Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 11, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Groups Active in Gaza after Year under Hamas - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Analysts believe al-Qaeda-allied radical groups like Jaysh al-Ummah (Army of the Nation) have benefited from the Hamas takeover in Gaza to expand their membership.
    In addition, there has been an increase in attacks on Christians in the past year, apparently by Islamists not content with the extent of Hamas' "Islamization" of Gaza.
    Among the outward signs have been a proliferation of beards on men and headscarves on women, along with the virtual disappearance of alcohol.
    Market stalls do brisk business in selling recordings of speeches of al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as videos of beheadings of U.S. and foreign soldiers and personnel in Iraq.
    One Gaza political analyst noted: "Hamas is keen not to be seen as an Islamic state, so they've refrained from passing laws or forcing people to follow what they believe. They have not taken action to Islamize the community. But allowing extremist thinking to breed armed cells is much more dangerous."

Report: 260 Arab Military Officers to Train PA Forces in Jericho (Xinhua-China)
    260 Arab security officers from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will go to camps in the West Bank city of Jericho to train Palestinian forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, sources at the Palestinian Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

Washington to Limit Contacts with UN Rights Council (AFP)
    The U.S. has decided to limit further its involvement with the UN Human Rights Council due to its "pathetic" record, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.
    Secretary of State Rice "has taken the decision that we will engage the Human Rights Council really only when we believe that there are matters of deep national interest before the council," he said.
    "Instead of focusing on some of the real and deep human rights issues around the world, it has really turned into a forum that seems to be almost solely focused on bashing Israel."

Pakistani Boy, 14, Groomed to Be Suicide Bomber - Kim Sengupta (Independent-UK)
    Shakirullah Yasin Ali, a small, frail boy, just 14 years old, was arrested as he prepared to carry out a suicide bombing against British and American targets in Afghanistan.
    "If I had succeeded, I would be dead now, I realize that," he said. "But those who were instructing me said that if I believed in serving God it was my duty to fight against the foreigners."

Israeli Company Develops System to See Through Walls - Guy Griml (TheMarker-Ha'aretz)
    Camero's unique radar utilizes Ultra Wide Band (UWB), a technology that has only come of age in recent years, and with the use of special algorithms can process data picked up by the detector to give a reasonable image of anything behind that wall.
    The system made by its competitor, Time Domain, lacking imaging algorithms, is able to reveal only whether there is someone on the other side of the wall.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Plays Down Chances of Direct Talks with Israel - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal al-Mekdad said Tuesday that no direct negotiations will be held with Israel until it recognizes what Damascus regards as requirements for a deal. "I think it is too early to resume direct talks. There are conditions...which are the end of the occupation of Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state, restoration of the Syrian Golan and pull out of remaining occupied Lebanese territory," he said. "Our goal is an Israeli withdrawal from all the lands of the Syrian Republic. This is the basis for launching direct talks," said Mekdad, a main player in Syrian foreign policy. (Reuters)
  • Iran Says West Fails to Stop its Nuclear "Victory"
    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Western threats and pressure had failed to stop Iran's nuclear program. "With God's help today (the Iranian nation) have gained victory and the enemies cannot do a damned thing," Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state television. "Today the Iranian nation is standing on the nuclear height," he said. (Reuters)
        See also European Leaders Back Bush on Iran - Steven Lee Myers and Nazila Fathi
    President Bush won European support on Tuesday to consider additional punitive sanctions against Iran, including restrictions on its banks, if Iran rejects a package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program. At a news conference after a summit meeting in Slovenia with EU leaders, Bush warned what would happen if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon. "The free world is going to say, 'Why didn't we do something about it at the time, before they developed it?' And so now is the time for there to be strong diplomacy." Bush expressed sympathy for Israeli concerns about Iran's intentions, telling a questioner at the news conference, "If you were living in Israel, you'd be a little nervous, too, if a leader in your neighborhood announced that he'd like to destroy you." (New York Times)
  • British Minister Denies Anti-Israel Claim
    The British government has hit back at claims by Israel's ambassador to Britain that the UK has become a "hotbed for radical anti-Israeli views." In a Daily Telegraph article, Ron Prosor wrote that a "climate of hatred" towards Israel had been stirred up on British university campuses. But Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said any such "uncomfortable or distasteful" views were held only by a "small minority." (BBC News-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Military Intelligence: Hamas Fears Broad IDF Operation in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Amos Harel
    Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, the head of the research division of Military Intelligence, told Tuesday's cabinet session that Hamas both fears a broad IDF operation in Gaza and is expediting its preparations for such an incursion. He added that Hamas was currently most interested in achieving calm in Gaza, but was simultaneously continuing to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Israel holds Hamas responsible for almost daily rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian gunmen on Israel from Gaza. In recent weeks Israel has demanded that any agreement for calm in Gaza include progress on the question of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since June 2006. (Ha'aretz)
  • 18 Mortars Hit Israel; Three Hamas Men Killed in Airstrike - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired 18 mortar shells at Israel at noon Tuesday. Shortly after the attacks Palestinian sources reported that three Hamas operatives were killed and a number of others were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaiya. Earlier Tuesday, four Kassam rockets and four mortars were fired at Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Mortars Hit Kibbutz Factory for Second Time in Week, One Wounded - Yonat Atlas
    A week after the deadly attack on the Nirlat factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz, two mortars fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed at the site Wednesday morning, leaving one person wounded from shrapnel. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Army Training Egyptians to Find Smuggling Tunnels - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is teaching Egyptian troops how to use advanced technological equipment to find and destroy smuggling tunnels, at a U.S. Army base in Texas. A second, larger group of Egyptian soldiers is due to arrive shortly. In January, the U.S. announced it would allocate $23 million of its military aid to Egypt for tunnel-locating equipment. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Is Bush Helping Saudi Arabia Build Nukes? - Rep. Edward J. Markey
    Last month, Secretary of State Rice was in Saudi Arabia where she volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, America is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions. For a country with so much oil, gas and solar potential, importing expensive and dangerous nuclear power makes no economic sense. We would do well to remember that it was the U.S. who provided the original nuclear assistance to Iran under the Atoms for Peace program, before Iran's monarch was overthrown in 1979. Such an uprising in Saudi Arabia today could be at least as damaging to U.S. security. Rep. Markey (D-Mass.) is chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. (Wall Street Journal)
  • New Forces Fraying U.S.-Saudi Oil Ties - Paul Richter
    For decades, Saudi Arabia worked with its dominant customer, the U.S., to keep world oil markets stable and advance common political goals. But the surging price of oil has made it plain that those days are over. New forces, including a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted U.S. leverage and helped sour the two countries' relationship.
        With the shift in buying power, the Saudis are cultivating important Chinese customers. Paul J. Saunders, who served in the State Department under President Bush and is executive director of the Nixon Center think tank, believes that China may be buying more Saudi oil than the U.S. in less than a decade. That sets up "a real possibility that China will have more leverage in dealing with Saudi Arabia than we do," he said. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Abbas' Misbegotten Peace Bid to Hamas - Sara Bjerg Moller
    Since last month, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has been working overtime to engineer a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Last week Abbas announced that he was prepared to meet with leaders of Hamas without any preconditions, abandoning a policy of refusing to talk to Hamas until it first gave up control of Gaza, and suggesting that Abbas has concluded that the future lies not in talks with Israel but with Hamas. For the White House, which has sought to isolate Hamas internationally, and an Israeli government that wants the group to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state, such moves are unwelcome.
        Politically expedient as it may be, Abbas should ask himself whether the Palestinian people are best served by "a national and comprehensive dialogue" with Hamas. While one could be forgiven for thinking Palestinian unity should be welcomed, a Fatah-Hamas national dialogue would have negative consequences for Palestinians and the peace process. The formation of a new unity government will embolden Hamas hard-liners who, having weathered the storm of the past 12 months, will argue for a continuation of their confrontational approach toward Israel. The writer is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    A Global Counterinsurgency - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Foreign Affairs)

    • The first challenge is the global ideology of violent Islamist extremism, as embodied by groups such as al-Qaeda, that thoroughly reject the basic tenets of modern politics, seeking instead to topple sovereign states, erase national borders, and restore the imperial structure of the ancient caliphate. Ultimately, this is more than just a struggle of arms; it is a contest of ideas. Al-Qaeda's theory of victory is to hijack the legitimate local and national grievances of Muslim societies and twist them into an ideological narrative of endless struggle against Western, especially U.S., oppression.
    • The good news is that al-Qaeda's intolerant ideology can be enforced only through brutality and violence. When people are free to choose, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq's Anbar Province, they reject al-Qaeda's ideology and rebel against its control. Our theory of victory, therefore, must be to offer people a democratic path to advance their interests peacefully. In this sense, the fight against terrorism is a kind of global counterinsurgency: the center of gravity is not the enemies we fight but the societies they are trying to radicalize.
    • A second challenge to the emergence of a better Middle East is posed by aggressive states that seek not to peacefully reform the present regional order but to alter it using any form of violence - assassination, intimidation, terrorism - whether it is Syria's undermining of Lebanon's sovereignty, Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability, or both states' support for terrorism.
    • The Israelis will not achieve the security they deserve in their Jewish state and the Palestinians will not achieve the better life they deserve in a state of their own until there is a Palestinian government capable of exercising its sovereign responsibilities, both to its citizens and to its neighbors. Ultimately, a Palestinian state must be created that can live side by side with Israel in peace and security. This state will be born not just through negotiations to resolve hard issues related to borders, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem, but also through the difficult effort to build effective democratic institutions that can fight terrorism and extremism, enforce the rule of law, combat corruption, and create opportunities for the Palestinians to improve their lives.
    • One more challenge that must be resolved if democratic and modern states are to emerge in the broader Middle East involves how to deal with nonstate groups whose commitment to democracy, nonviolence, and the rule of law is suspect. Because of the long history of authoritarianism in the region, many of the best-organized political parties are Islamist, and some of them have not renounced violence used in the service of political goals. Will they take power democratically only to subvert the very process that brought them victory? Are elections in the broader Middle East therefore dangerous?
    • Although the Hamas election victory most certainly complicated affairs, in another way it helped to clarify matters. Through its continued unwillingness to behave like a responsible regime rather than a violent movement, Hamas has demonstrated that it is wholly incapable of governing.

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