Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

May 9, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Peace Canal Deal for Thirsty Middle East - Conal Urquhart (Guardian-UK)
    Ministers from Jordan, Israel, and the PA will Monday sign an agreement to pave the way for the construction of a canal that will link the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.
    The canal will generate electricity, provide fresh water, and prevent the Dead Sea from drying up.
    It will draw water from the Red Sea at Aqaba in Jordan, raise it 170 meters above sea level, and then let it fall to the Dead Sea which, at 400 meters below sea level, is the lowest place on earth.
    The project will consist of 110 miles of canal, tunnel and piping, and the electricity provided by the water will provide for pumping the water in the initial stages and power a desalination plant.
    There are also plans to construct holiday resorts and a water park along parts of the route.


Israel Campus Beat
- May 8, 2005

Point Counter-Point:
    The Democracy Dilemma in the Middle East: Are Islamists the Answer?

Fatah Militants Shut Gaza Election Offices - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Witnesses said 20 masked militants belonging to Abbas's Fatah movement burst into Central Elections Committee (CEC) premises in central Gaza on Sunday and closed them "until further notice," protesting at Fatah losses in last week's municipal ballot.
    "We tried to explain to (the gunmen) that we had nothing to do with the local elections, that we were responsible only for preparing the parliamentary election, but they wouldn't hear of it," said regional CEC coordinator Jamil al-Khaldi.


Sharansky to Join Shalem Center - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Natan Sharansky signed a one-year contract to serve as a "distinguished senior fellow" at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based independent research institute, where he will research and write a book on Israel's role as the nation-state of the Jewish people.


Maccabi Tel Aviv Wins Euroleague Basketball Title - Again (Euroleague.net)
    Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv became the first basketball team to win consecutive Euroleague titles since 1991 by downing Spain's Tau Ceramica 90-78 Sunday in the Euroleague Final in Moscow.


A Lens on Dialogue - Liel Leibovitz (New York Jewish Week)
    Documentary filmmaker Isidore Rosmarin has produced "Blood and Tears," weaving together interviews as well as file footage, graphics, and animation to survey the Middle East conflict from its birth in biblical times to its bloody present through the viewpoints of everyone from the most ardent Zionist to fundamentalist Muslims or American scholars.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Anti-Syrian Leader Returns to Lebanon - Sam F. Ghattas
    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)
  • Hizballah Expects Arms Talks After Lebanese Polls - Mariam Karouny
    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)
  • U.S. Bomb Victims Sue Saudi Royal Family for "Negligence" - Mark Hollingsworth
    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:

  • Sharon: No Further Prisoner Releases Until PA Acts Against Terror
    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)
  • Hamas Wins Larger Towns in PA Local Elections - Arnon Regular
    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 British Boycott of Haifa University is Based on a Libel - Fania Oz-Salzberger
    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)
  • Tehran Ripe for a Spot of Mischief-Making - Dean Godson
    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)
  • Putin Leads Russia's Return to the Middle East and the Arab Embrace - Michael Widlanski
    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)
  • Observations:

    What Do the Iraqi Insurgents Want? - Hiwa Osman (Washington Post)

    • The relative hiatus in violence in Iraq that took place after the January elections is over. In the week since a new cabinet was formed, about 250 Iraqis have been slaughtered in car bombings and other bloody attacks.
    • The insurgents are actually several groups who possess different motivations and long-term objectives: those who were fired from their jobs in the military and other government institutions for being members of the Baath party but who don't really believe in Saddam Hussein's doddering old brand of Arab socialism, the die-hard Baathists, and the pro-al-Qaeda Islamist militants mostly under the command of Abu Musab Zarqawi.
    • The foot soldiers who make up the Baathist part of the alliance have a military background. Many of them would gladly go back to their jobs in order to have a better standard of living and avoid risking their lives.
    • Directing these lower-level combatants are the former high-ranking army, security, and intelligence officers of the Baathist regime. They have managed to reassemble some of their old spy networks, and their ability to instill fear is evident.
    • Their goal is simple: The return of Baathist rule through a military coup. To do that, they are willing to make common cause with people who do not share their secular outlook.
    • The Islamist militants have their own foot soldiers: supporters who have poured across the mostly open borders from neighboring countries. These people are particularly useful to the Baathists because they provide a supply of willing suicide bombers.
    • Syria has been an important base and way station for these foreign fighters. Intelligence shows that after a typical jihadi decides he wants to fight the Americans in Iraq, he contacts mosques in Damascus known for recruiting mujaheddin for the holy war in Iraq. Often these recruitment campaigns are funded by senior Syrian officials. Syrian intelligence trains him on how to disguise his identity and how to handle explosives and ammunitions. An Iraqi journalist who recently visited Syria said being there felt like being back in Saddam's Iraq. "The place was heaving with sons of Baathists and former regime officials," he observed.
    • Iran is also harboring and training members of other militant groups. Iran is assisting the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, a mostly Iraqi Kurdish affiliate group of al-Qaeda, and the Ansar Al-Sunnah, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Irbil that killed more than 50 people last week.
    • One wants a return to rule by Saddam or some other Baathist; another wants a Taliban-style Iraq. But they're all waiting for the United States to leave.

      The writer, an Iraqi Kurd, is the training director for the London-based Institute for War & Peace Reporting in Iraq.


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