Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with the Fairness Project
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 28, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

How Knesset Seats are Decided

    The electoral threshold for a party to enter the Knesset is 1.5% of the national vote, estimated at 51,000.
    Once a party secures its 1.5%, each Knesset seat is equal to 1/120th of the national vote, or approximately 27,000 votes.
    Israel's voter turnout averages approximately 75% of eligible voters.

What Next?
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    Election results will be published in the official gazette on Feb. 5, 2003, eight days after the elections.
    The first session of the new Knesset will be held on Feb. 17, 2003.

What It Means
- Yossi Verter (Ha'aretz)

    This is the first time since 1981 that a prime minister who called for early elections will actually win them.
    This is also the first time in 20 years that a prime minister will be elected twice in a row to lead Israel.
    Since 1984, Likud and Labor have been passing the prime minister's seat back and forth every election campaign.

56 Female Candidates Up for Election in Israel - Peroshni Govender (Women's News)

    Of the 17 women currently in government, six representatives are in the Labor party. Meretz follows with four. Likud has three, and Hadash, Shinui, Center, and Yisrael b'Aliyah each have one woman Knesset member.

Useful Reference:

The New Members of the Knesset
    The party lists. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Hunt for 1,200 Britons Who Trained with al Qaeda - David Bamber (Telegraph-UK)
    Almost 1,200 British Muslims trained with bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan.
    The names, addresses, and other details of the Britons were found by British military intelligence during searches of bin Laden's cave complex at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.
    Special Branch detectives fear that some of the men who cannot be traced could be plotting terrorist attacks in Britain.

3/4 of Israelis Killed in 2002 were Civilians - Felix Frisch (Yediot Ahronot)
    436 Israelis were killed in 2002, compared with 198 in 2001.
    76% of Israelis killed in 2002 were civilians.
    Among the Palestinians, 45% were civilians and 55% were fighters; 95% men and only 5% women - disproving claims that the IDF fires indiscriminately.
    151 Palestinians, 15% of the total, were killed by other Palestinians, in suicide attacks, or in work accidents.
    The data comes from an updated report of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

Palestinian Killed by Homemade Grenade at Funeral - Jamie Tarabay (AP/Miami Herald)
    An 18-year-old Palestinian man was killed when Palestinian militants tossed a homemade grenade at a funeral procession in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, hospital officials said.
    During funerals, Palestinian militants routinely fire automatic rifles into the air and call for revenge against Israel. It appeared the grenade was thrown as a show of strength and was not intended to harm anyone, witnesses said.

Israel at the Polls - 2003:

The 16 Tribes of Israel (Reuters)
    In Israel's general election on Tuesday, opinion polls show 16 different parties with a chance of winning a minimum of 50,000 votes (1.5% of the total) - enough to enter the Knesset, Israel's 120-seat parliament.

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

Israeli Election Update - First Exit Polls

According to exit polls announced by Israel TV Channel 1 for elections to the 16th Knesset, the leading parties are Likud - 36 seats, Labor - 18, and Shinui - 14. The Center-Right camp parties will receive 47 seats, the Center-Left Camp 23, the religious parties 23, other centrist parties 17, and Arab parties 10.

According to exit polls announced by Israel TV Channel 2, the results are Likud - 32 seats, Labor - 19, and Shinui - 17. The Center-Right camp parties will receive 45 seats, the Center-Left Camp 26, the religious parties 19, other centrist parties 20, and Arab parties 10.

PartyIdeologyLeaderSeats 1999Seats 2003 (Projected)
Center-Right Camp:47/45
LikudWill talk peace with Palestinians only after a cessation of violenceAriel Sharon1936/32
National UnionNo Palestinian stateAvigdor Lieberman78/10
Yisrael b'AliyahPalestinian state only if democraticNatan Sharansky 63/3
Center-Left Camp:23/26
LaborResume talks on Palestinian statehood before end to violence Amram Mitzna2618/19
MeretzWithdrawal to 1967 bordersYossi Sarid105/7
Religious Parties:23/19
ShasUltra-Orthodox and traditional SephardimEli Yishai1713/9
United Torah JudaismUltra-Orthodox AshkenazimYaakov Litzman55/5
National Religious PartyReligious Zionism, emphasizing army service and the Land of IsraelEffi Eitam55/5
Other Centrist Parties:17/20
ShinuiSeparation of religion and stateYosef Lapid614/17
Am Ehad - One NationWorkers' rightsAmir Peretz23/3
Arab Parties:10/10
United Arab ListDominated by Islamic movement, supports Palestinian stateAbdulmalek Dehamshe53/3
Hadash/Ta'alFormerly Communist party, supports Palestinian stateMohammad Barakeh44/4
BaladCultural autonomy for Arabs, supports Palestinian stateAzmi Bishara13/3

