Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 24, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Rocket Hits Kibbutz Home; Mother Saves Baby Daughter - Mijal Grinberg (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket on Monday that directly hit a house in Kibbutz Karmiya south of Ashkelon, penetrating through the roof before exploding in an 8-month-old baby girl's bedroom.
    When the warning alert sounded, the mother took the girl from her crib and ran with her to a safer part of the house. The kibbutz houses have no reinforced "safe rooms."
    See also Photo of Baby's Crib Destroyed in Rocket Attack - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Faces Rebellion from the Ranks - Deborah Haynes (Times-UK)
    Fed up with being part of a group that cuts off a person's face with piano wire to teach others a lesson, dozens of low-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are daring to become informants for the U.S. military in the hostile Baghdad neighborhood of Doura.
    "They are turning. We are talking to people who we believe have worked for al-Qaeda in Iraq and want to reconcile and have peace," said Col. Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

Britain's £1.5M Bribes Fail to Buy Taliban Peace Deal - Christina Lamb (Sunday Times-UK)
    Britain has spent more than £1.5m in Afghanistan this year to bribe members of the Taliban to lay down their arms, even though it has failed to persuade any significant figures to defect.
    The money was allocated in January and May after the killings of two top commanders, Mullah Osmani and Mullah Dadullah, and the arrest of Mullah Obaidullah, all members of the Taliban's ruling council.
    British officials expected this would lead to a dip in Taliban morale and encourage members to fear they were on the losing side. Instead, heavy fighting has continued.
    Britain has 7,100 troops in Afghanistan - more than in Iraq.

Jews Start Prayers, Fasting to Mark Destruction of Temple (AFP/Yahoo)
    Religious Jews in Israel and around the world began traditional prayers and fasting on Monday to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second holy temples in Jerusalem.
    Commemorated under the Hebrew calendar as the Ninth of Av, worshippers will gather on Tuesday before the Wailing Wall, the last remaining vestige of the Second Temple.

Useful Reference:

Free the Soldiers Rally (Conference of Presidents)
    On July 16, 2007, thousands of people rallied in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the UN, to demand immediate action from the international community to free the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah and Hamas as well as other Israeli MIAs.
    Addressing the crowd were the soldiers' family members, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, members of Congress, religious and communal leaders.
    See also Rally Video Highlights (COP)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Peacekeepers Turn to Hizbullah for Protection - Nicholas Blanford
    The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon are led by elite European troops, but a year on, UNIFIL finds itself under threat not from the Shiite Hizbullah, but from radical Sunni militants possibly inspired by al-Qaeda. Some UNIFIL contingents are now seeking the cooperation of Hizbullah, which also views militant Sunnis as a threat, to help provide tacit security for the peacekeepers, Hizbullah and UNIFIL sources say. Last month, six Spanish and Colombian soldiers serving with UNIFIL were killed when a car bomb exploded beside their armored vehicle. Last week, a UNIFIL jeep was damaged when a bomb exploded nearby, confirming fears that last month's bombing was not a random act. In both attacks, radical Sunnis are the prime suspects. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Blair Takes on New Role as Mideast Envoy - Isabel Kershner
    Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, on Monday plunged into his new role as special envoy of the quartet of Middle East peacemakers. He met with Jordan's foreign minister in Amman, and then proceeded to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli leaders. His mandate is to help build PA institutions and to promote the development of the Palestinian economy, with the role of mediator generally reserved for the Americans. Mark Regev, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the importance of institution building on the Palestinian side should not be underestimated. "That has often been the Achilles' heel of the process," he said, noting that Abbas' "failure to implement his election promise of imposing 'one authority, one law and one gun' in the Palestinian Authority has been a source of many of the problems." (New York Times)
  • Israeli Amnesty Offer to West Bank Palestinian Militants May Be Short-Lived - Dan Murphy
    Israel has promised to cancel the arrest warrants for 178 Al-Aqsa Brigades members if they promise not to participate in attacks against Israel and agree to a three-month period of disarmament and containment, after which they will be absorbed into the uniformed, armed security services loyal to Abbas. However, members of the Fatah-linked militia caution that if no progress is made on key issues such as a return to the 1967 borders and an end to Israeli incursions into the West Bank, their disarmament will be short-lived. Many Palestinians believe the amnesty is more about strengthening Fatah's ability to use its security services to target Hamas in the West Bank. A number of the men offered amnesty have been deeply involved in operations against Hamas this year. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Hamas, Fatah in Stalemate in West Bank - Ben Hubbard
    Since the fall of Gaza to Hamas, Fatah is pushing hard to restrict Hamas' influence in the West Bank, but the Islamists, who have won control of several key towns in local elections since 2005, are too deeply rooted in Palestinian society to be sidelined easily. Immediately after the Gaza takeover, Abbas fired the Hamas-led government and ordered a crackdown on the group in the West Bank, including the arrests of dozens of Hamas militants. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinian Gunmen Storm Fatah Offices in Gaza
    Fatah officials said members of Hamas' Executive Force stormed the offices of senior Fatah lawmaker Ashraf Goma in Gaza on Monday. Goma was hit in the head with a rifle butt during the raid and at least three office workers were shot and wounded. (Reuters)
  • Sanctions Fail to Fuel Dissent on Iran's Streets - Gareth Smyth
    When angry motorists torched petrol stations as Tehran introduced rationing last month, Iran's opponents scented success. But after three weeks of rationing, riots have given way to grumbling. The government opted to ration petrol rather than raise the price - among the lowest in the world - to market level. But the bulk of Iran's state-owned economy rolls on with record oil revenue that rose 13.6% to $54 billion in the Iranian year ending March 20.
        Tehran's trade with Italy has fallen 20% in six months. In 2006, Germany's exports to Iran dropped 7% and Japan's fell 13%. But business with China is booming. Last year Beijing signed a $100 billion deal to import Iranian natural gas. "The situation over sanctions is a huge opportunity for China, former Soviet republics and regional countries," says one Asian diplomat in Tehran. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hizbullah Has Restored Long-Range Missile Arsenal; Israel Targets Hizbullah-Funded West Bank Terror Cells - Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern
    Hizbullah has restored its military capabilities, particularly its long-range missile arsenal, senior Israeli security sources confirmed Monday. Syrian officials are directly involved in the transfer of missiles from Iran to Hizbullah, a senior Israeli security source said. "This is not smuggling, but the open transfer of weapons," he said.
        Palestinian security sources said Monday that Hizbullah's efforts to penetrate Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades cells in the West Bank have been seriously curtailed. Israel's security forces have killed or arrested many of the cells that had been under Hizbullah control, mostly in the area of Nablus and the northern West Bank. Also, the flow of cash from Hizbullah has been contained. The PA has also made an effort to convince Al-Aqsa Brigades militants not to accept funding from foreign sources. However, Israeli security sources say Hizbullah's overall activity in the West Bank continues unabated through other Palestinian militant groups. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Shell Israel-Gaza Border Crossing
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three mortar shells that landed near the Kissufim Crossing on Monday night. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Has Al-Qaeda Found a Hospitable Host in Hamas? - Bridget Johnson
    Some reasons why Gaza is attractive to al-Qaeda, and vice versa: Who better to fund the Hamas government's unpaid workers than the deep pockets of al-Qaeda? Gaza is a centralized launching base against Israel, the doorway to the West, but also against the Arab states that have been trying to stymie al-Qaeda's quest for the caliphate - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Gaza presents the opportunity to extend the interests of young Hamas militants beyond just wiping out Israel, while simultaneously assisting them in that endeavor. (Los Angeles Daily News)
  • Wisdom of the Turks - Editorial
    In parliamentary elections Sunday, Turkish voters sent a message of moderation both to the Islamist-influenced majority party and the military. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 46.6% of the vote, up 14 percentage points from the 2002 poll. In its wisdom, however, the electorate also put a check on the majority by denying the AKP a two-thirds majority to change the constitution. Two other parties and a bloc of Kurdish parliamentarians squeaked in. This means the AKP will hold fewer seats overall and face a more robust opposition. Thanks to the wisdom of Turkish voters, Ankara's politicians have a mandate for compromise and moderate reform. (Wall Street Journal, 24Jul07)
        See also Turkey Still Divided about What Kind of Country It Wants to Be - Amir Taheri
    A majority of Turks did not vote for AKP because of suspicions that it wants to keep the state's secular appearance but slowly Islamicize society. Some privately owned TV stations licensed by the AKP have entered the market with programs using thinly disguised religious messages and series that fan the fires of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. (Times-UK)
  • Losing My Jihadism - Mansour al-Nogaidan
    Once, I was a jihadist. I grew up in Saudi Arabia. When I was 16, I joined a hard-line Salafi group. In 1991, I took part in firebombing video stores in Riyadh and a women's center in my home town of Buraidah, seeing them as symbols of sin in a society that was marching rapidly toward modernization.
        After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I criticized al-Qaeda's school of thought, which considers everyone who isn't a Salafi Muslim the enemy, and wrote that Islam calls for friendship among all faiths. I lost a lot of friends after that and was eventually fired from the newspaper I wrote for. In December 2002, in a Web site interview, I criticized al-Qaeda and declared that some of the Friday sermons were loathsome because of their attacks against non-Muslims. Within days, a fatwa was posted online, calling me an infidel and saying that I should be killed. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Syria Occupies Lebanon. Again. - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)

    • As of this minute, Syria occupies at least 177 square miles of Lebanese soil. That you are now reading about it for the first time is as much a scandal as the occupation itself.
    • The news comes by way of a fact-finding survey of the Lebanese-Syrian border just produced by the International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, an American NGO that has consultative status with the UN. In meticulous detail - supplemented by photographs and satellite images - the authors describe precisely where and how Lebanon has been infiltrated.
    • Though the land grabs are small affairs individually, they collectively add up to an area amounting to about 4% of Lebanese soil - in U.S. terms, the proportional equivalent of Arizona. Of particular note is that the area of Syrian conquest dwarves that of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms which amount to an area of about 12 square miles.
    • It would be nice to see the Arab world protest this case of illegal occupation, given its passions about the subject.

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