Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

December 25, 2003

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Mofaz Never Threatened Israeli Attack Against Iran (Defense Minister's Media Advisor/IMRA)
    On Sunday, Ha'aretz reported that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel was considering an operation to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities, leading to widely reported vows of retaliation by the Iranian defense minister.
    In a Dec. 15 interview in Persian on Israel Radio, in answer to a listener's question regarding Israel's response in case of an Iranian nuclear attack, the minister answered: "If God forbid, Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons and would threaten to use them against Israel, Israel will know how to defend its citizens."
    The defense minister did not mention the possibility of an Israeli attack against Iran.


Britain Denies Blair Christmas Greetings to Arafat (AFP/Times of India)
    Downing Street said Wednesday it was unaware of any warm Christmas greetings sent to Arafat by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
    The official Palestinian WAFA news agency said Blair, unlike U.S. President George Bush, had sent Arafat a Yuletide message that included the wish that Palestinians will "realize their hopes in establishing an independent Palestinian state."


Syrian Court Secretly Sentences Protesters (AP/Washington Post)
    The Human Rights Association in Syria said Tuesday that a military court had secretly tried 11 protesters detained after an April demonstration against the U.S. war in Iraq, sentencing them to three to four years in prison.


Saudi Women Find a New Ally: Muhammad's Wife - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    These are days of agitation in the desert kingdom, and perhaps no group is more determined to push the boundaries of change than the kingdom's well-educated and articulate women.
    "We are treated as daughters of a tribe, not as citizens," says Fowziyah Abukhalid, a sociologist at King Saud University.


Palestinian Kids Collect Terrorist Cards (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian children are collecting cards showing terrorists the way American kids trade baseball cards.
    The cards are an enormous hit, according to Majdi Taher, who said 6 million cards have been sold over two years.


