Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 8, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

U.S. Expands Estimate of Missing Anti-Aircraft Missiles - Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    American intelligence agencies say 6,000 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems are believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.
    Shoulder-fired missiles are attractive weapons for terrorists. In recent months, Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies have repeatedly warned that al-Qaeda intends to use them to shoot down planes.
    In 2002, attackers who launched two Russian-made SA-7 missiles almost hit an Israeli commercial aircraft taking off from Mombasa, Kenya.
    Secretary of State Powell said last fall, "no threat is more serious to aviation" than the shoulder-fired missiles, which can be bought on the black market for as little as $5,000.
    More than 40 aircraft have been struck by shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles since the 1970s, causing at least 24 crashes and more than 600 deaths worldwide, according to a State Department estimate.
    In Iraq, the missiles have been used in more than a dozen attacks on American planes and helicopters.

The Fight for Arafat's Fortune Begins (Aljazeera)
    Sources close to the Palestinian leadership said a bitter fight had broken out over who should control Arafat's fortune, estimated at $4.2-6.5 billion.
    Sources said Arafat has written a will transferring control of his assets to members of his wife's family. However, former premier Abu Mazen, who has stepped in as interim leader, believes the fortune belongs to the public treasury.
    After Suha, Arafat's wife, asked Muhammad Rashid, Arafat's confidant and adviser, to prepare a list of his fortune, Rashid said he would furnish the list only to the PA.
    According to Jean-Claude Robard, a Swiss investment adviser, Arafat opened his first secret bank account in 1965 with a $50,000 check from the emir of Kuwait. Since then he has set up other accounts in Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands.
    Arafat also owns a number of hotels and holiday resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria. He is the main shareholder in two cellular telephone companies operating in Tunisia and Algeria.
    Some of Arafat's businesses are in partnership with Arab entrepreneurs, including Rifaat Assad, brother of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad, and Barzan Al-Takriti, half-brother of Saddam Hussein.

