Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 26, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Leaders to Return to Gaza After Israeli Pullout - Arnon Regular (Ha'aretz)
    A number of Hamas leaders currently residing overseas plan to return to the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal from the area this summer.
    According to the London-based Asharq Al Awsat, Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq, the deputy head of the group's political bureau, is among those set to return to Gaza if Israel transfers control over the border crossings to the PA.
    Hamas chief Khaled Mashal, however, does not plan to move to Gaza at this stage, the report said.
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that he expects Hamas to hand in its weapons after the elections to the Palestinian parliament in the summer.
    In response, however, Hamas said it has no intention of disarming in July.
    "Our fingers will remain on the rifle triggers until the removal of the occupation," Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said.

Israel Campus Beat
- April 25, 2005
Point Counter-Point: Can Israeli Settlers Remain in Gaza after the Withdrawal?

Ze'evi Murder Mastermind Plans to Run in July PA Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Majdi Rimawi, the "operations officer" of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who masterminded the plot to assassinate Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001, has decided to run in the upcoming elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
    Rimawi is currently serving an eight-year sentence in a PA jail in Jericho under British and American supervision.

Hamas Warns U.S. Against Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's Capital (Xinhuanet-China)
    Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri warned the U.S. on Monday that any U.S. resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the united and eternal capital of Israel will blow up all efforts to observe calmness in the Palestinian territories.
    Days ago, the U.S. Congress discussed a draft resolution that asked the U.S. administration to recognize Jerusalem as the united and eternal capital of Israel before recognizing any possible Palestinian state.

