Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 8, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Former Palestinian Militant: Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Disarray - Mark Willacy and Tony Eastley (ABC-Australia)
    One wanted militant from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades believes the Palestinian uprising has achieved nothing and says Israel has been successful in crushing the resistance, leaving his group a leaderless rabble involved in extortion and kidnapping.
    Abu Yasser, 29, used to be a gunman in the al-Aqsa Brigades and is wanted by the Israelis for carrying out a number of attacks against Jewish targets.
    "Our cell was made up of gunmen who would shoot at Israelis - both soldiers and civilians," he says.
    "The al-Aqsa Brigades here in the West Bank has lost its leadership. There's no one left to lead," he says.
    What remains has split into two groups - one that wants to stop the killing and start talking, and another made up of thugs.
    "These thugs steal, kidnap, and run protections rackets....The Palestinian people now fear the al-Aqsa Brigades rather than respect them."

Palestinians Use Perks to Counter Settlers (Reuters)
    Palestinians are offering financial perks, including rent-free accommodation, to lure Hebron Arabs back to the city's centuries-old casbah.
    Worried that the slow drain of residents from the old quarter could loosen their hold on Hebron, one local charity says it has moved 2,500 Palestinians into the casbah in the past decade, more than tripling the Palestinian population there.
    The Palestinian Authority offers free water and electricity to returning casbah residents and exempts them from taxes.

Investigators Say Wahhabis Behind Attacks (St. Petersburg Times-Russia)
    Russian investigators believe that a group of Wahhabi rebels from the North Caucasus republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia organized the bombings of two Russian airplanes and the Rizhskaya metro station last month.
    They believe that the group's leader, Achemez Gochiyayev, who is wanted by authorities on suspicion of organizing the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow, is the mastermind behind the August attacks.

Arab Smuggling Network Broken Up (BBC News)
    A network based in Detroit and Lima, Peru, which smuggled around 200 people from the Middle East into the U.S. via South America, was broken last month with the arrest of its four leaders, Peruvian and U.S. officials said.

Iraq Insurgent Gathered Security Information on Schools in Six U.S. States - Brian Ross (ABC News)
    A man described as an Iraqi insurgent involved in anti-coalition activities had downloaded school floor plans and safety and security information about elementary and high schools in six states, according to law enforcement and education officials.
    On Wednesday, the federal government warned schools nationwide to look out for suspicious activity that might signal terrorist activity, and told school officials to be on the lookout for anyone spying on their buildings or buses, expressing interest in obtaining site plans, and other types of suspicious activity.

U.S. Gives Jordan Mobile X-Ray Unit to Intercept Iraqi WMDs (AFP/Yahoo)
    The U.S. government gave Jordan a mobile X-ray unit to help intercept contraband, including items that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD), said U.S. charge d'affaires in Amman David Hale.
    The van "is equipped with sophisticated detection devices that will increase the government's ability to ensure Jordan's trade with other countries is safe and secure," Hale said.
    The Jordanian daily Al-Rai reported on May 28 that Jordanian customs officials stopped scrap trucks entering from Iraq after one of them was tested positive for "enriched uranium."

Nobel Science Prize is a First for Israel - Matt Moore (AP/Indianapolis Star)
    Israelis Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko and American Irwin Rose won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday, the first time an Israeli has won a Nobel science prize.
    Ciechanover, 56, is director of the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Technion in Haifa, while Hershko, 70, originally from Hungary, is a professor there.
    The two Israelis said they hope their work will lead to advances in cancer treatment.

The Economist: Israel's GDP Per Capita Third Highest among Emerging Markets - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    Israel's rating by British financial weekly The Economist among the world's 25 emerging economies has again improved.
    Israel rates third in per capital GDP in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), at almost $20,000, behind Hong Kong's $28,800 and Singapore's $25,000.

Nigeria to Cooperate with Israel to Fight Desertification (Xinhuanet-China)
    Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar declared Monday that his country was ready to tap Israel's experience in combating desertification, after meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria Noam Katz.
    "I know that Israel has been able to combat desertification successfully and we are ready to learn from the Israeli experience," he said.

Useful Reference:

3 Decades of Attacks on Jewish Targets and Israelis Abroad (Reuters/New York Times)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Scores Killed as Car Bombs Rock Israeli Vacation Spots in Egypt's Sinai
    A powerful car bomb demolished the west side of the 400-room Hilton Hotel at Taba, an Egyptian Red Sea resort about 100 yards from the border with Israel. Two other car bombs exploded at the Red Sea camping area of Ras al Sultan and near Nuweiba. At least 31 people were killed, including 19 Israelis, and 160 were wounded. More than 30 Israelis are missing and some may be trapped beneath the rubble in the hotel. Israeli rescue teams were initially delayed by Egyptian border guards. The Israeli government had warned its citizens against traveling to Sinai due to the potential threat of terrorist attacks. (CNN-Ha'aretz-Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
        See also "Bodies Strewn Everywhere" - Revital Levy-Stein
    "There were dozens of bodies strewn everywhere, some of them children," said Rani, a paramedic from Eilat, standing at the entrance to the Hilton Hotel. "I personally saw about 30." (Ha'aretz)
        See also "Exodus 2004"
    Thousands of Israelis are leaving resorts in the Sinai Peninsula and returning to Israel following deadly terror attacks Thursday night. With little or no help from Egyptian authorities, Israelis are gathering their countrymen and making efforts to find anyone missing. (Jerusalem Post)
        Egyptian Resorts Bombed: Photographs | Video (New York Times)
  • Only Hussein Had Full Picture - Bob Drogin and Mark Mazzetti
    Shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year, Saddam Hussein gathered his top generals together to share what came to them as astonishing news: The weapons that the U.S. was launching a war to remove did not exist - so says a report by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group released Wednesday. "There was plenty of surprise when Saddam said, 'Sorry guys, we don't have any'" weapons of mass destruction to use against the invading forces, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. Far from being kept in the dark by sycophantic generals, Hussein was micromanaging Iraq's weapons policy himself. Saddam "was the hub of Iraqi WMD policy and intent," the report concluded. "Control of WMD development and its deployment was never far from his touch." (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Saddam Paid Off French Leaders - Bill Gertz
    Saddam Hussein paid $1.78 billion to French government officials, businessmen, and journalists in a bid to have sanctions removed, according to the CIA report. Iraqi intelligence agents targeted French President Chirac by giving gifts to a spokesman, two of his aides, and two French businessmen, the report said. One French politician assured Saddam in a letter that France would use its veto in the UN Security Council against any U.S. effort to attack Iraq. (Washington Times)
        See also Report of the Iraq Survey Group (CIA)
        See also below Commentary: Biological Weapons and Israel - Excerpts from the Iraq Survey Group Report (Duelfer Report) (CIA)
  • An Ominous Drone in the Gaza Sky - Molly Moore
    Long before dusk, the densely populated Palestinian labyrinth of Jabalya is transformed into a ghost town, with civilians cowering in their apartments and masked gunmen darting through the shadows carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and homemade bombs. The sound that sows fear is the omnipresent whine of unmanned surveillance aircraft. On Thursday, no one walked the streets without keeping a wary eye on the cloudless sky in search of the brilliant white drone.
        "Whenever you're out, you look to the sky to see if there are planes or the drone. Everyone is scared," said Khalid Kahlot, 40. When the remote-piloted aircraft fires a missile, "there's no noise, no light, just a 'sphew.' A second later, it hits," said Khaled Abu Habel, 38, who said one of the missiles last Friday killed two of his cousins, both members of Hamas. By mid-afternoon, children and young men start stretching huge cloth sheets across the narrow alleyways to provide cover from prying camera lenses above. (Washington Post)
  • EU Diplomat Admits Success of Israel Barrier - Honor Mahony
    The EU's representative in the Middle East, Marc Otte, has conceded that the controversial barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank has stopped Palestinian extremists from carrying out suicide attacks in Israel. "The barrier has drastically sunk the number of attacks," the Belgian diplomat told the Financial Times Deutschland, making him the first high-level EU diplomat to publicly say that the barrier has fulfilled its aim.
        He also singled out recent attacks by Hamas on Israeli villages with self-made rockets for particular criticism. "The Palestinians knew very well that, with these attacks - which killed two small children - they had crossed a red line." Otte said that the Palestinian leadership has for a long time not reacted at all to these regular rocket attacks. (EU Observer-Belgium)
  • V.P. Candidates Agree on Arafat
    Both vice presidential candidates said Yasser Arafat is not a partner for peace. As Vice President Dick Cheney faced off in Cleveland against Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), one of their few points of agreement was the need for Israel to continue isolating him. "They don't have a partner for peace right now," Edwards said. "They certainly don't have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace." Cheney agreed. "There has to be an interlocutor you can trust and deal with. And we won't have that, we don't have it now, in a Yasser Arafat," he said. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon Clarifies Weisglass's Comments on Road Map
    Prime Minister Sharon issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying his position on the disengagement plan and on the international road map, to assuage concerns voiced following an interview with Ha'aretz by his senior adviser, Dov Weisglass. Sharon said he supports the road map, and laid the "blame for the diplomatic freeze on the Palestinians who refuse to carry out their commitments and continue along the path of terrorism, violence, and incitement." He said that "in the absence of a Palestinian partner, the government initiated the disengagement plan to bolster Israel's diplomatic standing, improve its ability to defend its citizens, and ease the suffering of the civilian population." Sharon said the plan was meant to serve "until the time at which a Palestinian partner could be found who would fulfill all the required commitments in the road map, and with whom it would be possible to hold diplomatic negotiations and move ahead toward peace."
        The clarifications that the Bush administration sought following publication of the interview have proved satisfactory, State Department officials said. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Israel informed the U.S. administration that Sharon remains committed to the road map peace plan and to President Bush's vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Observations: Interview with Dov Weisglass - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Who Allegedly Sold Land to Jews Killed - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, on Wednesday shot and killed Sami Burnat, 51, near Ramallah. Burnat had been suspected of selling land to Jews. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Biological Weapons and Israel - Excerpts from the Iraq Survey Group Report (Duelfer Report)
    Saddam himself exercised control over Iraq's BW arsenal, and he was prepared to use it against U.S. and allied forces in the event of war. At a meeting in early January 1991, he identified the targets for the BW weapons. Israel was to be first and all Israeli cities were targets, but he ordered that strikes concentrate on Tel Aviv. U.S. forces were to be targets if they attacked with unconventional forces. He also identified Riyadh and Jeddah as targets. In a transcript of discussions held at the time, Saddam ordered the use of the more persistent (presumably anthrax) BW agents: "we want the long term, the many years kind."
        Iraq's BW infrastructure emerged from that conflict (1991 Gulf War) damaged, but not destroyed, and in the wake of the war the regime tried to preserve what it could of its BW program. Aiming to leave open the option of restarting BW activities once UN inspections were over and sanctions were lifted, Baghdad attempted to remove all possible signatures of its past offensive activities. Simultaneously, Iraq undertook a significant denial and deception effort intended to conceal from the UN the true nature, scope, and ultimate objectives of the program. By 1995, these efforts had failed, and Iraq admitted its offensive program, leading in 1996 to the destruction, at Saddam's orders and under UN supervision, of most of Iraq's BW physical infrastructure.
        Saddam continued to see the utility of WMD. He explained that he purposely gave an ambiguous impression about possession as a deterrent to Iran. He gave explicit direction to maintain the intellectual capabilities. As UN sanctions eroded there was a concomitant expansion of activities that could support full WMD reactivation. He directed that ballistic missile work continue that would support long-range missile development. Virtually no senior Iraqi believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD forever. Evidence suggests that, as resources became available and the constraints of sanctions decayed, there was a direct expansion of activity that would have the effect of supporting future WMD reconstitution.
        Dr. Bilal told ISG, "Al Hakam was kept as potential for the BW program in the future." He described that they decided they must do everything to preserve it and stated that the entire bioinsecticide and SCP effort at Al Hakam was a "100% cover story" created by 'Amir Rashid. Dr. Rihab also stated that the intent to produce the SCP and bioinsecticide at Al Hakam was "to cover the equipment." ISG judges that in the wake of Desert Storm and destruction of much of the BW effort, Iraq's strategic objective was to give the appearance of cooperating with UNSCOM while preserving the intellectual capital amassed in prior years on BW. (CIA)
  • Moral Norms, Even in War - Ze'ev Schiff
    Not a week goes by that the Americans don't use warplanes in the center of Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, against insurgent guerrilla forces. It is clear that the American air strikes in the population centers are causing many innocent civilian casualties. It is not our role to preach to others, but when the actions of the Israeli Air Force, including the current operation in the Gaza Strip, are compared to what is happening in Iraq, it can be said that the IDF is 77 times more careful than the Americans in their actions in population centers. The Americans are talking about the need for "proportionality" in the response to murderous terror, but Israel is implementing it.
        For the U.S., Russia, England, and France, proportionality is measured by a different yardstick. Anyone who is accusing Israel of committing intentional war crimes in its war on terror does not know what he is talking about. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel's Commitment to Domestic and International Law in Times of War - Judge Amnon Straschnov, former IDF Military Advocate General (ICA/JCPA)
  • Concordia Wrong to Cave to Extremists - Editorial
    Concordia University officials banned Ehud Barak, a former prime minister of Israel, from speaking on campus Oct. 19. "We didn't want our campus to become a police state," Rector Frederick Lowy said Tuesday. For fear of becoming a police state, then, Concordia has let itself become a mob state instead. Intimidation wins. (Montreal Gazette)
        See also Silence on Campus - Editorial
