Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 12, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Terror Cells Regroup - and Now Their Target is Europe - Antony Barnett, Jason Burke, and Zoe Smith (Observer-UK)
    Previously seen as a relative backwater in the war on terror, Europe is now in the frontline.
"We keep taking them out. They keep coming at us. And every time they are coming at us harder," said one security expert.
    An investigation by The Observer has revealed the extent of the new networks that Islamic militants have been able to build in Europe since 11 September:
    Britain is still playing a central logistical role for the militants, with extremists regularly using the UK as a place to hide, and for fundraising, massive credit card fraud, the manufacture of false documents, planning, and recruitment.
    Islamic terror cells are spreading eastward into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
    Despite moves by the government there to crack down, Saudi Arabia remains the key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

    See also UK Police Arrest Man in Suicide Bomb Plan (Reuters/ABC News-Australia)
    British police arrested a man before Christmas who was suspected of preparing himself for a suicide bombing and who had links to al-Qaeda, according to the British newspaper Sunday Times.

    See also Swiss Police Arrest Eight in Saudi Bombing - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    In Switzerland's biggest operation against Islamic terrorism, police have arrested eight suspected accomplices in May's al-Qaeda car-bomb attack against expatriate housing compounds in Saudi Arabia.

Jordan Bars Israeli Fencing Team - Yoav Stern and Yoav Borovitz (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli fencing team will not be allowed to participate in the world fencing championship to take place in Aqaba on Wednesday, the head of the Jordanian fencing association has said.
    "If the Israelis take part in the championship, Arab teams will not come to Aqaba," he said.

Useful Reference:

2003 Terrorism Review (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    In 2003, 3,838 terrorist attacks were perpetrated against Israeli targets, in which 213 Israelis (50 members of the security forces and 163 civilians) were murdered.
    In 2002, 5,301 terrorist attacks were perpetrated against Israeli targets, in which 451 Israeli soldiers and civilians were murdered.
    Thus, there was an approximately 30% drop in the number of attacks and a drop of over 50% in the number of fatalities over the previous year.

