Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Russian Missile Sale to Syria Deemed Unlikely - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Teen Dies of Wounds Sustained in Palestinian Rocket Strike - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
Shin Bet in the Line of Fire - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas vs. Abbas - Bradley Burston (Ha'aretz)
Indian Air Force to Showcase Israeli UAVs in Parade (Times of India)
Israeli NGO Recognized as UN Advisor (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel's Foreign Trade Rises in 2004
U.S. Security Men Arrive to Learn Israeli Techniques - David Rudge (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Palestinian security forces took up positions across northern Gaza on Friday to curb militant attacks against Israel as part of Mahmoud Abbas's plan to halt violence and revive peace talks. Palestinian security sources said 2,000 paramilitary police were assigned to the border towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya and other parts of northern Gaza to prevent militants firing rockets and mortars at Jewish settlements and Israel. (Reuters)
See also Palestinian Police Balk at Stopping Gaza Terror - Chris McGreal
The Palestinian chief of police has questioned whether his officers are prepared to confront Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Commander Siab al-Ajez said some of his men either sympathized with the Islamist resistance groups or were too afraid to prevent them making attacks. "The will to execute the orders is not what it should be in our officers," he said. "There are officers who are not convinced of what they are doing. They could be present in certain areas and just close their eyes." Ajez is not the only Palestinian official to see the deployment as largely symbolic.
Armed groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades say they are not disturbed by the prospect of a confrontation with Palestinian police. "There's a big part of al-Aqsa membership already working in the security forces," said Abu Mohammed, a Gaza leader of al-Aqsa. (Guardian-UK)
In bluntly threatening terms on Inauguration Day, Vice President Dick Cheney removed any doubt that in its second term the Bush administration intended to directly confront the theocracy in Tehran. Cheney said Iran was "right at the top" of the administration's list of world trouble spots. When asked in a radio interview on MSNBC whether the U.S. could ask Israel to lead military action against Iran, Cheney replied: "One of the concerns that people have is that Israel might do it without being asked," Cheney said. "If, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability - given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel - the Israelis might well decide to act first." The Israelis would let the rest of the world "worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward," he added.
The startling reference to an Israeli attack was "the kind of strong language that will get their attention in Tehran," said one allied diplomat in Washington. "There's a rhetorical escalation here: They've ratcheted up the threat level by bringing Israel in," said Henri Barkey, a former State Department official during the Clinton administration. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Not a single mortar shell or Kassam rocket was fired on Thursday. "They can prevent mortars and Kassam rockets from being fired if they want to. The IDF is prepared to let them do it," said a senior IDF officer in the Gaza Division. (Jerusalem Post)
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said Hizballah's military operations in South Lebanon against Israel are "disturbing," and reminded Lebanon that its asserted position that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shaba'a farms is not "compatible" with Security Council resolutions. He said the resumption of military measures, "for which Hizballah took credit, asserting its claimed prerogative to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory by force, was disturbing." He recalled that the Council has recognized the Blue Line as "valid for purposes of confirming Israel's withdrawal pursuant to Resolution 425 of 1978. The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council's repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety." (Kuwait News Agency)
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas Thursday that Palestinian attacks against Israel must end. "The violent means and terror will never be acceptable and will lead to an impasse," he said. "Bringing security is the most immediate priority. Suicide bombings have to stop, rocket attacks must be stopped." (AP/Jerusalem Post)
Israel is reopening the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in one direction Friday, enabling Palestinians to enter Gaza from abroad, Israel announced Thursday. The crossing has been closed since December 12, when it was damaged in a Palestinian attack on a nearby army outpost that killed five soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
After beating the war drums over Gaza to get the attention of Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has now put aside plans for a full-scale invasion to allow him further time to get Palestinian radicals and militants under better control. In the end, it was a nerve-racking but perhaps productive exercise in brinkmanship. Contrary to appearances, the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is relatively close at senior levels, with an intimate understanding of each side's political problems. The Israelis and Palestinians seem at this early date to be finding a modus operandi - so long as they avoid the appearance of working together too closely. Leaders on both sides are operating in a fragile environment that they know can be disrupted by any serious act of terrorism. "The basic problem now is that we have an expectations gap," said Aaron David Miller, a former American negotiator on the Middle East. "The Israelis are expecting too much of Abu Mazen, and he's not expecting enough of himself."
Zakariya al-Qaq, a Palestinian political analyst, said Abbas had to be careful not to be seen to be doing Sharon's bidding. "The moment he does what Sharon wants him to do, he loses his legitimacy." In addition, Syria and Iran have a major influence over Hamas and Hizballah. "Syria and Iran want to create problems for Israel," Qaq said. A long-term cease-fire is not in those countries' interests, nor is a separate Israeli-Palestinian peace, he said. (New York Times)
Will the election of Mahmoud Abbas make any difference? Many hope so, but the chances are thin. The Israel/Palestine conflict is one of those long-lasting conflicts in which each side represents a group which has profoundly opposing interests such that there is no way that both sides can achieve their maximal objectives. This means that, short of the total elimination by one side of the other, the only solution is a political compromise that is extremely painful. This is exactly why these conflicts are long-lasting.
