Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 6, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Warns Hamas Against Provocations on Gaza Border (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    Egypt warned Hamas Tuesday against causing any further provocations on the Gaza border a day after a Palestinian was killed and 24 Egyptians were injured in clashes between Palestinians and Egyptian border police.
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said: "It is important that the Hamas leadership in Gaza adopts wisdom so as to discourage Palestinian masses from going close to the border with Egypt."
    "Egypt is generous and patient but its patience has limits," he noted.
    Al-Hayat quoted Egyptian officials as saying Egypt would not accept an arrangement whereby Hamas security forces would guard the Rafah border passage, as Cairo recognizes the Ramallah-based government of Mahmoud Abbas as the only legitimate Palestinian regime.

Dimona Suicide Bomber Had a Coffee First - Laurie Copans (AP)
    Revital Biton, 29, owner of Revital's World Class Pizza in Dimona, said Tuesday she wished she had called police when the jittery Arab man came in.
    Her customer apparently was the bomber who successfully detonated his explosives.
    "Coffee, quick!" the bearded young man in a red coat demanded, Biton recounted. "He was tense, his eyes darting back and forth with worry....He looked strange to me. I suspected him a bit."
    "Only half an hour later, when I heard the boom, did I realize what had happened and who he was."

Cairo Exploring Ties with Tehran - Nicholas Kralev and Abraham Rabinovich (Washington Times)
    Diplomats Monday cautioned against excessive alarm over a series of visits to Cairo by senior Iranian officials, saying Tehran's bid to end three decades of estrangement is unlikely to yield an early restoration of formal relations.
    Iranian pronouncements that the two most powerful Muslim countries are "on the verge" of re-establishing diplomatic relations are exaggerated, diplomats and analysts said.
    See also Iran: Ahmadinejad Egypt Visit Not on Agenda - Gholam-Hossein Elham (Press TV-Iran)
    Iran's government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said Tuesday that no visit to Egypt is on the agenda of President Ahmadinejad.

