Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 25, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Cooperated with Arms-Smuggling Tunnels in Gaza - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    Recent successes by the Palestinian security services in locating and sealing 12 arms smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi route, on the Gazan-Egyptian border, have strengthened the long-standing opinion in Israel's defense establishment that the tunnels depend for their existence on the PA's tacit cooperation.
    These tunnels served as the conduit for most of the arms and ammunition used by Palestinian groups against the IDF in Gaza.
    Most of the tunnels are operated by Hamas and the popular resistance committees; a few are run by professional arms smugglers, including some who have held top posts in the PA security services in Gaza.
    The Egyptians could have posted similar successes against the tunnels on their side of the border, defense sources say, but in practice, their activity against the tunnels has been negligible.
    The Palestinians apparently stepped up their efforts against the smuggling tunnels in order to convince both Israel and the U.S. that the IDF should leave the Philadelphi route.
    Currently, the IDF is slated to remain on Philadelphi even after the disengagement from Gaza, to prevent arms smuggling.

A Strategic Switch for Hizballah? - Amir Taheri (Jerusalem Post)
    Despite the claim by Hizballah's satellite television channel, Al-Manar, that Israel was responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri in Beirut last week, a poll conducted by Al-Jazeera, the hard-line anti-American satellite TV channel, showed that 73% of Lebanese blamed Syria.
    A week after Hariri's death, a growing number of Shi'ites, especially in Hizballah, are beginning to wonder whether it is in the interests of their community to be isolated as the main pillar of support for Syria's unpopular presence.
    One prominent Shi'ite businessman noted that Hizballah has publicly rejected Teheran's demand to recognize Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Guide, as the highest authority in the Shi'ite clerical hierarchy. Instead, Hizballah, along with Amal, a smaller Shi'ite party, acknowledge Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who lives in Najaf, Iraq.
    A decade ago virtually all of Hizballah's income came from Teheran. Today, the Iranian contribution represents less than a quarter of what Hizballah spends on social, educational, and health services in Beirut and southern Lebanon.
    He says that Hizballah has "noticed changes in the region" and how Shi'ites have benefited from U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    In Afghanistan, the Hazara Shi'ites, some 15% of the population, have secured places in parliament and the council of ministers for the first time. In Iraq, the Shi'ites, some 60% of the population, have ended eight decades of exclusion from power.
    In Lebanon the Shi'ites, some 40% of the population, are allowed only a fifth of the seats in the parliament and are excluded from the positions of president of the republic and prime minister.

Bethlehem Terrorist Exile Serves Hizballah in Europe - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Salem Bawakmeh, a senior member of Fatah's Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades indicted in the Samaria Military Court on Wednesday, received funds and instructions for attacks from Jihad Jiara, a Palestinian who was exiled in the deal to lift the siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in May 2002, and who also maintains close ties with Hizballah agents in Lebanon.
    Bawakmeh was arrested last November and indicted on 10 counts of premeditated murder, illegal possession of arms, and membership in an enemy organization.
    According to the charge sheet, Bawakmeh contacted Jiara in Europe and asked him to obtain funds for operations.
    Jiara contacted a Hizballah agent in Lebanon codenamed Abu Hassan, who constantly communicated with Bawakmeh and channeled funds to him for the attacks.

PLO Plans to Reopen Beirut Office Closed Since 1982 - Mohammed Zaatari (Daily Star-Beirut)
    The PLO intends to reopen its Beirut office which has remained closed since the 1982 Israeli invasion, said a Palestinian source quoting Fatah's Central Committee chief Farouk Qaddoumi.

UN Palestinian Refugee Agency Receives Record $500 Million in 2004 (UN News Center)
    The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) received more than $502 million in 2004 - the most in its 55-year history, it announced Thursday.
    The largest donors included the European Commission ($130.4m), the U.S. ($127.4m), and European countries such as the UK ($39m), Sweden ($31.7m), Norway ($19.6m), and The Netherlands ($18m).

