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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 5, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Killing Terror Leaders: Israel's Experience - Ronen Bergman (Wall Street Journal)
    In 1995, when unknown assailants tried to kill then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia, the CIA and the Egyptian intelligence service requested the Israeli Mossad's assistance in investigating the incident.
    The Mossad discovered that Iran and a hitherto unknown mujahedeen group were jointly responsible. Notable among these veterans of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan who had found refuge in Sudan was a certain wealthy Saudi by the name of bin Laden.
    The Mossad set up a Global Jihad desk - the first Western intelligence organization to do so - and was also the first to attempt, unsuccessfully, to assassinate bin Laden: In 1995, it recruited his secretary to poison him.
    It has long been evident that targeted killings are an invaluable component of the military arsenal in the fight against terrorism. The Jewish state has repeatedly eliminated field operatives and military, political and ideological leaders of organizations it has deemed dangerous.
    Since the mid-1990s, Israel has shared a great deal of technology that it developed in its use of drones with the U.S. Today, drones are America's primary weapon in its own targeted killings.
    Israel also trained U.S. special forces in penetration and ambush techniques in urban environments - techniques that were later put into practice in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

PA Poll: Only 21 Percent See Themselves as Palestinians First (WAFA-PA)
    A new survey of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza published Wednesday by Near East Consulting asked respondents how they identify themselves. 57% identified themselves as Muslims first, 21% identified themselves as Palestinians, 19% as human beings, and 5% as Arabs.
    About 40% said they believe the Islamic caliphate is the best governmental system for Palestinians, 24% chose a system like one of the Arab countries, and 12% prefer a system like one of the European countries.

How Syria's Uprising Threatens Hizbullah - Randa Slim (Foreign Policy)
    The popular uprisings in Syria represent the most serious challenge to Hizbullah since the 2006 war with Israel.
    A regime change in Syria would threaten a major arms supply route to Hizbullah; deny the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah-Hamas axis its Arab linchpin; weaken Hizbullah's deterrence capacities vis-a-vis Israel; and deny Hizbullah leaders and their families a safe haven when they feel threatened by Israel, as was the case in 2006.
    In a recent round of interviews I conducted with Hizbullah officials in Beirut, all those I spoke to agreed that a regime change in Syria would not occur easily or peacefully.
    So far, Hizbullah officials believe that Bashar al-Assad will survive.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinian Unity Pact Still Faces Big Hurdles - Edmund Sanders and Paul Richter
    A squabble over seating before the signing of a reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas illustrates the internal tensions that persist between the two groups. Wednesday's ceremony in Cairo was delayed for two hours because of a last-minute spat over whether Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal would be seated on the podium with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and permitted to address guests.
        The agreement places new hurdles on American-led efforts to forge a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Partnering with Hamas could backfire and taint Abbas' international reputation for being a moderate, or alienate the U.S. and other nations that provide much of his government's financial backing. Hamas, which last month renewed rocket attacks on southern Israel from Gaza, refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist or to renounce violence.
        A strict federal law bars any support for the Palestinian Authority if its government includes terrorists as defined by U.S. law. Since Hamas is officially designated a terrorist organization, U.S. officials could be restricted from training Palestinian Authority security forces and from other official contacts as well. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Clinton Leaves Door Open after Palestinian Deal - Alan Cowell
    While Mr. Abbas seemed certain to laud the advantages of Palestinian unity, European aversion to Hamas may well make Mr. Netanyahu's mission easier, analysts in Paris said, though many European countries, including France, have been largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strikingly refused to rule out further negotiations with a Palestinian side that included Hamas, though she reiterated the Obama administration's call for Hamas to accept basic conditions that included renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist. (New York Times)
        See also "No U.S. Taxpayer Funds to New Palestinian Unity Government" - Jennifer Rubin
    House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in an interview: "No taxpayer funds should go, they must not go" to the new Palestinian unity government. "Hamas is designated as a foreign terrorist organization" and U.S. taxpayer funding is prohibited under current law, she told me. (Washington Post)
  • Congressional Panel Highlights Iran's Link to Al-Qaeda
    The Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus released a report that says Iran's elite Al-Quds force offers support to al-Qaeda. The ties date back to the 1990s when Al-Quds members worked with the Iranian-backed Hizbullah to train and equip bin Laden's holy warriors. After 9/11, "hundreds of al-Qaeda members, along with family members of core al-Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden, have found refuge inside Iran," the report said. (AFP)
  • Hamas Executes Palestinian for Israeli Collaboration
    Gaza's Islamist-run government on Wednesday executed Abdel-Karim Shrair, 37, a former policeman convicted of collaborating with Israel, the Hamas interior ministry said. The man was executed by firing squad after being sentenced to death last month for helping "the Israeli occupation." Under Palestinian law, executions should be carried out only with the approval of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but Hamas ignored this. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Won't Negotiate with Palestinian Version of Al-Qaeda - Danna Harman
    Israel will not negotiate with a "Palestinian version of al-Qaeda," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. "Declaring statehood in September is a dictate - and you don't achieve peace through dictates. It's a very bad idea," Netanyahu told Cameron during their talks in London. "When Abu Mazen (Abbas) embraces Hamas - an organization committed to our destruction - it is a tremendous setback for peace and an advance for terror," Netanyahu said. "We are talking about a Palestinian government in which half the members call for destruction of Israel and fire rockets on our cities."
        The real issue, he explained, is not the question of a Palestinian state, but rather of a Jewish state. "The refusal of the Palestinian Arabs to accept our country is at the root of the conflict."   (Ha'aretz)
  • Who Else Is Condemning the U.S. for Killing Bin Laden? - Jonathan D. Halevi
    A close ideological link exists between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. The two organizations aspire to the similar goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate and imposing Islam over the entire world via jihad. Al-Qaeda sprang from the foundations of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, started out as Muslim Brotherhood activists.
        The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in Jordan and the Palestinian territories openly condemn bin Laden's "assassination," disproving the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a pragmatic movement. The Islamic movement in Israel, headed by Ra'ed Salah, also condemned "the assassination of the Sheikh and martyr Osama bin Laden."  (Jeusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel Security Agency: Chances for True Palestinian Unity Slim - Hanan Greenberg
    "The chances for a true reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in the next two-three years are slim," outgoing Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Yuval Diskin said Wednesday. Diskin believes the Palestinian unity deal has been struck "mostly for the sake of appearances, in an attempt to show unity. From here on, there are many things both sides don't know how to apply in theory, let alone on the ground."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • In Killing Bin Laden, U.S. Had the Law on Its Side - Editorial
    Did the U.S. comply with international strictures when it killed the al-Qaeda leader rather than capturing him and bringing him before a court of law? International law recognizes a country's inherent right to act in self-defense, and it makes no distinction between vindicating these rights through a drone strike or through a boots-on-the-ground operation.
        Much has been made of the disclosure that Osama bin Laden was unarmed, but this, too, is irrelevant in determining whether the operation was lawful. It is easy in the light of day to second-guess decisions made in the heat of war. It is particularly easy for those who refuse to acknowledge that war in the first place. The covert military operation that brought down the most wanted terrorist in the world appears to have been gutsy and well executed. It was also lawful. (Washington Post)
  • Hamas-Fatah Agreement Is a Dangerous Game - Aaron David Miller
    The Fatah-Hamas accord is unlikely to produce either unity or improve prospects for peacemaking; indeed, it could actually make serious negotiations and a settlement harder to achieve. Against the backdrop of a largely young and secular Arab Spring, Hamas' message has grown old and tired; its Islamist trope isn't all that compelling any more. Nor was armed struggle ever a terribly resonant tactic if the goal was to improve the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. In addition, Hamas' association with two regimes (Syria and Iran) that are gunning down their own citizens in the streets isn't an endearing image for the Palestinian public.
        How can anyone say to Israelis that they have to negotiate with - much less make concessions to - a Palestinian government, half of which won't recognize Israel or lay down its arms? (Foreign Policy)
  • Will Hamas Take Over the Palestinian Authority? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    It would be a big mistake to allow Hamas to take advantage of the Oslo Accords once again to run in an election. The Americans and Europeans must make it clear to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that his new partners in Hamas should accept the two-state solution, renounce violence and honor the Oslo Accords as a precondition for joining a unity government or running in an election.
        Abbas must do this before, and not after, he goes to the UN in September to demand recognition of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines. If he fails to do so, and if the UN votes in favor of a state in September, the world could wake up one day to discover a Hamas-controlled state in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas' chances of winning the elections are good, especially given the fact that many Palestinians see the reconciliation agreement as a victory for the Islamist movement and its ideology. (Hudson Institute-New York)
        See also Support the Palestinian Unity Government - Jimmy Carter (Washington Post)

The Palestinian "Reconciliation" - Editorial (Washington Post)

  • The Palestinian reconciliation agreement formalized Wednesday in Cairo explodes the status quo that has prevailed in the West Bank and Gaza for four years - along with the diplomatic strategy pursued by the Obama administration.
  • In agreeing to form a new cabinet with Hamas, Mr. Abbas spelled the end of the institution-building program under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - which has been the most progressive and hopeful initiative in Palestinian affairs in many years. He turned his back on the prospect of U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu; instead, the new Palestinian administration will focus on winning recognition from the UN General Assembly.
  • It is not clear whether the new government will recognize Israel. If it does not, the Obama administration will be legally required to cut off $600 million in U.S. aid, and Congress may do so in any case.
  • If Hamas prisoners now held in the West Bank are released, what has been close cooperation between Israel and the U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces could come to an abrupt end.
  • U.S. diplomacy should aim at reinforcing the notion that Palestinian statehood, whether or not it is endorsed by the UN, must be realized through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • A unified and democratically elected Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for creating a state - but so is a government that renounces terrorism, gives up missiles and other heavy weapons, and is prepared to fully recognize Israel.

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