Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Hizbullah Increases Rocket Range - Matti Friedman (AP)
    Senior Israeli defense officials said Thursday that Hizbullah has dramatically increased its arsenal of rockets and their range.
    The officials said Hizbullah has acquired new Iranian rockets with a range of 186 miles that can hit anywhere in Israel's heavily populated center.
    See also IDF: Islamic Jihad Producing Longer-Range Rockets - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    The Islamic Jihad terror group has recently begun manufacturing rockets with a 12.5-mile range, similar to the Grad (Katyusha) rockets already in use by terror organizations in Gaza.
    The new rockets are armed with a much deadlier warhead that carries double the amount of explosives carried by Kassam rockets.
    Armed groups in Gaza have also recently obtained two new types of Iranian-made mortar shells, some of which can travel up to 6.2 miles.

Palestinian Terrorist Leader Admits Israeli Security Fence Blocks Suicide Bombing Attacks (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah told the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq on March 23 that rocket fire had replaced suicide bombing attacks because Israel had found ways to protect itself from such attacks.
    "For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank. We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks."

U.S. Steps Up Unilateral Strikes Against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan - Robin Wright and Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    The U.S. has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country.
    Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives. About 45 Arab, Afghan and other foreign fighters have been killed in the attacks.
    See also Extremists Killing Afghans Suspected of Spying for U.S. - Imtiaz Ali (Washington Post)
    Extremists in Pakistan's western tribal areas have killed dozens of people suspected of providing intelligence to the U.S. and its allies in recent months.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Cheney: Iran Trying to Enrich Uranium to Weapons-Grade Levels - Borzou Daragahi
    Vice President Dick Cheney charged in an interview with ABC released Tuesday that Iran is "heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels." Cheney's comment contradicted the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran had halted its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Queries Value of UN Council's Mideast Meetings - Patrick Worsnip
    The U.S. on Tuesday questioned the value of monthly public meetings of the UN Security Council on the Middle East, saying the angry speeches delivered often made the problem worse. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told this month's meeting that these discussions "do little to help advance the cause of peace or help the Palestinian people in any tangible way." The council has been paralyzed this year in trying to make formal statements about the situation by disagreements between the U.S. and new member Libya. Such statements have to be unanimous. (Reuters)
  • Swiss Israel Critic Tapped by UN Council - Eliane Engeler
    Jean Ziegler, a Swiss legal expert and outspoken critic of Israel, was elected Wednesday as one of 18 advisers to the UN Human Rights Council. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had demanded the Swiss government withdraw its support for Ziegler's nomination because of what she called his anti-Semitic statements and support for dictators. She also accused Ziegler of using "his platform [as a UN expert] to consistently attack America and Israel." (AP)
        See also New UN Advisor Co-Founded "Khaddafi Human Rights Prize"
    New UN Human Rights Council advisor Jean Ziegler co-founded the "Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize" in 1989. For its new Palestine expert, the council chose Richard Falk, who describes Israel in Nazi terminology. (UN Watch)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Foreign Minister Livni: IDF Gaza Operations Help Move Peace Talks Forward - Barak Ravid
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday said the Israel Defense Forces' operations against Palestinian armed groups in Gaza were necessary for the advancement of peace negotiations. Speaking at a conference organized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Livni also said that Israel would insist the Palestinians renounce all demands and declare an end to the conflict as part of any signed peace agreement. In addition, she expressed concern at what she termed a growing trend of de-legitimization of Israel in world public opinion: "There is a huge, insufferable gap between Israel and its values versus Israel's image abroad that creates a lack of legitimacy." (Ha'aretz)
  • Olmert: Israel Will Continue to Build in Existing Settlements
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that Israel would comply with all its commitments under the Roadmap peace plan ''if the Palestinians do the same.'' He also said Israel would continue building in settlement blocs it intends to keep in a peace deal, as well as in Jerusalem. Olmert ruled out talks with Hamas, saying, ''We will deal with Hamas in other ways.''
        Olmert indicated that he does not favor a Russian proposal to hold a follow-up summit in Moscow to last year's Annapolis meeting. ''This habit of going from one conference to the other is not something I'm particularly in favor of,'' he said. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Barrage from Gaza Wounds Two Israelis - Mijal Grinberg
