Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 14, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Gives Abbas Guards 375 Rifles - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    An aide close to Prime Minister Olmert announced Tuesday that Israel had transferred 375 rifles to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.
    Olmert said earlier that he authorized the transfer of arms and ammunition to Abbas "so he can strengthen the forces against Hamas. I did this because we are running out of time and we need to help" him.
    According to earlier reports, Israel was to receive the weapons from Jordan and Egypt.

Palestinian Demonstrators Storm Parliament (AP/Washington Post)
    Dozens of Palestinian civil servants linked to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement stormed a PA parliamentary session in Ramallah on Wednesday to demand long-overdue salaries, attacking Hamas lawmakers and forcing the parliament speaker to flee the building.
    The Hamas-led government, weakened by international economic sanctions, has been unable to pay the salaries of civil servants since taking office more than three months ago.

Gaza's Rocket Threat to Israel (BBC News)
    Kassam rockets are homemade weapons that have been fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants in their hundreds at Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.
    Katyusha rockets, a much larger and more lethal projectile with a longer range, have also begun appearing in the Gaza Strip, smuggled in from surrounding Arab states.
    According to the Israeli army, Kassams killed eight people within Israel between June 2004 and March 2006, including three children.
    Some 98 attacks have already been registered this month.
    It would only take one major taking of life in a school or other civilian facility to spark a major Israeli military operation against the rocket squads, says Yoram Schweitzer of Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
    See also Map of Rocket Ranges (BBC News)

