Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Report: Abu Mazen Gave Money to Wanted Terrorists - Barak Ravid (Maariv-Hebrew)
IDF Not Expecting Much to Change - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
Iraqi Insurgent Admits Iran, Syria Links (AP/Newsday)
Stanley Fischer Appointed Bank of Israel Governor - Nitzan Cohen (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of Fatah, the dominant Palestinian political party, received 66-70% of the ballots cast, three private exit polls showed. Two hours after the polls closed, Abbas declared victory. Abbas told his supporters: "Difficult and complicated missions face us - to establish a state with security and respect for our citizens, to give our prisoners freedom, to give our fugitives a dignified life, and to reach our goal of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital." (Washington Post)
See also Israel Welcomes Palestinian Vote - Arnon Regular
"I think this vote shows a change in the Palestinian street" moving away from support of violence, said Sharon aide Raanan Gissin. "We certainly welcome this and hope that from this mandate Abu Mazen will lead the Palestinian people on the path of reconciliation." (Ha'aretz)
See also Disappointment at Low Voter Turnout in PA Elections - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
Although Bush administration officials see the Palestinian election as an important opportunity to work toward Middle East peace, they will move cautiously until they are convinced that Abbas can curb extremist violence, State Department officials said. Administration officials are trying to dampen expectations of a dramatic breakthrough. They believe that the new Palestinian leadership may need time to get its house in order.
The administration will be judging Abbas not on his campaign rhetoric but in part on his cabinet appointments. "Are there going to be terrorist elements as part of the government and the cabinet?" one State Department official asked. "The barometer for us is not the results of the election, it's the policies that the government pursues....If they were able to move boldly in a new direction, then yes, we'll be ready to respond in kind."
U.S. officials remain wary because of suspicions that aid to the Palestinian Authority was misused and that some Palestinian security troops trained by the U.S. ended up fighting alongside the extremists. "Don't look for us to be opening up the floodgates of U.S. assistance if there is still a risk that that aid is going to be funneled off toward those who support violence," the State Department official said. (Los Angeles Times)
Administration officials cautioned that Israel and the Palestinians needed to take concrete steps to capitalize on Abbas's election. American, European, and Arab diplomats said in interviews over the past week that progress would depend on Abbas gaining control of his security forces, achieving further financial and political reforms, and doing much more to fill the vacuum in Gaza to be left by the Israeli withdrawal this summer. "The Palestinians have not done anything to prepare for the Israeli withdrawal," one senior official said. "There'll be lots of help from the international community, but the Palestinians need to get their house in order."
Administration officials said there would be renewed American pressure on Israel to remove so-called settlement outposts in the West Bank and to work with the U.S. to define a freeze in "settlement activity" there that would stop the expansion of settlements in at least parts of the West Bank. "The issue of settlement outposts cannot be postponed until after the Gaza withdrawal," said the senior administration official. "This was a pledge to the president, and that pledge has to be redeemed." There is expected to be renewed pressure in Europe from the Palestinians and from Arabs to do something that American and Israeli officials say they are loath to do: start talking about such issues as the final boundaries of a Palestinian state and the right of Palestinians to return to Israel. (New York Times)
Secretary of State Colin Powell told ABC on Sunday: The U.S. can help the new leaders of the PA reform their government, to make it more efficient, less corrupt. We can help, working with the Egyptians, Jordanians, and many others, in the rebuilding of the Palestinian security forces so that they can take control of Gaza. It means more financial aid. Since Arafat's death, I have noted with satisfaction greater efforts to cooperate between the Israelis and the Palestinians. With good will, and with good leadership coming into the Palestinian Authority, it is now time to get going on the roadmap. (State Department)
See also Statement by President Bush on Palestinian Elections (White House)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Captain Sharon Elmakayis was killed Sunday when an armored jeep hit an explosive device along the Lebanon border in the Har Dov region. Several other soldiers were lightly injured. Following the incident, IDF soldiers engaged in heavy exchanges of fire with Hizballah along the northern border. A French member of the UN observer force in southern Lebanon was killed in the ensuing firefight and a Swedish member of the force was wounded. Since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000, 21 Israelis have been killed on the northern border. (Ha'aretz)