Election Commentary:

  • Democracy Shines in Israeli Elections - Meir Shlomo
    The elections embody all that Israel stands for - an active participation in the democratic process, transparency in political affairs, equality of its citizens, and freedom of speech. These elections illustrate Israel's will to continue to thrive as a democracy, even in the face of such haunting terror. (Boston Globe)
  • "Only Sharon" Is Choice of Many Israelis - Laura King
    Sharon is the consummate survivor. Asked about the times when he was written off as a spent force in Israel's political life, he replied, "They buried me too soon, or maybe not deep enough!" Heading into Tuesday's parliamentary elections, he has marshaled the solid support of the electorate, including many people who never thought they would cast a ballot for him. The prevailing sentiment is that without him, things would have been worse. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Sharon Looks for Big Win to Force Unity Government - Gil Hoffman
    Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna is expected to refuse his critics' calls to quit the Labor chairmanship and unequivocally rule out bringing Labor into the coalition. Without support from Labor, Sharon intends to form a narrow government at first, and then hope Labor will join the coalition later on, when the Iraq war is under way. Sharon's advisers said the prime minister intends to shun his natural allies, Shas and the National Union, and turn first to Labor and Shinui.
        Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, talking on Sharon's behalf, reportedly told Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid that if Shinui receives the double-digit mandates predicted for the party, it will have a new responsibility as a large party to enter the government and impact its policies. Lapid is said to be interested in the Justice portfolio. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Populist Lapid Predicts a Place in Government with Labor - Donald Macintyre
    The leader of Israel's Shinui Party, Tommy Lapid, predicted Monday that Labor would renege on its promise to stay out of a coalition with the ruling party, Likud, after Tuesday's elections, which would pave the way for him to assume a ministerial role in the coalition. (Independent-UK)

