Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 12, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Where Israelis Live Under the Shadow of Death - Orly Halpern (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Palestinian rockets began flying from Gaza onto the nearby Israeli town of Sderot seven years ago, shortly before Bar Adam was born. Now, running for cover is a natural part of life for the little girl with curly brown hair.
    So when the city's rocket warning siren went off last week while Bar was playing outside, her mother, Galit, did not panic. "I knew my daughter would know what to do," Galit said as she cleaned up debris in her home.
    Their house was hit, but no one was injured.

Egyptian Goods Continue to Flow into Gaza (Maan News-PA)
    126 trucks loaded with goods bought from Egypt have been allowed to cross the border into Gaza, Hamas leader Ayman Taha said Monday.

Iran Envoy Defends Amputation - Fiona Govan (Telegraph-UK)
    During a speech in Madrid, Iran's ambassador to Spain, Seyed Davoud Salehi, compared chopping off the hands of thieves to a "surgeon amputating a limb to prevent the spread of gangrene."
    "Our laws allow for the amputation of the hand that steals. This is not accepted by the West, but the field of human rights should take into account the customs, traditions, [and] religion," the newspaper El Mundo reported.

Hamas TV Children Sing: "We Will Never Recognize Israel" - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch/IMRA)
    Hamas' Al-Aksa Television's children's show "Tomorrow's Pioneers" previously featured Farfur the mouse and Nahul the bee, both "martyred" by Israelis.
    On Feb. 8, the Hamas rabbit, named Assud (lion), boasted, "I, Assud, will finish off the Jews and eat them." The girl hostess agrees: "Allah Willing!"
    In the latest episode, we learn that Assud has come from Lebanon "in order to return to the homeland and liberate it."
    The program ends with singing: "We will never recognize Israel." And the hostess emphasizes: "until we liberate our homeland from the Zionist filth."
    View Video: Hamas Rabbit Wants to Eat Jews (Palestinian Media Watch/YouTube)

