Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 4, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Abbas' Time Is Running Out - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Over 80,000 illegal weapons are believed to be in the hands of West Bank terrorists, according to the IDF's latest assessments.
    Contrary to earlier predictions, defense officials said this week that Hamas was just as strong as Fatah in the West Bank and could pose a genuine threat to Mahmoud Abbas' security forces.
    Hamas has "weapons and explosives and, more importantly, they are highly motivated," a senior defense official said.
    A high-ranking IDF officer said Hamas tried uniting all of its factions across the West Bank but failed due to IDF preemptive action. Since then, Hamas has focused on infiltrating its men into the ranks of the PA security branches - the Palestinian Police and the National Security Force.
    Israeli defense officials are concerned that when Hamas launches its coup attempt, Fatah forces will collapse just like they did in Gaza, where Fatah had four times the number of men Hamas had.
    For this reason, senior Israeli defense officials have voiced opposition to a plan recently raised by the U.S. security coordinator to the region Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton according to which Abbas needs an additional five battalions in the West Bank to counter the growing Hamas threat.
    "It is not about manpower, but about motivating the Fatah forces to want to fight and defend the PA," an Israeli official said.
    The IDF Central Command believes that Abbas' time is running out and that in the coming months Hamas will try to topple his government and attempt to take over the PA security branches.
    See also Report: Hamas Planned West Bank Coup - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Hamas has been trying to carry out a military takeover in the West Bank similar to the one it executed in Gaza, al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported Monday in London, citing Fatah sources.

Egypt Editor to Face Prosecution after Mubarak Health Rumors (AFP/Yahoo)
    Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent Egyptian daily Al-Destur, is to face prosecution over his paper's coverage of the state of President Hosni Mubarak's health, the head of the journalists' union, Gamal Fahmy, said Monday.
    Recent speculation about his ill-health prompted Mubarak to make an unannounced visit to an industrial zone near his summer home on the Mediterranean coast in a bid to dispel the rumors.

Israel Tops Green List - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    The IUCN-World Conservation Union recently named Israel the nation with the highest percentage of preserved land in the Mediterranean region.
    According to the IUCN, Israel has set aside 16% of its land to protect nature. In contrast, France protects 12%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel May Cut Gaza Power, Water in Response to Palestinian Rocket Attacks
    Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon on Tuesday threatened to cut electricity, water and fuel supplies into Gaza if militants in the Hamas-ruled territory continued to fire rockets into Israel. "We have to draw a line for the Palestinians. We have to make it be known that for any rocket fire, we will cut the supplies of water, electricity and fuel to Gaza for two or three hours." Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, former deputy head of Israel's Shin Bet general security service, said he was also in favor of such a measure. On Monday a Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza exploded near a nursery school in the Israeli town of Sderot. (AFP)
        See also Israel Will Petition UN Secretary General to Stop Palestinian Rocket Attacks (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Unveils Comprehensive Military Upgrade Plan
    Israel unveiled a comprehensive plan on Monday for overhauling its armed forces in the wake of last year's bruising Lebanon war and ahead of any possible showdown with arch-foes Iran or Syria. Buoyed by the Bush administration's pledge last month to boost U.S. defense grants to Israel to $3 billion annually, military chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi outlined upgrades and retraining for Israeli air, ground and naval units. Ashkenazi said Israel would order an unspecified number of the U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an advanced strategic warplane expected out in the next decade. Israel also plans to complement its Arrow II units, built to shoot down ballistic missiles, with Iron Dome, a system designed to tackle short-range rockets like those favored by Iranian-backed Hizbullah and Palestinian militants in Gaza. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Approves Military Buildup - David Eshel (Defense Update)
  • Iran Picks New Leader for Revolutionary Guards - Najmeh Bozorgmehrin
    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has appointed a new commander for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mohammad-Ali Jafari, 50, commanded the guards' land forces for 13 years and headed its strategic center for the past three years. Unlike his predecessor, Yahya Rahim Safavi, Jafari is not on the list of IRGC commanders who are subject to UN sanctions. Safavi, who served as IRGC commander for 10 years, will move to a new role as Khamenei's "assistant and senior adviser." (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert Downplays Expectations for Middle East Meeting - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert deflated expectations regarding what to expect at the U.S.-sponsored international meeting later this year, saying Monday he was not sure any draft agreement would be ready before the meeting to be held in November. Olmert characterized his talks with PA Chairman Abbas as "very interesting and very meaningful." At the same time, he said the sides were not at the point where they were putting anything down in writing, adding that news reports of what has been discussed were wildly exaggerated. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Sderot Father: "I Thought I Would Die on the Spot" - Shelly Paz
    Idan Chaim Ben-Zikri is only 18 months old, but he has already survived two Palestinian rocket attacks. Six months ago a rocket destroyed his home. On Monday one landed outside his day care center. "We heard that the fifth Kassam of that morning fell at the child's day care center. I thought I would die on the spot," said Meir Ben-Zikri, Idan's father. He raced to the scene, where he found shocked teachers and other horrified parents. "Children were crying and there was a lot of glass all over the place," said Meir. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel on Tuesday morning. Two landed in central Sderot and three landed in open areas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peres: Hamas Wants to Destroy Israel - Ronny Sofer
    President Shimon Peres told Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer on Monday in Jerusalem: "We had a rough day in Sderot. Seven rockets fell and almost killed our children. It's an intolerable situation and there is one address for it - Hamas. There is a limit to how much Israel is willing to tolerate....Israel left Gaza completely. There is not one Israeli citizen in its territory. Today I ask myself why? Why is Hamas shooting? What is its goal? There is only one answer. Hamas is a religious-fanatic organization that does not want a Palestinian state for its people, but wants to impose the dangerous radical religious hegemony that is taking over the entire Middle East and gives a green light to kill innocent people in its name."
        "Hamas has one goal," he said, "to destroy the State of Israel....While Israel is making great efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians, it has a greater duty to protect the lives of its citizens and its children. The terror must stop."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Waiting for Babies to Die Is No Strategy - Amir Mizroch
    Imagine if, God forbid, 12 children had been killed Monday in the rocket attack on a Sderot kindergarten instead of "just" being sent to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital and treated for shock. Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, now chairman of the Institute of Counter Terrorism at IDC Herzliya, said, "Our strategy should be one of offense, not defense....When we were hitting their political leadership, military leadership, and weapons experts, Hamas looked for a cease-fire. The answer is not to send in divisions and occupy Gaza again, but to attack the terror leaders and the infrastructure in a smart, sustained manner. We need to change the equation from one of 'they fire at us and we respond,' to 'we attack them and they go into defensive mode.'" The real solution to the problem of rocket attacks, according to Shavit, must be a "war to the end" on the terror leadership and infrastructure in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Example: Fighting Terrorism without Sacrificing Due Process - Editorial
    No one would say that Israel is soft on terrorism, which makes it all the more fascinating that a country that essentially lives under siege provides so many legal accommodations to those it detains as unlawful combatants. In Israel, even noncitizens captured outside the country and designated unlawful combatants are entitled to due process in Israeli civilian courts. They are guaranteed judicial review of their detention within 14 days of capture. They are guaranteed the services of a lawyer no later than 34 days after capture. And they are guaranteed a review of their detention by an Israeli district court judge every six months thereafter. If an unlawful combatant is captured in the West Bank, the case proceeds through Israeli military courts, with similar guarantees of judicial review and legal representation.
        Nothing in the Israeli system prevents a lengthy and potentially indefinite detention of an enemy combatant. But the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that these combatants can be held only so long as the state can prove they are an imminent danger. If the state fails to make that case, the detainees must be released. These safeguards have not prevented Israeli security forces from defending the country. (Washington Post)
  • The Islamization of Gaza under Hamas - Reuven Erlich
    Gaza is ruled today by Hamas, whose ideology is radical Islam, which it aspires to impose on the entire Palestinian populace. Since the Hamas takeover in June, it has increasingly imposed a compulsory radical Islamic lifestyle which influences the daily life of all Gaza residents. One of the most visible signs is the increasing number of bearded men. Some Gaza residents said they were doing it because they were afraid of Hamas, whose operatives were detaining and interrogating everyone who looked secular.
        Hamas' Executive Force, the movement's main enforcement arm, also functions as "morality police" to impose Islamic social codes on the population in Gaza. The force operates along the Gaza coastline and prevents young men from congregating in places where there are many women. The force disrupts weddings where, it claims, songs are played which "inflame passions." At least two popular singers were detained after they appeared at events of important figures affiliated with Fatah, and were charged with singing immoral songs. On July 22, Islam Shahawan, a spokesman for the force, announced that an Islamic legal committee had been formed to replace the PA district attorney's office. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Observations:

