Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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New Iranian Uranium Enrichment Facility Disclosed - Jennifer Joan Lee
See also The Clock Ticks on Iran - Editorial
A Gaddafi Cover-Up
- David Ignatius (Washington Post)
How Israel's MKs Voted on Disengagement - Nina Gilbert (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israel's parliament voted Tuesday by 67 to 45 to approve Prime Minister Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan to close all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, evacuate their 8,100 residents, and withdraw Israeli troops that protect them. Israeli troops would pull out from most of Gaza by the end of 2005, but would retain control of Gaza's borders, coastline, and airspace.
The plan must still clear several legislative hurdles. Many lawmakers favor subjecting the plan to a binding, nationwide referendum. Four government ministers who voted Tuesday in favor of the Gaza withdrawal said they would quit the Cabinet in two weeks if Sharon did not agree to a referendum. (Washington Post)
See also below Observations: Remaining Obstacles to a Gaza Withdrawal - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Deputy State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday, "It is America's belief that the Gaza disengagement plan, as presented by Prime Minister Sharon, offers a real opportunity for progress and a return to the political process. Israeli disengagement from Gaza, if done in a way consistent with the roadmap and with the support of the international community, has the potential to move both parties closer to a realization of the president's two-state vision."
"Clearly the withdrawal from Gaza offers the opportunity to give Palestinians control over an important part of territory, to give the Palestinians responsibility for their own affairs....There's still a Palestinian Authority responsible for the state of affairs in the Palestinian Authority." (State Department)
A Syrian jailed since 2001 and thought to be a major operative for al-Qaeda, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, has been identified as the prime mover behind the March 11 terror attacks in Madrid, a high-ranking intelligence official told the Spanish Parliament on Monday. Investigator Rafael Gomez Menor said Yarkas "put the group together, prepared the group, trained it ideologically, [and] sent them to Afghanistan to be prepared militarily for terrorism." Spanish politicians and intelligence officials have been warning for months that Spain remains a target of Islamic radicals. (International Herald Tribune)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri told Reuters, "The approval today of the Sharon plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is a big achievement of the Palestinian people and the resistance, which alone has pushed the Zionist enemy to think of leaving Gaza." (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in northern Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel Wednesday. One landed near the entrance to the town of Sderot and the second landed near a western Negev kibbutz. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
Israel's property tax department has paid NIS 500 million (US$112 million) in compensation to individuals and factories for damage caused by Kassam rockets and mortar fire within the Gaza Strip and in adjacent Israeli territory since the outbreak of the fighting four years ago. Most of the damage has been caused by Kassam rockets, mortar bombs, and roadside bombs, which have wrecked parts of the Erez industrial zone, damaged border crossing points, and extensively damaged public property. (Yediot Ahronot/Globes)
Arafat was forced on Tuesday to break his Ramadan fast in order to receive medication and liquids, and is being perceived as a fragile and sick man. The attempted assassination earlier this month of Gen. Musa Arafat, commander of the National Security Forces in the Gaza Strip, is seen as the first shot in a bloody power struggle among the top brass of the Palestinian leadership the morning after Arafat's death. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Israeli parliament's vote Tuesday to remove Israeli settlers from Gaza is a step toward a lasting peace between the Jewish state and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Sharon - an architect of the settlement movement after the 1967 War - took risks to attain his parliamentary victory. Many legislators from his party and its coalition partners voted against him, forcing him to seek help from more liberal opposition parties. Sharon's plan proposes evacuation of about 8,200 settlers from Gaza, where they live among 1.3 million Palestinians.
The withdrawal offers Arafat's Palestinian Authority the opportunity to govern Gaza and show the world whether it can contain the terrorists based there. But Israel should not just toss the keys over the fence and leave. Gaza is heavily dependent on foreign aid, with more than half the population living on $2 a day or less. President Bush reversed decades of bipartisan U.S. policy in April when he recognized Israeli claims to keep major settlements. A Gaza withdrawal offers an opportunity for the U.S. to return its attention to the Palestinian state that Bush has endorsed and Israelis say they will accept. (Los Angeles Times)
South Africa's apartheid died in 1994, but the word is alive: Israel is accused of being "the new apartheid," while its founding ideology, Zionism, is attacked as "racism." If the apartheid label is appropriate, it provides a potent political weapon. If, however, the usage is wrong, it reduces the vile system of racism perpetrated in South Africa to just another swear word. It also raises questions about the motivation of those who apply it. The word "Bantustan" is often used in an accusatory way to describe Israel's policy about a future Palestinian state. White South Africans invented the Bantustans to pen black people into defined reservoirs of labor, being allowed to leave only when working for white South Africa. The Israeli intention is the opposite: To keep out Palestinians, having as little to do with them as possible.
In South Africa pre-1994, skin color determined every single person's life. In Israel, Arabs are approximately 20% of the population. Discrimination occurs despite equality in law and is buttressed by custom - but it is not remotely the South African panoply of discrimination enforced by parliamentary legislation. Anyone who says that Israel is apartheid does not appreciate what apartheid was. A crucial indicator of the status of Israel's minority is that Arabs have the vote black South Africans did not. The writer, former deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg, is director of Yakar's Center for Social Concern in Jerusalem. (Taipei Times)
The war in Iraq was justified - not because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction in 2003 - but because he had them in the past and used them. He tried to build a nuclear reactor, Osirak, with military potential, thankfully destroyed by Israel in 1981; and he used poison gas against both his own Kurdish population and Iran. He attacked four countries - Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel - and for more than a decade flouted a dozen UN Security Council resolutions. He was a proven danger to his neighbors, and his nonconventional ambitions would have further destabilized the region. Anyone who holds that an aggressive dictator like Saddam should not have been taken out by the international community would also have to argue that toppling Hitler in 1938, had such an opportunity presented itself, would have been wrong.
Yet led by a naive, almost Wilsonian ideology about the immediate and universal applicability of democracy, the U.S. got itself into hot water by maintaining that absent Saddam, democracy in Iraq would flower overnight. With democracy identified with a foreign occupying power, to imagine a quick transition in Iraq was utopian. Add to this the internal ethnic and religious fissures in Iraq, which make the very formation of a non-repressive nation-state extremely difficult. Then recall that democracy has no legitimate anchoring in any Arab society, hence no role model. Whoever becomes the next American president will be unsuccessful in creating a democracy in Iraq. Yet none of this should detract from the justification of the war. The writer, a former director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
Remaining Obstacles to a Gaza Withdrawal - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
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