Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 28, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Says Militant Held in Iraq Has Iranian Ties (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Iraqi and U.S. troops detained a militant leader suspected of ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guards in a raid in Baghdad on Saturday.
    The man detained was "suspected of...acting as a proxy for an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officer."
    "The individual believed to be the suspected leader in a secret cell [of a] terrorist network for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training," the U.S. military said.

Israel Campus Beat
- May 27, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    How Should Israel Operate in Gaza?

Al-Qaeda Spurs Gaza Carnage to Create Hamastan - David Eshel (Defense Update)
    The real force behind the Gaza mayhem seems to be a combined al-Qaeda and Iran strategy, strange bedfellows perhaps, but for the time being, closely-linked partners in a common strategic goal to establish "Hamastan" as a forward base for global terrorism.
    Al-Qaeda's ultimate objective is to destabilize and destroy the moderate Arab nations, first in line post-Mubarak's Egypt, then the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and finally, the Sunni cradle of Saudi Arabia.
    A similar aim is Tehran's Shiite Crescent strategy.
    The writer is a retired IDF colonel and author on military and Middle East issues.

Gaza in Flames, Again - Editorial (Chicago Tribune)
    Two summers ago there were hopes that Gaza would bloom. That it would show the Palestinians' ability to rule themselves. That hasn't happened.
    The internal violence and the missiles launched from Gaza give little hope that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful one.
    Some people blame democracy for the chaos in Gaza. They argue that opening the parliamentary ballot to Hamas candidates was a blunder because it created the current crisis.
    But the failure in Gaza is not the fault of democracy. It's a gross failure of leadership to represent the interests of their people and establish peace and a Palestinian state.

Syrians Vote for Assad in Uncontested Referendum (AP/Washington Post)
    Syrians voted Sunday in a referendum to endorse President Bashar al-Assad - the only candidate - for a second term.

Israeli Economy in Longest Ever Expansion (Globes)
    The Israeli economy grew by an annualized 6.3% in the first quarter of 2007, after growing by 7.3% in the preceding quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Sunday.
    See also Israel Quarterly Jobless Rate Declines to 7.7 Percent - Alisa Odenheimer (Bloomberg)

