Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 4, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Palestinian Criminal Gangs on the PA Payroll - Mark Heinrich (Reuters)
    Distinctions between nationalist militant and criminal gang activities have blurred as Fatah has splintered into armed groups, many spun off from Palestinian security services.
    A regional Fatah official said 90% of gang lawlessness could be traced to people still on a PA payroll.
    Some of the 32 people shot dead recently in the Palestinian city of Nablus fell in feuds over flourishing rackets in stolen cars, drugs, and extortion.
    Some were "collaborators," said to have steered Israeli forces toward wanted militants.
    But the majority have been cases of mistaken identity or people caught in the middle of fighting between rival gangs.
    Gunmen have also taken to shooting at the legs of those they accuse of "bad behavior" - from profiteering in PA posts to making advances to women in public in this conservative Muslim society.
    No one has been arrested or prosecuted.

Cyanide Salt Block Found in Iraq (Fox News)
    A 7-pound block of cyanide salt was discovered by U.S. troops in Baghdad at the end of January in what was believed to be the safe house of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a poisons specialist described by some U.S. intelligence officials as having been a key link between deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terror network.
    Cyanide salts are extremely toxic. Exposure to even a small amount through contact or inhalation can cause immediate death.
    Zarqawi is believed to have begun establishing terror cells in and around Baghdad prior to the start of the war last March, and is thought by U.S. officials to still be in the country.
    U.S. officials also believe he had been attempting to produce large quantities of the toxin ricin in northern Iraq.

Iranian Diplomat Spied on Israeli Embassy in Nigeria (Reuters/SABC News-South Africa)
    An Iranian diplomat is in Nigerian police custody on suspicion of spying on the Israeli embassy and other sensitive compounds in the capital Abuja, Israeli security sources said.
    The Iranian was arrested on January 23 when staff reported him "staking out" the embassy.
    "A digital camera was found in his possession, with surveillance pictures of the embassy and several other international and local official buildings in the capital," a senior Israeli security source said.

Useful Reference:

Official Documents on the Security Fence Case (International Court of Justice)

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sharon: Separation Necessary For Our Future - Joshua Brilliant
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday he was determined to implement his plan for a unilateral pullback. Speaking in Ashkelon, Sharon said, "This step must be taken" to facilitate Israel's secure development. "I intend to implement what I said....It's tough but I have decided." A senior government official said Sharon realized the public is fed up with the current situation. Sharon is concerned, also, about a possible collapse of law and order in the Palestinian areas that would create a dangerous vacuum. He wants to preempt a situation in which Israel is pressured to send over its troops to put an end to anarchy and restore its civil administration. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • New U.S. Budget Strong on Israel - Ron Kampeas
    President Bush's proposed budget, presented to Congress on Monday, includes $2.58 billion in Israel aid for fiscal year 2005 - comprised of $360 million in economic aid and $2.22 billion in defense aid. The figures are consistent with the seventh year of an aid restructuring program, gradually reducing economic assistance while increasing military aid. Unaffected is $50 million for refugee resettlement in Israel, primarily for Ethiopian immigrants. (JTA)
  • Getting Out the Muslim Vote Against Bush - Kari Huus
    To the extent that the get-out-the-Muslim-vote effort succeeds, it will largely benefit the Democrats because it is energized by anger over the Bush administration's Patriot Act and what is perceived as an anti-Muslim bias behind the Iraq war and Israeli-Palestinian policy. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 78% of Muslims voted Republican in 2000. But in the post 9-11 era, the Bush administration pushed through the USA Patriot Act, expanding secret detentions and use of secret evidence, as well as expanding FBI powers to investigate individuals. In absolute terms, the Muslim community is small. Their ability to affect the outcome in this year's elections depends on influence in elections where voters are quite evenly divided. Arab Americans, about one-third of whom are Muslim, have a largely Democratic bent and number about 3.5 million. (MSNBC)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon to Present Pullout Plan in DC - Janine Zacharia
    Prime Minister Sharon will personally present Israel's plan for disengagement from the Palestinians to President Bush in Washington once Israel's National Security Council chairman Giora Eiland completes the preparations for the unilateral steps, according to an Israeli official, who said the trip would probably take place in the next few weeks. Israel has pledged to share the disengagement plan with the U.S. before carrying it out. "There will not be any surprises," the official added.
        State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday: "We certainly welcome action on settlements and we look for their action on their obligations. But we also look for action from the Palestinians on their obligations, especially with regard to dismantling the infrastructure of terror." "Action on settlements is consistent [with the road map]. It's generally positive," Boucher added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Security Official: Withdrawal from Gaza - A Prize to Terror - Amir Rappaport
    "This will encourage terror, give a prize to the Palestinians, and will wet the appetite of the terrorists," said a senior security official in response to the idea to evacuate most of the Jewish settlements in Gaza. "Hamas will take credit for our flight under fire," he said. "The Jewish towns that remain in northern Gaza and the IDF forces protecting them will become a target for intensive terror." According to security sources, "the struggle against the terror that will come out of Gaza after the withdrawal will require enormous forces." Hamas might use the withdrawal as an opportunity to take over Gaza completely, at the expense of the PA. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Al-Aksa Leaders: Sharon's Words Mean Victory, We Want You to Flee - Eli Vaked
    Two senior leaders of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Hashem Abu Hamdan and Nadir Abu Lil, said Sharon's intention to remove settlements is a victory for the Palestinian resistance, but they want to see an "Israeli flight, like in Lebanon." The two claimed that Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as in Gaza, possess rockets and mortars that will reach the cities of central Israel. They said, "The Israeli separation fence is a cardboard barrier. Soon the Israelis will witness our actions from inside the fence." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
        See also Palestinian Militants Say Gaza Plan Won't End Fight
    Palestinian militants claimed a victory on Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a plan to remove most Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip, but they vowed no let-up in their attacks inside Israel. "Sharon's statement no doubt resulted from the greatness of resistance and steadfastness of the Palestinian people," said senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam. (Reuters)
  • International Court Won't Remove Egyptian Judge - Tovah Lazaroff
    The International Court of Justice rejected a request by Israel to remove one of the 15 judges who will hear the controversial security fence case when it comes before it on February 23. The decision to keep Judge Nabil Elaraby on the bench surprised Israel, which believes that comments he has made in the media shows that he is biased on this issue. Only the U.S. judge, Thomas Buergenthal, dissented. Elaraby expressed views "bearing on the credibility and the validity of the arguments likely to be presented by the interested parties to this case and likely to effect its outcome," Buergenthal wrote. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A New Libya? - Tom Lantos
    In December 1988, agents of the Libyan government took 270 lives with the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Now Libya's ruler, Moammar Gaddafi, says his country is ready to reform - no more terrorism, no more weapons of mass destruction. Should we believe him? I just returned from Libya, where I met at length with Gaddafi and senior members of his government. American non-proliferation experts on the ground assisting the Libyans with removing and destroying their WMD capacity are impressed with the progress that has been achieved in just a few weeks. Information provided by Libya will help uncover international arms smuggling networks that aided Libya and many other rogue nations.
        Given the outrageous track record of the Libyan regime for the past 3 1/2 decades, we must be skeptical and relentless in verifying. Removal of Libya from the terrorist list, elimination of U.S. sanctions, and full normalization of relations should be considered only after Libya has verifiably completed the dismantling of its WMD program and agreed to long-term monitoring procedures. Rep. Lantos (D-Calif.) is the ranking member of his party on the House International Relations Committee. (Washington Post)
  • Eyes on Damascus - Yossi Olmert
    Syria is one of the last political dinosaurs of the 20th century, something between Saddam's Iraq and North Korea, a rigid dictatorship that is unable to change from within. The ruling clique knows that any change would quickly lead to the collapse of the rule of the Alawite minority that seeks legitimacy by donning the Ba'ath party ideology. Terror is a basic element in Syria's policy toward Israel. We should have no hesitation in setting, as a precondition, that Syria immediately dismantle the terror infrastructures on its territory, cooperate in dismantling Hizballah, and immediately stop supporting anti-Israeli, Palestinian, and other terror organizations. Nothing happening today, as opposed to the media fireworks, points in the direction of real change in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Settlers Assert Their Right to Gaza Land - Ravi Nessman
    A day after Prime Minister Sharon said Jewish settlements in Gaza would have to be removed, the settlers threw open their heavily guarded electric gates Tuesday to show they are just ordinary suburban folk who want peace - but will never leave this land. In Netzer Hazani, Anita Tucker, 58, a New York native who has lived in Gaza for 28 years, said the community was deeply affected by the killing of three of its members, including its rabbi, by Palestinian attackers. But she also insisted the Gaza settlements are a lovely and quiet place to live, far safer than suicide bomb-plagued Jerusalem. "It's a town. I never understood the word settlement. It's a town like suburban Long Island, like suburban London," she said.
        Even if Israel did leave the Gaza settlements, it would not be enough, said Wael Yusuf, a Palestinian police officer. Israel would also have to give back the West Bank, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and every other square inch of land it inhabits, he said. (AP/Washington Times)
        See also It's Paradise Here - Except When They are Trying to Kill Us - Toby Harnden (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    On Dismantling Gaza Settlements - Shlomo Avineri (Access/Middle East)

    • The Israeli public debate over the last decades has been characterized by two varieties of how to bring Palestinians to negotiations. The doves say that "if you make the Palestinians a decent offer, this is the end of the conflict, they will accept it." And the hawks thought, "if you hit them hard enough on the head, they'll cave in." Both have proven to be wrong.
    • The fact that the Palestinians are violently against unilateral disengagement suggests who is going to be the winner. Israel is going to be the winner, not the Palestinians.
    • For the Roadmap you need a partner. It's pretty obvious that we don't have a partner. If you look at similar conflicts that have characterized the last decade - Cyprus, Kosovo, Bosnia - in none of them is there an attempt to have a Roadmap to a final-status solution. What you have in those cases are stop-gap measures.
    • The Roadmap was dead on arrival. The Roadmap was a wish-list. It suggested what the U.S, and many people in the West and Israel, would have liked to see.
    • The only place where people think you can find a final solution in two months or two years is the Middle East. This is totally unrealistic, totally utopian. One has to lower one's sight from conflict resolution to conflict management. This is what the international community has done with relative success in Bosnia, Kosovo - and this means stabilization.

      The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University, and former director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry.

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