Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 17, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

New Worry Rises After Iran Claims Nuclear Steps - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    Western analysts long suspected that Iran had a second, secret program separate from the activity at its main nuclear facility at Natanz.
    Then on Thursday, Ahmadinejad said that Tehran was "presently conducting research" on the advanced P-2 centrifuge, boasting that it would quadruple Iran's enrichment powers.
    If Iran moved beyond research and actually began running the machines, it could force American intelligence agencies to revise their estimates of how long it would take for Iran to build an atom bomb.

    See also Iran Expanding, Reinforcing Atomic Sites - Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
    New satellite imagery indicates Iran has expanded its uranium conversion site at Isfahan and reinforced its Natanz underground uranium enrichment plant against possible military strikes, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a U.S. think tank, said.
    "Iran is taking extraordinary precautions to try to protect its nuclear assets," said ISIS head David Albright, an ex-UN arms inspector and nuclear expert.

    See also Iran Raises Efforts to Obtain U.S. Arms Illegally - John Pomfret (Washington Post)
    The Iranian government has intensified efforts to illegally obtain weapons technology from the U.S., seeking spare parts to maintain its aging American-made air force planes, its missile forces, and its nuclear weapons program, according to federal law enforcement authorities.

Israel Campus Beat
- April 16, 2006

Point Counter-Point:
    Prospects for a Renewed Peace Process?

Ahmadinejad's Demons - Matthias Kuntzel (New Republic)
    During the Iran-Iraq War, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines where they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies.
    They were part of the Basiji, a mass movement started to supplement the army.
    Ahmadinejad reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War. He regularly appears in public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf and, in his speeches, he routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power."
    The Basiji's cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse.
    Nowadays, Basij students are encouraged to enroll in technical and scientific disciplines.

Iran Suicide Bombers "Ready to Hit Britain" - Marie Colvin, Michael Smith, and Sarah Baxter (Times-UK)
    Iran has formed battalions of suicide bombers to strike at British and American targets if the nation's nuclear sites are attacked.
    According to Iranian officials, 40,000 trained suicide bombers are ready for action.
    Last month, members of the Special Unit of Martyr Seekers in the Revolutionary Guards marched in a military parade, dressed in uniforms with explosive packs around their waists and detonators held high.
    At a recruiting station in Tehran recently, volunteers ticked a box stating whether they would prefer to attack American targets in Iraq or Israeli targets.

Passover Tourism to Israel Up 20% (Ha'aretz)
    About 90,000 foreign tourists are expected to visit Israel during Passover week, a 20% increase over last Passover, according to Tourism Ministry figures.

