Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

May 16, 2003

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

PA Pays Salaries of Aksa Brigades Members - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Members of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades - the armed wing of Fatah - have begun receiving salaries of $200 per month from the new Palestinian Authority cabinet.


Romanian Intelligence Thwarted Iraqi Plots to Attack Israelis (Jerusalem Post)
    Romania's intelligence service said Thursday it thwarted terrorist attacks planned by Iraq against Western and Israeli interests in Romania.
    Ion Stan, a senior lawmaker who chairs a parliament committee overseeing the intelligence service, said the U.S. and Israeli embassies were among the targets.
    The terrorist attacks were to be carried out with AG-7 grenade launchers provided by the head of the espionage office of the Iraqi Embassy in Bucharest.
    Romanian authorities reacted at the time by declaring 10 Iraqi diplomats and 31 other people as persona non grata, expelling them or barring others from entering the country.
    Documents found in Iraq's espionage headquarters after the war confirmed the information obtained by the Romanian intelligence service.


Lebanon Says It Foiled Terror Plot (CBS News)
    Lebanon has arrested seven Lebanese and two Palestinians suspected of planning to attack the U.S. Embassy and kidnap cabinet ministers, a senior Lebanese security officer said Thursday.
    The network planned to attack security and military centers in Lebanon and to kidnap government officials to bargain for the release of their detained comrades.


U.S. Investigating Al Qaeda Link in Iran - John Walcott (Philadelphia Inquirer)
    U.S. intelligence officials said several al Qaeda leaders - including Saif al-Adel, who is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and who might now be the group's third-ranking official, and Osama bin Laden's son Saad - had found refuge in Iran, where they remain active.
    Several times recently, one U.S. official said, Osama bin Laden expressed frustration to his lieutenants in Iran that al Qaeda had struck no significant blows as the U.S. invaded Iraq.


Incitement Kills - Caroline B. Glick (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said in an interview last week:
    "Two guys with Pakistani origins who have nothing to do with us are so full of hatred that they are willing to commit suicide in order to kill Jews."
    " This makes it abundantly clear how destructive the incitement campaign in Muslim lands against Israel and the Jewish people really is."


Comparing Israel in the Territories to France in Algeria - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    When he was foreign minister, Binyamin Netanyahu noted that the Europeans equated Israel's presence in the territories to France's colonialization of Algeria, forgetting that Israel's ties to Judea and Samaria go a bit deeper than France's 100-year connection to Algeria; that the Algerians never claimed Paris as their capital; and they certainly were never committed to wiping France off the map.


Soldiers Repatriated to Iraq Recall Torture in Iran Camps - William Booth (Boston Globe)
    The last 59 Iraqi soldiers to be held in Iran, out of 60,000 captured in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, have just returned to Baghdad after having been imprisoned for more than two decades without communication with the outside world.


Useful Reference:

Political Cartoons on the Israel-Palestinian Conflict (Slate/MSN)