See also Hizballah's Timing No Coincidence - David Rudge
According to Israeli analysts, the attack was probably intended as a message of support to radical Palestinian terror groups to continue the "armed struggle." However, according to Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor, director of the University of Haifa's National Security Studies Center, the operation is also a sign that Hizballah is in trouble and needs to justify the continued existence of its military arm. "Hizballah is trying to make its presence felt and I anticipate more of the same in the future. As the political process between Israel and the Palestinians gains momentum, Hizballah can be expected to try and subvert it by initiating hostilities whenever and wherever it can." (Jerusalem Post)
Sergeant Yossi Atiya, 21, was killed Friday and three soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their car near Nablus. The soldiers were all on leave and wearing civilian clothes. Two gunmen at the roadside signaled to Israeli cars to slow down before opening fire, eyewitnesses said. Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, assumed responsibility for the shooting. (Ha'aretz/Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to invite the new PA leader to a meeting once the election results are final. Israel will ask Abbas to immediately renew security coordination and deploy PA security personnel at Gaza locations used to fire mortar shells and Kassam rockets, senior diplomatic officials said Sunday. If these steps are taken, the officials added, Israel will respond in kind. At the same time, there is concern in Jerusalem that rather than taking the minimal steps to fight the terror, Abbas will instead redouble efforts to reach a cease-fire (hudna) with the terrorist organizations, something Israel fears will be ineffective. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Make no mistake: Abu Mazen may wear a suit, he may not jump on tables or shout that a million martyrs will march to Jerusalem, but his demands from Israel are no different than Arafat's were. Abu Mazen is not expected to order his security forces to wipe out terror or to stop firing missiles from Gaza, as many in Israel would wish him to do. Abu Mazen hopes to convince the Palestinian factions that a cease-fire and a decision to take the political road will bring them closer to their goal than violence will. He knows he has to close down the quasi-private militias. Abu Mazen aims to make Hamas and the other factions legitimate political parties. (Ha'aretz)
Uncomfortable with how negotiations had proceeded up until the Camp David summit, Abu Mazen was adamantly opposed to the outbreak of violence that followed it. He looked at violence in cost-benefit terms, and while the costs were high, benefits were few: Israelis closed ranks, the U.S. took sides, the international community turned its back, and the PA fell apart. Instead, he believes the goal ought to be to engage with Israeli political groups and talk in a language that Washington understands. In his vision, out of Palestinian restraint will come both international support and receptivity by the Israeli public.
Four years into a devastating armed confrontation with Israel, Palestinians are in shock, afraid, and tired. Neither the public nor any significant constituent group is in the mood for a fight. Those who adhere fully to his political vision are few, but for now, Abu Mazen is relatively free to act on his own. He has achieved this position because his political inclinations are in harmony with his people's immediate priorities: security, a normal life, and freedom of movement. Ariel Sharon has won the current round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abu Mazen's support is as wide as it is fickle. Some who half-heartedly support him now will break ranks and calls for renewed violence will be heard. Abu Mazen hopes that, by then, he will have produced tangible returns. To succeed, he is banking on support from the international community, principally the U.S. (Guardian-UK)
Mahmoud Abbas will face enormous challenges when he sits down to work on Monday morning. While relations with Israel are pressing, his most profound difficulties are internal. His job will be restoring a semblance of fairness, security, and stability to the institutions that profess to represent Palestinians and that will manage any future Palestinian state. Abbas's challenges comprise security, institutional and personnel reform, Palestinian militants, and relations with Israel, the analysts say. They also agree that there are those who do not want him to succeed, but instead want him dead.
In the last two months in Gaza, up to 50 people have been killed in cases ranging from business disputes to military rivalries, according to Gazan residents and local journalists. No one has been arrested. (New York Times)
Brothers in Alms - Peter Bergen (New York Times)
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