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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August 11, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Middle East Braces for End of Cease-Fire - Peter Hermann (Baltimore Sun)
  Israeli officials say they are especially concerned by evidence that rogue members of the secular Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are receiving new financial support from Iran. The Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, backed by Iran, has long helped Palestinian militants by supplying arms and training. Israeli officials say the evidence of Hezbollah's influence extends to Palestinians' improved fighting tactics, including well-planned ambushes and sniper attacks.
  Israeli security officials say they have now have evidence that Iran gave financial support to members of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank, and to an umbrella group in Gaza called the Popular Resistance Movement. They also say they have evidence linking 15 attacks in the past three years to Iran, actions that killed 50 Israelis. The official accused a charitable organization in Gaza called the Ansar Institute of funneling money from Iran to militant groups.

Interview with Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to UK (Independent -- UK)
  Underlying the Saudi fury is a deep sense of disillusionment with the Bush administration. They were good friends with George Bush Sr. when he was President and expected relations with George W's administration to pick up where they left off in 1992. After 11 September, Prince Turki said, the US leadership - at official level - "expressed friendship and solicitude and support and all the positive things that existed between the two countries", but "at the same time, there were unspecified leaks from unspecified sources in the administration which evinced a lack of support and general unhappiness with Saudi".
  There was what Saudis saw as a sharp pro-Israel tilt by the new Bush administration in 2001. "All of us were taken aback. Although few Saudis knew Mr. [George W] Bush, he was familiar to Saudis from his background and entourage. But he did the opposite of what people had expected, which surprised and alarmed all of us.
  "[He had] seemed to go out of his way to tip towards Israel, and especially [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, as opposed to [Palestinian President Yasser] Arafat. This shocked people. It was clear there was a new game in town." That "new game" included the war with Iraq and the apparent demotion of the Palestinian issue. "Our view, and we thought it was the US view, was always that in the Middle East problem, the Palestinian aspect was the most important. Solve that, and everything else will follow."

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  • Hizballah Shelling Kills One Israeli, Hurts Four
    Hizballah guerrillas fired shells over northern Israel on Sunday, killing 16-year-old Haviv Dadon and injuring four adults, officials said. A senior Israeli security official said three 57 mm anti-tank shells were fired at the town of Shlomi, near the Israeli-Lebanese border. The militant group Hizballah said in Lebanon that it had fired anti-aircraft shells at Israeli fighter jets flying over southern Lebanon. One man died and four people were hurt, one seriously, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also US Wants Lebanon, Syria Clamp Down on Hizballah
    The United States on Friday put Lebanon and Syria on notice that Hizballah attacks in Israel are unacceptable and told them to rein in the resistance group after it bombarded the Lebanese Shebaa Farms area with rockets. (AFP/Jordan Times)
  • Militants Re-Arm under Cover of Israel Truce - Ross Dunn
    The head of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip has admitted the militant group is using an ongoing truce with the Israeli military to re-arm, heightening fears of an explosion of bloodshed when the ceasefire comes to an end next month. In an exclusive interview Mohammed al-Hindi warned that militant Palestinian groups are preparing for confrontations in the wake of Israeli military operations that could even lead to the collapse of the fragile truce ahead of next month’s deadline. Al-Hindi said: "It is natural that we strengthen ourselves during hudna. (Scotsman)
  • Bush Authorizes PLO to Maintain Its Offices in the United States
    President George W. Bush signed a six-month executive order authorizing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to maintain its offices in the United States, the White House said on Thursday. The State Department 2003 budget bill passed by Congress alludes to the PLO's 1993 commitment to recognize Israel's right to exist, accept UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, peacefully resolve its differences with Israel and renounce terrorism and all other acts of violence. Congress stipulated sanctions against the PLO if any of those commitments were not honored, including the downgrading of the status of the US offices of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Bush, in signing the order, noted that not all the conditions had been met, but found nonetheless it was "in the interests of national security" of the United States to suspend the sanctions for another 180-day period. (AFP)
        See also White House Memo on the PLO (White House)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Chief of Staff: Palestinians Are Not Going after Terrorists
    At the cabinet meeting on Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon revealed that the Palestinians stopped a truck loaded with Qassam rockets at a roadblock in Gaza and then allowed it to continue on its way. Cars loaded with Islamic Jihad terrorists were also allowed to pass the roadblock. (Israel Radio - Hebrew)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Q&A: Palestinian Prisoners, the Fence, and the Road Map - Council on Foreign Relations
    In backing the militants' calls, some experts say, Palestinian and U.S. officials have indirectly allowed organizations that have supported terror -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah--to become players in the peace process. "Prisoners have always been a central issue in the Arab-Israeli peace process, but it's a very divisive issue that almost never leads to increased confidence [between Israelis and Palestinians]," says Aaron Miller, a long-time U.S. negotiator in the Arab-Israeli conflict. "It's a loser issue." (New York Times)
  • The Dysfunctional House of Saud - Stephen Schwartz
    In April came the U.S. liberation of Iraq and the specter, terrifying for the House of Saud, of a Western-oriented, protodemocratic regime on Saudi Arabia's long northern border. Such an Iraq would almost surely be led by Shia Muslims--whom the Wahhabis view much as the Nazis viewed the Jews. Even now, Wahhabi preaching incites Saudi subjects to head north to die in jihad against America, and at least 1,000 of them, according to Saudi informants, have answered the call. It is thus that the ranks of Baathists attacking coalition troops in Iraq were suddenly fortified by adherents of al Qaeda. Lately, however, Saudis have told of Wahhabi volunteers returning disappointed, rejected by the Iraqis they had claimed they would save. The U.S.-Saudi relationship is unique in our history, and redefining it in the light of what Americans now know about terrorism, Wahhabism, and Saudi governance will not be simple. There was no manual for the Western response to the fall of Soviet totalitarianism, and neither is there any blueprint for disengagement from Saudi totalitarianism. President Bush cannot be faulted for missteps as the administration feels its way; the blacking-out of the 28 pages was an error, not a coverup. But the administration must resist the bland assurances of Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, who happily echo Saudi assurances that somehow, someday the relationship will be restored to its earlier, more pleasant status. Indeed, full disclosure can no longer be put off. Almost two years have gone by since September 11, and Saudi promises of help in the war against terror have grown stale. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Hizballah's Trouble-Making - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)

