Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 5, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Suicide Bomber Caught in West Bank - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF troops on Wednesday caught a Palestinian in the West Bank with an explosives belt strapped around his waist and ready for use.
    The would-be bomber entered the industrial zone in the West Bank town of Barkan, near Ariel, and was found in a taxi on his way to launch a suicide attack in a major city in central Israel.
    Security officials said they knew of 90 warnings of planned terror attacks.

MI5 Conducts Secret Inquiry into 8,000 al-Qaeda "Sympathizers" - Jason Bennetto (Independent-UK)
    Up to 8,000 suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers are being investigated by MI5 and the police in an operation to identify future terrorists.
    The nationwide investigation follows intelligence suggesting there is a very small, but significant number of British-born and Britain-based Muslims, who are prepared to carry out bombings and other terrorist attacks in this country.
    See also Al-Qaeda "Bid to Infiltrate MI5" - Frank Gardner (BBC News)
    Al-Qaeda sympathizers have been trying to infiltrate the British security service MI5, Whitehall officials confirmed.
    But those with al-Qaeda sympathies were weeded out during a six to eight-month vetting process, officials added.
    MI5 believes, from polls, that around 400,000 people in the UK are "sympathetic to violent jihad around the world.
    MI5 is expanding from its current level of 2,600 officers to an eventual 3,500, to cope with the terrorist threat.

