Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 23, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: 61% of Israelis Support Yassin Killing (
    A poll conducted Monday by Maariv indicates that 61% of Israelis supports the IDF's killing of Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, while 21% are opposed.
    The poll also reveals that 43% believe Israel should eliminate Arafat, while 38% would object.

Video Shows Syrian Police Firing on Unarmed Kurds (Reuters/Sydney Morning Herald)
    Israeli television stations broadcast film Sunday showing Syrian policemen firing from automatic rifles at unarmed people running through streets and fields during clashes between Syrian Kurds and police on March 12 and 13.
    Automatic gunfire and screams can be heard. About 30 people were killed in the clashes in northern Syria.
    "The pictures were taken by the Kurds in Kameshli. They were broadcast out of the area before the Syrians closed down the Kurdish media outlets," said Ehud Yaari, a correspondent for Israel's Channel Two television.

Iraq-al-Qaeda Link - Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough (Washington Times)
    A document from the files of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) provides new evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
    The 1993 document, in Arabic, bearing the logo of the Iraqi intelligence agency and labeled "top secret," is a list of IIS agents who are described as "collaborators."
    The report states that among the collaborators is "the Saudi Osama bin Laden."
    "And he is in good relationship with our section in Syria," the document states.

Madrid Suspect "on Terrorist Mission in UK" - David Bamber (Telegraph-UK)
    One of the suspected masterminds of the Madrid train bombings attempted to recruit terrorists in Britain.
    Abdelaziz Benyaich, who is in prison in Spain awaiting trial on terrorism charges, traveled to Britain last year seeking young British Muslims for the al-Qaeda cause.
    Spanish security officials believe that he planned the attacks in Madrid before he was arrested entering their country in June last year on a fake British passport.

PA Unfreezes Terror Funds - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas on Sunday welcomed the PA High Court's decision to unfreeze the bank accounts of nine charities suspected of funding terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
    The PA froze 39 accounts linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad last August under pressure from President Bush.

Columbia U. Releases Edward Said Chair Donors: Names Arab Government (Campus Watch)
    The recently established Edward Said Chair at Columbia is held by former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi.
    On March 12, 2004, Columbia's Office of Public Affairs finally released the full list of donors to the chair's estimated $4 million endowment, which include the United Arab Emirates.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush White House Says Israel Has Right to Self-Defense
    Following the death of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, White House National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said, "Israel has a right to defend itself." President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan expressed open solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism. "Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheikh Yassin himself has been heavily involved in terrorism," Rice said.
        Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed Vice President Dick Cheney hours after the operation and told reporters Washington was not involved in the decision. Rice also insisted that Washington was given no prior warning of the attack. Shalom said the attack was justified to protect Israelis from Yassin, whom he called "the godfather of the suicide bombers." He said it could help deter other militant leaders by delivering the message that "they will pay for their crimes, they will pay for the instructions that they are giving to these suicide bombers."  (Reuters)
        See also State Dept.: U.S. "Troubled" by Israeli Attack
    State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "The United States is deeply concerned about, deeply troubled by this morning's actions....The event, in our view, increases tension and doesn't help our efforts to resume progress towards peace." (Washington Post)
  • Hussein's Fall Leads Syrians to Test Government Limits
    Omar Amiralay in Damascus is planning a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath." "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed" with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq, he said. The very act of humiliating the worst Arab tyrant spawned a sort of "what if" process in Syria and across the region. Some Syrians are testing the limits, openly questioning government doctrine, and challenging state oppression. The fall of Hussein changed something inside people. "I think the image, the sense of terror, has evaporated," said Amiralay. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Enters Northern Gaza
    IDF armored forces entered Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in an attempt to thwart the firing of mortars and Kassam rockets at Israeli communities in the western Negev. Four Kassam rockets were fired at Negev communities on Monday. Palestinians also fired 15 mortars and Kassam rockets at Gush Katif settlements throughout Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizballah Terrorists Attack IDF Posts in North
    Hizballah terrorists launched dozens of anti-tank missiles and mortar shells from Lebanon at IDF posts in the area of Mt. Dov and Mt. Hermon on Monday. IDF forces returned artillery fire as well as air strikes at the sources of fire. (IDF)

