Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


January 24, 2008

To contact the Presidents Conference:
click here

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Blames Hamas for Gaza "Chaos" (DPA)
    The U.S. blamed Hamas on Wednesday for the plight of Gazans.
    "The Palestinians living in Gaza are living under chaos because of Hamas," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "The blame has to be placed fully at their feet."
    See also U.S.: Israel "Defending Itself" with Gaza Blockade (AFP)
    The White House said Tuesday that Israel's blockade of Gaza was an act of self-defense against Palestinian rocket attacks.
    "One of the reasons that Israel has taken the action it has is because it was sustaining upwards of 150 rockets falling on its territory a day. And so Israel is defending itself," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Hamas Leader: Struggle Will Continue "Until Liberation of All of Palestine" (UPI)
    Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal told a Palestinian liberation conference in Damascus Wednesday: "The struggle must continue until the entire siege on the [Gaza] Strip is lifted and until the liberation of Palestine - all of Palestine."

Hamas Staged Some of the Gaza Blackouts - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end political and economic sanctions against Gaza, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.
    Journalists invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles. Hamas legislators meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.
    But some journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.
    "They had closed the curtains in the rooms to create the impression that Hamas leaders were also suffering as a result of the power stoppage," one journalist said. "It was obvious that the whole thing was staged."

Hamas Leader's Medical Specialty - Kevin Peraino (Newsweek)
    Mahmoud Zahar is one of the most powerful Hamas figures in Gaza. One of the movement's leading hawks, he displays a deep suspicion of most Westerners.
    A New York Times reporter once asked the Islamist, who is a medical doctor, about his field of expertise.
    "Thyroids," Zahar replied. "I'm very good at cutting throats."

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
Related Publications:
Israel Campus Beat
G-Alert (Hebrew)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Spent Months Cutting through Gaza Wall in Secret Operation - James Hider
    A Hamas border guard, Lt. Abu Usama of the Palestinian National Security, said the Islamist group had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall along the Gaza-Egypt border using oxy-acetylene cutting torches. That meant that when the explosive charges were set off in 17 different locations, the 40-foot wall came tumbling down. Asked whether he had reported the cutting operation to the [Hamas] government, he replied: "It was the government that was doing this." (Times-UK)
        See also Israel Expects Egypt to Solve Gaza Border Problem
    Israel said Wednesday it expects Egypt to "solve the problem" of the breached Gaza-Egypt border. Israel's Foreign Ministry said the open border posed a security risk. "When the exit [from Gaza] is open, so is the entrance," ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said. "Hamas and other terrorist groups may use this opportunity to smuggle weapons and terrorists into Gaza." (CNN)
        See also below Observations: Implications of the Breached Gaza-Egypt Border
  • France: NIE Makes it Difficult to Impose Tough Sanctions on Iran
    France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that any new sanctions on Iran would be "minimal." Kouchner conceded it's been difficult for the international community to agree on imposing tough sanctions on Iran, particularly after the recent U.S. intelligence assessment that Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. "Whether it is wrong or it makes sense, the report by the U.S. secret service agents makes one believe that the danger was already averted years ago and there is a need to keep that in mind," said Kouchner. At the same time, Kouchner said that France believes new sanctions should be imposed against Iran due to its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. (AKI-Italy)
        See also UK: NIE Does Not Change Our Concerns about Iran - Sir Nigel Sheinwald
    On Jan. 15, 2008, British ambassador to the U.S. Sir Nigel Sheinwald told the Washington Institute: "As for the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), we made clear immediately that it did not change the rationale for our twin-track approach. Our concerns about the nuclear program were based on Iran's determination to develop enrichment and heavy water reprocessing capabilities (which would allow it to develop fissile material) and its deliberate concealment of these activities. Our concerns were intensified by Iran's refusal to accede to legally binding Security Council requirements." (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Russia: No Harsh Sanctions on Iran - Vladimir Isachenkov
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday a draft UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program "does not foresee any harsh sanctions." "It calls for countries to be vigilant while maintaining trade and economic and transport and other ties with Iran so that they are not used for the transfer of forbidden nuclear material," he said. (AP)
        See also Powers Agree on "Watered Down" Iran Sanctions (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Iran Now Free to Achieve Its Military Nuclear Ambitions: An Israeli Perspective on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/ Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Breached Gaza-Egypt Border a "First-Class Security Risk" - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF officials on Wednesday described the situation at the breached Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt as "a first-class security risk." According to a military source, "The free passage of Palestinians into Egypt and back significantly increases the security threat coming from Gaza." "It's clear that each time civilians cross the border, terror activists are also there, taking advantage of the situation for their own needs," said an Israeli defense official. Israel recently expressed its anger over a similar incident, when hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims, returning from Saudi Arabia, entered Gaza unsupervised. (Ynet News)
  • The Real Gaza Disengagement - Alex Fishman
    On Wednesday, Hamas caused an absolute and complete disconnection between the Gaza economy and the West Bank economy, ahead of the emergence of two separate Palestinian entities. The moment huge quantities of goods entered Gaza without coordinating it with Israel, all duty agreements were in fact breached. From now on, Gazans would not be able to export even a matchbox to Israel or to the West Bank. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israeli Town in Trauma from Palestinian Rockets - Rebecca Harrison
    When the siren sounds, the residents of Sderot, an Israeli town just a mile from Gaza, drop everything and run for cover. They have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter and face an almost daily barrage of Palestinian rockets. "We are living in a war zone," said Hava Gad, a 42-year-old mother of three. Sderot's streets, many of them cratered by rockets, are dotted with bomb shelters. Bigger concrete shelters decorated with colorful murals stand outside schools and community centers. (Reuters)
        See also Rockets Keep Raining Down on Sderot - Dina Kraft and Andrew Friedman
    After seven years of rocket fire from nearby Gaza and no end in sight, Sderot residents are weighing whether or not to stay, as crippled businesses survive on hope and loans. Home prices have fallen by 50%, said Yakov Levy, a realtor in town. "It gets to you. You think about it all the time," said Atara Orenbouch. "You are always thinking: If there were an alarm now, where would the safest place be to hide?"  (JTA/Washington Jewish Week)
  • Palestinian Group Sounds Like Al-Qaeda - Ilene R. Prusher
    A new fundamentalist player is emerging in Palestinian politics. The group sounds like Hamas - or even al-Qaeda - but doesn't support suicide bombings or secret militias. Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation) is now filling a hole left by Hamas in the West Bank. In many of the places where Hizb ut-Tahrir is popular - the party says they're active in 45 countries - governments often see them as a feeder organization to more extreme groups.
        James Brandon, a senior research fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion in London, says that party officials worldwide don't advocate or organize violent attacks. "But...they act as a conveyor belt organization, in which they attract people and radicalize them, and then those people eventually move on, reject the Hizb ut-Tahrir method, and start looking to al-Qaeda." The group is banned in many countries, including Egypt and much of the Middle East, Germany, Pakistan, and Russia. It also came under investigation in Britain after the London bombings in July 2005. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations: Implications of the Breached Gaza-Egypt Border

