Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 24, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Police Shoot to Protect Abbas from Demonstrators - Mohammed Assadi (Reuters)
    Palestinian police fired volleys of gunfire into the air on Monday to bar dozens of anti-government protesters from forcing their way into PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Ramallah compound.
    At the same time, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrated in Gaza against a court ruling overturning Hamas victories in recent local elections.

Palestinians Want University Head Fired for Cooperating with Israel - Khalid Amayreh (Aljazeera-Qatar)
    The Palestinian Union of University Teachers published a statement on the front page of the Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayyam on Monday calling for the dismissal of Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibah for "normalizing ties with Israel."
    Last week Nusseibah signed a cooperation agreement with Hebrew University, and criticized the British academic boycott of Israel.

21 Nobel Laureates Urge End to British Boycott - Tamara Traubman (Ha'aretz)
    21 Nobel Prize laureates will send a letter to the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) urging it to cancel an academic boycott of Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities in Israel.
    The move comes two days before a special AUT meeting to reconsider the boycott decision, where the AUT is expected to revoke its decision.

Israeli-Iraqi Handshake in Jordan - Itamar Eichner and Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari shook hands and exchanged greetings with Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer on Sunday at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, a rare gesture for officials of countries that have no diplomatic ties.
    Ben Eliezer, who was born in Basra, Iraq, unexpectedly bumped into Zebari, shook his hand, and said "How are you" in Arabic.
    Later Ben Eliezer said, "My dream is to take my children and grandchildren to Iraq and show them where I was born and grew up."
    The unusual handshake received media courage throughout the Arab world, which may account for Zebari downplaying the encounter.

