Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 22, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Time is Running Out, Palestinian Militant Warns - Matthew Kalman (Toronto Globe and Mail)
    Abu Thaer, commander of the Gaza City cell of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, says his patience is nearly ended.
    "We have given Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] a chance to calm the situation and we have laid down conditions so in the future we will be able to achieve a hudna or ceasefire," he said.
    While Israel released 500 Palestinian prisoners on Monday, Thaer's conditions include the release of all 7,500 Palestinian prisoners still held in Israeli jails. "We want the release of all prisoners. I repeat: all of them," he said.
    Abbas has also proposed that militants from the al-Aqsa Brigades and their counterparts in Hamas and Islamic Jihad be incorporated into the official Palestinian security services.
    But a straw poll of Abu Thaer and six of his comrades showed little support for that option; only three of the seven said they would join the official security forces.

Protests in Cairo Against Fifth Term for Mubarak (AFP/Yahoo)
    More than 500 people rallied in Cairo to protest against a new term in office for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and against moves to enable his son Gamal to succeed him afterwards.
    A triple cordon of police, wielding batons and shields, surrounded the protestors, blocking other city residents from joining them.
    Organized by the Egyptian Movement for Change, the demonstrators also included Marxists, Nasserites, liberals, and Islamic dissidents from the Muslim Brotherhood.

    See also Time to Distance Ourselves from the Mubarak Regime - Victor Davis Hanson (National Review)
    We should decide now to distance ourselves from the Mubarak regime, and to be ready for a dynastic squabble with the passing of the present strongman.
    We have over the years given $50 billion to that "moderate" dictatorship not to attack Israel - as if it would really start a fifth war it would surely lose.
    But Egypt did unleash venom against us and become the intellectual nexus of Arab anti-Americanism.
    In the Arab world, a change in American policies to promote democracy was publicized as "anti-Arab" by state-run media.
    No longer should we remain in thrall to any Arab government that with its left hand rounds up over-the-top terrorists, while with its right gives others less violent a pass to unleash virulent hatred of America.
    We can no longer watch Americans die for democracy in the Sunni Triangle while giving billions to a regime that kills off consensual government in Cairo.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush: Settlement of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict "Within Reach"
    During an address in Brussels Monday to discuss the American and European alliance, President Bush said: "Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East. After many false starts, and dashed hopes, and stolen lives, a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach....By helping to build a lasting peace, we will remove an unsettled grievance that is used to stir hatred and violence across the Middle East."
        "Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel. Palestinian leaders must confront and dismantle terrorist groups, fight corruption, encourage free enterprise, and rest true authority with the people. Only a democracy can serve the hopes of Palestinians, and make Israel secure....Israel must freeze settlement activity, help Palestinians build a thriving economy, and ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, with contiguous territory on the West Bank." (White House)
        See also below Observations: Seize the Opportunity for Palestinian Democratic Reforms - Interview with Natan Sharansky (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanese Hold Historic Anti-Syrian March - Zeina Karam
    One week after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, tens of thousands marched Monday in the biggest anti-Syrian protest in Lebanese history amid signals that Syria will soon withdraw its troops from parts of the country. Holding aloft red roses and Lebanese flags, the throngs on the streets shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Hizballah Back in U.S. Sights After Bombing - Ian Mather and Annette Young
    The assassination of Hariri has had the unexpected result of shining the spotlight on the terrorist organization Hizballah. When the Bush administration named Syria as being responsible for the killing of Hariri, it launched an international diplomatic drive to have Hizballah, Syria's protege, internationally outlawed. Hizballah is accused of trying to disrupt the ceasefire signed by Israel and the Palestinians on Feb. 8.
        Palestinian security officials accuse Hizballah of sending large amounts of money to militants in the West Bank, encouraging them to step up attacks on Israel. The U.S. also accuses Hizballah of sending insurgents to Iraq to fight the coalition forces. Iraqi interior minister Falah al-Naqib said early this month that his government had seized 16 Hizballah members. Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Sharon, said: "If you were to define a major threat to peace and stability in the region it would be Syria and their proxy, Hizballah. Hizballah will try to torpedo any peace developments that take place between the Palestinians and us." (Scotland on Sunday-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Foreign Ministry Sees Crisis with PA After Pullout - Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern
    According to a report by the Foreign Ministry's policy research division, relations between Israel and the Palestinians are liable to "explode" following disengagement when the PA demands immediate final status talks, Army Radio reported Tuesday. While Israel prefers first holding talks on an intermediate agreement, the ministry believes the U.S. and EU are likely to support the Palestinian demand for final status talks. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Abbas Apt to Try to Skip Road Map Stage - Nina Gilbert (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Council Blocks "New Cabinet with Old Faces" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian legislators delayed a vote on Prime Minister Qurei's new cabinet Monday, accusing him of retaining corrupt ministers and including only a few new faces. In addition, former security minister Muhammad Dahlan, who was tipped to become minister of cabinet affairs, "refuses to join the cabinet because it does not fulfill the hopes of the Palestinian people and lacks the true standards of change," a PA official said. "This is a new cabinet with old faces," said one legislator. The 23-member cabinet includes 20 ministers who have either served in previous cabinets or are members of the current one. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Terrorist Arrested in Nablus
    Hamas terrorist Said Ahras, who was planning an attack against IDF forces, was arrested Monday in Nablus. Ahras was supposed to be one of the suicide bombers in a foiled double suicide bombing in Rosh Ha'ayin in July 2004. On August 10, 2004, Ahras took part in planning and carrying out an attack on a civilian bus on Route 5 in Samaria in which three Israelis were wounded. He was in the last stages of planning an attack on IDF forces in the Nablus area that might have sabotaged the recent agreements with the PA. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sharon's Tough Tactics Worked in the Mideast - Jonathan Chait
    Three years ago, Israel faced near-daily suicide bombings. Prime Minister Sharon responded by hastening construction of a security fence and launching a military crackdown in the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon also refused to negotiate with Arafat. The idea that harsh Israeli counter-terrorist measures must inevitably backfire is rooted in the view that the Middle East conflict is a "cycle of violence." According to this theory, Palestinians attack Israelis because Israeli repression makes them desperate and angry. Yet the last Palestinian uprising began as a response not to excessive Israeli strength but to a perception of Israeli weakness.
        In 2000, Prime Minister Barak withdrew his army from Lebanon in response to continued attacks. Later that year, he made concessions to Arafat in a noble but doomed effort to sign a peace accord. Arafat interpreted both as a sign that he could win even more concessions by unleashing a terrorist campaign. Sharon's counteroffensive stymied Hamas and proved to many ordinary Palestinians that they couldn't bleed Israel back to the bargaining table. Indeed, Palestinians came to realize that their uprising was inflicting far more pain on them than on Israel. Palestinian rejectionism met a stronger Israeli response, which produced mutual accommodation. (Los Angeles Times)
        For a contrasting view, see Heading Toward a New Palestinian Narrative - Gershon Baskin
    There is no sense of defeat in Palestine. There are no articles in the Palestinian press about losing the war. Palestinian cartoons show Palestinian men of steel fighting against the mighty Israeli military machine. Pictures of the Palestinian heroes of resistance decorate the walls in every Palestinian town. The Aksa Intifada has produced a new Palestinian narrative adorned with heroism. The writer is the Israeli co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. (Jerusalem Post)
  • When Camels Fly - Thomas L. Friedman
    The good news is that what you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. The bad news is that unlike the Berlin Wall in central Europe, the one in the Arab world is going to fall one bloody brick at a time. Something really is going on with the proverbial "Arab street." The automatic assumption that the "Arab street" will always rally to the local king or dictator - if that king or dictator just waves around some bogus threat or insult from "America," "Israel" or "the West" - is no longer valid.
        Yes, the Iraq invasion probably brought more anti-American terrorists to the surface. But it also certainly brought more pro-democracy advocates to the surface. But there will be no velvet revolutions in this part of the world. The walls of autocracy will not collapse with just one good push. The old order in this part of the world will not go quietly. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Seize the Opportunity for Palestinian Democratic Reforms - Interview with Natan Sharansky - Sam Ser (Jerusalem Post)