Key Links

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Five Requests to Saudis Went Unheeded, U.S. Says
    In the month before Monday's bombings in Riyadh, the U.S. asked Saudi Arabia on at least five separate occasions to deploy armed uniformed government guards around all Western targets of a possible terrorist attack, Bush administration officials said Thursday. Yet Saudi authorities did nothing to augment security at any of the sites, the administration officials said.
        Administration officials said they were speaking out in order to prompt the Saudis to cooperate more closely in the investigation into the attack and other possible terrorist plots. American concerns about other attacks, possibly in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, had surged in recent days. (New York Times)
        See also Did the Saudis Do Enough to Prevent Attack?
    Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef is widely regarded as one of the most powerful members of the Saudi royal family as a result of his 28-year-long reign over the Saudi security apparatus. His forces at times have shown no compunction about cracking down on internal dissidents and religious minorities, including engaging in arbitrary arrests, torture, and beheadings. But Nayef's willingness to move forcefully against al Qaeda and others linked to the group has been erratic, in part out of a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that the terrorist organization even has a presence in the kingdom. (MSNBC)
  • U.S. Expects More Strikes by Al Qaeda
    The al Qaeda terrorist network, its leadership severely weakened by 19 months of counterterrorism operations, is seeking to prove that it is still viable by launching more attacks on U.S. interests abroad to capitalize on Monday's strikes in Saudi Arabia, intelligence and terrorism officials said yesterday. Some plans being detected by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies appear to have been in the works for months, if not longer, but are being brought to fruition quickly, they said. "They would like to do them all at the same time and have the whole world go up," one U.S. terrorism official said. "This is a very bad patch." U.S. counterterrorism experts are especially worried about the possibility of attacks against Americans and U.S. interests in Kenya and other parts of East Africa. (Washington Post)
  • At One Saudi Compound, Design, Luck Kept Blast Casualties Low
    Unlike the two other Riyadh gated communities hit by terror blasts Monday night, the suicide bombers could not get past the gate at Jedawal and instead exploded their GMC covered pickup truck outside the facility. The blast killed two men in the truck and three associates standing outside with grenades strapped to their waists. The attackers also killed two security guards as they approached the gate. But no residents died. Jedawal is the fanciest of the three compounds, designed for people employed by companies such as Lockheed or Boeing that work with the Saudi air force. The facility has four towers manned by air force personnel with automatic weapons. And it has two layers of gates - 200 yards apart - the second layer including heavy steel gates with electronic locks. Five attackers shot the guards and lifted the first gate, a simple barrier operated by hand. But the noise from the attack alerted guards at the next gate. Using a code, they locked the electronically controlled metal gate - five inches of hollow steel - thereby blocking the second entrance. (Washington Post)
  • Nighttime Tank Charge Into Gaza Powder Keg
    Lt. Col. Ron, commander of an IDF special forces battalion who also received training at Fort Benning, Ga., leads some of the army's more delicate missions in Gaza. "It's important just to hit the terrorists, not the civilians," he said before the raid. "Most of the time we succeed. But the terrorists sometimes use the women and children as human shields, and it makes our job very difficult." Israeli officials say that with Mr. Abbas still failing to act to stop the violence, they have no choice but to carry out raids such as this one, aimed at preventing Palestinian rocket fire. In Beit Hanun, in the northeast corner of Gaza, the militant Hamas movement used the lush orange groves there for cover when launching homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot. "We want the people to understand that if they let the terrorists operate from their neighborhoods, we will be there," Ron said.
        At 3 a.m., the column of armored vehicles encircled two houses the IDF said belonged to Hamas members accused of involvement in the rocket fire, and prepared to blow them up. Speaking in Arabic, a soldier on a megaphone told residents to get out of the two houses, as well as those nearby. But Beit Hanun, like many Palestinian communities, is awash in weapons, and the call was greeted almost immediately with bursts of gunfire from elsewhere in the neighborhood, prompting shooting exchanges that lasted 15 minutes. Palestinians also hurled grenades and set off two roadside bombs, the Israelis said. As the shooting died down, small bands of soldiers slipped into the two homes and the neighboring ones to confirm that they had been evacuated and to plant explosives. (New York Times)
  • Rice: Verify that Syria Has No WMD
    Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security advisor, told reporters on Wednesday, "Syrian weapons of mass destruction programs have to be accounted for, and Syria should stand up and renounce those and make it possible to verify that they have given up any aspirations to weapons of mass destruction." The U.S.-Syrian relationship "is, frankly, a very difficult relationship and it is not one that is likely to improve without some major changes in Syrian behavior." (U.S. State Department)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • "Arafat Continues to Instruct His People to Conduct Attacks" - Ben Caspit (top front page headline)
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will leave Sunday morning for the U.S. where he will meet President Bush and the heads of the American administration. Prior to that, on Saturday night, Sharon will meet with Abu Mazen for a "meeting on mutual demands." Amidst this, a senior officer of the IDF stated, "Arafat gives explicit instructions to conduct terrorist attacks and to escalate the situation on the ground." (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Waqf Head: Non-Muslims Not Welcome on Temple Mount - Uri Ash
    Non-Muslims are not welcome on the Temple Mount, the director of the Waqf (Muslim religious trust) said Thursday in response to a comment made Wednesday by Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, that the area would soon be opened to Jews for visits and prayer. The Waqf has denied non-Muslims access to the Mount since September 2000. Hanegbi said the government has no plans to alter the status quo with respect to the Temple Mount, but rather to return the situation to what it was prior to September 2000. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians' Failure to Quell Terror Forces Israel to Act - Margot Dudkevitch
