Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 11, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Arrests Palestinian Smuggling Missiles from Sinai - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    The Egyptians have arrested a Palestinian who admitted under questioning that he smuggled Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles into Gaza through Sinai.
    An armed Palestinian was photographed parading just such a weapon in public.
    The anti-aircraft missiles are deemed by Israel to be "weapons that upset the balance" in the war against terror.
    The Palestinians will explain that they wanted a weapon to hit Israeli helicopters.
    The broader perspective is that SA-7s smuggled in from Egypt can be aimed against civilian air traffic to and from Israel's international Ben-Gurion Airport.
    While helicopters can take defensive actions against such missiles, heavy passenger planes cannot.
    Another "equation breaking" weapon is Katyushas, which have a longer range and can hit a city like Ashkelon.

PA Security Unit Joined Gunmen in Ramallah - Amit Cohen (Maariv-Hebrew, 8Apr05)
    An 80-man PA security unit sent to arrest Al-Aqsa Brigade gunmen who shot into Abbas's Ramallah office on March 30 refused the order and defected to the side of the gunmen.
    Among the wanted terrorists hiding in the Muqata compound are Ramzi Obeid, who murdered an Israeli in Ramallah, and Daoud el-Haj, who was involved in the attack at Ein Arik in which six IDF soldiers were killed.
    The two also have links with Hizballah.
    After being told to leave the Muqata where they had been hiding for three years, the two led 20 gunmen in the shooting outside Abbas's office, and were soon joined by 40 more gunmen from Al-Amari.
    When PA troops received the order to arrest them, 80 troops from the Security and Defense Service refused the order and joined up with Obeid.
    When Haj Ismael Jabbar, commander of PA security forces in the West Bank, realized his forces had joined Obeid, he left the area; Jabbar was then sacked by Abbas.
    Jibril Rajoub brokered an agreement to diffuse the crisis: The wanted men would all leave the Muqata and move to new hideouts with the security services to which they belonged before the intifada.

    See also Abbas Adds Fugitives to Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Saturday ordered his Finance Ministry to start paying salaries to hundreds of Fatah gunmen being recruited into the PA security forces.

Useful Reference:

Palestinian Militants Hold Military Drills - Photo Gallery (People's Daily-China)


