Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 3, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

Saudis Report Truth, PA Lies, about Palestinian Girl Killed by Palestinians (IMRA):
    Palestinian Girl Killed in Gaza Explosion (Saudi Press Agency)
    A ten-year-old Palestinian girl was killed Saturday when an explosion ripped through her home in Jebaliya in northern Gaza.
    Residents said Ibtihal Abu Daher was killed when a Palestinian rocket inadvertently hit her house.
    Palestinian Girl Killed by Israeli Troops (PA Information Service)
    Ibtihal Abu Daher, a 10-year-old girl from Jebaliya, was killed this morning by Israeli troops.

Israel Bus Service for Palestinians Going on Haj (AFP/The Peninsula-Qatar)
    Hundreds of Palestinians headed for the holy city of Mecca from Gaza Sunday after Israel made arrangements to enable Muslims to undertake the annual pilgrimage, despite the closure of the border into Egypt after an attack by radicals on an Israeli army post there on Dec. 12.
    The army said it would operate a special bus service which would take 4,500 pilgrims to Egypt, who would then be able to fly to Saudi Arabia.
    A further 5,500 pilgrims from the West Bank will cross into Jordan via the Allenby crossing.

4,000 Magen David Adom Volunteers Collect Relief Items for East Asia This Week (Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid)
    Magen David Adom will be stationing over 4,000 volunteers and workers in front of supermarkets across Israel to encourage the Israeli public to donate basic food items to assist tens of thousands of homeless in Sri Lanka.

The War Inside the Arab Newsroom - Samantha M. Shapiro (New York Times)
    According to a poll conducted last May, Al Jazeera is the first choice for 62% of satellite-news viewers in Jordan, 66% in Egypt, and 44% in Saudi Arabia.
    Some 39% said they watched Al Arabiya, owned by Saudi Sheik Walid al-Ibrahim. Walid is the brother-in-law of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia; the Saudi royal family dislikes Al Jazeera because it gives air time to al-Qaeda.

