Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 10, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Top Hamas Terrorist in Contact with Al-Qaeda - Jacky Hogi (Maariv-Hebrew, 9Apr06)
    The military wing of Hamas in Gaza, under the command of Muhammad Def, has been in contact with al-Qaeda members in Iraq and Jordan, Al-Hayat reports.
    Def has begun to distance himself from the military leadership of Hamas in the wake of differences of opinion regarding the continuation of the struggle against Israel.
    A senior PA official warned that Gaza is not al-Qaeda's only venue: "The Jihad idea has begun to penetrate the West Bank. Small groups have begun to form in a number of areas via the Internet and books that come from Jordan and Egypt."
    "This is a factor that will very much occupy the Israeli security services in the coming years."
    According to the report, the attack on Mike's Place pub in Tel Aviv in 2003 was not a Hamas attack; rather the two British bombers of Pakistani origin were recruited by al-Qaeda.
    Palestinian security sources in Jordan foresee the appointment of an al-Qaeda commander for Palestine, just as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the commander of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
    Currently, al-Qaeda activities in Israel and the Palestinian territories are directed from afar by the group's branches in Iraq and Syria.
    See also Al-Qaeda Goes Recruiting in Gaza - Marie Colvin (Sunday Times-UK)
    See also Understanding the Direction of the New Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
    See also The Saudi Militant Threat in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Stratfor)
    Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal revealed April 4 that Israel is holding a Saudi national suspected of being an al-Qaeda operative, and that Riyadh is working to have him extradited to the kingdom.
    Not only are militants affiliated with al-Qaeda's Egyptian and Iraqi nodes trying to break into Israel and the Palestinian territories, but those connected to the Saudi branch are doing so as well.
    The entry of al-Qaeda-style jihadists into the Palestinian territories following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has been cause for concern in the region, and both Israeli and Palestinian officials have acknowledged the presence of such militants who have entered the area from Egypt.
    What is odd here, however, is that a Saudi jihadist gained entry into Israel via Jordan.
    See also Wanted Palestinian Recruited by Al-Qaeda? - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    IDF soldiers on Thursday detained a wanted Palestinian terror suspect in the village of Hizma, north of Jerusalem, who was allegedly recruited by al-Qaeda to operate in the West Bank.

Israel Campus Beat
- April 9, 2006

Point Counter-Point:
    Israel's Elections: A Mandate for Territorial Withdrawal?

