Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 26, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Al-Aksa Brigades Claims Chemical Capabilities - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    In a leaflet distributed in Gaza Sunday, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades of PA Chairman Abbas' Fatah Party announced that it had succeeded in manufacturing chemical and biological weapons after a three-year effort.
    The group said it would add the new weapons to Kassam rockets that are being fired at Israeli communities almost every day, and threatened to use the weapons against IDF soldiers.

Video Shows Execution of Three Russian Diplomats by al-Qaeda Terror Group (AP/Fox News)
    A video posted on the Internet shows the graphic killings of three Russian diplomats kidnapped in Iraq, and says an al-Qaeda umbrella group has killed four hostages.
    The video, posted on an Islamic website, showed the beheading of one blindfolded man, the headless body of another in a pool of blood, and the shooting of a third man.
    The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization linking seven insurgent groups including Al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility.
    The four Russian embassy workers were abducted on June 3 after an attack on their car in Baghdad.

Suspected Al-Qaeda Aide Leads Somali Group - Salad Duhul (AP/Washington Post)
    Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a fundamentalist Muslim listed by the U.S. State Department as a suspected al-Qaeda collaborator, was named Saturday as the new leader of an Islamic militia that has seized control of Somalia's capital.
    The conservative Somali group al-Itihaad al-Islaami and its founder, Aweys, were featured on the list for their links to bin Laden while he was living in Sudan in the early 1990s.

Survey: Muslims "Still in Denial" about 9/11 - Meg Bortin (New York Times)
    Majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, and Turkey - Muslim countries with fairly strong ties to America - do not believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, according to the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Project.

14 Saudis Released from Guantanamo - Tim Ahmann (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Fourteen Saudi Arabian nationals held at Guantanamo Bay were sent home on Saturday, the Pentagon said.

Episcopalians Curb Anti-Israel Rhetoric - George Conger (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. Episcopal Church has taken a significant pro-Israel turn at its 75th General Convention held in Columbus, Ohio, on June 12-21, joining the Presbyterians in abandoning pro-Palestinian rhetoric and adopting a resolution repudiating anti-Jewish interpretations of the New Testament.

