Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Draft UN Report: "Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat...Decided to Assassinate Rafik Hariri" (Mideast Web)
Israel Campus Beat
- October 23, 2005
What Should Be Done about Syria?
Bahraini Journalist: Al-Qaeda's War on Shi'ites in Iraq Like Nazi Germany Against the Jews (MEMRI)
Palestinian Mother Hides Grenade Under Baby - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
Hamas Recruits Israeli Arab Dentists - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
Syrians Rescue Israelis from Drowning - Omri Livne (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The long-term U.S. goal toward Syria is to break the 35-year hold of the Assad family and allow Syrians to freely pick a new government. But in the short term, the administration is somewhat reluctantly opting to let the UN investigation and the subsequent judicial process, combined with punitive UN sanctions, erode Assad's power - and see if he then changes Syrian practices in the region, U.S. officials said. After an intense hunt for alternatives, the Bush administration has concluded that there is no political party strong enough and sufficiently friendly to endorse as a replacement for Assad. Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, Syria has few democratic exile groups. A more aggressive policy of "regime change" could backfire, U.S. officials said. (Washington Post)
Israel does not plan to hamper upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections even if Hamas Islamic militants take part, Israeli officials said on Sunday. "Israel will not help the Palestinians if Hamas takes part, but neither will it hamper the voting in areas where Israel has control," said an official in Sharon's office. After a meeting last week between President Bush and Mahmoud Abbas, an administration official said the U.S. still saw Hamas as a terrorist group but it was up to the Palestinians to decide who could take part in the election. (Reuters)
Rather than fight them, Palestinian officials have been negotiating deals with those behind a wave of kidnappings, and the lenience is worsening the chaos in the Gaza Strip, according to a senior Palestinian security official. Gunmen are increasingly resorting to kidnappings to get jobs, break relatives out of jail, or settle personal scores. Gaza and the West Bank suffered 31 abductions in August and 44 in September, according to official statistics. Many of those involved in kidnappings have ties to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group linked to Abbas' ruling Fatah movement. Other hostage-takers even serve in the security forces. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel has rejected a Palestinian proposal to open secret negotiations, a senior government source said Saturday. According to the source, the proposal aims at circumventing the road map by jumping to final status talks prior to clamping down on terrorist infrastructure. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that during his recent visit to Washington he had offered to open a back channel of negotiations.
Sources briefed by the Palestinians said Abbas told Bush that he has no intention of forming a coalition with Hamas after the January elections, and for that reason there was no chance that the U.S. would have to deal with elected Hamas officials holding cabinet positions. (Jerusalem Post)
Head of Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, the IDF's next military attache in Washington, says Egypt is not living up to its agreement to seal the Philadelphi corridor with its beefed up forces. "They are not preventing the smuggling on the border or within Egypt proper. A lot of ammunition and weapons are coming from Sinai," says Harel. "If they decided to end the smuggling of so many terror weapons - I am talking of thousands of everything - then in my opinion there wouldn't be any smuggling. The way it looks now is very bad."
"The problem is not one of a border, but a region. These weapons are coming from some place. They are traveling across the Sinai. They are coming from Egyptian citizens, and these Egyptians are selling them to the Palestinians. We expect them to impose their laws on these Egyptian citizens." (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli and Palestinian obligations undertaken in the "road map" peace plan are not of equal importance, a senior U.S. State Department official said recently. The official said the Palestinian Authority's commitment to fight terror is more crucial than Israel's commitment to freeze settlement construction and evacuate illegal settlement outposts. The U.S. position on the PA's dismantling of armed organizations had not changed, the official emphasized. However, he said the U.S. had reconciled itself to waiting to deal with Hamas until after the PA elections. (Ha'aretz)
Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed two Palestinian gunmen in a Tulkarm shootout Sunday. According to Israel Radio, one was Luai Saadi, the head of Islamic Jihad's military wing in the West Bank. Saadi led the cell responsible for suicide bombings at the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv in February and at a Netanya mall in July. The army said Palestinians opened fire on them as they surrounded a house during an arrest operation, wounding an IDF soldier. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The checkpoints and curfews are not gratuitous acts of unkindness by Israel, nor are they artifacts of occupation. On the contrary, in the years when Israel was in full control of the territories there were no checkpoints or curfews, and Palestinians could move freely (and find employment) throughout the country. It was only with the start of the peace process in 1993 and the creation of autonomous Palestinian areas under Arafat's control that terrorism became a commonplace fact of Israeli life. And it was only then that the checkpoints went up.
