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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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DAILY ALERT

April 18, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Terrorists Planned to Murder Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi (Ha'aretz)
    The Shin Bet security service has arrested three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in eastern Jerusalem - French citizen Salah Hamuri, Mutsan Mohammed Yavsha, and Moussa Mohammed Darweesh - in connection with a plot to assassinate Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, according to information released Sunday.
    The three belong to the same eastern Jerusalem faction of the PFLP as those behind the murder of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October 2001.
    Ze'evi's killers, jailed in Jericho, had apparently given their blessing to the attack on the rabbi.
    The group had carried out surveillance of Yosef's Jerusalem residence, which one of them knew from his time as a delivery boy for a grocery store in the city.
    Security sources told Israel Radio that PFLP militants are looking for every opportunity to harm Israeli public figures.
    The dominant presence of the organization in eastern Jerusalem and the fact that eastern Jerusalem residents can easily access targets in the western part of the city dramatically improves the organization's capabilities, the sources said.


Iran Arabs Riot as Ethnic Row Flares (AFP/Gulf Times-Qatar)
    Fierce fighting has flared between ethnic Arabs and Iranian security forces in a province bordering Iraq.
    Iran's official Irna news agency said clashes erupted on Friday in the Arab-majority oil-rich province of Khuzestan over reported plans to change the ethnic make-up of the area.
    Al Jazeera said three Arabs were killed, many more injured, and as many as 250 arrested after banks and police stations were set ablaze.
    The unrest in the province's main city, Ahvaz, resulted in damage to public buildings and banks.
    Al Jazeera said the London-based Popular Democratic Front of Ahvazi Arabs in Iran had called for peaceful demonstrations in the area "to mark 80 years of Iranian occupation."


