Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. May Strike at Ba'athists in Syria - Janine Zacharia (Jerusalem Post)
Arafat's Worldwide Investments - Vernon Silver (Bloomberg)
IDF: Significant Decline in 2004 Terror - Nina Gilbert (Jerusalem Post)
Iran Still Producing Uranium Metal (AP/CNN)
Saudi Government Daily: U.S. Army Harvesting Organs of Iraqis (MEMRI)
Apple Diplomacy between Israel and Syria - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
Italian Police to Train PA Security Forces (AP/Ha'aretz)
India, Israel Meet on Defense (Hindustan Times-India)
Israeli Companies Win Top Technology Innovation Awards (Israel 21C)
Israel Bonds Meets $1.25b Target for 2004
- Ran Dagoni (Globes)
Jerusalem Distributes Free Christmas Trees to Christians (CNS News/Townhall)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
British Prime Minister Blair's Middle East peace quest was severely jolted when his counterpart in the West Bank took umbrage at suggestions that the Palestinians needed to be groomed for statehood. The hardline Hamas movement, regarded by Blair's government as a terrorist organization, also urged the PA to steer clear of a March conference in London focusing on Palestinian political and economic reforms.
Blair had received backing for the conference during his trip to the West Bank on Wednesday from new PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas. But Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei remarked: "We have heard what he (Blair) said in Israel and then here (Ramallah) about his wish to host a conference to groom the Palestinians to take part in the peace process....We reject these unacceptable declarations for we are already groomed and we have the necessary means and expertise to negotiate. We need an international peace conference and not a simple meeting" on Palestinian reforms. "It is the Israelis who need to be educated on the subject of peace....We don't need someone from Oxford or Cambridge when we already have the desire for peace," he added. (AFP/Yahoo)
Hamas - regarded as a terror group by Israel and the West - made a strong showing in West Bank local elections - the first time the Islamic militant group competed at the polls. The apparent drop in the popularity of the ruling Fatah movement comes at a time when Fatah leaders are pushing to resume peace talks with Israel. Hamas is pledged to Israelís destruction and opposes negotiations. Elections for local councils were held in 26 communities on Thursday. According to preliminary results, Fatah won a majority of seats in 14 towns, while Hamas took control in 9 communities. (Scotsman-UK)
Israel and Jordan agreed on Thursday to tear down many of their remaining trade barriers. "This new agreement will allow greater exports from both Israel and Jordan to the U.S. and the EU," said Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel sees Jordan as a bridge to the Arab world, and views the prospect of close economic ties with an Arab state as an important step towards easing its regional isolation. Scores of demonstrators who disapprove of any ties with Israel protested in Amman against the deal. (Reuters)
See also Israel Offers Scholarships to Jordanian Students
Israel is offering scholarships to over 100 Jordanian students to specialize in high tech fields at Israeli institutions of higher education, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian chief of preventive security Rashid Abu Shbak said Thursday that Palestinian militant groups will not be allowed to carry arms after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Abu Shbak told Saudi Arabian al-Arabeya satellite television that militants should drop their guns after the PA takes control of Gaza. "There will be only one gun, the gun of the Palestinian security forces that will be used to bring security and safety to the Palestinians and will be used in imposing discipline and law." (Xinhua-China)
Yellow Hizballah banners flutter throughout the hilltop villages of southern Lebanon and Hizballah-funded schools and hospitals serve thousands of the region's residents. But relations between Hizballah and many Lebanese are growing more strained by the day. A debate over the nature of Hizballah and its long-term goals in Lebanon has been reignited in the past few weeks, bringing pressure on the party to give up the arsenal that once made it a heroic symbol in the Arab world.