Christian Aid Uses Charity Funds for Anti-Israel Political Advertisements (NGO Monitor)
    On Feb. 15, the front page of The Guardian featured a prominent advertisement from Christian Aid, at an estimated cost of $7,500, to promote a political message focused on Israel's security barrier against Palestinian terror attacks.

Second Seawater Desalination Plant Deal Signed - David Rudge (Jerusalem Post)
    In an agreement signed on Thursday, a private company, Derech Hayam, will build Israel's second seawater desalination plant in the Palmahim area, which will produce 30 million cubic meters of purified water a year by 2007.
    The first plant, built at Ashkelon, will start to produce some 50 million cu.m. of pure water this summer and reach full capacity of 100 million cu.m. by the end of the year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush, Putin: Iran Should Not Have Nukes - Tom Raum
    President Bush and Russian President Putin agreed Thursday during a meeting in Slovakia on new efforts to keep nuclear arms away from terrorists as well as sovereign nations like Iran and North Korea. "We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon....We agreed to accelerate our work to protect nuclear weapons and materials both in our two nations and around the world," Bush said. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Bush, German Chancellor Call for Iran to Renounce Nuclear Ambition - Tom Raum (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune)
  • Syria Vows to Quit Lebanon But Declines to Say When - Joel Brinkley
    Syria, responding to pressure from Washington and the EU, announced Thursday that it would move its military forces throughout Lebanon to the Bekaa region near the Syrian border and, eventually, out of Lebanon altogether. "The decision to withdraw has been taken," Defense Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad told Syrian television. "What remains is the exact timing." On Thursday UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he welcomed the announcement from Damascus but urged the Syrians to withdraw by April.
        However, senior Lebanese and Syrian officials acknowledge that when the last Syrian soldier departs, Lebanon will still be largely controlled by Syria, because the military presence is only the most visible element of Syrian control. "Today the Syrian intelligence service controls everything," Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told Al Jazeera television on Thursday. (New York Times)
        See also White House: Syria Must Leave Lebanon - Barry Schweid
    The Bush administration renewed its demand Thursday that Syria withdraw all its troops from Lebanon. "This needs to happen immediately," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Tent City Rises to Pressure Syria - P. Mitchell Prothero
    In a land where civil war is endemic but political protest is almost unknown, long-feuding Muslims, Christians, and Druze are camping out just blocks from Lebanon's parliament, saying they will not leave until either Syrian troops leave their country or the government falls. A tent city has risen up near the immense crater created by the Feb. 14 blast that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Washington Times)
  • Cairo Crackdown Undermines Talk of Reform - William Wallis and Guy Dinmore
    Despite persistent prompting, Mubarak has shown little inclination to lead the Middle East on democratic reform. However, Abdel Monem Said, chairman of the state-owned Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, argues that while recent incidents may be a step backwards, they result from tensions that have also thrown up more promising developments. This month, the ruling National Democratic party agreed after a "national dialogue" with officially sanctioned opposition groups that Egypt's constitution needed to be reviewed.
        Yet Hisham Kassem, vice-president for international relations of the Tomorrow party, said the arrest of the party's leader, Ayman Nour, has reinforced the sense among pro-democracy campaigners that nothing fundamental in Egypt would change until the 76-year-old Mubarak passed on. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Form New Cabinet - Arnon Regular
    The Palestinian Legislative Council Thursday approved a new cabinet comprising 24 ministers, of whom 17 had never served as ministers. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Cabinet of Technocrats - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The new cabinet is dominated by academics and technocrats - the first time that ministers were not appointed on the basis of their loyalty to Arafat. Most are experts in the field they are to oversee, including a medical doctor, a lawyer, and several engineers. Almost half have doctoral degrees. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The PA's New Power Structure - Danny Rubinstein
