Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 30, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Leader Accuses Iran and Hizballah of Directing Terror Attacks (Al-Hayat-Arabic, 30Dec05)
    In an interview with the Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat, published in London, a senior Palestinian leader accuses Iran and Hizballah of directing terror attacks against Israel.
    According to him, Islamic Jihad is violating the "tahdiya" (the temporary ceasefire agreement that ends on Dec. 31) according to instructions from Iran.
    He claims the PA has proof of direct Iranian involvement in the operations of Islamic Jihad cells, including taped telephone conversations between Hizballah activists in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad activists, and with Palestinian agents of Hizballah living in Israel.
    On one tape, a Hizballah agent is heard offering to supply Al Aksa Brigades activists in the territories with all the means necessary to carry out terror attacks.
    The Palestinian leader said that the terror organizations in the territories receive $5-8,000 each month, funds that arrive via Western Union money transfers, which allow the exchange of cash around the world.

UN Asks Belgian to Take Over Lebanese Assassination Inquiry - Colum Lynch (Washington Post)
    The UN has asked Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to succeed German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis in the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
    Mehlis led a six-month UN inquiry that has implicated members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's inner circle in the Feb. 14 killing.
    The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar reported Wednesday that a pro-Syrian organization that claimed responsibility for killing the paper's editor, Gibran Tueni, issued a new threat against Mehlis's successor.
    The group said Mehlis is lucky it has not killed him.

Arab Public Concern on Arab-Israeli Conflict Dips - Joseph Lerner (IMRA)
    A recent poll indicates the Arab public's concern about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has decreased greatly.
    The Zogby International poll "Attitudes of Arabs 2005" was conducted October 15-24, 2005.
    Respondents were asked to rank the importance of 11 issues.
    In the aggregate, the Arab-Israel conflict decreased from 1st to 7th in the order of importance, slipping in Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
    For Egypt, the conflict was 8th in importance among the 11 issues.

Israel to Sell Missiles to U.S. - Tani Goldstein (Ynet News)
    The U.S. Congress this week approved $17 million for the American Navy to purchase Israeli-made ITALD missiles during 2006-2008.
    The missiles, used to deceive and saturate enemy air defenses during strike aircraft operations, have been used by the Navy since 1996.

Historical Revelation: British Foreign Office Concern at Margaret Thatcher's Jewish Links (Ananova-UK)
    In the 1970s, British Foreign Office officials were so concerned about Margaret Thatcher's pro-Israeli sympathies when she became Tory leader they wanted her to break off links with local Jewish groups, according to newly-released official papers.
    Files released to the National Archives in London under the 30-year rule reveal that diplomats feared she would be seen by Arab countries as a "prisoner of the Zionists."
    One official even suggested that she should give up her Finchley parliamentary seat in north London - with its large Jewish community - for somewhere more palatable to Arab opinion.

Israel: Waterworks for the World - Neal Sandler (Business Week)
    Israel has developed numerous technologies to deal with severe water shortages. Already, 60% of the country's sewage water is recycled, and in September, the world's largest desalination plant was opened along Israel's southern Mediterranean coast.
    Using reverse osmosis technology, the $200 million plant built by Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) and France's Veolia Water produces a cubic meter of water for about 60 cents, substantially lower than existing plants.
    IDE recently won contracts to supply desalination plants to Spain and India.
    Israeli companies also control about half of the estimated $1-1.5 billion global drip irrigation market. Drip irrigation - used to water crops in arid and semi-arid climates - is used on 60% of the agricultural land in Israel.

Israel's DiskOnKey Makes PC World's Top Ten Gadgets List (Israel21c)
    M-Systems' DiskOnKey has been named to PC World's "50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years" list, Globes reported.
    PC World wrote: "For 20 years people had been predicting the death of the floppy, but it took a gadget the size of your thumb to actually sound the death knell....You just plugged it into a USB port, copied files to it, and popped it back into your pocket. Suddenly, moving big files from one computer to another was no longer a hassle."

Terror Victim Weds Anew (JTA)
    David Hatuel, whose wife and four daughters were killed in a 2004 ambush in Gaza, tied the knot Monday with Limor Shem-Tov, 32, at a ceremony attended by more than 1,000 well-wishers.
    Hatuel, 35, has been living in temporary housing and teaching in an Ashkelon school since being evacuated from Gaza.
    "I am building my new home on the ruins of the old, though I will never forget it," he said, referring to his marriages.

