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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December 3, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Arabic Version of "Geneva Accord" Differs from English Version - Jackie Hogi (Maariv-Hebrew)
    The Arabic-language version of the "Geneva Accord" printed in the PA differs in a number of paragraphs from the binding English version, according to Hassan Harisha, chairman of the PA parliament's oversight agency.
    "What was published in Arabic doesn't truly reflect the agreement and this is a great insult to the Palestinian citizen. This is a clear fraud," he said.
    He added that the Arabic version was distributed throughout the PA at EU expense.

Istanbul Attack Ringleaders Met bin Laden's Deputy (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Two key suspects in the series of suicide bombings in Istanbul, Habib Aktas and Azad Ekinci, met several times with and took instructions from bin Laden's top surviving lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper reported Tuesday.

Millions Risked on Massive Arms Deal with Shaky Saudi Government - Rob Evans and David Leigh (Guardian-UK)
    British government financial guarantees against the collapse of the Saudi ruling family have been secretly given to the giant arms firm BAE Systems, currently negotiating weapons contracts reportedly worth up to $4.5bn with a regime that is regularly accused of corruption on a massive scale.
    BAE has refused to detail the secret commissions it is paying, believed to benefit figures connected with the Saudi royal family.
    The Serious Fraud Office is currently studying allegations that BAE has for years been running a £20m slush fund designed to bribe influential Saudis with prostitutes, yachts, cars, and houses.
    According to Middle East defense sources, BAE has been negotiating to upgrade the fleet of Tornado warplanes it sold to the Saudi regime with modernized avionics and "smart" weapons systems.

