Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israeli Forensics Team Works Around the Clock to Identify Tsunami Victims in Thailand - Miranda Leitsinger (AP/Boston Globe)
Do Palestinians Want Sympathy or Reality, Wonders Tony Blair - Douglas Davis (Jerusalem Post)
British Muslim Running Guns in Iraq Arrested by U.S. - Richard Beeston (Times-UK)
Spain Arrested More Than 130 Suspects in Islamic Terrorism in '04 - Renwick McLean (New York Times)
U.S. Report on Jew-Hatred Skips Over Mideast - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Scientists Develop New Explosives Detector - Amnon Barzilai (Ha'aretz)
Mohammed a Popular Name in England - Alexandra Frean (Times-UK)
Israel's Economic Comeback - Neal Sandler (Business Week)
Tourists Return to Israel as Security Situation Improves - Dina Kraft (JTA/Canadian Jewish News)
Israel-U.S. Industrial R&D Foundation Invested $17M in 2004 (Globes)
1,000 Birthright Alumni Now in Israel - Hillary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
2004 Terrorism Data (Israel Security Agency/IMRA)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
At almost every stop on the campaign trail, Mahmoud Abbas says he will follow in the footsteps of Arafat. "Ariel Sharon is an elected leader and we will negotiate with him," Abbas said at a news conference in Nablus. "I can't say that Ariel Sharon is not a partner. But whether or not he is serious, we will explore it." Abbas spoke just two days after he had referred to Israel as the "Zionist enemy," a comment that drew sharp criticism from Israeli leaders. But Israeli officials say their attention is focused on what Abbas does after Sunday's election.
Even if he achieves a landslide victory, he will still lack the stature and authority of Arafat. Campaign posters show the two men side by side. "The positions of Yasser Arafat, the sayings of Yasser Arafat are a will that must be implemented," he said. His core demands are the same as Arafat's. He is also courting the militants, even as he criticizes their attacks. (New York Times)
Mahmoud Abbas, the former prime minister, is backed by the powerful machinery of the Fatah movement, the dominant Palestinian political party, founded by Arafat. The party organizes Abbas's rallies, buses in the participants, and helps finance his television ads, billboards, and wall posters. Since two security guards were killed during a shootout at an Abbas appearance in Gaza City before the campaign began, Palestinian security forces have inundated his campaign routes and rallies. The campaigns have energized and captivated Palestinians, who have embraced Sunday's vote as an opportunity to reform a government they have long criticized as corrupt, inefficient, and unresponsive.
Abbas was endorsed by the Fatah movement's armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has waged a deadly campaign of suicide bombings against Israelis. On Wednesday in Hebron, 15 miles south of Jerusalem, Abbas looked slightly scared and bewildered as he was jostled by surging crowds whipped into a clapping, cheering, chanting frenzy. "We are the brigades! We are its people!" the crowd yelled. "To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions!" they hollered, repeating a phrase often used by Arafat. (Washington Post)
What a difference a week makes. Before he made his first campaign speech on Dec. 28, Mahmoud Abbas was seen by Israel and the U.S. as a moderate whom they welcomed as a possible successor to Arafat. But after a series of inflammatory remarks at recent rallies, the grandfatherly front-runner in Sunday's Palestinian election has some State Department and Israeli officials wondering whether they should take Abbas's campaign rhetoric more seriously. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that he found the sight of Abbas being lifted on the shoulders of wanted gunmen "disturbing." State Department spokeswoman Rhonda Shore said Wednesday that Abbas's rhetoric "has no place in the process of resuming dialogue." (USA Today)
Winning may not be a struggle for Mahmoud Abbas, but the days afterward will be, as he is scrutinized by restless elements in his own party and beyond. "Up to now, he is the legitimate leader of the Fatah movement, but not of the Palestinian people," said Ali Akel, who was elected last month to a municipal council and is considered aligned with Hamas. "Believe me, Abu Mazen is in great trouble." "I think Abu Mazen is making one mistake after another," said Mustafa Barghouti, who is running a distant second to Abbas in most polls, and who rejected his demand to end violence against Israel.
