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
Terrorists Step Up Arms Smuggling Efforts from Egypt (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Center for Special Studies)
See also IDF Confiscates 5,000 Bullets Slated for Gaza
- Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
The al-Qaeda Plot to Poison Britain -
Stewart Tendler and Sean O'Neill (Times-UK)
Israel to Import Natural Gas from Egypt (Reuters/Houston Chronicle)
Iran Decries Anti-Semitic TV (Reuters/Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
Stock Exchange Thrives in Nablus - Joshua Mitnick (Washington Times)
Palestinian Girl Hides Gun in Undies - Efrat Weiss (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
Sharon, Sharansky in TIME's Top 100 Influentials (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
Israel Stars on European Top 100 Innovation List -
Oded Hermoni (Ha'aretz/Globes)
Manchester (NH) Mayor Finds Inspiration in Jerusalem - Paul Shindman (New Hampshire Union Leader)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Bush administration announced Thursday that James Wolfensohn, the retiring president of the World Bank, will become a special coordinator to help the PA run Gaza once the Israelis start leaving this summer. The appointment of Wolfensohn, who has mobilized financial aid and worked with Israeli and Palestinian leaders for a decade at the World Bank, was made with the support of the EU, the UN, and Russia. Secretary of State Rice said that Wolfensohn would focus on coordinating "nonmilitary aspects" of the withdrawal, including economic reconstruction and the transfer of Israeli housing, public buildings, greenhouses, and other property to Palestinian control. (New York Times)
As a teen, Munir Aqra'a earned Israel's attention by throwing Molotov cocktails, was arrested, and spent five years in an Israeli prison. By age 25, he says, during a second Palestinian uprising, he helped organize attacks that killed four Israeli soldiers and five Jewish settlers. After four years in hiding in the main Palestinian government compound, Aqra'a is still wanted by the Israelis. But this week he signed a one-page pledge to put down his weapons and not engage in attacks against Israel. In exchange, he received a job with the Palestinian security forces and a tentative pledge from Israel that he will no longer be targeted for arrest.
Aqra'a, who is now paid $350 per month, said he would never arrest, let alone shoot, a member of his militant group. Mahmoud Halabi, 26, another former militant who signed the nonviolence pledge, disagreed. "To maintain law and order, I would arrest anyone," said Halabi, who is wanted by Israel for planning a suicide bombing and attacks on Jewish settlers. Since signing the pledge, the two former militants say they have not been asked to perform any duties. Both suspect that because of their militant pasts, they will be paid to stay out of trouble. "The PA doesn't want us to do anything," Aqra'a said. (Baltimore Sun)
Insurgent attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which numbered more than 100 a week in mid-November, have declined by almost half, according to the military. Indirect attacks - generally involving mortars or rockets - on U.S. bases fell from more than 200 a month in December to fewer than 10 in March. Attacks also have declined precipitously in other parts of Iraq, creating a growing belief among U.S. commanders that the insurgency is losing potency.
The military attributes the decline to a grinding counterinsurgency operation - now in its 20th month, as well as Iraqis' increased willingness to provide information about insurgents and the growing presence of the new Iraqi security forces throughout the country. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Sharon's office denied Friday a Yediot Ahronot report that he was planning a new disengagement in the West Bank after the one from Gaza concludes. A statement from the Prime Minister' s Office on Friday stated, "The Prime Minister's position was, and remains, that following the successful implementation of the disengagement plan there will be no diplomatic moves except in the context of the road map, if and when the conditions for beginning its implementation are fulfilled." (Jerusalem Post)
An armed Palestinian terrorist who lives in Syria crossed the border with Israel in the central Golan Heights and opened fire on an IDF outpost. Israeli forces quickly caught the gunman. Military sources identified the terrorist as a 21-year-old member of Fatah and said he planned to abduct an Israeli soldier and take him back to Syria. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
Tanzim operative Ibrahim Hashash, who was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Jerusalem in the next few days, was killed Wednesday in Balata near Nablus during an arrest attempt by Israeli security forces. Hashash, 23, attempted to shoot at the forces, who returned fire. Hashash is responsible for several shooting attacks at Israeli civilians and for a number of attempts to carry out suicide attacks in Israel. His activities were directed by Hizballah in Lebanon. (Israel Defense Forces)
Senior Fatah officials, including PA Chairman Abbas, are very concerned about the possibility of a solid defeat at the hands of Hamas in elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council that are scheduled for mid-July, and are seriously considering a move to delay the voting, according to intelligence sources. Public opinion polls in the territories indicate a rise in Hamas's popularity, coupled with doubts as to the PA's ability to make good on its promises to improve conditions and notch up achievements in talks with Israel. (Ha'aretz)
See also below Observations - Undermining Mahmud Abbas: The "Green Revolution" and the Hamas Strategy to Take Over the Palestinian Authority - Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
PA Chairman Abbas on Thursday decided to place all security forces under the jurisdiction of three bodies - the Interior Ministry, the National Security Forces, and the General Intelligence. He also ordered the dozen or so security forces to provide detailed lists of all their members and banned their commanders from holding contacts with foreign countries. This week, at least 80 gunmen belonging to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades were recruited to different branches of the security forces, although they were not required to give up their weapons. (Jerusalem Post)
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said on Thursday that the deal to station 750 Egyptian border police on the Sinai border with Gaza was only the first part of a plan that would add some 4,000 more border policemen along the rest of the border down to Eilat. Steinitz said the 750 border police would constitute a "Trojan horse," and would never be removed. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said this week that Israel would condition the stationing of the border police force on Egypt working throughout the Sinai against weapons smuggling and not just along the border zone. He also indicated that Israel would approve the entry of some armored vehicles into the zone opposite Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
After meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Blair House in Washington on Wednesday, James S. Tisch, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents noted, "As Prime Minister Sharon said, the special relationship between the United States and Israel has never been better. The Prime Minister has a clear vision and direction to pursue in the interest of security for Israel and peace for the region. The future of the road map clearly depends on the actions taken by the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen to rein in terror and move toward stability and law and order. The road map remains the most viable plan, but cannot be entered until Palestinian commitments are met." (Conference of Presidents, 13Apr05)
Immediately after his discussions with Bush, I asked Sharon why he doesn't explicitly define the settlement blocs and ask the Knesset to apply Israeli sovereignty to them. "I haven't seen any Israeli government apply Israeli law to the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria; it isn't a good idea. Why seek friction with the entire world? The settlement blocs will be in our hands and territorial continuity will be maintained between them and Israel," Sharon declared.
Sharon emphasized that the road map would commence only after the Palestinians fulfill - in every detail - their commitment to combat terrorism. In this, he and Bush were in complete agreement. Sharon doesn't want to quarrel with Bush, nor does Bush want to quarrel with Sharon. The Israeli leader knows that the struggle for Israel's borders will continue for many years to come. (Jerusalem Post)
Jewish settlements can be criticized on political grounds, but not legal ones. The official American position has always been that while they may be a political hurdle to a peace agreement, they are not illegal. The Jewish settlement activity that has occurred since 1967 has been in lands that were captured in a defensive war. The settlers who moved into these areas did so voluntarily, not involuntarily, and it is involuntary population transfers which are prohibited in the Geneva Accords. In the Jerusalem area, some Jews purchased their property directly from Arabs. The same journalists who point out the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza never mention that Arabs and other non-Jews are now well over a million in number and comprise over 20% of the population of pre-1967 Israel.
Dennis Ross, in his exhaustive study of the Oslo peace process, has made clear that while settlement building did not make things easier for him from a diplomatic perspective, Israel did not violate any of the Oslo agreements by expanding some settlements during these years. (The American Thinker/RealClearPolitics)
See also "Showdown" at the Crawford Corral? The Media Manufacture a Controversy (HonestReporting.com)
Most Arabs regard the distress of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a subject that requires an exclusively Israeli solution. Yet if the wealthy Arab countries wanted to solve many of the hardships of the Gaza Strip, as well as other hardships of their Palestinian "brothers," they could easily do so. The latest increase in oil prices added more than $50 billion to their bank accounts. However, the Arab countries are not even keeping their minimal promises to assist the PA and want other countries - Japan, the U.S., and countries in Europe - to increase their contributions. Apparently, those who claim there are Arab rulers who are interested in having the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continue, in order to divert the attention of the masses in their countries from their severe distress, are correct. (Ha'aretz)
Arafat's death last November changed nearly every aspect of Palestinian life for the better. Democracy has become part of the Palestinian agenda as a new leadership with a cabinet full of fresh faces has legitimately taken power. Money granted by the international community for Palestinian development projects will, it is hoped, for the first time in many years, go toward its intended purpose.
