Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 26, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: North Korean Chemical Arms Experts Advised Syria (AP/Ha'aretz)
    North Korean experts discussed how to load chemical weapons onto Syria's Scud C missiles when they met with Syrian officials during a secret visit to the country earlier this month, the Japanese Sankei newspaper reported Monday.
    A missile exploded at a military complex near the northern city of Aleppo in July at the site of a joint Iranian/Syrian project to fit short-range ballistic missiles with chemical warheads, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.
    Jane's cited Syrian defense sources as saying the explosion happened during a test to fit a Scud C missile with a mustard-gas warhead when fuel caught fire at the production site.

Israel Campus Beat
- November 25, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    Sadat's Visit to Jerusalem 30 Years Ago

Hamas "to Step Up Attacks" After Annapolis - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Syrian-based Musa Abu Marzouk, the number-two man in Hamas, said the post-Annapolis period would witness a dramatic escalation in anti-Israel attacks.
    "Resistance operations will be escalated in all forms and methods," he said.
    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhr said the Arab League decision to send Arab foreign ministers to the Annapolis conference came as a shock to most Palestinians because it paved the way for normalization with Israel.

Limiting IDF West Bank Operations Increases Rocket Threat on Tel Aviv - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The Shin Bet and IDF agree that if the IDF stops operating in West Bank towns, the PA will not be able to impose order there and it would take just a few months for an effective infrastructure to develop in those towns for producing Kassam rockets that would threaten Israel's Sharon and Dan regions.

Israeli Pediatrician Who Saves Lives of Palestinian Children Is Also an Attack Helicopter Pilot - Laura Blumenfeld (Washington Post)
    Yuval is a 40-year-old major in the air force. The military has allowed Yuval to study medicine while he serves.
    When he isn't flying, Yuval treats children as a resident at a nearby civilian hospital.

Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis - Andrea Elliott (New York Times Magazine)
    Increasingly, terrorism analysts have focused on the importance of social milieu.
    Some stress that terrorists are not simply loners, overcome by a militant cause. They are more likely to radicalize together with others who share the same passions.
    Terrorists don't simply die for a cause, Scott Atran, an anthropologist who studies terrorism, told me. "They die for each other."

Iranian Jews Leaving Home for the Homeland - Rory McCarthy (Guardian-UK)
    There remains a Jewish community in Iran of around 25,000 people. Yet large numbers have left and settled across the world, particularly in Los Angeles, and this year around 150 are expected to head to Israel.
    "In the past year there has been a major increase in immigration from Iran," says Yossi Shraga, the Jewish Agency's expert on Iran.

Saudi Arabia Marks 136th Beheading of 2007 (AP/FOX News)
    Saudi authorities on Sunday beheaded a citizen convicted of shooting a man in the head with an assault rifle following an argument in the southern city of Najran, the Interior Ministry said.
    The execution brought to 136 the number of people beheaded in the kingdom this year. Saudi Arabia beheaded 38 people last year and 83 people in 2005.

