Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
If your email program has difficulty viewing this page, see web version.

DAILY ALERT

May 9, 2003

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Tel Aviv Bombing Trail Leads to Damascus Alon Ben-David (Jane's)
    Omar Khan Sharif, 27, who fled the scene of a Tel Aviv bombing after failing to activate another explosive-packed vest, "appears to be quite resourceful for someone planning to commit suicide and who had no getaway plan," a senior Israeli security source said.
    "After realizing that there was a malfunction in his explosive charge he immediately dropped the belt and while running away from the scene he managed to snatch a purse from a citizen, probably to obtain some cash."
    "This is the behavior of a well-trained person, rather than a naive ideologist, who managed to hide and escape in a foreign country," the source claimed.
    Israeli Intelligence sources allege that Sharif and Asif Mohammed Hanif, 21, who detonated his belt at the entrance to a Tel Aviv waterfront cafe, killing three Israelis, first met one another in Damascus.
    The men were met in Damascus by Hamas representatives, Israeli intelligence claims, but received training from another group, possibly Hizballah or al Qaeda.
    The Tel Aviv attack, if shown to have been planned and directed out of Damascus, comes at an inconvenient time for the Syrian government, which is trying to soothe damaged relations with the U.S.
    While Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that the Syrians have reported shutting down the offices of some terrorist organizations, Israeli intelligence sources have long argued that no such action has in fact been taken.

    See also Israel Sees Al Qaeda Link to British Bombers - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Two Britons who carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv were recruited to the Palestinian militant group Hamas by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, Israel's military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio on Wednesday.
    Israeli officials said Hanif and Sharif spent time in Syria before entering Israel via Jordan. From there, they entered Gaza, linked up with Hamas, and used their British passports to re-enter Israel and strike in Tel Aviv, officials said.
    According to the intelligence journal Jane's, the bombers carried a copy of the Koran that contained so-called "datasheets," refined plastic explosive rolled to resemble normal paper pages.


Syria and Jordan Suspected of Being Conduits for Iraqi Funds - Timothy L. O'Brien (New York Times)
    Treasury officials said this week that relatives of Mr. Hussein stole nearly $1 billion in currency from Iraq's central bank shortly before the war, and federal authorities and investigators are focusing on Syria and Jordan, which they say have long been conduits for government funds that Mr. Hussein moved secretly out of Iraq.


"Mrs. Anthrax" Capture "A Gift to Powell" by Syria - Richard Sale (UPI)
    U.S.-educated Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, popularly called "Mrs. Anthrax," was taken into custody Monday by U.S. forces in Baghdad, after Syrian authorities revealed her location to U.S. officials, a U.S. intelligence official said.
    "As a gift to Powell, as a gesture of good will, Syria's top leadership instructed Syrian intelligence to exfiltrate Mrs. Anthrax from Syria into Baghdad, after which her whereabouts were disclosed to U.S. officials."
    One reason for the sudden help may be an effort by Syria to compensate for its apparent lack of cooperation with the U.S. in closing the Damascus offices of Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are on Washington's list of foreign terrorist organizations.


Terrorists Target U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    Lebanese officials said on Wednesday that suspects detained for a series of bomb attacks on Western targets had also tried to kill the U.S. ambassador to the country.


Hizballah Computer Game Teaches Kids to Kill Israelis (AP/Ha'aretz)
    "Special Force," a new three-dimensional computer game on the Lebanese market, pits a guerrilla armed with a knife, a pistol, hand grenades, and a Kalashnikov assault rifle against Israelis operating from fortified positions in southern Lebanon protected by land mines, a Merkava tank, and an Apache helicopter.
    "It's great," said Karim Arab, a Lebanese 10-year-old, as he pounded at an IDF outpost before his "guerrillas" prepared to storm it. He said he liked being able to shoot at Israelis, "which I cannot do in real life."


Honor Killings Among Palestinians - James Emery (Frontpage Magazine)
    In the feudal, patriarchal societies of the Middle East, honor is based on what men feel is important, and reputation is everything.
    Unfortunately, thousands of women have been killed in the name of honor because imagination and rumors are as important as actions and events.
    Honor killings occur for a variety of offenses, including allegations of premarital or extramarital sex, refusing an arranged marriage, attempting to obtain a divorce, or simply talking with a man.
    There are at least 25 "official" honor killings a year among the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 35 a year in Jordan. The actual number of deaths is much higher, as hundreds of women have died from strange and unusual accidents or questionable suicides.


