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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

January 23, 2004

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Janes: U.S. Gearing for Showdown with Syria (Jerusalem Post)
    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering provoking a military confrontation with Syria by attacking Hizballah bases near the Syrian border in Lebanon, according to the authoritative London-based Jane's Intelligence Digest.
    In an article published Friday, the journal said multi-faceted U.S. attacks, which would be conducted within the framework of the global war on terrorism, are likely to focus on Hizballah bases in the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon.
    "Given the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive strikes," Janes states, "it remains entirely possible that Washington will soon launch military strikes against Lebanon, regardless of the consequences for wider regional stability."
    The journal noted that the U.S. administration has long considered Damascus "a prime candidate for regime-change," along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and possibly Saudi Arabia.


U.S. Confirms Syrian Earthquake Relief Flights to Iran Returned with Weapons for Hizballah - Eli Lake (New York Sun, 22 Jan 04)
    A Syrian earthquake relief flight to Iran returned to Damascus earlier this month loaded with a lethal cargo of weapons bound for Hizballah, American intelligence shows.
    Administration officials said American intelligence agencies have collected overhead photographs of a Syrian relief aircraft loaded with small arms in Tehran before its return flight to Damascus.
    This was also confirmed by American signal intercepts suggesting that the weapons were destined for Hizballah camps in southern Lebanon.
    Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Biran, in a meeting Tuesday that Washington has evidence that a Syrian cargo aircraft returned from Tehran in the first week of January with arms for Hizballah.
    The new intelligence could mold a report on Syrian sponsorship of terrorism that the White House must provide Congress in May under the Syria Accountability Act.
    In recent months it has gotten much harder for Iran to ship arms to their proxies in southern Lebanon since Iraqi airspace is no longer open to these flights.
    The Turks have stopped allowing the flights to use their airspace as well.


Bin Laden's Iraq Attacks Backfiring - Niles Lathem (New York Post)
    The large number of Muslim deaths caused by al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Iraq has created p.r. problems for bin Laden.
    New articles in al-Qaeda's biweekly Internet magazine Sawt al-Jihad, or "Voice of Jihad," are urging al-Qaeda supporters to stay out of Baghdad and concentrate on hitting U.S. military targets in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, according to terrorist expert Rita Katz, whose SITE Institute monitors al-Qaeda propaganda on the Internet.


Zarqawi: Key Link in Terror Chain - Peter Ford (Christian Science Monitor)
    Wherever European prosecutors turn these days, as they unravel suspected Islamic terrorist cells and track leads across the Continent, they keep coming across the fingerprints of one man: Abu Musab Zarqawi.
    Zarqawi, a one-legged Jordanian Bedouin currently thought to be hiding in Iran, has emerged as a central suspect in one al-Qaeda-related plot after another, from allegedly smuggling suicide bombers into Iraq to orchestrating the recent car bomb blasts in Turkey and planning chemical attacks in Europe.


Hizballah Allegedly Linked to Drug Ring (AP)
    Two Michigan men have been charged in connection with a drug ring that authorities say may have financially supported Hizballah, an Islamic militant group listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.
    Ali Abdul-Karim Farhat, 39, and his brother, Hassan Farhat, 34, were arrested by federal agents at their Dearborn home Monday on cocaine conspiracy and distribution charges.
    Search warrants indicate agents were searching for Hizballah-related books, videos, and documents.


Dr. Ruth Shares Her Passion - for Israel - Ethan Porter (Forward)
    Dr. Ruth Westheimer, an expert at keeping romance alive, is now focusing on a different kind of passion - her love for Israel - as honorary chairperson of a new campaign, "Love is Real," sponsored by Hillel, to kick off nationally in mid-February.
    Five decades ago, Dr. Ruth served in the Haganah, fighting valiantly in Israel's War of Independence.
    "Watch out for me," she said. "I can still put five bullets of a sten gun into the little red circle."


