Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 15, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Pakistan's Former Army Chief to Iran: Take Israel Hostage - Kathy Gannon (AP/Boston Globe)
    Pakistan's former army chief says Iranian officials came to him in January for advice on heading off an attack on their nuclear facilities, and he in effect advised them to take a hostage - Israel.
    Retired Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg said he suggested their government "make it clear that if anything happens to Iran, if anyone attacks it...that Iran's answer will be to hit Israel; the only target will be Israel."
    Beg also advised them to "attempt to degrade the defense systems of Israel," and harass it through the Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority and the Hizballah movement in Lebanon.

Jordan Demands Hamas Search for Hidden Weapons (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said Sunday that Jordan "would like the Palestinian government to send a security team...capable of disclosing additional information and other hidden weapons...which threaten [Jordanian] national security," rejecting an offer by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar to visit the kingdom.

Abbas Aides Fear Islamic Jihad Assassination Plot - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinian security services recently obtained intelligence information regarding plans by Islamic Jihad to assassinate PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
    Sources close to Abbas reported that Islamic Jihad operatives plan to kill Abbas by means of a car booby-trapped with a large amount of explosives.

Fatah-Hamas Split Seen in Gaza Mosques - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Fatah sympathizers in Gaza have begun boycotting Hamas-controlled mosques.
    On Friday, thousands of worshipers refused to enter the Farouk Mosque in Nusseirat in central Gaza, saying the preacher was planning to verbally attack PA Chairman Abbas.
    The Fatah supporters prayed in the streets while their Hamas rivals prayed inside the mosque.
    Preachers at Friday prayers often target Israel, the U.S., and corruption in the PA.
    Maher Miqdad, a Fatah spokesman, accused Hamas of using the mosques to incite against political rivals. "Some of them have even been calling for the elimination of their opponents, whom they describe as apostates and infidels," he said.

