Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference: click here
Rice to Propose Pensions for "Retired" Palestinian Terrorists - Yitzhak Ben Horin (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
See also Bush to Send Quick Aid to Palestinians (Reuters)
Hamas Refuses to Sign Pledge Against Attacks (AP/Times-UK)
Can the PA Control Its Cities? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
High Court Approves Bypass Road to Rachel's Tomb
- Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians to Receive Magnetic Cards to Speed Checkpoint Crossings (Israel Defense Forces)
Education Watchdog Attacks UK Muslim Schools for Intolerance - Hannah K. Strange
Abrams Promoted in White House (JTA)
Texas Invests $4 Million in State of Israel Bonds (East Texas Review)
Baker Institute Offers "Street Map" for Mideast Peace - Ron Nissimov (Houston Chronicle)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Asked at a news conference in London whether the U.S. might attack Iran, presumably to head off the threat that Iran could use a nuclear device against Israel or other nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday, "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point." Rice said, "We believe particularly in regard to the nuclear issue that while no one ever asks the American president to take all his options, any of his options off the table, that there are plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations." Rice said there is broad international agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to use a civilian nuclear power project to conceal a weapons program. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Rice Signals Harder Line on Iran - Andrea Koppel
In a move likely to rattle Iran's rulers and frustrate allies in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signaled that the Bush administration is adopting a harder line towards Iran - but she has stopped short of explicitly calling for regime change. "The Iranian people should have a chance to determine their own future," Rice told reporters en route to London. During his State of the Union address on Wednesday, President Bush hinted that the U.S. would support any grassroots movement to change Iran's government, now run by hard-line Islamic clerics. (CNN)
Senior Israeli Cabinet ministers on Thursday approved the release of 900 Palestinian prisoners and the handover of the West Bank town of Jericho to Palestinian control in coming days - gestures meant to build goodwill ahead of next week's Mideast summit. Some 500 prisoners would be released shortly after Tuesday's summit. The remaining 400 prisoners would be freed within three months. Israeli government spokesman David Baker said the Israeli concessions were made "despite scores of terror-related incidents in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority has not made one meaningful arrest."
Sharon told his security Cabinet it is still premature to talk about restarting road map negotiations. "We are not talking about peace now, and not about the road map, but rather about phases that come before the implementation of the road map," Sharon said. (AP/Washington Post)
"We want the Palestinian people to understand that they have so much to gain from the path of negotiations, from the path of diplomacy and from the path of non-violence," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. The measures the ministers approved are "designed to show the Palestinians that this process can make their lives better. These gestures are not easy for us....Pulling out of the cities will bring us a security risk (and)...the terrorist threat has not receded," he added. (UPI/Washington Times)
Saudi and Egyptian reformers bristled Thursday at President Bush's call in his State of the Union address for greater reform in their countries, dismissing the speech as patronizing and unproductive. Saudi commentator Khalid al-Farm, head of the Arab Media Association, said: "In essence he's saying the same thing we are, but all he's doing is putting the government and the reformers in a tight position."
"These blunt American statements exert a kind of political and psychological pressure that backfires within segments of the Egyptian population because it makes the sincere demands of Egyptian activists and politicians seem like mere echoes of the American stand," said Dr. Hassan Abou Taleb, editor in chief of The Arab Strategic Report published by the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "These are all intrinsic Egyptian demands that have been around for more than 25 years, not merely an echo of American calls in the past two years," he said. (New York Times)
Preliminary election returns released Thursday by Iraqi authorities showed that 72% of the 1.6 million votes counted so far from Sunday's election - about 10% of the expected total - went to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran. Only 18% went to a group led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the U.S. (New York Times)
Russian President Putin is making it increasingly clear that the Kremlin does not intend to let the U.S. dictate the future landscape of the Middle East. During visits to Moscow, Palestinian leader Abbas won pledges of Kremlin support as a broker in the Mideast peace process, while Syrian President Assad received assurances that Russia maintained the right to sell it "defensive" weapons systems. "Russian policy is largely driven not by rational national interests, but by this complex of former greatness," said Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinian gunmen opened fire Thursday on a jeep near Dahariya, southwest of Hebron, wounding four soldiers. Two Palestinians were waiting in ambush for the jeep and opened fire as it drove by. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ha'aretz)
See also Palestinian Wounds Two Soldiers in Gaza Attack - Amos Harel
Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded and an armed Palestinian was killed in an attack Thursday at the Gush Katif junction in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian taxi stopped in the middle of the road with an apparent technical problem. When the occupants of the car got out, one opened fire on the soldiers and threw a grenade at them.
