Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Bin Laden Tape Urges Attacks on Oil Plants
- William Wallis (Financial Times-UK)
FBI Initiated Bogus Entrapment Operation Against AIPAC (Maariv International)
Did Saudis Deceptively Finance Ad Campaign? - Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
France Jails Ten Islamic Militants in Christmas Market Bomb Plot (Reuters)
Bush Defers Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem (AFP/Yahoo)
CNN, BBC, and Eurosport Refuse to Air Arad Campaign - Eitan Rabin (Maariv International)
Israel Sends Aid to Sudan Refugees - Uriel Heilman
Israeli Web Surfers Number 3.2 Million - Yael Gaoni (Globes)
Christian Tourism Surges in Israel - Laurie Copans (AP/USA Today)
South Carolina Police Learn How to Handle Suicide Bombers from Israeli Officer (WISTV)
The Economic Value and Impact of North American Aliya
(Israel Business Information Services/IMRA)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Key Palestinian militant groups have rejected a call by PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas to end their armed fight against Israel, saying they were not bound by his authority and attacks would continue. Members of the Islamic Jihad group and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group within Abbas's own Fatah movement, rebuffed the demand in a taped joint statement on Thursday. "Calls by some Palestinian persons to stop the armed uprising are totally rejected.... These statements are not binding on us," said a masked gunman wearing an Islamic Jihad headband. His remarks echoed the stance of the largest militant faction, Hamas, which is also sworn to destroying Israel. (Reuters)
See also Abbas Truce Call Risks Alienating Palestinian Hardliners
"As long as the intifada continues, no one has the right to bring up the question of arms," Jenin al-Aqsa Brigades leader Zakaria Zubeidi said. "We totally reject the calls being thrown around in the media to lay down our weapons....If Abbas has something to say to us, he would do better to come and talk with us." (AFP/Yahoo)
See also Palestinian Gunmen Upstage Jenin Ceremony
Dozens of gun-toting Palestinian militants on Thursday marched into a UN ceremony dedicating new homes in Jenin. Uniformed but unarmed Palestinian police were shoved aside by militant leader Zakaria Zubeidi and at least 20 of his armed men. Inside the hall, Zubeidi jumped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and politely but firmly told the jostling crowd to sit down and pay attention. His gun was slung across his back and he was flanked by two other men, weapons held high. (AP/Guardian-UK)
The U.S., Europe, and Arab countries are considering greatly increasing - maybe even doubling - aid to the Palestinians on condition that they and Israel take certain steps toward reducing their conflict, American and Palestinian officials say. A four-year package of $6 billion to $8 billion would be forthcoming, they said, if the Palestinian elections set for Jan. 9 occurred successfully and if the new government cracked down on militant groups. The possibility of an aid increase was the subject of intense discussions at a donors meeting on Dec. 8 in Oslo. (New York Times)
See also Evaluating International Approaches to Security and Aid Following Disengagement in Gaza - Gerald M. Steinberg and William Berger
The assumption that massive economic assistance will end the deeply-held ideological and religious forces of rejectionism that drive Palestinian terrorism needs to be re-examined to avoid wishful thinking. (JCPA)
Israel will not attend a Middle East conference in London early next year but backs its stated aim of fostering Palestinian reform. "We dropped our objections when we heard what the substance would be, to aid the new Palestinian leadership. Israel is not a partner to this conference. We will not participate...(but) we can help from the outside," Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Sharon, said Friday. "It will be a meeting between Palestinians, a few European countries, and a few American officials," said Sharon's chief of staff Dov Weisglass Thursday. "It will entirely be focused on how the world can help Palestinians prepare themselves for the new era." (Reuters)
A top Army general said Thursday that the Iraqi insurgency was being run in part by former senior Iraqi Baath Party officials operating in Syria who call themselves the "New Regional Command." These men are "operating out of Syria with impunity and providing direction and financing for the insurgency," said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq. "That needs to stop." He called on the government of President Bashar Assad to do more to stop the insurgency from being managed by Iraqis hiding in Syria. "The Syrians are making some efforts on the border," he said. "But they are not going after the big fish, which is really the people that we're interested in. And we're really interested in them going after the senior Baathists." (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Eleven IDF soldiers were lightly wounded Thursday when Palestinians fired four mortar shells at an outpost near Atzmona in the southern Gaza Strip. Earlier, Palestinians fired two mortar shells that landed in the hothouses of a Gush Katif settlement, and a mortar shell was fired at an IDF position in northern Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
See also IDF Operating to Suppress Gaza Mortar Fire - Margot Dudkevitch
The IDF was active Friday in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in an effort to reduce the mortar fire towards Gush Katif, Army Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
A weapons-smuggling tunnel collapsed along the Gaza-Egypt border Thursday night, killing at least five Palestinians who were trapped inside, Israel Radio reported. Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at the western Negev on Friday, causing no injuries. (Ha'aretz)
Some 72,000 American Jews age 18 to 26 have participated in free 10-day trips to Israel sponsored by birthright israel. Brandeis University researchers found that 52% of participants felt "very much" connected to Israel when surveyed two to four years after their trip. A separate survey of those who visited in 2003-2004 found that 90% indicated some likelihood they would return to Israel within two years, and that security concerns were no longer a major reason for not coming. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
At the very least, Abu Mazen must ensure that the Palestinian police and security forces reduce the violence and establish a sense of order by getting arms off the street and out of the hands of criminals. In order to change the structure of the Palestinian security forces, Abu Mazen must create a solution that is acceptable to Bashir Nafa, Jibril Rajoub, and Muhammad Dahlan, three leaders within the current security structure who each know the limits of their authority within the territories and are willing to be part of a security compromise. Complemented by the integration of other effective security leaders (e.g., Usama Abu Bakr, a Fatah member from Nablus), Abu Mazen will be able to create a legitimate security organ for his new government.
