Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 18, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizballah's New Tactics in Gaza - Matt Rees, Jamil Hamad, Aharon Klein (Time)
    The bombing in Gaza that killed six Israeli soldiers last week stoked fears that Hizballah is getting better at moving its signature explosives into the area.
    A senior Hamas official claims that the roadside bomb was smuggled into Gaza, though he would not say from where.
    The explosives were probably brought in through a tunnel passing under the Egyptian border or by sea, say Israeli military sources.
    Soldiers in the region have uncovered five other roadside devices identical to those perfected by Hizballah.

    See also Hizballah Sponsors Palestinian Militancy (AFP/Beirut Daily Star)
    Hizballah is increasingly seeking to supervise the military operations of Palestinian militant groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an Israeli military source said Monday.
    "In the past two months, we have foiled 19 suicide attacks inside Israel, all of them were sponsored by Hizballah," the intelligence official said.
    "For Hizballah, the Palestinian adventure is a way of keeping their 'jihadic' identity and avoiding being turned into just another Lebanese political party," the official said.
    He said Hizballah's support consisted in delivering arms through all borders, supplying military know-how, and even on an operational level, coordinating joint operations involving several Palestinian groups.

International Pressure Delayed Iran's Nuclear Program - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Iran's nuclear program has been delayed by at least a year because of international pressure for more transparency in its nuclear affairs.
    However, new intelligence assessments suggest that if Iran successfully continues the program, by the beginning of next year it will be able to operate centrifuges to enrich uranium and from there, it would take a year and a half to two years to make enough fissionable material for a Hiroshima-sized bomb.
    Iran was forced to separate its military nuclear program from the civilian one - the two had previously been managed together.
    The Iranians also devoted much effort to hiding a site where the nuclear device's mechanism is suspected of being built.

    See also Russia Pledges to Finish Iran Reactor (Reuters/Moscow Times)
    Russia will finish the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran despite technical complications, unresolved commercial issues, and strong objections from the U.S., Sergei Antipov, deputy head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, said Friday.

Jerusalem Day Begins Tuesday Night - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    A colorful parade through the streets of downtown Jerusalem will mark 37 years since the reunification of the city.
    See also Six Jerusalemites Recall the Day Jerusalem was Reunified in 1967 (Virtual Jerusalem)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bomb Containing Sarin Nerve Gas Explodes in Iraq
    U.S. soldiers found a roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent in Baghdad, the military said Monday. Soldiers who removed the bomb experienced symptoms consistent with low-level nerve agent exposure, U.S. officials said. Earlier this month, some trace residue of mustard gas was detected in an artillery shell found in a Baghdad street, a U.S. official said Monday. (AP/Boston Globe)
  • Arab Nations Nix Sending Troops to Iraq
    Sending Arab and Muslim peacekeepers to Iraq is one possible strategy to reduce violence there, but the head of the Arab League said Monday that's not possible while Americans are in charge. And Jordan's King Abdullah II warned that neighboring nations would not be good peacekeepers for Iraq because they would be too tempted to meddle. (AP/New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Hits Rafah Terrorist Infrastructure - Margot Dudkevitch
    Fourteen Palestinian combatants were killed and over 30 wounded when IAF helicopters fired missiles at two groups of armed Palestinians attempting to place bombs in Rafah's Tel Sultan neighborhood on the Egyptian border on Tuesday. Soldiers are conducting extensive searches for fugitives and arms tunnels.
        IDF spokeswoman Maj. Sharon Feingold said, "There is no systematic plan to tear down houses." She said Israeli forces would destroy houses where tunnels are found and those used by terrorists. Television footage showed groups of armed Palestinian men booby-trapping alleyways and buildings. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Givati Brigade Commander: The Palestinians Have Different Values Than We Do - Amir Buhbut
    Col. Eyal Eisenberg commands the Givati Brigade, which lost six members last week in an APC explosion in Gaza. "In the midst of this operation, we assisted a Palestinian baby being born and evacuated an elderly woman who was injured and summoned a local ambulance for her. Terrorists ran and fired from behind the ambulance. Therefore, I do not want to make any comparison between our scale of values and theirs. If my soldiers can assist a Palestinian woman giving birth when six of their comrades have been blown to bits in the street but, at the same time, they fire at us from behind an ambulance, you must understand that we are at opposite ends of the scales of values." (Maariv International)
  • Israel's Economy Jumps by 5.5% - Moti Bassok
    Israel's economy experienced a dramatic 5.5% growth in the first quarter of this year, according to Central Bureau of Statistics preliminary estimates. The business sector leaped by an even more dramatic 9.2% during the quarter. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Strike at the Smugglers - Ze'ev Schiff
    The purpose of the IDF operation in Rafah is to isolate the city from the rest of Gaza to prevent the transfer of weapons that the Palestinians smuggle via the Philadelphia route, and to arrest contractors and experts building the tunnels. Several dozen people are on the IDF's wanted list. The latest deliveries include RPGs, Kalashnikovs, and ammunition, but most significantly, there has been a large quantity of factory-grade explosives brought into Gaza through the tunnels. (Ha'aretz)
  • Heresy and History - Angelo M. Codevilla
    The war on terror will be won only when Islam's Wahhabi heresy is defeated - by orthodox Islam. Anti-Western terrorism results from a war within Islam that is more serious for Muslims than for the rest of us, because the Wahhabis' ideas imply irreconcilable enmity against other Muslims first, and then against others. What drives "fundamentalists" is the tendency to affirm orthodoxy. By contrast, the heretics we are concerned with slip the bounds of orthodoxy and endow themselves with boundless, revolutionary discretion.
        That the Saudi family could mount a theological campaign against Wahhabism is as inconceivable as its adopting the Spartan lifestyle that Wahhabism preaches. Without the Wahhabis, the Saudi royal family would not be lords of the peninsula, or of anything at all. The Saudis are bonded to the tiger they ride. From the northern edges of black Africa, to Bosnia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, estimates of the percentage of the new mosques and schools financed to Wahhabi specifications vary from a third to three-fourths. No other form of Islam enjoys anything like the flood of money that comes from Saudi sources. (American Spectator)
  • Palestinian Leadership Makes Many Steps But Hardly Moves - Elias Zananiri
    The U.S. is badly in need of a move that would restore part of its credibility and therefore would be ready to move positively towards the Palestinians. But according to Arafat's thinking, there is no need to help an ailing president like George Bush, who is facing the threat of being voted out of the White House next November. Last week, Arafat chaired a meeting during which Prime Minister Abu Ala and Dr. Saeb Erekat, the minister in charge of negotiations with Israel, urged Arafat to introduce reforms and to furnish Abu Ala with the authority he needs.
        Jibril Rajoub, who is currently Arafat's advisor on security, asked the president to consolidate all the security forces under one person, as proposed by the roadmap. Arafat was furious. He screamed at Rajoub and ordered him out of the room. A day later, shots were fired at his office. Some argued that those bullets could be the signal from Arafat's supporters to remind Rajoub who is the boss. The writer is a Jerusalem-based Palestinian journalist. (Gulf News-Dubai)
  • Observations:

    Initial Israeli Response to Amnesty Report on Demolitions
    (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    On Tuesday, Amnesty International released a report critical of Israel entitled "Evictions and Demolitions Must Stop."

    • While there is no question that the Palestinian population is suffering from the ongoing conflict, that suffering is a direct result of Palestinian terrorism aimed at innocent Israelis, and the need for Israel to protect its citizens from these abhorrent attacks. Regrettably, Palestinian terrorists choose to carry out many of their terrorist activities from within Palestinian population centers.
    • For nearly four years, Israelis have been the victims of a relentless and ongoing campaign by Palestinian terrorists to spread death and destruction, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and injuring more than 6,000.
    • One Israeli counter-measure is the demolition of structures that pose a real security risk to Israeli forces. When terrorists fire from within civilian structures, military necessity dictates the demolition of these locations. Under international law, these structures are considered legitimate military targets.
    • Israel refrains whenever possible from attacking terrorist targets from the air or with artillery in order to minimize collateral damage, a policy which entails risking the lives of Israeli soldiers. The death of 13 soldiers in ground operations in the Gaza Strip in early May 2004 is just one example of the heavy price Israel pays for its commitment to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.
    • Terrorist groups use civilian buildings in order to conceal openings of tunnels used to smuggle arms, explosives, and terrorists from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Other buildings are used for the manufacturing and concealment of rockets, mortars, and explosive devices to be used against Israel. The demolition of these structures is often the only way to combat this threat.
    See also Responding to the Amnesty Report - Justus Reid Weiner (Access/Middle East)

    • Anyone who has studied the laws of war or has served in an army knows: Houses or physical property can be destroyed, but they can also be rebuilt; human bodies beyond a certain point have no possibility of survival or return.
    • If it is necessary to demolish structures in order to prevent or to reduce the smuggling of weapons for terrorists, it is certainly a reasonable action to be taken not just by the Israeli army. Any army, after nearly four years of daily terrorism, would likely do the same, or more.
    • As a member of Amnesty International, I am disappointed. I keep hoping that they will improve their act vis-a-vis Israel and begin to understand what’s going on here.
    • Amnesty talks about Palestinian armed groups - but they never refer to them as terrorists. Their analysis fails to acknowledge that what we have here is a situation of rampant terrorism, supported or left untouched by the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat. People who live here know better.

      The writer is a Jerusalem-based international human rights lawyer.

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