Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 11, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Rocket Damages Sensitive Israeli Facility - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel was moved to act against rocket launching sites in Gaza after a rocket that landed on a sensitive infrastructure facility caused damage totaling millions of shekels.
    And it is only a matter of time before one lands on a kindergarten.
    The Israeli bombardment of launch sites is intended to make it clear that Israel demands complete quiet from Gaza.

    See also Kassam Rocket Lands Near IDF Base - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    On Monday morning, Palestinians in northern Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel.
    One rocket fell near the fence surrounding an IDF base in Zikim only a few dozen meters from the infirmary, while the second fell in the base.

400 Terror Suspects on Loose in UK - David Leppard (Times-UK)
    At least 400 al-Qaeda terrorist suspects - double the previous estimates - are at large in Britain, including a "hard core" of 40 to 60 trained fighters with the capability and the intention to carry out attacks in Britain.
    Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of MI5, said the figure could be as high as 600 if all those thought to have returned from combat training in camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere are included.

Saudis Plan to Fence Off Border with Chaos - Michael Theodoulou (Times-UK)
    Saudi Arabia has invited bids for the construction of a security fence along the entire length of its 900km desert border with Iraq over concerns that the chaos in Iraq could cause an overspill of sectarian violence and terrorism.
    Riyadh is worried by the rise to power in Iraq of the Shia majority, with its close links with Iran, which Saudi Arabia mistrusts.
    It is concerned that its Shia minority, which is concentrated in the oil-producing eastern province, may become radicalized.

Saddam's Pilots Hunted Down by Death Squads - Ali Rifat and Hamoudi Saffar (Sunday Times-UK)
    Iraqi pilots who flew in Saddam Hussein's air force are being targeted by armed militias in an apparent hunt of veterans who fought in the war against Iran two decades ago.
    Some 182 former pilots and 416 senior military officers had been killed by the beginning of January 2006 as part of the campaign; at least 836 pilots and high-ranking military officials have fled to neighboring Arab states.
    Many of the assassinations have been blamed on militias from the Shi'ite Badr Brigade who were trained and financed by Iran and who now form the backbone of Iraq's police and special forces.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • EU Suspends Aid to Palestinian Authority - David Gow and Conal Urquhart
    The EU Monday increased the pressure on the Hamas-led PA to recognize Israel and renounce terrorist violence by suspending all direct aid to the new government. Europe is the largest single donor to the Palestinian territories, providing 500m euros a year, of which just under half goes directly to the PA. (Guardian-UK)
  • Palestinians Fear Aid Cut-Off - Sarah El Deeb
    Palestinian policeman Ibrahim Abu Hattab said that if Hamas cannot provide for the Palestinians, it has no business staying in power. "We want to live, with or without Hamas....If it gets worse, then we can just say farewell (to Hamas)." Amin Makhboul, a clerk with the Palestinian Interior Ministry in the West Bank city of Nablus, said he believes the Palestinian people will throw Hamas out of power if the situation deteriorates: "We will have a great mess without salaries....Hamas won't be able to stay in power more than three or four months like this." Until Hamas won parliament elections in January, the Palestinians used to receive nearly $1 billion in foreign aid. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Al-Qaeda Responsible for Most Suicide Blasts in Iraq
    More than 90% of the suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by fighters recruited, trained, and equipped by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said Monday. (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S. Sees Europe as New Front Against Islamists - Frederick Kempe
    The Bush administration has quietly opened what senior officials consider a third front in a global campaign against Islamist extremism, this one aimed at the rising threat from Europe. Senior Bush administration officials have concluded that Europe's alienated Muslim minorities not only endanger Europe's social cohesion but pose an increasing American security threat. Last week Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: "While Islamist extremism is a global phenomenon, we find the nature of the problem in Western Europe to be distinct - both in its character and its potential to threaten the United States."  (Wall Street Journal, 11Apr06)
  • Democracy in the Arab World, a U.S. Goal, Falters - Hassan M. Fattah
    Steps toward democracy in the Arab world are slowing, blocked by legal maneuvers and official changes of heart throughout the Middle East. The political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself - Hanan Greenberg
    Despite sorrow over the death of a Palestinian girl in an IDF strike, a senior Southern Command official emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself from Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. "What country in the world would sit by idly while it is being fired at?" an army source said.
        The IDF Spokesman's Office said Monday: "The citizens of Israel face daily, indiscriminative terror attacks from Gaza. The IDF works to protect the Israeli people and conducts retaliatory shooting at launching sites, while attempting not to hit populated areas. Unfortunately, the terror organizations take advantage of the army's sensitivity regarding attacks on civilians, and deliberately act from inside populated areas, using the Palestinian people as a human shield. The IDF regrets the harm caused to civilians and their property, but this is the inevitable result of the continuation of rocket strikes. The terror groups and the Palestinian Authority bear the responsibility for that, as they do nothing to stop the Kassam fire." (Ynet News)
  • Number of Would-be Suicide Bombers Increasing - Amos Harel
    Security forces have arrested 90 Palestinians suspected of planning to carry out suicide bombings in the first three months of this year - more than half the number of people arrested in all of 2005, according to security officials. However, only one terrorist actually carried out a suicide bombing this year. The suspects belong to Fatah and several Fatah offshoots, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (Ha'aretz)
  • No Hamas Cease-Fire in Hebron - Amos Harel
    The Israel Defense Forces suspect that a Hamas cell carried out terror attacks in the West Bank city of Hebron over the past several weeks, in contradiction to the group's call for calm (tahdiya) in the territories. On Friday, after an explosion in a Hebron apartment wounded three Palestinians, IDF troops discovered an explosives lab. Four pipe bombs made in the apartment by Hamas men were used against IDF troops in Hebron over the past few weeks. Three months ago members of a cell with links to Hamas were arrested in Hebron on suspicion of carrying out a shooting attack in which six Israelis were killed. (Ha'aretz)
  • Olmert Named Permanent Prime Minister - Ronny Sofer
    The Israeli government on Tuesday approved the appointment of Ehud Olmert as permanent prime minister. The appointment will come into force on Friday at the end of 100 days since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was hospitalized. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Time for Palestinians to Take the Blame - David Renni
    At an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary, said, "We do not wish to punish the Palestinian people for the decision they freely made to elect a Hamas-dominated government." Um, why not? Hamas has been blowing up civilian men, women, and children for many years, and has a charter that calls for Israel to be driven into the sea. Why should Europe not act chilly towards a people for freely choosing it? I do not see why electing Hamas should carry no consequences for the Palestinian people. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The Bankruptcy of Hamas - Editorial
    Hamas leaders haven't renounced violence, recognized Israel or declared that they would respect previous agreements, all demanded by the U.S. and the EU to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in aid flowing. Hamas still stands for terror, not negotiation. Until it changes, it deserves not a dime of U.S. or other international funds. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Human Rights Watch Continues Political Bias Against Israel in 2005
    While there was a significant reduction in Human Rights Watch's disproportionate focus on Israel in 2005 compared with 2004, clear evidence of systematic political bias remains. Many HRW publications continue to offer gratuitous political attacks against Israel, often based on unverified media reports and reflecting a hostile political agenda. HRW's use of language to condemn Israel is highly politicized, especially when compared to reports on other countries in the Middle East, such as Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, and continues to deny Israel the right to self-defense under international law. Some sporadic condemnations of Palestinian terror not withstanding, measures taken to end the anti-Israel bias among HRW officials and to restore the principle of universality in human rights have been insufficient. (NGO Monitor)
  • Observations:

    Why "This Night" Is Still Different - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)

    • Over 90% of Israeli Jews, we are told, celebrate the Pessah Seder, in some form or another. For a society that is often described as predominantly secular, this is a very high proportion. This tradition has continued for over 3,500 years. As Jews, we are defined by our common history, with the Exodus from Egypt, from slavery into freedom, and the entry into the Land of Israel as the defining events.
    • In 1947, David Ben-Gurion appeared before the UN Commission weighing Jewish and Arab claims as the Mandate period was ending, and his remarks focused on Jewish history: "More than 3,300 years before the Mayflower set sail, the Jews left Egypt. Any Jewish child, whether in America or Russia, Yemen or Germany, knows that his forefathers left Egypt at dawn on the 15th of Nisan....They ate matzot, and arrived at the Red Sea after seven days."
    • The attempt to deprive us of this history denies the link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Jews are portrayed not as the indigenous people returning to their homeland, but as "imperialists" and "neo-colonialists," while the history, including the Exodus, is downgraded to the status of "myth."
    • The Pessah Seder is our collective opportunity to reclaim and reassert Jewish history and the centrality of this legacy. As Ben-Gurion told the diplomatic jury in 1947: "Jews worldwide still eat matza for seven days from the 15th of Nisan, and retell the story of the Exodus, concluding with the fervent wish, 'Next Year in Jerusalem.' This is the nature of the Jewish people."

      The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University.

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