Key Links

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Paris-L.A. Flights Canceled as U.S. Intensifies Anti-Terrorism Activity
    Air France canceled six flights between Paris and Los Angeles Wednesday out of fear of terrorist hijackings after the names of some passengers on at least two of the flights raised suspicions that they were connected to terrorists, a ranking U.S. official said. Intelligence gleaned from overseas electronic intercepts and other means points to California as the location of highest concern. (Washington Post)
  • Powell: "Syria Still Doesn't Get It"
    Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview Tuesday: Syria still doesn't get it that they have to abandon support of terrorist activity. They've got to return any Iraqi monies that they might have in their bank. [They] need to start getting rid of weapons of mass destruction programs, stop supporting terrorist activities which destabilize the region, and come out and start participating in the 21st century world.
        We have a plan for the [Palestinians and the Israelis], and the plan flows from the vision that the President gave to the world on 24 June of last year, where he said he wants to see a Palestinian state created. But it has to be a Palestinian state under the leadership of people who will no longer allow terrorist acts to emanate from that Palestinian state, and who want to live in peace with Israel and not try to destroy Israel, and it has to be a reformed leadership. We're looking for leaders who recognize that the day of terrorism is over and that they have to lead the Palestinian people in a new direction; and then, if they will select and bring forward those kinds of leaders to help protect them, then we can get the Israelis to respond in kind. (State Department)
        See also UK Plans to Pressure Syria on Weapons
    Britain is pressing to use the combined weight of the EU's "big three" countries (Britain, France, and Germany) to put pressure on Syria over weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and Iraq. The most obvious goal would be to persuade Syria, facing the threat of U.S. sanctions, to sign up to the chemical weapons convention. Britain and Germany have warned the European Commission that they want stronger language on WMD in the pending EU agreement with Syria. Syria is the last of 12 Arab and Mediterranean states yet to sign an "association agreement" with the EU. (Guardian-UK)
  • Iraq Christians Fear Muslim Extremism
    Christian Iraqis are alarmed by the new trend of Muslim religious extremism in Iraq, said a prominent Iraqi Christian on condition of anonymity. Iraqi Christians also complain they were not justly represented in the U.S.-backed Iraq Governing Council. Christians make up 5% of Iraq's 26-million population and belong mainly to the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Armenian branches. (UPI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Gaza Commander: Talk of Pullout Encourages Terrorists - Amos Harel
    There is a link between the recent rise in terror attacks in the territories and Israeli declarations about a unilateral withdrawal from settlements, according to Brig.-Gen. Gad Shamni, commander of IDF forces in Gaza. "We saw it in Lebanon, too," Shamni told Army Radio. "The moment you talk about withdrawal, it puts fresh wind into the sails of the organizations working against us." (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Destroys Massive Rafah Weapons Smuggling Tunnel - Amos Harel
    The IDF blew up an 800-meter tunnel Wednesday between the Rafah refugee camp and Egypt. The 15-meter-deep tunnel, which started under a house in Rafah that was also blown up, was used to smuggle a large quantity of weapons and wanted men. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Killed in Nablus Blast
    A car exploded in the center of Nablus Wednesday, killing at least one person. Palestinian sources said explosives carried in the car blew up prematurely. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No Celebration in Riyadh - Editorial
    In Saudi Arabia, "freedom of religion does not exist." That is the conclusion, once again, of the State Department's annual report on international religious freedom. Yet despite its detailed catalogue of Saudi abuses of religious liberty, the government still does not include the kingdom on its list of countries "of particular concern for religious liberty." Year after year, Saudi Arabia gets a pass. If the list is not to be a joke, Saudi Arabia ought to be on it until the day its many Christian residents can publicly celebrate Christmas without risking - as the report puts it - "arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for engaging in religious activity that attracts official attention." (Washington Post)
  • Bethlehem and Beyond - Hope and Fear in the Holy Land - Paul Marshall
    Bethlehem's Christians, gathered around the Church of the Nativity - one of Christianity's holiest sites - were shaken last year when 200 Palestinians, firing Kalashnikovs, knocked down the church doors to escape the Israelis. In the last three years, several thousand of Bethlehem's Christians, perhaps 5% of the population, have left. The draft Palestinian constitution says, "Islam is the official religion in Palestine," and makes the "principles of the Islamic sharia" a "main source for legislation." (National Review)
        See also Why Christians are Leaving Bethlehem - Ross Dunn (VOA)
  • Iran Made Great Gains from America's "War on Terrorism"
    Iran has made significant gains from the U.S.-led "war on terrorism," Asharq al-Awsat (London) editor Abdel-Rahman Rashed said Tuesday. This war has helped Tehran eliminate three of its staunchest enemies: namely the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and just recently the 4,000-strong Iranian opposition Mujahideen Khalq, disarmed and detained by U.S. forces in Iraq, Rashed said. (Beirut Daily Star)
  • Israeli Surgeon Blinded by Bomb After Healing Militants - Megan Goldin Israeli surgeon Shmuel Yurfest has saved the lives of many people, including an injured Palestinian suicide bomber and a militant bomb-maker whose severed hand he reattached in an intricate operation. But now the 48-year-old vascular surgeon is waging his own personal battle after being badly wounded in a Palestinian suicide bombing six months ago that left him virtually blind and deaf. (Reuters)
  • Fleischer Reflects on White House Years - Tom Tugend
    Ari Fleischer, 43, left the White House nearly six months ago after two intensive and high-profile years as President George Bush's press secretary and spokesman. In an interview last week, Fleischer said: "My Jewishness was never an issue. The White House staff is overwhelmingly Texan and Christian, but I found it a very comfortable place to work. Besides, I wasn't the only Jew. There was Josh Bolten, the number one policy person, Blake Gottesman, the president's personal aide who travels with him everywhere, and Brad Blakeman, the president's scheduling director." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Bush's Selective Hearing - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

    • The U.S. administration is cleaving to the road map as if it were scripture, even though it is well known that its chances for realization are negligible, and no one is lifting a finger to save it.
    • PA prime minister Qurei is not convincing in his seriousness and his ability to move forward, and is perceived as an insubstantial and useless figure.
    • According to one of the president's friends, Bush views the terror attacks, and not the settlements, as the main obstacle to peace.
    • Bush apparently also understands the security need for the separation fence, and is not moved by his aides' contentions regarding the suffering it is causing the Palestinians.


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