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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November 20, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Attack Videos Appear on Saudi Website - David Ensor (CNN)
    Video clips showing what appears to be attacks on American forces in Iraq have begun appearing on, an Arab website supervised by Sheikh Salman bin Fahd Al-Awdah of Saudi Arabia.
    The videotapes are thought to be a "propaganda and recruiting tool" to draw Saudi recruits to Iraq to fight against Americans, analysts say.
    One video apparently shows an American Humvee blowing up on a Baghdad street. Another shows a Humvee coming under machine gun fire.

Key Shiites Soften Tone toward U.S. - Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor)
    At the gold-domed Kufa Mosque in Najaf, the young firebrand imam, Moqtada al-Sadr, known for condemning the Americans as Iraq's enemies, has softened and redirected his words.
    "We were the only enemy of Saddam Hussein, and now the Baathists who still support him are our only enemy," he says. "We must resist them and the terrorists."
    The young sheikh, who in July was calling for an Iranian-style theocracy and who once called the Americans "infidels," says he is now ready to work with them.
    See also Sensing Shiites Will Rule Iraq, U.S. Starts to See Friends, Not Foes - Steven R. Weisman (New York Times)

French Chief Rabbi: Don't Wear Yarmulkes (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Worried about a surge in anti-Semitic attacks, France's chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, has cautioned Jewish men against wearing yarmulkes in public, suggesting they wear baseball caps instead.

Palestinians in Syria No Longer Heading to Iraq - Cynthia Johnston (Reuters)
    In the Yarmouk camp in Syria, Palestinians say that although some young men were enthusiastic to join the fight, few if any are now departing for Iraq.
    "Now they are not going," said Issam Kheza'i Jumaa, who said the fighters found neither an ideal cause nor much in the way of welcome from Iraqis. "They learned a lesson."
    "I was in his position, but I did not go," said Jumaa, whose brother Issa died on the outskirts of Baghdad.
    "Maybe to Israel, yes. I might go to fight Israel. We hoped that if he was martyred, it would be in Palestine."