"Any peace settlement will not be a long-term one," predicted Dua' Nakhala, 27, who earned a master's degree in international relations at Bir Zeit University outside Ramallah. "There will be another intifada and I don't want to go through this again in my life." Jonathan Kuttab, a Jerusalem human rights lawyer and former adviser to peace talks, said, "Abu Mazen has a window of opportunity...to produce some tangible results, something the average Palestinian in the street can feel and see. If he fails, and I am afraid he will, he is going to be derided by the very same people that are chanting 'With our blood, with our soul, we will defend you, Abu Mazen.'" (Newsday)
See also Abbas Will Have to Win More Than Vote - Laura King
"Oh, he will certainly win," said the man emerging from the Palestine Mosque, a longtime Hamas stronghold in the heart of Gaza City, as his companions nodded. "But he will not succeed." Islamist extremist groups, most notably Hamas, the largest and most powerful of the Palestinian militant organizations, probably pose the greatest threat to hopes that Abbas will be able to help usher in a new era of Middle East peacemaking. Hamas is boycotting Sunday's vote. In Gaza neighborhoods that are considered the group's home turf, many passersby shook their heads and turned away when asked if they intended to vote. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday reiterated his pledge to protect Fatah gunmen. In Balata near Nablus he was greeted by scores of Fatah gunmen belonging to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Two of them, Ala Sanakreh and Ahmed Abu Salateh, appeared next to Abbas as he addressed thousands of supporters. The two are wanted by Israel for their role in a suicide bombing at Jerusalem's French Hill junction four months ago and other attacks. Abbas later held a closed door meeting with the gunmen and promised to help them after the election. "I will do everything to protect these men," Abbas vowed. On the eve of Abbas's visit, Fatah members in the city murdered a 44-year-old man suspected of "collaboration" with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
See also PA Fears Low Voter Turnout in Eastern Jerusalem - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Ten mortar shells were fired into the western Negev and Jewish settlements in central and southern Gaza on Friday morning. No one was wounded but damage was caused to several houses. (Jerusalem Post)
Soldiers shot and killed an armed terrorist who infiltrated the hothouses in Ganei Tal in the Gush Katif region of Gaza on Thursday. Soldiers spotted a Palestinian near an entrance for Palestinian workers going to work in Gush Katif. The Palestinian gunman began shooting and throwing grenades at them. Lt.-Col. Yaniv told Army Radio that the terrorist was carrying a 20-kg bomb. (Jerusalem Post)
The U.S. is sending an official U.S. Observer Delegation to the Jan. 9 Palestinian election, led by Sens. John Sununu (R-NH) and Joseph Biden (D-DE). (Jerusalem Post)
See also Jimmy Carter Arrives to Monitor Elections - Herb Keinon
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter arrived Thursday at the head of an 80-person U.S.-sponsored election-observing team, to monitor the elections and give them a stamp of international approval. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Election Observers Pour In - Herb Keinon
More than 500 election observers have poured into eastern Jerusalem and the PA over the last few days. The largest contingent, 260 members, comes from the EU. A second contingent is sponsored by the U.S. National Democratic Institute and is bringing some 80 people from 15 countries. A third group from a wide variety of countries is gathered under the UN's umbrella - including Egypt, which is sending 20 observers. (Jerusalem Post)
The Israel Campus Coalition (ICC), an umbrella organization representing some 40 Jewish student bodies, has launched a new campaign aimed at convincing U.S. universities to end limitations on students who seek to study in Israel but cannot due to exaggerated fears for the students' personal safety. The campaign - "Let Our Students Go" - enjoys the support of the United Jewish Communities (UJC), AIPAC, Hillel, and the Conference of Presidents, among other organizations. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
We must not delude ourselves into thinking that these Palestinian elections will be democratic. Free elections can only occur in a society where people are free to express their opinions without fear of being punished for them. When there is no protection of the right to dissent, when a regime controls the press, when voters and potential opponents are intimidated, what happens in the voting booth matters little. That monitors will probably declare these elections free of fraud should also not earn them a democratic imprimatur. Soviet elections were also free of fraud. There was simply only one party on the ballot.
