Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

February 20, 2004

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

Latest News on Israel's Security Fence: Upcoming Hearings at the International Court of Justice
  (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)

In-Depth Issue:

Palestinians, Islamists Meet to Plan Attacks Against Israeli Targets (Albawaba-Jordan)
    An Arab diplomat in Amman told the Kuwaiti newspaper al Siyasah Thursday that Palestinian and Islamist groups met on February 3-4 near Tripoli in northern Lebanon to plan attacks on Israel and against its interests in Asia, Africa, and Mideast countries.
    The meeting was attended by senior leaders of al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, Hizballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the two Popular Fronts, as well as by officers from Syrian, Lebanese, and Iranian intelligence.
    The participants decided to target Israeli offices in Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey in addition to Israel, and discussed a list of Israeli politicians, military officers, and diplomats slated to be assassinated.
    During the meeting, Syrian and Lebanese officials expressed opposition to their borders being used for attacks against Israel.


Hizballah Suspected of Joining Iraqi Insurgents (Middle East Newsline)
    Iraqi security sources said Hizballah combatants were believed to have provided training and guidance in coordinated attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security positions.
    More than 500 Hizballah combatants arrived in Iraq from Lebanon during 2003, the sources said.
    Over the last two months, scores of Hizballah fighters were believed to have crossed into northern Iraq to join Ansar al-Islam, the al-Qaeda-aligned insurgency group.
    The sources said Ansar has benefited from Iranian weaponry, logistics support, and safe haven, and Teheran might have approved or encouraged the services of Hizballah for Ansar.


Saudis Halt Work on Border Barrier after Yemen Agrees to Joint Patrols (AFP)
    Saudi Arabia decided to halt the construction of a barrier on its frontier with Yemen after Sanaa agreed that the two sides would conduct joint patrols to curb cross-border smuggling and infiltration.
    Yemen had accused Saudi Arabia of taking over some territory in order to build the barrier.
    Saudi authorities fear that many of the Islamist radicals blamed for a spate of bombings that killed 52 people in Riyadh last year use the border with Yemen to slip in and out and to smuggle arms and explosives into the country.


Israel Navy Rescues Egyptian Ship - David Ratner (Ha'aretz)
    An Egyptian ship, with a six-man crew and a cargo of vegetables, was on its way from Port Said to Syria when it ran into high seas some 54 kilometers west of Atlit.
    After its distress signal was picked up by the Israel Navy, a helicopter and patrol boat were dispatched to rule out any security risk, and then the Egyptian ship was given refuge in Haifa port.


Sharon, Mubarak Agree on Gas Supply from Egypt to Israel - Yoav Yitzhak (Globes)
    In a recent telephone conversation, Prime Minister Sharon and Egyptian President Mubarak agreed to promote sales of Egyptian natural gas to Israel.
    Last week Sharon explained why he wanted Israel to buy gas from Egypt, instead of the joint PA-British Gas company.
    "The current state of relations with Egypt makes it possible to gain the consent of the Egyptian government for an agreement."
    "In my opinion, the time is ripe. That won't always be the case.... Achieving closer relations with Egypt is very important for Israel for strategic reasons, among others."
    "We're striving all over the world to stop the flow of money to the terrorist organizations. If we decide to buy Palestinian gas, the money will be used to support Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and armed Fatah forces."

    See also Israeli Power Plant Switches to Local Natural Gas - Tal Muscal (Jerusalem Post)
    The Eshkol power plant in Ashdod Wednesday switched from oil to natural gas from off-shore sources.


6th Century BCE Artifacts Unearthed Near Ein Gedi - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    Rare artifacts dating back to the sixth century BCE, from the "Return of Zion" era after the destruction of the First Temple, were discovered last week in a cave in the Ein Gedi region, the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority announced Thursday.
    Archaeologists unearthed objects that belonged to Jews who came back to the Land of Israel following their exile in Babylonia.
    The findings include glass and gold beads, a stick used for applying makeup, an alabaster bowl, a pendant, bronze mirrors, a necklace, and an oil lamp, as well as a Babylonian stamp bearing the figure of a priest.


Useful Reference:

World Court to Webcast Fence Hearing (Jerusalem Post)
    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearing on Israel's security fence, to be held on 23-25 February 2004 in The Hague, will be broadcast live on the court's website - www.icj-cij.org.


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Back Issues


News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • PA Seen Near Collapse - Charles A. Radin
    Pervasive corruption in the Palestinian Authority and in Arafat's Fatah movement are influencing European nations to reduce financial assistance, local and foreign observers say. The PA's problems are creating greater receptiveness in Washington to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's preparations for unilateral separation from the Palestinians, they say. "Frankly, there is chaos among the [Palestinian] security forces," said Mustafa Issa, governor of Ramallah and a longtime Arafat loyalist, "and there is much corruption." Palestinians tried to administer their own affairs from the mid-1990s to the present, he said, "and we did not succeed." "The problem is not just the occupation, it is much bigger. Nablus is ruled by thugs. The people are killing each other." said Bassem Eid, director of the East Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. (Boston Globe)
  • Hamas Eyes "Emergency" Role
    Hamas and other militant groups are discussing the formation of an "emergency" government to take charge in the event of an Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip, said a leading Hamas spokesman. Ghazi Hamid, editor of a Hamas-controlled weekly, said, "The [Palestinian Authority] cannot take responsibility in this situation and we should look to a new leadership that can run the situation." "There is a dialogue among the Palestinian factions - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah - to create a new leadership....We've spent 10 years under the current one and we've gotten nothing," he said. (Washington Times)
        See also Is Hamas Preparing to Inherit the Palestinian Authority? - Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
  • Israel Ponders Changes in Security Barrier - Joshua Brilliant
    According to Lt. Col. Shai Brovendeer, coordinator of the operational aspects of the new security fence, Israel is planning several changes in its barrier through the West Bank to alleviate hardships for Palestinians. "This fence was put up in haste. We couldn't wait," said Major Sharon Feingold, an army spokesperson. "People were dying by the hundreds in this country, so we built the fence and...it saves lives. Today, when we have a better sense of security, we can sit back and relax and look at what we've done and...mistakes will be corrected."  (UPI/Washington Times)
  • 3/4 of Americans Have "Unfavorable" View of PA
    76% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Palestinian Authority compared with 15% favorable, according to a Gallup Poll conducted Feb. 9-12, 2004. Saudi Arabia is viewed unfavorably by 66%, compared with 28% favorably. Israel is viewed by 59% of Americans favorably and by 35% unfavorably. Egypt is viewed similarly to Israel, with 58% favorable and 32% unfavorable. Other results include Iran - 17% favorable, 77% unfavorable; and Libya - 25% favorable, 63% unfavorable. (Gallup Poll)
  • Russia Tests Anti-Missile Defense Device
    Russia successfully tested a space vehicle that could lead to weapons capable of penetrating missile defenses, Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, said Thursday. He said it was a hypersonic vehicle - one that moves at more than five times the speed of sound - that could maneuver in orbit to dodge missile defense systems. The Russian news website www.gazeta.ru said the vehicle was a warhead with engines that would direct it as it approached a target, rather than going into free fall. "We have proven that it's possible to develop weapons that would make any missile defense useless," Baluyevsky said. "We have demonstrated our capability, but we have no intention to build this craft tomorrow."  (AP/Washington Times)
  • U.S. Freezes Accounts of Large Saudi Charity
    The Treasury Department ordered banks Thursday to freeze the accounts of the Oregon and Missouri branches of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a large Saudi charity that U.S. officials say has been used to finance the al-Qaeda terrorist network around the world. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Hard-liners Set to Win Polls, End Reform Era
    Iranians began voting in a disputed parliamentary election Friday, overshadowed by a ban on most reformist candidates and a crackdown on pro-reform media. Islamic conservatives seem certain to dominate the new assembly after a watchdog panel of unelected clerics disqualified 2,500 mainly reformist candidates. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon to U.S.: Israel Has Not Abandoned the Road Map - Aluf Benn and Shlomo Shamir
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, presenting plans for possible unilateral steps in the West Bank and Gaza, told a high-level American delegation Thursday that Israel had not abandoned the U.S.-backed road map and identified it as the "only political plan acceptable to Israel." "The prime minister reiterated and emphasized that Israel is committed to the vision of U.S. President George W. Bush," Sharon's office said. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said serious talks with a credible Palestinian partner were preferable, but "the United States agrees with Israel that until now the Palestinians have not met that test." (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Observations: Israel's Disengagement Plan - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Palestinian Terrorists Target Flights at Ben-Gurion Airport - Ben Caspit
    The Israeli security services have prevented nine attempts by Palestinian terrorist organizations to down flights at Ben-Gurion Airport. The threats come mostly from Hizballah and Iranian-influenced opposition groups. Israel and the U.S. disagree about the need for extending the security barrier to protect the airport. Israel claims that there is a real risk to civil aviation, while the Americans consider the risk to be minimal. (Maariv)
  • Dahlan, Arafat Make Up - Again - Arnon Regular
    A reconciliation meeting Thursday between Mohammed Dahlan and Yasser Arafat in Ramallah will not lead to an immediate return to government for Dahlan. Dahlan was active as security boss in the Mahmoud Abbas government. Palestinian sources said the meeting was partly the result of intense pressure on Arafat by Egypt to take steps to restore law and order in the territories and to reinstate Dahlan in a position of power in Gaza to counter rising Hamas strength there. Dahlan stresses that he won't join any Palestinian government without formulation of an overall plan for completing security reforms in the PA and Fatah. Meanwhile, Dahlan is focused on beefing up his political position inside Fatah ahead of a post-Arafat era. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Fence and Palestinians - Editorial
    Israel's West Bank security barrier would leave 1.9 million Palestinians - approximately 94% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank - east of the fence. Another 99,000 Palestinians would live in enclaves west of the fence, which would be connected to the West Bank by underpasses or checkpoints. When the population of these enclaves is added to the total of those located east of the fence, more than 99% of the Palestinian population would be living in land available for a future Palestinian state if Israel goes ahead with the defense plan. We believe the defense barrier is a necessary, prudent Israeli response to terror. The critical challenge is finding a way to build it that mitigates hardship for Palestinians and does not prevent the creation of an independent state next to Israel once Palestinians are prepared to act against terror. (Washington Times)
  • The Israeli Barrier Doesn't Belong in Court - Editorial
    Whatever the rights or wrongs of Israel's new security barrier, the International Court of Justice at The Hague is not the proper forum to examine the issue - and not merely because the odds are stacked against Israel from the outset. Thirty countries, including Canada, the U.S., Russia, and the members of the EU, all rightly agree with Israel's position that this is a political issue that needs to be addressed through political means. They are staying clear of the proceedings.
        It is well recognized in international law that countries have a right to protect their borders. And it is understandable that Israel would want to create as large an impediment as possible to the suicide bombers who have often roamed freely into Israel. (Toronto Globe and Mail)
  • Can Israel Get a Fair Trial? - Gerald M. Steinberg
    As the International Court of Justice's consideration of Israel's separation fence draws closer, the political and propaganda aspects of this battle are gaining strength. For the Palestinians and their supporters, this is a mega-opportunity to put Israel on trial and a milestone in the demonization process. The fact that this case is being heard at all further erodes any remaining moral authority of the UN and the international court.
        Outside the court, the anti-Israel demonization campaign will be led by Arafat's representatives, including those employed by the anachronistic European-funded Negotiation Support Unit, as well as the Arab League, and the Conference of Islamic States. As in the case of the September 2001 UN Conference on Racism in Durban, this highly partisan version of reality will be supported by powerful NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and their local subsidiaries. These organizations, despite their claim to further the principles of human rights, have become active participants in the conflict rather than helping to alleviate the suffering that the violence and terror cause. (National Post-Canada)
  • A Palestinian Authority Steeped in Paralysis and Corruption - Hasan Abu Nimah
    France announced that it is investigating money transfers totaling 9 million euros ($11.5 million) from Swiss banks to private accounts owned by Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian leader. Why is the Palestinian First Lady living in Paris in the first place instead of remaining with her people and sharing their plight? She was happy enough to be in the territories when Hilary Clinton and other dignitaries would come to pay their respects. And why should such an enormous sum be allocated to one small Palestinian family - Mrs. Arafat and her daughter - if not to sustain a lavish Parisian lifestyle? The same amount of money could support almost 6,000 Palestinian families for an entire year. Can anyone point to any valuable services Suha Arafat has performed on behalf of her people?
        Six years ago, a Palestinian parliamentary panel conducted an investigation of PA corruption and called for the dismissal of Arafat's entire cabinet. The worst mismanagement cited was in the Civil Affairs Ministry, headed by Jamil Tarifi, and the Planning Ministry, headed by Nabil Shaath. Six years later, Tarifi and Shaath are still in the cabinet. The writer is a former Permanent Representative of Jordan at the UN and former ambassador. (Electronic Intifada)
  • How to Stop Nuclear Terror - Graham Allison
    President Bush has singled out terrorist nuclear attacks on the U.S. as the defining threat the nation will face in the foreseeable future. Nuclear terrorism is preventable. Without fissile material, you can't have a nuclear bomb. Fissile material can be kept out of the wrong hands. The technology for doing so already exists. The solution would be to apply a new doctrine of "Three No's": no loose nukes, no new nascent nukes, and no new nuclear states. The writer, a former assistant secretary of defense for policy and plans (1993-94), is Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. (Council on Foreign Relations/New York Times)
  • Europe's Crocodile Tears - Ilka Schroeder
    On Thursday, the European Commission held a seminar to condemn anti-Semitism. At the same time, Europe continues to encourage what it condemns with its Middle East policy and with the anti-Semitic war it is helping to finance against Israel. It is well-known that parts of the EU funding to the Palestinian Authority were channeled to the terrorist war against Israel. Instead of preventing the use of EU money to kill citizens of Israel, the majority of the political establishment dreams of an international "peace enforcement" against Israel, led or joined by the EU. The writer is an independent member of the European Parliament. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Europe's Eastward Expansion: The Challenge for Israel - Uzi Eilam
    On May 1, 2004, the fifteen-member European Union will be joined by another ten states that have a combined population of 74 million. Eight belonged to the former Eastern bloc - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia - plus Cyprus and Malta. This follows NATO's decision to invite seven countries from the former Eastern bloc to join the organization. Can Israel aid the countries joining NATO and the EU in their attempts to reach a higher technological-industrial status? Such aid, if successful, can in turn help Israel acquire the status of a desirable partner of the expanded European Union. (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies)

    Weekend Features:

  • South Lebanon in Miniature - Uri Ash
    IDF soldiers on the Israel-Syrian border at Mt. Dov say that, according to National Geographic magazine, the Ramata observation post, 1,194 meters above sea level, is one of the six or ten most scenic lookouts in the world. The outpost is shelled from time to time and is reached via armored convoy, but the soldiers serving in this amazing landscape would much rather be in the territories, where the "real action" is. In the past three years Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's men have attacked Israeli outposts on the mountain about 30 times. Seven IDF soldiers have been killed in Hizballah operations in Mt. Dov since the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, including three who were kidnapped and taken to Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
  • Book Review: Israel's Close Call - David C. Unger
    The lessons of the Yom Kippur War have much to teach Israelis, Arabs, and all who yearn for a comprehensive Middle East peace. Two new books re-examine the events and lessons of the war. Abraham Rabinovich, the author of The Yom Kippur War, is an American who moved to Jerusalem in 1967 and covered the 1973 war for the Jerusalem Post. Howard Blum, who has written The Eve of Destruction, is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. Both aim to knit together the military, strategic, and political levels of the war much as Michael B. Oren's Six Days of War did for the June 1967 war. (New York Times)
  • Book Review: Hating Jews is Cool Again - Ramesh Ponnuru
    The Return of Anti-Semitism by Gabriel Schoenfeld is not an argument against the anti-Semites, who are generally beyond the reach of reason, so much as one against those who underestimate their poisonousness - or, worse, tolerate it. Most people know that anti-Semitism is rampant among contemporary Muslims; they may not be aware of the frankly genocidal nature of much of that anti-Semitism. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Disengagement Plan - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
    (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Sharon told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem Thursday:

    • Nine months ago my government approved the "Roadmap" to peace, based on President George Bush's vision. This is a balanced program for step-by-step progress towards genuine peace, to which both Israel and the Palestinians are committed. A full implementation of the program is the best way to achieve a viable peace.
    • The concept behind the President's vision is that "only security will lead to peace." Without full security, including the dismantling of terror organizations and stopping violence and incitement, it will not be possible to achieve genuine peace, a peace for generations.
    • We have no interest in governing the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves. I still hope that the Palestinians will abandon the path of terror and bloodshed. Then, we will be able to move together towards achieving real and lasting peace.
    • However, we must be realistic, and prepare for the option that the current situation, in which the Palestinians do not implement their part of the President's vision, will continue. In that case, Israel will take the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.
    • The purpose of the "Disengagement Plan" is to guarantee maximum security and minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians. This will include the redeployment of IDF forces along new security lines and a relocation of some settlements. Security will be provided by IDF deployment, the security fence, and other physical obstacles.
    • Obviously, the "Disengagement Plan" will leave the Palestinians with much less than they would have if they had followed the requirements of the Roadmap.
    • Israel will speed up the construction of the security fence - an effective shield against suicide terrorism. The fence has already proved to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks and in saving lives. There is no better example of the cynicism of the world than the decision to hold political discussions at the International Court in the Hague against the fence that will save human lives.
    • The steps that Israel will take in the "Disengagement Plan" will be fully coordinated with the United States. I believe that President Bush and the U.S. Administration are very sensitive to Israel's needs, are committed to its security, and understand Israel's right to defend itself.
    • The "Disengagement Plan" is a security measure and not a political one. The steps that will be taken will not prevent the possibility of implementing the President's vision and reaching an agreed settlement, if and when there is a reliable partner on the Palestinian side.


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