Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 4, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Stronger than Before and Ready to Strike Israel - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
    Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, who leads Hizbullah's forces on Lebanon's border with Israel, said Hizbullah was far stronger now than when it fought the Israeli army in 2006.
    Hizbullah has tripled its arsenal in the last two years - from 10,000 missiles to about 30,000. These new weapons have longer ranges and heavier warheads.
    They include the Zelzal missile, which could strike as far south as Tel Aviv, and the C802 anti-shipping missile, capable of sinking Israeli warships.
    See also Hizbullah to Target Israelis in West Africa, Threaten Israeli Planes over Lebanon - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel has received a specific warning of Hizbullah's intent to attack Israeli citizens in west Africa. Security officials have headed to Africa to ask Israeli nationals living there to take special precautions.
    West Africa has a fairly large Arab community, which includes Shi'ite immigrants from Lebanon.
    In addition, Arab newspapers report that Hizbullah is preparing to install an anti-aircraft array in the mountains in Lebanon against Israeli air force flyovers.
    See also Hizbullah in West Africa - W. Thomas Smith Jr. (World Defense Review)

Peace Talks with PA Purely Cosmetic - Ofir Shelach (Maariv-Hebrew, 1Aug08)
    According to the IDF General Staff, the IDF is the only force preventing a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. The talks between Israel and the PA are purely cosmetic, since Israel's negotiating partner does not represent any real political force.
    Anyone who is counting on Fatah to reform itself in order to serve as a counterweight to Hamas in the West Bank is fooling himself.
    If Israel frees Hamas' West Bank political leadership - which was arrested two years ago in the wake of the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit - in a prisoner exchange for Shalit, this will only help Hamas to take over of the West Bank.
    See also Hamas Prepares for West Bank Takeover - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
    With the most recent fighting, Hamas has ended the role of Fatah in Gaza and is patiently organizing toward the next stage, which includes the takeover the West Bank.
    This is to occur after the completion of a prisoner-exchange deal for Gilad Shalit, in which key Hamas cadres and parliament members will be released from jail and return to the West Bank.

