Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 10, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Fears Hizballah to Target Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA security officials on Wednesday expressed fear that Hizballah and Iran were planning to kill PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
    Recently-obtained evidence indicates that Hizballah was urging Fatah and Hamas activists to renew their terror campaign against Israel in a bid to undermine Abbas's authority.
    A top PA security official claimed that Hizballah operatives in Lebanon have been offering up to $100,000 to any Palestinian willing to carry out a suicide attack against Israel.
    See also Hizballah's New Agenda? - Michael Hirsh (Newsweek)
    Abbas and his top aides are worried - if not more - about Hizballah, the Iranian-backed militia that Israeli and other officials say is now the chief financier and supporter of terrorist acts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    In January, Abbas told U.S. senators that "the main threat may be less Hamas and more external."
    See also Israel Asks EU to Add Hizballah to Terror List - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

Terror Fronts Got Money from Olajuwon's Mosque (AP/New York Times)
    A mosque established and financed by former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon gave more than $80,000 to charities that the government later determined to be fronts for the terror groups al-Qaeda and Hamas.
    Olajuwon said in a telephone interview from Jordan, where he is studying Arabic, that he had not known of any links to terrorism when the donations were made and would not have given the money if he had known.

PA Banned Palestinian Journalists from Summit - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The major Palestinian daily newspapers did not send correspondents to cover the summit in Sharm el-Sheik; neither did Palestine TV or Voice of Palestine radio.
    In contrast, almost every Israeli newspaper and TV and radio station had at least one journalist at the summit.
    Bitter Palestinian journalists said on Wednesday that they wanted to go to the summit, but were banned by the PA leadership.

Palestinians Attack Gaza Jail, Murder Three Prisoners - Eli Vaked (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
    Tens of armed men attacked the central jail in Gaza on Thursday, murdering three prisoners in what appeared to be a dispute between extended families.
    The attackers exchanged fire with Palestinian security forces.

