Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 12, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

IDF: Pullout to Expose 46 Negev Towns to Palestinian Rockets - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    46 communities in the western Negev will be exposed to Palestinian rocket fire after the disengagement plan is implemented, Colonel Uzi Buchbinder, head of the civil defense department at the Home Front Command, told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee Tuesday.
    All of the threatened communities are within seven kilometers of Gaza and are vulnerable to both rocket fire and infiltration.
    Solutions for the threatened communities include an early-warning system to alert residents of incoming rockets and installing safety glass at schools and kindergartens.
    Colonel (res.) Mordechai Yogev of the National Security Forum told the committee that "the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria will bring numerous large population centers and communities within the range of Kassam rockets and mortar shells, including Ashkelon in the south and the cities of Beit She'an, Afula, Pardes Hannah, and Hadera in the north."
    Yogev noted that the Ashkelon region is home to many strategic facilities, including three power stations, facilities related to the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline, and a massive gas storage facility, as well as the large gas terminal to be built south of Ashkelon for the natural gas Israel will buy from Egypt.
    In the north, Palestinian rockets will threaten the Rabin power station in Hadera.

Iran Able to Enrich Uranium in Six Months - David Ratner (Ha'aretz)
    Iran could become capable of enriching uranium in six months and develop atomic weapons in two years if it is not stopped by the West, Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi said at Haifa University's National Security Studies Center Tuesday.
    "The Iranians can reach Portugal with nuclear weapons," Ze'evi said. "This doesn't worry the Europeans; they tell me that during the Soviet regime as well they were under a nuclear threat, and I try to explain to them that Iran is a different story."

The Economist: 2006 Will Be Boom Year in Israel - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    The Israeli economy will achieve reasonable growth of around 4%, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
    In its 2005 forecast, published Friday, the Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that economic recovery will accelerate significantly in 2006.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sharon Congratulates Abbas, to Meet "Very Soon" - Ewen MacAskill
    In their phone call Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon congratulated Abbas on his victory and suggested they meet. The two have met seven times in the past and agreed to meet "very soon," according to Palestinian and Israeli officials. Raanan Gissin, Sharon's spokesman, said: "For us the main issue is security," adding, "If the Palestinians take real control of security, we would like to hand over to them responsibility and that includes not only Gaza but the major towns in Judea and Samaria."  (Guardian-UK)
  • Top Hamas Leader Rejects Call to Disarm
    Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said Wednesday that the Islamic militant group has no plans to disarm. "Hamas is not planning to give the weapons of its fighters to the Palestinian Authority," Zahar said in a statement posted on a Hamas Web site. Zahar said, "The Palestinian Authority presidential election was meant to choose a president for the Palestinian Authority only, and not for the Palestinian people, in order to run internal affairs," and that Abbas has no authority to order a cease-fire. (AP/FOX News)
  • Honeymoon Is Over Before It Begins for Palestinian Leader - Richard Beeston
    Abbas's period of grace will end the moment he sits at his desk on the day following the elections. In the coming days he must resume negotiations with Israel, begin a series of reforms in the PA, and silence the guns of Palestinian hardliners. "The elections give Abu Mazen legitimacy but not authority," Dennis Ross, the former U.S. envoy to the region, said. "If he can show he is doing something about corruption, the rule of law, and freedom of movement, he will then have authority."  (Times-UK)
  • Memories of Coexistence Strong in West Bank City - Peter Hermann
    For a time, coexistence existed in Kalkilya in the West Bank. Merchants whose businesses have survived the past four years of violence talk glumly about lost income and lost jobs. Above all else, people here want their long-lost Israeli customers to return. More than most Palestinians, people in Kalkilya remember the benefits of peace. "We had it, and we lost it," said Bassam Monsour, who used to have 12 employees in an auto repair shop that served Israeli customers.
        "Before he [Abbas] does anything, he has to consolidate power," said Hillel Frisch, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "Still, he has a fighting chance. He will get all the money he can get from the U.S. and the Europeans, and that will empower him over time. He's buying time as he gets strong, and once he's reactivated the security forces, he will be ready to bargain." "He has to dismantle terror organizations over time because the understanding is, you cannot just work for a cease-fire with them. They have to be outlawed," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon. "You cannot have militias...and this will be his challenge."  (Baltimore Sun)
  • UN to Record Security Barrier Damage Claims - Edith M. Lederer
    UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan took the first step Tuesday to create a register for damage claims stemming from Israel's construction of a security barrier in the West Bank. (AP/Newsday)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Roadside Blast in Gaza Kills One Israeli, Wounds Four Soldiers - Amos Harel
    One Israeli was killed and four IDF troops were wounded Wednesday when an explosive device went off under a jeep near Morag in the southern Gaza Strip. Gideon Rivlin, 50, who worked installing security fences, was killed in the explosion. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Seeks Partial U.S. Funding of High-Tech Security Fence Crossings
    Israeli officials began briefing the U.S. administration and key congressional leaders this week on a proposal to help cover the costs of upgrading and setting up new crossing points along the separation fence. Israel is asking Washington to contribute an estimated $180 million, about 40% of the $450 million total cost, with Israel paying the rest.
        The high-tech terminals are designed to speed the inspection of Palestinian people and cargo in order to increase freedom of movement and economic growth in Palestinian areas. "In recent months, Israel and the (Bush) administration have been in ongoing conversations about the ways in which to strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground," an Israeli diplomat said. The Bush administration is assembling a new aid package for the Palestinians expected to total as much as $200 million to help bolster Abbas. (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
  • El Al Plane Lands in Indonesia with Aid - Zohar Blumenkrantz
    An El Al plane landed in Indonesia Tuesday for the first time ever, unloading 80 tons of humanitarian aid to tsunami victims there after delivering 15 tons of emergency supplies to Sri Lanka. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mahmoud Abbas Sets Out to be the Un-Arafat - Bret Stephens
    At a campaign appearance by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, some of the rhetoric is fiery. "Allah loves the martyrs"; "We will kick them [the Israelis] out"; "We have been suffering for 50 years and by Allah all this land will come back to us eventually" - referring to more than just the West Bank and Gaza. But beyond the long-term promises, Abbas issues three short-term challenges. "We won't allow any illegal weapons, and we won't allow people to be armed unless they are Fatah," he says. The statement is a direct challenge to Hamas. "We need clean legal institutions so we can be considered a civilized society," a reproach of his famously corrupt colleagues in Fatah. "We need to make the law the leader in this country, and nobody can be above the law." The reference to Arafat couldn't be plainer.
        Abbas is Arafat's heir and owes his political existence to the party Arafat founded. Yet his success depends on repudiating much of Arafat's legacy - the cult of personality, kleptocratic government, and terrorism - a legacy that has sunk deep roots in Palestinian culture. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Problem with Mahmoud Abbas - Jeff Jacoby
    The outcome of Sunday's election was never in doubt. Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's longtime accomplice - the two men co-founded Fatah, the largest terrorist faction within the PLO, in 1965 - was always going to win in a landslide. Abbas, who spent decades at Arafat's side and who has been unyielding in his refusal to crack down on Palestinian gunmen and bombers, cannot be what Bush meant when he insisted that Palestinians "elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." So why has the administration bent over backward to support the election and given its blessing to Abbas?
        Abbas is sometimes described as a "moderate" opposed to terrorism, but his opposition is purely tactical. He has no moral problem with blowing up buses and cafes, he simply thinks such methods are, for now, counterproductive. Abbas is no moderate. His election is not a step toward peace. What was true in Afghanistan and Iraq is true in the PA as well: without regime change, freedom and democracy are impossible. The dismantling of the corrupt Fatah autocracy is essential to Palestinian reform. President Bush got it right in 2002: The Palestinians need "new leaders...not compromised by terror." They still do. (Boston Globe)
  • Abbas's Voice Resonates With Palestinians - David Makovsky
    In his campaign speeches, Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly focused on restoring the rule of law and ending the chaos that has engulfed Palestinian life. He opposed corruption and vowed to enhance the role of women, improve the standard of living, and confiscate illegal weapons - all issues that Arafat refused to discuss. An exit poll of 900 voters taken by Bir Zeit University suggests that most Palestinians are focused on a forward-looking agenda of nation-building and a return to normalcy. Peace talks are high on the public agenda. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    A World Without Israel - Josef Joffe (Foreign Policy)

