Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 20, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Palestinians Reject Two-State Solution, Gazans Favor Fatah (Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies/An-Najah University-PA)
    58% of Palestinians reject the creation of two states on the historic land of Palestine (a Palestinian state and Israel), compared with 40% who support such a proposal, according to a poll conducted on 15-17 May 2008.
    "If new Palestinian Legislative Council elections are conducted, whom would you vote for?" In Gaza: Fatah 44%, Hamas 22%. In West Bank: Fatah 26%, Hamas 13%.

Palestinian Victims of Hamas Swear Revenge - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
    Fatah man Shadi Bakr Ahmad and his 14 comrades in rehabilitation have barely six legs left between them, after being mutilated by their Hamas rivals during the violent takeover of power last June.
    All have unfinished business: they want to get back on their makeshift feet soon to hunt down the men who maimed them.
    "I know the man who did this to me and it is now my life's ambition to do the same to him," says another victim of the violence, Abu Mohammed, as he lays paralyzed in a hospital in Ramallah.
    See also "Militia-Cams" Record Gaza's Gruesome Reality - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
    A popular pastime in Gaza is swapping gruesome footage of dead or dying victims of the Strip's incessant violence.
    The images used to be almost exclusive legacies of clashes with Israeli forces, but last year that changed. Now they are snapshots of Palestinian fratricide, gruesome images taken by "militia-cams" that record scenes for posterity.
    Sit in a town square for more than five minutes and you'll be quickly encircled by youths clamoring to outdo each other with images of death and mayhem on their mobile phones.

Hamas to Censor Internet Sites in Gaza (DPA)
    The Telecommunications Ministry of the Hamas-run government in Gaza will start blocking websites deemed unfit according to Islamic rules, Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab al-Hussain said Sunday.