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  • Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq - Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet
    When Muhammad al-Darsi, 24, met his recruiter in Damascus, Syria, he was told he was not needed in Iraq. Instead, he was drafted into the war that is seeping out of Iraq. A team of militants from Iraq had traveled to Jordan, where they were preparing attacks on Americans and Jews. Darsi was asked to join them and blow himself up in a crowd of tourists at Queen Alia Airport in Amman. "I agreed," Darsi said in a nine-page confession to Jordanian authorities after the plot was broken up. The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond.
        Last week, the Lebanese Army found itself in a furious battle against Fatah al-Islam, whose ranks included as many as 50 veterans of the war in Iraq, according to Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, general director of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon. "You have 50 fighters from Iraq in Lebanon now, but with good caution I can say there are a hundred times that many, 5,000 or higher, who are just waiting for the right moment to act," said Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident in Britain.
        In an April 17 report written for the U.S. government, Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, said battle-hardened militants from Iraq posed a greater threat to the West than extremists who trained in Afghanistan because Iraq had become a laboratory for urban guerrilla tactics. (New York Times)
        See also Al-Qaeda Chief Urges Iraqis to Export Jihad, Envisions an Islamic "Greater Syria" - Uzi Mahnaimi
    The deputy leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has urged supporters in Iraq to extend their "holy war" to other Middle Eastern countries. In a recent letter, Zawahiri claims al-Qaeda is defeating U.S. forces and urges followers to expand their campaign of terror. He conjures a vision of an Islamic "greater Syria" comprising Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, where al-Qaeda has already gained its first footholds. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • Fatah al-Islam Military Commander: We Are "Ready to Blow Up Every Place in Lebanon"
    In an interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, the military commander of Fatah al-Islam, Shihab al-Qaddour, also known as Abu Hurieira, threatened that if attacks by the Lebanese military against his organization continued, "all fronts will be opened." Al-Qaddour stated that "in addition to the supporters of the organization, Fatah al-Islam has bases and sleeper cells in all the Palestinian refugee camps in the various regions of Lebanon, and they are on alert [to launch] a harsh response - they await only a sign from us." Al-Qaddour said: "Many Fatah al-Islam members have very rich battle experience outside Lebanon. I personally have 21 years of experience in fighting in various regions - the most recent of which was Iraq." Al-Qaddour denied that Fatah al-Islam was affiliated with al-Qaeda, and added: "Our organization is an Islamic project aimed at liberating Palestine and Jerusalem." (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Shin Bet: "Hamas Will Be Ready for Us" in Gaza, Has Rockets that Can Reach Ashkelon But Has Not Decided to Use Them - Ronny Sofer
    Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday that if the Israel Defense Forces enter Gaza, "they [Hamas] will be more than ready for us." "They'll be waiting for us with explosive tunnels, snipers, road bombs and anything else they can think of." When asked if Hamas was capable of increasing the amount of missiles launched at Israel, Diskin replied, "They can make such an effort, but for no longer than a few days." "They are limited by the difficulties in moving rocket launchers around, they can't make as many rockets as before and they have an increasing amount of casualties," he added. "It's no coincidence they're not firing at Ashkelon. They may have the technical ability, but they know that would mean things have escalated further." (Ynet News)
        See also Shin Bet Chief: Hamas in Distress - Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff
    Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet Sunday that Hamas is currently in distress. Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal is growing concerned over the attitudes among the Palestinian people, and over claims in the streets that the Kassam rocket fire undermines the Palestinian people's national objectives. "Time is working against Hamas. We must continue to make Hamas pay every day and we mustn't accept any proposal for a truce in Gaza," he said. He also noted that Hamas has begun launching rockets in close proximity to residences, and even from the roofs of people's homes. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Man Killed in Palestinian Rocket Attack on Sderot - Mijal Grinberg, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Oshri Oz, 36, of Hod Hasharon was killed Sunday when a Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza hit the car in which he was driving in Sderot, the second person killed by a Palestinian rocket in less than a week. 22 Palestinian rockets fell on or near Sderot over the weekend. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Man of Courage - Shelly Paz
    The Palestinian rocket that ended Oz's life landed 30 centimeters from his vehicle, spraying him with shrapnel and fatally wounding him. Oz, a computer technician, traveled to Sderot several times a week as part of his work. Oz is survived by his pregnant wife and three-year-old daughter.
        Six Palestinian rockets hit Sderot on Sunday. One slammed into a newly-built community center. Another struck the home of the Hazan family - the second time a rocket has hit their house. David Hazan and his 15-year-old son were both at home when they heard the siren sound, and managed to rush into the security room. A moment after they closed the door to the room, a Kassam rocket scored a direct hit on their house. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Fire Seven Rockets at Sderot on Monday - Mijal Grinberg (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Sderot Bleeds from Kassams (YouTube)
  • Gunmen Attack Israeli Security Forces in Eastern Jerusalem - Jonathan Lis and Avi Issacharoff
    A Border Policeman and an Israeli security guard were moderately to seriously wounded Saturday when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli roadblock near the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Saad. The security forces returned fire, killing the two gunmen. A Palestinian bystander was killed in the crossfire. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Terrorists Shouted "Allahu Akbar" - Efrat Weiss
    Isam Abu-Rish, the Border Policeman wounded in Saturday's shooting attack in Jerusalem, recalled from his hospital bed on Sunday: "I was at the checkpoint with a few of the other guards when two ordinary looking guys showed up. There was nothing suspicious about them, and then all of a sudden one of them shot me in the back, from point-blank range." "I pulled away, and I saw he was trying to take another shot, but his gun jammed, and I shot him. The other terrorist started running at me, so I shot him too....They were even shouting 'Allahu Akbar'." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sderot Is Us - Ari Shavit
    Every night, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal tours his city, checking the number of houses with lights on. At its height, Sderot had a population of 24,000, but now, with the refugees whom Hamas chased out being scattered throughout the country, no more than 10,000 people remain in the city. Sderot is the litmus test that will teach us what we can expect in the future. The struggle for Sderot should be viewed as a struggle for Israeli sovereignty. Sderot is all of us. We rise and fall with Sderot. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Victory in Sderot - Zalman Shoval
    There is no greater triumph for our enemies (and no better way to cool off any desire to reach peace with us) than the depressing sight of residents evacuated from the Israeli town of Sderot. In their wild imagination, our enemies can already see the next step: Sderot first, then Ashkelon, and later, who knows, maybe even Tel Aviv. (Ynet News)
  • Next Step on Iran - Editorial
    As the UN Security Council's latest deadline for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment passed last week, UN inspectors reported that 2,100 centrifuges were operating or under construction at the Natanz plant, more than triple the number of three months ago. There is no better alternative than returning to the Security Council, as the administration says it will do, and forging another resolution with tougher sanctions. Iran is vulnerable to economic pressure. Its oil industry counts on foreign investment, and the automobiles that choke its cities are mostly fueled by imported gasoline. Sanctions that put real pressure on the Iranian economy, combined with a continuing offer of expanded trade and security guarantees when the nuclear program is suspended, might still crack Iran's hard-line posture. In the absence of such action, the options of surrender or war will only gain ground. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    How Nicolas Sarkozy Could Destroy Hizbullah - Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson (New Republic)

    • While the U.S. government designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organization a decade ago, the European Union has not. Doing so would require the consensus of all 27 member states, and several countries have been opposed, including Spain, Belgium, and, in particular, France.
    • Now, the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as France's new president may represent the best chance yet for Europe to reconsider its position. In a September 2006 closed-door session with Jewish leaders in the U.S., Sarkozy reportedly referred to Hizbullah as a "terrorist organization." During last summer's war between Hizbullah and Israel, Sarkozy defended Israel's right to defend itself against an organization he described as the "one aggressor" in the conflict.
    • Hizbullah uses Europe primarily as a fund-raising and recruiting ground. An annual German intelligence assessment estimates that 900 Lebanese Hizbullah members live in that country alone. A ban would significantly constrain Hizbullah's European activities, especially its ability to raise funds there.
    • According to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, EU designation of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization would "destroy" the organization as "[t]he sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed."
    • The U.S. should engage the new French president on this issue as soon as possible. Sarkozy is uniquely positioned to make Nasrallah's fear a reality.

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