Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 28, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia Tied to Iraq's Missing Arms - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation.
    John A. Shaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.
    Most of Saddam's most powerful arms were systematically separated from other arms like mortars, bombs, and rockets, and sent to Syria and Lebanon, and possibly to Iran, he said.
    Shaw said he believes that the withdrawal of Russian-made weapons and explosives from Iraq was part of plan by Saddam to set up a "redoubt" in Syria that could be used as a base for launching pro-Saddam insurgency operations in Iraq.
    The Russian units were dispatched beginning in January 2003 and by March had destroyed hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq while dispersing arms to Syria, said a second defense official.

IDF May Need to Keep Peace for Palestinians - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    When Arafat is gone, "I believe we will witness a settling of accounts and the army will be forced to become involved in order to protect the civilian population," Central Command battalion commander Lt.-Col. Y. said Wednesday.
    At the same time, fugitives remain holed up in Arafat's compound in Ramallah, where they continue to plan terror attacks.
    "We are talking about fugitives with blood on their hands who are responsible for the murders of Israeli civilians and soldiers," he said.

Aksa Martyrs Brigades Demands PA Prime Minister's Removal - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    In yet another sign of growing lawlessness, the armed wing of Fatah, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, on Tuesday threatened to break away from the Fatah faction and become an independent militia unless PA Prime Minister Qurei is fired within two weeks.
    The group accused Qurei and other Fatah officials of corruption and trading in the blood of "martyrs."
    "The Aksa Martyrs Brigades carry weapons and resist the occupation while the merchants of Fatah search for new privileges and monopolies to increase their wealth," said a leaflet distributed by Fatah gunmen in Ramallah.


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  • Arafat's Health Worsens
    Reuters quoted officials and medics as saying that Arafat, 75, was slipping in and out of consciousness. A Palestinian minister was quoted as describing him as "very, very sick." An Israeli government official said Wednesday that Arafat would be allowed to seek treatment anywhere he wanted, or could have any medical equipment brought in. (New York Times)
        Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said Arafat's condition was stable. Israel has drawn up contingency plans, including how to deal with possible riots and prevent Palestinian attempts to bury Arafat in Jerusalem. Barry Rubin, an Israeli biographer of Arafat, predicts it would take several years before a real leader emerges. "As long as the battle goes on, no one can make decisions, especially moderate or compromise decisions," Rubin said. "This means the chances of a negotiated peace are close to zero." (AP/ABC News)
  • Family Noticed Change in Suspected Sinai Bomber
    The Palestinian believed to be the mastermind of bomb attacks on Israeli tourists in Egypt began dressing and talking like a Muslim fundamentalist more than a year ago, his neighbors and relatives said Tuesday. Ayad Said Saleh, who died in the bombings, was a religious fanatic who may have been linked to Islamic militants outside Egypt, but not necessarily al-Qaeda, investigators said. The 25-year-old taxi driver and school dropout grew his beard longer and exchanged T-shirts and slacks for the midcalf garb of fundamentalists. If a woman said hello, he wouldn't respond. He ignored neighbors whose observance fell short of his standards. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arafat's Illness Highlights Absence of Clear Successor - Arnon Regular
    There is no one, either in the PA or the PLO, who is clearly in line to serve as Arafat's replacement. There are currently numerous power centers in the territories, and all are expected to fight to succeed Arafat. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Everything is Up for Grabs - Danny Rubinstein
    Without Arafat, it does not mean the Palestinian movement will become more moderate and serious. The opposite may even be the case, with all-out war erupting in the territories, which will strengthen the infrastructure of terrorism. Abu Mazen, 72, and Abu Ala, 68, are the candidates slated to succeed him in his two primary roles: Abu Mazen as chairman of the PLO's executive committee, and Abu Ala as head of the PA. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Day After Arafat - Amit Cohen
    The death of Arafat, whether it takes place today or in a year, would constitute a severe crisis for the Palestinian people. Only after he is gone would they come to realize that he has no replacement. The veteran leadership will vanish together with Arafat. Its members' power stemmed from him, and many are identified with the corruption of the PA. Political figures like Abu Mazen or Abu Ala would not be able to replace Arafat since they do not have the support of the street or of Fatah's armed operatives. The young generation of the Tanzim and the al-Aksa Brigades is scattered among gangs, many controlled by Hizballah. The intermediate generation is essentially non-existent. Mohammad Dahlan or Marwan Barghouti could assume the leadership role, but that would be a far-fetched outcome.
        Israeli officials see two possible scenarios: One, in which the anarchy gains momentum and lasts for a long period of time, thereby dividing Palestinian territories into several areas with little connection between them, and, two, which is probably more realistic, a group of leaders emerges rather than one leader, which would include Fatah ground commanders, heads of security apparatuses, and politicians like Abu Mazen or Abu Ala. Without Arafat's presence, Hamas would feel more comfortable to establish its status. Yet Hamas is also suffering from a leadership vacuum after the elimination of its leaders. (Maariv International)
  • No Love for Arafat in Arab World - Zvi Bar'el
    Arafat's isolation in Ramallah to a great extent kept the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from international, and especially Arab, involvement. Any public support Arafat got from the Arab world appeared to stem mainly from opposition to Israeli policy rather than any love for the Palestinian leader. After Palestinian officials began criticizing Arafat publicly, criticism followed in many Arab-language media outlets. Some even demanded Arafat's resignation or removal, while various surveys detailed his failings as a leader, as well as the failure of the intifada. (Ha'aretz)
  • He Failed His People and Ours - David Horovitz
    Arafat certainly forced the fate of the Palestinians into the global consciousness. But his refusal to disavow terrorism has certainly thwarted their push for statehood. It was Arafat who, in his disinclination to confront Hamas and other terrorists, gradually destroyed the Israeli majority's Oslo optimism. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize a decade ago was testament to international hope and expectation, rather than confidence. He will be mourned by precious few, even of the Israelis who had wanted to see him as a peace partner. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • There is No "New Sharon" - Uri Dan
    On October 26, 2004, Prime Minister Sharon gained the Knesset's approval to give the order for a retreat from Gaza. Thousands of residents of the Jewish settlements will be uprooted, the very settlements whose establishment and development Sharon championed over 30 years. Sharon has undergone no ideological change. The situation on the ground has changed. Sharon wants to continue fighting the war thrust upon us from a better military position. Israel remains on the offensive, killing terrorists and those who command them.
        Sharon believes disengagement is the only way Israel can retain some 50% of Judea and Samaria. If his opponents somehow succeed in derailing his plan, he told me recently, Israel will wind up with only about 4% of Judea and Samaria. In other words, Sharon is warning his opponents not to bring him down. If they do, disengagement from Gaza will be replaced by the kind of massive withdrawals championed in the plans sponsored by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel at a Crossroads - Nicolas Rothwell
    Sharon, and the majority of public opinion inside Israel, does not aim to leave Gaza because of some dewy-eyed desire to facilitate the creation of a viable Palestinian state. They seek to leave in order to strengthen Israel. Fifty years of mutating Arab hostility and more than 1,000 savage Israeli deaths have virtually killed the "peace camp." The "disengagement strategy" is precisely what it sounds like: an Israeli mental withdrawal from the possibility of coexistence with the Palestinians, who now lie safely behind an ever more effective security barrier. The Palestinians, and their Arab supporters, will have to accept that a state encompassing almost all the West Bank is no longer on offer. (The Australian)
  • Time to Tell Hussein's Story - Anne Applebaum
    With bombs exploding in the Green Zone, the fate of Saddam Hussein seems to many a secondary priority. But what if this logic is backward? What if the insurgency, the bombs, and the massacres are happening precisely because there has been no national discussion of the past? A complete trial of Hussein, one that showed the extent of the corruption, forced collaboration, violence and terror he imposed on the entire nation, might help Iraqis understand that all of them - Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish - suffered in different ways. A wider debate about how Iraq got to where it is might help persuade Iraqis to invest in the present. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    America is Key to a Gaza Pull-Out - Dennis Ross (Financial Times-UK)

    • While Sharon will proceed with the Gaza withdrawal, the Hamas-Arafat desire to foster the impression of a great victory will continue to generate attacks against Israelis, peaking as the withdrawal takes place. Sharon will not allow Israel to be humiliated.
    • Israeli withdrawal and dismantling of settlements creates a precedent. Never before has Israel withdrawn from settlements in Palestinian areas. Should Palestinians assume responsibility in those areas - including real security responsibilities - it would be possible to end the day-to-day war and get back to peace-making.
    • The prospect of Israel leaving Gaza confronts reformers with a challenge. Palestinians must govern themselves when the Israelis are out; they must fulfill their obligations, and prove there will not be independent militias with the impunity to attack Israel. If they prove this, they can demonstrate to the world and to Israelis that they are ready for statehood and that the Gaza model can be applied to the West Bank.
    • But if they fail, the Palestinian cause will suffer a huge setback. In all probability that is what will happen if violence accompanies the Israeli withdrawal.
    • The U.S. must coordinate a declared public stand among EU and Arab leaders that they will help meet Palestinian needs, but only in the absence of attacks on the Israelis as they pull out. This step is critical to delegitimizing such attacks and raising the costs to Arafat and Hamas of orchestrating them.
    • Whoever is elected U.S. president will have to prepare the ground well in advance of the Israeli withdrawal if the Gaza pull-out is to offer an opening to stability and not simply a new line from which the daily war continues.

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