Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 23, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

PA Bars Palestinians from Using IDF Travel Permits - Hagai Huberman (Hazofe-Hebrew)
    The Palestinian Authority has forbidden its residents from using travel permits provided by Israel to pass through security checkpoints, and has even threatened those who received such documents, according to an internal report submitted last week to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz by the IDF Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlab.
    According to the report, the IDF has issued 10,993 such permits.
    In addition, out of concern to assure normal life for Palestinians living near the security fence, Israel has agreed to issue special permits for those affected.
    Although the PA has forbidden residents from receiving these permits as well, the IDF has so far issued 3,857 permits.

PA Detains Democracy Activist - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Muhammad Muqbel, 57, director-general of the PA Ministry of Sports and Youth, was taken into custody by PA General Intelligence after he reportedly made remarks at a conference in Ramallah last week on democracy and political reform that were considered "offensive" to Arafat.
    Muqbel was not one of the speakers, but during the debates he reportedly criticized Arafat and other senior PA officials.

Saudis Confront Soaring Crime - John R. Bradley (Washington Times)
    Saudi Arabia is coming to terms with a crime wave ushered in by a population boom, rapid social change, increased unemployment, and a reduction in oil revenue.
    The number of jobless Saudis is estimated to be as high as 35%.
    The kingdom, known for being virtually crime-free, still applies a strict form of Sharia law, which includes public beheading for murder, drug trafficking, rape, and adultery - and thieves sometimes have their hands amputated.
    An estimated 48 persons were beheaded last year, and more than 50 have been beheaded this year.

Useful Reference:

Palestinian Use of Ambulances and Medical Materials for Terror (Foreign Ministry)
    Palestinian terror organizations cynically use ambulances as they attempt to transport terrorists, weaponry, and explosive devices past IDF checkpoints.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Attacked by Palestinian Mob at Jerusalem Mosque
    Ahmed Maher, Egypt's foreign minister, was attacked and beaten by a Palestinian mob as he prayed at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque during an official visit to Israel aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process. About 100 worshippers set on Maher, 68. Some threw shoes, a traditional gesture of contempt, calling the minister a traitor and shouting: "Go back to Sharon! You are collaborators!" By agreement between Israel and the Muslim authorities, Israeli police did not accompany Maher to the mosque, though they rushed in to rescue him as soon as the mob struck. (Independent-UK)
  • U.S. Report Criticizes Saudi Curbs on Religious Freedom
    The State Department's fifth annual International Religious Freedom Report released Thursday said Saudi Arabia continues to impose strict limitations on religious freedoms. In Saudi Arabia, the report said, "Freedom of religion does not exist." The government continued to enforce "a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam and suppress the public practice of other interpretations of Islam and non-Muslim religions." Non-Muslim worshippers risked "arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes physical abuse." (AP/USA Today)
        See also International Religious Freedom Report for 2003 (State Department)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Two IDF Officers Killed in Gaza - Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis
    Two IDF officers - Captain Haggai Bibi, 24, and Lt. Alex Leonardo Weissman, 23 - were killed Monday in an ambush near the Kisufim border crossing in Gaza. After a lookout spotted a suspicious Palestinian, a jeep was sent to investigate. When the soldiers got out of the jeep, the Palestinian opened fire, killing the two. Two armed Palestinians were killed in the clash. According to Brig.-Gen. Gad Shamni, commander of the Gaza corps, there have been 11 attacks on this road so far this year. Also Monday, a Palestinian ambushed two Israeli vehicles in Hebron, moderately wounding a border policeman. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sharon Boosts Egyptian Ceasefire Efforts - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Shalom told visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher on Monday that Israel would not enter into a ceasefire deal with Palestinian terror groups, but if there was quiet, Israel would respond in kind. "Quiet will be met with quiet," Sharon said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Columbian Rebels Free Israeli Hostages - Nathan Guttman and Yossi Melman
    Colombian ELN (National Liberation Army) rebels Monday released the four Israelis and a Briton they had kidnapped 102 days ago, handing them over to a church-led humanitarian commission. (Ha'aretz)
  • Mexico Buys Israeli Missile Ships, Helicopters for $90 Million - Amnon Barzilai
    Mexico has bought two Israeli-made missile ships and transport helicopters from IDF surplus for $90 million. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Democracy and the Enemies of Freedom - Bernard Lewis
    The kind of dictatorship that exists in the Middle East today has to no small extent been the result of modernization, more specifically of European influence and example. This included the only European political model that really worked in the Middle East - that of the one-party state, either in the Nazi or the communist version, which did not differ greatly from one another. However, there is enough in the traditional culture of Islam and the modern experience of the Muslim peoples to provide the basis for an advance towards freedom in the true sense of that word. The war against terror and the quest for freedom are inextricably linked, and neither can succeed without the other. (Wall Street Journal, 22 Dec 03)
  • Palestinians Heading to "Prehistoric" Times - Lenny Ben-David
    A native Palestinian society that experienced life next-door to Israel may still exist, a society of bourgeois businessmen, educators trained in Western schools, journalists who published uncensored newspapers using Israeli presses, and construction workers and fruit pickers who brought home from Israel a daily wage. They could perhaps one day propel themselves into better times - back to the future. They have extensive international assistance, and they are probably better positioned and educated than the Iraqi people to build a semi-democratic society. But unlike the Iraqi people, their progress is blocked by a despot. (National Review)
  • Can Ghadafi be Trusted? - Amir Taheri
    This is not the first time Ghadafi has promised to change course and "come in from the cold." In 1982 he promised French president Francois Mitterrand that Libya would stop funding the IRA and cut links with terror organizations attacking U.S. military targets in West Germany. By 1984, the British had established that Libya had, in fact, doubled its support for the IRA, and Libyan-backed groups stepped up their attacks, killing and wounding a number of U.S. troops in West Germany. In 1986 Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak informed the Americans that Ghadafi had pledged his "Arab honor" that he would stop all anti-American terrorist activities. Two years later came the destruction of the Pan-Am jetliner. Surely, British and American politicians cannot be so naive as to believe that a man like Ghadafi, with his capricious and sudden policy changes, can ever pursue a rational policy. (National Post-Canada)
  • Herzliya - David Warren
    Prime Minister Sharon announced that, after "a few months" (six, from what I hear), if there is still no Palestinian action on the old roadmap, Israel will impose a settlement. It will complete the security fence, separating the West Bank from Israel as thoroughly as Gaza is now separated. Isolating the West Bank, too, is actually the most merciful thing that can be done for the Palestinians. A Palestine deprived of options to antagonize Israel and externalize all failures must then choose between beggary and enterprise. The Palestinians themselves must eventually confront social, economic, and political problems which, once Israel is disengaged, can no longer be blamed on "the outsider." (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Observations:

    In Israel's Fence, an Opening to Accord - Henry Kissinger (Washington Post)

    • The United States and its allies have heretofore resisted the concept of a security fence. That attitude should be reconsidered. If properly coordinated with an overall strategy, the security fence could become a solution rather than an obstacle to progress. If it sharply reduced terrorism, it could provide an incentive to negotiations.
    • The intrusion of the fence beyond the 1967 borders should be kept to a strategically-necessary minimum. But the principle of it is important. It should not be discouraged by the United States.
    • The demarcation line between the two societies is not an international border but a ceasefire line that ended the first Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 1948.
    • Security cannot be based on battle lines in a war that ended more than a half-century ago. It must instead be adjusted to the experience of actual security threats. (No Israeli prime minister or chief of staff has ever considered the 1967 line compatible with Israeli security.)
    • In any foreseeable agreement, the Israeli concessions will be territorial and concrete, while the Palestinian concessions are largely psychological, hence revocable. The pledge of abandoning violence was already part of the Oslo agreement, with derisory results.

        See also Restarting Middle East Diplomacy - Henry Kissinger (Korea Times)

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