Al-Qaeda Says Four Leaders Killed in Afghanistan (AP)
    Al-Qaeda has posted a statement on the Internet saying four of its Afghanistan commanders have been killed, including an explosives expert wanted by the U.S.
    Washington posted a $5 million reward for Abu Khabab al-Masri, accused of training terrorists to use poison and explosives.
    He is also believed to have trained suicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
    See also Al-Qaeda's Chief Poisoner Killed by the Americans (Economist-UK)
    Egyptian chemist Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, 55, better known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, is reported by several sources to have been killed in the latest American cross-border missile strike in Pakistan on July 28.
    The U.S. said al-Masri had "provided hundreds of mujahideen with hands-on training in the use of poisons and explosives." He also wrote military manuals that include instructions for making chemical and biological weapons.
    Abu Khabab, long a marked man, has doubtless passed on his knowledge to others.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Eleven Dead in Hamas Raid on Pro-Fatah Clan in Gaza - Ethan Bronner
    The worst intra-Palestinian violence in more than a year left 11 people dead and 90 injured in Gaza on Saturday as Hamas cracked down on a clan loyal to its rival, Fatah. Israel allowed 180 Fatah men into Israel and is treating two dozen of its wounded. (New York Times)
        See also Abbas Denies Asylum to Supporters from Gaza - Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak
    Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday refused to grant West Bank asylum to Fatah forces who fled to Israel after factional fighting in Gaza, despite fears for their safety. Abbas ordered nearly 200 fighters back to Gaza from Israel. After the Hamas takeover of Gaza last summer, Abbas agreed to resettle some 250 of his Gaza loyalists in the West Bank. (AP)
        See also Israel to Send Gazans Who Fled Hamas to West Bank - Avida Landau
    Israel said on Monday it would transfer to the West Bank dozens of pro-Fatah Palestinians who fled Gaza after clashes with Hamas, reversing a decision to send them back to Gaza. (Reuters)
  • Iran Ignores Deadline to Agree to Talks on Nuclear Program - Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim
    Over the weekend, Iran failed to respond to an informal two-week deadline to give an answer on dismantling crucial parts of its nuclear program. On July 19, Iran declined to respond to a proposal backed by the U.S., Europe, Russia and China to begin preliminary talks meant to lead to the eventual dismantling of its uranium enrichment operation. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana gave Iran a two-week deadline to agree to the talks or face a renewed drive by the UN Security Council for a fourth round of economic sanctions. But pressure on Tehran eased after Russia's foreign minister said last week that he opposed "artificial" deadlines.
        "It is clear that the government of Iran has not complied with the international community's demand to stop enriching uranium and isn't even interested in trying," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission at the UN. "They leave the Security Council no choice but to increase the sanctions, as called for in the last resolution passed." (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israel Says Diplomacy with Iran Does Not Work - Michael Bowman
    Israel says Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium shows the futility of diplomacy to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon. "I think that time is of the essence. Intensive sanctions can be effective. Iran is a threat to its neighbors, as well," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told CNN. "The international community is being watched, not only by Iran, but also by its neighbors. And when the international community shows hesitation, this is being perceived as weakness. And we live in a neighborhood where either you beat the bully or join it." (VOA News)
  • Syrian General Slain by Sniper - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Syrian Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Suleiman, 49, a confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, was shot in the head by a sniper and killed on Saturday at his seaside villa near the port city of Tartous. Israeli media said Suleiman was a key figure in a nuclear program that the U.S. accused Syria of pursuing after Israel raided a site in eastern Syria last year. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Assad's Visit to Tehran Shows Syria-Iran Ties Strong - Herb Keinon
    Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said the purpose of Syrian President Assad's visit to Tehran over the weekend was to strengthen Syria-Iran ties. Syria's official news agency, SANA, said economic ties between the countries would be a focus of the talks, noting over a dozen joint projects in Syria, worth $896 million. Beyond these investments, Israeli officials maintain that Iran has become instrumental in propping up Syria's limping economy. The visit, said diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, would strengthen those in Israel who say that Damascus had no intention of distancing itself from Iran. SANA affirmed "identical views" of the two countries on "major regional and international" issues and hailed their rejection of "foreign dictates." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Assad-Ahmadinejad Press Conference (SANA-Syria)
  • Hizbullah Free to Decide on Military Action to Defend Lebanon - Zvi Bar'el
    The new Lebanese government is putting Hizbullah on an equal footing with the Lebanese Army in matters pertaining to the defense of the state as well as the liberation of the Shaba Farms and the village of Ghajar. This means that any talk of disarming Hizbullah undermines the defense of Lebanon. Not only is Hizbullah allowed to retain its arms, it can also define what it means to defend Lebanon. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah has already made it clear that defense means taking action against Israeli overflights of Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Lebanon's New Government Recognizes Hizbullah's "Right" to Fight Israel - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel to Release Five Palestinians as Part of Hizbullah Prisoner Swap - Herb Keinon
    The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved the release of five Palestinian prisoners as the final stage of the swap deal with Hizbullah. Under the terms of the deal, Israel was to release an undetermined number of Palestinian prisoners a month after the July 16 exchange. The Palestinians to be released had been arrested for stone-throwing and were due to be released in the near future. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Three Mortars Strike Israel in Gaza Cease-Fire Violation - Hanan Greenberg
    Three mortar shells fired by Hamas gunmen in Gaza landed in Israel on Saturday. The mortar fire was believed related to Hamas-Fatah infighting in Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bloodshed in Gaza - Editorial
    The animosities that now divide the rival factions in Gaza and the West Bank make any Palestinian independent state comprising both entities unrealistic. The flight of so many Gazans into Israel, the enemy they have long opposed, underlines the despair of those who fear revenge, torture and death at the hands of their rivals. Public opinion in Israel is growing ever more hostile to peace talks with Palestinians who are so divided by internecine struggles. (Times-UK)
        See also Palestinian Refugees from Whom? - Melanie Phillips
    Extraordinary developments in Gaza have given a new meaning to the term "'Palestinian refugees." The Jerusalem Post reported that 180 Fatah refugees, fleeing from what they called a "war of genocide" by Hamas, fled to Israel, which proceeded to treat 23 of them in Israeli hospitals. (Spectator-UK)
  • "Bomb Bomb Iran"? Not Likely - David Ignatius
    Analysts speculate about the danger of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran before the Bush administration departs office next January. But if you read the tea leaves carefully, the evidence is actually pointing in the opposite direction. The administration's wariness of military options is also clear from recent efforts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, traveled to Israel in June, followed by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both officials explained why the U.S. believes an attack isn't necessary now, because the Iranians can't yet build a nuclear weapon, and why an attack would damage U.S. national interests. They also informed the Israelis that the U.S. would oppose overflights of Iraqi airspace to attack Iran, an administration official said.
        U.S. opposition to an Israeli military strike now is based on four factors, the official said. First, a strike would retard the Iranian nuclear program without destroying it. Second, a strike would rally support for the unpopular government of President Ahmadinejad. Third, an attack would undermine U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, finally, a strike against Iran, as with any military action, would have unpredictable consequences. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Why Abbas Doesn't Want Fatah "Refugees" in the West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

    • The PA's refusal to receive members of the Hilles clan who fled Gaza on Saturday did not come as a surprise. PA officials explained that the reason was their desire not to encourage other residents of Gaza to leave. "Everyone knows that if we allow people to leave Gaza, almost all the residents living there would try to cross the border into Israel," said a senior PA official.
    • There are other reasons why Mahmoud Abbas doesn't want the new refugees in the West Bank. One is related to fear that the presence of the Hilles clan in the West Bank would damage efforts to impose law and order there. The clan had established its own "mini-state" in Gaza, with its own military training base and a number of factories for manufacturing weapons. Members of the clan were also involved in various types of criminal activities.
    • Abbas is still facing difficulties in reining in numerous Fatah gangs that continue to roam the streets of West Bank cities and villages. The last thing Abbas needs is another 180 bitter Fatah thugs from Gaza patrolling the streets of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus and imposing a reign of terror on the local population.
    • Past experience has shown that the Palestinians in the West Bank have never been enthusiastic about the presence of their brethren from Gaza among them.

          See also Another Nail in Fatah's Coffin - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

    See also Hamas Completes Gaza Revolution - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    • Fatah closed down its last branch among the Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday with a raid on the Hilles clan compound.
    • Now that the clan has been removed, there are no longer any military forces in Gaza that can undermine or significantly hurt the Hamas regime. The June 2007 revolution has been completed. The likelihood of PA forces returning to Gaza is non-existent.

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