Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 19, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Militias Firm Against Handing Over Guns - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Several Palestinian armed groups on Sunday rejected attempts by the PA to confiscate their weapons, vowing to thwart such moves.
    The groups also threatened to launch attacks on Israel to embarrass the PA leadership on the eve of the U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis.
    Hamas also expressed its strong opposition to the disarmament of any group.
    PA Interior Minister Abdel Razzak Yahya confirmed that the PA leadership had promised Israel to dismantle all militias and armed groups in the West Bank ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.
    "They are making many arrests, but it's mostly of suspects involved in petty crime," said a prominent Nablus businessman. "The latest security operation, which has nevertheless been welcomed by many here, is apparently aimed at appeasing the Americans and Israelis on the eve of the peace conference."

Survey: Americans See Israel as Ally - Jonah Newman (Jerusalem Post)
    65% of Americans see Israel as an important ally, according to a survey conducted Oct. 6-19, 2007, and released Sunday by the Anti-Defamation League.
    45% sympathize more with the Israeli people, compared to 16% who sympathize more with the Palestinians. A similar poll in 2005 showed 42% sympathetic to Israel and 13% sympathetic to the Palestinians, while a 2003 poll was 40% and 15%.
    57% of Americans say that Palestinians must end terror and recognize Israel before a Palestinian state can be created.
    60% of Americans believe that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must be accomplished with minimal U.S. involvement.
    "These findings are reassuring, not only because of continuing strong support for Israel, but because Americans understand that without a major Palestinian effort to deal with terrorism, there can be no viable Palestinian state," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.

Hamas Obtaining Military Capabilities Like Hizbullah - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    According to intelligence sources, Hamas is just 2-3 years away from obtaining the same military capabilities it took Hizbullah a decade to obtain.
    Experts estimate that Palestinian rocket range could soon reach 20 kilometers and endanger Ashdod.

U.S. Judge Orders Iran to Pay $2.65 Billion to 1983 Beirut Attack Families (AP/FOX News)
    Iran must pay $2.65 billion to the families of the 241 U.S. service members killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, a federal judge declared Friday. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth described his ruling as the largest-ever such judgment by an American court against another country.
    Iran has been blamed for supporting the militant group Hizbullah, which carried out the suicide bombing in Beirut.
    It was the worst terrorist act against U.S. targets until the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks.