  • News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • UN Inspector Says Iraq Falls Short on Cooperation
    Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix gave a broadly negative report Monday on Iraq's cooperation with two months of inspections, providing support to the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq by force if necessary. "Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace," Mr. Blix said. (New York Times)
        Full text of Blix Report to UN (Washington Post)
        No More Last Chances - Editorial
    Mr. Blix went on to present, in a deliberately understated way, a devastating catalogue of lies, omissions and obfuscations by Iraq in the 2 1/2 months since the council passed Resolution 1441. Rather than offer Iraq yet another last chance, the council would do better to simply obey the resolution it approved unanimously just 11 weeks ago. The terms of 1441 said that if Iraq submitted a false declaration of its weapons - as all agree it did on Dec. 8 - and failed "at any time" to "cooperate fully" - Mr. Blix detailed a number of instances - Baghdad would be in "material breach" of the resolution. (Washington Post)
        Britain Says Iraq in "Material Breach" of UN
    Speaking one day after chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the Security Council, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday Iraq was in "material breach" of UN disarmament demands. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • U.S. to Make Iraq Intelligence Public
    The Bush administration has assembled what it believes to be significant intelligence showing that Iraq has been actively moving and concealing banned weapons systems and related equipment from UN inspectors, according to informed sources. President Bush and his national security advisers have decided to declassify some of the information and make it public, perhaps as early as next week. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Forces Fighting Afghan Rebels
    U.S. and coalition forces are fighting a pitched battle against a group of 80 rebel forces aligned to renegade leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the largest-scale fighting since Operation Anaconda nine months ago, the U.S. military said Tuesday. At least 18 rebel fighters were killed, and there were no coalition casualties, the military said. U.S. military spokesman Roger King said from Bagram Air Base that American war planes attacked enemy positions, some entrenched in deep caves, with B-1 bombers, F-16s, and AC-130 gunships. (AP/New York Times)
  • U.S. to Provide Patriot Missile Shield to Jordan
    The U.S. will provide Jordan with a Patriot anti-missile defense system and U.S. troops to operate it in the event of war in the region, an American government official said. "A number of Patriot missiles missed their targets in 1991 and caused significant damage in Israeli urban areas," said Mouin Rabbani, a Middle East analyst in Jordan. "It would therefore technically make sense to locate them in the relatively unpopulated deserts of eastern Jordan instead." (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • Palestinian Talks in Cairo Conclude Without Cease-Fire - Daniel Sobelman
    Palestinian factions wound up their talks in Cairo without agreeing to a cease-fire. Reports said the representatives were working on a joint formula for their continued activities. (Ha'aretz)
  • Shas Spiritual Leader Reverses Land-for-Peace Ruling - Gil Hoffman
    Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef announced Monday that he has changed his mind on trading land for peace, declaring that the Oslo Accords are null and void and transferring territory to the Arabs is forbidden, because it would endanger Israeli lives. Yosef's dictate reversed an earlier halachic ruling allowing territorial compromise if it would save lives. He said the earlier ruling was outdated, given the current violence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Leaders Killed in Gaza "Work Accident"
    Two senior Hamas militants and a 15-year-old girl were killed and 9 were wounded in an explosion in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza Monday night. Palestinian security sources reported that the explosion was due to a "work accident" in the preparation of explosives. The IDF denied reports that it had attacked the building with missiles. In an unusual step, Palestinian police and armed Hamas activists kept people away from the destroyed house, and prevented reporters from entering the hospital where the casualties were taken. (Maariv)
  • Cartoon in UK Paper Draws Israeli Protest - Sharon Sadeh
    The Israeli Embassy in London has sent a strongly worded letter of protest to The Independent, following an editorial cartoon Monday by Dave Brown, depicting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon biting the flesh of a Palestinian baby. The background shows Apache attack helicopters sending missiles with the message "Vote Likud." Shuli Davidovich, the embassy's press secretary, responded: "The blood-thirsty imagery not only misrepresents the real reason for the IDF's operations in Gaza, but also feeds the hostility toward Israel and the Jewish people which lies at the very core of the Arab-Israeli conflict." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Meir Dagan, the New Head of the Mossad - Yossi Melman
    "Mossad" stands for the Israeli Institution for Intelligence and Special Assignments. Dagan has said the most important issues for the organization are: 1) the gathering of information about the efforts being made by Arab countries to attain unconventional weapons and missile capability; 2) intensified cooperation with parallel intelligence organizations worldwide; 3) a fight against international terrorism, which the research division of Military Intelligence began calling "worldwide Jihad" years ago, even before the attacks of 9/11. (Ha'aretz)
  • Saudis Worry as They Waste Their Scarce Water - Craig S. Smith
    Saudi Arabia sits atop one of the world's smallest reserves of water. Yet Saudi Arabia wastes plenty of its scarcest resource: fountains spew, swimming pools slop over, and irrigation sprinklers seem to spray everywhere, letting water evaporate into the dry desert air. Muhammad al-Qunaibet, a hydrologist and government adviser, estimates that the country uses 6.34 trillion gallons of water a year for agriculture, but says that only a third of that is replaced through rainfall. The rest simply disappears. "I've had to lower my pumps 100 meters in the past 10 years," said a local wheat farmer who taps into subterranean reservoirs. In some places, a quart of potable water costs more to produce than a quart of oil. (New York Times)
  • Talking Points:

    Palestinian Terrorists Hiding Within the Civilian Population
    - Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron (IDF Spokesperson)

    • The terrorists launch Kassam missiles and mortars from within the Palestinian population toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and inside Israel.
    • The IDF does not operate blindly but acts only after receiving accurate and precise intelligence information.
    • Commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Gadi Shamni, stated that IDF infantry, armor, combat engineering, air force, and intelligence forces were operating in the Gaza Strip.
    • According to Brig. Gen. Shamni, "We do not have the ability to halt the firing of all Kassam missiles, but we are doing our utmost, as opposed to our Palestinian counterparts who are doing nothing to stop terrorism and the launching of missiles."

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