Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 8, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Hamas Setting Up Army in Gaza Strip - Amit Cohen (
    Hamas is establishing an army in the Gaza Strip, with the intention of taking over the region following the expected Israeli withdrawal.
    Hundreds of activists have been recruited to the "popular army," and the militia's leaders are amassing weapons, training warriors, and have decided on a command structure.
    Army members maintain a constant presence in Gaza streets, emphasizing their intention to fill the vacuum left by the PA.
    After every successful arms-smuggling operation, Hamas deliberates whether to give the weapons to the popular army or to the Az-a-Din-al-Qassam brigades.
    The popular army's equipment consists mainly of Kalashnikov rifles and grenades, but also explosive charges, artillery guns, anti-tank missiles, and Qassam rockets.

Libyan Weapons Disclosure Lists 22 Tons of Mustard Gas (AP/Los Angeles Times)
    Libya acknowledged stockpiling 44,000 pounds of mustard gas and disclosed the location of a production plant Friday.
    Libyan Col. Mohammed abu Huda handed over 14 cartons of files describing his nation's chemical weapons programs to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Director-General Rogelio Pfirter.
    Libya also declared thousands of tons of precursors that could be used to make sarin nerve gas and two storage facilities.

Palestinian Threats Cancel IDF Fundraiser in Paris - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
  An IDF fundraising event in Paris to raise money for education scholarships for soldiers, featuring Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and scheduled to take place on Monday, was postponed after organizers and owners of the Palais Des Congress, one of Paris' largest halls, received death threats from local Palestinians.