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  • Tehran Hosts Conference in Support of Palestinians - Bill Samii
    Tehran hosted a "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conference on April 14-16, the third time it has organized the conference. Through its activism on this issue, Iran is portraying itself as a committed leader - more Palestinian than the Arabs, and more Muslim than the Sunnis.
        U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to Iran on March 9 as "a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions, like Lebanon, through Hizballah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian territories, and we have deep concern about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq." The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a "state sponsor" of terrorism since 1984, and it lists Hamas, Hizballah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as "terrorist organizations" backed by Iran. (Radio Free Europe)
        See also Iran Leader: Israel Will Be Annihilated in One Storm - Tim Butcher
    President Ahmadinejad of Iran appeared to threaten Israel with a nuclear attack on Friday when he described it as a "rotten, dried tree" that would be annihilated by "one storm." In his most vitriolic and anti-Semitic attack to date at the opening of a conference in Tehran to support the Palestinian cause, Ahmadinejad warned that Israel faced imminent destruction. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Hamas Leader Mashaal: We'll Never Recognize Israel - Roee Nahmias
    Speaking in Tehran, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal warned Saturday that "the Palestinians will never recognize Israel." Mashaal also congratulated the Iranian people on the progress in their nuclear ambitions. (Ynet News)
        See also Iran to Give PA $50 Million
    Iran will give the PA $50 million in aid, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki announced Sunday. (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S. Steps Up Financial Pressure on Hamas - Josef Federman
    The U.S. government barred Americans from doing most business with the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, officials said Friday. The U.S. Treasury Department said, "transactions with the Palestinian Authority by U.S. persons are prohibited, unless licensed," basing the decision on "existing terrorism sanctions." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Aid Workers Fear America Now Sees Them as Terrorists - Tim Butcher
    America's decision to outlaw contact between its officials and the Palestinian government because it is run by Hamas, a terrorist group in Washington's eyes, has alarmed the aid community. Aid workers are worried that if they carry on working in the territories they will be in breach of strict U.S. laws that make it a crime to provide "material support" for known terrorist groups. Many of the aid workers fear arrest by U.S. authorities and even the sequestration of funds held in American bank accounts. Many aid groups have cut back operations dramatically and a senior aid source said all major projects were now on hold. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in U.S. - Julia Preston
    Two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up on a Jerusalem boulevard where an American college student, Jason Kirschenbaum, was strolling one night in December 2001. The blast shattered his left arm and hammered chunks of metal into his leg. But at least, he says, it left him alive. Five months later, a suicide bomb blast hurled Gloria Kushner, a nurse, against a stand in an outdoor market, wrenching her spine. They are Americans who went to Israel and came home with enduring wounds after they were caught in attacks claimed by Hamas. They are among some 50 Americans - either survivors or relatives of people killed in attacks - who have filed multimillion dollar suits in federal court in Brooklyn against three prominent international banks, Arab Bank, NatWest, and Credit Lyonnais.
        The first was filed in July 2004 against Arab Bank, based in Jordan, which with $27 billion in assets is a leading financial institution in the Middle East. It is accused of moving money from the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds, a private charity in Saudi Arabia, to Hamas front organizations. (New York Times)
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  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Kibbutz Dining Hall - Tova Dadon
    A Kassam rocket launched by Palestinians in Gaza landed near the dining hall in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai south of Ashkelon on Friday while it was crowded with kibbutz members having Sabbath dinner with guests. Damage was caused to the building. Palestinian sources reported that Islamic Jihad was behind the strike. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas in a Panic - Danny Rubinstein
    The Hamas leadership is in a panic. Just two weeks have elapsed since the government headed by Ismail Haniyeh was sworn in and it appears helpless. Embittered cops rampaged Saturday through the streets of Khan Yunis, commandeered parliament offices, and blocked traffic. Associates of PA chairman Abbas have estimated that the Hamas government will fall within a matter of weeks or months. The question is what will take its place? (Ha'aretz)
        See also Rallying Around Hamas - Danny Rubinstein
    A few of the Arab states pay lip service to Hamas in the form of empty declarations of support, but everyone knows that they, too, want to bring down this government because its success would send a clear message of encouragement to the Islamic opposition in all Arab states.
        The Hamas government may fall, but that will not greatly harm the Hamas movement. Just the opposite. It will increase support for the movement among Palestinians. The only candidates for replacing the Hamas government are the Fatah activists, but the clear impression in the territories today is that the public will not let them do so. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinians Confused, Again - Yigal Walt
    Had the Palestinians possessed a better understanding of "democracy," they would realize that the world, led by the U.S. and Europe, has very much "respected" the Palestinian people's choice - and is now acting accordingly. Hamas leaders are members of an organization committed to the destruction of another country, and have refused to clearly declare they would recognize Israel and put an end to terror attacks. Add to that the Palestinians' poor track record when it comes to diverting aid money to "other purposes" ("Suha Arafat's millions," anyone?), and it appears a tougher international approach is an obvious necessity.
        Indeed, the world has fully "respected and recognized" Hamas' election victory as a legitimate democratic triumph - and has changed its policies in a way that reflects an intimate familiarity with Hamas' nature. Being led by a terror organization is not bound to arouse favorable response abroad in the post-September 11 world, a bitter fact the PA is discovering all too well these days. (Ynet News)
  • The Pentagon Preps for Iran - William M. Arkin
    Does the U.S. have a war plan for stopping Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons? The diplomatic effort directed at Iran would be mightily enhanced if that country understood that the U.S. is so serious about deterring the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons that it would be willing to go to war to stop that quest from reaching fruition. Iran needs to understand that the U.S. isn't hamstrung by a lack of options. It needs to realize that it can't just stonewall and evade its international obligations, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes that it will "win" merely because war is messy.
        Iran controls the two basic triggers that could set off U.S. military action. The first would be its acquisition of nuclear capability in defiance of the international community. The second trigger would be Iran's lashing out militarily (or through proxy terrorism) at the U.S. or its allies, or closing the Strait of Hormuz to international oil traffic. (Washington Post)
  • The Frightening Truth of Why Iran Wants a Bomb - Amir Taheri
    Last Monday, just before he announced that Iran had gatecrashed "the nuclear club," President Ahmadinejad disappeared for several hours. He was having a khalvat (tete-a-tete) with the Hidden Imam, the 12th and last of the imams of Shiism who went into "grand occultation" in 941. Last year, after another khalvat, Ahmadinejad announced his intention to stand for president. Now, he boasts that the Imam gave him the presidency to provoke a "clash of civilizations" in which the Muslim world, led by Iran, takes on the "infidel" West, led by the U.S., and defeats it in a prolonged contest that sounds like a low intensity, asymmetrical war.
        While Bush is determined to create a Middle East that is democratic and pro-Western, Ahmadinejad is equally determined that the region should remain pro-Iranian. Ahmadinejad has reactivated Iran's network of Shia organizations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Yemen, while resuming contact with Sunni fundamentalist groups in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco. The Imam's return will coincide with an apocalyptic battle between the forces of evil and righteousness, with evil ultimately routed. If the infidel loses its nuclear advantage, it could be worn down in a long, low-intensity war at the end of which surrender to Islam would appear the least bad of options. And that could be a signal for the Imam to reappear. The writer is a former executive editor of Kayhan, Iran's largest daily newspaper. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    Zero Tolerance - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)

