Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 29, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Moves to Prevent Hamas Takeover in Gaza - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Nabil Thamus, who until last year headed Fatah's "death squads" and who is considered close to Mohammed Dahlan, has been appointed head of a special 5,000-man PA security service whose mission is to prevent a "hostile takeover" by Hamas of the evacuated settlements in Gaza.
    Hamas has recently initiated armed patrols, known as murabitun, consisting of five to 10 masked men dressed in army uniforms.
    Palestinians see the patrols as an effort by Hamas to supplant the PA security services.

PA: Israelis Poison Land Before Withdrawal (People's Daily-China)
    Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammed Dahlan on Wednesday accused Jewish settlers of poisoning the land in the settlements that Israel is intending to evacuate in mid-August.
    "We have definite information that the Israeli settlers are poisoning the land in order to damage it and to prevent the Palestinians from using it in the future," said Dahlan.

IDF Intelligence: Iran Wants Bomb to Spread Islamic Revolution - Haviv Rettig (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is committed to building a nuclear bomb to help it spread the Islamic revolution across the Middle East, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser, head of the IDF Intelligence Corps research division, told the Knesset Forum on the Middle East on Tuesday.
    "They hate the State of Israel," Kuperwasser said. "The difference between them and the rest of the people in the Middle East is that they think something should be done about it. That's why they support Hamas. That's why they give money to Islamic Jihad."
    Former senior IDF intelligence officer Col. (ret.) Eran Lerman said, "Iran has an operational terrorist presence on our border in the form of Hizballah, and it has penetrated deeply into the Palestinian arena through the Islamic Jihad, which is under its control, and through certain members of the Fatah."

