Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 3, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Police Murdered Israeli in West Bank on Nov. 19 - Yuval Azoulay and Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Defense Forces has arrested the Palestinians believed responsible for the shooting incident in which Ido Zoldan, 29, was killed on Nov. 19 in the West Bank. Zoldan, a resident of Shavei Shomron, was driving toward Karnei Shomron when gunmen in a passing vehicle opened fire, critically wounding him.
    According to information released for publication Sunday, the attack was carried out by three Palestinians, members of the Palestinian National Security force. Two are brothers, Dafer and Abdullah Birham, members of Fatah and serving in National Security in Ramallah.
    The two said Fadi Jama', also in the National Security force, gave them the weapons they used in the attack.

Unpaid Bills, Not Israeli Policy, Creating Gaza Gas Lines - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Gas stations in Gaza have closed one after the other in recent days. According to the Association of Gas Stations in Gaza, Dor Energy - the Israeli fuel supplier - has cut its fuel supply by nearly 75% in recent days due to unpaid bills.

Hamas Boycotts Palestinian Census (AFP/Yahoo)
    Hamas blocked the launch in Gaza on Saturday of a census by the PA, the head of the Palestinian statistics office, Loai Shabana, said in Ramallah. In contrast, the census did begin in the West Bank.

Palestinian Opens Fire at Soldiers at Jerusalem Checkpoint, Wounds Palestinian Bystander - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    A young Palestinian man opened fire at soldiers at the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem on Sunday. He managed to fire two shots before his pistol jammed and IDF forces overtook him.
    One Palestinian who was waiting at the checkpoint was lightly wounded in the attack.

EU Trains Women for Palestinian Police - Dalia Nammari (AP)
    The first class of 45 Palestinian policewomen to complete a new EU-sponsored training program graduated Sunday to serve in a role still largely frowned upon in conservative Palestinian society.
    As the new graduates marched across the academy's parade ground in Jericho, many of the women wore Islamic headscarves under their police berets.