Egypt Deploys 1,000 Police After Christians Killed (Reuters)
    Two Christian men were axed to death in Salamoun, 350 km south of Cairo, after a donkey being ridden by a Muslim slipped on the wet roadway outside their house.
    The Nile valley town of 40,000 is close to 40% Coptic Christian but was also a stronghold of militant Islamists who fought the government in the 1990s.
    Egyptian authorities deployed some 1,000 police around the town on Saturday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Ready to Back Sharon's Withdrawal Plan
    The Bush administration and the Israeli government are in the final stages of agreeing on Prime Minister Sharon's plan for a complete and unilateral withdrawal of settlers and security forces from the Gaza Strip and a limited pullout of the West Bank, according to U.S. officials and diplomats. (Financial Times-UK)
  • U.S. to Slap Sanctions on Syria
    The U.S. will soon slap sanctions on Syria, under a 2003 law allowing President Bush to punish the country for alleged support of radical Islamic groups and weapons programs. "It's coming," said a White House official. In November 2003, Congress approved economic and diplomatic sanctions against Syria, which Washington accuses of supporting terrorism. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • 14 Palestinians Killed in Gun Battles
    Israeli troops traded heavy gunfire with Palestinians in a raid near Bureij refugee camp in Gaza Sunday, killing 14 Palestinians including 10 gunmen, all but one from Hamas. "Terrorism is pouring out of this refugee camp, and we have to stop it," Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said. "We believe that by doing so we have prevented acts of terror in Israel and saved many human lives." The fighting pitted hundreds of Palestinians armed with assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, and grenade launchers against Israeli troops firing from helicopters, tanks, and rooftop sniper positions. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also IDF: Gaza Children Killed by Palestinian Grenades
    Senior military sources say the four children who died during Sunday's clashes between troops and Palestinians were killed by grenades thrown by Palestinians, Israel Radio reported Monday. The IDF troops received clear orders not to fire at children. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The IDF Raid - Amos Harel
    During Sunday's operation, IDF snipers infiltrated into the outskirts of the camps. When the main force entered the camps, in tanks and APCs, armed men emerged in a bid to confront them, and so exposed themselves to the sniper fire. "The aim is to deceive the enemy, in order to get him to react in an area where he is surrounded by our forces and is in an inferior position," an officer who has been the commander of similar raids explained. (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mubarak Rejects Egyptian Security Role in Gaza
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has rejected the idea of an Egyptian security role in the Gaza Strip, describing it as a trap that would lead to conflict with the Palestinians and possibly the Israelis. In an interview published Monday in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, Mubarak said: "It's up to the Palestinian Authority to enforce the law and ensure security in Gaza. We can help along the border." (Ha'aretz/Reuters)
        See also Cairo Wants More Troops on Gaza Border If Israel Withdraws - Aluf Benn
    Egypt will demand that Israel allow it to increase its forces along the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip in the event that Israel withdraws from the "Philadelphia" corridor that runs along the border. The peace agreement allows Egypt to station only civilian police forces on the border. A decision was made in Cairo to provide as much aid as possible so that Israel leaves the Gaza Strip. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Terrorists in Gaza Kill 2 PA Policemen - Amos Harel
    Four Palestinian terrorists attacked the Erez crossing between northern Gaza and Israel with explosives-laden jeeps and rifle fire. The first jeep blew up near a Palestinian police outpost south of the crossing, killing two policemen and injuring several other Palestinians. The second jeep blew up at the most forward Palestinian position at the crossing. A third jeep, camouflaged as an IDF vehicle, sped toward the soldiers stationed at the IDF's most southern position at the crossing, crashing into the gate next to their outpost. A gunman dressed in an IDF uniform and carrying a Kalashnikov rifle jumped out and opened fire. The soldiers returned fire and killed him, as well as a second terrorist in the jeep. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Yaalon: Erez Crossing May be Closed for Good if Terror Continues
    Israel may close the Erez checkpoint permanently if terrorist attacks there continue, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday. "Everything that is happening here leads me to the conclusion that we care about employing the Palestinian families in Gaza more than the terrorist organizations do," Yaalon said. (
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Coming Civil War - Arnon Regular
    The question of who will obtain the keys to the Gaza settlements that will be evacuated has heightened tensions. Each of the more than 10 security branches in Gaza is involved in power struggles, in addition to dozens of armed groups in Fatah. According to a senior Fatah official, the disintegration of the PA is giving rise to two main camps in Gaza. Former security chief Mohammed Dahlan's strength is based on the support of the Preventative Security unit headed by Rashid Abu Shabaq (the most organized and advanced of the security units) and on the backing of some armed groups in Fatah. This camp has held displays of force in the past few months, sending a clear message to Arafat and Qurei that they have no hope of operating in Gaza without Dahlan's agreement.
        Opposing Dahlan in Gaza are all the forces that operate on behalf of Arafat, including the police, led by Razi Jibali; National Security, under the command of Abd el-Raziq Majaida; the "army" and military intelligence in the Gaza Strip, headed by Moussa Arafat; and some of the armed groups of Fatah. The struggle for control of Gaza and, indirectly, for the succession to Arafat, is at its height. The matter will be decided in the months ahead, either by confrontation or by agreement and a division of powers between Dahlan and Arafat. Political assassinations will be part of this game. (Ha'aretz)
