Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 4, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Terrorist Groups Unite to Challenge Abu Mazen's Leadership After He Criticizes Rocket Attacks - Gal Berger (NewsFirstClass-Hebrew)
    Palestinian factions in Gaza published a joint announcement Monday calling on Abu Mazen to retract his criticism of Kassam rocket attacks.
    The announcement was published under the headline: "Abu Mazen's Call - A Knife in the Back of the Resistance."
    "The rockets and mortar shells of the brave resistance proved their effectiveness and their success has been admitted by all the enemy's institutions."
    "The decision of the enemy to flee from Gaza and parts of the West Bank is a part of the fruits of the resistance, while the Oslo Accords, whose architect was Mahmoud Abbas, did not return the Palestinian people their rights and left them standing in place for more than ten years."

India Uses Israeli UAVs to Locate Tsunami Victims - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    India has deployed Israeli-made Searcher and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in round-the-clock searches for victims of the recent tidal waves.
    An Indian Defense Ministry official said the military began UAV flights in attempts to locate survivors, primarily in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
    "On spotting distressed people, we immediately rush helicopters to the spot for rescue operations."
    India's naval base at Kochi has eight Searchers and four Herons procured from Israel in 2002.

Israeli Company Offers Free Tsunami Alert System - Corinne Heller (Reuters)
    An Israeli company said on Monday it planned to distribute free to Asian countries a device it says could warn that a tidal wave is coming.
    The system developed by Israeli inventor Meir Gitelis uses land and water sensors to measure seismic activity and wave motion.

Israel to Host Naval Exercise with U.S. and Turkey (AFP/Turkish Press)
    Israel is to host a naval exercise with Turkey and the U.S. in the Mediterranean this month "to practice coordinated emergency search and rescue procedures in order to save lives in times of distress at sea," an IDF spokesman said Sunday.
    It is the seventh such joint exercise between Israel and two of her most important allies.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Pledges Palestinian Refugees Will Return to Homes in Israel, Endorsing Stand That Has Torpedoed Peace Efforts
    Addressing a rally in Gaza City Monday, Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinian refugees and their descendants from the two-year war that followed Israel's creation in 1948 have the right to return to their original homes. "The day will come when the refugees return home," Abbas told the cheering crowd. The refugees and their descendants total about 4 million people. Almost unanimously, Israeli Jews reject the claim, warning that resettling so many Arabs would undermine the Jewish quality of their state, where about 5 million Jews and 1 million Arabs now live. (AP/San Diego Union Tribune)
        See also Abbas Insists on End to Rocket Fire
    PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday reiterated a demand for an end to rocket attacks against Israeli targets. "The firing of the rockets is a mistake," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Abbas Calls Israel "The Zionist Enemy"
    Mahmoud Abbas told a campaign rally in Khan Yunis Tuesday, "We are praying for the souls of our martyrs who fell today to the shells of the Zionist enemy."  Ha'aretz)
  • Ill at Ease as Candidate, Abbas Attempts to Work the Crowds
    The several thousand people listening Abbas in Kalkilya last week offered only polite applause. When egged on by campaign workers, they shouted his name and sang old Fatah anthems. Arafat used to come alive in front of adoring crowds; Abbas seems to cower.
        Edward Abington, a former U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem and a registered lobbyist in Washington for the Palestinian Authority, said Abbas' campaign platform should come as no surprise. "Those are Palestinian positions, not Arafat's positions," he said. "It is a mistake to think that because Arafat is dead that there is going to be sudden change in the Palestinian views."  (Baltimore Sun)
  • Report: Bomber of Mess Hall in Iraq Was Saudi
    The suicide bomber who killed 22 people in a U.S. mess hall near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Dec. 21 was Saudi medical student Ahmed Said Ahmed Ghamdi, the Saudi-owned Asharq al Awsat Arabic newspaper reported Monday. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Security Services Head: If We Leave the Philadelphia Corridor, Southern Israel Will Become Like Southern Lebanon - Ilan Marciano
    The withdrawal of IDF control from the Philadelphia Corridor separating Gaza from Egypt "will bring southern Lebanon to southern Israel," General Security Services head Avi Dichter told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Dichter emphasized that arms smuggling was continuing all the time, and that recently five shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles had been smuggled into Gaza.
        Relating to the upcoming PA elections, Dichter said he does not foresee dramatic changes by the other side with regard to the war on terror, and that the PA "was and remains a sanctuary for terrorists." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • IDF Battles Palestinian Rocket Cells - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Nir Hasson
    IDF tank fire targeted a rocket-launching terror cell near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya Tuesday, killing at least seven Palestinians, Palestinian sources said. The army said that most of those killed were members of the military wing of Hamas. A Palestinian farmer said militants had been firing mortar shells from among strawberry patches and potato fields when IDF troops returned fire. Palestinian sources said civilians were among the dead and wounded, but David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, responded, "Palestinian terrorists continue to not only target Israeli civilians, but have no qualms hiding behind their own civilians." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Kassam Rocket Launcher Explodes in "Work Accident" - Eli Vaked and Hanan Greenberg
    A Kassam rocket launcher exploded as the result of a "work accident" in Beit Lahiya, killing one Palestinian, IDF sources said. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
        See also Palestinian Mortar Hits Israeli School Bus, Two Wounded
    Palestinians fired two mortar shells at the Gaza Strip settlement of Nissanit Tuesday. One of the mortars hit a school bus, wounding two adults. None of the students were wounded. Also Tuesday, a Kassam rocket landed in the western Negev town of Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Arafat Lives - Efraim Karsh
    Even Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), after Arafat's death the acting chairman of the PA and perhaps the foremost symbol of supposed Palestinian moderation, has not shied away from denying the existence of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem (or for that matter, the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to Palestine) or from hinting at Israel's eventual destruction. In an interview in 1996, for example, Abu Mazen restated the PLO's old formula of a democratic state comprising the whole of Palestine, expressing the hope that in the future Jews and Palestinian Arabs "will reach a state of complete mixture" in Palestine. This thinly veiled call for Israel's disappearance was repeated last October in a New York Times op-ed by the PLO's legal adviser, Michael Tarazi.
        In the wake of the failed Camp David summit of July 2000 and the launch of Arafat's war of terror two months later, Abu Mazen went to great lengths to explain why the "right of return" was a non-negotiable prerequisite for any Palestinian-Israeli settlement. The writer is head of Mediterranean studies at King's College, University of London. (Commentary)
  • On the Palestinian Campaign Trail - Daoud Kuttab
    A visible change occurred in the territories in the past week as the election due to take place on Jan. 9 moves into high gear. Palestinians woke up this week to huge signs of the leading candidates replacing the posters of martyrs and intifada graffiti. The posters of Tayseer Khaled, the candidate of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, focus on Jerusalem with slogans like "No peace without Jerusalem which is the jewel of the nation." Traveling from Ramallah to Jerusalem, you are greeted by the face of Bassam Salhi, the candidate of the People's Party (formerly the Communist Party), with Jerusalem in the background, and the slogan "Jerusalem is ours." Unlike in 1996, this time Palestinians in Jerusalem seem much more interested in voting.
        In one closed meeting with 160 businessmen in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas said there must be a clear end to the intifada. The writer is director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • France's Political Calculus on Turkey, Israel - Michel Gurfinkiel
    Nicolas Sarkozy, the former finance minister of France, and - since last November - the leader of UMP, the French conservative party, is distancing himself quietly but rather quickly from the conservative president, Jacques Chirac. One issue is Turkey. Chirac is extending qualified support to Turkey's membership in the EU. Sarkozy would rather keep that country out. On Israel, Chirac is known to be siding with the Arab camp and the Palestinian Arabs (he accorded state honors to Yasser Arafat after his demise in a French military hospital). Sarkozy, however, is quite unabashedly pro-Israel. He even thinks the Jewish state would be a more suitable partner for the Europeans than Turkey and many other countries. (New York Sun, 3Jan05)
  • Observations:

    Intifada Fatigue Among Palestinians, More Than Upcoming Elections, May Shape Events - Larry Derfner and Khaled Abu Toameh (U.S. News)

    • The intifada has failed - and the Palestinians now admit it. "People are very, very tired. We've lost everything in the past four years. There's no economy, no work, and the Israelis have killed most of the fighters," says Abu Khaled, 31, a political activist in Tulkarm. "The intifada has set us back 50 years."
    • When Abbas's convoy of Jeep Cherokees, Mercedes-Benzes, and BMWs, escorted by Israeli security forces, drove through the Jericho checkpoint, the waiting cab drivers taunted his entourage for its fancy cars. "Here's where the money for the revolution went. Here's the money they stole," a cabbie shouted to Abbas's aides.
    • Israel and the U.S. demand police action from Abbas to neutralize the militants, whatever it takes. However, no one has found the Palestinian policeman who would obey such an order, and Abbas makes it clear that he will never issue it.
    • While Abbas has departed from Arafat's path by criticizing the "militarization" of the intifada and calling for an end to violence, he is no savior. He is not a strong leader; he cannot command Palestinian security forces to confront the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad as Israel and the U.S. insist.
    • All he can really do is talk and hope people listen, and after his expected election, his voice should gain at least some added authority. But it is not Abbas's new presidential prestige that could, perhaps, lead Palestinians to silence their weapons; rather, it is their own resigned understanding, after four years of futile warfare, that he happens to be right.

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