Unlikely Pair Emerges as Foe of Iranian Regime - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
    Two scions of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran are emerging as emboldened opponents of the regime in Tehran, reviving the prospect that Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former shah, may collaborate with Hussein Khomeini, the grandson of the ayatollah who deposed him.
    See also Khomeini's Grandson: Grandfather's Revolution Devoured its Children, Strayed from Original Course (MEMRI)
    In an interview with the Al-Arabiyya TV website, Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Ayatollah Hussein Khomeini, said that the current Iranian regime was "a dictatorship of clerics who control every aspect of life," and called for foreign intervention to topple the regime.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Says It Didn't Cause Deadly Gaza Blast - Mark Lavie
    Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday that Israel was not responsible for a blast that killed eight Gaza beachgoers, rebuffing Palestinian accusations that blamed an Israeli artillery round. "The accumulating evidence proves that this incident was not due to Israeli forces," Peretz said.
        An Israeli inquiry concluded the blast was caused by an explosive buried in the sand, not from Israeli shelling on the afternoon of the Palestinian family's beach picnic. Israel has been claiming that Hamas militants planted a device to set off against Israeli commandos. According to Israeli findings, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians who were evacuated to Israeli hospitals showed that the fragments were not from the 155-millimeter shells used by Israeli artillery. Showing aerial photographs and film, the head of the Israeli inquiry, Maj. Gen. Meir Klifi, declared: "There is no chance that a shell hit this area. Absolutely no chance." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Israel Denies Causing Beach Deaths - Tim Butcher
    Scrutiny of shrapnel, photographs, and timings proved, according to the inquiry, that Israeli forces were not involved in actions near the beach at the time of the blast. Dan Halutz, the Israeli chief of staff, said, "We checked each and every shell that was fired from the sea, the air, and from the artillery on the land and we found out that we can track each and every one according to a timetable and according to the accuracy of where they hit the ground."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Annan Dismisses Israeli Claims on Gaza Beach Deaths
    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the London-based Al-Hayat daily on Wednesday, "The Israeli claim that the beach blast was caused by an explosive charge at the site sounds strange to me. I don't believe it is possible that the Palestinians planted charges in a place where civilians often spend their time." Annan said he would send a representative on his behalf to the region to investigate the Palestinian claims that an Israeli shell killed the family on the beach. (Albawaba-Jordan)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Does Not Target Innocents, Will Defend Its People from Terrorist Rockets - Herb Keinon
    The Foreign Ministry is instructing its representatives to stress the following points: The Israeli Army is a cautious, professional, accurate, and ethical organization. Israel does not target innocents, yet must fight terrorists who willingly shield themselves behind their own population in their ongoing campaign to kill and maim Israeli civilians. These terrorists also manipulate and exploit the suffering they cause their own people in order to achieve fleeting advantages in their propaganda war against Israel and its legitimacy.
        Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza last August, more than 500 terrorist rockets have fallen on Israeli civilian targets, including kindergartens, schools, homes, and factories. Daily life in those Israeli towns within rocket range has been turned upside-down, streets are deserted, factories have closed down, schools have been shut, and children have been traumatized beyond measure. The government of Israel bears the responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens, and to defend its territory and population from terrorist threats. Every other government would, in similar circumstances, act in a similar manner. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Olmert: "1967 Borders Are Indefensible" - Gil Hoffman
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke before the British Parliament on Tuesday and said that Israel "would never agree to pull out of all of the West Bank to pre-1967 borders because those borders are indefensible." He then referred to the infighting between rival Palestinian factions, and asked, "Do you think these guys...are ready in our lifetime to engage in a serious political dialogue?" (Jerusalem Post)
  • Security Guard Shot Near Jerusalem - Etgar Lefkovits
    An Israeli security guard overseeing the construction of the separation barrier was shot and moderately wounded Tuesday near the Atarot checkpoint just north of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Big (and Never-Ending) Lie - Melanie Phillips
    It is now clear that Israel was not responsible for the killing of the Palestinian family on the beach in Gaza last weekend. Shrapnel removed from the wounded Palestinians turned out not to be Israeli ordinance; there was no blast crater of the kind that would have been expected following a shell landing, while the evidence at the scene suggested instead a mine exploding from below; and all the shells fired from the Israeli gunboat had been fired significantly earlier than the disaster on the beach. This was the incident, remember, that Hamas used as an excuse for its announcement that the "truce" with Israel was now over.
        Meanwhile, more than 100 missiles have been fired at Israeli towns from Gaza since the weekend. The Palestinians are using their own people as human shields by firing from densely populated areas, thus making it impossible for Israel to take out these firing sites without civilian casualties. The bombardment of Israel, however, has been all but ignored by the UK media. The same media eagerly regurgitates Palestinian lies and libels to demonize Israel. No country on earth would be expected to put up with such a bombardment of its citizens. (
  • Welcome to the Bazaar - Warren Christopher
    There are lessons from our 1979-81 negotiations over the Iranian hostage crisis, in which I was chief negotiator, that can inform our efforts in 2006. First, we must be sure we are talking with the right people. At the moment, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is riding high. But he may not be as powerful as he seems. Ultimate authority remains with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and we have not heard from Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former two-term president and now chairman of the Expediency Council.
        Second, our negotiators should prepare themselves for "bazaar behavior." With the Iranians, the negotiating style is likely to resemble that of a Middle Eastern marketplace, with outlandish demands, feints at abandoning the process, and haggling over minor details up to the very last moment.
        Third, if the new package of incentives does not persuade the Iranians to suspend their enrichment program, which was Washington's condition for joining the talks, I believe sanctions can play a valuable role. The writer, Secretary of State from 1993 to 1997, is co-chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy. (New York Times)
  • Israel Does Not Need Palestinian Recognition - Yehuda Avner
    On the first day of his premiership in 1977, Menachem Begin was asked by the BBC whether he looked forward to a time when the Palestinians would recognize Israel. "I don't need Palestinian recognition for my right to exist," he replied. Later that day he told the Knesset, "Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist?"
        "We were granted our right to exist by the God of our fathers at the glimmer of the dawn of human civilization four thousand years ago. Hence, the Jewish people have an historic, eternal, and inalienable right to exist in this land, Eretz Yisrael, the land of our forefathers. We need nobody's recognition in asserting this inalienable right. And for this inalienable right, which has been sanctified in Jewish blood from generation to generation, we have paid a price unexampled in the annals of nations." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Abbas' Comeback Plan Is a Dead End - Aaron David Miller (Los Angeles Times)

    • If you had a headache, even a migraine, would you shoot yourself in the head to get rid of it? That's precisely what PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is doing in his current gambit to corner Hamas by forcing a referendum on the future of the two-state solution. If he succeeds, it will not help his cause, but it will undermine his credibility and set the Palestinian national movement back twenty years.
    • The problem is that the document that Abbas sees as the vehicle of his deliverance will only muddy the clarity of his own stand against terrorism and for negotiations - the very positions that make him credible with Israel and the U.S. The document endorses armed resistance in the West Bank and Gaza, urges Palestinians to free prisoners by any means, and gives preeminence to the Palestinian right of return.
    • The fact that it may represent an advance over Hamas' maximalist goals cannot hide the fact that it is a serious retreat from Fatah's more moderate objectives. Indeed, it reopens vital questions about Israel's right to exist and about Palestinian endorsement of terrorism and violence that should have been laid to rest by now.
    • Abbas risks locking himself into positions that raise serious doubts about his own moderate intentions and could formally link him to prospective partners and committees (the document calls for the creation of a committee to direct resistance in the occupied territories) that will undermine his own approach toward negotiations.
    • Abbas' approach may play well in the Palestinian Peoria, but it will do little to advance his case in Washington and Jerusalem. In the end, his success or failure will be determined by his capacity to create a process that replaces the occupation with statehood - something that can only be achieved with Israeli and American support.

      The writer, a former senior State Department Middle East negotiator, is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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