Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at
Via Smartphone
May 16, 2011

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Egyptian Police Fire Tear Gas, Live Ammunition at Protesters outside Israel Embassy (AP-Washington Post)
    Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and live ammunition Sunday to disperse thousands of protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
    A security official said at least 240 people were hurt, mostly from smoke inhalation but some also sustained bullet wounds.
    See also Egypt Blocks Sinai Access to Halt Gaza March (AFP)
    Egyptian authorities on Friday blocked access to the Sinai peninsula to prevent a march from Cairo to Gaza.
    See also Jordan Stops Demonstrators from Reaching Israel Border (DPA-Ha'aretz)
    On Sunday Jordanian police used force to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who tried to reach the King Hussein Crossing on the Jordan River to mark Nakba Day, the official Petra news agency reported.

Report: Splits in the Syrian Army - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    On the Lebanese side of the border with Syria, hundreds of people, most of them Syrians who had fled the fighting at home, watched the battle raging just a few hundred yards away between Syrian troops and unspecified assailants who, the Syrians said, represented "the people," who were attacking a Syrian army post.
    Many of the Syrians watching the fight said Sunni Syrian soldiers had defected that morning and turned against the minority Alawite regime.
    Hundreds of Syrians have flooded into Lebanon over the past two days. Many of the protesters who escaped Sunday said the Syrian army was in the process of splitting along sectarian lines, with Sunni troops joining the opposition against soldiers from the Alawite Shiite sect to which Assad and most members of his regime belong.

Border Protests Just Beginning - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    On Sunday, the IDF dealt with four simultaneous fronts - Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank.
    While all expectations were for violence in the West Bank, it turned out to be the quietest of the four.

Israel to Renew Tax Transfer to PA - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz confirmed on Sunday that he would renew the transfer of millions of dollars in suspended tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
    "For the last 2 weeks, we gave the PA a yellow card," he said, "but we decided to renew the revenue transfers after we got confirmation from the Palestinians that no money will be transferred to Hamas or to terrorist operations."

Hamas in Gaza: "End Zionist Project in Palestine" (AP-Ynet News)
    Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, told about 10,000 people at a Gaza City mosque Sunday that this year Palestinians mark the occasion of the 1948 war over Israel's creation "with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine."

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use/Privacy 

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Arab Protesters Descend on Israeli Borders
    Thousands of Arab protesters marched on Israel's borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, in an annual Palestinian mourning ritual marking the anniversary of Israel's birth. At the Syrian frontier, thousands of people approached the border, throwing rocks and bottles at Israeli forces. When hundreds of people burst across the border fence into the Israeli-controlled town of Majdal Shams, surprised soldiers opened fire. Syrian forces did not intervene.
        At the Lebanese border near Maroun al-Ras, Israeli troops clashed with a large crowd of Lebanese demonstrators who approached the border. In Gaza, demonstrators were wounded as they tried to approach a heavily fortified border crossing into Israel.
        Inside Israel, an Arab truck driver in Tel Aviv plowed through a crowded street, killing one Israeli and injuring 16 others. Israeli police spokeswoman Sigal Toledo said the incident was "most likely" a terror attack. (AP-Fox News)
        See also IDF: Demonstrators Were Hit by Lebanese Army Gunfire - Hanan Greenberg
    Israel believes that the Lebanese civilians killed during the border skirmish were hit by Lebanese gunfire, not the IDF's. The IDF said that the Lebanese Army aggressively tried to stop civilians from reaching the border and did not hesitate to open fire. (Ynet News)
        See also 13 IDF Soldiers Hurt by Rocks Hurled by Protestors (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Israel Sees "Fingerprints of Iran" on Border Riots
    IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Sunday, "I see fingerprints of Iranian provocation and an attempt to use Nakba day to create conflict."  (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Syrians Defy Week of Crackdown - Nour Malas
    Thousands of Syrians protested in cities across the country Friday in defiance of the government's broadest and harshest week of crackdowns yet. Six people were killed by gunfire, in spite of an apparent order by President Bashar al-Assad's government to show restraint toward protesters. At least 45 people have been killed over the past week. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Residents Fleeing Syrian Town Tell of Arrests, Terror (Washington Post)
        See also Syria's Sluggish Economy Adds to Regime's Troubles (Wall Street Journal)
  • America's Chief Middle East Envoy Resigns - Steven Lee Myers
    Former Sen. George Mitchell, 77, is resigning as the chief U.S. envoy to the Israelis and Palestinians amid growing frustration over the impasse in peace talks, the White House announced Friday. President Obama appointed Mitchell on his second day in office in January 2009, but despite more than two years of shuttle diplomacy, the two sides appear further apart today than at any time in years. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed his deputy, David Hale, to take over as acting envoy.
        Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval said Mitchell had "made a major effort to try to move peace between Israel and the Palestinians" and deserved gratitude. "But at the end of the day, his efforts were undermined by the Palestinians' refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations."  (New York Times)
        See also Obama's Foreign Policy Speech Won't Focus on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Laura Meckler
    President Obama's major policy address on the Mideast Thursday won't include an extensive section on peace negotiations, and the president doesn't intend the address as a launching pad for a new round of talks, a senior administration official said. Rather, the speech will focus on the Arab Spring uprisings. Mr. Obama sits down at the White House on Tuesday with King Abdullah of Jordan and on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu Responds to Events on Borders
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday: "Thousands of people gathered today on the border between Syria and Israel in Majdal Shams. Some broke down the fence and penetrated the Israeli side. Similar attempts were also along our border with Gaza and Lebanon. I have instructed the IDF to act with maximum restraint but to stop the penetration into our borders. We hope the calm and quiet will return soon, but let no one be mistaken, we are determined to protect our borders and our sovereignty.
        It is important to note that events are taking place on the day that marks the establishment of the State of Israel. As the leaders of these violent demonstrations themselves profess, their struggle is not about the '67 lines but to challenge the very existence of Israel, that they term a 'disaster' that should be corrected. It is important that we face reality with our eyes wide open and know with whom we are dealing and what we are facing."  (Prime Minister's Office-IMRA)
  • Syrian Regime Distracts Masses with Incident at Israel Border - Ron Ben-Yishai
    In my experience, you cannot go near the Syrian side of the border without Damascus' written permission. The presence of dozens of buses, shuttling Palestinians from what is known as the "refugee camps" near Damascus, also suggests that Sunday's infiltration incident was premeditated. Hundreds of people rushed the border fence and dozens effectively destroyed parts of it. These people knew that if they did anything not to the regime's liking they would be held accountable. Rami Makhlouf, Syrian President Bashar Assad's cousin, was quoted several days ago by the New York Times as saying that "if there is instability in Syria, there will be instability in Israel."
        IDF assessments made several weeks ago suggested that there was a chance the Syrian regime would try to "export" the unrest with the aim of turning the masses' rage and attention away from Damascus. There is no doubt that the "Nakba Day" events are a prelude to what might await come September, after the PA's UN bid for statehood. (Ynet News)
        See also Bashar Soprano of Syria - Lenny Ben David
    The Assad regime was clearly behind Sunday's incursion into Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights. The gathering of hundreds of "demonstrators" could only have been organized by Assad's government in collusion with Hamas, headquartered in Damascus. No gathering of more than five people is tolerated in Syria, not to mention the busing of hundreds across a country under martial law. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Abbas vs. Obama - Steven J. Rosen
    Having sidelined Barack Obama's peace initiative by refusing to return to the negotiations table without a priori Israeli concessions, the Palestinian leadership seeks to secure an international declaration of statehood at the next UN General Assembly session in September 2011. This "date certain" strategy, whereby its entitlement to a state will be fulfilled by the world powers, has long been preferred by the Palestinian leadership to any arduous, bilateral negotiation with Israel, which would require painful concessions.
        If Obama does veto a statehood resolution that has wide international support, he will be under pressure to offset this with fresh gestures toward the Palestinians. Obama's dilemma is that, either way, the refusal to negotiate will be rewarded. And negotiation of the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis will still be nowhere in sight. The writer served for 23 years as a senior official of AIPAC. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • The Palestinians Don't Want a State - Sever Plocker
    At this time, the Palestinian political and social elites don't want a state. They very much want to see an end to Israel's occupation, but they understand that upon the establishment of their state they will have to forever give up the land beyond its borders. They realize that founding a state will automatically bury the "right of return." They understand that economically and geopolitically they will depend on the goodwill of neighboring states.
        Arab states too do not truly want the Palestinians to soon have a tiny nation-state with an unstable regime; a state that is geographically split and threatens the current order. Had they wanted such state, it would have been established long ago. In the democratization wave currently sweeping the Arab street, some 95% of democracy protestors make no mention of Palestine. They truly don't care. (Ynet News)

U.S. Shift to Mideast Crisis Management - Robert Danin (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • Senator George Mitchell's resignation as the Obama administration's Middle East envoy makes formal what was clear for some time - the president's goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by September is unattainable and negotiations are not about to resume any time soon.
  • With unrest and violence raging throughout the Middle East, Palestinians focused domestically on a Fatah-Hamas unity deal, and efforts afoot to gain full membership for Palestine as a state at the United Nations in September, the president's stated goal of a peace treaty by September 2011 is well beyond the horizon.
  • Now, Washington faces the looming challenges of a Palestinian government that it may not be able to talk to and a potential diplomatic crisis in September that could spark renewed violence on the ground.

    The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Unsubscribe from Daily Alert