    • Q: What approach did you suggest the U.S. take on new PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas?
      Sharansky: If the U.S., Israel, and Europe say, "We will embrace you only if you embrace democratic reforms" - then you have a unique chance. But if the message will be, "Give us stability and then we'll talk," then I think it will be very difficult for him to bring about reforms.
          If he does [institute reforms], he will have to fight terror, because the terrorists will resist all of it. But if he delays reform in order to fight terror, then he can have a cease-fire one day and allow terror the next.
    • Q: If the Palestinians were to create a liberal democracy, what concessions would you be willing to make?
      Sharansky: I think we have to start [to make concessions] long before they become a completely liberal democracy. But as of today, I think it would be a big mistake to dismantle even one settlement. We gave them Arafat's autonomy for free. We gave them recognition of a Palestinian state for free. And now we are giving them the disengagement for free.
    • As for my views on a Palestinian state, I'm still saying what I've said all along...that I'm willing to give the Palestinians every right except for the right to destroy me. And what's the only way to ensure that that won't happen? To demand that their state will be a democratic state, a state whose leaders are subject to the will of its citizens. Since 1993, we've gone further and further from that dream by endorsing a [Palestinian] fear society.
    • Now, we have a golden opportunity to bring about democratic reform because the one man who believes in that just happens to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. So I say, let's seize that opportunity.

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