Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 17, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: Doctors Without Borders Staffer Plotted to Kill Israeli Prime Minister - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Mazab Bashir, 25, a Palestinian from Gaza who works for the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, has been arrested for plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed Thursday.
    Bashir confessed that for months he had been collecting intelligence on senior Israeli officials - including Olmert and a number of Knesset members.
    He was picked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to carry out the planned assassination and underwent arms training with the PFLP.

Next Target for Palestinian Rockets May Be Ashkelon, Defense Officials Warn - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
    Ashkelon could be the next target of Palestinian rocket attacks, defense officials warned during a security consultation at the Prime Minister's Office Wednesday.
    The defense establishment and the civil authorities were instructed to prepare for the possibility of long-range rocket attacks, which may come in response to Israel's decision Wednesday to discontinue its policy of restraint in the Gaza Strip.
    Officials said Hamas was trying to drag Israel into Gaza to force the battling Palestinian factions to unite and redirect their hostilities against Israel.
    Terror groups in Gaza have Soviet-made Grad (Katyusha) rockets with a 22-km. range.

Mubarak Expresses Concern Over Growing Strength of Hamas - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed great concern over the increasing strength of Hamas in talks with senior diplomatic officials on Wednesday.
    "Hamas will never sign a peace agreement with Israel if it stays in power," he said.
    Mubarak also said that Egypt did not accept Hamas in power, especially in light of its growing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which leads the opposition in Egypt.
    Egypt has begun barring senior Hamas leaders from entering Egypt due to concerns over their contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel to Join OECD (Israel Foreign Ministry)
    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council, meeting in Paris Wednesday, approved a decision to open accession discussions with Israel.
    The decision attests to respect for the Israeli economy and constitutes international recognition of the State of Israel's achievements as a democratic and developing country, and of its ability to contribute to the global economy.

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Jerusalem Day Parades - May 15-16, 2007 - 585 Pictures - Jacob Richman

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  • Unity Fractures as Palestinians Battle in Gaza - Steven Erlanger
    At least 19 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday - more than 40 have been killed over the past four days - in fighting between Fatah and Hamas as their unity government fractures and rage rises on both sides. Hamas attacked symbols of Fatah power in Gaza; after a mortar attack, 200 armed men of the Hamas occupied the home of the chief security commander. He was not there, but six bodyguards were killed. (New York Times)
        See also Gaza City: "A City of Corpses and Ghosts" - Sakher Abu el-Oun
    "Even during the Israeli occupation the situation wasn't this terrible," says Um Mohammed, praying for an end to the lethal Palestinian infighting raging outside her Gaza City home. Fear reigns throughout the city, deserted but for prowling groups of armed men, loyal to rivals Hamas or Fatah, living on a daily diet of ambushes, kidnappings and assassinations. Dozens of snipers on the rooftops of the tallest buildings open fire seemingly on anything that moves. "We can't go near the window, let alone on the balcony. We have all become targets," says Um Mohammed. "This is a city of corpses and ghosts." (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also AP Reporter in Gaza: "This Is the Worst It's Been" - Ibrahim Barzak
    On Wednesday, I saw several people shot in front of my building, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who tried to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Solution for PA Anarchy? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News); Salvation in Occupation - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Urges Sanctions Against Tehran - David R. Sands
    The U.S. Tuesday called for tough international action against Iran after reports that international inspectors have concluded Tehran has made major technical strides in recent days toward processing nuclear fuel. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the Bush administration is prepared to press for a new round of UN sanctions if Iran defies resolutions calling on it to halt the enrichment of uranium. "What is obvious to everyone is that Iran has continued to act in defiance of the wishes of the international community," Casey said. "We need to continue to apply pressure and increase pressure with an additional Security Council resolution if they don't comply." (Washington Times)
  • New Bill Would Allow Iran Energy Divestments - Chris Baltimore
    U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced new legislation that would protect fund managers and state pension programs from shareholder lawsuits if they divest stakes in energy companies that do business with Iran. Rather than taking punitive action, the new legislation would authorize state and local governments and private fund-managers to divest assets for companies that invest over $20 million in Iran's energy sector, which the U.S. government would publish in a list every six months.
        The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate by Illinois Democrat Barack Obama and in the House of Representatives by Democratic Reps. Barney Frank and Tom Lantos. Fund managers that choose to divest could do so "without breaching their fiduciary responsibilities to their investors," and thus dodge class-action lawsuits from disapproving investors, Frank said. A report by the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service found more than $100 billion in energy investments in Iran since 1999 by such foreign firms as France's Total, Royal Dutch Shell, Italy's ENI and Inpex of Japan. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Intensify Economic Pressure on Iran, Syria - Dan Robinson
    Tom Lantos, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserts the divestment measure will also encourage moderate elements in Iran opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies. "This will strengthen their hand, it will weaken the Iranian economy, and it will contribute we hope peacefully to undermining this regime which has been so negative, both in terms of the freedom of the Iranian people internally and Iran's global position." Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill last week to strengthen existing U.S. sanctions against Syria and support what it calls a transition to a democratically elected government in Syria. (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israeli High School, Wounds Two - Shmulik Hadad
    A high school in Israel was directly hit by a Palestinian rocket Thursday. Two people were lightly wounded in the attack, and several others suffered from shock. The rocket landed on an unfortified classroom, which was empty at the time. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Bombardment of Sderot Continues Thursday
    Kassam rockets continued to bombard Sderot on Thursday. By 9 a.m., four rocket hits had been reported. On Wednesday night, a Kassam rocket hit a four-story apartment building in the city. Another rocket hit a transformer, knocking out electricity in parts of the city. Earlier Wednesday, the Sderot Municipality prepared to temporarily evacuate 4,000 residents, 16% of the city's 24,000 residents. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Sderot: Woman Wounded in Palestinian Rocket Barrage - Shmulik Hadad
    As Palestinian terror groups launched over thirty Kassam rockets at Israel in 24 hours, a 70-year-old Israeli woman was evacuated to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon on Wednesday in moderate-to-serious condition with injuries to her limbs and stomach. A second resident was lightly wounded. (Ynet News)
        See also Constant Terror in Sderot - Masha Rifkin
    As I write this, Kassam rockets are hitting Sderot. Children are screaming, mothers are collapsing in despair, and doctors are pulling shrapnel out of the bodies of Jews. Cornell University junior Masha Rifkin of Newton, Massachusetts, is a volunteer at the Mishol social work office in Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Bombs Hamas Offices in Retaliation for Rocket Barrage - Amos Harel
    Israel Air Force jets bombed a Hamas headquarters in Rafah, the first such air strike against a Hamas target in more than six months, killing four Palestinians and injuring 20 others - all Hamas militants. The air force also killed a Hamas rocket crewman on the outskirts of Gaza City. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Death Rattle of Another Mideast Plan - Matthew Kalman
    Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton has joined a growing line of American mediators who have come up with intelligent and far-reaching security plans for the Palestinians, only to see their blueprints mown down in a barrage of automatic weapons fire. Dayton's benchmarks, circulated to Israeli and Palestinian leaders last month, called for a phased easing of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods, the removal of Israeli checkpoints, and the opening of a safe passage across Israel from Gaza to the West Bank. Israel was also to supply weapons and equipment to security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians were to stop smuggling weapons, explosives and ammunition across the Gaza-Egypt border and to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns from Gaza. Dayton's plan - like those of his well-meaning predecessors - makes sense on paper, yet has proved to be far detached from the grim reality on the ground. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Springtime for Iran - Editorial
    It's spring in Iran, a time when a hard-line Islamic regime's thoughts turn to repression and crackdowns. These days the Modesty Police roam the streets of Tehran, stopping women who dress inappropriately. Their targets: women who wear small head scarves or short, tight coats or cosmetics or bright nail polish or large sunglasses or short socks ... just about anything that may be deemed un-Islamic. Most get a warning, which is better than it was in the early days of the Islamic revolution. Then, violators were fined, jailed and flogged.
        We can understand why the rulers of Iran are sensitive. They're driving the country deeper and deeper into isolation - with two sets of UN sanctions in place and more likely coming - all to keep an outlaw nuclear program going. Despite the country's oil wealth, the Iranian economy is feeble; the good times promised by Ahmadinejad haven't materialized, and never will without serious market reforms. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Solution for PA Anarchy? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • Sderot and western Negev communities are not sustaining Palestinian rocket fire because the Palestinians hope to secure diplomatic-national objectives through their attacks, but rather, because this serves local political and extortion efforts by several dozens of clans and armed groups fighting each other over economic interests and political prestige. In simple terms, Hamas is "exporting" to Israel the responsibility for the massacre carried out by Palestinians against other Palestinians in order to avoid criticism and sanctions from moderate Arab states, and particularly from Saudi Arabia.
    • Control of the street and arms have shifted to dozens of armed groups and clans, with each one clinging to its own agenda and narrow interests. Intelligence officials have identified 47 such groups, with some working on behalf of Iran and others on behalf of global Jihad.
    • The chances of Abbas loyalists overcoming Hamas in a Gaza military clash are slim to none.

        See also Salvation in Occupation - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)

    • Hamas has won every confrontation since fighting started Sunday. Its military dominance and supremacy are clear. Hamas is conducting itself like a military organization: It moves its forces, positions snipers, uses light artillery (mortars, for example), sets up ambushes in strategic locations, and systematically targets Fatah's leadership in Gaza, based on hit lists it has drafted.
    • Fatah's leadership vacuum is the main reason for the group's defeat in the current round. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is still not showing signs of leadership. Mohammed Dahlan managed to rally Fatah's loyalists during the previous round of fighting, but this round caught Dahlan hospitalized in Cairo following back surgery.
    • The Gazans are repeating one clear message: only Israeli occupation will save them. There is no other solution on the horizon.

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