Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 3, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Poll: Disengagement a Victory for the Intifada - Menahem Rahat (Maariv-Hebrew, 2Mar05)
    Prior to the announcement of the disengagement plan, 75% of the Palestinian public believed that the intifada had failed, but a few months after the planned withdrawal was announced, 74% agreed that the plan is "a victory for the armed struggle."
    The initial poll results appeared in October 2003 in the official PA daily al-Hayat al-Jadida, while the more recent poll was conducted in September 2004 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research directed by Khalil Shikaki.
    According to Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, the end of 2003 was a low point for the Palestinians. They had fought against Israel for three years, thousands of Palestinians were killed, and they had not gained a single concrete achievement.
    Then came the disengagement announcement which caused a revolution: the feelings of despair turned into support for terror, he said.

World Bank: "Money Cannot Fix" Palestinian Woes Before Real Reform (AFP/Yahoo)
    International financial aid will not improve life for Palestinians until fundamental political reform is undertaken by their government, Nigel Roberts, the World Bank's country director for the West Bank and Gaza Strip said Wednesday.
    Roberts argued that Palestinians' well-being had continued its slide even as foreign aid increased.
    Palestinian personal income collapsed by 40% in real terms over the past four years, while disbursement of foreign donor aid doubled from $500 million to $1 billion per year.
    "If that doesn't show you how limited the impact of large sums of donors' assistance can be in a lousy policy environment, then nothing will," he said.

