Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Starts Gas Exports to Israel (AFP)
    Egypt has started exporting gas to Israel in accordance with a 2005 deal, an Israeli source said Monday.
    "Egyptian gas has been flowing to Israel since last week," and the pipeline would be fully integrated into the Israeli network "in a few days."
    The new underwater pipeline runs 100 km. from the Egyptian city of El-Arish to Ashkelon, supplying gas from a field in northern Sinai.
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood MPs have said that the Egyptian government is committing a "crime" against the Palestinian people by supplying Israel with gas.

PA: We Have Financing to Connect Gaza to Egypt's Electricity Grid (AP/Ynet News)
    The Palestinian government plans to connect more areas of the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian electricity grid, the head of the Palestinian Energy Authority said Tuesday, a move that would reduce the area's reliance on Israel for power.
    Mahmoud Abbas' energy chief, Omar Qattaneh, said the authority has secured financing from the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia for the $32 million project, which could distribute up to 250 megawatts, or a large part of the area's needs.
    It was not clear whether Egypt could provide this much electricity, however.

Seven Convicted in Muslim Terror Camps in UK - David Stringer (AP)
    Clad in combat fatigues, the young Muslims trained on picturesque British farmland, hurling imaginary grenades, wielding sticks as mock rifles, and chopping watermelons in simulated beheadings.
    A four-year inquiry, which came to a close Tuesday with guilty pleas from the last two of seven gang members, has exposed a network of alleged British terrorism training camps meant to prepare recruits for mass murder.
    Security officials believe hundreds of men - including a gang that made a failed attempt to bomb London's transit network - passed through the camps.

Swedish Civil Servant Says Demoted for Pro-Israel Views (The Local-Sweden)
    A Swedish Migration Board employee with 20 years' experience, Lennart Eriksson, 51, says he was demoted due to his pro-Israel political views.
    In his spare time he operates a personal blog in which he expresses support for democratic freedoms and for Israel, in particular.
    Eriksson's career hit a bump last summer when he returned from a one-year sabbatical only to learn that he was to be demoted from his job, a position he had held for six years.
    He claims that when his new supervisor learned of his blog, he decided to force Eriksson out of the agency.