Terror International Meets in Damascus - Photo (AP/Yahoo)
    Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ramadan Shalah, head of Islamic Jihad, Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas, Farouk Kaddoumi, head of Fatah, and Khaled al-Fahoum, former head of the Palestine National Council, met in Damascus on Sunday.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice: PA Must Dismantle All Terrorist Networks
    Secretary of State Rice told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Annual Policy Conference on Monday: "Israel has no greater friend and no stronger supporter than the United States of America. For over half a century, AIPAC has strengthened the religious, cultural, and political bonds that unite our two great nations."
        "To strengthen our present opportunities, all nations must meet their obligations. Israel must take no actions that prejudice a final settlement or jeopardize the true viability of the Palestinian state. And Israel must help to create the conditions for the emergence of that democratic state. The Palestinian Authority must advance democratic reform and it must dismantle all terrorist networks in its society. Arab states must end incitement in their media, cut off all support for terrorism and extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel." (State Department)
  • Pro-Israel Lobby Weathers Espionage Allegations, Gains Support
    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, is weathering a storm caused by allegations of espionage with its political clout, fund-raising prowess, and membership support as strong as ever. The lobby is drawing an A-list of U.S. officials and lawmakers to its annual conference in Washington this week. AIPAC is the second most effective lobbying organization in Washington among Democrats and the fourth most effective among Republicans, according to a survey of members of Congress last month by the National Journal.
        "Within Washington, inside the Beltway, the general feeling is the government has yet to demonstrate that it really has a case here,'' said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who once worked for AIPAC. "And given that people have dealt with AIPAC for so long, and know its way of operating here in Washington, I think people are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, which they should.'' (Bloomberg)
  • Full Syrian Withdrawal Questioned
    Syria has fully withdrawn its uniformed forces from Lebanon, but Syrian intelligence operatives may still be in the country, according to a report Monday from a UN verification team. "The team has been unable to conclude with certainty that all the intelligence apparatus has been withdrawn," the report said. The UN team was also unable to verify withdrawal from the Qoussayaan area, which it called a "Palestinian-controlled area in the eastern hills of the central Bekaa Valley, not far from the border with Syria," where the team was denied access. (CNN)
  • Muslim Brotherhood Leads Dissent in Egypt - Daniel Williams
    The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition force in Egypt, has evolved into the country's most assertive campaigner for democratic reforms by defying bans on its political activities and spearheading a series of demonstrations against President Mubarak. Over the past two months, the Brotherhood has organized protests in a dozen cities and towns, wresting the spotlight from secular organizations that until recently had dominated the drive to unseat Mubarak. According to government figures, more than 750 activists have been arrested since March 27. Brotherhood officials put the number at more than 2,000. (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Islam Can Vote, If We Let It - Saad Eddin Ibrahim (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Head of IDF Intelligence Analysis: "Abu Mazen Relates to Terrorists as Heroes" - Itamar Eichner and Roni Shaked
    "Abu Mazen relates to terrorist activists as though they were heroes, and therefore he is not interested in implementing arrests, disarming terrorist groups from their weapons, punishing terrorists, or stopping the smuggling of weaponry." This is what the head of the analysis division of Israeli military intelligence, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser, said in a closed briefing for senior American diplomats. Kupperwasser said that today in the Palestinian areas there are two authorities side-by-side: a Palestinian Authority and a terrorist authority. According to him, the PA shows no readiness to deal with the problems and any steps that Abu Mazen takes are only for show. "The Palestinians have no problem of capability. They have a problem of will," he specified. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 24May05)
  • Hamas Threatens to End Cease-Fire If Elections Postponed
    Hamas will walk away from the cease-fire if PA elections are delayed, party representatives threatened Tuesday. The declaration is in response to an announcement by the Palestinian Election Commission on Monday that parliamentary elections cannot be held on July 17, as planned, until a new election law is ratified. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The State of Sharon - Editorial
    Whatever one thinks of the Israeli leader, his strategy these last four years has been vindicated by events. The intifada has been vanquished, and the prospects for non-bloody Arab-Israeli coexistence are better than they've been in a decade. With his disengagement plan, Mr. Sharon's goal now is to offer Israel a future that is both secure and realistic.
        According to the conventional view, the solution lies in resuming negotiations with the Palestinians. Certainly, the death of Arafat means such talks have a better chance of being conducted in good faith. But if the problem with Arafat was that he was unwilling to curb terrorism, the problem with his successor, Mr. Abbas, is that so far he's been unable to do so. (Wall Street Journal, 24May05)
  • PA Hate Speech and Mideast Peace - Editorial
    When President Bush meets Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, Mr. Bush will need to emphasize to the Palestinian leader that his continued failure to act decisively against anti-Semitic incitement could have catastrophic consequences. Mr. Abbas needs to put an end to the obscenity which continues to be broadcast on PA Television, such as a May 13 sermon calling for "the extermination of every single Jew."
        For the past 60 years, in Germany, advocates of Nazism have been subject to legal sanction, including arrest and imprisonment. In the PA, by contrast, people who advocate the modern-day equivalent of the Final Solution get a check from their elected government and are given the opportunity to appear on Palestinian public television. This kind of hatred is the antithesis of what President Bush is attempting to achieve. The incendiary propaganda being broadcast by the PA media is creating a new generation of suicide bombers and jihadists. (Washington Times)
  • Where Are U.S. Sanctions on Syria Heading? - Will Rasmussen
    "Sanctions are one step below a military confrontation, and sanctions are preferable to military confrontation, frankly," said U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. However, the current sanctions against Syria are largely symbolic and don't seem to worry the Syrian government. U.S. trade with Syria amounts to only around $400 million.
        What really matters to Syria is the pending association agreement with the EU, its main trading partner. The EU said the agreement - which gives Syria greater access to European markets - is contingent on Syria fully respecting UN Resolution 1559, which called for the removal of all Syrian troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon. If the pact falls through, Syria stands to lose over $1 billion in trade and aid packages. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Mideast Fantasies - Barry Rubin
    Uncritically putting a Western template onto the contemporary Middle East leads to remarkable distortions, and a failure to understand the present or predict the future. Many in the West assume that if an Arab dictatorship, terrorist group, extremist movement, or ideologically committed Arab intellectuals say something, it is either the truth or reflects their real beliefs. And if public opinion polls in the Arab world or Iran show the effects of decades of propaganda, this, too, reflects the masses' real sentiments. Believing the Palestinian movement is moderate, pragmatic, and ready to make peace requires ignoring the movement's daily rhetoric, failure to keep commitments, and continued incitement. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Islam Can Vote, If We Let It - Saad Eddin Ibrahim (New York Times)

    • Based on my 30 years of empirical investigation, including my observations of fellow inmates during the 14 months I spent in an Egyptian prison, I can testify to a significant evolution on the part of political Islam. In fact, I believe we may be witnessing the emergence of Muslim parties that are truly democratic, akin to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II.
    • Autocratic regimes in the Middle East have for decades allowed little public space to those who would build civil societies; no freedom of speech, assembly, or association. The only space for people to congregate without harassment by the secret police was the mosque. Thus, unwittingly, the autocrats contributed to the growth of the theocrats.
    • Through their great efforts in providing services to the poor, the theocrats evolved first into de facto social workers and then into local politicians, eventually taking control of cities like Algiers and Oran in Algeria, and Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey. Seen as efficient and uncorrupt, these Islamists began to gain in popularity.
    • Today, some two-thirds of the estimated 1.4 billion Muslims in the world live under democratically elected governments in which Islamists are major players - with Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Morocco joining Turkey as bright spots.
    • Where Islamist groups are denied access to political space, their cause takes on an aura of mythical martyrdom. This is not to say that we should expect Hizballah or Hamas to turn into Western-style democratic parties overnight. While countries opening themselves to democracy should work to bring Islamists into the system, they should not - and the West should not pressure them to - allow those groups unwilling to abide by certain rules into the game.

      The writer, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, is a candidate for president of Egypt.

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