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  • Palestinian Terrorists Tunnel Under Gaza Border into Israel, Kill Two IDF Soldiers and Kidnap One - Steven Erlanger
    Palestinian militants, including those belonging to the ruling Hamas faction, emerged from a long tunnel dug 300 yards into Israel on Sunday morning, killed two soldiers, wounded three, and kidnapped a fourth wounded soldier at an Israeli military post near the Gaza border. Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was the first Israeli soldier kidnapped in more than a decade. A spokesman for Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, defended the attack on the Arab television channel Al Jazeera. Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "What part of Hamas is responsible is irrelevant. Hamas as an organization has endorsed it. And maybe for those in the international community who are talking about whether there is a new, pragmatic Hamas, this is a wakeup call." Regev added: "Abu Mazen [Abbas] goes to foreign capitals and says, 'I'm the partner you want. I'm the address.' But if he's not a partner in stopping violence, how can he be a partner for peace?" (New York Times)
        See also How the Attack Happened (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Launches Rare Arrest Raid in Gaza - Robert Berger
    Israeli commandos Saturday stormed into southern Gaza, scaled the walls of a home, and nabbed two wanted Palestinian militants. The army said they were members of the Islamic militant group, Hamas, who were planning a major attack against Israel. Hamas now controls the Palestinian Authority, but Israeli spokesman Ra'anan Gissin says that does not mean that the group has immunity. "You can rest assured that we will pay house calls to anyone who is involved in terrorist activity, that these crimes against humanity conducted by the official Palestinian government will not go unanswered," he said. (VOA News)
  • Senate Votes to Block Aid to Palestinians
    The Senate voted Friday to block U.S. aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government and ban contacts with Hamas until the organization renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist. The legislation, approved by voice vote, is similar to a bill the House passed last month, but would give the president greater authority over the use of sanctions. (AP/Fox News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Alerted to Possible Tunnel Attack - Hanan Greenberg
    The IDF's preliminary investigation into the attack by Palestinian gunmen at the Sufa crossing in southern Gaza on Sunday that killed Lt. Hanan Barak and Sgt. Pavel Slocker found that the opening of the underground tunnel used by the terrorists to infiltrate Israel was deep into Israeli territory, so that while soldiers monitored the Gaza border, the gunmen attacked them from behind. In recent weeks the IDF dug numerous holes in the area in search of underground tunnels, apparently guided by an intelligence alert. "The terrorists came out of the tunnel dressed in olive-colored garb" (similar to Israeli army uniforms), a senior officer in the Gaza Division said.
        A few hours before the attack, the IDF evacuated soldiers from a nearby base due to concerns that a tunnel was being dug nearby that terrorists would use to perpetrate an attack. (Ynet News)
  • Fatah Blames Hamas in Syria for Attack - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The attack on the IDF post near the Gaza border was carried out on instructions from the Hamas leadership in Syria, Fatah officials claimed on Sunday. As news of the attack spread, many Gaza residents took to the streets to express their joy. Drivers honked their horns and some merchants and gunmen distributed sweets. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: Abu Samhadana Planned Attack - Josh Brannon
    The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported Monday that the attack on IDF forces Sunday had been planned by Popular Resistance Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was killed on June 9 in an airstrike. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Weighs Reaction to Kidnapping - Ronny Sofer
    During a security cabinet meeting convened by Prime Minister Olmert Sunday it was decided not to deal with an immediate military response in Gaza, but to first focus on the safe return of the kidnapped soldier. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas: "If We Want to, We'll Kill Abbas" - Amit Cohen
    According to documents seen by Maariv, Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, phoned Yasser Mansour, the head of Hamas in Nablus and a member of the PA parliament, earlier this month during a meeting of the Hamas leadership in Nablus. Mashaal instructed Mansour to prevent Abbas' referendum at any price. In addition, Mashaal requested the formation of special units to kidnap rival Fatah leaders if necessary.
        At another meeting, Adnan Asfor, spokesman for Hamas in the West Bank, discussed reports that Abbas' personal guard had received 3,000 new M16 rifles: "Abbas can put an F-16 plane in front of his house, but if we want to kill him, we'll kill him." (Maariv-Hebrew, 23Jun06)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is Abbas the Address for Negotiations? - Ze'ev Schiff
    Can Israel negotiate with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas when he is incapable of preventing Palestinian attacks on Israel? If he is incapable of preventing continued violence, it is doubtful whether there is a reason or purpose in conducting negotiations with him. We must recognize that Israel is facing an outlaw Palestinian entity that has many addresses. Hamas also has many addresses, including one in Damascus. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Stop Talking about "Strengthening" Abbas - Danny Rubinstein
    Each time Israel announces it is doing something to strengthen Abbas, the result is that he is weakened. He is portrayed among the Palestinian public as a puppet of Israel which is using him to punish Hamas. When Israel announced it had decided to allow the transfer of arms to Abbas' supporters in the PA, by receiving arms through Israel, Abbas was portrayed by his rivals as a collaborator. (Ha'aretz)
  • Wary of U.S., Syria and Iran Strengthen Ties - Michael Slackman
    For a long time, the top-selling poster in Hassan al-Sheikh's gift shop in Syria showed President Bashar al-Assad of Syria seated beside the leader of Hizballah in Lebanon. A few weeks ago a different poster overtook it, with the Syrian president, the Hizballah leader, and Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sheikh's shop is beside the entrance to a Shiite shrine packed with Iranian pilgrims, many more than in years past. Iran and Syria are tightening relations on several fronts as power in the region shifts away from the once-dominant Sunni to Shiites, led by Iran.
        Spurred by the growing belief in Arab capitals that the Bush administration may soon negotiate a deal with Tehran over Iraq and nuclear weapons, Arab governments once hostile to Iran have begun to soften their public posture after decades of animosity toward Tehran. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt met Iran's national security chief, Ali Larijani, in Cairo recently, and Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, visited Tehran this month and declared the two nations to be good friends. (New York Times)
  • After Londonistan - Christopher Caldwell
    Today, Britain has more than a million and a half Muslims. A million live in London, where they make up an eighth of the population. They are not just the refugees and tempest-tossed laborers of the developing world, large though those groups may be. London's West End is full of Saudi princes and financiers, and journalists and politicians from around the Arab world; its East End is home to erudite theologians from the Indian subcontinent, along with some unhinged ones. In the 1980s and 90s, a hands-off government allowed London to become a haven for radicals and a center for calls to jihad. Culturally and politically (and theologically and gastronomically), London ranks among the capitals of the Muslim world and is certainly its chief point of contact with the United States and the rest of the West.
        Since last July 7, when four young British Muslims took their own lives and those of 52 others on London's public-transport system, getting information out of the city's various Muslim communities has become a desperate preoccupation of British law enforcement. (New York Times Magazine)
  • Observations:

    Will There Be a Palestinian Civil War? - Pinhas Inbari
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The June 25 Palestinian attack from the Gaza Strip on an IDF military post inside Israel is directly connected to the Hamas-Fatah struggle over the "Prisoners Document," which may be put to a Palestinian referendum. The core of that document calls for the unification of all armed factions to carry out joint operations against Israel. What remains in dispute is who exactly will lead the new unified front. Essentially, Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas' Damascus-based political bureau, is telling Fatah that it will not determine for the Palestinians how to conduct the "resistance."
    • Mashaal views Hamas as in the Iranian-Syrian orbit, while Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza identifies his government as part of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement. Haniyeh is also limiting his horizons to the PA, while Mashaal has a broader vision of the global spread of Islam. Mashaal maintains direct command of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
    • The fact that the Prisoners Document was produced by jailed Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti - the bitter enemy of the old Tunis Fatah echelons - created tensions inside Fatah between the Old Guard and Abbas, whom they suspected of secretly nurturing the Young Guard at their expense. The advent of Barghouti as the one who is controlling the development of events has led the Old Guard to limit their support of Abbas' initiative.
    • Support for Abbas in a showdown with Hamas could come from the alarmed Arab governments that feel threatened by the rise of Hamas, and especially Jordan, which uncovered several attempts by Hamas in Syria to operate inside Jordan. The capture by Israel of Ibrahim Hamed, the military commander of Hamas in the West Bank, led to the exposure of far-reaching plans by Hamas to attack Jordan from the West Bank, according to directives coming from Mashaal in Damascus and backed by Tehran.
    • While there is no reason to suspect Abbas' rejection of a renewed armed conflict with Israel, his build-up of a new militia based on Force 17 personnel who are in contact with Hizballah does raise concerns. It is also noteworthy that the Prisoners Document still calls for "resistance" inside the territories and accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state inside those territories, but without renouncing the fundamental Palestinian right of return to areas inside Israel.

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