Attempted Lynching of Gaza University's President - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hundreds of Fatah-affiliated students at Al-Azhar University, the largest Palestinian university in Gaza, tried to lynch the institution's president on Monday.
    Sources in Gaza City said the students were angry because the university president didn't give Fatah enough seats in the newly-established board of directors.
    The students set fire to several administration offices and classrooms, and then attacked Hani Nijem's office while he was inside.
    Nijem was forced to hide for three hours as the students tried, unsuccessfully, to break down the door of his office.
    PA policemen battled for hours with the protesters before rescuing Nijem.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Turns Up Heat on Syria to Leave Lebanon - Robin Wright
    President Bush lashed out at Syria Wednesday as his administration outlined a strategy to increase pressure on Damascus to quickly pull out of Lebanon. Bush said a new joint U.S.-French effort declared "loud and clear to Syria: You get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon." Bush warned that the world is now "speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East." The White House is also making clear it is prepared to consider new sanctions against Damascus if it does not respond. (Washington Post)
  • Syria Under Pressure: Worse Trouble May Lie Ahead - Hassan M. Fattah
    Under increasing pressure to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, the Syrian government is showing signs of a siege mentality, many opposition figures say. Last week, professors at some Syrian universities were given directives not to discuss subjects like Lebanon, the Kurdish minority, or the assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. (New York Times)
        See also Thousands of Syrian Workers Leave Lebanon
    Up to a million Syrian workers - mainly farmers and construction workers - have been lured to Lebanon by the promise of higher pay. But their numbers have noticeably dwindled since some have become targets after former prime minister Hariri's death, which many Lebanese blame on Syria. Many Syrian workers have packed up and headed home. (AP/New York Times)
  • Lebanon's Shi'ites Wary of Anti-Syrian Mood - Suleiman al-Khalidi
    Lebanon's Shi'ites fear the opposition protesters may later try to curb Hizballah and undermine its staunch resistance to Israel. "They are concealing their real aim and that is to disarm Hizballah from its weapons and strength," said Yahya Maqhour, a coffee vendor in Beirut. (Reuters)
        See also Beirut Protests Leave Hizballah with a Dilemma - Roula Khalaf
    Lebanon's opposition has intensified appeals to Hizballah to join its ranks. But the party is supported by Syria (as well as Iran) and is reluctant to turn against its backers. To encourage Hizballah, the opposition has portrayed its struggle against Syria as an extension of Hizballah's war against Israel. (Financial Times-UK)
  • U.S. Cites "Alarming Number" of Unresolved Questions in Iran Nuclear Program
    Citing "an alarming number" of unresolved questions about Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. warned that the UN atomic agency cannot put off "forever" taking Tehran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Ambassador Jackie Sanders, who heads the U.S. delegation to the IAEA's board of governors meeting in Vienna this week, said Iran has continued to deny IAEA inspectors "the transparency and cooperation they need to perform their duties" and that Tehran was "cynically" manipulating "the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the pursuit of nuclear weapons." (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Bush Team to Consider Policy Shift on Iran - Guy Dinmore
    President Bush will meet with his national security team Thursday to discuss whether to adopt a big shift in U.S. policy that would involve joining Europe in offering inducements to Iran to end enrichment of uranium. A U.S. official said he did not expect a decision to emerge from the session that stems directly from Bush's commitment to "consider" the proposals put to him by European leaders last month. Bush's readiness to change course is seen as a vital test of the future of the transatlantic relationship. It also sparked an intense debate in Washington, with conservatives expressing shock that he might even contemplate a policy of de facto engagement with Iran even if conducted through the EU. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Concerns for Truce as Bombs Go Off Near Nablus - Amos Harel
    A car bomb and other explosives were set off near IDF troops operating in and around Nablus Thursday, raising fresh concerns for the battered truce between Israel and the Palestinians. The IDF expects the PA to replace the senior echelon in its security services in the West Bank. "Only replacing the veteran generation of officers in the West Bank, particularly in the National Security Forces, would constitute a genuine declaration of intentions. With the current bunch, not much can be expected," a senior officer explained.
        On Wednesday, security forces foiled a planned suicide bombing with Jerusalem as the intended target, security sources said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizballah: "Syria Out" Doesn't Mean "Israel In" - Ken Satloff
    Israel should have no illusions that the rise of the opposition in Lebanon, and even the possible departure of Syrian troops, will lead to warmer relations between Jerusalem and Beirut, Hizballah officials have warned. Hizballah sources also made plain that the organization would resist any effort to force it to disarm. "There is no way that Hizballah will just dissolve into thin air after the Syrians pull out," said a Beirut analyst. With 12 of the 128 seats in parliament, "Hizballah today is also one of the most well-organized parties in Lebanon."
        Israeli commentators said that even if Lebanon were to become independent, there was no guarantee it would rush into a peace deal. Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt told Al-Jazeera he preferred a truce with Israel rather than a peace treaty: "Peace with Israel harms Lebanon. We don't want that." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Managing a Mideast Revolution - David Ignatius
    We are now watching a glorious catastrophe take place in the Middle East. The old system that had looked so stable is ripping apart, with each beam pulling another down as it falls. It's hard not to feel giddy, watching the dominoes fall. It was only when Iraqis began to take control of their own destinies that this project began to go right. The same holds for Lebanon, Egypt, and the rest. America can help by keeping on the pressure, but it's their revolution. The crucial issue for Lebanon is the role of Hizballah. This Shiite militia cannot remain the "A Team" of terrorism and also help build a new democracy in Lebanon. (Washington Post)
  • Syria's Cunning Plan in Lebanon: The Indirect Approach - Walid Phares
    Hizballah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad have an interest in triggering Israeli military and security reactions. All of them are opposed to Abbas's agreement with Israel and hope to undermine his efforts. However, behind these "organizations" you have the regimes that feed and use them: Syria's Baath party and Iran's mullahs. (National Review)
        See also Revolution in Lebanon? - Eyal Zisser (Jerusalem Post)
  • Saudi Shiites, Long Kept Down, Look to Iraq and Assert Rights - Neil MacFarquhar
    The Shiite Muslim minority in Saudi Arabia once marked their Ashura holy day furtively out of fear of stirring the powerful wrath of the religious establishment. But this year Ashura fell on the eve of the 10-day campaign for municipal council elections, to be held Thursday, and a bolder mood was readily apparent. Thousands thronged to watch warriors on horseback re-enact the battlefield decapitation of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, in 680. Saudi Arabia's religious establishment, which is dominated by the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam, still damns such rites as pagan orgies. But the fact that Shiites no longer feel the need to hide reflects important changes. (New York Times)
        See also A Chance for Saudi Arabia's Shiites - Scott Wilson
    For the first time in 70 years, the Shiites of eastern Saudi Arabia, the only part of the kingdom where they are a majority, are preparing to win a small measure of political power. Inspired by the Shiites' success in Iraq's elections, Shiite leaders say they intend to sweep to victory in municipal voting scheduled for Thursday and begin using the authority of elective office to push for equal rights. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    In Withdrawal - Yossi Klein Halevi (The New Republic)

    • Major General Elazar Stern, commander of the IDF's personnel branch, is one of the army's highest-ranking officers. And wears a knitted skullcap. In the last year, three Orthodox Jews, including Stern, have joined the IDF's general staff, until recently entirely secular. Like kibbutzniks a generation ago, religious recruits have become the group most ideologically committed to serving; their motivation has helped the army win the war against terrorism.
    • "Once a decision is made [about the disengagement]," Stern said, "the army will do everything - everything - to fulfill the government's policy. I know soldiers who have defended settlements they don't believe should exist. It's not easier to die for a settlement you don't believe should be there than it is to evacuate it."
    • Stern recently told cadets at the IDF's combat training school: "In this room are all the contradictions of Israeli society, secular and religious, new immigrants and veterans, Bedouins and Jews. The army is the meeting point of clashing values. Your dilemma at a roadblock [in the territories] is between respect for the value of human dignity and the value of protecting lives from terrorists."
    • "The withdrawal also presents us with conflicting values. But there's no such thing as one army that defends synagogues and another that defends discotheques; one army that eats kosher and one that doesn't; one that protects settlements and one that evacuates settlements. We've been in that story before. How long did [ancient] Jewish sovereignty last? Each camp then thought that its position was right. The result was two thousand years of exile."

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