    Two Israeli civilians were wounded Wednesday evening as Palestinians fired six rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot. Seven others were treated for shock. Earlier in the day, nine Palestinian rockets struck Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF: Hamas Responsible for New Surge of Rocket Attacks
    The IDF said on Thursday that Hamas must be viewed as responsible for the new surge of rocket attacks from Gaza, Army Radio reported. The army said that while Islamic Jihad was behind Wednesday's attacks, Hamas was accountable as it has proven its ability to stop rocket attacks completely, and has not done so. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Nabs 2002 Passover Bombing Mastermind - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF on Tuesday arrested Hamas' top commander in Tulkarm, Omar Jaber, 54, who dispatched the suicide bomber that attacked a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002, killing 30 Israelis and wounding over 140. Jaber has been actively working to set up a Hamas military force in Tulkarm. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Devaluation of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranian Threat - Ephraim Kam
    Since the publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranian threat, its impact has been progressively devalued. This devaluation can be attributed, first of all, to the fact that the American administration, along with leading European governments and Israel, continued to stress the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat. Secondly, the NIE report ran into a storm of criticism by professional echelons in Israel, Europe and the U.S. itself. That criticism prompted Thomas Fingar, the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council that drafted the NIE, to admit in March 2008 that the Council did not assume that the report would be published and that if it had believed otherwise, it would have formulated the estimate somewhat differently. Thirdly, the most recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency in February 2008 about Iran included voluminous information about procurement and attempted procurement of components critical to the development of nuclear explosive devices. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
        See also U.S. National Intelligence Estimates to Undergo More Scrutiny - Walter Pincus
    The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate is getting a makeover by senior intelligence officials to improve its credibility. The estimates are to be subjected to special internal reviews before they are finished, according to Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, who supervises the NIE process. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said on March 12: "All future NIEs will not have unclassified key judgments, if I'm persuasive enough among the decision-makers." (Washington Post)
  • A Puppeteer's Tribute to Iranian Democracy - Editorial
    The parliamentary elections in Iran this month resemble the work of a clumsy illusionist. A Guardian Council of clerics and jurists disqualified about 90% of the reformists who wanted to run. The campaign was confined to a week, and public rallies were banned. Iranian politicians compete for power in a unique system: democratic institutions draped over a rigid autocracy. Thanks to that system, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rules Iran as a grand puppet master and all the strings dangle from his hands. The chiefs of the armed forces and the Revolutionary Guards report to him. He has representatives in each of the ministries. All important decisions on foreign and security policy and on Iran's nuclear program are his. And he has ultimate control over the intelligence and security services. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    Islam and Free Speech - Peter Hoekstra (Wall Street Journal)

    • The Netherlands is bracing for a new round of violence at home and against its embassies in the Middle East over "Fitna," a short film by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, to be released this week. The film reportedly includes images of a Koran being burned, and Wilders has called for banning the Koran - which he has compared to Hitler's Mein Kampf - from the Netherlands.
    • Reasonable men in free societies regard Wilders's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and films like "Fitna," as disrespectful of the religious sensitivities of members of the Islamic faith. But free societies also hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental human right. We don't silence, jail or kill people with whom we disagree just because their ideas are offensive or disturbing.
    • What is particularly disturbing about Islamic assaults against modern society is how the West has reacted with appeasement. The only major U.S. newspaper to reprint any of the controversial 2005 Danish cartoons was Denver's Rocky Mountain News. You can be sure that if these cartoons had mocked Christianity or Judaism, major American newspapers would not have hesitated to print them.
    • I defend the right of Mr. Wilders and the media to air his film because free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by granting them special protection from criticism.

      The writer, who was born in the Netherlands, is ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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