Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 16, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Join us to demand the immediate release of kidnapped IDF soldiers Shalit, Goldwasser, and Regev.
Monday, July 16
12:00 noon
Hammarskjold Plaza (1st Ave. and 47th St.)
New York City
Contact: Conference of Presidents at 212-318-6111.

Rallies Worldwide Seek Soldiers' Release - Haviv Rettig (Jerusalem Post)

Shimon Peres Becomes Ninth President of Israel - Greer Fay Cashman (Jerusalem Post)
    Shimon Peres, 83, was sworn in Sunday as Israel's ninth president. Among those attending were former president Ephraim Katzir, 91, and former president Yitzhak Navon, 86.
    In his inaugural address, Peres reviewed his life and the history of Israel with which it has been inextricably intertwined.
    He also said: "Even today, the release of the three kidnapped soldiers - Gilad Shalit, Udi Goldwasser, Eldad Regev - is at the top of our agenda. They are our sons, and we will not rest until we see them again at home."
    See also Text of Peres' Speech (Ha'aretz)

Palestinian Mortar Fire on Israel from Gaza Continues (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinians fired four mortars into Israel on Sunday afternoon. The shells landed close to the Gaza security fence.
    Earlier Sunday, Hamas terrorists fired eight mortar shells near the Erez crossing.

Despite Blockade, Hamas Pays Full Wages to Fighters (Reuters)
    Hamas said it paid its security forces in Gaza their full salaries on Sunday despite an Israeli and Western boycott.

4,000 in UK Trained in Afghan Terror Camps - Ben Leapman (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
    Up to 4,000 Islamic extremists have attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan before returning to Britain, security chiefs have revealed.
    MI5 and MI6 are working on the assumption that al-Qaeda sees its British Muslim recruits as too valuable to be used in Iraq, and that most are ordered to return to their communities in Britain to establish autonomous terrorist "sleeper cells."

