Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Iraq Bombers Blow Up Two Children Used as Decoys - Kirk Semple (New York Times)
EU Border Monitors in Gaza Seek Escape Route - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
U.S.: With Iranian Help, Hamas Forces Growing Faster than Fatah (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
The Muslim Brotherhood and America - Manal Lutfi (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Despite the international embargo on aid to the PA since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the UN, U.S., EU, and IMF. Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid in 2006, compared with $1 billion in 2005. Washington increased its aid to $468 million in 2006, from $400 million in 2005. The EU and its member states alone are subsidizing one million people in the West Bank and Gaza, a quarter of the population. While starvation has been avoided, a culture of dependence is expanding. (New York Times)
Air raid sirens wailed across Israel Tuesday and thousands of security forces and rescue crews were mobilized in a nationwide drill to prepare for possible chemical attacks or an Iranian missile strike. The two-day exercise was the largest in the nation's history. During the exercise, police, soldiers and rescue crews responded to simulated assaults in seven different locations. In an unexpected twist, the exercise was briefly suspended after a report that a real attack might be under way on a major highway near Tel Aviv, where police stopped a car and arrested three passengers. (AP/MSNBC)
The Israeli government is arguing in domestic courts that it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip, a designation that under international law holds the Jewish state responsible for the welfare of Gaza's 1.4 million Palestinians. Israel says its legal argument, which appears in at least two cases pending before the country's highest court, is rooted in security concerns that have grown since the January 2006 election of Hamas to run the Palestinian Authority. The Islamic movement derives much of its political power from Gaza, and keeping the Strip's rising militancy from spreading to the West Bank has become a top priority for Israeli security officials.
In court filings over the past year, the government has asserted that "with the abolition of the military government in Gaza and in light of the current security situation, the State of Israel bears no responsibility to take care of the various interests of Gaza residents." "The question goes to who is responsible for what is happening in Gaza," said Ruth Lapidoth, professor emeritus of international law at Hebrew University and a former government legal adviser. "In my view, only in the areas that Israel has not given up its responsibility does the occupation continue." (Washington Post)
See also Legal Acrobatics: The Palestinian Claim that Gaza Is Still "Occupied" Even After Israel Withdraws - Dore Gold (ICA/JCPA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment with the new PA unity government on Monday. In a Voice of America Television interview, Ban said: "The initial report coming from this unity government seems to be a little bit disappointing." "I urge that the national unity government will surely adhere to and respect principles laid out by the Quartet," Ban said. "It is important that parties concerned should respect the right to exist, particularly Israel's, and engage in dialogue without resorting to violence, and also respect all previous agreed international agreements and principles." Ban is scheduled to travel to the Middle East next week. (Jerusalem Post)
The first meeting between an official American representative and a minister in the Palestinian unity government: American Consul Jacob Walles met Tuesday with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. This constitutes a further erosion of the policy Israel is trying to preserve against the Palestinian unity government. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Fayyad said that the meeting took place in his office in Ramallah. (Maariv-Hebrew, 21Mar07)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
On March 17, 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council ratified the establishment of a new national unity government. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh read out the new government's platform, which clearly reflects Hamas' ideology: no recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist, adherence to "resistance" (i.e., violence and terrorism) as a "legitimate right" of the Palestinians, and a demand for the implementation of the "right to return" (i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel).
Prominent among the new government ministers are three independents who have replaced Hamas ministers. Foreign Minister Ziyad Abu Amro, a native of Gaza, is married to an American woman and has American citizenship. He holds a Ph.D in political science and international relations from Georgetown University and has served as Mahmoud Abbas' liaison with Hamas. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies)
See also The New Palestinian Government Still Hasn't Renounced Terror or Recognized Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
There is no point in pouring millions of dollars on the "unity" government as long as it's not prepared to make a clear and firm commitment to halt terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. (Wall Street Journal)
Secretary of State Rice is signaling her willingness to meet with some members of the Hamas-backed PA "national unity government," even though the Israelis have publicly opposed such a move. The space she has opened between U.S. and Israeli positions is quite small, but as she prepares for another trip to the Middle East, Rice is sending the message that she is pressing ahead with her diplomatic efforts to broker the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israel's worry is that Rice is giving ground in ways that will only embolden Hamas. Abbas also failed to deliver on his promise that Hamas would release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before formation of a unity government. Meanwhile, Israeli security officials see Hamas expanding its military force in Gaza, with 12,000 troops and longer-range missiles with more-lethal warheads. (Washington Post)
The new Palestinian government is to be treated as if it were really two governments, one a "good," pro-peace-with-Israel government that can be dealt with and one a "bad," anti-peace one that will continue to be boycotted. The prime minister of this government, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, continues to refuse to recognize Israel, has ruled out a permanent peace with it, and has expressed his hope and expectation that it will disappear one day. By joining forces with him on this basis, which it had pledged never to do, it is Fatah and its leader Mahmoud Abbas who have given in to Hamas, not vice versa.
A negotiated peace with the Palestinians is at the moment unattainable. The new Palestinian government could fall apart in a matter of months. But if it doesn't, or if Hamas remains in power in any case, Hamas has often spoken of a hudna, or Islamic truce, with Israel that would involve a long-term cessation of hostilities without peace or recognition. Theoretically, such a truce could last for years. Under the circumstances, it might be the best deal for everyone that could be reached. (New York Sun)
Hang Tough with Hamas - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)
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