Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 18, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

Gallup Poll: Americans Still Decidedly More Sympathetic to Israel - Jeffrey M. Jones (Gallup)
    A Gallup Poll released Feb. 15 finds Americans' favorable ratings of both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict increasing.
    Americans rate Israel 69% positive, while rating the Palestinian Authority 29% positive, 62% negative.
    Americans continue to say, by an overwhelming margin, that their sympathies lie with the Israelis.
    See also More Americans Approve of Israel and Palestinians - Uri Dan (New York Post)
    See also Poll: U.S. Support for Israel Increases - Yitzhak Ben Horin (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
    When asked "Whom do you favor in the Israel-Palestinian conflict?" 52% said Israel, compared with 18% for the Palestinians.
    In a similar Gallup survey last year, 59% rated Israel positively and 35% negatively, compared with only 15% who rated the Palestinians positively.

Arab Billionaire Offers to Buy Evacuated Settlements - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Mohammed al-Alabbar, a billionaire from the United Arab Emirates, has offered $56 million to buy the real estate assets of settlements in the Gaza Strip that are slated for evacuation under the disengagement plan, Channel 2 television reported Thursday.

BBC Apologies for Soldier Story - Tom Peterkin (Telegraph-UK)
    The BBC apologized Thursday for a story on Radio 4 that suggested a Muslim corporal in the Israeli army had been jailed for refusing to shoot Palestinian children, saying it had been "unable to find any evidence to support the story."
    Rev. Dr. John Bell acknowledged that aspects of his story were incorrect and admitted his story could have been interpreted as "furtive racism."
    A spokesman at the Israeli embassy said: "We appreciate that the BBC has apologized; however, it is a pity as the damage is irreparable. The BBC must act with more caution and responsibility to check facts before they are aired to millions of listeners."

Palestinian Suicide Bombers Celebrated at Berlin Film Festival - Tobias Ebbrecht (Die Judische-Austria)
    Hany Abu-Assad's movie "Paradise Now" portrays two Palestinian suicide bombers.
    At the end the screen goes blank. You do not see rubble nor dead people. The last thing you see is a pair of determined staring eyes.
    Abu-Assad only wants to show the perspective of the suicide bomber in his movie, where the bombers are not the offenders but the victims, and the Israelis become the offenders.
    The movie was financed by the Netherlands movie fund, the German-French TV channel Arte, the film board of Nordrhein-Westphalia, and the media board of Berlin- Brandenburg.
    At the 55th International Film festival Berlinale, it was happily announced that the new "World Cinema Fund," founded by Cultural Minister Christina Weiss and Berlinale-Boss Dieter Kosslick would help promote the German distribution of the movie.

Ansar al-Islam's Force in Europe - Craig Whitlock (Washington Post)
    Ansar al-Islam is a radical group that U.S. officials say has carried out at least 40 suicide bombings and other attacks resulting in more than 1,000 deaths in war-ravaged Iraq.
    Officials say Ansar also operates an extensive underground network that recruits young Muslims across Europe to join the insurgency in Iraq.
    Intelligence estimates of the numbers sent from Europe by Ansar and other groups vary from 100 to more than 3,000, but there is general agreement that the flow is increasing.

U.S. Arm of Saudi Charity Suspected of Aiding Terror - William McCall (AP/Washington Post)
    A U.S. arm of a large Saudi charity suspected by the government of supporting terrorism was indicted on fraud and tax charges, federal prosecutors in Portland said Thursday.
    The indictment charges Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and its two officers, Pirouz Sedaghaty - also known as Pete Seda - and Soliman Al-Buthe with illegally sending $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.

Yad Vashem to Open New Holocaust History Museum - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
    In mid-March, Yad Vashem - Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority - opens a new Holocaust History Museum, a $56 million project that tries to tell the story of 6 million Jewish dead through diaries, photographs, experiences, and testimonies.
    The goal is to try to tell the story of the Holocaust from the victim's point of view. There are 100 video screens where visitors can watch documentary films and the testimonies of survivors.