How Did the Patriot Perform? - Duncan Lennox (Jane's)
    Iraq launched 18 missiles at coalition forces between 20 March and 4 April.
    The U.S. Army states that 13 were short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) or large surface-to-surface unguided rockets. The remaining five were probably cruise missiles.
    Of the 13 ballistic missiles and rockets launched, nine were successfully intercepted by a mix of older Patriot Advanced Capability 2 (PAC-2) missiles and newer PAC-3 missiles.
    Of the remaining Iraqi missiles, three were not intercepted, since they were going towards empty desert or the sea, and one exploded at launch.
    It is believed that the majority of these Iraqi missiles were Ababil-100 (or Al Fatah) and Al Samoud 1/2 ballistic missiles fired at ranges of between 100 and 150km.


Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues


News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Israel Ready to Resume Talks with Syria
    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Israel TV Thursday that he was prepared to resume peace talks with Syria, as long as Syria did not set conditions. "We will bring our demands, and they will bring their demands, and we will discuss the issues," he said. "I am prepared to conduct negotiations with all Arab countries with no prior conditions," he said. "The two sides must sit across the table from each other." Syria has said it would only resume talks at the point where they last broke off three years ago. At that time, Israeli had proposed concessions on the Golan Heights.
        Sharon confirmed that he had received messages from Assad in recent weeks, offering to resume talks, but felt the offer was a Syrian ploy to ease U.S. pressure on Damascus and decided to wait "a few weeks." He noted that Syria is under intense U.S. pressure over charges that it harbored members of the deposed Iraqi regime and has large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and Assad may have been using the offer as a way to placate the Americans.
        Sharon said he had met the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, "many times, including in this house," referring to Sharon's farm in southern Israel. He said Abbas was a Palestinian leader who had concluded that violence against Israel was fruitless and said he could be "a partner" for peace talks. Abbas has called violent Palestinian acts a mistake. Israel demands that all violence cease before negotiations resume, but Sharon has said that a meeting between himself and Abbas is being planned. Sharon said Israel would not cease attacks on militants until they had been reined in by the Palestinian Authority. (AP/ABC News)
  • Congress Putting Conditions on Palestinian State
    The House International Relations Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to support establishing a Palestinian state only if the Palestinians end anti-Israel incitement, dismantle terrorist groups, ensure democracy, and change the education system to promote the acceptance of Israel. If the Palestinians manage to clear those hurdles, the measure authorizes a large U.S. aid program for the new state and calls on the secretary of state to organize an international donors conference to encourage other governments to help. "Success will be determined by performance, not statements," said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Cal.), author of the measure. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Bush Sees Mideast Free-Trade Zone
    President Bush will call for the Arab nations of the Middle East, as well as Israel, to form a free-trade zone within a decade that would foster "peace and security" throughout the region. Mr. Bush will tie his free-trade proposal to the countries undertaking necessary reforms, such as fighting corruption and terrorism. The president believes that people of the Arab nations "deserve to be able to participate in the economic prosperity that has been experienced in many other parts of the world," an administration official said. (Washington Times)
  • Israeli Attack Kills Hamas Military Leader
    Two Israeli Apache helicopters fired at least three missiles Thursday at a car in Gaza City, killing Eyad al Bik, a leader of Izzedine al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, Palestinian security sources said. Israel security sources said al Bik was involved in initiating and planning a large number of attacks over the past two years, including suicide attacks inside Israel, that killed 19 Israeli civilians and soldiers and injured many more. In 1999, he was involved in an organization connected to al Qaeda members, Israeli security sources said. (CNN)
  • U.S. and Israel Agree: Security Calm Must Come Before Settlement Limit - Ori Nir
    According to Israeli diplomatic sources, Washington and Jerusalem have quietly agreed that any freeze on settlement activity will not come as an immediate response to Palestinian anti-terrorism measures, but only after a prolonged period of calm and after most first-phase road map requirements from the Palestinians have been fulfilled. "There is really no point in discussing a settlement freeze in any detail at the moment, because it is still premature," said a senior Israeli diplomat. First, he said, Israel and the U.S. want to see real security measures taken by Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen. Moreover, the diplomat said, even when such measures are taken, Israel will not reciprocate with a gradual freeze of settlement activity, as Palestinians have expected. Rather, it will offer an easing of military restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza.
        "In terms of symmetry and implementation of mutual obligations, the Israelis will respond with respect to their requirements to the degree that the Palestinians respond with respect to theirs," said Aaron Miller, a former State Department official who helped shape the road map. And, he said, the likelihood of the P.A. achieving a full cessation of violence is low.
        The internal Israeli political complications of freezing settlement activities were underlined last week, when nearly half the Knesset members from Prime Minister Sharon's Likud Party joined a parliamentary caucus dedicated to defending settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. (Forward)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Rocket Sderot, 2 Injured - Amos Harel
    Palestinians fired six Qassam rockets at Israel on Friday morning, with two of the rockets landing in the southern town of Sderot, home to about 20,000 people, injuring a woman and a young girl. (Ha'aretz)
  • New PA Information Minister: The Struggle Will Continue
    Nabil Amar, newly appointed by Abu Mazen as the PA Minister of Information, told the Islam Online chat forum on May 6, 2003: "I am convinced that Abu Mazen feels obligated to the political program approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, and that the Palestinian struggle will never cease as long as the occupation continues." "While sometimes it is necessary to switch from one means to another, all the forces and the government of the Palestinian people will never be silent until an independent state is established with Jerusalem as its capital and a fair solution is reached to the refugee problem on the basis of international legitimacy." (Tzamtzam News-Hebrew)
        Amar told Israel Radio on Friday: "Arafat is the elected president of the Palestinians. I advise the Americans to open a dialog with Arafat." (Israel Radio)
  • Arafat Names 58 Fatah Men to Key PA Posts
    Arafat recently appointed dozens of supporters to key positions in the Palestinian Authority, in a move that deepens the rift with newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah claimed Friday. The official claimed that Arafat made 58 such appointments in recent days, most within the Interior Ministry, in a move seen as a further attempt by Arafat to impede Mohammed Dahlan, who was given control of the Interior Ministry over Arafat's fierce objection. The official claimed that Abu Mazen and other cabinet members were outraged by Arafat's decisions, and called on him to revoke them immediately. They claim that the appointments contradict the Palestinian constitution, which empowers only the prime minister or his ministers to appoint high-level officials. (Itim/Ha'aretz)
  • Powell Unlikely to See Security Concessions - Herb Keinon
    U.S. Secretary of State Powell will be disappointed if he expects Israeli security gestures to the PA at this point, since Prime Minister Abu Mazen's new government has not yet begun fighting terror, a senior diplomatic official said Thursday. The official said Israel may be willing to take some steps to relieve the dire humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians during Powell's visit, but that measures such as lifting roadblocks or pulling back troops will have to wait until the PA has a credible security force in place both willing and able to fill the vacuum.
