Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 15, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Hungarian Terror Group Received Saudi Funding - Karl Peter Kirk (AP/Guardian-UK)
    The Dar-Assalam mosque in Budapest, run by Palestine-born Tayseer Saleh, 42, detained on suspicion of planning to bomb a Jewish museum, received funds from the Saudi-based Al-Haramain charity, an organization allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, an Islamic community leader said Wednesday.

Two American Muslims Sentenced for Jihad Plan - Matthew Barakat (AP/Washington Times)
    Two American Muslims, Randall Todd Royer, 31, a former spokesman for the Muslim American Society, and Ibrahim al-Hamdi, 26, were sentenced Wednesday to 20 and 15 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in support of a Virginia-based conspiracy to engage in holy war against nations deemed hostile to Islam, including the U.S.
    The group used paintball games played in the woods near Fredericksburg, Va., in 2000 and 2001 as military training in preparation for holy war around the globe.
    After the September 11 attacks, some of the members turned their focus against the U.S., traveling to Pakistan with the goal of joining the Taliban and fighting U.S. troops.

Bush Extends PLO's Right to Keep Washington Office(Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    President Bush Wednesday extended for another six months the right of the Palestine Liberation Organization to keep offices in Washington.
    The White House said it wanted to allow a Palestinian presence in the U.S. capital in order to "maintain its ties and contacts" with parties in the hope of pursuing talks toward peace in the Middle East.

Death in Iraq Comes From All Quarters - James Hider (London Times)
    Just days ago, U.S. Marine Corporal Ryan Long saw an Iraqi ambulance screech up to a wounded man in Falluja, accompanied by members of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC), a U.S.-trained paramilitary force.
    Instead of retrieving the injured man, the three men in the Red Crescent ambulance fired rocket-propelled grenades at the Marines, then sped off as the ICDC men gave them covering fire.
    Also, "the intelligence guys told us there are Syrian snipers out there," said Corporal David Silvers.