Hamas Man is Killed in "Work Accident" - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    A Hamas militant was killed and two others were hurt in Khan Yunis Thursday during what IDF sources said was a "work accident" while preparing explosives.
    Palestinian sources said it was a failed attempt to fire mortar shells at Gush Katif.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Militants Unleash Mortar Barrage After Truce Declaration
    Palestinian militants fired a series of mortar bombs and rockets into Jewish settlements in Gaza on Thursday, two days after Palestinian and Israeli leaders declared a halt to violence at a summit meeting. Hamas said it launched 46 mortars and rockets over a two-hour period at daybreak on Thursday. (Reuters)
        See also Israeli-Palestinian Security Talks Postponed
    Israeli-Palestinian talks on security coordination were postponed on Thursday. Palestinian officials said the Israelis asked to cancel the meeting "because of mortar firing in Gaza." (Reuters)
  • A Shaky Palestinian Troop Deployment - Michael Matza
    More than 3,000 Palestinian troops have been deployed in the Gaza Strip to prevent attacks on Israel and its settlements, a move widely hailed as an important step in a regional peace process. But among the troops, it is clear there is an informal, almost halfhearted, quality to their efforts. In one incident in southern Gaza, troops patrolling at night came upon two black-masked Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade gunmen preparing to fire mortars toward a Jewish settlement. The gunmen "cooperated well with us," said platoon leader Jamal Abu Ziad, 41. "We told them to move and they left." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • New Saudi Aide is in Terror-Fund Probe - Glenn Simpson
    Saudi leaders bolstered their credentials as willing partners at an anti-terrorist conference in Riyadh, only to undermine their progress by subsequently giving a top cabinet post to an official enmeshed in a terror financing controversy. The appointment as education minister of Abdullah al-Obeid, a former director of the Muslim World League, branches of which the U.S. government is investigating to learn if they had financial ties to al-Qaeda, struck a jarring note.
        In an essay on terrorism that is part of a 2002 book on Islam the Saudis distributed to media members at the conference, Obeid blamed "some mass media centers that are managed and run by Jews in the West" for reports linking terrorism and Islam. Under his leadership, Obeid added, the Muslim World League organized symposiums to explain that Palestinian attacks on Israelis "are conducted in self-defense and they are lawful and approved by all religious standards." The MWL is the parent of the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity that current and former U.S. officials say the Treasury Department has proposed for designation as a terrorist entity. (Wall Street Journal, 10Feb05)
  • Powerful Egyptian Spy Chief No Longer Behind the Scenes - Hossam Hamalawy
    When Hosni Mubarak's car came under a hailstorm of bullets in Addis Ababa nearly 10 years ago, the Egyptian president survived the assassination attempt thanks to Omar Suleiman. Intelligence chief Suleiman had persuaded Mubarak to fly his armored Mercedes from Cairo to Ethiopia rather than ride in the unarmored vehicle offered by his hosts. Suleiman was sitting next to the president when Islamist gunmen opened fire. The spy chief, now 68, who has become one of the country's most powerful figures, quietly brokered the Sharm el-Sheik summit. (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon Names New Shin Bet Chief - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Prime Minister Sharon on Thursday named Yuval Diskin the next head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), replacing Avi Dichter. Diskin, 49, served as deputy head of the Shin Bet from 2000 through September 2003 and is said to have been the driving force behind perfecting the policy of targeted interceptions of Palestinian terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Will Encourage Transfer of Gaza Businesses to Palestinians - Lior Greenbaum
    As Israel continues preparations for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a senior military source said a key goal was to encourage the transfer of Israeli businesses slated for evacuation to Palestinian ownership as going concerns, including the greenhouses in Gush Katif and factories in the Erez industrial zone. Under the evacuation-compensation bill passed Tuesday by the Knesset Finance Committee, a business-owner who sells the business to a Palestinian may make a handsome profit over and above compensation received from the state, in contrast to business-owners who decide to dismantle their greenhouses and factories. (Globes)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Middle East's Dance of Death - Melanie Phillips
    What the world finds so hard to acknowledge is that the source of this terrible conflict is not Israel's behavior. It is not the settlements, the roadblocks, the prisoners. It is not, despite the near-universal assumption, the absence of a Palestinian state. The source is the Arab world-backed Palestinian terror war against Israel's existence. The onus is on Abbas to end that war by dismantling the entire infrastructure of Palestinian terror, and to give his own community an identity other than the impulse to destroy another people. But the signs are not auspicious.
        What looks rather more likely is that Abbas is instead a world-class tactician, who will be able to pose with ostensibly clean hands disclaiming the murderous terrorism that Hamas will continue to inflict upon Israel, thus forcing Israel to react and casting it even more decisively as the regional bully. If this is so, then Israel is in even more danger now than it was in before. (
  • In the Name of the Son - Uri Dan
    According to senior Jordanian diplomats, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak convened the Israeli-Palestinian summit in Sharm el-Sheik to strengthen U.S. political and economic support for his regime and help pave the way for his son, Gamal, to succeed him as president in another year or two.
        The involvement of the Egyptian intelligence services, headed by General Omar Suleiman, in an attempt to curb the Palestinian terrorist organizations, is causing concern to the Jordanian Royal House. Cairo intends to open a diplomatic representation in Ramallah, in addition to its Gaza offices, which Jordan sees as facilitating an Egyptian intelligence presence in the West Bank close to its border. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The New Iraqi Army: When Officers Aren't Gentlemen - Mark Bowden
    Why has it proved so hard to reconstitute the Iraqi army if, as the elections suggested, the insurgency lacks broad-based popular support? According to Maj. James Lechner, who commanded a unit responsible for training and then leading the 7th Battalion of the new Iraqi army in Samarra last October, the main problem was not with Iraqi soldiers. It was with their officers and their loyalty to the way Saddam ran his army.
        Maj. Lechner noticed that the Iraqi commanders in his battalion tended to equate rank more with privilege than with responsibility. They were reluctant to stay on duty with their units for any length of time without "special passes or extended leaves," and the higher up the chain of command, the worse the problem. Just prior to going into action in Samarra, the Iraqi battalion commander took a leave and didn't return until the city was secured. Up and down the officer ranks Maj. Lechner found a marked propensity to steal from their units, falsify records, embezzle funds, and even extort money from their own men.
        It has become generally accepted wisdom that it was a mistake to disband Saddam's army. If Maj. Lechner's experience is typical, then retaining the old force would have just created a whole different set of problems, and might well have further set back efforts to create a flexible, effective Iraqi army. Solving the problem in the 7th Battalion ultimately required rooting out nearly all of those officers who had served under the old regime. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Prospects for Security, Peace, and Reform in the Abbas Era - Khalil Shikaki and Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Shikaki: If Abbas is to succeed, he must deal with the issue of violence. In the eyes of the public, violence pays. Three-fourths of Palestinians perceive the disengagement as a victory for violence. Abbas must help remove dynamics that encourage the public to believe in the utility of violence; otherwise, the issue will continue to impede his ability to govern effectively. When Fatah convinced Marwan Barghouti to pull out of the presidential race, it effectively deferred resolving the question of violence.
    • During the municipal elections held recently in some parts of Gaza, Hamas candidates did much better than Fatah candidates, highlighting the prevailing perception among Palestinians that Fatah is not fit to govern at the local level. This is a serious disability that Abbas will have to deal with soon, given the pressure of the upcoming elections in many West Bank municipalities and, later, for the parliament. If Abbas does not crack down on corruption immediately, Islamists will likely win control over the local councils scheduled to hold elections in April. Currently, when it comes to the most sensitive functions, he is using individuals who are perceived to be kings of corruption.
    • Herzog: After Arafat died, the frequency of terrorist incidents in Gaza increased sharply. Through these attacks, militants want to show Israel that it will be leaving Gaza under fire, and that the disengagement will be cast as a victory for their armed struggle. Even if a ceasefire is reached, the situation cannot remain calm for long if Abbas does not make serious efforts to preserve it. Israel is worried that Hamas will use any quiet period to regroup for future terrorist attacks. A ceasefire needs to be developed into a meaningful security plan that also addresses the terrorist infrastructure.
    • In the 2003 ceasefire, the agreement that the PA reached with Hamas differed on some key points with the agreement it reached with the IDF - differences that quickly caused the ceasefire to break down. If the disengagement is smooth and quiet and viewed as a success, both sides can move toward talks. If the process unfolds under violence, however, it will discourage any Israeli government from continuing along such lines.

      Khalil Shikaki is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, a visiting military fellow at the Institute, has participated in all Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over the past decade.

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