Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 28, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

After Mecca - Hamas Is Still Hamas - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The more time that passes since the signing of the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the clearer it becomes that the real winner in the current round of internal Palestinian conflict is Hamas.
    It is clear the organization does not intend to make significant changes in its hard-line ideological stance.
    The Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence agree that Fatah suffered the more painful blows in the latest round of violence in Gaza.
    Other than the Preventive Security forces, Fatah did not take too active a part in the fighting.
    Israeli intelligence officers on Monday described a "smuggling highway" from Egypt to Rafah and of Hamas plans to send hundreds of activists for training in terror camps in Lebanon and Iran.

Iran's Emerging Leadership Vacuum (Jerusalem Post)
    The writer is a top Iranian scientist now in exile.
    Recently there have been rumors that Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei is seriously ill and may die soon.
    Simultaneously, former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the recently elected chairman of the Experts Assembly, which has the authority to select the supreme leader, met to discuss the selection of a new supreme leader.
    Rafsanjani asserted that the Experts Assembly should choose the leader soon, in order to keep the regime safe and avoid a future power struggle after his death.
    On February 15, Hossain Marashi, Rafsanjani's confidant and brother-in-law, suggested starting an investigation of the Iranian parliament because of the damage Ahmadinejad has caused to Iran's foreign relations, exposing Ahmadinejad's political incompetence and breach of trust.
    The West must act now, with full force and vigor, and for the sake of world peace, and further destabilize this critically dangerous regime.

World Court Links Sudanese Minister to Darfur Atrocities - Mike Corder (AP/Boston Globe)
    International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Tuesday linked Sudan's government to atrocities in Darfur, naming Ahmed Muhammed Harun, now junior minister for humanitarian affairs and formerly junior interior minister for the western region of Darfur, who is close to the president, as a war crimes suspect who helped recruit, arm, and bankroll the murderous janjaweed.
    They were the court's first accusations against individuals for war crimes in the 4-year-old Darfur conflict.