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

  • Slain Hizbullah Terrorist Was Top Architect of Lebanon War - Scheherezade Faramarzi
    Imad Mughniyeh, killed Feb. 12 in Damascus, was a key commander for Hizbullah in its 2006 war with Israel. He was among the leading military and security strategists - if not the very top himself. "Hizbullah's top architect of that war was Imad Mughniyeh," said Anis Naccache, 57, a longtime associate.
        Two months before the 2006 war, Mughniyeh showed Naccache photographs of anti-tank rockets that Hizbullah had recently obtained, the Russian-made Kornet and the RPG-29. Mughniyeh explained to him how the rockets could be used against Israeli Merkava tanks. Naccache said Mughniyeh "had studied the exact millimeters of the thickness of a Merkava and what was the best point from which to hit the Merkava." "I understood how serious he was in his preparation for the war," Naccache said. (AP)
  • Top Iranian Cleric Criticizes Ahmadinejad's Rhetoric
    Iranian cleric Hassan Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator, asked Wednesday in a speech to a foreign policy conference in Tehran: "Does foreign policy mean expressing coarse slogans and grandstanding?" "This is not a foreign policy. We need to find an accommodating way to decrease the threats and assure the interests of the country." Rowhani warned starkly: "If the international community thinks that a country wants to play troublemaker and eliminate others, it will not let the country do this and will confront it."  (AFP)
  • Endangered Gaza Christians Mull Flight Amid Deaths, Firebombs - Daniel Williams
    The stone walls of St. Porphyrius Church in Gaza City were raised in the fourth century, a reminder of Christianity's long role in the city's history. The saga may be coming to an end. Christians in Gaza are increasingly menaced by Islamic fundamentalists and say they are on the verge of being driven out. "Never in Palestinian history did we feel endangered until now,'' said Archimandrite Artemios, the Greek Orthodox priest who heads St. Porphyrius. While there are few indications Hamas itself is trying to intimidate Christians, Hamas rule has brought to the surface Muslim groups that are actively hostile to Christians, said Hamdi Shaqura, 46, an official with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
        Artemios observed that, according to legend, the old columns in his church were from a temple destroyed by Samson after his haircut at the hands of Delilah. "The edifice of tolerance is crashing down over our heads,'' he said. (Bloomberg)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Al-Qaeda Entered Gaza During Border Breach
    Dozens of terrorists - among them al-Qaeda operatives - infiltrated Gaza after Hamas breached the border with Egypt in January, Head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Yadlin said the breach also "enabled Hamas to bring back those who had left for training in Syria and Iran, including snipers, explosives experts, rocket experts and engineers." Copious amounts of weaponry had also been smuggled in, he added. He also warned that Hamas was planning to capture anther IDF soldier.
        Regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said that Gazans were not going hungry. He noted that the Palestinians spent some $150 million in Egypt during the border breach. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Abbas: Hamas Allowed Al-Qaeda Operatives into Gaza - Roee Nahmias
    Mahmoud Abbas confirmed on Wednesday that al-Qaeda operatives have infiltrated Gaza. He told al-Hayat, "I believe that al-Qaeda members have reached Palestinian territories and Gaza in particular. I think that al-Qaeda's presence there was made possible with the help of Hamas, especially in Gaza," and that a years-long alliance has existed between the two groups. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Rising in Priority on Al-Qaeda Target List
    "When the border was opened between Gaza and Egypt, I saw calls on forums for foreign fighters to come and infiltrate the Gaza Strip to lead the battle against Israel," said Dominique Thomas, a specialist on radical Islam at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. "Israel has assumed a heretofore unprecedented priority on the target list of al-Qaeda and its allies," said Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. (AFP)
        See also The Growing Al-Qaeda Presence in the Hamas-Controlled Gaza Strip - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Airstrike Kills Five Hamas Militants in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Five members of Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades, were killed Wednesday after an IDF aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle west of the Gaza town of Khan Yunis, local sources reported. Several people were wounded in the strike. (Ynet News)
  • Fence to Be Built at Egyptian Border - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that within two years, a fence will be built along 85 kilometers of the Israel-Egypt border, covering less than half its length. One section will cover 70 km. in the Nitzana region from Be'erotayim to Rafah, while another will include 15 km. just north of Eilat - two areas viewed as particularly attractive to border infiltrators. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Dan Shomron, Ex-IDF Chief and Entebbe Raid Commander, Dies at 70
    Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Shomron, who presided over the famous 1976 Entebbe rescue operation, died Tuesday at age 70. Shomron served as chief of staff in 1987-1991, commanding the army through the first Palestinian intifada and the first Iraq war when Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Sderot Calculus - Bret Stephens
    In the past seven years, the Israeli town of Sderot has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters typically reply that life in Gaza is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: If there were no Palestinian Kassam rockets (or other forms of terrorism), there would be no Israeli "siege." Following Israel's withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements from Gaza in 2005, there was a six-fold increase in the number of rocket strikes on Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran's Diplomatic Elite Believe the Time Has Come to Lead the Region - Iason Athanasiadis
    Iran's political elites are following a nationalist policy that aims at regional dominance. With oil receipts at a record high and the Middle East's third most advanced military after Israel and Turkey, Shiite-led Iran is at its strategic strongest in 30 years. What was briefly dubbed the Sunni Axis, designed to counteract the Shiite Crescent, has collapsed in an outbreak of diplomatic overtures by Sunni-majority states Saudi Arabia and Egypt toward Iran. Meanwhile, in the living rooms of Cairo and Riyadh, the Iranian president's popularity is swelling because he is the only regional leader who dares put into words what ordinary Egyptians and Saudis feel. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Syrian Summit Best Never Held - Ahmed Al-Jarallah
    Why is the next Arab summit being held in Damascus? This regime has not respected the Arab consensus on any issue. All this regime is concerned about is sacrificing Arabs on the altar of Iran. In Lebanon, this regime is very active, committing all sorts of crimes - assassinating noble men in cold blood, destroying societal structure with a criminal intent and giving birth to extremism, laced with terrorist ideology. It is the same regime which planted Hamas in Palestine and instructed Mashaal to set Gaza alight. It is the same regime which sends terrorists and weapons to Iraq to add fuel to the fire caused by sectarian and tribal sentiments in Baghdad. (Arab Times-Kuwait)
        See also Egypt's Mubarak Says Syria Part of Lebanon Crisis (Reuters)
  • Observations:

    Sderot's War Children - Anat Meidan (Ynet News)

    • The most gut-wrenching moment of Monday's rocket attack on Sderot was 8-year-old Maria caressing the forehead of her older brother, Yossi, 10, while he was lying wounded on the floor of the supermarket. There was no screaming, no panic, and no crying.
    • Yossi, despite the rocket shrapnel that was lodged in his shoulder, the blood around him, and the incredible pain, maintained incomprehensible restraint. He merely muttered that his shoulder hurts, and his little sister, just like a kind nurse, kept on caressing him.
    • He was a child hero who a minute earlier was still having fun, just like other children anywhere else in the world. He went to play soccer, after leaving his school bag at home.
    • How many times did they imagine the possibility that they will be wounded, and what it would be like, and what they would do? Did Yossi wonder whether he would lose his leg, just like 8-year-old Osher Twito, who was wounded only two and a half weeks ago and will no longer be able to play soccer?
    • A 10-year-old boy should not be a wounded hero, and it is completely unnecessary for an 8-year-old girl to see her brother bleeding. On Monday, a Kassam rocket wrested away the innocence and put an end to the childhood of Yossi and Maria, Sderot's war children.

          See also LA Benefit Salutes Sderot's Children - Yitzhak Benhorin
      Dozens of Hollywood stars attended Tuesday the "Live for Sderot" concert, which was held in Los Angeles and dedicated to the children of the rocket-battered town. The leading U.S. presidential hopefuls all sent their warm wishes to Sderot via videotaped messages. (Ynet News)

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