Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Videotapes of Egyptians Helping Hamas Not Shown to Congress - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
French Police Arrest Al-Qaeda Support Group (AFP)
Israel Sets Up Express Passage into Bethlehem for Pilgrims - Yuval Azoulay and Irit Rosenblum (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians Vandalize Mural by British Artist - Rebecca Harrison (Guardian-UK)
60,000 Christian Pilgrims to Visit Holy Land This Christmas - Daniel Blake (Christian Today)
The Plight of Palestinian Christians (Israel Today)
Virgins of Paradise Music Video Returns to PA TV - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
Jewish Agency to Get Christian Representative - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush said Thursday at a press conference: "My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago. And the reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hizbullah, suiciders go from his country to Iraq, and he destabilizes Lebanon."
"I'm looking forward to going to the Middle East. I've got a couple of objectives. One is to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Secondly is to continue to work with our Arab friends on reconciliation with Israel. And finally, is to assure people in the Middle East that we understand - or we'll show a strong commitment to the security of the region, and a commitment to the security of our friends." (White House)
A Pentagon report issued Tuesday says, "There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shiite militias in Iraq....Tehran's support for Shiite militant groups who attack coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress towards stabilization." (Christian Science Monitor)
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, an Arab from Nazareth and the Roman Catholic Church's top cleric in the Holy Land, said Israel should not be designated a Jewish state. "If it's Jewish, it's not Muslim or Christian," he said. Sabbah had no word on whether a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza should not be allowed to favor Muslims, given those territories' sanctity to Jews and Christians. (JTA)
See also Patriarch's Views Criticized
"We hope that Catholic Church officials will publicly denounce these remarks by Patriarch Sabbah, whose words are as painful as they are slanderous," said Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. "Under Israeli rule, each Abrahamic faith has full access and control over their holy shrines." (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Defense officials say the heavy pressure on militants in Gaza is making progress, and there will be room to consider a change to its offensive only if Hamas imposes on other militant factions a moratorium on Kassam rocket attacks on Israel. In an IDF operation Thursday in central Gaza, one soldier was seriously injured and seven Palestinian gunmen were killed. Palestinians fired a number of Kassam rockets and mortars at Israel, with one rocket landing near a school in Sderot. (Ha'aretz)
See also One Kassam Rocket Too Many - Amos Harel
The combination of Israeli air attacks, a tight economic blockade, and increasing losses among the terror organizations is putting Hamas under considerable pressure. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh may speak of a tahdiya (lull, or quiet), though not a hudna (cease-fire), but Hamas' military wing, headed by Ahmad Jabari, does not accept his leadership. Hamas and Islamic Jihad forces number slightly over 10,000 men at arms. Dozens of gunmen are killed in Gaza every month.
Since ten Islamic Jihad militants were killed this week, several of them high up in the organization's military wing, there has been a decrease in rocket fire by Islamic Jihad. The militants fear the Israeli security services have succeeded in infiltrating their ranks and they have gone underground to limit the damage. While Hamas is not launching Kassam rockets, it makes do with firing mortars at IDF bases and Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza. The military wing of Hamas is working on spectacular operations, along the lines of the abduction of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. IDF operations two or three kilometers inside Gazan territory are aimed in part at preventing the excavation of tunnels that would enable terrorists to infiltrate IDF bases or kibbutzim close to the border, with the goal of abducting or killing Israelis.
Hamas is indeed less corrupt than Fatah, but unemployment has risen, the possibility of traveling abroad via Egypt has declined dramatically, and Gaza's economic isolation is immeasurably more acute. The economic sanctions affect everything, with the exception of basic staples. Disposable diapers are hard to come by and cigarettes have soared to $15 a pack. Hamas, which controls most of the smuggling tunnels, earned about $25 million last month from taxes on smuggled cigarettes. (Ha'aretz)
A military incursion into Gaza to remove Hamas is needed if there is to be any real diplomatic process with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday. As long as Hamas is in control of Gaza, there will be negotiations with the PA but no real "diplomatic process," he said. A diplomatic process requires the ability of both sides to compromise, something that Mahmoud Abbas will be unlikely to do as long as Hamas controls Gaza, the official said.
The official said there was nothing to signal that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh might be interested in some kind of truce, adding that Hamas had made it clear that it had no intention of stopping its arms buildup via smuggling from Egypt or stopping terrorist attacks elsewhere. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The UN General Assembly this week voted its "deep concern" over escalating atrocities in Iran, such as stoning, repression of female dissidents, and persecution of human rights defenders. Executions - many of them in public - are up at least 19% over last year. At universities, dozens of students and teachers who are too liberal or speak out against the regime have been arrested or silenced. The hard evidence is that Iran's people are alienated from their government and tired of nearly three decades of "revolution" with little to show for it. They also resent the reckless, wasteful spending of billions of dollars in oil revenues. When he was elected in 2005, Ahmadinejad promised to put "the oil money on people's dinner tables." Instead, inflation is about 20%, matched by a similar rate in unemployment. (Christian Science Monitor)
See also Regime-Change Fears Drive Iran's Vice Crackdown - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
More needs to be done to expand and strengthen support from civil society for an ultimate resolution of the conflict. Peace education must be a key element of this effort. The U.S. Embassy in Israel has been partnering with many Israeli grassroots organizations and schools to conduct peace education programs. We work closely with groups and institutions that teach respect for democratic values and diversity, provide students with solid citizenship skills, tackle conflict resolution, develop language skills and foster knowledge of and respect for others. (Ha'aretz)
See also A Partnership for Palestinians - Editorial
A joint effort by the U.S. government and private businesses has been launched to create jobs for the Palestinian people. The partnership will seek U.S and international corporate support for projects that promote economic and social development and to help create an atmosphere in which a stronger private sector can emerge. President Bush says the program is designed to help the Palestinians, particularly young people, develop civil society: "We are going to help the Palestinians develop youth centers, places where young Palestinians can come and learn new technical skills or language skills or have mentoring programs. This is all aimed at saying there is a hopeful future, a future where you do not have to adhere to violence, a future where radicalism is not in your sights, a future where peace is possible."