    • Gaza Border Breach May Pressure Egypt to Act - Adam Entous
      Retired Brig.-Gen. Shalom Harari of Israel's Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya said Hamas may have achieved a "PR" victory in Gaza, but the situation would now put more pressure on Egypt to act - to Israel's benefit. "The situation may look worse on the surface, but Israel has not lost control on our border," he said.
          "For months and months, Israel has been telling the Egyptians, 'You guys have been playing with fire.' So I'm not so sure Israel is unhappy with what's going on right now," said David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. (Reuters)
    • See also Israel Wants to Sever Connections with Gaza
      Israel would like to sever its remaining connections with Gaza. "We need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side we lose responsibility for it. So we want to disconnect from it," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio on Thursday. (Reuters)
    • See also Will Responsibility for Gaza Shift to Egypt? - Benny Avni
      Some Israeli officials saw an "opportunity" in the flow of hundreds of thousands of Gazans into Egypt, suggesting that responsibility for Gaza's humanitarian situation should be shifted to Egypt. "If Egypt and international welfare organizations are so concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, why don't they just reroute the deliveries? They can send food and necessities to Egypt, and then deliver them to Gaza through the Rafah crossing," an Israeli official said. (New York Sun)
    • See also Proving the Egyptian Alternative - Yaakov Katz
      Egypt helped Israel on Wednesday to complete its disengagement from Gaza. Egypt's decision to open the Rafah crossing to the Palestinians proved to the world that Egypt is perfectly capable of caring for the Palestinians when it comes to food and medical care. "By going into Egypt, Hamas loses its claim that it is under siege by Israel," said a senior Israeli defense official. Mubarak's decision to open a floodgate into his country for thousands of Palestinians demonstrated that there are alternatives to Israel when it comes to being Gaza's provider. (Jerusalem Post)
    • See also Hamas' Strategy: Disconnect Gaza from Israel, Connect to the Arab World - Pinhas Inbari
      Opening the border between Gaza and Egypt is part of Hamas' long-term strategy to disconnect Gaza from Israel and connect it to the Arab world. Hamas has been methodically attacking the border crossings connecting Gaza with Israel, thereby keeping them blocked and forcing all the pressure toward opening Gaza to Egypt and thus to the Arab world. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert