Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Shin Bet: Child Terror on the Rise - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
An Israeli Bus Driver's Wisdom - Benjamin Birnbaum (Cornell Daily Sun)
Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers -
Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Israel to Stun Rioters with Sound Beam - Tony Freinberg (Telegraph-UK)
French Tourism to Israel Hits All-Time High
(Ministry of Tourism/IMRA)
Israeli Lessons for Indian Agriculture Sector (Himalayan Times-Nepal)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Arafat was being kept alive by machines in a French military hospital while French, Israeli, and Egyptian officials negotiate with his family and aides over where he should be buried, two U.S. administration officials said Thursday. Arafat's family wanted him to be buried in Jerusalem, but Israeli officials said they would not allow that. There is some discussion about Arafat being buried in Egypt. U.S. officials say that since Muslim custom requires burial within 24 hours of death, no one will declare Arafat dead until they figure out where to bury him. (CNN)
A senior Palestinian political source confirmed that Gaza was Arafat's likeliest burial site if Jerusalem was ruled out - specifically a cemetery in Khan Yunis where his father lies. (Reuters)
See also Void Left by a Leader Loved and Reviled
The limousines came and went as Palestinian leaders gathered Thursday at Arafat's Ramallah headquarters to prepare for life after the demise of their leader. However, there was no sign of ordinary Palestinians. Arafat's popularity has never been lower among the people to whose cause he devoted his life. Mahmoud Nimr, 36, a Palestinian, said: "No other is capable of leading the Palestinians like him. Not the Prime Minister, not Mahmoud Abbas. With Arafat the Palestinians fought for independence. Without him, they will fight each other: Hamas against Fatah and all the other factions." (Telegraph-UK)
Administration officials say pressure on the president to get involved in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations from allies in Europe and the Arab world is certain, now that the American election is over. The administration regards both Palestinian Prime Minister Qurei and Mahmoud Abbas, a former prime minister, as suitable partners in any peace talks. On the other hand, administration officials cautioned against expectations of any imminent involvement in the Middle East situation, especially because Qurei and Abbas are likely to be challenged by more militant factions in the Palestinian leadership and by Hamas.
"We have always said Israel doesn't have a partner for peace as long as Arafat is there," an administration official said. "But in reality the policy has been that Israel doesn't have a partner as long as the Palestinians don't have the leadership to do what is necessary to make peace." "The bar for the Palestinians is actually higher than it has been for Arafat," said one American official. "It's the achievement of a consolidated, moderate, authoritative leadership. We may not see that in the near term." (New York Times)
"More likely is that we will have more of the same," said a senior Israeli foreign ministry official, referring to the firm support the first Bush administration gave to the government of Ariel Sharon. "There might be more engagement [in the Israel-Palestine issue] and a change in emphasis, but if people think that Bush is going to come and twist Sharon's head - it won't happen."
After a somewhat shaky start to the Bush-Sharon relationship, Bush emerged as a firm supporter of the Israeli government. He agreed with the Israeli prime minister to ostracize Arafat, and later acknowledged Israel's control over large settlement blocs. Daniel Kurtzer, the U.S. ambassador, said Wednesday that the Sharon government had to work on fulfilling its road map commitments but rejected the concept of pressure from a second-term Bush White House. (Financial Times-UK)
See also Will Israel Face Pressure After Arafat is Gone? - Eli Lake
"There is a real danger that the Europeans and others will put pressure on Israel to start negotiations with whoever emerges after Arafat," said the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein. "They will say you have to help the new leadership in the absence of an elected permanent leadership. I have no doubt the White House will not pursue a hasty negotiation." (New York Sun)
See also Bush Hopes for "Progress" in Mideast Peace
President Bush said Thursday that he anticipates progress toward Middle East peace during his second administration, but differed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's designation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the single most important issue facing the world today. (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The first reports of Arafat's rapid decline reached Ramallah Thursday morning. In their wake, the PLO's executive committee convened an urgent meeting, with Abbas serving as chairman in Arafat's place. Most senior members of Fatah, which is the PLO's main faction, have already accepted that, for now, former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas will take over most of Arafat's functions, with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei assuming the rest. The prevailing assessment is that no one will try to challenge Abbas and Qurei during the first several weeks after Arafat's death.
