Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

Monday
August 27, 2007

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In-Depth Issue:


Salam Fayyad: An Economist's Task - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
  Alam Fayyad, 55, is the non-Hamas prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. In an emergency government — now a caretaker government, after the firing of the one led by Hamas — Mr. Fayyad is both chef and bottle washer: prime minister, finance minister and foreign minister. While leaving peace negotiations to the elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Mr. Fayyad is a one-stop shop for the West, which is eager to restore the flow of aid it cut off when Hamas took power.
  He is not a natural politician and lacks charisma. His conviction that armed resistance is counterproductive is not widely shared, certainly not by Hamas, or even by the many gunmen of Fatah. To be the favorite Palestinian of Israel and Washington is not a recipe for popularity either, and it may actually be dangerous.
  Peace should be pursued, he said, but differently, simultaneously with his effort to build the basics of Palestinian statehood.


One Candidate to Replace Iraq's PM Visited Israel in 2004 - Khalid Mohammed (TIME)
  One of the most unusual figures in Iraqi politics is Mithal Alussi. He is Sunni — a major handicap in the Prime Ministerial stakes — but is widely viewed as secular and independent. He earned the wrath of Sunni insurgent groups when he visited Israel in the fall of 2004. There have been several attempts to assassinate him; his two sons were killed in one such attack. His Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation is tiny, but Alussi has a high profile because of his frequent appearance on TV news shows, where he rails against sectarianism and government corruption. This has earned him the respect of many Iraqis.


Sudanese Refugees to Study in Israeli Schools - Moran Zelikovich (Ynet News)
  Seventy-six Sudanese refugees, ages four and up, will be integrated into the Israeli school system during the coming academic year, according to an announcement by Education Minister Yuli Tamir Sunday.
  The Sudanese children will be enrolled in Israeli grade schools and high schools despite the fact that their parents are in the country under refugee status, and without permanent housing.


Israeli Firefighters Arrive in Athens (Ynet News)
  A group of 25 Israeli firefighters landed in Athens, Greece on Monday to help local authorities fight a wave of fires that have claimed over 60 lives so far.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Palestinians Back Caliphate over Politics - Carolynne Wheeler
    By night, a growing number of supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic fundamentalists who reject modern democracy in favor of a pan-Islamic religious caliphate, gather in the West Bank to recruit the thousands who have grown disillusioned with the vicious stand-off between the secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas. Any talk about a return to the caliphate, any talk about a return to religious values is something that is attractive to people," said Majid Abu Malah, 55, a teacher who attends regularly. He, like many others, says he has given up on both Hamas and Fatah.
      Inside the West Bank, the rise of the Islamist group is being met with increasing concern from secular Palestinians still hoping for democracy and a two-state solution with Israel, as well as from Hamas which is seeing its support eroded by the group. (Telegraph -- UK)
  • Gaza Protest Broken Up by Armed Hamas Force - Isabel Kershner
    Members of the Hamas Executive Force broke up a demonstration by Fatah, Hamas’s rival, in Gaza City on Friday, firing into the air and briefly detaining journalists who were trying to document the events, according to news media reports. The anti-Hamas protest, which came amid growing signs of restiveness, was the largest since the militant Islamic group seized control of Gaza after a week of factional fighting in June. (New York Times)
        See also Hamas Honeymoon Ends with Torture - Charles Levinson
    Human rights groups and ordinary Gazans say Hamas is committing exactly the same crimes as its Fatah predecessors, whose corruption and brutality were one of the main reasons why support for Hamas grew. (Telegraph -- UK)
  • Journalists Protest Hamas Pressure
    More than 100 journalists held a sit-in in Gaza on Sunday to protest against pressure on the media by the Islamist Hamas movement, which took over the territory in June. (AFP/Times -- UK)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Public Security Minister Dichter: Egypt Wants Hamas to Prosper
    Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that Egypt's failure to prevent arms smuggling implies that the country wants Hamas to prosper. In an interview with Army Radio on Monday Dichter said, "Any right-thinking person who witnesses the Egyptians' failure to act against arms smuggling can all but infer that strengthening Hamas is their interest. Egypt is capable of acting decisively against Hamas, but hasn't done that for more than seven years," Dichter added. "Their intelligence is as good as ours," he concluded.
      The deputy head of the Shin Bet security service told the cabinet on Sunday that 40 tons of explosives have been smuggled into the Strip since Hamas took over. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Forces Foil Infiltration from Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF forces foiled a terror plot early Saturday morning when they killed two gunmen who infiltrated Israel from northern Gaza. The terrorists had planned to attack troops and residential communities near the border and were found to be wearing IDF uniforms and carrying an explosive device. Maj. Tal Lev-Ram, an Israeli army spokesman, said there was "an intention to carry out a large attack in Israeli territory." He said the militants were armed "head to toe" with grenades and automatic weapons, and were headed toward communities in southern Israel when they were stopped. (Ynet News)
        See also Top IDF Officers: Terrorist Groups Have Learned Our Defense Systems (Jerusalem Post)
  • Saudi Daily Blames Syria for Assassinations
    Riyadh-based Oukaz lashed out at the Syrian regime last week, accusing it of having plotted the assassination of Lebanese politicians starting with Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt. "For the last 30 years Syria has set up a clear-cut plan to systematically kill Lebanese leaders to incite strife among various Lebanese sects, and consequently reinforce its presence and role in Lebanon," the newspaper said.
      The Saudi daily published a special report from Beirut tackling the role of Syria in Lebanon since 1975. The daily described the current Syrian regime as "a regime of slaying and slaughter," and accused it of making use "of all possible means to restore its influence in Lebanon after their withdrawal in April 2005." (Daily Star -- Lebanon)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Challenging the UN's Darker Side - Hillel C. Neuer
    The UN on Monday will launch a series of international meetings on racism, leading up to a major world conference in 2009. The so-called "Durban Review" process is the follow-up to the 2001 conference in South Africa that turned into a diplomatic fiasco. All indications suggest next week's session, and the events that follow from it, will mimic both the format and script of the original. The ghosts of 2001 are almost certain to be conjured up by the shamans of Durban II. The party chosen to chair the entire process through 2009 indicates its seriousness of purpose: Moammar Qaddafi's Libya.
      On Thursday, while the Geneva session is underway, the European Parliament in Brussels will host a UN "International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace." The UN's 16-member Palestinian division is part of a sprawling infrastructure of anti-Israel committees and programs launched by the General Assembly in 1975 alongside its resolution declaring that "Zionism is racism."
      A UN secretary general cannot be judged by country-driven bodies that go astray. But as Secretary General Ban did recently in protesting the hypocrisies of the Human Rights Council, he can choose to speak truth to power now. The writer is executive director of UN Watch in Geneva. (Boston Globe)
        See also Jerusalem, U.S. Keep Low Profile on Durban II - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  • Strategy Shift in the Middle East -- Back to the Future - David Ignatius
    The Bush administration is making a subtle but important shift in its strategy for the Middle East -- establishing containment of Iranian power in the region as a top American priority. A simple shorthand for this approach might be "back to the future," for it is strikingly reminiscent of American strategy during the 1980s after the Iranian revolution. The cornerstone is a political-military alliance with the dominant Sunni Arab powers -- especially Saudi Arabia. The hardware will be new arms sales to Israel, Egypt and the Saudis. The software will be a refurbished Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
      The problem with "back to the future," of course, is that we've been there before. Arms deals won't provide lasting security for Saudi Arabia; supporting authoritarian Sunni regimes won't stem the appeal of Islamic radicalism; and a fractured Iraq will keep the region in a permanent state of tension. But the new approach has the virtue of realism -- preparing for the worst in Iraq rather than hoping for the best. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Misinterpreting the Mideast - Moshe Ya'alon (Los Angeles Times)