Israeli is World's Top Blind Golfer - Aron Heller (Chicago Tribune)
    With the help of a demanding coach, determined caddie and dedicated dog, Israel's Zohar Sharon has earned an unlikely title - the world's best blind golfer.
    Since 2003, he's won international blind golfers' tournaments in Scotland, Australia, the U.S., and Canada, and he's beaten a slew of sighted golfers, too.
    He describes himself as "the world's greatest golf player at night."

Give Life - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
    Judith Nusbaum was the recipient of a pre-Hannukah miracle.
    On December 11, she received a kidney from Martin Filla, an Australian Christian, which saved her life.
    Nusbaum suffered from renal failure for six years and went on dialysis in February.
    After being told by her doctor that it might take three to five years to find a donor, Nusbaum decided to look for one herself.
    Using the Internet she found Martin Filla, part of a group whose members are donating their kidneys to "make the world a better place."
    Filla's selfless act saved the life of a woman he hadn't met and who lived thousands of kilometers away.

Useful Reference:

Israeli Population - 6,986,300 (Jerusalem Post)
    According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of the State of Israel on the eve of 2006 stands at 6,986,300.
    76% are Jewish, 20% are Arab, and 4% are non-Arab Christians.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Zarqawi's "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" Claims Rocket Strike on Northern Israeli City from Lebanon
    Al-Qaeda in Iraq said Thursday that it fired a barrage of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel this week, in a rare claim by the group of a direct attack against the Jewish state. The statement, on an Islamic Web forum where al-Qaeda in Iraq often posts statements, could not be independently verified. Without referring to the claim, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, the head of Israeli army intelligence, said Thursday in an interview with Israel's Channel 10 TV, "Today al-Qaeda is turning its focus to the heart of the Levant - Syria, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the countries around us, and to Israel." The group's branch in Iraq, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been battling U.S. and Iraqi forces for two years and leading a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and kidnappings in that country. But al-Qaeda in Iraq has been expanding attacks to other parts of the Arab world. It claimed to have carried out a Nov. 9 triple suicide bombing against hotels in the Jordanian capital, Amman, that killed 60 people. (AP/USA Today)
        See also Claim of Attack from Lebanon Leaves Confusion - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
        See also Zarqawi and Israel: Is There a New Jihadi Threat Destabilizing the Eastern Front? - Dore Gold and Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
        See also Lebanese Druze Leader Condemns Syria for Plotting Rocket Attack on Israel
    Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt Thursday condemned Syria for plotting a rocket attack from Lebanon on northern Israel this week. (People's Daily-China)
  • EU Border Monitors Flee as PA Police Storm Rafah Crossing - Sarah El Deeb
    Palestinian policemen angry over the killing of a fellow police officer stormed the Gaza-Egypt crossing Friday, firing in the air and forcing European monitors to close the border and flee, Palestinian and European officials said. About 100 policemen entered the Rafah compound and took up positions alongside border patrol officers. The European observers - responsible for monitoring the crossing and ensuring the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement are upheld - fled the area, fearing the situation was spinning out of control, the officials said. The takeover is the latest in a rash of armed kidnappings and takeovers of government buildings that underscore the lawlessness in Gaza. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinian Gunmen Attack Gaza Police Station, Kill One (Reuters)
  • Frantic Search for Aid Worker and Parents Kidnapped in Gaza as Gang Fails to Make Contact - Conal Urquhart
    Palestinian investigators and British consular officials were Thursday night urgently trying to make contact with the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip who abducted Kate Burton, 25, a British aid worker, and her parents Hugh and Helen. The anarchy in Gaza is almost totally associated with the Fatah movement, while Hamas stands at the sidelines, viewed by many Gazans as the only faction with any credibility. The issue of kidnapping was often the subject of jokes among foreigners in Gaza. Dozens have been held for a short time and treated well while their captors tried to negotiate jobs with the PA. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Increase in Seizures Prompted Exodus of Foreigners from Gaza - Ian MacKinnon
    Security has deteriorated to such an extent over the past year that only a few dozen international staff dare to live and work in Gaza. All but twenty-five "critical and essential" UN workers have withdrawn to offices in Jerusalem and Amman after the seizure of two staff in July and August. Those left working for UN agencies live under curfew and are back in their guarded apartments before nightfall. When UN staff travel outside Gaza City they do so in armored vehicles to enable them to escape a hold-up. (Times-UK)
  • Former IDF Chief of Staff: Al-Qaeda Sees Gaza as "Safe Haven," Establishing Base - Ori Nir
        Al-Qaeda operatives are establishing a base in Gaza for launching attacks against Israel and neighboring pro-American Arab regimes, Israeli security officials say. Israel's former military chief of staff, retired Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, told the Forward in an interview that in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in August, al-Qaeda began to see the area as a safe haven. "What we are recently identifying is the entrance of various so-called vanguard, precursor elements - al-Qaeda operatives without a doubt - who are coming with a long-term plan to establish an infrastructure there." "They are already there to take advantage of the negative potential in Gaza: the instability, the chaos, the lack of Palestinian Authority control. They will use it to establish an operational base or to control, from there, al-Qaeda cells in the West Bank."
        Israeli officials are concerned that al-Qaeda operatives could smuggle in missiles with longer ranges than the Kassam rockets that Palestinian militants currently use or bring in stronger explosives for suicide bombs, Ya'alon said. "Israel is a preferred target, whether on its own merits or as a symbol of the West."
        Israel has become a more attractive target for al-Qaeda with the growing influence of the organization's leader in Iraq, Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. "Zarqawi has been saying for some time that after the battle in Iraq is won, the next phase will be the liberation of the Al Aqsa" mosque in Jerusalem, said Yoram Kahati, a former Israeli intelligence officer and now a research fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "The battle for Palestine, as Zarqawi sees it, is the ultimate one," said Kahati. (Forward)
  • Gaza Militants Prepare to Fight as Truce Nears End - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Crawling beneath bushes and planting bombs for practice attacks, Palestinian militants trained in the Gaza Strip on Thursday to resume fighting when a truce with Israel expires at year's end. Many say they want to resume the uprising fully after Dec. 31. "Calm was a strategic mistake by the resistance and it will not be repeated," said Abu Sharif, speaking on behalf of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees. He said militants hoped to soon start firing rocket salvoes from the West Bank, closer to Israel's major population centers. "One of our strategies is to move rockets to the West Bank to meet the coming year with more violent resistance."
        Israel has long pressed Abbas to crack down on militants rather than talking to them. "They are running out of time," a senior Israeli official said. He said that if Abbas did not impose order, "Palestinian society will pull itself further and further from the aspiration of a democratic state alongside Israel."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Suicide Bomber Planned Attack at Children's Hannukah Party - Amos Harel
    The suicide bomber who killed an Israel Defense Forces officer and two Palestinians at an army checkpoint near Tulkarm Thursday was apparently planning to blow himself up at one of the many children's events taking place in Tel Aviv during this week's Hannukah holiday, army sources said. Had the bomber not been stopped at the checkpoint, the attack would have been far more deadly, said the sources. The slain officer was Lt. Ori Binamo, 21, of Nesher. Of the slain Palestinians, one was the taxi driver and the other might have been the bomber's guide. The IDF believes that the Islamic Jihad network in the northern West Bank was responsible. That network has been responsible for the deaths of 26 Israelis since the start of the year, including all of the suicide bombings inside Israel.
        IDF sappers said the suicide belt containing more than 10 kilograms of explosives was packed with nails and iron scraps to make it more deadly. Because the blast occurred in an open area, its effect was mitigated, but had it gone off in an enclosed hall packed with parents and children, as was apparently intended, the effect would have been devastating. Col. Aharon Haliba, commander of the Ephraim Brigade, said, "With all my sorrow over Ori, I have to tell the truth: He and his soldiers, with their bodies, prevented [a far more serious] attack. That is their job; that is our job." Due to warnings of other attacks, the high alert along the seam between the West Bank and Israel will remain in force. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Lieutenant Ori Binamo, 21 - Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Embrace Terror Bomber - Michael Widlanski
    The Palestinian Authority's official radio station repeatedly referred to the bomber as a martyr. "Three citizens were heroically martyred today in an explosive operation that targeted Israeli soldiers at a roadblock south of Tulkarm," declared Voice of Palestine radio in the lead item of its two main news shows Thursday. (IMRA)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Halutz: No Action Against Iran Nukes Necessary Now - Gideon Alon and Amos Harel
    IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told Army Radio Thursday, "I do not believe an IDF operation against the Iranians will be necessary soon." Halutz said he believes Iran will achieve its goal - a nuclear bomb - in the next decade. He differentiated between the "point of no return" when Iran acquires the independent technological capability to make the bomb, and completing the process. Mossad chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week that Iran could cross the point of no return in a matter of months.
        Halutz also said that all political options to torpedo the Iranian nuclear program should be exhausted before any other action is considered. He said those efforts have successfully delayed Tehran's plans by two years. Halutz said that because Iran doesn't yet have a nuclear bomb, it does not constitute an existential threat to Israel. "When there is an existential threat, a country must take every action to ensure its existence." (Ha'aretz)
  • Operation Blue Skies Still Underway in Gaza - Amos Harel
    The Israel Defense Forces continued its "Blue Skies" operation in the Gaza Strip Thursday, preventing Palestinians from entering a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip near the ruins of former settlements Elei Sinai, Nissanit, and Dugit from which rockets were fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The army is enforcing the zone using hourly artillery fire into open areas. Some Palestinian security personnel deployed in the area have moved south, and are preventing Palestinians from entering the buffer zone. The IDF is also monitoring territory further south, from which rockets are launched at the town of Sderot. (Ha'aretz)
  • Poll: Israelis Overwhelmingly Oppose Withdrawals from Strategic Areas - Rebecca Stoil
    Israelis are overwhelmingly opposed to returning key areas popularly perceived as strategically important, according to a survey conducted by pollster Mina Tzemah for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' Defensible Borders Project. Less than one out of five support continuing a policy of unilateral disengagements. Almost 80% said that they opposed "conceding the Jordan Valley" - an area viewed as a buffer zone between Israel and Jordan - as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Similarly, 93% of respondents said, "in the context of a peace agreement, Israel must not give the Palestinians the territories that topographically dominate Ben-Gurion airport." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Democracy in Palestine - Editorial
    Mahmoud Abbas's chronic inability to contain Palestinian violence has been demonstrated this week as Israel has had to declare a "no go" zone at the northern tip of Gaza after the persistent firing of Kassam rockets in the direction of Ashkelon. Mr. Abbas is clearly incapable of controlling his own people. That weakness has serious implications both for democracy in the areas under Palestinian authority and for relations with Israel. A man unable to keep his side of the bargain in the peace talks is failing those he governs. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Escalation is Inevitable - Ze'ev Schiff
    Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisencott was right when he said that the war on terror is much more difficult when conducted from a distance, without control of the ground and the population. The assumption was that following the disengagement from Gaza, the firing of Kassam rockets would stop or be reduced to a minimum. In 2004, 309 rockets were fired on Israel, whereas in 2005, 366 Kassams were fired. The government thought that keeping the northern Gaza Strip in Israel's hands would be a Sheba Farm for the Palestinians, an excuse to continue the fighting, even if it is clear that those who are launching the Kassams see all of Israel as one big Sheba Farm.
        It was also assumed that the PA would take action on the ground against the launching of the rockets. There are thousands of armed people in the security organizations in the Gaza Strip, and they do not want, or are unable, to stop a few cells of the Islamic Jihad. Egypt already has about 300 security people in the Gaza Strip, among them more than 10 colonels. The Egyptians, too, promised to take action against the Kassams, a promise that has not been kept.
        Sooner or later the Palestinians will improve their range, or will succeed in smuggling long-range Katyushas from Sinai. At that point we will see that Ashdod, too, is within the range of the rockets. There is also the possibility that they will succeed in smuggling similar weapons into the West Bank territories. In such a situation, escalation will be inevitable. The way of dealing with it will not be another unilateral withdrawal. (Ha'aretz)
