Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Al-Qaeda Terrorist Who Tried to Shoot Down Israeli Plane Transferred to Guantanamo (U.S. Defense Department)
At Least Six Killed in Gaza Sewage Flood - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
Lebanese Support of Nasrallah Wanes - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
EU Observers at Gaza Border Catch Woman Smuggling Crocodiles (AP/Fox News)
Kidnapped BBC Journalist Aware of Dangers of Reporting from Gaza - Stewart Purvis (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday he "would not hesitate" to take part in a regional Arab peace summit amid U.S. efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process. "If such an invitation would come my way, I would look at it in a very positive way," Olmert told a joint press conference with UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem. A senior U.S. official traveling with Secretary of State Rice said it remained uncertain whether countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have no formal ties with Israel, would agree to attend a summit with Israeli leaders. (AFP/Yahoo)
See also Rice Urges Arabs to Reach Out to Israel
On the eve of the opening of an Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Rice said: "The Arab states must be reaching out to Israel...to show Israel that they accept its place in the Middle East." (BBC News)
Iran said Monday it was questioning 15 British sailors and marines to determine if their alleged entry into Iranian waters was "intentional or unintentional" before deciding what to do with them. The Iranian emphasis on the detainees' intent was a noticeable pullback from the certainty expressed Saturday by Iran's military chief, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, who said the 15 confessed to "aggression into the Islamic Republic of Iran's waters." (AP/Washington Post)
There is no mistaking whose side Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi is on. Outside his walled home in Ramadi, Iraq, a U.S. tank is on permanent guard. The sheik is leading a growing movement of Sunni tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in Anbar province. The dramatic shift in alliances may have done more to undercut the insurgency than American forces have achieved in years with arms.
The American commander in Ramadi, Col. John W. Charlton, said the newly friendly sheiks, combined with an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy and the presence of thousands of new Sunni police on the streets, have helped cut attacks in the city by half in recent months. Al-Rishawi, whose father and three brothers were killed by al-Qaeda assassins, said insurgents were "killing innocent people, anyone suspected of opposing them. They brought us nothing but destruction and we finally said, enough is enough." (AP/Washington Post)
See also Sunni Jihad Groups Rise Up Against Al-Qaeda in Iraq - D. Hazan (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Jerusalem's objections to U.S. shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians over final-status issues led to the postponement Monday night of a press conference at which U.S. Secretary of State Rice was expected to outline this new initiative, senior diplomatic officials said Monday. Rice was expected to announce that direct talks between Israel and the PA would be replaced by parallel discussions she would hold with both sides over "political horizon" issues dealing with the contours of a future Palestinian state.
Israel has stated that as a result of the formation of the new PA unity government, it would no longer hold "substantive" talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - only talks dealing with humanitarian and security issues. "Israel's position is not in favor of talking about these [final status] issues at this point," an official said. Moreover, "engaging in final-status discussions now - when the time is not right and neither side is prepared - could lead, if the talks falter, to another round of violence," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Rice: Olmert, Abbas Agree to Meet Biweekly
Secretary of State Rice said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Abbas had agreed to meet face-to-face on a biweekly basis, and that the U.S. would continue to mediate between the two sides in discussions on a political horizon. (Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli Air Force conducted its 16th test of the Arrow missile defense system on Monday, which officials said was capable of intercepting an Iranian nuclear missile. An improved Arrow missile, with modifications to its hardware and electronics, was successfully test-fired. (Jerusalem Post)
Mohammed Maraish and Alleh al-Raliz, from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, were killed Monday night during exchanges of fire with IDF forces in the West Bank town of Nablus, Palestinian sources reported. The IDF said the two were responsible for shooting attacks and for hurling explosive devices at Israeli forces in the area. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Several news reports quoted senior American officials speaking of a "new game plan" as Secretary of State Rice embarks on her fourth Middle East trip in four months. A quaint new "Arab Quartet" - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - is described by TV news as "all important" in Middle East peace efforts. Yet the Arab Quartet is about as useless and toothless as the Arab League itself, none of whose members are prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist unconditionally. It seems the new plan is that "Ms. Rice may be able to get some sort of formal or informal mechanism going that could give Israelis hope of eventually normalizing relations with the Arab world," American officials told the New York Times. (New York Sun)
"Does Israel need to reach an agreement with Syria now? The answer is no. Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for partial normalization and insufficient security arrangements is not in Israel's national interest.... Israel has serious reasons why it should not make a deal with Syria today: an Israel-Syria agreement does not solve the problem of a nuclear Iran...and unlike in the past, such an agreement would not solve the problem of Hizbullah, which today takes direction from Iran. In addition, the U.S., Israel's major ally, cares little for the idea."
Eiland also believes that an agreement with Israel would lead the Sunni majority in Syria to challenge the current regime led by the Alawite minority, so the duration of any agreement with Assad would not be assured. "Beyond all future considerations, the bottom line is that there are no security arrangements that would compensate for giving up the Golan Heights. And I say this as someone with deep knowledge of the security arrangements discussion with the Syrians seven years ago."
Eiland also noted that an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders would do little to improve the lives of the Palestinians in Gaza, and that a return to the Clinton parameters is no longer attractive to either side. Gen. Eiland is former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 23Mar07)
The bullet-riddled body of Arafat Nufal, an officer in the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, was found Friday hanging from a pole in the Al Moraka district near Gaza. The story of his murder, which began when he tried to reclaim his stolen car, illustrates how Gaza is becoming a Palestinian Somalia, as Palestinian politicians celebrate the artificial unity deal. Since the disengagement, the vehicles of the Palestinian security forces have become all the rage for the car thieves of Gaza, who often sell them to Hamas.
According to the human rights group B'Tselem, 36 Palestinians were killed in infighting in February. Seven people were killed in the past weekend. A UN worker who recently visited Gaza says the situation there has deteriorated. "You see militants at every other junction," he says. "Everybody knows who's holding Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent kidnapped two weeks ago. It's a large family, and they're after money. Instead of surrounding the premises and acting against them, the security forces are negotiating with them," said Z., a Fatah leader in northern Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
Taking the Soft Approach Towards Iran? - Oliver Kamm (Times-UK)
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