Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 2, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Requested Meeting with Freed Lebanese Terrorist (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Samir Kuntar, a former Lebanese terrorist freed in an exchange with Hizbullah in July, said Tuesday that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had requested a meeting with him last week in Beirut.
    Kuntar was convicted of killing three people in a grisly attack in Israel in 1979.
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Abbas on Sunday that he was "upset" by the meeting.

Hamas Will Fight Any Arab Forces that Try to Deploy in Gaza - Saed Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
    In response to Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit who spoke of the possibility of sending Arab forces to Gaza in order to end the internal unrest, Hamas said that it totally rejects this idea and will fight any Arab or foreign forces that try to deploy in Gaza.
    Fawzi Barhoum, a senior Hamas leader, stated on Sunday that if the Arabs want to help the Palestinian people, "they should send forces which will support the resistance in fighting Israel, liberating the Al Aqsa Mosque, and protecting Palestine and Jerusalem."

Pro-Qaeda Fighters Train in Gaza (Reuters/Gulf Times-Qatar)
    Jaysh al-Ummah, or the Army of the Nation, a Palestinian Islamist group modeled on the ideology of al-Qaeda, is training for battle with Israel.
    "We are coming, Jews," read graffiti daubed on a wall inside its private training base in Gaza.
    Hamas allows it to operate with the unwritten understanding that it stays out of internal Palestinian politics.
    "The sons of Zion are occupiers and they must be uprooted completely," said Abu Hafss, Jaysh al-Ummah's leader, ruling out any negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Soldiers at Checkpoints Ordered Not to Eat or Smoke During Ramadan (Maan News-PA)
    With the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, on Monday, Israeli forces issued directives to soldiers manning checkpoints in the West Bank to avoid eating or smoking in front of Palestinians when they pass through the checkpoints as a sign of respect.

Jigsaw Puzzle Championship Held in Israel (ITN-UK)
    Jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts have gathered together for a puzzle championship in Israel for the competition's tenth year.
    To get through the first round, participants had to put together a 300-piece puzzle as quickly as they could - with the fastest managing to complete it within 30 minutes.
    The final challenge involved a 2,000-piece puzzle that was completed in 7 hours and 20 minutes.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • After a Year of Hamas Rule, Popular Support Seems Thin in Gaza - Terry Milewski
    Ever since its bloody takeover of Gaza in June 2007, Hamas has seemed to be an existential threat to Israel. But on the dusty, chaotic streets of Gaza, after more than a year of isolation under Hamas rule, popular support seems thin, and people dare to speak openly of what Hamas considers heresy - peace with Israel. In Gaza City's market square, a crowd gathers as people pour out their anger. "We have no jobs, no fuel," says one man, "and the borders are closed." A woman says: "It's our neighbors who are oppressing us." Nobody disagrees.
        Most adult Gazans can remember when it was possible to make a living by working in construction or agricultural jobs in Israel. "We want them to find an agreement with Israel so we can go and work in Israel," says one man. "Everyone here wants to go to Israel to find a job." As long as Hamas threatens to destroy Israel, Gaza remains isolated and wretched. Many Gazans blame Hamas as well as Israel. (CBC News-Canada)
  • Egypt Closes Gaza Border after Thousands Cross
    Egypt on Monday closed the border crossing between Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza after a brief opening allowed thousands in and out of the territory. The crossing was opened for the first time in weeks on Saturday. In that time, "Egypt has allowed 4,545 Palestinians and Egyptians to cross, including 3,437 who came into Egypt and 1,108 Palestinians who headed to Gaza," an Egyptian official said. (AFP)
  • SAS Kills Hundreds of Terrorists in "Secret War" Against al-Qaeda in Iraq - Sean Rayment
    More than 3,500 insurgents have been "taken off the streets of Baghdad" by the elite British force in a series of audacious "Black Ops" over the past two years. While the majority of the terrorists were captured, several hundred, who were mainly members of "al-Qaeda in Iraq," have been killed by the SAS. The prime targets have been those intent on joining the wave of suicide car bombers that claimed around 3,000 lives a month in Baghdad at the height of the terrorist campaign in 2006. The SAS is part of "Task Force Black" which also includes the U.S. Delta Force. Together they have helped reduce bombings in Baghdad from about 150 a month to just two. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Five Hizbullah Attempts to Kidnap Israeli Businessmen Overseas Foiled - Itamar Eichner
    The Israeli defense establishment has foiled five attempted kidnappings of Israeli businessmen abroad by Hizbullah, Yediot Ahronot reported Tuesday. A senior security source said, "This was a concentrated effort by Hizbullah, backed by Iran, to carry out kidnappings in retaliation for the assassination of top Hizbullah operative Imad Mugniyeh. "Hizbullah is scouring for prey, and it's going country by county." All of the attempts were foiled with the assistance of foreign intelligence agencies. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Court Upholds U.S. Judgment: PA Must Compensate Terror Victims - Aviad Glickman
    Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Monday that it is possible to enforce in Israel a U.S. court ruling ordering the Palestinian Authority to compensate terror victims. The judge rejected a PA petition to forego paying $116 million to the family of two American terror victims, Yaron and Efrat Ungar, as was decreed in a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. "How can one accept the claim that a legal ruling should not be enforced because it might hurt the perpetrator financially? Should we not punish convicted persons for no other reason than that it might cause their bankruptcy?" Judge Farkash wrote. (Ynet News)
  • PA Legislator Seeks to Reform Fatah - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Prior to his arrest by the IDF in 2002, Husam Khader, a Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who was released from an Israeli prison last week, was an outspoken critic of financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Almost immediately after his release, Khader started holding meetings with scores of Fatah members in the northern West Bank to discuss ways of reforming the faction.
        In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he said, "All the Fatah members and elements have their own criticism against the traditional leaders. We have to rebuild Fatah." He expressed hope that a long-awaited Fatah conference would bring about changes in the faction. "If we succeed in convening the sixth conference of Fatah there will be a real change and there will be a new Fatah and new leaders will lead the Palestinians." He also warned that unless Fatah reformed itself and got rid of all the icons of corruption, Hamas would take over the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Problems Plague Iran's Satellite Project - Yiftah Shapir
    On August 17, Iran announced the launching of an experimental satellite-carrying rocket - the Safir-e-Omid-1 ("Ambassador of Hope"). American defense sources claimed that they monitored the launch using the SPY-1 radar on the destroyer USS Russell, and that contrary to Iran's declarations, "the launch did not proceed as planned." According to them, while the first stage proceeded smoothly, the flight pattern of the second stage was "erratic."
        Despite the failure of the recent launch, Iran is progressing in the development of a liquid-fueled, two-stage satellite launcher. This launcher will enable it to launch a satellite weighing several dozen kilograms into space. The multi-stage technology may also have a large impact on the development of the capability to launch military grade surface-to-surface missiles. Such an ability could enable Iran to launch longer range missiles - up to several thousand kilometers - or to carry heavier loads. At present, however, Iran is still encountering numerous problems. At this point, the project is still little more than a hope for the future and an attempt to spark national pride. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Amman Warms to Hamas - Matthew Levitt and David Schenker
    Senior Jordanian officials have been meeting with Hamas in what represents a significant shift for Amman, since relations between Jordan and the Palestinian group had been frozen for two years, following the arrest of three Hamas members in the kingdom on terrorism and weapons charges. Senior Jordanian security officials now appear confident that they have contained the Hamas terror threat in the kingdom. Hamas has been active in Jordan for many years and maintained its headquarters there throughout the 1990s under the leadership of Mousa Marzouk and Khaled Mashal. But in 1999, Jordan expelled the leadership for engaging in operational planning from inside the kingdom. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    A New Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says mainstream public opinion, and the rest will follow. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many afflicting the Middle East, and it is by no means the dominant one.
    • The Palestinian leadership continues to evade accountability. Today the watchword is "weakness." The image of political impotence has become a precious asset in the Palestinian strategy. The problem is not Abbas' actual capabilities. The problem is his unwillingness and lack of determination to create and govern a viable and accountable state.
    • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others have called for more foreign assistance for the Palestinians. This strategy has no chance of success if it is not linked to reforms. Unless the Palestinians are first convinced through education to give up the extremism which informs their national and religious aspirations, they cannot be expected to be full partners in building a vibrant Palestinian economy.
    • The central conflict of the Middle East is not territorial but ideological; not about borders but about Islamic Jihadism and Western liberty. No ideology, least of all radical Islam, can be defeated by concessions, which encourage, energize, and inspire Jihadists. Those who wish for peace must face and assimilate this fact, and realize that territorial concessions, or any concessions in any realm in the struggle against militant Islam, have been consistently counterproductive.
    • From Oslo to Annapolis, we have engaged in a top-down strategy. We aimed to reach a political horizon or a final settlement agreement with the Palestinian leadership, hoping that political reform among Palestinians would follow. I propose we replace this approach with a bottom-up strategy in which the PA first proves its willingness and ability to govern.

      The writer is a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center.

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