Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 15, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Report: Israeli-Syrian Negotiations to Restart (Maariv-Hebrew, 15Dec04)
    The London-based Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, quoting diplomatic circles in Washington, reported Wednesday that Israeli-Syrian negotiations will restart in the U.S. in February at the initiative of the American government.

French Jewish Doctor Treated Arafat in Paris - Or Heler (Maariv International)
    A French Jewish doctor was one of the senior physicians who treated Arafat at a French military hospital south of Paris, a senior French government official has revealed.
    Close associates of the doctor said that despite his Jewish identity, he refused to divulge any information on Arafat's condition to Israeli officials.

Textile Crisis Forces Egyptian-Israeli Agreement - Paul Schemm (Houston Chronicle)
    The Israeli-Egyptian manufacturing deal signed Tuesday may save Egypt's threatened clothing industry from the growing economic might of China.
    The threat of low-cost competition when textile export quotas end next year forced the Egyptians to cooperate.

Gaza Housing Complex Sits Empty as Officials Haggle - Susan Taylor Martin (St. Petersburg Times)
    736 new apartments in the $55-million Sheik Zayed Township in Gaza City, a gift from the late ruler of the UAE, are sitting vacant, though construction was completed at the end of August.
    See also Gaza Apartments Stand Empty - Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (Knight Ridder)
    "The Palestinians were seeking to distribute the flats among some senior officials or sell them in return for cash, at which point the UAE expressed extreme displeasure and even threatened to pull out," said one UAE official in Abu Dhabi.

Wahhabism and Terrorism in Russia's N. Caucasus Region (BBC)
    The North Caucasus region has been on high alert for attacks by Islamic militants since September's school massacre in Beslan, in the neighboring republic of North Ossetia.
    Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has branded the entire North Caucasus region a "breeding ground for Wahhabism."

Useful Reference:

Female Suicide Bombers: Dying to Kill - Brian Handwerk (National Geographic Channel)
    The face of terror is increasingly female. In 1991 a female Sri Lankan separatist killed herself and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since then, similar bombings have occurred in Turkey, Pakistan, Israel, Uzbekistan, and Iraq. In Russia at least 11 female Chechen bombers have struck.
    This week National Geographic Explorer travels to Chechnya and to Gaza and the West Bank in Israel to speak with families who female suicide bombers have left behind.
    "Female Suicide Bombers" will appear on the National Geographic Channel (U.S. only) on Thursday, December 16, at 2:00 p.m. ET/PT, and Saturday, December 18, at 4:00 p.m. ET/PT.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • On the Air, Palestinians Soften Tone on Israelis - Greg Myre
    According to those who monitor the Palestinian airwaves, suddenly there is talk of reconciliation. Israeli troops are called by more neutral terms. Scenes of destruction have fallen away. And the regular Friday sermons have become considerably more moderate. On Palestinian television, the archival scenes of violence were already appearing less frequently in the past year and had not been seen recently at all. "At the beginning of the intifada the media was totally different, showing fighting and playing national songs," said Nashat Aqtash, a Palestinian professor of mass communications at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah. "Now there is much more talk about social and political issues."
        On the Palestinian side, there has been a decrease in "the extreme incitement to genocide, to kill all the Jews," said Itamar Marcus, the head of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli monitoring group. But he said the problem was far from solved, adding that "incitement to hatred" continued in many forms as part of an effort to "delegitimize" the existence of Israel. (New York Times)
  • Iraqi President Charges Syrian Security Services with Involvement in Insurgency
    Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said Monday he believed elements of the Syrian security services were harboring insurgents. "(Syria) is a country that is run by security...and definitely they cannot operate from Syria unless there is somebody who is condoning what they are doing," he said. (AP/Guardian-UK)
        See also U.S. Gen. Abizaid Notes Role of Syria and Iran in Destablizing Iraq
    "Syria hosts many members of the old Iraqi regime who fund the insurgency," Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, said, adding, "We have asked the Syrian government to put a stop to that."  (AP/Wall Street Journal, 4Dec04)
        See also below Observations: How Syria is Working Against the U.S. in Iraq - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Rejects Abbas's Call for Cease-Fire - Arnon Regular
    Khaled Mashal, head of the Hamas politburo based in Damascus, said Hamas is not yet ready to accept a cease-fire with Israel. Mashal did say that a pan-Palestinian agreement for a cease-fire remains an option. (Ha'aretz)
  • Thai Worker Killed in Gaza Mortar Attack - Margot Dudkevitch
    A Palestinian mortar attack on the Gush Katif settlement of Ganei Tal killed a 20-year-old Thai woman and wounded two other Thai workers Tuesday. In total, six mortar shells were fired at Israeli settlements in Gush Katif, and two more were fired at IDF posts and settlements in northern Gaza during the day. Since the beginning of November, more than 80 mortar shells and Kassam rockets have been fired at Gush Katif and communities in the western Negev, including more than 25 in the past week. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Britain Clarifies Mideast Conference Plan - Herb Keinon
    Nigel Sheinwald, British Prime Minister Blair's primary foreign policy adviser, made clear to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon during a visit that the British have no intention of using the planned British-sponsored international conference on the Middle East to leapfrog over phase one of the road map, British diplomatic officials said Tuesday. Sheinwald explained that the point of the conference would be to see what the international community could do to help the Palestinians control Gaza after Israel pulls out. An official said, "The idea is to talk to the Palestinians and get them to focus on the new challenges." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Growing Rift between Hamas and Islamic Jihad - Arnon Regular
    A growing rift between Hamas and Islamic Jihad has led to a break in cooperation between the two Palestinian groups. Fathi Hamad, a member of the supreme Hamas religious body in Gaza, emphasized the differences between the Sunni Hamas and the Shi'ite Islamic Jihad: "An Islamic Jihad takeover would means the Shi'ites take over....We must fight and clash with all those who are not Sunni and guarantee our faith remains pure."
        "We outnumber them, we have many more mosques, and much more commitment, but they are ahead of us in the satellite TV stations, and their Web sites are much bigger than the group itself. They are stealing attacks from Hamas, exaggerate the number of their killed, and inflate the numbers of their street demonstrations as if they are a domestic group, even though they are supported by Hizballah," Hamad complained. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Proposes Refugee Plan - Herb Keinon
    Israel intends to ask countries that support the PA financially to invest in permanent housing for Palestinians living in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and Lebanon. Earlier this month, 18 donor countries pledged $90 million for the 2005 budget of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The agency's $339 million budget for 2005 was 2.7% higher than the previous year. About 1.3 million people live in 59 recognized refugee camps in the area of UNRWA operations. Israel has long charged that rather than working to permanently solve the refugee problem, the UNRWA-run camps only perpetuate the problem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Democracy in Palestine - Editorial
    Set aside the question of whether it would serve the Palestinian cause to have a convicted murderer who may never see the outside of a jail cell elected president of the PA. The fact is that Barghouti and Abbas presented the Palestinian people with a genuine contrast of views. Barghouti rejects Israeli demands that terrorist groups be disarmed. Abbas has committed, at least verbally, to stopping attacks on Israel from Palestinian territory and promised reform of the PA.
        Precisely because Abbas represents the "respectable" face of Fatah and the PLO, while Barghouti represents its supposedly more radical wing, an open fight for votes between the two would have been instructive for Palestinians and the rest of the world. In the West, narrow elections are won and lost all the time, a sign of a well-functioning democracy. So why is a contested election in the Palestinian territories an evil to be avoided? One could argue that the Palestinians are not ready for a hard-fought electoral campaign, but this is the apology for strongmen the world over. The only way to test the Palestinians' preparedness for free and open elections is to have one. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 15Dec04)
  • A New Free Speech Movement, Starting with Alumni - Ronald S. Lauder
    Today, our academic institutions have been thoroughly subverted by a mind-numbing political correctness that rarely allows for opposing viewpoints. And it's in this universe where people deeply believe that Washington brought on the September 11 attacks because of its "racist" treatment of people in the third world. In this world, Islamic fundamentalism is not the problem, it is Israel. Never mind the lack of democracy in much of the world or the horrible treatment of women from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, never mind the festering hatred taught to Moslem children, never mind the intolerance of all other religions and the destruction of sacred religious sites.
        Thousands of alumni send money to their alma maters every year. But too often, their money goes to fund faculty who, at times, project views that are antithetical to the beliefs of these funders. The next time you fill out that check, make sure your money is designated to some place or someone whose viewpoints wouldn't make you cringe. (New York Sun, 8Dec04)
  • The New Iraqi Government: An Interim Appraisal - Amazia Baram
    In the present Iraqi government there are 19 Sunnis and 14 Shi'ites in a state where 55% are Shi'ites, which is very generous toward the Sunnis. Sunni Arabs, who represent some 15-18%, have historically ruled Iraq. All of a sudden, Iraq is to be ruled by the majority and the Sunni Arabs feel they are being disinherited. The motivation behind the extensive terrorist campaign in today's Iraq is to reverse the results of the war and return the Sunni Arab minority to national hegemony.
        Under Muqtada al-Sadr's Shi'ite insurrection, young, unemployed, uneducated Iraqi Shi'ites hoped to become the equivalent of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Kurds would love to be independent, but they will not become independent and they know it, because Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Baghdad will never allow it. If the central government does not enjoy a degree of legitimacy, the country will divide - not neatly into Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish zones, but into a large number of warring factions and warlords. (ICA/JCPA)
        See also Will Iran Win the Iraq War? - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Clerical Iran's primary objective is to ensure that Iraq remains destabilized, incapable of coalescing around a democratically elected government. Such a government supported by Iraq's Shi'ite establishment is a dagger aimed at Tehran's clerical dictatorship. What clerical Iran ideally wants to see next door is strife that can produce an Iraqi Hizballah. Iran's ruling mullahs view the birth of the Lebanese Hizballah as their greatest - and only - foreign success. Persians stick out in Iraq like sore thumbs (very few Iranians can speak Arabic). They must have Iraqi surrogates to advance their interests, which are in opposition to those of most Iraqis. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal, 4Dec04)
        See also Iraqi Campaign Raises Question of Iran's Sway - John F. Burns and Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    How Syria is Working Against the U.S. in Iraq - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • Foreign fighters in Iraq interviewed by Western media say they received training in light weapons, explosives, and hit-and-run operations at camps in Syria. In April, Jordanian intelligence captured an al-Qaeda cell, apparently trained in Syria, as it planned a chemical-weapons attack in Amman.
    • Syria continues openly to support Hizballah. It also gives sanctuary to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other anti-Israel terrorist groups.
    • U.S. officials tend to say things like "Syria needs to do a lot more" to stop terrorist infiltration, as if Syria is doing anything at all.
    • In May, President Bush ordered sanctions on Syria under Congress's Syria Accountability Act of 2003. But U.S. trade with Syria was already minimal, so the sanctions had little effect, and even that was offset by a trade deal the EU reached with Damascus the same month.
    • Much of the problem is that the Syrians don't take U.S. threats seriously. Assad's calculation is that the U.S. is too tied down in Iraq to entertain any action against Syria. Yet the fact remains that Syria is providing material support to terrorist groups killing American soldiers in Iraq while openly calling on Iraqis to join the "resistance."
    • In 1998 the Turks threatened to invade Syria to end the terrorist campaign against it by the Kurdish PKK and Assad capitulated, showing that there are ways to get the message across to the Syrian regime.

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