NY High Schools Mobilized to Fight Israel's PR War - Melissa Radler (Jerusalem Post)
    In an effort to educate Jewish students about Israel before they face hostility on college campuses, Minister for Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky joined Jewish leaders, community activists, and high school students in New York last week to launch the National Israel High School Advocacy Coalition, aimed at strengthening students' knowledge of Israel and equipping them to counter anti-Israel rhetoric and conduct pro-Israel programming.
    See also Israel Advocacy Coalition Targeting High Schools - Max Gross (Forward)


Useful Reference: Israel's Anti-Terror Fence

The Security Fence: Facts and Figures (Israeli Consulate-New York)

Seam Zone Website (Ministry of Defense)

Updated Map of Israel's Security Fence (Ministry of Defense)

Saving Lives: Israel's Security Fence (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Security Fence: Israel's Line of Defense (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., Israel Discuss Security Fence - Glenn Kessler
    In an hour-long interview with Washington Post editors and reporters after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's chief of staff met with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House, an Israeli official Thursday appeared to be laying the groundwork for unilateral steps to separate Israelis and Palestinians. "We will not tolerate the present situation for more than a couple of months," the official said, indicating that such steps would be taken before the U.S. presidential election. Israeli officials said the meeting between Rice and Dov Weisglass focused especially on the security barrier. "The basic American approach is the U.S. will not raise any complaints against Israel regarding the route as long as the Palestinians do not take even the minimal steps or action against terrorism," the Israeli official said.
        The road map, he said, is "just a piece of paper" to implement the president's vision. "We love the president's vision," he said, because he "made it clear that unless the Palestinians will endorse themselves into a law-abiding, civilized society, there will be no political negotiations with them." "This principle, this sequence, is that you, Mr. Palestinian, will obey the rules which are well-accepted among other members of the civilized community of nations, and then you may be allowed to discuss politics," he said. "This sequence we will never give up, and apparently, nor will the United States." "Unfortunately, socially and politically there is no Palestinian nation," the official said. "You have to understand Palestinian political society today is a collection of a couple hundred independent entities," each with its own leader and local militia. "When a Palestinian prime minister is confirmed, practically it means nothing." (Washington Post)
        See also Annexation Not Part of Disengagement Plan - Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan does not include annexing territory, Dov Weisglass told Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, according to Israel Radio. Weisglass committed to easing Palestinians' lives by establishing more passageways in the security fence to allow greater freedom of movement.
        Rice and Weisglass agreed that the Palestinian Authority cannot be a partner to the political process in its present state, and that the Palestinian side is to blame for the complete standstill.
        Rice said the administration objects to the debate on the separation fence to be held at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. She said the U.S. supports Israel's position, rejecting the court's authority to deal with the issue. (Ha'aretz)
        See also State: Israel "Listened" to U.S. on Fence Route
    Regarding U.S. reservations over Israel's security fence, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Thursday, "I think we'd say they've listened on some occasions. I don't need to go into the chapter and verse of every one but we've had some changes of the direction of the fence because of strong diplomatic discussions with the Israelis - and, by the way, with the local Palestinians." (State Department)
  • Sharon Defiant in Face of Pressure Over Bribery Inquiry - James Bennet
    On Wednesday, an Israeli court indicted real estate developer David Appel on charges of paying roughly $700,000 to Sharon's son, Gilad, in the hope of bribing Sharon. But the indictment did not lay out evidence that Sharon knowingly took a bribe. Justice officials are looking into whether there is sufficient cause to indict Sharon and his son. It is likely to be weeks or even months before they reach a decision. Sharon's predecessors as prime minister, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, served under threat of indictments that never materialized. Sharon said Thursday that he would serve "at least until 2007," when elections are scheduled. (New York Times)
        See also Is the Prime Minister in Legal Difficulty? Don't Jump to Conclusions - Tovah Lazaroff
