Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 20, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: Palestinian Mortars Discovered Near Jerusalem; Hamas "a Strategic Threat" - Ilan Marciano (Ynet News)
    Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that in the past two days the IDF uncovered a launcher and eight mortar shells in Bethlehem, which were planned to be fired at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
    Defense officials have expressed recent concern that Gilo was being targeted once again, following a number of thwarted attempts to fire at the neighborhood.
    Diskin also described Hamas as a long-term threat to the State of Israel. "Hamas' offer of a 'hudna' (ceasefire) for ten years does not change their basic approach not to recognize the State of Israel," he said.
    "The establishment of a Hamas Islamic extremist state along Israel's borders, and the attempt by radical Islamic elements to connect to it, could be responsible for military options which will form a strategic threat to Israel," he said.

Israel Campus Beat
- February 19, 2006

Point Counter-Point:
    What Is Behind the Cartoon Wars?

Hamas Victory Sparks Terrorist Activity - Yaakov Katz and Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas' victory in the PA elections has sparked a sharp increase in the number of security warnings, with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Sunday reporting 76 - compared to around 50 two weeks ago.
    A security official said the Hamas takeover of the PA has motivated Islamic Jihad to become the vanguard of the Palestinian struggle by escalating its terror activity.

Report: U.S. Plans to Attack Iran's Nuke Facilities by January 2007 (Al-Bawaba-Jordan)
    The Saudi newspaper al-Watan claimed Sunday that American and foreign intelligence bodies had identified 31 nuclear facilities in Iran to be targeted by U.S. warplanes if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's nuclear facilities fail.
    The report said the U.S. will need five days to one week to complete the strike.
    U.S. military experts claim the attack should be carried out no later than January 2007, because after that time Iran's nuclear facilities would be dangerous to strike due to fear of radiation.
    The report adds the U.S. has decided that Israel will not be directly involved in the strike.
    However, the Bush administration will allow Israel to retaliate if attacked by long-range Iranian missiles.

