Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Poll: Palestinians Reject Two-State Solution, Gazans Favor Fatah (Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies/An-Najah University-PA)
Palestinian Victims of Hamas Swear Revenge - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
Hamas to Censor Internet Sites in Gaza (DPA)
Saudi Shiite Activist Arrested (AFP/Peninsula-Qatar)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
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)
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 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 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)
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)
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):
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)
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)
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)
Don't Depend on Outsiders for a Settlement of Mideast Dispute - Shlomo Avineri (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
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