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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October 13, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Saddam's Syrian Stash - Adam Zagorin (TIME)
    According to a senior U.S. official, as much as $3 billion in Iraqi assets is sitting in Syrian government-controlled banks, and Washington is anxious to determine that the money is not funding violence against Americans in Iraq, or being drawn down by regime officials and supporters.
    For months the U.S. has quietly insisted that Damascus give up the funds. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in May and made that unpublicized demand.
    Yet U.S. officials now assert that Damascus has given them only "limited cooperation."
    Warns the senior official: "We have made it plain that if access to records and cooperation continue to be restricted, we reserve the right to impose economic counter-measures."

Terrorist Threat to British Jews? - Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    Scotland Yard has warned Britain's Jewish community of the threat of imminent terrorist attacks. British security officers say urgent measures are needed to protect potential targets such as synagogues and community centers.
    In recent weeks police questioned a carload of Iranian "tourists" after they were spotted covertly taking video pictures of obscure Jewish-community buildings in London.

Palestinian Activist Indicted in Probe of Hamas (AP/Washington Post)
    A Palestinian activist who refused to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Hamas has been indicted on criminal contempt charges, officials said Friday.
    Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 45, of Alexandria, a former professor at Howard University, refused to testify despite a grant of immunity, prompting U.S. Chicago District Chief Judge Charles P. Kocoras to hold Ashqar for contempt, officials said.
    Chicago has been a center of charitable fundraising for Muslim causes, and prosecutors have closed a number of such charities they say have been used to funnel cash to Hamas as well as bin Laden's terrorist network.

Muslim Chaplain Charged by Army - Guy Taylor (Washington Times)
    A Muslim U.S. Army chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, Capt. James J. Yee, 35, was charged Friday with disobeying a general order for improperly handling classified information.

Useful Reference:

Prime Minister Sharon Addresses the 24th Annual Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)
    Sharon: "Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible 677 times. Zion as Jerusalem is mentioned another 154 times, and the name King David is mentioned 1,083 times."
    "It was only after Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, with the Temple Mount at the center, that freedom of worship was granted at all the holy sites."

