Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 15, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Palestinians Held in Deadly Gaza Attack on U.S. Convoy Released (CNN)
    A judge Sunday ordered the release of four Palestinians detained in connection with an October bombing on a U.S. diplomatic convoy that killed three American security guards, Palestinian security sources said.
    U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin in Tel Aviv said, "Our interests remain the same....We want this pursued vigorously, and we want those responsible for this crime arrested, convicted, and punished."
    The U.S. State Department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on those responsible for the bombing.

Palestinians Fire Missile at Gaza School Bus, No Injuries - Hanan Greenberg and Efrat Weiss (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
    Palestinians fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus Monday after it left Netzarim in northern Gaza.
    The missile struck the rear section of the armored bus. There were no injuries.
    Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dozens of Kurds Said Killed in Clash with Syrian Police - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Kurdish sources in Europe said Sunday that dozens of people have been killed by Syrian security forces in a largely Kurdish area near Damascus, beginning with clashes Friday in the northern Syrian city of Qamishli.

Israel Opposes Terrorist's Burial in West Bank - Eliel Shahar (
    At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sharon indicated he is unlikely to allow the body of Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, to be brought to Ramallah for burial.
    Abbas, who died last week in U.S. custody in Iraq, led the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and murdered its wheelchair-bound passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

Bank of Israel: Recession Over - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    The recession in Israel, which began in July 2000, ended in November 2003, according to the annual review by the Bank of Israel research department.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Al-Qaeda Implicated in Madrid Bombings
    Investigators believe the train bombings that killed 200 people in Madrid last week were the work of a multinational cell of al-Qaeda loyalists, some of whom entered Spain specifically to carry out the attacks, marking the first time the group has struck in Europe. Security services across the continent are now scrambling to assess the likelihood of further attacks. Officials said they believed the group that carried out the bombing was composed of Islamic radicals, possibly including Saudi nationals, as well as other North Africans besides three arrested Moroccans, and two Indians, linked to a cell phone in a gym bag filled with undetonated explosives. "If someone can walk on a train in Madrid and kill this many people, then what's to stop them doing the same thing in London or Rome?" asked Mustafa Alani, a terrorism analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. (Washington Post)
        See also Following Attacks, Spainish Voters Oust Bush Ally
    Spain's Socialists ousted the center-right party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a groundswell of voter anger and grief. (New York Times)
  • U.S.: Bombs Won't Deter Europe
    Top Bush administration officials said Sunday that they felt confident the devastating bomb attacks in Madrid would not shake European determination to continue fighting terrorism, and that those who favor backing away from the U.S.-led war on terror would do so at the risk of becoming future targets of terrorists. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected the idea that a pullback by Spain or others would make them safer: "It's kind of like feeding an alligator, hoping it eats you last."
        Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "There is a war on terror that must be fought. Nobody's immune. Rather than finding fault with what Spain has done, by being aggressive in the war on terror, this should redouble everyone's efforts." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "Slowly but surely their world is getting smaller, not larger. They don't have Afghanistan as a base of operations. They will not have Iraq as a base of operations." She also listed Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Sudan as places they will not be able to use. Terrorists will "win skirmishes," she said, but over all, "the terrorists are losing." (International Herald Tribune)
  • Iran Freezes Nuclear Inspections After UN Censure
    Iran indefinitely suspended international inspections of its nuclear facilities on Saturday in an angry response to a resolution by the UN atomic agency that criticized its activities. The delay is likely to deepen Washington's conviction that the country is hiding a nuclear weapons program. Kenneth Brill, the chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna, asked: "Is it possible that, even as we meet, squads of Iranian technicians are working at still undeclared sites to tile over, paint over, bury, burn or cart away incriminating evidence, so that those sanitized locations can finally be identified to the agency as new evidence of Iran's full cooperation and transparency?" (New York Times)
  • Syria Seen Defying U.S. Sanctions
    Syria will resist publicly changing tack to avoid looming U.S. sanctions, but cannot ignore the harsher international winds blowing since 9/11 and the Iraq war, diplomats and analysts say. "Syrian diplomacy is not known for its audacity. They will try to sit out the storm," one diplomat said, referring to U.S. plans to slap new penalties on Syria for what Washington views as hostile policies, including support for terrorism. Syria's Baathist ideology requires it to nurture the guttering flame of Arab nationalism.
        Syria looks to Europe to counterbalance pressures from the U.S., but a trade and political pact with the EU that took six years to negotiate has been blocked since December because Britain, Germany, and The Netherlands want to include tougher provisions on weapons of mass destruction. With several EU member states keen to rebuild ties to Washington after the strains of the Iraq war, there seems little European appetite to take up cudgels on Syria's behalf. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Suicide Bombers Kill 10 in Ashdod Port - Roni Singer, Arnon Regular, and Nir Hasson
    Two Palestinians from Gaza murdered ten people and injured 16, in two suicide bombings Sunday at Ashdod port. The first terrorist got inside the port and blew himself up close to a group of workers near a machine repair workshop; five workers were killed immediately. A few moments later, the second terrorist detonated on the sidewalk adjacent to the port, destroying a trailer that held an office, killing three office workers inside. The perpetrators, two 18-year-olds from Jabalya in Gaza, apparently slipped through the Gaza perimeter fence - an unprecedented occurrence. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Injured Worker Recognized Bomber, Colleague Says - Tsahar Rotem