Terror Plots Accelerating in Britain - John Steele (Telegraph-UK)
    Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch is involved in an "unprecedented" 70 investigations, Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch, warned Monday.
    More than 60 people are facing trial on terrorist allegations; two-thirds of whom have been charged since last July.
    "The majority relate to the activities of British citizens against their fellow countrymen," he said.
    See also Undercover on Planet Beeston - Ali Hussain (Sunday Times-UK)
    Reporter Ali Hussain spent six weeks in Beeston, the suburb of Leeds where two of the 7/7 bombers came from.
    Imran Bham, who runs a computer equipment shop, asked me if I would ever blow myself up for Islam. I replied that the Koran says you should not harm innocent people.
    "What Koran was that?" he countered. "Don't fool yourself by saying jihad is a struggle within, to get on with life, to motivate myself to get up for prayers and that sort of thing," he said. "That's not jihad. Who told you that?"
    See also Islam in Britain - Editorial (Times-UK)
    Some 13% of British Muslims consider the 7/7 bombers to be martyrs. That translates into 234,000 people.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits School in Israeli City of Ashkelon - Ravi Nessman
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket Tuesday evening that exploded in the courtyard of a school in Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 on Israel's coast. (AP/Forbes)
        The rocket was fired from northern Gaza, from the area of the former settlement of Dugit which has recently turned into a popular site for Kassam rocket launchers. (Ynet News)
        See also Rocket Lands in Heart of Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    The rocket landed inside the Ronson high school, close to the Ashkelon Academic College. A large number of parents and students were present at the school at the time, though there were no injuries. Izz a-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, claimed responsibility. (Ynet News)
        See also Strike on Ashkelon Close to Key Power Plant, Oil Pipelines - Mitch Potter
    Ashkelon is a coastal city of substance, boasting plenty of industry and three particularly sensitive pieces of infrastructure. Sensitive sites include the Rotenberg Power Plant, Israel's second-largest generating station which supplies an estimated quarter of the country's needs; the Ashkelon Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant, the largest desalination plant of its kind in the world, which is due to provide 15% of domestic demand; and the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, which controls three oil pipelines reaching to the port cities of Eilat, Ashdod, and Haifa.
        Tuesday's rocket attack represents the deepest strike ever into Israeli territory. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "This is very, very serious. This is a strategic upgrade in the terrorist war against Israeli cities, with the objective being to kill as many civilians as possible....We have to draw a line in the sand and respond in such a way that neutralizes the threat." (Toronto Star)
  • Hamas Leaders in Hiding as Noose Tightens
    Hiding in friends' houses with their mobile phones switched off, Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya and his ministers are behaving more like an underground organization than a government. Renouncing mobile phones for fear of being tracked down, changing vehicles several times a day, and using different routes are some of the measures being adopted, said a Hamas minister. He said Haniya as well as several key ministers and lawmakers had started sleeping in different locations every night. Coordination between Hamas officials is done essentially by fax and rare meetings held in secret locations determined at the latest possible moment. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Gaza Crisis Clouds West Bank Plan - Thomas Frank
    Israeli troops are back in areas ceded to Palestinians, feeding concerns that pulling out of territories leads to instability - not security. Israeli analysts and officials say the recent Gaza conflict is undermining support for withdrawing tens of thousands of Israeli settlers from the West Bank. "If it went wrong in Gaza, it definitely will go wrong in the West Bank," says Menachem Klein, an adviser to former prime minister Ehud Barak. "What's been happening in the last few weeks, with Kassam missiles flying out and the general deterioration in the security situation, definitely causes a problem if you're looking for public support for unilateral withdrawals," says Isabel Kershner, senior Middle East editor of the Jerusalem Report. (USA Today)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Buffer Zone Planned to Distance Rockets from Israeli Cities
    Israel's security cabinet approved a deeper military incursion into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following the rocket attack on Ashkelon Tuesday night. The IDF has been given the green light to enter residential areas, but will not reoccupy the Gaza Strip, an official at the meeting said. A buffer zone will be created in the northern part of Gaza. Former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said there was "no escape from prolonged ground presence at the launch sites." He said, "If you want to tell your citizens: I did the maximum, then this is the maximum." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Olmert: Ashkelon Rocket an "Unprecedented and Severe Escalation by Hamas"
    Speaking at the U.S. Embassy July 4th reception, Prime Minister Olmert said: "A Kassam rocket landed in the heart of Ashkelon on the Ronson High School. This is an unprecedented and severe escalation in the terrorist war being waged by Hamas, which currently controls the Palestinian Authority. I say here and now: This action, this attack, this criminal attempt that was intended to harm Israeli citizens living within the sovereign State of Israel, will have unprecedented and far-reaching consequences. Hamas will be the first to feel this." (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Egypt and Hamas Cut Off Contacts on Captive Soldier - Avi Issacharoff
    Following the expiration of the kidnappers' ultimatum Tuesday, there was no contact between Hamas and the Egyptian team mediating talks regarding Cpl. Gilad Shalit. However, officials involved in the negotiations stressed that Egyptian efforts to resolve the crisis by diplomatic means are continuing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Launching a Rocket at Ashkelon Is an Invitation to War - Ze'ev Schiff
    The firing of a rocket from Gaza into the center of Ashkelon on Tuesday constitutes an unequivocal invitation by Hamas to war. The Palestinians who launched the rocket apparently are members of the Hamas military wing, but it's quite possible that either an Iranian or Syrian element interested in intensifying the military conflict with Israel spurred the move. Tuesday's rocket could have landed anywhere in Ashkelon at any time of day. Over time, the Palestinians have armed themselves with many weapons and rockets. This is a direct confrontation with Hamas, other Palestinian organizations, and their supporters among the Palestinian public. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Determined to Destroy Israel - Thomas L. Friedman
    Israel has evacuated Gaza, and what does Hamas do? It doesn't put all its energy into building a nest for its young there - a decent state and society, with jobs. Instead, it launches hundreds of rockets into Israel. The Palestinians could have a state on the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem tomorrow, if they and the Arab League clearly recognized Israel, normalized relations, and renounced violence. But those driving Palestinian politics seem determined to destroy Israel in its territory - even if it means destroying themselves in their own territory. (New York Times, 5Jul06)
  • Iran: The Other Option - Adm. James Lyons
    Over the past 25 years, the Iranian regime founded by Ayatollah Khomeini has declared war on the U.S. several times. In October 1986, a plan was developed to shut Iran down. That plan, appropriately updated, would be equally effective today. It can be carried out while we are still engaged in Iraq. The pressures that would be brought on the Iranian regime would be unimaginable. The Iranian economy would grind to a halt. Our military forces have the capability to execute such a plan over an extended period of time. The Iranian regime needs to understand that this is an action the U.S. public will fully back.
        We have learned the hard way that you cannot negotiate with a renegade regime. The only real solution is the elimination of the current Khamenei regime. If it was necessary to eliminate Saddam Hussein for our long-term security interest, then we have significantly more reason to help the Iranian people eliminate the current regime and take Iran back. The writer served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and deputy chief of naval operations. (Washington Times)
  • Russia, Iran, and the Nuclear Question: The Putin Record - Robert O. Freedman
    It would appear that Moscow, despite its rhetoric, has decided to acquiesce in Iran's nuclear program, most probably because of Putin's policy of enhancing Russian prestige in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world, at the expense of the United States. Russia's policy of dragging out negotiations as long as possible, while protecting Iran from sanctions, certainly strengthens Moscow's relations with Iran, while at the same time, by keeping oil prices high, it clearly helps the Russian economy.
        Iran's new president is an Islamic "true-believer." Unlike his predecessors, who were willing to tolerate Russian policy in Chechnya, where Russian soldiers have killed thousands of Muslim Chechens, Ahmadinejad may one day decide that his Islamic beliefs obligate him to confront Russia on this issue. Were Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons, Moscow may wish it had supported sanctions against Iran when it had the opportunity. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    The Syrian Thorn - Shmuel Rosner (Ha'aretz)

    • The key to solving the Gaza crisis is located in Damascus, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the beginning of the week. Rice and the American administration know that Syria has become a nuisance that will continue to interfere with every process aiming to bring stability to the region.
    • Three years ago, the Syrians gave then secretary of state Colin Powell a kind of promise that they would close Hamas' offices in Damascus, and nothing happened. As a senior State Department official said: "The United States does not have all that many levers left for influencing the Syrians. We already have imposed nearly every possible sanction on them."
    • As one American official frankly told an Israeli colleague, "The situation in Iraq is not simple, and we are now trying to enlist the international community to deal with Iran. It's impossible to do everything all at once."
    • Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst, published an article a month ago in the Asia Times in which he revealed the Syrian position: "Hamas was transformed in the January 2006 election from a political burden to a political asset" that enables Assad to prove his importance and power in the Middle Eastern arena. Khaled Mashaal, the leader of external Hamas, is a pawn in his hands.
    • If Assad decides to stop supporting him, a senior Israeli source said this week, there aren't many other countries that will agree to take him in. Perhaps Iran, but that's not certain. "Assad is watching over Mashaal, because Mashaal gives him power," the Israeli source said. If he wants, he lengthens the rope, and if he wants, he shortens it.

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