    • Only a decisive move by the new Hamas government against the cells launching the Kassam rockets will cause Israel to end its military campaign against them. "When it comes to terror from Gaza, we have to set a zero-tolerance threshold," said Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Operations Branch in the IDF General Staff, last week. "It seems insane to me to let them thrive and flourish when they are firing rockets at us."
    • The PA now has full physical control in the Gaza Strip, and as far as Israel is concerned, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza deprived the Palestinians of any excuse for firing at the Negev. Israel is demanding the Hamas government accept full responsibility and maintain total quiet. And as Israel is permitted to react from its own territory to Hizballah attacks from Lebanon - and with all due force - so, too, can it react to rocket attacks from Gaza.
    • "We shouldn't find ourselves in the situation that existed in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Gilo, when it took us a year and a half to understand that it was not possible to accept daily firing on civilians," Eisenkot said.
    • "I estimate that in this round, they [Hamas] will step hard on the brakes. The heads of Hamas are capable of doing so...and they have additional obligations to uphold: providing basic security to citizens, ending the anarchy in the streets, paying salaries, when there is not yet anywhere to take the money from. They need some time and quiet right now, in order to bring about stability in the domestic arena within the Palestinian Authority and to gain control of the positions of power."
    • Eisenkot does not believe there will be any ideological turnaround in Hamas, but does feel the organization will carry out the "requisite ideological adjustments" to survive and rescue the PA from its economic crisis. "They don't see things in our timeframe - in the here and now - but in the longer term, of decades and centuries."

          See also Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Harel: "We Are at War" - Yaakov Katz
      "We are at war," declares Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Harel, head of the IDF's Planning Directorate, who is retiring in a few months after 31 years of military service. The PA, he says, has been taken over by a group of Hamas terrorists and murderers, and the IDF's current operation against Kassam rocket fire in the Gaza Strip is no different from a war. "Eventually, there will be no Kassam fire. The question is how many steps we need to climb before we get there....The main question is: When will the Palestinians decide that it is no longer worth it for them to continue firing the rockets?" (Jerusalem Post)

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