Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 6, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Operatives Working on Adding Toxic Chemicals to Bombs - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas operatives in the West Bank have experimented with adding toxic chemicals to their bombs, security sources said.
    Hamas' West Bank cells include several skilled bombmakers who are investing great effort in trying to upgrade their weapons.
    The organization also is amassing large stocks of explosives so operatives will be ready to launch attacks immediately should its leadership decide to end the security "lull," the sources added.
    A few Hamas cells - mainly around Hebron and Bethlehem - are continuing to carry out small-scale attacks.

IDF: Hamas Behind Rocket Attack on Sderot - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel Defense Forces sources on Thursday said Hamas militants were behind the two Kassam rockets fired on Wednesday which landed near the Sderot house of Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
    Experts say the rockets were of a kind developed by Hamas and have a larger warhead and are more precise than those held by Islamic Jihad.

Hamas Gunmen Shoot Up Palestine TV Office - Avi Issacharoff and Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    Dozens of Hamas gunmen stormed an office of Palestine TV in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis on Monday, firing bullets into broadcasting equipment.
    "Hamas gunmen and members of a back-up force of the Interior Minister...are setting equipment on fire," said Mohammad ad-Dahoudi, director of Palestine Television, which is under the control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.
    The gunmen alleged that the station's reports favored Fatah.

IDF: Hamas Down But Not Out - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The growing anarchy in Gaza and the West Bank has enfeebled Hamas' leadership, senior IDF officers said Monday.
    But while Hamas' decline had created a power vacuum, IDF sources said that Fatah, due to its own power struggles and instability, was incapable of filling the void and retaking the reins.

