Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Wahhabi Follower Behind Russian Hostage Crisis - Simon Saradzhyan and Simon Ostrovsky (Moscow Times)
Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
Iraq's UK Envoy: Growing Support for Ties with Israel - Sharon Sadeh (Ha'aretz)
Iraqi "Sleeper" Spy Arrested in U.S. - Natasha Korecki (Chicago Sun-Times)
Five Acquitted in '94 Bombing of Argentina Jewish Center - Larry Rohter (New York Times)
UN Seeks Tighter Sanctions as Qaeda Skirts Money Controls - Warren Hoge (New York Times)
Palestinian Suicide Bomber Dies in Gaza (AFP)
PA Announces Local Elections (AP/Jerusalem Post)
India to Tie Up with Israel, U.S. for E-Warfare Systems (Express India)
Russian Disapproval to Cost Israel Contract with India (Sun-India)
For Some French Emigrants, Israel Really Is the Promised Land - Matt Rees (TIME)
Virginian Sheriff to Study Counter-Terrorism from Israelis - Surae Chinn (WSET.com)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Over two years ago, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, were "apprised of the counterintelligence investigation of AIPAC" by the FBI regarding whether classified information was passed to Israel, Washington's closest ally in the Middle East, by the pro-Israel lobbying group, a senior administration official said Thursday. Since the White House National Security Council was informed of the case, Bush, Rice, and other senior administration officials have praised AIPAC. In May, Bush said AIPAC was "serving the cause of America," including its role in highlighting "the threat posed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons." In March 2003, Rice called AIPAC "a great asset to our country."
"Apparently nothing turned up during this rigorous two-year probe of AIPAC's activities to deter President Bush from addressing AIPAC's policy conference on May 18, 2004. Nor has information surfaced that has prevented scores of other administration and congressional leaders from speaking regularly and candidly with AIPAC officials," the group said in a statement. The group has had high-level contacts with the Bush White House, as well as previous U.S. administrations. (Reuters)
See also AIPAC Defiant Over FBI Probe of Alleged Leak - Janine Zacharia
"It is surely inconceivable that if any shred of evidence of disloyalty or even negligence on AIPAC's part had been discovered in the course of the type of meticulous scrutiny as described by the Washington Post, it would have not been tolerated by American law enforcement or ignored by the president, his national security adviser, and other top officials of the U.S. government," the AIPAC statement said. So far no one has been charged with any wrongdoing in the case. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Wider FBI Probe of Pentagon Leaks Includes Chalabi
FBI counterintelligence agents are investigating whether several Pentagon officials leaked classified information to Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to a law enforcement official and other people familiar with the case. (Washington Post)
See also Israel Has Long Spied on U.S., Say Officials
Israel secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation in the U.S. that has long attempted to recruit U.S. officials as spies and to procure classified documents, U.S. government officials said. FBI and other counterespionage agents, in turn, have covertly followed, bugged, and videotaped Israeli diplomats and intelligence officers, the officials said.
Israel's unique status as an extremely close U.S. ally presents a dilemma for U.S. counterintelligence officials. "They probably get 98% of everything they want handed to them on a weekly basis," said a former senior U.S. intelligence officer who has worked closely with Israeli intelligence. "They're very active allies. They're treated the way the British are." Another former intelligence operative who has worked with Israeli intelligence said, "The relationship with Israeli intelligence is as intimate as it gets."
Officials said Israel was acutely interested in U.S. policies and intelligence on the Middle East, especially toward Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. In 1997 and 1998, the FBI investigated whether Scott Ritter, then a U.S. intelligence official working with UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, was improperly delivering U.S. spy-plane film and other secret material to Israeli intelligence. Ritter was never charged in the case. (Los Angeles Times)
See also below Commentary: The Evidence, Please - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)
A U.S.-drafted resolution telling Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and warning against foreign interference in Beirut's presidential election squeaked through the UN Security Council Thursday. The council voted 9-0 with six abstentions - the minimum vote possible - to adopt the resolution after the U.S. and co-sponsor France agreed under pressure not to mention Syria by name, although it is the only country with foreign forces in Lebanon. Angola, Benin, Britain, Chile, Germany, Romania, and Spain joined in voting in favor of the resolution while Algeria, Brazil, China, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Russia abstained. "The Lebanese parliament and the Lebanese cabinet should express the will of the Lebanese people through a free and fair presidential electoral process. What the Lebanese people and we have witnessed over the past week in terms of Syrian actions is a crude mockery of this principle," U.S. Ambassador John Danforth told the council. (Reuters/CNN)
See also Syria Flexes Muscle in Lebanon (Christian Science Monitor)
Asked about Syria and terrorism Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher responded: "When you have something like the bombings that occurred [Tuesday]...Israel has a right to defend itself and we don't - they don't come to us and we don't approve of Israeli military operations. So that's not a subject of discussion. But we ourselves have made clear our concerns about Syria's support for various groups." (State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at the Negev city of Sderot Friday. The rockets landed near the Afikim kindergarten at an hour when the children were arriving. Five people were treated for shock. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
Egypt's policy toward arming Palestinians is just like Syria's arming of Hizballah, only the Egyptians are going about it more quietly, said the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz. "It's crystal clear that Egypt supports terrorism against Israel by enabling Hamas and others to transform Sinai into their logistical rear," he said. "The real policy of Egypt is to get the Israelis and Palestinians to bleed together."
According to data provided by Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, in the past 18 months Egypt has allowed arms smugglers in the Sinai to bring 5,000 rifles, 330 anti-tank rocket launchers, several hundred RPG rockets, many mortars, and millions of bullets and other kinds of munitions into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "You don't take 5,000 Kalashnikovs in a few suitcases. You take them with many, many trucks and jeeps. So it is not something that a country can ignore," Steinitz said. (Jerusalem Post)
A delegation of top-level aides to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left Israel Thursday after reassuring the Israeli government there is no crisis in Israeli-Turkish ties. The fact that the prime minister dispatched the team to Israel is seen in Jerusalem as an attempt by Erdogan to patch up ties after a tense few months of harsh public criticism of Israel by the Turkish prime minister. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
It used to be that the FBI enjoyed a fearsome reputation for ferreting out traitors and spies. But in recent years, its selective persecution has exposed a bureau too often better at making headlines than convictions. It's useful to keep those travesties in mind as Washington is convulsed by reports of a new FBI spy investigation. Mid-level Pentagon official Larry Franklin is said to be under suspicion of supplying classified documents on Iran policy to AIPAC, which allegedly handed them over to Israel. As exciting as this story line may be, the evidence that has emerged in the last week also suggests a more prosaic conclusion: Franklin may be guilty mostly of carelessness. Maybe the FBI has come up with damning evidence that Franklin is something other than the bland civil servant he appears to be. But so far, the bureau's most amazing feat is to have made Franklin interesting. (Los Angeles Times)
Syria's despot Bashar Assad has been busy deciding who should be Lebanon's next president. Syria has ruled Lebanon as an Assad family fief for the past 28 years. Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976, claiming to be helping to end the country's then year-old civil war. With their "help," that civil war lasted another 15 years. Even after peace came in 1991, Syrian troops stayed on, in violation of Resolution 520, adopted in 1980, that called for respect for Lebanese sovereignty and the "political independence of Lebanon." The Syrians are also flouting the 1989 Taif accords that allowed a continued military presence for no more than two years to restore order in the country. Syria allows the terrorist organization Hizballah to occupy the south, which it uses as a base to attack Israel and to train and equip other terrorist groups.
Lebanon was once a land of promise, a vibrant democratic society known as the "Paris of the Middle East." Forcing Syria out of the country and restoring its former freedom would take a quickly recovering Lebanon a step closer to realizing its full promise. It would also be a victory in the war on terror. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 2 Sep 04)
On Feb. 25, 1996, Ira Weinstein, 53, boarded the No. 18 bus in Jerusalem. Moments later, the bus exploded. Hassan Sulameh, a Hamas commander trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, allegedly planned the attack. Tel Aviv attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner filed a civil suit against Iran for damages for pain and suffering in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2000 on behalf of the Weinstein family, dual American and Israeli citizens.
After the court found for the Weinsteins, Darshan-Leitner worked with legislators and the insurance industry to negotiate an amendment to the U.S. Insurance Act enabling an injured party to collect damages from a state that allegedly sponsors terrorism. Six months after the statute was amended, the State Department provided the information regarding frozen Iranian bank accounts, and the Weinsteins, incredibly, received $7 million from the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Toronto Star)
For the first time in history, states in the Middle East are conducting a systematic, covert war against the U.S. The war is being conducted in Iraq, mainly by Iran, but also by Syria. In both cases, groups are being encouraged to attack and kill Americans. If Damascus and Teheran can get away with waging a direct war against America - at a time when U.S. power and regional presence is at a peak - how much credibility and deterrence will the U.S. have against radical regimes?
Syria is also suspected of hiding high-ranking Saddamist officials and weapons and of concealing mass-destruction materiel. Iran had suspicious ties with al-Qaeda after it was driven out of Afghanistan. At a minimum, it gave safe passage to anti-American terrorists and is probably allowing them to operate from its soil. In addition, it is busily developing nuclear weapons and will soon have them, as well as the missiles to deliver them to distant targets. (Jerusalem Post)
The government of Saudi Arabia is drawing on a multibillion-dollar oil windfall to place hundreds of thousands of young Saudis in jobs traditionally held by foreigners, betting that greater economic opportunities in the kingdom will counter the rising Islamic militancy challenging the royal family. Millions of dollars are flowing into job-training, technical schools, and cash incentives for Saudi companies to hire local citizens in a process known as "Saudization," as some of the foreigners who have long been the backbone of the kingdom's private-sector labor force are returning home. (Washington Post)
In the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the government of Saudi Arabia "turned a blind eye to the financing of al-Qaeda by prominent religious and business leaders and organizations," according to the most comprehensive study of terrorist financing ever made public. Those conclusions, the most pointed critique from any official U.S. source of the still-hazy Saudi role in financing Islamic terrorist attacks, are contained in a new study by the staff of the independent commission that recently concluded its investigation of the circumstances surrounding Sept. 11, 2001. (Chicago Tribune)
See also The 9/11 Commission Report - Matthew A. Levitt
The 9/11 Commission Report's analysis identifies the enemy not as "terrorism" or "Islam" but "Islamist terrorism," a perversion of Islam, and recognizes the need not only to dismantle terror networks, but to defeat the ideology that supports them. Yet the report's recommendations regarding policy toward the Middle East are broad and undefined. The report identifies the removal of terrorist sanctuaries as a paramount tactical objective, but never prescribes a means of removing sanctuaries without empowering the very "repressive political regimes" it seeks to reform. The writer is a senior fellow in terrorism studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (bitterlemons-international.org)
In Cairo, activists of all stripes - left, right, and Islamic - are testing the limits of political activity in anticipation of major reform in Egypt. Mubarak's government tolerates officially registered opposition groups, but many unofficial organizations have begun operating since a cautious liberalization of laws on association in the late 1990s. Still, fear of a crackdown is often evident when opposition groups meet. (Washington Post)
The myth hanging over all discussion of the Palestinian problem is that this land was "Arab" land taken from its native inhabitants by invading Jews. As a strictly legal matter, the Jews didn't take Palestine from the Arabs; they took it from the British, and the British don't want it back. Before that, it was a province of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years, and the Turks don't want it back. So any Arab claim to sovereignty based on inherited historical control will not stand up. Arabs are not native to Palestine but come from Arabia, the historic home of the Arabs.
The Palestinian claim to be descended from Canaanites is an invention that came after the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Prior to 1964 there was no "Palestinian" people and no "Palestinian" claim to Palestine; the Arab nations who sought to overrun and destroy Israel in 1948 planned to divide up the territory among themselves. (FrontPageMagazine)
The main goal of modern Jihadism - a cataclysmic apocalyptic movement - is Islam's dominance over the world. Jihad, the millennial war, emerges in most places where Muslim majorities share a border with another culture. It also expresses itself in demopathy, or the invocation of civil society's values to undermine the Western democratic society from within. There is a significant overlap between the religious Hamas and the "secular" PLO in their use of apocalyptic rhetoric. Its characteristics include global conspiracy theory, total war, virulent anti-Semitism, contempt for human life, and child sacrifice. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
You've probably heard that Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East - is building a fence to safeguard its citizens against suicide bombers. What you likely won't hear about is how the fence has saved scores of civilian lives from a hail of suicide attacks. You also won't hear that Israeli courts put forth a ruling to ensure that the route of the fence minimizes Palestinian hardships. And you certainly won't hear that while 75% of Palestinians live below the poverty line now, before waves of suicide bombers were sent to murder Israelis, Palestinian unemployment stood at an all-time low, its GDP stood at an all-time high, and its level of civility with Israel stood then unmatched. (George Washington University Hatchet)
The mangled wreckage of a bus destroyed by a suicide bomber in Israel is coming to Berkeley, and local pro-Palestinian groups are crying foul. Yet Susanne DeWitt, chairwoman of Israeli Action Committee of the East Bay, explains: "This bus is about terrorism, period. People need to see what terrorism really looks like."
The bomber attacked the bus, Jerusalem No. 19, last Jan. 29, killing 11 people and injuring 50. "We're going to park it across from Berkeley City Hall in Martin Luther King Park. A bombed-out bus has powerful meaning for those of us who lived through the civil rights movement and remember the Freedom Rider buses that were bombed by the Ku Klux Klan," said DeWitt, a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. (Berkeley Voice)
Two Israeli men who lost children when a suicide bomber blew up a bus in Haifa last year visited New Hampshire this week to tell their stories. Ron Kehrmann's 17-year-old daughter, Tal, and Yossi Zur's 16-year-old son Asaf were among 17 people killed in the March 5, 2003, explosion. People can learn more about Asaf Zur and Tal Kehrmann at the Web sites devoted to the teenagers. Asaf's is www.blondi.co.il and Tal's is www.Tal-Smile.com. (Manchester [NH] Union Leader)
At home, Eran Kurtzer is a suburbanite with a wife, baby daughter, and small insurance agency. But for six weeks a year, Kurtzer, 33, is an army major leading a company of paratroopers on patrols through the hills of the West Bank. He and his unit are among thousands of Israeli men who once a year are torn from their everyday routine and thrust back into uniform. The disrupted lives and livelihoods that American reservists are discovering as they spend months in Iraq have been a way of life in Israel since 1948. "I'm proud to be doing this....It's a privilege, not a burden," Kurtzer said. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
Lessons from Negotiating with the Palestinians - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Alan Baker, legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry since 1996, leaves this week for his new post as Israel's ambassador to Canada. He was asked about the lessons he learned from many years of negotiations with Arab states and the Palestinians:
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