FBI to Fire Veteran Agent Who Criticized Hamas Probes - John Mintz (Washington Post)
    On Thursday, veteran FBI agent Robert Wright, who alleged that the bureau had mishandled domestic investigations of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, was suspended and told he would be fired within 30 days.
    John Vincent, a former FBI agent who is the Midwest representative of Judicial Watch, said Wright was informed he was being suspended in part for public statements at a news conference in Washington in 2003, when he criticized the FBI's "pathetic" counterterrorism work.
    Wright had stated publicly as early as 2002 that he believed the FBI should prosecute Hamas activists in the U.S., rather than simply keeping tabs on them in "intelligence" probes.
    On Friday, Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote to the FBI Director repeating their support for Wright and expressing concern that the FBI was retaliating against him for his public statements.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Ends 29-Year Presence in Lebanon - Donna Abu-Nasr
    Syria ended its three-decade presence in Lebanon on Sunday, leaving behind only a few score troops who will attend a farewell ceremony Tuesday. Even if an anti-Syrian government takes power in Lebanon, its leaders are hesitant to do anything to antagonize Damascus, such as entering into peace talks with Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Israel Sees Peace Opening with Lebanon - Larry James
    Israel has welcomed the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says the departure of the Syrian forces opens the way for peace with Lebanon. Shalom says there are no real obstacles standing in the way of normal relations between Israel and Lebanon, so there is no reason why peace cannot be made. (VOA News)
        See also Israel: Lebanon Will Retain Syrian Sway - Herb Keinon and David Rudge
    Syria's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon does not mean its influence in Beirut is over, or that Jerusalem will cease to see Damascus as responsible for Hizballah provocations, senior diplomatic officials said Monday. According to Israeli officials, Syria was increasing - along with Iran - its financial support to and direction of Hizballah inside Lebanon. One official said Damascus was going from a situation of "direct control" over Lebanese affairs through its military presence, to "indirect control" through its widespread intelligence apparatus and proxy organizations like Hizballah. "Remember, Syria is not withdrawing their intelligence officers," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Urges Saudi Economic Aid for Palestinians
    In a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and President George W. Bush on Monday, the U.S. urged Saudi Arabia to contribute economic aid for the Palestinians as they work to develop their own government once Israel withdraws from Gaza. Secretary of State Rice said she personally discussed with the prince "the need for everyone to support, including financially, the Palestinians as they move forward." (Reuters)
        See also Conflicting Interests: The U.S. Wants Cheap Oil and Democracy; Saudi Prince Wants More Money and Despotism - Editorial
    At his Crawford ranch, Bush acknowledged the importance of his personal relationship with Crown Prince Abdullah. But longstanding family ties aside, the basis for this relationship is difficult to see. Bush is committed to spreading democracy and human rights in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's rulers are more passionately committed not only to continued despotism, but also to the harsh brand of Islam that is the kingdom's hallmark and which provides inspiration for al-Qaeda members and recruits. In order to remain in power, the Saudi royal family must appease the dissatisfied segment of its populace that, deprived of a voice in government, has turned to religious fanaticism and hatred of the West. (Houston Chronicle)
  • As Palestinian Leader Walks a Mideast Tightrope, Hecklers Make Each Step More Difficult - Greg Myre
    After a swift start as the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas has lost much of that momentum, with Israelis and Palestinians each saying he has not yet delivered what they had hoped. The Israelis complain he has not dismantled armed factions and so they cannot ease conditions for the Palestinians. (New York Times)
        See also Abbas Struggles to Meet Expectations - Karin Laub
    Abbas, who was sworn in Jan. 15, has been slow to throw out corrupt politicians, or tame gunmen who have terrorized Palestinians with theft and extortion. The Palestinian leader says the chaos he inherited from Arafat can't be untangled overnight. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Abbas Holds Phone Talks with Sharon
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas revealed Sunday he had a long telephone conversation Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Abbas said he and Sharon agreed to meet before Abbas travels to the U.S. in mid-May to meet with President Bush. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Driver Kills Army Reservist at Roadblock - Margot Dudkevitch
    An Israeli reservist was killed when a Palestinian taxi intentionally crashed through a checkpoint north of Hebron on Monday. The driver was killed by the soldiers.
        A 13-year-old Palestinian handed over a 13-kilogram explosives belt to security forces at a checkpoint near Itamar in Samaria. Also Monday, Palestinian gunmen fired a Kassam rocket and a mortar shell towards a Jewish settlement in Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip, and the Kissufim crossing was closed after Palestinian gunmen fired shots towards an IDF jeep at the site, army officials said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Troops to Deploy in South to Halt Arms Smuggling - Amos Harel
    The Israel Defense Forces will soon be deploying large numbers of troops from elite units to the area of the Egyptian border as part of a bid to deal more effectively with arms smuggling from Sinai into the territories. A senior military source estimated that huge quantities of arms were being channeled from Sinai into the West Bank. IDF officials have identified a Palestinian attempt to boost smuggling to the West Bank, with the aim of bringing in not only assault rifles, but also arms that "tip the balance" - anti-tank rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, military-grade explosives, and materials to manufacture Kassam rockets.
        The IDF is currently under the impression that the extent of the above-ground smuggling operations along the section of the border south of Rafah exceeds that of the operations being carried out through the tunnels along the Philadelphi route. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Thwarting Most Terror Attacks - Arnon Regular
    Of the 50 terrorist attacks against Israelis that were thwarted during recent months, between five and seven were stopped by the Palestinians. The rest were foiled by Israel, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer in the Central Command said. The officer said PA Chairman Abbas produced results "only when all else had failed and a sword was hanging over him. There is no action against the terror organizations or the terrorist infrastructure." He said the Palestinians do not conduct widespread arrests or operate against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinian Election Nightmare - Barry Rubin
    The Palestinian election due to be held in ten weeks will set the framework in which the PA enters serious negotiations with Israel. Five years ago the Palestinian leadership rejected a chance for both peace and a Palestinian state and instead plunged the area into four years of bloody, terrorist war. Now it has another chance. If the nationalist Fatah is defeated - or seriously challenged - by Hamas, the chance of getting a state could be set back by decades. Nationalists would be too intimidated to make the compromises needed to achieve peace. Hamas itself would believe it can take over, making it more violent against Israel and aggressive toward other Palestinians. The writer is director of the GLORIA Center of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Religious Tyranny in Saudi Arabia is Not Just Saudis' Business - Nina Shea
    Before boarding his flight to Crawford to meet with President Bush Monday, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah presided over the arrest of 40 Pakistani Christians on Friday, caught praying in a private home in Riyadh in violation of the state's strictly enforced religious law that bans all non-Muslim worship. Saudi Arabia's nationals, by law Muslim, find that a broad range of their freedoms are limited because of the state's monopoly on religious expression. Muslims who follow the Sufi and Shiite traditions are viewed as heretical dissidents and viciously condemned and discriminated against by the state. Regarding those who convert out of Islam, the Saudi ministry of Islamic affairs explicitly asserts that they "should be killed."
        Earlier this year, Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom released a report on the radically intolerant Wahhabi ideology contained in documents generated by the government of Saudi Arabia and found in the U.S. A publication with "Greetings from the Cultural Department" of the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., gave detailed instructions on how to "hate" the Christian and Jew. The writer is the director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Addendum to Report on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction
    - Charles Duelfer (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency)

    • Iraq Survey Group (ISG) formed a working group to investigate the possibility of the evacuation of WMD-related material from Iraq prior to the 2003 War. The investigation centered on the possibility that WMD materials were moved to Syria. Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined.
    • There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about the movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation. ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war. Firm conclusions on actual WMD movements may not be possible.
    • Based on evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials.
    • Detainee de-briefs allowed ISG to confirm the use of the chemical agent VX during the Iran-Iraq war and the use of nerve gas agent in Karbala during the Shia uprising following the 1991 war.
    • So far there is little evidence that either foreign jihadists operating in Iraq or Iraq insurgent groups are attracting experts from the former regime's WMD programs. There are multiple reports of Iraqis with general chemical or biological expertise helping insurgents to produce chemical or biological agents. Unidentified members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) allegedly smuggled an Iraq rocket scientist into Iran at the request of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
        See also Iraqi Arms Move to Syria "Unlikely," Report Says - David E. Sanger
    In a 92-page addendum to a report issued last fall, released Monday, Charles Duelfer, the head of the former Iraq Survey Group and the Bush administration's senior weapons inspector, said it was "unlikely" that Saddam Hussein's forces moved weapons to Syria. (New York Times)

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