In the Gaza Strip, the departure of Israeli troops and settlers has brought anarchy, not freedom. Members of Hamas routinely fight gun battles with members of Fatah. Just as often, the killing takes place between clans. So-called collaborators are put to the gun by street mobs, their "guilt" sometimes nothing more than being the object of a neighbor's spite. Honor killings of "loose" women are common, as is the torture and murder of homosexuals.
Talk to Palestinians, and you will often hear it said, like a mantra, that Palestinian dignity requires Palestinian statehood. This is either a conceit or a lie. Should a Palestinian state ever come into existence in Gaza and the West Bank, it will be a small place, mostly poor, culturally marginal, most of it desert, rock, slums, and dust. (Wall Street Journal)
We were encouraged to see President Bush use Mr. Abbas's trip to Washington this week to ratchet up pressure on both the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Bush administration was right to press Mr. Abbas to require that candidates in the coming legislative elections renounce violence. Mr. Abbas himself must begin to match his words about eschewing violence with actions because that's the only way the Palestinians will ever get the state they so crave. (New York Times)
In August 2004, Assad summoned Hariri to a meeting in Damascus to demand an extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term; Lahoud, who remains president of Lebanon, is widely seen as Assad's puppet in Beirut. According to various witnesses who heard Hariri's account of the meeting, Assad said, "the matter was not open for discussion," that he would "break Lebanon on [Hariri's] head" to get his way, that "you do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are." The meeting lasted 10 minutes.
The conventional view now is that the Mehlis report puts "pressure" on Assad. In fact, the real pressure is on the member states of the Security Council to do something meaningful now that a UN investigator has come up with incriminating evidence. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was right when he said Friday, "you simply cannot tolerate a situation where one state decides to deal with problems of another state by assassinating the other state's leaders." The French, too, are likely to support some kind of UN action against Damascus, perhaps a combination of international sanctions and diplomatic ostracism similar to the kind imposed on Libya after the Pan Am bombing.
What the U.S. and the international community must aim for instead is regime change. Tuesday, the ball will be in the Security Council's court. (Wall Street Journal; 24Oct05)
The Bush administration rightly reacted quickly to a report by the UN that compellingly links the Syrian government to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Hariri. By insisting on full Syrian cooperation with the ongoing investigation, the Security Council has a rare opportunity to enforce consequences for a state-sponsored act of political murder. No regime merits such action more than the government of Assad, who since the fall of Saddam Hussein has stood out as the most conspicuous sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. In addition to brazen meddling in Iraq and in Lebanon, where bombings and assassinations linked to Damascus have continued in the months after Hariri's Feb. 14 slaying, Assad is a prime sponsor of terrorism against Israel.
The Syrian sponsors of Hariri's murder must be identified and brought to justice; if that includes Assad and his relatives, so be it. (Washington Post)
See also Squeeze Syria - Editorial
A UN report made public on Thursday confirmed that Syria was the mastermind behind the assassination, with the cooperation of Lebanese lackeys. The world must demonstrate that the price is political and economic isolation, a squeeze on Syria. May it speed the departure of another Middle Eastern despot. (Chicago Tribune)
See also An Unfit Regime - Editorial
There are still powerful elements in the Syrian corridors of power, apparently including Assad himself, that think that Syria is entitled to do whatever it likes in Lebanon, to scorn its citizens' aspirations for reforms and to utterly disregard the new world order that has terrorism in its sights. A regime that employs terrorist means to implement its policy will have to be brought to account and even punished. (Ha'aretz)
See also Damascus Indicted - Editorial (Times-UK)
Abbas Must Act - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)
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