Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 7, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Terrorist Rocket Fired at Israel Kills Two Palestinian Children in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants in northern Gaza on Tuesday hit a Palestinian home in Beit Lahiya, killing Wesam Abed Allah, 8, and his sister Hala, 6, and injuring five other children.

Iran Shows Off Homegrown Fighter Jet (AFP/Peninsula-Qatar)
    Iran Sunday showed off for the first time the new Azarakhsh (Lightning) fighter jet said to be modeled on the American F-5 but built using domestic technology.
    [The F-5 is a 1960s-vintage jet. Prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran's air force possessed some 160 F-5 fighters.]

Iran Penetrating Central America (BBC News)
    In a new trade deal announced in Nicaragua, Iran will help develop a port and build houses and industrial sites in return for coffee, meat and bananas.
    The two countries have improved ties since Daniel Ortega became Nicaraguan president in January 2007.
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited Managua in January and President Ortega visited Tehran in June.

Jordanian PM Slams Muslim Brotherhood Ballot Pullout (Gulf Times-Qatar)
    Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit has slammed the opposition Islamic Action Front's pullout from local polls last week, saying it threatens the entire Islamist movement.
    The withdrawal of candidates from municipal elections by the IAF, the political branch of Jordan's tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, was "unpatriotic, conspiratorial and opportunistic," Bakhit told the state-run Petra news agency.
    The IAF, with 15 deputies in the lower house of parliament, is the country's largest political party and the main opposition force.
    Bakhit also alluded to support voiced by some Brotherhood leaders to the Palestinian Hamas group, which ousted its rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip two months ago.

Hamas Sets Standards for Music in Gaza (BBC News)
    Salaheddin, a musician from Gaza City in his 50s, said: "I lead a group of 26 musicians - we play traditional Palestinian music. But for the last two months we haven't been able to work."
    "This group, Hamas, believes they are the leaders of Islam. The violin, piano, flute, all these instruments are banned. Only the drum is allowed. They say any other instrument is not mentioned in the Koran."
    "Hamas has already beaten one of my singers for singing for Fatah. He was attacked at the wedding where he went to perform."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Plot Would Have Killed Thousands on U.S.-Bound Flights
    Terrorists who had planned to detonate gel-based explosives on U.S.-bound flights from London last August would have achieved mass devastation, according to new information from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "I think that the plot, in terms of its intent, was looking at devastation on a scale that would have rivaled 9/11," Chertoff told ABC. "If they had succeeded in bringing liquid explosives on seven or eight aircraft, there could have been thousands of lives lost and an enormous economic impact with devastating consequences for international air travel." Airports in the U.S. and the UK were put on red alert and liquids were banned from carry-on luggage as suspects were picked up, including 24 British-born Muslims and seven Pakistanis. (ABC News)
  • London Gathering Defends Vision of Radical Islam - Jane Perlez
    Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international radical Islamic party that has been the focus of increasing concern in Britain, held a carefully stage-managed conference in London this weekend that attracted several thousand relatively well-heeled Muslims. The party calls for the return of the caliphate in Muslim countries, the end of Israel and the withdrawal of all Western interests in the Middle East. In the aftermath of the botched terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, there were renewed calls in Parliament for barring the group, on the ground that though it officially advocates change by peaceful means, its pronouncements can encourage Muslims to turn toward terrorism. (New York Times)
        See also UK Islamist Group Calls for "Islamic State" - Yaakov Lappin
    Hizb ut-Tahrir - the Liberation Party - is active in dozens of countries, but has been banned in several Arab states, as well as in Germany, Sweden, Russia, and China. (Ynet News)
  • Concerns Rise Over Arms Smuggled from Syria to Lebanon - Nicholas Blanford
    Some 8,000 Lebanese soldiers are deployed along the border with Syria, but they lack the training and the will to successfully thwart arms smuggling to Hizbullah. Hizbullah's leaders say that their arms stocks have been replenished and even increased since last summer's war with Israel. It is widely believed that the fresh arms supplies to Hizbullah came via the Syrian border. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Abbas Agree to Expand Talks - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho in the West Bank on Monday. "We have decided to expand the scope of the negotiations between us in order to advance mutual understanding and formulate the framework that will allow us to move forward toward establishing a Palestinian state," Olmert said. Olmert refrained from setting a schedule, but said statehood would be achieved by adherence to the internationally brokered road map to Middle East peace, and through mutual understanding. (Ha'aretz)
  • Norway Severs Contact with Hamas - Barak Ravid
    Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gar Store said Monday his country has severed all ties with Hamas established during the brief PA unity government. In a meeting with President Shimon Peres, Gar Store said the Norwegian government now deals exclusively with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad. Peres said it "must be made clear to Hamas that no one in the world will fund terrorism and the firing of rockets on Sderot."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Peace Index: Jewish Israelis Don't Have Much Faith in Negotiations with PA - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    53% of the Israeli Jewish public opposes a broad Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (except for the large settlement blocs) in the framework of a peace treaty with the Palestinians, while 42% support such a measure. 59% said Israel erred in releasing Palestinian prisoners to strengthen Abbas vs. 34% who thought it was the right step. 71% oppose setting free Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti while 22% favor the release. 63% do not believe that negotiations with the PA can lead to peace in the foreseeable future. Tel Aviv University's Peace Index survey for July 2007 was carried out on July 30-August 1. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands in Sderot Kindergarten - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket that landed in a kindergarten schoolyard in Sderot on Monday, damaging nearby buildings, including two other kindergartens and a public elementary school. The structures were empty due to summer vacation. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Fear of Iran Help the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process? - Gideon Rachman
    A new theory making the rounds argues that the rise of Iran is scary enough to give all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute a new interest in finding a settlement. But fear of Iran still seems unlikely to be powerful enough to compel the Saudis to recognize Israel. Furthermore, the Israeli military - backed by public opinion - is unwilling to take the risk of handing control of security on the West Bank back to the Palestinians. Rocket attacks have been launched against Israel from Lebanon and from Gaza. Similar attacks from the West Bank could hit Israel's big cities. In addition, memories of the suicide bombings that killed 1,000 Israelis have hugely undermined public willingness to take risks with security. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Is it Wise to Sell Weapons to the Saudis? - Bret Stephens
    Even assuming the Saudis can manage an orderly succession of rulers, there are larger questions about where the kingdom is headed. In 2003, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that al-Qaeda had "tried to recruit Saudi Arabian Air Force pilots to carry out a suicide attack in Israel...using either F-15 jets or civilian aircraft." A year ago, the Treasury Department named the director and two branches of the Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization "for facilitating fundraising for al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups." "Pouring weapons on this scale into a kingdom with an aging leadership, and which is still the fountainhead of Sunni extremism, does not seem prudent," argues Dore Gold, author of Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Judged by Double Standard - Ezra Levant
    A Western ally in the Middle East, armed with U.S. weapons, attacked Muslim guerrillas in a Palestinian refugee camp last week, killing seven. No Western newspaper has run a banner headline about a "massacre" and no emergency meetings of the UN have been convened. That's because the Western ally rooting out terrorists was Lebanon, not Israel. Since May 20, Lebanon has been engaged in a mini-war against Fatah al-Islam, a Muslim terrorist group holed up in Nahr el-Bared.
        Lebanon's military action has been less careful than Israel, which would never have used artillery to root out terrorists from populated areas as Lebanon has done. The Lebanese are not as concerned about the niceties of Western public opinion, and the yawning silence of the West in the face of 200 casualties shows the fickle nature of the media and the UN. Why are military strikes by Israel news, but not those by Lebanon? Why is an Arab killed by a Jew news, but not an Arab killed by an Arab? (Calgary Sun)
  • Observations:

    "The Army of the Nation" - Another Al-Qaeda Affiliate in the Gaza Strip
    - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The declared policy of Hamas to provide sanctuary to any jihadi fighter invites additional terrorist groups associated with al-Qaeda to plant themselves in the Gaza Strip.
    • According to Dr. Zakaria Zain al-Din, chairman of Hamas' largest charity organization, the extremist views of al-Qaeda are spreading among the senior leadership of Hamas. Expressions of this were evident in the adoption of the radical world view of al-Qaeda that accuses other Muslims of being "infidels" and permits their being killed. Radical religious rulings permitted the killing of Fatah operatives.
    • Abu Ashur, the right-hand man of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) leader Mumtaz Durmush, confessed that their organization received funds and instructions from al-Qaeda outside of the Gaza Strip. Jaish al-Islam was responsible for the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in March 2007. Leading the cell that abducted Johnston was Khattab al-Maqdasi, a Palestinian who in the past had fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    • A video clip by another group, Jaish al-Umma (Army of the Nation), is dedicated to the Shiite and Iranian threat to Palestinian society; it argues that Iran has converted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) into a Shiite branch through which it intends to advance the spread of Shiism.
    • Hamas is trying to improve its image in the eyes of the West, arguing that it is succeeding in restoring public order in Gaza. In the West - and even in Israel - there are voices calling for a dialogue with Hamas. Providing legitimacy to Hamas as an acceptable political partner - without any preconditions regarding its renunciation of terrorism - is essentially a "green light" to Hamas to continue to provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda affiliates in Gaza.

      See also Video Shows Al-Qaeda Training in Gaza - "The Army of the Nation" Engages in Military Exercises (Breitbart TV)

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