    The makeup of the new government is a warning to the Fatah old guard that the rules of the game have changed. The only achievement of the old guard is keeping Nabil Sha'ath in the government, despite great hostility displayed toward him by Fatah's young guard. Sha'ath has been promoted to deputy prime minister and information minister. Abbas was also forced to give up something, so his staunch loyalist Nabil Amr, who was the designated information minister, was not included in the government. Most of the ministers served in the past as senior officials in Palestinian public institutions. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Time for Reform Has Arrived - Daoud Kuttab
    The more powerful idea was that the new government must reflect the changes in the Palestinian public which were reflected in Abbas' election. Much of the opposition to Prime Minister Qurei's initial cabinet recommendations involved an indirect attack against Qurei for his failure, over the past two years, to enact any serious reform in the running of the Palestinian government. In the end, the powerful Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council agreed that Qurei should stay for the time being while they wanted to weaken him. The time for reform in Palestine has arrived. The writer is director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. (Arab Media Network)
  • London Summit Could Turn Political - Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Sharon's associates warned Thursday that the Arab and European countries attending next week's London summit might steer it away from its objective of helping the Palestinian economy after disengagement. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hundreds of UK Muslims to Protest at London Palestine Conference
    Hundreds of UK Muslims will demonstrate outside the UK-government-sponsored Palestinian reform conference on March 1. According to the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, demonstrators will "condemn the treachery" of Palestinian chairman Abbas and will call for the unification of the Muslim world, including Palestine, via the return of the Islamic Caliphate. (IMRA)
        See also Evaluating Muslim-Jewish Relations in Britain - Ben Cohen (JCPA)
  • Palestinians Stopped at Gaza Fence, Mortar Fire on Gaza Settlements
    IDF troops wounded a Palestinian man who attempted to break through the Gaza Strip security fence at the Sufa checkpoint Friday, Israel Radio reported. Two other Palestinians who also attempted to break through the fence were detained. Also Friday, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at the Gaza settlements of Neve Dekalim and Netzarim. On Thursday, a Palestinian woman was arrested in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha after attempting to stab a resident of the town, Army Radio reported. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Belongs to the Euro-Atlantic Community - Uzi Arad
    The broader Middle East is home to the main strategic threats facing the Euro-Atlantic community, namely international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation. These threats, aimed at Israel as well, position Israel more than ever before on the Euro-Atlantic side. Indeed, there is a growing recognition of Israel's rightful place in the Euro-Atlantic Community in both Europe and the U.S. The writer is head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center. (bitterlemons-international)
        See also A Partnership with NATO? - Ze'ev Boim
    In the past Israel recoiled at the thought of partnership with a multinational body. However, at a time when there is a growing threat in view of the terrorist organizations' ability to obtain weapons of mass destruction and when Iran will soon reach the pivotal point in its effort to build a nuclear bomb; and when the Free World, under the leadership of the U.S., has marked Islamic fundamentalist world terrorism as the No. 1 enemy, Israel would do well to reexamine the possibilities latent in cooperation with a multinational body such as NATO. The writer is deputy minister of defense. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel's Atlantic Dimension - Ron Prosor
    At the end of the day Israel is gradually but inexorably headed along the path well-trodden by others, where self-reliance is consciously diluted in exchange for the very tangible strategic and economic gains of greater coordination with others and membership in regional alliances and groupings. This process is reflected in Israel's growing ties with NATO. On offer today are enhanced ties, including intelligence-sharing, military exercises, operational doctrines, logistics and support, and civil emergency response and training, fields of cooperation which offer tangible benefits in addressing threats, developing new markets for Israeli industry, and a better understanding of our allies and their militaries. NATO membership is not on the table at the moment. What we are looking at is an enhanced partnership. The writer is director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also NATO to Israel: Interview with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)
  • Security Fences - Abigail Cutler
    Israel plans to continue building a controversial 400-mile anti-terrorist barrier between itself and the West Bank. Though the International Court of Justice has ruled that the fence violates international law, it remains highly popular among Israelis - attacks have declined by as much as 90% in certain areas since construction began two years ago. Today the West Bank barrier is just one of many partitions around the world aimed at repelling invaders. Other notable security barriers include:
        North Korea/South Korea - this 151-mile-long demilitarized zone has separated the two Koreas since 1953 and is the most heavily fortified border in the world; Cyprus - a 112-mile-long construction of concrete, barbed wire, watchtowers, minefields, and ditches has separated the island's Turks from its Greeks since 1974; Morocco-Western Sahara - ten-foot-high sand and stone barriers, some mined, built in the 1980s, run for at least 1,500 miles to keep West Saharan guerrillas out of Morocco; India/Pakistan - India has so far installed more than 700 miles of fencing, much of which is electrified, and it will eventually run the entire 1,800-mile border with Pakistan; Saudi Arabia/Yemen - in 2003 Saudi Arabia began building a ten-foot-high barrier along its border with Yemen to prevent terrorist infiltration. (Atlantic Monthly)
  • Toss Bashar Assad Out of Both Lebanon and Syria - Danielle Pletka
    If Syria is responsible for the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri - as many observers believe - it is only the most recent in a long line of that country's transgressions. And it must not go unanswered. It marks a moment when much of the world is united against the regime of Bashar Assad, Syria's tyrannical dictator. It is clear that quashing Assad in Lebanon would strike a blow for liberty there. As important, it could strike a blow for a free Syria, and wider liberty in the Arab world. The writer is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Los Angeles Times)
  • A Cold War Approach to Beating Radical Islamists - Julian E. Barnes
    Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, explains why the radical Islamist insurgents must be confronted. "What we can't allow to happen is guys like Abu Musab Zarqawi to get started," Abizaid said. "It's the same way that we turned our back when Hitler was getting going and Lenin was getting going. You just cannot turn your back on these types of people. You have to stand up and fight." America has a chance to confront and stop an Islamic extremist movement akin to fascism or communism in its early stages, the general believes, before it metastasizes and dominates a significant chunk of the world. (US News)
  • Security, Reform, and Peace: The Three Pillars of U.S. Strategy in the Middle East
    The Bush administration's most pressing Middle East priorities for 2005 are:
    - speeding the training and fielding of new Iraqi security forces while building the structure of a free and representative Iraqi government,
    - coordinating strategy on Iran's nuclear program with key European and Security Council powers,
    - developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to fight the ideological war against Islamist extremism,
    - injecting presidential leadership into calls for political reform, and
    - investing in Palestinian political and security change and a peaceful and orderly Israeli disengagement from Gaza. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • All About the Alawites - Lee Smith
    "The presence of U.S. forces in the region and the pressure brought to bear on the Syrian regime has begun to create a new political climate," says Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian writer and rights activist. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad seems to understand this, which is why he is fighting back. Like Iraq's former Sunni-dominated regime, Syria's ruling cadre is made up of a minority, the Alawites, adherents of a variation of Shia Islam. The idea that Syria's Sunnis might soon put two and two together terrifies the Alawite regime. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Bear Is Back: Russia's Middle Eastern Adventures - Ilan Berman
    Under the guidance of President Putin, the Kremlin is reviving efforts to reestablish a regional role in the Middle East at the expense of American strategy. In January, Syrian President al-Assad embarked upon a diplomatic visit to Moscow designed to upgrade the historic strategic ties between the two countries, where the Kremlin agreed to write off almost three-quarters of Syria's $13.4 billion Cold War-era debt. On the heels of Assad's visit, the Kremlin played host to new Palestinian chairman Abbas, who asked that Russia increase its involvement in the mediation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (National Review)
  • Jews Against Israel - Manfred Gerstenfeld
    Anti-Semitic attacks on Israel by Israelis and Jews are frequently indistinguishable from those by non-Jews. Among the specific aspects in the anti-Israel writings of some Jews are the use of their family's Holocaust experiences, their references to being Jewish, or an association of some kind with Israel. Assaults on Israel and Jews by non-Jews often use statements from Israeli or diaspora Jewish defamers as a legitimization. In order to fight verbal attacks against Israel by Israelis and diaspora Jews more effectively, a much better understanding of their background, motives, and methods is required. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    Weekend Features:

  • On His Prime Minister's Secret Service - Asaf Carmel
    For ten years Druze MK Majali Wahabi (Likud) has been acting as Sharon's personal foreign minister. In the past year alone he met with the chairman of an important Saudi advisory council, with the leader of the United Arab Emirates, and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Wahabi, 51, who as a Lt. Col. in the IDF was a senior officer at Northern Command headquarters, also served as director general of the Ministry for Regional Cooperation.
        "I do not deny my Arabness," Wahabi asserted. "But you have to distinguish between Arabness and Arab nationalism." "I am not a citizen on condition, or a Knesset member on condition. I believe that I have to see to the interests of my country before all else." When the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikva," is played, "I stand at attention, but do not sing. That is the anthem my country chose and I have no problem with it or with the flag. The idea of a Jewish state does not bother me, because the Jewish people has a right to this land. At the same time, I am meant to be an equal partner under the Declaration of Independence, and I am fighting to ensure that no one abridges my rights."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Krav Maga Teaches Practical Self-Defense
    Krav Maga, a self-defense system first developed to train Israeli soldiers, is now making its way into fitness centers and martial arts studios across the U.S. Krav Maga, Hebrew for "contact combat," is the creation of Imi Lichtenfeld, who taught self-defense to the new Israeli army at the time of Israel's War of Independence. "He needed to teach something that was simple, easy to use, and easy to remember under great stress," said John Whitman, president of the Los Angeles-based Krav Maga Worldwide. "They were pulling everyone into the Israeli army, so the self-defense system had to work for people of different abilities and backgrounds without a lot of time to train."
        Lichtenfeld, who died in 1998, brought Krav Maga to the U.S. about 20 years ago. Krav Maga instructors now train more than 300 federal, state, and local law enforcement departments, Whitman said. (AP/USA Today)
  • Gush Katif's Hi-Tech Vegetables - Yehekzel Laing
    In the sand dunes of Gaza, surrounded by thousands of hostile Arabs, a small business empire has blossomed. Last year the Alei Katif company, located in the besieged settlement of Kfar Darom, pulled in close to NIS 100 million, and expects to grow by a robust 20% in the coming year by producing and selling the world's first guaranteed bug-free vegetables. "We hermetically sealed some greenhouses with nylon sheeting and grew lettuce. On our first attempt, lo and behold, we got a clean crop," explained company CEO Eliezer Barat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Next Year in Jerusalem - Editorial
    Due to both the dramatic developments toward peace in the region and the decreasing violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the University of Wisconsin has decided to reinstate the Israel program - a move we applaud heartily. Provided the security situation does not worsen, Israel would be a fine choice for anyone seeking to understand the heritage of all its people and the ideas they inspired, and we are proud UW students will once again have the option to study in this historic land. (University of Wisconsin Badger Herald)
        See also Study Abroad in Israel Reinstated (Georgetown [University] Voice)
  • Observations:

    Israel Draws the Line - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

    • Last Sunday Israel's Cabinet decided to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle 25 settlements - 21 in Gaza and four in the upper West Bank. Yet, had Israel done only this, it would be seen, correctly, as a victory for terrorism, a unilateral retreat and surrender to the four-year intifada. That is why the second Israeli decision was so important. The Cabinet also voted to finish the security fence on the West Bank.
    • The idea is that Israel must (unilaterally, if necessary) rationalize its defensive lines - in order to (1) protect its citizens, (2) permanently defuse the Palestinian terrorist threat, and thus (3) open the door to a final peace. The Palestinians will in time be forced to the collective conclusion that the world has been awaiting for 57 years - that they cannot drive the Jews into the sea and must therefore negotiate a compromise for a permanent peace.
    • That day may not come immediately. The beauty of the withdrawal and fence plan is that, in the interim, it creates a stable status quo with a minimal level of violence. In that interim, Israel can live in peace, and the Palestinians can develop the institutions of their state and begin to contemplate a final end to the conflict.

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