  • Hizballah must be broadly perceived as a terrorist organization supported by two terror-supporting states, Syria and Iran, and both of them have an interest in ending the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
  • The Israeli reaction yesterday was minimalist and focused on hitting one Hizballah anti-aircraft cannon in the western sector of south Lebanon, the 57-millimeter cannon that fired at Shlomi and killed a teenager.
  • Hizballah also set the shells fired from the cannon to detonate relatively low and thus increase the chances of casualties and damage. The anti-aircraft fire is not at all aimed at Israeli planes. If they fly over Lebanese territory, they do so at such speeds and high altitude that it's doubtful they can be seen from the ground.
  • Despite Washington's repeated warnings to Damascus about Syria's negative activity in Iraq and its direct support of terror groups, Syria apparently regards the American warnings as nothing more than words.
  • The Iranians' top priority might be to hit the American forces in Iraq but their secondary effort is aimed against Israel. Tehran operates in the territories through the Hizballah or directly.
  • 10 Ways the Liberation of Iraq Supports the War on Terror (White House, August 8)

  • A senior al Qaeda terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, reports that al Qaeda was intent on obtaining WMD assistance from Iraq. According to a credible, high-level al Qaeda source, Osama Bin Laden and deceased al Qaeda leader Muhammad Atif did not believe that al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable of manufacturing chemical and biological weapons, so they turned to Iraq for assistance. Iraq agreed to provide chemical and biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates starting in December 2000.
  • Senior al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi came to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment along with approximately two dozen al Qaeda terrorist associates. This group stayed in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq and plotted terrorist attacks around the world.
  • A safe haven in Iraq belonging to Ansar al-Islam -- a terrorist group closely associated with Zarqawi and al Qaeda -- was destroyed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Abu Musa Zarqawi, the al Qaeda associate with direct links to Iraq, oversaw those responsible for the assassination of USAID officer Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan last October.
  • Saddam Hussein's Iraq provided material assistance to Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, according to a State Department report. This included paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, according to testimonials from Palestinians and cancelled checks.

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