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Held Secret Talks With Syria
    Israel had secret contacts with Syria several months ago - well before recent Syrian overtures - but they broke down after word of the meetings leaked out, Israel's foreign minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday. Shalom said Israel had two secret meetings seven or eight months ago with people "very close" to Assad. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Israeli President Invites Syrian Leader for Talks (Reuters/New York Times); Syria Says Israel Invitation Not Serious (Reuters)
        See also U.S.: Do Not Be Tempted By Assad's Tricks
    Warning messages were passed to Jerusalem by professional sources in the White House: "If Assad was serious, he would not turn to Sharon via the newspapers." The Americans also surprised Israel by stating: "Assad isn't serious; don't be tempted to speak to him about peace. First of all, let him provide answers on terrorism and on Iraq." (Maariv-Hebrew; 11 Jan 03)
  • Sharon Sees No Demographic Danger to Israel
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that he saw no risk that Palestinians could undermine Israel's Jewish identity by gaining a demographic majority. "I don't see any demographic danger," he said. Sharon said that Israel could not lose its Jewish majority because it had no plans to annex the territories or to grant Israeli citizenship to Palestinians. (New York Times)
  • BBC Suspends Talk-Show Host Over News Column on Arabs
    The BBC suspended veteran talk show presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk over a newspaper article he wrote entitled "We Owe Arabs Nothing." In it, Kilroy-Silk referred to Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors," and added: "What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11, then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders?" Kilroy-Silk's program has run for 17 years and attracts 1.2 million viewers. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also BBC Chiefs Accused of "Double Standards" Over TV Presenter (Telegraph-UK); Kilroy-Silk is Right About the Middle East, Say Arabs (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon: Syria Must Stop Its Support for Terror Before Talks - Aluf Benn and Gideon Alon
    Israel would be happy to begin peace talks with Syria, but only if Syria first ends its support for terrorist organizations, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday. "Syria should stop the help and support for terrorist agents, and if that happens, I believe Israel will be ready," Sharon said. He added that Israel, as a peace-loving nation, was naturally interested in talks with Syria, but questioned whether Damascus really wanted peace, or was merely trying to ease the American pressure it was currently under. Earlier, Sharon told the cabinet that "we shouldn't rush to embrace the Syrians before thoroughly investigating what lies behind the Syrian initiative." He also said, "Just as we demand that the Palestinians dismantle terror [groups] before beginning negotiations, we make the same demand of the Syrians." (Ha'aretz)
        Israel is conditioning renewed talks with Syria on its halting all support for Palestinian terror groups, senior Israeli officials have indicated. Defense establishment officials believe halting Syrian aid to Palestinian terror groups is an even higher priority than ending Syria's backing for Hizballah in Lebanon. Intelligence officials believe Syrian-supported Hizballah activity among Palestinians has stepped up. "We continue to track what Assad is saying and also, more importantly, what he does," an official in Prime Minister Sharon's office said. "As things stand now, since Assad is doing the opposite of what he is saying, it does not appear the time [for peace talks] has come." (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Official Slams Syria for Allowing Terrorists to Enter Iraq - Aluf Benn and Gideon Alon
    Richard Perle, adviser to the U.S. secretary of defense, told CNN that Syria was allowing terrorists to enter Iraq though its borders, was holding funds belonging to the Iraqi people, and was producing chemical weapons. (Ha'aretz)
  • Suicide Bomber Explodes Prematurely - Margot Dudkevitch
    A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up prematurely near Kalkilya on Sunday. Officials believe he had planned to target Israeli civilians but detonated his bomb early after spotting soldiers at a roadblock. "It appears he spotted the troops and became rattled by their presence," a security official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands in Israel
    A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed inside Israel in Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Monday. Also Monday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an IDF outpost close to the Israel-Egypt border. There were no injuries in either incident. (Ha'aretz/Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What's Behind Bashar al-Assad's Peace Offensive? - Eyal Zisser
    Bashar's willingness to go beyond his father's conditional commitments, e.g., on the matter of relations with Israel, undoubtedly stems from a sense of pressure and deep distress - the result of the new regional realities in the aftermath of the war in Iraq and America's determination to push Syria hard on issues of concern to Washington, particularly the war on terror and weapons of mass destruction. Bashar has repeatedly shown that he is committed to his father's legacy, not only with respect to the idea of a peace agreement with Israel, but also with respect to the price tag.
        But "continuity" also means no real change in underlying attitudes toward Israel. Like his father, Bashar and those around him (as well as many others in the region) see Israel as an illegitimate entity constituting, by its very existence, a threat to the Arab world. Moreover, their anti-Zionist and anti-Israel pronouncements are often tinged with anti-Semitism, given public expression in recent years by senior Syrian officials, including Bashar himself. (Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies/Tel Aviv University)
  • The EU Directly Funds Anti-Semitism - Kevin Myers
    Underlying the abject EU failure to confront anti-Semitism is another, less visible truth: the Palestinian Authority, which receives millions of euros from the EU annually, vigorously promotes explicit anti-Semitism in its schools and on television. In other words, the EU directly funds anti-Semitism. It is certainly not unreasonable for Jews to expect the EU - with Poland's accession, now truly the home of the Holocaust - to be thoroughly vigilant in identifying and repressing violent anti-Semitism. (Telegraph-UK)
  • "Spinning Into Control" - William Safire
    In Libya, Colonel Qaddafi took one look at our army massing for the invasion of Iraq and decided to get out of the mass-destruction business. In Afghanistan, supposedly intractable warlords in a formerly radical Islamist, female-repressing culture of conflicting tribes and languages have come together. In Syria, a hiding place for Saddam's finances, henchmen, and weaponry - and exporter of Hizballah and Hamas terrorism - dictator Bashar al-Assad is nervously seeking to re-open negotiations with Israel. On the West Bank, incipient Israeli negotiations with Syria - on top of the overthrow of the despot who rewarded Palestinian suicide bombers - further isolates the terror organizations behind Yasser Arafat. In Iran, the presence of 130,000 U.S. troops near the border was not lost on the despot-clerics in power, who suddenly seemed reasonable to European diplomats seeking guarantees that Russian-built nuclear plants would be inspected. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Defense Minister's Security Briefing (Prime Minister's Office)

    At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Defense Minister Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters:

    • Mofaz referred to the security establishment's summary of 2003 and said that there had been a 50% decline in the number of terrorist attacks and casualties in comparison with 2002, due to the security services' accelerated and efficient counter-terrorist operations, and the security fence, which is beginning to "pay for itself."
    • The current situation in the Palestinian sphere is showing expressions of anarchy. Abu Ala's weak administration is controlled by Arafat and is thus finding it difficult to deal with the internal anarchy and has been unable to secure a commitment from the various terrorist organizations to halt terrorism.
    • Hamas is strengthening in the Gaza Strip and there are continued high-profile attempted attacks and warnings of attacks inside Israel as well as in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
    • Some elements in the Palestinian establishment are taking note of what appears to them as cracks in Israeli society's internal cohesiveness and strength, and that these impressions are leading to a hardening of positions and support for continued terrorism.
    • The main conclusions to be drawn are: Israel must continue its counter-terrorism efforts and move to operational activities in order to weaken Hamas; Israel must simultaneously maintain its readiness for a genuine dialogue with Abu Ala's government and uphold the roadmap to its fullest; and Israel must search for ways to ease restrictions on those sections of the Palestinian population not involved in terrorism.

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