A settlement requires that the leaders of each side are in a strong enough position to bring along the overwhelming majority of their constituents when they make painful compromises. This is exactly what is missing. Abbas is being hailed by the press as someone whose style and outlook is different from that of Arafat. Style yes, outlook probably not. The writer is director of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations at Binghamton University (SUNY), New York, and senior research scholar at Yale University. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
While Abu Mazen may want to do a Sadat, Sadat had the army and the Egyptian state bureaucracy behind him. None of the PA security organizations carry the weight of the Egyptian army, and the present Palestinian bureaucracy does not count for much in terms of power and control. Ever since the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, the Egyptians have initiated all sorts of formulas for the containment of Israel, to scale Israel down to an acceptable size, thereby eliminating the need to strive for its destruction. This is the whole thesis of the peace process of Egypt, and the intellectual breakthrough that allowed Sadat to come to Jerusalem. Once the Egyptians reached the conclusion that the Israelis were leaving Gaza, they wanted to help arrange it, or at least restructure it in a way that is not detrimental to Egyptian interests. The writer is the Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 Television. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Many of Spain's Muslims long for an Islamic revival to reclaim their legendary history, and inaugurating the Great Mosque last year was the most visible gesture. But horrific bombings by Muslim extremists that killed nearly 200 people in Madrid on March 11 have forced Spain's Muslims and non-Muslims to reassess their relationship. Spain has a long, rich, and complex history interwoven with the Muslim and Arab world, from its position as the center of Islamic Europe in the last millennium to today's confrontation with a vast influx of Muslim immigrants. For more than seven centuries of Moorish rule, "Al Andalus," or Andalusia, was governed by Muslim caliphs. That ended when Granada fell to Christian monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1492.
Spain today, like most of Europe, is struggling with ways to accommodate its fast-growing Muslim community while keeping tabs on those who might turn to radical violence. (Los Angeles Times)
In the wake of the Holocaust, as human rights norms have come to the fore, NGOs have become major actors in international politics in general and in the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular. These organizations and their leaders form an extremely powerful "NGO community" that has propelled the anti-Israel agenda in international frameworks such as the UN Human Rights Commission and the 2001 UN Conference against Racism in Durban. Behind the human rights rhetoric, often small, well-funded NGOs, not accountable to any checks and balances, are at the forefront of demonizing Israel and of the new anti-Semitism that seeks to deny the Jewish people sovereign equality. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
To complement whatever intelligence the IDF gets from informants in Gaza, they have built what is probably the most intensive and sophisticated military spying apparatus to be found anywhere in the world. To synthesize the vast amount of information coming in from motion detectors and surveillance cameras as well as images transmitted from circling drones, intelligence specialists - somewhat incongruously, mostly young female soldiers - monitor any activity in their sector.
Four days after the killing of 13-year-old Iman al-Hams, commander Ofer faced a very similar situation. "Another girl," he began, "this one was 15, and she just appeared in front of our position. She carried a bag in her hands and walked right toward us. We shouted at her, fired warning shots, but she kept coming. I could see she was just a girl, so finally I went out to confront her....She said she had a bomb in the bag. But when I looked into her eyes, I saw something that made me not believe it....There was no bomb. Apparently, there was some kind of family problem - she had been molested by an uncle or something - and now she was looking to be a shahid, to get me to kill her."
A troubled look came into Ofer's eyes. "But the point is," he continued, "I should have shot her. By all the rules and what I tell my men, I never should have let her get that close to me....It's strange to think about. That girl is alive now, she is not dead, because I did the wrong thing." (Vanity Fair)
Filmmaker Pierre Rehov's forthcoming film, "Suicide Killers," will be the seventh in a series of documentaries on Israel produced since 2000. "I got into films because of Mohammed Al Durrah," Rehov said this week, on the eve of a three-night New York City film festival. As an experienced filmmaker, Rehov recalls, he realized instantly that "news" of the child's death at the hands of Israeli soldiers in Gaza had been faked.
He has produced "The War of Images," a documentary exposing the level of daily incitement to hatred in Palestinian television. Next came "Holy Land: Christians in Peril," describing the diminution of Christians in the Arab world from 10% of the population to less than 2%. In 2004, Rehov released "The Silent Exodus," concerning the persecution and exodus of one million Jews from Arab countries including himself, who as a 10-year-old fled Algiers with his family. (FrontPageMagazine.com)
Sixty years ago Helen Aronson stepped out of her hideout in the Lodz Ghetto - the Holocaust's second largest. On Sunday she was at the National Portrait Gallery in London to see, for the first time, the recently discovered Ross Collection, the most extensive and important record of the Holocaust by any single photographer. Henryk Ross (1910-91), an official Jewish photographer in the ghetto, also secretly recorded its suffering. After the war, while he made some of his photos available for use in the Eichmann trial and in Holocaust museums, we never saw the great majority of Ross's pictures during his lifetime.
I first encountered his full collection in the late 1990s, opening an old, bulky suitcase filled with photos, negatives, ghetto announcements, and newspapers. The Archive of Modern Conflict in London had just acquired the collection from his son and asked me to evaluate it for them. I soon realized that this collection had the potential to revolutionize the way we understand life in the Holocaust. The writer, visiting assistant professor of European history at the University of Chicago, wrote the text for Lodz Ghetto Album: Photographs by Henryk Ross (2004). (Wall Street Journal)
See also Images from the Lodz Ghetto Album - a slide show (New York Times)
See also "I Will Never Forget These Scenes" - Janina Struk
The Nazis at Auschwitz were obsessed with documenting their war crimes and Wilhelm Brasse, now 87, was one of a group of prisoners forced to take photographs for them. (Guardian-UK)
Our Enemies Will Not Defeat Us - Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon spoke Thursday at a memorial ceremony for 22 soldiers killed in a terror attack at Beit Lid ten years ago.
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