Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 29, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Arafat Robs the Palestine International Bank - Issam Abu Issa (Middle East Forum)
    I returned to Ramallah from Qatar after the Oslo accords and in 1996 founded the Palestine International Bank (PIB), hoping to build a thriving economy in the newly autonomous PA areas.
    On November 28, 1999, Arafat dissolved the PIB's board of directors, and the state-controlled Palestine Monetary Authority took over the bank, whose assets amounted to $105 million, a confiscation of my own, my shareholders', and my clients' private assets for Arafat's personal use.
    Many of us who worked with or lived under Arafat see him as a man exclusively concerned with power, money, and personal gratification. He heads a dictatorial regime staffed by gangsters.
    Arriving penniless in Gaza and the West Bank from exile in Tunisia, many PLO members amassed wealth, built villas in Gaza, Ramallah, and Amman, and sent their children to the best schools in the UK and the U.S.
    The Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, an organization meant to channel funds from donor countries like France and Germany, became a mechanism by which to enrich Arafat. Authenticated PLO papers signed by Arafat instruct his staff to divert donors' money to projects benefiting himself, his family, and his associates.
    Between 1995 and 2000, Arafat's thugs beat up at least 11 elected members of the 88-member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) because they voiced views in private and in public that were opposed to Arafat's.
    One of Arafat's favorite slogans was "Democracy of the Guns." Arafat believes true power lies in force, whether directed against Israelis or against his own people.
    Arafat's failed leadership is one factor responsible for the evolution of Palestinian extremism and fundamentalism, as well as a culture of death and despair among the Palestinians.
    Increasing numbers of Palestinians blame U.S. and Israeli officials who calculated that a Palestinian dictatorship would make a better negotiating partner than a Palestinian democracy.
    When growing pressure in the Palestinian territories forced Arafat to find a scapegoat for his political failure, mismanagement, and economic plunder, he turned his guns toward the Israelis.
    The writer is founder of the Palestinian National Coalition for Democracy and Independence, a Palestinian democratic reform movement.

French Jewish Families Demand Arafat Interrogation (AFP/Expatica)
    The relatives of six French citizens killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel several years ago have called for French authorities to question Arafat while he receives treatment in Paris.
    Five of the deaths happened in suicide bombings in Jerusalem between 1996 and 2002, while the sixth was due to a sniper attack in Hebron in March 2001.

U.S. Congressmen Urge Sanctions on Lebanon - Janine Zacharia (Jerusalem Post)
    The Bush administration is considering whether to punish Lebanese officials who are cooperating with Syria's occupation of Lebanon by freezing their assets in the U.S.
    Earlier this month, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) wrote to President Bush asking him to freeze the assets "of any individual who is found to be contributing to Syria's occupation of Lebanon or support for terrorism," in accordance with the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.
    In addition, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a Kuwaiti news agency on Monday, "It's about time for the Syrians to remove themselves and let Lebanon be for the Lebanese."

Utah County Sheriffs Get Security Tips in Israel - Justin Hill (Provo Daily Herald)
    One day, more advanced equipment will be available to first responders throughout the nation with help from input by sheriffs who recently returned from a trip to Israel, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy says.
    Tracy and sheriff's Sgt. Skip Curtis spent one week in September with more than three dozen other sheriffs and their personnel on a fact-finding mission sponsored by the National Sheriffs' Association.
    The sheriffs saw more advanced weapons and systems than those available in the U.S., Tracy said.

Israel Raises $750M in U.S. Bond Issue - Mati Wagner (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel sold $750 million of 20-year bonds to Merrill Lynch Thursday, part of $9 billion in debt backed by the U.S. approved in 2003 for sale over three years.

New Ben-Gurion Airport Terminal Opens - Zohar Blumenkrantz and Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    Terminal 3, Ben-Gurion International Airport's new terminal, will begin operating on Tuesday.
    A new perimeter defense system around Terminal 3 incorporates electronic early-warning measures.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ailing Arafat Flies to Paris
    Arafat was flown to Paris for medical treatment on Friday via Amman, Jordan. Israeli officials promised Thursday that he could return to the West Bank after going abroad for treatment. His abruptly declining health raised immediate questions about a successor and the stability of the West Bank and Gaza because he controls the various Palestinian security services. In recent years Arafat has been sharply criticized by a younger generation of Palestinians for his refusal to share power, groom a successor, or promote government institutions. But as long as he lives, it is unlikely that there will be a visible succession struggle. (New York Times)
        The working assumption among Israeli officials is that Arafat is terminally ill. Senior Palestinian officials said Arafat's mind was not functioning and he was unaware of his surroundings. (Ha'aretz)
  • Few U.S. Tears for Ailing Arafat
    Few tears will be shed for the ailing Arafat in Washington, which has long seen the Palestinian icon as an obstacle to peace. U.S. officials believe Arafat's death, or removal from the scene, would create new dangers but also opportunities to end the conflict with Israel. "There is definitely going to be a battle for the future Palestinian leadership," one administration official said. (Reuters)
  • Satellite Photos Document Removal of Iraqi Weapons to Syria - Bill Gertz
    Satellite photographs "documented the movement of long convoys of trucks from various areas around Baghdad to the Syrian border" from several weapons sites in Iraq in the weeks before U.S. military operations were launched, an official of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) said Thursday. The official said the convoys are believed to include shipments of sensitive armaments, including equipment used in making plastic explosives and nuclear weapons. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Mortar Kills Soldier, Wounds 6 in Gaza - Amos Harel and Nir Hasson
    Sergeant Michael Chizik, 21, was killed by a Palestinian mortar shell Thursday near Morag in southern Gaza. Palestinian gunmen hit an IDF position with mortars and sniper fire, wounding six additional soldiers, three of them seriously. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abu Mazen's Return to Power? - Arnon Regular
    Senior Palestinian figures decided Thursday that the Palestinian Legislative Council would convene shortly after Arafat's departure and speed legislation to transfer power to Abu Mazen by virtue of his role as secretary-general of the PLO's Executive Committee, the highest ranking position in the PLO after Arafat. (Ha'aretz)
        See also No War of Inheritance - Amira Hass
    The name of Abu Mazen (former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas) was brought up in every consultation as the man who could fill the vacuum in the Palestinian political system. Abu Mazen resigned from his duties in Fatah institutions after its central committee turned its back on him as prime minister. However, Fatah's grass-roots activists made it clear in unofficial consultations Thursday that they want to see Abu Mazen return and assume authority as head of the movement. Until Arafat's condition is cleared up and/or elections are held, Abu Mazen will assume all of Arafat's duties. (Ha'aretz)
  • End of an Era? - Margot Dudkevitch
    "It appears that Arafat's condition is serious, and if he dies, it will mark the end of an era of blood, murder, and violence, an era in which violence was viewed as the supreme objective," Maj.-Gen (res.) Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's foreign policy department, told Channel 2 TV. Gilad said he hopes a responsible leadership will take over if Arafat dies, one that will be able to ensure that law and order prevail. "This is a possibility, as Arafat won't be there to interfere," he said. "The real test is in the long term, and whether a new Palestinian leadership will be able to curb terrorism. Meanwhile, we should be patient and prepare for another era in which the PA won't be involved in terror." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Few Palestinians Show Support for Arafat - Amira Hass
    Very few people gathered outside Arafat's headquarters Wednesday to express their concern for their leader's health. Large segments of the Palestinian public felt remote from their leader. In the past four years, and also during the Oslo years, it has been more and more difficult for Fatah activists to find in Arafat the statesman they once believed in. More and more people could be heard saying in the past months that there will be no changes as long as Arafat is alive. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Bombmaker Killed in Kalkilya
    Hamas terrorist Ibrahim Mohamad Faid Issa, 47, was an expert bombmaker for various terrorist organizations in Kalkilya. In addition, Issa planned a number of attacks on civilian targets within Israel which were thwarted when he was killed during IDF activity. Issa regularly wore an explosive belt and was constantly armed with weapons and grenades in order to avoid an arrest by Israeli security forces. (IDF)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Arafat's Illness Affect Disengagement? - Tovah Lazaroff
    Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said, "For now, nothing is going to hinder disengagement....If indeed, as the result of developments there will arise a new leadership that will institute reforms and eradicate terrorism and stop incitement and fulfill its obligations under the road map, then we will reconsider [the disengagement plan]. We always preferred a bilateral agreement over a unilateral movement. We did it by default. We will have to gauge the new situation and then make our assessments," said Gissin. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also If Arafat Dies - There Will Be No Disengagement - Atila Shumpalvi
    Some political observers predict that if Arafat dies, one direct result could be the shelving of the unilateral disengagement plan - on the assumption that a new partner may arise. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Arafat's Condition May Effect Disengagement Plan - Amos Harel
    The prime minister put the disengagement plan into play based on the assumption that there was no partner on the Palestinian side. If Arafat leaves the arena now, the basis of the process will change completely. Two developments may temper the extent of the violence in the event of Arafat's death: his decreased popularity in the territories (despite the fact that residents still see him as a symbol), and the fact that Israel was not portrayed as attempting to harm him.
        According to Brigadier General (res.) Shalom Harari, a senior military analyst of Palestinian affairs, the PLO's old guard is expected to take initial control of the leadership, but the key to the future will rest in the hands of those who lead the Palestinian security apparatus: Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Tawfik Tirawi, and Mohammed al-Hindi. Harari expects that a more profound power struggle between the PLO and the Hamas will take place. "There will be two governments: the Fatah leadership against the Islamic organizations." (Ha'aretz)
  • Back on the Road Map? - Aluf Benn
    Efforts to renew American involvement between Israel and the Palestinians will be significantly boosted with the passing of the man who has been described as the obstacle to any settlement or compromise. Without Arafat in the arena, pressure on Israel will mount to coordinate the withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank with the PA. Sharon will try to stick to his plan and delay political dialogue with the PA until it becomes clear whether there is a stable leadership on the Palestinian side that both wants and is able to fight terrorism. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Good and Bad Scenarios - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
  • After Arafat, Upheaval - David Ignatius
    For more than 30 years, Yasser Arafat has symbolized the Age of Immobilism in Arab politics. This week's news that Arafat is seriously ill is a reminder that Arabs are entering a new era. The icebergs that have frozen Arab political life are breaking up. I first interviewed Arafat in 1981 at his headquarters in Beirut. Summarizing that interview, I wrote that Arafat had learned an unfortunate lesson: "It is much easier to stand still than to try to move forward." That could be the epitaph for a whole generation of Arab leaders. With the connivance of the U.S., and with the permanent excuse of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they clung to the status quo year after year, decade after decade. (Washington Post)
        See also Middle East Movement - Editorial
    For the Gaza withdrawal to jump-start the Bush road map, moderate Palestinians must be coaxed into setting up a responsible administration in the territory that will curb violence against Israelis both before and after the withdrawal and demonstrate a capacity for statehood. Arafat's illness might make that job more complicated in the short term, but if his departure from the scene proves permanent, a major opportunity will open. U.S. diplomacy will be needed to encourage the election of new Palestinian leaders, orchestrate support from other Arab and European governments, and stimulate fresh negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. (Washington Post)
  • What the Terrorists Have in Mind - Daniel Benjamin and Gabriel Weimann
    Today, the central forum for the terrorists' discourse is not covert phone communications but the Internet, where Islamist Web sites and chat rooms are filled with evaluations of current events, discussions of strategy, and elaborations of jihadist ideology. Radicals who were downcast in 2002 about the rapid defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan now feel exuberant about the global situation and, above all, the events in Iraq. Moreover, the radicals see themselves as gaining ground in their effort to convince other Muslims around the world that jihad is a religiously required military obligation. Daniel Benjamin was a director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council staff under President Bill Clinton. Gabriel Weimann is professor of communications at the University of Haifa in Israel. (New York Times)
  • Syria's Cult of the Dead Still Rules the Living - Nicolas Rothwell
    Safe in their mountain mausoleum at Qardaha lie the bodies of Syria's former strongman, president Hafez Al-Assad, alongside his beloved son and intended political heir Basel, who died in a car crash a decade ago. Dead, but far from forgotten, the cult of the two Assads overshadows today's president, Bashar Al-Assad, the old leader's second son. Pictures and posters of Hafez gazing benignly over his country are still omnipresent four years after his death, as are gigantic statues of the man, poised in city squares or on strategic hilltops. Basel is also constantly depicted, his face shown bearded and with dark shades on the windscreens of cars and trucks, on signs along the highways, at the entrance arches to factories and military bases across the nation. (The Australian)

    Weekend Features

  • Emigre Jew's Wartime Book Takes France by Storm - Jon Henley
    A remarkable and previously unpublished wartime work by an emigre Russian Jew in France has taken the world of publishing by storm. Irene Nemirovsky, considered one of the most talented and celebrated authors in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, died in Auschwitz on August 17, 1942. Her daughter Denise took with her into hiding the thick leather binder that had never left her mother's side. In the mid-1970s Denise began to transcribe what she found inside. Written in minuscule letters of barely a millimeter, on cheap wartime paper, were two completed novels.
        Storm in June is a series of vital, vivid, and often cruel tableaux of families and individuals during the panic-stricken exodus of June 1940 that saw half of France take to the road to flee the Germans. Dolce is a more studied and literary portrait of a small village, Bussy, at the very beginning of the occupation, and of the first tentative complicities of collaboration. (Guardian-UK)
  • French Anti-Semitism: A Barometer for Gauging Society's Perverseness - Interview with Shmuel Trigano by Manfred Gerstenfeld
    The Jews' situation in France is indicative of the condition of French society. Substantial anti-Semitic violence in recent years underscores several of the country's major problems. The government affirms its determination to combat anti-Semitism while at the same time continuing to feed the anti-Semitic discourse at its origins.
        The ongoing anti-Jewish aggression has created a trend toward mental and behavioral ghettoization of the French Jewish community, as many Jews now feel secure only in a Jewish environment. For the same reason, the enrollment in Jewish day schools has increased. In a 2003 poll, almost 20% of French Jews said they intend to leave France. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Anti-Israel Columbia Professor Under Fire - Amiram Barkat
    Jewish and pro-Israel organizations are demanding that Columbia University in New York fire a Jordanian professor of Palestinian origin who allegedly expressed anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic views in class and displayed a hostility toward Israeli and Jewish students. Joseph Massad, assistant professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, compared Israel to the Nazis and argued that the Jewish state has no right to exist. Massad asked one Israeli student who had served in the army, "How many Palestinians did you kill?" (Ha'aretz)
  • The Great White Hope - Shaul Adar
    When Roman Greenberg boxes, his expression hardly ever changes. His boxing trunks are emblazoned with a huge Star of David, and you can see the tautness and purpose in his eyes. The goal of Roman Greenberg, the Israeli boxer from London, is clear and ambitious: to become the World Heavyweight Champion within two years. Greenberg's record as a professional now stands at 16 victories in 16 bouts. Respected experts, including Muhammad Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee, as well as other observers, believe that Greenberg could be the real thing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    The Post-Arafat Scene - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • It is extremely unlikely that there will be a single new leader, at least for some years to come. If there is a collective leadership, it will include people of very different viewpoints who will not be able to agree on changing the status quo.
    • The chances of a Palestinian civil war are very low. It is hard to have a civil war when there are 10 different factions. No one has enough power to believe they can win. And if anyone tries to take over, all the other groups will align against them.
    • There are people in the leadership who genuinely understand the mess into which Arafat has led the Palestinians. They know that a compromise peace is the only way out of their current dead-end.
    • Unfortunately, there are even more activists who believe in revolution until victory and think the struggle should go on until Israel is destroyed, or at least defeated enough to make massive unilateral concessions.
    • Still others are opportunists and careerists who will go along with the consensus - which is still an extremely radical one - to preserve their privileges.
    • Offering compromises, acting in too friendly a manner with the U.S., trying to stop terrorism, and seeking to quiet incitement are the kind of actions likely to bring down the wrath of numerous, well-armed militants on anyone who acts dovish.
    • As Fatah leaders compete for power, many will be tempted into an alliance with Hamas to put them on Arafat's throne. This would give Hamas a veto power over any future political arrangements, which would be another nail in the coffin of peace hopes.
    • In a sense, Arafat has poisoned the atmosphere to such an extent that it might take years to clean it up. The identification of moderation with treason, the cult of total victory, and the promotion of vicious hatred and incitement are difficult to reverse.

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