Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 19, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Assad: Meeting Olmert Now Pointless (Reuters/Ynet News)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Thursday that any meeting between him and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be pointless at this time.
    Assad said he needed to see more progress in Turkey-mediated indirect peace talks with Israel before he agrees to a meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
    There has been speculation the two could meet on the sidelines of a summit of European and Mediterranean countries on July 13 in Paris.

Multinational Arab Force for Gaza Being Discussed - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The deployment of a multinational Arab force in Gaza as a final stage of a Hamas-Israeli truce is being discussed at the highest levels of government.
    According to a senior Israeli defense official, Egypt raised the request and Israel was not completely opposed to the idea since it would ultimately bring Arab countries such as Egypt to "take responsibility" for events in Gaza.
    The Israeli defense establishment was skeptical that such a move would succeed in light of Hamas' public opposition.
    It would also pose operational challenges for the IDF, which would be concerned over accidentally harming soldiers of the multinational force while pursuing terrorists inside Gaza.
    See also Gaza Truce Could Create Conditions for UN Force - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    An Egyptian-brokered truce and reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions could create conditions for the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Gaza, Robert Serry, the UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on Thursday.

Previous Cease-Fires with Palestinians Paint a Bleak Picture - Abe Selig (Jerusalem Post)
    In February 2005, a similar cease-fire was announced, which was almost completely called off five months after it started, when dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, killing an Israeli woman.
    After the following cease-fire was declared in November 2006, 75 rockets were fired into Israel within the first month.

Hamas TV Depicts Ways to Kidnap Israeli Soldier - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Hamas television broadcasts have been featuring gunmen demonstrating ways to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
    A video provided by Palestinian Media Watch shows a blown-up IDF armored vehicle and Hamas gunmen carrying an IDF soldier over their shoulders, escaping with him.
    In other instances, portrayals of penetration into Israeli settlements and army bases are shown.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gaza Truce Takes Hold, Skepticism Abounds - Ibrahim Barzak
    Guns went quiet as a six-month truce brokered by Egypt between Israel and Gaza militants took effect early Thursday, but there was widespread skepticism about its ability to hold. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel Urges Lebanon to Open Peace Talks - Amy Teibel
    Israel on Wednesday urged Lebanon to open peace talks. Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was interested in "direct, bilateral" talks and ready to put "every issue of contention" on the table. (AP/Yahoo)
        See also Lebanon Rejects Bilateral Talks with Israel - Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern
    "There is no place for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel," Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's media office said in a statement Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iran Says Ready to Negotiate on Nuclear Incentives - Frank Nyakairu and Wangui Kanina
    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Thursday that Iran was ready to negotiate over a new package of economic incentives put forward by major powers seeking to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear work. "We have informed them of our readiness to negotiate. The package given by the P5+1 countries is currently under consideration and at the appropriate time Tehran will give its reactions," Mottaki said. "We also have what we call the Iranian package which we have sent to the P5+1 countries and we hope they consider it as we consider theirs," added Mottaki. "We will review the package but not the part about an enrichment freeze," an Iranian official said on Thursday. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • U.S.: Venezuela Harboring Hizbullah Facilitators and Fundraisers - Richard Esposito, Jason Ryan, and Kirit Radia
    Amid growing concerns that Hizbullah is planning attacks outside the Middle East, perhaps in Latin America, the U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday accused Venezuela of harboring Hizbullah "facilitators and fundraisers." The Treasury Department designated Ghazi Nasr al-Din and Fawzi Kan'an, along with two travel agencies in Caracas owned by Kan'an, as supporters of Hizbullah and froze all their assets that are under U.S. jurisdiction. Al-Din is a Venezuelan diplomat and runs an Islamic Center. (ABC News)
  • Hizbullah Supporters Attack U.S. Envoy's Motorcade in South Lebanon
    Hizbullah supporters shouting "Death to America!" attacked U.S. Charge d'Affaires Michele Sison's motorcade with stones in southern Lebanon on Wednesday. At least one of the U.S. convoy's 10 bulletproof vehicles was hit and broke down. The diplomat was inspecting social and educational projects financed by the U.S. government in Nabatiyeh, a Hizbullah stronghold. (AP/FOX News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 30 Palestinian Rockets Fired at Israel Before Truce - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Yuval Azoulay
    Palestinians in Gaza fired 30 Kassam rockets at Israeli communities on Wednesday, wounding one woman. The Israel Air Force killed a member of a Hamas rocket squad preparing a launch. A cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas went into effect Thursday at 6 a.m. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Olmert described the truce as "fragile and may be very short."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Opening of Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing Linked to Return of Abducted Israeli Soldier - Roni Sofer
    "If Gilad Shalit is not released, the Rafah crossing does not open," senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said Wednesday. Gilad is representing Israel in talks negotiating the cease-fire with Hamas and the other Gazan terror organizations in Egypt. "I think the cease-fire is the only way we may be able to bring about Shalit's release," he said, adding that the issue had been prioritized during his talks with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo on Tuesday.
        "My feeling is that a cease-fire would promote the release....Shalit is part of the cease-fire agreement." "Hamas is a violent entity, a terrorist entity, which has taken upon itself to destroy the State of Israel. We know this, and they know this....I recognize Hamas as a strategic threat to Israel," Gilad said. (Ynet News)
  • Italian Foreign Minister Admits EU Stance on Israel Was Unbalanced - Barak Ravid
    Speaking at a forum on Israel-European relations in Berlin, Italy's new foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said Tuesday: "I have to admit, if I look at the past, the EU has taken on some occasions an unbalanced stance vis-a-vis Israel." Frattini criticized the EU for delivering aid to Palestinian organizations which have incited against Israel. "We even found money given to NGOs close to Hamas that use it to indoctrinate children against Israelis," he said. "Now things are changing completely. More awareness of the risk of growing anti-Semitism. Firmness vis-a-vis Hamas. Support for the legitimate request for security for Israel vis-a-vis the increasingly dangerous activities of Iran in the nuclear field," he added. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Trying a Truce First - Ari Shavit
    According to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel and Hamas are on a collision course and apparently, in the end, there will be no getting around a military operation in Gaza. However, since the repercussions of an operation could be grave, it is necessary first to try the other alternative - so that every mother of an Israeli soldier, every Israeli civilian in the Gaza envelope, and Egyptian President Mubarak will know that Israel did not choose a military move before giving a chance to a diplomatic move. The Israeli leadership had to try the truce before opening fire. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Goals in the Gaza "Calm"
    For seven years, and especially since the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israeli communities alongside the Gaza Strip have been subjected to a relentless barrage of rockets and mortar bombs. As a result of Hamas' difficulties in dealing with Israeli pressure as well as with IDF activity, an Egyptian proposal was developed for a "state of calm" that would end terrorism from Gaza.
        The goals of the calm are the total cessation of terrorism and firing at Israel by all factions, the end of Palestinian smuggling and military build-up, and progress in securing the release of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. Any terrorist act originating from Gaza - regardless of which organization is responsible - will be considered a fundamental breach of the understandings. Israel is aware the calm is likely to be fragile and short-lived, but believes that it is important that every avenue that could lead to a non-violent solution to the problem of Gaza be exhausted. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel's Truce with Hamas Is a Victory for Iran - Michael B. Oren
    The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas represents a historic accomplishment for the jihadist forces most opposed to peace, and defeat for the Palestinians who might still have been Israel's partners. Israel never mounted the rolling, multi-month operation in Gaza that the IDF had planned. Like Hizbullah in 2006, Hamas won because it did not lose. Its leaders still walked Gaza's streets freely while children in Sderot and other Israeli border towns cowered in bomb shelters.
        In exchange for giving its word to halt rocket attacks and weapons smuggling, Hamas receives the right to monitor the main border crossings into Gaza and to enforce a truce in the West Bank. If quiet is maintained, then Israel will be required to accept a cease-fire in the West Bank as well. Hamas initiated a vicious war against Israel, destroyed and disrupted myriad Israeli lives, and has been rewarded with economic salvation and international prestige. Tellingly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who once declared Hamas illegal, will soon travel to Gaza for reconciliation talks. Abbas' move signifies the degree to which Hamas now dominates Palestinian politics. It testifies, moreover, to another Iranian triumph as the primary sponsor of Hamas. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Press Views Gaza Truce as Hamas Victory
    Palestinian and Israeli commentators consider the announcement of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas as a success for the Islamist group. (BBC News)
  • Observations:

    The Hamas Interest in the Tahdiya (Temporary Truce) with Israel - Jonathan Dahoah Halevy (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The Egyptian government succeeded in securing a temporary cease-fire agreement [tahdiya] between Israel and Hamas that took effect at 6:00 a.m. on June 19, 2008. Hamas regards the temporary cease-fire as a tahdiya and not a hudna. A hudna implies recognition of the other party's actual existence, without acknowledging its legitimacy. As Hamas' leader Khaled Mashaal explained, a tahdiya is "a tactic in conflict management."
    • Official sources in Israel have explained that Hamas' interest in a lull in the fighting is a result of the "distress" it has suffered. But Hamas did not experience "distress" - neither in a strengthening of the opposition to its administration nor in an increase of popular protests against it.
    • The tahdiya agreement for a lull is an important achievement for Hamas. Hamas will gain the recognition it wants as the legitimate ruler of Gaza. Another important objective for Hamas is winning the Palestinian presidential election, which will be held when Mahmoud Abbas finishes his term of office in December. The cease-fire grants Hamas a golden opportunity to expand its military build-up for the next round of terror and violence.

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