Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 20, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Creating New Armed Cells in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas' armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, has become "very active" in some parts of the West Bank, and the PA security forces have failed to thwart Hamas efforts to create new armed cells, a senior PA security official said Sunday in Ramallah.
    "We are going after the wrong guys," he said. "We are detaining journalists, university students and low-level political operatives. Meanwhile, Izzadin Kassam is establishing secret cells and acquiring more weapons."

Syria Receives First Shipment of Russian Anti-Aircraft Missiles - Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Syria has received 10 batteries of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, the first of a $900 million arms deal for 36 such batteries, Moscow's Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Friday.
    The Pantsyr-S1 (NATO code-name SA-22) carries 12 surface-to-air missiles that can be mounted on vehicles, with target acquisition radar with detection ranges of 30 km.
    Israeli defense officials are concerned that such missiles will be transferred to Hizbullah.

Palestinian Rocket Hits Sharon's Farm - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that landed in Israel's western Negev Sunday evening. One of the rockets landed inside the farm that belongs to the family of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Three mortar shells landed near Kibbutz Kissufim.

U.S. to Train Palestinian Guards (AP/Washington Post)
    The U.S. soon will begin training officers of Abbas' Palestinian Presidential Guard to better protect officials visiting the West Bank, the State Department said Sunday.

3 Palestinians Injured by Armed Palestinian Groups Hunting Phantom IDF Soldiers in Gaza (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
    Three residents of El-Fokhari southeast of Khan Yunis in Gaza were injured Sunday after news spread of the infiltration of special Israeli forces in the area.
    An exchange of fire took place between armed groups, each suspecting the other to be the infiltrating force.
    It became clear afterwards that no Israeli forces infiltrated into the area of the clash.

Law and Order in the Palestinian Authority - Tim Butcher (Telegraph-UK)
    The lawlessness that led Fatah to lose control of Gaza is repeating itself in the West Bank, a senior Palestinian official has claimed.
    "This week a local gunman took a stolen car to the licensing authority and when the manager refused to give him a license, he shot the ceiling of the office and went outside still shooting,'' said Taysir Nasrallah in Nablus.
    "This was about 20 meters from an official police checkpoint but they did nothing. "Eventually, another manager came, apologized and gave the gunman the license for the stolen car.''

