than to help end it. The writer is a former senior adviser in the State Department's Counterterrorism Office. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Observations:

    Mr. Zahar and Mr. Carter - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • Today we published an article by the "foreign minister" of Hamas, Mahmoud al-Zahar, that drips with hatred for Israel, and with praise for former president Jimmy Carter. We believe Mr. Zahar's words are worth publishing because they provide some clarity about the group he helps to lead, a group that Mr. Carter contends is worthy of being included in the Middle East peace process.
    • Mr. Zahar lauds Mr. Carter for the "welcome tonic" of saying that no peace process can succeed "unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions." Yet Mr. Zahar has his own preconditions: Before any peace process can "take even its first tiny step," he says, Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders and evacuate Jerusalem while preparing for the "return of millions of refugees." In fact, as Mr. Zahar makes clear, Hamas is not at all interested in a negotiated peace with the Jewish state, whose existence it refuses to accept: "Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun," he concludes.
    • Hamas is "perfectly willing" for Mahmoud Abbas "to represent them in all direct negotiations with the Israelis, and they also maintain that they will accept any agreement that he brokers with the Israelis" provided a referendum is held on it, says Mr. Abbas. Compare that claim with Mr. Zahar's own words. In fact, Mr. Zahar has called Mr. Abbas "a traitor" for negotiating with Israel - a label that is, in the Palestinian context, an incitement to murder.
    • Mr. Carter justifies his meetings with familiar arguments about the value of dialogue with enemies. But he misses the point. Contacts between enemies can be useful: Israel is legendary for such negotiations, and even now it is engaged in back-channel bargaining with Hamas through Egypt. But it is one thing to communicate pragmatically, and quite another to publicly and unconditionally grant recognition and political sanction to a leader or a group that advocates terrorism, mass murder or the extinction of another state. That is what Mr. Carter is doing.

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