Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 7, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Exploits Fatah Leadership Struggle in Gaza - Abdullah Iskandar (Dar Al-Hayat-Lebanon)
    Following the death of Yasser Arafat there was a struggle for leadership between Ahmed Hilles, leader of the Hilles clan in Gaza, and Mohamed Dahlan.
    When Hamas mounted a massive operation to control Gaza and expel Fatah last June, the Hilles clan stood by without firing a single round, as Hamas claimed that the operation targeted Dahlan and his group.
    Despite this, the Sheja'eya neighborhood, the fiefdom of the powerful Gazan family, was not spared by Hamas.
    Hamas was not able to find a framework of understanding with a well-known clan, refusing to coexist with another power in Gaza where society still recognizes the weight of family aggregations.
    Hamas forced citizens of its own, fleeing its liquidation attempts, to seek refuge with the enemy.
    The Hilles men are not only known for their hatred for Israel, but also for their actual involvement in confronting the Israelis.

Threat of Rocket Attacks on U.S. a Reality - Martin Sieff (UPI/Washington Times)
    At least a half-dozen rogue states and well-funded terrorist groups around the world could launch short-range Scud ballistic missiles with nuclear or biological warheads from large container cargo ships from outside U.S. territorial waters, leading experts in ballistic-missile defense warn.
    The entire populations of the U.S. Eastern seaboard and the West Coast, some 70 percent of Americans totaling more than 210 million people, are at risk.
    In addition, analyst Otto Kreisher noted there were already 75,000 anti-ship cruise missiles in circulation around the world in at least 70 countries, and many of them could easily be programmed to attack land targets instead.

Iran to Scrap Death by Stoning - Aresu Eqbali (AFP)
    Iran's judiciary has decided to scrap the punishment of stoning convicts to death in draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval, it was reported Wednesday.
    Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said that stoning sentences against several convicts had been suspended, with four commuted to either lashes of the whip or jail terms.
    Iran has so far hanged 160 people this year.