Youth centers are planned for Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron, all in the West Bank. The centers will offer young Palestinians opportunities to participate in sports and will train coaches and administrators to establish sports leagues. U.S. businesses will help set up high-tech classrooms for young people. (VOA News)
Christmas came early to the Palestinian Authority when the "international community" decided to pledge billions in aid. Why? Did the PA end its terrorist ways? Stop state-sanctioned incitement against Israel and the West? Change Fatah's charter (forget about Hamas) calling for Israel's destruction? What we call "foreign aid" to the PA may be understood as a form of "jizya," the protection money paid to Muslims by non-Muslims. We avert our collective eye from the goals of jihad. Instead, we see ourselves as villains - Israel for its existence, and Israel's supporters for, well, their support for Israel's existence. (Washington Times)
So international donors have pledged $8.6 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority. This eye-popping amount of money will continue the Palestinians' status as the highest per capita aid recipients in the world. Not that I'm suggesting Palestinians don't have it tough, even if most of their suffering is caused by the appalling decisions of their corrupt, incompetent and extremist leadership.
The aid pledged in Paris may do some good. It may stabilize living standards on the West Bank. And by exacerbating the contrast between a more prosperous West Bank, controlled by Fatah, and an increasingly poverty-stricken Gaza, controlled by the religious extremists, Hamas, it may strengthen Fatah against Hamas. Assuming all this works out perfectly, at the very best we might get a slightly improved status quo. Fatah is a busted flush of ageing cronies and local war lords. It has not produced a new generation of leaders and it has very little support among the Palestinian people. Remove the Israelis from the West Bank and the estimates of how long Fatah would remain in power range from two weeks to two hours. (The Australian)
The argument for increasing foreign aid to the Palestinians stems from the belief that the way to defeat radicalism is to eliminate its ostensible cause - poverty and ignorance. But as early as 1958, Daniel Lerner discerned that political activism in the Middle East was not driven by the "have nots," but rather by the "want mores."
Claude Berrebi of Princeton University analyzed Palestinian terrorism and determined that "if anything...those with higher education and higher living standards are more likely to participate in terrorist activity." Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that Palestinian suicide bombers were more likely than the general population to have completed secondary education and were less likely to come from an impoverished environment. They also found similar results associated with membership in Hizbullah. (CAMERA)
One of the most widespread misconceptions about Israeli-Palestinian talks is that "everyone knows what a deal looks like." As the New York Times put it in an editorial last month, "The broad outlines of a deal...have been apparent since President Clinton's 2000 push." Yet according to a summary of the Taba talks prepared by negotiator Gilad Sher after they collapsed, the Palestinians objected to Israel keeping the settlement blocs - one of Israel's main reasons for wanting territorial exchanges - and generally insisted that any swaps total no more than 2.3% of the West Bank, well short of the 6 to 8% needed for the blocs. They refused to let Israel keep Latrun, which dominates the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. And they insisted that the "safe passage" connecting Gaza and the West Bank be under Palestinian sovereignty, thereby effectively severing Israel in two.
On the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site, the Palestinians insisted that the mount be entirely theirs, with Israel having no rights whatsoever. The Palestinians also demanded recognition of the "right" of all refugees and their descendants to relocate to Israel. The Palestinians adamantly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation-state. In short, not only is there no agreement on what a deal looks like, there is no agreement even on the fundamental premise that must underlie any deal - namely, the establishment of two states for two peoples. (Jerusalem Post)
On the eve of the Muslim high holiday of Eid Al-Adha, explosions abound in Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, and Algeria. The victims were nearly all Muslim. We have failed to offer a robust response to the brutal wave of human sacrifice. It is long past time to mount a vigorous campaign against the cult of death and reaffirm a culture of life.
We must avoid the temptation to rationalize murder. "The attack is wrong," goes a common refrain, "but we must understand the root causes." There can be no "buts" - no qualifications or justifications that indulge the political grievances and religious sanction claimed by extremists. Taking an unequivocal stand against human sacrifice does not require radical reinterpretation of Muslim tradition. (Boston Globe)
What comes to mind when you hear the word "Muslim"? It's more likely to be beards, bombs and burqas than stand-up comedians. Muslims aren't exactly famous these days for lightheartedness. But why is this? Why do other cultures and religious groups seem able to withstand mockery, while Muslims seem chronically hypersensitive?
Earlier this year, I sat in a West London hall watching a heavily bearded Muslim man, Azhar Usman, an American comedian who tours with two fellow Muslims in a show they call "Allah Made Me Funny." Everywhere I looked, British Muslims of all ages were doing something you hardly ever see: laughing - as if in defiance of the extreme voices that overpower theirs in the public square. The irony is that "Allah Made Me Funny" springs from a tradition that stretches back to the days of the prophet Muhammad himself, who by all accounts enjoyed a good laugh; indeed, he had a companion with the honorific title "jester of the prophet." It's only recently that Muslims have become sensitive about religious jokes. (Washington Post)
Senior Qaeda Theologian Urges Followers to End Jihad - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
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