Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 4, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Did Israel Try to Kill Hamas Leader in Syria? - Arieh O'Sullivan and Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    A story out of Syria alleges that Israeli Mossad agents were captured in an unsuccessful bid to kill Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, head of the movement's political bureau.
    PA officials in Ramallah said they were unaware of the incident, and one official said he did not rule out the possibility that the story was made up by Mashaal in an attempt to boost his popularity inside Hamas.
    Prof. Eyal Zisser of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University said the Mossad story was obviously "fabricated."
    Last week's attack by a so-called terrorist group in Damascus is seen in Israel as a crude attempt staged by the Syrian leadership to portray Syria as a victim of terrorism rather than a state that supports it.
    Prof. Moshe Ma'oz, head of the Truman Institute at Hebrew University, said the Syrians are doing everything they can to try and dodge American sanctions - except crack down on terrorism.
    See also The Syrian Connection - James S. Robbins (National Review)
    "Syria seems to be once again starting fires just to get credit for putting them out," said Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

Bombed Bus to Go on Display Opposite Capitol Hill - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    The burned-out shell of a bus blown up in Jerusalem by a suicide bomber will go on display opposite Capitol Hill in Washington for one month, beginning Thursday.
    The bus had previously been placed opposite the building in The Hague where the International Court of Justice was hearing testimony on the separation fence.

