Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 19, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Did Assad Threaten Hariri? (Ynet News)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad made explicit threats on the life of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri during their last meeting, the French magazine Intelligence Online reported Sunday.
    According to the report, Hariri taped the threat using a recording device concealed inside a pen given to him by the French security services after he told Chirac he felt his life was in danger.
    Hariri delivered copies of the recording to the U.S., France, and Pakistan before his assassination on Feb. 14.
    "You must remember I can destroy Lebanon and you yourself. If I am forced to leave Lebanon, I will leave ruin and destruction behind me," Assad reportedly said.
    "Your ally, Walid Jumblatt, had better realize what fate awaits him. His father's death should serve him as a lesson."

Israel Campus Beat
- September 18, 2005

Point Counter-Point:
    Who Are You, Mr. Sharon?

Gaza Greenhouses: Looters' Gold Dust (AFP/Yahoo)
    Palestinian pillagers made a bee-line for the greenhouses of Gaza, once fitted out with sophisticated, computer-programmed irrigation systems.
    According to Palestinian authorities, 800 of the 4,000 greenhouses are unusable. Few greenhouses have even a pipe left as ripped tarpaulin flaps in the wind.
    "Repairs cost $10,000 per greenhouse," said Osama al-Farra, mayor of the Palestinian town Khan Yunis.
    Palestinian forces are now installed outside most of the greenhouses, but that doesn't stop the looters from continuing to carve out treasures.
    Three pillagers were slicing through the fence when a police patrol orders them off the premises. Suddenly a guard comes out from behind the bushes. Carrying pliers, he was helping the looters.

PA Policemen Riot in Nablus - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA policemen went on a rampage in Nablus on Saturday night, setting a car and a house on fire and shooting indiscriminately in one of the city's main squares.
    The policemen were protesting against the killing of one of their colleagues, Khalil Kharmah, by a security officer from the PA's National Security Forces.
    See also Parking Space Quarrel Erupts into Shootout in Ramallah (AP/Ha'aretz))
    A dispute over a parking space between members of a Palestinian commando unit known as the special forces and members of the national forces erupted into a shootout Saturday in downtown Ramallah, security officials said.
    At one point about 60 policemen were exchanging fire in the center of town.

Bahrain Tells U.S. It Is Repealing Anti-Israel Boycott - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    Bahrain announced to the U.S. recently that it will rescind its economic boycott of Israel.
    A message sent by Bahrain's treasurer, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, to the U.S. commercial delegation in the kingdom said that "Bahrain recognizes the need to withdraw the primary boycott against Israel and is developing the means to achieve this."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Envoy: U.S. to Back Israeli Settlements
    The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel said in an interview broadcast Sunday that President George W. Bush will back a request by Israel to keep larger West Bank settlement areas under its control in a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who completed his term Friday, cited an April 2004 letter from Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, setting out the U.S. position on settlements. "The policy is exactly what the president said," Kurtzer said. "In the context of a final status agreement, the United States will support the retention by Israel of areas with a high concentration of Israeli population."
        Kurtzer's language went slightly further than the original Bush letter, which did not speak of Israel retaining territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war but said only that a return to the prewar borders of 1949 was unlikely. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Envoy: International Community Questions If Palestinians Are Ready for Statehood - Steven Erlanger
    Kurtzer, 56, leaves with a deepened respect for the resiliency of Israeli life in the face of violence, in which one of his own relatives died. "I wouldn't have expected the resilience, determination, will to live and to create of a people beset by terrorism for the last four years," he said. Part of the reason is the Israeli psyche, which says "never again," he said. But, he said, the violence has also made the Israelis much less willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, let alone trust their commitments.
        The Palestinians bear a significant responsibility to show in Gaza that they are ready to assume the burden of statehood, he said. What has most disappointed him has been the failure of the Palestinians, at least so far, to create a positive image based on good administration, realistic policies, and opposition to terrorism. "Victimization gets you on 'Oprah,' but you want to be taken seriously enough to get on 'Meet the Press,' Kurtzer said. "You have a Palestinian Authority, but it's still a question in the minds of the international community if they're ready for statehood with these institutions," he said. The Palestinians must begin to move the refugees out of camps into better housing, build a state of law and order, and find positive messages that can supplement, if not supplant, the steady stream of anti-Israel diplomacy, he said.
        Kurtzer's replacement, Richard H. Jones, is an Arabist who has served in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Baghdad. (New York Times)
  • Palestinians Restore Order Along Border - Ibrahim Barzak
    2,000 Palestinian security personnel sealed off Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday, ending a weeklong free-for-all along the frontier, said Adnan Barbach, a spokesman for the Palestinian National Security Forces. On the Egyptian side of the border, hundreds of troops with automatic rifles and armored vehicles took up positions as well. (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S. and Allies Seek Iran Resolution at UN - Joel Brinkley
    The U.S. and its allies said Sunday that they would push for a resolution critical of Iran from the UN nuclear monitoring agency, although the body might not refer the country to the Security Council for sanctions. The action came a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran stood before the General Assembly, vowing to press ahead with a nuclear program and berating the U.S. and Europe for trying to interfere. "The effect of the speech will be the increased isolation of Iran, as it was seen internationally and at the UN as exceptionally harsh and uncompromising," R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Sunday. (New York Times)
        See also Britain Pushes for UN Sanctions after Iran Declares Nuclear Intentions - Richard Beeston (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas: Jerusalem Is Next - Ali Waked
    Ten thousand Hamas terrorists paraded with weapons through the streets of Gaza City on Sunday in the group's largest show of force in years, defying Palestinian efforts to ban public arms displays. Hamas leaders vowed to continue fighting Israel as tens of thousands cheered and waved the group's green flags. "We will not rest and will not abandon the path of jihad and martyrdom as long as one inch of our land remained in the hands of the Jews," said Raed Saed, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza City. "We are celebrating our victory in Gaza and now we are headed toward Jerusalem, Nablus, Acre, Haifa, the Galilee, and all of Palestine," he said.
        "We are here addressing a clear message to whom it may concern that anybody who tries to crack down on Hamas is going to fail," said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Enter Evacuated West Bank Settlement of Homesh - Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
    Hundreds of Palestinians entered the evacuated settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank Saturday and began stripping it after the last Israel Defense Forces patrols had left the area. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lax Control of Egypt-Gaza Border Raises Risks - Thanassis Cambanis and Anne Barnard
    Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority are trying to forge a new on-the-ground reality, with Arab police replacing Israeli soldiers in the hunt for terrorists and weapons smugglers working on the border. If border control remains lax, infiltrators could move freely in and out of Gaza, raising the risk of terrorist attacks not only in Israel but also in Egypt, which has suffered major strikes on tourist resorts in the Sinai. Israelis are skeptical of Egypt's commitment after it didn't deliver on its promise to take over Israel's police role at the border.
        ''The Egyptians, if they want to, can stop terrorists from crossing," said Col. Pinky Zoaretz of the Israel Defense Forces, who spent two years patrolling the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt and lost a leg in July 2004 when his jeep struck a land mine. ''Imagine the scenario where a terrorist crosses into Egypt from Gaza, and then comes into Israel and strikes one of our cities," said Zoaretz. ''If this continues, it will create a situation where we have no other choice but to attack." (Boston Globe)
  • Gaza Synagogues Burned by Mobs - Ariel Cohen
    The Palestinian Clerics Association's Sheikh Mohammad Ali said last month that, when "even an inch of Muslim land is occupied, jihad is a personal duty, a religious obligation incumbent upon everyone." Since the entire land of Israel is considered "occupied" by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorist organizations subsidized by Saudi Arabia and Iran, the stage is set for continued violent attacks. Some Muslim clerics have declared that while suicide bombings in Arab countries are forbidden, they are "not suicide" in Israel. Others claim that "Andaluz" - Spain - also is occupied territory, to be liberated in due course. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. (Washington Times)
  • Rethinking Israel - Editorial
    Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, held separate discussions with counterparts from Islamic nations, among them Indonesia's Hassan Wirayuda. We agree that Indonesia should resist opening full diplomatic ties with the Zionist state. But at the same time we also encourage a much more thorough debate on the available options vis-a-vis Israel, beyond simplistic dogmas of ideological preconceptions and narrow-minded religious tenets. The fact is that relations on individual and trade levels do exist with Israel. If the peace process progresses as everyone hopes, the opportunities of engaging with the Middle East's most modern state is a requisite for a country like Indonesia. If Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, truly wants to play a significant role in the Middle East process to further help the Palestinian cause, opening some form of relationship with the State of Israel is a prerequisite. (Jakarta Post-Indonesia)
  • Observations:

    If Hamas Participates, Sharon Says Israel Won't Aid Palestinian Elections - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)

    • Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said Friday that his government will refuse to assist the PA in holding legislative elections in January if the militant group Hamas is allowed to participate. "We will never agree that this terrorist organization, this armed terrorist organization, will participate in the elections," Sharon said. "We will make every effort not to help them in their elections," he said.
    • Sharon said Israel would tolerate Hamas's participation only if it gives up its arms and renounces its goal of destroying Israel. "An armed organization doesn't become democratic once they participate in the election," Sharon said, calling the Hamas charter "one of most terrible documents that exists."
    • "Hamas is a terrorist organization that should disarm and renounce violence," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Frederick L. Jones II, adding that U.S. officials will never talk to elected officials who belong to terrorist groups. "A decision as to who can participate in a [Palestinian Legislative Council] election obviously is up to the Palestinian Authority. We do not believe that a democratic state can be built when parties or candidates seek power not through the ballot box but through terrorist activity, as well."

        See also Peres: PA Risks Losing Aid If Hamas Runs in Election - Aluf Benn
    Despite an American reluctance to countenance intervention in January Palestinian Legislative Council elections in the West Bank, Vice Premier Shimon Peres warned Sunday that placing Hamas candidates on the ballot could cost the Palestinians the financial aid packages they have been offered by countries around the world. "The major threat is that the Palestinians will lose or endanger the massive financial aid they have been offered," Peres told Israel Radio. "I don't think the world will support any Palestinian institution that supports terror." (Ha'aretz)

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