Gunmen Raze Gaza Hothouses - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Several greenhouses belonging to the former settlement of Morag in the Gaza Strip were destroyed over the weekend during an attempt by dozens of gunmen to take control of the area.
    The Palestinian Company for Economic Development, which is in charge of thousands of greenhouses that used to belong to Gush Katif, revealed that hundreds of greenhouses and other agricultural installations have been sabotaged over the past few months.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Envoys Say Enriched Uranium Found in Iran - George Jahn
    UN inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research center at Lavizan-Shian linked to the military, diplomats said Friday. Because Iran has previously denied conducting enrichment-related activities at the site, the mere fact the traces came from there bolsters arguments that it has hidden parts of a program that can create the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Olmert to Meet Bush, Warned Not to Ask for Withdrawal Aid - Eli Lake
    White House and National Security Council aides last week discreetly passed messages to some Jewish leaders urging that Prime Minister Olmert's first visit with President Bush, scheduled for May 23, should focus primarily on large strategic questions and not on the details of a proposed aid package to defray the cost of withdrawal from the West Bank. Since last fall Israeli officials and some pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington have quietly worked together on a supplemental aid request to defray the $1 to $2 billion Israel spent on dismantling settlements from Gaza and relocating its citizens who had lived there. Rough estimates from the Olmert camp suggest the cost of the prime minister's consolidation plan for the West Bank would be ten times that of Gaza. (New York Sun)
        The U.S. administration wants Olmert to try to restart talks with PA Chairman Abbas before going ahead with any unilateral measures. According to Israeli sources, both Israel and the U.S. know that any such efforts will get nowhere, but it is important to the Americans to show their international allies that Israel is trying to talk with the Palestinians. Israel fears a situation in which talks with Abbas could translate into a suspension of international efforts to isolate the Hamas government. (Ha'aretz)
  • Pitfalls Await Quartet Plan to Aid Palestinians - Adam Entous
    Plans by Middle East mediators to avert a Palestinian financial collapse will likely take weeks to finalize, as Western diplomats noted U.S. objections to including salary payments as part of the new aid program. One of the diplomats working on the mechanism said he did not expect the new Quartet program to be up and running before the end of June. As currently envisaged, a European-backed plan to set up a trust fund for aid through the office of Mahmoud Abbas would, at most, pay salaries to health and education workers, only a quarter of the PA's 165,000 workforce. But U.S. officials recently told Abbas that Washington opposed paying any salaries, even through his office.
        David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, "A Hamas government that is sworn to destroy its neighbor has no claim or entitlement upon international funds and the U.S. will not back paying regular salaries and have business as usual." (Reuters)
  • U.S. Teen Dies Following Tel Aviv Bombing
    Daniel Wultz, 16, of Weston, Fla., who was wounded in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on April 17, died Sunday from his injuries. Wultz's death brought the number of those killed in the attack to 11. Wultz came to Israel with his parents to visit relatives on Passover. According to the U.S. Embassy, more than 200 American citizens have been killed or wounded in terrorist attacks in Israel since 1992. (AP/ABC News)
        See also A Promising Young Life Prematurely Committed to Sand - Steven Erlanger
    They buried Lior Anidzar on Sunday. He was 26, married two weeks. On April 17 he wanted to take his wife, Maya, to lunch near where she worked, but she was busy. So he went to the restaurant where a suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad blew himself up. Anidzar held on for a month, then died on Saturday.
        At the funeral, the former chief rabbi of Israel and now chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel Meir Lau, shouted, "Who are these savages who do these things, and no one takes the hand outstretched for peace? Heaven is not for such people. For what do they give their lives? To kill innocents? This is religion? No, this is a distortion of all mercy and all religious feeling, and I want the Muslim clerics to tell the truth, that murder doesn't bring paradise." (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Most Wanted Islamic Jihad Terrorist Killed in West Bank
    Special IDF units operating in Kabatiya near Jenin on Sunday killed five Palestinians including top Islamic Jihad terrorist Elias Ashkar, behind all of the Islamic Jihad suicide attacks during the past year. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed Sunday that Ashkar assembled the explosives belt used in the Tel Aviv suicide bombing last month. He planned the Stage nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed four; two suicide bombings in Netanya, which killed eight; and a suicide bombing in Hadera in October, in which five Israelis were killed. In total, he was accountable for the murder of nearly 40 Israelis, and was in the midst of planning a suicide attack against Israel in the coming weeks. He received funding directly from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Uncovers Explosive Belt in Nablus - Efrat Weiss
    Soldiers from a special IDF unit in Nablus on Saturday uncovered an explosive belt weighing 7-10 kilograms in a Palestinian car. It was destined to be used in a terror attack in Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Navy Intercepts Ship Carrying Explosives Off Gaza Coast
    The Israel Navy on Sunday intercepted a Palestinian boat near Gaza carrying about 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of TNT and parts of mines, and additional bags of explosives had been thrown overboard as the naval boat approached, Col. Yoram Lachs told Channel 2 TV. According to the Israel Defense Forces, since the disengagement from Gaza last year, Palestinians have intensified efforts to smuggle explosives into the area. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's False Prophet - Youssef Ibrahim
    If intelligence organizations are doing their work, their agents ought to be reporting that most Iranians think their president is a rather simpleminded fanatic, not someone to be taken seriously. Those cunning Grand Ayatollahs - while silent for the moment - are not at all amused by Ahmadinejad's shenanigans. As with his predecessor, Mohammed Khatemi, a man intensely disliked by the ayatollahs, their strategy is to give the president a rope with which to hang himself. Ahmadinejad may be unbalanced, but his elders are not. They recognize that their whole country will be destroyed if they ever use, or almost use, a weapon of mass destruction.
        I lived there as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times before, during, and after the revolution of 1979 and have visited at least 20 times since. A closer look will reveal a citizenry far more eager to go forward with economic development than follow Ahmadinejad to any war, especially one against America or Israel. The Grand Ayatollahs know Iran would not stand a chance in any nuclear confrontation, but they would like to milk the tension for all it is worth.
        Instead of saber-rattling, now is a time to divide and conquer. Iran wants to be recognized as a power in the Persian Gulf, which it already is. In return, the Grand Ayatollahs would gladly serve up Ahmadinejad for dessert. American, Israeli, and European policy-makers should help them make the move. (New York Sun)
  • Understanding Ahmadinejad's Letter to Bush - Amir Taheri
    In Tehran, the Persian text of Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush has become a favorite topic at dinner table conversations and is often the source of much mirth because of its flowery style, its numerous spelling and grammatical errors and, above all, the insight it offers into the mind of a man who clearly sees himself as an agent of the Hidden Imam in hastening the end of the "Infidel" domination of the world.
        Ahmadinejad's move fits into a 14-century-long Muslim tradition, initiated by the Prophet Muhammad himself, of writing letters to "the rulers of the world." In 625 AD, he dictated letters to the Persian king, Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium, and the Ethiopian monarch Negus. To each, the prophet's offer was simple: Convert to Islam or face its sword. Rather than ignoring Ahmadinejad's letter, President Bush should reply to him by inviting him to abandon Khomeinism and convert to liberal democracy. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Isolating Hamas - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • Hamas is not trying to escape its isolation by meeting the demands of the international community. It has made no move toward recognizing Israel's right to exist, accepting previous agreements made with Israel, or committing to, let alone abiding by, the Quartet's road map.
    • What Hamas is doing is hoping that it can use the suffering of the Palestinian people - the same people who presumably chose Hamas because they were so tired of PA corruption and anarchy - to pry open Western coffers without compromising one wit.
    • So far, the U.S., Europe, and Israel are together on making a clear distinction between direct, strictly defined, humanitarian assistance to Palestinians and helping Hamas out of its box. This means providing medicines through international organizations, as Israel has announced it is willing to do with some of the suspended Palestinian tax transfers. For the Quartet it may mean paying PA health workers salaries, but not through the PA itself.
    • What it clearly should not mean is taking over, either directly or indirectly, the PA's vast patronage payroll, including tens of thousands of "security forces" and other employees.

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