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Explosions Rock Istanbul
    A series of explosions believed to be car bombs shook Istanbul on Thursday, with targets including the London-based HSBC Bank and the British consulate. Scores of people were reported killed or injured. (AP/ABC News/Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Security Council Affirms Mideast Road Map
    The UN Security Council Wednesday unanimously endorsed the road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The peace plan aims to establish a Palestinian state by 2005. The approved resolution "calls on the parties to fulfill their obligations under the road map in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Text of UNSC Resolution 1515 (United Nations)
        See below - Observations: Israel's Response to the UN Road Map Resolution
  • Bush: Need to Build a "Viable Palestinian Democracy"
    Speaking in London Wednesday, President Bush said: "As we work on the details of peace, we must look to the heart of the matter, which is the need for a viable Palestinian democracy. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption, and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state."
        "Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences. Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel."
        "Leaders in Europe should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause. And Europe's leaders - and all leaders - should strongly oppose anti-Semitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East." (White House)
  • Israel Unveils Mideast Job Plan to U.S.
    Israel has presented the Bush administration with a plan to alleviate hardships for Palestinians, including industrial zones at the border between Israel and the West Bank that would employ at least 100,000 Palestinians. But Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the project and other conciliatory steps depended on a suspension of terror attacks against Israelis. (AP/Washington Post)
  • State Dept. Commission Calls Saudis' Strict Islam a "Threat"
    Saudi Arabia continues to fund and export its Wahhabi brand of Islam, making it a "strategic threat" to the United States in the worldwide war on terror, the chairman of the State Department's Commission on International Religious Freedom said Tuesday. "It is an ideology that is incompatible with the war on terrorism," said commission chairman Michael Young. The commission, established by Congress during the Clinton administration as a State Department body charged with monitoring religious rights, held a hearing Tuesday titled: "Is Saudi Arabia a Strategic Threat: The Global Propagation of Intolerance." Members of the panel said they were pessimistic about Saudi efforts to combat extremism. "We've struck a Faustian bargain, turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's domestic policies...and we've turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabian efforts to export Wahhabism," said Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF Cautiously Optimistic about Truce - Matthew Gutman
    The IDF cautiously supports a new hudna (temporary cease-fire) and is confident of Hamas's and Islamic Jihad's interest in maintaining quiet for up to six months, a senior security source said Wednesday. The key to a cease-fire is compliance of Fatah/Tanzim-related terrorist groups like the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Hizballah and Iran have taken up "a massive role" among local terrorist cells, greasing the logistical wheels of terrorist operations and even providing operational support for most Fatah/Tanzim-related groups. Any attempt at a cease-fire hinges on Arafat's success at leading Fatah away from Iran. The source said Arafat has managed to consolidate power and retain his hold on the PLO's finances. He noted that one of the great faults of former PA prime minister Mahmoud Abbas's hudna was that "it smelled of the West, and of the U.S.'s dictate." The new ceasefire plan is considered a grassroots initiative arising from the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Gives Israel Information on Bethlehem Assailant - Arnon Regular and Amos Harel
    A Palestinian security committee appointed by Arafat and headed by Haj Ismael Jaber has told Israeli officials that Jabbar al-Ahmad, 21, now in PA custody, was the gunman who killed two Israeli soldiers Tuesday on the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion Tunnel Road. On Wednesday about 100 Palestinians, some of them armed members of the Palestinian security forces in which Al-Ahmad served, staged a rally in front of Bethlehem's security compound, demanding that al-Ahmad be freed. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S.-Israel Understanding on Outposts Possible - Aluf Benn
    Israel believes it is possible to reach an understanding with the U.S. over a list of illegal outposts in the West Bank that will serve as a basis for discussions on the issue, sources in the prime minister's entourage said Wednesday. The sources said that U.S. complaints about outposts were a result of differences in information between what Israel and the U.S. know about the number of outposts and their status. Sharon rejects any charges that relations with the U.S. are deteriorating over the issue, describing the outpost dispute as "a non-existent conflict" and saying there is no American pressure on Israel whatsoever. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Anti-Semitism: Our Dulled Nerve - Editorial
    A new anti-Semitism is on the march across the globe. Where once, which was bad enough, terrorists concentrated their attacks on targets with clear ties to Israel - its embassies, airline or shipping offices - they are now wider in scope. All Jews are now seen by some extremists as legitimate targets. There are few forms of prejudice with deeper roots than anti-Semitism. Yet until recently it appeared to be in retreat. (Guardian-UK)
  • Syria's "Invisible Occupation" of Lebanon - Mitch Potter
    "Although we have all the formal, apparent aspects of independence...our army is controlled by Syria; our politicians must go to Damascus to receive their benediction. In every measurable way, we are under invisible occupation by Syria," said Joseph Maila, a prominent Lebanese academic. Syria's hand in Lebanese politics was codified in the 1990 Taif Agreement, which called for Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon within two years. More than a decade later, Syrian troops remain. (Toronto Star)
  • Prince Charles's Pro-Arab Views Would Cause Upset, Diplomats Fear - Ewen MacAskill
    Prince Charles has not been to the U.S. for the last six years on the advice of the Foreign Office. The Prince of Wales has strong pro-Palestinian views and is privately critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East conflict. A source familiar with discussions over possible visits by the Prince of Wales to the U.S. said: "It revolves around the perception that the Prince of Wales is fairly Arabist. He has, in American terms and international terms, fairly dodgy views on Israel....The system basically thinks that he is unsound on America and he has not really wanted to go anyway. He doesn't much like American culture." (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Response to the UN Road Map Resolution (Prime Minister's Media Adviser/Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • The Government of Israel accepted the road map along with 14 clarifications that it decided upon, and this is the one and only diplomatic plan that Israel is prepared to carry out.
    • The peace plan known as "the road map," as accepted by Israel, can be carried out only through negotiations and agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Judging in relation to the plan's implementation will be in the hands of the United States. Israel will not accept any other intervention in implementing the plan.
    • The State of Israel is committed to the road map and expects and hopes that the Palestinians will begin to carry out their commitments, including the cessation of terror, dismantling the terrorist organizations, and carrying out a full reform of the Palestinian administration, thus making it possible to reach a settlement that will lead to quiet and peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.
        See also Statement by Israel's Deputy UN Ambassador (Israel Government Press Office/IMRA)

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