Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 28, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

What Do Palestinians Do with Humanitarian-Aid Money? - Ike Seamans (Miami Herald)
    The Bush administration has waived the 10-year ban prohibiting direct aid to the Palestinian Authority and is sending $20 million for humanitarian and infrastructure programs.
    The PA, a cesspool of corruption to most Palestinians, receives abundant cash from many sources:
    * $375 million in U.S. funds contributed in the past two years to the UN and relief agencies.
    * $1 billion from the Arab League since 2000.
    * $1.3 billion in private donations last year, the largest per-capita contribution to any group since World War II, according to the World Bank.
    * $1.5 billion from the European Union since 1993.
    In January, Israel seized records revealing that since 1996, PA officials have sold food and medicine donated by the UN, yet its aid continues unabated.
    EU auditors found that $20 million meant for low-income housing in Gaza was diverted to build a luxury apartment complex for government officials.
    Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that millions, if not billions, given for ''peaceful purposes'' have been spent to arm militias and security forces.
    Yasser Abbas, the prime minister's son, has joined the gravy train and gained control of the electronics industry, even though he's a Canadian citizen who lives in Ramallah only a few months a year.
    The PA is not broke. Abdel Salaam Abu Eissa, the director of the International Bank of Palestine, said three years ago that there was $2 billion in local banks and $30 billion in foreign accounts.
    Last year, the EU asked the IMF to audit the books. Nothing was amiss. Then it was discovered that Salaam Fayyad, a close Arafat associate and currently PA minister of finance, conducted the audit.
    An embarrassed EU immediately sent its own inspectors, who have already determined that $250 million may have been funneled to terrorist organizations since 2000.

PA Media Depicts U.S. Octopus Dismembering Saddam - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The official PA media continues to publish anti-American statements and political cartoons.
    On Thursday, the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida published a cartoon depicting the U.S. as a shark-toothed octopus dismembering Saddam Hussein's two arms, in response to the killing of Hussein's two sons.

Uday Hussein's Chief Executioner - Hala Jaber (London Times)
    Uday Hussein's chief executioner speaks of feeding students to lions, mass beheadings, and other forms of killing.

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Back Issues

News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Classified Section of Sept. 11 Report Faults Saudi Rulers
    Senior officials of Saudi Arabia have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable groups and other organizations that may have helped finance the September 2001 attacks, a still-classified section of a Congressional report on the hijackings says, according to people who have read it. The 28-page section of the report was deleted from the nearly 900-page declassified version released on Thursday. The chapter focuses on the role foreign governments played in the hijackings, but centers almost entirely on Saudi Arabia. Some people who have read the classified chapter said it represented a searing indictment of how Saudi Arabia's ruling elite have, under the guise of support for Islamic charities, distributed millions of dollars to terrorists through an informal network of Saudi nationals, including some in the U.S. (New York Times)
  • Israel to Press Ahead With Security Fence
    Prime Minister Sharon said Sunday that the planned contours of the security fence to encircle the West Bank will not be altered. He and defense minister Mofaz agreed that the outline of the fence would remain the same but construction of the barrier would concentrate for the moment on what Israeli officials described as "less problematic" sections. Israel says the fence does not constitute a political border and is only being erected to prevent Palestinian terrorists from carrying out more deadly attacks. (VOA News)
        See also American Pressure Worked: Fence Construction Frozen
    Sharon will tell Bush he is prepared to halt construction in the Ariel region. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Israel to Pull Out of Palestinian Self-Rule Areas
    Israel is poised to pull its troops back soon from two additional West Bank cities to promote the road map, Prime Minister Sharon's office announced, shortly after his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmud Abbas, held talks at the White House with President Bush. Israel also announced a series of humanitarian measures toward the Palestinians, including the removal of three key West Bank military checkpoints, the reopening of West Bank roads to traffic, and the transfer of more tax revenue by Israel to the PA. In addition, Israel has agreed to issue 8,500 more permits to allow Palestinians to enter Israel to work, and restrictions on the import of Palestinian produce into Israel will be relaxed. (VOA News)
        See also Israel Taking Huge Risk by Lifting Checkpoints
    Israel is taking an "enormous risk" by allowing thousands of Palestinians to cross into Israel and lifting several major West Bank checkpoints, a senior military source said Sunday. He said the new measures would allow a Palestinian civilian to travel from Hebron in the south to Jenin in the northern West Bank in "four to six hours." (AFP/SpaceWar)
        See also Easing of Restrictions on the Palestinian Population (IDF)
  • Iraqi Jews Arrive in Israel
    Six Iraqi Jews arrived in Israel Friday on a charter flight that took them directly from Baghdad to Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv. The Jewish Agency and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) organized the flight with the cooperation of the American military. The Jewish Agency is also working with the Americans to obtain Jewish archives that were seized by the Iraqi government. After the fall of Hussein, HIAS sent representatives to Iraq and located 34 Jews, almost all of them old, in poor health, and living in a single Baghdad neighborhood near a synagogue that rarely opened. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Terrorist in Arafat's HQ Planned Homicide Bombing This Week - Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis
    Kamal Ghanem, a Fatah activist hiding in Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, orchestrated an Iranian-financed attempt to send two women suicide bombers into Israel this week, according to a statement issued Sunday by the Prime Minister's Office in the name of the Shin Bet security services. Israel gave the PA information about the Fatah man and demanded that the PA arrest him, but so far they have taken no action. Information about the plot came from an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade member arrested last Thursday in Ramallah, who said the plan was for two women to go to two night clubs on a Thursday or Friday night for the bombings in either Tel Aviv or Netanya. Both women who volunteered for the mission live in the Nablus area. The explosive belts were already in Ramallah. (Ha'aretz)
  • Signs of New Concessions as Sharon in U.S. for Bush Talks - Gideon Alon, Mazal Mualem, and Amos Harel
    Diplomatic sources accompanying Prime Minister Sharon to Washington said Israel was planning to release 540 Palestinian prisoners in the coming week, including 210 from Hamas and Islamic Jihad and 210 from Fatah. Security officials told the cabinet Sunday that the Palestinian public is internalizing the benefits of a more peaceful existence and there have been far fewer terror alerts recently. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Abbas: President Bush Promised Me an Israeli Withdrawal to the 1967 Lines - Interview by Lally Weymouth
    Q: What's your impression of President Bush?
    Abbas: I think he's an honest man. He is direct - to the point. And I think he keeps his word. He told us that he will stick to his vision of a Palestinian independent state and withdrawal to the '67 borders.
    Q: Many Israelis are convinced that Palestinians do not accept Israel as a Jewish state.
    A: The majority of Palestinians accept Israel as a state.
    Q: A lot of Israelis have been killed in the past two years. Why would Israel release prisoners - some of whom carried out these killings?
    A: The Israelis also killed Palestinians. So both sides killed each other. We cannot keep this problem forever. We must ask the people to forget about the past and to live for the future.
    Q: Does Arafat have to approve the actions that you take?
    A: All the actions, all the actions. He is the leader of the Palestinian people.
    Q: People are hoping you can be an independent actor.
    A: No, I cannot be independent. I am a part of the authority.
    Q: What lessons do you draw from the U.S. operation in Iraq? Reportedly, Iraq was sending money to the territories.
    A: They did send money. I think [the Palestinians] should be compensated by the international community because Iraq sent the money for social aims, for social affairs. So we need the money for social affairs, for the victims, and for the martyrs. (Washington Post)
  • Abbas at the White House - Editorial
    Thus far, Mr. Abbas has managed to garner U.S. support without having to do very much in return - particularly on the critical issue of disarming terrorist organizations. For its part, Mr. Sharon's government has taken numerous steps in an effort to bolster Mr. Abbas's precarious standing among his own people, in the hope that this will put him in a better position to tackle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure behind the more than 90 suicide bombings directed at Israel since September 29, 2000. However, the central problem remains Mr. Abbas's adamant refusal to consider (at least publicly) using force to disarm the most violent Palestinian terrorist groups. Mr. Bush made the point quite forcefully on Friday, telling Mr. Abbas that "we must make sure that any terrorist activity is rooted out" in order to see to it that the negotiations go forward. (Washington Times)
        See also President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Abbas to White House (White House)
  • Don't Push Sharon Too Far, Mr. President - Yosef Goell
    Release of prisoners at this stage was not part of the original road map agreement. But there is possibly room for adding the prisoner issue to the package as part of a reciprocal deal. Let's try proposing the release of additional prisoners, even from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for a price: 100 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 10 Kassam rockets, or one rocket launcher for each prisoner. That would be a better guarantee than any signed promise of released prisoners not returning to their terrorist practices.
        As a democratically elected leader Bush must understand that the democratically elected Ariel Sharon simply cannot concede on an issue like the security fence that has become a matter of widespread popular consensus. There is certainly room for negotiating details, but the basic principle of a separating security fence that will make possible the safe withdrawal of the Israel army from major Palestinian cities is non-negotiable. If anything, the proposed barrier urgently needs extending eastward along the slopes of the Jordan Rift Valley, the idea being to encircle the entire West Bank on the coastal side (west) as well as the east or Jordan Rift Valley side. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:  

    Arafat the Gatekeeper - Robert Malley and Hussein Agha
    (New York Review of Books/Beirut Daily Star)

    • You cannot take away Yasser Arafat's power because power will go where he goes, because power is where he is. Nothing large or small takes place without his ultimate approval. Security officials await his nod; the demands for a cease-fire with Hamas need his approval and negotiations with Israel his sign-off. A word from him defines who is a traitor in Palestinian eyes, and another leads to redemption. Where he is, so too will be the center of gravity of Palestinian politics. Wander too far from his orbit, and see how power escapes you.
    • He sees himself returning to the Palestinian political scene as the head of a more powerful, and larger, coalition including the majority of his own Fatah faction, secular radical groups, independent personalities, most of the diaspora, and, a novel acquisition, Islamist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All of them in one way or another feel alienated from the new PA government and genuinely loyal to the old leader or opportunistically coalescing around him, convinced he is the authentic leader of Palestine.
    • When he looks at Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas, he sees his companion of many years who was there at the beginning and at every major turn, ultimately loyal. He sees one of the very few who never plotted against him, and never dreamed of doing so.
    • Arafat will help his prime minister one day to show that he can save him and undercut him the next, to remind him who is boss. And he will take solace in the fact that Abu Mazen in power means that Arafat is no longer the sole address for recrimination, since he can point to someone else when things do not work as they should. A two-headed rule has its advantages. For Arafat, it can mean just as much power and far less responsibility.

    Robert Malley was special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs. Hussein Agha was an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team at the Madrid peace talks in 1991.

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