Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 8, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Seen "In Trouble" - Stewart Ain (New York Jewish Week)
    Unable to get the Palestinian security situation under control, Mahmoud Abbas was forced to delay his planned trip to the U.S. to meet with President Bush.
    "He cancelled the trip because he has not made progress on reforms and he understands that without delivering the minimum, the Americans will not continue to fund him and endorse him," said Efraim Inbar, director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
    "He is basically in trouble," Inbar observed. "The whole system is in trouble, and he is reflecting the structured problem of the Palestinian Authority."
    Zaki Shalom, a specialist in the Arab-Israeli conflict at the Ben-Gurion Research Center, said Abbas "is aware that the [Bush] administration is expecting him to do something and he couldn't come empty-handed to Washington."
    "So he is not coming and the range of time he is being given is getting shorter and shorter."
    Observers said Abbas' main problem is with armed men from Fatah.

PA Speaker: Abbas Can't Beat Corruption - Roee Nahmiass (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
    Deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Hassan Harisha slammed PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Thursday, saying the leader was incapable of overcoming corruption in the PA.
    Harisha told the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi Abbas would be unable to beat corruption with the "same old methods," and with advisors that were "just as corrupt" when they served under Arafat.

Italy: Hizballah Belongs on EU Terror List (Jerusalem Post)
    In a meeting in Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that the Italian government supports Israel's claim that Hizballah should be included in the EU's list of terrorist organizations, Israel Radio reported.

PA Gets .ps Web Suffix Although It Is Not a State - Arnon Regular (Ha'aretz)
    The .ps suffix has officially been tacked on to the addresses of Internet sites operating from or belonging to the Palestinian Authority, PA Prime Minister Qurei said Monday.

New UK Special Forces Unit Will Spy on Terrorists - Thomas Harding (Telegraph-UK)
    The British Army's first new regiment in more than three decades - the Special Reconnaissance Regiment - began operations Wednesday to provide covert surveillance for Special Forces fighting the international terrorist threat.
    It will specialize in close target reconnaissance missions in enemy territory, freeing up elite fighting troops in the SAS and Special Boat Service to carry out the "hard end" of missions.

New Miss Israel - Made Aliya Three Years Ago (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
    Yelena Ralph, 21, who made aliya alone from Ukraine three years ago, was crowned 2005 Israel Beauty Queen Wednesday.

U.S., Israel Act to Preserve Ancient Rock Drawing (AP/Ha'aretz)
    U.S. and Israeli officials unveiled a project Monday to help preserve a 3,300-year-old rock carving being eaten away by erosion in Timna Park in southern Israel.
    It depicts ostriches, gazelles, and other animals as well as hunters and Egyptian chariot drivers armed with axes and shields.
    The 7-meter-long drawing, which dates to 1,300 BCE, has been slowly eaten away by the elements.

Exports to Jordan Up 55% - Lior Greenbaum (Globes)
    Israeli exports to Jordan grew 55% in 2004.
    Total trade with Jordan grew from $40 million in 1998-1999 to $130 million in 2003 and $185 million in 2004, according to a report by the Israeli-Jordanian Chamber of Commerce.
    Jordanian exports to the U.S. rose by 58% to $1 billion in 2004, mostly clothing from the qualifying industrial zone (QIZ) in Jordan.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Militants Fire Rocket into Israel Despite Truce - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Palestinian gunmen fired a rocket into Israel on Thursday in the first such incident since January, when Mahmoud Abbas took power and persuaded militants to accept a ceasefire. There were no reports of casualties from the rocket - launched from northern Gaza into Israel. "There is an intolerable gap between what the Palestinian Authority is saying and what is happening on the ground," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "This is a very serious event and Israel will not accept it." (Reuters)
  • Bombing at Cairo Tourist Site Leaves 2 Dead, 18 Wounded - Neil MacFarquhar
    A bomb stuffed with nails exploded Thursday near the heart of the main tourist bazaar in Cairo, killing 2 people including a French woman and wounding 18 others, including four French, three Americans, an Italian, a Turk, and nine Egyptians. Nurses said many had nails more than an inch long embedded in their bodies. Shopkeepers said they feared that the bombing, the first such attack on foreigners in the capital in more than seven years, would scare away tourists who have been visiting Egypt in record numbers. (New York Times)
  • UN Calls for Probe into Death of Hariri
    The UN Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to authorize an international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. The resolution was cosponsored by the U.S., France, and Britain. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Peres to Cheney: No Building in Maale Adumim for Now - Nathan Gutman and Nadav Shragai
    Vice Premier Shimon Peres met Thursday with U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, and told him that for the time being Israel is not building new neighborhoods near Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Peres said the construction plans will not be implemented in the near future. Cheney expressed the American administration's opposition to the plan, designed to connect the West Bank settlement to Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Diplomatic and Legal Aspects of the Settlement Issue - Jeffrey Helmreich
    One may legitimately support or challenge Israeli settlements in the disputed territories, but they are not illegal, and they have neither the size, the population, nor the placement to seriously impact upon the future status of the disputed territories and their Palestinian population centers. (ICA/JCPA)
  • Bush Won't Raise Thorny Issues with Sharon in U.S. Visit - Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman
    President Bush is expected to refrain from bringing up any issues on which he and Prime Minister Sharon are at odds when the two meet next Monday at Bush's Texas ranch. At the meeting, Bush will reiterate the commitment he made to Sharon last year to stick to the three-stage program outlined in the roadmap rather than skipping straight to final-status negotiations, as PA Chairman Abbas would prefer. Bush will also reiterate that any final-status agreement will have to take into account the realities on the ground, including the existence of sizable Israeli populations in the settlement blocs. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Sees Disengagement, Not Settlement Construction, as Key Focus - Herb Keinon
    White House and State Department officials constantly repeat in public the standard line about blanket opposition to all settlement construction. But the statements are never followed by an "or else" clause. Privately, Israel is picking up signals that, while Washington is not overjoyed with such construction, it is not going to make a big issue if it is all done quietly. The announcement on construction of 3,500 units from Maale Adumim to Jerusalem was a strictly bureaucratic measure that ended a decade-long planning process. However, a political decision to go ahead and send out the bulldozers has not been taken. While settlement construction is always a headline grabber, the major issue now is disengagement. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • It's the Same Old PA - Ehud Ya'ari
    True, Abbas has changed the policies of the PA. But it's also true that it's still the same PA. Thus, post-Arafat diplomacy rests upon the old Arafat bureaucracy. The structure of the PA and its personnel are almost identical to what they were before. Even the aides inside the chairman's bureau in Ramallah have not changed. The beneficiaries of the long-standing patronage system have held on to their jobs and titles and powers.
        Not one move has been made toward unifying the multiple security services, and there is also no serious attempt to face up to the threat of renewed terror. All the existing agencies are doing is to plead with the known terrorists to restrain their impulses to attack Israelis. They do not attempt to take away their guns, let alone restrict their movements or detain them. Israel has a new partner, but in words and not in deeds. (Jerusalem Report)
  • Defanging Hizballah - Editorial
    Once Israel and Syria are out of Lebanon, Washington's top goal will be to ensure that Iran and its terrorist proxy, Hizballah, do not become the dominant political/military forces there. The Bush administration will be well within its rights to make the case that full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559 requires the removal of Iran's armed presence from Lebanon, and to remind the international community that Hizballah has no legitimate reason to retain its destabilizing military arsenal. (Washington Times)
        See also below Observations: The Hizballah Conundrum - Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Damascus Devilry - Editorial
    Syria now says it will withdraw all of its military and intelligence personnel "fully and completely" from Lebanon by the end of this month, and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara insisted the withdrawal would satisfy all the requirements of a Security Council resolution enacted last year. Not so fast. For one thing, that resolution also requires the dismantling of independent militias operating inside Lebanon. The only militia of any significance in Lebanon today is Hizballah - the terrorist organization responsible for scores of anti-Israeli attacks. (New York Post)
  • Arabs Lift Their Voices - Thomas L. Friedman
    Until recently, the modern Arab world was largely immune to the winds of democracy that have blown everywhere else in the world. Why? The Arab peoples were told by their own leaders and state-owned intellectuals that democracy had to come later - after the nationalist struggle against colonialism or the liberation of Palestine or the creation of an Islamic state. The third Arab Human Development Report, written by a courageous group of Arab social scientists under the auspices of the UN Development Program, helps us understand why part of every Arab hates the U.S. invasion of Iraq - and why another part is praying that it succeeds. (New York Times)
  • The Residue of Eventhink - Saul Singer
    Peace does not come from agreements; lasting agreements come from changing the conditions that cause war. In our case, war does not come from the lack of a Palestinian state, even if creating such a state were advisable. War comes from the Arab dream of destroying Israel. Anything that helps crush that dream advances peace; anything that encourages it drives peace further away.
        The head of the PLO, Farouq Qaddumi, said on Iranian TV just four months ago what much of the Arab world still believes: "At this stage there will be two states. Many years from now there will be only one." If peace, not just agreements, is the goal, the more the U.S. exposes, condemns, and rejects the Arab destructionist dream, the better. If the U.S. were half as obsessed with responding to every mention of "right of return" to Israel as it is with quashing Jerusalem suburbs, we would suddenly see voices of brave Palestinian moderates sprouting like spring flowers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Sinful Arab Neglect - Hayat Alvi-Aziz
    Cairo taxis, shops, homes, offices, and even medical labs have recitations of the Koran blaring in their audio speakers. The sheikhs in the local mosques shout and scream into the loudspeakers during Friday sermons, scaring people with warnings about the evil deeds that will land them in Hell. There is no talk about the daily things in life that affect us. The sermons do not speak of providing better health care, cleaning up the environment, eradicating illiteracy, improving living standards, or contributing to the progress and development of society.
        The silence regarding pervasive human problems itself represents a crisis of denial in Islamic societies. The preoccupations are mainly with worship, dress codes, "moral" principles, gender segregation, and condemning the U.S. and Israel. The writer is an assistant professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features:

  • Jewish-Vatican Relations: The Possible Beatification of Pius XII and Other Unresolved Issues - An Interview with Aharon Lopez by Manfred Gerstenfeld
    One main element of the radical change in attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Jews in recent decades has been theological. Another major reason was the shock of Catholic leaders after the Holocaust when they realized what anti-Semitism had led to. The change in attitude, however, has only become effective in some parts of the Church and not in many others, including some of the highest levels. The litmus test as to whether there will be on-going progress in the Church's reconciliation with the Jewish people is the possible beatification and canonization of Pope Pius the 12th. The Jews, and in particular Holocaust survivors, are entitled to have all their questions on this pope's and the Church's behavior during the Holocaust answered. (Europe's Crumbling Myths)
  • Israel Honors German Officer Who Saved Jews - Andrew Buncombe
    Following years of investigation by the son of one of the 300 Jews saved from the Nazis by a German officer, Major Karl Plagge will be posthumously honored next week at a ceremony in Jerusalem by Yad Vashem, the authority created by the Israeli government to remember the Holocaust. Plagge arranged to take 1,000 Jews from the Vilnius, Lithuania, ghetto to the relative shelter of a nearby forced labor camp just one week before the ghetto was destroyed in July 1943. Daniel Freankiel of Yad Vashem said that Plagge "provides an impressive example of the ability of an individual to preserve his moral autonomy and resist being sucked into the vortex of evil." (Independent-UK)
  • Discovering Allure of Israel - Rick Oshman
    I am one of 265 Houstonians who have just returned from an eight-day journey to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. Two-thirds of the group, including me, were first-time travelers to Israel. We bonded with our fellow Jews in Israel. We visited ancient sites and came face-to-face with the history of the Jewish people. Israel is a source of spiritual revitalization for visitors of every faith. We saw and experienced a thriving, vibrant democracy with numerous newspapers, political parties, and opinions. It was clear to us that Israel's accomplishments are the result of living in a Western democracy, as contrasted to the lack of advancement in neighboring countries with their theocracies and totalitarian regimes.
        Finally, we experienced the indomitable spirit and compassion of the people of Israel. We noted that Israel, despite its own daily challenges, is always among the first countries to send aid and support to victims of tsunamis, earthquakes, and acts of terror, wherever they occur. No longer will I wonder why so many of my family and friends return time and time again to Israel when there are so many other places to explore. I understand now the magnetism of this tiny country, its invincible spirit. And I'm already planning my next trip. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Observations:

    The Hizballah Conundrum - Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog
    (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • How do you treat a chameleonic body that is simultaneously an important political party and an armed terror group? This is the case with Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. The international community should exploit Hizballah's current domestic vulnerabilities and pressure it concerning terrorism and disarmament, rather than simply accepting the group's dangerous armed capabilities.
    • Feeling more vulnerable with an impending Syrian departure, Hizballah attaches value to Lebanese national unity but may also become more dependent on Iran. With a Syrian departure, Hizballah could arm itself through direct shipments from Iran to Lebanon in the absence of the Syrian sieve, and it could further provoke Israel free of Syria's restraining hand. In any case, Hizballah will certainly continue its efforts to destroy prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    • The removal of the armed Iranian presence in Lebanon, together with the heavy military equipment it shares with Hizballah (such as rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles), should be an integral part of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. With Israel and Syria out of Lebanon, Iran should not be permitted to remain as the only foreign armed presence.
    • Syria should be pressured to end any further arms shipments to Hizballah, either directly or through Syrian territory. Concurrently, the international community should consider placing international monitors at critical entry points to Lebanon in order to monitor possible arms shipments to Hizballah.
    • Hizballah cannot be allowed to remain the exclusive armed, nongovernmental force in Lebanon. The current movement of political "tectonic plates" under Lebanon and the Middle East presents a unique opportunity to begin undercutting the armed Hizballah-Iran axis.

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

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