Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 29, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Turns Its Sights on the Terrorists Surrounding Arafat - Toby Harnden (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
    Senior Israeli intelligence officials claim they have detailed evidence proving that Arafat's Ramallah headquarters is a refuge for some of the most wanted Palestinian terrorist suspects and a nerve centre for planning suicide bombings and murdering Israelis.
    The evidence that Arafat is at the apex of a terrorist infrastructure is being used by some Israeli ministers to argue that he should be killed as Sheikh Yassin, the leader of the Hamas terror group, was last week.
    An IDF document lists 17 wanted members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Tanzim militia, both part of Arafat's Fatah movement, said to be sheltering in his compound.
    Topping the list is Kamel Ghanem, 27, Ramallah commander of the Al-Aqsa group, accused of planning several suicide bombings and of having taken part in gun attacks.
    Number two is Khaled Shawish, a senior Tanzim fugitive with links to Iran and Hizballah.
    Another is Mohammed Damra, the commander of Force 17, Arafat's presidential guard. "He is a commander of terrorist actions, even suicide actions," said an official.
    Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were behind the last two bus bombings in Jerusalem that killed 19 people and wounded more than 160.
    One more atrocity could signal the end for Arafat.

    See also Arafat Continues to Pay Terrorists - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Raaf Mansur, who headed an Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades cell in Nablus until his arrest in February, told interrogators that his appeals to Arafat for money to fund armed attacks resulted in a monthly NIS 7,500 payment that continued up to the time of his arrest.
    The money was delivered via Abed al-Fatah Hameil, who serves as a financial adviser to Arafat.

Hizballah Financed Ashdod Bombing - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    Hizballah chose the target and financed the suicide bombings at Ashdod Port carried out by Hamas on March 14, killing 10 Israelis.
    An initial payment was made to Hamas following agreement on the target, while a second transfer was made after the attack was carried out.
    Hizballah is believed to have been behind the foiled effort to smuggle Russian-made, shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles from Egypt, so that militants could target IDF helicopters.
    It is assumed that Hizballah activities in the territories and Israel are being carried out in full coordination with Iranian intelligence and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Was Yassin a Spiritual Leader? - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
    "Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was neither a religious leader nor a spiritual leader. He did not establish religious precedent and he was not a spiritual, religious man," says S., a Hamas member in Gaza who frequently met with Yassin.
    "A spiritual, religious leader," says S. "is a person who sits at home, rules on issues of religious law, and receives people who come to him to get his blessing. This is not what Yassin was."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Chief Rantissi: Bush is "Enemy of God"
    "We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon," Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi said Sunday. "The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas."  (AP/FOXNews)
  • Iran Hiding Its Nuclear Activities, Report Says
    Senior Iranian officials are overseeing efforts to conceal key elements of the country's nuclear program from international inspectors, according to Western diplomats and an intelligence report. According to the report prepared by a Western country, Iran set up a committee late last year to coordinate the concealment efforts. Analyzing the report, a Western diplomat wrote: "The [Iranian] committee is making a thorough and systematic examination of all uranium conversion facilities, centrifuge component manufacturing plants and other secret installations to locate poor concealment. It will then order improved concealment measures with a view to making them hermetic before inspections resume." (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Iran Resumes Works on Nuclear Fuel Cycle
    Iranian atomic energy chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh told state television that "the experimental phase of the Isfahan processing installation has begun and by the end of this phase, in the next 20 days, experimental production at this facility will start." "The uranium processing plant in Isfahan will produce all raw materials for the [nuclear] fuel cycle," he added. (AFP)
  • Israel's Top Prosecutor Targets Sharon
    State Attorney Edna Arbel recommended Sunday that charges be brought against Prime Minister Sharon in the so-called Greek Island affair. The prime minister denies the charges. The inquiry involves charges that Israeli businessman David Appel paid one of the prime minister's sons $700,000 in the late '90s to serve as a consultant in the construction of a resort in Greece and the rezoning of land in Tel Aviv in hopes that his father, then foreign minister, would lobby Athens for approval to build the resort. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz now has to decide whether to bring an indictment. (USA Today)
        See also Call to Indict Sharon Ignites Political Storm (New York Times)
  • Arab Summit Abruptly Falls Apart
    The Tunisian government abruptly called off a summit of the Arab League Saturday even as leaders arrived for meetings scheduled to begin Monday. In the days leading up to the summit, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah and the top members of Bahrain's ruling family decided to skip the meeting. Soon the heads of Oman and the United Arab Emirates followed suit. Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Qatar, and Tunisia had presented their own papers on reform, and Arab leaders had reportedly squabbled during summit preparations over whose reform model to adopt. A spokesman for Tunisia's Foreign Ministry said, "It became clear that there was a variance of positions on...proposals related to fundamental issues on modernization, democratic reform, human rights, and the rights of women." (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Gunman Kills Palestinian Child - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    A seven-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in Balata near Nablus when a Palestinian armed with an automatic rifle opened fire on an IDF jeep, mortally injuring the boy with a stray bullet. Soldiers in the jeep did not return fire. On Friday, a Palestinian terrorist was killed in Balata when an explosion occurred in the vehicle he was driving. Palestinian sources confirmed that the explosion was the result of a "work accident," saying the militant had an explosives belt at the time of the blast. (Ha'aretz/Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas, Fatah Reject Appeal for "Peaceful" Intifada - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas and Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades have rejected an appeal by a group of prominent Palestinians for a "peaceful" intifada and vowed to step up their attacks against Israel. "The only option our people that of resistance, jihad, and martyrdom," said a statement issued by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. The Fatah group called on the Palestinians who signed the appeal "to return to the righteous path and to backtrack from their call to put an end to the armed intifada - a call which serves the interests of the Zionist enemy."
        "The consensus among the Palestinian people is that the resistance and jihad should continue until we achieve freedom and the occupation leaves all our land," said Muhammad Ghazal, a senior Hamas operative in the West Bank. Addressing a pro-Hamas rally in Ramallah by phone from Damascus, Khaled Mashal, head of the movement's political bureau, said the Palestinians will continue the armed struggle against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas: I Will Never Take Job Again - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Former PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has dismissed the notion that it was Sharon's lack of gestures that forced him to resign, hinting that Arafat and his inner circle had "thwarted" his mission. Abbas, who resigned last year following a fierce power struggle with Arafat, described his experience as "painful and bitter" and said he would never consider taking the job again. Abbas called for implementing security, administrative, and financial reforms in all PA institutions. "The PA must prove its existence, and there's nothing that prevents it from doing so," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Targeted Killing Is a Necessary Option - Abraham D. Sofaer
    Targeted killing is sometimes necessary, because leaders are obliged to defend their citizens, just as police forces are obliged to defend communities. Leaders such as bin Laden or Yassin attempt to achieve their objectives through uses of force that are condemned by conventions subscribed to by all states. It is unlawful in all societies to kill people at random in order to secure any political objective, however sympathetic. It is essential not to allow loaded rhetoric to obscure the propriety of lawfully using deadly force in self-defense. When people call a targeted killing an "assassination," they are attempting to preclude debate on the merits of the action. Killings in self-defense are no more "assassinations" in international affairs than they are murders when undertaken by our police forces against domestic killers. The writer is former legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Martyred - Editorial
    Sheikh Yassin was responsible for the slaughter of many, many people; savagery was his principal contribution to history, along with the attempt to transform a political conflict into a religious war. Any American who does not understand Israel's reason for hunting Yassin down does not understand America's reason for hunting bin Laden down. In acting against Yassin, Israel was not only punishing, it was also preempting. (New Republic)
        Two Deaths - Martin Peretz
    If Israel cannot kill the leader of an organization dedicated to killing Jews, how exactly does the world propose that it defend itself? Both the UN and the governments of Europe have been propping up - both financially and politically - the Palestinian terrorism groups with the most blood on their hands. (New Republic)
  • Moderately Deadly - Matthew Levitt
    Though frequently called the group's "moderate" leader, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has been directly implicated in authorizing, directing, funding, and providing foot soldiers for Hamas terrorist operations. In August 2003 concrete evidence of such activity led the U.S. to list Yassin and five other Hamas leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). In so doing, the U.S. froze their assets and banned U.S. nationals from engaging in transactions with them.
        Long before the invention of the name Hamas, Yassin's organization was plotting terrorist attacks. As Khaled Mishal recounts: "In 1983, we carried out our first military experience under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin; the 1983 organization that sought to gather weapons to prepare groups for military training and launch the jihad project." Mishal concedes that even back then Iran was funding Yassin's activities. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    What Does a Country Do If Its Neighbors Won't Stop Terrorists? - Barry Rubin (Newsday)

    • International law is premised on the existence of authorities willing to enforce it. What does a country do if its neighbor not only refuses to stop or arrest terrorists attacking it on a daily basis but actually encourages and supports them? There is no alternative to direct action against such a safe haven.
    • Equally, international diplomacy generally assumes that any dispute is ultimately resolvable through compromise and negotiation. Indeed, what does a country do when the other side openly expresses an intention to destroy it and implements that policy?
    • Another international assumption is that by targeting terrorist leaders, Israel provokes new attacks. But no such encouragement is needed. The attacks will continue anyway, and they are more effective when directed by a leadership that enjoys immunity from punishment.
    • Finally, it should not be forgotten that Israel spent seven years trying to make a peaceful compromise through negotiated agreement.
    • The result is the Palestinian Authority - a safe haven that incites, finances, organizes, and permits terrorist attacks against Israel.

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