Military Intelligence: Palestinians May Have 100 Katyusha Rockets in Gaza - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    While only one Katyusha rocket has so far been fired at Israel (on Election Day), Military Intelligence believes the Palestinians have at least 100 more.
    In addition, the army suspects that Palestinians have anti-aircraft missiles and other new weaponry.
    Iranian and Syrian terror and bomb experts have also entered Gaza from Egypt and are in the midst of setting up new terror infrastructures, with the goal of duplicating them in the West Bank.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas: Our Sons Will Fight Israelis - Chris McGreal
    Mahmoud Abbas says Israel's plan to impose its final borders will lead to another war in a decade. "After 10 years our sons will feel it is unfair and they will return back to struggle," Abbas said. "Nobody will accept it. The struggle will continue." (Guardian-UK)
        See also Abbas: "Convergence" Will Lead to War (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Pulling or Suspending $411M in Palestinian Projects
    The U.S. will cancel or suspend up to $411 million in Palestinian aid out of concern the money could help the new Hamas leaders of the government there, the State Department announced Friday. At the same time, the U.S. will redirect some of that money to humanitarian projects. Also Friday, the EU's executive office cut off direct aid payments to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The impact could be even stronger if EU foreign ministers decide at a meeting Monday to also freeze their governments' bilateral aid to the Palestinians. Britain and the Netherlands have already taken such a step. (AP/FOX News)
        See also Europe Mulls Path Forward with Hamas - Ralf Beste, Jan Fleischhauer, and Christoph Schult
    Berlin has spent millions supporting development in the Palestinian Authority. But in the wake of the election victory of terrorist organization Hamas, that aid - like all EU funds - has been frozen. According to an official at the German Foreign Ministry, the official policy toward Hamas is clear: "no face-to-face talks, no writing, no contact by telephone." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Norway Freezes Aid to PA (Reuters/Khaleej Times)
        See also France Denies Visas for Hamas Legislators
    France has denied visas to two Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature invited to talks in Strasbourg this week, the Council of Europe said Monday. (AP/Forbes)
        See also Threats to Cut Off Aid Don't Sway PA Prime Minister - Alissa J. Rubin
    In the face of imminent funding cuts from Europe and the U.S., PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday reiterated his government's refusal to recognize the State of Israel and forswear violence. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Mubarak: Shiite Arabs Are Loyal to Iran and Not to the Arab Countries in Which They Live - Tanalee Smith
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya on Saturday that civil war "has almost started" in Iraq and an American troop withdrawal would only make the situation worse, adding that the current unrest was Saddam Hussein's fault. He also questioned the loyalty of Iraq's Shiite Muslims to their home country. "Defiantly Iran has influence for Shiites....Most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in," he said, reflecting a concern among Arab nations that Iran has too much influence in Iraq and that its Shiite-majority Islamic theocracy could spill over into their largely Sunni countries. (AP/Houston Chronicle)
        See also Iraqi Leadership Annoyed by Mubarak's Remarks on Shiites
    The Iraqi leadership on Sunday said statements by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak over Shiites in Iraq were a source of "annoyance for our Iraqi people" from different faiths, sects, and political segments. (KUNA-Kuwait)
  • Would President Bush Go to War to Stop Tehran from Getting the Bomb? - Seymour M. Hersh
    The Bush administration has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. U.S. officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.
        Bush and others in the White House view Iranian President Ahmadinejad as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. "That's the name they're using. They say, 'Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?'" "This is much more than a nuclear issue," one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. "The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years." (New Yorker)
        See also U.S. Is Studying Military Strike Options on Iran - Peter Baker, Dafna Linzer, and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Cuts Ties with PA
    After a discussion Sunday of the security establishment's recommendations on steps Israel should take in the wake of the rise of the Hamas regime, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert summarized the recommendations to be submitted for Cabinet approval: 1) Israel will not hold ties with the Palestinian Authority, which is a hostile authority, and will act to prevent the administrative establishment of the Hamas government. 2) The PA is one authority and does not have two heads; links with it will be reduced and no ties will be held with it. There will be no personal disavowal of the PA Chairman (Abbas). 3) Foreign visitors who meet with Hamas officials will not be received for meetings with Israeli officials. 4) Israel will coordinate with the international community regarding humanitarian assistance for the needs of the Palestinian population, not via the PA. (Prime Minister's Office/IMRA)
  • Palestinian Militias Train as Internal Conflict Brews - Arnon Regular
    "The PLO, Fatah fighters camp, Alasifa forces," southwest of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, adjacent to an elementary school, serves as a training camp for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing. The area is surrounded by barbed-wire fencing, and masked men armed with Kalashnikov rifles and two-way radios keep a 24-hour watch on vehicles passing close by. The masked men are members of Hamas' military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam. In the northern corner of the area sit five mobile structures belonging to Palestinian military intelligence. Gaza today looks like a powder keg that could be set off by the slightest spark, leading to a massive clash between Hamas and Fatah.
        Ever since Hamas won the Palestinian elections, and even more so since it formed a government, its activists and those from Fatah have been doing their utmost to recruit the street for the developing conflict. Dozens of locations in Gaza have seen training camps sprout up in recent weeks like mushrooms after the rain. Activists from Hamas, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad, and other local groups are taking over land that is not privately owned and are setting up training camps. Every camp is almost immediately mirrored nearby by a similar installation by another group. One such camp, belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, was the target of an Israel Air Force strike on Friday that killed six people. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Blames Fatah for Kassams - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Some Fatah-affiliated militias are behind the latest wave of Kassam rocket attacks, in the hope of prompting a massive IDF operation in Gaza that would eventually bring down the new Hamas cabinet, Hamas officials claimed on Sunday.
        Sources close to Islamic Jihad's al-Kuds Brigades announced on Sunday that the group had decided to halt its attacks for a week because of the IDF strikes over the past few days. Hours later, however, Khaled al-Batsh and Khader Habib, the top political leaders of Islamic Jihad, denied that the group had agreed to suspend its rocket attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Forces Loyal to Abbas Block Hamas PM's Convoy in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA security officers loyal to Mahmoud Abbas prevented PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's convoy from passing through one of Gaza City's main streets on Saturday. The convoy was stopped outside the offices of the Preventive Security Force, which consists solely of Fatah members, and ordered to turn away. A source in Haniyeh's office said the prime minister was on his way to a meeting with the Chinese representative to the PA. The incident is seen by some Hamas officials as a serious and dangerous escalation in tensions between Haniyeh and Abbas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Kills Senior Fatah Terrorist in Bethlehem - Efrat Weiss
    IDF troops in Bethlehem on Sunday killed a senior wanted terror suspect, Jaber Ahras. Ahras was responsible for a shooting attack at a roadblock south of Jerusalem that killed IDF soldiers Shlomi Balski and Shaul Lahav on November 18, 2003. He was also involved in the planning of rocket attacks at Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood and was responsible for initiating attacks in the Bethlehem region. Palestinian sources said Ahras headed the Popular Resistance Committee's West Bank rocket infrastructure. After IDF troops surrounded the building where Ahras was hiding, he charged at the troops firing a Kalashnikov rifle. The forces returned fire. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Preventing the Iranization of the PA - Sever Plocker
    There is an Iran-like administration gaining ground in the PA. The real rulers are the security and terror organizations, who themselves are subservient to highly secret authorities. In Iran, they are called "Revolutionary Guards" and "Modesty Patrols" and violent gangs that the administration nurtures for its own purposes. In the PA they are called "Popular Committees" and "Martyr's Brigades."
        The earlier Israel and the international community work to bring down the Hamas government, the better it will be for everyone. Hamas must not be allowed to function, or even raise its head. Preventing the Iranization of the PA is not just an Israeli interest. It is an interest of the entire Middle East, and of the entire world. The Hamas revolution will not stop at the border crossings of Gaza and the West Bank. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas on the Way Down? - Danny Rubinstein
    In its election campaign, Hamas promised to bring an end to the anarchy in the territories, but instead, the anarchy has intensified, sparking much anger among the Palestinian population. In addition, all Palestinian analysts are predicting the imminent financial collapse of the PA. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    A Conversation with Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - Lally Weymouth (Washington Post)