Key Links

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Back Issues

News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Experts Dismiss Report that Israel Can Launch Nuclear-Armed Missiles from Submarines
    Israeli and foreign defense experts Sunday dismissed a report that Israel had modified submarine-based missiles to carry nuclear warheads, saying such a modification was technically impossible. Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh said, "Anyone with even the slightest understanding of missiles knows that the Harpoon [missile] can never be used to carry nuclear warheads." Ted Hooton, editor of Jane's Naval Weapon Systems in London, echoed Sneh's assessment, saying that problems with payload weight would put the Harpoon out of balance, drastically limiting its range and accuracy. "It seems to me that a nuclear weapon, which is extremely dense, would make the Harpoon nose heavy and significantly reduce its range - in any event well below the 90 miles (140 kilometers) it is designed for," Hooton said. (AP/FOX News)
        See original report: Israel Adds Subs to Its Atomic Ability (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israel, Iran and the Nuclear Bomb - Aluf Benn
    The level of reliability of this Los Angeles Times report remains uncertain. Israel asked to carry out certain improvements on the U.S.-supplied Harpoon missiles in response to the sale of such advanced missiles to Egypt last year. It is possible that information about this modification might have been the "improvements" in question.
        Last week, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told top IDF commanders that Iran's nuclear efforts constitute "the gravest danger to Israel's existence in the future. This is because Iran calls for Israel's annihilation. We must do our utmost, under U.S. guidance, to delay or eliminate the prospect of the extremist regime [in Tehran] securing weapons of this sort." (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S., Israel Negotiating Changes in Barrier Route - Talks Signal Switch from Prior Divergence
    After publicly criticizing the fence and wall that Israel is building in the West Bank, the Bush administration is quietly negotiating with the Israeli government on changes in the route of the barrier. "What we're trying to do is make it a nonissue," an Israeli diplomat said. (Baltimore Sun)
  • New Rules for Israel and Syria
    After last week's attack on a Palestinian terrorist training camp in Syria, political analyst Haitham Kilani, a retired diplomat and air force general, said Syria had called up 300,000 of its 1.5 million reservists. The aging ministers around young president Bashar Assad had long expected that stopping the proxy war waged by groups including Hizballah in southern Lebanon as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be a card Syria could play to win back the Golan Heights. Now they are finding that expelling the Palestinian groups might be the price the Syrian government pays to head off future attacks. "I am sure they [the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad] will leave if America puts pressure on Syria, " said Khaled al-Fahoum, an independent Palestinian official. (New York Times)
        See also Defiant Palestinian Bombers Turn Screw on Syria
    The leaders of Palestinian militant groups based in Syria have warned that they will carry out further attacks on Israeli targets, increasing the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad. A Western diplomat in Damascus said there was little doubt that the target of the Israeli raid had been used by militant groups within the past few months. "We are certain that a number of groups including Islamic Jihad certainly used it as recently as this year," the diplomat said. Photographs showed that the camp had rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons, he added. "Not the sort of thing one leaves in an abandoned area." (Sunday Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF to Pursue Rafah Anti-Tunnel Operation - Margot Dudkevitch
    Operation Root Canal currently under way in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip will continue until the IDF destroys all tunnels in the area being used to smuggle weapons, or the PA makes a strategic decision and does so itself, senior IDF commanders said. According to Palestinian sources, nine people were killed and more than 80 wounded since the start of the operation. Two soldiers were lightly wounded. Three large tunnels had been detected. "We estimate that there are still at least 10 tunnels operating in the area," a senior IDF commander said. He said troops are operating up to 500 meters inside PA-controlled areas. "So far, those detected were located between 200 and 500 meters" from the area under Israeli control, he said.
        According to security officials, arms smuggled into PA-controlled areas come from Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, and Libya. Among the items expected to be smuggled were katyusha rockets, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank grenades, large amounts of explosives, and ammunition. "If we had not acted, not only IDF forces and Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip, but Sderot and Ashkelon would come under serious threat," one official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        An Israeli military spokesman said figures for destruction of houses "are extremely exaggerated. About 10 houses were destroyed, all of which fell into one of three categories - they had a tunnel, were booby trapped, or there was intense gunfire from them." (Guardian-UK)
  • U.S. Suggests Replacing Arafat for "Health Reasons" - Eli Vaked
    The U.S. is working to prepare a Palestinian leadership for the period after Arafat, the Saudi daily al-Watan reported Monday. According to the report, the U.S. is interested in the rapid replacement of Arafat with a collective Palestinian leadership. The Americans have even suggested that Arab doctors prepare a report stating that Arafat is no longer able to fulfill his duties, and thus bring about his removal in a non-violent manner - according to the model used in Tunisia to remove the former president. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Olmert: Israel Should Draw Borders Unilaterally - Aluf Benn
    Israel should determine its border with the Palestinians unilaterally, based on its own demographic interests, rather than waiting for an agreement, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday. Olmert said that any future settlement with the Palestinians must be based on a united Jerusalem remaining Israel's capital and on Jewish sovereignty over the Old City and the Temple Mount. "Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity, nor will it ever be," he said.
        "One cannot fight terror with words, but only by getting at the terrorists, and at those who shelter, finance and support them....There should be no immunity for political leaders who encourage terror, finance it or defend terrorists, and the same is true for states that give shelter to terrorist organizations," Olmert said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian PM Qurei Says He Will Leave Post - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei told Fatah officials during a meeting Sunday he did not intend to stay on as prime minister when the emergency government's term expires in three weeks. Fatah officials said that Qurei's resignation was a result of differences with Arafat over appointing Nasser Youssef as the PA interior minister and of granting Youssef control over the Palestinian security forces. A PA source said Arafat really objected to Youssef because he would be a strong interior minister. As head of police, Youssef led the crackdown on Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 1994/95. (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Beilin Peace Plan Known as "Swiss Agreement" Unveiled - Tovah Lazaroff
    A new peace plan known as the "Swiss Agreement," penned by former minister Yossi Beilin and former PA minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, is due to be announced next month, and Beilin is pushing to bring as much international and Arab support as possible behind the document in advance of its signing. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Ex-PA Minister: "Swiss Agreement" Draft Doesn't Concede Right of Return - Mazal Mualem
    Former Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abd al-Raziq was quoted in Monday's Al-Quds newspaper as saying that the unofficial draft peace agreement completed Sunday by Palestinian and leftist Israeli negotiators does not include a Palestinian concession on the right of return. Such a concession, in exchange for Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, comprises the core of the agreement. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Fatah and Twelve Palestinian Factions Reject "Swiss Agreement" - Yoav Yitzhak
    In an official announcement dated 12 October 2003, "The Nationalist and Islamic Forces" coalition that unites 13 Palestinian factions - including Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP - rejected the Geneva understandings. (First Class News-Hebrew)
        See also Barak Deplores "Swiss Agreement" - Tovah Lazaroff and Gil Hoffman
    Former Labor prime minister Ehud Barak has harshly criticized the "Swiss Agreement," calling it "irresponsible and damaging to the State of Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Coming Earthquake - Uzi Arad
    American experts say Iran is only two years away from manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Israeli officials are quoted as saying the point of no return for that capability will be crossed in mid-2004. Last week Iran showed off missiles that were capable of carrying nuclear warheads considerable distances. In two years, therefore, Iran could have an operational nuclear missile system. A nuclear Iran could lead other countries like Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or even Syria onto the nuclear path. That would threaten U.S. security and the security of its friends in the region in an unprecedented manner. According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter, the president has decided that nuclearization of Iran cannot be allowed to happen, But if for reasons deriving from election-year politics, or as a result of the U.S. being pinned down in the Iraqi arena, the president does not have the political and other means necessary to intensify its response to the Iranian challenge, then the American gains in Iraq will be meaningless, the Bush doctrine will effectively collapse, and the Iranian threat will grow to its full, serious extent. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why is the State Department So Cozy with the Saudis? - Joel Mowbray
    On April 24, 2002, law-enforcement officials discovered a "snag" with Crown Prince Abdullah's eight-plane entourage, which was arriving with the prince for a visit to George W. Bush's Western White House in Crawford, Texas. The flight manifest included one person wanted by U.S. law enforcement authorities and two others on a terrorist watch list. The FBI was ready to "storm the plane and pull those guys off," believing that felons, even Saudi felons, were to be arrested. In the end, the three didn't get anywhere near Crawford, but were also spared the "embarrassment" of arrest. That normally staid bureaucrats engaged in incredible acrobatics to bail out three guys who never should have been in the U.S. in the first place says a great deal about State's "special relationship" with the Saudis.
        In addition to hiring former State officials as direct paid lobbyists, Saudi money goes indirectly to former State officials who promote the Saudi agenda under the cover of the think-tank label. Three organizations in particular are the primary beneficiaries of Saudi petrodollars, and all are populated with former State officials: the Meridian International Center, the Middle East Policy Council, and the Middle East Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Why There is No Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Yossi Klein Halevi (The New Republic)

    • The peace process is over; in fact there never was a peace process, if by that we mean a mutual process of reconciliation. "Land for peace" wasn't an option because recognition of Israel's legitimacy was never being offered. The current war isn't merely a glitch on the way to an inevitable comprehensive peace, but the end of the assumption that a comprehensive peace is possible, perhaps in our generation.
    • In numerous conversations I've had over the years with Palestinians, from all levels of society, when I'd ask the question, "What will happen after the peace?" the answers almost invariably focused on the next phase of repatriating Palestinian refugees and transforming Israel into a bi-national entity. When the war over Israel as a state ends, the war against Israel as a Jewish state will begin.
    • Most Israelis agree that renewing the peace process is impossible so long as Arafat controls the PA, a point reinforced by Abu Mazen's downfall. And unilateral withdrawal, however appealing, will only reinforce the message of Israel's Lebanon withdrawal that Israel is on the run - a message which encouraged the current Palestinian terror offensive.
    • Construction of the fence sends a message to the Palestinians that the absence of a willingness to negotiate a compromise settlement will eventually result in a unilaterally imposed border that will be less advantageous to the Palestinians than the offer they rejected at Camp David.
    • We've made a mistake in demonizing Arafat because the problem is hardly Arafat alone, but the widespread Palestinian and Arab refusal to grant us genuine recognition. Gambling on Arafat was symptomatic of our refusal to recognize the depth of Arab rejection. The widespread resistance in the Arab world to granting legitimacy to Jewish history, from Holocaust-denial to Temple-denial, isn't a side-effect of the conflict. It is the conflict.
    • Blaming Sharon, even partly, for not supporting Abu Mazen is to fail to understand that Abu Mazen couldn't be saved, because he was the victim of a political targeted assassination by Arafat.
    • There is no massive construction going on in the settlements. The latest building, which made front-page news and attracted Collin Powell's concern, involves 600 apartments mostly in the West Bank towns of Maale Adumim and Efrat, both of which will remain within Israel's borders no matter what deal is ultimately negotiated.

    The writer is a contributing editor at The New Republic and an associate fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His remarks were part of a dialogue with The New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier.

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