    The New Anti-Semitism - Denis MacShane (Washington Post)

    • Hatred of Jews has reached new heights in Europe. Last year I chaired a blue-ribbon committee of British parliamentarians that examined the problem of anti-Semitism in Britain. None of us are Jewish or active in the unending debates on the Israeli-Palestinian question.
    • Our report showed a pattern of fear among a small number of British citizens - there are around 300,000 Jews in Britain - that is not acceptable in a modern democracy. Synagogues attacked. Jewish schoolboys jostled on public transportation. Rabbis punched and knifed. British Jews feeling compelled to raise millions to provide private security for their weddings and community events. On campuses, militant anti-Jewish students fueled by Islamist or far-left hate seeking to prevent Jewish students from expressing their opinions.
    • More worrisome was what we described as anti-Jewish discourse, a mood and tone whenever Jews are discussed, whether in the media, at universities, among the liberal media elite or at dinner parties of modish London. To express any support for Israel or any feeling for the right of a Jewish state to exist produces denunciation, even contempt.
    • To Britain's credit, the Blair administration produced a formal government response setting out tough new guidelines for the police to investigate anti-Semitic attacks and for universities to stop anti-Jewish ideology from taking root on campuses. Britain's Foreign Office has been told to protest to Arab states that allow anti-Jewish broadcasts. Tony Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, recently said in London that he stood with Israel "in bad times as well as good times," and one of the remarkable turnarounds of the new Labor leadership that governs Britain is a strong support for Israel and its commitment to combating anti-Semitism.
    • Today the old anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have morphed into something more dangerous. Anti-Semitism today is officially sanctioned state ideology and is being turned into a mobilizing and organizing force to recruit thousands in a new crusade to eradicate Jewishness from the region whence it came and to weaken and undermine all the humanist values of rule of law, tolerance and respect for core rights such as free expression that Jews have fought for over time.
    • We are at the beginning of a long intellectual and ideological struggle. It is not about Jews or Israel. It is about everything democrats have long fought for: the truth without fear, no matter one's religion or political beliefs. The new anti-Semitism threatens all of humanity. The Jew-haters must not pass.

      The writer is a Labor member of the British House of Commons and has served as Britain's Europe minister.

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