Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 20, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Windsurfer Wins Olympic Medal in Beijing Games - Nadav Tzantziper (Ynet News)
    Israeli sailor Shahar Tzuberi, 19, won an Olympic bronze medal Wednesday in windsurfing at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
    Tzuberi finished the crucial final race in second place, ranking third overall.

Jordan Frees Killers of Israeli Soldiers (AFP)
    Four Jordanian prisoners handed over by Israel last year to complete their life sentences in the kingdom were released from jail on Wednesday.
    The four, who were convicted of killing two Israeli soldiers in November 1990, received a hero's welcome from relatives as they walked out of Qafqafa prison carrying Jordanian flags.
    Under Jordanian law, a life sentence is equivalent to 25 years in prison and a "year" of jail comprises just nine months.

Islamist Bombing Kills 43 in Algeria - Adam Sage (Times-UK)
    At least 43 people were killed and 38 injured when a car driven by a suicide bomber and packed with explosives rammed into the Issers police academy east of Algiers where candidates were lining up to take an entrance exam.
    The explosion follows a series of terrorist attacks claimed by the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian movement formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which joined forces with Osama bin Laden in 2006.

Ten French Soldiers Killed by Taliban - Candace Rondeaux (Washington Post)
    In eastern Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents killed ten French paratroopers in a mountain road ambush and at least six suicide bombers attempted to storm a NATO alliance base, NATO and Afghan officials said Tuesday.
    The ambush was the deadliest single attack on the French military since 1983.