  • Withdrawal Will Not End IDF Operations in Gaza - Herb Keinon
    Sunday's operations in Gaza were designed to signal to the Islamic organizations that they will not be allowed to exploit the IDF withdrawal to gain control. Israel, through actions such as these, is trying to disabuse the Islamic fundamentalists of the notion that disengagement means complete Israeli disengagement. A senior diplomatic official said Sunday that Israel is trying to send a clear message that this is a sample of what the Palestinians can expect if terrorist attacks from Gaza continue once Israel withdraws. The idea behind operations like this now is to prove that not only will the prospect of the seemingly imminent withdrawal not deter Israel from taking offensive actions, but even the withdrawal itself will not put an end to these types of operations. Even as these signals are being sent, Jerusalem is engaged in intensive talks with Washington and Cairo to find elements within the PA able to take control, in order to prevent a situation where Israel will have to move in and out of Gaza - even after withdrawal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Plea to Saudi Religious Leaders to Condemn Shia Killings - Heba Saleh
    Thirty-five Saudi intellectuals have urged religious leaders to condemn last Tuesday's attack in Iraq and Pakistan which killed nearly 200 Shia worshipers. The government of Saudi Arabia denounced the attacks on Thursday. But some Saudi commentators have noted that the highest religious institution in the country has yet to say anything. There have been reports from Iraq that some Shia clerics have been accusing local Wahhabi groups working with al-Qaeda of carrying out the atrocities. (Financial Times-UK, 5 Mar 04)
  • The Jihadi Who Kept Asking Why - Elizabeth Rubin
    The Saud dynasty and the Wahhabi clerics mutually reinforce each other's authority. It's been that way since the 18th century, when Muhammad Ibn Saud, a tribal ruler in the untamed deserts of central Arabia, struck a bargain with Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a puritanical religious reformer. They would purge Islam of the idol worshiping that had slipped into Bedouin religious practices, unify the competing tribes, and conquer the Arabian peninsula. The Sauds lost and regained power over the centuries, but that religious-political covenant has endured and is the source of today's Saudi system.
        The oldest brothers of King Fahd, who for more than a quarter century have controlled the Ministries of the Interior and Defense, the National Guard and the governorships, are divided about how to change their kingdom to rid it of the extremism that leads to terrorism, without upsetting the powerful Wahhabi clerics. An unlikely group of onetime religious jihadists have recently stepped into the midst of this debate. The ex-jihadists are fluent in Islam and, more important, in the lingo of the underground terrorists. Mansour Al-Nogaidan is the most daring of these reformists, a 33-year-old former radical imam and a columnist for Al Riyadh, who for the past three years has argued that Wahhabism is the source of the political and cultural problems in the kingdom. (New York Times)
  • Maturity in the Middle East - Victor Davis Hanson
    Since September 11 we have witnessed a historic emergence of a comprehensive foreign policy to confront Islamic fundamentalism and its parasitic relationship with Middle East autocracy - without which it cannot survive. The Bush administration has advanced the most ambitious, humane, and needed initiatives for the Middle East in the last half century. We no longer give autocracies a pass for pumping oil and keeping out Communists. Instead, without naivete we strive for constitutional government and modernization. We are trying to help to integrate the Middle East into the rest of the world's democratic economy - and to end our own appeasement of fundamentalism, dictatorship, gender-apartheid, anti-Semitism, and press censorship. For the first time in a half-century, the Saudi royal family is more worried about American support for democratic change in the Middle East than we are of an oil embargo. (National Review)
        See also The Wrong Way to Sell Democracy to the Arab World - Zbigniew Brzezinski
    There is a suspicion - not only among the Arabs but also among the Europeans whose support the U.S. is seeking - that the sudden focus on democracy has been promoted by administration officials who wish to delay any serious American effort to push the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a genuine peace settlement. That suspicion was fueled by Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The spread of democracy, Cheney said, was "the precondition for peace and prosperity in Western Europe" after World War II. He went on to assert that democratic reform "is also essential to a peaceful resolution of the longstanding Arab-Israeli dispute." Cheney's argument that democracy is the precondition for peace appeared to many to be a rationalization for postponing any effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    IDF Chief of Staff: Thwarted Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem Was Funded by Iran - Zvi Aloush (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 8 Mar 04)

    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon said Sunday:

    • Part of today's terrorism has its source in Iranian money, including the attack in Jerusalem that was thwarted by our actions in Ramallah. The terrorist operative was controlled from Lebanon. Iranian money comes through Hizballah that has Hamas cells in Nablus and Ramallah.
    • Iran, Syria, and Hizballah are today investing most of their energy in supporting Palestinian terrorism.
    • Regarding Sunday's battle in al-Bureij, from investigation of the event it is known to us that a portion of the Palestinian dead came from their own Palestinian "friendly fire," which was not aimed and struck innocent civilians.
    • Only a part of Iran's nuclear program has been disclosed and Iran is still determined to complete its nuclear program. In Iran there is instability that is the result of the exposure of many to the West and to democracy.

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