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  • U.S. Pushes on Israel in Order to Increase Turnout at Middle East Conference - Steven Erlanger
    By pushing Israel to accept immediate negotiations with the Palestinians on the thorny "final status" issues, with the aim to conclude a peace settlement within a year, the Bush administration is trying to attract a significant Arab presence at the peace conference in Annapolis, a meeting now penciled in to start Nov. 26 and last less than 24 hours. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's main concession so far: to agree to have final-status negotiations with Abbas before the road map first stage is carried out. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Pressed to Make Bolder Moves Before Meeting - Adam Entous
    The U.S. is pressing Israel to go beyond a planned partial settlement freeze and to raise the number of Palestinian prisoners to be freed before the Annapolis peace conference, Israeli and Western officials said on Sunday. U.S. and Israeli officials have stressed that the centerpiece of the conference will be an agreement to resume formal statehood negotiations. "Annapolis cannot be a failure because it is already a success just for taking place," Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told visiting French Foreign Minister Kouchner. "It is a launching of talks which have not taken place in seven years, in the presence of dozens of countries and the entire world," Olmert added. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Said Unhappy with Israel Positions - Amy Teibel
    The U.S. is pressuring Israel to declare a complete freeze on West Bank settlement construction, rejecting Israel's long-standing policy of expanding existing communities, Israeli government officials say. Israel maintains that it should be allowed to build housing in settlements to account for the "natural growth" of the existing population. President Bush has signaled that he would support Israel's position that it retain some settlements under a final peace deal. According to the UN, 450,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. (AP)
        See also Olmert to Remove Unauthorized Outposts - Josef Federman
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday told his cabinet that Israel would not build any new settlements in the West Bank, but stopped short of American demands to freeze construction in existing communities. Olmert also promised to remove unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank. "We committed ourselves in the road map not to build new settlements and we will not build any," Olmert was quoted as saying by his spokeswoman, Miri Eisin. (AP)
  • Blair Unveils Huge Jobs Plan to Bolster Middle East Peace Talks - Julian Borger
    Tony Blair will announce an array of new economic projects Monday aimed at generating jobs for tens of thousands of Palestinians and creating momentum for the peace talks due to start next week. Blair will outline plans including industrial parks and agricultural ventures in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Annapolis Meet May End Without Joint Declaration - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Israeli and Palestinian sources have suggested the Annapolis peace summit could end without a joint declaration. A senior Israeli official said Sunday that "a situation is certainly possible by which there will be no joint declaration and we will have to make do with two separate statements that will be combined in the speeches of the two leaders." A Palestinian source said, "Two persons on the Palestinian negotiating team have convinced the Americans that everything will be fine if there is no joint statement. This was not the initial position of the United States." (Ha'aretz)
  • Arabs Thwart PA UN Bid to Condemn Hamas - Shlomo Shamir
    The Arab lobby at the UN, backed by Russia, foiled a PA initiative to include a condemnation of Hamas' seizure of Gaza in a UN resolution against Israel. PA observer Riad Mansour sought to include a clause "expressing concern about the takeover by illegal militias of Palestinian Authority institutions in June 2007" and calling for the reversal of this situation, but moderated the wording under Arab pressure. The clause was supposed to be included in a draft resolution against Israel, slated to be voted on this week at a Decolonization Committee meeting. But when Mansour submitted the proposed clause to the Arab representatives for approval, as usual, it met with severe criticism, and he was personally vilified. Reliable diplomatic sources said Mansour was subjected to a barrage of insults, led by the representatives of Egypt, Syria and Libya. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Conference: UN Biased Against Israel - Michal Lando
    "The United Nations is not a forum to protect human rights, nor peace and security," said Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and one of the organizers of a Sunday conference across the street from the UN billed as the first to target UN discrimination against Israel. The conference, "Hijacking Human Rights: The Demonization of Israel by the United Nations," which included professors, ambassadors, and members of Congress, coincided with the General Assembly's upcoming annual adoption of over 20 anti-Israel resolutions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Attack Destroys Five Cars in Sderot - Mijal Grinberg
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza set fire to five cars in Sderot Saturday morning. At least 10 Kassam rockets and mortars were fired by Palestinians in Gaza at Israel during the weekend. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Ashkelon Neighborhood - Shmulik Hadad
    A loud explosion rocked Ashkelon's southern neighborhoods Monday morning as a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed south of the city. Several rockets have been fired at Ashkelon over the past two weeks. One of the residents living nearby said that "the explosion was so strong my house trembled. We are used to Kassam rockets, but far from here, in the industrial zone. This is the first time the rocket lands so close. It was terrifying." Security sources said that the firing of rockets at the Ashkelon area has recently become more accurate. Several rockets landed near strategic facilities in the city over the past few weeks, one of them causing damage. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Diplomacy with the Devil - Danielle Pletka
    Back in 2001, the newly minted Bush administration was scornful of Bill Clinton's efforts to build a Palestinian state with a terrorist government in place. Bush refused to allow Arafat to darken the White House door and said he would "not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists." Now Hamas is in control of Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas is the powerless president of a Palestinian Authority and members of his Fatah forces tried to assassinate Israel's prime minister. The writer is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (New York Times)
  • Did French Television Play Fast and Loose with Journalistic Rules in the Al-Dura Case? - Hugh Schofield
    Did France 2 reporter Charles Enderlin played fast and loose with journalistic rules in order to make his report more dramatic? In the media libel case, the most startling new evidence to emerge from the screening in court of the raw footage is that at the moment when millions of television viewers were led to believe Mohammed al-Dura had died, the boy was in fact alive. The last frames - which come after the heart-rending sequence that concluded the broadcast version - show him lifting his arm and looking towards the camera.
        There was some surprise that the "rushes" did not last the full 27 minutes as originally reported, but only 18. According to Enderlin, who was in court, this was because the original cassette had been transferred at the time to a master copy in accordance with standing practice, and several minutes of uninteresting material had been wiped. (Sunday Herald-UK)
        See also New Al-Dura Video Raises Doubts - Brett Kline (JTA)
  • Palestinian Politics and the Annapolis Meeting - Mohammad Yaghi
    The push for diplomatic progress at Annapolis has already exacerbated the confrontation between Fatah and Hamas. As the meeting approaches and final-status negotiations begin, Palestinian violence may increase and possibly erupt in the West Bank. Moreover, diplomatic prospects have raised the stakes of the debate over who has the political legitimacy to negotiate with Israel. Regardless of what transpires in Annapolis, the PA views implementing the Quartet Roadmap's phase-one security requirements as essential to demonstrating its credibility and authority. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Mideast Conference Nears, with Few Plans - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)

    • A few days after Thanksgiving, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice plan to open a meeting in Annapolis to launch the first round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during Bush's presidency. But no conference date has been set. No invitations have been issued. And no one really agrees on what the participants will actually talk about at the meeting, which is intended to relaunch Bush's stillborn "road map" plan to create a Palestinian state.
    • Many diplomats involved in planning the meeting say it is simply intended to validate talks that are already proceeding between Olmert and Abbas over the contours of a Palestinian state.
    • Rice hopes the two sides will agree to press ahead on the road map plan on two simultaneous tracks. Under this new approach, the Israelis and Palestinians would negotiate hard toward a permanent settlement of the conflict, which all sides hope will be seen as a major breakthrough, while at the same time taking practical steps to ease tensions on the ground.
    • Rice is trying to entice as many Arab nations as possible - particularly Saudi Arabia - to attend at a senior level. But Saudi officials are driving a hard bargain. They initially insisted that they would not attend a conference that was not substantive and did not deal with the core issues of creating a Palestinian state.
    • Olmert, however, has balked at agreeing to a joint statement with Abbas that might be viewed in Israel as making concessions ahead of actual hard bargaining.

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