A New Refueling Aircraft for the Israel Air Force (Israel Defense Forces)
    The Israel Air Force will receive a new refueling aircraft in 2009 - a Boeing 707 containing a refueling system - from Israel Aerospace Industries.
    "We are talking about a very big project that will give the IAF another refueling system," said Major Shlomi Shefer, the Head of the IAF Aerial Refueling Department.
    "We took the airplane used by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and turned it into an aerial refueling plane."
    "The fact that the IAF will have another of these aircraft means that more planes will be able to achieve their mission. We expect this aircraft to have the ability to refuel other planes in a short amount of time."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria to Expand Military Ties with Russia
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday he would use this week's visit to Russia to expand military ties with Moscow. Assad told Kommersant newspaper, "Of course military and technical cooperation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important. I think we should speed it up." A diplomatic source in Moscow said that Russia and Syria were preparing a number of deals involving anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems. Syria is interested in Russia's Pantsyr-S1 air defense missile systems, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft and other hardware, the source said. (Reuters)
        See also Syrian President Visits Russia
    Last year, Russian media reported that Moscow had delivered MiG-31 fighter planes and modern air defense systems to Syria, angering Israel. Damascus is a Soviet-era ally of Moscow, which maintained a naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus starting in the 1970s. The Russian media has speculated in recent years that Moscow is hoping to revive the base. (AFP)
  • Iran to Build Six More Nuclear Power Plants
    Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, the head of a state-owned nuclear energy production company, said Tuesday that his company signed agreements with other Iranian firms to find locations to build new nuclear power plants. Iran has previously announced plans to build six more nuclear power plants by 2021. The U.S. suspects Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing weapons. (AP)
  • Iran Threatens to Close Strait of Hormuz If Attacked
    In an Aug. 11 editorial titled "When Will the Hormuz Strait Be Closed?" in the Iranian weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei circulated among the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC political bureau chief Yadollah Javani wrote: "The Strait of Hormuz is one of 14 locations in the world with unique strategic importance. Over 60 percent of the world's energy reserves are located in the Persian Gulf, and 17 million barrels of oil are transported daily from the strait by oil tankers....Closing the Strait of Hormuz is part of Iran's defense policy in the face of the U.S. military threat." (MEMRI)
  • Abbas Holds Talks with Saudi King
    Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas met Saudi King Abdullah on Tuesday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the official SPA news agency reported. Saudi Arabia brokered an agreement between Abbas' Fatah party and the Islamist Hamas in February 2007 which led to the formation of a short-lived unity government. The Hamas takeover of Gaza in June last year led to the dismissal of the unity government and the formation of a Western-backed cabinet in the West Bank. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: No Holding Back If Hizbullah Targets Home Front - Roni Sofer
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel had "massive capabilities and tools during the Second Lebanon War that it refrained from using, because it was fighting a terror organization, not a state." Should a Hizbullah-led Lebanon lead to a war in which Israel will be under a comprehensive attack, "There will no longer be a situation of distant fighting, where major cities continue with life as usual. The war will reach the cities and homes of Israeli citizens and our enemy's objective will be to target the homefront," he said. At that point, "we will be forced to bring an end to hostilities quickly, at the smallest possible cost, using our comparative advantage," Olmert said.
        Olmert emphasized that "there is no need to frighten ourselves more than is necessary regarding the threats." He stated that during the 33 days of fighting in Lebanon, no one who had been staying inside a bunker had been hurt. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Rejects Arab Deployment Plan for Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas has rejected a proposal to deploy Arab troops in Gaza to help the Palestinians "reconstruct" their police forces and pave the way for a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. The proposal, presented to Hamas by Egypt and Jordan in recent days, has won the full backing of the PA leadership in Ramallah, as well as the Saudis. Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza City, said that "Hamas is capable of imposing law and order in the Gaza Strip, and we don't need external forces here." Hamas legislator Ismail al-Ashkar expressed fear that the proposal was aimed at restoring the pre-1967 situation, in which Gaza was under Egyptian rule while the West Bank was ruled by Jordan. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Truce Violation: Palestinian Rocket Hits Israel, Gaza Crossings Closed for One Day
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel Tuesday, in violation of the two-month old truce. Defense Minister Barak ordered the border crossings with Gaza closed between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon in response to the rocket attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • With Ahmadinejad's Visit, Turkey Bows to the Dark Side - Soner Cagaptay
    Last Friday I felt uncomfortable in the prayer hall of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, where I found myself next to Ahmadinejad, who turned the ritual into a political show. With permission from Turkish authorities, he allowed Iranian television to videotape him during the entire prayer, in violation of Islamic tradition. Then, as he left the mosque, Ahmadinejad got out of his car to encourage a crowd of about 300 to chant, "Death to Israel! Death to America!" The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also accommodated Ahmadinejad's refusal to pay respects at the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey - a major violation of protocol for an official visit.
        By extending an invitation to Ahmadinejad, the first such move by any NATO or EU member country, Turkey has broken ranks with the West. The West can no longer take Turkey for granted as a staunch ally against Tehran. According to a recent opinion poll in Turkey, when asked what the country should do in the event of a U.S. attack against Iran, only 4% said Turkey should support the U.S., while 33% wanted to back Iran and 63% chose neutrality. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a visiting professor at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Absent the State in Lebanon, Watch New Pacts Arise - Rami G. Khouri
    The memorandum of understanding to ease sectarian tensions that was signed in Beirut Monday between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Salafist Belief and Justice Movement (BJM) is highly symbolic in revealing the constantly evolving line-up of major political actors in the Arab world. There is indeed a "new Middle East" being born, as U.S. Secretary of State Rice predicted in mid-2006, but its contours and protagonists are very different from what she had in mind.
        The accord signed between Sunni and Shiite Muslims denounced all forms of sectarian incitement and "any aggression by a Muslim faction on another Muslim faction," and also called for confronting the "American agenda." Its particulars are less important than its symbolic affirmation that Shiite empowerment and Sunni Salafist self-assertion are among the most popular movements spreading throughout the Middle East. They dramatize the reality that four other types of political expression that had dominated the Middle East for much of its modern life since the 1920s - secular and leftist-nationalist political parties, government-centered parties, Western-oriented elites, and military regimes - have lost glamour, impact and credibility. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Al-Qaeda Affiliate - Jaish al-Islam - Receives Formal Sanctuary in Hamas-Ruled Gaza - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Except for Fatah, the other Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza enjoy full freedom of movement under Hamas rule. Offshoots of al-Qaeda in Gaza include Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), the Army of the Umma, and Fatah al-Islam. Following a series of violent clashes, Hamas and Jaish al-Islam established a joint committee to regulate relations between the groups and to solve disputes between them. In essence, Hamas recognized Jaish al-Islam as a legitimate armed movement inside the area under Hamas jurisdiction.
    • In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas warned about the emerging trend, telling Al-Hayat on February 26, 2008: "I believe that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. It is the Hamas movement that brought al-Qaeda in and it abets the entry and exit [of militants]....I believe that they are allies."
    • French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed in July 2007 that Hamas was in contact with al-Qaeda. However, he clarified that their connection was not the result of Western policy to isolate the Hamas regime.
    • Hamas has established a terror hothouse in Gaza designed to continue the jihad against apostates, pursue the struggle against Israel, secure the overthrow of the Abbas regime in the West Bank, and assist the efforts of the parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in overthrowing the moderate regimes in the Middle East headed by Jordan and Egypt.

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