    Legal experts urged politicians and the public to be cautious and not jump to any conclusions about the guilt or innocence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Gilad, following the indictment of businessman David Appel on bribery charges. "The filing of charges against Mr. David Appel says nothing about guilt or innocence of the prime minister or his son, Gilad Sharon. Second, the filing of the indictment certainly does not prove the guilt of Mr. Appel," said Kenneth Mann, a law professor at Tel Aviv University. Uriel Lynn, who chaired the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee in the 12th Knesset, said there is a fine line, which it must be proved that Appel crossed, between the world of exchanging favors, which happens all the time in politics, and actual bribes. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S., Saudi Arabia Fettering Charity Linked to Terrorism - John Mintz
    The U.S. and Saudi governments Thursday announced a joint effort to crack down on four branches of the huge Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, charging that its offices in Africa and Asia are being used to funnel money, arms, and personnel to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The two governments asked the UN to designate Al-Haramain branches in Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, and Tanzania as terrorist organizations, which will result in the freezing of Al-Haramain bank accounts in those countries after the four governments failed to crack down on the charity.
        Last year, after high-level consultation between Crown Prince Abdullah and the White House, the two governments set up joint task forces in Saudi Arabia. Dozens of FBI, CIA, and Internal Revenue Service agents now share offices in Riyadh with Saudi counterparts. They swap secret electronic intercepts and financial data and coordinate joint interrogation of suspected terrorists. U.S. and Saudi investigators continue to investigate Al-Haramain's several dozen branches around the globe and are expected to announce more terrorist designations soon. The crackdown is controversial in Saudi Arabia because Al-Haramain is "in effect the Saudis' United Way," according to one U.S. official. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Unveils System to Beat Bus Bombers
    Israel unveiled a system on Thursday aimed at stopping suicide bombers boarding buses and carrying out attacks like those that have killed hundreds of people in the past three years. The driver can block anyone who looks suspicious by hitting a red button to close a turnstile. Electronic gates will be installed at back doors, which have been used by bombers to sneak on without the driver knowing. A sheet of armor is also mounted on the front of the bus below the window to trap shrapnel if a bomber detonates right outside. (Reuters)
  • New Chief of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Opposition to U.S.
    The new spiritual leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called on Arabs and others in the Muslim world to oppose the United States, which he said was threatening Syria and Iran after having occupied Iraq. Mohammed Mehdi Akef, 76, and a member of the authoritarian old guard, was appointed last week following the death of Maamoun al-Hodeibi, who died a week earlier at the age of 83. The Brotherhood is very active on university campuses and in mosques across Egypt. (AFP)
  • Unveiled Women Anger Saudi Cleric
    Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority has issued a stern rebuke to women who appeared at an economic conference unveiled in the presence of men. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh said the women's behavior was shameful and warned of "grave consequences." His remarks came after the country's leading businesswoman made a speech without a headscarf at an economic forum in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. Lubna al-Olayan used the speech to call for female empowerment in the kingdom and to unlock the potential of the country's female workforce. (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamic States to Get Their Say at The Hague
    The Organization of Islamic Conference has been granted permission to participate in hearings next month at the International Court of Justice on the legality of the separation fence that Israel is building, the court said Thursday. The 57-nation organization may now file written submissions by January 30 and participate in oral arguments set to begin Feb. 23. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • ZAKA Wants to Send Blown Up Bus to The Hague
    Amidst Israel's preparations for the ICJ hearing on the security fence, ZAKA (Disaster Victims Identification Organization) has suggested sending a display of a wrecked, charred bus to support Israel's argument that the fence is necessary for self-defense. The Foreign Ministry has announced that it is not opposed to the idea.
        This week, the Foreign Ministry's Deputy Director-General for Public Affairs, Gideon Meir, told Ynet that "Israeli public diplomacy will not be conducted within the courtroom's walls, but at its entrance." Foreign Ministry officials say the Palestinians "are aiming to turn the hearing into a circus, just like they did in Durban [at the UN racism conference]." "The poor Dutch don't know what's in store for them." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PR Chief: Don't Use Word "Hasbara" (Information) - Greer Fay Cashman
    Gideon Meir dislikes the word "hasbara" that translates as "information" or "explanation" because "it has a negative or apologetic connotation and we have nothing for which we have to apologize. We have a strong case." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ilan Ramon's Space Diary Found - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
