Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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DAILY ALERT

February 23, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

American Accused in Plot to Assassinate Bush - Eric Lichtblau (New York Times)
    Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, an American citizen, was accused by the Justice Department on Tuesday of plotting with members of al-Qaeda in 2003 to assassinate President Bush.
    Abu Ali, a valedictorian at an Islamic high school in suburban Washington, was arrested by the Saudis in June 2003 and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the last 20 months.


In Egypt, Mass Arrests, Torture Follow Taba Bombing (Human Rights Watch)
    The Egyptian state security forces arbitrarily arrested thousands of people and tortured detainees in the wake of the Taba Hilton bombing in October, Human Rights Watch said in a 48-page report, "Mass Arrests and Torture in Sinai," released Tuesday.
    Four months later, as many as 2,400 detainees are still being held incommunicado.


Iran Jails Editor for 14 Years for Insulting Leaders (Reuters)
    Iranian journalist Arash Sigarchi, 28, a newspaper editor in Gilan in northern Iran who also wrote an Internet journal or "weblog," was jailed for 14 years on charges ranging from espionage to insulting the country's leaders.
    Tens of journalists in Iran have been tried in recent years.


Islamists Change View of Elections - Rasheed Abou-Alsamh (Washington Times)
    Saudi reformers are finding cause for optimism in Saudi Arabia's elections this month, even though the winners were almost all committed Islamists.
    "The elections were a success in that the Islamists decided that democracy and elections were not against Islam," said Khalid Al-Dukhayil, a professor of political sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh. "Before, they used to say that elections were haram [not Islamic]."


Half of Israeli Homes Have High-Speed Internet - Avi Krawitz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has among the highest proportion of high-speed Internet users, as approximately 50% of households were connected in 2004, compared with 22% in the U.S. and 10% in Europe, the Tel Aviv-based research company Business Data Israel reports.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Militants Hold Key to Mideast Peace - Anna Badkhen
    Organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not consider themselves bound by the truce, although they have scaled back significantly on their attacks. Analysts attribute the apparent about-face to a combination of factors: the groups' willingness to partake in the Palestinian political process; their hope for getting new concessions from Israel and the Palestinian leadership; and the success of Israel's targeting of their key figures, which has decimated the leadership of the radical movement.
        Yet the Palestinian territories are "saturated with laboratories that make explosives, and quite a few of them are still active," noted a senior Israeli military official, who said military intelligence suggested that Hamas was continuing to smuggle weapons through tunnels that connect Gaza with Egypt. "Hamas is probably gearing up for the next round of attacks as we speak," she said.
        Abbas has said he wants to bring extremists into mainstream Palestinian politics, something Michael Oren, an expert at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, says militants groups find appealing. Hamas and Islamic Jihad may be willing to agree to a temporary truce - but their concessions will most likely stop there, Oren said. "Don't misinterpret (the temporary quiet) as a sea change in the world view of Hamas and Islamic Jihad," he said. "Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot accept the existence of Israel as a permanent legitimate state in the Middle East; their goal is to destroy it. They are not going to give up their guns." (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • World Council of Churches Gives Nod to Israeli Divestment Proposal
    The central committee of the World Council of Churches on Monday commended the action of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in initiating a process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in Israel, noting: "This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith, and calls members to 'do the things that make for peace.'" It encouraged the WCC's 347 member churches "to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent, and non-violent." Churches with investment funds had "an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict," the WCC noted. "Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action." (Episcopal News Service)
        See also ADL Dismayed By WCC Decision to Punish Israel (Anti-Defamation League)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Military Intelligence: Palesetinian Militants Planning Attacks Despite Cease-Fire - Gideon Alon
    Terror organizations are planning strategic attacks if the cease-fire between Israel and the PA breaks down, Military Intelligence research chief Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Kuperwasser said the groups are capable of launching attacks almost immediately. The organizations are continuing to build an infrastructure to carry out attacks, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and are continuing to produce rockets, mortar shells, and Kassam rockets.
        Kuperwasser said there has been a significant increase in the PA's efforts to stop terror attacks, and its security forces are arresting terrorists. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Intelligence: "Palestinians Not Doing Enough" - Ilan Marciano (Yediot Ahronot-English)
  • New IDF Chief of Staff - Dan Haloutz - Amos Harel
    Major General Dan Haloutz, 57, will be the next IDF chief of staff, the first ever to advance from the ranks of the air force, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Appointment a Signal to Iran - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The appointment of a former Air Force head reflects the centrality of air power in Israeli strategy in the recent past and in the immediate future. Under Haloutz's leadership, Israel expanded its capabilities for long-range strategic interdiction. His appointment is a clear signal to Iran that, if necessary, Israel will be prepared to defend its vital interests in response to the expanding existential threat from Teheran. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also 21st Century Threats Facing Israel - Dan Haloutz (ICA/JCPA)
  • Sharon: West Bank Barrier Not Border for Palestinian State
    The separation barrier Israel is building along the West Bank will not mark the definitive border of an eventual Palestinian state, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said in an interview published in Cairo Saturday in the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper. "The real border will be established once total calm is restored, which will allow us to move toward the (Middle East peace) roadmap, he said. The barrier's "only objective is to prevent terrorist operations inside Israel," he said. On east Jerusalem, Sharon said: "Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,007 years after it was proclaimed as such by King David. It is the undivided capital of Israel."
        Referring to the border strip between Egypt and Gaza known as the Philadelphi corridor, Sharon said he hoped a halt to weapons smuggling would allow Israel also to withdraw from the corridor. "If the smuggling stops, it would please me a great deal to withdraw from this place." Analysts say the Egyptian state press is portraying Sharon in a more positive light as part of efforts to adjust Egyptians to the idea of closer ties between their government and Israel. (Daily Times-Pakistan)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beirut's Berlin Wall - David Ignatius
    Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community in Lebanon, says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced. "This process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." (Washington Post)
            See also Wrong Turn in Lebanon - Walid Phares
    After the blasts rocked Beirut, massacring former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Lebanese Muslim Sunnis began breaking away from Syrian control, and a Sunni-Druze-Christian alliance was rising while reaching out to the Shi'ite community. How is it that the Syrian regime, known to be a shrewd planner and a long-term strategist, would commit political suicide? Syria's command is out of control. Effectively, once an occupier starts eating his past allies, the end is near. The Syrian Ba'athist mind knew that killing Hariri would be bad for them, but his freedom was worse. (Washington Times)
        See also Hariri's Assassination - Who Else But Syria? - Youssef M. Ibrahim (UPI/Washington Times)
  • To Push for Peace Negotiations Prematurely is to Guarantee Another Disastrous Failure - Yossi Alpher
    President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apparently understand that the current status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires mainly security and reform measures, and is not ripe for a roadmap-based political process. Hence Rice avoided the Sharm el-Sheik meeting in order not to inadvertently send a deceptive political message. If Israelis and Palestinians are to succeed, we must all concentrate on a measured confidence-building process that focuses on mutual security, Palestinian reform, and cooperation to make disengagement work. We must postpone any move toward renewing a peace process, and work on those aspects of roadmap phase I that both sides can handle, plus disengagement, and avoid getting into phases II or III.
        Abbas' views on the right of return mean that a peace process negotiated by him will fail once again. To push a reluctant Sharon and a hard-line Abbas into peace negotiations prematurely is to guarantee another disastrous failure. (bitterlemons.org)
  • Observations:

    Raising the Terrorist Child - Barbara Sofer (Jerusalem Post)

    • In veteran journalist Christine Spolar's interviews with 8 families of suicide bombers (Chicago Tribune, Feb. 6), none of her interviewees expressed guilt or remorse, neither for their children's violence nor over their part in it. Not one parent owned up to contributing to a culture in which suicide bombers were teen idols. They wouldn't admit that photographing their children in studio portraits dressed up as suicide bombers and exposing them to the death chants popular on TV shows and in summer camp had contributed to their children's decisions.
    • The Palestinian parents didn't suffer nightmares over the people their children had murdered or disabled, nor did they lose sleep over the sowing of destructive seeds within the next generation of Palestinian children.
    • I'm worried that we're in such a hurry for reconciliation, ready to consign all evil to the category of "bygones," that we'll blur the moral issue of the unacceptability of terrorism. If we do, the strategy of suicide bombing won't be defeated.
    • The majority of Israelis were willing to go ahead with former prime minister Ehud Barak's radical peace plan before the intifada. We were not pummeled into making peace because of terror. But we had lost our common ground with the Palestinians. Even the peace camp was shocked by the gleeful frenzy at the lynch in Ramallah and after every bombed bus, and the 100,000 Palestinians dancing at the downing of the Twin Towers.
    • Palestinian parents weren't helpless, but they didn't act against the genocide bombers. Instead, they served their children breakfast in kitchens decorated with murderers' photos and named babies and school soccer teams after Abdel Bassat Odeh and Muhammad Atta. And yes, they should feel guilty for that.
    • If there's to be hope for a long-lasting peace, Palestinian children had better learn quickly from mom and dad that Israelis are indeed human beings.


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