Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 7, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

"Dirty Bomb" Was Major New Year's Worry - John Mintz and Susan Schmidt (Washington Post)
    With huge New Year's Eve celebrations and college football bowl games only days away, the U.S. government last month secretly dispatched scores of nuclear scientists with sophisticated radiation detection equipment to scour Washington, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Baltimore for radiological, or "dirty," bombs.
    Even now, hundreds of nuclear and bioweapons scientists remain on high alert at several military bases around the country, ready to fly to any trouble spot.
    Pharmaceutical stockpiles for responding to biological attacks are on transportable trucks at key U.S. military bases.
    The terrorism crisis began on Dec. 19, when analysts assembled what they described as extremely specific intelligence, including electronic intercepts of al-Qaeda operatives' telephone calls or e-mails, that al-Qaeda would hijack and crash an overseas flight into a U.S. city, or that terrorists would shoot down an airliner with a shoulder-fired missile.
    See also Three U.S. Firms to Study Defending Airliners Against Missiles (Washington Post)

Terror Warnings Up Despite "Imaginary Calm" - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli security establishment on Tuesday registered over 50 warnings of planned terrorist attacks.
    Security sources said the majority of the threats stemmed from Samaria and described the current situation as one of "imaginary calm."

Arafat Sacks Bethlehem Intelligence Chief (AFP/ABC News-Australia)
    Arafat has sacked Tareq al-Wahidi, the head of military intelligence in Bethlehem, who was accused of "collaborating" with Israel, Fatah security sources say.
    Wahidi was accused of handing over a "collaborator" to Israel two weeks ago who gave Israel information that led to the killing of the local head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Mahmud Salah, and one of his lieutenants, Anan Jawarish, last April.
    See also PA Blasted for Handing Over "Collaborator" (Aljazeera-Qatar)