Saudi Shiite Activist Arrested (AFP/Peninsula-Qatar)
    Ahmad Turki al-Saab, an activist from Saudi Arabia's minority Ismaili community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has been arrested after seeking the removal of the governor of the Ismaili stronghold of Najran.
    Saab had signed a petition to King Abdullah demanding the sacking of Najran's governor, Prince Mishaal bin Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, who is suspected of encouraging the settlement of Sunni Yemenis in the region, which borders Yemen.
    Najran Ismailis have long complained that lands are being seized in the region and used to settle Yemeni tribesmen who are granted Saudi citizenship.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • France Discloses Contacts with Hamas - Molly Moore
    France has had contacts with the leaders of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas "for several months," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday. In an interview with Europe 1 radio, Kouchner said Hamas still does not recognize the State of Israel but is "more flexible than before" on the subject. Historically, Hamas has called for Israel's elimination.
        In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We don't believe it is helpful to the process of bringing peace to the region." The U.S. and EU consider Hamas a terrorist organization. (Washington Post)
  • Ahmadinejad Draws Fire from Iranian Shiite Clerics - Nazila Fathi
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad is increasingly drawing fire from Shiite clerics who accuse him of using religion to distract attention from his government's failure to deliver on promises of prosperity and political freedoms. Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast nationally this month that Imam Mahdi - the 12th imam who Shiite faithful believe will one day emerge from 1,000 years in hiding to save mankind - supported the day-to-day workings of his government.
        That was too much for senior clerics, who contend that they alone are qualified to speak on the topic. A senior conservative cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, warned him weeks ago not to talk about Imam Mahdi and said that even the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, did not claim any links with the imam. (New York Times)
  • Syrian Military Delegation Arrives in Moscow
    Syrian military officials arrived in Moscow on Monday to discuss bilateral military and technical cooperation, said Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky, a Russian Air Force spokesman. Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported that Moscow and Damascus had agreed on deliveries of the latest Russian MiG-29SMT fighter. Syria also bought 36 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems from Russia, and hopes to receive Strelets short-range air defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft, and two Amur-1650 submarines. Israel and the U.S. are sensitive about Russian-Syrian military and technical cooperation, fearing not only a reinforcement of Syria's armed forces, but also the possibility that modern weapons could fall into the hands of Hizbullah fighters and Iran, in violation of the existing international embargo. (Novosti-Russia)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Skeptical of Gaza Cease-Fire - Gil Hoffman and Yaakov Katz
    Israel is skeptical that a cease-fire with Hamas will be reached and the IDF is preparing for a large-scale military operation in Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said in recent closed-door meetings, adding that he is letting the process play out in order to show respect for the Egyptian leadership. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Cairo Is Key to Gaza Cease-Fire - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Israel is demanding that Egypt engage in thorough screening efforts deep within Egyptian territory in order to stop all those who travel to Iran, and particularly those who return from it, as well as the rocket launchers, explosives, and anti-aircraft rockets sent to Hamas by Iran. In the wake of the Philadelphi Route breach in January, Egypt managed to work effectively in Sinai to prevent the infiltration of armed Hamas men planning to carry out attacks. Now, Israel is demanding that Egypt prevent unarmed Hamas men who are traveling to Iran for training from passing through Egypt.
        Israeli security officials say that what matters is not what Hamas does or demands, but rather what Egypt does. President Mubarak will determine whether a lull in Gaza goes into effect or not, through the actions of his people on the ground. For Israel, the key lies with vigorous Egyptian activity that would cut Gaza off from the "bosses" in Tehran. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas: Truce Doesn't Mean End of "Resistance" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israel is mistaken if it thinks that a truce with Hamas would mean that "resistance operations" would end, Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said Monday. "As far as Hamas is concerned, all options remain open." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Bomber Killed at West Bank Checkpoint - Efrat Weiss
    A Palestinian carrying four pipe bombs was killed Monday at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus in the West Bank. Corporal Michal Ya'akov of the military police spotted four pipe bombs strapped to his body. "I identified the explosive devices and yelled 'bomb in the checkpoint' and cocked my rifle. Everyone aimed at the Palestinian's head and neck so as not to set off the explosives," she said. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Continue Rocket Fire at Israel
    Palestinian terrorists on Tuesday launched two Kassam rockets from Gaza at the Sderot area. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Silence on Lebanon Shows Israelis Can Only Count on Themselves - Nahum Barnea
    Should Israel need to defend itself, President Bush told the Knesset last week, 300 million Americans will stand by the seven million Israelis. Yet when, with almost no resistance, Lebanon fell into Hizbullah's hands, great, powerful America, which attached huge importance to Lebanon's independence and boasted of Syria's removal from there as its only Mideastern achievement, stood silent on the sidelines.
        In a different era, the Americans would send the Sixth Fleet to Beirut or bomb Hizbullah strongholds from the sea. But not now. America is tired and torn on the inside. It can only provide its protectorates in the Middle East with words. The lesson is simple, and dates back to the establishment of the state: We cannot count on anyone but ourselves. The 300 million Americans will only stand by us if we do the job ourselves. (Ynet News)
  • Israel's Policy Options: The Palestinian Channel - Shmuel Even
    In the Palestinian arena, in the foreseeable future there is no option of a political settlement that will benefit Israel. While it may be possible to reach a "shelf agreement" with the Abbas camp, the harm that such an agreement would inflict on Israel may be greater than the potential benefit. Negotiations with the Palestinians should be contingent on not foregoing assets that would harm Israel's position in talks over a permanent settlement in the future. For now, Israel can work to improve its relations with the Palestinians through security-economic understandings. Dr. Shmuel Even served for many years in the IDF's Intelligence Branch. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Self-Made Nakba - Barry Rubin
    It has become fashionable to match the celebration of Israel's founding with Palestinians' marking of their 1948 "nakba," or catastrophe. Yet whose fault is it that they didn't use those six decades constructively? And who killed the independent Palestinian state alongside Israel that was part of the partition plan? Answer: The Arab states and Palestinian leadership themselves. In rejecting partition, in demanding everything and starting a war it could not win, the Arab side ensured endless conflict, the Palestinian refugee issue, and no Palestine. Yet 60 years later, the Arab side has the hutzpa to complain - and a good part of the Western media echo - that they were Israel's victims in 1948. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Don't Depend on Outsiders for a Settlement of Mideast Dispute - Shlomo Avineri (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

    • Looking back at 60 years of American involvement in the region, one can discern two scenarios in which the U.S. can bring the local players to an agreement. Absent these conditions, the U.S. is ultimately powerless.
    • The first scenario is when a real war threatens to spill over into a wider conflict. At such times, resolute American steps can stop the fighting and impose a cease-fire.
    • The other scenario is when the two sides have already engaged in bilateral peace talks and reached agreement on most issues. In such cases, America can step in and, by using both carrot and stick, make both sides go the extra mile.
    • When either of these two scenarios is lacking, American initiatives are stillborn. The U.S. is extremely successful as a fire brigade or as a midwife, but not as an initiator.
    • At the end of the day, the key is in the hands of the local players. No national conflict has ever been solved by outside powers, however well intentioned they may be.

      The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry.

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