To create confidence, we need to hear the Palestinian leadership condemn terror attacks for their moral profanity rather than for their detrimental effect on Palestinian self-determination. Let there be no illusion of what is required to end this conflict: The PA must take a comprehensive stand against terrorism by dismantling terrorist organizations and their infrastructures. This is the first requirement of the very road map that the Palestinians agreed to implement. The writer is consul general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest region. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Dozens of cases of Columbia University faculty misbehavior including biased teaching, intimidation of pro-Israeli students, and inadequate grievance procedures were exposed in the documentary "Columbia Unbecoming." The university's administration appointed a faculty committee, compromised by personal and professional relationships with the accused professors, then instructed it to deal only with some of the problems. The, only partly published, committee report shows that Columbia's administration has developed a detailed methodology for ignoring unpleasant facts. This raises many questions as to universities' capability, and Columbia's in particular, to reform themselves. (Anti-Semitism and Discrimination: Case Analyses/JCPA)
Democracy is clearly popular in the Middle East, even if Arab public opinion dislikes America's role in promoting it. One myth about democracy in the Middle East is the belief that a democratic regime would be stable and automatically friendly to U.S. interests. But democratization cannot work without political legitimacy and this legitimacy in the Middle East is rooted first in nationalism and second in Islamic beliefs. The democratization process should take into account what it was supposed to replace: nationalism and Islam as political tools. Palestinian democrats are no less nationalist than their more militant counterparts, and constitutionalist Iraqi Shia clerics are still calling for Islamic sharia principles in their country's laws. The writer is a professor at Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. (Financial Times-UK)
Few doubt that the status quo in the Arab world is unsustainable. It is increasingly obvious that the false populism and religious fanaticism of Islamic extremism offer no political, economic, or social model capable of satisfying the real world requirements of a growing Arab world. Sustained economic reforms are needed to expand opportunity and allow the people to satisfy legitimate aspirations for meaningful jobs and for the self-confidence that is gained through the exercise of personal freedoms. Augusto Lopez-Claros is chief economist and director of the Global Competitiveness Program at the World Economic Forum. Danielle Pletka is vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. (International Herald Tribune)
A small group of Israeli archaeologists and volunteers sifting through piles of rubble discarded by Islamic Wakf officials from the Temple Mount into a Jerusalem garbage dump have recently uncovered a series of history-rich artifacts dating back to the First and Second Temple periods. The privately-funded project is directed by Bar-Ilan University archeology professor Dr. Gabriel Barkay. In November, 68 truckloads of rubble saturated with archaeological finds were transferred from the garbage dump to the Emek Zurim National Park, on the western slopes of Mount Scopus.
Over the last five months, researchers have uncovered a large amount of pottery dating from the Bronze Ages through modern times, a one meter tall segment of a marble pillar's shaft, and over 100 ancient coins, among them several from the Hasmonean dynasty. One coin was from the period of the First Revolt against the Romans that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple, and bore the phrase "For the Freedom of Zion." (Jerusalem Post)
A Russian immigrant turned Israeli policeman has won Israel's second-highest military honor. Known only by his initial, Y., the commander of the border police undercover reconnaissance unit was awarded the Ribbon of Valor on Tuesday for a string of deadly counterterrorist missions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The unit usually seeks out recruits among Sephardi Jews who can pass for Palestinians, and might seem an odd home for Y., the piano-playing son of Muscovite academics who immigrated to Israel when he was 16. But he now has two dozen confirmed "kills" of terrorist fugitives to his name.
According to comrades, Y. is first to volunteer for the most dangerous missions in the grim alleyways of the refugee camps favored as hideouts by Palestinian gunmen. In one case cited by the Military Honors Commission, Y. and a comrade accepted a mission in the Tulkarm refugee camp and designed a motorized vehicle that could handle the camp's confined spaces. Once inside, Y. and his comrade found their target. When he resisted arrest, they shot him dead, waking up all the other gunmen in the camp. Y. used the commotion to his benefit, driving out at full speed and shouting "Army! Army!" in Arabic. The Palestinians thought the two were gunmen on the run from Israeli special forces and let them escape. (JTA)
After the success of Silicon Valley in the 1990s, few countries have managed to repeat the mix of education, innovation, and investment to create new wealth, and Israel is one of them, a new book argues. A country of just 6.8 million people, Israel has created billions of euros of wealth through new products and services, said Douglas Davis, who with his wife Helen wrote Israel in the World: Changing Lives Through Innovation.
Israeli researchers in recent years have developed instant messaging on the Internet, wireless computing chips for Intel, miniature video camera capsules to examine internal organs, filters and tubes for veins to prevent heart attacks and strokes, security software, and new cancer treatments. High-tech exports from Israel amounted to $26 billion in 2000, 57% of total exports, up from 23% in the early 1990s. Risk capital available to new companies is the highest in the world, with a whopping 5% of gross domestic product devoted to research and development. (Reuters)
The outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians more than four years ago has accelerated emigration by Palestinian Christians that began years earlier. Researchers and officials say 3,000 Christians have left the Bethlehem area since 2000, heading for the U.S., Australia, and Latin America. Over the past decade, the Palestinian Christian population in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza has declined about 10%, leaving about 45,000 remaining, said Bernard Sabella, a Bethlehem University sociologist. (Los Angeles Times)
Undermining Mahmud Abbas: The "Green Revolution" and the Hamas Strategy to Take Over the Palestinian Authority - Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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