Caterpillar Shareholders Reject Anti-Israel Resolution (Reuters/Forbes)
    Caterpillar Inc. shareholders on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have asked the company to re-evaluate selling bulldozers to the Israeli army.
    The company's board had opposed the measure, which received only 4% of the preliminary vote count.
    "With more than 2 million machines and engines out there, we don't have the practical ability or the legal right to determine how our products are used after they are sold," said Jim Owens, Caterpillar's chairman and chief executive.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • President Bush Commends Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's Plan
    After meeting with Prime Minister Sharon at the White House Wednesday, President Bush said: "It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel....In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
        "The prime minister has made the decision to dismantle some settlements. In other words, he is beginning to implement a vision that allows for contiguous territories so that a Palestinian state can emerge....Now it's up to responsible Palestinians, caring Europeans, Americans, the UN to step in and help develop such a state that will be a peaceful state." (White House)
        See also below Observations: Letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Al-Sadr Signals End of Uprising
    The fiery radical at the heart of Iraq's Shia revolt sued for peace Wednesday, buckling under the twin pressures of a massive build-up of American forces near his base and demands for moderation from the country's ayatollahs. Moqtada al-Sadr, who raised the standard of anti-American revolt 12 days ago, sent out envoys from Najaf carrying his peace terms. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Sadr's Surrender Will Give Shia the Chance to Control New Iraq - David Blair
    Fearing that the majority Shia may yet again see the prize of control of their country slipping away, Shia supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants Sadr to end his revolt, and quickly. According to his aides, Sadr is willing to disband his Mahdi militia in return for guarantees that he will not be arrested in connection with the murder of a senior cleric. But without his loyal gunmen, Sadr will probably cease to be a powerful figure. In Najaf, he enjoys only minority support. The city is firmly under the control of al-Sistani and another heavily armed Shia militia, the Badr Brigades. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Marines Kill 100 Iraqi Insurgents Near Falluja
    American forces killed more than 100 insurgents on Tuesday in close combat in Karma, six miles northeast of Falluja, Marine commanders said Wednesday. The battle that raged for 14 hours showed not only the intensity of the resistance but an acute willingness among insurgents to die. "A lot of these guys were souped up on jihad," said Lt. Col. B. P. McCoy, commander of the Fourth Battalion, Third Marines. "They might as well have been suicide fighters." The Marines repelled attacks of machine-gun fire, volleys of rockets, and repeated charges by masked fighters, Colonel McCoy said. Two marines were injured in the fighting. (New York Times)
  • Italian Hostage Executed in Iraq
    An Italian hostage, security guard Fabrizio Quattrocchi, was executed by his Iraqi abductors, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed Thursday, saying the Italian ambassador to Qatar had seen a videotape of the killing received by the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Talks Planned with U.S. on Settlement Limits, Aid - Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman
    Sharon's letter to Bush promises to limit construction in the territories. Talks will begin shortly between Israel and the U.S. over what will constitute the "built-up areas" of the settlements, beyond which construction will be forbidden. Talks will also begin soon on financial aid programs for Gaza, the Negev and Galilee. Israel is seeking loan guarantees for $5 billion for those purposes. (Ha'aretz)
  • Disengagement Plan Faces Likud Referendum - Gil Hoffman
    The membership of the ruling Likud party is to vote on Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan in a referendum on May 2, prior to its consideration by the Knesset and the Cabinet. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he would not endorse the plan until his demand for the security fence to be built around West Bank security blocs is added. "The issue is not a matter of American-Israeli relations, but it must be an internal Israeli decision," Netanyahu said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Sharon to Debate Disengagement Opponent - Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Sharon will face off in two debates on April 22 and April 28 against one of the fiercest opponents of his disengagement plan, Minister-without-Portfolio Uzi Landau. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Double-Edged Bush - Ze'ev Schiff
    Whoever tries to present President Bush's statements as the second Balfour Declaration in terms of their importance to Israel, is getting carried away. The most significant achievement was the emphasis placed on the fact that a solution for the Palestinian refugees will be outside the borders of the Jewish state, as Israel has long demanded. On the territorial front, however, the achievement is only partial. In his comments, Bush did not mention settlement blocs. The "new realities on the ground" that will have to be taken into account have another side: the growth of Palestinian Jerusalem and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have settled in the Jerusalem area and neighborhoods.
        The main dilemma facing Bush was how to accept Sharon's plan but not to make exaggerated concessions to the Israeli leader and harm America's standing as an accepted and credible broker between Israel and the Palestinians. An American mediator is preferable to Israel over a European mediator working hand-in-hand with the UN and Russia. Bush defined the moves the prime minister is taking as brave steps that could lead to a historic process. Bush, however, repeatedly referred to these moves as a beginning. The expectation, therefore, is for the evacuation of more settlements to allow for the transfer of more territory to the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sharon Coup: U.S. Go-Ahead - James Bennet
    Sharon wanted three commitments: backing for the Gaza withdrawal, American recognition that Israel would hold on to parts of the West Bank, and an American rejection of the right of millions of Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and their descendants to return to what is now Israel. He got them all by promising to trade something Israelis overwhelmingly do not want any more: the Gaza settlements and a handful of settlements in the West Bank. And he got them without having to negotiate with the Palestinians. (New York Times)
  • "New Reality" for Palestinians - Charles A. Radin
    President Bush bluntly told the Palestinians to stop living in the past. The major Israeli settlements in the territories are facts on the ground and cannot be wished away. The separation barrier Israel is building between its population centers and those of the Palestinians is OK, as long as it's not forever. "The Palestinian Authority has lost its power to maneuver," said Ali Gerbawi, a Palestinian professor of political science at Bir Zeit University. Its leaders "believed that they have been forcing Sharon out of Gaza, when in fact, they have lost the West Bank."  (Boston Globe)
  • Bush's Tone May Hinder Mideast Plan - Barbara Slavin
    When he endorsed a unilateral Israeli peace plan Wednesday, President Bush didn't approve anything that veteran observers didn't think would eventually be part of an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. White House officials insisted that nothing Bush told Sharon prejudges the outcome of final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Much of what Bush said has been suggested in previous peace plans, beginning with a proposal President Clinton put forward in December 2000. "Both Clinton administrations were prepared to accept the logic of what was done today," said Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. negotiator. But Miller said Bush had made "more explicit what had been implicit." (USA Today)
  • White House Insists Aim is to Jump-Start Peace Process - Guy Dinmore and James Harding
    President Bush was seeking to jump-start the "road map" process for peace, with the eventual goal of establishing a Palestinian state, by backing Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, senior administration officials said on Wednesday. They insisted that there was nothing new in U.S. policy in affirming that Palestinian refugees should give up their right of return to Israel, or that Israel should retain some settlements established after the 1967 war in the West Bank. "That's history, not news," one senior official said repeatedly. "It's what everyone in the region knows." (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Observations: Letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared....These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002, vision, and make a real contribution towards peace.
    • The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure you on several points. First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.
    • Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.
    • Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations. The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.
    • Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations. The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.
    • The United States understands that after Israel withdraws from Gaza and/or parts of the West Bank, and pending agreements on other arrangements, existing arrangements regarding control of airspace, territorial waters, and land passages of the West Bank and Gaza will continue.
    • It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
    • As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

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