Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 16, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

Israel: Iran Will Know How to Build Bomb in 6 Months (Reuters)
    Iran is six months away from having the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday in London.
    "The question is not if the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb in 2009, 10 or 11, the main question is when are they going to have the knowledge to do it."
    "We believe that in six months from today they will end all the tests and experiments they are doing to have that knowledge," Shalom said.

Putin to Sharon: Russia to Sell Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Syria - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Prime Minister Sharon received a letter Tuesday from Russian President Putin, informing him of Russia's decision to go ahead with the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.
    Putin wrote Sharon that the weapons were not shoulder-missiles favored by the terror organizations, but rather they would be mounted on vehicles.

NYC Drops Columbia Prof. from Teaching Program for Teachers - Julia Levy (New York Sun, 16Feb05)
    New York City's Department of Education decided Tuesday to drop a Columbia University professor who has called Israel a "racist" state from a professional-development course it is offering public-school teachers.
    Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, was to have been one of the Columbia faculty instructing the city's teachers on how to teach students about the history, culture, and politics of the Middle East.

Germany Deports Extremist Egyptian Imam - Oliver Schmale (AP/Washington Post)
    An Egyptian imam accused of preaching violent Islamic extremism has been deported, German authorities said Tuesday.
    The imam, identified only as El Beih, preached sermons calling the U.S. the "true terrorists" and a "Satan" that threatened the Islamic world, state Interior Minister Heribert Rech said.
    "There is no place in our country for people like this," Rech said.

The New Head of the Israeli Security Agency - Ben Caspit (Maariv-Hebrew, 11Feb05)
    Over 20 years ago, Yuval Diskin drove up to a building site and, leaving his 3-year-old son in the back seat, went to speak with the engineer building his house.
    A Palestinian car thief emerged from the bushes, entered the car, and began driving away.
    Diskin sprinted to the car and jumped on it, while the thief drove wildly. He climbed to the window opposite the driver and began to kick him. Finally the thief gave up, halted the car, and ran away.
    Diskin is the new head of the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet).


