Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 4, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Arab Media Coverage of Pope's Death Infuriates Islamists (AFP/Yahoo)
    The Arab world's leading satellite television channels have been giving unprecedented coverage of the death throes of Pope John Paul II, provoking anger from Islamic extremists.
    Radical Islamists, who advocate the expulsion of non-Muslims from Islamic countries, have been using Islamist websites to vent their anger at Arab television stations for according the pope such importance.

Jericho and Tulkarm Become "Cities of Refuge" for Palestinian Terrorists - Amir Buchbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
    According to a senior Israel Defense Forces officer, "the transfer of security control in Jericho and Tulkarm has not led to the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure."
    "The cities became 'cities of refuge' for terrorists who do whatever they want," he said.
    "The way things look, we're not moving in the direction of transferring security control of Kalkilya until the Palestinians show us proof of changes in the field, dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, unifying the security forces, and collecting weapons."
    According to the officer, the reason for the reduction in attacks in recent days is not due to PA efforts but rather to a strategic decision by the terrorist organizations to temporarily cease their actions against Israel.
    "They are focused totally on regaining strength," he said.
    "When we tell the Palestinians about warnings of impending attacks by terrorist organizations, instead of dealing with it, they run to tell the terrorists that the IDF is looking for them....The great fear is that this will blow up in our faces."
    According to the officer, last week there were eight attempts to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza and in only two cases were the smugglers caught.

PA Seeks Control of Evacuated Gaza Land - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Col. Jamal Kayed, commander of the National Security Forces in the southern Gaza Strip, said Sunday that he and his men have been instructed by the PA leadership to start preparing for the day after the Israeli withdrawal.
    Their main task would be to seize control of the area evacuated and prevent any attempt by senior officials, local clans, and armed groups to lay their hands on the land.
    He called on Palestinians living close to the settlements to stay away from the area.
    "The land surrounding the settlements belongs to the Palestinian people and only the political leadership can decide its fate," he said.
    See also PA Security Officers Push for Control of Gaza Land - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The PA was forced on Sunday to close its Land Authority offices in Gaza City indefinitely because of recurring attacks by Palestinian security officials.
    Land Authority officials said they had been subjected to a campaign of intimidation and blackmail by senior PA security officers who are trying to take control over land in the Gaza Strip.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Shakes Up Security
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered hundreds of senior security officers to retire in a bid to reform his forces and halt violence, an official said. The PA has 45,000 to 50,000 security officers on its payroll. "I want to distinguish between nationalists and criminals," Abbas said on Palestinian television. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Abbas Declares West Bank State of Alert Amid Chaos
    Abbas on Saturday placed West Bank security services on a "state of alert," deploying troops across the territory in a bid to curb rampant security chaos. Security forces began moving into the main West Bank cities, despite the fact that Israel has only transferred security responsibility to Palestinian forces in Jericho and Tulkarm. Abbas also ordered all branches of the sprawling Palestinian security services to be immediately relocated outside his Ramallah headquarters. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also The Honeymoon is Truly Over for Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Haj Ismail Jaber, commander of the National Security Forces in the West Bank and a longtime Arafat ally, was sacked after he refused to carry out Abbas's order to arrest the Fatah gunmen who rioted in Ramallah last week, shooting at the Mukata compound and damaging several restaurants and shops. Most of the gunmen are wanted by Israel, and Jaber was not prepared to be seen as doing Israel's dirty work. The attackers were led by Jaber Barghouti, of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, who is regarded as the de facto commander of Ramallah. Abbas has been trying to persuade them to surrender their weapons and join the security forces, but only a few have agreed to do so. Most had actually been serving in the security forces before they joined the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
        Now Abbas is planning a major shake-up in his security forces - a move many Palestinians believe will only add to his woes as the security chiefs create trouble for Abbas once they are removed from their jobs. The Palestinian public is clearly growing impatient with his failure to bring about real change. "Abbas's 100 days of grace are over," said a prominent Ramallah businessman. "If he can't deliver, he should pack his bags and leave." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Offers Cash for Bombs to Break Palestinian Truce - Marie Colvin
    Palestinian fighters have revealed that Hizballah, the militant Lebanese group backed by Iran, is offering to pay for attacks aimed at shattering the fragile truce with Israel. The men, all on Israel's most wanted list and members of the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades near Nablus, said they had received payments of up to $9,000 from Hizballah for attacks against Israel during the past four years. They said most of the money from Hizballah had been sent to Islamic Jihad. "They just use Western Union," said Ala'a Sanakreh, 27, the leader of the group. According to Sanakreh, those who had since been offered money by Hizballah had turned it down. Their leaders had made it clear that Mahmoud Abbas should be given a chance to negotiate with the Israelis. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • Syrians Promise to Quit Lebanon by Month's End - Dexter Filkins
    Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN envoy to Lebanon, said Sunday that Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa had assured him that "all Syrian troops, military assets, and the intelligence apparatus will have been withdrawn fully and completely" by April 30. (New York Times)
  • Bomb Blast Hits Christian Village in Lebanon - Laila Bassam
    A bomb ripped through a shopping center in a Christian village east of Beirut on Friday, causing an unknown number of casualties. The explosion rocked Rizk Plaza in the summer resort village of Broummana in the fourth bomb attack in a Christian area in two weeks. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel and Jewish World Mourn Pope - Doron Sheffer and Attila Somfalvi
    Israeli religious and political leaders praised Pope John Paul II on Sunday as a principled leader whose leadership helped bring Jews and Catholics together and recalled his visit to the Jewish state in 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he had once met with the pope, who told him that "the Land of Israel is holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims but was promised only to the Jews." Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said, "With the exception of John XXIII, there has never been as pro-Jewish a pope as John Paul II." (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Sharon Pays Tribute to Pope John Paul II as "Friend of the Jewish People" (Ha'aretz)
        See also Survivor Mourns Childhood Friend
    "We studied together in the first grade in Wadowice in Poland. Me (Joseph Binensztok) and Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II....I am sad for the death of the pope who had respect and sympathy for the Jewish people."  (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also What Can Israel Expect After John Paul II? - Dalia Shehori (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Projectile Hits Palestinian Barracks
    Palestinian militants in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya fired either a mortar shell or a Kassam rocket Saturday which hit a barracks housing Palestinian security officers, Israel Radio reported. (Ha'aretz)
  • Russians Call for Ban on Jewish Groups - Ronen Bodoni
    Some 5,000 Christian Orthodox activists in Russia have petitioned the State Prosecutor's Office to outlaw Jewish organizations in the country. Israeli Foreign Ministry official Nimrod Barkan said, "The situation in Russia is the best it has been in recent years as far as anti-Semitism is concerned, but it is still worrying." "What is particularly troubling is that the Russian authorities are not doing all they can to launch a vigorous campaign against anti-Semitic activity." In 2004 some 155 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Russia, compared to 83 in 2003. "There are only 300,000 Jews in Russia...but they hold a mythical role in the Russian perception," said Barkan. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Columbia's Blind Spot - Editorial
    The stacked deck produced a whitewash. That's the take many observers have of things at Columbia University, where last week a panel of Israel-phobic academics found "no evidence" that professors in the Middle Eastern studies department made anti-Semitic remarks meant to bully Jewish students. Of the five panelists, two signed a petition demanding that Columbia divest from Israel. One member is a dean who recruited some of the professors accused of hectoring Jewish students. Another panelist has in the past ignored complaints from these students. The fifth, history Prof. Mark Mazower, merits special mention for having likened Israel's occupation of the West Bank to the Nazis' World War II occupation of Eastern Europe. How's that for a fair and balanced panel? (New York Daily News)
  • The Bin Laden-Iraq Connection - Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
    Hardly anyone was more surprised by Iraq's insurgency than Osama bin Laden. The terrorist chief had never foreseen its sudden, ferocious spread, and he was likewise unprepared for the abrupt rise of its most homicidal commander, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Bin Laden and his aides knew the Jordanian-born Palestinian from Zarqawi's Afghan days, but mostly as a short-tempered bully and a troublemaker. In late summer 2003, unwilling to sit on the sidelines, bin Laden sent two of his most trusted men to assess the Iraqi resistance and carve out a leading role for al-Qaeda.
        Donations to al-Qaeda's coffers had dried up as bin Laden's top men were killed or captured. Now private money is once again flooding in. Bin Laden himself is looking more confident and relaxed. At present, the Qaeda leader seems to be doing just fine where he is in the mountains along Pakistan's border. (Newsweek)
  • Observations:

    Hamas is the Big Winner These Days - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)

    • Why doesn't Abu Mazen carry out security reforms immediately? The retirement (including dismissal) of hundreds of people, and the appointment of young officers, are all personal issues that are hard to act on. Most of the veteran commanders have been in the same positions for years and there are many with a great deal of power.
    • In addition, almost all the officers are connected to the Fatah movement and having party backing makes it very difficult to remove them from their jobs. It is not certain that Abu Mazen will be able to carry out the reform without arousing the anger of large circles of people.
    • The Fatah movement is becoming very weak. The general public is feeling disdain toward its leaders. In a variety of ways, they have repeatedly been accusing them, saying: We are tired of your corruption.
    • The quarrels and the rifts in Fatah, the Palestinian ruling party, are steadily increasing, to the point where sometimes it seems that the senior members of Fatah have decided to commit political suicide in the elections to the legislative council three months from now. The beneficiary from this is Hamas, whose style has become more confident and more vigorous.
    • Last week, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said that soon the so-called Third PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) will be established. The First PLO was established by Egypt and Ahmed Shukeiri, and was active during 1964-1968. The Second PLO belonged to Fatah and Arafat, operating from 1968 until the present. Now we are about to see the establishment of the Third PLO which, in Mashal's words, is "a PLO where there will no longer be a Fatah movement monopoly."
    • A political revolution is beginning in Palestinian society and government. How will relations between Israel and the Palestinians look if and when the leaders of Hamas assume key positions in the PLO and the PA?

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