Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. Weighs Punishing Syria - Janine Zacharia (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli, Palestinian Officials Meet to Coordinate PA Elections - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Iran's Secret Plans for "Nuclear" Gas Go Ahead Despite Earlier Promises
- Damien Mcelroy (Telegraph-UK)
Palestinian Tunnelers Dig Their Way Out - Saud Abu Ramadan (UPI/Washington Times)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush wants Israel to make peace with the Palestinians before considering Syria's offer of talks, Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported Sunday. Washington correspondent Orly Azulai reported she asked Bush about Syria during a reception for journalists. Syria is a very weak state, that is why it cannot be trusted, the president reportedly said. Now Assad must wait: First peace between Israel and Palestine and then we'll see what to do with Syria, Bush reportedly added. (UPI/Washington Times)
See also I Will Bring Peace to Middle East, Bush Promises
"I want you to know that I am going to invest a lot of time and a lot of creative thinking so that there will finally be peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Bush told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. "I am convinced that, during this term, I will manage to bring peace." "It is very important that the Palestinians also understand that peace is not something that is arrived at through words, but through deeds," said Bush. (Telegraph-UK)
Despite a flurry of hopeful signs since Arafat's death, the Bush administration is keeping a cautious distance from the emerging Palestinian leadership, saying that future political and economic support will depend on whether a new Palestinian president can rein in militant groups. A State Department official involved in the issue said negotiations on a final peace deal could take at least a year or two to begin in earnest, and maybe much longer. To earn renewed U.S. political and financial support for such a process, the official said, the new Palestinian president will need to take concrete steps to end terrorist attacks against Israel, reform Palestinian institutions, and root out corruption. But "if a government is elected that does not view the peaceful resolution of this conflict as their main priority, then there is going to be a limit on what we can do," the official said.
The cautious sentiment from inside the State Department exposes the gap in expectations between the sides, with Palestinians hoping for a quick resumption of full peace talks in the months after the election. (Boston Globe)
Explosives packed in vehicles tore through crowds Sunday in Najaf and Karbala, Iraq's two most sacred Shi'ite cities, killing at least 64 people and wounding scores more. (Washington Post)
Shi'ite leaders blamed Sunni insurgents for what they described as an attempt to ignite civil war. Officials said the spectacular style of the attacks pointed to the Sunni insurgents who have been waging a daily campaign against targets associated with the Iraqi government, its security forces, and the U.S. military. A spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called off his anti-U.S. attacks to allow the election to proceed, blamed the current violence on Saddam loyalists, followers of the Saudi-based fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, and terrorist groups like that of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (Chicago Tribune/Philadelphia Inquirer)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Three Israelis were wounded Sunday when Palestinians fired a volley of Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip at the western Negev town of Sderot. A number of other people suffered from shock when one of the rockets struck a main intersection in the town. Eight Kassam rockets were fired at Sderot over the weekend. Last week 76 mortars were fired at settlements and IDF fortifications in the Gush Katif area. The IDF said most of the mortars were fired from multistory buildings, which were demolished to prevent continued mortar fire. (Ha'aretz)
Jordan on Saturday rejected Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's statements that Tel Aviv would keep large settlements in the West Bank and block the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland. Describing Sharon's statements as "unacceptable," government spokesperson Asma Khader said, "no party has the right to unilaterally decide on the final status issues." Former Prime Minister Taher Masri said "Arabs, including Palestinians, will never accept what he said." (Jordan Times)
The security fence is not the country's final border, and settlers on the "other side" of the barrier should not fear they will necessarily be moved, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday. Shalom said the government has made clear that "the fence is not a political route, not a route that will tell us or others where the border will run. If that were the case, many of us would not accept it, and much of the international community wouldn't accept it either. We have said more than once this is only a temporary, preventive measure."
Shalom's remarks came after Elliot Abrams, the White House's chief Middle East specialist, was quoted as telling a group of Jewish organizational leaders that eventually all the settlements beyond the fence will be dismantled. Shalom said the U.S. has never accepted the idea of settlements in the territories, and that the settlers went to live in those areas "knowing that the Israeli government took the decision to settle them there, not because the Americans gave any approval." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Does the Palestinian Arab press know something that the Israeli press does not know? Even as the Hebrew press headlined the remarks of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) calling for an end to the intifada, the Arab press - especially the Palestinian press - ignored the "news" item. A careful examination of Abu Mazen's remarks to the Arab newspaper in London - as well as other recent remarks - shows that he does not oppose violence against Israelis from a moral or ideological perspective. Rather, he opposes some violence only from a "pragmatic" or "utilitarian" perspective. And then only for a short time.
It appears possible that Dr. Abbas (who got his Ph.D from the Soviet Patrice Lumumba University on the subject of "Relations between Zionism and Nazism") is not only the formal successor to Arafat but a willing and eager student anxious to apply Arafat's methods of sending multiple messages to multiple (and sometimes gullible) audiences. Dr. Abbas, who wears a suit rather than the military uniform of Arafat, has a more refined and subtle style than his mentor, but it seems likely that their ideological content is similar, if not identical. We will surprise ourselves a lot less if we study the words and methods of the new Palestinian leadership. The writer teaches political communication at the Hebrew University's Rothberg School. (Ha'aretz-Hebrew)
Does the new reality in the region herald the end of the armed intifada? Despite the declaration by Abu Mazen about the failure of the armed struggle, the answer, so far, is no. Hamas will step up or reduce terrorism according to its own interests in the near future, but will not desist from it. The more trouble it makes for Abu Mazen, the more political concessions it will be able to extort from him in order to achieve its goal of a status equal to that of the PLO in the post-Arafat PA.
In addition, Col. Yuval Bazak, commander of the Samaria Brigade, notes that eight attempts to dispatch suicide bombers from Nablus have been thwarted in the past six weeks. Fatah is behind most of these efforts, with instructions and funding coming from Hizballah in Lebanon. Bazak reports "an intensification of attempts to mount attacks" since Arafat's death.
The investigation of the terrorist attacks in Sinai last September showed Egypt that its intelligence deployment there is incapable of providing even basic information about events. Under its nose, different networks of extremist Egyptian Muslim groups, most of them offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, operated freely in Sinai. (Ha'aretz)
I celebrated Hanukkah at a White House party attended by President and Mrs. Bush. Only in America does a president light a menorah while a Jewish choral group sings Hebrew songs and the Marine band plays American songs. Only in America do Jews feel so honored as Jews and yet so completely part of the larger culture, fully Jewish and fully part of the greater nationality.
As a yeshiva graduate, I never thought I would live to see identifying Jews, let alone Orthodox rabbis, so happy to be in a room with a menorah and a Christmas tree. Yet that signified a sea change taking place in American Jewish life - the realization that Christianity is no longer the enemy or the great Other but, for the first time in 2,000 years, a great ally. (Los Angeles Times)
UNRWA's Hamas Problem - James Tisch (Jerusalem Post)
To subscribe to the Daily Alert, send a blank email message to:
To unsubscribe, send a blank email message to: