Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
IDF: Pullout to Expose 46 Negev Towns to Palestinian Rockets - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
Iran Able to Enrich Uranium in Six Months - David Ratner (Ha'aretz)
The Economist: 2006 Will Be Boom Year in Israel - Zeev Klein (Globes)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In their phone call Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon congratulated Abbas on his victory and suggested they meet. The two have met seven times in the past and agreed to meet "very soon," according to Palestinian and Israeli officials. Raanan Gissin, Sharon's spokesman, said: "For us the main issue is security," adding, "If the Palestinians take real control of security, we would like to hand over to them responsibility and that includes not only Gaza but the major towns in Judea and Samaria." (Guardian-UK)
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said Wednesday that the Islamic militant group has no plans to disarm. "Hamas is not planning to give the weapons of its fighters to the Palestinian Authority," Zahar said in a statement posted on a Hamas Web site. Zahar said, "The Palestinian Authority presidential election was meant to choose a president for the Palestinian Authority only, and not for the Palestinian people, in order to run internal affairs," and that Abbas has no authority to order a cease-fire. (AP/FOX News)
Abbas's period of grace will end the moment he sits at his desk on the day following the elections. In the coming days he must resume negotiations with Israel, begin a series of reforms in the PA, and silence the guns of Palestinian hardliners. "The elections give Abu Mazen legitimacy but not authority," Dennis Ross, the former U.S. envoy to the region, said. "If he can show he is doing something about corruption, the rule of law, and freedom of movement, he will then have authority." (Times-UK)
For a time, coexistence existed in Kalkilya in the West Bank. Merchants whose businesses have survived the past four years of violence talk glumly about lost income and lost jobs. Above all else, people here want their long-lost Israeli customers to return. More than most Palestinians, people in Kalkilya remember the benefits of peace. "We had it, and we lost it," said Bassam Monsour, who used to have 12 employees in an auto repair shop that served Israeli customers.
"Before he [Abbas] does anything, he has to consolidate power," said Hillel Frisch, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "Still, he has a fighting chance. He will get all the money he can get from the U.S. and the Europeans, and that will empower him over time. He's buying time as he gets strong, and once he's reactivated the security forces, he will be ready to bargain." "He has to dismantle terror organizations over time because the understanding is, you cannot just work for a cease-fire with them. They have to be outlawed," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon. "You cannot have militias...and this will be his challenge." (Baltimore Sun)
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan took the first step Tuesday to create a register for damage claims stemming from Israel's construction of a security barrier in the West Bank. (AP/Newsday)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
One Israeli was killed and four IDF troops were wounded Wednesday when an explosive device went off under a jeep near Morag in the southern Gaza Strip. Gideon Rivlin, 50, who worked installing security fences, was killed in the explosion. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ha'aretz)
Israeli officials began briefing the U.S. administration and key congressional leaders this week on a proposal to help cover the costs of upgrading and setting up new crossing points along the separation fence. Israel is asking Washington to contribute an estimated $180 million, about 40% of the $450 million total cost, with Israel paying the rest.
The high-tech terminals are designed to speed the inspection of Palestinian people and cargo in order to increase freedom of movement and economic growth in Palestinian areas. "In recent months, Israel and the (Bush) administration have been in ongoing conversations about the ways in which to strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground," an Israeli diplomat said. The Bush administration is assembling a new aid package for the Palestinians expected to total as much as $200 million to help bolster Abbas. (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
An El Al plane landed in Indonesia Tuesday for the first time ever, unloading 80 tons of humanitarian aid to tsunami victims there after delivering 15 tons of emergency supplies to Sri Lanka. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
At a campaign appearance by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, some of the rhetoric is fiery. "Allah loves the martyrs"; "We will kick them [the Israelis] out"; "We have been suffering for 50 years and by Allah all this land will come back to us eventually" - referring to more than just the West Bank and Gaza. But beyond the long-term promises, Abbas issues three short-term challenges. "We won't allow any illegal weapons, and we won't allow people to be armed unless they are Fatah," he says. The statement is a direct challenge to Hamas. "We need clean legal institutions so we can be considered a civilized society," a reproach of his famously corrupt colleagues in Fatah. "We need to make the law the leader in this country, and nobody can be above the law." The reference to Arafat couldn't be plainer.
Abbas is Arafat's heir and owes his political existence to the party Arafat founded. Yet his success depends on repudiating much of Arafat's legacy - the cult of personality, kleptocratic government, and terrorism - a legacy that has sunk deep roots in Palestinian culture. (Wall Street Journal)
The outcome of Sunday's election was never in doubt. Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's longtime accomplice - the two men co-founded Fatah, the largest terrorist faction within the PLO, in 1965 - was always going to win in a landslide. Abbas, who spent decades at Arafat's side and who has been unyielding in his refusal to crack down on Palestinian gunmen and bombers, cannot be what Bush meant when he insisted that Palestinians "elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." So why has the administration bent over backward to support the election and given its blessing to Abbas?
Abbas is sometimes described as a "moderate" opposed to terrorism, but his opposition is purely tactical. He has no moral problem with blowing up buses and cafes, he simply thinks such methods are, for now, counterproductive. Abbas is no moderate. His election is not a step toward peace. What was true in Afghanistan and Iraq is true in the PA as well: without regime change, freedom and democracy are impossible. The dismantling of the corrupt Fatah autocracy is essential to Palestinian reform. President Bush got it right in 2002: The Palestinians need "new leaders...not compromised by terror." They still do. (Boston Globe)
In his campaign speeches, Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly focused on restoring the rule of law and ending the chaos that has engulfed Palestinian life. He opposed corruption and vowed to enhance the role of women, improve the standard of living, and confiscate illegal weapons - all issues that Arafat refused to discuss. An exit poll of 900 voters taken by Bir Zeit University suggests that most Palestinians are focused on a forward-looking agenda of nation-building and a return to normalcy. Peace talks are high on the public agenda. (Los Angeles Times)
A World Without Israel - Josef Joffe (Foreign Policy)
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