Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 9, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas' "Executive Force" Gains Strength in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    They call themselves the "Executive Force" of the Hamas-led government. Rivals prefer "Black Militia" or "Peshmerga" - a word that literally means "those who face death" but is used by some Gazans for a gun-for-hire.
    In Gaza, Hamas' force has nearly doubled in size in five months - its answer to efforts by PA Chairman Abbas to consolidate security control and expand his presidential guard. It has grown to 5,600 men, up from 3,000 in May when it was created over Abbas' objections.
    Abbas' "Presidential Guard" has also expanded from some 2,500 members in March to between 3,500 and 4,000, and a $20 million U.S. plan calls for expanding it to 6,000.
    Diplomats and security experts say the balance of firepower in Gaza has already tipped in Hamas' favor after a wave of killings targeting security officials loyal to Abbas. Several Fatah commanders from Gaza have left for the West Bank or Egypt for their own safety.
    Palestinian and Israeli security officials say Hamas has been funding its force by smuggling in cash and weapons through the Egyptian border.

Al-Qaeda Affiliate Burns Coffee Shop in Gaza - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    On Sunday, gunmen set fire to an Internet coffee shop in Jabaliya in northern Gaza, causing massive damage.
    According to the Islamic Swords of Justice, an affiliate of al-Qaeda that claimed responsibility, the owner of the establishment was warned that his business served as a center for "unethical" activity.
    Among the Palestinian elite, there is increasing concern that al-Qaeda is becoming a major actor in Gaza.
    Pictures of al-Qaeda's former leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are plastered on walls throughout Gaza.

Palestinian Islamic Extremist Shot Dead in South Lebanon (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Gunmen shot a Palestinian extremist Saturday as he walked through a refugee camp in south Lebanon banging a drum to wake Muslims for their pre-dawn Ramadan meal, security officials said.
    Bilal Salloum, 39, a member of the Asbat al-Ansar terrorist group, was struck by four bullets in Ein el-Hilweh.

Pro-Palestinian Protesters Attack Israeli Ambassador in Ireland - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Dozens of pro-Palestinian protestors attacked Israel's ambassador to Ireland, Dr. Zion Evrony, this weekend at a university in the city of Galway.

Evangelical Christians Flock to Israel - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    Nearly 5,000 Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel from around the world are in Jerusalem for the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations sponsored by the International Christian Embassy.
    One in every three American tourists is an Evangelical Christian, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said Sunday.