CAIR Raises $1 Million in Campaign (Saudi Press Agency)
    The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced Tuesday that the group's Ramadan fundraising campaign topped its goal of $1 million.
    More than 1,000 people attended the group's dinner this past weekend including Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Powell Effort Aims to Pressure Sharon
    Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to meet Friday with the authors of the unofficial Israeli-Palestinian "Geneva Accord" as part of a Bush administration strategy to put increasing pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. officials said Tuesday. An administration official called the planned meeting "a signal to the Sharon government to get in a more cooperative posture." Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "I think that he [Powell] is not being useful to the peace process....This is an incorrect step by a senior representative of the American administration." (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Rejects Syrian Overtures on Relations, Israel
    State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, reacting Monday to a New York Times interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad, said, "We find it hard to understand how Syria can talk peace at a time when Syria continues to support groups that are violently opposed to the peace process, that are violently opposed to the Palestinian government [and] to the building of a Palestinian state." A National Security Council official Monday said President Bush still intends to sign the "Syria Accountability Act" in the near future calling for new economic and diplomatic sanctions on Damascus for its support of terrorist groups. (Washington Times)
        See also below Observations: The Syrian Leader's Curious World - Editorial (New York Times)
  • UN to Hold Emergency Session on Separation Fence
    The UN General Assembly will meet in emergency session on Monday to consider putting more pressure on Israel after it rejected a demand to halt construction of what it calls a ''security fence,'' designed to stop suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis over the past three years. The General Assembly voted 144-4 last month to demand that Israel halt construction of the barrier. (Reuters/MSNBC)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Leaders: Refugees Will Return to Israel, Not PA
    Rafik Natshe, who replaced Abu Ala as Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Monday in Gaza, "The right of return is holy and no one can cancel it." He explained that according to the PLC, the right of return refers to the return of Palestinian refugees to the land from which they came, meaning the territory of Israel and not the territory of the PA. "We will continue to give a chance to peace. But if we do not achieve our rights through peace, then to fight is a legitimate right....We will teach this hypocritical world how our people wins its rights through its steadfast struggle." PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath commented: "There is no negotiating the return of Palestinian refugees to the territory of the Palestinian state....The negotiation will be over the return of Palestinians who wish to return to their villages and towns in the lands that were conquered in 1948." (NewsFirstClass-Hebrew)
  • Hamas Commander in Ramallah Reported Killed - Inbal Aviv Palestinians say they found the body of Ramallah Hamas commander Ibrahim Hamed buried under the rubble of a five-story building destroyed by the IDF Monday. Hamed was the main target of the IDF operation in Ramallah, and the building was found to contain a weapons laboratory and large quantities of explosives. (NewsFirstClass-Hebrew)
  • Army: 25 Attacks Thwarted in November Alone
    Israeli security forces have thwarted more than 25 terror attacks in the month of November, Army Radio reported Monday. The attacks foiled included suicide bombings, roadside bombs, and shooting attacks. The Israeli security establishment is registering about 50 terror attack warnings, half of which emanate from Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Lowers Interest in Israeli-Palestinian Dispute - Aluf Benn
    The U.S. administration has lowered its level of interest in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and ceased efforts to renew the political process as it focuses on the war in Iraq and President Bush's reelection. Israeli sources said American moves cutting loan guarantees to match Israeli investment in settlements were very low-key and that the U.S. is working to foil a Palestinian effort to move the fence issue to the international criminal court in The Hague. U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer is working closely with Mike Herzog, the defense minister's military secretary, to reach an agreement on the number of outposts that must be removed. Many of the outposts are regarded as extensions of existing settlements.
        With National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice focused on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the hands of Elliot Abrams, who is micromanaging the daily events. Secretary of State Powell has stepped into the vacuum left by Rice, and he no doubt is enjoying getting back at Sharon, such as with his readiness to meet with the Geneva Accord organizers. After the failure of PA prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, a Bush favorite, the administration is in no hurry to embrace Ahmed Qurei. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns told Qurei during their meeting over the weekend to stop posing preconditions for a meeting with Sharon, Israeli sources said Sunday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is Bush Selling Out? - Claudia Rosett
    There is a curious U.S. sellout afoot of our most beleaguered democratic ally, Israel. Israel is told it must forgo even the building of a protective fence, and instead leave the roads open to Arafat's cult of bombs and blood. An "alternative" peace accord in Geneva, representing neither the democratic government of Israel nor any democratic leader of the Palestinians (there is currently no such person) gets not only a hallelujah from such dictator groupies as Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan, but one from the State Department.
        In those places where democracy, in the face of terrible threats, and against huge odds, has established itself, such as in Israel's democratic outpost in the Middle East, it is crucial that we yield no ground. To nudge Israel yet again in the direction of the peace-at-any-price crowd is to embrace standards so frail that the result can only be to embolden our enemies and erode the very progress we are at such pains to achieve in Iraq. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Listening to Arabs - Joshua Muravchik
    A summer institute in Greece for 83 students from the Balkans, the Mediterranean basin, and the U.S., brought me into closer contact with Arabs than I had been before and left me with new impressions. "How can you say Israel is a democracy when they invaded us in 1967?" demanded one Syrian, revealing volumes about his education. An Egyptian girl pointed out that America could not be considered a real democracy because "no leftists are allowed to teach in American universities," something she had heard from her professor, the daughter of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
        Later in Morocco at a symposium on "Europe, America, and Islam," I decided to speak bluntly about the three decades of attacks visited on Americans by Middle Eastern terrorists. These were not an expression of Islam, but rather an outgrowth of an unhealthy political culture of violence and extremism that held sway in the region. A professor of political science from the American University of Cairo, unable to control her rage, shrieked that my remarks were "unacceptable" and, because they were being heard by such a large audience, also "dangerous." Was it a coincidence that here, as at the summer institute, the shrillest voices were Egyptian? Asked their overall opinion of the U.S., 86% of Egyptians said unfavorable and only 14% favorable in a poll by Zogby International. (Commentary)
  • Observations:

    The Syrian Leader's Curious World - Editorial (New York Times)

    • Bashar al-Assad seems to have a rose-tinted view of Syrian reality. Unless he quickly begins to recognize the increasingly desperate situation Syrians face as a result of his family's failed policies, it is hard to see how he can make needed changes.
    • Assad disingenuously claims that there would be no problems between Syria and the U.S. were it not for Israel. That is hard to swallow just months after Syria's lax policing of its border with Iraq may have permitted hundreds of Arab fighters to cross over and join attacks on American troops.
    • It also overlooks Syria's persistent attempts over the years to manufacture, buy, or trade unconventional arms, including chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles.
    • Syria has a long and nasty history of sheltering and cooperating with not only Lebanese Hizballah guerrillas but also international terrorists.
    • In his interview, Assad argued that the Iraqi people should choose their government through elections. This admirable suggestion would carry some weight if he tested it out first in Syria, where free elections are never allowed and where open political discussion has become an almost certain ticket to prison.

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