    Yediot Ahronot disclosed on Thursday that some months ago, sections of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon's personal diary - handwritten in Hebrew - during his last days on the ill-fated space shuttle were recovered in Texas by a Native American tracker. Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, who was still in Houston, immediately identified it as her husband's writing. In his notes, Ramon expresses his excitement and feeling of good fortune to be aboard the spacecraft and to enjoy views of the Earth and the "thin layer of atmosphere." Since part of the text was destroyed and the pages were full of holes, Ramon's widow sent the diary to the criminal investigation unit of the Israel Police, which used advanced optical scanners to fill in the lacunae. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Shut Down Hamas - Matthew A. Levitt
    Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher bravely told an audience at the American University of Kuwait on Jan. 13 that "we [Arab nations] have failed in taking a stand against targeting civilians in all sides, including Israeli civilians." While Jordan expelled Hamas leaders from Amman in 1999, they continue to plan, coordinate, and fund terrorist attacks targeting Israeli and other civilians from Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Qatar, while Hamas recruits receive training in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Sudan, and even Jordan. Indeed, according to Zainab al-Suwaij, director of the American Islamic Conference, Hamas now runs a political office in Nasiriyah, Iraq, where it is radicalizing and recruiting Iraqi youths. If Arab states would shut Hamas political offices, they would go a long way toward exposing the true nature of Hamas and put the Palestinian people back on the road to statehood. The writer is a senior fellow in terrorism studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Why Libya Gave Up on the Bomb - Flynt Leverett
    By linking shifts in Libya's behavior to the Iraq war, the president misrepresents the real lesson of the Libyan case. To be fair, some credit should even be given to the second Clinton administration. Tired of international isolation and economic sanctions, the Libyans decided in the late 1990s to seek normalized relations with the U.S., and held secret discussions with Clinton administration officials to convey that message. The Clinton White House made clear that no movement toward better relations was possible until Libya met its responsibilities stemming from the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
        The Bush administration picked up on those discussions and induced the Libyans to meet their remaining Lockerbie obligations. During these two years of talks, American negotiators consistently told the Libyans that resolving the Lockerbie situation would lead to no more than elimination of UN sanctions. To get out from under the separate U.S. sanctions, Libya would have to address other concerns, particularly regarding its programs in weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war, which had not yet started, was not the driving force behind Libya's move. Rather, Libya was willing to deal because of credible diplomatic representations by the U.S. over the years, which convinced the Libyans that doing so was critical to achieving their strategic and domestic goals. The writer was senior director for Middle Eastern affairs at the National Security Council from 2002 to 2003. (New York Times)
  • We Won't Stop Dancing - Gil Troy
    The ugly terrorist onslaught of the last three years has imposed a new geography of anguish on Israel. The Israeli compulsion to rebuild, balanced by the Jewish commitment to remember, has yielded an urban landscape pockmarked by mini-monuments mourning the sites of Palestinian mass murder. Outside the Dolphinarium, the disco where a killer later glorified by Arafat slaughtered 21 teenagers and wounded 120, a simple monument promises defiantly: "Lo Nafseek Lirkod," We Won't Stop Dancing. Despite the toll of Arafat's war, Israelis remain unbowed. The Israel debate often appears Orwellian. After September 2000, when Arafat led the Palestinians away from negotiation toward terror, too many Israelis, too many Jews, asked, "What's wrong with us?" By contrast, after Sept. 11, 2001, most Americans asked about the terrorists, "What's wrong with them?" The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • The Empty Desk - Helen Schary Motro
    Third graders in Haifa's Reali School are used to the one empty desk in their Israeli classroom. Tomer Almog was killed with his grandparents, father, and 17 others in Maxim's restaurant in Haifa on Oct. 4 by a Palestinian woman suicide bomber. The explosion seriously burned Tomer's 4-year-old sister and blinded the right eye of his 10-year-old brother Oren. Specialists in the U.S. are trying to save Oren's other injured eye. (Boston Globe)
        See also Using the Web to Rip Off a Child Injured in a Suicide Bombing - Yuval Dror
    An e-mail that calls for donations to help Oren Almog includes a Bank Hapoalim account and branch number to which money could be sent. But it's a scam by someone who changed the real bank account and branch number. (Ha'aretz)

    Weekend Features:

  • Two Jewish Leaders Upset After Viewing Mel Gibson's "Passion" - Randy Kennedy
    Two prominent Jewish leaders said Thursday that they had watched recent versions of Mel Gibson's unreleased movie "The Passion of the Christ" and found it anti-Semitic and incendiary in the way it depicted the role of the Jews in Jesus's death. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, said they were angered and saddened that Gibson, despite his insistence that the movie is not anti-Semitic, had included many scenes that place the blame for the Crucifixion squarely on the Jews, not the Romans. (New York Times)
  • Egyptian Satire Taps the Feelings of the Arab Street - Megan K. Stack
    This is how the world looks from a drafty playhouse in downtown Cairo: America is a simpering, conniving matron in silly hats. Israel is her cousin, lurking maliciously around the edges of the action. Arabs are a fractious and dysfunctional clan, sickly, spaced out, and self-involved. Then there's Egypt, a heavy-hearted man torn between his bickering brethren and the possibility of salvaging his family's ancestral lands by marrying America. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Former PLO Terrorist a Most Unlikely Zionist - Rosie Dimanno
    Walid Shoebat grew up a zealous, Jew-hating Muslim in the West Bank, progressing from a boy who threw stones to a young man who lobbed bombs. He is now a born-again California Christian Zionist, having renounced both violence and Islam, which he persists in viewing as fatally intertwined. (Toronto Star)
  • Hoofbeats and Tank Tracks Share Golan Range - James Bennet
    One might expect the Israeli cowboys of the Golan Heights to be a bit neurotic. There are the wolves to worry about, and the cattle thieves. There are the Israeli tanks that sometimes knock down their barbed-wire fences, and the land mines that have been known to make hamburger of their cows. For those at home on this range, life moves at a very different pace than it does for the rest of Israel. (New York Times)
  • Arabic 101 for Marines - David Hasemyer
    Members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are undergoing a four-week crash course in Arabic to prepare for a seven-month deployment in Iraq. But this isn't conversational Arabic for tourists. Besides friendly greetings, there are commands like "Drop your weapon!" and "Get down!" "A lot of what we're learning is what we'll need at checkpoints or searching hostile places," said Cpl. Ryan Gibson. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Israeli Women Inspired to Join Combat Units - Julie Stahl
    Meital Nir, a 20-year-old unit commander, said the fact that she is a woman does not mean she should forego the "privilege" of performing combat service. "This army for some reason tells girls, it's OK, you can sit in the offices and the guys, they'll fight the wars and it'll be OK. It shouldn't be like that," Nir said, as she smeared soot from the tailpipe of a jeep onto her face for protection from the midday sun. "I think I'm committed to this country just as much as any guy, so why shouldn't I give the same?" she added. (CNSNews)
  • Rarities in Israel - Irin Carmon
    Peki'in, an ancient village in the hills of western Galilee, may be the only community where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze cautiously live together in peace. The town is reputed to be one of the only places in Israel where Jews have lived continuously for 2,000 years. Today, the village is predominantly Druze, an ethnically Arab, non-Muslim religious sect, but a synagogue, whose most ancient parts are two thousand years old, still stands. (Boston Globe)
  • Observations:

    Unilateralism and Its Discontents - Dennis Ross (Jerusalem Post)

    • The administration is unlikely to put any pressure on Israel in an election year, is preoccupied with Iraq, and has little faith that the PA can do anything so long as Arafat has veto power over any security measures. Yet the expected lack of high visibility initiatives does not imply a lack of options. There are at least three: a limited Israel-PA deal, Palestinian regime change, and coordinated unilateralism.
    • A Limited Deal: Sharon and Qurei could agree on a comprehensive cease-fire. Palestinians agree that no Israelis can be attacked on either side of the "green line," and the Israelis agree to stop targeted killings and arrest sweeps. Both may even be able to agree on a number of steps by the Palestinians to enforce a cease-fire and limit the ability of groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades to wage terror. Going beyond these steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, as called for in the road map, is something Qurei knows Arafat will not permit.
    • Palestinian Regime Change: If, as President Bush declared, a Palestinian state cannot be built on the foundation of terror and corruption, then it is clear that no Palestinian state can emerge so long as Arafat dominates the Palestinian landscape. Arafat has never sought to delegitimize terror, continuing to refer to Palestinians who carry out acts of terror as martyrs, and he remains the main roadblock to Palestinian reform. If he blocks all possibility of change, why not remove him from the territories and make clear he can never return? The likely response to his expulsion will be the immediate collapse of the PA, chaos within the territories, competition to see who can be more anti-Israeli, and the strengthening of groups like Hamas.
    • Coordinated Unilateralism: Unilateralism represents a default option. If the first two options are off the table, something must still be done to meet the need to transform the current situation. If the Palestinians do not fulfill their security responsibilities, they leave Israel only two choices - preserving the siege with all its checkpoints or building a security barrier and unilaterally withdrawing from part of the territory. For Israelis, unilateralism could produce security and an enduring Jewish majority. For Palestinians, it could mean a restoration of normal life, including the lifting of checkpoints. The Bush administration could devote its efforts to managing the emerging unilateralism.

    The writer is director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


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