Hamas, which poses the greatest threat to security in general, and to Fatah in particular, has experienced a decline in public support since Arafat's death. It is losing its cohesion, both politically and militarily. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The new president will have to prove to the Palestinian people that he is not affiliated with any American institutions or backed by Israel in any way. Any sign of rapprochement with Israel would only serve to lessen his credibility among his own people. Abu Mazen's reputation was damaged in the eyes of many Palestinians after he referred to operations carried out by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas, and others as terrorism during a speech given at the 2003 Aqaba summit. He is viewed as having conspired against Arafat by staging a one-year political boycott and then taking over the PA after resurfacing on the political scene mere days before Arafat's death.
His focus at the moment is on appeasing Hamas and various opposition groups in order to deter militant activities long enough to ensure that elections are carried out on schedule. There will probably not be any dramatic changes on the political level any time soon. Abu Mazen will not - in the near term, at least - sign a peace deal with Israel endorsing what Arafat did not. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Palestinian election has ended up being a no-contest, due to Marwan Barghouti bowing out of the race. And before Barghouti did so, Hamas had already decided to shun the presidential election. No Israeli would have backed such a candidacy, but the way to verify that the views of those who condone violence have actually been rejected is not by preventing their running - but by having them run, then seeing them lose.
A Palestinian leadership that does not win the people's support in a clear democratic contest will be powerless when it comes time to make the kind of concessions that peace, or even just non-belligerency, inevitably demand. We hope to be proven wrong, but prospects are high that Abbas will be intimidated by opponents who will enjoy the benefits of maximum authority and minimum responsibility. (Jerusalem Post)
Marwan Barghouti is the coolest Palestinian since Arafat first turned up in a keffiyeh and Ray Bans. Former British defense secretary Michael Portillo described him as having "the charisma of Che Guevara" and likened him to Nelson Mandela, and a former Barghouti attorney once argued in court for his client's release by comparing him to Moses.
I am a Zionist leftist - someone who thinks that even though the Palestinians, politically, are a nasty piece of work, Israel still doesn't have the right to rule them - and so I have a very different view of Barghouti. I remember seeing a clip of him sitting in the studio of a Palestinian TV station when one of his comrades called in to announce the latest "operation" in Jerusalem. Barghouti became absolutely buoyant over the news, full of praise and gratitude. This was March 2, 2002, and the "operation" was a suicide bombing in the haredi neighborhood of Beit Israel. Ten people were killed.
It was Barghouti more than anyone, more than Arafat, who was identified with the outbreak of the intifada. And in those first days, while all Israeli believers in peace went into shock watching the future being wiped out, this fiery, charismatic SOB was triumphant. I know that Nelson Mandela, in his days as an insurgent, lived in a very distant moral universe from the one Barghouti inhabits. (Jerusalem Post)
During the intifada, donors doubled their annual disbursements to almost $1 billion per year, yet personal incomes contracted by almost 40%. The lesson here is that money alone will not do the trick - what is far more important is the right policy environment. The immediate reason for today's Palestinian economic crisis is the system of security-related restrictions that Israel has placed on Palestinian movement. Yet Israel will only roll back these restrictions in the knowledge that its own citizens are properly protected and that reviving the Palestinian economy does not mean endangering Israeli lives. The PA needs to demonstrate a much greater commitment to preventing violence, as well as pressing forward with democratic renewal and with its programs of financial reform. The writer is the World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa. (Ha'aretz)
For the past four decades the UN has become the personal propaganda machine of the Palestinians. Everyone who walks into UN Headquarters during December is greeted by a large display presented by the Committee on Palestinian Rights that includes a series of pictures about Israeli army checkpoints. There is only one entire UN division devoted to a single group of people - the UN Division for Palestinian Rights (created in 1977). (National Review)
During a visit to Abu Dhabi, I entered into an animated discussion on the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with one of the most influential persons in the United Arab Emirates, a former minister. There had been no hatred, not even animosity, just a profound ignorance, a complete lack of understanding of the Israeli story, a refusal to believe that we really do want to live in peace with our Arab neighbors. Gulf Arabs are curious about Israel. They want to know our secret, how a small nation had succeeded in winning war after war against the Arab armies and become such a thriving and wealthy state despite the lack of oil reserves.
