Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 23, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

American Helicopters Bomb in Syria - Jackie Hogy (Maariv-Hebrew, 23Jun05)
    An American signal to Damascus: American aircraft this week attacked Syrian border troops with missiles along the Iraqi border.
    Syrian sources said American helicopters penetrated Syrian territory from Iraq, in violation of Syrian sovereignty, according to a report published Wednesday in the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat by Ibrahim Hamidi, its senior correspondent in Damascus known for his ties to the Syrian elite.

Palestinians See General Improvement But No Political Settlement (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    A survey of Palestinian opinion conducted June 9-11, 2005, asked:
Evaluate the situation in general since the election of Mahmud Abbas:
    Things have: Improved a lot 3%, Improved somewhat 45%, Did not change 39%, Worsened somewhat 8%, Worsened a lot 4%
    Do most Palestinians see Sharon's plan to evacuate the Israeli settlements from Gaza as a victory for the Palestinian armed struggle?
    A victory 73%, Not a victory 20%
    Do you support the collection of arms from armed Palestinian groups?
    Strongly support 10%, Support 28%, Oppose 43%, Strongly oppose 17%
    How soon do you think a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians will be achieved?
    Not possible ever 46%, Only after many generations 22%, Only in the next generation 7%, In the next decade 3%, In the next few years 16%