    See also Palestinian Investigation of Arafat Funds - Kim Willsher and Inigo Gilmore (Telegraph-UK)
    Palestinian legislator Abdul Jawwad Saleh last week called for Arafat's financial adviser, Muhammad Rashid, who controls a multi-billion dollar network of PLO accounts, to be investigated.
    Saleh is also calling for Arafat's wife, Suha, said to be a business partner of Rashid, to be questioned.
    Last year, the IMF said Arafat had diverted $1 billion or more of PA funds from 1995 to 2000.
    A Palestinian lawyer who has investigated PLO finances said, "The corruption was huge. The PLO had monopolies on cement, petrol, construction, and cigarettes. It has investments everywhere. Nobody knows what has happened to all these assets."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Blair to Pressure Bush for London Summit
    Tony Blair will press George W. Bush to join a new push to revive the Middle East peace process when he flies to Washington this week. Blair wants Bush's backing for a special conference of key Israeli and Palestinian figures to be held in London in the new year. Senior government sources said the starting point would be "filling in necessary details" in UN resolutions that look to the creation of a Palestinian state. (Times-UK)
  • Arafat's Wife Accuses Palestinan Officials of Wanting Him Dead
    Arafat's wife Suha accused senior Palestinian officials on Monday of plotting to "bury him alive." Israeli media had reported that Arafat would be taken off life-support equipment after Abu Mazen and Abu Ala arrived in Paris. "I appeal to you to be aware of the scope of the conspiracy," a shouting Suha Arafat said on Arabic Al Jazeera satellite television. Deputy Palestinian cabinet minister Sufian Abu Zaida responded, "Yasser Arafat is not the private property of Suha Arafat."  (Reuters)
        See also Arafat Doctors "Told to Delay" Brain Death Tests
    Crucial tests to establish whether Yasser Arafat is brain dead have not been carried out by a Paris hospital, a French newspaper reported Saturday, leading to claims that doctors are under pressure to delay tests to determine his condition. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Palestinian Politicians Try to Head Off a Power Struggle - Steven Erlanger
    With Arafat near death, leading Palestinian politicians have moved rapidly to prevent a visible vacuum of power, reaching out to disaffected younger legislators, Palestinian militant organizations, and, quietly, the Israelis. But it is highly unlikely that any new, more collective leadership, even if it lasts, will have the ability or the authority to make important decisions about issues of war and peace for a long time to come, let alone take an openly aggressive role against Palestinian militants and terrorists. "There will be a sharpening of long knives, with groupings around personalities, not platforms," predicted Zakaria al-Qaq, co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. (New York Times)
        See also Rifts Among Palestinians Grow as Power Struggle Looms - Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson (Washington Post)
  • Power Vacuum Expected Upon Arafat's Death - Paul Wiseman
    The bosses of Palestinian militias and factions across the political spectrum met inside the PA offices in Gaza City on how to maintain order and unity in Arafat's absence, but the transition to the post-Arafat era is unlikely to be smooth. "It's like a festival," says teacher Hosam Ziada, 37, a cynical observer of the gathering. "Everybody has to show himself. They are making a meeting, but everyone hates the others. So they have their gangs outside." Dan Schueftan, senior fellow at the National Security Studies Center at Israel's University of Haifa, says the niceties of electoral politics have little meaning in the Palestinian territories, where armed gangs often settle disputes with gunplay. (USA Today)
  • Iraq Displays Foreign Terrorists
    Iraqi government television has repeatedly broadcast confessions of foreign terrorists - 17 Arabs and two Iranians - who infiltrated the country to fight U.S.-led coalition forces. The prisoners - five Syrians, five Saudis, four Jordanians, two Egyptians, and a Palestinian - were accused "of carrying out mass killings, sabotage, inciting sectarianism and racism, destroying the economic and the social infrastructure of our people to take us back to the Dark Ages." Iraqiya TV said the 19 were among 167 people arrested recently by Iraqi police and now under interrogation. The broadcasts were seen as a means of preparing the population for the coming attack on Fallujah, where the government says it's after foreigners and "terrorists." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Saudi Religious Scholars Back Iraqi Insurgents
    A group of 26 prominent Saudi religious scholars have urged Iraqis to support militants fighting U.S.-led forces. In their letter Saturday, the clerics issued a fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting Iraqis from offering any support for military operations carried out by U.S. forces against insurgent strongholds, stressing that armed attacks by Iraqi groups on U.S. troops and their allies represent "legitimate" resistance. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad Attack Abu Mazen and Abu Ala - Arnon Regular, Roni Singer, and Jonathan Lis
    On Sunday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources began attacking Abu Mazen and Abu Ala personally and undermining their legitimacy as leaders of the Palestinian cause. A Hamas spokesman said, "we must set up a joint national leadership to make decisions until elections are held. What was permitted to Yasser Arafat is forbidden to others....Arafat derived his authority from being a symbol, but others don't have that privilege." (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Off-Balance After Arafat - Danny Rubinstein
    Although Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza don't have many troops, i.e., armed activists, they have very broad public support. In public opinion surveys in Gaza they have greater support than the Palestinian ruling party, Fatah. Fatah in Gaza is divided, and the split is expressed in harsh competition between the heads of the security services, who often conduct real battles with shooting, murder, and kidnapping. Representation of Gaza in the Palestinian leadership is quite meager. (Ha'aretz)
  • Goodwill Gestures Planned Toward PA - Aluf Benn