Record Growth in Exports to EU in 2004 - Hadas Manor (Globes)
    Industrial exports, excluding diamonds, to the EU grew by a record 20% to $8.2 billion in 2004, the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute reports.
    The Export Institute predicts that exports to the EU will grow by a further 8% in 2005.
    Imports from the EU were up 15% to $12.6 billion. Most of the growth was in chemicals, oil, drugs, and plastics.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush Calls Syria "Out of Step" on Democracy in the Mideast - Steven R. Weisman
    President Bush declared Thursday that Syria was "out of step" with democratic trends in the Middle East and that the Syrian government needed to cut off support for Iraqi insurgents and stop interfering in Lebanon to avoid becoming further isolated internationally. "We've recalled our ambassador, which indicates that the relationship is not moving forward, that Syria is out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East, that democracy is on the move, and this is a country that isn't moving with the democratic movement," Bush said. (New York Times)
        See also Serious About Syria - Mohamad Bazzi (Newsday)
  • Bush: U.S. Will Support Israel Against Iranian Threat
    President Bush said Thursday: "Iran has made it clear that they don't like Israel, to put it bluntly. And the Israelis are concerned about whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon, as are we, as should everybody....Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel, and I listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded my security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon, as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if their security is threatened."  (White House)
  • Iraq Leader Under Threat for Israel Views - Beth Potter
    After three new attempts on his life, including a firefight in front of his house Wednesday, outspoken Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni Muslim, is sure insurgents are still out to get him for his views on peace and tolerance. Al-Alusi's sons were gunned down one week ago in a car in which he decided not to get in at the last minute. He is the leader of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation and has been outspoken in his belief that Iraq must make peace with Israel. Democracy will not take hold in Iraq unless people challenge the old ways of thinking and "break the taboos," said al-Alusi. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon Meets U.S. Security Coordinator Ward - Aluf Benn
    Lt.-Gen. William Ward, the new U.S. security envoy, held talks with Prime Minister Sharon Thursday. Ward told the prime minister that he intended to focus on security reform, and hoped to create a PA security apparatus that would be "both capable of and committed to fighting terrorism and its infrastructures," Sharon's office said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Orders Halt to Razing of Terrorists' Homes - Amos Harel
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz Thursday ended the policy of demolishing houses belonging to terrorists' families in accordance with recommendations made by a military committee appointed to examine the policy. He said, however, that should circumstances change dramatically, it is possible that Israel would reconsider its policy on house demolitions. (Ha'aretz)
        An IDF official said that while the practice had a deterrent effect in some cases, "the IDF weighed whether the deterrent was strong enough to justify its continuation. And the Chief of General Staff concluded that, especially when [the situation] is quiet, it's not the time to use this policy." The policy of house demolitions is a holdover from the British rule of Palestine. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Decision to Change Policy of Demolition of Terrorists' Houses (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israel to Allow 20 Bethlehem Exiles to Return - Margot Dudkevitch
    Twenty Palestinians who were among the 39 exiled to Europe and Gaza as part of a deal to end the standoff in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in May 2002 will be permitted to return once the Palestinians receive security control of Bethlehem, Defense Minister Mofaz announced Thursday. Officials said the transfer of security control to the Palestinians in Jericho had yet to be resolved because of disputes regarding Ouja, north of the city, and the removal of checkpoints. This has delayed the handover of other Palestinian cities. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Back to Tel Aviv: The Next Egyptian Ambassador to Israel - Nevine Khalil
    According to an informed Egyptian source, the candidate under consideration is Mohamed El-Orabi, who has been Egypt's ambassador to Berlin since October 2001. El-Orabi served as deputy chief of mission at the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv from 1994 to 1998, and has also served tours in Washington and London. It is almost certain that both the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors will return to Israel by March. Common sense dictated that Egypt could not successfully play the role of an arbitrator between Israel and the PA without having an ambassador in Israel. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Changed Psychology in the Middle East - Editorial
