Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with the Fairness Project
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 10, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Al Qaeda Feared to Have "Dirty Bombs" - Josh Meyer (Los Angeles Times)

    After years of experiments, al Qaeda is capable of constructing "dirty bombs" - radioactive materials wrapped around conventional explosives - that can cause contamination over a widespread area.
    Recent intelligence - gleaned from al Qaeda redoubts in Afghanistan, intercepted communications, interrogations, and other sources - indicates that the terrorist network apparently has succeeded, U.S. and coalition officials said.
    Last week, British intelligence agencies released documents seized in Afghanistan showing that al Qaeda had constructed a small dirty bomb at a laboratory in the Afghan city of Herat, using radioactive isotopes taken from medical equipment supplied by the former Taliban regime.
    U.S. officials who had previously said they had no evidence to substantiate that al Qaeda had built such a bomb said they now believe that it has done so, and that it could be planning to use one in the coming months.

Islamic Jihad Terrorists Admit to Receiving Funds and Orders from Syrian HQ (IDF)

    In December and January, the Israel Security Agency (ISA), in coordination with the IDF, arrested a number of Islamic Jihad terrorists from the Hebron area who have admitted involvement in a wide range of paramilitary activity which was directed by the Islamic Jihad leadership in Hebron and Syria.
    The apprehended Islamic Jihad terrorists were responsible for the attacks near Worshippers Road in Hebron where 12 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed on Nov. 15, and in the Israeli community of Otniel on Dec. 27, in which two Israeli civilians and two IDF soldiers were murdered.
    During questioning, Israeli security forces discovered that the Islamic Jihad had purchased a variety of chemical materials with which to make explosives and had begun to manufacture mortars.
    The terrorists admitted that Hebron's Islamic Jihad received a significant amount of money from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Syria to purchase weapons and bomb-making materials.
    In addition, the Syrian headquarters issued numerous commands to escalate the level of violence by engaging in a stepped-up bombing campaign.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy - Robert G. Kaiser
    For the first time, a U.S. administration and a Likud government in Israel are pursuing nearly identical policies. Thomas Neumann, executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, noted that Israel and the U.S. share a common view on terrorism, peace with the Palestinians, war with Iraq, and more - a change made possible by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath. The turning point came last June, when Bush embraced Sharon's view of the Palestinians and made Yasser Arafat's removal as leader of the Palestinian Authority a condition of future diplomacy.
        For now the Israeli-Palestinian issue is stalled. No movement is expected before the resolution of the Iraq issue. State Department officials confided privately that they feel sidelined, and that the debate inside the administration has ended, at least temporarily. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Raises Level of National Threat Alert
    The Bush administration raised the national threat alert from "yellow" to "orange" Friday after receiving new intelligence reports that pointed to the possibility of multiple imminent attacks by al Qaeda against Jewish groups and Jewish-owned businesses inside the U.S. FBI officials began contacting Jewish leaders and rabbis around the country Friday to warn them to be especially vigilant and to enhance security at Sabbath services and other events over the weekend. State and local police were also being asked to provide extra patrols for Jewish religious services and other gatherings. Officials said the new intelligence warned about the possibility of attacks on synagogues, Jewish community centers, Jewish hospitals, youth groups, hotels, and resorts. (Newsweek)
  • Work Can Begin on Turkish Bases
    U.S. and Turkish officials signed an agreement Saturday on U.S. renovations at several military bases in southern and southeastern Turkey that could be used in a war against Iraq - and at three airports in other parts of the country. (Washington Post)
        See also Belgium to Block NATO Military Aid for Turkey
    The Belgian government said Sunday that it would veto a U.S. request that NATO provide military materiel for Turkey to defend itself in the event of a conflict with neighboring Iraq. The announcement exposed raw divisions across the Atlantic and within Europe on the buildup for war and plunged the alliance into a new crisis. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • PA Readying to Retake Control Over Some West Bank Cities - Arnon Regular
    In a meeting Monday between the prime minister's bureau chief Dov Weisglass and PA Interior Minister Hani al-Hassan, the Palestinians will present a plan for reassuming responsibility over cities in the West Bank and redeploying Palestinian security forces in these towns. The PA will initially try to gain jurisdiction over Ramallah, followed by the cities along the seam line with Israel: Tulkarm, Kalkilya, and Jenin. (Ha'aretz)
        The talks are a follow-up to talks Sharon held Wednesday with Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fury After Bomb Found in Taiba Mosque - Daniel Ben-Tal
