Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 8, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Know-How in Gaza: IDF Uncovers Underground Tunnels Used by Hamas to Conceal Rocket Launchers - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg (Ha'aretz)
    During a ground operation in Gaza Thursday, the IDF uncovered underground tunnels used to conceal rocket launchers used to attack Israel, meant to hide the Kassams from IDF surveillance drones.
    Israeli security sources said that Palestinians learned this kind of operational know-how from Hizbullah.
    The operation targeted rocket crews in Gaza and seven Palestinian militants were killed.

Report: Advanced Weapons Smuggled into Gaza - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Palestinian sources confirmed Thursday that many advanced weapons were smuggled into Gaza over the past few weeks when the border between Gaza and Egypt was breached, including RPGs, anti-tank and Katyusha rockets.
    "We have been able to bring in the same rockets used by Hizbullah to destroy Israeli tanks in the Lebanon War," one operative boasted.

Egypt: Gazans Used Counterfeit Money in Sinai - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    About $1 million in counterfeit bills, apparently originating in Gaza, were seized in Sinai in the past few days, Egyptian security sources told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an on Thursday.

Children Taught to Kidnap and Kill at Al-Qaeda Camp in Iraq - Martin Fletcher (Times-UK)
    A three-minute film shows perhaps 20 children being taught to kidnap and assassinate at an al-Qaeda training and indoctrination camp in Iraq. They brandish their weapons for the cameraman, recite Koranic verses, and chant their support for al-Qaeda.
    The U.S. military released the chilling footage in Baghdad Wednesday, saying it was seized during a raid on Dec. 4 on an al-Qaeda base in Khan Bani Saad, north of Baghdad.

Government Reminds Court of CAIR/MAS Ties to Terrorists (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
    For at least the third time, federal prosecutors have called out the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as part of a covert Muslim Brotherhood effort in the U.S.
    CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, listed among "entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee."
    Now, in a federal court filing from December, federal prosecutors have described CAIR as "having conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists."
    The government also stated that the Muslim American Society (MAS) was "founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States."
    CAIR and MAS Freedom Foundation had offered friend of the court briefs for the appeal of Sabri Benkahla, who was part of a group who trained to fight with the Taliban against the U.S.

Saudi Religious Police Arrest American Businesswoman for Sitting with a Man - Sonia Verma (Times-UK)
    A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia's religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.
    Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was strip-searched, threatened, and forced to sign false confessions before she was freed from a day in prison.

Israeli Companies Follow Money to Silicon Valley - Stefanie Olsen (C/Net News)
    On Wednesday, 15 Israeli companies in the IsraelWebTour 2008 showed off their technology to a group of investors and tech leaders at Microsoft's offices in Silicon Valley.
    Investors said Israel is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to Web entrepreneurs.

