Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 21, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

IDF: "Hamas Exploiting Calm" - Hanan Greenberg (Yediot Ahronot-English)
    Hamas terrorists are using the current lull in military activity to boost their strength, IDF Chief-of-Staff Moshe Yaalon said Sunday.
    Despite the significant decline in threats, terror organizations are still attempting to carry out attacks, he said.
    Israel sees a 180-degree change in the Palestinian leadership's conduct, he said, but the problem of anarchy in the PA cannot be expected to be resolved immediately.
    "The process is very sensitive and fragile, and faces a Hamas and Hizballah veto," Yaalon said.

    See also Palestinians Planting Explosives in Preparation for Renewed Hostilities in Gaza (Ha'aretz)
    On Saturday, IDF troops discovered and safely detonated four large explosive devices in Gaza.
    In the past three weeks, troops have discovered nearly 20 explosive devices in Gaza, most of which weighed dozens of kilograms. Most were found on roads used by IDF soldiers.
    IDF sources said they believe the devices are being laid in preparation for a potential renewal of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

Freed Prisoner Killed on Terror Mission - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Atsem Mansour, 29, a Fatah Tanzim member and former security prisoner released in January 2004 in the deal struck with Hizballah to secure the return of the bodies of three soldiers and businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum, was one of two gunmen killed by soldiers last Tuesday while attempting an attack at Har Bracha.
    According to the security establishment's statistics on the May 1985 "Jibril deal" prisoner release, of the 238 released to the West Bank and Gaza, 48% (114) resumed their terrorist activities.

Unedited French Video Shows al-Dura Not Hit by Israeli Fire - Eva Cahen (CNS News)
    French TV in 2000 broadcast news reports purportedly showing 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura being shot by Israeli soldiers.
    But Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of the French news weekly l'Express, and filmmaker Daniel Leconte, who saw raw, unedited video of the shooting taken by the France 2 network, said it's not possible for the boy to have been shot by Israeli soldiers, as claimed, and that the videocassette is full of staged scenes of faked injuries.
    "The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position," Leconte said. "If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner."


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  • Hariri's Killers "Recruited from Syrian-Linked Group in Iraq" - Damien McElroy
    Assassins who killed Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, traveled from Iraq through Syria to carry out the attack, according to Rachid Mezher, the Beirut judge leading the inquiry into the bombing. He said that the organizers had been recruited from Islamist groups linked to Syria and operating against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Investigators believe a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the convoy last Monday. Mezher said that a video in which Ahmed Abu Adas, a Palestinian Lebanese, said the attack was the work of the "Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria" group, was a genuine claim of responsibility.
        Abu Adas attended Beirut mosques known to be recruiting grounds for the Ansar al-Islam group, linked to the Jordanian extremist al-Zarqawi. The Beirut attack bore similarities to suicide bombings carried out in Iraq by al-Zarqawi. "We know that Adas had Saudi Arabian nationality and used his passport to travel to Iraq and Syria," said Mezher. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Syrian Drug Link to Beirut Blast - Uzi Mahnaimi
    The murder of Rafik al-Hariri may have been the work of Syrian intelligence officers trying to protect their share of Lebanon's $1 billion-a-year drugs trade. The theory received backing from a Kuwaiti newspaper which blamed the killing on leading figures in the Syrian military. Drugs are only part of the economic benefits derived by Syria. Syrian workers send home up to $1 billion a year and water is pumped from the al-Assi River. "If the Syrians quit Lebanon, not only will the ruling sect lose the dirty drug money but the Syrian state will collapse in six months," said one Lebanese source. (Times-UK)
        See also Deep Roots Hold Syrian Influence in Lebanon - Megan K. Stack
    "Syria considers its presence here not as something temporary, not as a foreign occupation, but as something natural. They think that Lebanon is a part of Syria," said former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. Even if the soldiers left, Syrian influence would linger in the form of intelligence agents and Lebanese who make a living on the Syrian payroll. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Secret Dialogue between U.S. and Sunni Insurgents in Iraq - Michael Ware
    Members of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq are open to negotiating an end to their struggle with the U.S. "We are ready to work with you," said a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime who is a senior representative of the self-described nationalist insurgency. Parts of the insurgency in Iraq are prepared to talk and move toward putting away their arms - and the U.S. is willing to listen. Hard-line Islamist fighters like al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda group will not compromise in their campaign to create an Islamic state, but senior Iraqi insurgent commanders said several "nationalist" rebel groups - composed predominantly of ex-military officers - have moved toward a strategy of "fight and negotiate." (TIME)
  • Egypt Cancels Democracy Conference - Nadia Abou El-Magd
    Egypt Saturday postponed a conference of G-8 and Arab ministers on promoting democracy set for next month, apparently in reaction to Washington's pointed criticism of the arrest of Ayman Nour, the leader of an opposition party. "Egypt is trying to send a message to the Bush administration that it can't be pressured," said Fawaz Gerges, a Mideast expert at Sarah Lawrence College. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Cabinet Approves Disengagement Plan - Atilla Somfalvi
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signed evacuation directives Sunday giving Gaza and northern West Bank settlers five months to leave their homes - by July 20, 2005. The government approved the disengagement plan Sunday by a 17-5 margin. Voting against were ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yisrael Katz, Natan Sharansky, and Danny Naveh. The ministers also voted 20-1 in favor of a modified West Bank security fence route that includes much of the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, and the town of Maaleh Adumim next to Jerusalem. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz estimated the removal of settlements would take about seven weeks. (Yediot Ahronot-English)
  • Israel Releases 500 Prisioners - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Yuval Yoaz
    Israel released 500 prisoners Monday as a goodwill gesture toward PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Israel plans to release an additional 400 prisoners within the next three months. Just 200 of the 500 prisoners released Monday have served two-thirds of their sentences. (Ha'aretz)
  • Mofaz: No Gaza-Egypt Border Withdrawal Until Smuggling Stops - Gil Hoffman
    The IDF will not withdraw from the Philadelphia Corridor between Gaza and Egypt until all weapons smuggling stops completely, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem Sunday. Mofaz expressed confidence that Israeli intelligence in the Gaza Strip will be able to prevent terrorist attacks after Israel withdraws. He said that experience has taught Israel not to rely on the Palestinians to maintain Israel's security. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Names New Ambassador to Israel
    Egypt has named Mohammed Assem as its new ambassador to Israel, Israel's Foreign Ministry said Sunday. Assem is Egypt's ambassador to Sudan. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Standing Up for People Power - Fareed Zakaria
    Both the administration and Congress seem to have decided to pressure Syria by ratcheting up the economic sanctions already in place against it. This is pointless, because economic sanctions, particularly unilateral American ones, have an unblemished record of failure. When sanctions have worked, it is because they have been multilateral sanctions, usually authorized through the UN. The U.S. has begun to try to gather an international coalition against Syria. It is unlikely to produce UN sanctions, but it might put real pressure on the Syrian regime politically. Syria does not think of itself as a pariah state like North Korea - and if it does not stop funding terrorists, occupying Lebanon and crushing all dissent, it should be treated as such. Washington has many gripes with Syria - its support for the insurgency in Iraq being the biggest - but it should focus single-mindedly on one issue that can gain international support: getting Syria out of Lebanon. (Newsweek)
        See also Syria After Hariri - Edward S. Walker and Maggie Mitchell Salem
    Washington and Paris will not let up their commitment to free Lebanon. In Washington, Syria is frequently referred to as a "low-hanging fruit" - and not without reason. Bush pledged in his inaugural address to end tyranny, and his advisers are actively looking for the most expedient ways of fulfilling his vision. What the perpetrators of Monday's attack may have miscalculated is Bush's personal ire at Hariri's assassination. But Damascus cannot expect to continue peddling intelligence in Iraq, peace talks with Israel, and intercession with Iran for its oppressive presence in Lebanon. That is old math. (Boston Globe)
  • The Pale Charm of Sharm - Ehud Ya'ari
    Hamas wants to maintain a confrontational cease-fire, studded with occasional incidents, which will provide the constant threat of exploding the entire deal. It sees the cease-fire as a way of stopping, or at least reducing, the operations of the Israeli army and the Shin Bet against its members. In Israel there are the usual starry-eyed pundits predicting that Hamas is about to transform itself from a terrorist underground to a political party. But this is a serious mistake. Hamas seeks a political cover for its military movement, not its elimination. (Jerusalem Report)
  • Observations:

    The Calm Before the Storm - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)

    • The impression one gets from the goings-on among the Palestinian public and leadership is that the question isn't whether the bloody clashes will start up again - but when.
    • Palestinian spokespersons called the prisoner release an insult. A second seed of trouble is the continuing construction of the separation fence.
    • In the political context, Abu Mazen is now declaring that in no uncertain terms is he willing to agree to a temporary arrangement or a state within temporary borders, as stipulated in the American road map plan. He wants a final settlement, and without delay. In other words, he is insisting, already now, on discussing issues over which it is impossible to reach an agreement - Jerusalem, the settlement blocs, borders, and refugees.
    • Abu Mazen is also saying that the current cease-fire is not the end of the intifada and that the nonviolent resistance will continue.
    • On this backdrop, one can estimate when the relative calm will end and the intifada will be renewed: following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank.
    • By then, a new Palestinian parliament will be in place, with significant representation for Hamas and other Palestinian opposition elements. The political horizon will then cloud over, and there won't be anything to look forward to.

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