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Has Stern Message for Syria: "Profound Outrage" Over Beirut Bombing - Bill Nichols
    The U.S. recalled its ambassador to Syria for consultations Tuesday in an expression of concern by the Bush administration about a potential Syrian role in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a stern message to the Syrian government expressing "our deep concern as well as our profound outrage over this heinous act of terrorism." (USA Today)
        See also U.S. and UN Step Up Pressure on Damascus - Robin Wright
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the U.S. has a "growing list of differences" with Damascus. At the UN, the Security Council called for a report by Secretary General Kofi Annan on the "circumstances, causes and consequences" of the assassination. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Recalls Ambassador to Syria (State Department)
  • Sharon: No Gaza Pullout Under Fire, Coordination Begun with Palestinians - Charles A. Radin
    Speaking at a news conference with foreign correspondents Tuesday, Prime Minister Sharon warned that his country would not withdraw from the Gaza Strip under fire, and would move strongly to crush any attempt by Palestinian extremist groups to attack soldiers or settlers while the withdrawal is taking place. Sharon also said Israel has begun coordinating its plans for the withdrawal with Palestinian officials.
        Sharon said Syria must "expel the terror organization headquarters from its territory, stop the instigated terror against Israeli targets,...allow the Lebanese Army to deploy its forces along the border with Israel, expel Iranian Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon, and end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon...before negotiations may be renewed." (Boston Globe)
        See also Sharon Stakes Claim to Key Settlements - Donald Macintyre
    Sharon reaffirmed that Israel plans to hold onto the most populous settlement blocs in the West Bank under any final agreement with Palestinians. The Israeli prime minister made it clear he was holding President Bush to the concessions he secured from him last April, that would include the redrawing of the 1967 borders to include the biggest settlement blocs. (Independent-UK)
  • Jordan Announces Return of Ambassador to Israel
    Jordan's cabinet decided Tuesday that its ambassador to Israel will return to his post on Sunday, setting the stage for the normalization of diplomatic relations between the nations after a four-year break, Jordanian government spokeswoman Asma Khader announced Wednesday. (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Wanted Hamas and Islamic Jihad Terrorists to Join PA Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh
    About 350 Palestinian gunmen will be incorporated into the PA security forces as part of a deal reached between PA Chairman Abbas and leaders of all the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This is the first time that members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would serve in the PA security forces. "The Palestinian Authority does not distinguish between the wanted men," said PA Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Abu al-Naja. "They are entitled to join the security forces because of their involvement in the resistance."
        Abbas recently offered to absorb members of the armed wing of Fatah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, into the security forces, but not all the gunmen have accepted the proposal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Situation in PA is "Fragile" - Gideon Alon
    IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that the situation in the PA was "fragile." The PA is making numerous efforts to take control and impose order, but it is facing anarchy and threatening terrorist organizations, Ya'alon said. Israel has made clear to Abbas that it expects him to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad and completely prevent terror organizations from operating.
        The head of Military Intelligence's research branch, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, told the Knesset committee Monday that "there is quite a lot of organizing going on in the territories to prepare attacks, including big attacks." He added that the terror organizations are continuing to build their organizational infrastructure, though most of the Palestinian public wants calm. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Prevents Attack on West Bank Settlement - Margot Dudkevitch
    IDF soldiers killed two Palestinians armed with Kalashnikov rifles who were approaching the settlement of Har Bracha near Nablus on Tuesday. According to IDF officials, the two were on their way to attack Har Bracha. In the past two weeks, there have been six shooting attacks in the area which targeted civilians and soldiers using the road leading to the settlement. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Two Mortar Shells Fired at Gaza Settlement
    Two mortar shells were fired Wednesday at Neve Dekalim in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Blow at Lebanon's Heart - Editorial
    Hariri's car was bullet-proofed and equipped with systems to thwart remotely-controlled explosives. This was a highly sophisticated operation that could hardly have been executed without at least the connivance of Syria's ubiquitous intelligence services. The timing of his murder is significant, disturbingly so. Syrian control over Lebanon will be the biggest issue in the Lebanese elections due in April and May, and Damascus has made no secret of its determination to engineer victory for the pro-Syria lobby led by Hariri's rival, President Emile Lahoud. (Times-UK)
        See also Beirut Murder Mystery - Editorial
    Whoever is responsible for the Hariri assassination, the fact remains that, 15 years after the end of the civil war, Pax Syriaca has long outlived its usefulness. Withdrawal from Lebanon without the compensation of regaining the Golan Heights could spell political death for President al-Assad. But then the outside world hardly owes this isolated and intractable leader a living. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Mideast Peace, Step by Step - Aaron David Miller
    Anyone who seriously hopes for a quick return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations should take a deep breath and lie down until the feeling passes. What's needed at the moment is something completely different, a whole new kind of approach that puts the Oslo process in the past and focuses instead on cautious but credible unilateral steps. To their credit, the agenda of both Sharon and Abbas at Sharm el-Sheik reflected the triumph of the achievable over the desirable, of the probable over the possible. Their unspoken motto: Think small.
        Oslo's most important legacy - the mutual recognition between political Zionism and Palestinian nationalism - endures to this day. But that's just about all that remains. The Oslo process was in many respects a religion for believers, blinding its adherents to its flaws, and elevating negotiation to an almost sacred level of importance. (Los Angeles Times)
  • How Egypt Molded Modern Radical Islam - Zvi Mazel
    The basic ideology of political Islam - which was adopted later by all radical groups - finds its origin within Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. During the 1940s the Brotherhood lead a campaign of violence and assassinations that eventually brought about the Free Officers revolution in 1952. The Brotherhood tried to kill Nasser in 1954 but failed. Nasser declared the organization illegal and arrested 60,000 people, condemning its leaders to death.
        Sadat released the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971, believing he needed them to fight the remnants of the Nasser era. An Egyptian jihad group assassinated Sadat in October 1981. In 1995 al-Gamaa al-Islamiya tried to kill Mubarak in Addis Ababa. The bombings at Sinai resorts in October 2004 reveal that the disciples of radical Islam are still active in Egypt. The writer is a former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt and Sweden. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    "Cease-Fire" at Sharm el-Sheik - George Melloan (Wall Street Journal, 15Feb05)

    • Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas signed a "cease-fire" at Sharm el-Sheik last week. But it was more than that. It was an Arab acknowledgment of yet another defeat.
    • Arabs have been the principal victims of the intifada campaign of violence launched by Yasser Arafat in 2000. They have suffered more than 3,000 deaths and total economic devastation. Arafat's Palestinian Authority operated as a corrupt and vicious police state, even while politicians and journalists in Europe were singing his praise. Mercifully for the Arabs, Arafat finally died. Abbas promised peace and it appears that he meant it.
    • No doubt Abbas and even the surviving Hamas leaders realize that the intifada was a disaster for Arabs. They must also be aware that their sources of support in the Arab world are dwindling. Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel. Iraq is under U.S. control. Syria got a warning about supporting terrorists from George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech, and Saudi Arabia's princes are seeking to win U.S. favor as they confront their own terrorist menace. Thus, making peace had a compelling logic for the Arabs.
    • The Palestinian Arabs have been promised a state of their own by Bush as a reward for better behavior. But there is a significant gap to be bridged between the concept of statehood and its reality. No genuine Palestinian state has ever existed. The Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank were under Egyptian and Jordanian control, respectively, until those territories were occupied by Israelis during the 1967 Six-Day War.
    • The Palestinian Arabs are a nation only in the sense of being fellow Arabs and Muslims, although perhaps that is enough to form the basis for statehood. Yet, Gaza and the West Bank are physically separate, which raises administrative difficulties.

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