    Alexander Meister, 48, a mechanic who has worked at the port for 13 years and suffered shrapnel wounds, said one of the injured he had accompanied to the hospital told him that he had seen one of the terrorists before the explosion, and said he recognized him from the Erez industrial zone. Meister told of how he had seen four workers in his department murdered right in front of his eyes, and a fifth seriously injured. Ashdod resident Itzik Tubol, 33, said, "I was driving home from work when suddenly I saw on my right the roof of the building flying off and parts flying through the air." Tubol said he stopped his car on the side of the road and rushed over to help with the evacuation of the injured. Just then, the second explosion occurred and "everything went black," he recalled. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Celebrate Gaza Attacks - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Scores of Palestinians took to the streets in Jenin and Jabalya to "celebrate" the attacks. Drivers honked car horns as gunmen fired into the air to express their joy. Others distributed sweets to passersby, hailing the suicide bombers and calling on all Palestinian groups to step up their "resistance operations against the Israeli enemy." The Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed joint responsibility with Hamas for the attack. PA Prime Minister Qurei condemned Sunday's attack, saying such actions provide Israel with an excuse to continue its "aggression" against the Palestinians and build the security fence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IAF Hits Gaza Weapons Workshops
    Israeli Air Force helicopter gunships attacked buildings in Gaza used by Hamas to manufacture arms and Kassam rockets. Palestinian sources reported that the helicopters fired at least 10 missiles at three different targets. The IDF estimates that the Palestinians would try to perpetrate more attacks to prove that the Israeli Army is "running away" from the Gaza Strip. According to defense officials, Israel must withdraw only after a series of operations in Gaza take place, so that the Palestinians understand that the withdrawal "is being preformed from a position of strength and not weakness." (
  • U.S. Sees "Historic Potential" in PM's Disengagement Plan - Aluf Benn and Mazal Mualem
    Top-level consultations last week with President Bush culminated in a decision to support Prime Minister Sharon's plan as much as possible, pending clarification of details with Israeli officials. The U.S. administration believes it is important that any withdrawal not be perceived as a concession to terror. Visiting U.S. envoys Steve Hadley, Elliott Abrams, and William Burns emphasized that an Israeli withdrawal should implement "Bush's vision" and the road map. Treasury Minister Netanyahu met with the envoys at Sharon's request, and told them that the Gaza Strip must not become a base for Hamas or al-Qaeda terror groups and asked the envoys about security and diplomatic guarantees. Bush, said the envoys, has devised a policy of beating terror, and not surrendering to it; this rule applies to the Gaza Strip, just as it applies to every part of the world. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Let Us Pray By All Means, and Then Pass the Ammunition - Barbara Amiel
    You can always find some, even many, with the view that we should not provoke the Islamic world and anything we do to protect ourselves from it will be provocative. Appeasement is nothing new and its futility seems lost in one of those great fogs that befuddle human minds. It is possible that Spain would not have had the explosions at this time if it had stayed on the sidelines in the war against Saddam. Or not, for Islamists have a special issue with Spain. Bin Laden spoke in October 2001 of the "tragedy in Andalusia," a reference to the final ending of the great Muslim advance in the Iberian peninsula by the Moors.
        By their own mad statements, the Islamists will not be content until all the lands they believe belong to the Muslim world are free of the infidel and the "humiliation of 80 years ago" is reversed, meaning the reversal of the end of the Ottoman Empire. Given their rather bloody interpretation of the command of the Koran to spread the word to all infidels, unless we pull ourselves together we shall find ourselves spread all over streets and railway lines. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Sharon's Narrow Opening - Jim Hoagland
    Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority is broken beyond repair and Arafat is a pariah. Moreover, Palestinian cities are imploding under a wave of internal crime and brutality as Arafat's CIA-equipped militias sell off or donate their weapons and protection to ordinary criminals as well as to the terrorists of Hamas and Hizballah. Whatever his intent, Sharon provided the Bush administration with a small opening to forge the missing link in its diplomatic strategy for the region. The Bush team is right to pursue the small opening Sharon offered and to try to enlarge it. (Washington Post)
  • Terror Unlimited - Tim Garden
    Militant Islam has its roots in the radical doctrines of Wahhabism, which were developed two centuries ago in Saudi Arabia. A large international movement, with followers who welcome martyrdom, has the weaponry of the modern world coupled with the beliefs of medieval times. Their stated aim is to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the world. Here there is no possibility of political negotiation or compromise. In that sense, we are at war. Professor Sir Tim Garden is a former air marshal and works at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London. (Independent-UK)
  • Observations:

    The World at War - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)

    • As one of the Islamic fanatics who inspired al-Qaeda said: "We are not trying to negotiate with you. We are trying to destroy you."
    • They wish to destroy the whole basis of Western society - secular democracy, individual liberty, equality before the law, toleration, and pluralism - and replace it with a theocracy based on a perverted and dogmatic interpretation of the Koran.
    • That is why the suggestion that we should try to negotiate with such terrorists is so fatuous: there is nothing whatever to negotiate about.
    • The idea that we should try to appease the terrorists is wrong in every respect. It would not protect us, for nothing acts as a greater incentive to terrorists than the realization that their target is weak and frightened.
    • And it would only weaken the institutions we are trying to protect, and demonstrate to the terrorists that we are - as they frequently allege - too decadent and craven to defend the way of life to which we claim to be attached.

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