Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 13, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Cabinet Okays Palestinian Prisoner Release as Goodwill Move - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli cabinet Sunday approved the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners in a move meant to show goodwill ahead of the PA elections, Israeli officials said.
    The process of releasing 100-200 Palestinian prisoners comes as part of the deal in which Israeli Azzam Azzam was released from an Egyptian prison last week.

Israel Hints at Palestinian Control for Northern Gaza - Mayssam Zaaroura (Beirut Daily Star)
    Israeli security officials said Friday that Israel is prepared to turn over security in the northern Gaza Strip to Palestinians as a test of the new Palestinian leadership's ability to crack down on militants.
    Israeli security sources said that, if the PA is able to maintain security, then Palestinian forces could be given responsibility for security in large parts of the West Bank as well.

Egyptian Government Daily Columnist: Develop Relations with Israel (MEMRI)
    Columnist Hazem Abd Al-Rahman wrote in the leading Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram on Dec. 8:
    "Enhancing relations with Israel also increases Egypt's ability to influence Israel's policy towards the Palestinians."
    "It is not natural, necessary, or essential for relations with Israel to be influenced by [Egypt's] relations with the U.S. Namely, we hope that relations with Israel will be strong, self-sufficient, and completely independent from relations with the U.S.
    "It is time to drop the negative attitudes towards Israel."

Senior IDF Officer Meets Top Terrorist - Amir Buhbut (Maariv International)
    Brig. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, met two months ago with Hamas terrorist Imad Kawasme, responsible for many murderous attacks including the double suicide bombing in Beersheba, in which 16 Israelis lost their lives.
    When Eizenkot asked Kawasme which anti-terrorism measures made it most difficult to carry out attacks, Kawasme responded, "The unmanned aerial vehicles and the surprise checkpoints."

Soldiers Discover Suicide Bomb at Nablus Checkpoint - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Soldiers on Sunday discovered a seven-kilogram bomb hidden in a school satchel inside a truck that was passing through the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus.
    Officials said the bomb was slated to be used in a suicide attack in Israel.