All Aflutter Over the Flag of England (Sunday Times-UK)
    Police and local councils are waging a war against car-mounted flags of St. George as the debate over their use reaches fever pitch six days before England's first match of the World Cup.
    The Tesco food store chain, which had banned its delivery trucks from flying the flags, fearing they may offend ethnic minorities, was forced into an embarrassing U-turn after public protests.
    Taxi drivers in Brighton and Cheltenham have been banned by their local councils from flying the flag on safety grounds.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas to Call for Referendum - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he will call a referendum on a political plan that would implicitly recognize Israel even though the governing Hamas party firmly opposes such a vote. Abbas' office made the announcement after he failed in last-ditch talks to persuade the Islamic militant group to accept the principle of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Officials have said the referendum would not be binding. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Abbas Extends Referendum Deadline Three Days (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Israel: PA Referendum an Internal Matter - Herb Keinon
    Israel made clear Monday it views the Fatah-Hamas dispute over the proposed referendum on the "prisoner's document" as an internal Palestinian matter that will not change Israel's insistence that the PA fulfill its obligations under the road map before final status talks can begin.
        A senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem said Israel couldn't accept the document, which calls for the "right of return for the refugees and to liberate all prisoners and detainees," but that the paper would be constructive if it helped Abbas change the internal situation in the PA. "This is not the document that will be the basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," the official said. "This document is meant to mend fences among the Palestinians and create a situation where the Palestinians may be able to return to the [negotiating] table."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Tells U.S. NGO to Halt Pro-Democracy Activities
    Egypt has asked an American NGO which promotes democracy to suspend its activities in the country due to interference in Cairo's internal affairs. A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that Egypt has called on the International Republican Institute (IRI) to halt operations in Egypt, after an interview with Gina London, the Cairo head of the IRI, that was critical of the slow pace of reform in Egypt, appeared in the Egyptian daily Nahdet Masr on Saturday. "Talking of the role of the institute in speeding up what she called 'change' is a blatant interference in Egypt's internal affairs," the ministry spokesman said. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Somali Islamists Declare Victory; Warlords on Run - Marc Lacey
    Islamic militias declared Monday that they had taken control of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, defeating the warlords widely believed to be backed by the U.S. The battle for Mogadishu has been a proxy war, of sorts, in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, with the warlords echoing Washington's goal of rooting out radical Islam and the presence of al-Qaeda in the region. (New York Times)
  • Azerbaijanis Stage Protests in Several Cities in Iran
    Azerbaijanis staged protests in the Iranian cities of Tabriz, Sulduz, Miyane, Ardabil, Urmia, and Zenjan on Saturday against the publication of an insulting caricature in the Iran daily. Bloody clashes between police forces and demonstrators were accompanied by gunfire. South Azerbaijan National Revival Movement (SANRM) spokesman Aghri Garadaghli said Iranian law enforcement bodies are using torture on detained Azerbaijani demonstrators, and that four protesters died of severe torture in the past two days. Iran reportedly arrested 1,700 Azerbaijani protesters in Tabriz, 1,500 in Ardabil, and 1,000 in Tehran. (Today.AZ-Azerbaijan)
        See also Domestic Threats to Iranian Stability: Khuzistan and Baluchistan - Michael Rubin (ICA/JCPA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Lands on Child's Bed - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets toward the Western Negev city of Sderot early Tuesday. One rocket landed near a school and a woman passing by sustained light injuries from shrapnel. Another rocket penetrated a home and landed on the bed of one of the children, who had left for school just minutes before. Damage was caused to the house and to a number of parked cars. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Blames Palestinian Government for Woes
    "The Hamas-led government is denying the Palestinian people their wish for a better future," visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch said Sunday. "It is because of the refusal of Hamas to accept the principles of the international community to advance the peace process that the latter is not co-operating with it," he said. "To this day Hamas is not even accepting the Arab League resolution about making peace with Israel, does not recognize Israel, and says violence and terrorism are legitimate resistance." Welch said most Palestinians want peace and accept an Israeli state, "but they are being punished by their own government." He reiterated that the assistance being given to the Palestinian people by the U.S. will continue to go directly to them, and not to the government. (Gulf Times-Qatar)
  • Israel Strikes Palestinian Terrorists - Amos Harel
    An Israel Air Force strike on a car in northern Gaza on Monday evening killed Imad Asaliyah and Majdi Hamad, two operatives of the Popular Resistance Committees involved in Kassam rocket attacks on Israel. Hamad, who was also a member of the PA's Preventive Security service, was involved in two attempts to blow up the Israel-Gaza Karni border crossing in December and April. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beware the Referendum - Brig. Gen. (res.) Moshe Elad
    The "prisoner's document" is uncompromising in its demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 border, including in eastern Jerusalem. There is not even a hint of compromising demands for a right of return to Israel, and above all, it does not explicitly recognize Israel. Hamas views the referendum as a threat, and an anti-democratic stunt on the part of Fatah leader Abbas intended to reverse the election results that brought victory to Hamas. The author, formerly a senior official in the territories, is a researcher at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion. (Ynet News)
        See also Who Wrote the Referendum Plan?
    The prisoners who wrote the plan are among the most dangerous terrorists in Israeli jails, convicted of terror activities that have left a trail of victims. They include Marwan Barghouti, Fatah-Tanzim leader, serving five life sentences for attacks which left five people dead; Sheikh Abdel Khaliq al-Natsche, senior Hamas leader, who ran a network of charities that directly funded Hamas' "military wing"; Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi, who led Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Jenin branch; Abdel Rahim Malouh, formerly no. 2 in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; and Mustafa Badarne of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (
  • How to Boost Middle East Democracy - Dennis Ross
    For President Bush, the long-term answer to competing with the radical Islamists is democracy promotion. But what happens in the short term when elections are held and the Islamists win? Does the Hamas victory in the vote for the Palestine Legislative Council and the successes of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian parliamentary elections threaten the long-term hopes for democracy by electing anti-democrats in the near-term?
        Guidelines that shape U.S. policy toward democracy promotion in the Arab world should include the understanding that elections are part of the process, but should not come first. Given the current environment, we should not be pushing for early elections; we should focus instead on helping secular, moderate alternatives to organize and emphasize fighting corruption and developing the rule of law and good governance in the near term. There should be eligibility requirements when elections are held. Militias and their members should not be allowed to run as parties or to field candidates. It is either ballots or bullets but not both. U.S. and donor aid should be geared toward helping reformers provide services and programs.
        Democracy can neither be imposed nor appear magically overnight in the Arab world. But working to promote democracy is the right course, and there are practical steps that we can take now to move us down the right path and help our natural partners in the region. The writer, a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, is distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Miami Herald)
  • Observations:

    A Legal Case Against Iran - David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey (Washington Post)

    • Last October Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, referred to Israel as a "disgraceful blot" and called for it to be "wiped off the map." Although Ahmadinejad's bellicose statements were condemned by the U.S. and a number of its European allies, the condemnation was not followed up by a concerted diplomatic and legal effort in the UN Security Council.
    • There is a good legal basis for such action. Ahmadinejad's words clearly violate Article 2.4 of the UN Charter, that requires all UN member states to "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Ahmadinejad's specific formulation also clearly entails a threat of committing genocide, which member nations are obliged, under the Genocide Convention, to prevent.
    • Seeking the council's intervention on Iran's illegal threats to use force makes excellent diplomatic sense. It would broaden the international dialogue beyond Tehran's breach of nonproliferation obligations, focusing on the real underlying problem: the bellicose nature of the Iranian regime and the use it might make of nuclear weapons.
    • Demands that Iran withdraw its threat and acknowledge its obligation to peacefully resolve any dispute it may have with Israel would be firmly grounded in international law - so much so that Security Council members Russia and China would be hard-pressed to oppose the effort.
    • If Iran genuinely desires the peaceful atom as an energy source, then it should have no problem retracting its threats against Israel and reaffirming its commitment to resolve any differences it may have with Jerusalem through peaceful means. If it refuses, it will provide compelling evidence that Iran's current government cannot be expected to act as a responsible member of the international community.

      The writers served in the Justice Department during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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