Expert: Israel Is "Defensive Play" after Wall Street Drop - Robert Daniel (MarketWatch)
    Israel is "a defensive play" after the sharp declines on Wall Street on Tuesday, Leader Capital Markets' Daniel Rapoport said.
    "With world markets on the slide, we note that Israel's strong economic and corporate fundamentals are key factors for support."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • EU: New Palestinian Government Should Respond to Quartet - Adam Entous
    The EU on Tuesday played down prospects of a swift resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, saying the policies and actions of a unity government would be assessed over time. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, at the start of a visit to Israel, said the new PA government should "respond" to the demands of the Quartet to abide by Israeli-Palestinian pacts, recognize Israel, and renounce violence. "We will judge this government by its actions," she added. European officials and Western diplomats said the EU's review would take time and a temporary aid mechanism, which bypasses the Hamas-led government, would remain in place.
        Saudi Arabia has made clear that its promised aid would be earmarked for infrastructure and development projects, and not directly support the new government. (Reuters)
        See also Hamas Will Not Recognize Israel, Mashaal Says
    In a statement to reporters in Moscow Tuesday, Hamas political chairman Khaled Mashaal reiterated that his movement will not recognize Israel. (Syrian Arab News Agency)
        See also below Commentary: The Mecca Agreement - A Strategic PLO-Hamas Alliance for Establishing a Palestinian State without Hamas Recognizing Israel - C. Jacob and Y. Carmon (MEMRI)
  • Israel Urges Russia to End Contacts with Hamas
    Israeli Strategic Planning Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on Russian authorities to end contacts with Hamas. "To my regret, not only Russia, but some countries in Western Europe as well maintain contacts with Hamas," Lieberman said in an interview with Kommersant published Wednesday. "We are not happy with it. We are trying to persuade Russia to comply with common standards in defining terror," he said. "It is impossible to name Chechen militants terrorists and yet refer to [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal as the leader of a national liberation movement." (Interfax-Russia)
  • U.S. Sees New Al-Qaeda Threat - Walter Pincus
    Vice Adm. (ret.) John M. McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the U.S. is "very concerned" that Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership are attempting to rebuild their terrorist network and establish training camps in a region of northwest Pakistan. "We inflicted a major blow, they retreated to another area, and they are going through a process to reestablish and rebuild, adapting to the seams or the weak spots as they might perceive them." He said an attack on the U.S. would "most likely" emerge from Pakistan, and warned that al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, Syria, and Europe are planning attacks.
        Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed that weapons training for Iraqi militia members is being provided in Iran as well as in Hizbullah camps in Lebanon. (Washington Post)
  • UN Chief Meets Kin of Israeli Soldiers - Edith M. Lederer
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met relatives of two Israeli soldiers seized by Hizbullah at the start of last year's Lebanon war on Tuesday and promised he will keep working hard to seek their release. Ban told the wife and parents of Ehud Goldwasser and the brother of Eldad Regev that he has been working with a secret "facilitator" to help win the soldiers' release, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. Hizbullah has not released any details on the condition of the soldiers or provided any sign they are still alive since they seized the pair in a July 12 cross-border raid. Goldwasser's wife called on Hizbullah to allow the Red Cross to visit the soldiers. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Weighs Action to Stop Hizbullah Arms Flow - Yaakov Katz and Sheera Claire Frenkel
    Israel is considering taking action to stop the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah, although it plans for the time being to continue diplomatic efforts to change UNIFIL's mandate so that UN forces will deploy along the Syrian-Lebanese border, Israeli sources said on Tuesday. IDF Northern Command Head Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot met on Tuesday with UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy to discuss the Syrian arms smuggling and ways to better enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which forbids the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Using Cease-Fire to Stockpile Weapons - Avi Issacharof and Amos Harel
    Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday that Israel is concerned about the continued strengthening and arming of Hamas. He said Hamas is taking advantage of the cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to continue stockpiling arms. "Every solution that protects the citizens of Israel is possible," he said. "We prefer a diplomatic solution, but where that doesn't work out, we will also conduct military operations."
        IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said one of the principal threats from Gaza that concerns the IDF is the digging of booby-trapped tunnels by Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire from Gaza Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel's western Negev Wednesday morning, causing damage. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire at Israeli Vehicle
    Palestinians opened fire Tuesday afternoon on an Israeli vehicle traveling east of Kfar Taiba north of Ramallah in the West Bank. No casualties were reported, but the vehicle was damaged. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Mecca Agreement - A Strategic PLO-Hamas Alliance for Establishing a Palestinian State without Hamas Recognizing Israel - C. Jacob and Y. Carmon
    Hamas will not be required to recognize Israel, since, as a Palestinian movement, and even as a government, it is not authorized to conduct diplomatic negotiations, as negotiations and the signing of treaties in the name of the Palestinian people are the exclusive prerogative of the PLO and its head, Mahmoud Abbas. This tactic allows Abbas to conduct negotiations as the representative of the Palestinian people, and it enables him to ask Israel and the international community to overlook the fact that Hamas, which is part of the PA government, has not changed its principles and does not recognize Israel. (MEMRI)
  • U.S. Sanctions with Teeth - David Ignatius
    A new variety of U.S. Treasury sanctions is having a potent effect in Iran. The new measures work thanks to the hidden power of globalization: Because all the circuits of the global financial system are inter-wired, the U.S. quarantine effectively extends to all major banks around the world. "As banks do their risk-reward analysis, they must now take into account the very serious risk of doing business in Iran, and what the risks would be if they were found to be part of a terrorist or proliferation transaction," says Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt.
        Top U.S. Treasury officials visited bankers and finance ministers around the world, warning them to be careful about their dealings with Iranian companies that might covertly be supporting terrorism or weapons proliferation. This was enough to convince most big foreign banks in Europe and Japan to back away from Iran. The new sanctions are toxic because they effectively limit a country's access to the global ATM. In that sense, they impose - at last - a real price on countries such as Iran that have blithely defied UN resolutions. (Washington Post)
  • Who Wins in Iraq? Iran - Vali Nasr
    In the political vacuum that followed Saddam's fall, Iranian influence quickly spread into southern Iraq on the back of commercial connections - driven by a growing volume of trade and a massive flow of Iranian pilgrims into shrine cities of Iraq - and burgeoning intelligence and political ties. Iran's influence quickly extended to every level of Iraq's bureaucracy, Shiite clerical and tribal establishments, and security and political apparatuses. The war turned a large part of Iraq into an Iranian sphere of influence and, equally important, paved the way for Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf. The writer is professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Foreign Policy-Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
  • Observations:

    Maintaining Perspective on Iran - Fouad Ajami (U.S. News)

    • Mixing bravado and bluff, and granting proxies in Palestine and Lebanon, the leaders of the Iranian theocracy appear to have succeeded in spreading the image of a mighty power able to have its way in the world. For some, that great arc stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean is now a battleground between Pax Americana and the Persians. This belief is in part due to the abdication of the Arab states, their virtual absence from the contest of nations.
    • Iran is a radical player in the world of states, but we should not overstate its power. We should not fall for the Persian bluff. It is important that we do all we can to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and to checkmate it in arenas that count, but we should always remember that this is a society swimming against the tide of history and confronting the limits of its capabilities. The Iranians dwell virtually alone in the House of Islam, separated by language and culture, marked by their Shiism.
    • Iran's deranged president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came into power promising to put Iran's oil wealth "on the dinner table." But the Iranian economy is on the ropes. The price of bread and meat and basic commodities has risen by as much as 25 percent. A society that spends $20 billion a year to subsidize the price of energy, electricity, and gasoline will in the end have to contend with the wrath and disappointment of its people.
    • There is swagger in Iran, and there is menace, for its rulers are without scruples. Terrorism, for them, is always an option. But theirs is a vulnerable and brittle society. There is no need to "engage" them and bail them out as they stumble. The regime should be harassed, contained, and held to account.

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