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  • Palestinians Tunnel Under Border Crossing, Explosion Kills 5 Israeli Soldiers
    Palestinians blew up an Israeli army base at the Gaza-Egypt crossing Sunday by sneaking more than a ton of explosives through a tunnel, killing five Israeli soldiers and wounding five in the largest Palestinian attack since Arafat's death. Raanan Gissin, a top aide to Prime Minister Sharon, said, "Unless there is decisive and sustained effort taken to dismantle the terrorist organizations, it will be impossible to move toward normalization and toward political negotiations." (AP/MSNBC)
        See also Hamas Begins New Offensive in Gaza
    Soon after nightfall, a bomb went off under the JVT outpost, 200 meters east of the Rafah crossing, killing three soldiers. Immediately afterward, two armed Palestinians penetrated the outpost and shot and killed two other soldiers. Rescue crews dug for a soldier buried under the rubble while under constant Palestinian fire. A senior IDF officer said Hamas appears to have begun a new offensive in Gaza over the past week. This has included the resumption of Kassam launches into Israel, though in limited quantities, and heavy mortar fire on the Gush Katif settlements. The IDF believes Hamas wants to provoke a massive Israeli response to foil efforts by Abbas to calm the violence. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Attack Exceeds Hamas' Expectations - Amos Harel
    While Egypt is trying to arrange a cease-fire, Hamas signaled that the struggle continues. It is important for Hamas to demonstrate who is really evicting Israel from Gaza. At least 10 times in the past half year, Palestinians have tried to blow up Gazan outposts via tunnels. At any given moment, the IDF knows that several tunnels are being dug, but it manages to find only some. (Ha'aretz)
  • Powell: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict No Obstacle to Mideast Reforms
    U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that the countries of the Middle East and North Africa realize they have to move ahead with political and economic reforms regardless of the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "We can't keep pointing to the Middle East Peace Process as the reason we don't undertake reform efforts that are needed by these nations and as these nations have identified for themselves," Powell said. (State Department)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Barghouti Ends Run for PA Chairman - Arnon Regular,
    Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti withdrew his candidacy Sunday for head of the PA for the second time. Barghouti initially supported Fatah's chosen candidate, PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas, but he later decided to run against Abbas as an independent. Barghouti conditioned his renewed support for Abbas on 18 demands, including adherence to the intifada, resistance to occupation as a fundamental principle alongside negotiations, insistence on reaching agreements with all other Palestinian factions as a condition of any future negotiations, withdrawal from all PA territories as a precondition for any future negotiations, and preserving the principle of armed resistance. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas Could Not Denounce the Gaza Attack - Danny Rubinstein
    No Palestinian expected Abbas to condemn the attack, as it was carried out in Gaza against IDF soldiers. Such attacks are considered legitimate by all Palestinian factions. Abbas must be careful not to appear opposed to the intifada and actions against Israel prior to the elections. The partnership in carrying out the attack between Hamas and Fatah is a clear message to Israel and the PA that the hope for quiet and calm after Arafat's death is nothing but an illusion. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Sees Iran and Hizballah Behind Gaza Attack - Margot Dudkevitch and Herb Keinon
    Officials in the Prime Minister's Office blamed Iran and its proxy, Hizballah, for the attack, saying they have an interest in trying to ensure that no progress is made between Israel and the Palestinians. "We hope that Palestinians wake up and understand that these attacks - more than hurting Israel - are damaging and moving us further away from working toward normalization," one official said.
        IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told the cabinet Sunday that not only is there no internal Palestinian cease-fire, but the Islamic groups and some Fatah elements are increasing attacks in order to torpedo any agreement with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Never-Ending Rocket Attacks Taking Toll - Nadav Shragai
    Since September 2000, 4,885 mortar rounds and Kassam or Al-Batar rockets have been fired at Gush Katif and northern Gaza Strip settlements. In recent months, the mortar volleys have intensified, with an average of a dozen shells or rockets landing every day. Some 100 houses have been hit directly; about 300 indirectly. Dozens have been wounded. Two people have been killed. A lot of property has been damaged. Eight people were hurt Friday when a mortar shell exploded in a yard. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Youth Club Severely Damaged in Gaza Mortar Attack - Amir Buhbut (Maariv International)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Anti-Tank Rockets at Israeli Kibbutz (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Terrorist Killed in Nablus, 3 IDF Troops Wounded
    Wanted Hamas militant Ihsam Shuhana, who was linked to a number of suicide bombings, was killed and three IDF soldiers were injured in an overnight gun battle in Nablus, Israel Radio reported Monday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Getting Serious About Syria - William Kristol
    U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the Syrian government has turned a blind eye to those supporting terrorists in Iraq. Several prominent mosques in Damascus, including the large Bilal al-Hashemi mosque, have reputations as staging posts for Syrian fighters. The U.S. military believes there may be as many as 2,000 foreign fighters in Iraq, mostly from Syria. Thousands of members of Saddam's regime have settled in the wealthy Mezzeh district of Damascus. By Bush Doctrine standards, Syria is a hostile regime, one that seems to be doing more than any other, right now, to help Baathists and terrorists kill Americans in the central front of the war on terror.
        We now need to take action to punish and deter Assad's regime. We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq; we could covertly help or overtly support the Syrian opposition; and this hardly exhausts all the possible forms of pressure and coercion. But it's time to get serious about dealing with Syria as part of winning in Iraq, and in the broader Middle East. (Weekly Standard)
  • The U.S. vs. a Nuclear Iran - David E. Sanger
    The Bush administration says the prospect of Iran's obtaining a nuclear weapon is "intolerable," yet President Bush has said almost nothing about the possibility of resorting to military action in Iran. Pentagon war planners say there are no good options for Mr. Bush - or for Israel. Almost unanimously, Pentagon analysts say there are no effective military ways to wipe out a nuclear program that has been well hidden and broadly dispersed across the country, including in crowded cities. Iran admitted to inspectors last year that it had hidden critical aspects of its civilian program for 18 years, and even today there are questions about whether all of its nuclear-related sites are known. A senior European official said the Iranians boasted that any military action would be futile because "they can rebuild the facilities in six months," using indigenous technology. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Action Against Iran Can't be Ruled Out - Caroline Glick
    Nobody should rule out the possibility of military action against Teheran's nuclear sites if it does not abandon its nuclear program, said U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Questions for Palestinian Leaders - Hillel Newman (Boston Globe)

    • Only when presented with the new policies of the new Palestinian leadership will we know whether we are truly entering a new era.
    • It is imperative for the new Palestinian leadership to break from Arafat's tradition and answer vital questions about the future, not just with words but with real actions.
    • Will the Palestinian leadership resolve to live alongside the State of Israel and not instead of the State of Israel?
    • Will the Palestinian leadership take concrete steps to reign in terrorist groups and stop teaching hate? If they lack the power to do this, they will undoubtedly lack the power to implement any agreements. If they lack the will to do this, they cannot be genuine partners in peace. It is impossible to achieve peace in an atmosphere of terror and incitement.
    • The next Palestinian government must build legitimacy by educating their children to become the next generation's teachers and doctors rather than the world's next suicide bombers.
    • These are life and death questions. They are not Israeli demands, but the basic conditions for life to continue in the region.

      The writer is the consul of Israel to New England.

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