  • Before any lasting on-the-ground movement toward peace can be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, foreign emissaries, as well as some Israelis, will have to shake off some long-disproved tenets of the conventional wisdom about the dispute.
  • There are four main misconceptions that diplomats bring with them to Israel. Primary among them is the idea that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for stability in the Mideast. The truth is that the region is riven by clashes that have nothing to do with Israel. For instance, the Jewish state plays no role in the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
  • The second misconception is that Israeli territorial concessions are the key to progress. The reality is that Israeli territorial or other concessions simply fill the an ascendant jihadi Islamists' sails, reinforcing their belief that Israel and the West are weak and can be militarily defeated. The Mideast's central conflict is not territorial but ideological. And ideology cannot be defeated by concessions.
  • Some believe that "the Occupation" blocks agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. In the West, the term usually means the territories Israel conquered in the Six-Day War in 1967. But the heart of the problem is that many Palestinians -- Fatah and Hamas, in particular -- and even some Israeli Arabs use "Occupation" to refer to all Israel. They do not recognize the Jewish people's right to an independent state, a right affirmed again and again in the international arena.
  • Finally, some believe that the Palestinians want -- and have the ability -- to establish a state that will live in peace alongside Israel. But they are not being clear-eyed. The late Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, established a thugocracy that never improved the basic living conditions of his people. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not take responsibility for Gazans' welfare, which in part led to Hamas' electoral victory in 2006.
  • Shorn of these mistaken assumptions, the picture in the Middle East is disturbing indeed. So what to do?
  • For starters, Western governments and their emissaries must refrain from pressuring Israel for territorial or security concessions, which at best produces only short-term gains and emboldens the Islamist terror groups. Instead, they should try to persuade the Palestinian leaders to commit to a long-term strategy premised on educational, political and economic reforms that would lead to the establishment of a civil society that cherishes life, not death; values human rights and freedom; and develops a middle class, not a corrupt, rich elite.
  • Under no circumstances should emissaries attempt to open a dialogue with Hamas. For the sake of Palestinian society, Hamas and its ideology must be defeated. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the most significant today; it's the battle between jihadist Islam and the West, of which Israel is merely one theater.

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