  • Girding for the Next Intifada - Gary Rosenblatt
    It's time we recognize that a third intifada, and perhaps the most violent of all, is just around the corner. So many signs point to another round of Palestinian-initiated warfare on the Jewish state that it's hard to ignore them. As the Palestinians move toward national elections, it is clear that Hamas, the terror group that insists on the destruction of Israel, will do very well. Abbas insists that after bringing Hamas into the political process, he will be able to convince the group to put away its guns in favor of democratic government. Dream on.
        The example of Hizballah in Lebanon is instructive. The same argument was made about tempering the group's military impulses - like Hamas, it is a surrogate for Iran and Syria in its attacks on Israel - by bringing it into the political system in Beirut. But after Hizballah went from 8 to 23 seats in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament, it became more emboldened in its attempted terror attacks on Israel. There is no indication that Hamas will be willing to give up either its arms or its calls for Israel's destruction after the Palestinian elections.
        Israelis who believed that the painful displacement of Jewish communities in Gaza and parts of the West Bank would satisfy the Palestinians and staunch their quest for more land have been proven mistaken. Rather, driven by rhetoric from Hamas, there is a sense among many Palestinians that powerful Israel was forced out of Gaza, proving the military success of the suicide war. The message, then, is that the only way to get Israel to leave the West Bank is to launch another series of violent attacks. And since the security fence has put a crimp on the efforts of suicide bombers to penetrate into Israel, the next mode of attack will be new Kassam rockets - more accurate and with a longer range - that cannot be stopped by fences or walls. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Washington's Incoherent Attitude to Syria - Dean Godson
    Isn't Syria meant to be one of the leading sponsors of terrorism in Iraq - at least according to the State Department's annual terrorism report? Well, times change. Back in 2001-02, wide swaths of the administration still entertained fond hopes that the "secular" Baathist regime in Syria might become an ally in the war on the fundamentalists of al-Qaeda. Had it not brutally crushed the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982? All that, of course, was before President Bashar Assad started to funnel jihadis through Syria and into Iraq to kill U.S. servicemen - not to mention the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, that united the international community in condemnation of Damascus.
        Much of the career bureaucracy at the State Department and the CIA held that al-Qaeda was an autonomous entity, largely independent from control of any state. If so, the administration would have enjoyed a relatively free hand to work with a broad range of partners when it suited mutual interests to do so - Syria, Libya, and even Iran. The loudest dissenters from this orthodoxy were the administration neoconservatives. They charged that al-Qaeda could not flourish without substantial state sponsorship. These contradictory impulses have never been resolved in the case of Syria. Has the administration concluded that the regime is unreformable and must be replaced? Or does it just want it to "moderate" its behavior - above all in Iraq and Lebanon? (Times-UK)
  • In Failure, a Year of Arab Achievement - Michael Young
    For the past half-century, the Arab nationalist state has failed to reinvent itself as something open, desirable, legitimate. But in its suffocating, mediocre incarnations, the nationalist state has also displayed uncommon durability, outlasting the dead ideology underpinning it. The Iraqi Constitution sent shockwaves through Arab capitals. In the document, religious and ethnic identities were affirmed over sacrosanct Arabism. Not surprisingly, the avatars of that rejection were Shiites and Kurds, two communities that Arab nationalism, always primarily a Sunni phenomenon, has historically disregarded.
        Among the paramount victims of secular Arab nationalism's poverty this year has been the Palestinian national movement. Events have confirmed that the movement Arafat built up is today no more than a phantom - a wilted edifice of corruption, waste, factionalism, and violence. Its cheerleaders will not grasp that much of the Palestinian malady is self-inflicted; that the secular leadership has offered no credible model of governance to resist the onslaught of the Islamists.
        Gone is the democratic momentum that we had anticipated in 2003. The Arab world - its regimes, Islamists, liberals - conspired against change from the outside, mendaciously labeling that fight one of self-determination; but what they really undermined was change from the inside. There is little light at the end of the Arab tunnel today. (Daily Star-Lebanon/International Herald Tribune)

    Weekend Features

  • The Science of War - Prof. Yisrael Aumann, 2005 Nobel Prize Winner
    I'm constantly asked whether game theory can bring about a resolution of the conflicts in the Middle East. Game theory cannot provide a magic formula that will suddenly resolve a century-old conflict. No academic discipline can do that. Game theory isn't about the resolution of conflicts. It's about understanding conflicts. Once we understand conflicts, perhaps we can use some of these insights to try to resolve them.
        Up to now all our efforts have been put into resolving specific conflicts. I'd like to suggest that we should shift emphasis and study war in general. War has been with us ever since the dawn of civilization. Nothing has been more constant in history than war. It's a phenomenon, not a series of isolated events. Efforts to resolve specific conflicts are certainly laudable, and sometimes they bear fruit. But there's also another way of going about it - studying war as a general phenomenon, studying general characteristics, identifying common denominators and differences. Why does homo economicus - rational man - go to war?
        Can war be rational? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It is a big mistake to say that war is irrational. Once we understand that war is rational, we can at least somehow address the problem. If we simply dismiss it as irrational, we can't address the problem. To prevent war, an obvious solution might be to disarm, to lower the level of armaments. But in fact the opposite might be true. In the long, dark years of the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, what prevented war was the existence of nuclear weapons. Disarming would have led to war. (Ynet News)
  • In the Land of the Brother Leader - Vacation in Libya? - Michael J. Totten
    My Air Afriquiya flight touched down on the runway next to a junkyard of filthy, gutted, and broken-down Soviet aircraft in an airport otherwise empty of planes. Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, mastermind of the 1969 Al-Fateh Revolution (a euphemism for his military coup), Brother Leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, greeted arrivals in the passport-control room from a menacing, almost snarling, gold-gilded portrait. The capital city of Tripoli was an asteroid belt of monolithic apartment towers with all the charm of gigantic sandblasted filing cabinets. The streets were mostly empty of cars, the sidewalks empty of people. I saw no restaurants, no clubs, no bars and no malls.
        While I saw no corporate advertising, I did see one hysterical propaganda billboard after another, socialist cartoons from the Soviet era. The Happy Worker theme was a common one; smiling construction workers wore hardhats, and Bedouins-turned-widget-makers basked in the glory of assembly-line work. The hotel gift shop offered a fantastic selection of Qaddafi watches ranged in price from $25 to $600. The one I bought shows Qaddafi wearing his military uniform, officer's hat, and sunglasses like a swaggering Latin American generalissimo. The lobby was plastered all over with portraits of the boss in various poses. (LA Weekly)
  • Observations:

    Hamas' Victory in Municipal Elections - Meir Litvak
    (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • Hamas' sweeping gains in the fourth round of the Palestinian Authority (PA) municipal elections, held on December 16, completed its evolution as the dominant faction in local politics, with significant ramifications for national Palestinian politics as well. Over 1,000,000 Palestinians now live in municipalities governed by Hamas, compared with about 700,000 in municipalities controlled by the hitherto dominant Palestinian movement, Fatah. This accomplishment may serve as a prelude to a Hamas victory, or at least a very great success, in the PA parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2006.
    • The victory of Hamas is as much a reflection of the crisis and disintegration of Fatah as of the waxing strength of Hamas. A corollary to this has been growing religiosity in Palestinian society, demonstrated by increasing mosque attendance, the rise in veiling among women, and Fatah's adoption of a religious discourse. The unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which most Palestinians attribute to Hamas' military campaign, also helped boost Hamas' fortunes.
    • Hamas focused its municipal campaign on socio-economic issues and the fight against corruption, and its candidates enjoyed local prestige as heads of its welfare and educational institutions. Fatah had little to offer voters on these issues because it has always lacked a social agenda, subordinating it to the national struggle. Reflecting these differences, Hamas lists carried the words "Reform" and "Change," while Fatah's lists were named "The Martyrs."
    • The growing power of Hamas will undoubtedly further complicate the already difficult task of advancing a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hamas has expressed its intention to emulate Hizballah, which operates as a legitimate political party while keeping its military-terrorist apparatus against Israel intact and employing it whenever useful. Thus, Hamas has insisted that it will refuse to disarm or cease its attacks on Israeli targets even after it enters the Palestinian parliament.
    • A few Hamas leaders in the West Bank have voiced a readiness to consider a more pragmatic line, but so far they are in the minority; the majority still opposes any negotiations for peace.

      The writer is Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University.

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