    After succumbing to protesters and canceling a speech two years ago by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Concordia has now denied yet another former Israeli PM, Ehud Barak, the chance to confront Middle East issues. Forced silence on controversial issues is a much greater threat to the university than protesters ever could be. (Toronto Star)
  • The Muslim "Debate" on Hostage-Taking and Beheading - Amir Taheri
    The seizure of hostages and "exhibition killing" go back to the early stages of Islamic history. In the Arabia of the seventh century, where Islam was born, seizing hostages was practiced by rival tribes, and "exhibition killing" was a weapon of psychological war.
        A survey of Muslim views shows overwhelming, though not unanimous, condemnation of the Beslan massacre. But in all cases the reasons given for the condemnation are political rather than religious. Muslim commentators assert that Russia, having supported "the Palestinian cause," did not deserve such treatment. Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni Muslim scholar based in Qatar, was among the first to condemn the Beslan massacre. At the same time, however, he insists that a similar attack on Israeli schools would be justified because Israeli schoolchildren, if not killed, could grow up to become soldiers. Implicit is that killing innocent people in the lands of the "infidel" is justified as long as the victims are not citizens of states sympathetic to "the Arab cause," whatever it happens to be at any given time. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Options for Iran - Gerald Steinberg
    Scarcely a day goes by without an official Iranian warning of dire consequences if American or Israeli military action is taken to disrupt Iran's illicit program to enrich uranium for weapons production. A radical Islamic regime in which officials declare their intention of "wiping Israel off the map," and support Hamas, Hizballah, and other terror groups involved in mass attacks, must be taken very seriously. The addition of a nuclear capability and a ballistic missile delivery system beyond the current Shihab-3 deployment constitutes a red line for Israeli decision-makers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Battle of the Pump - Thomas L. Friedman
    The "global war on terrorism" war is rooted in the Arab-Muslim world. That means there is no war on terrorism that doesn't involve helping this region onto a more promising path for its huge population of young people - too many of whom are unemployed or unemployable because their oil-rich regimes are resistant to change and their religious leaders are resisting modernity. The Arab-Muslim world is in a must-change human development crisis, "but oil is like a narcotic that kills a lot of the pain for them and prevents real change,'' says David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (New York Times)
  • Speaking the Truth about Saudi Arabia - Terry Eastland
    One of the harder things to do in Washington is to speak the truth about Saudi Arabia. So give the State Department credit for declaring that in the desert kingdom there is no freedom of religion. In Saudi Arabia, "freedom of religion does not exist." Saudi Arabia's official, state-funded religion is Wahhabism, the terrible legacy of the 18th-century Arab militant Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab. Discrimination in education and employment - and worse - is the lot of those who fail to adhere to Wahhabism. Religious police keep a vigilant watch. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Myth of Arab Palestine - Sarah Honig
    Palestine is a Roman name invented to rile defeated Jews, a European import adopted by 20th-century Arabs in order to wrest the narrow sliver of land Jews could call their own. There never was an independent Arab entity in Palestine. The myth of plundered Palestine was born after Arab aggression lost the Arabs more land in 1967. No one cares that the PLO had been founded three years before that. No one asks which Palestine Arafat sought to liberate prior to the onset of awful occupation. The struggle isn't about the liberation of "occupied Palestine" but about the attempted annihilation of Israel. Israelis are often told that had we not successfully defended ourselves, we'd be terror-free. (We also wouldn't be here.)
        The postulate that despair triggers terror isn't questioned. No nation had ever been as humiliated, tortured, and bloodied as the Jews during the Holocaust. Nevertheless, outraged Jewish survivors didn't storm German schools and massacre the Nazis' progeny. Jews are expected to obligingly turn the other cheek. The right to rage seems an exclusive Muslim preserve. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanese Voices Rise Against Syria's Dominance - Nicholas Blanford
    A bluntly worded UN report last week found Syria and Lebanon guilty of failing to comply with Security Council Resolution 1559, the U.S.- and French-sponsored resolution passed last month calling on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and for the dismantling of all militias such as Hizballah. It also calls for the Lebanese government to deploy troops along the Lebanon-Israel frontier. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported that as of September 30, "The Syrian military and intelligence apparatus had not been withdrawn.... United Nations staff on the ground had not discerned any change in the status of Hizballah...[and] the government of Lebanon had not extended its control over all its territory."
        Posters praising the UN resolution now appear in Christian districts of Beirut, and prominent opposition figures are showing up on television to denounce Syrian interference in Lebanon's affairs. Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druze community, has emerged among the staunchest critics. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    Interview with Dov Weisglass - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

    Dov Weisglass is Director of the Prime Minister's Bureau.

    • "I am in ongoing and continuous contact with Rice. In complex times it could be every day, by phone. In less complex times it's a phone call a week. On average, I meet with her once a month. Since May 2002 I have met with her more than 20 times. And every meeting is a meeting. The shortest one was an hour and a half." What does she call you? "Dubi." What do you call her? "Condy."
    • "If something happens - an unusual military operation, a hitch, a targeted killing that succeeded or one that didn't succeed - before it becomes an imbroglio, she calls me and says, 'We saw so-and-so on CNN. What's going on?' And I say, 'Condy, the usual 10 minutes?' She laughs and we hang up. Ten minutes later, after I find out what happened, I get back to her and tell her the whole truth. The whole truth. I tell her and she takes it down: this is what we intended, this is how it came out. She doesn't get worked up. She believes us."
    • "It makes it possible for us to talk to them in real time, informally. When my conversation with Rice ends, she knows that I walk six steps to Sharon's desk and I know that she walks twelve steps to Bush's desk. That creates an intimate relationship between the two bureaus and prevents a thousand entanglements."
    • "The Americans were here for four months in 2003. Through [assistant secretary of state] John Wolf they were involved in the process in the most intimate way. Wolf reported directly to Rice. Those four months had tremendous pedagogical value. The Americans saw for themselves what the Palestinians' most solemn promises really meant. They saw the Palestinians' detailed working plans and their splendid diagrams and they saw how nothing came of it."
    • "When you add to that the trauma of September 11 and their understanding that Islamic terrorism is indivisible, you understand that they reached their conclusions by themselves. They didn't need us to understand what it's all about. So, when we came to them and told them that there is no one to talk to, we didn't have any problems. They already knew that as of now, there is no one to talk to."
    • "Sharon doesn't think that after a conflict of 104 years, it's possible to come up with a piece of paper that will end the matter. He thinks the other side had to undergo a deep and extended sociopolitical change."
    • "The American term is to 'park conveniently.' The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians....It also transfers the initiative to our hands. It compels the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote."
    • "We succeeded in removing the issue of the political process from the agenda. And we educated the world to understand that there is no one to talk to. And we received a no-one-to-talk-to certificate. That certificate says: (1) There is no one to talk to. (2) As long as there is no one to talk to, the geographic status quo remains intact. (3) The certificate will be revoked only when this-and-this happens - when Palestine becomes Finland."

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