    Israel had hoped to see changes on the ground and witness Palestinian security officials cracking down on the terrorist organizations and thwarting attacks against Israel. So far nothing has changed and despite the new cabinet, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat continues to remain in control, holding all the strings, handing down instructions to his cohorts in Fatah, and advising them when to escalate resistance operations against Israel. Terrorist elements on the ground perceive Arafat's orders as a green light to continue with their strategy of using violence as a means to gain their political aspirations. The recent escalation against Israeli communities and IDF positions in the Gaza Strip is also because the hard-core terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have opted to continue resistance against Israel, believing that Abbas's call to halt violence will lead to their downfall and humiliation. The Palestinians' failure to quell the terror has forced Israel to take the initiative and operate intensively to thwart terrorist activities under extremely complex conditions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanon Renews Pumping from Jordan River Tributary - David Rudge
    Lebanon has reportedly reactivated the Wazzani pumping station after repairing flood damage caused by heavy winter rains. The pumps are once again taking water from the spring that feeds the Hatzbani River, one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Jewish State Means a Jewish Majority - Shimon Peres
    For the "road map" to avoid becoming moribund even before it has had a chance of turning into a green light for the peace process, issues that have little chance of being resolved - such as the Palestinian "right of return" - must be removed from the road map agenda. Israel's position on this issue is unequivocal and backed by the whole of the Israeli political spectrum. If millions of Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to Israel, it will endanger the very foundations of a Jewish state. A Jewish state means a Jewish majority. And Israel will not commit political suicide.
        The Palestinian government must without delay put into effect a plan to dismantle and disarm the various armed militias operating on the ground and consolidate matters of security under its sole authority. Unless this course of action is enforced, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will dictate the Palestinian agenda and foil its attempts to advance peace. A country disjointed by splintered authority cannot survive. Fighting terror is not a gift that the Palestinians are offering Israel. A terrorist - or even semi-terrorist - Palestinian state has no chance of seeing the light of day. But Israel must also fight the motives for terror. The Palestinian people will commit themselves fully to fighting terror only when it becomes clear to them that an end to terror will yield greater dividends than allowing it to continue. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Saudis and the Roadmap - Dore Gold
    Secretary Powell has made the Quartet roadmap the centerpiece of his Middle East policy. Yet the roadmap specifically demands that all Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, halt any support for Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups during its first phase of implementation. It would be untenable to have Israel pull back from positions around Palestinian cities, while the Saudis write checks to Hamas so that it replenishes its stocks of weaponry and renews attacks on Israel at a later date. (National Review)
  • The Real Saudi Arabia - Stephen Schwartz
    Among clerical hatemongers, Ayed al-Qarni, an adviser to Prince Abdel Aziz bin Fahd, the youngest son of King Fahd, stands out. Al-Qarni wrote a poem, repeatedly broadcast on Saudi media during the Iraq intervention, in which he declared, "Slaughter the enemy infidels and say there is but one God." This lyric was supplemented by an interview in the Future of Islam - a monthly issued by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth - for April 2003. Therein, al-Qarni proudly affirmed that he prays daily for America's destruction, and incited Saudis to cross the border to fight in Iraq, and to give money to support Saddam. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mideast Peace Depends on Arafat Ouster - Michael Mandelbaum
    The endlessly debated question of whether Sharon is genuinely committed to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state is beside the point. Polls show that a large majority of Israelis would like to end the conflict with the Palestinians, are willing to allow the establishment of such a state and would relinquish territory now controlled by Israel to make this possible if the Palestinians are, for their part, ready to accept and live peacefully beside Israel. What, then, will persuade the Israeli public that the Palestinians are prepared to end the conflict? A serious effort to put a stop to terror against Israel is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. The end of Arafat's almost 40-year reign as the Palestinian leader will also be required. Arafat is an unacceptable Palestinian leader to Israelis because he has used his position, despite the solemn commitment to peace that he made in the Oslo accords of 1993, to wage war against Israel. (Newsday)
  • An Alternative Regional Future - Moshe Arens
    During the past year, the IDF has brought about a very substantial reduction in acts of terrorism. Letting the Palestinians complete the job may at first seem like an attractive option, until we remember that this has been tried before with disastrous results. Although the thought may cause heartburn in Amman, it should be remembered that Jordan is a Palestinian state in everything but name; that Judea and Samaria were annexed by Jordan after 1948 and remained an integral part of Jordan until the Six-Day War; and that Jordanian citizenship was bestowed on the population there. Establishing a second Palestinian state may not be the only alternative regional future. By including the Palestinians in Jordan and with Jordan being the partner for negotiations, it would certainly be easier to resolve problems such as border location and the status of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Roadmap to Hell - Melanie Phillips
    The big issue is that Israel has not accepted the road-map, which all right-thinking people praise, and is therefore the main obstacle to peace. Israel is having to perform to a script penned by Kafka. It extends a tentative hand to people who persistently murder its citizens. As a result, still more Israelis get murdered. The international community fails to hold the Palestinian perpetrators to account and instead blames Israel for not accepting the road-map. Er...isnít the road-map's very first requirement that the Palestinians "immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence"? The Palestinians regard the whole of Israel as occupied territory to be liberated. Their maps, their schoolbooks, their insignia - from flags to lapel buttons - draw the whole of Israel as Palestine. They want the Jews out. (Spectator-UK)

    Weekend Features:

  • The Postwar Arab Blues - Charles Paul Freund
    An Arabic dance track called "Longing Brought You to Me" hit Number 1 for the sixth consecutive week on the Beirut-based Top 20. What makes its continued success noteworthy is that the woman who performs it, a Kuwaiti singer named Nawal, recently took an interesting political risk. Even as nearly every other popular Arab singer was still bewailing U.S. "aggression" against the Iraqi people, Nawal publicly congratulated Iraqis on getting rid of Saddam, breaking with the pan-Arabist line on the war which had totally subsumed the region's pop culture, while not paying any price in popularity - suggesting that the region's long-rigid ideological binds may be loosening. (Reason)
  • Bad Reporting in Baghdad - Jonathan Foreman
    The intensity of the population's pro-American enthusiasm in Baghdad is astonishing, and it continues unabated. But instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans. Well, I've met hundreds of Iraqis during the past two weeks and I've never encountered any such fury. The women old and young flirt outrageously with GIs, lifting their veils to smile, waving from high windows, and shyly calling hello from half-opened doors. In addition, the museum looting is turning out to have been grotesquely exaggerated. (Weekly Standard)
  • Who Wants to Be a Martyr? - Scott Atran
    As logical as the poverty-breeds-terrorism argument may seem, study after study shows that suicide attackers and their supporters are rarely ignorant or impoverished. Nasra Hassan, a Pakistani relief worker, interviewed nearly 250 aspiring Palestinian suicide bombers and their recruiters. "None were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded or depressed," she reported in 2001. Officials with the Army Defense Intelligence Agency who have interrogated Saudi-born members of al Qaeda being detained at Guantanamo Bay say that among these fundamentalists, especially those in leadership positions, a surprising number have graduate degrees and come from high-status families. Suicide attackers do not opt for paradise out of despair. (New York Times)
  • Jordan Breathes Sigh of Relief After Iraq War - Alan Sipress
    Senior Jordanian officials say they have been vindicated for quietly supporting the U.S. military campaign in Iraq despite widespread opposition in Jordan. With passions over the conflict ebbing, the king has decided to proceed with parliamentary elections on June 17. Senior officials said the country's position has been enhanced because Jordan no longer has to fear a bullying Iraqi government. Yet they are concerned that Shiite Muslim clerics could take power in Baghdad, fueling the fortunes of Jordan's own Islamic militants. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    The Fall of the House of Saud - Robert Baer (Atlantic Monthly)

    • I served for twenty-one years with the CIA's Directorate of Operations in the Middle East, and during all my years there I accepted on faith my government's easy assumption that the money the House of Saud was dumping into weaponry and national security meant that the family's armed forces and bodyguards could keep its members - and their oil - safe.
    • If I had to pick a single moment when the House of Saud truly began to fall apart, it would be when Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's son Fahd, who has been king since 1982, suffered a near fatal stroke in 1995. Abdul Aziz, the youngest of Fahd's children, was the apple of his father's eye. What really worried some members of his family was that Abdul Aziz was funding radical Wahhabi causes and was gaining strength and popularity as a result. They had little doubt that money was going to clerics and causes that were associated with Osama bin Laden. Abdul Aziz hadn't rediscovered his faith, of course: he was courting favor with the Wahhabis because he knew he would need their support to become king.
    • The kingdom's mosque schools have become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Recent attacks in Bali, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kenya, and the United States, not to mention those against U.S. military personnel within Saudi Arabia, all point back to these schools - and to the House of Saud itself, which, terrified at the prospect of a militant uprising against it, shovels protection money at the fundamentalists and tries to divert their attention abroad.
    • The U.S. had known since 1994 that the Saudis were supporting Pakistan's nuclear development program, ultimately contributing upwards of a billion dollars. More recently, because Saudi law does not allow foreign agencies to directly question Saudi citizens, the FBI has not been allowed to interview Saudi suspects, including the families of the fifteen Saudi hijackers, about the 9/11 attacks.
    • Signs of impending disaster are everywhere, but the House of Saud has chosen to pray that the moment of reckoning will not come soon - and the U.S. has chosen to look away. So nothing changes: the royal family continues to exhaust the Saudi treasury, buying more and more arms and funneling more and more "charity" money to the jihadists, all in a desperate and self-destructive effort to protect itself.


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