Sweden, Iceland Absorbing Palestinian Refugees from Iraq (CNN)
    Iceland and Sweden plan to take in Palestinian refugees from Iraq who have been living in camps along the Iraqi-Syrian border, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.
    More than two dozen refugees will be headed to Iceland, while 155 Palestinians have been accepted for resettlement in Sweden.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Russia Asks that Iran Be Given More Time - Colum Lynch
    Russia said Wednesday that Iran should be granted more time to respond to a package of incentives that the U.S. and five other powerful nations have offered Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment efforts, a stance that may slow U.S. and European efforts to impose UN sanctions on Tehran. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, dismissed assertions that Tehran had missed a deadline this week to respond to the offer, which would make a push for UN sanctions inevitable. U.S. officials say Iran is buying time to advance its capacity to enrich uranium, and hope to secure a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran before President Bush leaves office in January. (Washington Post)
        See also France: Iran Reply on Nuclear Offer Insufficient - Jan Sliva
    France joined the U.S. on Wednesday in rejecting Iran's response to an incentives package aimed at defusing a dispute over its nuclear program as insufficient. France regrets that Iran "has again chosen not to provide a clear response," Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in Paris. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also U.S., Britain Mulling Fresh Iran Sanctions
    Six world powers agreed Wednesday to consider new sanctions on Iran after Tehran gave an ambiguous answer to their latest demand to freeze key nuclear work, the U.S. and Britain said. (AFP)
  • Jihad in China's Far West - Austin Ramzy
    The Uighurs of western China are an Islamic minority group that has clashed again and again with the rule of China's majority Han ethnicity. Chinese authorities say Uighurs driven by religious extremism attacked a group of Chinese border police, killing 16 and injuring 16 more. "They were trying their best to perform jihad," said Shi Dagang, the Communist Party secretary for Kashgar prefecture. Chinese authorities claim the attack is part of a long-running effort by Uighur separatists to tarnish the Beijing Olympics. (TIME)
        See also China's Uighurs Wary, Worried After Attack - Jill Drew (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Free 150 Palestinian Prisoners as Gesture to Abbas - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged Wednesday to free more than 150 Palestinian prisoners by the end of August as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert spokesman Mark Regev announced the pledge after a meeting between the two leaders. Saeb Erekat, who took part in the meeting at Olmert's official residence, said Abbas specifically requested the release of Marwan Barghouti, jailed for life by Israel for involvement in deadly attacks on Israelis. Abbas also asked for the release of Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose group assassinated Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. Israel freed 429 Palestinian prisoners in December as a gesture to Abbas. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Frees West Bank Hamas Officials
    Israel freed two senior Hamas officials detained after Hamas abducted an Israeli soldier two years ago. Abli Yaish, the Hamas mayor of Nablus, and Issa al-Ja'abari, a Hamas representative in Hebron, returned home, their families said on Wednesday. Israel freed former Hamas finance minister Omar Abdel Razek on Sunday. (Reuters)
  • U.S. to Help Israel Develop Arrow-3 Anti-Missile System - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Lt.-Gen. Henry Obering III, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, will recommend helping Israel finance the development of an updated version of the Arrow-3 anti-ballistic missile system, following talks in Israel. The new system, in its initial development stages, should be able to intercept missiles at heights of more than 100 km., reducing the danger of having the warhead land in Israel after interception. (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Rocket Strikes Israel in Truce Violation
    In the latest violation of the Gaza truce, a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed near a greenhouse on an Israeli kibbutz on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Coping with the Challenge of Iran - Nicholas Burns
    Iran is the most difficult and complex challenge in the Middle East today. U.S. policy should be geared toward preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, preferably through negotiations and by working with the UN Security Council. Based on the evaluations of Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, we have reason to believe there is still time for diplomacy. At this point, war with Iran is neither inevitable nor desirable.
        Although the U.S. and Europe have been maintaining strict sanctions on Iran, the trade void is being filled by other nations, particularly Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. In order for sanctions to be successful, these nations need to participate fully, especially since financial sanctions are necessary for diplomacy to work. The author, until recently undersecretary of state for foreign affairs, addressed the Washington Institute on August 1. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • You Still Can't Write About Muhammad - Asra Q. Nomani
    Last year Random House signed a $100,000, two-book deal with journalist Sherry Jones for The Jewel of Medina, a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage.
        In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book, fearing it would become a new Satanic Verses, the Salman Rushdie novel of 1988 that led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book's Japanese translator, among other horrors. After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House, said the company decided "to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    UN Reforms Needed for Palestinian Refugees - Peter Berkowitz (Washington Times)

    • Our next president should focus on reforming the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). For nearly 60 years, UNRWA has perpetuated opinions among the Palestinians that could hardly be better calculated to impoverish and embitter them, and subvert the achievement of the two-state solution that Annapolis envisaged.
    • UNRWA's very existence promotes the belief among Palestinians that a two-state solution is essentially unjust. It encourages Palestinians to believe that the international community owes them repatriation to the land their parents and grandparents fled when five Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948.
    • For nearly 60 years, the United Nations has maintained a successful and respected organization for refugees apart from Palestinians - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR's aim is to enable refugees to become citizens somewhere as quickly as possible. In contrast, for the Palestinians, the UN has effectively eliminated local integration and third country resettlement as desirable or even possible outcomes, and instead has enshrined in UNRWA's mission the 1950s promise of repatriation that was implicit in the resolution that established the agency.
    • Moreover, contrary to the policy that it generally applies to refugees, the UN regards Palestinian refugee status as transferable from parents to children without limit. This enables UNRWA to fuel the conflict with Israel by cultivating a trans-generational belief among Palestinians that the one-and-only solution to their plight consists in returning to homes and lands vacated more than half a century ago.
    • America should seek to bring to an end to UNRWA's mandate that reinforces the Palestinians' false hopes. The U.S. must persuade the UN to fold UNRWA into the UNHCR, where it belongs.

          The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

          See also Why Are Palestinian Refugees Different from All Other Refugees? - David Harris (American Jewish Committee/Jerusalem Post)

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