Fortunately, President Bush is viewing these elections with the proper perspective, asserting that they are "not the sign that democracy has arrived." Rather, he said, they are "the beginning of a process." What goes on "over there" is very much our business. Regimes based on fear rather than popular consent need external enemies to sustain their illegitimate rule and therefore turn the societies they control into breeding grounds for terror and hatred. If we return to the Oslo mindset of not caring about what happens within Palestinian society, no peace process will succeed.
Governing on behalf of the Palestinians means protecting dissent rather than crushing it, providing a good education for Palestinian youth rather than using schools and the media for incitement, building decent housing for those living in refugee camps rather than using them as pawns in a political struggle against Israel, and enabling an independent middle class to emerge rather than seeking to control all aspects of Palestinian economic life. (Ha'aretz)
Now Arafat is dead, Mahmoud Abbas is poised to succeed him, and the world is swooning again. Abbas, we are told, is the great hope, the moderate, the opponent of violence, the man who has said the intifada was counterproductive. Abbas is running practically unopposed, and yet, on the question of both ends and means, he chooses to run as Yasser Arafat. During the decade of Oslo, Arafat's every statement of hatred, incitement, and glorification of violence was similarly waved away. In Abbas's first moment of real leadership, his long-anticipated emergence from the shadow of Arafat, he chooses to literally hoist the flag of the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Can Abbas turn into a Sadat, who also emerged from the shadow of a charismatic leader, reversed policy, and made peace with Israel? I'll believe it when I see it. And hear it. (Washington Post)
On Jan. 10, the airwaves and editorial columns will be filled with commentary beginning, "Now that Mahmoud Abbas has been elected chairman of the Palestinian Authority, the onus is on Israel to...." The only logical link between these two developments can be the assumption that Abbas's election, ipso facto, means not only the replacement of Arafat, but also the displacement of Arafatism from Palestinian politics.
Abbas's election may, indeed, lead to the end of arbitrary and corrupt rule, of the culture of hate in government media and public discourse, and of the encouragement, financing, and arming of terrorists by an elected leader. But none of that will yet be apparent the day after the election. Electoral considerations, that is, public opinion, have now forced Abbas to campaign not as the "un-Arafat" but as Arafat's protege. His need to resort to this kind of terminology is not an encouraging indicator of what Palestinian political traffic will bear after the election. (International Herald Tribune)
"Ahlaan" (Hi). "We are the Zionist enemy." Abu Mazen was embarrassed....
[Q] "You speak about the right of return," we said, "in Israel that is received with difficulty."
[A] "I support the Roadmap in its entirety. According to the Roadmap, the refugee problem is supposed to be resolved justly and fairly, in accordance with UN [General Assembly] Resolution 194. Put the subject in the table and let's talk about it.
[Q] "President Bush said that a future settlement will take into account blocs of Jewish settlement."
[A] "President Bush has no right to change international resolutions. No one has this right."
[Q] "Are you prepared to make a territorial compromise?"
[A] "The Occupation must be stopped - all the Occupation. I am for the existence of two states next to one another on the 1967 borders. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 7Jan05)
See also What If Bush Invited Sharon and Abu Mazen to Camp David? The Prospects for Negotiations in the Post-Arafat Era - Dore Gold and David Keyes (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Abu Mazen is seeking to amass power as quickly as possible. His election is the easy part of his task. Sharing power with an elected legislature will prove much more difficult and dangerous, which is the reason why Abu Mazen will probably postpone such elections indefinitely. So many different centers of political and para-military power in the PA exist, each with widely differing ideological agendas, that an Abu Mazen government will be hard pressed to gain an overall monopoly of power. Meaningful negotiations with Israel can only take place if Abu Mazen consolidates power - and uses this power to confront and control more extreme factions. On both counts, his chances remain doubtful. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies - Bar-Ilan University)
In an era when the battle for public opinion has an importance that rivals the clash of soldiers, the Palestinian Arabs' wording often dominates English-language usage, helping them win the war for public opinion. Refugee status normally applies to someone who is outside the country of his nationality, but not to that person's descendants. In the Palestinian Arab case, however, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of refugees also merit refugee status. One demographer estimates that more than 95% of so-called Palestinian Arab refugees never fled from anywhere. Nonetheless, the term continues to be used, implying that millions of Palestinian Arabs have a right to move to Israel. A settlement is defined as a small community or an establishment in a new region. Although some Jewish towns on the West Bank and in Gaza have tens of thousands of residents and have existed for nearly four decades, settlement, with its overtones of colonialism, is their nearly universal name.
Occupied territories implies that a Palestinian state existed in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza. That was not the case, making these areas legally disputed territories, not occupied ones. Cycle of violence, a term President Bush has adopted, implies a moral equivalence between the killing of Israeli civilians and Palestinian Arab terrorists. It confuses the arsonist with the fire department. (New York Sun)
One of the most important challenges for the new head of the PA will be to curb widespread corruption and ineffectiveness plaguing the Palestinian security and justice systems. The task will be difficult but vital to the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian entity. The first step after Sunday's election is to restructure the "Balkanized" security services, including decreasing the number of services, eliminating direct executive control over them, and separating law-enforcement functions from intelligence.
The second needed step is to ensure that the PA has a viable, independent administration of justice. Structural reform and financial assistance will be required to develop two major elements of democratic policing - responsiveness and accountability - now missing from Palestinian policing. The writer is an associate political scientist at the Rand Corporation and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. (Financial Times-UK)
The argument was raging openly among the customers in the barbershop in Ramallah's Amari refugee camp this week; Mohammed Flafel, 43, insisted that the armed struggle would continue for as long as necessary to end the occupation. He would never, he said, get back to the home in Ramle his family fled in 1948 without jihad. He was swiftly interrupted by another, Ramsi Jaber, 32. "You are talking a mirage; I am with Abu Mazen's slogans against militarization." Then the barber, Muhammed Hammad, summed up, saying the argument reflected that between Fatah and Hamas. He himself wanted a president "who can help me get a livelihood, and peace and security for my children." Of the intifada, he said: "We want to finish it. It has been too much. I don't mean we want to surrender. But we do want a ceasefire for several years." He added that people had to accept that "the Jews in this country are a reality. Israel is stronger than us, stronger than all the Arab countries." What's more, he insisted, a majority in the camp shared his views: "Not everyone who prays is in Hamas; not everyone with a beard is in Hamas." (Independent-UK, 6Jan05)
A cease-fire may be achieved either by combating the extremist Islamic elements or by reaching an agreement with them. Combating them militarily could cost Abu Mazen support among his own people, who do not necessarily view these groups as extremist or unreasonable. What's more, a military battle might be very tough because the Palestinian police forces do not have Israeli permission to use arms and because no one knows whether the forces will obey the new leader. In the near future, Abu Mazen will be walking this tightrope between the attempt to reach an agreement that will not be too costly from his standpoint and a violent struggle. He will also be seeking to burnish his credentials as a fighter for his people, and seeking to allay fears among Palestinians that he is, perhaps, too moderate to do the job. (Los Angeles Times)
Abbas should recall that Arafat's credibility as a partner for peace was destroyed precisely by his habit of saying one thing to Palestinians and another to Israelis. To move forward, Palestinians must have a leader with the courage to demand a halt to violence, clearly and consistently. (Toronto Star)
High-level UN officials were hopeful that Syria would change its behavior on terrorism when it was elected for a two-year term to the UN Security Council in October 2001 (a month after 9/11) by more than a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. Since council members were entrusted to safeguard international peace and security, it was then argued, Syria would have to curtail its support for Hizballah and a dozen other terrorist groups to which it had given sanctuary for nearly two decades. This UN scenario for Syria didn't pan out. The regime of Bashar al-Assad continued to defy UN resolutions and harbor terrorist groups. It permitted Hizballah's Iranian backers to reinforce the organization's military infrastructure in Syrian-occupied Lebanon with thousands of rockets aimed at central Israel, creating a new Middle Eastern powder keg. At the same time, Syria hosted terrorist operatives belonging to the al-Qaeda affiliate network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who plotted against Jordan. In short, Syria was increasingly playing with fire precisely during the very same years it sat on the council. (Chicago Sun-Times)
By sending thousands of Revolutionary Guards and intelligence agents into Iraq, as well as spending hundreds of millions of dollars to recruit mercenaries and enlist support among impoverished Iraqis, Tehran is hell-bent on steering the Jan. 30 elections in its favor. Its proxies in that country, including the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), have put forward a united slate, hoping to gain a majority in the newly elected parliament. The Iranian clerics have never been so close to realizing their decades-old dream of erecting a sister Islamic Republic in Iraq.
On the nuclear issue, the recent agreement brokered by France, Germany, and the UK on behalf of the EU has given Tehran all that it wanted and more. The Iranians have committed themselves to virtually nothing permanent. In return, Iran received a host of incentives, including a light-water reactor as well as the promise of European technological expertise to advance its "peaceful" nuclear program. (Washington Times)
In a bid to both bankrupt those who finance terror and bring some sense of justice to its victims, the legal team that is suing the Saudis for $1 trillion has launched yet another massive lawsuit against prime supporters of radical Islamic jihad. Filing in the Eastern District of New York last week on behalf of 700 survivors and family members of those killed by terrorism in Israel, trial lawyer Ron Motley is leading the charge against Arab Bank. According to the initial complaint, Arab Bank has funneled billions of dollars to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other terrorist organizations. The bank's chairman and part owner, Abd al-Majid Shuman, is an outspoken advocate of Islamic jihad. (Washington Times)
In October, Duke University hosted the annual conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, dedicated to delegitimizing the State of Israel. One keynote speech was delivered by Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Yale professor of genetics, who presented a short history of what he portrayed as the virulent Zionist "disease." There was also a lecture by the PLO legal adviser Diana Buttu, whose theme was that Palestinians have suffered a fate worse than blacks under apartheid in South Africa, and that Israel is today "the greatest abuser of human rights" in the world. Nasser Abufarha defended the terrorist activities of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in combating Zionist "aggression."
In the aftermath of the conference, Duke's Jewish organizations - and Jews in general - became the object of furious attack in columns and electronic discussion boards of the student-run Chronicle. Whether or not a university has a duty to license the unfettered expression on its campus of every venomous notion under the sun, the real issue at Duke was always the refusal of the licensing authorities to call such notions by their proper names - in this case, bald anti-Semitism and incitement to the murder of innocents. That refusal on the part of the university and its president is what led to the postconference outbreak of anti-Jewish hatred. Once the guardians of the citadel granted permission to open the gates, is it any surprise that the marauding hordes came storming through? (Wall Street Journal)
Across western Europe, religious leaders, educators, and policymakers describe a social collision between Muslims and non-Muslims. The building of new mosques with traditional minarets is on the rise, from 77 in 2002 to an estimated 141 in 2003 in Germany alone. European television is packed with exposes of the anti-West preachings by radical Muslim figures, like the Turkish imam caught urging those assembled in a Bavarian prayer room to "take advantage of democracy to further our cause." Countries across Europe are increasingly working to counteract the negative preaching of the radical imams appealing to disaffected Muslim youth. In France and Britain, there are programs to create "homegrown" imams. (U.S. News)
More than 15,000 Falash Mura Jews in Ethiopia are still waiting to go to Israel. Previous immigrants who have made it to Israel say their new lives are for the most part better than the ones they left behind in one of the poorest countries on earth - and that is the only message that family members back in Ethiopia hear. (New York Times)
After the failure of Israeli Air Force jets to penetrate Egypt's anti-aircraft system during the Yom Kippur War, Israel developed a technological solution, the Popeye, the television-guided missile with a range of 100 kilometers. In the late 1980s, Israeli scientists began work on a mini-camera for photographing the inside of the human body based on the principles used to operate the Popeye missile, leading to InSightec's ExAblate 2000, a focused ultrasound system that can remove malignant growths in a noninvasive procedure.
The technology includes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which makes it possible to see in real-time what is going on inside the body; a system that emits focused ultrasound waves that increases the temperature of the affected tissue to 60 degrees Celsius and destroys it; and the ability to measure the temperature with the required level of precision, monitor the destruction of the tissue, and allow the surgeon to know that he succeeded in destroying the affected tissue. (Ha'aretz)
Democracy for Palestine - Editorial (Wall Street Journal, 7Jan05)
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