Congressmen Vow to Snag Saudi WTO - Elana Schor (The Hill)
    Saudi Arabia’s effort to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and finalize the U.S.-Saudi free-trade agreement that will accompany its admission is coming under increasing attack from a bipartisan group of lawmakers assisted by pro-Israel lobbyists.
    Reps. Michael Ferguson (R-N.J.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) wrote on May 25 to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman urging him to halt momentum toward WTO accession until the kingdom withdraws from the Arab League boycott of Israel, among several other concessions.
    Deputy House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and 45 other lawmakers, several in leadership positions, co-signed the letter to Portman.
    Senators led by Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) are circulating a similar letter.
    Other senators who have pledged to back the campaign against Saudi WTO membership include Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Gunman Fires on Palestinian Prime Minister - Eric Silver
    A Palestinian gunman opened fire for two minutes Wednesday with an M-16 automatic rifle on a sports club in Balata near the West Bank town of Nablus where Ahmad Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, was holding a meeting. As Qurei was beating a hasty retreat in his official car, an explosion was heard about 300 meters away. The prime minister had come to appeal for a return to law and order.
        The gunman, Mahmoud Hatib, a 21-year-old member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with the mainstream al-Fatah movement, was recently released from an Israeli jail. Witnesses said that the dozens of Palestinian security men guarding Qurei made no attempt to arrest him. Camp residents hailed him as a hero. Taysir Nasrallah, a member of the Palestine National Council who was present at the meeting, protested: "The government has an army. Why aren't they using it? They have to show that they are willing to restore order."  (Independent-UK)
  • Chemical Expert Testifies in Islamic Militants' Trial in Jordan - Jamal Halaby
    Islamic militants planned to detonate an explosion that would have sent a cloud of toxic chemicals across Jordan, causing death, blindness, and sickness, a chemical expert testified in a military court Wednesday in Amman. Col. Najeh al-Azam was giving evidence in the trial of 13 men alleged to have planned what would have been the first chemical attack by the al-Qaeda terror group. In his televised confession, prime defendant Azmi Al-Jayousi said his group had plotted the attack under instruction from al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Islamic Jihad Has Little at Stake in Mideast Truce - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Islamic Jihad sees scant benefit from a truce and stands to raise its profile among Palestinians by stepping up attacks, analysts said. With a small popular following and no big stake in possible peacemaking, upcoming Palestinian elections, or Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza, Islamic Jihad set itself apart early on with a Feb. 25 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed five Israelis. The big danger is that escalating violence could quickly draw in other factions as well. "I believe calm is nearing an end. It is at a crossroads and a Palestinian position declaring an end to calm could be made at any moment," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. (Reuters)
  • Splits Seen in Iraqi Insurgency - Sabrina Tavernise
    U.S. marines patrolling near the Syrian border say insurgents have been fighting one another, suggesting a split between Islamic militants and local rebels. A UN official who served in Iraq last year said, "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the jihadists' grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians." The nationalist insurgent groups "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.
        Access for foreign fighters is easy through the porous border with Syria. "Clearly there are foreign fighters here, and quite clearly they are coming in from Syria," said Col. Stephen Davis. Captain Chris Ieva said he could tell whether an area was controlled by foreign insurgents or locals based on whether families had cellphones or guns. Foreign fighters do not allow local residents to have cellphones for fear they will spy on them. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Reform Activists Permitted to March in Cairo - Nadia Abou El-Magd
    A few hundred reform activists marched through a Cairo neighborhood Wednesday unmolested by riot police while denouncing President Hosni Mubarak, whose security forces historically have used a heavy hand against anti-government demonstrators. The rare unmolested protest occurred two days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Egypt and called for the Mubarak government to allow his opposition freedom of expression. (AP/Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Will Retain Freedom to Act Against Terror Following Gaza Pullout
    The IDF would not hesitate to offer a harsh response to Palestinian terror during the upcoming disengagement, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Eival Giladi, the pullout's strategic coordinator at the Prime Minister's Office, said Wednesday. Israel would not lose the freedom to act following the pullout, he said, noting "there is no military operation we can do today and won't be able to do in the future." "We're not naive enough to think the disengagement's realization would end terror, but we hope the plan would create motivation to reduce it," Giladi said. (Ynet News)
  • Air Force Targets Palestinian Rocket Launcher in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Palestinian sources reported Wednesday that the Israel Air Force fired an air-to-surface missile that destroyed a Kassam rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The "Pragmatic" Hamas Myth - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Reflecting their eagerness to see "progress" in relations between Palestinians and Israelis, some American officials have adopted the myth of Hamas moderation, based on the theory that as the leaders of terrorist organizations gain political power, they are also forced to deal with the realities of the governing process which, in turn, fosters ideological moderation. But this theory has a poor track record, particularly in the case of radical Islamist groups. In Afghanistan, when the Taliban took power, they converted their power into a reign of terror to impose the most extreme form of Islam on the entire population.
        Academics refer to "mirror imaging," in which Western diplomats project their own pragmatism and compromise onto leaders of terror groups from other cultures. Wishful thinking presented an image of Arafat having made the transition from terrorist leader to pragmatic statesman. The mountain of evidence demonstrating that Arafat remained stuck in 1947 rejectionism was overlooked - it was not part of the optimistic conceptual framework. Yet instead of moving toward conflict management, this mythology leads to escalation. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Engage With Us in Iraq - Hoshyar Zebari
    Extremists see Iraq as a test case: If democratic forces can be defeated - which will be assured if the world disengages - these extremists will be ever more emboldened to spread their hatred and violence throughout the world. Iraq has emerged as the central battlefield in the fight of the civilized world against terror and extremism, and the terrorists know that the people of Iraq stand on the side of free peoples the world over. In the current violence now unfolding in Iraq, the terrorists are testing the resolve of the world. Their goal is to keep the world disengaged, because they know that is their optimal strategy for ensuring the failure of Iraq's democratization. The world must not allow these forces to succeed. The writer is Iraq's foreign minister. (Wall Street Journal, 22Jun05)
  • Anglicans Target Israel - Editorial
    The Christian West has a marked, and growing, prejudice against the State of Israel. In the latest instance, the Anglican Consultative Council is considering a recommendation that the 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion should consider divesting themselves of holdings in companies that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The recommendation stems from a report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued last September by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN). The report is a piece of sanctimonious claptrap that has rightly been condemned by, among others, the International Council of Christians and Jews, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sir Jonathan Sachs, the Chief Rabbi. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    Muslim Countries Need Civil Society Before Elections - Daniel Pipes (FrontPageMagazine)

    • Rather than passively accept decades of totalitarian rule, Washington should actively help Muslim countries navigate from autocracy to democracy without passing through an Islamist phase. This is achievable.
    • As I wrote a decade ago in response to the Algerian crisis, instead of focusing on quick elections, which almost always benefit the Islamists, the U.S. government should shift its efforts to slower and deeper goals: "political participation, the rule of law (including an independent judiciary), freedom of speech and religion, property rights, minority rights, and the right to form voluntary organizations (especially political parties)."
    • Elections should only follow on the achievement of these steps. Realistically, they could well take decades to achieve.
    • Elections should culminate the democratic process, not start it. They ought to celebrate civil society successfully achieved. Once such a civil society exists (as it does in Iran but not in Algeria), voters are unlikely to vote Islamists into power.

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