    • Q: How much time will you give the new Palestinian government?
      Olmert: I'm not expressing any ultimatum. If we reach the conclusion that the Palestinians are not prepared to meet the requirements that lead to negotiations, we will then move forward without a negotiating process. We are not prepared to wait forever.
    • Q: What do you mean by "convergence"?
      Olmert: The idea is that most of the settlements that would have to be removed from where they are now will be converged into the blocs of settlements that will remain under Israeli control....The rest of the territories will not have any Israeli presence and will allow territorial contiguity for a future Palestinian state.
    • Q: Will the army stay behind?
      Olmert: I will keep all military options to be able to combat terrorism effectively everywhere.
    • Q: Would you want some kind of U.S. recognition of the borders you set?
      Olmert: I will seek such recognition, yes. But it's important to understand that if we reach the conclusion that the Palestinians - led by a Hamas government, which is a terrorist organization - are not prepared to meet the preliminary requirements of the roadmap, then we don't have to wait forever. We don't need to waste our energies and our resources. We can move forward to create a new reality on the ground congruent with the understanding that there should be two states existing alongside each other and that the Palestinians must have a contiguous territory where they can hopefully establish a credible state.
        See also Olmert: "Israel Should Not Be on the Forefront of a War Against Iran" - Romesh Ratnesar (TIME)
    • Q: Would Israel take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program?
      Olmert: I genuinely don't think Israel should be on the forefront of this war. I don't know why people think this is first and foremost a war for Israel. It's a problem for every civilized country. Iran is a major threat to the well-being of Europe and America just as much as it is for the State of Israel. I don't think America can tolerate the idea of a leader of a nation of 30 million people who can openly speak of the liquidation of another country.
    • Q: Do you see any prospect for negotiations with Hamas if they moderate their rhetoric?
      Olmert: They can't just change their rhetoric....They need to change entirely their state of mind about Israel's existence. It's so much deeper than rhetoric. To just believe that if Ismail Haniyeh tomorrow starts using different words, that will make the difference? No way....Their inability to accept the existence of two states and their total dedication to an Islamic religious fundamentalist state all across the Middle East to Africa and Asia is still their most dominant driving force.

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