Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 29, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Sharon Denies Plan for "Disengagement II" - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Prime Minister Sharon denied Wednesday that he plans an additional unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank, a day after a key advisor, Eyal Arad, said such a move was under consideration.
    "Following completion of the disengagement, Israel will work to advance the diplomatic process solely via the road map," Sharon said.
    "Any additional territorial changes will be discussed and decided upon only in the framework of negotiations on a permanent agreement. Until we reach this stage, if we reach it, there will not be any further unilateral territorial moves."
    Sharon's associates said that there would be no diplomatic or political logic to additional territorial withdrawals now.
    The whole purpose of the disengagement, they said, was to perpetuate the status quo in the West Bank until the Palestinians change.

Few Americans Think Israel Should Give Up More Land in West Bank (Harris Poll)
    According to a Harris Poll of U.S. adults surveyed Sep. 6-12, 2005: 36% vs. 28% do not believe that Israel should give up more land in the West Bank in exchange for peace (with 35% not sure).
    41% vs. 24% believe that removing Jewish settlers from Gaza and part of the West Bank was the right thing to do (36% not sure).
    36% vs. 24% think the departure of Jewish settlers increases the chances of long-term peace, but fully 40% are unsure.

Israel Shuts Down Hamas "Charities" - Ravi Nessman (AP/Washington Post)
    Israel shut down 15 offices of charities with ties to Hamas across the West Bank on Wednesday.
    Israel said the offices were used to distribute money to the families of suicide bombers and militants jailed by Israel.

Russia in a Hurry to Sell Weapons to Iran (Mosnews-Russia)
    Russia is intensifying efforts to sell weapons to Iran while such sales remain legal, the daily Kommersant said on Monday.
    It said top officials within Russia's military-industrial complex decided to concentrate on arms sales to Tehran for two reasons:
    "Firstly, as many weapons as possible must be sold to Iran before an international embargo against this country comes into force."
    Secondly, should the U.S. decide to go to war in Iran, Russia wants Iran to be well-armed to ensure that U.S. forces become at least as bogged down there as they already are in Iraq.

Iran Surprised by India's IAEA Vote (Rediff-India)
    Voicing surprise over India's support of an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution on its controversial nuclear program, Iran on Tuesday threatened to review its economic and trade ties with all those countries that voted against Tehran.
    "We were very surprised by India," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. "We will send a letter of objection to the countries that voted for the resolution."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gaza Policy Presents a Dilemma for Egypt - Salah Nasrawi
    Two weeks after Israel ended its 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip, Egyptian troops have yet to take up fully their responsibility for policing the 7-mile border, allowing many Egyptians and Palestinians to venture through gaps in the fence.
        Egypt fears that extremists from Gaza will spill over into its territory, worsening its own extremist problem in the Sinai desert. Yet it fears a domestic political backlash if it cracks down too hard on Palestinians from Gaza. Egypt, which has suffered major strikes on its tourist resorts in Sinai, has a large stake in keeping the radical Islamic groups in Gaza under control and off its side of the border. Yet Egypt also is leery of being seen as Gaza's jailer. (AP/Washington Post)
  • New Phase of Conflict Takes Shape in Middle East - Matthew Tostevin
    For the Palestinians, waging war from the West Bank, where Israel has arrested hundreds of suspected militants in recent days, is tougher than from Gaza. The Israeli army has far more control and access in the West Bank. There is also more than a grain of truth in the old quip that the Shin Bet, which runs networks of Palestinian informers, is the territory's biggest employer.
        Militants acknowledge that Israel's West Bank barrier has made it harder to get suicide bombers into the Jewish state. Tunneling through the West Bank's rocky ground into well-guarded hilltop settlements is much more difficult than mining the sandy terrain of the Gaza Strip. "It is not as easy to attack these settlements," said Nasser Abu Aziz of the al-Aqsa Brigades in Nablus. (Reuters)
  • Israel Rejects Arab Charges It Is Nuclear Threat to Peace
    Israel rejected Arab charges that it is a nuclear threat to peace after Egypt proposed the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East at a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog. Israeli atomic energy commission chief Gideon Frank said an Arab initiative to name Israel as a nuclear threat was unacceptable as it was "politically and cynically motivated." Frank told the IAEA that "many alarming proliferation developments in the Middle East have occurred in recent years....None of these involve Israel but all of them challenge our security." Frank said Israel supported "the principle of converting the Middle East into a zone free of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction as well as ballistic missiles." (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF "Reshaping the Rules of the Game" in Gaza - Efrat Weiss
    Head of IDF Operations Maj.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv warned Wednesday that if Palestinians continued to fire rockets at Israel, "The IDF will clear all Kassam launchers from Beit Hanoun [in northern Gaza]. We will allow no movement, and monitor the area, including firing....If the terrorists choose to fire from inside the houses, we will warn the residents, and if necessary will remove them from there."
        "We are now in the midst of a process of reshaping the rules of the game," Ziv said. "The objective of the operation is to send a message through that the rules of the game have changed in the wake of the disengagement...the unbearable ease in which rockets are being fired into Israel, under the assumption that Israel will restrain its response, is ungrounded." "Under the new rules, rocket launchings or attacks on Israel from any place in the Strip are forbidden. As long as the children of Sderot cannot sleep, no one will sleep in Gaza." (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Leaders in Gaza Go Underground - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Sources in the Gaza Strip said most of the Hamas leaders have gone underground for fear of being targeted by Israel.
        Hamas has come under heavy criticism following last Friday's explosion that killed 21 people and injured more than 120. Many Palestinians have rejected Hamas's claim that Israel was behind the explosion, which occurred when a truck loaded with rockets overturned during a rally. "The majority of Palestinians does not believe the Hamas version because they know the truth," said Omar al-Ghoul, a Palestinian political analyst. He said that growing resentment on the Palestinian street toward Hamas compelled the movement to agree to a cease-fire. "Popular resentment against Hamas has grown following the Israeli military strikes on the Gaza Strip." (Jerusalem Post)
  • "Third Intifada Almost Here" - Ali Waked
    Muhammad Ranaim, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a Fatah leader, said, "There could be a third intifada, which would be much more severe than its predecessor. This will be the intifada against the fence." "We are preparing a difficult struggle for Israel. We'll go to the UN, to the Security Council, and demand that the decisions of the court be applied regarding the separation fence. If we fail, we'll go to the General Assembly, and if we don't succeed, we have a third option, and that is more resistance, another intifada, and this will be a lot more severe than its predecessor," said Ranaim.
        Abu Araj is an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander in the Jenin area. From his perspective, "the third intifada is almost here, and it will be much worse. It will be an intifada against the fence, for the release of prisoners, for the liberation of Jerusalem, and the rest of the land." (Ynet News)
        See also Casualties Drop in Fifth Year of Intifada - Sagi Or
    Since the second intifada began five years ago on September 29, 2000, 1,033 Israelis and foreigners have been killed. Since September 29, 2004, 56 Israelis and foreigners have been killed. There have been six suicide bombings, killing 14 Israelis, and Palestinians have fired about 1,450 mortar shells and Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip in the past year. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Excitement and Fear Stalk Syria: UN Success in Lebanon Could Shatter Political Dominance of Military in Arab World - David Hirst
    When Lebanese police last month arrested four former army and intelligence chiefs, once pillars of the pro-Syrian regime, as suspects in the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Arab commentators quickly understood that something profoundly significant was happening - not just for Lebanon, but the whole Arab world. For Rami Khouri, of Beirut's Daily Star, the arrests marked "a truly historic turning point that could shatter the dominance of political power by Arab security and military establishments." (Guardian-UK)
  • Letter to a Palestinian Neighbor - Yossi Klein Halevi
    My journey into Palestinian Islam and Christianity, the faiths of my neighbors, was part of a much broader attempt among Israelis, begun during the first intifada, to understand your narrative, how the conflict looks through your eyes. Your society, on the other hand, has made virtually no effort to understand our narrative. Instead, you have developed what can be called a "culture of denial," that denies the most basic truths of the Jewish story.
        According to this culture of denial, which is widespread not only among your people but throughout the Arab world, there was no Temple in Jerusalem, no ancient Jewish presence in the land, no Holocaust. Nowhere is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as popular as in the Arab world, which has also become the international center for Holocaust denial. The real problem, then, is not terrorism, which is only a symptom for a deeper affront: your assault on my history and identity, your refusal to allow me to define myself, which is a form of intellectual terror. (Jerusalem Post)
  • "No" to Islamist Turkey - Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
    On Oct. 3, representatives of the EU and the Turkish government of Islamist Recep Erdogan will meet to determine if Muslim Turkey will be allowed to seek full membership in the EU. Europe should politely, but firmly, reject Turkey's bid. Turkey is awash with billions of dollars in "green money," apparently emanating from funds Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states withdrew from the U.S. after 9/11. U.S. policymakers are concerned this unaccountable cash is laundered in Turkey, then used to finance businesses and generate new revenue streams for Islamofascist terrorism.
        Roughly a third of the Turkish population is a minority known as Alevis. They observe a strain of Islam that retains some of the traditions of Turkey's ancient religions. Islamist Sunnis like Erdogan and his Saudi Wahhabi sponsors regard the Alevis as "apostates" and "hypocrites" and subject them to increasing discrimination and intimidation. Other minorities, notably Turkey's Jews, know they are likely next in line for such treatment - a far cry from the tolerance of the Ottoman era. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    What If Iran Gets the Bomb? The Iranian Challenge to the West
    - Ephraim Kam (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The Iranians are conducting a clandestine nuclear program in parallel to the public one, the aim of which is clearly the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Israeli intelligence assessment speaks of three or four years; the Americans add another year or two to this timetable.
    • The Americans conducted a large-scale operation in Iraq in order to bring down a regime which was engaged, it was thought at the time, in supporting terrorism and having weapons of mass destruction programs. Iran is clearly in the same category, and therefore it is concerned about an American/Israeli operation against its nuclear facilities.
    • From the Israeli viewpoint, an Iranian bomb will mean that for the first time an enemy country - and Iran is an enemy country by all definitions - will acquire the capability to inflict a very heavy blow on Israel. The more so since the formal Iranian position is that Israel should disappear from the map, that the solution of the Palestinian problem should be the establishment of a Palestinian state not alongside Israel but instead of Israel. No Arab government today holds such a position.
    • A nuclear Iran has to take into account certain important constraints. One is American deterrence. The Iranians have no doubt about the balance of power between themselves and the Americans. And if they had any doubts, the American conduct of the war in Iraq left no doubt about American capabilities. The Iranians must also take into account that if Iran uses a nuclear bomb against any of the allies of the U.S., especially against Israel, America will regard this as an attack against itself, and will react accordingly.
    • If Iran acquires the bomb, it will encourage other countries in the Middle East to join this nuclear arms race, especially Egypt, and perhaps Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Algeria, and Syria. It would be difficult for a country like Egypt, the leader of the Arab world, to stay out of this circle.

      The writer is Deputy Head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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