    The funeral of Rafik Hariri united Lebanese of every faith and sect - in Beirut, more than 200,000 mourners followed his cortege to the mosque in a procession joined by Sunni clerics, Christians, Shia, and Druse. This event could mark the beginning of a massive popular repudiation of meddling by Damascus. Few Lebanese believe that Syria was innocent, fewer still that it could not have prevented this assassination. In Lebanon, as in Iraq, terrorism's grip on politics is loosening.
        Israelis and Palestinians can draw encouragement from these signs of a shift in the regional psychology. Sharon knows that Abbas cannot overhaul the corrupt and disorganized Palestinian police and security forces overnight, and has tacitly accepted that the Palestinian leader is compelled to bargain with rejectionist forces that he cannot yet control. Israeli gestures this past week - the return of the remains of Palestinian militants, announcements of prisoner releases, and reopened border crossings - are all aimed at giving him results to show for engagement. (Times-UK)
  • This Time, Syria is Vulnerable in the Face of U.S. Anger - Bronwen Maddox
    Is America's sudden spike of anger at Syria going to persuade it to change its ways? The Bush administration is exploring ways of choking off the finances of Syria itself. It could stop Syrian organizations having access to U.S. banks - and even some in other countries. It could also try to freeze Syrian assets in the U.S. (Times-UK)
  • Talking the Talk - Larry Derfner and Khaled Abu Toameh
    The November 11 death of Arafat, the impossible peace partner who ruled the Palestinians for 35 years, seems to have rebooted his people's political mind-set. Abbas is starkly different from his predecessor and is making that difference felt.
        The other significant change is that the intifada has run out of gas. Relentless, comprehensive Israeli military pressure has stopped suicide bombers from getting through to Israeli cities; the uprising has been contained to Gaza and the West Bank, where the Palestinians are getting much the worst of it, particularly in the past year or so. Many Palestinians have grown tired of fighting a losing battle, but only now do they have a leader urging them to be realistic, to put down their weapons, and to try the diplomatic route once again. These shifts have had a sobering effect on Palestinian radicals. (US News)
  • Turning a Political Corner in Iraq - David Ignatius
    Iraqis are talking about politics this week, rather than suicide bombers. The Sunni Muslims who mostly boycotted the political process are now said to be looking for ways to get back in. (Washington Post)
        See also Now Iraq Has Tasted Democracy, the Arab Tyrants Are Shaking in their Shoes - Amir Taheri
    An election that was not supposed to happen because the so-called resistance in Iraq did not want it has produced results that the doomsters did not expect. There was no green tidal wave of radical Shiism that was supposed to transform Iraq into a copy of the Khomeinist republic in Iran. The Iraqi electorate rejected not only Khomeinism but all other brands of extremism. The Iraqi experience could inspire democratic change in other Muslim countries in the Middle East. (Times-UK)
  • How Saudi Arabia Threatens Itself - Barry Rubin
    Riyadh has been a major financier of terrorism and propagandist for the main ideology motivating such behavior. Most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis. The Saudis have never accepted responsibility for these acts - which its leaders often claim were a Zionist or American plot - and it has not taken very effective action to change the situation. In contrast, Saudi liberals warn that the real source of terrorism is not some foreign plot but the result of the extremist ideas implanted among Saudis by their own school system, mosques, and media. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Saudi Sound Bites - Arnold Beichman
    The world's biggest con game is called Saudi Arabia, and its target is the U.S. The American public doesn't know about it because the Western media publishes Saudi government handouts but pays little attention to what is broadcast day and night over the state-controlled Saudi radio and TV and what the mullahs in the mosques preach, as reported in the Saudi media. What good are high-level meetings between Israelis and Palestinians if Arab schoolchildren are taught to venerate jihad and become jihad warriors themselves when they grow up? (Washington Times)
  • Changing Middle East Pathology - Clifford D. May
    It is a common misperception that most terrorism is directed against Jews and Christians. The fact is no group has suffered more than Muslims from radical Islamist violence. In Beirut this week, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was killed by a powerful car bomb. In Iraq, scarcely a day goes by when innocent men, women, and children are not murdered for such "crimes" as following the Shiite tradition of Islam. Tunis, Casablanca, and Istanbul are among the Muslim-majority cities that have been attacked. Over the years, more than 100,000 Algerians have been murdered by Islamist terrorists. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

