Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 25, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian-Canadian Found Guilty of Planning Attacks in North America (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Jamal Akkal, 24, a Gaza-born Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty Wednesday to planning attacks on Israelis in North America and was sentenced by an Israeli military court to four years in prison.
    Prosecutors said Akkal planned to carry out attacks against Israeli officials traveling in the U.S., as well as bombings against Jewish targets in North America.
    The army said Akkal had met in Gaza with militants from Hamas and received weapons training.
    According to the indictment, Akkal was to buy an M-16 rifle in Detroit and bomb materials to carry out the attacks in cities where many Jews live.

Vacuum Left by Arafat Threatens to Split Fatah - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
    The Fatah Revolutionary Council is almost certain to nominate former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas Thursday as its candidate in January's elections to succeed Arafat.
    At an emotional meeting of Fatah "young guards" in Bethlehem Wednesday, momentum appeared to be growing behind Abbas' candidacy, despite a reportedly tearful appeal by Marwan Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, to back him as president as a means of pressuring Israel to release him from jail.
    The job of the "young guard'' now, says Palestinian National Council member Taysir Nasrullah, is to press a probable Abbas presidency "to fire all the rotten symbols of corruption in the cabinet and other forums, now that the guy who was protecting them has gone."

Thousands Still Detained by Egypt in Wake of Sinai Bombings (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian police beat and killed detainees, took hostages, and illegally held people in the quest for the perpetrators of the Sinai bombings last month, human rights groups alleged Wednesday.
    Aida Seif el-Dawla, head of the Egyptian Association Against Torture, said many of the 5,000 people detained for questioning were still being held in jails in Sinai, Cairo, and elsewhere in Egypt.

Top Mideast Envoy Joseph Sisco Dies - David Stout (New York Times)
    Joseph Sisco, 85, a senior diplomat who helped forge America's Middle East policy in the 1960s and 70s, died Tuesday.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranians Retain Plutonium Plan in Nuclear Deal
    The recent nuclear accord European officials signed with Iran appears to have halted Tehran's uranium enrichment program at least temporarily, but it leaves Iran free to make plutonium, which can also be used as fuel for nuclear weapons, diplomats and arms experts say. Weapons experts say plutonium is often preferred to enriched uranium for compact warheads on missiles because it takes a smaller amount to produce a significant blast.
        European diplomats said the issue of suspending Iran's plutonium program was set aside during recent negotiations as a concession to getting the more limited suspension deal. But American experts suggested the European approach had addressed only half the atomic threat. (New York Times)
        See also Before Ink Dries, Iran Wants Exemptions
    Tehran requests EU allow it to conduct nuclear tests despite recently signed agreement to forgo them. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • U.S. to Urge EU to Get Tough on Iran Nuclear Aims
    The U.S. will press the EU to get tough with Iran at a meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog on Thursday, urging a trigger for UN Security Council action if Tehran resumes any uranium enrichment work. "Tehran has been playing the EU and IAEA skillfully while acting as if it has something to hide," said Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa director for the International Crisis Group think-tank. The Iranians have made clear the freeze will be short and that uranium enrichment is what they term a sovereign right that Tehran will never renounce.
        Tens of thousands of Iran's Basij militiamen rallied south of Tehran on Wednesday, shouting "Death to America, Death to Israel." (Reuters)
  • EU Chief Holds Secret Talks with Hamas
    EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told BBC he had a secret meeting with the Palestinian militant group Hamas some months ago, despite the fact that Hamas is on the list of banned terror groups for both the EU and Washington. He said he conveyed a message from the international community, that if Hamas wanted to help the people of Palestine, it would have to end violence. (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Downplays Reported Peace Overture from Syria - Aluf Benn
    Comments by UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen regarding Syrian President Assad's willingness to resume peace talks with Israel were scoffed at Wednesday by senior political sources in Jerusalem. A government source said, "In his meeting this week with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sharon said it was important to keep pressuring Syria. Powell assured him the United States would stress to the Syrians and Iranians that continued support for Hizballah creates an obstacle to peace and we won't tolerate that." Another source said that were Assad serious, "he would have conveyed a message through a serious channel, not a farewell meeting with Larsen." (Ha'aretz)
  • Locusts Descend on Ein Gedi - Amiram Cohen and Nir Hasson
    Locusts continue to swarm into Israel because Egypt is not tackling the problem, Dr. Eldad Landes, director of the Plant Protection and Inspection Services, charged Wednesday. The locusts entered Egypt from Libya and are currently located along the entire Egyptian coastline. A large swarm landed Thursday in the Ein Gedi nature reserve near the Dead Sea. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinians Talking Peace? - Steven Stalinsky
    Among Palestinian Arab officials there is little talk of peace as numerous officials have endorsed the continuation of Arafat's "jihad" against Israel. Fatah leader Hussein Al-Sheikh told Al-Arabiyya TV on November 11: "The gun Yasser Arafat raised...will be raised by...the Palestinian people, so they continue to believe that the gun is the way to get rid of this occupation."
        On the same day, Fatah Central Committee member Hani Al-Hassan explained that, "In Fatah we have a rule: The armed struggle sows and the political struggle reaps....Therefore, when Oslo didn't bring results, the sowing came in the form of the intifada....We will see now whether the political situation allows us to reach political results and to bring about a change in our favor. Otherwise, we will go back to sowing." The writer is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). (New York Sun, 24Nov04)
  • How to Block Hizballah's Al-Manar Television - Avi Jorisch
    Al-Manar, the official television station of Hizballah watched by fifteen million viewers daily, defines its public enemy as the U.S. and Israel. Although it is impossible to bring its programming to a halt, it is within Washington's reach to lessen its scope and availability. Until 2002, the four biggest Western corporate advertisers on al-Manar were Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Procter and Gamble, and Western Union, until an op-ed appeared in the Los Angeles Times exposing their business with the network, and the companies pulled the advertisements immediately. Al-Manar's numerous European advertisers have not followed suit, however.
        The station also runs announcements of bank accounts to which donations for suicide bombing and other terrorist acts can be sent. The U.S. Treasury Department should use the full weight of the law to forbid transactions with any bank that maintains such accounts. In addition, the U.S. should urge France and Saudi Arabia, the countries that host al-Manar's two major satellite providers, to remove the station from these satellites. That would block al-Manar programming from reaching 95% of the globe. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Getting Iraq's Election Right - Amir Taheri
    Iraq's interim government has decided to hold the country's first-ever free elections on Jan. 30. According to Abdul-Hussein al-Hindawi, a respected jurist who heads Iraq's independent election commission, 126 parties have registered to take part in the elections from the widest spectrum of ideologies and programs, including more than a dozen Islamist groups, and as many communist ones.
        Foreign powers are attempting to influence the elections. Iran is channeling vast sums of money to half a dozen parties campaigning on sectarian Islamist platforms. In addition, the Iranian-sponsored Hizballah is sending militants to Iraq to campaign for Khomeinist candidates. Syria is promoting a couple of crypto-Ba'athist groups, while Turkey is investing in an openly ethnicist Turkoman outfit. Several oil-rich Gulf states are writing fat checks for a few Sunni fundamentalist groups. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    EU Support for Assad Bolsters Syrian Dictatorship - Nir Boms and Erick Stakelbeck (Dow Jones/Australian Financial Review)

    • With Arafat's death, Europe has lost its oldest and dearest Arab despot. But the race to replace him as the EU's favored Middle East tyrant has already begun. On October 19, the European Commission and Syria signed an "association agreement" that strengthened Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's iron grip on power.
    • The EU cited Syria's supposedly newfound commitment to fight terrorism and promote human rights to justify the deal. However, Syria's record in these two areas is abysmal. American troops stationed along Iraq's border with Syria have complained of mortar attacks from within Syrian territory, presumably by Islamist terrorists. These attacks certainly could not take place without the tacit support of the Syrian military.
    • Syria is a tightly controlled police state based on the same Ba'ath ideology of Saddam Hussein's Iraq - nothing happens there without approval from Damascus. On the human rights front, despite the rhetoric, Syria remains a bastion of repression.
    • The EU - in its push to become a global counterweight to the U.S. - has proved more than willing to embrace tyrants and terrorists. In helping to revitalize the Assad regime, the EU has not only let down all the courageous pro-democracy activists who are risking their lives in Syria - it has also made the world less safe.

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