Military sources expressed disappointment Thursday about the functioning of the Palestinian security forces in recent days. The Palestinians are making do with superficial and demonstrative steps and are not making concerted efforts against the terror cells. The sources see the deployment of thousands of Palestinian police in conflict areas as helping to reduce the activities of the cells, but without a more determined and aggressive effort on the part of the PA, the terror is likely to return, and with more vigor, in the near future. (Ha'aretz)
See also Suicide Bombing Prevented: Palestinian Teen with Bomb Belt Caught at Nablus Checkpoint - Amos Harel
IDF soldiers prevented a suicide attack Thursday when they arrested a Palestinian in possession of an explosives belt at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus. Mahmoud al-Tabuq, 16, said he had been sent by a resident of the city to hand over the belt to another individual who was waiting at the checkpoint. (Ha'aretz)
Israeli security officials said Thursday that the situation can, at best, be described as a "fragile, imaginary calm." The security establishment registered 50 warnings of terrorists planning to launch attacks, proving their motivation remains high. "The situation is explosive and could blow up in Abu Mazen's face if the terrorists use the current period to strengthen their capability, build bombs, and manufacture rockets to be used against us," an official warned. "While the number of attacks may have lessened, terror continues." (Jerusalem Post)
A Palestinian delegation angrily walked out of a meeting with Prime Minister Sharon's bureau chief Dov Weisglass in Tel Aviv because Israel decided to release "only" 900 security prisoners. The Palestinians are demanding that Israel release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including those with "blood on their hands." One senior Israeli official said the crisis was an attempt to wring more concessions from Israel before next Tuesday's summit in Sharm el-Sheikh between Sharon, Abbas, Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah.
Defense Minister Mofaz said Israel should not be lulled into a false sense of security, and that there have been 55 terror actions - including mortar firing, shootings, and attempts to plant roadside explosives - since the beginning of what has been widely termed a "quiet" week.
The mini-cabinet decided to begin the transfer of five West Bank cities - Jericho, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, Kalkilya, and Ramallah - to Palestinian security control. The transfer will be staggered to judge how the PA is dealing with one city, before moving on to another. The mini-cabinet also decided on humanitarian measures, to increase the number of work permits for Palestinians in Israel, remove numerous blockades and roadblocks, open the crossings into Gaza, and authorize the building of a sea port in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hiatus in Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Joshua Brilliant
An Israeli official said he believed militants agreed to a cease-fire because they expected Israel to release some of their comrades. They are now pressuring Abbas to get their friends, he said. "If they leave the talks, it is their responsibility," a source in the Prime Minister's Office said. "They never received such gestures (as Israel is ready to give). He (Abu Mazen) cannot take advantage of the Sharm (el-Sheikh) event to skip the stage of fighting terror. This is against the road map." (UPI/Washington Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Being a veteran of the Oslo process and someone who has participated in - and arranged - such parties in the past, I reserve for Tuesday's Sharm el-Sheikh summit a measured optimism only. Frankly, it reminds me of what Oscar Wilde said about marriage: "Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience."
In the first ''marriage'' between Israelis and Palestinians, celebrated in 1993 on the South Lawn at the White House, once the two parties stopped demonizing each other and started talking to each other, there was suddenly room for a deal. Intelligence, in more than one sense, was pushed aside. My friend, Gen. Yaakov Amidror, who headed the Israel Defense Forces' intelligence-research branch during the Oslo years, still chides me as one of the ''Rabin Boys'' who dismissed his warnings about the bride, Yasser Arafat. He told us that the bride was fooling around with others, namely terrorists. Like deceived husbands, we refused to listen to him, until we caught the bride in the act: it was the affair of the Karine A, the armament ship smuggled under Arafat's orders, that we caught in mid-sea.
