Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 2, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Building More Missiles, But Unlikely to Attack Israel (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Syria is producing more rockets and preparing its army for possible armed conflict with Israel, but is unlikely to initiate an attack, the head of the Israel Defense Ministry's Political-Military Bureau, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, said Saturday.
    In an alliance with Iran, Syria also continues to help arm Hizbullah, despite a UN arms embargo, and supports the violent Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he said.

The Palestinian Street Favors Hamas - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)
    As great a danger as a Hamas regime in Gaza represents for Israel, it represents a far greater danger to the Palestinian Authority.
    While Israel's ability to defend itself against Hamas is clear, for the PA, Hamas is an existential threat against which it has difficulty defending itself.
    A large group of Fatah leaders in Gaza is conducting a friendly dialogue with Hamas, and some are even openly cooperating with Hamas. From some of the Fatah leadership in the West Bank there have been demonstrations of friendliness toward Hamas.
    The confusion in the top echelons of Fatah stems first and foremost from the clear impression that the Palestinian street favors Hamas.
    See also Hamas-Fatah Struggle Moves to TV - Ali Waked (Ynet News)

Hamas "Mickey Mouse" Killed Off (BBC News)
    A Palestinian TV station has killed off a controversial Mickey Mouse lookalike that critics said was spreading anti-U.S. and anti-Israel messages to children.
    The Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa channel aired the last episode on Friday, showing the character, Farfur, being beaten to death by an "Israeli agent."
    The channel had ignored demands from PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti for the show to be stopped.
    See also View the Episode (Palestinian Media Watch/YouTube)

Declassified CIA Documents Point to Killers of Israeli Military Attache in Washington in 1973 - Adam Goldman and Randy Herschaft (AP/Guardian-UK)
    On July 1, 1973, Col. Yosef Alon - a charismatic former fighter pilot and the assistant air and naval attache at Israel's Embassy in Washington - was gunned down in his suburban Maryland driveway.
    Recently declassified CIA documents, Alon's voluminous FBI case file, and interviews reveal that years after the shooting, the agency received a tantalizing tip about who likely pulled off the assassination and how the deadly plot was carried out.
    On the same day as the murder, monitors from the State Department heard the PLO's Voice of Palestine radio announce: "Col. Yosef Alon...was executed.... His is the first execution operation carried out against a Zionist official in the U.S.''
    According to portions of the FBI file that remain secret, "A sensitive source advised that the Black September organization was responsible for the crime.''
    The CIA had learned from a "Fedayeen senior official'' that two students had entered the U.S. via Canada and traveled on either Lebanese or Cypriot passports to Washington.
    In addition, Black September had tried to detonate three car bombs in New York City in March 1973.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Britain Under Attack as Bombers Strike at Glasgow Airport - David Leppard
    Britain Saturday night was put on its highest state of security alert after two men crashed a car into the main terminal building at Glasgow airport, raising fears of a new wave of terrorist attacks. Prime Minister Gordon Brown placed the country on a "critical" threat level, indicating that MI5 believes a terrorist attack is expected "imminently." Eyewitness Jackie Kennedy, 46, described how she watched one of the occupants of the car douse himself in petrol and set himself alight.
        On Friday, two Mercedes cars were found in the West End packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails and primed to detonate within 200 yards of each other as nightclubs emptied. The consensus among senior law enforcement officials was that the West End attack bore the hallmarks of an Islamist terror attack directed by "core al-Qaeda" figures in Pakistan. (Sunday Times-UK)
        See also Hunt for Terror Cell in Britain - Michael Evans and Adam Fresco
    There are five people in custody, one of them a 27-year-old woman, all arrested in connection with the plots. None is thought to be a British citizen. (Times-UK)
        See also Brown Links Attack to Al-Qaeda and Warns Public to Remain Vigilant - Catherine MacLeod
    Gordon Brown Sunday warned the terrorist threat to Britain was "long-term and sustained," and said security services and the public will have to remain constantly vigilant. He said the terror attacks were being carried out by "a group of people not just in this country but around the world who are prepared to inflict maximum damage on civilians" in pursuit of their aims. He played down suggestions that the terrorists were motivated by anger over British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that instead they seemed to have a "grievance against society, particularly against the values that we represent and the values decent people of all religions represent." "We have got to recognize what the nature of the threat that we are dealing with is," he said. "It is clear that we are dealing in general terms with people who are associated with al-Qaeda." (Herald-UK)
  • Jordan's King Rejects Confederation with Palestinians
    Jordan's King Abdullah II flatly rejected a confederation with the Palestinians on Sunday and said he was "fed up talking about this issue." "We reject the formula of confederation and federation and we believe that proposing this issue at this specific period is a conspiracy against both Palestine and Jordan," Abdullah told the Al-Ghad newspaper. He said it was "premature to talk about the shape of future relations with Palestine and we will not tackle this issue until an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian soil is established."  (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Kidnapped BBC Man's Fate Hangs on Clan Feud - Mitchell Prothero
    Hamas security forces snatched two members of Jaish al-Islam on their way from dawn prayers on Tuesday and held them at the former Fatah military intelligence HQ, hoping to pressure the group - led by Mumtaz Dughmush - into releasing BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. "The response to this was that Mumtaz threatened all foreigners and journalists in Gaza," said Hamas police commander Abu Khalid. Jaish al-Islam has demanded the release of one of three prisoners: Abu Qatada, a radical Palestinian cleric held in the UK; Sajida Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her participation in a 2005 suicide bomb hotel attack that killed scores of people; and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, linked to the late Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is also in Jordanian custody.
        Moderates in the Dughmush family say that Jaish al-Islam has become more radicalized and closer to al-Qaeda in the past year with the arrival of veterans of wars in Chechnya and Iraq, and they fear Mumtaz has fallen under the sway of al-Qaeda's brand of global jihad. It also explains demands for the release of Islamic militants not linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Observer-UK)
        See also Hamas Lays Siege to Journalist's Captors - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas militiamen have been surrounding the compound where the Dughmush clan lives in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City for the past two weeks. Hamas officials said it was only a matter of time before their men raided the compound to release the journalist. Members of the clan accused Hamas of kidnapping and killing Ahmed Dughmush, 28, on Saturday night. His bullet-riddled body was discovered in Gaza City shortly after he was kidnapped from the street by Hamas' Executive Force. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Airstrike Kills Islamic Jihad Warlord in Gaza - Sakher Abu El Oun
    Ziad al-Ghnam, general commander of the Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades, Raid al-Ghnam, an engineer commander, and local commander Mohammed al-Raai were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the Brigades said on Sunday. Israel accused Ziad al-Ghnam of orchestrating a string of anti-Israeli attacks, including the killing of a pregnant woman and her four daughters in May 2004 in Gaza. The army said Raai placed a roadside bomb and fired a rocket-propelled grenade during a May 2004 attack on the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt in which five Israeli soldiers were killed. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Fatah Terrorist Killed in West Bank - Avi Issacharoff
    Israel Defense Forces troops operating in Jenin Monday killed Mohammed Abu al-Heija, 25, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and a deputy of Zakariya Zubeidi, one of the top commanders of the Fatah-linked armed group. (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Transfers $118 Million to PA - Aluf Benn
    Israel transferred $118 million in tax revenues to the Palestinian government on Sunday, as part of a series of steps intended to bolster PA Chairman Abbas. The remainder of the tax revenues will be transferred to Abbas' government within six months. Palestinian officials said the funds will be used to pay government workers in Gaza as well as in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Resumes Rocket Fire at Israel - Amos Harel
    The Hamas military wing, under the leadership of Ahmed al-Ja'abari, has resumed launching Kassam rockets from Gaza at Israel after a lull of some weeks. During this period, rocket launchings had primarily been conducted by Islamic Jihad, Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, and members of local clans.
        Some 150 members of the National Security organization, originally a Fatah-affiliated group, were deployed along the Philadelphi Route, along the Gaza-Egypt frontier. In practice these are troops that have deserted to the ranks of Hamas. Several days ago, the regular Palestinian police force was redeployed on the streets of Gaza. This is another force that was under Fatah control and whose rank-and-file chose to desert to Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Elderly Couple's Home - Tova Dadon
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets into Israel late Friday, one of which hit the home of an elderly couple in a western Negev kibbutz. The rocket slammed through the roof of the house, then ricocheted into the yard of the neighboring home, where it exploded. No one was wounded, but the rocket caused severe damage to both houses. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Making Iran Feel the Pain - Matthew Levitt
    For graduated sanctions to be effective, each deadline that passes without a change in Iran's behavior must be followed by another, more severe round of sanctions. To date, sanctions have had a primarily psychological impact, producing discontent within the powerful merchant classes and civil servants. Failure to follow up with tougher sanctions would undermine whatever progress sanctions have had to date.
        The danger is that today's diplomacy produces only more symbolic measures, watered down by multilateral negotiations whose goal is international consensus. To avoid such failure, this round should fill the gaps left open by the first two UN resolutions. Specifically, it can target additional Iranian banks, and focus on companies controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially those involved in the oil and gas sectors. The writer, a senior fellow and director of the Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence and Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department. (Wall Street Journal, 2Jul07)
  • Comparing Three Muslim Brotherhoods: Syria, Jordan, Egypt - Barry Rubin
    Regarding al-Qaeda - both its theorists and its terrorist infrastructure - the Brotherhoods approve generally of its militancy, attacks on America, and ideology (or respect its ideologues), but view it as a rival.
        Each Muslim Brotherhood group faces a key question regarding its evolution. For the Egyptians, it is whether to continue in the phase of da'wa - recruiting, propagandizing, base-building, and accepting the limits the government places on it - or to move into a more activist phase, demanding political changes and being willing to confront the regime. Given the organization's current high level of confidence, as the younger generation takes over and the government perhaps appears weaker - especially during the transition to a new president - it could well push harder. In Jordan, the movement faces the same options, but is probably even more skewed to the side of caution. (MERIA Journal)
  • Observations:

    A Road Map for Mr. Blair - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)

    • One aspect of Tony Blair's mission statement which is new is to help the Palestinians build up coherent institutions. The failure at Palestinian nation-building through the lack of effective institutions is one of the worst enemies of the Palestinian quest for statehood. If they continue to fail in this, their dream of a state is doomed to be swallowed up - as in Gaza - in internecine bloodshed.
    • The Arab region has been the only area of the world which has not witnessed the emergence of a democratic movement in the last two decades, during which Eastern Europe, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia have been swept by democratic transformations. That this is not rooted in Islam, but is a specific Arab predicament, is testified by such disparate examples as Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh - even Iran, whose theocracy is accompanied by contested elections and a vibrant civil society.
    • Both in Iraq and among the Palestinians, elections spawned militia-based parties, and ultimately power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Anyone who believes that in either Iraq or Palestine there will soon be an orderly transfer of power from militias and armed gangs to a legitimate government sorely misunderstands the subtext of Arab politics.
    • In both Iraq and among the Palestinians, neither winners nor losers behave according to the rules of the game: Winners don't respect the rights of the losers, and losers just bristle against the winning majority and don't respect election results.

      The writer, professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has been involved in democracy-enhancement projects in post-communist Eastern Europe.

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