Yemen Premier Warns of Secret "Extremist" Schools (Los Angeles Times)
    Some 4,000 "extremist" underground Islamic schools are drawing more than 300,000 young students across Yemen, the country's prime minister said.
    Prime Minister Abdul-Kadir Ba Jamal warned that the religious education promoting the ideas of Wahhabism, a strict interpretation of Islam, "will bring a disaster to Yemen and this generation."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Gunmen Challenge Abbas - Mohammed Ballas
    Armed Palestinian militants shut down a government building in Jenin in the West Bank on Sunday and threatened to kill members of the Palestinian parliament, demanding the PA provide jobs to former prisoners and to relatives of people killed in fighting. The violent threats were the latest in a series of incidents of lawlessness in the Palestinian territories, and illustrated the challenge Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas faces. About 40 armed men led by Zakariye Zubeidi, the local head of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to Abbas's Fatah movement, gathered in the main intersection, firing into the air as several hundred sympathizers encouraged them. Later, two Aqsa gunmen, under orders from Zubeidi, confiscated the keys of the building housing lawmakers' offices and shut it down. (AP/ABC News)
        See also Fatah Gunmen Storm PA-Controlled Tulkarm - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Gunmen belonging to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades over the weekend attacked the headquarters of the Tulkarm governor, demanding that the PA give them money and jobs. When PA policemen guarding the building refused to allow the attackers to see visiting PA Culture Minister Yahya Yahkluf, a scuffle erupted, during which both sides exchanged gunfire. The gunmen then went on a shooting rampage in the city, firing into the air and forcing shopkeepers to close their businesses. Security control over Tulkarm was handed over recently to the PA security forces which, residents say, have made no attempt to disarm the local militias.
        In Nablus, gunmen stormed the Ministry of Information and opened fire on the offices where PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Sufian Abu Zaydeh was holding a news conference. (Jerusalem Post)
  • A New Power Rises Across Mideast - Scott Wilson and Daniel Williams
    The photogenic protests in Beirut were the result of the rising power of a network of political reform movements in the Arab world organized by young, Westernized, and technology-savvy activists who had been attacking the rigid underpinnings of their closed societies for years without much success. Across the region, political reformers are benefiting from the unifying forces of technology and mass media. The foot soldiers are Islamic political activists, Bob Dylan disciples, communists, or Arab secular nationalists - united only in their common desire for fair elections, free speech, and political rights. (Washington Post)
        See also Terrorism Tempers Shift to Openness - Craig Whitlock and Steve Coll
    Continuing recruitment and violent attacks by radical Islamic groups in North Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the smaller emirates of the Persian Gulf region are encouraging Arab governments to adopt sometimes draconian security regimes even as they consider a new era of political openness. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Cease-Fire is a Trick - Roee Nachmias
    The head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashal, told a Cairo conference three weeks ago that the fight against Israel will continue "so long as the occupation continues." He also said that an independent Palestine alongside Israel - as a temporary state of affairs - would not be a problem for Hamas.
        Regarding the lull in violence, Mashal said, "Hamas controls its military wing and it can maintain discipline amongst its people....The lull for Hamas is a tactic of resistance, while for the PA, it's an alternative to resistance." Mashal said that, once an independent state of Palestine emerges, Hamas will become a political party, but that does not mean it would accept the borders with Israel as permanent. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also (MEMRI-Hebrew)
  • Terror Returning to Gaza? - Hanan Greenberg
    About 25 Palestinian attacks were reported in the Gaza Strip last week, a 300% increase compared to recent weeks. IDF officials warn that the lull in violence could end if the PA fails to take action against terrorist groups. "We're certainly sensing an erosion in the cease-fire, and less preventive action by the Palestinians," one army official said. The IDF has so far refrained from initiating offensive action in response to the growing violence, in light of understandings reached with the PA. Small terror groups not committed to the truce, and particularly the Popular Resistance Committees, are behind most of the latest incidents, the army said. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also IDF Expects Gaza Withdrawal Under Fire by Palestinians - Amir Buhbut
    Within the Israel Defense Forces, estimates are increasing that the withdrawal from Gaza will take place under Palestinian gunfire. A senior IDF officer said, "the recent incidents are a sign to Israel from the gunmen - 'the disengagement won't necessarily take place quietly because we decide and not Abu Mazen.'" According to the officer, "the 'calm' is the result of a decision by the terror groups and not of Abu Mazen. It has no connection to the presence of PA security forces in the area." (Maariv-Hebrew)
        See also Israeli Soldier Wounded by Palestinian Sniper in Gaza - Margot Dudkevitch
    A soldier was lightly wounded by Palestinian sniper fire directed at an IDF post near Gadid in Gush Katif on Sunday. Earlier, shots were fired at an IDF post near Rafah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel-PA Security Talks May Resume - Aluf Benn
    Israel wants to resume the activity of the joint committees with the PA, senior political sources said over the weekend. The committees were to deal with security procedures and Israeli gestures, the transfer of West Bank cities to the Palestinians, the release of Palestinian prisoners, "legitimizing" wanted operatives, and preventing incitement. Israel's agreement to resume negotiations with the PA is one of the results of Prime Minister Sharon's meeting last week with President Bush. The U.S. demanded that Israel work to bolster PA Chairman Abbas. This Tuesday the Bush administration's envoys, Elliott Abrams and David Welch, will be arriving in the region to assess Abbas's political status and find ways to shore up his regime. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel to Release Nine Jordanian Prisoners - Attila Somfalvi
    Israel is expected to free nine Jordanian prisoners in the coming weeks, the cabinet decided on Sunday in a goodwill gesture to Jordan. None of the prisoners had been jailed for harming Israelis, officials said. The Jordanians requested the release of 18 prisoners, but many had been jailed for involvement in attacks against Israelis. The cabinet also appointed a committee to discuss what to do with some 70,000 Jordanian illegal workers in Israel. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Big Gamble - Cal Thomas
    After meeting last Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, President Bush said, "The United States is committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state, including secure and defensible borders." The president did not say what he meant by such a "commitment," but it is hard to accept that Israel's security is preserved and strengthened when the U.S. government, over several administrations, has pressured various Israeli prime ministers into relinquishing land to its sworn enemies.
        The two sides haven't even gotten to the road map yet and are still in what might be called the "pre-road map stage." But Mr. Sharon has said that even in this stage, certain conditions must be met before moving to the road map, itself. These, reasonably, include a full cessation of terror, violence, and incitement, the dismantling of terror groups, and collection of their weapons. None of these conditions, which are spelled out in the road map, have been met. (Washington Times)
  • Will Syria Really Pull Out of Lebanon? - Olivier Guitta
    Two recent reports in the Lebanese press suggest that there may be less to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon than meets the eye. First, the daily Al Seyassah reported that, according to sources close to the Lebanese Ministry of Interior, tens of thousands of Syrians have recently been naturalized. Among them are 5,000 Syrian Secret Service personnel. So, technically these officers are now Lebanese citizens with no reason to leave their "own country." Second, according to An-Nahar, Lebanese police in Beirut arrested a Lebanese Army car occupied by two Syrian military officers. Meaning that Syrians can also infiltrate the Lebanese Army and pose as legitimate Lebanese. It looked too easy when Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, decided to withdraw his troops from Lebanon. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Prime Minister Reports to Israeli Cabinet on U.S. Trip (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    Prime Minister Sharon on Sunday briefed ministers on his recent visit to the U.S.:

    • President Bush emphasized the U.S.'s commitment to Israel's security and that it should retain its Jewish character. He also reiterated his commitment to all the issues in his April 2004 letter including:
      • Israel's right to self-defense.
      • Commitment to the Roadmap, and all its stages, as the only diplomatic plan, and that any progress will be made according to it.
      • The need for reform in the Palestinian Authority.
      • The need for immediate and decisive Palestinian actions in the war on terrorism and the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure as a condition for progress on the Roadmap.
      • President Bush reiterated his commitment to the U.S. position that in any future permanent settlement, all the major settlement blocs would remain part of the State of Israel.
    • Israel's position is that the only diplomatic plan that exists is the Roadmap. After the necessary conditions are fulfilled for implementing it, with a genuine Palestinian war on terrorism being first and foremost, along with the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and the implementation of comprehensive reforms, only then will we make progress on the Roadmap.
    • The Americans reiterated that their position on the issue of settlements has not changed since the settlement enterprise began. We agreed that we would discuss this matter in the future.
    • In addition to the Palestinian issue, other regional matters were raised including the Iranian nuclear threat, the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the situation in Lebanon after Syria's withdrawal and in light of Hizballah threats, and the smuggling of weapons from Egypt.


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