    Israel will respond with confidence-building measures if Arafat's successors impose a real cease-fire in the territories and effect security reforms, Jerusalem sources said Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Every Burial Spot Poses a Problem - Danny Rubenstein
    Justice Minister Yosef Lapid put Israel's position bluntly last week when he said that Jerusalem is where the kings of Israel are buried, not terrorists.
        The family burial plot of the al-Kidwas, Yasser Arafat's paternal family, in Khan Yunis, may be the compromise site, in keeping with Islamic tradition regarding burial in a family plot. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Arafat Family Plot in Gaza an Unkempt Dump
    Unkempt, ankle deep in rubbish, and the air thick with flies from the stinking market next door, the Arafat family plot could not be a more inauspicious burial place for the icon of Palestinian nationhood. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Hizballah Flies Reconnaissance Drone Over Israel - Yoav Stern
    The IDF confirmed that an unmanned reconnaissance drone flew over the northern city of Nahariya Sunday. Hizballah claimed responsibility. (Ha'aretz)
        The IDF believes the drone to be of Iranian origin and said, "The State of Israel views gravely any infiltration into its sovereign territory from the air, sea, or by land, and will act to ensure the security of its citizens." (IDF) .
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel, the U.S., and the Age of Terror - Roger Cohen
    Throughout its first term, the Bush administration held that the road to Jerusalem passed through Baghdad. Has the time not come for the administration to adjust its approach to Israel and put peace in Jerusalem first? But the arguments against a change of policy remain vigorous. "It's fantasy land to think some change in Middle East policy would have an effect on the terrorists," said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "For years, you had Bill Clinton focusing like a laser on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and did that discourage bin Laden from plotting to destroy us? These people want Israel eradicated, so there's no way you can accommodate them."
        Mr. Bush may feel a personal inclination to respond to Prime Minister Tony Blair's insistence, in a congratulatory message after the election, that Israeli-Palestinian peace is "the single most pressing challenge in our world today." But Mr. Bush's own political landscape - complete with Israel-loving Christian evangelicals and Jews who voted for him in Florida - is very different from that of his British ally. (New York Times)
  • The Man Who Refused to Say Yes - Editorial
    It is not often in history that someone's legacy can come down to one single defining moment, to one single critical choice. But such is the story of Mr. Arafat's life, and it is almost unbearably disappointing that four years ago, faced with the admittedly difficult choice of saying yes to Israel, Mr. Arafat said no. When Arafat entered Gaza as the head of the Palestinian National Authority, he added only pomp and ceremony to his authoritarian, secretive, patronage-ridden rule. He made no serious attempt to build a competent government or to prepare his people for the required compromises of a peace deal or the responsibilities of statehood. (New York Times)
  • Beyond Arafat - Jim Hoagland
    You owe me. Pay up. Or else. That was the underlying message in Arafat's many speeches to the UN, interviews with Western and Arab journalists, and official meetings with international civil servants at the height of his career as a money-grubbing revolutionary. It is bad enough that a shakedown artist came to be the recognized leader of a people abused by history and subjugated over the centuries. That the Palestinians internalized the Arafatist "pay up" view of world politics is even more tragic and self-defeating. (Washington Post)
  • Footprints in the Sand - Thomas L. Friedman
    Once it became clear, after the collapse of the Camp David talks, that no deal was possible with Arafat, I wished for his speedy disappearance. He was a bad man, not simply for the way he introduced a whole new level of terrorism to world politics, but because of the crimes he committed against his own people. There, history will judge him very harshly. For him, it was better to die in Paris, and have two generations of Palestinians die in exile, than be the Arab leader who officially and unambiguously agreed to share Jerusalem with the Jews. (New York Times)
  • The Arafat Enigma - Robert Malley
    Arafat was the creation more than the creator of Palestinian politics, the expression of an ethereal national consensus, the most fluent reader of Palestinian possibilities and limitations. His personification of the Palestinian political center of gravity was his political currency, which is why he resisted calls to crack down on the violent acts of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or compel order. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    White House Must Wait on Mideast - Barry Schweid (AP/Newsday)

    • Apart from President Bush's reassurances of unwavering support for Palestinian statehood, there is little his administration is set to do in the short term to try to break the Middle East deadlock. Administration strategists seem convinced that serious progress is going to take some time.
    • First off, they must wait out Arafat's illness and then gauge whether his successors can maintain calm and provide Israel with a partner for negotiations.
    • Second, the most promising opening for peacemaking - Sharon's projected withdrawal from Gaza - is not due to begin until next year. The plan also requires final approval by the Israeli government.
    • Palestinian groups that have leveled deadly attacks on Israeli civilians could sabotage that opening, and it will take time to know whether new Palestinian leaders will handcuff them. Israeli officials said there are some 50 terror alerts a day, and the relative calm is due to interception by Israeli forces of would-be attackers. Both Bush and Sharon are loath to start negotiations amid violence.
    • James Phillips, Middle East specialist at the Heritage Foundation, said Arafat has "really poisoned the atmosphere for prospective peace talks, promising so many things and failing to deliver so often, he eroded Israeli trust in a Palestinian negotiating partner."
    • State Department spokesman Richard Boucher made clear Friday that the U.S.-backed "road map," and not some new approach, remains the administration's vehicle for getting to the peace table.

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