Spate of Motorcycle Deaths in Gaza after Border Breach (Maan News-PA)
    Hundreds of motorcycles were brought in from Egypt by Palestinian teenagers after the border breach in January.
    Abdel Salam Haniya, a traffic police officer, said that eight people have died and more than 70 others have been injured in recent days in motorcycle accidents.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Leaders in Hiding - Diaa Hadid
    Hamas leaders in Gaza turned off their cell phones, avoided public appearances and were sleeping in safe houses after Israel threatened Monday to target those responsible for Palestinian rocket attacks on border towns.
        On Monday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, "I believe the combination of (Israeli) steps against Hamas in Gaza will bring an end to the Hamas regime in Gaza." It might take a few months, but "the Hamas regime in Gaza will not last." Ramon also scaled back hopes for a peace treaty this year with moderate Palestinians, saying the goal now is a "declaration of principles."
        Also Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "I don't see the Palestinians giving Gaza back to Fatah....Outside developments might bring this about." Israel, which is negotiating a peace deal with Palestinians based in the West Bank, has made it clear it has no intention of implementing any accord until Hamas is removed from power in Gaza. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Rep. Tom Lantos, Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 80 - Adam Bernstein
    Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Cal.), whose experience as the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress shaped his strong support for human rights, died Monday of esophageal cancer. Lantos, born in Budapest to Hungarian Jews, served 14 terms in the House where he was senior Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was co-chairman and founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a group that highlights human rights violations around the world. In 2006, he was among several members of Congress willingly arrested for protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington to denounce the government's role in the killings in Darfur.
        During the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Lantos twice escaped from a forced labor camp. The second time, he found safety in a Budapest apartment rented by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Wearing a military cadet uniform, Lantos used his Aryan appearance - light hair and blue eyes - to deliver food and other supplies to Jews in other safe houses Wallenberg rented. (Washington Post)
        See also The Lantos Legacy - Editorial
    Tom Lantos had the aura of a statesman: wavy white hair and dignified old world bearing. But there was nothing restrained about the causes he took on in the name of human rights. Genocide in Sudan, repression in Burma, support for the Dalai Lama and pressure on Japan to apologize for sex slaves in World War II were among the issues that Lantos raised unabashedly. His example as a thoughtful and tough-minded statesman will endure. The U.S. Congress will miss a leader of his stature and principle. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Palestinians Ask U.S. to Intervene in Suits Over Terrorist Attacks - Glenn Kessler
    The State Department is considering supporting the Palestinian Authority in its quest to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments won by American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel. Palestinian officials have argued that it makes no sense for the U.S. to be providing millions of dollars in aid to the PA while U.S. courts are threatening to bankrupt it. Secretary of State Rice wrote 13 months ago that "the United States is not party to these enforcement proceedings." But in December, a U.S. federal judge asked the government whether it would get involved, creating the current dilemma for the administration.
        Victims said that a U.S. intervention with the courts would make a mockery of the administration's fight against terrorism. "If the State Department tips the scales of justice against the victims in order to support adjudicated terrorists, the war on terrorism will be seen throughout the world as a farce," said David J. Strachman, a Rhode Island lawyer who has spearheaded many of the lawsuits. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Weighs Major IDF Operation in Gaza - Yaakov Katz
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak has consistently referred to an inevitable large-scale IDF ground operation in Gaza. There are several reasons why the operation has yet to be launched. From a tactical point of view, it is wintertime and when there are clouds in the skies it is difficult to get the maximum out of the IAF's fighter jets, attack helicopters, and reconnaissance drones. Captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is another factor.
        The operation into Gaza will have two primary goals: First, to significantly weaken Hamas by destroying its terrorist infrastructure and removing it from governmental power. The second goal - which has proven more urgent in recent weeks with the collapse of the Gaza-Egypt border wall - calls for reoccupying the Philadelphi corridor, sealing it off, and preventing the smuggling of weapons or terrorists into Gaza. The idea will be to slice up the Gaza Strip into several sections and to begin cleansing them of terrorists and terror infrastructure. This, however, will not be an easy task since Hamas has had more than two and a half years to build up its military and prepare. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Palestinian Census - Smoke and Mirrors - Yoram Ettinger
    In contrast with the figures reported for the 2007 Palestinian census, the number of Arabs in the West Bank is 1.5 million, not 2.3 million, and the number of Gaza Arabs is 1.1 million, not 1.5 million. While the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics contends a 30% population growth during the last ten years, the World Bank documents a substantial erosion of the Palestinian fertility rate and a significant escalation of emigration. Israel's Border Police and European observers have documented net Palestinian emigration of 12,000 in 2004, 16,000 in 2005, and 25,000 in 2006, with expectation of a significant rise in 2007. The 1997-2003 average annual net emigration was over 10,000.
        The actual population west of the Jordan River - without Gaza - shows a Jewish majority of 67%, compared with a 33% Jewish minority in 1947, including Gaza. (Ynet News-Hebrew/IMRA)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel Monday evening that fell south of Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sderot as Stalingrad - Bradley Burston
    The longer the siege against the civilian population of Sderot continues, the more the Palestinians are seen more as aggressors and less as victims. Palestinian rocket fire has turned Sderot into a version of Stalingrad, whose stand against the Germans in World War II came to be viewed by many as the turning point in the war. The world is beginning to view the people of Sderot as true victims of brutality against civilians. The Kassam rockets have acted to delegitimize the Palestinians as a people capable of governing an independent state.
        The perceived message of the Kassam is: "We will drive you out of Sderot, and from Ashkelon after that, and out of all the kibbutzim that line the Israeli-Gaza border that were one of the strongest voices in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Land for peace is dead. Israel is dead. It's only a matter of time." (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza, Stripped - Dennis Ross
    The irony of Palestinians literally streaming out of Gaza was not lost on some Arab observers. In recent days, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed, the director of Al-Arabiya television, and Tariq Alhomayed, the editor of Asharq Alawsat, both drew attention to the failures of Hamas governance; the utter illogic of its rocket-firing policy, for which Palestinians pay a heavy price; and Hamas' terrible indifference to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.
        Egypt made commitments to Israel at the time of its withdrawal from Gaza on smuggling and the border that have not been fulfilled. Given that history, if Egypt now finds a way to allow Hamas to gain far more control over the border and acquiesces about Hamas being able to bring whoever and whatever it wants into Gaza, Israel will not only face a greater threat but also conclude that commitments made by others on security amount to little more than slogans. The writer is counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

  • Bush's Mideast U-Turn - Bassem Eid and Natan Sharansky (Wall Street Journal)

    • On June 24, 2002, President Bush presented his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. The real breakthrough of Bush's vision was not his call for a two-state solution or even the call for Palestinians to "choose leaders not compromised by terror." Rather, the breakthrough was in making peace conditional on a fundamental transformation of Palestinian society:
    • "I call upon [Palestinians] to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts....A Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism."
    • Bush's speech was supposed to shift the focus to where it should have always been: on helping Palestinians build a decent society that would protect the rights of their own people and promote peace with its neighbors. It was supposed to begin the hard work of helping Palestinians reconstruct their civil society, build a free economy, establish real courts, reform their security services, and revamp their educational system.
    • The current peacemaking round will prove disastrous because it ignores what is most important. Rather than begin the long and difficult process to transform Palestinian society and ultimately pave the road to peace, the administration has consistently supported quick and foolish solutions: from crafting a "road map" that only paid lip service to reform; to backing a unilateral disengagement that by its nature ignored Palestinian society; to pressing for snap elections that preceded rather than followed reform and thereby brought Hamas to power.
    • Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad have become the new "moderates" who need to be strengthened at all costs. Rather than establish a clear link between support for the PA and reform, and openly embrace the genuine Palestinian reformers who are the democratic world's true allies, Abbas is promised billions despite having done nothing. With the media entirely under his control, incitement continues and no one raises serious objections.
    • President Bush should spend his final year in office helping Palestinians begin the transformation of their society so that the vision he once spoke of so eloquently will have a chance to come to fruition some day. We have wasted too much time strengthening leaders and reaching for the moon. Let's start strengthening Palestinian society and begin a real peace process once and for all.

      Mr. Eid is executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Mr. Sharansky is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.

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