Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 14, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

Hamas Uses Lull to Stock Up - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
    Even as it announced it would maintain the current relative calm, Hamas was using the lull in Israel's offensive actions to stock up on Kassam rockets, mines, and mortar shells in the Gaza Strip, defense sources said Sunday.
    Hamas was working at a heightened pace in metal workshops to produce more weaponry, to be better prepared for an outbreak of hostilities if and when the de facto cease-fire breaks down.
    "Not only that, but they are continuing to operate their smuggling rings during this period to bring in weapons and other materiel," despite reported PA actions to uncover tunnels from Egypt into Gaza.
    See also Mortar Shell Hits IDF Outpost in Southern Gaza Monday (Ha'aretz)

Hamas in Damascus Ordered Shelling - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    The mortar shelling and the firing of Kassam rockets last Thursday on Gush Katif was ordered by the Hamas leadership in Damascus.
    Egypt and aides of PA Chairman Abbas telephoned the Hamas leadership in Gaza and were told they did not order the shooting of mortars.

Hamas Opposes U.S. Envoy Ward - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas said Sunday it is strongly opposed to the U.S. decision to appoint Lt.-Gen. William Ward as Middle East security envoy, expressing fear that the move was aimed at putting pressure on the PA security forces to crack down on armed Palestinian groups.
    A source close to Hamas said Abbas made it clear that the PA would not use force against any armed group that does not violate the unofficial truce with Israel.

U.S. Eyes Iran Via Drones Launched From Iraq - Dafna Linzer (Washington Post)
    The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort.

Pakistan Admits Top Nuclear Scientist Sold Secrets to Iran - Massoud Ansari (Telegraph-UK)
    Pakistan has conceded for the first time that Dr. A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, passed secrets and equipment to Iranian officials and is now considered the "brain" behind the program that has put Teheran on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons.
    An investigation by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency confirmed that Khan and his associates sold nuclear codes, materials, components, and plans that left his "signature" at the core of the Iranian nuclear program.


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  • Abbas Declares War With Israel Effectively Over - Steven Erlanger
    Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview Saturday that the war with the Israelis is effectively over and that Ariel Sharon is speaking "a different language" to the Palestinians. "And now he has a partner," Abbas said. Abbas spoke with pride about persuading the radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad to respect the mutual declaration of a truce that he and Sharon announced last Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheik. Abbas said he was surprised that the armed militants embraced his candidacy: "All the fugitives came to me from all factions and said: 'We are for you. You were with us, and we want you to solve our problems.'" They want real jobs in the PA security forces, he said. "I promised them, and now it is realized."
        Was the armed intifada a mistake? "We cannot say it was a mistake," he said. "But any war will have an end."
        Asked about Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he said: "Of course they don't want what I want! They want to come to power if they can. For that they ran in municipal elections and after that they will go" to the legislative elections. "It means that they will be converted in time into political parties." "Whether they consider it a stage or not, they will accept an Israeli state within the 1967 borders and they declare it," he said. "For me it is not a stage; for them it is a stage." (New York Times)
  • Shiites Win in Iraqi Vote - John F. Burns and James Glanz
    A broad Shiite alliance led by two Iran-backed religious parties won a slim majority of seats in the Iraqi national assembly, final election results showed Sunday. With a turnout of 58%, the Shiite alliance won 48% of the popular vote, giving it 140 seats in the 275-member assembly, 2 more than required for a majority. About 75 seats appeared headed for an alliance of Iraq's two main Kurdish parties. A party led by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who has been interim prime minister, seemed likely to take 40 seats. Five seats appeared likely to go to Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, the Sunni interim president. The remaining 15 seats will be scattered among eight other parties, including three seats to a group loyal to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and another three seats to a Turkmen party. (New York Times)
        See also Power Check: Verdict Is Split in Iraqi Election - Dexter Filkins
    According to Iraqi leaders, its razor-thin victory margin means the Shiite alliance will have to strike deals with parties run by the Kurds and others, most of which are secular and broadly opposed to an enhanced role for Islam or an overbearing Shiite government. (New York Times)
        See also Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Were Not U.S. Vision - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
        See also Likely Next Iraqi Prime Minister - Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi - Doug Struck (Washington Post)
  • Saudi Vote Hands Reformers a Setback as Conservatives Lead
    Preliminary tallies in Riyadh showed that at least five of the seven winning candidates in Thursday's municipal elections have close ties to Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment. (Chicago Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Release 500 Palestinian Prisoners, Approves Return of Some Exiled Terrorists - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    The ministerial committee dealing with the release of Palestinian prisoners unanimously approved on Sunday the list of 500 prisoners slated to be released Monday. Israel will also allow 56 Palestinians deported to Gaza to return to the West Bank, including some gunmen exiled after taking refuge in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in May 2002. "Abbas told us we could return to our homes and would be recruited to the security branches in Bethlehem," said exile Khaled Hamdallah. Israel will also return the bodies of 15 Palestinians killed during the intifada in attacks on settlements throughout the Gaza Strip. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sharon Rejects Norwegian Call to Stop Building Fence - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Sharon told visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik Sunday that despite the recent positive change in the atmosphere, Israel did not intend to halt construction of the security fence. "As long as terror continues, we will continue to build the fence," Sharon said. Sharon told Bondevik that Israel was willing to go a long way toward helping Abbas assert his authority, but that he must actively fight the terrorists, something he has not yet done. Sharon has adamantly expressed his opposition in recent weeks to European attempts to "short-cut" the road map and jump directly into final status negotiations before the PA has fulfilled its road map obligations to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Expects Intra-Palestinian Conflict
    "In the near future, there will be an intra-Palestinian conflict, between those who are weary of terrorism and those who stand by it," Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told Army Radio Sunday. "On the one hand there is new Palestinian leadership - whose proclamations, at least, are positive, and whose first steps indicate its intentions to put their words into action....But this leadership does not yet have control of the field, it has not yet dismantled the terror organizations as it is obligated to do. In a situation such as this sometimes one bullet, one bomb, can turn the situation completely around," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Increased Iranian and Hizballah Efforts to Sabotage Abu Mazen
    During the past year Iran and Hizballah have increased the activation of Palestinian terrorist operatives in Israel and the PA-administered territories. Political and security officials in the PA said efforts had recently been increased to disrupt the current calm and to sabotage Abu Mazen's attempts to enter into a dialogue with Israel. To put an end to the Hizballah activity, the PA has initiated a media attack to expose the methods used by Hizballah to incite terrorist operatives in the territories to further violence.
        The Palestinian security apparatus and gunmen in the West Bank told an AP reporter in Ramallah that Hizballah was the worst threat to the truce with Israel. The reporter wrote on Feb. 9, 2005: "One retired militant told AP that a Hizballah recruiter called him just a day before the Mideast summit in Egypt, told him the cease-fire wouldn't last and offered him a generous payment if he returns to violence. A squad of five or six militants typically receives $5,000 to $8,000 a month for expenses, including bullets, weapons, cell phone calling cards, and spending money." In addition, a Palestinian delegation headed by 'Abd al-Fattah Hamail, a former PA minister, was sent to Beirut to meet high-ranking Hizballah members in an attempt to clamp down on Hizballah terrorists in the territories. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies)
  • Questions for Mubarak - Saad Eddin Ibrahim
    Why does the Mubarak regime continue to resort to heavy-handed tactics against its peaceful opposition? Those in Mubarak's regime argue that if he allowed democratization to proceed unchecked, with fair and honest elections, Islamists would undoubtedly take over. But what has Mubarak done to preserve the popularity of non-Islamist forces in the country? Isn't it Mubarak's repression of secular civil forces that has kept the field empty for the Islamists in Egypt, where there are now more than 100,000 mosques where they can freely preach their message - but only a handful of registered political parties and human rights groups? The writer is an Egyptian democracy activist and a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo. (Washington Post)
  • Iran: Arabs in Israel's Trap - Hassan Hanizadeh
    Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom has announced that at least 10 Arab embassies will be established in Tel Aviv by the yearend. Qatar, Oman, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and occupied Palestine are to send ambassadors to Tel Aviv by the end of 2005, according to reports. The Sharm el-Sheikh summit paved the way for the future diplomatic relations between the Arabs and Israel, and Sharon was the real winner of the meeting.
        In fact, the Arab states' attempt to establish relations with Israel is one of the most dangerous chapters in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The establishment of diplomatic ties is one of the treacherous plans within the evil Greater Middle East Initiative, which is meant to make Israel the regional gendarme. If the current trend continues, the prediction of the Arab political analyst, who said that by 2010 no Arab would be able to spend a day without eating an egg imported from Israel, will come true. (Tehran Times-Iran)
  • Observations:

    Can Abbas and Mubarak Handle Hamas? - Charles A. Radin
    (Boston Globe)

    • Within days of the Israeli-Palestinian summit conference last week in Sharm el-Sheikh, the euphoric visions of peace were dissipating amid Kassam rockets, clan killings, and warnings that only actions, not words, could improve matters. The summit was at least the fourth major attempt to negotiate an end to the fighting that erupted in September 2000, and few ordinary people on either side expect the situation to improve quickly, though they may fervently wish that it will.
    • However, there are substantial differences between previous summits and the talks at Sharm el-Sheikh, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials and Western diplomats: Arafat is dead; Abbas is elected, with a popular mandate; incitement against Israel and Jews in the Palestinian media has declined precipitously; Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has taken a leading role this time; the public on both sides is weary of the struggle, and is accepting of Abbas's position that no military solution is possible for either side.
    • Many Palestinians are deeply alarmed at the consequences if Sharon goes through with his intention to disengage Israelis and Palestinians by evacuating Gaza and constructing a security barrier around much of the West Bank. "They hate us in the Gulf....We have only the gate to Israel," said Fahmi al Bahtiti, 48, a Gazan. Even some who support Hamas see Abbas's negotiations with Sharon as the only hope for avoiding a unilateral Israeli pullback that would impose a stifling isolation on them.
    • Sharon's unilateral separation plan "was a gamble that paid off," a U.S. diplomat said, because when Fatah leaders and the Egyptian government saw the potential problems they could experience if Hamas took over in Gaza, "everyone wanted to be involved in the action."
    • Yet Mushir al Masri, Hamas's principal spokesman in Gaza, said, "We do not want the Zionist enemy to pull out of Gaza without paying a political price, and without paying a security price." The "very fragile opportunity" for an end to violence that Sharon hailed at Sharm now depends entirely on whether Abbas and Mubarak can handle Hamas.

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