Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 14, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Bush: Foreign Fighters Coming from Syria into Iraq "Are Trying to Kill Our Folks" (White House)
    President Bush said Tuesday at the White House: "The Syrian government can do a lot more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot of innocent people. They're killing - they're trying to kill our folks, as well."
    "The Syrian leader must understand we take his lack of action seriously. And the government is going to become more and more isolated as a result of two things: one, not being cooperative with the Iraqi government, in terms of securing Iraq; and two, not being fully transparent about what they did in Lebanon."

    See also U.S. Planes Strike Near Syria Border (Reuters/ Washington Post)
    U.S. aircraft struck insurgent targets in the Iraqi town of Karabila, near the Syrian border, more than 10 times on Tuesday, a hospital source said.

Palestinian Killed by Rival Clan, Not IDF - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    A 19-year-old Palestinian, allegedly shot by IDF soldiers during confrontations between Palestinians and troops in the Hebron area, was shot by other Palestinians during fights among local clans, an IDF inquiry suggested Tuesday.
    Earlier Tuesday, IDF troops on patrol in Taffuh near Hebron were attacked by a crowd of about 500 people hurling stones and concrete blocks. After an IDF soldier was lightly wounded in the head, the soldiers fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd.
    The army found that no live ammunition had been used by IDF troops during the confrontation, and that there had also been fierce battles between rival clans in the area.
    Also Tuesday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at soldiers staffing the Harawa checkpoint outside Nablus. No injuries were reported.

    See also Palestinians Place Bomb Near Rachel's Tomb - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Palestinians placed a pipe bomb near Rachel's Tomb, south of Jerusalem, on Tuesday.

New Player in Gaza - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
    The most courageous Palestinian-Gazan organization to arise in recent years is the independent workers' committees, established in December 2004 to demand the fair distribution of PA income.
    In recent weeks they have been waging an impassioned struggle involving protest vigils, demonstrations, and attempts at negotiations with senior government officials.
    They are all workers who worked in Israel and did not depend on the patriarchal-government system, as opposed to government clerks who feel a personal obligation to the establishment.
    Work in Israel created a sense of camaraderie among tens of thousands of Gazans who improved their economic situation without taking favors or charity from anyone.


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  • Egypt Allows Palestinians to Cross Border - Ravi Nessman and Mariam Fam
    Egyptian troops allowed Palestinians to flood across the border from Gaza for a second day Tuesday, heightening Israeli concerns that the crossing will become more porous and allow weapons to make their way to militants. Gazans have gone on a shopping spree in Egypt since the Israeli withdrawal, going as far as el-Arish, 24 miles west of Rafah, and hauling home suitcases and boxes full of cheap cigarettes, food, fish, and other goods. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israel Urges Egypt to Seal Border with Gaza
    Israel on Wednesday urged Egypt to seal its border with the Gaza Strip as thousands of Palestinians continue to traverse the frontier without any control for a third day since Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza. "Egypt is a big country which claims to respect the agreements it signs," Amos Gilad, an advisor to Defense Minister Mofaz, told Israel Radio. "It is inconceivable that Egypt as a sovereign state does not control its frontiers." There have been several reports of weapons smuggling into Gaza. Palestinian militants blew up a section of a metal wall on the border to make it easier for people to cross, witnesses said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Loot Greenhouse Equipment
    Palestinian looters took irrigation hoses, pumps, and plastic sheeting from dozens of greenhouses Tuesday, a month after Jewish American donors bought more than 3,000 of the structures from Israeli settlers for $14 million and transferred them to the PA. Jihad Wazir, deputy Palestinian finance minister, said about 30% of the greenhouses were damaged. In some instances, police joined the looters, witnesses said. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
        See also below Observations: Hotheads Fumble Passing of the Torch - Editorial (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Rice: Can the Palestinians Control Gaza?
    In an interview with the New York Times Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "The question is really...can the Palestinians now demonstrate that they are able to exercise control in Gaza and...govern it in a way that gives confidence to the Israelis and others?" "People worry a lot about Hamas. Of course it's an issue, but the best thing the Palestinian Authority can do to disable Hamas is to show that it is not corrupt, it is governing, it is delivering for its people. And we're trying to help them do that."
        "On the Israeli side, the key now is to use what I would call forces of momentum, like the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings that are between the Palestinians and the Israelis, to keep things moving, getting back onto the roadmap where both sides have obligations....If you can sustain that kind of momentum, then I think you will be in a situation where the Gaza withdrawal, which I think has gone very, very well, will end up having been a spur to greater cooperation and trust between Palestinians and Israelis." (State Department)
        See also Sharon Expected Gaza Anarchy - Attila Somfalvi
    Prime Minister Sharon says he was "not surprised" by the looting and vandalism in the evacuated Israeli communities in Gaza. "After this unruly behavior, the Palestinians too realize they must exercise control there. We'll see how they're able to do it," he said. An Israeli political source said, "For the first time, the Palestinians have received a bicycle with no training wheels. Let's see if they can ride it." "All the elements for a state are present in Gaza, even if no formal declaration of independence has been made. They've gotten a huge advance," said the source. (Ynet News)
  • Report: Israeli, Indonesian FMs Meet in New York
    Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has met his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirayuda in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly, Israeli army radio reported Wednesday. (AFP/Jakarta Post-Indonesia)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Grenade Attack on IDF Patrol at Israel-Gaza Border - Margot Dudkevitch
    A hand grenade or bomb was thrown at an IDF patrol on the perimeter of Moshav Netiv Ha'asara on Tuesday near the northern Gaza Strip security fence. On Monday, a group of Palestinians crossed into the community and threw stones at soldiers, forcing them to fire warning shots in the air to drive them away. Israeli communities most affected by the IDF pullout are Netiv Ha'asara, Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, which are meters from the new border. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Mahmud Abbas' Official Position on the Israeli Disengagement-
    PA leader Mahmud Abbas, in an address to the Palestinian people Tuesday, said: "The redeployment of the Israeli occupation army and settlers from the Gaza Strip as a unilateral step does not mean, in any way, that the occupation has come to an end. Gaza’s crossing points with the world, parts of its land, water and air, and the link with the West Bank are still outstanding issues threatening to transform Gaza into a big prison. Gaza is an indispensable part of our occupied land, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This means, to us and to every Palestinian citizen, that the occupation effectively ends when we achieve the objectives of the peace process: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on all the Palestinian land occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital; a just and agreed resolution of the refugee problem according to Resolution 194." (AMIN)
  • Hamas: Haifa, Jaffa Are Next - Ali Waked
    Hamas vows to liberate Haifa and Jaffa from the hands of its "Zionist occupiers," terror leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told tens of thousands of excited Palestinians at a Gaza Strip rally Tuesday. "We will win in Jerusalem and in Palestine, the whole of Palestine," al-Zahar said as the crowds cheered. The rally was led by dozens of jeeps carrying gunmen, rockets, and shells, while Islamic militant songs calling for liberating the whole of Palestine were played. "We know our people is expecting us to continue the liberation journey, until the flag of Islam is raised over Jerusalem," he said, adding, "this land should not have any Zionists in it." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinians Truly Enjoyed Looting and Desecration - Ron Ben-Yishai
    In Neve Dekalim, a Palestinian bulldozer attempted to level the synagogue to no avail. The building withstood the knocks of the massive steel machine. Inside, hundreds of youths threw stones at the domed roof. With each piece of plaster that fell they clapped. "These idiots are knocking down the synagogue," one elderly man told me, "now you Israelis have an excuse to destroy al-Aqsa." The Kfar Darom synagogue was in a better shape. In the space where the Holy Ark once stood hung a poster of Marwan Barghouti waving a kalashnikov. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Policy Should Reflect Post-Disengagement Realities - Saul Singer
    It is untenable to expect Israel to wait passively for terror to resume and for the U.S. to be endlessly understanding of Abbas's pleas of weakness. What reason does Abbas have to believe that international patience with him will ever run out, especially when his inaction against terror, far from bringing more pressure, has brought redoubled international calls for support? There comes a point when a weak PA, rather than warranting more support, has become a cover for Hamas and must be cut off from international assistance.
        Similarly, it is not sensible for the U.S. to blindly continue its policy on settlements as if disengagement had not happened. Sharon can hardly continue to point to Bush's April 2004 letter as endorsing Israeli settlement blocs since, when push comes to shove, the White House is blocking a top Israeli priority - linking the largest "settlement," Ma'aleh Adumim, with Jerusalem, the city it is a suburb of. Israel cannot be expected to only withdraw unilaterally without consolidating control over areas that do not block a Palestinian state and are necessary to adjust the insecure and arbitrary cease-fire lines that triggered the 1967 war. Otherwise, what did Bush mean when he committed, in that same April letter, to "defensible borders" for Israel? (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Hour of Hamas Approaches - Mkhaimar Abusada
    Hamas has launched an intensive media campaign to appropriate the Israeli withdrawal as a victory of its "armed struggle." The campaign reflects an internal fight for control of Gaza and other PA-administered territories, and stresses Hamas' determination to continue the "armed struggle" in the West Bank. It is designed to reinforce one point: the Gaza withdrawal belongs to Hamas.
        Yet one cannot escape the fact that Hamas's military options have diminished greatly. Construction of the separation wall on the West Bank has made it almost impossible for Hamas fighters to reach Israel proper. Continued armed struggle by Hamas will not be easy. Hamas knows this, and is therefore seeking to exploit the Gaza disengagement by demanding its share in the post-disengagement order. The writer is professor of political science at Al-Azhar University-Gaza. (Taipei Times)
  • Observations:

    Hotheads Fumble Passing of the Torch - Editorial (Chicago Sun-Times)

    • The first hours of independence for the fledgling Palestinian state in Gaza were lit by the glare of burning synagogues. After 38 years of occupation, the Israeli army pulled back Monday from territory taken in the 1967 Six-Day War. They did so in the name of peace, but it cannot be a good sign that the Palestinians chose to mark the event with gunfire and arson, torching the religious sites which Israel, in an agonizing decision, left standing.
    • Israel was unwilling, in a world where synagogues have been so regularly destroyed, to be responsible for demolishing houses of prayer, despite the certainty that the Palestinians would tear them down. The worst expectations were soon realized - after the final Israeli soldier left, a mob burned and desecrated these houses of worship.
    • Of course the Palestinian Authority stood by and did nothing, and, sad to say, the mob's rampage and the PA's inaction met zero outrage from a world insensate to the desecration of Jewish sites.
    • The responsible path would be to treat Gaza as the dry run to a larger Palestinian state and to recognize that, with the absence of Israelis, it will become indefensible to continue to blame Israel for all their woes, and so begin the difficult task of running a functional state, tapping into the enormous international aid awaiting an operating Palestinian government.
    • The torching of synagogues, the gunfire, the incendiary claims of Hamas and Islamic Jihad that this is the first step in conquering all of Israel might feel good to the egos of Palestinians. But they are not the road that will bring later success.

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