    An unexploded explosives belt was removed from the bathroom of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Mosque in the Israeli Arab town of Taiba early Friday morning. "Since Friday, we check everybody who enters the mosque," said Muhammad Masarwah, 57. "Nobody is taking risks any more. You cannot always tell who is a terrorist and who isn't." "I just thank God that it did not explode," said Ziyad Azam, 43. "Hundreds may have died. If such a disaster had taken place, we would go into the territories ourselves to do what has to be done if the government let us," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Car Bomb in Gaza Wounds Four Soldiers - Amos Harel
    A soldier on duty at the Gush Katif intersection spotted the car and fired a warning shot as it turned toward the IDF outpost. The men in the car immediately returned fire. The soldiers at the outpost laced the car with bullets and the car, carrying 150 kilograms of explosives as well as some mortars, blew up on the dirt road outside the outpost, killing three Islamic Jihad members. The four soldiers, suffering from light shrapnel wounds and shock, were released from hospital by nightfall. The army praised the quick thinking of the soldiers, saying they prevented a major disaster. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Arrests 3 Suicide Bombers in West Bank
    The IDF arrested three suicide bombers in the West Bank early Monday morning, one of whom, a Hamas member from the Ramallah area, had a suitcase containing a 20 kilogram bomb that was ready to be detonated. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy - Michael Scott Doran
    Even if the United States were somehow able to broker a stable Palestinian-Israeli settlement that met many Arab aspirations, this would not necessarily generate a great deal of goodwill. Those who argue the opposite see Palestine as the primary obstacle blocking an American-Arab rapprochement. They claim, correctly, that Arab political discourse revolves around Palestine and that a great many Arabs hold the U.S. responsible for Palestinian suffering. But what they overlook is that although Palestine is central to the symbolism of Arab politics, it is actually marginal to its substance.
        There are many reasons why Washington should distance itself from misguided Israeli policies such as the building of settlements in the occupied territories, but among them should not be the hope that such a move would greatly affect the broader sources of resentment and despair that Palestine-as-symbol encompasses. If coupled with a stand-down on Iraq, moreover, dramatic pressure on Israel now might even inflame matters further, by calling into question American willingness to support its friends and oppose its enemies in the region. (Foreign Affairs)
  • PA On Hold - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Intelligence reports emanating from Ramallah have suggested that some Palestinian officials, including Arafat confidants, are eager to see the man, who has been their leader and symbol for three decades, disappear, a process that began immediately after Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. Yet Arafat remains today as relevant as ever and no serious challenger has emerged. In the words of one Palestinian official, Arafat's powerful presence will be felt as long as the man breathes.
        Ironically, one of the "positive" outcomes of Operation Defensive Shield is the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank today enjoy a greater degree of freedom of speech now that the Palestinian security forces have been dealt a severe blow. In recent months, speakers at a series of seminars in Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin have openly attacked the Palestinian leadership for mismanagement and corruption. For the first time, columnists have begun criticizing the security forces for violating human rights and interfering in civilian affairs. Moreover, ordinary Palestinians interviewed on the streets are no longer afraid to speak out. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Talking Points:

    Defense Minister Mofaz: IDF Pressure to Accompany Talks on Withdrawal
    - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

    • Even as Israelis and Palestinians were again discussing a gradual withdrawal of IDF units from areas where the Palestinian Authority asserts security control, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday Israel will continue applying heavy military pressure in Hebron, Samaria, and the northern Gaza Strip to thwart terrorist attacks.
    • Mofaz said Hamas and certain elements within Fatah are continuing unabated their efforts to carry out suicide attacks, and for the most part are being thwarted by the IDF's widespread operations in the territories.
    • The defense minister noted that while the Cairo talks among the various Palestinian factions reached a dead end without an agreement on a cease-fire with Israel, the very fact the talks took place at all shows "the Palestinians are questioning the effectiveness of terrorism."
    • At the same time, Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, coordinator of government activities in the territories, told the cabinet that Arafat recently shelved a plan to set up a special police force to fight crime in Jenin, preventing the return of a semblance of normality to Palestinian society.
    • Gilad briefed the cabinet on the humanitarian situation in the territories, and detailed measures Israel has taken to ease conditions ahead of the upcoming Id al-Adha festival.

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