Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 30, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Reports: Iran to Buy Jets from Russia - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    According to reports, Russia plans to sell 250 advanced long-range Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in an unprecedented billion-dollar deal.
    In addition, Teheran plans to purchase aerial fuel tankers that would grant Iran long-range offensive capabilities.
    Israeli government officials said Russia could be trying to compete with the U.S., which announced a billion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Russia Announces Delay in Completion of Iranian Nuclear Plant (VOA News)
    The Russian RIA-Novosti government news agency reported Wednesday that the Bushehr nuclear plant that Russia is building for Iran will not become operational before September 2008 at the earliest.
    The power plant is at least one year behind schedule because of payment disputes with Iran.

Scant Details as Rice Lobbies for Mideast Meeting - Sue Pleming (Reuters)
    Secretary of State Rice will be in Egypt and Saudi Arabia this week to win Arab support for a proposed conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace moves, but details for that meeting are scant.
    An Arab diplomat said people were still trying to work out what such a meeting might achieve.
    "The White House has continued to play down expectations," said Daniel Levy, a senior fellow from the New America Foundation. "They don't want to lock themselves into something in advance and promise something she can't deliver."
    See also Palestinians Wary of Push for Interim Statehood - Harvey Morris (Financial Times-UK)

Israel May Allow Jordanian Army to Help PA in West Bank - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Prime Minister Olmert is exploring the idea of allowing regular Jordanian forces - and not the Palestinian Badr Brigade of the Jordanian army - into the West Bank to help the PA fight terrorism.
    Olmert, in recent meetings, has said this could be an effective way to help Abbas create a semblance of security in the West Bank.

Saudi Turns His Back on Jihad - Donna Abu-Nasr (AP/Washington Post)
    Ahmed al-Shayea suffered severe burns from the truck bomb he had driven into Baghdad on Christmas Day, 2004.
    Interviewed in Riyadh following his repatriation from Iraq, al-Shayea says he has changed his mind about waging jihad, or holy war, and wants other young Muslims to know it.
    He wants them to see his disfigured face and fingerless hands, and to hear how he was tricked into driving the truck on a fatal mission.