    • Imagine that Israel never existed. Would the economic malaise and political repression that drive angry young men to become suicide bombers vanish? Would the Palestinians have an independent state? Would the U.S., freed of its burdensome ally, suddenly find itself beloved throughout the Muslim world? Wishful thinking. Far from creating tensions, Israel actually contains more antagonisms than it causes.
    • Israel's elimination from the regional balance would hardly bolster intra-Arab amity. The retraction of the colonial powers, Britain and France, in the mid-20th century left behind a bunch of young Arab states seeking to redraw the map of the region. From the very beginning, Syria laid claim to Lebanon. In 1970, only the Israeli military deterred Damascus from invading Jordan under the pretext of supporting a Palestinian uprising.
    • Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Nasser's Egypt proclaimed itself the avatar of pan-Arabism, intervening in Yemen during the 1960s. Nasser's successor, Sadat, was embroiled in clashes with Libya throughout the late 1970s. Syria marched into Lebanon in 1976 and then effectively annexed the country 15 years later, and Iraq launched two wars against fellow Muslim states: Iran in 1980, Kuwait in 1990. The war against Iran was the longest conventional war of the 20th century.
    • None of these conflicts is related to the Israeli-Palestinian one. Indeed, Israel's disappearance would only liberate military assets for use in such internal rivalries.
    • Those who think that the Middle East conflict is a "Muslim-Jewish thing" had better take a closer look at the score card: 14 years of sectarian bloodshed in Lebanon; Saddam's campaign of extinction against the Shia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War; Syria's massacre of 20,000 people in the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in 1982; and terrorist violence against Egyptian Christians in the 1990s.
    • Would the Islamic world hate the U.S. less if Israel vanished? To begin, the notion that 5 million Jews are solely responsible for the rage of 1 billion or so Muslims cannot carry the weight assigned to it. Second, Arab-Islamic hatreds of the U.S. preceded the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza. Recall the loathing left behind by the U.S.-managed coup that restored the shah's rule in Tehran in 1953, or the U.S. intervention in Lebanon in 1958.
    • As soon as Britain and France left the Middle East, the U.S. became the dominant power and the No. 1 target.

      The writer is the publisher of Die Zeit, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and distinguished fellow at the Institute for International Studies, both at Stanford University.

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