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  • Arab Nations to Attend Peace Conference - Salah Nasrawi
    Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations decided Friday to attend the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis. But the Saudi foreign minister said he would not allow "theatrics" such as handshakes with Israeli officials, insisting the meeting make serious progress. Participation by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was a key goal of the U.S. to show strong Arab support for the conference. Al-Faisal told a news conference that an Arab League meeting had decided Arab countries will attend the conference at the level of foreign minister.
        "I'm not hiding any secret about the Saudi position. We were reluctant until today. And if not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go," al-Faisal said. "But the kingdom would never stand against an Arab consensus, as long as the Arab position has agreed on attending. The kingdom will walk along with its brothers in one line." (AP)
        See also Iran Rebukes Saudi Arabia for Attending Mideast Conference (AFP)
  • Hadley: Mideast Summit "Not a Negotiation Session"
    U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley told a pre-Annapolis conference press briefing Sunday: "This is not a negotiating forum; this is an opportunity, if you will, to showcase what is an opportunity to move into a negotiating phase between Palestinians and Israelis."
        "What specifically is liable to come out of this meeting? Well, first is the indication by the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations that it is their intention to start negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state and for the reaching of an Israeli-Palestinian peace....Secondly, I think you will hear...a commitment by the two parties, Israelis and Palestinians, to carry out the road map so that you are going to have a situation where the negotiations would go forward, but at the same time, the parties would be implementing their obligations under the road map....There will be an indication that the parties have asked the United States to be, if you will, the rapporteur...and to monitor the progress of the parties towards implementing the road map."
        "I think, in some sense, the role of the joint statement has changed....If they can agree on some things as an input to the negotiations, that would be fine. But I think it is really no longer on the critical path to a successful conference." In addition, "I don't think that the President will conclude that the time is right for him to start offering ideas on outcomes on specific issues."  (White House)
        See also Bush to Stay on Sidelines of Mideast Talks - Paul Richter
    Bush's positions suggest there may be a gap between his views and those of Rice, his chief diplomat, who has labored for years to indicate there is no daylight between them. Rice has said that she wants to wrap up negotiations before the president's term ends. But Hadley said the administration is not, in fact, setting that date as a deadline. Completing the deal within a year was "an idea that the parties have articulated," Hadley said. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Follow-up Meeting in Moscow Will Discuss Syrian, Lebanese Issues; U.S. Proposes Monitoring Committee Including Arab Membership
    Washington has proposed that Arab states attending the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis hold a follow-up meeting in Moscow "in January that would discuss the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process, in addition to the Palestinian track," a Riyadh-based Arab diplomat said Saturday. According to the Arab diplomat, the U.S. has also suggested that the Annapolis conference establish a follow-up committee that would monitor future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The committee would draw its membership from the Quartet and an Arab contact group. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arab States Insist Normalization with Israel Not on the Agenda at Conference - Yoav Stern
    Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said before leaving for Annapolis that the league's decision to send its foreign ministers to the conference does not mean normalizing relations with Israel. Andre Azoulay, senior adviser to King Mohamed VI of Morocco, told Ha'aretz Sunday that the summit's purpose in his view is to signal to all the people in the region that it is possible to revive peace efforts, but that it would be a mistake to expect steps toward normalization immediately after the conference. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Searching for Terrorist Tunnels from Gaza into Israel - Hanan Greenberg
    The IDF has amplified efforts to locate tunnels that Gaza-based terrorists are attempting to dig into Israeli territory to carry out terrorist attacks ahead of the Annapolis conference. The military is using bulldozers and other heavy earth-moving equipment in order to foil attempts by Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate into Israel via underground passages. Top IDF officials have admitted in recent months that a number of the tunnels dug from Gaza were already nearing completion upon their discovery. One officer even estimated that as many as a dozen tunnels were currently being dug, while some were likely ready to be used. (Ynet News)
  • Ya'alon Warns Against East Jerusalem Pullout
    An Israeli withdrawal from Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as part of a peace treaty with the Palestinians would put the whole city within range of Palestinian rocket fire, former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (Res.) Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday. "One must be blind not to see that dividing the capital will bring the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, government ministries and schools into the range of Kassam rockets," Ya'alon said at a Jerusalem rally against the division of Jerusalem organized by the One Jerusalem organization. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Eyes Will Be on Bush at Talks on Mideast - Glenn Kessler and Michael Abramowitz
    When Bush first asked Rice to take over the State Department after the 2004 elections, during a weekend at Camp David, she quizzed him on only one policy issue: Was he willing to support the creation of a Palestinian state? The president gave an affirmative answer, which was important to her, according to people familiar with the conversation. "I wouldn't be doing this if he weren't deeply committed to it," Rice told reporters last week. "I am his secretary of state." Indeed, the push to negotiate a final settlement, before Palestinian political and security institutions are built, marks a significant shift for the administration. It also marks a victory for Rice, who for the past year has said she wants to give the Palestinians a "political horizon" - a vision of the contours of a Palestinian state.
        However, people who have spoken to Bush in recent weeks say he has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to force a peace settlement on the parties. The president's fight against terrorism has given him a sense of kinship with Israel over its need for security, and he remains skeptical that, in the end, the Palestinians will make the compromises necessary for a peace deal. (Washington Post)
  • Appointment in Annapolis - Editorial
    The Annapolis meeting may yet serve the modest purpose of providing an international blessing for the first formal Mideast peace process in seven years. But events of the past few weeks have tested Ms. Rice's notion that conditions in the region now favor the two-state settlement that President Bush has endorsed. In practice, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have bogged down in the decades-old disputes that have blocked every previous peace process, such as sovereignty over Jerusalem and whether Palestinian refugees will be allowed to settle in Israel.
        The response of the "mainstream" Arab governments that Ms. Rice hoped to marshal has been disappointing. Saudi Arabia, which claims the Palestinian cause is a top priority, has persistently declined to support the new U.S. effort, either through substantial support for Mr. Abbas' government or overtures to Israel. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal announced his attendance at Annapolis only on Friday - and then only after making clear that he would not speak or shake hands with Israeli attendees. The breakthrough that Ms. Rice thought was possible still looks remote. (Washington Post)
  • The U.S. Is Back - Aluf Benn
    The main message of this week's summit at Annapolis will be that the U.S. is back as a leader in the Middle East. When the U.S. calls, the world sides with it. Only a year ago, a pessimistic theory of America's decline as a leading power in the Middle East dominated Washington.
        Now Bush is launching a counterstrike. Encouraged by the improved security situation in Baghdad and the drop in the number of casualties, and the successful Israeli strike against a Syrian nuclear installation, Bush is embarking on a diplomatic adventure in the Middle East. The photo-op at Annapolis will reflect the power of the "axis of moderates." The U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE will stand holding hands against the "axis of evil" who were not invited: Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Diplomatic Show of Force - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Underestimating the Annapolis summit is not a good idea. It is completely clear that the event will only slightly advance the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's resolution, if at all. Yet this is not the reason why Condoleezza Rice initiated this meeting. The genuine and major objective of the U.S. is to produce a diplomatic show of force in Annapolis that would make it clear how robust Washington's status is in the Mideast region and in global politics. America currently needs a show of force that will reunite the pro-Western camp around it and encourage its allies to continue the struggle against radical Islam's belligerent intention to take over the region. (Ynet News)
  • To Annapolis - Without Illusions - Shlomo Avineri
    Annapolis is nothing more than an attempt to institutionalize the change that has taken place in the atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinians and to try to find a way out - as modest as it may be - of the freeze that resulted from the failure of the 2000 Camp David summit and the second intifada. Anyone who expects Annapolis to lead to an agreement is ignoring the situation on the ground. The gaps between the relatively moderate Israeli stance, which is represented by the Olmert-Barak government, and the relatively moderate stance represented by Mahmoud Abbas, are still too profound.
        After almost six years in which Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not spoken to each other, in recent weeks they have been meeting regularly. Perhaps they have not yet reached agreements, but, after the collapse of the Oslo Accords, the fact they are talking is in itself an achievement that should not be made light of. The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • How Important Is It for Syria to Be at Annapolis? - Shlomo Brom
    In Israel, those calling for revived negotiations with Syria have become more vocal, and even Prime Minister Olmert is reported to be considering whether to give priority to the Syrian track over the Palestinian track, where the chances for real progress appear slim. In the U.S., a change in approach is less palpable, but there, too, the impression exists that the recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton report to open a dialogue with Syria has recently gained currency. The more the U.S. focuses on its unfolding confrontation with Iran, the more it is argued that weaning Syria away from the axis with Iran can be a very effective tool in waging that confrontation.
        Without Syria's presence, it will be harder to argue persuasively that there is a consensus in the Arab collective on this issue. From that point of view, the more it becomes clear that the two sides alone are unable to formulate a joint statement of principles to be presented to the meeting and adopted by its participants and that the meeting is turning into an event that only signals the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the more important it is for the parties to receive the imprimatur of the Arab world. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Is the Israel-Palestine Conflict about the Size of Israel, or About Its Existence? - Bernard Lewis (Wall Street Journal, 26Nov07)

    • PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab states, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.
    • A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel.
    • What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways - Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement - Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.
    • The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by UN funding. Paradoxically, if a Palestinian fled to Britain or America, he was eligible for naturalization after five years, and his locally-born children were citizens by birth. If he went to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, he and his descendants remained stateless, now entering the fourth or fifth generation.
    • The reason for this has been stated by various Arab spokesmen. It is the need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return" of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.
    • Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose - to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.

      The writer, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2004).

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