Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 24, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Sunnis Now Want to Join Iraqi Politics - Jill Carroll (Christian Science Monitor)
    Several Sunni groups that hitherto shunned the political process met last weekend to create a unified front and set of demands that they will present to the Shiite and Kurdish leaders now hammering out a new government.
    "Participation of the Sunnis is both religiously important and politically important," says John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University. "It can establish a precedent for other Sunni leaders to become involved."
    The sudden activity in the Sunni community will start a path toward negotiations that will eventually call for a laying down of arms in exchange for inclusion in the power structure, explains former election candidate Sherif Ali bin al-Hussein.
    "Already they have come to terms with participating in the next election, across the board, 100 percent," he said.

Iraqi Civilians Fight Back Against Insurgents - Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    In Baghdad on Tuesday, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming toward his shop and decided he had had enough.
    As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire, the police and witnesses said.
    Three of the insurgents were killed and two of Dhia's nephews and a bystander were wounded, police said.
    It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against the insurgents.

Conference of Arab Leaders Yields Little of Significance - Hassan M. Fattah (New York Times)
    Only 13 of 22 leaders attended the Arab League summit in Algiers, and the resolutions passed were of comparatively little significance.
    "As the gravity of the crises continues to rise, so does the irrelevance of the Arab League response - or the lack of it," said Rami Khouri, editor of the Beirut Daily Star.

PA Saves Millions in Corruption Clampdown (AFP/Yahoo)
    The PA's income rose by $30 million a month in 2004, mostly due to curbs on corruption and a clampdown on illegal trading, Finance Minister Salam Fayad said.
    "PA income increased by 27% in 2004 to $948 million compared with 2003," he said.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: Disarming Militants Paramount - Amy Teibel
    Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz said Wednesday that the handover of additional West Bank towns to Palestinian control will require greater effort by Palestinian police to disarm militants. Israel transferred security control of Jericho and Tulkarm to the Palestinians during the past week and, as part of the agreement, Palestinian fugitives in those towns were given limited amnesty. But Israeli security officials said Palestinian security forces have broken a promise to disarm the militants in the towns under their control. In addition, fugitives have fled to Tulkarm from other parts of the West Bank to take advantage of the promised immunity. "The Palestinians' rate of progress on everything regarding arrests and their obligations is very slow to the point where nothing at all has been done," Mofaz said. "This will make it difficult for us to hand over responsibility for the additional towns." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinian Fugitives Celebrate Handover - Lara Sukhtian
    Dozens of Palestinian fugitives reunited with their families Tuesday in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, ending years on the run. "Tonight is the first night I'll sleep at home without worrying the army is going to come banging on my door," said Hosni Abu Zgheib, 30, of the violent Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, affiliated with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah Party. As news of Tulkarm's handover spread through town, dozens of gunmen took to the streets to fire their weapons in the air in celebration. "I've been home only four times in four years," said Mohammed Zitawi, 28, of Al Aqsa. "For now, I'm not interested in fighting, and if Israel sticks to its word, I will personally hand in my gun to the PA. It's time to go back to living a more normal life." (AP/ABC News)
        See also Militants Hail Israeli Pullout - Mitch Potter
    A cell of hunted Palestinian militants came up for a rare breath of fresh air Tuesday, speaking of their intifada in the past tense and promising the struggle for a Palestinian state is now in the hands of politicians. Mohammed Abu Taleb, 39, a veteran of both Palestinian intifadas, says a combination of shared fatigue and a sense of futility has all 13 militant Palestinian factions united in their commitment to ending the intifada. "Let's be realistic, this intifada achieved nothing....We lost thousands of martyrs. Now we have the wall, the loss of more land," he said. (Toronto Star)
  • U.S.-Backed Iraqi Raid Kills 80 Insurgents - Edward Wong
    Iraqi and American forces killed at least 80 insurgents on Tuesday during a raid on a large guerrilla training camp. The Iraqi and American forces discovered munitions, training manuals, car bombs, suicide-bomber vests, and computers, along with identification papers that indicated some of the fighters had come from outside Iraq, said Maj. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division. (New York Times)
        See also Ambushed U.S. Soldiers Kill 26 Iraqi Insurgents - Traci Carl
    U.S. soldiers, ambushed by dozens of Iraqi militants near the infamous "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad, responded by killing 26 guerrillas, the U.S. military said Monday. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Chief of Staff: Palestinians Not Doing Enough to Stop Terror - Hanan Greenberg
    Israel will continue to conduct arrests in the West Bank and Gaza for the Purim holiday and has sealed off the territories because the Palestinians are not doing enough to prevent terror, Army Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said Wednesday. "There are active cells planning to carry out terror attacks and therefore we are continuing our efforts, including overnight arrests. In such arrests, where we arrest terrorists in their beds, we are preventing them from reaching a Tel Aviv nightclub or a mall in Afula," Yaalon said. Referring to the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza this summer, he said if Palestinians in Gaza do not "maintain calm," Israel would "operate behind the lines as we did in Lebanon."  (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Israeli Arab Who Drove Tel Aviv Suicide Bomber Arrested - Amos Harel
    The Shin Bet security service announced Thursday that Ashraf Kaisi, an Israeli Arab from Baka al-Garbiyeh, has admitted transporting a suicide bomber from the West Bank to Tel Aviv last month in his car, which has Israeli license plates. Five Israelis were killed in the bombing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Can Hizballah and Hamas Be Democratic? - Daniel Pipes
    If al-Qaeda renounced terrorism, would the U.S. government welcome its running candidates in American elections? Had the Nazis denounced violence, would Hitler have become an acceptable chancellor for Germany? Not likely, because the tactics of al-Qaeda and the Nazis matter less than their goals.
        Hizballah and Hamas are important elements of the Islamist movement that seeks to create a global totalitarian order along the lines of what has already been created in Iran, Sudan, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. They see themselves as part of a cosmic clash between Muslims and the West in which the victor dominates the world. Washington, trying to be consistent in its push for democracy, prefers to ignore these goals and instead endorses involvement by Hizballah and Hamas in the political process, pending their making some small changes. Washington should take a principled stand that excludes from the democratic process not just terrorists but also totalitarians using the system to get into power and stay there. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why the Mideast's 2005 is Unlike Europe's 1989 - David Fromkin
    Without depreciating the value of the first halting movements toward democracy in the Arab-speaking Middle East, we should be aware of how limited they are. They may go in the right direction but are just at the beginning of the road, and most can be expected to encounter strong opposition before they move much further. The writer is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. (New York Times)
  • Child Abuse: The New Islamic Cult of Martyrdom - Justus Reid Weiner
    The disturbing practice of deadly child abuse is on the rise in Muslim societies all over the world, most notably in the Palestinian areas, Pakistan, and Jammu & Kashmir. Palestinian children and teenagers became more directly involved in terror attacks, especially suicide bombings. Children are recruited to carry ammunition and explosives or are left behind to trigger booby-traps that terrorists set for troops. The generation of Palestinian children that has been raised in a popular culture that celebrates hate, killing, and death will have to be re-educated to value life more than death. (Institute for Conflict Management-India)
  • Observations:

    Iraqi Shiism Could Topple Iran's Mullahs - Cameron Khosrowshahi (International Herald Tribune)

    • The Shiite centers of learning, located in the shrine cities of Iraq, became one of the critical factors in the downfall of the Shah in Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Back then, Iraq contained the seeds of upheaval in neighboring Iran. Today, it does so once again.
    • Rather than worrying about Iran's influence over Iraq, we should be harnessing the strength of Iraq's newly empowered Shiites against the regime in Iran.
    • Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, is cut from a different cloth from the ruling clerics in Tehran. He is of the quietist tradition, which holds that mosque and state should be kept separate. Sistani's religious credentials and learning dwarf those of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his counterpart in Iran. There are many Iranians who would rather listen to the Iranian-born Sistani if he chooses to speak to them.
    • As Iraq's democracy and civil society stabilize, more and more Iranians will travel to Najaf and Karbala as pilgrims and seminary students. The Iranian state will never be able to curtail their people's right to perform the pilgrimage to Iraq, which is a religious duty. The ideas these pilgrims take back with them to Iran could be the beginnings of an authentic counterrevolution against the tyranny of the mosque.
    • The Pahlavi regime in Iran was ultimately undone from within, by the same modernizing forces that were unleashed by the Shah's White Revolution. Twenty-five years later, a startling parallel exists. The mullahs of Iran could similarly be overthrown by their own religious networks.
    • This will be seen by the Iranian people not as an artificial solution enforced upon them from outside but as an authentic evolution of their nation toward greater freedom.

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