Concerns over Hizballah's place in Lebanese society reemerged in August when party leaders backed a three-year term extension for President Emile Lahoud, a move pushed by the Syrian government. Syria and Iran are Hizballah's chief foreign patrons. Western diplomats and political analysts in Beirut estimated that Hizballah received $200 million a year from Iran. (Washington Post)
See also Hizballah: Not Just Israel's Problem - Rory Miller
Hizballah remains a radical Lebanese-based Shi'ite umbrella organization whose primary objective (first set out in 1985) may be the creation of a pan-Islamic republic in Lebanon headed by Islamic clerics. But it is also committed to promoting its Islamist agenda across the globe in both the Muslim and non-Muslim world as evidenced by the group's recent failed attempt to get a license to broadcast its satellite television channel into France. (Tech Central Station)
While insurgents in Iraq have placed informants inside the Iraqi government, the U.S. and Iraqi militaries, coalition contractors, and international news organizations, the U.S. is having serious intelligence problems in Iraq, according to sources inside and outside the U.S. government. The CIA and the U.S. military were slow to start creating intelligence networks in Iraq and have had trouble developing informants because of death threats to Iraqis and their families should they get involved. (Washington Post)
Canadian Prosecutor Anne Aube called the firebombing of Montreal's United Talmud Torah school "an act of terrorism" on Canadian soil that targeted one community but attacked Canadian values as a whole. Sleiman El-Merhebi, 19, pleaded guilty to setting the fire on April 5. Aube said El-Merhebi was not merely a prank-prone teen acting impulsively when he lobbed kerosene canisters through the smashed library window and destroyed more than 10,000 children's books. She said his act was premeditated - he bought the kerosene two days before the attack - and then he coldly worked out an alibi. (Toronto Globe and Mail)
See also How an Awkward Teen Embraced a Fiery Hatred (Toronto Globe and Mail)
The Dutch secret service says combating terrorism also means tackling the problem of thousands of disaffected "born again" Muslims in the West who are open to the appeal of a radical, puritan version of Islam. The AIVD, which has previously said it is monitoring about 150 suspected Islamist militants in The Netherlands, said "several thousand" Muslims, mostly youngsters, were vulnerable to the appeal of radical Islam, in a 60-page report presented to the Dutch parliament. "Recruitment of Dutch youths with mostly foreign roots for the armed radical Islamic struggle is rather a trend than an incident in The Netherlands."
The AIVD said ways of countering the threat from radical Islam included bolstering moderate Muslim leaders, encouraging the emancipation of Muslim women, and more actively prosecuting suspected incitement to violence or discrimination. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Five mortars landed Friday in Kfar Darom in Gaza. Two hit the home of Hanna Bart, who was shot in the back and paralyzed two years ago. "The mortar landed right above her head and was stopped by the concrete ceiling," said Gershon Yona, secretary of Kfar Darom. Also Friday, a mortar landed near a school in Neve Dekelim. Additional mortars landed Thursday night near an IDF post, at the Erez crossing point and near Jewish towns in northern Gaza, and near Netzarim. Israel's security services are aware that the Palestinian terrorist organizations have been stepping up their attacks on Gush Katif in response to the PA election campaign. (Maariv-Hebrew)
Ariel is an indispensable part of the State of Israel, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Thursday while touring the security fence in the Ariel area, Israel Radio reported. Shalom said there was "wide international recognition" that Israeli settlements east of the "green line" would remain in Israeli hands. (Jerusalem Post)
Soldiers manning the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus nabbed two Palestinian teenagers, aged 16 and 18, each trying to smuggle a bomb on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Calling the number of anti-Israel resolutions in the UN "ridiculous," Netherlands Ambassador Bob Heinsch said Wednesday the EU was committed to reducing those numbers. "We all agree that it is ridiculous that we have 19 to 20 resolutions every year; it is a ritual and we should get rid of that," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
Two parallel opinion surveys assessing Arafat's leadership were held among Palestinians by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC) and in Israel by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University - the Israeli one on Nov. 29-30, the Palestinian one on Dec. 4-5. On the issues of advancing the peace process with Israel, creating a democratic system of government that acts according to law, and developing the Palestinian economy, the percentage of criticism of Arafat in the Palestinian public is quite high. The conclusion from the results is that the widespread image of a revered leader, immune to criticism by his people, was apparently exaggerated.
Some 70% of the Israeli Jewish public is now more optimistic about the chances for peace. Some 20% think Arafat's death has not changed anything, and 9% have grown more pessimistic. The Israeli Arabs' assessment of Arafat's leadership, ironically, exceeds the evaluation of the Palestinians themselves - 92% see him as a good or very good leader, compared with 82% among the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
To the Editor of the New York Times: One sentence in your Dec. 18 editorial "Timely Help for the Palestinians" betrays the subtle and inherent bias against Israel that pervades too much of Western thought. When supporting the removal of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, you write, "While those checkpoints have undoubtedly reduced the number of attacks by suicide bombers, they have made it virtually impossible for average Palestinians to move freely, whether going to the polls or simply trying to go to work."
Doesn't it make sense that Palestinians should be required to eliminate the suicide bombers in their midst before Israel is forced to open checkpoints? What other nation would be asked to put the ability of its adversaries to move freely over the need to protect the lives of its people? (New York Times)
Demonization of Israel and anti-Semitic tension on American campuses has lessened considerably and the divestment movement has dissipated, according to Harvard University President Larry Summers. "While these tensions are by no means absent, they seem to have receded somewhat over the past two years," he said Wednesday in Jerusalem. "The clear and firm refusal of major universities in the United States to contemplate divestiture has led to the drying up of the divestiture movement."
Summers lashed out at those who take no moral position. "One of the disturbing tendencies in academic life is that there is a desire on the part of many in the name of open-mindedness to fall into a kind of relativistic denialism in which all positions are equally legitimate, all positions must be respected, and compromise must be entered into no matter what the starting point or reasonableness of the two parties," he said. "It seems to me that Israel is right. Its friends are right. Moral people everywhere are right to resist this approach." The need to view all conflicts symmetrically - "the response of appeasement" which suggests that if there is so much antipathy towards the United States and Israel it must be their "fault" - is a dangerous one, Summers warned. "It's dangerous because it emboldens those who engage in such [demonizing] rhetoric; dangerous because it is not recognizing and telling the truth." (Jerusalem Post)
The new Palestinian president will have to deliver in his first three months in office or risk the prospect of chaos and conflict, a new report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said Thursday. There are many suppressed rivalries awaiting the new leadership's first slip to reassert themselves. "As president, Mahmud Abbas will have to prove to Palestinians he can deliver, and he probably has to do so in his first three months on the job," Mouin Rabbani, an ICG Middle East analyst, says. "If he fails to improve daily life and offer the hope of a political settlement - and here Israel and the international community need to deliver as well - the situation is likely to quickly revert to chaos and conflict." The future Palestinian leader will need to revitalize the political system by reforming institutions and incorporating Islamic groups within it, the report said. (Aljazeera-Qatar)
On Monday this newspaper ran a picture on the front page showing several Iraqi gunmen, in broad daylight and without masks, murdering two Iraqi election workers on a busy street in the heart of Baghdad. That picture really framed the stakes in this war. Some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world - for the first time ever in their region - are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution. As Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum pointed out, "These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age." They are a tiny minority who want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. (New York Times)
Every year at the UN, a predictable series of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine resolutions are placed before the General Assembly. And every year, in an attempt to appear unbiased, Canada joins Europe in abstaining on the more ferociously worded of them. But on Dec. 1, Canada joined the U.S. in voting No to a resolution extending the mandate of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. No one seemed to notice that on the same day, Canada voted in favor of or abstained from five other, less inflammatory pro-Palestinian resolutions. Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew explained that from now on, Canada would judge each of the 20 or so annual resolutions on its own merit. (Toronto Star)
With talk of a new window of opportunity for peace-making in the air, and before we throw ourselves into a new process, let's identify what went wrong with the Oslo peace process. Never has an international initiative received so much support, funding, and international goodwill. And we have to admit that Oslo - not the concept, but the result - failed miserably. The process lacked a legitimate foothold and identity within Palestinian and Israeli society because the main source of legitimization and identity among both Jews and Arabs is culture and religion. Palestinians hearing talk of a "new Middle East" understood it as an attempt to replace traditionalism with secularization - something even the mainstream could not tolerate. If we approach peace-making yet again as merely a process between politicians, we risk getting the same bad results. The writer was deputy foreign minister (2001). (Jerusalem Post)
The number of pirate attacks on ships has tripled in the past decade - putting piracy at its highest level in modern history. In 2003, ship owners reported 445 attacks, in which 92 seafarers were killed or reported missing and 359 were assaulted and taken hostage. Piracy is becoming a key tactic of terrorist groups, and many of today's pirates are maritime terrorists with an ideological bent and a broad political agenda. Most of the world's oil and gas is shipped through the world's most piracy-infested waters. (Foreign Affairs/New York Times)
In the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel's existence was threatened, France's president Charles de Gaulle took a pro-Arab direction and instituted a weapons embargo on the Middle East. In his press conference on November 27 of that year he called the Jews "an elitist and domineering people." This is often considered the beginning of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism in the democratic mainstream of Europe. France's policy today can best be described as that of a fireman-arsonist. It tries to extinguish domestic anti-Semitic flames, at the same time fueling hatred with attacks on Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
At the surveillance center monitoring Israel's security fence, a sector on the operator's screen flashes from yellow to pink. A camera pans at enormous speed across six miles of metal fence, military road, and concealed sensors. Target pinpointed to a yard within seconds. Ready to intercept intruder. Even those Israelis initially skeptical about the fence's construction are happy. The suicide bombers are no longer getting through. This is partly due to the fence and partly to Israeli forces eliminating the terrorist godfathers one by one with the same remote-controlled high-tech precision. (Sunday Times-UK)
"Focus on your message. If you are asked an embarrassing question, give a short answer, and then cross the bridge over to what you really want to say. Don't repeat negative messages that the interviewer or the person you are debating has used. Don't get into an argument with the interviewer," say public relations experts Elias Buchwald and Marco Greenberg.
Buchwald senses that the terror mantra may have worked last year but is no good anymore, given Arafat's death. He suggests delivering a positive message: telling the Palestinians, "Come, let's make peace. We want a good economy for you. We want a good economy for us. We've had enough war. Let's live together." (Ha'aretz)
One of the most meaningful gauges of the integrity of a peace process is the degree to which the "peace partners" educate toward peace. Instead of educating future generations to live with Israel in peace, the PA has done everything in its power to teach hatred to young minds. Palestinian schoolbooks, both old and new, incite hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism. In the new 6th grade book Reading the Koran, children read about Allah's warning to the Jews that because of their evil Allah will kill them. In the new textbooks, Israel is delegitimized and portrayed as a foreign colonial occupier.
All of Israel's cities, regions, and natural resources are defined as being part of "Palestine." Denying recognition of Israel's existence is cemented through tens of maps in the schoolbooks in which "Palestine" encompasses all of Israel. All these new Palestinian schoolbooks were written during the most optimistic periods of the peace process, before the violence began in September 2000. (International Herald Tribune)
The Assyrians, also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs, number an estimated 1.5 to 2 million, or about 8% of the Iraqi population. They have lived in northern Iraq since 5000 BCE, while the Arabs entered Iraq in 630 CE from Saudi Arabia and the Kurds came in 1050 CE from southwest Iran. There is systematic discrimination against and disenfranchisement of Assyrians, who are Christians and have their own language - modern Aramaic. (FrontPageMagazine)
Getting Gaza Right - Robert Satloff (Weekly Standard)
To subscribe to the Daily Alert, send a blank email message to:
To unsubscribe, send a blank email message to: