Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 21, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hamas Rejects Egyptian Plan for Truce with Israel (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri on Sunday rejected an Egyptian plan for a cease-fire agreement with Israel, Al Jazeera reported.

Poll: Palestinians' Backing for Terror Rises - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    65% of Palestinians in Gaza support bombing attacks against Israeli civilians, compared with 42% of those in the West Bank, according to a poll conducted on April 8-13 by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.

Poll: Israelis Say West Bank Is "Liberated," Not "Occupied" - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
    In its latest monthly peace index survey for March 2008, Tel Aviv University's Steinmetz Center for Peace Research found that, by a wide margin, the majority of Israeli Jews view the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as "liberated" rather than "occupied" territory.
    The researchers noted that, "We were surprised to discover that even though, over the years, the concept of 'occupation' has become more common both in the political discourse and the media, today a majority of the Jewish public defines the West Bank as 'liberated territory' (55%) and not as 'occupied territory' (32%)."
    By a margin of 57% to 23%, more than 2-1, Israeli Jews oppose a return to the pre-1967 borders.

Germany and France at Loggerheads over Arms Deal with Libya (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    A French arms deal with Libya is causing strain between Paris and Berlin.
    Sarkozy wants to sell Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi 12 Tiger combat helicopters, which are manufactured by the Franco-German Eurocopter, while the German government wants to prevent the deal.

Record Surge in U.S. Tourists to Israel - Matthew Kalman (New York Daily News)
    The number of Americans visiting Israel has hit an all-time high. During January and February, 85,000 American tourists landed in Israel, up 23% from the same period in 2007, which was itself a record year.
    More than half a million Americans visited the Holy Land in 2007, a figure which is expected to reach nearly 700,000 in 2008.

Concentration Camp Hit by Scrap Metal Thieves (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Scrap metal thieves have stolen some 1,000 bronze plaques from the former concentration camp at Theresienstadt just outside of Prague.
    The plaques were emblazoned with the names of prisoners who died at the Nazi concentration camp there. Czech police said many of them had been discovered at a scrap yard in northern Czech Republic.
    Czech Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka said that the plaques would be replaced but with non-metallic ones.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Suicide Bombers Attack Gaza Crossing - Isabel Kershner
    Palestinian suicide bombers from Gaza drove three explosives-laden vehicles into the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on the border with Israel early on Saturday, detonating two of them. Three bombers were killed in the blasts and 13 Israeli soldiers were wounded, the Israeli military said. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, the fifth along the border with Israel in the last ten days.
        The vehicles entered the Palestinian side of the crossing at about 6 a.m. under cover of heavy mortar fire and the early morning mist. They included two jeeps painted to resemble army vehicles and an armored personnel carrier. Israeli forces came to confront them as they headed toward the Israeli side. The soldiers escaped more serious injury because they were in a fortified space. Another armored personnel carrier was spotted half an hour later by soldiers at a border position north of Kerem Shalom. That vehicle was blown up by Israeli fire before it could reach the border fence. The armored personnel carriers used to belong to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. (New York Times)
        See also IDF: Worst Attack Since Gaza Pullout - Hanan Greenberg
    "This is the worst attack we've seen since the disengagement," said IDF Southern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant Saturday after the terror attack at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing. "It was an attempt to abduct and kill as many soldiers as possible," said Galant. "Hamas is using Israel's generosity and goes after the crossings used to make sure vital Palestinian needs are met." (Ynet News)
        Senior IDF officers said the latest attack was "a very clear declaration on the part of Hamas. This was not a 'slip.' This [attack] had been planned for months." (Ha'aretz)
  • Jimmy Carter Meets Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal in Syria - James Hider
    Former President Jimmy Carter held a controversial meeting Friday with Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, the Islamist movement whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Keeping Gaza Quiet until Independence Day - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas' failed attack at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Passover eve shows that it is trying to abduct more soldiers. According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hamas operatives believed they had identified a breach in Israel's defenses: the crossing where 200 trucks cross to meet humanitarian needs each week. It was preceded by the Nahal Oz fuel terminal attack on April 9, where two Israeli civilians were killed. The Hamas leadership understands that Israel does not want to embark on a major operation in the coming month - between Passover, Independence Day and another visit by President Bush.
        IDF success depends greatly on the quick judgment of the commander in the field. Saturday it was the Bedouin Desert Battalion deputy commander, Major Wahid, who correctly foresaw the impending explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle and ordered his men into protected vehicles, certainly limiting casualties. Despite a leg injury from the second explosion, Wahid continued to command the forces that surrounded and killed the driver of the armored vehicle. Almost two years ago, at almost exactly that spot, soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted. The attack also shows a misconception: The armored vehicles Israel plans to transfer to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have been described as useless weapons, easily targeted by the Israel Air Force. But they served Hamas in its abduction plan. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Braces for More Attacks on Gaza-Israel Border - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
  • Kibbutz Under Mortar Barrage During Palestinian Attack - Yonat Atlas
    At 6 a.m. Saturday, residents of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom woke up to the sounds of mortar shells. The men were dispatched to the emergency squad, while the women remained in fortified rooms with their children. Kibbutz resident Sharon Caspi said, "The shells landed across the entire kibbutz and I simply felt that we were at war." "I feel anger because this is our home, and they, the Palestinians, don't want us to be here. But this is our land, and...we will not escape and will not be driven away from our home so easily." (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Sunday - Ze'ev Trachtman
    Palestinians in Gaza fired seven Kassam rockets that landed in Israel on Sunday. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Target Ashkelon Monday
    Two Kassam rockets landed south of Ashkelon Monday morning. (Ynet News)
  • PA to Reopen 20 Police Stations in West Bank - Avi Issacharoff
    Israel agreed Friday to allow the PA to reopen 20 police stations in the West Bank's Area B, as part of a security drive aimed at bolstering peace negotiations. The stations would be staffed by 500 new police personnel, said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry's civil affairs wing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Foiled Again - Amir Oren
    The IDF identified Hamas preparations for the attack on Kerem Shalom on Saturday and were ready to thwart it. The attack seems to have been an initiative by the commanders of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza, Ahmed Jabari and Mohammed Def. But such an attack could not take place without the knowledge and consent of Gaza's political leadership, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, as well as the Damascus leadership. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's mission to see Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is placed in a particularly ludicrous light when, farther down in the organization, Hamas operatives set out to take more Israeli soldiers hostage. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Carter's Unhelpful Freelancing - Editorial
    Jimmy Carter sets a bad precedent by conducting his own foreign policy. How would he have reacted if his predecessors made similar gestures while he was toasting the Shah of Iran on New Year's Eve 1977 as "an island of stability," or when he had the Pentagon tell Iranian generals to allow Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran? Carter may have good intentions, but he should know better than anyone that there can be only one chief of state at a time. (Boston Globe)
  • Hamas Must End its Boycott of Israel - Gabriel M. Scheinmann
    All three American presidential candidates uniformly agree that the U.S. should neither reach out to Hamas - considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel, and the EU - nor pressure Israel to do so. While some have continued to press Israel to end its boycott of Hamas, as if the lack of peace in the region is the result of an Israeli allergy to peaceful negotiations, this is the antithesis of the prevailing situation: It is Hamas who refuses to negotiate peace with Israel because its stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state, a position repeated frequently by its leaders and adherents. Were Hamas willing to end its boycott of Israel, end its call for genocide, recognize Israel's right to exist in peace with its Arab neighbors, and renounce violence, it would find a ready and able peace partner in Jerusalem. (Harvard Crimson)
  • Observations:

    The False Hope of Embracing Hamas - Robert Satloff (Los Angeles Times)

    • No Hamas leader has ever endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so embracing Hamas can never advance the prospects of such a solution.
    • Hamas has no advocates of peace with Israel. The internal divide is between those who call for a tahdiya (a brief lull in the fighting) and those who favor a hudna (a longer-term armistice). Neither approximates peace with Israel.
    • Against this backdrop, it would be folly for the U.S. government to demand less of Hamas today than it asked of the PLO 20 years ago.
    • The Bush administration's last-ditch effort to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is, at best, a great gamble and, at worst, a costly distraction. Instead of fulfilling promises to build the Palestinian economy, civic institutions and a functional security structure, President Bush changed gears and is now pushing for a breakthrough by the end of his term. This dilution of U.S. effort will likely mean that nothing is achieved - neither diplomatic success nor progress on the ground.

      The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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    Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.