Now to the second marriage - Abbas's vision of the final settlement with Israel is as radical as was Arafat's. When it comes to Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees, he hasn't suddenly registered as a member of the Zionist movement. But he is pragmatic, and he has people to feed and support. Abbas and Sharon are heading to Sharm el-Sheikh because they understand that in order for their two peoples to stop making each other miserable, they must strike a deal. By going there they indeed allow hope to triumph over their bitter experience. The writer is director of International Outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. (Miami Herald)
The speed and the way in which the deployment of the large Palestinian force in northern Gaza was executed indicated that the force had always been ready, but that someone had prevented its deployment and involvement. In other words, Yasser Arafat did not want to do so because he had an interest in continuing the violent conflict. One man prevented the deployment of these forces because he did not want to end the military dispute. One man did not consider the heavy losses incurred by his people. There is no other way to read the situation.
Although Arafat is considered, justifiably, the father of the Palestinian revolution, he was a violent man who used rhetoric and crude lies when he said he was interested in ending the violence. Israel was not the only place he acted this way. He also caused the deaths of thousands of Arabs in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. This is part of the heritage he left behind him. It is a shame that he also deceived so many Israelis almost to his dying day. (Ha'aretz)
When Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharon will be willing to make concessions such as allowing the Palestinians to construct a port on the Gaza Strip and rebuild their destroyed airport there. In return, Sharon will insist that Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas go beyond the fragile, de facto truce and begin to dismantle terrorist organizations like Hamas.
Sharon also wants Egypt's President Mubarak to be more than the host of Red Sea Summit II at Sharm el-Sheik. He expects Mubarak to make some commitments of his own, such as to close down the arms-smuggling tunnels connecting the Sinai Desert with Gaza, which have become, in Sharon's words, the terrorists' "oxygen pipeline." (New York Post)
Senior officials in the office of Prime Minister Sharon said they felt "real hope - guarded and cautious, but real hope for the first time in years." However, a former top official in Israeli intelligence, who has an international reputation as one of the best-informed analysts on Arab, Islamic, and Palestinian affairs on earth, said: "I would really like to be optimistic, but I cannot help recalling that Mahmoud Abbas has very few of the sticks, and even fewer of the carrots that were available to Arafat."
Bush's extra $350 million for the Palestinians, and the symbols of renewed U.S. engagement that will come with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to Israel and to see Abbas in Ramallah next week, are all very well. But they do not begin to address the facts that there are no jobs and not much money and not much future in the West Bank or in Gaza. Until the jobs return, all the peace talks that diplomacy can organize will not be enough to give peace a chance to prosper. (UPI/Washington Times)
Hamas won a landslide victory in last week's local elections in 10 Gaza towns. Hamas's Reform and Change list won 77 of the 118 seats contested, while Fatah won only 26. The remaining seats went to clan and independent candidates. The results come as an unpleasant surprise to Fatah - and the Fatah-dominated PA. The population centers in which the elections were held have long been considered traditional power bases for Fatah. Indeed, the impression was widespread that election officials had selected these areas as "test cases" on the assumption that a strong Fatah showing would create the momentum necessary for more Fatah election victories elsewhere.
