Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

August 23, 2004

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info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Palestine: A Change of Direction - Joshua Hammer (Newsweek)
  After four years of an armed uprising that is now widely regarded as a catastrophic failure, Palestinian society and legislators are rising up in an open revolt against the leadership—including their once unassailable chairman. Grumblings about corruption, mismanagement and lawlessness in the Palestinian Authority have been heard often in the past. What's different now is the volume of the criticism, the proliferation of the critics and the momentum for fundamental change.
  Israel's near-defeat of the Palestinian resistance has also stirred demands for reform. Many Palestinians feel exhausted, beaten and skeptical about the logic of continuing the armed struggle. The few active guerrillas in the West Bank admit that attacking Israeli targets has become a near-insurmountable challenge. "The [security] wall has made it almost impossible for us to conduct operations," says Zakaria Zbeida, the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Jenin refugee camp.
    See also Palestine Lost -- Interactive Presentation - James Bennet (New York Times)
There is tremendous change taking place right now. There's a real ideological transformation underway within the Israeli right -- an effort to shelve the dream of a greater Israel. The Israelis are taking the initiative now, they're trying to change the rules of the game in order to manage the conflict, if not end it. The Palestinians have made no national decisions, and the very mechanism for making them is in ruins. In the West Bank and Gaza, a contest is underway between warlords and democrats, between Islamists and secular leaders, between those who would destroy Israel and those who would live beside it.


In Jenin, Gunmen Are Now 'The Law' - Molly Moore (Washington Post)
  While Zakaria Zbeida spends most of his waking hours in hiding, he has not shied away from becoming the self-appointed sheriff and unofficial mayor of the Jenin refugee camp of 15,000 people.


Syria Calls Shots in Lebanon Election (AP/New York Times)
  Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud's six-year term expires Nov. 24 and Parliament must hold a secret ballot to elect a new head of state before Oct. 23. But no successor has been endorsed by the big blocs and there is little sign of campaign rallies. Instead, the country remains in suspense, waiting to see whether Lahoud will try to amend the constitution to extend his term without an election, as some of his close aides are suggesting. Most Lebanese are convinced that will happen if it's the wish of neighboring Syria, which has thousands of troops in the country and holds sway over its politics. So far Syria has not made its preference clear.
  Lebanese know that Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh is right when he says that "Syria is still the biggest voter in the presidential elections."


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • U.S. Now Said to Support Growth for Some West Bank Settlements - Steven R. Weisman
    The Bush administration, moving to lend political support to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a time of political turmoil, has modified its policy and signaled approval of growth in at least some Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, American and Israeli officials say. In the latest modification of American policy, the administration now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward to undeveloped parts of the West Bank, according to the officials.
      For the last three years, American policy has called for a freeze of "all settlement activity," including "natural growth" brought about by an increase in the birthrate and other factors. As a result, when settlement expansions have been announced, American officials have called them violations. After the latest Israeli announcement, however, administration spokesmen said they were withholding judgment. The new American statements this week reflected "a covert policy decision toward accepting natural growth" of some settlements, despite repeated past statements, according to the official. (New York Times)
        See also Arafat Aides Deplore Permissive U.S. Policy on Settlement Growth - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
  • Hamas Leader, 2 Others Indicted - Dan Eggen and Jerry Markon
    The Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Friday accusing a senior Hamas leader and two other men of a 15-year racketeering conspiracy that raised millions of dollars for the militant Palestinian group, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States for carrying out bombings, kidnappings and other attacks in Israel. The indictment, handed up in Chicago, includes the deputy chief of Hamas's political wing, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, who was expelled from the United States in 1997, is believed to be living in Syria.
      The new charges also signal an unusual strategy by the Justice Department, which for the first time has labeled Hamas a "criminal enterprise" and which is attempting to use racketeering and conspiracy statutes more commonly applied to drug gangs and mafia figures. Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, said that focusing on alleged criminal activity allows prosecutors to more easily include activities before 1995, when Hamas was designated a terrorist organization. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israel Government Opens Office to Arrange Settler Compensation - Aluf Benn
    The disengagement administration, a new government office established to arrange compensation for residents of the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank who will be evacuated under the pullout plan, began officially operating Sunday. According to the Prime Minister's office, the new government body would conduct "all the necessary actions for advance payments and compensation for residents of the Gaza Strip and the northern [West Bank]." It will also coordinate contact with the settlers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Jewish Center Torched in Paris - Michel Zlotowski
    Arson is suspected as fire razed a Jewish community center in eastern Paris before dawn on Sunday. Graffiti with anti-Semitic messages such as "Jews get out" were found, police said. No one was hurt as flames tore through the center on the first floor of a six-story building. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Turkish PM to Send Top Advisers to Israel - Metehan Demir
    In a surprise move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to send his top three advisers to Israel to repair ties, with a clear message that the Jewish state holds a unique place for Turkey. Egemen Bagis, Omer Celik, and Saban Disli, advisers who accompany Erdogan on every visit to abroad and are known as his right arms, helping him to shape vital foreign policies, will arrive in Jerusalem on August 30. The trip is to take place just a month before Erdogan's planned visit to Syria. A Top Turkish government official said that the advisers' visit is meant solely to deliver the message of Erdogan's good will toward Israel directly to his counterpart, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizballah Will Keep Up Pressure Along Border - Nicholas Blanford
    Lebanon's southern border will remain a line of active confrontation with Israel because the plight of the Palestinians is a cause that affects the entire region, says Hizballah's deputy secretary-general, Sheikh Naim Qassem. Israel for months has been detailing Hizballah's penetration of the West Bank and Israeli Arab communities. Admitting Hizballah's involvement in the intifada, Qassem said that "the Palestinian cause is a cause for the whole region. The central point is that Israel occupies Arab land and launches attacks against the region. That's why we consider the problem is not only one of a few kilometers occupied by Israel (the Shebaa Farms). We believe we should stand by the side of the Palestinians because it is our cause too, for religious reasons ... and moral reasons. That's why we support the intifada with all the means we can." (Daily Star -- Lebanon)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "Islamic Banking" Takes Hold in Britain - Charles Moore
    This month saw the launch of Britain's first fully regulated and approved Sharia-compliant bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain. And the big banks have also developed Islamic banking arms. HSBC now boasts of "Our Sharia Board" stuffed with learned sheikhs and Justices from Arabia and Pakistan. What is being proposed with Islamic banking is actually a hardening of the religion, not an accommodation of its existing custom. HSBC's Sharia Board include members of the Deoband, the long-standing ultra-conservative group whose schools in Pakistan educated many of the Taliban. Two others are Wahhabis, trained by the intolerant and puritanical school of thought that dominates the religious life of Saudi Arabia.
      We cannot just regard Islam in Britain as a charmingly exotic addition to the English country garden. Once there are Islamic financial institutions, how long will it be before Muslims insist that the state and business direct all their monetary dealings with Muslims through these institutions (boycotting businesses with Jewish connections en route)? (Telegraph -- UK)
  • An Olympic Competitor Boycotts Israel, with Impunity - Franklin Foer
    Rather than compete against an Israeli, Iranian judo champion Arash Miresmaeili quit the Olympics entirely. As the jukoda told the Iranian government's official news service: "I refuse to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine." Under Olympic protocol, such ad hoc political boycotts are forbidden. This is a typical tale. Israel continually suffers sporting boycotts, and officials, Olympic and otherwise, continually turn a blind eye toward this injection of politics into sport. If international sports officials wanted to, they could easily stamp out the anti-Israel boycott. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Grandeur that Is Rome - Clifford D. May
    Italy today has a government that views what is happening in the world not as French President Jacques Chirac does -- but as most Americans do. This was driven home to me during a series of interviews I recently conducted in Rome. "We are committed to fighting the War on Terrorism," Franco Frattini, Italy's foreign minister told me. "And though it is not easy to say in Europe these days, the other main task we have before us is to help spread democracy in the Muslim world." How can that be accomplished? "We have to stimulate, support and reinforce those in the Middle East who believe in democracy and human rights."
      For his part, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi views Iraq as "the frontline in the War on Terrorism." A top aide to the Prime Minister elaborated: "Iraq today is a melting pot of terrorist tendencies," he said. "Every terrorist faction is represented there. International terrorists are experimenting in Iraq. We simply cannot let them defeat us. If we do, that will not be the last defeat we'll suffer." He added regretfully: "Too many of our allies in Europe do not understand this." Berlusconi's government also disagrees with many of its neighbors on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The problem is that European policy is unbalanced," Frattini said. "So many Europeans lean to the Palestinian side, ignoring the terrorism inflicted on the Israelis and never seeing the Israeli perspective."
      "Europe should play a role in the Middle East, in working for a peaceful settlement," he said. "But we can't do that if Israel doesn't trust Europe, and Israel doesn't trust Europe because of this unbalanced policy." (Townhall.com)
  • Observations:

    Something is Bubbling Up - Dennis Ross (Newsweek)

  • The Palestinians are creating, for the first time, a positive political framework. [Ending] corruption is the issue: all Palestinians know it's the one thing that unites them — it's the way that people can challenge Arafat without looking like they're betraying the icon.
  • The Palestinians are beginning to spell out what is the legitimate way to pursue their aspirations: reforming institutions, reforming the security forces, building a civil society, creating a rule of law. It's a remarkable development.
  • Once the Israelis are out of Gaza, the Palestinians know they've got to govern themselves. Now, they aren't all united, but there is a recognition that everything must be based on reform.... something is bubbling up. It's a new reality that, if managed right, can also contribute to ending the war.
  • Settlement building creates a sense of powerlessness on the Palestinian side — that the Israelis can do what they want. On the other hand, it probably makes sense to look at where the settlement building is taking place. Most of it is pretty close to the Green Line, probably in areas that would be part of Israel in any eventual agreement.
  • If the [security] wall enables Israel to end the siege and get out of Palestinian lives — and if it minimizes the hardships to Palestinians, even if takes 10 to 11 percent of Palestinian land —you can't tell me that situation isn't better for the Palestinians. It's certainly better than what you have now. [Because of the wall,] Israelis are feeling more secure now. It's a development that has at least changed the psychology in Israel, if not on the Palestinian side.

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