Indignant Israeli Rabbis Decline Qatar Invitation After Snub - Orly Halpern (Jerusalem Post)
    Top Israeli Jewish religious leaders have refused to attend the Qatar interreligious conference opening in Doha Wednesday because they were not allowed to be on a panel or listed as participants on the program, said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's Jerusalem-based International Director of Interreligious Affairs.
    "Due to pressure that was put on the Qataris from Islamic extremists against having any Jews, the [Qataris] communicated to the Foreign Ministry that, while the Israelis would be very welcome, they would not appear formally on the program or on the panels," said Rosen.
    Former Sephardi chief rabbi Bakshi-Doron, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Meir Lau, and Rosen were the first Israelis to be invited to the annual two-day conference, but rejected the idea of attending unofficially.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Islamic States Want Permanent Seat on UN Security Council
    Foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) opened a meeting in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, with a call for a Muslim permanent seat on the UN Security Council. "The Islamic world, which represents one fifth of total mankind, cannot remain excluded from the activities of the Security Council which assumes a fundamental role in keeping security and peace in the world," OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said Tuesday. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Sunnis Will Nab Zarqawi When "Ready" - Rowan Scarborough
    Sunni "fence sitters" in Iraq say they would be willing to take on master terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and rid the country of foreign saboteurs if the Shi'ite-run government's new political structure is acceptable to them, according to a senior U.S. official. "The Iraqis will kill every foreigner who comes into their neighborhood when they're ready," said the senior official who has spent months in Iraq. The official, who has held numerous meetings with what he called "influential fence sitters," said they told him they are only tolerating foreign terrorists because they are a "pressure tool" to force the Shi'ites and the U.S. to consider Sunni political demands for more representation in the Baghdad government.
        The U.S. official said more moderate Sunnis are willing to get off the fence and start attacking foreign fighters once they believe the new Iraqi constitution, now being drafted in Baghdad, protects their interests. The official said the only way Zarqawi's terrorists can operate in Iraq is with the complicity of Sunni village leaders who provide safe houses and travel routes. Once the Sunnis revoke those privileges and turn on the foreigners, the insurgency will dwindle or disappear, the official said. (Washington Times)
        See also Iraqi Insurgent Talks Said to Yield Little - Josh White
    Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his top general in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said Monday that U.S. military attempts to initiate discussions with Iraqi leaders who claim to hold sway within the insurgency are in the early stages and have not yet yielded much progress. "They're discussions...but to characterize them as negotiations with insurgents about stopping the insurgency, we're not quite there yet," Casey said. (Washington Post)
        See also President Bush Discusses Iraq, War on Terror (White House)
  • Russia Prosecutors Drop Jewish Text Inquiry - Henry Meyer
    Prosecutors in Moscow dropped an inquiry Tuesday into whether a Russian translation of an ancient Jewish text incites national and religious hatred. Rabbi Berel Lazar said he had contacted prosecutors to explain that the Shulhan Arukh, a code of Jewish law compiled by Rabbi Joseph Caro in the mid-16th century, was not aimed at non-Jews, and to complain that officials seeking the probe had "anti-Semitic sentiments." (AP/Washington Post)
        "There's no reason to persecute a whole sector of society because of religious texts held sacred to them. The decision to launch an investigation was a mistake," said a source at the attorney general's office. (Ha'aretz)
  • Aid Proposals Put Egypt on Notice that U.S. Is Rethinking Relationship - Ron Kampeas
    Egypt's role in smoothing Israel's upcoming pullout from Gaza is helping to protect it, for now, from a tectonic shift in how the U.S. treats dictatorships. Longstanding efforts in Congress to call Egypt to account for its failure to cultivate a free, democratic society are bearing fruit, though they fall far short of the sweeping changes some have sought.
        In a voice vote last week, the House Appropriations Committee directed that half of the $50 million Egypt gets for democracy programs should go through non-governmental organizations, and that a portion of the $50 million it gets for educational programs should be earmarked for projects encouraging academic freedom. A week earlier, the International Relations Committee approved a State Department authorization bill that would shift $120 million in military aid to civilian assistance; prevent long-term financing of military purchases; and impose democratization conditions on the economic assistance. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Foils Attack on Gaza Settlement - Margot Dudkevitch
    Soldiers thwarted an attempt by two Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate Morag in southern Gaza on Tuesday night, killing one of the infiltrators, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Fire Mortars at Gaza Settlement
    Palestinians fired three mortar shells at the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, Israel Radio said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Seizes Arms on Gaza-Egypt Border
    Israeli border guards Tuesday spotted six Palestinians crossing the border before dawn and discovered six bags containing 38 Kalashnikov rifles. (UPI/NetIndia123)
  • Abbas Giving PA an Economic Boom - Nina Gilbert
    The PA has been experiencing an economic boom since Mahmoud Abbas assumed leadership in late 2004, with a sharp rise in trade, jobs, and consumerism, IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlev said Tuesday. Mishlev told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that trade between Israel and the PA has increased by 25% and the flow of merchandise into the West Bank from Jordan and Israel has risen by 50%. Tourism to Bethlehem has jumped 137%. Mishlev attributed the rise in commerce to the IDF's decision to remove roadblocks.
        Despite the economic progress, Mishlev said the main concern of Palestinians was a phenomenon called "falatan" (total loss of control), which is worse than the anarchy that has been pervading the PA. Mishlev said support for Abbas stood at around 60%, amid a rise in the power of Hamas and a decline in the stature of the Fatah organization that Abbas heads. Mishlev said Fatah's public support had dropped to 40%, with 30% now supporting Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Refugees Permitted "Some" Work in Lebanon after 57 Years
    Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon welcomed as a "first step" a Lebanese government decision on Monday allowing Palestinians born in Lebanon to practice a limited number of professions they were excluded from for 57 years. There are 400,000 registered Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, 90% of whom were born there. Anyone aged 57 or younger will benefit from the work permit. The move brings Lebanon more in line with other Arab countries who long ago granted Palestinian refugees the right to work, and in some cases have offered them citizenship.
        However, despite the new measure, Palestinian workers in Lebanon will be restricted to manual and clerical work. "They can work in a company or as a guard but not as doctors or engineers, for example; it is not really fair," said DFLP member Suhail al-Natour. (Palestine Media Center-Ramallah)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iranian Revolution Is Thriving in Iraq - Robert Scheer
    The most powerful Iraqi behind the scenes since the occupation began more than two years ago has been Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who was sheltered and nurtured by Tehran's ayatollahs during Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday that new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs, who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives," he may as well have been talking about Iraq's religious Shiite leaders, who not only beat the U.S.'s handpicked leader in January's elections, but are already running much of southern Iraq as an Islamic state. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Al Arabiya Satellite TV Starts Reporting from Gush Katif - Nir Hasson
    A television crew from the Dubai-based Arab satellite station Al Arabiya visited the Gush Katif settlements in Gaza on Tuesday to cover the run-up to the disengagement. Al Arabiya, founded in 2003, is considered Al Jazeera's leading rival. When it broke the unwritten rules of the Arab media by interviewing Israeli politicians and army officers, "the other stations criticized us, and then followed suit," said one of its local producers. Al Arabiya is also the only station in the Arab world that does not call suicide bombers "martyrs."
        Al Arabiya reporter Ziad Halaby interviewed Eran Sternberg, spokesman for the Gush Katif Regional Council. When Halaby asked whether he believed the disengagement could be stopped, Sternberg replied: "As a believer, I must make a 100% effort. As for the results - Allahu akhbar" (Arabic for "God is great"). (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Deteriorating Security May Short-Circuit Israeli-Palestinian Opportunities
    - Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Although Israeli-Palestinian coordination seems to be improving as disengagement approaches, the security situation itself is deteriorating, in terms of both anarchy in the internal Palestinian scene and Palestinian violence against Israelis.
    • The recent upsurge of violence includes not only more frequent rocket strikes by militant groups from Gaza, but also renewed attempts at suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism. Most of this increased activity can be attributed to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which recently decided to abandon the ceasefire, and to extremist Fatah cells (many of which are encouraged by Hizballah).
    • Good intentions and rhetoric from PA officials about "one authority, one law, one gun" have not been matched by deeds. In addition, the essential reform of the Palestinian security services is advancing at much too slow a pace.
    • Abbas's reluctance to enforce his authority and confront those who challenge his policy, including within his own Fatah movement, is perceived domestically as weakness, further eroding his political power.
    • Time is not on Abbas's side. If the militants translate their gains into convincing victories in the upcoming parliamentary elections, his room to maneuver will be further diminished, especially in terms of disarming them and providing security.

      The writer is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute.

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