Egyptian Court Rejects Israeli Friendship Society (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    After Egyptian film director Nabil Abdel-Alim applied to set up an association to promote communication between Egyptians and Israelis, the Ministry of Social Affairs refused his application.
    Abdel-Alim appealed the decision, but on Monday the presiding judge of the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court ruled: "The Arab public does not need such false friendship."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sharon to Alter, Not Discard, Pullout Plan
    Prime Minister Sharon told Likud Knesset members Monday that he would modify his plan for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and would continue pressing for its approval. (New York Times)
  • White House Rejects Jordan's Request for Statement on Palestinians
    The Bush administration has turned down a request by Jordan's King Abdullah II for a written statement this week that Palestinians would be compensated in a future peace accord with Israel, administration officials said on Monday. Abdullah is scheduled to visit the White House on Thursday. "There may be a letter, but not until after the visit," an administration official said. But he added that any letter would probably not contain the promises sought by the Jordanians. (New York Times)
  • Arabists Against Bush
    More than 50 former U.S. diplomats say President Bush's Middle East policy is costing the U.S. credibility, prestige, and friends, in an open letter to be made public on Tuesday. They included former U.S. ambassador to Qatar Andrew Killgore, who was coordinating the effort, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Akins, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs Robert Keeley, and former ambassador to India John Gunther Dean. The diplomats said they were deeply concerned by Bush's endorsement last month of Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza. (Reuters/Financial Times-UK)
  • Turkish Islamists Held in NATO Bomb Plot
    A Turkish court on Monday charged nine suspected members of the militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam with plotting to set off a bomb next month at a NATO summit meeting in Istanbul that President Bush is scheduled to attend. (AP/New York Times)
  • Suit Over Teen's Death in Israel Tests Antiterror Laws
    Top leaders of Muslim-American organizations are being deposed as witnesses in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a Brooklyn-born teenager who was gunned down near Jerusalem eight years ago. Nathan Lewin, a Washington attorney, filed a $600 million civil complaint on behalf of David's parents, Joyce and Stanley Boim, in May 2000. It accuses several U.S.-based Islamic organizations, alleged Hamas supporters, and Muhammad Salah, a part-time teacher living in a Chicago suburb, of being "part of an ongoing conspiracy to promote Hamas and to raise funds in the U.S. for its terrorist operations."  (Boston Globe)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Responds to Attacks from Khan Yunis - Margot Dudkevitch
    Two days after Palestinian gunmen murdered a woman and her four young daughters at the entrance to Gaza, IDF forces entered the outskirts of Khan Yunis Monday to remove foliage and demolish a number of abandoned buildings used by terrorists to launch their attacks. IDF officials said two anti-tank rockets were fired and a grenade thrown at soldiers, who returned fire. Palestinians reported two dead and 20 others wounded. IDF officials said that since the beginning of April there were over 15 attacks on Israeli communities in Gush Katif launched from Khan Yunis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Condemns Killing of Israeli Family
    The European Union on Monday condemned the fatal shooting of a pregnant Israeli woman and her four young daughters as a "despicable" crime that degraded the Palestinian cause. "The killing of children does not serve any legitimate cause and degrades any purpose which it purports to advance," said Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, speaking for the 25-nation bloc. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Acid Leakage Results in Apprehension of Would-be Bomber
    It was revealed on Monday that police forces in a city in central Israel detained a Palestinian who had been seen running "like crazy." It was then revealed that a leak in his suicide bomb-belt caused phosphorus material to reach the bomber's skin, causing a severe burn on his stomach. (Maariv International)
  • PA Frees Money for Hamas Charities - Arnon Regular
    The PA released funds over the weekend that it froze in August last year belonging to Hamas-affiliated charity organizations. Palestinian sources said the transfer was a one-time gesture and did not indicate a general release of the millions of dollars belonging to Hamas charities currently frozen by the PA. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sharon's Setback - Editorial
    One of the ironical facts about Ariel Sharon is that for all the divisiveness attributed to him, he made it - once he acceded - the hallmark of his strategy to seek a government of national unity. There are those on his right who reckon he has pursued a centrist course far too assiduously, at the expense of certain ideological principles that have always been important to Likud - and, we don't mind saying, to this newspaper. In the immediate aftermath of the party vote, he said that he would neither step down nor abandon his plan but rather consult with members of his party and government on the next steps. (New York Sun, 3 May 04)
  • A Poor Wager - Editorial
    Mr. Sharon's decisive loss of the referendum Sunday within the right-wing Likud Party on his plan to withdraw Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip may have crippled the initiative - or, at least, Mr. Sharon's ability to implement it. Mr. Sharon is the second consecutive Israeli leader, after Ehud Barak, to embark on a bold but ill-prepared initiative to achieve a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both men sought to avoid the hard work of building a consensus at home; both sought to use a U.S. president's leverage as a substitute for forging understandings with the Palestinians. Mr. Barak persuaded President Bill Clinton to hold the failed Camp David summit, which was followed by more than three years of bloodshed and the collapse of the Oslo track of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (Washington Post)
  • To be "Pro-Palestinian" is to Live in a World of Delusions - Clifford D. May
    To wear the label "Pro-Palestinian," you have to appear non-judgmental about innocent Palestinian children being raised to become human bombs. You must refer to those who send such children on suicide/mass murder missions as "political leaders" or, even better, as "spiritual leaders." You must cite the plight of the Palestinian refugees as a key motivation for violence, ignoring the fact that there would have been no refugees had Israel's Arab neighbors not launched a war to destroy the tiny Jewish state immediately upon its birth. (Manchester [NH] Union Leader)
  • Observations:

    An International Double Standard - Amos Gilboa (Maariv International)

    • Why is what's good for Cyprus not good for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
    • When the Turkish army invaded in 1974, approximately 200,000 Greek refugees fled south to the Greek section of the island. During negotiations for reunification, the Greeks demanded that all of the refugees and their descendents return to the Turkish section. The UN and EU did not accept the Greeks' demand to allow the refugees to return.
    • After the invasion, the Turks brought farmers from Turkey and settled them in northern Cyprus. During the negotiations, the Greeks demanded that the Turkish "settlers" return to Turkey, but the UN and EU supported the Turkish position and left the "settlers" and "settlements" in place.
    • In Cyprus, the basic assumption was that the new reality of refugees and settlers, which has been created in Cyprus during the last 30 years, was the decisive factor to be considered. President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon was based on the same assumption, that preference must be given to "the new situation that has been created."
    • Furthermore, the EU did not make ratification of the agreement (which was rejected in a recent referendum) a condition for Cyprus to join the Union.

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