French Envoy Condemns Iran Statements on Israel (AP)
    French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani confirmed Monday that France's ambassador to Iran, Bernard Poletti, had been summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to protest France's policy toward Iran's nuclear activities.
    Andreani said Poletti took advantage of the summons to protest "unacceptable" comments Ahmadinejad made last week during a speech in Bushehr implying that Israel would be destroyed.
    Poletti reiterated the French position that "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli-Lebanese relations cannot serve as a pretext to question Israel's right to exist," Andreani said.
    Last week, France's Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Paris, Ali Ahani, to protest Ahmadinejad's comments.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Intelligence Chief Corrects Impression Given by NIE on Iran - Demetri Sevastopulo
    Admiral Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, told the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday that the November national intelligence estimate had concluded that Tehran had ceased only efforts to covertly enrich uranium and design nuclear warheads. "The only thing that they've halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program," he said. McConnell said Iran continued to develop uranium enrichment technology and longer-range ballistic missiles. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S.: Iran Could Have Enough Uranium for Bomb in 2009, But More Likely After 2010 - Pete Williams
    McConnell said the U.S. intelligence community assesses "with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons." The earliest Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that's very unlikely, he said. More likely that date would be sometime between 2010 and 2015, he added. (NBC News)
        See also Israel: Iran Will Have Nuclear Weapon in Three Years
    Israel's Mossad spy agency estimates Iran will develop a nuclear weapon within three years and continue to provide rockets to regional armed groups, agency director Meir Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. Dagan's estimate of Iran's nuclear ambitions differs sharply from an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community that said Iran had mothballed its nuclear weapons program in 2003. (AFP)
  • Intelligence Chief Cites Qaeda Threat to U.S. - Mark Mazzetti
    Al-Qaeda is gaining in strength from its refuge in Pakistan and is steadily improving its ability to recruit, train and position operatives capable of carrying out attacks inside the U.S., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel on Tuesday. Mike McConnell said that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, remained in control of the terrorist group and had promoted a new generation of lieutenants. He said al-Qaeda was improving "the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S." - producing militants, including new Western recruits, capable of blending into American society and attacking domestic targets. (New York Times)
        See also UK Institute: Terror Threat Widens
    Senior researchers at Britain's International Institute for Strategic Studies warned Tuesday that "neo-Taliban" groups operating in Pakistan's tribal areas may soon become a global menace. Nigel Inkster, who directs a risk analysis unit at the London-based security think tank, said, "There is some evidence they were involved with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and that they have dispatched terrorists to the United Kingdom and Spain." International terrorism remains a "growth industry," he added. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas: Dimona Bombers Came from West Bank, Not Gaza - Amos Harel
    Hamas on Tuesday claimed responsibility for Monday's suicide bombing in Dimona, saying it was carried out by two operatives from Hebron - Mohammed al-Hirbawi and Shadi al-Zaghair. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Where Are the Gaza Terrorists Sent to Infiltrate Israel? - Ali Waked
    Despite Hamas' announcement that the terrorists came from Hebron, consolers continued to flock to the mourning tents set up for the two Palestinians from Gaza whose names were reported on Monday and whose will was broadcast on a videotape. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing, continued to insist Tuesday that they were behind the attack. Meanwhile, sources in Gaza wondered what happened to the two Palestinians presented as the bombers on Monday. (Ynet News)
  • Security Fence Not Yet Complete - Alex Fishman and Roni Shaked
    So many terrorists crossed from Gaza into Sinai that their masters don't even know who is out there and where. If Hamas' claim that the bombing came out of Hebron is correct, this is another proof that Hamas is alive and kicking in the West Bank as well, and we must not wait for the PA to handle security problems. Monday's terror attack is also a reminder that the security fence south of Hebron has not been completed. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Weighs Security Fence Priorities - Yonat Atlas
    Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said in Dimona on Tuesday: "At the end of the day, there will be a fence, but we must first decide if we should plug the holes (in the West Bank separation fence) in the Hebron area - or if we finish it in the Jerusalem area - or if we build a fence on the border with Egypt." (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Strike on Sderot Home Wounds Six - Amos Harel and Mijal Grinberg
    Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday evening fired eight Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, one of which struck a home and wounded six people. The barrage also knocked out the power in one of the city's neighborhoods. Palestinians also fired three longer-range rockets at Ashkelon. Militants belonging to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement and to the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility. Also on Tuesday, Palestinians opened fire on farmers working in the fields of Kibbutz Nir Oz. Some farm equipment was damaged. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Sderot Girl Describes Palestinian Rocket Attack - Shmulik Hadad
    Hanny Moreno, 14, who was injured by shrapnel, said she was in the house with her grandmother and mother when the rocket hit it. "We heard the Red Alert system. We ran to where my grandmother said was the most protected place, as there is no protection in the house. When the alert ended we came out and then there was an explosion. I flew against the wall and felt the roof collapsing over me. If I was a few meters away from the place where I was standing, I would have sustained more serious wounds. I thank God I was saved. Half a year ago, as I was making my way to this house, a Kassam rocket landed right next to me. A miracle saved me then too, because I managed to run and find shelter in time," she recounted.
        MK Effie Eitam was on the outskirts of Sderot when the rockets began pouring in. He told Ynet: "A Kassam rocket fell on the road about 30 meters from me. That's not a good feeling." (Ynet News)
  • 7 Killed in IDF Strike on Hamas Police Post in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Seven Palestinians were killed Tuesday in an IDF airstrike on a Hamas police post in Khan Yunis in Gaza. IDF sources said the army's freedom of action was recently expanded. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Hones Airstrikes - Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams
    On Monday, Palestinian rocket crew commander Amer Qarmout was killed in an airstrike and two of his comrades were wounded. As Israel escalates its aerial campaign against militants in Gaza, it is employing hi-tech tactics designed to reduce the damage and the number of bystanders hurt. "There is a trend in terms of the very dramatic improvement in hitting the terrorists and not non-combatants," a senior air force commander said. The air force says its strikes now cause around one civilian casualty for every 20 militants killed or wounded, compared to a roughly 1-to-1 ratio when the practice was introduced in 2002.
        The strikes are generally at night and employ ordnance of such low explosive power that cars that are hit often remain largely intact. "The impact is only on the target," he said, but sometimes munitions in militants' vehicles go off unexpectedly, causing "secondary" casualties. "I think the intel (on Gaza) is getting better and better," he said. The most valuable information is in real time - images of the ground fed to the Israeli war room by surveillance drones. (Reuters)
  • Israel Isn't to Blame for Chaos Around Egypt's Wall - Jonathan Gurwitz
    When Hamas militants blew up that wall on Jan. 23 to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza, did you notice whose wall it was they destroyed? It was Egypt's wall. Funny, then, that the term "Israeli blockade" should have become so widely and so conventionally accepted with regard to Gaza. To blockade means to impede passage on all sides. It turns out that there is a back door to Gaza, which shares a seven-mile border with Egypt.
        In two-and-a-half years, Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilian targets. Daily life in the southern Israeli city of Sderot consists of wailing sirens and 15-second dashes for cover. No nation in the world would withstand this daily barrage on its citizens and not take decisive action. No nation would sit passively as an enemy committed to its destruction grows menacingly on its border.
        Hamas is the Palestinian franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian wellspring of the modern Islamist movement and the chief political opposition to the Mubarak dynasty. (San Antonio Express-News)
  • Observations:

    An Israeli Signal to Hamas - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • The IDF strikes on Hamas bases in Gaza Tuesday are directly linked to Monday's suicide bombing in Dimona, apparently carried out by Hamas men from Hebron in the West Bank. The IDF strikes were meant as a signal to Hamas' leadership: If you escalate the fighting originating in the West Bank, we will hit you where it hurts the most: attacks on bases of the forces used by Hamas to enforce its rule in Gaza.
    • The objective was to show Hamas that Israel has the ability to escalate the fighting should Hamas continue with its suicide bombings, whether from the West Bank or via Sinai. The same is true should heavy rocket fire continue to target Israel's Negev region.
    • Should Hamas not be deterred by the strikes, the IDF will move on to the next phase: Surgical strikes that would target the organization's political and military leadership.
    • Should this fail, the security cabinet is expected to approve an intensive ground incursion into Gaza. Security officials are increasingly realizing that such an operation is apparently unavoidable.
    • Sooner or later, Israel will be forced to seal off the Philadelphi Route on its own and regain its operational freedom and intelligence superiority in every point in Gaza.

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