Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 1, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Blocks Egyptian Playwright from Receiving Honor in Israel - Yoav Stern
    Egypt blocked prominent Egyptian playwright Ali Salem from entering Israel to receive an honorary doctorate Wednesday from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
    Salem has braved criticism for publicly preaching peace and normalization of ties, and has visited Israel several times.

Palestinian Farmers to Israeli Settlers in Gaza: Don't Leave - Miri Chason (Ynet News)
    Currently, some 3,000 Palestinians are employed in the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif, most of them in agriculture.
    Mahmoud, 33, a Khan Yunis resident, said, "We hear in the news that in August they will leave Gush Katif, and we pray to God it won't happen." "If they do leave, there will be no food for my children."
    Mahmoud has been working at Ganei Tal for more than 18 years and said he is happy with the work and earns as much as three Gaza laborers.
    "There's no work in Gaza," he said, slamming the Palestinian Authority for its corruption.
    "Only PLO members, those who work for the government, will get everything (following the pullout)," he said.
    Mahmoud said he would be doing better had Israel refrained from signing agreements with Arafat.
    "Palestinians and Jews can live together, that's how it used to be," he said.
    "I don't believe in a man coming from Tunis, who comes here and runs the country. They sucked our blood."

Palestinian Gets Five Years on Gun Charge - Rukmini Callimachi (AP/Newsday)
    A Palestinian man, Ali Khalid Steitiye, 42, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for carrying a machine gun during target practice alongside members of an Oregon terror cell accused of conspiring to travel to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight the U.S.

New Chechen Mufti to Fight Against Wahhabism (RIA Novosti-Russia)
    New Chechen Mufti Sultan Mirzayev, 40, said that his key task was the "ideological fight against Wahhabism and active promotion of traditional Islam."
    "Imams and religious figures should explain the danger of the Wahhabite ideology, give balanced arguments, and refer to the Koran," the mufti said.
    According to him, clergymen will work with people who "joined illegal armed units by mistake or ignorance and were not involved in serious crimes."

Useful Reference:

Serious Terrorist Attacks in Israel - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
    2001 - 283
    2002 - 117
    2003 - 41
    2004 - 19


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Tests Solid-Fuel Rocket Engine
    Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Tuesday that Iran had successfully tested a solid-fuel motor for its medium-range Shihab-3 ballistic missile, raising concerns that it could reach American forces in the region and Israel with more precision. "With solid fuel, a missile can be stored for years. And in addition, it makes the missile more accurate and cheaper," he said. (New York Times)
        See also The Iranian Missile that is Likely to Surprise Israel: A Clear and Present Danger - Aryeh Agozi
    For the first time, Iran has tested an improved version of the Shihab-3 missile that uses solid fuel and has an increased range of 2,000 kilometers. The significance of using solid fuel is that the missile can be prepared for launching in a matter of minutes, making it difficult for Israeli satellites to supply a warning in time. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 1Jun05)
  • Saudi Succession Woes - Claude Salhani
    The Royal House of Saud - and, in fact, Saudi Arabia - has long been ruled by the "Sudairi Seven" - seven powerful brothers who control the most important jobs in the kingdom. For the past 10 years, King Fahd has suffered from ill health. As a result, Crown Prince Abdullah has managed the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom. Yet Abdullah is "only" a half-brother to the Sudairi Seven and, with increasing reports of Fahd's decline, Saudi analysts believe Abdullah "will find it impossible to wrestle the throne away from the Sudairis, who many feel want to maintain power" within their branch of the family. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Ex-Shin Bet Chief: Targeted Interception Policy Led to Calm - Amos Harel
    Avi Dichter, the recently retired chief of the Shin Bet domestic security service, said Tuesday that Israel's policy of targeting terror leaders led to the decision by armed Palestinian groups to declare a period of calm. "Senior Hamas leaders decided they were tired of seeing the sun only in pictures," Dichter told a conference on aerial warfare against terrorism in Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Anti-Terror Air Operations in Gaza - Arieh O'Sullivan Commander of the Israel Air Force, Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy, told the conference, hosted by the Fisher Institute, that better accuracy of weapons had significantly reduced the number of innocent people being hurt in Israeli air attacks. "In the beginning of the conflict the proportion of unintended casualties was one to one. Now the proportion is 12 to one. That is, for every 12 terrorists we hit, only one uninvolved person is hit. This is a dramatic change morally and operationally," Shkedy said. According to Shkedy, the air force has virtually taken over the operations against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and is responsible for up to 80% of military actions there, though Palestinians could still fire Kassam rockets and mortars at will. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas, Fatah Agree to Election Delay - Ali Waked
    Palestinian groups meeting in Gaza on Monday agreed to delay general elections in the Palestinian Authority until after Israel carries out the disengagement plan. The elections, scheduled for July 17, are now expected towards the end of the year. The agreement is part of a series of understandings between Hamas and Fatah which included postponing a revote in local elections in several districts in Gaza set for Wednesday "until further notice." (Ynet News/Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli President Katsav Addresses German Parliament - Greer Fay Cashman
    In an historic appearance in Berlin's restored Reichstag that is now the Bundestag, President Moshe Katsav on Tuesday addressed Germany's two houses of parliament in a special session marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel. "The Holocaust is the formulating event in the lives of both the Jewish and the German people," said Katsav, who emphasized that there is no forgiving and no forgetting. "There are still many Jews throughout the world who bear numbers on their arms. The emotional scars inflicted at that time have been passed on to second and third generations....The Jewish people continue to bear the pain and the agony."
        Katsav also made reference to the strong political, economic, and scientific relations that have developed between the two countries, and thanked Germany for what it has done to strengthen Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Bush-Abbas Meeting - Aluf Benn
    At last Thursday's White House press conference with George Bush and Mahmoud Abbas, Bush promised that any change in the "green line" would be carried out with the mutual agreement of the sides, saying nothing about leaving the West Bank settlement blocs in Israel's possession. It is easy for Bush to mortgage the American position on the permanent borders, wrapping it in different packaging for Israelis and for Palestinians. In so doing, he demonstrates involvement and accomplishment, fending off charges that he has washed his hands of the conflict. But the permanent settlement talks are still far off, and it is doubtful they will come to fruition while he is still in office. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Deciphering the Bush-Abbas Press Conference - Robert Satloff
    Bush's most provocative statement was his declaration to Abbas, "Changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed." The administration apparently wanted to provide the Palestinians with something symbolically powerful yet practically innocuous, wording that went beyond previous U.S. policy.
        For years, Palestinians have wanted the U.S. publicly to accept the 1967 lines as the reference point for negotiations. In the arcane lexicon of Middle East diplomacy, by positing the1949 lines as the reference point, Bush granted the Palestinians more than they had asked for. In so doing, Bush inadvertently eroded the special status of UN Security Council Resolution 242, the central pillar of peace diplomacy since it was passed in 1967, which makes no reference to the armistice lines. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Jihad Through History - Daniel Pipes
    In his just-released book, Understanding Jihad, David Cook of Rice University dismisses the debate over the nature of jihad - whether it is a form of offensive warfare or a type of moral self-improvement. Cook dismisses as "laughable" John Esposito's contention that jihad refers to "the effort to lead a good life." Throughout history and at present, Cook definitively establishes, the term primarily means "warfare with spiritual significance." During his years in power, Muhammad engaged in an average of nine military campaigns a year, or one every five to six weeks; thus did jihad help define Islam from its very dawn. Conquering and humiliating non-Muslims was a main feature of the prophet's jihad.
        During the first several centuries of Islam, "the interpretation of jihad was unabashedly aggressive and expansive." After the conquests subsided, non-Muslims hardly threatened and Sufi notions of jihad as self-improvement developed in complement to the martial meaning. Nineteenth century "purification jihads" took place in several regions against fellow Muslims. The most radical and consequential of these was the Wahhabis' jihad in Arabia, where they condemned most non-Wahhabi Muslims as infidels and waged jihad against them. (New York Sun)
  • 10 Questions for Natan Sharansky - Matt Rees
    Former Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky said in an interview: "We are missing a historic opportunity, with a new Palestinian president, to link all contacts to progress toward democracy." "If the PA is not fighting Hamas as a terrorist organization, then Hamas keeps its weapons." Abbas "is giving more and more time to the terror groups to strengthen themselves, and he's not competing with them to create better welfare for his people." Sharon "is making a huge concession to Hamas by withdrawing from Gaza. It encourages Hamas and Hizballah and al-Qaeda." (TIME)
  • Observations:

    IDF Chief of Staff Ya'alon: Palestinian State "Will Try to Undermine Israel" - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who retires Wednesday after 38 years of military service, said in an interview:

    • The idea that a Palestinian state can be established by 2008, and will then produce stability, is "divorced from reality" and "dangerous," as any such state "will be a state that will try to undermine Israel."
    • Asked for his views on the concept of two states for two peoples, he said: "In the present reality, I see difficulty in producing a stable situation of end-of-conflict within that paradigm." A two-state solution, he continued, is simply "not relevant. It is a story that the Western world tells with Western eyes."
    • Asked about the current situation in the PA, Ya'alon responded: "For the Palestinians it is still convenient to maintain a gang-based reality rather than a state foundation."
    • "When [the PA] permits Hamas to take part in the elections without abandoning its firearms, is that democracy? It's gangs. Armed gangs playing at pretend democracy," he said.
    • "If Fatah continues to behave as it does now, Hamas will eventually take over the Gaza Strip," he added.

          See also Ya'alon: Israel Can Defend Itself If Golan Heights Are Returned Under Peace Accord
      Asked whether he believed Israel could defend itself should it return the strategic Golan Heights plateau to Syria in any peace accord with Damascus, the outgoing Israeli army chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper Tuesday: "Yes, that is correct." "But I insist on the word 'peace' and the need for a serious Syrian leadership in the peace process," he added. (AFP/Daily Star-Lebanon)

        See also Former Air Force Commander Dan Halutz Becomes New IDF Chief of Staff - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz);
        New IDF Chief Known as Big Thinker - Leslie Susser (JTA)

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