    Weekend Features:

  • Einstein's Other Theory - Benny Morris
    In 1947 Zionist leaders asked Albert Einstein to help persuade a skeptical India to support the birth of a Jewish state. Einstein's four-page letter to Jawaharlal Nehru of June 13, 1947, focused on moral and historical arguments and appealed for "the rights of an ancient people whose roots are in the East." "Can Jewish need, no matter how acute, be met without the infringement of the vital rights of others? My answer is in the affirmative. One of the most extraordinary features of the Jewish rebuilding of Palestine is that the influx of Jewish pioneers has resulted not in the displacement and impoverishment of the local Arab population, but in its phenomenal increase and greater prosperity."
        Then Einstein addressed "the nature of [the] Arab opposition. Though the Arab of Palestine has benefited...economically, he wants exclusive national sovereignty, such as is enjoyed by the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria [sic]. It is a legitimate and natural desire, and justice would seem to call for its satisfaction." But at the end of the first world war, the Allies gave the Arabs 99% of the "vast, underpopulated territories" liberated from the Turks to satisfy their national aspirations and five independent Arab states were established. One percent was reserved for the Jews "in the land of their origin."
        "In the august scale of justice, which weighs need against need, there is no doubt as to whose is more heavy." What the Jews were allotted in the Balfour Declaration "redresses the balance" of justice and history. Einstein concluded by appealing to Nehru to support "the glorious renascence which has begun in Palestine." However, on November 29 India voted with the Muslim states against partition. (Guardian-UK)
  • Chabad Rescue Worker Recalls Thailand Mission - Sheera Claire Frenkel
    Rabbi Yosef Zaklos is a relief aid worker in tsunami-ravaged Thailand, recruited by family friend, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, the executive director of Chabad in Thailand. "Just the other day, we gave aid to a Muslim family. It's not Jewish-oriented aid, it's humanitarian aid," said Zaklos. The aid ranges from delivering the obvious essentials, such as foodstuffs and water, to more diverse projects, such as sponsoring boats for local fisherman, and putting together a fleet of motorcycles so that parents can take their children to school (most buses were destroyed). (Jerusalem Post)
  • Despite the Falling Rockets, Children Love Kibbutz Nursery - Paul McCann
    You know you must have found a good nursery when you're happy to ignore Hamas rockets to gain access to top quality childcare. Almost four years ago, I left The Times to work in the Gaza Strip. As a bit of a leftie, with sympathies on one side of the conflict, you can imagine how surprised I am that when I return to the UK this year I will be bringing back two Hebrew-speaking toddlers who know more about Hanukka than Christmas and more about Zionism than Palestine. For this I have to thank the rather wonderful pre-school system bequeathed to Israel by the kibbutz movement.
        Gaza is deemed too dangerous for expat families, and so my wife and three children live in Israel, with two attending the Kibbutz Yad Mordechai nursery. The kibbutz is just two km from the border with Gaza and was the site of a famous clash between Jewish and Egyptian forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Given Yad Mordechai's history and the recent conflict, it seems unlikely that my children are getting the same version of Middle Eastern history that their father subscribes to. (Times-UK)
  • Book Review: Breeding Ground - Stephen Schwartz
    Harvey Kushner is a familiar figure to New Yorkers as a terror investigator over the past 30 years. In Holy War on the Home Front: The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States, he has outlined the extent and details of Islamist terror activities on our own soil, and emphasizes that terror plotting continues some three and a half years after the atrocities of 9/11. (New York Post)
  • How Marseille Beat Anti-Semitism - Claire Berlinski
    A quarter of Marseille's population is of North African origin, and demographers predict that it will be the first city on the European continent with an Islamic majority. In France's second-largest city, Jewish schools were burned and defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti; Jewish cemeteries were profaned and swastikas painted on Jewish homes. On March 31, 2002, Marseille's Or Aviv Synagogue was reduced to ashes by arsonists. Yet while in other French cities the violence continues, in Marseille the animus soon fizzled out because the city reacted with revulsion to these crimes: City-wide protests against anti-Semitism were immediately organized. Significantly, Arabs participated in these protests. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Jews in Plans for Postwar Germany - David Bankier
    With anti-Semitism rising in Europe it is important to recall that wartime German prejudice against Jews was not limited to Nazis. While the postwar projects of socialists included the full restoration of citizenship to all German Jews, the planning of other exiles was based on prevalent stereotypes of Jewish "otherness" and rejected the return of Jews to Germany. They basically approved, on pragmatic grounds, legal discriminatory measures against the Jews. In their plans the Jews were considered a foreign body which should not be reintegrated in a future German society, but given a territory beyond the borders of Europe. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
  • Observations:

    Consolidating the Palestinian-Israeli Ceasefire - Michael Herzog
    (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The ceasefire hangs by a very thin thread. The first order of the day for Abbas is to define it clearly, formally, and in terms equally understood and subscribed to by all the militant factions and by Israel, and to avoid setting a debilitating timeframe for it. Abbas can and should draw on Palestinian popular support for his policies, which Hamas is not likely to ignore while striving to establish itself politically in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
    • Israel is willing to give Abbas a chance and provide him with supportive measures, in large part because it sees him as a needed partner to secure its smooth pullout from Gaza. But ultimately the ceasefire will not hold long if Abbas leaves it hinging on the goodwill of the extreme militants or tries to appease them through the release of funds and other measures. They need to know that he is willing to enforce the ceasefire, or else they will break it whenever they feel like it.
    • Abbas must restructure and consolidate the numerous corrupt and inefficient security services; appoint new, competent leaders; and train and educate the forces. Without such reform it is difficult to see him establishing his authority, assuming security responsibility in West Bank cities, and taking effective control over Gaza. Reform should not include, however, the intended incorporation into the security forces of militant fugitives who are prone to reengage in terror.
    • The current ceasefire does not forbid the militant groups from developing their own capabilities through manufacturing, testing, or smuggling. If not checked, they will utilize the ceasefire as a respite to enhance their own power, and then employ it to undercut Abbas's position and policies and to turn the Israeli disengagement from Gaza into a better starting point for the resumption of their violent attacks.
    • The Palestinian leadership should therefore develop a meaningful security plan that will take on the terror infrastructure, and prepare to implement it by the time the Israelis pull out of Gaza. This plan is in the PA's own interest and is a stipulation of the first phase of the Roadmap.

      IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog is currently a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute.

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