Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 24, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt: Palestinians Trained Sinai Bombers in Gaza (UPI)
    Egypt said Palestinians trained and financed a terrorist group which carried out a series of bombings in the Sinai Peninsula killing more than 120 people.
    A statement released by the Interior Ministry Tuesday said the Egyptian commander of the group who executed the attack on Dahab resort last April, Nasser Khamis, sent the bombers to Gaza for training on arms and explosives.

Egypt Proposes Stationing Troops in Gaza to Stop Clashes (DPA)
    Egypt has suggested stationing Egyptian troops in the Gaza Strip to keep order between the Hamas and Fatah.
    The proposal, put forward by an Egyptian mediator, was initially rejected by both Hamas and Fatah, but on Tuesday officials from both sides were reported to be examining the offer.

Top Al-Qaeda Militant Captured in Jordan (Reuters/Boston Globe)
    Jordanian security forces have arrested a senior al-Qaeda operative thought to be behind kidnappings and killings of foreigners, the state news agency said Monday.
    A security official said the man was an aide to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq.
    The militant was seized during a covert operation conducted by Jordanian secret agents inside Iraq.

Iran Tests Long-Range Missile - Mark Lavie (AP/Washington Post)
    Iran test-fired a Shihab-3 missile with a range of 900 miles, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday.

