Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 17, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: 62% of Gazans Say Intifada Continues, 57% Support Suicide Bombings (Jerusalem Media & Communication Center/IMRA)
    In a poll conducted in the territories on May 2-7, 2005, 53% of those in the West Bank thought the intifada was finished, compared with 62% in Gaza who said it still exists.
    57% of Gazans and 46% of West Bank residents support continued suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
    Which Palestinian personality do you trust the most? Mahmoud Abbas - 25%, Marwan Barghouti - 6%, Abu Ala - 1%, No one - 33%.

    See also Poll: Hamas Challenges PLO in West Bank (An-Najah University)
    A poll conducted by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah University during May 11-13 asked: If you had to choose between two blocs only, one representing the PLO and one representing Hamas, whom do you vote for?
    West Bank: PLO 42%, Hamas 40%
    Gaza: PLO 49%, Hamas 35%

Al-Qaeda Operative Killed by CIA Predator Drone (FOX News)
    An operation involving an armed CIA Predator drone is believed to have killed senior al-Qaeda operative Haitham al-Yemeni last week in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, U.S. officials confirmed.
    This was not a U.S. military operation.
    The Central Intelligence Agency has clearance from President Bush to use its armed Predator drones to take down al-Qaeda suspects.
    See also Surveillance Operation Killed al-Qaeda Official - Dana Priest (Washington Post)
    Sources said the Predator drone, operated from a secret base hundreds of miles from the target, located and fired on al-Yemeni Saturday in the Pakistani province of North Waziristan.
    The CIA and U.S. military Special Operations forces have been operating inside Pakistan for more than two years with the knowledge of Pakistani authorities.
    The Predator and other unmanned aerial vehicles have become some of the most successful new weapons for killing small groups of people or individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Such killings were defined as self-defense in a global war against al-Qaeda terrorists.
    The U.S. also has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year from bases in Iraq to gather intelligence on that country's nuclear weapons program and air defenses.