Tehran Renames Street to Improve Ties with Egypt (Reuters/Washington Post)
    The Tehran City Council Tuesday changed the name of Khaled Islambouli street, named after the assassin of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, to Intifada street, in a move expected to pave the way for the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cairo.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Assad Given Weapons Ultimatum
    America and Britain rebuffed President Bashar Assad of Syria Tuesday, telling him bluntly that Damascus must give up its weapons of mass destruction or face ostracism - even if neighboring Israel keeps its nuclear arms. "Israel is in a unique position as the only state whose very existence is threatened," said a senior British government source. "There is no point in asking for a WMD-free Middle East while there are countries parading missiles with a sign up the side saying Death to Israel." Britain believes Syria not only harbors Palestinian extremist groups, but is actively preventing them from agreeing to an Egyptian-mediated Palestinian ceasefire. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel Uses "Back Channels" to Test Syria on Talks
    Israel is using diplomatic back channels to test whether Syria really wants to resume peace talks and stands ready to reopen negotiations if Damascus takes key steps, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. The official said Israel was still trying to gauge Syria's readiness for talks and wanted it to show good faith by taking concrete measures. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Pressed to Revive Mideast Peace Process
    The U.S. is coming under growing pressure to revive the deadlocked Middle East peace process - or face the prospect that its partners will begin looking for alternatives, according to European and UN diplomats. Charging that the road map is "completely paralyzed" and the quartet held "hostage" by a moribund process, a senior European diplomat said Tuesday that frustrated U.S. allies are interested in looking at other options. "If the U.S. says it does not want to do anything, then maybe we should organize an alternative," he said. "They've been ratcheting up the heat," a senior U.S. official said. "It's largely from the Europeans who are threatening to stop being a silent partner in the peace process." (Washington Post)
  • Israel Travelers Denied Insurance
    When Adam Segal, 26, an associate at a Washington public-relations firm, applied for a life insurance policy from Fidelity Investments in October, he was asked if he had recently traveled abroad and answered that he and his wife had visited Israel on their honeymoon at the end of 2002. In November, Fidelity notified Segal that his application had been denied "due to past travel to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv." Fidelity will not insure anyone who recently has visited a country where the U.S. State Department has a travel advisory, or who plans to do so soon, said spokesman Vincent Laporchio. Such policies do not single out Israel and thus are not discriminatory, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "People are not not going to go to Israel because of it," he said. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Seeks Libyan Ties - Aluf Benn, Gideon Alon, and Yoav Stern
    The Foreign Ministry has launched a diplomatic initiative to develop ties with Libya. Foreign Ministry official Ron Prosor recently met in Paris with an Arab official to investigate the possibility of establishing ties with Tripoli, though officials in the Prime Minister's Office Tuesday said "it doesn't appear serious." According to a report Tuesday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa, senior Israeli and Libyan officials also met in Vienna last Friday at the American embassy and that a delegation of Israeli officials would visit Libya during the second half of January. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Will Not Allow Anyone to Damage or Cross Security Fence - Margot Dudkevitch
    A senior IDF officer warned on Tuesday that the army will not allow anyone to harm the security fence or cross it. Referring to a demonstration near Mas'ha ten days ago where protesters attempted to tear the fence down, the officer said, "as far as I am concerned we are not talking about a protest, but violent clashes intent on harming the fence." The officer noted that a day before the protest, the suicide bomber who perpetrated the attack at the Geha intersection set out from the area where the protest occurred. Two days after the protest, two terrorists en route to perpetrate an attack were caught by security forces in the same area. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Chechens in the Service of Palestinian Terrorism - Yoram Yarkoni
    The Palestinian terrorist unit that executed the murderous attacks at the Park Hotel and the Sharon shopping mall in Netanya was trained in Jordan by Chechen experts in explosive devices, it was revealed during the trial of a senior Hamas member. It was also revealed that in 1997, in retaliation for the failed attempted Israeli attack on Hamas political leader Khalid Mishal, Hamas operatives planned a chemical weapons attack in Israel. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 7 Jan 03)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beyond Unilateral Withdrawal - Zalman Shoval
    Not allowing the situation to drift is one of the main reasons for Israel raising the concept of unilateral steps while still adhering to the vision of the road map. We are not likely to have a real peace partner on the Palestinian side for a long time. A recent Palestinian-conducted poll established that even if Israel were to accept the more than slightly subversive and blatantly pro-Palestinian Geneva Accord, only 25% of Palestinians would accept this as the end of the conflict with Israel.
        So Israel is saying: Let's decide for ourselves what, and where, is really vitally important to us - mainly, though not exclusively, from the point of view of security. Since a formula for a formal peace agreement does not exist, the way to deal with this impasse is for Israel to go ahead and establish administrative and physical dividing lines between it and the Palestinian areas. Acting precipitously to dismantle settlements would create, on the Palestinian side, a false sense of having gained an advantage over Israel as a result of their three-year terror campaign. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ex-Mossad Chief: Road Map Cannot be Implemented
    "The road map...cannot be implemented. We know this, and the Palestinians know this, and the United States knows this," former Mossad head Efraim Halevy said Tuesday. Halevy questioned whether the Palestinians really want an independent state, noting they have taken almost none of the steps necessary to set up the offices, bureaucracy, legal, and security networks needed to run a country. Halevy said the Palestinians hope that waiting will actually work to their advantage. Arafat "has said very often that the future of the conflict will be decided in the womb of the Palestinian mother," Halevy said. "I think that is the strategy which causes the continued support for terrorist attacks," he said. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Is Hamas Preparing to Inherit the Palestinian Authority? - Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • There is growing evidence that Fatah, the Palestinian faction that today dominates the PLO, may not remain the power center of Palestinian politics in the post-Arafat era. Hamas is preparing itself to inherit the Palestinian Authority.
    • At the Cairo talks in December 2003, for the first time, Hamas openly and confidently challenged the basic Palestinian view that the PLO is the sole and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas demanded partnership status in the adoption of all decisions. It also used the Cairo talks in order to achieve recognition from Egypt and other Arab states. In this spirit, it insisted that the U.S. remove it from the list of recognized terrorist organizations.
    • The erosion in the PLO's standing was accelerated by the establishment of the supreme coordinating framework known as the "National and Islamic Forces" at the onset of the intifada, with Arafat's approval. This body has become the PLO's rival, since it is the sole body that includes all the Islamic organizations and secular groups.
    • Hamas has established its own "army" in the Gaza Strip as a source of power and strength in opposition to the Palestinian Authority, in the understanding that the force that controls the Strip is the one that will actually succeed the Palestinian Authority.
    • Any scenarios for the future that do not take into account the possibility of a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian political system are seriously deficient.

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