Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 29, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Political Leaders Advocated Kidnapping-for-Hostage Policy - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Hamas political leaders have expressed an avowed policy of kidnapping Israeli soldiers as hostages to exchange for terrorists.
    Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahar told Asharq Al-Awsat on March 7, 2006, that Hamas will not hesitate to kidnap Israeli soldiers "to exchange for [Palestinian] prisoners, should the opportunity arise."
    Interior Minister Saed Siam told Abu Dhabi TV: "It is inevitable to kidnap soldiers to exchange for them."

Dennis Ross: Don't Negotiate for Soldier's Release (Jerusalem Post)
    Former U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross said on Thursday that Israel mustn't negotiate for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped on Sunday, as this would only bring about more kidnappings.

Putin Orders Death for Killers of Russians in Iraq - Steven Lee Myers (New York Times)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia's secret services to find and kill those who kidnapped and killed four Russian Embassy employees in Iraq earlier this month, the Kremlin announced in a statement.

Iraq: Al-Qaeda Cell Bombed Shiite Shrine - Joshua Partlow (Washington Post)
    The bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in February was executed by a cell of al-Qaeda in Iraq that included two Iraqis, four Saudis, and a Tunisian man who has been captured, Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said Wednesday.

Gaza Power Plant Hit by Israeli Airstrike Is Insured by U.S. Agency - Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)
    The 140-megawatt Palestinian power plant bombed by Israeli forces Tuesday is insured by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government agency, and U.S. officials say they expect American funds to be used to pay for the damage.
    But paying the $48 million claim on the plant could prove problematic for the U.S. in light of restrictions on working with a Hamas-led government.

Israeli Education Ministry Still Not Recognizing Yeshiva University Degrees - Daphna Berman (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Education Ministry is still not recognizing Yeshiva University degrees, more than a year after a March 2005 letter to YU President Richard Joel by the ministry pledged to reach a "comprehensive solution whereby all Yeshiva University degrees are certified by the ministry."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Murder Kidnapped Israeli Teen
    A body found in the West Bank appears to be that of Eliyahu Asheri, 18, an Israeli abducted by Palestinian militants last weekend, Israeli security sources said Thursday. (CNN)
        Asheri's body was found buried in a field in the A-Tira neighborhood of Ramallah. Security forces determined that he was shot in the head soon after he was kidnapped on Sunday. Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees said they executed the teenager. (Ha'aretz)
  • White House Defends Use of Israeli Force - Scott Stearns
    The Bush administration says Israel has the right to defend itself as Israeli troops launch a ground and air assault in the Gaza Strip in hopes of rescuing IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Palestinian militants Sunday. White House Spokesman Tony Snow said, "Hamas should release and return the kidnapped Israeli soldier immediately....It is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to stop all acts of violence and terror. Hamas has done the opposite. It has been complicit in perpetrating violence, terror, and hostage-taking." (Voice of America)
  • Saber-Rattling Palestinians Gearing Up for Battle - Charles Levinson
    Palestinians were spoiling for a fight as Israel massed forces on its border with Gaza after the kidnapping of one of its soldiers. Rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-fired missiles, once a rarity among Palestinian fighters, are now abundant, as was evident during recent displays of force by Hamas and other terrorist factions. "Gaza is different now," said Abu al-Majed, a spokesman for the Fatah Hawks. "The Palestinian resistance has many types of weapons it didn't have at the time of the occupation."  (AFP/National Post-Canada)
        See also Israel Faces Palestinian Militants with Expanded Arsenal - Adam Entous
    Israeli troops in Gaza face Palestinian militants who are much better armed than last year, Israeli officials and analysts say. Israeli defense officials estimate militants have smuggled in hundreds of shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, thousands of assault rifles, and tons of high explosive since Israel's Gaza "disengagement" in September 2005. Maj. Matan Gorodish told Reuters militants had only a few dozen anti-tank missiles before Israel's withdrawal. "Now they have hundreds of them," he said.
        According to Israel's internal security service, militants have brought into Gaza at least 3 million bullets, nearly 20,000 assault rifles, 430 rocket-propelled grenades, and several shoulder-fired [anti-aircraft] rocket launchers. A Western security source called these numbers "underestimates."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Detains Hamas Officials - Ali Waked
    Israeli forces Thursday apprehended some 60 Hamas government ministers, parliament members, and activists. Leading Hamas members in Gaza went into hiding after hearing of the West Bank arrests. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Planes Buzz Palace of Syrian President Assad - Yuval Yoaz
    Israel Air Force planes Wednesday carried out a low-altitude flight over the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Latakia in northwestern Syria, causing sonic booms. Assad is believed to have been in the palace at the time. Senior Israeli government figures approved the move to signal that Israel is not oblivious to Assad's sponsorship of Hamas' Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal. Israel considers Mashaal to be directly responsible for the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets on Wednesday evening toward the Israeli town of Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
        Five minutes after a press conference with the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant, ended on Wednesday afternoon, a Kassam rocket landed a few hundred meters from where reporters were standing. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gaza Militants Claim They Fired Rocket with Chemical-Tipped Warhead (Reuters)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Explodes on Launch, Kills Two, Wounds Seven - Barak Ravid
    Hamas member Kasam Masoud and his baby sister were killed, and seven Palestinians were wounded, in an explosion of a Kassam rocket as it was being launched at Israel from Khan Yunis in Gaza. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Provokes a Fight - Editorial
    The responsibility for this latest escalation rests squarely with Hamas, whose military wing tunneled into Israel on Sunday, killed two Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped another. This was a follow-up to a declaration earlier this month by Hamas' political leadership that the group's 16-month intermittent cease-fire would no longer be observed. When Hamas was only an opposition movement, its provocative behavior was a major impediment to peace. As a governing party, it is far worse.
        Contrary to the hopes of many outsiders, five months in government has failed to educate Hamas to the reality of the world the Palestinians live in. If things go on like this, Palestinians can look forward to endless rounds of reckless Hamas provocations and inexorable Israeli responses. That is why things must not be allowed to go on like this. It is not just Israel that needs to be delivering that message to Hamas. (New York Times)
  • Return to Gaza - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Hopes that Israel's unprecedented unilateral dismantling of all Israeli military bases, checkpoints, and even civilian houses in Gaza would reduce the violence and promote mutual accommodation were naive. Almost a year after the exit, attacks against Israelis continue to escalate, Palestinian society is in a state of advanced anarchy, and the security pledges from Egypt and Europe, brokered by the U.S., have proven worthless. Even before the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian terrorists, the dozens of rockets raining down on houses and schools in Israel every week had already signaled the approaching end of this unique experiment in conflict reduction.
        Israelis also rediscovered the mistake of giving responsibility for their survival to outsiders. The security arrangements negotiated with Egypt and Europe, which accompanied the withdrawal, have all collapsed. An agreement signed with the Egyptians removed Israeli troops from the 13-kilometer border strip between Gaza and Egypt. In parallel, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brokered a separate security arrangement covering the Rafiah border crossing, giving a role to 70 EU "observers." As a result, the smuggling of weapons and terrorists has grown into a torrent. (National Post-Canada)
  • Taken Hostage - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Nothing unites Israelis in outrage more than the seizure of hostages. On July 4, Israel will mark the 30th anniversary of the Entebbe operation that freed over a hundred Israeli hostages, and little has changed since then in the national ethos of rescue. The last Zionist ideal still shared by most Israelis is the determination to fight back. An Israeli soldier held hostage is a taunt against the Zionist promise of self-defense, an unbearable reminder of Jewish helplessness.
        Our obsession with hostages is a tactical weakness but a strategic strength. It allows terrorists a stunning psychological advantage: With a single random kidnapping, they hold an entire society emotionally hostage. Strategically, though, hostage-taking only strengthens Israeli resolve. (New Republic)
  • Israel Back in Gaza - Aluf Benn
    The horror scenario of those who objected to the Gaza pullout has come true. Israel discovered that it could not just leave and throw away the key, that the "green line" in Gaza did not deter the Palestinians, and that the Palestinians ignored Israeli threats of harsh retaliation. On Sunday Hamas had crossed the fence and attacked Israel, thereby ending the cease-fire. The attack was not by rogue Hamas members, but by Hamas' military wing, which enjoys the full backing of the "civilian" government. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    The Ongoing War Against Reality - Henryk M. Broder (Der Spiegel-Germany)

    • The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza last summer has more than anything motivated militant Palestinians to demonstrate to Israel that the conflict is not primarily about territory, the end of the occupation, and the return to the 1967 borders. Rather, it's about all or nothing. It's about the control, not the division, of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
    • What's the point of military withdrawal when those Palestinians who want a peaceful resolution are unable to assert themselves - and those Palestinians who want to continue fighting merely feel vindicated and encouraged?
    • Israel has no other choice but to stand tough because every climb down and withdrawal is interpreted as weakness. Furthermore, the word "compromise" is a foreign word in the Arab world.
    • A "ceasefire" is the most Hamas is prepared to offer Israel, which the Europeans insist on misinterpreting as the first step towards recognition. Rather, it's merely a tactical pause in the war against Israel.

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