At the Arab Strategy Forum, a conference that took place in Dubai last week, the most malicious anti-Israeli statement was not made by an Arab but by an American professor of international law who described Israel as "a genocidal apartheid regime." The writer is a former Foreign Ministry director-general. (Jerusalem Post)
Many comedians have made a living by poking fun at faith - sometimes their own. There have been films and TV series galore which have mocked religion. Christianity is fair game and so is Judaism. But you never hear these comics, brave defenders of free speech they pretend to be, having a go at Islam. It is right that we all behave courteously to our fellow religionists. But for too long, political correctness has been blind in one eye. The writer is chaplain to the London Stock Exchange. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 16Dec04)
Islamist groups hand out poisonous gifts to Muslim associations that, often penniless, accept them without asking too many questions. The problem is that those who hand out the money end up with control of Muslim organizations and mosques in France. So last week Interior Minister Villepin announced the creation of a state-supervised "Foundation for Islam in France" that by next April will manage financial contributions from Muslims abroad. The idea of a "French Islam," constantly put forward by the government, is a vast masquerade. Though it would be absurd and criminal to regard French Muslims as some sort of a fifth column, it remains a problem that every Muslim institution in France has links with foreign powers.
Consider France's biggest Muslim organizations, which are regarded as "fundamentalist" by intelligence services. The religious affairs attache at the Saudi Arabian Embassy long behaved like a tutor for the leaders of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), not hesitating to "frequently bring them back to the path of rigor," according to a report from the French secret services. The UOIF relies on Persian Gulf states for its financial survival, and on Sheik Qardawi, the radical who preaches on al-Jazeera, for its theological guidance. The creation of the foundation is merely another half-measure by a government only half-committed to fight this menace. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 17Dec04)
Political analyst Yossi Alpher, the former director of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, is skeptical that in his second term, Bush will aggressively tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is no longer this country's top priority in the world's most explosive arena. It is a distant third behind the Iraq quagmire and Iran's nuclear threat. (Miami Herald)
It sure was nice to see the U.S. joining Israel and Egypt this week in signing a historic pact to increase economic cooperation between those two Middle Eastern countries. The agreement gives Egypt duty-free access to some parts of the U.S. textile market if those products include some Israeli content. So it forces Egypt and Israel to work together. It's a small step for Target and Victoria's Secret, but potentially a giant step toward peace in our time. (New York Times)
A.L., a paratrooper who is serving in Nablus, wrote to me in the wake of my article "Suffer the Little Children": I have been in this sector for a few months now and I feel tremendous satisfaction every day, when I get up in the morning and know how much I am contributing to the defense of the residents of Israel, who rely on the IDF soldiers who are fighting for them in the territories so that they can go to work safely and send their children to kindergarten safely. In this period of terrorist attacks it is impossible to leave a sector like this, from which terrorist attacks on Israeli territory originate.
If you accompanied IDF arrest missions and patrols, you would see first-hand how they are carried out in a way intended to hurt only terrorists, and defined firing sectors are assigned so there are no foul-ups in the field. Believe me, no soldier will ever in his life squeeze the trigger when he sees in his optic sight a 12-year-old boy. If you interview hundreds of soldiers who are serving in the territories, they will tell you that they do not want to hurt innocent civilians and they will do everything to prevent that.
Every patrol that enters the casbah is not to make our presence felt, but to draw out terrorists and armed wanted individuals and liquidate them, or to create convenient access for initiatives that take place at night. The fact that children are hurt in firefights with terrorists in the streets is a problem, but this still has to be done in order to liquidate the wanted individuals who are trying to carry out terrorist attacks every day from Nablus. (Ha'aretz)
The Israeli army on Thursday unveiled a new, specially trained unit that will take over the sensitive role inspecting Palestinians at checkpoints in order to reduce friction between troops and Palestinians while increasing security for Israel. The troops are given intense training in how to conduct security checks, using X-ray machines and sophisticated explosive detection devices. They are also taught about ethics, human rights, and Arab culture, said the military police chief, Brig. Gen. Mickey Bar-El. The checkpoint unit is to be stationed at 11 new high-tech terminals being built into the separation barrier going up between the West Bank and Israel. Bar-El said a goal is to reduce contact with the Palestinians inside the new checkpoints: "We want the Palestinians to go through the checkpoint without being touched by a human hand within three minutes." (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Construction of Germany's national Holocaust memorial to commemorate the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis was completed on Wednesday in Berlin. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which includes 2,711 stark concrete slabs stretching over a plot of land the size of two football fields, is to be officially opened by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on May 10, 2005. Architect Peter Eisenman said the undulating rows of closely spaced slabs set slightly below street level were designed to evoke the feeling of being trapped that Jews felt when they were sent to Nazi death camps. (AP/Yahoo)
Many new mutations of American anti-Semitism, and in particular its anti-Israeli forms, originate on the university campus. Much pro-Israel advocacy is carried out by new grassroots faculty groups such as Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), whose preferred approach is through collegial professorial contact. Only if these efforts prove ineffective are cases of anti-Semitism turned over to Jewish defense organizations. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Leaving Gaza - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Sharon addressed the Herzliya Conference on National Security on Thursday:
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