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Trains Militiamen Inside Iraq - Megan Greenwell
    Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. operations south of Baghdad, said Sunday that about 50 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps are training Shiite militias in firing mortars and rockets. "They are facilitating training of Shiite extremists....We know they're here and we target them as well." U.S. military leaders in Iraq have repeatedly maintained that Iran is providing money, weapons and training to militia groups. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Returns Illegal African Migrants to Egypt - Isabel Kershner
    Israel sent approximately 50 African migrants back across the border to Egypt on Saturday night, after the migrants had illegally crossed the Israeli-Egyptian border earlier that day. Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Israel was prepared to absorb the 500 refugees from Darfur already in Israel, but from now on, Israel would send back all illegal migrants crossing the border from Sinai under a recent agreement with the Egyptian authorities. About 2,500 African asylum seekers have entered Israel over the past two years. (New York Times)
        See also Flight from Darfur Ends Violently in Egypt - Ellen Knickmeyer
    Israel has up to 50 African refugees crossing its border a day, according to the UN refugee agency. The Israeli government earlier this year allowed a few of the Sudanese refugees to take jobs inside Israel. But that decision may have inadvertently encouraged this summer's influx, the refugees said. Egypt regards its border with Israel a military zone, and anyone trying to cross it is considered an infiltrator. Since July, Egyptian border guards have repeatedly used lethal force on the unarmed refugees. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Infiltration Attempts from Gaza Increasing - Hanan Greenberg
    The IDF Saturday identified three Palestinians advancing towards the Gaza security fence and behaving in a suspicious manner. One of the men was killed and the other two were wounded. Earlier in the day five Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kibbutz Be'eri but were eventually caught. Over the past three weeks, 10 gunmen have been killed while trying to plant bombs alongside the security fence. "Our goal is to stop anyone who approaches the fence; sometimes it's civilians, sometimes it's terrorists and sometimes it's terrorists pretending to be civilians," said a military official. "We have no intention of harming civilians, but it's often impossible to ascertain the intent of each individual infiltrator." (Ynet News)
  • EU Delaying Transfer of Fuel to Gaza Power Plant - Avi Bar-Eli, Yoav Stern and Yuval Azoulay
    The Gaza Generating Company has not received any fuel for its power plant because the European Union has yet to decide whether to continue paying for it. As a result, the power plant said it had shut down all four of its generators, which provide electricity to roughly one-fourth of Gaza's 1.5 million residents. IDF Col. Nir Peres said, "This is an internal Palestinian matter," while some Israeli officials said PA Prime Minister Fayad was trying "to flex his muscles in order to show Hamas that he is the one who controls the tap and is running the show." (Ha'aretz)
  • Indian Muslim Leader Visiting Israel: "Time to End Violence" - Yaakov Lappin
    The time for violence has come to an end, and the era of peace and dialogue between Muslims and Jews has begun, says Maulana Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi, secretary-general of the All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, representing half a million imams who are the main religious leaders of India's 200 million Muslims. He also said the time had come for Pakistan to establish official relations with Israel.
        "My impression was initially that the Israelis are certainly dominating Muslims out here. Once I came here, that impression completely changed," Ilaysi said. "I saw the reality on the ground, the mutual respect Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews have for each other. Constant conflict is not the reality here." In Jerusalem "I saw that Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side happily, not at each other's throat."
        "I was pleasantly surprised to know that the Sharia (Islamic law) code is being supported by the Israeli government, whereas in India only local Muslims implement it. That is unique," he said. "The Jews I have met here say that we are all children of Abraham, part of the same family. This is something I didn't hear in India. The Muslims in India should come and see things for themselves," Ilaysi said. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Smarter Way to Target Iran - Patrick Clawson and Michael Jacobson
    Sanctioning Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for its terrorist-related activities could have a significant impact, as Iranian leaders are vulnerable to the types of "smart sanctions" that would result. Finding others to join in this designation, however, would make it far more effective. After the extensive use of sanctions in the early 1990s, governments and scholars focused on drawing lessons learned. One point of broad consensus was that targeted sanctions were more effective than broad-brush measures.
        Ahmadinejad has proved as corrupt as his predecessors. Ahmadinejad's family has parachuted into top positions: the head of the presidential office is his brother, the cabinet executive secretary is one brother-in-law, and the national police commander is another brother-in-law. On August 12, the Industries Minister, one of the more technically competent members of the cabinet, was replaced by Ahmadinejad's nephew. The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, also appointed as his director-general for human rights his wife, a pharmacologist with no experience in foreign affairs.
        The U.S. should strongly press other countries to join in the designation against the IRGC. Although action by the UN or Iran's main trading partners would be ideal, having any partners at all for the designation would be far preferable to going it alone. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Should Hamas Have Been Allowed to Participate in the PA Elections? - Peter Baker
    Prior to the Palestinian parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley sat down with aides at the State Department to consider if the elections should be canceled? Israeli leaders had implored Bush advisers to not let the vote proceed. Hamas, deemed a terrorist group by the U.S., could easily win, they warned. Even Natan Sharansky urged the Americans to postpone the vote, arguing that democracy is about building institutions and civil society, not just holding elections.
        But Mahmoud Abbas told the Americans that his Fatah party needed the vote for credibility and it had to include his opposition. "We didn't think that postponing the elections would have solved any problems," said Philip D. Zelikow, who was Rice's counselor at the time and attended the meeting. "You would have been conceding Fatah's illegitimacy." It was, they thought, a test of Bush's democracy agenda. The elections went forward and Hamas won big. Now Bush was stuck with an avowed enemy of Israel governing the Palestinian territories. (Washington Post )
  • Hamas Is After an "Afghan" Victory - Waleed Sadi
    Al-Qaeda has been busy extending its clout and presence throughout the Middle East, including on the Palestinian scene. Striking the deathblow to the Soviet army in Afghanistan was a huge victory for Bin Laden and his supporters and not just in military terms. It gave al-Qaeda the strength and conviction that the same tactic could be applied to the U.S. and Israel.
        The increased self-confidence that Palestinians have in their ability to force Israel to withdraw from all the territories coincided with the rise of Islamic "power" in Afghanistan and its spread to other countries in the region. No doubt the Palestinians drew comfort from the ability of hitherto unknown militant Islamist factions to become a "power" that many countries, including the world's remaining superpower, now fear. This growing article of faith in the ability of small militant Islamist groups to wage wars against mighty nations and win, as indeed had happened in Afghanistan and is happening in Iraq, has instilled a conviction among Palestinians that they too can become a "force" and succeed in extracting from Israel major territorial concessions sooner rather than later. The writer is a former Jordanian ambassador to Turkey and to the UN. He is currently a columnist for the Jordan Times and Al-Rai. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Al-Qaeda's Travel Agent: Damascus International Airport Is a Hub for Terrorists - Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Wall Street Journal)

    • The United States is at last making significant progress against al-Qaeda in Iraq - but the road to victory now requires cutting off al-Qaeda's road to Iraq through Damascus.
    • Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al-Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al-Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country - Syria. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers - approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al-Qaeda handlers in Syria. That is why we now must focus on disrupting this flow of suicide bombers - and that means focusing on Syria, through which up to 80% of the Iraq-bound extremists transit.
    • Before al-Qaeda's foreign fighters can make their way across the Syrian border into Iraq, they must first reach Syria - and the overwhelming majority does so by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al-Qaeda travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al-Qaeda's war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.
    • This is not the first use of Damascus airport by terrorists. It has long been the central transit point for Iranian weapons en route to Hizbullah, in violation of UN Security Council sanctions, as well as for al-Qaeda operatives moving into and out of Lebanon.
    • Responsible air carriers should be asked to stop flights into Damascus as long as it remains the main terminal of international terror. Despite its use by al-Qaeda and Hizbullah terrorists, the airport continues to be serviced by many major non-U.S. carriers, including Alitalia, Air France, and British Airways.

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