Hizbullah's "Divine Victory" in Ruins - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Despite Hizbullah's continuous attempts to present last summer's conflict as a "divine victory," Shoal Rada's macabre joke demonstrates the general atmosphere in Lebanon in the aftermath of the war.
    "Tell me, do you know what this means?" the Shiite from south Beirut asks a reporter from the Al-Awan news website as he makes the victory sign with his two fingers. "It means that we have only two buildings still standing."
    See also Hizbullah Hasn't Met Lebanon Goal - Hannah Allam (Miami Herald)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Bet on Abbas for Mideast Peace Meets Skepticism. Intelligence Reports Cast Doubt on Strength While Warning of Tenacity of Hamas - Robin Wright
    Several intelligence assessments have warned that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man U.S. policymakers hope can help salvage the Middle East peace process, may not be politically strong enough to achieve that goal, according to U.S. officials. The assessments have also cautioned that his opponents in Hamas will not be easily marginalized. The White House is now betting that Abbas, replenished by the return of aid from the West and tax revenue withheld by Israel, can create a stable enclave in the West Bank and resume peace negotiations with Israel.
        "Fatah faces significant challenges in effectively governing the West Bank. Israeli military operations are the major factor restricting Hamas activity, and Abbas can at best influence, not control, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade forces that are the power on the street in several towns," said a senior intelligence official. In the nearly three years since he took over after Arafat's death, Abbas has not been able to exert enough authority to command or produce action. (Washington Post)
  • In Gaza, Tensions Grow between Hamas Pragmatists and Hardliners as More Radical Groups Gain Adherents - Jeffrey Fleishman
    Hamas says it disavows Islamic radicalism but faces tension between its religious hard-liners and pragmatists who want to convince the West that it is not a political mask for jihad. The wider challenge for Hamas is whether it can, or even wishes to, rein in independent Islamist groups seeking to impose Sharia law. On Tuesday Mahmoud Abbas said, "Thanks to the support of Hamas, al-Qaeda is entering Gaza." (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Hamas Arrests Islamists Behind Attacks on Internet Cafes - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas gunmen in Gaza have arrested members of two radical Islamic groups who were behind a series of attacks on Internet cafes, hair salons, restaurants and hotels over the past year. Hamas' Executive Force raided the homes of 12 men belonging to the Army of Islam and the Righteous Swords of Islam, both groups believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. "Most of the men who were arrested are university students and teenagers," said one source. "We seized many weapons and explosives in their possession." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt's Al-Qaeda Chief Flees to Gaza
    An Egyptian security official says arrested al-Qaeda members have revealed during interrogation that Khaled Mahmud Ahmed, the head of the group, escaped to Gaza when Egyptian authorities began arresting members of the group in April. (AFP/ABC News-Australia)
  • U.S. Resists Pressure to Expand Blair's Mideast Mandate - Sylvie Lanteaume
    The U.S. is resisting pressure from Europe to expand the mandate of new Middle East quartet envoy Tony Blair as it tries to preserve its control over the Israel-Palestinian dossier. The issue is expected to be at the center of a Quartet ministerial meeting in Lisbon next Thursday. The U.S., which sees Blair's job as preparing the ground for the establishment of viable Palestinian institutions, is reluctant to define for him any political mission. Last week, Washington was not willing to allow Blair to negotiate with Hamas. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Iraq's Insurgency Nearly Half Saudi - Ned Parker
    About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, a senior U.S. officer said. Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, he said.
        The situation has left the U.S. military in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking attacks in Iraq, and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Troops Find Iranian Rockets Aimed at Their Iraq Base - Salam Faraj
    "After several rockets hit FOB (Forward Operating Base) Hammer on July 11, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team maneuvered to find the source of the attack," a U.S. military statement said Saturday. The next morning an "unmanned aerial vehicle located 46 rocket launchers in the northern section of Besmaya Range Complex aimed at FOB Hammer. Thirty-four of the launchers were armed with Iranian 107mm rockets."
        U.S. commanders frequently accuse Iran of providing weapons, training and support to armed groups in Iraq, including many of the rockets launched at Baghdad's Green Zone. They have also accused Iranian special forces of using Shiite Lebanese Hizbullah fighters to train Iraqi extremists to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Okays Amnesty to 178 Wanted Fatah Gunmen, Limits Arrests of Wanted West Bank Militants - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The Israel Defense Forces has significantly cut down on operations involving arrests of wanted Palestinian militants in the West Bank as a result of agreements reached between Israel and the PA. The move is linked to Israel's decision to offer pardons to 178 Fatah militants sought by the Shin Bet security service. The general opinion in the IDF is that the restrictions on arrest operations is a gesture with a short expiration date because the expectation is that the PA will be unable to keep its security-related promises. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Non-Fatah Palestinian Militants Reject Amnesty Deal with Israel
    The al-Quds Brigades, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, rejected an amnesty agreement with Israel after the PA had offered to include al-Quds members in the deal. The An Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, also rejected the Israeli amnesty. (Maan News-PA)
  • Prisoner List Ready for Olmert-Abbas Meeting - Herb Keinon
    The list of 250 mostly Fatah prisoners that Israel will release as a goodwill gesture to Mahmoud Abbas was drawn up on Sunday, a day before Prime Minister Olmert and Abbas are to meet in Jerusalem. Government officials said the list was made up of Palestinian security prisoners who do not have blood on their hands. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said the prisoners on the list were those who took part in terrorist actions that failed, such as shootings that missed their targets or roadside bombings that failed to detonate. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is Peace Out of Reach? - Aaron David Miller
    I've learned from experience never to say never in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, but certain grim realities inform the pessimism. First, the viability of an authoritative, pragmatic Palestinian center is at serious risk. Some, of course, argue that it never existed. I've known Mahmoud Abbas for more than a decade; he's a good man with a moderate nature who has the will and the incentive to make peace with Israel. But he lacks the power. He barely controls his own Fatah party, let alone the West Bank he's been relegated to.
        Eager to empower him, Israel and the U.S. are releasing funds, prisoners, political support and maybe even guns. It's worth a try, though Hamas will promote disorder and its own influence in the West Bank to frustrate Abbas' plans there. The grim reality is that a two-state solution is becoming less likely. With the growing divide between Gaza and the West Bank, a truncated Palestinian state separated by Israel and now by a growing divide within Palestinian ranks is hard to envision. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Egypt and the Specter of Hamas - Daniel Kurtzer
    Egypt's long-term complacency about the security situation in Gaza came to a shocking and abrupt end two years ago when Israel pulled out its settlers and army. Not only did Egypt find itself face to face with Palestinians without an Israeli buffer, but Egypt also was a target of Palestinian terrorism in Sinai. The Gaza border suddenly became Egypt's problem.
        As long as Egypt's Islamist problems were confined to Egypt, the regime and the security service seemed well-prepared to deal with the problem. The question now, however, is whether Hamas' takeover of Gaza will embolden Egypt's Islamists. For an Egyptian regime that had been confident of its ability to "tame" Hamas and insistent that Hamas be accepted as part of Palestinian politics, this specter of Hamas as an example that Egyptian Islamists may seek to emulate has got to be terrifying. The writer is former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel. (
  • Observations:

    A Risky Bet on Fatah - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)

    • The brutal Hamas coup is the first Islamic takeover of an Arab country in the past 35 years and the first in that period by military putsch. It was not a conflict waged or won by a majority of the population but one fought by a tiny armed faction with the political will to destroy a fragile government.
    • The fear is that it is a harbinger of turmoil affecting Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. The takeover has already destroyed the Mecca agreement mediated by Saudi Arabia between Fatah and Hamas, undermined the moderating role of Saudi Arabia, and sabotaged the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
    • Hamas-controlled Gaza is now an "Islamist emirate," a new power center for Iran and Syria. Gaza is a new location for every brand of radical Islamist from al-Qaeda to Hizbullah. The radical extremists are on the march, and the West is in retreat.
    • Just think how imperiled the West Bank now would be if Israel had gone along with Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton's U.S. plan of several months ago to allow truck convoys carrying Hamas fighters to connect Gaza and the West Bank.
    • Fatah is a broken reed and Abbas is a pathetic figure. At the time of the Gaza crisis, he was about to leave for Qatar where he carries on his multiple lucrative private businesses. He has never proven himself as a leader in easier situations, so why should we suddenly expect him to display strong leadership now?
    • Throwing money at Fatah will not give it a missing spine. Abbas' words are cheap. It is doubtful that he has it in him to be what he should be for the sake of the Palestinians - a strong leader willing and able to take a stand for peace and confront Hamas. The militias and thugs associated with the PLO's 13 security services control Abbas, not the other way around. To cede financial and military assets to an unreformed Fatah is to take the huge risk that they will end up in the hands of the terrorist groups associated with Fatah or eventually in the hands of Hamas, just as they did in Gaza.

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