Bank of Israel: No Signs of Economic Slowdown - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
    There's no sign of an economic recession for 2008, the Bank of Israel announced Wednesday. Data point to a growth rate of 3.6-4.4% for the Israeli economy this year, more than forecasted for most developed countries.
    In addition, exports to the U.S. have experienced no negative impact as yet.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Change of Heart in Cairo - Noha El-Hennawy
    As the border with Gaza was sealed off, the Egyptian state-owned media launched a campaign apparently seeking to overturn public sympathy for the Palestinians. Newspapers have become harsh on the Palestinians, with front-page news about Palestinians shooting at Egyptian soldiers, weapons smuggling, terrorism and reports of false currency in Sinai, posing a threat to Egypt's national security. The new content replaces earlier headlines that showed sympathy with the Palestinians.
        Rose-al-Youssef, a state-owned paper known for being the most vocal mouthpiece of the regime, has spearheaded the anti-Palestinian campaign. The paper even denied that Gaza had a humanitarian crisis, hinting that Gazans were well-off. Abdullah Kamal, the paper's editor in chief, wrote, "Each [Gazan] comer spent an average of $260 in three days...the total spending during that period reached $220 million. These figures raise real questions about the financial situation in Gaza."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Egypt Threatens to Break the Legs of Gaza Infiltrators
    Egypt said on Thursday it would no longer tolerate Palestinians infiltrating the country from Gaza, and threatened to break the legs of anyone crossing the Rafah border illegally. "Anyone who breaches the border will have their legs broken," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told the official MENA news agency. Abul Gheit also reproached Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, and said some rockets misfire and hit the Gaza Strip itself, wounding Palestinians. (AFP)
  • Lebanon in Confrontation with Syria, Iran: Hariri - Tom Perry
    The leader of Lebanon's pro-Western majority in parliament said on Thursday the country was in direct confrontation with Syria and Iran, which back Hizbullah in its conflict with the Beirut government. Saad al-Hariri, whose coalition is supported by the U.S., said Syria and Iran and "their local tools" were seeking to "impose a terror, security and political siege" on Lebanon. Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005. (Reuters)
  • Iran Reformists Sharply Lower Election Hopes
    Iran's reformists have drastically scaled down their expectations for parliamentary elections next month after the authorities disqualified half their candidates. The spokesman for the umbrella coalition of reformist parties, Abdollah Nasseri, said his forces were only competitive in 10% of parliamentary constituencies after the mass vetoing of candidates by interior ministry committees. Even the reformist-minded grandson of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Ali Eshraghi, was disqualified, the Kargozaran newspaper reported. (AFP/Gulf Times-Qatar)
  • Report: Al-Qaeda Plans Attacks on Germany
    Bernhard Falk, vice president of Germany's Federal Crime Office, told the German daily Die Welt on Friday that al-Qaeda forces based on the Pakistani-Afghan border were eyeing German targets. "The basic decision has been made there to carry out attacks in Germany," he said, adding that security risks in Germany had recently intensified. Germany agreed on Wednesday to send more troops to Afghanistan. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Threats from Gaza Must End Before Establishing Palestinian State - Herb Keinon
    A solution to threats from Gaza will have to be found before the establishment of a Palestinian state, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told James Jones, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East security, on Thursday. Jones is in the process of drawing up a plan about how to provide security when Israel leaves large swaths of the West Bank under a peace agreement. Government officials said that, considering the situation today in Gaza, an Israeli withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank seems like "science fiction." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel to U.S.: We Must Respond to Increasing Rocket Fire from Gaza
    Foreign Minister Livni told Gen. Jones: "The firing of Kassam rockets has not abated, and we are currently facing a significant increase. The necessary action to be taken regarding security issues is not only in relation to what will be written in a future agreement, and we must relate to our response to the situation on the ground right now."
        "The situation in Gaza must be taken into account in any political process - especially in light of the effects of this process on future security arrangements. This is not a territorial issue - we have withdrawn from Gaza, and the rocket attacks continue and intensify. A real response must be given to the threats from Gaza prior to the establishment of a Palestinian state - as long as the Palestinians see Gaza as part of the state they intend to establish. A solution to Israel's security requirements is not an obstacle to peace - it is a basic condition of any peace agreement." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Syria Upgrades Missiles with Iranian Help - Barak Ravid
    Syria, with Iranian support, has successfully developed a new surface-to-surface missile that would enable it to target with greater accuracy Israeli installations - such as airports, ports and factories - according briefings recently presented to senior ministers. Syria has upgraded the Iranian-made Zelzal surface-to-surface missile which has an operational range of 250 km. and is capable of carrying an especially large warhead. At the same time, Syria has acquired the Russian-made Pantsyr air defense missile system that can pose a substantial threat to Israeli air force aircraft. Damascus has also procured modern anti-tank missiles.
        According to Israeli estimates, Syria has tens of thousands of short-range rockets, as well as Scud-C and Scud-D missiles with ranges of 500-800 km., which can effectively strike every part of Israel. However, Mossad head Meir Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that at this stage there are no indications that Damascus has any plans to initiate a military action against Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Confiscates Jordanian Aid Sent to Gaza
    Fourteen trucks with humanitarian aid sent by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society to the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza were confiscated by Hamas police on Thursday. A spokesman for the Hamas police said Hamas would decide how to distribute the aid. (DPA/Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rockets Damage Greenhouses in Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza launched nine Kassam rockets toward Israeli communities on Friday. Two of the rockets landed in Netiv Ha'asara and damaged several greenhouses, while one of the rockets crashed into Ashkelon's industrial zone. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Major IDF Operation in Gaza Back on the Agenda - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Following many weeks of rocket barrages against Israeli communities, the likelihood of a major IDF operation in Gaza is once more at the forefront. The change is mainly linked to developments along the border between Gaza and Egypt. While smuggling had previously been rampant, the absence of any border controls in recent weeks has enabled Hamas to intensify its effort to bolster its arsenal. At the same time, terrorist organizations have sent a number of teams into Sinai, with the aim of carrying out attacks in Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Ill Winds Blowing from the South - Yoel Marcus
    Hamas is getting stronger and chalking up strategic successes, says ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy. It has morphed from a small fundamentalist religious organization into the sole ruler of Gaza and its million and a half inhabitants, and a serious obstacle to peace. In a carefully planned strategic maneuver - the Gaza-Egypt border breach - it has opened another front on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Under circumstances like these, our efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority are pointless.
        Some say it would be wrong to break off contact. On the contrary, they say. Now is the time to continue the talks and reach an accord with Abbas that can be displayed on the shelf. Their hope is that Hamas supporters will see it, be bit by the bug, and switch sides. Happy is the believer. (Ha'aretz)
  • Burning Sands in Sinai and Gaza - Amir Oren
    Egypt's demand that it be permitted to increase the size of the forces stipulated in the security addendum to the peace treaty is justified only in its less important aspect: They need reinforcements in order to repel a rioting mob at Rafah. Israel turned its head when the 750 Egyptian border police sent to replace the local officers were instead added to them, doubling their number. The Egyptians also need the systematic recruitment of human resources - agents from among the local Bedouin. Cairo has so neglected Sinai that it has come to resemble the tribal areas in Pakistan which have eluded central control from Islamabad.
        The emerging consequence of this situation is that the option that was most rejected in recent months - a ground assault in Gaza - will become the lesser of evils. The IDF will have to return to the rocket launch sites in northern Gaza and encircle the dozen or so kilometers between Kerem Shalom and the sea in order to trap the terror activists and recover their weapons in meticulous house-to-house searches. It may make do with the Rafah and Khan Yunis area. (Ha'aretz)
  • Cairo and Hamas - Zvi Bar'el
    If someone were to ask the Egyptians to compare the degree of their hostility toward Israel with that toward Hamas, Hamas would come out the worse. The wounding of Egyptian policemen, a large photo in the Egyptian media of a bearded Hamas man aiming a revolver at the head of an Egyptian citizen who tried to cross over into Gaza, and the reports about terrorist squads in Sinai have all had an effect. Egypt now faces a reality that requires it to apply the brakes to Hamas' intention to set up an independent Palestinian entity in Gaza reliant on Egypt, and Israel's desire to transfer responsibility for security on the Gaza border to Egypt. Egypt understands that if the issue of the border crossings is not resolved soon, it will face another invasion of Palestinians in the future. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Regime Fears Its Own Citizens - Editorial
    President Ahmadinejad of Iran and his hard-line allies rail against the U.S. and other external "enemies," but who they really fear are their own citizens. The president and his crowd are increasingly nervous about losing next month's parliamentary elections, and next year's presidential vote. Their cowardly solution? Keep potential rivals off the ballot and silence anyone who can give Iran's people a voice - like Zanan, the country's premier women's magazine shut down last week.
        In an era of $100 a barrel oil, Iran's people are struggling with food shortages, high unemployment and spiraling inflation. Ahmadinejad has tried to divert attention from those failures with threats against Israel, Holocaust denials, and a confrontation with the UN Security Council over nuclear ambitions. Iranians are not so easily fooled.
        The only threat Zanan posed was to the regime's authoritarian and anti-feminist pathology. Ahmadinejad may be able to stifle debate, for a while longer. If Iran's mullahs think that he's strengthening the country, they don't understand Iran's people. (New York Times)
  • Hitler and Ahmadinejad - Joseph Loconte
    Last week, Germany marked the 75th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, on January 30, 1933. Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that Iran would produce nuclear energy within a year and that Israel would soon collapse. As Hitler justified rearmament to combat the "Zionist Marxist" menace of communism, Ahmadinejad links Iran's nuclear ambitions to what he calls "the filthy Zionist entity."
        Ahmadinejad has spoken of the need to "wipe Israel off the map." It's hard to see how talk like this fails to qualify as a violation of the UN Charter, Article 2, which prohibits member states from threatening the "territorial integrity or political independence" of any state. Yet no UN or EU diplomats have ever suggested that the principles of the Charter be applied to Iran.
        Since the Iranian president's arrival, Iran has been ignoring UN Security Council resolutions to stop its nuclear program. We know that hostility to the West and a violent, apocalyptic vision of Islam have become interwoven in Tehran. We know that political opponents are tortured in prisons run by the Revolutionary Guards, and that free speech and peaceful assembly are fictions. The writer is a senior fellow at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy. (Weekly Standard)

    Weekend Features

  • In Egypt, High-Risk Blogging - Jeffrey Fleishman
    Wael Abbas, with keyboard, digital camera and a bit of cunning, has become one of Egypt's most popular bloggers. His posts, often with scratchy video, catalog police torture, political oppression, labor strikes, sexual harassment, and radical Islam. Recent videos posted by Abbas and other bloggers have found their way into the mainstream media and forced the Interior Ministry and the courts to more swiftly investigate officers accused of torture and abuse. "The U.S. should stop aiding Egypt, because it's paying for military and police forces that are suppressing the Egyptian people with pepper spray and tear gas," said Abbas. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Medical Tourism: Israel Welcomes the World's Ills - Ronny Linder-Ganz
    When a five-year-old boy from a small village in Kazakhstan was diagnosed with a severe blood disease requiring a bone marrow transplant, his family sold its herd of sheep to send him and his mother to Israel for an operation at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Another man came to Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem from England after learning that his knee-replacement surgery, for which he would have had to wait 18 months, could be performed in Israel within 10 days.
        Israel is emerging as a popular destination for medical tourists. In 2006, some 15,000 foreigners flew to Israel for complex procedures such as bone marrow transplants, heart surgery and catheterization, oncological and neurological treatments, rehabilitation after a car accident and more, bringing $40 million into Israel's coffers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Iranian Nuclear Rewrite - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • Questioned this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Admiral Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, defended the "integrity and the professionalism" of the process that produced last December's stunning National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear program. Yet his testimony amounts to a reversal of the previous judgment.
    • "I think I would change the way that we described [the] nuclear program," McConnell admitted to Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) during the hearing, adding that weapon design and weaponization were "the least significant portion" of a nuclear weapons program.
    • He expressed some regret that the authors of the NIE had left it to a footnote to explain that the NIE's definition of "nuclear weapons program" meant only its design and weaponization and excluded its uranium enrichment. And he agreed with Bayh's statement that it would be "very difficult" for the U.S. to know if Iran had recommenced weaponization work, and that "given their industrial and technological capabilities, they are likely to be successful" in building a bomb.
    • In his written statement, McConnell stresses that Iran continues to press ahead on enrichment, "the most difficult challenge in nuclear production." He notes that "Iran's efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue" - a key component of a nuclear weapons capability.
    • Then there is the other side of WMD: "We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW [Chemical Warfare] agent in times of need and conducts research that may have offensive applications." Ditto for biological weapons, where "Iran has previously conducted offensive BW agent research and development," and "continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare."
    • As Senator Bayh pointed out at the hearing, the NIE "had unintended consequences that, in my own view, are damaging to the national security interests of our country." Bayh is not a neocon. Admiral McConnell's belated damage repair ought to refocus world attention on Iran's very real nuclear threat.

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