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 16, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Syria Giving Hizballah SA-18 Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Target Israeli Planes - Damien McIlroy (Telegraph-UK)
    Western diplomats in Beirut believe that Damascus will use Hizballah as a "forward defensive shield" against Israel.
    According to one diplomat, Syria is preparing to equip Hizballah with Russian-made SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, which have a range of more than 16,000 feet, to target Israeli planes.
    Hizballah, which is also funded by Iran, is believed to have a stockpile of 10,000 short and long-range rockets capable of landing in Israeli territory, but the few surface-to-air missiles it currently has are antiquated and pose little threat to the Israeli airforce.

Arafat Tightens Grip on PA Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    In a move aimed at tightening his grip on the security forces, Arafat on Wednesday decided to reappoint Ghazi Jabali as head of the civilian police in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
    Jabali, a staunch Arafat loyalist, was dismissed by Arafat more than a year ago following allegations that he was involved in several corruption scandals.

Report: Iraq War Swells al-Qaeda's Ranks - Peter Graff (Reuters)
    War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al-Qaeda, and assertions after the Iraq conflict that Washington had turned the corner in the war on terror were "over-confident," the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British-based think-tank, said on Wednesday in its annual report.
    "On the plus side, war in Iraq has denied al-Qaeda a potential supplier of weapons of mass destruction and discouraged state sponsors of terrorism from continuing to support it," the report said.
    "On the minus side, war in Iraq has probably inflamed radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al-Qaeda's recruiting power and morale and, at least marginally, its operating capability."

