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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 18, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Peres: Hamas Exhausted Due to Gaza Blockade (Jerusalem Post)
    "Hamas is exhausted and is requesting a truce due to the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza," President Shimon Peres said Tuesday.

IDF: Despite UNIFIL, Hizbullah Has Built Up Underground Infrastructure in Southern Lebanon - Rebecca Anna Stoil (Jerusalem Post)
    Since the end of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah has built a massive underground infrastructure south of the Litani River under the noses of UNIFIL, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday.
    Despite UN Resolution 1701 (which ruled that no military forces could be deployed south of the river and that Hizbullah must disarm), Hizbullah has maintained and even strengthened its presence in the very areas from which the IDF sought to remove them in summer 2006.
    "The only thing that is different from the situation before the war is that Hizbullah flags aren't being flown," said Baidatz.
    According to Baidatz, the Iranian-sponsored terror group has smuggled tens of thousands of rockets and has brought thousands of fighters to the area.

Poll: Palestinians Support Rocket Fire, Armed Attacks Inside Israel (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and Gaza on June 5-7, 2008, asked:
    Do you support or oppose the launching of rockets from Gaza against towns and cities inside Israel, such as Sderot and Ashkelon? Support - 57%, Oppose - 40%.
    Concerning armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel:
    Support - 55%, Oppose - 42%.
    Last month, Hizbullah took control of West Beirut by force. Was Hizbullah's action legitimate?
    Legitimate - 52%, Illegitimate - 36%.
    Fatah and Hamas are engaged in a competition to win public support and confidence. Which side do you trust more?
    Trust Hamas - 23%, Trust Fatah - 20%, Trust neither side - 49%.
    Who, in your view, is responsible for the continued split in the PA between Gaza and the West Bank? Fatah or Hamas?
    Hamas - 17.3%, Fatah - 16.5%, Both of them - 56.0%.

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  • Israel Agrees to Truce with Hamas in Gaza - Isabel Kershner
    Israel has agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas for the Gaza area starting Thursday. Senior Israeli defense ministry official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio on Wednesday that an understanding had been achieved. Maintaining a note of caution, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that it was "difficult to determine how long" an agreement would last. Past understandings with the militant organizations have dissolved within months, with the smaller groups never having been brought under control. This time Israel is insisting that Hamas halt all fire from Gaza, and will hold it responsible for actions by smaller groups. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Skeptical of Gaza Truce
    Reacting to reports of a ceasefire in Gaza, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Tuesday: "Saying you've got a loaded gun to my head but you're not going to fire it today is far different than taking the gun down, locking it up, and saying you're not going to use it again. So even if this, in fact, is a true report, unfortunately, it hardly takes Hamas out of the terrorism business and it hardly meets the terms that the Quartet has laid out for what one would expect. It also doesn't meet the terms that President Abbas has laid out for a reincorporation of Hamas or Hamas political elements into a political union or political dialogue." (State Department)
        See also Israel Confirms Gaza Truce to Take Effect Thursday - Yaakov Katz, Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Israeli defense officials confirmed Wednesday that a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza will go into effect at 6 a.m. on Thursday. The truce is dependent on the cessation of Kassam rockets fired from Gaza, according to Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau. In an interview with Army Radio Wednesday, Gilad threatened that "if [firing of rockets] continues, it will constitute a violation of the cease-fire...regardless of where the Kassams come from, from Hamas or Islamic Jihad." Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baiditz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, cautioned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday, "Even if the calm is achieved with Hamas and the other terror organizations, it will be temporary and breakable." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israelis on Gaza Border Have Little Faith in Truce - Ron Bousso (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also below Observations: Gaza Truce User Guide - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
  • Hamas, Smugglers Profit Off Gaza Tunnels - Griff Witte
    Deep beneath the sands of the Gaza border town of Rafah, Abu Mosab is making a fortune as blue jeans, candy bars, cigarettes, shoes, refrigerator parts, gasoline and generic Viagra pass through his subterranean tunnel. Hamas imposes stiff taxes on the tons of contraband that flow beneath the border each night, collecting revenue to fill its own coffers. Hamas also gets to decide who receives scarce supplies, allowing it to consolidate its authority. All the while, the group has used the tunnels to ensure a steady supply of weapons to use in its attacks against Israel. (Washington Post)
        See also A Trip Down Gaza's Deadly Tunnels - Paul Martin (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Army of Islam Terrorists Killed in Air Attacks
    IDF aerial attacks were carried out Tuesday against Army of Islam terrorists in Gaza involved in recent attempts to execute a large-scale terror attack against Israeli targets. Among the terrorists killed were Ma'ataz Dagmesh, 29, Mahmud Shandi, 25, and Muhamad Asaliya, 21. Dagmesh, whose brother is the organization leader, was the leader and planner of the thwarted terror attack. Asaliya served as a terror attack planner. The Army of Islam is an extreme Islamist organization that represents al-Qaeda and preaches worldwide Jihad. (IDF Spokesman)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired seven Kassam rockets at Israel on Tuesday evening. One rocket landed near Sapir College while another landed near Sderot. (Ynet News)
        Three Kassam rockets launched by Palestinians in Gaza hit Israel Wednesday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Army to Remove West Bank Roadblocks as Reward for Quiet - Yaakov Katz
    The Civil Administration in the West Bank has negotiated a deal with a number of Palestinian villages in the Kalkilya region to remove dirt roadblocks cutting off their access to nearby cities in exchange for the cessation of local terror activity, a senior IDF commander said Tuesday. Over the past year, residents of Azun and Marda have been responsible for over 25 monthly stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks along Highway 5, which connects Tel Aviv with Ariel, and Road 55, which runs from Kfar Saba to Nablus. In November, Ido Zoldan was gunned down on Road 55, and few months ago, an IDF soldier was wounded at a hitchhiking post on Highway 5.
        IDF Lt.-Col. Samir Amar met with the elders in the villages and convinced them it was in their interest to crack down on the youths behind the attacks. The IDF also decided to permit the deployment of 20 armed PA policemen inside the villages to prevent additional attacks. "We told them that if they stopped the attacks we would ease restrictions on the villages," Amar said Tuesday. "Since then, there has not been a single incident in the past month and a half." Following the crackdown, the IDF removed three dirt roadblocks allowing villagers to reach Kalkilya within 10 minutes, as opposed to the 45 minutes it took before. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Human Rights Watch and the "Collective Punishment" Hoax
    On May 13, 2008, Human Rights Watch published on open letter to President Bush charging that Israel's restrictions on the flow of goods and services into Gaza "constitute[s] collective punishment against the civilian population, a serious violation of international humanitarian law." Restriction on the flow of goods in a war environment does not constitute "collective punishment" under international law. "Collective punishment" does not refer to the legal act of retorsion (e.g., sanctions, blockades).
        Pursuant to Article 23 of the Geneva Convention (which sets standards for the provision of limited humanitarian aid), Israel has no obligation to provide any goods, even minimal humanitarian supplies, if it is "satisfied" that such goods will be diverted or supply of such goods will aid Hamas in its war effort. Despite attacks on the Israeli border crossings, including the April 9 attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot and the May 22 truck bomb attack at the Erez crossing, Israel continues to provide hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza on a weekly basis - above and beyond any obligation under international law. (NGO Monitor)
  • The Iranian Roots of Hizbullah - Nimrod Raphaeli
    Mohammad Hassan Akhteri recently completed 14 years as Iran's ambassador to Syria. Akhteri distinguishes between the spiritual father of Hizbullah, the one who initiated the idea, and the "field father." Akhteri considers himself the latter, while his predecessor in Damascus, Ali Mohtashemi, was the former. Mohtashemi was quoted by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat as telling an Iranian newspaper that Hizbullah gained part of its battle experience through its participation in the war against Iraq. According to Mohtashemi, more than 100,000 young Lebanese received military training both in Lebanon and in Iran in groups of 300 fighters. Akhteri has also conceded that elements of Hizbullah fought in the war with Iraq "either within our ranks or by themselves." Hizbullah was created and sustained by Iran. Iranian financial support has made it possible for it to build a network of schools, hospitals, social welfare organizations and above all, military prowess. It now serves as an extension of Iran's strategic expansion into the Mediterranean. (MEMRI)
        See also Old Ties Exist between Iran and Lebanon's Shiites - Sadegh Zibakalam (bitterlemons/Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Gaza Truce User Guide - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • Last week, the security cabinet accepted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's proposal whereby Israel would agree to a temporary truce in Gaza, should the following conditions be met:
      1. Hamas will end the rocket fire and terror attacks, as will all other terror organizations and armed groups in Gaza. Simultaneously, Israel will end its military operations in Gaza, without ending its anti-terror activity in the West Bank.
      2. Hamas will stop smuggling weapons and military know-how to the Strip and stop sending people for training in Iran. In addition, it will stop developing and producing rockets, missiles, and sophisticated explosive devices, stop digging tunnels, and put an end to its effort to build up military fortifications.
      3. Egypt will conduct vigorous intelligence and operational activity across the Sinai Peninsula, at sea, along the Sinai shores, and deep within Egypt, in order to thwart the smuggling of arms into the Strip, as well as the smuggling of explosive materials, explosive experts, and machinery used for producing arms.
      4. Should the ceasefire be honored by Hamas, Israel will gradually open the Gaza crossings to the transfer of goods. However, the Rafah crossing with Egypt will only be opened after an agreement is secured on a monitoring mechanism to be adopted via cooperation among the Egyptians, the Palestinian Authority (Mahmoud Abbas' people), and international observers.
      5. After the opening of the Karni and Sufa crossings to the unlimited transfer of goods into the Strip - and before the Rafah crossing is opened - negotiations in respect to abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will be accelerated.
    • We are not talking about an agreement that both parties will sign, but, rather, pledges that Hamas and the other Palestinian groups, just like Israel, will make to the Egyptian mediator. The understanding is that the lull will last for six months with an option for extending it.
    • For the time being, there is no need to pin many hopes on a long-term lull agreement.

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