Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 12, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

"Al-Qaeda Moving into Israel's Neighbors" - Interview with Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin - Alex Fishman (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 12Apr06)
    "We see an increase in the importance which al-Qaeda attaches to the Arab states surrounding Israel. There are al-Qaeda cells in all these countries and their purpose is to try to overthrow the regimes and attack Israel," said Israel's Chief of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin.

Al-Qaeda's Master Plan - Olivier Guitta (TCS Daily)
    Signs of al-Qaeda's infiltration in the Palestinian territories have been increasing in the past few months.
    Ely Karmon at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) confirmed that al-Qaeda members who remained in the Sinai Peninsula after the Sharm El Sheikh terror attacks of July 2005 then started to move towards Gaza and the West Bank after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.
    The UAE daily Al Ittihad reports that a thus-far unknown Palestinian group, "The Army of Jihad," has been sending messages to foreign diplomats in Gaza demanding that all non-Muslim foreigners must leave.
    According to the news website, France has quietly asked that all its citizens leave Gaza and the West Bank (and apparently they have).
    See also Al-Qaeda Recruiting in Palestinian Territories - Olivier Guitta (Counterterrorism Blog)
    Hamas has been criticized by some of its own for running in the elections and implementing a "truce" with Israel, and al-Qaeda is using this to recruit among disenchanted hardcore Hamas members.
    According to Al Hayat, about 200 Hamas members have conducted negotiations with a foreign organization, most probably al-Qaeda, reportedly including Mohammed Def, the leader of the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas' main military organization.
    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)

29 Indicted for Madrid Bombings; Judge Says Al-Qaeda Inspired Local Cell - Pamela Rolfe (Washington Post)
    A Spanish judge indicted 29 people Tuesday for the deadly 2004 Madrid train bombings and concluded that the attack was carried out by a local radical Islamic cell that was inspired but not directed by al-Qaeda.

Saudis Provide Support to Al-Qaeda Terrorists (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif confirmed Tuesday that some Saudis had provided financial and material support to al-Qaeda terrorists.

Israeli Soccer Players Dropped from UK Team's Gulf Trip - Shaul Adar (Guardian-UK)
    West Ham United Monday denied claims of mistreating their two Israeli players, Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan, who did not take part in the team's training camp in Dubai last week.
    Israeli citizens are not allowed into the United Arab Emirates.

The Kitchen's Kosher, And So Are All 650 Rooms in This Jerusalem Hotel - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
    Yishai Sakat dashes across the slick floors of a kitchen the size of a gymnasium in the nether regions of the Renaissance Jerusalem Hotel, a comet in a spotless white shirt.
    Passover is approaching and Sakat, the hotel rabbi, is in a state of frantic euphoria.
    In the days before Passover, the commemoration of the ancient Israelites' escape from Egypt, Sakat takes on the burden of guaranteeing that nothing has been tainted by a leavened product.
    He tutors his staff as it upends, scrubs, then reassembles the 650-room hotel.
    The process is a spring cleaning on steroids.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Nuclear Announcement:
    Iran Reports Big Advance in Enrichment of Uranium - Nazila Fathi, David E. Sanger, and William J. Broad
    Iran announced Tuesday that its nuclear engineers had advanced to a new phase in the enrichment of uranium, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a series of the country's ruling clerics declared that the nation would now speed ahead, in defiance of a UN Security Council warning, to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. "Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world," said Ahmadinejad during a large, carefully staged, and nationally televised celebration in Mashhad, which included video presentations of each step of the nuclear process that he declared Iran had mastered. "The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved." (New York Times)
        See also Former Iranian President Rafsanjani: Iran Producing Atomic Fuel - Christian Oliver
    Iran is producing enriched uranium from 164 centrifuges, influential former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Tuesday, a major step toward its goal of making nuclear fuel for power. "There needs to be an expansion of operations if we are to have a complete industrial unit; tens of units are required to set up a uranium enrichment plant," said Rafsanjani. (Reuters)
        See also Iran to Move Toward Large-Scale Uranium Enrichment - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges, the country's deputy nuclear chief said Wednesday, signaling its resolve to expand a program the UN has demanded it halt. (AP/ABC News)
  • Reactions to Iran's Nuclear Announcement:
    Israeli Army Chief: Iran Threatens Free World - Hanan Greenberg
    A nuclear Iran would threaten not only Israel, but the entire free, democratic world, Army Chief Dan Halutz told Army Radio Wednesday. Addressing Tuesday's Iranian declaration regarding uranium enrichment, Halutz said: "The Iranians took a significant step with the declaration." However, Halutz also said that "if we look at Iran's map of targets, I'm not convinced Israel would appear at the top of the list." Contrary to estimates in Washington, security officials in Israel believe Ahmadinejad's statements are more than a political move. A senior intelligence officer said the "Iranians are definitely at a point that could lead them to obtain nuclear weapons by 2009." (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Military Intelligence Chief: Don't Fall into Iran's Trap - Amos Harel and Yossi Melman
    Israel's chief of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, said Tuesday that he hopes the international community "does not fall into the new trap that Iran has set." "The Iranians want to present the world with a fait accompli, to determine that the debate over enrichment capabilities is behind them, and that enrichment is already being accomplished on Iranian soil," said Yadlin. "The announcements from Tehran are a bargaining chip. They are meant to move the debate to the next point - the extent of enrichment." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Concern Over Secret Iranian Military Nuclear Program - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Israeli Military Intelligence is concerned that Iran could also be simultaneously developing a secret military nuclear program that could be far more advanced than the civilian program.
        Military officials also recently revealed that Iran has in its possession cruise missiles, bought from Ukraine in 2002, which are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead with a 3,000-kilometer range. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iran Has Long-Range Missiles - Amir Rappaport
    Interview with Military Intelligence Chief: The Iranians have procured the North Korean missile called BM-25. We are talking about a long-range missile that will provide Iran with the capability to cover Europe. It comes in two versions - 2,500 kilometer range and 3,500 kilometer range. (Maariv-Hebrew, 12Apr06)
  • UN Restricts Contacts with Hamas-Run PA Government - Edith M. Lederer
    The UN said Tuesday it has ended its policy of unrestricted political contacts with the Palestinians and will now assess every request for political talks with the new Hamas-run government. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, "The issue of political contacts, above and beyond the humanitarian assistance, will be dealt with as they arise...on a case-by-case basis." Dujarric said he joined the U.S., EU, and Russia in demanding that Hamas recognize Israel, accept past Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements, and renounce violence. (Washington Post)
        See also World Bank Faces Dilemma on Hamas Contacts - Lesley Wroughton
    World Bank officials said on Tuesday contact with the new Palestinian government has been "limited" until World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz decides how to proceed. "As long as Hamas is branded by major donors as a terrorist-related organization, it'll be very difficult for the bank staff to proceed, and if they would like to, they will also have to go to the board" of member countries, one senior bank official said. "There is no formal stop in grant disbursements, but they are not going out," he added.
        Bank officials said they were seeking legal advice on whether staff could be indicted under U.S. or other law for collaborating with a terrorist group. "Even as an employee of the World Bank you may have some protection, but you'll think twice before you really engage because you could be indicted in the U.S. or in Europe," said another bank official. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Defense Minister Mofaz: No Quiet in Gaza Unless Quiet in Israel - Amos Harel
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who toured the Gaza border sector on Tuesday, said, "As long as it's not quiet here [in Israel], it won't be quiet there [in Gaza]." A senior IDF officer explained: "The shelling disrupts the movements of the rocket cells. They feel threatened and shoot quickly, without taking aim, in order to flee. That is why a large portion of rockets fired in recent days landed in the sea. We can no longer allow our citizens in settlements around Gaza to be held hostage by terror organizations. That has got to stop. We pulled out of the Gaza Strip. There is no more excuse to fire rockets or place explosive devices near the fence. Nor for sending suicide bombers from Gaza to Israel via Sinai." He added that the Hamas government, unlike its Fatah predecessor, doesn't even condemn the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gazans Urge PA to Stop Rocket Attacks on Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Scores of Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip have appealed to the new PA government to take immediate action to prevent gunmen from firing Kassam rockets from their neighborhoods at Israel, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday. "They are demanding that we issue instructions to the security forces to prevent the rocket attacks," the official said. "But how can we stop the rockets when we don't have control over most of these forces?" (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab Bloc Drops Plan to Seek UN Censure of Israel - Shlomo Shamir
    Arab ambassadors to the UN dropped a plan Tuesday to seek a Security Council condemnation of Israeli military actions in Gaza. Any declaration from the Security Council's president will likely also take into account the recent increase in Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. According to UN sources, the unusual Arab hesitation to push for a condemnation of Israel stems from the belief they wouldn't be able to secure a majority vote in the Security Council. "The Arabs are well aware of the feeling among a large part of the Council, which views harshly the absence of a response on the part of Hamas leaders to Kassam [rocket] attacks on Israel," said a senior Western diplomat. (Ha'aretz)
  • Cash-Strapped Hamas Sends Delegation to Iran
    Hamas sent a delegation to Iran on Tuesday in the hope of securing financial support for the new Palestinian government after major Western donors cut off aid. A senior Hamas official said in February that Iran had agreed to provide the new PA government with enough money to make up for any cuts in foreign aid. (Reuters/Khaleej Times-Dubai)
  • IDF Uncovers Islamic Jihad Explosives Lab - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Israel Defense Forces troops uncovered and then blew up an Islamic Jihad explosives lab near Jenin in the West Bank early Wednesday. The lab contained four explosive devices, 30 kg of explosives, and materials used to prepare explosive devices. Security forces are on high alert ahead of the Passover holiday, with more than 70 warnings of terror attacks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • It Would Be Irresponsible Not to Have Military Plans for Iran - Editorial
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad has an exquisite sense of timing, announcing Tuesday that the Islamic Republic had for the first time enriched uranium to reactor-grade levels. This announcement puts Iran in formal breach of a UN Security Council resolution, and indicates that Iran has the know-how, if not yet the industrial base, to build an atomic bomb. Maybe this will now focus minds on the risk that a repressive regime with huge oil and gas reserves, "revolutionary" ideals, regional ambitions, and a global terrorist network will be in a position to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. It would be irresponsible for the administration not to draw up contingency plans, given the threat Iran increasingly poses. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The West Can't Let Iran Have the Bomb - Con Coughlin
    With each week that passes, Iran's ayatollahs move closer to their goal of building an atom bomb. This is the opinion of the dedicated teams of nuclear experts attached to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, whose task it is to provide a considered judgment to the UN Security Council on the Iranians' ultimate objectives. Nuclear experts at the IAEA now report that Iranian scientists at Natanz - a 250,000-acre complex containing two vast underground bomb-proof bunkers designed for enriching uranium to weapons grade - are taking advantage of the diplomatic stand-off to intensify their efforts to develop the technical capability to enrich uranium.
        The Bush administration is correct in its assessment that, without the threat of serious military action, the Iranians are unlikely to take seriously the West's determination to prevent them acquiring a nuclear arsenal. If the current round of diplomacy is to stand any chance of success, then the Iranians must be made to understand that their prevarication tactics at the UN can no longer be tolerated. For while Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, regards the concept of military action against Iran as "nuts," it would be even nuttier to allow Teheran to have an atom bomb. (Telegraph-UK)
  • World Soccer Body Condemns Israel, Not Hamas - Tom Gross
    FIFA - the supposedly nonpolitical organization that governs soccer - has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in Gaza that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. The field had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad. At the same time, FIFA refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on a soccer field last week at the Karmiya kibbutz in southern Israel. Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, several members of the kibbutz, including a ten-month-old baby, have been wounded after their homes took direct hits from Kassam rockets.
        Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: "We're not going to enter into any political declarations....We are not in politics." (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Will Arab States Underwrite Hamas Government? - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP/San Diego Union Tribune)

    • Arab League official Mohammad Sobeih said no new funds have been sent to the Palestinians since the new government took office, though some nations are paying off previous pledges. He said Algeria sent $37 million to Mahmoud Abbas, bypassing the Hamas-led government.
    • Analysts say Arab states are reluctant in part because they see Hamas as part of a global Islamic movement that is challenging autocratic Arab regimes. "You're talking about a democratically elected Islamic government that is part of the wider Muslim Brotherhood network in the region," said Mouin Rabbani of the International Crisis Group in Amman, Jordan.
    • In addition, the reluctance of Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait to cross the U.S. is another reason for their stinginess. A Jordan-based Arab diplomat said he doubted that oil-rich Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, would step in to make up for the shortfall of Western aid.
    • Even before Hamas rose to power, Arab states had a history of shortchanging the PA. Since 2003, Arab countries have paid just 30% of pledges. Arafat's tilt toward Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Gulf War, and decades-old Palestinian attempts to topple the regimes in Jordan and Lebanon, created bad blood with the Arab world, analysts said.

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