Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Aqsa Brigades Leader: Intifada in Its Death Throes - Matthew Gutman (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian Terrorist Organizations Use the "Arab Bank" to Channel Money into Terrorism (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center - CSS)
Palestinian Gunmen Expel Three PA Ministers from Gaza (AP/Ha'aretz)
Al Aqsa Brigades Investigating PA Corruption - Jacky Hogi (Maariv International)
Israeli Unmanned Plane Outperformed U.S. Drones in Iraq (Middle East Newsline)
Israel-China Trade Flourishing - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
Famed Second Temple Model Moving from Holyland Hotel to Israel Museum - Amiram Barkat (Ha'aretz)
Palestinian Girls Take Aim - Photo (AP)
French Jews Arrive in Israel - Photo Series (BBC News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The EU is planning to send investigators to Israel to interview Palestinians held in Israeli prisons over suspicions that the PA may have diverted EU donations to fund terrorist operations. Officials from the EU fraud investigation agency, Olaf, visited Israel at the beginning of the year and reviewed documents and testimony presented by the IDF and Shin Bet security service. Investigators decided that the material was authentic and now want to substantiate the allegations from the testimony of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members held in Israel.
A BBC documentary broadcast last year claimed that the PA was paying members of the Brigades, which have carried out suicide attacks on Israelis, up to £27,500 a month. In the past decade, the EU has transferred about £1 billion to the PA. (Telegraph-UK)
Two leaders of the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, New York, were arrested for helping an individual they believed was a terrorist purchase a shoulder-fired missile, federal authorities said Thursday. Yassin Aref, 34, the imam of the mosque, and Mohammed Hoosain, 49, have ties to a group called Ansar al-Islam, which has been linked to the al-Qaeda terror network. (AP/CNN)
Saudi security forces Thursday arrested Faris al-Zahrani, a leading militant cleric. Zahrani, whose messages were displayed on the website of the group known as Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, was on a Saudi list of 26 most-wanted Islamic militants, 12 of whom are still at large. (Reuters/New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The U.S. National Security Council's Mideast envoy, Elliot Abrams, focused on Israel's internal political situation during talks Thursday with Prime Minister Sharon. American and Israeli sources said that the Bush administration does not plan to exert pressure on Israel over the issue of West Bank construction during the U.S. election season. Israeli sources said Abrams did not raise the issue in his talks with Sharon or other officials. Sharon responded to reports of a plan to build Jewish communities connecting Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, which lies just east of the capital, telling Abrams the idea was 10 years old and stems from the time of former prime minister Rabin.
Abrams said after meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Qurei that he received the impression there has been no change in the PA. He said Qurei and his government are not in control and have not progressed in carrying out internal reforms.
Abrams told Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom the U.S. was acting to keep the issue of the West Bank separation fence out of the UN Security Council. (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S.-Israel Understandings on West Bank Construction - Stewart Ain
Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, said Wednesday, "It is very clear that there has been an understanding on two issues with respect to construction....We will continue to build within the built-up areas to be sure that people live their normal daily lives. And there is a broad understanding between the two governments that in any future negotiated settlement the existence of large clusters of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] - including Ma'ale Adumim - will be taken into consideration and will not be evacuated in the future."
Gissin insisted that Israel "will continue to build in Ma'ale Adumim. It is a suburb of Jerusalem and not a settlement. Even the Laborites in Israel say there is no question that it will remain under Israeli control." (New York Jewish Week)
A delegation of senior officers from Egypt, including several generals, visited Israel this week and discussed ways to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. The Egyptian side was headed by Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, who has been handling the Palestinian issue for the Egyptian government. Lately, there has been an improvement in Egyptian actions against arms smugglers. It is clear that success depends on Egyptian determination to put an end to the practice. Israel has said it would agree to allow 130 Egyptian Border Patrol soldiers into the border area where policemen are now stationed. (Ha'aretz)
Israel has given limited approval for Palestinian policemen to carry handguns in West Bank towns. The idea was raised by Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon in January, but Arafat obstructed the move at the time. This week, the Palestinians sought approval in order to fight the anarchy in the territories, particularly in Jenin and Nablus. That worries Israel because IDF troops frequently hunt for wanted men in those two cities, which have the most high-profile terror networks. Specific arrangements will be made at the local level between Israeli division commanders and their Palestinian counterparts.
In northern Gaza, where the IDF has been operating to try to prevent Kassam rocket fire into the Negev, particularly Sderot, forces withdrew from the town of Beit Hanun. On Thursday Palestinians fired eight rockets into the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries. There have been contacts between mid-level Shin Bet officers and senior officials in the PA security forces to discuss halting the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz)
Israel reopened the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday, allowing some 1,500 Palestinians to head home after being stranded for three weeks. Israel had opened another crossing nearby, but Palestinians refused to use it. (Ha'aretz)
The European Commission is poised to tax products from the West Bank and Gush Katif because it does not believe those areas are part of Israel and Israel's preferential trade agreement does not apply to products from those areas, said a commission spokesperson. Goods from Israel will designate both the country and the city or town of origin. Israel has enjoyed duty-free status in Europe for nearly 25 years. Products from settlements represent less than 1% of the $7.6 billion in annual Israeli exports to the EU. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
For the last decade, all Israeli governments have been implementing political disengagement from the Palestinian population of the territories. The cities and towns of the West Bank and Gaza have long since been evacuated. The number of Palestinians between the river and sea is no longer relevant to Israel being a Jewish democratic state. There is no point in waving around an apocalyptic demographic scenario from which Israel already extricated itself. If the Palestinians do not restrain their demographic growth, the apocalypse could very well be theirs.
A population that doubles itself every generation and is unable to grow its economy at a pace that keeps up with the demographic growth rate is dooming itself to ever worsening poverty and backwardness. While the current birth rate in Gaza is 6.6, in Egypt it has dropped to 2.9. The international institutions that support the Palestinians would do well by linking their support to more effective family planning among Palestinians, as was demanded of Egypt. The writer is Director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center. (Ha'aretz)
The problem is not just that Arafat has not designated a successor. It is that he has blocked the development of anybody who could be a successor and has crippled the creation of institutions that could provide for a smooth transition, promote the development of a new leader, mediate disputes among competing candidates, or check the power of a future dictator.
A Palestinian official once said, "Egyptian politics is like the pyramid: President Husni Mubarak is at the top, and there's a very wide base. Syrian politics is like the Eiffel Tower: President Hafez al-Assad [today his son, Bashar] is at the top, and there are a few people on each level. Palestinian politics is the shape of Yasser Arafat: Yasser Arafat is Palestinian politics and that's all there is to it." (Middle East Quarterly)
Arafat's desperate attempts to maintain control are unraveling by the day. Fatah, his ultimate power base, is now split down the middle as a growing sector of the movement, especially those affiliated with its armed wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, is no longer willing to give him unconditional allegiance. Corruption, the virtual absence of political reform, and the lack of the rule of law in most Palestinian population centers have also dealt a severe blow to the leader's popularity. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
See also No End in Sight - Graham Usher
The Palestinian crisis smolders on, with the chaos spreading from Gaza to the West Bank. The message is clear: the more the PA and Fatah fail in delivering governance, the more other Palestinians - including Islamists but not only them - will deliver their own. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
A leading Palestinian-American activist, Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine and former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, condemned Arafat at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington Tuesday. Asali suggested that an honorable way for Arafat to step into a ceremonial post "like the Queen of Britain, without governing authority" should be found. He said that in the past Arafat "knew what the Palestinians wanted, but what they need now is a leader who understands not only the Palestinian people but also the world around them." (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Al-Qaeda's information on targets in New York City and Washington, D.C., indicates a high-quality covert intelligence-collection capability. The FBI estimates that there are several hundred al-Qaeda-associated extremists in the U.S. It could be a deadly mistake not to take recent terrorist threats seriously. Al-Qaeda operatives collected more than 500 digital photos, documents, and drawings. They detailed building layouts, security and construction, and pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow. They noted employee routines and watering holes. And they mapped the location of the first responders such as hospitals, police, and fire departments - all with an eye to killing as many people as possible. The writer is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a CIA veteran. (New York Post)
There have been no suicide bombings in Jerusalem in more than five months, a fact everyone knows but many are reluctant to boast about, afraid of jinxing their good fortune. The sense of greater security and lower risk, combined with an economic boomlet that many say is also largely the result of fewer attacks, has sparked a rebound not just in Jerusalem but across Israel. Like survivors cleaning up after a devastating storm, the people of Jerusalem are being swept up in a sense of revival and revitalization. (Washington Post)
See also The Intifada is Over - Just Listen - Zev Chafets
Israel has put down the intifada the old-fashioned way - by fighting back. The size and cost of the defeat is just now sinking in. Meanwhile, Israel's economy is going full-blast. Cranes and business startups are everywhere. Only the Palestinians are absent. There is a self-confidence in Israel unlike anything I have seen since the Six-Day War. (New York Daily News)
A subtle but significant transformation is under way in the lives of many Palestinian women. Normally confined to domestic chores and child care, they're now asserting themselves in new realms, from finding part-time work and taking control of family finances to political involvement, bucking the rising influence of fundamentalist Islam. The past few years have also seen a membership surge in women's savings and loan cooperatives to help finance small businesses, tuition, or emergency needs. In Ramallah, savings funds subsidized by the Working Women's Society count more than 500 members and $85,000 in assets. UN data show that Palestinian women attend high school and university in roughly the same numbers as men, but instead of starting careers, women get married and remain at home. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the work force is only 14% female. (Christian Science Monitor)
This overview outlines the main factors characterizing anti-Semitic movements and manifestations in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the post-communist era. While some governments adopted legal and administrative measures to ban anti-Semitism, they are not sufficiently effective, although there are some positive tendencies that are effective. Israel should do more to collaborate with these governments on this matter. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Beverly Hills investment banker Shlomo Eplboim is giving away free mutual funds to American teenagers to create interest in the Blue and White Fund, that invests solely in Israeli companies. Eplboim is giving $18 shares to American kids celebrating their bar or bat mitzvah. Christians being confirmed are also eligible under the program. "This is a new generation that wants to invest and isn't interested in giving charity," he says. Israel ranks third globally in the number of patents issued, has the largest number of university graduates per capita in the world, and spends 7% of its GDP on education. (Ha'aretz)
The Expulsion of the Palestinian Authority from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount - Dan Diker
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