Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 16, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Syria Denies Assad Has Dropped Peace Talks Conditions (Scotsman-UK)
    Syrian officials denied a report in Ha'aretz, based on an interview with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), that Syrian leader Bashar Assad has dropped a demand that peace talks with Israel resume where they left off in 2000 and is now ready to negotiate without conditions.
    "It's impossible that the Syrian president said that he was ready to negotiate from scratch," said Suleiman Haddad, chairman of the foreign relations committee in the Syrian parliament.
    "I confirm that this report is inaccurate."

    See also U.S. Believes Syrian Leader Does Not Have a Free Hand - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad last week, came away with the impression that Assad is finding it difficult to rule Syria and is under the heavy influence of the old guard in the Ba'ath regime.

Report: Syria's Assad Considers Meeting Israeli President (Ha'aretz)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad is considering accepting Israeli President Moshe Katzav's proposal to hold a joint summit, Army Radio quoted a Kuwaiti newspaper as saying Friday.
    The paper, al-Siasa, quoted an Egyptian diplomat in Greece as saying that Cairo was trying to convince Assad to meet with Katsav either in a European country or in Jordan.
    Earlier this week, Katsav invited Assad to come to Jerusalem for peace talks, but Damascus rejected the invitation.
    Katsav urged Assad to break the ice between Syria and Israel by making a move similar to the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

Hizballah, Iran Fund Nablus Terror Cells - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    Three recently arrested brothers from Nablus, all members of Fatah, are suspected of transferring more than NIS 1 million from Hizballah and elements in Iran to Fatah cells in Nablus, security officials said Thursday.
    On Thursday the security establishment registered 52 terrorist warnings, approximately half stemming from Samaria and the rest from Gaza.
    "The threats relate to every kind of attack conceivable, suicide bombings, shooting attacks, and abduction," an official said.

Sources: Terrorists Planning Iraq Attack - Mansoor Ijaz (FOX News)
    This week a convoy of trucks, jeeps, and cars crossed into northern Iraq from Iran.
    Kurdish forces intercepted one of the trucks that was carrying a large warhead containing extremely sophisticated C-4 plastic explosives.
    The driver of the truck admitted that a total of 30 warheads were scheduled to come across.
    Of the other 29, between six and 12 of them may have been laden with chemical explosives that were then to be attached to a rocket of some sort inside Iraq that's already there in a separate convoy.
    I have now heard three times in the last week, from separate sources, that something big is being planned for Baghdad.

Report: Arafat Kept Barghouti Out of Hizballah Prisoner Swap - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    During negotiations on the stalled prisoner exchange deal with Hizballah, reports suggest that Arafat relayed a message to Hizballah asking it not to include the release of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on its list of demands from Israel.

Israel Rises to 29th in "Index of Economic Freedom" - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
    Israel's ranking in the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation's "2004 Index of Economic Freedom" has improved.
    Israel was ranked 29th out of 155 countries in 2004, and second, after Bahrain, among Middle Eastern and North African countries.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Cheney: Palestinian Authority Must be Transformed
    Speaking at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council Wednesday, Vice President Cheney said: After years of effort, it's become clear that as long as Yasser Arafat is the interlocutor on behalf of the Palestinians, as long as he is in control, we think any serious progress is virtually impossible. I'm always struck by the memory that I'll always carry of January 20, 2001, when President Bush and I were sworn in. Bill Clinton talked repeatedly all day long about his disappointment in Yasser Arafat, how Arafat had, in effect, torpedoed the peace process. Arafat was in the White House and the West Wing more often than any other foreign leader during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton did everything he could to try to put together a settlement and came fairly close. In the final analysis, Arafat refused to say yes.
        The President made a speech in June of 2002 that laid out our basic principles. And at the front of that was the notion that there has to be reform of the Palestinian Authority. The Israelis are never going to sign up, nor should they sign up to a peace unless, in fact, they've got confidence that there's someone there on the Palestinian side prepared to keep those commitments.
        There has to be a way found to end terror emerging from the Palestinian areas into the Israeli areas. We had another four deaths just within the last 24 hours in Gaza, with a suicide bomber. And until the Palestinians have an organization, a government in place that's capable of dealing effectively with the structure of terror, I don't think significant progress is likely. It's going to be essential that that authority be transformed, I think, before anybody can realistically expect a positive outcome. (White House)
  • Hizballah Fund-Raiser Charged in Michigan
    Federal officials charged Mahmoud Youssef Kourani Thursday with supplying material support and resources to Lebanon's Hizballah, saying the move was a breakthrough in efforts toward "choking the funding that supports terrorism." Jeffrey Collins, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said Kourani was a "fighter, recruiter, and fund-raiser for Hizballah," and the brother of its chief of military security for southern Lebanon. He entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico about three years ago, Collins said, and continued his "substantial" fund-raising for Hizballah after taking up residence in Dearborn, home to a large Arab community. (Reuters)
        See also Feds: Man Hid Terror Cash
    Federal agents found thousands of dollars and evidence of wire transfers when they searched the house of Mahmoud Kourani. Kourani took steps to conceal his beliefs in the U.S. - not attending mosque, and shaving his beard. Kourani received training in weaponry, spy craft, and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran. He is the fifth person in Michigan charged with providing material support to terrorists. (Detroit News)
  • Blair: No Peace Process Without "Credible Security Plan"
    Speaking Thursday at his monthly Downing Street press conference, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Palestinian suicide bombings are doing more harm than good for the Palestinian people. "It is impossible to get this process restarted unless there is a credible security plan that allows people to believe genuinely that every attempt is being made to stop the support of terrorism, the flow of terrorists into either the Palestinian Authority or into Israel, and to give a clear message that terrorism is the enemy of progress for the Palestinian people," he said. "It's so obvious," he added.
        Referring to Syria and Iran, which stand accused of supporting Palestinian militants, Blair said: "States that have an ambivalent attitude towards sponsoring terrorism are states that are way out of line with the rest of the international order." Asked directly about Syria, the prime minister responded: "We've always said it's important that Syria understands its international responsibilities and keeps them." (AFP)
  • Arab League to Have Say in Israel Anti-Terror Barrier Case
    The Arab League will be allowed to participate in the case before the International Court of Justice at The Hague on whether the security barrier Israel is building is legal. The court said the Arab League could participate because it was a UN observer and co-sponsor of the resolution requesting the court's intervention. The opinion the court issues will be non-binding. (Scotsman-UK)
        See also Israeli Terror Victims to Ask Int'l Court to Join Fence Hearing (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Baffled by Iraqi Shia Leader
    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the spiritual leader of Iraq's 15 million Shia Muslims and wields an extraordinary moral authority over his flock. Washington has already been forced to change its withdrawal plans twice in deference to his demands, but still he insists on direct elections. Should U.S. authorities doubt al-Sistani's ability to get results, they might consider his impact on Iraqi petrol queues. Fuel shortages have been exacerbated by black marketeers cornering supplies, leading to enormous queues at petrol stations. After al-Sistani issued a fatwa against black market profiteering in petrol, the lines shrank by 75%. (London Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Security Establishment Considers Targeting Hamas Officials - Amos Harel
    Senior security officials on Thursday said that the security establishment is considering targeting senior Hamas officials, in light of the support given by Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin to the suicide bombing at the Erez crossing in Gaza on Wednesday, in which four Israelis were killed. The Erez industrial zone will stay closed until an alternative site is found for security checks to replace the building destroyed in Wednesday's bombing. Senior Southern Command officers believe there is no alternative to beefing up searches at the crossings. They expressed concern that terror groups might seek to capitalize on what they view as a success and attempt additional attacks in the area. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Yassin Personally Authorized Woman Bomber
