Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 31, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Officer: "Hamas Is Taking Over Gaza and Our Hands Are Tied" - Barak Ravid (Maariv-Hebrew)
    A senior office in the Palestinian security services told Maariv that the Palestinian political echelon has given no orders to defeat Hamas.
    "Hamas is growing stronger in Gaza," he explained. "It is much more organized than our side [the PA] and more disciplined."
    He also said that the heads of the security services don't fully accept the authority of PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, "but he also doesn't really give orders."

Hamas Capable of Suicide Bombings in Britain - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
    Hamas has several cells inside the UK and is capable of attacking the country, a senior Israeli security official said Sunday in response to a sermon broadcast live on Palestinian television in which a cleric associated with Hamas threatened terror attacks against Britain.
    "Hamas has many agents in Britain, some of them not hidden. They are well-established there, and could carry out sophisticated and well-coordinated terror attacks if they wanted to," said the official.

Al-Zarqawi Message Says Wounds Are Minor - Salah Nasrawi (AP/Yahoo)
    Iraq's insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi purportedly made an audio address to Osama bin Laden on Monday saying he was in good health after being wounded.
    The recording was carried by a website frequently used by militant Islamic groups, and the voice sounded similar to that previously attributed to al-Zarqawi.

Zarqawi Followers Clash With Iraqi Sunnis - Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post)
    For four days this month, U.S. Marines were onlookers at a battle between suspected followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a foreign-born insurgent, and Iraqi Sunni fighters at the western Iraqi town of Husaybah.
    The fighting was a dramatic sign of the fractures in support and allegiance the foreign fighters are experiencing.

Russia Writes Off More Syrian Debt (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Russia signed a deal on Sunday to write off 73% of Syria's $13 billion debt in a bid to boost economic relations between the two countries.
    The debt accumulated when Damascus was a key Soviet ally in the Middle East.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ballot in Beirut Swept by Son of Slain Leader - Hassan M. Fattah
    A slate led by Saad Hariri, son of assassinated Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri, swept parliamentary elections in Beirut on Sunday, clinching all 19 of the capital's seats. Balloting in other regions will take place over three weeks in June. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Intelligence: Iraq Insurgency More Sophisticated - Michael Georgy
    Iraq's insurgency is gaining in sophistication as foreign militants step up suicide bombings and guerrillas improve surveillance techniques, a senior U.S. military intelligence officer said on Sunday. While foreign fighters make up 5% of the overall insurgency, they are causing disproportionate damage with suicide attacks, the officer said. Suicide bombers struck 69 times in April and 56 times in May. The officer said guerrillas were not getting stronger, despite an upsurge of violence that has killed around 700 people since a new government was formed last month. The officer cited a large number of car bomb attacks recently, with 135 in April and 143 in May. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon: Palestinians Feel No Pressure to Fight Terror - Aluf Benn
    After last week's meeting between President Bush and PA Chairman Abbas in Washington, "the Palestinians came out feeling no pressure to fight terror, and that they don't have to take immediate action," Prime Minister Sharon told members of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee visiting Jerusalem. A Jerusalem source said Monday that Bush spoke out sharply against terror in the private conversation with Abbas and conveyed to him that after the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the PA would have to fulfill its commitments, including dismantling the terror organizations.
        Sharon promised that the disengagement plan would be carried out on schedule, but would not be carried out under fire. "I don't intend to stop the disengagement, but I will stop the fire," he said. Israel rejected the American administration's suggestion to use U.S. Security Coordinator Lt. -Gen. William Ward as a facilitator in security coordination of the disengagement. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza and the Israeli-Egyptian Border - Amos Harel
    Prime Minister Sharon in New York reiterated his support for Israel's evacuation of the Philadelphi route on the border with Egypt, within the framework of the disengagement plan. "If we do not want to continue being considered responsible for the Gaza Strip, we must allow the Palestinians an open border with Egypt," Sharon said. However, in the same breath, he added that the defense establishment is vehemently opposed to the evacuation of Philadelphi because it could result in greater arms smuggling from Sinai into the Strip.
        The Shin Bet describes what is going on under Philadelphi, even today, as a "highway of tunnels" and fears that the phenomenon will only be aggravated after the evacuation of the area. The main concern is that weapons capable of "disrupting the balance" will be smuggled in, such as anti-aircraft missiles, sophisticated explosives, and long-range Katyusha rockets.
        According to Y., the chief of research in the Shin Bet, after the withdrawal, Gaza will become the "home front" for fueling terrorism in the West Bank. The know-how and the weapons will get to the West Bank via indirect means, and the West Bank will become the real battlefield.
        Egypt and Israel do not concur yet about the "reversibility" of Egyptian deployment. Israel is presenting this as a "pilot" plan, while the Egyptians want a permanent presence there and an immediate expansion to the entire border sector, from Rafah to Eilat. Israel is now insisting on an Egyptian deployment on Philadelphi only. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egyptian Ambassador: Egypt Will Not Police Gaza - Orly Halpern
    Israel should not expect Egypt to prevent any terrorist attacks that may emanate from the Gaza Strip after Israel's withdrawal, Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Assef Ibrahim said Monday. "Don't expect Egypt to be your policeman in Gaza," he said. Even with the additional troops Egypt would not assume "absolute responsibility" for handling smugglers, Ibrahim said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Politics Arrive in Egypt - Ehud Ya'ari
    It is no longer enough for a regime to maintain stability and act as an ally of the U.S. It must now treat its people as citizens, not subjects. The problem in Egypt, as in the other Arab countries and particularly among the Palestinians, is this: The liberal forces are extremely active but have more bark than bite. Encouraged by funding from the U.S. and Europe, secularist enlightened circles have set up NGOs of various types but not built political parties. A critical imbalance has thereby been created between the potential power of these forces and their capacity for recruitment and organization.
        The vacuum is primarily filled by the Islamist forces, who have preserved efficient apparatuses through the mosque network. Herein lies the danger: that democratic reform plays into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood who believe they can win by ballots, not bullets. (Jerusalem Report)
  • Don't Trust Islamists - Barry Rubin
    Should Islamists be helped to run in elections in order to moderate them? The short answer is that radical Islamists will not be moderated by participating in elections or gaining power. Once in power, Islamist parties would change laws and society to produce more Islamists. Hamas will use any power it obtains to create a base for more terrorism.
        The factor most likely to moderate larger Islamist groups is their knowing power is beyond their reach. Once they conclude they can win, however, the result will be instability and more militancy. The most likely result of any Western belief that power will moderate radical Islamists will be unilateral Western concessions to such groups. They will be given immunity for past terrorist acts, diplomatic backing against the local regimes, money and other benefits in exchange for promises to be good. They will then break these promises, most likely without cost. (Jerusalem Post)
  • What Arabs Really Think - James Dunnigan
    A recent "Opinion Survey of the Arab Street 2005" by Al Arabiya news network asked: "What is stalling development in the Arab world?" 81% chose "Governments are unwilling to implement change and reform," 8% cited "The ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict." When asked, "What is the fastest way to achieve development in the Arab world?," 67% chose "Ensuring the rule of law through justice and law enforcement," 23% chose "Enhancing freedom of speech," and 10% chose "Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict." Yet most Arab media and governments concentrate on the Arab-Israeli conflict as the cause of all that is bad in the Arab world. (Strategy Page)
  • Observations:

    We Are Not Paranoid - David J. Forman (Jerusalem Post)

    • We Israelis are not paranoid. Much of the world is truly out to "get us." Witness the Amnesty International report accusing Israel of "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes." What of the intentional Palestinian murders of innocent Israelis? Are these not "crimes against humanity"?
    • It is ironic that it took the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, not Amnesty, to report on the systematic torture and killing of Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority.
    • It is amazing how one can start out with a perfectly logical formula and misapply it so it becomes dangerous nonsense. Granted, Nazis and Jews are both members of the human race, but they are not interchangeable, as the language characterizing Israel's behavior in the territories suggests.
    • Neither the Presbyterians nor the authors of the Amnesty report have the slightest sensitivity to our perspective. What is our narrative? It is America going to war with Iraq in 1991, and Scuds landing in Tel Aviv, not in Des Moines or New York. It is the story of a terrorist entering a Jewish home and shooting at point-blank range a three-year-old and a five-year-old child, in the head.
    • The root of that evil is not the occupation, but the nightmare we Israelis live with - that the Arab nations have not given up their dream of destroying us.
    • No one has suffered greater "crimes against humanity" than we Jews. Before judging us, the world would do well to understand our narrative, and to acknowledge not just our historic nightmare, but its many manifestations that continue to this day.

      The writer is the founding chair of Rabbis for Human Rights.

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