Nasdaq Partners with Tel Aviv Stock Exchange - Laurie Kulikowski (
    Nasdaq has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange under which the two exchanges will "develop the channels of communication" between their respective markets and facilitate the trading of listed stocks.
    Nasdaq currently has 70 Israeli companies publicly listed on the exchange.
    See also Investing in Israel (MSN Video)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Pushes Nuclear Talks Back to Square One - Elaine Sciolino
    In a sign that Iran has hardened its position on its nuclear program, its new nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said in talks in London on Friday that all proposals made in past negotiations were irrelevant and that further discussion of a curb on Iran's uranium enrichment was unnecessary, senior officials briefed on the meeting said. Representatives of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany met in Paris on Saturday to discuss further punitive Security Council measures against Iran after the London talks failed to produce a breakthrough.
        The London meeting was the first time that Jalili, a close ally of President Ahmadinejad, had led negotiations on the Iranian side. The first hour and a half of the meeting was described as a monologue, with Jalili speaking about the will of the Iranian people to support uranium enrichment, theology, God, and even his doctoral thesis. "Jalili said, 'Everything in the past is past, and with me, you start over,'" an official said. "He said, 'None of your proposals has any standing.'" (New York Times)
  • Israel Releases 429 Palestinian Prisoners to Help Abbas - Oren Alt
    Israel on Monday began releasing 429 Palestinian prisoners in a gesture meant to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas. (AP/Washington Post)
        The released prisoners signed a declaration committing to refrain from terror activities. Including the prisoners released on Monday, about 770 Palestinians will have been freed since July. (Ha'aretz)
  • No Agreement on Follow-Up Conference in Moscow
    State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday:
    Q: What is your current understanding of this idea for the next conference being in Russia?
    McCormack: "Foreign Minister Lavrov made a gracious offer to host a future international conference in Moscow....I don't think any of the parties are quite there yet. I think we're at the point of discussing it. It's an interesting concept. But the point of Annapolis isn't to just have another conference." (State Department)
  • Palestinian Authority to Request $5.5 Billion in Aid
    PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will ask donors at a Paris conference, scheduled for December 17, to provide $5.5 billion in aid over three years, Palestinian officials said on Sunday. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Suspects Pakistan Nukes Ended in Syria - Nicholas Kralev and Andrew Salmon
    The U.S. is concerned that centrifuges sold to North Korea by Pakistan in the 1990s may have been passed on to Syria or another country, current and former U.S. officials said Thursday. Pakistan has acknowledged that scientist A.Q. Khan sold North Korea the centrifuges, but Pyongyang has told U.S. officials that it does not possess the centrifuges. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Mortar Attack on Infirmary Wounds Four IDF Soldiers - Efrat Weiss
    Four soldiers were injured Sunday evening when a mortar fired by Palestinians in Gaza hit an infirmary in an IDF base adjoining Kibbutz Nahal Oz, next to Gaza. At least 15 mortars were fired on Sunday from Gaza toward Israel. On Sunday night and Monday morning, five Palestinian gunmen were killed in two separate IDF actions: two who were trying to launch a mortar shell into Israel and three armed men attempting to reach the border fence. (Ynet News)
  • Olmert: No Commitment to a Specific Timetable for Negotiations - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the cabinet on Sunday that there was no Israeli commitment at Annapolis to any timetable. "An effort will be made to hold accelerated negotiations in the hope that it will be possible to conclude them in 2008," Olmert said. "However, there is no commitment to a specific timetable regarding these negotiations."
        Livni, who headed the Israeli negotiating team that worked out the joint understandings at Annapolis, said, "We want to negotiate...the start of negotiations is in our interest, and we want to finish it as quickly as possible. But we did not commit ourselves to a timetable that would bring with it indirect international pressure on Israel." Livni said, "It was important to create a distinction, whereby the track will now be bilateral, without any direct intervention from the international community." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Withdraws Draft on Mideast at UN - Colum Lynch
    On Thursday evening, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, had all but persuaded the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution endorsing the agreement Israelis and Palestinians struck in Annapolis last week to work toward a political settlement before the end of 2008. But Friday, the Bush administration abruptly withdrew the text, while Israeli diplomats reiterated their decades-long opposition to a UN role in Middle East negotiations. (Washington Post)
  • Olmert: Israel Must Assure Security for Its Citizens, Even If This Requires Considerable Time
    At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Olmert said: "Ahead of and during the Annapolis meeting, Israel insisted on several principles, the goal of which was to create the conditions for the success of the entire process. The most significant condition is that the implementation of the agreement will be conditional on the implementation of the first stage of the Roadmap, including the Palestinians' war on terrorism and the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructures in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Israel has thus made the entire process subject to the most important thing for its citizens - security. Whoever wants peace, and we very much want it, must assure the security component - even if this is difficult to achieve and even if it requires considerable time."
        "It is possible to draw great encouragement from the Annapolis meeting, both from its content and from the considerable participation by Arab countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. A window was opened at Annapolis, which could - in the end - lead to normalization between Israel and a series of moderate, peace-seeking Arab countries. After Annapolis, I am hopeful that these countries will - in the first stage - open interests sections in Israel and begin to have economic ties with us; I know that several of them are interested in this." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Middle East Peace Through Anxiety - Michael B. Oren
    Last week's multi-national summit meeting in Annapolis was about many things, the least of which was the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace. While Annapolis is unlikely to succeed in bridging the gaps between Israeli and Arab positions, it effectively drew lines in the sand between those nations siding with America and the West and those allied with Iran. As a rule, international conferences have never served as effective frameworks in the search for Middle Eastern peace. Peace treaties in the past were forged by strong statesmen - Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein.
        Yet Annapolis must be deemed a triumph - not of peacemaking, paradoxically, but of girding the region for conflict with a radical and relentlessly aggressive Iran. The Iranians reacted ferociously to Annapolis and Ahmadinejad pronounced it a "failure." But such rage merely betrays the anxiety induced by Annapolis in Tehran. For the first time a coalition of Western and modern Arab leaders has coalesced and declared its commitment to resist "extremism" in the Middle East - a well-known euphemism for Iran. (New York Times)
  • The Road from Annapolis - David Ignatius
    Rice began talking in January about a "realignment" in the Middle East that would bring together moderate Sunni Arab states to resist Iranian-backed radicalism. From the beginning, that approach included restarting an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For Rice, the Annapolis meeting was a group snapshot of this realignment. American officials viewed the positive speech by Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, as a break in the ice of U.S.-Syrian relations. U.S. officials credit Syria for reducing the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, and they are planning regular security meetings with the Syrians. (Washington Post)
        See also Signs of U.S.-Syria Thaw After Summit - Donna Abu-Nasr and Anne Gearan (AP)
        See also Syria Reassures Iran After Annapolis
    Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who represented Syria at the Annapolis peace conference, on Sunday reassured Iran that Syria's attendance at the conference would not harm relations between the two allies, the state news agency IRNA reported. (AFP)
  • Observations:

    Is Syria an Ally or Adversary of Radical Sunni Movements? - Eyal Zisser
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Bashar al-Assad is not respected or feared as was his father. People accept him in Syria not because of his character or his charisma - which is nonexistent - but because the average Syrian citizen sees no alternative.
    • Syria displays a bunker mentality. It sees itself as a small country, constantly under attack by foreigners and by neighboring countries, always the target of a conspiracy, like Cuba or North Korea, which have a similar bunker mentality.
    • American-Syrian relations were destroyed because of mistakes made by Bashar al-Assad. He destroyed Syria's close relations with the European Union, especially with France. He also destroyed the delicate relations his father built with the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and the Saudis. His father was smart enough to create this web of alliances that balanced each other. This doesn't exist anymore.
    • There is a debate in America about whether the U.S. should engage in a dialogue with Syria, but what Bashar wants from America is full capitulation, a total American withdrawal from Iraq. Bashar is not happy about the prospects for the emergence of a pro-Western regime in Iraq. There is also nothing to discuss with Bashar about Lebanon unless the Americans are ready to give Lebanon back to the Syrians.
    • We should be very realistic about what we can get from Syria. Syria is not about to become a close ally of the United States and part of what we call the moderate camp in the region. Syria is not Egypt, which is a big country with a long history and tradition, and which feels secure and sure of itself. This is why in the long run we can only get something very limited from Syria.

      Prof. Eyal Zisser, a leading expert on Syria, is the Head of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History and the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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