        Referring to Thursday's targeted killing of Hamas fugitive Iyad al-Bek in the Gaza Strip, the official said these types of actions remain necessary because the number of warnings of terror attacks is very high. Moreover, he said, over the last 30 months terror attacks have increased when Powell or other special U.S. envoys, such as Anthony Zinni, have come to try to mediate the conflict. He said preemptive actions will continue until the PA takes the steps that will render them unnecessary. Sharon, he said, is expected to tell Powell that Israel is asking from the PA the same thing that is being asked of Syria - an end to support for terrorism.
        He denied reports that Sharon is trying to stall implementation of the road map. "What should we do, pull out troops and wait for another suicide bombing? And then what?" "We are ready to deal with the Palestinians. A meeting with Abu Mazen is in the works, but it is not taking place because of Palestinian domestic considerations."
        Greece currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou is to arrive for a two-day visit on Monday and intends to meet with Arafat, as a result of which Sharon is unlikely to see him. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Car Bomber Attacks Tank - Amos Harel
    After a terrorist opened fire on an IDF foot patrol near Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip Thursday evening, soldiers returned fire and alerted a nearby tank. As soon as the tank arrived, a car driven by another terrorist suddenly came toward it and exploded about 10 meters from the tank, killing the driver. No soldiers were injured. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Arafat's in the Driver's Seat - Ehud Ya'ari
    Arafat was of course the loser in that he was obliged to "choose" Abu Mazen for the role of prime minister in the first place, and that he was forced to accept Dahlan as a cabinet minister. Still, he managed to plant a majority of his own loyalists in the government, and to demonstrate that Abu Mazen would not have a majority either in the Fatah institutions or in the Legislative Council unless "backed" by Arafat - thereby exposing Abu Mazen to the charge that he was anointed by foreigners, a consequence of massive American-European-Israeli pressure.
        Arafat has not been relegated to irrelevancy. He has been neither sidelined nor bypassed. He holds significant power within Abu Mazenís cabinet and, ironically, he will try to exploit the very apparatus built to neutralize him as a bridge by which to escape his isolation and regain international recognition. Every gesture made to Abu Mazen will require a parallel payment to Arafat. Any rope given to the prime minister will mean a little extra for the president. We will soon see how the new government turns into a less important body when it comes to political decision-making than the Fatah Central Committee, the PLO Executive Committee, and the other bodies of the PLO elders in which Arafat sits securely in the driving seat. Alongside all the hopes that the Abu Mazen-Dahlan government indeed represents a turning point, a fair measure of skepticism is in order as well. (Jerusalem Report)
  • Interview with Ehud Barak - Bret Stephens
    Abbas is a serious person, and Dahlan is a serious person. They are two of the few in the Palestinian Authority that said publicly more than once that the continued violence of the second intifada does not make sense from the Palestinian point of view, and that suicide bombing is not the right approach to deal with the Israelis. If they will not be able to make sure that they will have all the executive power and that Arafat is left only with a symbolic role, if they are not ready to crack down on Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and even on the Aksa Brigades of Fatah's terror organization, they will end up as failures. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How Iraq Can Get Over Its Past - Ian Buruma
    How can Iraqis make sure that brutes from the old regime don't poison the wells of post-Saddam Hussein politics? Some form of de-Baathification is clearly needed. Democracy depends on public trust; how can one talk of trust in the rule of law if it is administered by former torturers? Getting rid of the top leaders is the easy part. Saddam Hussein and his sons and their main satraps deserve their own Nuremberg. The difficulty begins with the middle ranks: the prison wardens, university professors, army officers and pen-pushers who carried out murderous orders. How far down the ranks do you go in purging them? Should they be punished, or simply removed from public office? (New York Times)
  • "Old Europe" Feels Business Impact of Opposing War - Andreas Tzortzis
    Fears among French and German companies that the antiwar stance taken by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroder would cost them business have come true - at least in the first round of contracts awarded by USAID. All of the initial money the government development agency will give out in primary contracts for immediate postwar reconstruction has gone or will go to U.S. companies. Up to now, only two foreign firms - both of them British - have been brought on, as subcontractors. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • U.S. Hawks Eye Unlikely Allies on Iran
    Donald Rumsfeld has said he does not do diplomacy. But some of the neo-conservatives in the Pentagon, emboldened by victory in Iraq, are trying to construct an improbable alignment of interests to effect regime change in neighboring Iran. The Defense Department is trying to muster support both from exiled Iranian fighters of the People's Mujahideen Organization (MKO) and from Reza Pahlavi, son of the last Shah of Iran who ruthlessly suppressed the MKO before his own downfall. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Feeling Economically Isolated, Israeli Arabs Reach Out to Jews - Gil Sedan
    Two and a half years ago, days after the Palestinian intifada began, Israeli Arab residents of Umm el-Fahm rampaged at the entrance to town, assaulting drivers who appeared Jewish. Since then, some Israeli politicians have suggested that as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Umm el-Fahm should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for West Bank settlements that would be annexed to Israel. That set off alarm bells in the town. Though the strength of the Islamic Movement has made Umm el-Fahm nearly synonymous in recent years with anti-Israel radicalism, most residents - like the vast majority of Israelís 1.3 million Arab citizens - would prefer to be a minority in the Jewish state than to live under the Palestinian Authority. Thus, even though Israel's new security fence cuts them off from their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank, many Israeli Arabs welcomed it. Perhaps, they said, it means the government didnít really consider turning them over to the Palestinian Authority after all. (JTA)
  • U.S.-Israeli Coordination in the Iraq War - Aluf Benn
    During the war in Iraq, the senior American liaison officer to Israel, General Charles Simpson, kept the Israelis in the picture regarding allied operations in western Iraq meant to foil missile launches toward Israel. Israel provided the Americans with intelligence and pointed to suspicious locales worthy of examination. The IDF was very pleased with the information exchange and the feeling Israel could influence operations affecting its own security. Sharon got high grades from the Americans for his behavior preceding the war, in which he avoided blunt statements and threats against Iraq. (Ha'aretz)
  • Impact of Success in Iraq on Gulf States - Simon Henderson
    World oil supplies will increase as Iraq raises its oil production capacity to its full potential, which may amount to 5-6 million barrels per day. Cheap oil will boost the global economy, reduce Arab control of the oil market, and allow the U.S. to become less dependent on Saudi Arabia and better positioned to demand reforms from Middle Eastern regimes. The end of Saddam's regime will also reduce Russian and French influence in the region. Although the Saudis agreed to increase oil production, they were not as helpful as they could have been. The smaller Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have increased in power and may begin to resist Saudi dominance in the Gulf. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Weekend Features:

  • Pollster Critiques Jewish Groups' Marketing Methods - Melissa Radler
    A 50-page report by Republican Jewish pollster Frank Luntz, titled "Israel in the Age of Eminem" and commissioned by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, found that Jewish organizations' penchant for preachy, one-sided slogans, small print, text-heavy ads, second-rate work, and religiously-inspired messages have turned most Jewish youth away from the groups' pro-Israel message. Luntz said he found that most young Jews know little or nothing about Israel and Judaism, and their desire to learn more on these topics or travel to the Jewish state is limited. "The extent of explicit Jewish activity among many is visiting an online Jewish dating site," he noted.
        Among his recommendations were to clear the ads of clutter, such as text and lists of names; emphasize Israel's desire for peace, and appeal to the sophistication of Jewish youth through the use of irony, creativity, and relevance. Visuals and a prominently-displayed Web address are imperative, and the use of historical facts rather than interpretation is also recommended. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Filmmaker Caught in Tel Aviv Bombing Wants to Stay in Israel - Greg Myre
    Documentary filmmaker Jack Baxter was trying to avoid the relentless Middle East conflict and focus on young Israelis hanging out at their favorite seafront haunt, Mike's Place, where the live blues music and the dancing often last through the night. But on April 30, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance, killing 3 people and wounding more than 50, including Mr. Baxter, who was on the front patio, just a few paces from the blast. Baxter said from his hospital bed that he intended to persuade his wife, who is Jewish, to move with him to Israel. "Most of the stories out of here are about tragedy," said Baxter, who is Catholic and was born in the Bronx. "But I found a different side of Israel. I had a lot of laughs and met a lot of interesting people. I want to stay." (New York Times)
        See also "Mike's Place" Guard Talks for First Time - Daniel Ben-Tal
    Avi Taviv, security guard at Mike's Place at the time of last week's suicide bombing, is "an amazing guy. He was a hero long before this - he did the sort of things you can't talk about during his army service. He saved many lives in Lebanon," said London-born Mike's Place regular Tina Maia, 27, who was hospitalized for burns following the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Yatir Forest Expands Unexpectedly into the Desert
    A group of scientists headed by Prof. Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Department found that the Yatir forest, planted at the edge of the Negev Desert 35 years ago, is expanding at an unexpected rate. Forests in dry regions are considered to develop very slowly, if at all. However, the Yatir forest is growing at a relatively quick pace, and is even expanding further into the desert. The scientists hope their study will help identify new arable lands and counter desertification trends in vulnerable regions. (Weizmann Institute/EurekAlert)
  • Observations:

    The Roadblock on the Road Map - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

    • As long as Yasser Arafat wields power, there can and will be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In 2000 the most dovish Israeli government in history presented Arafat with the most generous offer the Palestinians have gotten from anyone - a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank, with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Arafat, intent on getting land without peace, responded by starting a now 31-month-old bloodbath.
    • Abu Mazen is not yet in control. And he may never be. The consistent and principled American policy had been that the road map and the push to statehood would occur only when a Palestinian government dedicated to real reform and real peace replaced the violent and corrupt Arafat regime. That has not occurred.
    • The Bush administration can pretend that Abu Mazen is really in control and, without control of the security apparatus, he is somehow going to stop the violence. But that would be a precise repetition of the disaster of the Oslo "peace process," in which the U.S. willfully and repeatedly ignored the realities on the ground - Arafat's corruption, incitement, and support of terrorism - until all hell broke loose in September 2000, and it could pretend no more.
    • The shunning of Arafat by the Bush administration helped bring Abu Mazen out of nowhere. To relax that shunning now, to reward the Palestinians by demanding Israeli concessions, and by encouraging negotiations while the violence continues with the support and cooperation of Arafat, will do nothing but strengthen Arafat and doom any chance for a real transfer of power.
    • It is diplomatic suicide to stop the Palestinian reform process now by proceeding along the road map as if Arafat didn't exist, when he is in fact still pulling levers. And triggers.


    To subscribe to the Daily Alert, click here to send a blank email message.
    To unsubscribe, click here to send a blank email message.