Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with the Fairness Project
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

February 17, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Al Qaeda Planned Strike Against Jewish Target in Germany - Desmond Butler and Don Van Natta, Jr. (New York Times)
    Early last April, while German intelligence agents eavesdropped, one of Europe's most powerful terrorists had a cryptic phone conversation with an associate, ordering him to begin preparations for a spectacular strike against a Jewish target somewhere in Germany.
    The attack should be planned for "a big square where a lot of people gather," said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
    Shadi Abdullah, a 26-year-old Jordanian, was on the other end of the phone. Since his arrest on April 2, Abdullah has provided intelligence authorities with a wealth of information about Qaeda operations in Europe and elsewhere.


Arafat Funding Terror, Intelligence Shows - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Yasser Arafat acts like a "super treasurer" in allocating funds for the Fatah groups and activists dealing with terror, making it difficult for Palestinian Finance Minister Salem Fayyad to introduce reforms, according to a recent Israeli intelligence report.
    Recently the PA's financial situation has improved considerably, says the report. Since the beginning of the year Israel has transferred NIS 530 million to Fayyad, from the PA's tax funds collected by the Israeli treasury. These funds were added to the aid the PA received from Arab countries and Europe, and enabled the PA to pay its workers' wages earlier than expected.
    [However, with the renewal of revenue transfers from the Israeli treasury to the PA, the Palestinians will be informed of a reduction in the support they have received in the past as compensation for the freezing of these funds, and the Palestinians are likely to lose the generous "bridging funds" donated by the EU.] (Ha'aretz)
    Israel conditioned transfer of funds on having U.S. accountants supervise the PA budget, to make sure the money is not used to finance terror activities. But, the report says, Fayyad is having trouble asserting his authority over the PA's financial system and Arafat remains in control.
    Arafat persists in giving orders to the PA treasury to finance Fatah activities, including terror infrastructures, and is using the money to strengthen his position.
    Fayyad's relations with the PA security chiefs are tense, following his attempt to regulate the payment of salaries to their people. He wanted them to get their salaries via their bank accounts, but the security heads, who want to retain control of the payments, objected.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Rice Calls Security Council's Actions "Appeasement" - Karen DeYoung
    National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday, "Any time you have a situation in which you are calling for more time rather than calling for Iraq to immediately comply" with UN disarmament resolutions, "it plays into the hands" of Hussein. "We need to remind everybody that tyrants don't respond to any kind of appeasement," she said.
        Senior administration officials have said that the U.S., along with Britain, is drafting a new resolution for submission to the council this week that is likely to set specific disarmament tasks that Iraq must complete before the next council briefing from UN weapons inspectors on March 1. Assuming that Iraq will not satisfactorily comply, officials have indicated that President Bush will then be prepared to make a war decision, with or without council agreement. (Washington Post)
  • Swedes Say Iraq Made Anthrax Query
    The Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm requested information about anthrax from the Swedish foreign ministry last year, a Swedish official said Sunday. "We had a query from Iraq in October about how to decontaminate anthrax and how to best protect yourself against anthrax," foreign ministry spokesman Jan Janonius said. On Saturday, a Finnish newspaper reported that Finland had a similar query from the Iraqi embassy in Helsinki in October. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Bin Laden's Son, al Qaeda Terrorists Spotted in Iran - Bill Gertz
    U.S. intelligence agencies say Osama bin Laden's oldest son, Sad, a key leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network, was spotted in Iran last month, along with other senior al Qaeda terrorists. Sad, 23, is the oldest of bin Laden's 27 children from several wives. He lived with his father in Sudan and Afghanistan, and fled Afghanistan in December 2001. CIA Director George Tenet said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that "we see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq." (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF Tank Crew Killed in Gaza Bomb Blast - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Four IDF soldiers were killed Saturday when their tank drove over a 100-kilo explosive device in the northern Gaza Strip. They are Staff Sergeant Itay Mizrachi, 21, from Beersheva; Staff Sergeant Alexi Balicky, 21, from Rishon Letzion; Sergeant Noam Bahagon, 21, from Elkana; and Staff Sergeant Doron Cohen, 21, from Rishon Letzion. (IDF/Ha'aretz)
  • 6 Palestinians Killed Preparing Bomb for Air Attack - Margot Dudkevitch
    Six Palestinians affiliated with Hamas were killed and two wounded when a powerful explosion rocked their home in the Zeitoun neighborhood south of Gaza city on Sunday. According to reports, the six were planning to pack an unmanned drone with explosives that they planned to blow up inside Israel.
        Outside of Nablus on Sunday soldiers from the engineering corps stopped a car for inspection at a roadblock and discovered a 15-kilogram belt of explosives hidden inside a can of paint. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Explosion was Bobbytrapped Drone - Amos Harel
    According to Hamas, the six were killed when a pilotless drone they had planned to use to carry out attacks against the IDF blew up. Palestinian sources said the six had purchased the drone not long ago and that it had apparently come with a bomb hidden inside. Sunday, the six were standing in a courtyard as the drone carried out a test flight overhead when the bomb exploded. Army sources said that Hamas first showed an interest in pilotless drones, both as a means of collecting intelligence and as a means of carrying out attacks, about a year ago. (Ha'aretz)
  • Defense Chiefs Put Emergency Orders on Hold - Amos Harel and Gideon Alon
    The defense establishment Sunday decided to postpone issuing civil defense orders to the population, concluding that the latest report by UN weapons inspectors will delay the expected U.S. attack on Iraq by at least two weeks. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz predicted the Americans would succeed in neutralizing Iraq's ability to threaten Israel within a relatively short time. The "defensive envelope" protecting Israel's citizens was currently superior to that of any other country in the world, he concluded. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Doubts Arafat is Sincere about Appointment of a PM
    Israeli intelligence officials are dubious of Yasser Arafat's decision to accept a prime minister. Senior defense sources believe a large gap exists between Arafat's statement and his willingness to carry it out. Arafat will postpone it as long as possible, they say. Only someone with a strong standing among the Palestinian public could be a counterbalance to Arafat, the sources say, and it is safe to assume Arafat will do everything possible to place a weak person dependent on himself in the post. Western diplomats said the Quartet of peace brokers had urged Arafat to give them a timetable by Monday for naming a prime minister and want the appointment made before any U.S. war on Iraq. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Doubts Arafat's PM Can Bring Change - Janine Zacharia, Herb Keinon, and Khaled Abu Toameh
    The U.S. doubts that a prime minister appointed by Yasser Arafat could govern effectively and independently of him, unless the Palestinian Legislative Council drafts a constitution granting the new appointee adequate authority. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Will Arafat Step Aside? - Massimo Calabresi and Matt Rees (Time)
  • Israeli Delegation to London for Meetings on PA Reforms
    An Israeli delegation is leaving Monday for London to attend two separate meetings: one of countries contributing to the Palestinian Authority, and the other a task force meeting to promote reforms in the PA. A meeting of the Quartet representatives will also take place this week in London to discuss President George Bush's roadmap. (Ha'aretz)
  • Government Approves Plan to Bring 20,000 Falashmura to Israel - Mazal Mualem
    The Israeli cabinet Sunday approved Interior Minister Eli Yishai's plan to immediately bring some 20,000 Falashmura from Ethiopia to Israel. The Falashmura are Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, while maintaining some Jewish traditions. In recent years, some 18,000 Falashmura have left homes in outlying regions of Ethiopia in anticipation of moving to Israel, and have rented mud huts near two compounds run by immigration activists in Addis Ababa, and in the northern city of Gondar. Itzik Sudri, a Shas spokesman, said Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had ruled that the Falashmura had converted to Christianity because of fear. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Looking at the Enemy as a Liberator - John F. Burns
    Every day, a flood of battered cars and buses arrives in Amman, bearing migrants from Iraq. Many are men of military age seeking to escape being drafted into Saddam Hussein's battalions. The message from Iraqis who fled Iraq is this: the conflict should be short. American bombs and missiles should fall on Hussein's palaces and Republican Guards and secret police headquarters, not on civilians. Care should be taken not to obliterate the bridges and power stations and water-pumping plants that were bombed in 1991. And America should know that it would become the enemy of all Iraqis - and Muslims - if it prolonged its military dominion in Iraq beyond the time necessary to dismantle the old regime. (New York Times)
  • The Iraqi People Have No Illusions about Saddam Hussein - Editorial
    Mr. Blair's central argument is that, if deterrence fails and military action becomes unavoidable, there will, of course, be a moral price to pay. Innocent people will die. Yet if the UN does nothing, there will be a moral price to pay for this inaction too. Since it came to power, Saddam's Baath Party is estimated by independent sources to have killed 5% of Iraq's population. (London Times)
  • Observations:

    The Cairo Meetings: Hamas Wants to Continue Attacks - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)

    • The 12 Palestinian factions are to resume their talks in Cairo but what's left to discuss? The Egyptians are pressing the Palestinians to continue the discussions and believe it is very important for them to reach a cease-fire with Israel before the outbreak of any war in Iraq.
    • Hamas leaders have hinted to Egypt they have in effect already halted their suicide attacks. It has been 2 1/2 months since the last Hamas suicide bombing. One Hamas activist explained that they undertook other actions, but not suicide bombings, which are now done by Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-associated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
    • Khaled Mashal, head of the political wing of the Hamas, argued in Cairo that the attacks, particularly the suicide bombings, gravely damage the Israelis, and are contributing to its social and economic disarray. If Hamas decides to stop them, it must receive something in return, and that something has to be as big as possible. Hamas should keep the attacks in reserve after the war in Iraq, when it will be able to up its demands.
    • Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, recently met with Prime Minister Sharon. According to Palestinian sources, Sharon told him that Israeli policy will no longer take into consideration cease-fire declarations, and Israel does not believe in plans like "Gaza First" or "Judea First." Instead, Israel will act according to what happens on the ground in the territories. If terrorists stop coming out of a certain area, like Tulkarm or Hebron, the IDF will pull out of those areas and cease its activities in them. But it will go back into any area from which terrorists manage to export activities. In other words, the Israeli government will implement a cease-fire in those places where the Palestinians cease their fire, irrespective of various announcements and Palestinian politics.
    • However, in one of the latest meetings of the Palestinian leadership, which dealt with the terror issue, PA Interior Minister Hani al Hassan, who is in charge of PA security forces, said he has been facing difficulties taking control over the attackers from Nablus and Jenin, and over the Qassam rocket and mortar cells in Gaza.


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