Owner of Detroit Restaurant Chain Tied to Terror, Prosecutors Say - Niraj Warikoo (Detroit Free Press)
    According to federal prosecutors, the owner of the La Shish chain of restaurants, Talal Chahine, has "connections at the highest levels of...Hizballah."
    In a U.S. District Court filing in Detroit Friday, the government says that in August 2002, Chahine's wife, Elfat El Aouar, and Chahine attended a fund-raiser in Lebanon, at which Chahine and Hizballah's spiritual leader, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, were the keynote speakers.
    Chahine and Fadlallah conferred privately, the government says.
    See also La Shish Suspect Gets Bond - Ronald Hansen (Detroit News)
    Elfat El Aouar, 39, was arrested Thursday on four counts of federal tax evasion.
    Authorities say she and her ex-husband, Talal Khalil Chahine, skimmed about $20 million from the restaurants over five years and funneled it to their native Lebanon.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush, Olmert Discuss Peace, Regional Security - Paula Wolfson
    The search for Middle East peace and the threat to regional security posed by Iran's nuclear intentions topped the agenda when President Bush met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the White House. Prime Minister Olmert came to the White House hoping to win support for his plan to set new borders for the West Bank if negotiations with the Palestinians remain stalled. "We cannot be held hostage by a terrorist entity which refuses to change or to promote dialogue. If we come to the conclusion that no progress is possible, we will be compelled to try a different route," Olmert said. (Voice of America News)
        See also below Observations - Bush: We Seek Negotiated Agreement between Israel and Palestinians (White House)
  • House Votes 361-37 to Limit Palestinian Aid - Vicki Allen
    The U.S. House of Representatives voted 361-37 on Tuesday to impose broad restrictions on U.S. aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Backers of the bill said it was needed to keep any U.S. funds from supporting Hamas, a militant group pledged to the destruction of Israel and deemed a terrorist organization by Washington. The administration has cut off direct aid to the Hamas-led government, but the bill would put into law more sweeping bans. The bill calls for the Palestinian Authority to be designated a "terrorist sanctuary," and bans visas for entry into the U.S. of any official or member of the PA. It also recommends withholding U.S. contributions to the UN proportional to the amount the world body provides the PA. Under the bill, aid would be restored if Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist, renounces terrorism, and disarms.
        Rep. Tom Lantos of California, top International Relations Committee Democrat and the bill's co-sponsor, said instead of punishing Palestinians, the bill was "carefully crafted and aimed at Hamas." "The United States must make it unambiguously clear that we will not support a terrorist regime," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • Former Political Enemies Join to Push for Change in Syria - Hassan M. Fattah
    As exiles, Abdel Halim Khaddam, Syria's former vice president, and Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, are partners in a long-term plan to bring change to Syria. The men tied their fates together in March, forming the National Salvation Front, an unlikely political alliance with the dual goals of unifying Syria's fractious opposition and reassuring insiders fearful of change. That each claims a following and influence in different parts of Syrian society gives the alliance a unique potential that Syria's opposition has never had, many experts agree. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Gaza Stocking Arms - Ilan Marciano
    Ever since the Israeli pullout from Gush Katif and Gaza last summer, one-and-a-half tons of explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, a senior IDF Operations Branch officer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. "Gaza is arming itself," the officer stated, adding that the army was aware of 12 Grad-type Katyusha rockets smuggled into Gaza, as well as dozens of RPGs and other rockets. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Seeking Technological Solutions to Palestinian Rocket Fire - Gideon Alon
    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that he would not recommend conquering Gaza in response to the escalation in Kassam rocket attacks on Israeli communities. He said the defense establishment is making a great effort to find technological solutions to better contend with Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, 72% of which land within Israel. Halutz added that 50% of the 38 terrorists killed by the IDF in recent months were engaged in rocket launches on Israel. A senior Military Intelligence officer said that Islamic Jihad operatives are the only ones currently firing rockets at Israel and dispatching suicide missions out of the West Bank. Halutz confirmed that "Islamic Jihad is in distress because of the pressure the IDF is exerting on it." (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas-Fatah Clash Involves PA Foreign Minister - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar arrived Tuesday at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on his way to an Asian tour. According to one eyewitness, a PA policeman "went up to his [Zahar's] car and asked him whether he was traveling abroad to bring money. Zahar was deeply offended by the question, opened the window of the back door, and spat in the face of the policeman. It was a very embarrassing situation." Following the incident, scores of Hamas gunmen blocked the main entrance to the border crossing, preventing travelers from crossing into Egypt. They demanded that the policeman who had offended Zahar be handed over, but were turned down. Senior PA security officers at the terminal later apologized to Zahar and told him that the policeman had been suspended.
        Meanwhile, the director-general of Palestine TV, Muhammad Dahoudi, said he and his staff had received death threats after airing footage of Monday's clashes in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in which a Jordanian embassy driver was killed. Hamas leaders accused the Fatah-controlled Palestine TV of inciting against Hamas by reporting that the driver was killed by Hamas gunfire. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Iraq Strategy: Tehran Could Retaliate by Striking Next Door - Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh
    From the moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the U.S. will be at war with the Islamic Republic. The most likely theater of operations in the initial stages of a U.S.-Iranian conflict would be next door - in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran has methodically built and strengthened its military, political, and religious influence in Iraq. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has extensively infiltrated Iraq's Ministry of the Interior and police force, both mainstays of Shiite power. (Washington Post)
  • Cutting Off Hamas - Vincent Carroll
    It wasn't a close vote Tuesday in the House of Representatives - 361-37 - but there is no reason it should have been, either, given the subject at hand: terrorists in charge of the Palestinian Authority. The House vote (and the Senate's when it comes) signals that U.S. refusal to deal with Hamas until it disarms and recognizes the existence of its neighbor is not a passing whim of a supposedly hard-line administration. It will remain permanent U.S. policy. (Denver Rocky Mountain News)
  • Architect of New War on the West - Craig Whitlock
    Spanish-Syrian al-Qaeda strategist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, one of the jihad movement's prime theorists for the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world who was arrested last October, published thousands of pages of Internet tracts on how small teams of Islamic extremists could wage a decentralized global war against the U.S. and its allies. Counterterrorism officials and analysts see Nasar's theories in action in major terrorist attacks in Casablanca in 2003, Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In each case, the perpetrators organized themselves into local, self-sustaining cells that acted on their own but also likely accepted guidance from visiting emissaries of the global movement. Nasar's masterwork, a 1,600-page volume titled The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance, has been circulating on websites for 18 months. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Bush: We Seek Negotiated Agreement between Israel and Palestinians (White House)

    After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert at the White House Tuesday, President Bush said:

    • "I believe, and Prime Minister Olmert agrees, that a negotiated final status agreement best serves both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the cause of peace."
    • "The United States and the international community have made clear that Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, must abandon terror, and must accept all previous agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. No country can be expected to make peace with those who deny its right to exist and who use terror to attack its population."
    • "How can you have two states, side-by-side in peace, if one of the partners does not recognize the other state's right to exist?"
    • "Prime Minister Olmert shared with me some of his ideas - I would call them bold ideas. These ideas could lead to a two-state solution if a pathway to progress on the road map is not open in the period ahead."
    • "I look forward to learning more about the prime minister's ideas. While any final status agreement will be only achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes, and no party should prejudice the outcome of negotiations on a final status agreement, the prime minister's ideas could be an important step toward the peace we both support."
    • "Finally, the prime minister and I shared our concerns about the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons ambitions....We're determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons. I told the prime minister what I've stated publicly before: Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid."

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