Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 19, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Demand Regular Army for New State - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Despite previous understandings that a future Palestinian state would be demilitarized, in talks held behind closed doors, the top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia, is demanding the establishment of a regular army, high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed on Monday.
    The new and surprising demand first emerged last Sunday at negotiations in Jerusalem on security arrangements. Qureia told Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni that the Palestinian state would require a regular army to defend itself.
    Livni made clear that all previous accords specifically spoke of a demilitarized Palestinian state.
    In a speech at the president's conference last week, Livni said, "We are talking about a demilitarized state here...we will not stand for a terror state or an extremist Islamist state. There are conditions that will have to be met, before and after."
    "I don't hold by just tossing the keys over the border and hoping for the best. There will be no agreement over the future territory if there won't be satisfactory assurances regarding what its nature will be."

Palestinians Reject Hamas Recognizing Israel (Angus Reid Global Monitor)
    63 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose Hamas recognizing the legitimacy of Israel, according to a poll by Arab World for Research and Development, conducted through interviews with 1,200 Palestinian adults on May 3-5, 2008.
    Only 17 percent supported recognition of Israel by Hamas.

Food Crisis Creates an Opening for Muslim Fundamentalists - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    Women in Amman, Jordan, walk out of a Muslim Brotherhood social service center clutching plastic bags packed with free bread loaves.
    The global food crisis has carved out new opportunities for the Brotherhood and other hard-line groups across the Muslim world.
    Though the Brotherhood fared poorly last year in municipal elections, it has been steadily gaining ground in recent months, sweeping votes for the leadership of Jordan's professional associations.
    "America is being held responsible for what is happening," said Zaki Bani Arshid, leader of the Islamic Action Front, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

U.S.-Syrian Trade on Rise Despite Tensions (Media Line/Jerusalem Post)
    Despite American sanctions, in 2007 trade between the U.S. and Syria increased 7.7 percent, mostly as a result of the rise in cereal exports to Syria (from $146m. in 2006 to $256m. the following year).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • After Israel, Bush Seeks to Reassure Palestinians - Michael Abramowitz
    President Bush sought to assure Arabs on Saturday that he is committed to securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of the year, as he arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. "It breaks my heart to see the vast potential of the Palestinian people really wasted," Bush told reporters after meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Remains Key Concern as Bush Returns from Mideast Tour - Michael Abramowitz
    Bush was supposed to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Sunday, but Siniora had to cancel, highlighting the commanding position Hizbullah, an ally of Iran, has assumed in Lebanon. With Iranian-backed Hamas consolidating control in Gaza and Iranian-backed militias making trouble for the U.S.-backed government in Iraq, Iran and its proxies appear to be on the march. One Arab diplomat said Iran is on an unchecked "rampage."
        "Every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in stopping these nations from supporting terrorism," Bush said Sunday in Egypt. "And every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. To allow the world's leading sponsor of terror to gain the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations."  (Washington Post)
  • Bin Laden Lashes Out at Arab Leaders - Omar Sinan
    Osama bin Laden released a new message on Sunday denouncing Arab leaders for sacrificing the Palestinians and saying the head of the Shiite militant group Hizbullah did not really have the strength to take on Israel. He also attacked Nasrallah for allowing the deployment of UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon "to protect the Jews."
        In his second audio message in three days focusing on the Palestinians, the al-Qaeda leader said the only way to liberate Palestine is to fight the Arab regimes that are protecting Israel, and he called on Muslim militants in Egypt to help break the blockade of Gaza. He said Arab leaders have stopped taking their instructions from Islam and started taking them from the U.S. "They have decided that peace with the Zionists is their strategic option, so damn their decision." Bin Laden also said Muslims should ignore the Islamic prohibition against raising arms against fellow Muslims. (AP)
  • Congressional Delegation Visits Israel for Its 60th Birthday
    The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, arrived Friday in Israel at the head of a 13-member bipartisan congressional delegation to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Egypt: IDF Will Not Act in Gaza If Hamas Stops Firing Rockets - Amos Harel and Barak Ravid
    Israeli Defense Minister Barak, who will discuss a Gaza cease-fire with Egyptian President Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday, is skeptical about the chances of achieving long-term quiet with Hamas, and his feelings are shared by Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni. Barak is set to tell Mubarak and Egyptian intelligence chief Suleiman that Israel is prepared to stop its military activities in Gaza if Hamas stops firing rockets at Israel. Israel will also try to get Egypt to step up efforts to stop weapons from being smuggled into Gaza. Barak is also expected to say that Israel will lift the blockade and open border crossings only if progress is made on talks aimed at releasing captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
        It appears from talks which Olmert and senior cabinet ministers held recently with representatives of the Bush administration and key European Union states that Israel will not have international support if it organizes an assault on Gaza now. The Israel Defense Forces will receive an order to begin an operation in Gaza only if the Egyptian cease-fire proposal fails, and rocket fire from Gaza intensifies to the point of incurring serious Israeli losses. The IDF is preparing for the possibility that the security situation in southern Israel will worsen. (Ha'aretz)
  • Air Force Chief: Expect Thousands of Rockets on Israel in Future War
    The Israel Air Force's outgoing commander, Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedi, in an interview aired Saturday on Israel Radio, said that during a future war Israel's home front is likely to be bombarded with thousands of missiles and rockets in the possession of Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria. Hizbullah fired 4,000 Katyusha rockets at northern Israel throughout the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and for over seven years, southern Israel has been pounded with rockets launched from Gaza. Shkedi stated that Hamas routinely fires at IAF aircraft flying over Gaza.
        In a separate interview, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio that Hamas is rapidly arming itself. He said Hamas in Gaza has almost obtained the military capacity of a state, and asserted that Israel must destroy the militant group's arsenal. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Iran-Trained Terrorist Arrested in Gaza Raid - Yuval Azoulay
    The Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet arrested senior terrorist Ala Abu Medif in Gaza last month who had undergone training in Iran, according to an IDF statement released Monday. Abu Medif left Gaza in May 2007 for Iran where he was taught how to plan bombing attacks on specific Israeli buildings. He also was involved in mortar fire toward Israel and had volunteered to carry out a suicide attack. Officials said his arrest proves that Iran is directly involved in Palestinian terrorism. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hizbullah's Actions Ignite Sectarian Fuse in Lebanon - Robert F. Worth and Nada Bakri
    After almost a week of street battles that left scores dead, long-simmering Sunni-Shiite tensions have sharply worsened in Lebanon. The violence energized radical Sunni factions, including some affiliated with al-Qaeda, and extremist Sunni Web sites across the Arab world have been buzzing with calls for a jihad to avenge the wounded pride of Lebanese Sunnis. Fatah al-Islam, which fought a bloody three-month battle with the Lebanese Army in northern Lebanon last year, issued a statement Thursday condemning Hizbullah's actions and warning: "He who pushes our faces in the dirt must be confronted, even if that means sacrificing our lives and shedding blood." (New York Times)
        See also Hizbullah Emerges Ahead in Lebanon - Anthony Shadid
    Hizbullah today stands unquestioned as the single most powerful force in Lebanon. But the new calculus may prove that Hizbullah's victory was Pyrrhic. A different dynamic emerged in the Chouf, where Hizbullah's fighters met far fiercer resistance from the Druze who populate those mountains, as Shiite fighters shed their old image of guerrillas for a new one of invaders. (Washington Post)
        See also Sunni Backlash Follows Hizbullah's Strike in Lebanon - Nicholas Blanford
    Dozens of mosques scattered throughout the Sunni-dominated Iqlim al-Kharroub district between Beirut and Sidon broadcast fiery Friday sermons of anger and resentment against the militant Shiites of Hizbullah. "They said they were resistance against Israel, but now the mask has fallen, exposing their true faces," thundered a sheikh in the village of Marj al-Ali. Mohammed Hajjar, a parliamentarian with the Future Movement, Lebanon's largest Sunni political party, said, "The people are furious about what happened and they are scared. All the time I have Future Movement people coming up to me, saying they want weapons." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Separating the Gaza Population from Its Radical Leadership - Amir Oren
    Israeli officials stress the need to drive a wedge between the suffering population in Gaza and the radical, indifferent leadership, which is now sprouting symbols of high authority like those that characterized Fatah's rule; Ismail Haniyeh's motorcades are even longer than those of Yasser Arafat. Col. Nir Peres, who heads the Israel Defense Forces' Coordination and Liaison Administration at the Erez border crossing, has told the Palestinians that they face a choice between "flowers for export or mortar shells," "strawberries or Kassams."
        The data suggests that the Israeli occupation did well by Gaza. Life expectancy has risen from 48 years in 1967 to over 72 years now, higher than life expectancy in Egypt, according to a study by Daniel Nadav of the Defense Ministry, after Israel introduced its health-care system into Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    IDF Intelligence Briefing - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

    According to the head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, Israel faces five threats: Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

    • Hizbullah: "There is a massive Hizbullah presence south of the Litani River....They have rockets south of the Litani. They have combat forces south of the Litani. They have observation points and intelligence in the villages along the border." "Hizbullah's steep-trajectory munitions now cover large areas of Israel," including "metropolitan Tel Aviv and even farther south." "If there is a future flare-up, Hizbullah will try to attack Israel not only from the area south of the Litani but from deep inside Lebanon as well."
    • "Hizbullah did not intend to take over Lebanon last week. If it wanted to do that, it could. It has the capability to conquer the whole of Beirut within days. But it understands that if it seizes full control of the government it will bear a situation in which it possesses the power but not the authority is convenient for it." "The Iranian influence in Lebanon was greatly strengthened after the departure of the Syrians in 2005: the vacuum left by Syria was filled by Iranian ideology, financing, weapons and know-how."
    • Iran: "I suggest that we do not talk about a nuclear Iran, but about the ways to prevent Iran from nuclearizing. Iran is not only a threat to Israel; it is a threat to a large number of states in the Middle East. And above all, Iran is a global threat. The Iranians are developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons to Europe, and in the future of crossing the Atlantic."
    • "An extremist regime with extremist weapons is an existential threat to the State of Israel - at this stage, a potential threat. Still, we must not exaggerate. We must not treat this threat as one that is going to end thousands of years of existence of the Jewish people. Absolutely not. Israel is capable and will be capable of coping with that threat in all dimensions."
    • Syria: "Iran, which became Syria's strategic prop, now has Damascus in a bear hug, in terms of weapons supplies, training and money. Thus Bashar Assad's ability to sever himself from Iran and from Hizbullah is far more limited."
    • Hamas: "Hamas is now preoccupied mainly with trying to smuggle standard-issue rockets into the Gaza Strip. The range of those rockets - 122 mm Katyushas - is generally about 20 kilometers....However, Hamas does not want to stop there. It wants to obtain rockets with a longer range....Given the present developments, every place that is within a range of up to 40 kilometers is liable to be targeted. Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, even Beersheba."
    • "Hamas' long-term strategic goal is for the State of Israel to disappear and for the Palestinian state that will succeed it to be an Islamic theocracy. But Hamas has more immediate goals: to consolidate its rule in Gaza, to break the siege of Gaza, to seize control of Palestinian politics, to create deterrence against Israel and to continue the fighting against Israel. Take note of the order."

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