Israeli Life Expectancy Among Highest in the World - Miri Hasson (Ynetnews)
    Life expectancy in Israel ranks among the highest in the world, according to 2004 statistics published by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute.
    The life expectancy of Israeli men (77.5) is among the highest of all developed countries and stands just one year below Japan's, which is the highest.
    The life expectancy of women is 81.5. (Jerusalem Post)
    Statistics show 77% of the country's elders express general satisfaction with their lives.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice to Syria: Close Borders to Terrorists - Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sharply criticized Syria on Monday for what she called unwillingness to close its borders to terrorists she said are to blame for some of the violence in Iraq. "Their unwillingness to deal with the crossings of their border into Iraq is frustrating the will of the Iraqi people,'' and leading to the deaths of innocent Iraqis, Rice said. En route home from a surprise trip to see Iraq's new leaders, Rice said, "We're going to go back and look again at what the neighbors can do to get the Syrians to stop support for these foreign terrorists who we believe are gathering on Syrian territory and coming across.''  (AP/Guardian-UK)
  • Support for U.S. Sanctions for Iran Grows - Ken Guggenheim
    As Iran appears to move closer to resuming nuclear activities, support has been quietly building in Congress for new U.S. sanctions, including penalties that could affect multinational companies and foreign aid recipients. More than 200 members of the House of Representatives have co-sponsored a bill that would tighten and codify existing sanctions, bar subsidiaries of U.S. companies from doing business in Iran, and cut foreign aid to countries that have businesses investing in Iran.
        The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which holds its annual meeting in Washington this month, has made the bill a high priority. "It will certainly, along with other things, be part of the agenda when thousands of members of AIPAC go to Capitol Hill" to lobby Congress, said Josh Block, a spokesman for the pro-Israel group. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Japan Offers Palestinians a Carrot - Kanako Takahara
    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged Monday to provide $100 million in aid to the PA to promote the Middle East peace process after meeting with visiting Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas. (Japan Times-Japan)
  • A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio - Stephen Labaton
    Executives at National Public Radio are increasingly at odds with the Bush appointees who lead the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is considering a plan to monitor Middle East coverage on NPR news programs for evidence of bias, a corporation spokesman said on Friday. Top officials at NPR and member stations are upset as well about the corporation's decision to appoint two ombudsmen to judge the content of programs for balance.
        Last year, without notifying board members or NPR, the corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, contacted S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research group, about conducting a study on whether NPR's Middle East coverage was more favorable to Arabs than to Israelis, although corporation officials had not moved ahead with the project. Other officials said Tomlinson had heard complaints about the coverage from a board member, Cheryl Halpern, a former chairwoman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and leading party fund-raiser. The corporation has also heard complaints from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). (New York Times)
  • Kuwait Approves Women's Political Rights
    Kuwaiti lawmakers approved political rights for women Monday, clearing the way for females to participate in parliamentary elections for the first time in the Gulf nation's history. Fundamentalist Muslims included a requirement that any female politician or voter abide by Islamic law. Kuwait's next parliamentary election is due in 2007. (AP/US News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Terror Groups Will Target Israel After Pullout - Gideon Alon
    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon expressed deep concern Monday that Palestinian terror organizations would continue attacking Israel even after the completion of the disengagement plan. Ya'alon also told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hamas is building up a popular armed force, and is succeeding in strengthening its base more quickly than the PA. Ya'alon said the Syrian hold on Lebanon had been weakened, although Syrian military intelligence was continuing to try to intervene in internal Lebanese affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Local Hamas Officials in Contact with IDF
    Hamas officials recently elected in PA municipal council elections are holding regular contacts with IDF liaison and coordination officers, a senior military official told Israel Radio Monday. The contacts are confined to local issues such as commerce, electricity, water and sewage, and do not deal with diplomatic issues, the radio said. West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yusif confirmed the talks, saying, "There is no alternative to being in contact with the Israelis when we are speaking of ongoing civilian affairs for the sake of the welfare of the inhabitants." (Ha'aretz)
        See also In Gaza, New Hamas-Dominated Council Attends to Basics - Molly Moore
    Voters in the West Bank and Gaza are handing a sizable share of power to a group that many U.S. and Israeli leaders associate more closely with terrorism than with political reform. Yet in communities across Gaza and the West Bank, Islamic politicians are earning wide support using old-fashioned tactics valued the world over: fixing potholes, picking up garbage, and turning on streetlights. (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Hamas Victorious - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Bush Country - Fouad Ajami
    To venture into the Arab world is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spiderhole, now drive Syrian policy.
        For decades, the intellectual classes in the Arab world bemoaned the indifference of American power to the cause of their liberty. Now a conservative American president had come bearing the gift of Wilsonian redemption. Women want the vote in Kuwait, the Lebanese clamor for the truth about the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, and about the dark Syrian interlude in their history. Egyptians don't seem frightened of the scarecrows with which the Mubarak regime secured their submission. Everywhere, the order is under attack, and men and women are willing to question the prevailing truths. (Wall Street Journal, 16May05)
  • The West's Next Mistake? - Amir Taheri
    Some are suggesting that Western democracies should seek a strategic alliance with Islamist parties, even specifying an alliance with Shiites from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. This is bad, even perilous, advice. To be sure, the advent of pluralism has so far benefited the Shiites who had been denied a fair share of power solely because of their religious beliefs. This doesn't mean that the once-excluded should now be regarded as exclusive allies of the West. What other democracies should insist upon are level political and social playing fields, in which no one is excluded on grounds of faith and/or ethnic background.
        The idea of an alliance with Islamists against others has already been tested by the Shah in Iran, Anwar Sadat in Egypt, and the ruling dynasty in Saudi Arabia, with results that we all know. The dumbest thing for the U.S. to do would be to repeat that fatal error. (New York Post)
  • No Good Options on Iran? - Jim Hoagland
    Oil, location, and its advanced quest for nuclear weapons technology give Tehran the potential to drive the UN and the nonproliferation system that the world body oversees onto the rocks in the months ahead. The administration is poised to ask the Security Council to impose economic sanctions against another oil-producing Persian Gulf nation while the wreckage of the last attempt - the oil-for-food program in Iraq - has not yet been cleared. Has the Security Council reformed enough to take this on again? Are Iran's ayatollahs that much more sensitive to world condemnation? Or have I missed something? (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Hamas Victorious - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • While observers are already concluding that running some town councils will moderate Hamas, the Hamas landslide victory in the recent Palestinian local elections is a disaster for the Palestinians' hopes for peace, and for Israel.
    • Hamas will now be able to veto even the smallest steps toward peace or compromise by Mahmoud Abbas. In effect, a peace process that might produce a comprehensive agreement in the next few years is finished.
    • Hamas did not win the election because of moderation, but via terrorist attacks, demands for total victory, and opposition to a negotiated peace agreement. While the movement's social services and reputation for less corruption also helped, no Hamas leader is concluding that the victory requires abandoning extremism.
    • No matter how many concessions Israel makes by withdrawing and releasing prisoners, or how much money and support the West gives Abbas, there will be no serious peace process. The Palestinian leadership is paralyzed.
    • Aside from its ideology, which has consistently demanded Israel's destruction, why should Hamas abandon a program so demonstrably appealing to Palestinians and a strategy that is clearly working?

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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