Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 29, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Exploding Palestinian Munitions Kill Gaza Mother, Children - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed during fighting in northern Gaza on Monday.
    The Israelis said they shot a missile from the air that hit two armed men who were carrying heavy explosives, which blew apart the family's house behind them.
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries."
    See also IDF Inquiry Shows Palestinian Family Killed by Terrorist Bomb (IDF Spokesman)
    The responsibility for the injuring and killing of uninvolved civilians lies with the terrorist organization Hamas, which operates within the civilian population, using them as human shields and risking their lives by keeping bombs and explosives near them.

EU Set to Blacklist a Leading Iranian Bank - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    At last Friday's meeting of the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC) in Brussels, Italy removed its objection to placing Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank, on a list of Iranian institutions and personalities that the EU would boycott.
    The EU joins the U.S., which took unilateral sanctions against the bank last October.

Palestinian Court Sentences Man to Death for Collaborating with Israel (Reuters)
    A Palestinian military court in Hebron on Monday sentenced to death Imad Saad, an officer in Mahmoud Abbas' National Security Forces, for collaborating with Israel.
    Human rights groups have criticized death sentences handed down by military courts, saying the trials are unfair.

Britons Kidnapped in Iraq Are Held in Iran by Revolutionary Guards - Uzi Mahnaimi and Michael Smith (Times-UK)
    Five British hostages who were kidnapped from the Iraqi finance ministry almost a year ago are being held inside Iran by Revolutionary Guards, according to two separate sources.
    The hostages were handed over to the Revolutionary Guards by their Iraqi kidnappers last November, the sources believe.

Trial for Pro-Israel Lobbyists Postponed - Josh Gerstein (New York Sun)
    The trial of two pro-Israel lobbyists for trafficking in classified information is likely to be delayed until September or later, based on the schedule a federal court issued Monday.

Useful Reference:

Photos: A Tour of Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility (New York Times)

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • CIA: Syrian Nuclear Site Could Have Produced Plutonium for Two Nukes
    The suspected Syrian nuclear reactor bombed by an Israeli air strike in September would have produced enough plutonium for making one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational, CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Monday. "In the course of a year after they got full up they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons," Hayden said. (RTT News/NASDAQ)
  • Bush Has "No Illusions" on Mideast Breakthrough - Matt Spetalnick
    U.S. President George W. Bush will try to bolster the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace process on a May 13-18 trip to the Middle East, but the White House said on Monday he is "under no illusions" of a quick breakthrough. "We're under no illusions that things are going to happen immediately," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "There's a lot of deep-seated history that has to be addressed if they're going to define a state by the end of the year." (Reuters)
  • Hizbullah Builds Up Covert Army for a New Assault Against Israel - Mitchell Prothero
    Hizbullah has embarked on a major expansion of its fighting capability and is now sending hundreds, if not thousands, of young men into intensive training camps in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to ready itself for war with Israel. "The villages in the south are empty of men," said one international official. "They are all gone, training in Bekaa, Syria and Iran." The initial training and selection of recruits is done in Lebanon, with Iran preferred for training on specialities - use of certain weapons, RPGs and anti-tank missiles.
        Signs of the militia's dramatic expansion are alarming Hizbullah's domestic and international enemies. The decision to expand both the military wing and the supporting militias stems not from the losses during the 2006 war but from Hizbullah's success as a conventional military force in that conflict, says a Lebanese army commander who has worked with the group, his view being confirmed by a U.S. military study. (Observer-UK)
  • U.S. Slams Iran's Destabilizing Role in Iraq
    U.S. ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday slammed the destabilizing role of Iran and Syria in Iraq and urged them to stop the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into their war-scarred neighbor. He said the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qods Force "continues to arm, train, and fund illegal armed groups in Iraq." He added that the bulk of weapons used by these militias were "made in Iran and supplied by Iran, including mortars, rockets and explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs)." He also expressed concern about the flow of arms and foreign fighters across the Iraqi-Syrian border, citing estimates that Syria is the entry point for "90% of all known foreign terrorists in Iraq...and we know that al-Qaeda terrorist facilitators continue to operate inside Syria." (AFP)
  • U.S., Allies See Progress in Selling Al-Qaeda as an Enemy to the Muslim World - Walter Pincus
    "More and more Muslim and Arab populations - [including] clerics and scholars - are questioning the value of al-Qaeda's program," Juan Carlos Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, said Wednesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Zarate said al-Qaeda "should be revealed as themselves being at war with Muslims, especially those who do not believe as they do or subscribe to the al-Qaeda agenda." "Victims of al-Qaeda terrorism are beginning to organize and are exposing the human toll of al-Qaeda's tactics." "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for al-Qaeda." (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Barrage on Israel - Mijal Grinberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired ten Kassam rockets and six mortar shells at Israel Tuesday morning, causing damage at three different locations. One rocket directly hit a house in Sderot, while another hit a kibbutz infirmary. On Monday, Palestinians fired at least 18 rockets and dozens of mortar shells at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Removes Key West Bank Roadblock to Bolster Abbas - Yaakov Katz and Tovah Lazaroff
    As part of Israeli efforts to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, the IDF lifted a key West Bank roadblock outside Nablus on Monday. Nablus is a hotbed of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror activity, defense officials said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Three Wanted Palestinians Escape from PA Prison - Ali Waked
    Three wanted members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who had been arrested for their activities against Israel, escaped Monday from the PA prison in Jericho. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Prospects for "Flipping" the Syrian Regime - Noah Pollak
    When anything of international importance happens in or around Syria, there predictably follows a salivating at the prospect of "flipping" the Assad regime - of a peace deal with Israel, a renaissance in relations with the U.S., and a Syria that abandons, finally, its role as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Levant. But if you're Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors?
        Assad is in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which he believes will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. Assad was recently forced out of Lebanon, but his ally Hizbullah is still there, growing in power, ensuring his political influence today and his return in the future. Assad provides aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives him a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. His minority Alawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1967. And once Iran goes nuclear, Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness. (Commentary)
  • Should the U.S. Be Doing More to Boost a Mideast Peace Settlement? - Daniel Stone
    According to Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center, the American-orchestrated process started at Annapolis has virtually disappeared. The Abbas-Olmert dialogue began five months before Annapolis. "If Olmert and Abbas actually do produce a few pages that lay out the broad principles on Jerusalem and security, it will be a breakthrough, but the U.S. will not have facilitated that process." "I wouldn't call for a more robust American role right now....This administration must avoid the fundamental mistakes of its predecessor, which is to do too much too late in the game, and call for some high-wire summit. Because if they do that and they fail, they will kill the idea of a two-state solution to this conflict."  (Newsweek)
  • U.S. Briefings on Syrian Nuclear Facility Seen as Boost for Israel's Deterrence - Tobias Buck
    Behind the scenes, there was genuine satisfaction among Israeli officials with the series of briefings on the air strike against a secret facility in Syria last September that were given by the Bush administration in Washington. The hearings, Israeli officials argued, had served the purpose of strengthening Israel's deterrence. In a boost to Israel, the U.S. gave a firm justification for the attack, stating that the target was a nuclear reactor that was "only weeks" from being completed. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Choices and Strategies for Dealing with Iran - Dennis Ross (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    On April 24, 2008, Ambassador Dennis Ross testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee:

    • The Iranians probably will solve the technological problems that have limited their ability to operate their centrifuges on a non-stop basis within a year's time. And, once they have done so, they will be able to enrich uranium and stockpile fissionable material. This tells us that our current policies are not going to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity either to assemble nuclear weapons or build a break-out capability.
    • Arab and Israeli leaders with whom I have spoken fear that should Iran have nuclear arms, it will transform the landscape of the region. Iranian leaders will feel emboldened to use terror and terror groups to threaten or subvert others in the area, including particularly those who might be inclined to pursue peace with Israel, knowing that their nukes provide an umbrella of protection or a built-in deterrent against responses.
    • Tell the Israelis that Iran will act rationally, knowing that Israel can retaliate if Iran ever used nuclear or dirty bombs against Israel, and they are not reassured. Even former Iranian President Rafsanjani, who is seen as more pragmatic than Ahmadinejad, has said that Iran could absorb many nuclear bombs and survive, while Israel, given its small size, could not survive even one.
    • Israelis also question whether that segment of the Iranian leadership (which believes in the apocalyptic return of the "Hidden Imam") can actually be deterred - and believe that they cannot run the risk of trying to find out.

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