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  • U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia - David S. Cloud
    The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to total $20 billion. The proposed package includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to fighter aircraft, and new naval vessels. (New York Times)
        See also House Members Say They Will Try to Block Arms Sales to Saudis - Robin Wright
    The Bush administration's plan to sell $20 billion in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf countries is running into congressional opposition and criticism from human rights and arms control groups. Members of Congress vowed Saturday to oppose any deal to Saudi Arabia on grounds that the kingdom has been unhelpful in Iraq and unreliable at fighting terrorism. King Abdullah has called the U.S. military presence in Iraq an "illegitimate occupation," and the Saudis have been either unable or unwilling to stop suicide bombers who have ended up in Iraq, congressional sources say.
        Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) said they will introduce a joint resolution of disapproval to block the deals when Congress is formally notified. They have seven Democratic co-sponsors. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) said a pivotal issue will be whether Israel maintains the "qualitative military edge" in the region. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the oil-rich countries should use windfall profits from high oil prices to cover the expenses of Iraqi refugees who have flooded Jordan. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Military Aid to Israel to Increase by 25 Percent
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that he and President Bush last month agreed that Israel would receive $30 billion in U.S. military aid over the next decade, averaging $3 billion a year, to offset a package of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. "This is an increase of 25% for military aid to Israel from the United States. I think this is a significant and important improvement of the defense aid to Israel," he said. "We understand the United States' need to assist the moderate Arab states, which are standing in one front with the United States and us in the struggle against Iran," Olmert said.
        The U.S. is also preparing a package of $13 billion in military assistance over the next decade for Egypt, a senior State Department official said. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Wary of U.S. Arms Sale to Saudis - Yaakov Katz
    Despite the significant increase in U.S. military aid to Israel, Israeli defense officials warned Sunday that the sale of satellite-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia had the potential to constitute a strategic threat to Israel. Saudi Arabia will receive thousands of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) - a low-cost guidance kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided "smart" weapons. A senior Defense Ministry official warned that the Saudi regime could be toppled and the advanced American weaponry fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 101 Gazans Stranded in Egypt Return to Gaza via Israel - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    101 Palestinians who have been stranded in Egypt for nearly two months returned to Gaza on Sunday, the first of some 600 expected to return home in the coming days. Israel allowed the group to travel to Israel and then enter Gaza. Israel and Egypt have refused to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza as long as Hamas controls the border. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel to Grant West Bank Entry to Iraqi Palestinians - Akiva Eldar
    Israel has recently agreed to allow a group of 41 Iraqi refugees of Palestinian origin to enter the West Bank and reunite with relatives there, as a gesture of good will to the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Israeli Foreign Ministry clarified to the UN that Israel does not consider granting entry to Iraqi refugees a precedent heralding the return of Palestinians to the territories. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad Reject PA Platform that Excludes "Armed Struggle"
    Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced Sunday in Gaza their rejection of the PA's new official platform, which for the first time does not include a reference to "armed struggle" against the Israeli occupation. The platform was adopted Friday by the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In a statement, the two movements said: "No one can delete resistance from the Palestinians' agenda."
        Hamas and Islamic Jihad also criticized the PA's decision to allow Palestinians stranded Egypt to return to Gaza through Israeli-controlled border crossings. They said they view Israeli conditions for their transfer as unacceptable. (Maan News-PA)
  • Fatah Accuses Hamas of Sweeping Arrests in Gaza
    Ibrahim Abu An-Naja, a senior official in Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, accused Hamas on Sunday of a sweeping campaign to detain Fatah members in Gaza. "They have been searching for Fatah men," he said, alleging that Hamas has been carrying out nightly raids on homes since defeating Fatah forces last month. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Fatah complaints of an arrest campaign were aimed at covering up its own detention of Hamas members in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Saudis Going South on Iraq - Editorial
    The Bush administration and Saudi Arabia's ruling family have a lot in common, including oil, shared rivals like Iran and a penchant for denial that has allowed both to overlook the Saudis' enabling role in the Sept. 11 attacks. But their recent wrangling over Iraq cannot be denied or papered over with proposals for a big new arms sale. Riyadh is pouring money into Sunni opposition groups and letting Saudis cross the border to join Sunni insurgents fighting the American-backed, Shiite-led government. Washington estimates that nearly half of the 60 to 80 foreign fighters entering Iraq each month come from Saudi Arabia. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Tracks Saudi Bank Favored by Extremists - Glenn R. Simpson
    U.S. intelligence reports, heretofore secret, describe how Al Rajhi Bank has maintained accounts and accepted donations for Saudi charities that the U.S. and other nations have formally designated as fronts for al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The wealthy Al Rajhis are a clan long at odds with the ruling Saud family. The Al Rajhi name appeared on a list of regular financial contributors to al-Qaeda that was discovered in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 2002. A 2003 German police report said Sulaiman Al Rajhi and other family members had contributed more than $200,000 in 1993 to a charity that financed weapons for Islamic militants in Bosnia.
        Al Rajhi Bank maintained at least 24 accounts for Al-Haramain foundation - a charity that Treasury officials say has acted as a front for al-Qaeda in 13 countries - until the Saudi government ordered the charity shut down in 2004. A November 2002 CIA report said the Saudi government "has made little independent effort to uncover terrorist financiers, investigate individual donors, and tighten the regulation of Islamic charities," largely because of "domestic political considerations."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Dahlan Isn't the Answer - Dore Gold
    The latest clashes between Fatah and Hamas made many forget how closely the two organizations cooperated on the operational level over the years. On January 22, 2006, Mahmoud Abbas' national security advisor Mohammed Dahlan revealed on the Lebanese television network LBC that "All your [Hamas] military commanders were protected by the (Palestinian) defense establishment during the (second) Intifada. They enjoyed full protection." At the height of the second Intifada, Fatah's Marwan Barghouti headed an umbrella organization called The National and Islamic Forces that coordinated Hamas and Fatah attacks against Israel.
        Fatah is willing to cooperate with Israel at a time of weakness, but can quickly renew its partnership with Hamas and other violent organizations, as was the case in the past decade. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Hamas Aims to Capitalize on Intelligence Gains from Gaza Takeover - Cam Simpson and Neil King Jr. (Wall Street Journal)

    • When Hamas conquered Gaza in June, it seized an intelligence-and-military infrastructure created with U.S. help. According to Israeli and U.S. intelligence personnel and Palestinian officials, Hamas has increased its inventory of arms since the takeover of Gaza and picked up technical expertise - such as espionage techniques - that could assist the group in its fight against Israel or Fatah.
    • Hamas leaders say they acquired thousands of paper files, computer records, videos, photographs and audio recordings containing intelligence information gathered by Fatah. For more than a decade, Fatah operated a vast intelligence network in Gaza established under the tutelage of the CIA.
    • Former U.S. intelligence officials, including some who have worked closely with the Palestinians, said there was ample reason to worry that Hamas has acquired access to important spying technology as well as intelligence information that could be helpful to Hamas in countering Israeli and U.S. efforts against the group.
    • Close ties between Hamas and Iran and Syria also mean that intelligence-and-spying techniques could be shared with those countries as well. As the White House prepares to lead an international effort to bolster Fatah's security apparatus in the West Bank, the losses in Gaza stand as an example of how efforts to help Fatah can backfire.
    • Former intelligence officials confirmed that the U.S. gave Fatah-controlled services sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment, including eavesdropping technology. This kind of technology can include devices used for intercepting radio, microwave and telephone communications and telemetry technology that allows the user to pinpoint the location of someone holding a cellphone.
    • "The United States invested a lot of effort in setting up this system in Gaza - construction, equipment, training...the logistics, the transportation. It was a big operation, and it's now in the hands of the other side," said Efraim Halevy, who formerly headed the Mossad, Israel's foreign-intelligence agency.
    • Avi Dichter, Israel's public-security minister and the former head of Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence-and-counterterrorism agency, said Hamas gained roughly the same number of weapons during a few days that it would have taken the group nearly a year to amass from smuggling operations.

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