Mohammed Dahlan, who served as a minister under Abbas but was ousted by Arafat, is thought to be behind much of the recent internecine violence in Gaza. His associates set up an Internet site, called Palestine Press, that publishes Dahlan's press statements. Jibril Rajoub, former head of the Preventive Security Service in the West Bank and Dahlan's rival, is considered a candidate for an important security post in the Abbas-Qurei government. (Ha'aretz)
In Ramallah Thursday evening, no air of mourning could be sensed. "True, people feel no connection to Arafat," confirms Dr. Saleh Abd Al-Jawad, from the department of political science at Bir Zeit University. Abd Al-Jawad is concerned that elements within Fatah will act to sabotage elections, in order to preserve their economic and political interests. There is also concern about the weakness of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the leader who is establishing himself as heir. "He does, in fact, want to improve peoples' lives, and is one of Fatah's founders, but his agenda is not one of national liberation. He is old and unwell," says Al-Jawad. (Ha'aretz)
Two soldiers were wounded when Palestinians fired an anti-tank rocket at their patrol on the Philadelphia Route in the southern Gaza Strip after midnight Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
In 1993, the British National Criminal Intelligence Service commissioned a report on the sources of funding of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO, it concluded, maintained sidelines in "extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud," bringing its estimated fortune to $14 billion. Arafat may basically have been a gangster with politics, but he was also one of the 20th century's great political illusionists. He conjured a persona, a cause, and indeed a people virtually ex nihilo, then rallied much of the world to his side.
Arafat was not a native Palestinian. He was born and schooled in Cairo, spoke Arabic with an Egyptian accent, and took no part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Around 1960, Arafat co-founded Fatah, or "conquest," the political movement that would later come to be the dominant faction of the PLO. Aside from its aim to obliterate Israel, the group had no particular political vision. Instead, the emphasis was on violence: "People aren't attracted to speeches but to bullets," Arafat liked to say.
After the Israeli peace offer at Camp David in July 2000 came the intifada, a premeditated act. As Arafat had already told an Arab audience in Stockholm in 1996, "We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state....We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem." The Israelis belatedly realized that the maximum they could concede was less than the minimum Arafat would accept, and refused to deal with him. The Bush administration cut off the international life support. In this sense, Arafat's illness can easily be diagnosed: He died of political starvation.
None of his deputies can possibly fill his shoes, which are those of a personality cult, not a political or national leader. There is nothing to unite Palestinians anymore either: their loyalties to the cause will surely dissipate in his absence. Arafat was remarkable in that he sustained the illusion he created till the very end. But once the magician walks off the stage, the chimera vanishes. (Wall Street Journal, 5 Nov04)
For the optimists, Arafat's demise is an opportunity to revive negotiations and to reach a quick agreement based on the two-state formula. For many diplomats, a change in the Palestinian leadership is seen as the starting point for a new peace initiative. This effort is likely to be led by Europe, and will begin by pressing Israel for major concessions and security risks. Israel might even be asked to accept "a short delay" in the dismantling of terror networks to avoid internal Palestinian conflict. And when Israel refuses, the result will be increased tension in relations with Europe. But beyond wishful thinking and the deep desire for Arab-Israeli stability, there is little evidence that such a scenario is realistic.
The probability that a pragmatic and broadly accepted Palestinian leader will emerge from the rubble of Arafat's divisive rule is not very high. After being taught for decades that the Jews have no historical or religious rights in the Land of Israel, Palestinian society will have great difficulty in accepting the transition necessary for ending the violence on the basis of mutual acceptance. The new Palestinian leadership will face a formidable challenge in reversing the legacy of terror, but until such a leadership appears, and terror groups are disarmed, traumatized Israelis are unlikely to endorse political initiatives that include major security risks, such as military withdrawal from Palestinian areas and open borders. The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
The administration may consider Arafat's departure as an opportunity to resume talks. Yet anyone who thinks Arafat's successors are ready to make major concessions is probably dreaming. They don't have the popular support to give up longstanding positions on territory or the right of Palestinians to return to what is now Israel. "They have more willingness to negotiate but less ability to [make concessions]," says Rashid Khalidi, professor of history at Columbia University in New York. (Business Week)
The critical condition of Arafat opens the door to the revival of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, progress may not be as swift as Tony Blair would wish. The succession struggle could prevent the Palestinians from being reliable interlocutors for some time. Discreet diplomacy - helping the Israeli prime minister implement his planned withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinians to settle their differences - is what is required from the guarantors of the road map, rather than the grand gesture of multilateral conferences. In the meantime, the most obvious and urgent challenge for America and Britain is to steer Iraq towards elections in January. (Telegraph-UK)
Interview with Middle East Peace Negotiator
Dennis Ross - Nonna Gorilovskaya (Mother Jones)
See also After Arafat, What? - Dennis Ross
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