Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 27, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Faces Policy Crisis Over Gaza (Oxford Analytica/Forbes)
    The emergency summit on Gaza that convened in Egypt on Monday signals Cairo's concern about the takeover of Gaza by Hamas.
    Egypt has changed from neighboring a fragile PA whose key political and security leaders - Abbas and Dahlan - it could trust, to neighboring a Gaza run by an Islamist party that is an offshoot of its own Muslim Brotherhood - what a senior Egyptian official has described with concern as "an Islamist state on Egypt's borders."

Gas Rationing Sparks Anger in Iran - Nasser Karimi (AP/Houston Chronicle)
    Angry Iranians attacked several gas stations in protest after the government suddenly began long-threatened fuel rationing Tuesday.
    Under the rationing plan, owners of private cars can buy only 26 gallons of fuel per month at the subsidized price of 38 cents per gallon.

Fatah-Affiliated Forces Claim Attacks on Gaza Border Crossings (Ma'an News-PA)
    The Fatah-affiliated Al Buraq Army announced that they launched a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli military position at the Karni Crossing between Israel and Gaza on Tuesday.
    Members of the Al Aqsa Brigades, the main military wing of Fatah, along with members of the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, declared Tuesday that they had fired two missiles at the Sufa crossing in the south of the Gaza Strip. (Ma'an News-PA)

Iran: The Last Executioner of Children - Nora Boustany (Washington Post)
    In a troubling report on the execution of minors in Iran, Amnesty International said Tuesday that at least 71 child offenders are on death row and more than 24 have been executed since 1990, more than in any other country.
    The report, "Iran: The Last Executioner of Children," said 11 of the child offenders executed were younger than 18 at the time of their deaths.

Terror Threat in Germany (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    A combination of intelligence "chatter," a suspicious video, and arrests along the Pakistani border have led authorities to warn that the threat of terrorist attacks in Germany is real.
    Germany faced an elevated threat of terrorism because of its involvement in Afghanistan, according to officials who said the risk of an attack is as high as it has ever been.
    "We are alarmed," the normally mild-mannered August Hanning, Deputy Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, said Thursday.
    German as well as foreign intelligence agencies have received hints about plans, groups, and individual extremists who may be planning an attack in Germany.
    "We have moved fully into the target range of Islamist terror," said Hanning.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arms Flowing into Lebanon, UN Finds - Warren Hoge
    The present state of border control is inadequate for preventing the smuggling of arms from Syria into Lebanon, according to a report by a UN assessment team submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday. The team was unable to document a single instance of a seizure of arms at or near the border. The Security Council resolution that ended the war between Israel and Hizbullah last August called on Lebanon to secure its borders and prevent the entry of unauthorized arms. The team's findings bolster a warning to the Security Council on June 11 by Terje Roed-Larsen, a special UN envoy, who reported "a steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria."  (New York Times)
  • Abbas Seeks to Bolster Fatah with Jordan-Based Force - Adam Entous
    Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has asked Israel for permission to bring Fatah forces based in Jordan to the West Bank to try to shore up his control after Hamas' Gaza takeover, Israeli officials said on Tuesday. The Badr Brigade has less than 1,000 fighters of various levels of training, and Abbas had initially intended to send the brigade into Gaza. Analysts say Badr is Fatah's best-trained and best-equipped fighting force, aside from the Presidential Guard. It is considered to be more loyal to Fatah than other forces, and also has strong ties to the Jordanian king. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also Are There Signs of a Jordanian-Palestinian Reengagement? - Dan Diker and Pinhas Inbari (ICA/JCPA)
  • Fears in the PA: Gaza May Turn into a Taliban-Style Emirate
    Fatah officials and columnists in the PA dailies were skeptical of Hamas' declarations that it would not try to impose Islam upon the citizens in Gaza. They said that the acts and statements of Hamas - destruction of monuments, attacks on Christians, and calls to establish an Islamic emirate - portended a Taliban-like reality. Yousef al-Qazzaz said: "[Hamas] members destroyed the monument of the unknown soldier [in Gaza] just as the Taliban destroyed archeological sites and monuments in Afghanistan." (MEMRI)
  • U.S. Offers Information for Investors on Companies in Countries Known to Sponsor Terrorism
    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Monday announced a website tool that permits investors to obtain information directly from company disclosure documents about businesses in countries the U.S. Secretary of State has designated "State Sponsors of Terrorism" - which currently include: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. (Securities and Exchange Commission)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Seeking to Free Entire West Bank Leadership in Exchange for Captured Israeli Soldier - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz
    Defense Ministry officials said Tuesday that Hamas was incapable of independently releasing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whose fate was in the hands of the Popular Resistance Committees and a number of other radical clans. "Hamas is only in a position to negotiate with Israel but will not be making the final decision," one official explained. "In the end, once Israel agrees to the deal, Hamas will go to the captors and request that Shalit be released."
        The officials said that among the prisoners Hamas has asked to be released are the group's entire terror leadership from the West Bank. Their release would enable Hamas to reestablish its military wing in the West Bank. "It took us years to arrest these people," said one official. "To let them out would also counter everything Israel is trying to do to with Abbas in the West Bank."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Are Looking for Alternative Leadership - Khalil Al Assali
    A majority of Palestinians do not trust their current leadership, according to various public as well as confidential opinion poll results. Ramallah-based political analyst Hani al-Masri notes a "deep gap between the Palestinian parties and the Palestinian people." Dr. Khalil al-Shakaki of the Palestinian Center for Political and Survey Research reported a poll showing 41% supporting the idea of dismantling the Palestinian Authority, while 42% support a confederation with Jordan. (Gulf News-Dubai)
  • Former Prisoner of Zion Against Palestinian Visitation Rights - Aviram Zino
    Former Prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel filed a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding it order the Internal Security Minister to withhold visitation rights of Hamas and Hizbullah prisoners in Israel as long as the Red Cross was prevented from seeing kidnapped IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev, and Ehud Goldwasser. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Who Lost Gaza? - Editorial
    Who lost Gaza? Increasingly, one hears that the disaster is the consequence of Israeli policies or American indifference. It is necessary to insist, therefore, that the primary responsibility for Palestinian actions falls on Palestinians. The internal factors are more decisive than the external factors. The political theology of Hamas is not, as outraged commentators like to say, an expression of nihilism; it is an expression of a grandiose radical worldview. If Hamas were not so genuinely indigenous, it would not be so genuinely terrifying.
        The more violent Hamas gets, the more one hears that it is time for diplomacy. About what, exactly? The only Palestinian state that Hamas will discuss is the one that will erase Israel from the map. For many decades, the world has clamored for Palestinian self-determination. Well, Palestinian self-determination is here for all the world to see. (New Republic)
  • Winds of War - Joshua Muravchik
    Consider the pell-mell events of recent weeks. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is caught delivering weapons to the Taliban and explosives to Iraqi terrorists. At the same time, Fatah al-Islam, a shady group linked to Syria, launches an attack on the Lebanese army from within a Palestinian refugee area, beheading several soldiers. Tehran trumpets further progress on nuclear enrichment as President Ahmadinejad repeats his call for annihilating Israel, crowing that "the countdown to the destruction of this regime has begun." Hamas seizes control militarily in Gaza.
        The apparent meaning of all of this is that the axis of radicals - Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah - is feeling its oats. It believes that its side has defeated America in Iraq, and Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. Ahmadinejad recently claimed that the West has already begun to "surrender," and he gloated that "final near." It is this bravado that bodes war. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Nationalist Suicide - Fouad Ajami
    The Palestinians have lived for decades now on a sense of historical entitlement. The world owed them a state come what may; it would be delivered to them even when their leaders faltered, even as they fell afoul of international norms and expectations. Now they know better. The American war on terrorism that would come in the aftermath of 9/11 had put before the Palestinians one of those great, defining moral and political questions: They could opt for the forces of order, tie their fate and their cause to sobriety and realism, or ride with the outlaws. The disorder now on full display in Gaza and the West Bank is the harvest of Palestinian history. What we see is the inevitable fate of a national movement given over to the cult of the gun. (U.S. News)
  • The Risks to Regional Security from International Forces in Gaza - Pinhas Inbari
    The international-forces idea is a sharp departure from the widely admired principle that Israel does not rely on foreigners for its defense and only wants to be able to handle it alone. This doctrine yielded massive U.S. military assistance and political backing for Israel. Once Israel changes its approach and starts asking for foreign troops to defend all its borders, the perception of Israel may well also change - from asset to burden.
        Once Israel formally asks the Europeans to send troops to Gaza, they will not do so free of charge. They will probably prefer to send their troops to the West Bank instead of Gaza as a way of imposing their positions on Israel - not only regarding the checkpoints but also regarding other Israeli security requirements such as the separation fence. (ICA/JCPA)
  • Observations:

    In the Wake of the Hamas Coup: Rethinking America's "Grand Strategy" for the New Palestinian Authority - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Before Washington proceeds too far down the path of propping up Mahmoud Abbas and resuscitating Fatah, the administration should take a critical look at the policies that failed to help develop the Palestinian Authority into a truly effective, accountable, transparent government, or to impede Hamas' rise.
    • In this context, pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian "political horizon" may in fact run counter to the interests and preferences of both sides. Instead, investing in an Arab-Palestinian political horizon - including early negotiation on the outline of an eventual Jordanian-Palestinian confederation - may be more realistic, valuable, and effective.
    • So far, the administration has responded with the main elements of its previously failed policy: some security assistance, though no demand for the transformation of the PA/Fatah security establishment; some economic assistance, though no requirement for change in the PA's governance or fight against corruption.
    • President Bush said in 2002: "A Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo." In practical terms, this would mean the following:
      1. Abbas should not only outlaw Hamas' extralegal militia - the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades - but also ban Fatah's own extralegal militia - the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - and truly implement a policy of government monopoly on force.
      2. Abbas should commit to credible mechanisms to ensure that no U.S. funds find their way to either Hamas-controlled Gaza or the various PA and Fatah political, cultural, educational, and media institutions that still advocate violence against Israel and Jews.
      3. Abbas should implement the full range of existing Oslo-era commitments, which address a vast array of issues from security cooperation to legitimate political activity.
    • Rhetoric to the contrary, there is reason to believe that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are actually eager to achieve rapid diplomatic movement. No Israeli government is likely to consider ceding critical assets to a Palestinian interlocutor so weak that it lost power in the one small piece of territory once under its total control. And no rump Palestinian government, still reeling from defeat, is likely to make concessions on the key issues - such as refugees - essential to any peace deal.
    • In the current environment, it would be no surprise if leaders on both sides agreed that now is not really the most propitious time to press for diplomatic progress, though they may want the illusion of diplomacy for local political purposes. Yet it is unclear why Washington would want to busy itself with an empty exercise that distracts from the important business of fixing the problems that produced the current situation.

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