    Perspectives: Israel Targets Hamas Leader

  • Ya'alon: Attack on Yassin Likely to Calm the Situation - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Uri Ash
    IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that, in the long run, the attack on Yassin "is likely to calm the situation in the Gaza and encourage moderate forces to prevent the founding of 'Hamas-land' there." Ya'alon said, "Yassin was a terrorist who headed a terrorist organization which operates against the State of Israel and its citizens. Yassin was directly responsible for multiple terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of both Israeli and foreign civilians and security personnel." (Ha'aretz)
  • Yassin Killing Was Necessary - Danny Yatom
    The killing of Sheikh Yassin could not be avoided. Hamas, which Yassin led, is a terrorist organization whose purposes are destroying the State of Israel, killing as many Israelis as possible and wrecking any chance for peace between us and the Palestinians. In the war against terror, every member of the terrorist organizations must be targeted. The fact that Israel dared to kill Yassin may also prompt the PA to begin acting against the terrorists. Hamas suffered a very serious blow; there is no one visible on the horizon who is capable of replacing Yassin. The targeted killings should continue. The writer, a Labor MK, was head of the Mossad. (
        See also Former Mossad Chief Backs Yassin Hit
    Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit told Israel Radio the decision to target Yassin was "both right and wise." Shavit said he has no doubt Hamas will be weakened by the loss of its leader. Hamas political leader Abdel Aziz "Rantisi's authority, power and influence will never be at the same level as Yassin's," he said. "We shouldn't get excited about Arab talk of total war....They have said this before, and they will say it again," he added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Let This Be a Warning to Arafat - Gerald Steinberg
    The Israeli decision to go after Hamas's top leaders came after recent mega-terror attempts. The bombers in Ashdod attempted to detonate a large chemical storage tank, which would have caused a huge explosion. The explosives detonated prematurely, and "only" 10 Israelis were killed. But the warning was clear - Hamas had no limits in the pursuit of the goal of destroying the State of Israel and, unless Israel acted, such attacks would continue until they succeeded. Hatred of Israel and motivation to volunteer for suicide attacks is already high and cannot be driven further. (The Australian)
  • No Reward for Terrorism - Aluf Benn
    The message of Israel's action is clear: "We are not suckers." It is meant to prove that Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is not a reward for terrorism. Sources in Sharon's bureau said Monday that "there is no connection" between the attack on Yassin and the withdrawal. The withdrawal from Gaza won't take place for a long time, they said, whereas Yassin was targeted for taking out long before Sharon spoke of disengagement. The conflict was escalating in recent weeks, as seen in the attack in Ashdod, after a period in which the government refrained from sharp reprisals to terrorist attacks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hit May Mean "Low Intensity" Conflict is Over - Amos Harel
    IDF General Staff officers said Monday that the policy of targeted killings ought not to stop with Yassin. A true shock effect will be caused only if all the terror group leaders fear that they might be targeted next, the officers argued. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Cost-Benefit Calculation - Amir Oren
    The costs of the attack on Yassin should be measured against the benefits, and the damage that would be done by not going ahead. The life spans of many Israelis were much longer when Yassin was in Israeli detention. The paralysis in Franklin Roosevelt's legs did not prevent him from being the commander-in-chief of the American forces during World War II. Yassin was not merely a spiritual guide with physical limitations, but also the military commander. The members of the political and military chain of command are more (and not less) justified targets than innocent civilians. The context is an effort to shape a Palestinian arena that will give the moderates a chance to overcome the extremists. It will be easier for Mohammed (Dahlan) without Ahmed (Yassin). (Ha'aretz)
  • Yassin's Death May be End of PA in Gaza - Danny Rubinstein
    With news of Yassin's death came reports of outbreaks against the PA in Rafah, Gaza City, and the major refugee camps. Last week in Ramallah, one leader of the Palestinian security forces said many of his men simply refused orders when told to take steps against Hamas men. An East Jerusalem journalist Monday predicted the collapse of the Ahmed Qurei government. The entire idea of electing a Palestinian prime minister was meant to enable the opening of a renewed political process. But now, no such process appears possible and therefore, there's no need for Qurei and his government. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Moor's Last Laugh - Fouad Ajami
    Today, 15 million Muslims make their home in the European Union. The European escape into anti-Americanism is an attempt at false bonding with the peoples of Islam. Give the Arabs - and the Muslim communities implanted in Europe - anti-Americanism, give them an identification with the Palestinians, and you shall be spared their wrath. Beat the drums of opposition to America's war in Iraq, and the furies of this radical Islamism will pass you by. But there is no exit that way. Of all the larger countries of the EU, Spain has been most sympathetic to Palestinian claims. (Wall Street Journal, 22 Mar 04)
  • Arrests Make Mockery of Saudi Reform Talk - Mai Yamani
    Saudi police last Tuesday arrested 13 leading liberals and academics, one of whom was humiliatingly detained during a university lecture and handcuffed in front of his students. The arrests came just a week after the Saudi government announced the formation of the National Committee for Human Rights. Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told Secretary of State Colin Powell during the weekend that Saudi Arabia would manage its own affairs without any external interference. The Wahhabi religious establishment, with its plethora of online fatwas and unrelenting dogma against the West, will see the move as an essential act of house cleaning, ridding the country of any infectious notions of democracy. The writer is a research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Sharon: The Jewish Nation Has a Natural Right to Defend Itself
    - Gideon Alon, Aluf Benn, and Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)

    • Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday: "The State of Israel has struck the foremost Palestinian murderer and terrorist."
    • "This man's ideology boiled down to one thing - murdering Jews and destroying the State of Israel. This vile murderer ranked among the enemies of the Jewish people."
    • The "war on terror continues day and night....It is the Jewish people's natural right to pursue those who plot to destroy them."
    • Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hamas has carried out 425 terror attacks since the start of the latest violence, killing 377 Israelis and injuring 2,076.
    • Mofaz stated: "There can be no doubt that had Sheikh Yassin remained alive, he would have continued to send murderers to attack in Israel."
    • Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the action would restrain Hamas and other terror groups in the long run, as they would realize that their leaders are not immune to such strikes.

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