    See also Tape Shows Al-Jazeera, Saddam Link (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    A videotape found in Baghdad shows a former manager of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam's sons for his support and telling him that "Al-Jazeera is your channel," the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Powell Says Next Palestinian Leader Must End Terrorist Violence
    Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he found it "disturbing" that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would campaign for support while being carried on the shoulders of gunmen considered heroes to many Palestinians but terrorists by most Israelis. Powell said he remains convinced that Abbas' "prevailing position" is recognition of "the need to end terror and the need to try to persuade all segments of the Palestinian population to move away from terror and to move toward this opportunity for peace."
        "If they don't move in that direction, then we're going to be stuck again. So we need reformed Palestinian leadership that deals with this terrorist threat," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press." If Abbas becomes president, "he may have to undertake operations against them....If he does that, and shows a real commitment to end terror, I think he will find an Israeli partner ready to work with him, and he will certainly find the international community, and the especially the United States, ready to play an important role." (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Text of Powell Interview (State Department)
  • Abbas Seeks to Shield Militants from Israel
    Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the Palestinian leadership had a duty to protect militants wanted by Israel and indicated that he did not intend to crack down on them. Abbas reiterated that Palestinian attacks against Israel are counterproductive, but he also said the Palestinian leadership would seek to shield wanted militants. "We will not forget the wanted, the heroes," he said at a rally in Rafah. (New York Times)
        On Friday in Gaza City, Abbas said, "We won't forget the convoys of martyrs of Izzaddin Kassam (the armed wing of Hamas)." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Interview with a Gunman - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Abu Mujahed, one of the local commanders of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Balata near Nablus, has been wanted by Israel for the past three years. Abu Mujahed and his friends dismissed Abbas's call for an end to armed attacks against Israel, saying they would continue to fight until Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders and recognizes the right of return for all refugees. "The Aksa Martyrs Brigades are categorically opposed to ending the militarization of the intifada....We will continue to resist until martyrdom or victory," he said. "We don't believe that Abu Mazen will allow anyone to confiscate our weapons."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Armed Wing Vows to Continue "Armed Struggle"
    The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, in a leaflet marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Fatah, vowed Saturday to continue attacks against Israel. (Xinhua-China)
  • U.S. Seeks Syrian Cooperation on Iraq Border
    Following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa in Damascus Sunday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that while Syria has managed to do much to prevent insurgents from infiltrating into Iraq, the government needs "more effort concerning elements of the former Iraqi regime who take part in activities in Iraq, and who enter and leave Syria." (UPI/Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Seriously Wounded By Palestinian Mortar - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Nir Hasson
    An Israeli civilian was seriously wounded Sunday when Palestinians fired mortar shells at the Erez industrial zone on the border between Israel and Gaza. Five more Israelis suffered from shock when Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot on Sunday. Palestinians also fired four mortar shells Sunday at Gush Katif in the southern Gaza Strip. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Kibbutz Dining Room - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
  • Al-Aksa Claims Murder of Beit Guvrin Security Guard - Yaakov Katz and Margot Dudkevitch
    Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the Sunday murder of security guard Vladimir Ruben, who was found shot in the head at the Beit Guvrin National Park near Kiryat Gat. The killing is the third in the area in the past few weeks. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz recently announced that work on the security fence in the region of the Judean foothills would be completed within six months. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sharon the Optimist - William Safire
    Reached late Sunday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says, "We have a window of opportunity, after the death of Arafat and the re-election of President Bush, to break the stalemate of negotiation and replace it with a strategy of reconciliation." However, Sharon notes that "the Palestinians have 30,000 armed security people who still find it hard to fight terrorists. Not the slightest step has been taken so far."
        Sharon says, "If the Palestinian Authority starts to coordinate between our security services, and if they - not Hamas, not the Jihad - take charge of the areas we are leaving, I will coordinate disengagement." "After their election, we'll see if they take the steps to stop the terror. If they do, it will be also quiet on our side." "But if we have intelligence of a terrorist attack, we'll have to act." "It would be clearly impossible to evacuate under fire. With thousands of cars and trucks relocating women, children, animals, we will tolerate no attacks during withdrawal." (New York Times)
  • The Saudi Syndrome - Editorial
    The Saudi government, itself under assault from al-Qaeda, is not in the business of directly financing terrorism, and since 9/11 it has responded to American pressure to control the flow of charitable funds to active terrorist groups. But what it still pays for, and what the religious charities its citizens are obliged to contribute to pay for, is a worldwide network of mosques, schools, and Islamic centers that proselytize the belligerent and intolerant Wahhabi variant of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia. As a result of this oil-financed largess, the teachings of more tolerant and humane Muslim leaders are losing ground in countries like Indonesia and Pakistan. Wahhabi mosques that glorify armed jihad have also made alarming gains among the Muslim populations of Europe and the U.S.
        There is no sinister Saudi conspiracy at work here. This is just what anyone should expect to happen when mind-boggling sums of oil money flow into an absolute monarchy that bases its legitimacy on puritanical militant Islam and offers no pretense of political accountability or transparent accounting. The more copiously that oil money flows, the less pressure a divided Saudi royal family feels to undertake the kind of difficult political and economic reforms that might conceivably break the nexus between oil and terror. (New York Times)
  • The Syrian Peace Initiative Can Wait - Efraim Inbar
    Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, has made several overtures toward Israel in the attempt to renew peace talks. The primary reason for the Syrian moves is fear. With the reelection of President Bush, continuity in American policies toward the Middle East is to be expected. This means continuous pressure on Syria to get out of Lebanon, stop helping the insurgency against the Americans in Iraq, rein in Hizballah, and desist from rendering assistance to the Palestinian terrorist organizations whose headquarters are in Damascus. Syria hopes that, as in the past, peace talks with Israel can be used as a shield against U.S. pressure.
        Israeli policies toward Syria should be guided by the Turkish precedent. Despite Syrian demands, Turkey refuses to hand over the Hatay province that was transferred by French-ruled Syria to Turkey in 1938. This territorial dispute has not prevented Damascus from having diplomatic relations with Ankara. Similarly, the territorial dispute between Israel and Syria should not serve as a pretext for refraining from recognizing Israel and having diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. (
  • Observations:

    Palestinian Stirrings - Dennis Ross (Washington Post)

    • There is a new discourse in Gaza that includes all Palestinian factions and an open questioning of violence. According to Ziad Abu Amr, a Palestinian legislator and chairman of the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations, and Samir Shawa, a leading Palestinian businessman, Palestinians want to see the violence end.
    • Before Arafat's death, roughly 40% of Palestinians polled were optimistic about the future. Now the number is 59%. Before Arafat's death, Hamas's standing was higher than Fatah's - 32 to 29%. The most recent polls show Fatah at 46% and Hamas at 17%.
    • When there is no hope, Hamas and all radical Islamists will always do better. But when there is hope and a sense of promise, the secularist nationalists in Fatah are seen as most capable of delivering.
    • Israelis, who are open to helping the new Palestinian leadership, will understandably judge Abbas by what he does, not what he says, to stop terror. And Palestinians remain far more likely to try to co-opt Hamas and Islamic Jihad than to confront them.
    • That is why they will opt for a cease-fire, and why the Israelis will be highly suspicious that such a cease-fire would simply give Hamas and others the respite they need to rebuild the capability to carry out terrorism. It will take the active help of the U.S. to forge common understandings on what a cease-fire is and isn't, and how it will relate to obligations both sides have on the "road map" for the peace process.
    • Palestinians who believe in ending violence and in coexistence failed to deliver in the summer of 2003, when Abbas was prime minister. He and the reformers will shortly have a second chance. If they fail this time, they won't get a third.

      The writer was special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton and is now counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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