Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Peace Canal Deal for Thirsty Middle East - Conal Urquhart (Guardian-UK)
Israel Campus Beat
- May 8, 2005
The Democracy Dilemma in the Middle East: Are Islamists the Answer?
Fatah Militants Shut Gaza Election Offices - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Sharansky to Join Shalem Center - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
Maccabi Tel Aviv Wins Euroleague Basketball Title - Again (Euroleague.net)
A Lens on Dialogue - Liel Leibovitz (New York Jewish Week)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Defeated in a battle against Syrian control of his country 15 years ago and sent into exile, Gen. Michel Aoun, 69, returned Saturday to a rousing welcome from thousands of supporters in a homeland recently freed of Syrian troops. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Aoun's Return Boosts Opposition - David Rudge
The return to Lebanon on Saturday of former Lebanese Army commander Gen. Michel Aoun is a symbol of hope for those Lebanese seeking a democratic, independent, and sovereign state, according to analyst Moshe Marzouk. The man who led a "war of liberation" against Syria in 1989-90 and had to take refuge in the French Embassy in Beirut after the bombing of his palace by Syrian Air Force planes seems to have his sights set on the presidency. Marzouk stressed that Syria, which has reportedly left its intelligence network and security apparatus intact in Lebanon, would do its utmost through these agencies and its Lebanese proxies to undermine all the efforts of Aoun and the opposition forces. (Jerusalem Post)
The Hizballah guerrilla group said on Saturday it expected to discuss demands to disarm after Lebanon's elections in May and June. "I expect that soon after the election there will be an internal discussion about the weapons...calmly inside closed rooms," said Hizballah's deputy chief Sheikh Naim Kassem. "We will say no to recognizing Israel even if all the others did," he said. "So we in Hizballah believe that keeping our weapons is a necessity now and in the future."
Some opposition leaders have said they want Hizballah, backed by Syria and Iran, to give up its weapons in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday that Resolution 1559 did not apply to Hizballah, but added that the group will be disarmed "in the context of a Lebanese framework." (Reuters)
The Saudi royal family and its National Guard is being sued for alleged negligence and inept security by the victims of an al-Qaeda suicide bombing which killed 35 people and injured 200 at a housing compound in Riyadh in May 2003. The victims, former military trainers of the Vinnell Corporation, will claim this week in U.S. District Court in Washington that the terrorist bombing was unchallenged because of non-existent security measures by the Saudis, despite repeated and detailed warnings by Robert Jordan, then U.S. ambassador in Riyadh, that Islamic militants were planning an attack.
They allege the compound was not monitored by security cameras; the National Guard officers were unarmed; clear signals of an attack were ignored; security was not upgraded after the warnings; and security assessments were never conducted. The lawsuit comes after revelations last year that the al-Qaeda terrorists were secretly assisted by members of the Saudi National Guard before the bombing. (Independent-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Sharon told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday that Israel will not release any more Palestinian prisoners until the PA "fulfills its commitment to crack down on the terror organizations." Sharon asked Justice Minister Livni to make clear to the PA representatives on the joint PA-Israel prisoners committee that "we do not intend to live under fire." (Ha'aretz)
In PA local elections held last Thursday, Hamas scored unprecedented victories and now controls at least 48 local authorities in the territories. Fatah said it had won 55% of the seats in the local councils, but they are concentrated in small, unimportant authorities, while Hamas gained significant victories in most of the larger towns in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Fatah candidates won decisive victories in 38 authorities with a total population of 230,000. Hamas won in 30 authorities whose total population exceeds 600,000. (Ha'aretz)
Hamas won all 15 seats on the Kalkilya municipal council in the West Bank. In Bethlehem, Hamas won five out of seven seats allocated for Muslims. (Eight seats are allocated for Christians to ensure that a Christian is elected as mayor.) In Rafah in Gaza, Hamas candidates won 13 of the 15 council seats. Hundreds of Fatah gunmen took to the streets in al-Bureij to protest against the results and vowed to prevent Hamas by force from taking over the municipality. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hamas Emerges as Political Force - Khaled Abu Toameh
Analysts in Ramallah concluded that while Fatah had moved one step forward, Hamas had made three steps in the same direction, winning in traditional Fatah strongholds in Gaza such as Rafah, al-Buriej, and Beit Lahiya. Altogether, Hamas won 65-70% of the votes in seven areas in the Gaza Strip. A Fatah leader said, "The Gaza Strip will be controlled by Hamas and Islamic Jihad after the Israelis leave." (Jerusalem Post)
See also The Bitter Taste of the Hamas Victory - Danny Rubinstein
Barring any change in Palestinian public opinion in the coming weeks, the evacuation of Israel from Gaza will leave control over the Strip in the hands of Hamas. The Hamas victory in the municipal elections in Gaza was impressive. Hamas is perceived in Gaza as being on the verge of receiving the Gaza Strip, without anything given to the retreating Israelis in return.
Hamas does not recognize the State of Israel and supports the continuation of the armed struggle. Hamas publications continue to refer to Israel as the "Zionist entity" and to the "occupied territories of 1948." Palestine in its entirety is defined as belonging to the Waqf (Muslim religious trust). (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The University of Haifa - a model Jewish-Arab institution - was declared untouchable by the British Association of University Teachers over the case of Dr. Ilan Pappe, an anti-Zionist scholar of great political energies who has been calling for a boycott of his own university, for several years. Pappe is the unofficial mentor of graduate student Teddy Katz, whose Master's thesis claimed to document a massacre of 200 unarmed civilians by the Haganah (the pre-state army of Israel) at a village called Tantura, near Haifa. When veterans of the Israeli army force that attacked Tantura sued Katz for libel, an Israeli district court ruled that the empirical evidence was grossly manipulated in the course of transliterating the tapes. Katz had put words in the mouths of his interviewees that were never uttered, and he agreed to apologize to the veterans. All this seems to have escaped the fact-finding capabilities of our British colleagues. The writer is senior lecturer in the School of History and the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa. (Wall Street Journal)
The most hotly debated proposal in Iranian opposition circles today is the referendum on the 1979 constitution that enshrined the concept of government by the clerics based on Muslim law. The organizers have obtained 35,000 signatures to date from social democrats, monarchists, leftists, and disillusioned supporters of the regime. Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, now effectively living under house arrest in Qom, has endorsed the referendum.
It is worth recalling how much the U.S. government and trade union movement (as well as some Western Europeans) aided the rise of Solidarity in Poland. President Bush's endorsement of the referendum proposal would be the Persian equivalent of Ronald Reagan's call in Berlin to Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear this wall down." And the price would be smaller than if Tehran got the bomb or America invaded. (Times-UK)
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to support Egypt's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and insisted that his country sell advanced missiles to Syria, while continuing to aid the nuclear development of Iran, particularly the Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt, Bushehr nuclear reactor. PA Chairman Abbas did his advanced university training in Moscow, speaks fluent Russian, and once served as the PLO ambassador to the Soviet Union.
The renewed Russian drive for influence in the Middle East raises serious questions about the entire idea of relying on a multilateral Quartet for peacemaking, where a united front of Russia, the EU, and the UN can be depended upon to offset the position of the U.S. Why empower those who oppose you? (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
What Do the Iraqi Insurgents Want? - Hiwa Osman (Washington Post)
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