The views of one northern Gaza farmer who voted for Hamas are typical: "Hamas is us, and we are Hamas. Hamas represents Islam and we are Muslims. Hamas is against corruption, and we don't like corruption. Hamas is against Israel, and we hate Israel. Israel's hatred of Hamas is a vindication...it is a certificate of good conduct." What remains unclear is whether the strengthening of Hamas through the ballot box will push the movement towards more moderation. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
See also The Local Election in the Gaza Strip - Abdulnasser Makky (Arabic Media Internet Network)
The Palestinian army came out of the closet last week, donned uniforms, once again took up arms, and returned to its posts. Leaning on the wall of the tire repair shop sit three Palestinian soldiers in red berets, holding rusty rifles. They are supposed to check cars and hunt for Qassams. They say they have already caught one Kassam and sent its launchers to jail. They will obey every order of their commanders, and they are not preoccupied with the question of whether the Kassam is fighting the occupation, and whether they aren't fighting against those who are fighting the occupation. The population welcomes them, everyone wants some quiet and security. When will they use their weapons? When someone does not obey. They will fire into the air, and perhaps to wound, but they won't kill their brothers. They will do that only if they find themselves in a situation of mortal danger. (Ha'aretz)
President Bush was right in exhorting Egypt, in his State of the Union address on Wednesday, to be a country that could "show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." The helpful role of Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, as a peace broker between Israelis and Palestinians should not earn him immunity from criticism of his self-perpetuating dictatorship. After nearly 24 years in power, he appears ready to add 6 more in a single-candidate referendum this fall, all the while grooming his son Gamal for an eventual Pharaonic succession. American taxpayers have bankrolled this regime to the tune of tens of billions of dollars over the years. It is about time that Washington woke up to the explosive powder keg that has been building up under Mr. Mubarak's despotic rule. (New York Times)
As someone who believed, hoped, worried, and prayed that Iraqis could one day pull off the election they did, I am unreservedly happy about the outcome - and you should be, too. Why? Because what threatens America most from the Middle East are the pathologies of a region where there is too little freedom and too many young people who aren't able to achieve their full potential. The only way to cure these pathologies is with a war of ideas within the Arab-Muslim world so those with bad ideas can be defeated by those with progressive ones.
We can't fight that war. Only the Arab progressives can - only they can tell the suicide bombers that what they are doing is shameful to Islam and to Arabs. But we can collaborate with them to create a space in the heart of their world where decent people have a chance to fight this war - and that is what American and British soldiers have been doing in Iraq. (New York Times)
Al-Jazeera, viewed by an estimated 40 million people in the Middle East, is broadcast from Qatar, which is formally friendly to the West. That oil-rich state nominally owns AJ, which spends $120 million per year and loses $40 or $50 million. (Qatar makes up the loss with a subsidy.) The poison resides in the news dispatches, which are anti-American and anti-Israel. When there are suicide bombers wading into mosques and schools and buses, and killing men, women, and children, attempts to examine what it is that moves them to such activity are reasonably made. If the news commentary the entire Near East region receives stresses the spiritual nobility of killing in the name of Allah, something should stress the nobility of putting such advocates out of business. (National Review)
Columbia University is about to host yet another apparent anti-Semite. On Feb. 10, Columbia's Heyman Center for the Humanities will host a talk by Tom Paulin, an Irish poet infamous for telling an Arab paper that Brooklyn-born Israeli settlers "should be shot dead...they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them." Paulin also says that Israel has no right to exist and that he resigned from Britain's Labor Party because it was "Zionist." Ariel Beery, an undergrad who's been a leader on this issue, says: "Columbia would never invite a speaker who called for the killing of African-Americans or homosexuals." All this follows a deluge of evidence of intolerance in Columbia's Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. (New York Post)
Merav Ceren, a UC Irvine junior and president of Anteaters for Israel, helped hundreds of students and community members make a visual connection to one of the more unsavory aspects of Israeli life. Bus 19, a public vehicle that was attacked in a January 2004 Jerusalem suicide bombing, served as the backdrop for an on-campus "anti-terror" rally highlighted by passionate speeches from those directly affected by the attack. Eleven people were killed and more than 50 injured on the bus, which is making its Southern California stop on an extended U.S. tour. "When we say Israel must defend itself, this shows what sacrifices are made," Ceren said. The faces of 975 Israeli victims were placed next to the bus, which sits windowless but mainly intact, with a bent steel frame and rows of mangled seats. (UC Irvine Daily Pilot/Los Angeles Times)
The Holocaust restitution lawsuits, filed mostly as class actions in American courts in the latter half of the 1990s, yielded billions of dollars in settlements for Holocaust survivors and their heirs, as well as valuable historical data. This post-Holocaust restitution movement, while viewed as a success, nevertheless created troubling moral issues, such as whether the demand for financial restitution demeans the memory of the Holocaust, the fair distribution of the funds, the definition of Holocaust survivors, to what the funds should be allocated, the size of the attorney's payments, and the defense of European corporations accused of wrongful conduct by Jewish lawyers. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Not Before They Disarm - Yaakov Amidror (bitterlemons.org)
To subscribe to the Daily Alert, send a blank email message to:
To unsubscribe, send a blank email message to: