Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 21, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iraq Bombers Blow Up Two Children Used as Decoys - Kirk Semple (New York Times)
    Insurgents detonated a bomb in a car with two children in it after using the children as decoys to get through a military checkpoint in Baghdad, U.S. Maj.-Gen. Michael Barbaro said Tuesday.
    American soldiers had stopped the car at the checkpoint but had allowed it to pass after seeing the two children in the back seat.
    "We let it move through. They parked the vehicle. The adults run out and detonate it with the children in back," he said.
    The blast Sunday killed the children and three other civilians and wounded seven, an American military official said.

EU Border Monitors in Gaza Seek Escape Route - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Fearing for their lives, EU monitors stationed at the Rafah Crossing that connects Gaza and Egypt have asked Israel for help in drawing up escape routes from Gaza in the event of an attack on the border terminal.
    The monitors, led by Italian Maj.-Gen. Pietro Pistolese, have raised concerns in recent weeks for their safety following a series of threats to their lives.
    Several weeks ago a large bomb was discovered on a route used by the monitors to drive through Gaza.

U.S.: With Iranian Help, Hamas Forces Growing Faster than Fatah (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    With Iranian help, Hamas forces are expanding fast and getting more sophisticated weapons and training than do those under Mahmoud Abbas' control, the U.S. security coordinator, Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, told congressional leaders last week.

The Muslim Brotherhood and America - Manal Lutfi (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The U.S. keenly avoids dialogue with movements that promote violence, while the equally keen Muslim Brotherhood talks about Arab and Islamic public issues and this widens the gap between the two sides.
    In this regard, a leader of the Islamic Action Front Party, Ali Abu Sukkar, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the issues raised by the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood members with American officials are often regional and international issues.
    The Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the region do not necessarily coordinate with one another regarding dialogue with the Americans.
    In contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, whose contacts with American officials were affected after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait maintained relatively stronger contact with the American party.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Aid to Palestinians Rose in '06 Despite Embargo - Steven Erlanger
    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)
  • Israel Holds Massive Chemical Attack Drill
    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)
  • A Question of Responsibility: Israel Argues in Court that Gaza Is No Longer Occupied - Scott Wilson
    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 Chief Expresses Reservations About New PA Government - Herb Keinon
    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)
  • U.S. Consul-General Meets with Palestinian Minister - Amit Cohen, Uri Yablonka, and Or Heller
    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):

  • The New PA Government: Composition, Platform, and Implications
    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)
  • Rice's Mideast Minefield - David Ignatius
    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)
  • Theoretical Truce - Hillel Halkin
    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)
  • Observations:

    Hang Tough with Hamas - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)

    • On Tuesday, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem met the Palestinian finance minister in the West Bank town of Ramallah. In authorizing such a contact, Secretary of State Rice was breaking ranks with Israel, which has refused to talk to representatives of the Hamas-Fatah coalition. But, now as in the past, some daylight between the U.S. and Israeli positions is desirable - for both Israel and the U.S. - because it allows Washington to play interlocutor.
    • The Bush administration rightly is drawing the line, however, in refusing to restore aid to the Palestinian Authority until Hamas satisfies the Quartet's conditions. And Hamas has not done so.
    • In a speech last Saturday, the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, defended "resistance in all its forms" even as Abbas was pleading with Palestinians to reject "all forms of violence." On Monday, a Hamas sniper shot and wounded an Israeli electric company worker near the Gaza border.
    • Fortunately, an embargo on aid to the PA hasn't prevented humanitarian assistance from reaching Palestinians through organizations such as the UN's World Food Program. That fact makes it easier for the U.S. to argue - even as it talks to Palestinian moderates - that the Quartet must hang tough with Hamas.

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