Funding Hate (JTA)
    A special JTA investigation reveals that the Ford Foundation was a major funder of many of the groups that fueled anti-Israel activity at the Durban UN conference on racism.
    The series traces Ford monies to pro-Palestinian groups and probes issues of accountability and transparency at a time of growing U.S. concern over whether funds to non-governmental organizations could end up supporting terrorism.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Bush: "Palestinian Authorities Should Have Acted Long Ago to Fight Terror"
    In reaction to "the vicious act of terrorism directed against Americans in Gaza" Wednesday, President Bush said: "Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms. The failure to create effective Palestinian security forces dedicated to fighting terror continues to cost lives. There must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces, reforms that continue to be blocked by Yasser Arafat. The failure to undertake these reforms and dismantle the terrorist organizations constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people's dream of statehood.
        "The Americans who were attacked today were pursuing a vision for a better future for the Palestinian people. The U.S. embassy officials traveling in Gaza were there to interview young Palestinian candidates seeking Fulbright scholarships to study in the United States. This is another example of how the terrorists are enemies of progress and opportunity for the Palestinian people." (White House)
        See also Kurtzer: A Right to Self-Defense
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer said: "We recognize fully Israel's right to defend itself and its citizens, and we associate ourselves with that right....In this case, American citizens have been killed, and I would expect that we would be consulting on the proper way of reacting to this outrage." Kurtzer said the bombing was the second attack on a U.S. target; the first was an incident in late June when a roadside bomb exploded near a passing convoy of U.S. vehicles. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also State Dept. Announces Victims of Gaza Attack
    The U.S. named the three security men killed in the Gaza Strip Wednesday as John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Martin Linde. They were on contract to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv through the defense contracting company Dyncorp. (Reuters/New York Times)
  • House of Representatives Approves Sanctions on Syria
    The U.S. House of Representatives voted 398-4 on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Syria, tightening the economic and diplomatic squeeze on a nation the U.S. says is harboring terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said Syria "has evidently chosen to side with the terrorists in this war and it's time for their government to start feeling the consequences of their actions." (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S Troops Battle at Iraqi-Syrian Border
    U.S. troops came under fire from a group trying to cross illegally into Iraq from Syria on Wednesday, resulting in a gun battle that left several of the infiltrators dead. A U.S. observation helicopter was forced down after being hit by small-arms fire during the skirmish. When ground observers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division noticed a group trying to enter Iraq without going through an official crossing, U.S. troops attempted to contact the group but were fired upon. U.S. troops returned fire. (CNN)
  • EU Demands Arafat Act After Gaza Attack
    EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally Wednesday to crack down hard on terrorists after a deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip. (EU Business)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israel, PA Suspect Fatah Group Behind Gaza Attack - Aluf Benn
    Sources in Israel and the PA were assessing that the Council of Popular Resistance, a Fatah splinter group comprised mainly of former Palestinian security forces, was behind the Wednesday attack on an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza that killed three U.S. security personnel.
        American personnel who coordinate the movements of U.S. officials in the territories communicate travel plans in advance to PA security officials, sending the detailed information by fax or telephone. Some analysts speculated Wednesday that the terrorists who perpetrated the attack had advance knowledge of the U.S. convoy. At least a portion of the information attained by the terrorists, these analysts hypothesized, came from official PA sources.
        American security officials investigating the bomb attack left the scene abruptly after Palestinian youths threw stones and rocks at them as about 200 Palestinians looked on. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Crowd Shows No Remorse (Telegraph-UK)
  • Mofaz: Gaza Attack Deliberately Directed at Americans - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the attack was deliberately directed at the Americans. He instructed that all intelligence information Israel can gather on the attack be handed over to the Americans. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Loses Interest in the Road Map - Aluf Benn
    Since the fall of Mahmoud Abbas's cabinet, President George Bush has lost interest in the political process and motivation. Envoy John Wolf, whose posting in Jerusalem clearly signaled the promoting of the road map, has not returned from home leave. American officials speak of the Palestinians with disappointment and despair. A senior American official said Wednesday: "We kept telling them to unite the security forces and enforce one law with one army. If they had, the attack would not have happened, and if it had, there would have been an accountable party. In the present situation, the only one above everyone is Arafat."
        The main implication of the attack will be a weakening in the calls to post international forces or American inspectors in the territories. In the present situation, the PA cannot ensure the safety of American diplomats in its territory and it is doubtful that Washington will want to take additional risks. (Ha'aretz)
        See also On Pause: U.S. Pulls Back - Steven R. Weisman
    The Bush administration's involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and its willingness to push either side, is at a low ebb. Administration aides say a kind of hiatus has settled in, primarily because the Palestinian leadership is in disarray and the Bush administration has declined to talk with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. "On the Palestinian side, there is no one to talk to," one official said. (New York Times)
  • Haifa Bombing Claims 21st Victim
    The number of people killed in the suicide bombing at Haifa's Maxim restaurant rose Wednesday to 21, with the death of George Matar, 57, a Christian Haifa resident who was working in the restaurant co-owned by his cousin. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Poisoned by Fanaticism - Editorial
    The most immediate effect of Wednesday's terrorist attack on American intelligence personnel in Gaza will be to reinforce the widespread belief in America that Palestinian violence should be treated as an integral part of the war on terrorism. Such a move would pose a challenge for Tony Blair, who has sought to treat Palestinian "armed struggle" as a case apart - as a rational, albeit often excessively violent, response to the conditions of Israeli occupation.
        Whichever Palestinian faction perpetrated these murders - and it may well be that Hamas or Islamic Jihad employed the flag of convenience of "Popular Resistance Committee" in much the same fashion as the IRA allowed some particularly inopportune atrocities to be claimed by the "Catholic Reaction Force" - there is no doubting the common ideological well-spring from which all these groups drink. Young people in the occupied territories are indoctrinated from an early age into the Wahabbist version of Islam that so inspired bin Laden. Considering the burgeoning anti-Western and anti-Semitic delirium that now afflicts many of these Palestinians, perhaps the only surprise is that such an attack did not happen sooner.
        The attack in Gaza should prompt a reappraisal of CIA training of Palestinian security personnel. The PA's complex apparatus is so riddled with Islamist infiltrators - some of whom may have tipped off the terrorists on the whereabouts of the American convoy - as to raise serious questions about whether it is a genuine partner for peace. Like the Saudi intelligence services, which are heavily penetrated by bin Laden, the Palestinian security machine is at best a liability in the war on terrorism. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The Gaza Killings: Road to Perdition - Editorial
    The deadly explosion that ripped through the American convoy in Gaza Wednesday made much more complex American initiatives to end the bloodshed in the Middle East. President Bush will now be under much more domestic pressure to remove himself from the peace process. Even if the Palestinian political leadership knows the public relations disaster of a direct attack on Americans, it has encouraged a climate of terror and celebrated senseless suicide bombing as martyrdom. What is spurring the quick denials is not contrition: it is fear. The terrorists are concerned that the deaths of its citizens may prompt America to exact the same sort of swift retribution as was visited on the Taliban after September 11. The Europeans and the Russians, the other members, with the UN, of the "Quad" that promoted the U.S. road map, must be equally forthright in demanding an end to such mindless assassinations. (London Times)
  • Bomb Attack Highlights Pivotal Role of U.S. in Region - Chris McGreal
    "Even if the Palestinians think the Americans side with Israelis, they also know the Americans are the only ones who can stop Israel," said Shmuel Sandler, an analyst and professor at Bar-Ilan University. Prof. Sandler said the attack was all the more mystifying because American monitors on the ground often worked in the Palestinians' favor. "They monitor settlement activity, they meet Palestinian officials and give them status. The Palestinian Authority will pay the highest political price for this," he said. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    Temple Mount is More Important Than Peace - Natan Sharansky (Ha'aretz)

    • As much as we long and hope for peace, it is not a value that stands by itself. It is an essential condition for the existence of a country that wishes to live, but it isn't the goal. It was not for the sake of peace that the State of Israel was established, and it was not because of peace that millions of Jews gathered here.
    • Nor was it peace for which the Jewish people prayed for thousands of years. The Jewish people prayed for Jerusalem. Because of Jerusalem, the Jewish people returned to Israel from the four corners of the earth, for it they were willing to make all the necessary sacrifices.
    • If we totally relinquish every value for the sake of peace, we won't have peace either. Just as in the past, this time, too, the Palestinians will interpret such a relinquishing of what constitutes our very identity as a tremendous weakness that calls for war.
    • The values symbolized by Jerusalem are not only religious in nature. One doesn't have to be religious to understand that without our historical connection to Jerusalem, without the link to the past, without the feeling of continuity with the ancient kingdoms of Israel for whom the Temple Mount was the center of existence, we really are foreign invaders and colonialists in this country.
    • One doesn't have to be religious in order to understand that relinquishing the Temple Mount is a justification of the Palestinian argument: You have no right to exist in this country, you have no connection to it, get out of here. One doesn't have to be religious in order to understand that relinquishing the Temple Mount is not only relinquishing the past, it is primarily relinquishing the future of all of us, here.

    The writer is Israel's Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs.

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