Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 3, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria "Exporting Al-Qaeda" - Leila Hatoum and Maher Zeineddine (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Prominent Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt lashed out at Damascus on Sunday, saying he "feared the current Syrian regime is trying to turn Lebanon into another Iraq by exporting al-Qaeda fighters into the country."
    Syrian President Bashar Assad had warned that some members of al-Qaeda "have been fleeing Syria toward Lebanon."
    Jumblatt said: "When Assad spoke of Syria pursuing al-Qaeda members, leading them to flee toward Lebanon, this reminded me of what is going on in Iraq, and the al-Qaeda members fleeing Syria toward Iraq and killing Iraqis and causing chaos."

Hamas Improves Kassam Rockets (Middle East Newsline)
    Israeli military sources said Hamas has increased the payload and range of its Kassam rockets, with the addition of an engine as well as standard fuses and explosives.
    "The new Kassams are much better than even two months ago," a military source said. "The warhead explodes and the blast reaches a wider area."
    On June 30, Hamas fired an extended-range Kassam missile with two engines that landed in a residential section of Ashkelon, 12 km from Gaza.

Is There a Military Solution in Iran? - Seymour M. Hersh (New Yorker)
    The U.S. Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up plans, at President Bush's direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran.
    Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran's nuclear program.
    "The target array in Iran is huge, but it's amorphous," a high-ranking general told me. "The question we face is, When does innocent infrastructure evolve into something nefarious?"
    Retired Army Maj.-Gen. William Nash, who served in Iraq, said, "If we bomb Iran, they cannot retaliate militarily by air - only on the ground or by sea, and only in Iraq or the Gulf....We're not talking about victory or defeat - only about what damage Iran could do to our interests."
    Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, "Their first possible response would be to send forces into Iraq. And, since the Iraqi Army has limited capacity, it means that the coalition forces would have to engage them."
    In contrast, some argue that America's position in Iraq would improve if Iran chose to retaliate there because Iranian interference would divide the Shiites into pro- and anti-Iranian camps, and unify the Kurds and the Sunnis.
    In May, the Emir of Qatar visited Tehran, where he was told that Qatar, which is the site of the regional headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, would be its first target in the event of an American attack.

German Government to Approve Israel Arms Deals (Reuters)
    The German government will no longer block the export to Israel of Dingo 2 armored transport vehicles and the sale of two submarines should be approved in July, Die Welt reported on Saturday.
    The sale of the Dingo 2 troop carriers has been on hold for over a year due to concerns over the use of the vehicles in Palestinian territories.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Soldier's Captors Set Deadline for Israel
    The three Palestinian militant groups that captured an Israeli soldier gave Israel until Tuesday morning to release Palestinian prisoners or "pay the consequences." (AP/Forbes)
        See also Report: Egyptian Envoys Visited Israeli Hostage - Ali Waked
    An Egyptian security delegation in the Gaza Strip met with kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit at the place where he is kept hostage, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat reported Monday. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas' Strategy: "The Violence Will Never Stop" - Gabriela Keller
    Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, second in command of the political Hamas leadership in Syria, said in an interview that the recent agreement with Fatah on the so-called Prisoners Document will "strengthen the resistance in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Aside from that, we have agreed on the goal of establishing a Palestinian state in these areas." When asked if that meant that Hamas inevitably accepts the Israeli state in the rest of the area, he replied: "The document does not say that at all." "No matter what, the violence will not stop." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Iran Uses Shiite Ties to Position Itself in Lebanon - Christopher Allbritton
    Nowhere else, with the possible exception of Iraq, is Iran so well positioned as in Lebanon. "This has been an almost unmitigated success" for Iran, said a Western diplomatic source. Western officials are alarmed. With Hizballah refusing to disarm despite UN Security Council resolutions, the machinations of Tehran are viewed in Western diplomatic circles in Beirut as geared toward building an offensive capability. Last month, Iran and Syria signed a joint defense pact in Tehran which could allow for the basing of Iranian troops in Syria. As for Lebanon, "There is no doubt the Iranian intelligence is here," the source said. "We believe the Revolutionary Guard is here, but we don't know the location." (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Iranian Drone Plane Buzzes U.S. Aircraft Carrier in Persian Gulf
    A senior Iranian official said Tuesday, "Our pilotless reconnaissance plane flew over the USS Ronald Reagan in the Persian Gulf unnoticed by the Americans for 25 minutes," until four USAF fighters and two helicopters were scrambled to intercept it. "This points to holes in the U.S. military reconnaissance systems deployed in the Persian Gulf," the Iranian official said. (RIA Novosti-Russia)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: "We Have No Intention of Capitulating to Blackmail"
    Prime Minister Olmert told the cabinet Sunday: "We and the international community know that Gilad [Shalit] is being held by a bloodthirsty gang of terrorists who are causing us much suffering but who are mainly hurting the Palestinian population, which is bearing the results of this terrorist activity....I have instructed the security establishment and the IDF to increase the strength of their actions in order to pursue these terrorists, those who dispatch them, their ideologues, and those who sponsor them. As I said, nobody will be exempt....We have no intention of capitulating to blackmail. Everyone knows that capitulating to terrorism today means inviting the next act of terrorism. We will not do this." (Prime Minister's Office)
        If Palestinians "don't sleep at night" in Gaza, they will get a feeling of what Sderot residents have been going through for weeks, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday. Three main themes emerged during the cabinet meeting: The efforts to free Shalit will likely take weeks if not months; Israel cannot agree to a "prisoner exchange" because this would only encourage more kidnapping attempts; and Israel will use the current opportunity to smash the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, weaken Hamas, and try to substantially alter the strategic situation in Gaza. Olmert said he told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Israel would change the situation where tens of thousand of Israelis are under the threat of Kassam rockets in the south, and Palestinian terrorism emanates from Gaza into Israel.
        The head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, said that "the Egyptians are willing to mediate, but are essentially only negotiating with themselves" and "are not succeeding in getting their mediation attempts off the ground." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Lays Down Rules for IDF Offensive - Aluf Benn
    The U.S. government has laid down three rules for the current IDF operation in Gaza, according to senior sources in Jerusalem: No harming PA Chairman Abbas, no harming civilians, and avoid damaging infrastructure. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Won't Allow Gaza Humanitarian Crisis
    Israel opened the Karni cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip Sunday to allow food and medical supplies to be sent in from Israel, the Defense Ministry said. The ministry said 150 trucks would cross each day carrying mostly medical supplies, food, and fuel. Israel has also increased its supply of electricity to Gaza, the IDF said Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Back Kidnapping - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel is demanding that the Hamas leadership in Gaza act to release the captured soldier immediately. The demand is backed by the U.S. (even the Security Council refused to denounce the IDF's operation in the Gaza Strip). On the other hand, complying with Israel's demand would be seen by the Palestinian public as surrender and cost Hamas sympathy. At this stage, at least, Hamas prefers a confrontation with Israel to one with its people. Public opinion polls in the territories show that 80% of Palestinians object to releasing Cpl. Gilad Shalit unless prisoners are released as part of the deal.
        Fatah officials say if Israel releases prisoners, it would be a death blow to Fatah's chances to return to power in the PA. The achievement would strengthen Hamas and spur it to capture more soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Suicide Attack Foiled - Hanan Greenberg
    Three Hamas gunmen were killed Sunday night when they approached an IDF outpost in Dahaniya in southern Gaza. Explosive belts were found strapped to the bodies of two of the gunmen (Ynet News)
  • Kidnap Attempt on Soldiers Thwarted - Efrat Weiss
    An attempt to kidnap soldiers for the purpose of bargaining for the release of Palestinian prisoners was thwarted two and a half weeks ago, security officials said Sunday. Two members of the Popular Resistance Committees were arrested trying to infiltrate into Israel via Egypt in order to carry out the kidnapping. In their interrogation, the terrorists said they were sent by Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the PRC in Gaza, who was killed about a month ago. Ibrahim Magdoub said he met Samhadana three weeks before setting out for Egypt, who told him he was being sent to kidnap and murder soldiers in the Tel Aviv area, where Magdoub worked in the past. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Where to Go from Gaza? - Danielle Pletka
    In the last week, Hamas has kidnapped two Israelis and killed one, while the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with "moderate" Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, announced it could now manufacture chemical and biological weapons. Hamas and Fatah are terrorist organizations and they must be treated as terrorists, and crushed with all means necessary. They are no more entitled to violence than al-Qaeda. Foreign ministers from London, Washington, and Cairo have bleated that diplomacy must be given a chance, but President Bush has inveighed repeatedly against negotiating with terrorists. The writer is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. (American Enterprise Institute)
  • Targeting Gazan Power Station Makes Military - and Possibly Humanitarian - Sense - Francis Sedgemore
    Causing short-term civil chaos in urban communities makes violent resistance less likely. If it helps keep down the body count, I would say that the attack on the Gaza power plant makes humanitarian sense. Gaza gets around 60% of its electricity from Israel, and the loss of Gaza's sole power station should not make impossible the extraction and purification of water. Backup generators are available for such critical services as hospitals.
        Israel has no choice but to act resolutely in the face of acts of war against it by the Hamas-controlled nascent Palestinian state, and that includes the arrest and prosecution of PA cabinet members and officials involved in terrorist activities. Many now wonder how much control the PA has within the West Bank and Gaza, as it appears that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is pulling the strings from his base in Damascus, with support and funding from the Syrian and Iranian regimes. (Guardian-UK)
        See also UN Rebukes Israel After Air Attacks in Gaza - Stephen Farrell
    UN special envoy to the Middle East Alvaro de Soto rebuked Israel for destroying Gaza's only power station. (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Hamas' War - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh charged Friday that Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip is aimed at overturning his government. If it is, Israel would be entirely justified.
    • When Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted by the military wing of Mr. Haniyeh's Hamas movement last weekend, his administration faced a choice. It could behave like a civilized government - and work to free the hostage - or align itself with a terrorist operation. It chose the latter. Hamas government officials endorsed the militants' demand that Israel release Palestinian prisoners it has legally arrested in exchange for a soldier who was attacked while guarding Israeli territory.
    • Hamas justified this position by citing the terrorist movement Hizballah, which has extracted prisoners from Israel in exchange for hostages. Fair enough. But if Hamas wants to be equated with Hizballah or define itself as at war with Israel, then Israel has every right to try to destroy the Islamic movement's military capacity, to capture its leaders, and to topple its government. Isn't that what happens in war?
    • Mahmoud Abbas, who has been trying to draw Hamas' political wing into an alliance with his secular Fatah movement, needs more help than he is getting from Egypt, other Arab states, and the UN. These actors ought to be demanding that Hamas - and its sponsors in Damascus and Tehran - stop their acts of terrorism and war.

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