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush, Sharon to Discuss Gaza Pullout, Settlements - Jeffrey Heller
    President Bush hosts Israeli Prime Minister Sharon at his Texas ranch on Monday in a reaffirmation of U.S. support for a Gaza pullout. On Sunday Sharon met with Secretary of State Rice. (Reuters)
        See also Sharon to Bush: Abbas Losing Control, Not Fulfilling Promises - Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman
    During his meeting with President Bush, Sharon will emphasize that Palestinian leader Abbas's control is collapsing and the armed organizations are violating their own cease-fire promises. Reports from Texas said the U.S. is planning to broaden the scope of its special security envoy, Lt. Gen. William Ward, to deal with the Israeli complaints about lack of PA progress on security reforms and its inability to prevent mortars launched at Gush Katif. (Ha'aretz)
        The Americans want to urge Sharon to make more gestures to strengthen Abbas; the Israeli side wants to speak to the Americans about scenarios to deal with Abbas's expected downfall. (Ha'aretz)
  • State Department Ends Travel Warning on Israel - Barry Schweid
    For the first time in two years, the U.S. State Department is not flatly telling Americans to avoid travel to Israel. With terrorist incidents in decline, the department urged Americans only to "carefully weigh" the necessity of travel to Israel. A flat-out warning not to go there was leveled by the State Department two years ago and remained in effect until the new travel statement replaced it. (AP/ABC News)
  • EU Protest Gives Hope to Palestinians on Death Row - Wafa Amr
    The dozens of Palestinians sitting on death row can breathe easier since the EU, the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian territories, raised an uproar over a move by PA Chairman Abbas to carry out 15 executions. "We put them on hold after a number of visiting European prime ministers and foreign ministers told Abbas he would risk a freeze in EU reconstruction aid if the executions were carried out," a senior Palestinian official said.
        Pent-up demand for revenge over gang murders and the betrayal of wanted militants to Israel has spilled into vigilante executions of more than 30 suspects in town squares and even inside prisons after gunmen blasted their way into cellblocks. Some alleged collaborators have been abducted and publicly tortured before being machine-gunned in front of cheering crowds. (Reuters)
  • Supporters of Militant Iraqi Shiite Cleric Demand U.S. Withdrawal - Anthony Shadid
    Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims loyal to the militant cleric Moqtada Sadr on Saturday surged into the Baghdad square where the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled two years ago, demanding a timetable for the U.S. military's withdrawal from Iraq, release of their leaders jailed by American forces, and a speedy trial for Hussein. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Weapon Smuggling Attempt Thwarted Along Israeli-Egyptian Border
    On Saturday an IDF force deployed on the Israeli-Egyptian border near Rafah spotted five Palestinians crawling toward a prohibited area. Three of the Palestinians began running towards the border and came within several meters of the IDF force, which opened fire at them. According to the PA, who interrogated the other two Palestinians, they intended to infiltrate to Egypt in order to smuggle weaponry into Israel. Following the incident, the IDF protested to the PA, saying that it did not fulfill its commitment to prevent Palestinians from approaching the border area. A short while later, Palestinian terrorists fired dozens of mortar shells at the Gush Katif area in the southern Gaza Strip. Two houses were damaged in the mortar attacks. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also PA Admits Palestinian Youths Were Smugglers - Amos Harel
    The commander of the Palestinian forces inside Gaza, Mussa Arafat, reported - both to Israel and the PA leadership - that the three Palestinian youths were smugglers. A videotape documents them approaching the Egyptian border, far beyond the reach of a kicked football that Palestinian witnesses said they had gone to retrieve. But the PA announcements on the subject focused on condemning Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • In Face of Mortars, Israel Grits Its Teeth - Amos Harel
    Nearly 80 mortars and Kassam rockets landed on the settlements of Gush Katif in the last 36 hours, the heaviest bombardment by Palestinians since the end of January, but it seems that as long as the shelling does not cause casualties, the attacks will not - for now - precipitate any change in Israeli policy. The barrage of mortars exposes the weakness of the PA security forces, which are unable to restrain the militant groups responsible for the shooting. Israel still believes in Abbas's intentions, but is finding it difficult to count on his abilities. "They constantly ask us for more time," said a senior source in the defense establishment, "but even when they finally take action, it's all done too little, too late." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Barrages Continue to Pound Gush Katif - Margot Dudkevitch
    A horse at Neve Dekalim's petting zoo was killed by a mortar shell on Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to Abbas: Halt Fire - Hanan Greenberg and Ali Waked
    Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz told Palestinian leader Abbas in a phone conversation Sunday that he must act to end mortar attacks in the Gaza Strip. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Defense Minister: Israel Will Not Retaliate Now - Gideon Alon
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that "the government's policy at this stage is not to retaliate, and to give PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a chance." Mofaz also said that militant groups were taking advantage of the cease-fire to arm themselves ahead of "the day after" Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip. (Ha'aretz)
  • Syrian Torture Killed 13, Says Rights Group
    Thirteen Syrians, 11 of them Kurds, were tortured to death at the hands of the security forces last year, the Association for Human Rights in Syria said. More than 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention in Syria, the group said, with nearly 450 arbitrary arrests reported last year. (AFP/Reuters/Khaleej Times-Dubai)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Assessing the Upcoming Bush-Sharon Summit: Clarifying Ambiguity - David Makovsky
    The de facto ceasefire was supplemented by understandings reached between Israeli and Palestinian security officials in Amman, which made clear that Israel will not arrest the 495 suspects on its most-wanted list. Rather, Israel conditioned further concessions (e.g., exiting from all West Bank cities) on the PA disarming these suspects and barring them from intercity travel. While senior Palestinian security officials acknowledge this understanding, they admit that they have not translated it into action. Moreover, such understandings have not been publicly announced, leading the Palestinian public to believe that the PA has upheld its ceasefire obligations. Therefore, it is critical that the ceasefire terms be publicly clarified and implemented; so far, there is no evidence that the U.S. security representative on the ground, Gen. William Ward, has been able to make that happen. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • How Hamas Wins Voters - Kevin Peraino
    Why did Hamas candidates trounce their Fatah rivals in recent local elections, and why do Palestinian polling experts like Khalil Shikaki now warn that Hamas could win more seats than Fatah in July's legislative elections? Chaos within Fatah is largely to blame. Its military wing, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, regularly appears reckless and out of control. Hamas, on the other hand, is admired for its network of social services and its clear, uncompromising ideology. And so far, unlike Fatah, Hamas has managed to avoid the taint of political compromise with Israel. (Newsweek)
  • Observations:

    Concerns Over Gaza Disengagement - Joe Klein (TIME)

    • Several prominent U.S. diplomats told me last week that Gaza disengagement is - for the moment, at least - causing them more concern than the pacification of Iraq.
    • What will the Palestinians do when the Israelis depart from Gaza?
    • "The pictures of the evacuation will be hard enough for most Israelis to swallow," says Shai Feldman, an Israeli security expert at Brandeis University. "But if we also see Palestinians looting and destroying the settlements, and dancing on the rooftops - as they did when we left southern Lebanon - then it will be near impossible to resume negotiations on a final peace settlement."
    • Worse, if Palestinian radicals fire rockets at the Israeli settlers as they leave, it could trigger a resumption of major combat between the two sides.
    • There are supposed to be Palestinian parliamentary elections on July 17 - and the radical Islamist group Hamas is expected to do very well against the aged, corrupt leadership of the majority Fatah Party. Several American and Palestinian sources say those elections may be delayed to give Fatah time to replace some of its old party hacks with younger reform types, and give the U.S. time to bolster Abbas with $200 million in reconstruction funds, which can be used for job-creating infrastructure projects, and walking-around money.
    • But if the Israeli departure is seen as a retreat forced, or even just presided over, by gloating Islamic radicals, Hamas is bound to profit at the polls.

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