    Reem Salah al-Rayashi, 21, approached Hamas several times with the request to be a suicide bomber. "She practically begged," an Arab affairs reporter told Israel TV Channel 2. The Hamas leadership repeatedly spurned her requests, until Sheikh Yassin himself intervened. Yassin personally gave his blessing for al-Rayashi to be used as a bomber, and issued a decree (a few hours after Wednesday's attack) that "Jihad was the duty of men and women." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas: Female Bomber is Just the Beginning
    The female suicide bomber who blew up Wednesday will not be the last woman to carry out a suicide attack, senior Hamas member Mahmoud Azhar said Thursday. The attack was the first time that Hamas has dispatched a female suicide bomber. "The march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only on the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe," promised Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Fencers Will Compete, Hoist Flag in Aqaba - Chanan Weissman and Gila Fine
    The Jordanian Fencing Federation (JFF) on Thursday succumbed to intense pressure by the Jordanian government, granting Israeli fencers Tomer Or and Ayelet Ohayon permission to compete in this weekend's World Fencing Championships in Aqaba. The Israelis were informed Wednesday that they could not enter the competition, but may come as spectators. International organizers threatened the JFF that if the Israeli squad did not receive permission to compete, the entire competition would be nullified.
        Dr. Vladimir Shklar, head of the Israeli fencing delegation, said they saw all the participating nations' flags flying outside the gymnasium and asked to fly the Israeli flag. The Jordanian organizers refused to do it, so before hundreds of Arab spectators, Shklar and fencer Tomer Or climbed up the pole, and hoisted the Israeli flag alongside the flags of all the other nations. Due to security precautions, the Israeli delegation will spend their nights in an Eilat hotel, returning to Aqaba each day for the competition. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Sick, Crying Terrorist - Editorial
    The young woman terrorist negotiated with the Border Policemen and appealed to their compassion. She presented herself as an ailing invalid and burst into tears, imploring the security men to let her through. The Erez checkpoint is the sole crossing point for Palestinians from Gaza who want to enter Israel to work. The checkpoint represents the front line of Israel's effort to draw a distinction between military activities against terrorists, and a readiness to allow innocent people to earn their daily bread.
        The PA cannot pretend that it is not implicated. The weak, tepid sentiments - in fact the condoning - in PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei's response to the attack, plus Fatah's joint responsibility for it, cannot be squared with a claim that lack of progress in diplomatic negotiations is the sole reason for the continuing violence. The terror strike will probably oblige the security forces to develop more stringent inspections that will further burden entry procedures to Israel. This is what happens when terror organizations strike at sites that have tried to make life easier for the innocent civilian population. (Ha'aretz)
  • Who Says the Golan is Syrian? - Yoav Gelber
    Ever since the establishment of the Syrian state, that country has lost more significant segments of its land than the Golan. In 1920 Mosul was given to Iraq and Tripoli to Lebanon, and in 1937 the Turks took Alexandretta. Yet Syria has maintained correct relations with all three of those annexing neighbors.
        In the original division between French Syria and British [Mandatory] Palestine [after World War I], most of the Golan Heights was within the borders of Palestine. There is no need today to hand the Syrians a border that they rejected in the1940s and 1950s. The Golan has been under Israeli rule longer than under the rule of independent Syria (36 years as against 21 years).
        The only real Syrian threat against Israel is the threat of missiles aimed at Israel's center. Security arrangements in the Golan would provide no answer to the threat of these missiles. The sole constraint on the implementation of this threat is the IDF's proximity to Damascus, Israel's withdrawal from which would abandon Israel's coastal cities to Syrian missiles. The writer is a professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies at the University of Haifa. (Yediot Ahronot/IMRA)
  • Can We Make Iraq Democratic? - George F. Will
    When the Cold War ended, my friend Pat Moynihan asked me: "What are you conservatives going to hate, now that you can't hate Moscow?" My instant response was: "We are going to hate Brussels" - Brussels, because it is the banal home of the metastasizing impulse to transfer political power from national parliaments to supranational agencies that are essentially unaccountable and unrepresentative. Most of the political calamities through which the world has staggered since 1919 have resulted from the distinctively modern belief that things - including nations and human nature - are much more plastic, much more malleable, than they actually are. In the 85 years since 1919, many more than 100 million people have perished in violence intended to force the world into new configurations. (City Journal)
        See also "Nation-Building 101" - Francis Fukuyama (Atlantic Monthly)
  • Terrorism and the Fence - Editorial
    So far, the U.S. and Europe have largely stood by as the Palestinians have detoured from the road map and made Sharon's disengagement plan increasingly inevitable. A decision against Israel's security fence in the International Court of Justice, for example, might be the final nail in the coffin for the road map. Why should the Palestinians fight terrorism when they are successfully turning Israel into a pariah state just for defending itself? If the West wants to save the road map, it had better turn the spotlight away from the fence toward the terrorism that built it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Routinization of Terror - P. David Hornik
    In 2003, 213 Israelis were killed in terror attacks - a drop of 50% from 458 in 2002. Are we supposed to celebrate? In American terms, 213 would proportionally come to about 10,000 people a year. (FrontPageMagazine)

    Weekend Features:

  • Israeli Blast Victim Fights Back - Deborah Blachor
    Steve Averbach , a weapons instructor and former Israeli cop, was on a bus blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Seven people were killed, and the 37-year-old father of four was paralyzed from the neck down. On Tuesday, Steve moved a finger and toes. "I'm not done," he told his family and the Hadassah Hospital staff in Jerusalem. "I haven't been beat. I fought in the army, I fought in the police, and now I have another battle." Steve is credited with confronting the bomber before more people packed the bus. (New York Daily News)
  • Hip-Hop Star Joins Anti-Semitism Fight - Shlomo Shamir
    In a ground-breaking article to be published this weekend in newspapers which reach Jewish and black readers across the U.S., hip-hop legend Russell Simmons will urge African-Americans to join forces with Jews to fight anti-Semitism in Europe and the U.S. America's Jewish community cannot fight anti-Semitism on its own, says Simmons, an admired role model for millions of American blacks.
        If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would protest against the new wave of anti-Semitism, write Simmons and co-writer Rabbi Marc Schneier. Nor would Martin Luther King keep quiet about the "moral laryngitis" of political leaders who fail to speak out against hatred of Jews. "This is the first time in years that such a central, popular figure among blacks in America, particularly among young people, has issued such a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism, and called for a renewal of the historical alliance between African Americans and Jews," said Jewish leaders in New York. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    The Security Fence: An Imperative for Israel - Minister Uzi Landau
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • After 35 years of living with the Palestinians and facing this blatant, ugly, terrorist wave, Israel had no choice but to put up a barrier as an important element in an overall defensive system that would intercept those on their way to blow themselves up among us.
    • When the Palestinians speak among themselves about occupation, they speak about Israel occupying Tel Aviv and Haifa, not Judea and Samaria.
    • Palestinian propaganda tries to make the fence the issue, and ignores the issue of terrorism which makes the fence necessary. If not for Palestinian terrorism, we would not need the fence in the first place.
    • The segments of "wall" comprise about 4 percent of the barrier and were built on the "green line" next to Tulkarm and Kalkilya because, in the past, Palestinians have fired from those areas on Israeli vehicles.
    • Israel had to weigh the inconvenience of some Palestinians having to pass through gates to reach their fields against seeing Israeli families blown to bits if the fence is not built. Faced with these two alternatives, which is morally more compelling?
    • It is absolutely natural that over one million Arabs live within Israel today. For those who say Jews cannot live in Judea and Samaria, the immediate conclusion is that Arabs cannot live in Israel. I think they can, and the symmetry should be kept.

    The writer, a Knesset Member since 1984, serves as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and previously served as Minister of Internal Security.

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