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  • "We Will Not Recognize Israel," Palestinian Premier Affirms - Greg Myre
    In a defiant speech delivered to thunderous applause from tens of thousands of supporters, many waving green Hamas flags, at the Yarmouk soccer stadium in Gaza City, the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya, insisted on Friday that his Hamas movement would not recognize Israel despite the cutoff in Western aid. (New York Times)
  • UN Force Faces Battle to Secure Peace - Stephen Farrell
    Hizballah is a guerrilla army that has gone quiet, but not gone away. Its choice of a discreet location north of the Litani River is no accident - far from the busy crossroads and strategic bridges where the Lebanese Army, supported by a newly strengthened peacekeeping UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), is taking up positions near to the Israeli border. Few believe that Hizballah will create problems in the short term because it cannot afford to challenge the Lebanese Army. But they point out that south Lebanon's future remains mortgaged to the wider regional agendas of Hizballah's backers, Iran and Syria.
        "The south is a vital area for Hizballah. The fact that it can't conduct any sort of military operations in this area is a very big handicap, as it is for Iran and Syria," said Michael Young in the Beirut Daily Star. But there is no doubt who is the real power in what unquestionably remains Hizballah's rural stronghold. Everywhere Hizballah's Jihad al-Bina (reconstruction wing) vehicles are visible among the international aid agencies helping to rebuild homes.
        Israel says it expects UNIFIL to carry out its "very specific" mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to create an area free of armed Hizballah personnel south of the Litani River. "We are not expecting them to protect Israel, or to defend Israel. They are there to implement a UN resolution that is designed to help the Lebanese government implement its sovereignty over all parts of Lebanese territory," said Mark Regev, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. (Times-UK)
  • Britain Says Pakistan Is Hiding Taliban Chief - Christina Lamb
    Lt.-Gen. David Richards, the British general commanding NATO troops in Afghanistan, will fly to Islamabad Monday to try to persuade President Musharraf to rein in his military intelligence service, which Richards believes is training Taliban fighters to attack British troops. He will request that key Taliban leaders living in Pakistan be arrested. The evidence compiled by American, NATO, and Afghan intelligence includes satellite pictures and videos of training camps for Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers inside Pakistan. Captured Taliban fighters and failed suicide bombers have confirmed that they were trained by the Pakistani intelligence service. The information includes an address in Quetta where Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is said to live.
        After 30 British servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan, "I feel real vitriol seeing our boys dying because of Pakistan," said one British officer. A senior U.S. commander added: "We just can't ignore it any more. Musharraf's got to prove which side he is on." (Sunday Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Defense Ministry: No Change with Syria, But Take Assad Seriously - Yoav Stern
    The Defense Ministry's chief official for diplomatic affairs, Amos Gilad, responding Sunday to statements by Bashar Assad that the Syrian military was preparing for war with Israel, said that there had been no changes to the security situation, but that Israel must take the Syrian president's words seriously for the long term. "There is no warning of higher intentions and there isn't a concrete threat," Gilad told Army Radio. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Prepares Response to Possible Attack by Syria - Yaakov Katz
    Israel's response to a Syrian attack will be nothing like its reaction to the cross-border Hizballah attack of July 12. Defense officials say the retaliation would be harsher, fiercer, and far deadlier. The Syrian bank of targets would not only include military infrastructure, such as bases, rocket launchers and silos, but also government buildings, headquarters, power plants, electricity grids, and water reservoirs. "We will shut down the entire country" was how one defense official described the potential response.
        The Syrian military has built up a strong array of missiles including some that are capable of carrying warheads filled with nerve gas, such as Sarin and VX. Damascus is currently in a race to build up its army and has recently drastically increased its defense budget after some $14 billion in loans it owed were erased. According to the Middle East Military Balance, published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Syria has several hundred Scud missiles and close to 100 missile launchers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Next to Sderot Mayor's Home - Shmulik Hadad
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza fell Saturday evening next to the house of Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. In the past few days, rockets have been fired frequently at Sderot. "I sat at home in the living room and I was thrown from my chair from the force of the explosion," Moyal said. "If the rocket had landed another 10 meters in, we would have had to bury people tonight....This embarrassment of rocket firings at Sderot needs to be stopped." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Inside Hizballah, Big Miscalculations - Anthony Shadid
    In speeches and iconography, Hizballah has cast the war as a "divine victory." But a reconstruction of the period before and soon after Hizballah's seizure of the Israeli soldiers reveals a series of miscalculations on the part of the movement that defies its carefully cultivated reputation for planning and caution. Hizballah's leadership sometimes waited days to evacuate the poor, densely populated neighborhood in southern Beirut that is its stronghold. Only as Israeli warplanes began reducing the headquarters to rubble did they realize the scope of what the Israeli military intended. Hizballah fighters were still planning to train in Iran the very month that the soldiers were seized; Hizballah leaders in Beirut had assured Lebanese officials of a relatively uneventful summer. (Washington Post)
  • Russian Forces Deploy in Lebanon Outside of UNIFIL Command - Caroline Glick
    The Russian bear has awakened after 15 years of hibernation. Under the leadership of former KGB commander President Vladimir Putin, Russia is reasserting its traditional hostility towards Israel. Last Tuesday, Russian military engineers landed in Beirut, the first time that Russian forces have openly deployed in the Middle East. The Russian forces, which will officially number some 550 troops, are tasked with rebuilding bridges and will operate outside the command of UNIFIL.
        The engineers will be protected by commando platoons from Russia's 42nd motorized rifle division permanently deployed in Chechnya. According to reports, these commando platoons are part of the Vostok and Zapad Battalions, both of which are commanded by Muslim officers who report directly to the main intelligence department of the Russian Army's General Staff in Moscow. The Vostok Battalion is commanded by Maj. Sulim Yamadayev, who Mosnews refers to as a "former rebel commander." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas' Fall Is Nearer - Danny Rubinstein
    The siege imposed by Israel and countries throughout the world, as well as by Arab nations and Fatah - Hamas' Palestinian rivals - has been unable to change Hamas' ideological positions, which are based on an infrastructure of radical Islam. Public opinion surveys in the West Bank and Gaza have recently shown a weakening of Hamas, and the Palestinian public seems to be sending the message: We elected you in order to lead reforms in the government and demonstrate pride and determination vis-a-vis Israel, but not to transform Palestine into a branch of Iran.
        Hamas will not surrender easily, and it is hard to see a political Palestinian element that will face down Hamas and replace it in the government. The Fatah leadership is dismembered, and there is not an inkling of the start of reforms in the movement that were promised some time ago. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Egypt, Israel, and the Cold Peace - Christopher Dickey and Zvika Krieger (Newsweek International)

    • The anniversary of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on Oct. 6, 1981, went almost unnoticed. Today, the peace that remains is at best called "cold" - and could be in serious trouble. For Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, president for this last quarter century, peace has become synonymous with political stability and a status quo represented by...himself. In effect, Sadat's heir tells those Egyptians who challenge him - and Americans who criticize him - "Choose: peace or democracy; you can't have both."
    • Israeli historian Michael B. Oren describes the relationship with Cairo as "better than at any time since 1981." The truth is that relations continue to improve at the top, even as they erode from below. Since early 2005, when the Bush administration stepped up pressure on Egypt to democratize, Mubarak has moved dramatically to warm ties with the Israelis. His government has played up political, economic, diplomatic, security, and intelligence cooperation, interceding in one Israeli-Palestinian crisis after another, presenting Egypt as a critical intermediary trying to build a broader peace. The target audience, clearly, is the U.S.
    • This remains essentially peace by decree. The mood among the people is rather different. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, closely associated with Hamas in the Palestinian territories, is now by far the strongest opposition party in Egypt. Even more surprising to Western democracy advocates is the anti-Israel line touted by Egypt's leftist groups.

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