Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 23, 2004

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UK Terror Attacks Thwarted (Scotsman-UK)
    British security services thwarted planned Sept. 11-style terror attacks on Heathrow Airport and skyscrapers in Canary Wharf, a financial district of London.
    The plans to crash planes into the two targets were among four or five attacks planned by terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda network, ITV News reported Monday.
    The report also said that British authorities had disrupted training programs for suicide pilots.

UN Includes Anti-Semitism in Resolution on Tolerance - Shlomo Shamir (Ha'aretz)
    The UN Third Commission on Human Rights has approved for the first time a resolution on religious tolerance that includes condemnation of anti-Semitism and concern about its spread. The resolution is adopted annually by consensus.
    Attempts in the past by Israel and U.S. Jewish groups to include explicit references to anti-Semitism were foiled by the Arab and Islamic states, but this year Holland and Germany made clear to Arab diplomats that Europe was determined to include the reference to anti-Semitism.

Fatah Fugitive Hidden by Arafat Killed in Ramallah - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Muhammad Ghassan Sheikh, a senior Fatah member who until recently was among scores of fugitives hiding out in Arafat's compound, was killed on Sunday, along with two of his aides, by an elite police unit west of Ramallah.
    As the unit closed in to arrest Sheikh, he opened fire. Police officers shot back; Sheikh was killed along with Nasser Said Jabarra, 30, a member of the presidential guard, Force 17, and Salem Hilna, 33, a member of the PA security forces.
    From Arafat's headquarters, Sheikh planned suicide bombings and maintained contact with terror cells in the West Bank.

Ramallah Lynch Perpetrator Sentenced to Life - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Azziz Mustafa Salha, 23, one of the Palestinians involved in the Ramallah lynching of two reservists on October 12, 2000, and whose photo, holding up his hands stained with the blood of the two soldiers to the mob standing outside the police station was shown worldwide, was sentenced to life in the Judea Military Court on Sunday.

Weather Puts Halt to Spread of Locusts - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
    The harsh wintry conditions Monday throughout most of Israel halted the spread of locusts in the south, and the remaining swarms in the area were either destroyed or disappeared.
    The air force reported a large 10-kilometer-long swarm approaching Israel from Sinai, but experts said it was likely the harsh weather conditions in the country kept the swarm out.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Nations Back Iraq's Fight vs. Insurgents
    Leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheik on Iraq's future plan to give strong backing to the interim government's war against insurgents, but won't set a deadline for withdrawing U.S.-led forces from Iraq - despite a push by France and some Arab countries. Iraq asked Egypt to convene the conference to bolster world support for its battle against insurgents and its plan to hold national elections. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Arafat's Death Remains a Mystery, Nephew Says After Seeing Records Arafat's nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, said Monday that according to medical records released to him by the French Ministry of Defense, there were no traces of known poisons found in the Palestinian leader before he died, but that his cause of death remained a mystery. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon to Powell: Israel Will Coordinate Disengagement If PA Acts Against Terrorism - Aluf Benn and Arnon Regular
    Israel will agree to coordinate next summer's disengagement from Gaza with the PA, but "if the PA does not take steps against terror, it will be impossible to advance," Prime Minister Sharon told U.S. Secretary of State Powell on Monday. "I understand the problems of a new leadership, but at some stage they need to take steps against terror. If they do, and prevent Kassam [rocket] launches, there will be coordination."
        Sharon promised Powell, who visited both Jerusalem and Ramallah, that Israel would make every effort to ensure the success of the PA election and would facilitate freedom of movement by opening transit points and withdrawing troops, but only where this does not harm Israel's security. Sharon stressed that Israel rejects European proposals to skip the first stage of the road map peace plan, which requires the PA to fight terror and carry out reforms, and go straight to final-status talks. "The Palestinians are daydreaming if they think that after Arafat's death, all they need to do is submit a list of demands to Israel," he said. Sharon also told Powell that Hizballah "has replaced Arafat as the driving force behind Palestinian terror."
        In an interview with Israel Television, Powell praised Sharon's attitude as "flexible and open." In Ramallah, Powell said, "We have to ensure that terrorism and violence will not be permitted once again to stop this process." In Jericho, Powell said that statehood "won't be determined by picking a date, but by progress and action on the ground." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Powell Interview with Israel Television (State Department)
  • Sharon: Israel to Facilitate PA Poll - Gideon Alon
    Israel will take the necessary steps to enable the Palestinians to conduct their elections, Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. Sharon said there are already some technical-organizational discussions about the elections under way with the Palestinians.
        Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, head of research in Military Intelligence, told the committee that the current Palestinian leadership has a different approach and attitude than did Arafat, and that it wants to create a change in Palestinian political culture. They understand they have to deal with the anarchy and unify all the security services, he said. "The current leadership does not believe in continuing the terror attacks," he said. "It does not rule them out, but it does not believe in terror as the way to achieve national goals." (Ha'aretz)
  • Former IDF Chief Rafael Eitan Drowns in Ashdod - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Rafael "Raful" Eitan, 75, was hit by a large wave at Ashdod port Tuesday while overseeing the construction of a new breakwater. Eitan was a former deputy prime minister as leader of the Tzomet Party and served as agriculture and environment minister. A legendary IDF paratroop commander and the 11th chief of staff during the Lebanon War, Eitan had fought in the Palmach during the 1948 War of Independence and was severely wounded in the battle for Jerusalem. In 1956 he was the first to parachute into the Mitla Pass during the Sinai Campaign.
        "The man was courageous, a true leader, and impersonated the true qualities of a fighter. It might sound strange but it suits him to die at work," former president Ezer Weizman told Army Radio. "He will always be remembered as a symbolic fighter that embodies the Jewish people's struggle in the Land of Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Approves New Aid Package to Israel - Janine Zacharia
    The U.S. House and Senate approved on Saturday a spending bill for 2005 which includes $2.2 billion in military assistance and $360 million in economic assistance for Israel. It also includes an additional $50 million in refugee resettlement assistance. The bill contains a provision allowing Israel an extra two years to finish using $9 billion in loan guarantees, allowing five years rather than three. The bill also requires the U.S. secretary of state to report to Congress on whether UNRWA employees or facilities have been involved in Palestinian terrorist activities. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas Receives Committee Nomination - Lamia Lahoud
    Fatah's 21-member central committee on Monday chose Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as its candidate for the PA chairmanship. The 88-member Fatah revolutionary council is due to meet Thursday to decide on its candidate. West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, currently serving consecutive life-sentences in an Israeli prison, is a member of the revolutionary council and is considering declaring his candidacy. Barghouti confidant and Jerusalem Fatah leader Ahmed Ghanem said, "the main difference between Abu Mazen and Marwan is that Marwan still believes that the struggle (the intifada) will lead the Palestinians to achieve their goals." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sharon Has Reasonable Request for Advancing Peace - Editorial
    Sharon is asking for something of great symbolic and practical importance: a reduction in the poisonous hate toward Israel that Palestinians are force-fed daily in school and on TV. "The venomous propaganda in the Palestinian media and education system is the root and foundation of the expansion of the suicide terrorism phenomenon,'' Sharon said. Palestinians should have taken care of this long ago, if they really want to someday live in peace with their neighbors. It is impossible to negotiate at a diplomatic level while broadcasting hatred toward your partner in peace. Sharon called his demand "a test of the Palestinian leadership." It is, and a fair one. (Chicago Sun Times)
  • No More Premature Treaties - Michael Oren
    It seems highly unlikely that any Palestinian figure will be capable in the foreseeable future of marshaling the legitimacy needed to make peace with Israel, or the military power to impose that peace on the Palestinian terrorist groups that will certainly oppose it. No Palestinian leader today is capable of reversing the warlike brainwashing of children and of reeducating them for coexistence. Fatah leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei may be perfectly acceptable to both Israel and the U.S.; but it is far from certain that they will ever be acceptable to the Palestinians. At this stage it would be premature, if not counterproductive, for the U.S. and the other members of the Quartet to designate some Palestinian as Arafat's successor and railroad him into signing a treaty he might be either powerless or unwilling to fulfill. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Regime Change May be Better Than a Nuclear-Armed Iran - Anton La Guardia
    The more one looks at Iran's civil nuclear program, the more it looks like a concerted project to build an atomic bomb. There are serious questions about how much of Iran's nuclear program remains hidden from international inspectors. Even if scrupulously respected by the mullahs, the suspension can be instantly abrogated. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Rulers for Life, and Longer - Howard Schneider
    In the grim reality of Arab politics there is no graceful passing of the torch, or stately retirement. Death has become the de facto term limit. Arab heads of state in large part operate with lifetime sinecures, and then their sons or close advisers usually take over. Just as happens to any system that lacks a way to reinvigorate itself with competition, new ideas and younger blood, the result is predictable: corruption grows, innovation wanes, and progress halts. That's why it would be dangerous to hope for too much from Arafat's successor. Old leaders die hard, but old habits die harder. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Arafat's Scorched Earth - Yossi Klein Halevi (National Catholic Reporter)

    • For almost all Israeli Jews, Arafat has already taken his place among the most detested villains of Jewish history. That's not only because he re-legitimized the murder of Jews in the post-Holocaust era and delegitimized the existence of the Jewish state; more profoundly, Arafat is detested because he toyed with our deepest longings for peace and betrayed Israel's hopes for normalcy and reconciliation.
    • In his refusal to abandon the demand for refugee return to the Jewish state, Arafat proved to Israelis that the conflict isn't about the 1967 borders or even the settlements but about the existence of Israel in any borders. Indeed, during the failed Camp David negotiations in July 2000, settlements weren't even among the top five issues dividing the two sides, according to Israel's chief negotiator, Gilad Sher.
    • More than creating a Palestinian state, Arafat was driven by the obsession to destroy the Jewish state, and by a grandiose vision of his place in history, reflected in murals all over the Palestinian territories depicting him as Saladin, waving a sword and riding a white steed.
    • Arafat's scorched earth includes thousands of dead and crippled Israelis, but his crimes hardly end there. Arafat destroyed Palestinian souls. He raised a generation of Palestinian children to see in suicide bombers religious and educational role models.
    • His media taught the Palestinians a culture of denial - denying the most minimal truths of Jewish history, from the biblical narrative of an ancient Jewish presence in the Holy Land to the existence of gas chambers. Indeed, the Palestinian territories, along with much of the Arab world, are the only region on the planet where Holocaust denial has become normative, from intellectual circles to the person on the street.
    • If the post-Arafat Palestinian leadership somehow manages to undo Arafat's legacy and end terror and the culture of incitement, then the Israeli public will support negotiations. Yet few Israelis really believe that that scenario is possible, at least not in the foreseeable future.

      The writer is the Israel correspondent for the New Republic.

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