Golan Ski Resort Packed (Itim/Ha'aretz)
    Some 12,000 visitors on Saturday packed the Mt. Hermon ski resort at the northern tip of the Golan Heights after last week's snowfall offered the season's best yet skiing conditions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Takes Reins, New Parliament to Reject Any Accord with Israel - John Murphy
    Members of the militant group Hamas formally took control of the Palestinian parliament Saturday and wasted no time in flexing their new political muscle by rejecting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' calls to recognize past agreements with Israel and to continue peace talks. (Baltimore Sun)
        See also Hamas Leader Arrives in Iran for High-Level Talks
    Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Tehran on Sunday for high level talks with Iranian leaders including President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. (Xinhuanet-China)
  • U.S. Crackdown Restricts Cash Flow to Hamas - Peter Slevin
    Before the Sept. 11 attacks, mosques and Muslim charities openly raised money for Hamas, that mixes Palestinian community work with anti-Israeli suicide attacks. But the indictment of alleged Hamas money men in Chicago and Dallas, combined with the FBI questioning of private contributors, has chilled donors, slowed collections, and forced fundraising underground, according to U.S. authorities, terrorism financing experts, and members of Chicago Muslim organizations. U.S. officials assert that money continues to move to Hamas from the U.S. as Hamas fundraisers adapt hard-to-trace methods for moving cash overseas.
        Hamas draws money from dozens of countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. Israeli Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog said Hamas will have access to more money than ever as the Palestinian government. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Freezes Hamas-Linked Group's Assets
    The U.S. Treasury Department moved on Sunday against KindHearts, a non-governmental organization operating out of Toledo, Ohio, for funneling money to the militant Palestinian group Hamas. "KindHearts is the progeny of [the Hamas-affiliated] Holy Land Foundation and [the al-Qaeda-affiliated] Global Relief Foundation, which attempted to mask their support for terrorism behind the facade of charitable giving," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. U.S. banks must freeze any assets belonging to the group and Americans are barred from doing business with it. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Syrian Linked to Al-Qaeda Describes Plan to Attack Israeli Cruise Ship in Turkey - Karl Vick
    Louai Sakka, arrested in Turkey last August, turned out to be a senior operative for al-Qaeda and intimately linked to major terrorist plots in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, where he had worked beside Abu Musab Zarqawi. Sakka told investigators he had planned to die steering a yacht laden with explosives into a cruise ship. Turkish prosecutors also describe him as the planner of the 2003 truck bombings that killed 57 people in Istanbul, financed with $160,000 in al-Qaeda funds.
        Iraqi insurgents say Louai al-Turki, as he was known there, played a prominent role in major attacks on U.S. bases and commanded insurgent forces in Fallujah. After the fall of Fallujah, a council of foreign fighters in Iraq authorized ten separate attacks on Israeli targets. Sakka, who learned bomb-making in Iraq, volunteered to strike the Israeli cruise ships that regularly call on Turkey's southern coast. Sakka spent days chatting with Israeli tourists and learned the precise arrival time and route of the ship he planned to attack. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamic Jihad Attack in Jerusalem Thwarted - Margot Dudkevitch
    Border police arrested three Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists from Bethlehem on Sunday who were on their way to carry out an attack in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post/Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Senior Islamic Jihad Commander Killed in West Bank - Amos Harel
    IDF troops killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Amjad Abu Shayih early Monday in the course of a broad IDF operation in Balata near Nablus. A second wanted Palestinian was wounded in the incident and seven fugitives were arrested. Large IDF forces had entered Balata in search of wanted militants and illegal arms, encountering intermittent gunfire and several bombs. Military sources said the operation targeted terror networks engaged in perpetrating suicide attacks in Israel by members of Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Arrests Head of Islamic Jihad in Nablus - Barak Ravid and Amir Buhbut
    IDF forces arrested Ahmed Arisha, the head of the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Nablus. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets at Israel Sunday night. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Cabinet Responds to New Hamas Parliament - Ronny Sofer
    The government approved five proposals concerning the PA Sunday: A ban on transferring funds to the PA; imposing limitation on Hamas officials' movement; boosting inspections and upgrading the Karni and Erez crossings between Israel and Gaza; preventing the transfer of equipment and assistance to the Palestinian security forces; and addressing the international community in a bid to prevent the transfer of funds to the PA interim government. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas: We'll Get Muslim Funding Instead - Arnon Regular (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Security Services Warn: Beware of Hamas' "Moderate" Talk - Ronny Sofer
    IDF Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin told the Cabinet Sunday that Hamas plans for generations ahead. "According to (Hamas founder) Sheikh Yassin, Hamas will be celebrating its victory over Israel in 2027." The first phase is taking over government offices, but at the same time strengthening the military branch. Yadlin estimated Hamas does not fully understand the economic issues it will have to face. "They don't comprehend what it means to having to get $2 billion a year."
        Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin said Hamas presents vague, pragmatic messages to the international community, "but in the Palestinian streets, it clearly very much adheres to its ideology." Diskin also said that twice as many Kassam rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinians in January compared to December 2005 (130 vs. 64) and said he expects this trend to continue. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Standing Fast on Two States - Danny Rubinstein
    Israel must insist that the Hamas government accept the principle of two states for two peoples; that it recognize Israel and honor the agreements that were signed in the past. Israel has many partners to these demands, in the region and in the rest of the world. Hamas leaders say they cannot recognize Israel because that would be a transgression of their faith. With all due respect to faith, if Hamas spokesmen have already found a formula that enables them to maintain a truce, or hudna, with Israel over a period of many years, they can also find a formula for temporary recognition of the State of Israel for many years.
        The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political conflict, not a religious conflict. In the past and the present, the Jews and the State of Israel have maintained good relations with Muslims and with Muslim countries - and it is also possible to aim for a compromise solution with devout Palestinian Muslims - based on the clear condition of mutual recognition. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Landslide an "Optical Illusion" - Matthew Kalman
    A close look at the final results of last month's Palestinian election shows that Hamas' apparent landslide was, in the words of one analyst, "an optical illusion." In the vote for the national lists, Hamas received 44% while Fatah scored 41%. In the district elections, by running only one candidate while multiple Fatah candidates canceled each other out, Hamas won 45 district seats to Fatah's 17, with four independents. Yet Hamas candidates received only 36% of total votes while Fatah and other non-Hamas candidates won 64%. (San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Secret Democracy Elevated Hamas - Matthew Kalman
    In a series of interviews, senior Hamas election strategists told The Chronicle that their success was greatly helped by the failure of Fatah to unify its own ranks. Newly elected Hamas councilman Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi said, "The people who organize our movement are a small number....We prefer to have only five or six people in each of the villages - but if they are good people, they can change all of the village. The whole village becomes our supporters without becoming members of Hamas." (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Observations:

    Democracy Must Be Respected, But That Doesn't Make the Terror Group Respectable - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • We agree that the results of the Palestinian parliamentary elections must be "respected," in the narrow sense that they reflect the outcome of a lawful democratic process. But just because something is respected does not make it respectable: Recall the diplomatic quarantine the European Union slapped on Austria in 2000 when elections there put the proto-fascist Freedom Party in government.
    • Neither President Bush nor acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made any secret of his intention to isolate Hamas and deprive the Palestinian Authority of funds once Hamas assumes the reins of government. Nor is there any shame in doing so: Donors have the right to impose conditions on their beneficiaries, and so far Hamas has rejected international calls that it disarm, forswear terrorism, and accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
    • Palestinians need to understand that the exercise of self-government carries consequences. For too long, the international community has failed to extract a price for the Palestinian recourse to terror. That failure has not brought peace, but far worse it has produced the "Palestine" we have now: destitute, savage against both Israelis and moderate Arabs, and, so far, incapable of managing its internal affairs peacefully and competently.
    • By refusing to render Hamas respectable, the U.S. and Israel aren't punishing the Palestinians. They're educating them.

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