Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 17, 2004

To contact the Presidents Conference:
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Latest News on Israel's Security Fence: Upcoming Hearings at the International Court of Justice
  (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)

In-Depth Issue:

UK: Saudi Terrorist Attack Imminent - Matthew Taylor (Guardian-UK)
    Terrorists could be in the final stages of planning an attack on Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Office warned Monday.
    A British Airways flight from London to Riyadh was cancelled last Thursday, and on Friday the Saudi interior ministry warned that there was an imminent and serious threat of a car bomb in the capital.

Grenade Accident Kills Palestinian in Gaza (Saudi Press Agency/ IMRA)
    A hand grenade exploded in an apartment house in Gaza City Monday, killing a young Palestinian man and injuring his mother and sister.
    Witnesses said the man, believed to be a member of one of the militant organizations, was handling the grenade when it went off.

God's Got Mail (AP/CTV-Canada)
    Jews who want to send notes to heaven used to have to travel to Jerusalem and stuff them into the crevices of the Western Wall.
    Now, they can log onto the Internet and send them by e-mail.
    The service, announced Monday by Israel's Bezeq telephone company, expands on the company's existing fax service to the Wall, which receives about 200 notes a week and more on holidays.
    Tradition holds that God will grant the pleas placed between the massive stones of the Wall, a retaining wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple.
    Bezeq currently takes the faxed notes, puts them in special envelopes and twice a week brings them to the Wall.

Israel Shares Dairy Experience with Vietnam (Vietnam Economy)
    Two seminars on Israel's dairy farming by Lior Yaron, an Israeli expert, are slated to be held on February 16 and 17 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, attracting scientists, businessmen, and farm managers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Courts a Cool U.S. Amid Threat of Sanctions
    Syria has launched a diplomatic campaign aimed at canceling its membership in the Bush administration's "rogue" nations club. But the U.S. and its key allies remain cool, unconvinced that the overtures amount to anything more than lip service from a government that remains fundamentally hostile to U.S. interests. "There's a lot of frustration with the Syrians," said one State Department official. "Basically, there's the feeling that the clock is ticking on Syria and they need to heed the wake-up call." "We have the feeling that [Assad] is...paralyzed by the apparatchiks who are around him," a French diplomat said. Assad has not realized the geopolitical implications of the Iraq war, he added. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Israeli President Visits France
    France and Israel sought on Monday to patch up ties frayed by discord over the Middle East and attacks on Jews in France, with Israel's visiting president praising host Jacques Chirac for his stance on anti-Semitism. President Moshe Katsav also urged France and other EU countries to demand Palestinians end attacks on Israelis as a condition for receiving EU aid. (Reuters)
        See also Sharon: Katsav's Visit to France Important (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Demands Israel Coordinate Pullout with PA - Aluf Benn
    The U.S. government is demanding that Israel coordinate its disengagement plan from the territories with the PA, so that the Palestinians will be able to accept responsibility for the territory that is evacuated. The U.S. also wants to present the disengagement as part of an overall arrangement, and not as a unilateral move by Israel. The U.S. position is therefore aimed at "coordinated unilateralism." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Weighs Presence on Gaza-Egyptian Border - Diana Bahur-Nir
    A special task force set up by Prime Minister Sharon and headed by Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, that is considering an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, is weighing the future of the "Philadelphia Road," a strategic strip of territory running along the Egyptian border. The Israeli presence there blocks the flow of weapons into Gaza, and security sources are weighing the possibility of maintaining control of this strip even after a withdrawal from Gaza.
        Minister Gideon Ezra, who supports the Gaza withdrawal, said: "We have to remain there [on the border]. Otherwise, weapons will be smuggled in freely. If 'Philadelphia' is left open, then Palestinians can go south along the Egyptian border and enter Israel from the Negev." "It's also not clear if Egypt wants an open border with Gaza," he said. "I'm not sure they are interested in the export of radical Islam." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Signs of Improvement in Israeli-Egyptian Ties - Herb Keinon
    Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is scheduled to visit Egypt next month, though no date for the visit has been set. Senior Israeli diplomatic officials have said recently that Egypt has begun playing a "very positive role" in the diplomatic process, pressuring PA Prime Minister Qurei to meet with Prime Minister Sharon and to stabilize the security situation in the territories. The change in Egyptian attitude, according to Israeli officials, is due in part to concern that if Israel withdraws from Gaza, Hamas may come to power, something which Cairo is afraid would have an emboldening impact on Egypt's own Islamic fundamentalists. Yet there has not been a corresponding change in the Egyptian media, which continues to sharply attack Sharon and Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Moroccan FM: Time Not Ripe to Renew Israel Ties - Calev Ben-David
    Israel has the right to live in secure and recognized borders, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Firhi told a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Rabat on Tuesday. But he stopped short of saying Morocco is ready to renew the diplomatic ties with Israel it broke off three years ago.
        Firhi defended Morocco's decision to participate with 55 other Islamic states in filing briefs to the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Israel's building of the West Bank security fence. "As a member of the Islamic Conference, and with our king's position as head of the Jerusalem Committee, we were obligated to join the debate over the fence," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Germany Supports Security Barrier
    German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Monday in Israel that the EU objects to the Hague court debate on the legality of Israelís security barrier. He said Israel has a right to protect its citizens from terror attacks. (Maariv)
        See also German FM: Israel Must "Substantially" Change Barrier Route (EU Business)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hard-Liners Win Battle for Chicago Area Mosque
    Sheik Jamal Said stood before the packed mosque in suburban Bridgeview and worked the crowd like an auctioneer. In less than five minutes, he raised $50,000 for Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist accused by the U.S. government of aiding terrorists, reflecting the ascendancy of Muslim hard-liners at the mosque. Among the leaders at the Bridgeview mosque are men who have condemned Western culture, praised Palestinian suicide bombers, and encouraged members to view society in stark terms: Muslims against the world. (Chicago Tribune)
  • The Fallout from Pakistan's Nuclear Proliferation - Bernard-Henri Levy
    Over 15 years, Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan delivered his most sensitive secrets to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Then President Musharraf granting Khan his "pardon." Sooner or later, we will come to the real secret: that of al-Qaeda; and of Khan's links to Lashkar-e-Toiba, the fundamentalist terrorist group at the heart of al-Qaeda; and the fact that this "mad scientist" is first of all mad about God, a fanatical Islamist who in his heart and soul believes that the bomb of which he is the father should belong, if not to the Umma itself, at least to its avant-garde, as incarnated by al-Qaeda. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Changing the Strategy to Combat Terrorism - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Palestinian society as well as PA leadership and security apparatuses are fragmented to the point of collapse. There is not one element or coalition that can bring about a complete cessation of terrorism and strip the armed groups of their weapons and explosive belts. In order to suppress terrorism, the aim should be to separate and if possible create a sharp rift between the terrorism activists and the non-combatant civilian population that supports them. (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies)
  • Observations:

    Advancing Palestinian Society by Weakening Hamas - Zohar Palti
    (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Hamas is reshaping Palestinian society through a network of social welfare institutions, and during 2002-2003, Hamas invested approximately $60-70 million toward this end.
    • Hamas operates more than 100 educational institutions in Gaza, ranging from early childhood centers to universities, as well as dozens of medical clinics.
    • Since its inception, Hamas has maintained financial independence, fully exploiting its elaborate global web of so-called charity organizations. Nevertheless, Hamas's social welfare efforts are not a sufficient substitute for what the Palestinian government is expected to do, to provide bona fide solutions to the problems of employment, welfare, education, and health.
    • Heavy external investment in building a network of neighborhood clinics, nursing homes, early childhood centers, and a liberal school system is essential to countering the challenge posed by Hamas's social welfare network.
    • While Israel should continue to fight Hamas terrorism, the financial pipeline from charitable fronts around the globe (mainly in Saudi Arabia) should be constricted, and the PA leadership should be pressured to reach finality in the conflict with Israel and fight fundamentalist movements that do not abandon terrorism. Such efforts may constitute the only way of preventing Hamas from achieving dominance over Palestinian society.

      The writer is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute.

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