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
Fatah Builds Private Army in Gaza (Associated Press)
Abducted French Journalist Freed - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Islamist Militants Impose Will in Some Iraq Towns (Reuters)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Israeli military evacuated Netzarim, the last of the Jewish settlements in Gaza, on Monday as hundreds of residents carried Torah scrolls and a large menorah that once stood on the synagogue's roof. Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, head of Israel's Southern Command, said: "Right now there are no Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. The only Israeli citizens are the security forces." (Washington Post)
See also Leaving the Last Settlement - Photos (Washington Post)
The Jordanian government said Monday that it had arrested Muhammad Hassan al-Sihli, a Syrian, as a prime suspect in the rocket attack on two American warships last week in Aqaba. Sihli, who was in charge of planning the attack, was part of a terrorist cell that included three Iraqis. The cell was reported to be directed by an unidentified insurgent group in Iraq. Earlier this month, the men smuggled seven Katyusha rockets from Iraq into Jordan. (New York Times)
Even though the withdrawal is moving ahead of plan, Israel says it does not want the world in general - and the Palestinians in particular - to get the wrong impression. "We've finished making unilateral, painful concessions," says Ranaan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Sharon. "After the euphoria dies, the Palestinians will have to get down to taking real steps to show that they can stop terrorist activity....If anyone has illusions that this means they can force Israel into making further concessions under pressure of violence, they're in for a big surprise," Gissin said.
By no longer having citizens in Gaza, Israel decreases soldiers' and settlers' vulnerability to attacks by Palestinians. But if Israel is attacked from Gaza in the future, it will likely respond with more firepower than before, because it will no longer be facing the complication of fighting people living under Israel's military rule. Palestinian militants, in turn, will find it harder to argue that they are simply struggling against an occupation. (Christian Science Monitor)
Their communities are ghost towns now, and bulldozers have begun tearing into the homes. Living in hotels after their emotional evacuation last week, thousands of Jewish settlers removed from the Gaza Strip are adrift, caught between grief over their loss and a dawning realization that they have to start charting a new course. The Israeli settlements in Gaza, mostly communities of religious Jews, were close-knit, held together by strong faith. For the evacuees from Neve Dekalim, the prime concern now is maintaining their community and rebuilding it as one unit in a new location. "We want to stay together, and we're going to fight for it," said Malka Yanai. (Chicago Tribune)
Abd al-Hakim Awad, 39, chairman of the Fatah Youth Organization in Gaza, is planning a "Carnival of Victory" as soon as the last Israeli soldier leaves Gaza, complete with folklore shows, fireworks, and parades through the settlements of their former neighbors. Palestinian authorities plan to operate a shuttle service that will bus hundreds of thousands of curious Palestinians into the settlements - to tour the "liberated Palestinian territory." The impoverished Palestinian leadership will spend more than $2 million on the spectacle.
To demonstrate their power, the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad held a parade of uniformed recruits to their supposedly 40,000-strong "People's Army," armed with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers, in the Jabaliya stadium last week. The high point of the military show was the simulated storming of a Jewish settlement. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel is likely to begin dismantling unauthorized settlements in the West Bank within 90 days of the evacuation of the northern Samaria settlements, a senior government official said. The official referred to "momentum" that the IDF was keen to capitalize upon. One official said Sharon wanted to ensure that Bush would stand by the assurances he gave Israel in his letter: namely that, in any final status agreement, Israel would retain the major settlement blocs and that there could be no return of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with the PA according to which the two groups would not be disarmed. The agreement was achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Bush administration should act to help Abbas build his authority - something that is essential for raising the costs to Hamas and others of challenging him. The administration must be the spearhead for getting international pledges of assistance transformed into labor-intensive projects on the ground. To date, billions have been pledged, but little has been delivered and Palestinians are not going back to work. Abbas must be seen as producing very quickly on jobs in Gaza. The administration should also work with the EU and World Bank to help the PA function more effectively. Abbas inherited Arafat's system of corruption and ineptitude. He needs systematic help to build his administrative capacity, with specific goals, monitoring, and evaluation established. (Boston Globe)
Many governments internationally were initially skeptical about disengagement, but realized that this is the only game in town. Among them, as well as among the Palestinians, one hears the hope that after the Gaza withdrawal it will be possible to return to the road map and to resume negotiations leading to a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a big mistake. While motivated by the best of intentions, the hope of reviving the road map is out of touch with reality.
Future negotiations will have to deal with the ultimate borders between Israel and Palestine, the fate of 200,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem, and the problem of the 1947-48 Palestinian refugees. On all these issues, the gulf between the Israeli and Palestinian positions has not narrowed since the failed negotiations at Camp David in 2000, while fear and distrust have increased.
To attempt negotiations under these circumstances would not only be an exercise in futility, but also might merely deepen alienation and suspicion on both sides. Probably the only rational way to proceed would be to acknowledge that unilateral steps on both sides can still further the cause of de-escalation and ultimate reconciliation. The writer is former director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The Australian)
Jerusalem Center head Dr. Dore Gold said in an interview Friday: "After disengagement, members of the Quartet may come to Washington and say, 'Look, we have a very serious problem before the January elections in the Palestinian Authority. Abu Mazen is too weak; Hamas is gaining strength; the way to build him up is to provide him with a "political horizon." It's not enough that he's getting a Palestinian state. He needs to know what that state will look like - what its territorial contours are.' Then it could be proposed that the Quartet get behind a unified position that the Palestinian state will be based on the '67 borders - though the words 'based on' provide Arik Sharon with a little wiggle room."
"The U.S. should reject such an effort for a variety of reasons, but on one basis in particular, and that is that it's contrary to the Bush letter to Sharon....Because of the Bush letter, the U.S. should say, 'If you ask us, the American position is that Israel is entitled to defensible borders and it's only realistic that it retain settlement blocs.'" (Jerusalem Post)
A Soldier's Story - Michael B. Oren (Wall Street Journal)
To subscribe to the Daily Alert, send a blank email message to:
To unsubscribe, send a blank email message to: