Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 1, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

London Parley Statement to Omit Terrorism - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    The final statement to be issued at Tuesday's London Meeting on Supporting the Palestinian Authority will not mention terrorism and refers only in vague terms to Palestinian security commitments.
    The British rejected reservations posed by Israel to the statement.
    See also London Meeting Opens (BBC)

Islamic Jihad Planned to Fire Rockets at Afula, Attack Jerusalem School - Amos Harel, Roni Singer, and Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    Islamic Jihad terrorists in Jenin planned to fire rockets at the city of Afula and attack a Jerusalem school, Jibril Zubeidi, an Islamic Jihad operative and brother of Jenin Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Zakariya Zubeidi, has told his interrogators.
    The Shin Bet revealed on Tuesday that Jibril Zubeidi was arrested on December 30.

U.S. Pressure Helped Prompt Egypt's Call for Competitive Elections - Sonni Efron and Tyler Marshall (Los Angeles Times)
    Egyptian President Mubarak's decision to allow a competitive presidential election comes amid a behind-the-scenes struggle by the Bush administration and Congress to require Cairo to spend part of its annual $2 billion in U.S. aid on political and economic reform.
    Because the Egyptian government has been unwilling to accede to U.S. demands, administration officials said, $1 billion in U.S. aid for financial reform and $80 million to foster democracy have gone unspent.
    "U.S. pressure was certainly material," said an official. "But [Mubarak's] people are sitting watching TV. You've seen free elections in Palestine, free elections in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating on the streets in Lebanon, illegitimate elections overturned in Georgia, illegitimate elections being overturned in Ukraine....It's a combination of all these things."
    See also Egyptians Doubtful of a Free Election - Megan K. Stack (Los Angeles Times)

British Shoe Bomber Admits Plot to Blow Up Plane - Rosie Cowan, Steven Morris, and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian-UK)
    A British would-be suicide bomber Monday admitted plotting to blow up a packed passenger plane in midair with an explosive device hidden in his shoe.
    Saajid Badat, 25, agreed to destroy an American-bound flight from Europe, but four days after he was given the deadly device in December 2001, he had a change of heart.
    However, he kept the bomb, whose detonating cord matched that found on convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid.
    Intelligence sources believe Badat and Reid met in terror training camps in Afghanistan, where Badat spent two years.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Urges Palestinians to Dismantle Terror Groups - Joel Brinkley
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Palestinian leaders on Monday that it was time for the Palestinians "to begin dismantling the terrorist infrastructure; that is what I will be looking for." Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, has tried to curb attacks on Israelis by persuading the various Palestinian groups to observe a cease-fire - rather than trying to dismantle them, as Israel has urged. Until now, the U.S. had offered cautious praise for Abbas's success in reducing the violence and suggested that a cease-fire might be workable as a temporary, opening tactic. But Rice's remarks indicated that the American attitude toward Abbas's efforts had hardened.
        Rice also said the Syrians "can't say they want the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians to succeed" while supporting terrorists. Friday's bombing in Tel Aviv "was not just an attack on people," she added. "It was an attack on the process. And groups that are intent on destroying this process have to be dealt with promptly."  (New York Times)
  • Lebanon's Pro-Syria Government Is Dissolved After Protests - Hassan M. Fattah
    Lebanon's prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned Monday, dissolving the country's pro-Syrian government as the streets of Beirut were filled with tens of thousands of flag-waving protesters. Lebanese opposition leaders say they feel that the Damascus government is more vulnerable than ever and that this is the moment to act, especially as Lebanon's wary communities of Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Christians, and Druse have grown more united in their demands for the Syrians to leave. (New York Times)
        See also Hope for a New Beginning - Editorial
    Electricity is in the air. Beirut is a sea of excitement. The word "revolution" is on many lips. As the light of dawn illuminated Martyrs' Square on Monday, an ocean of red and green flags could be seen ebbing and flowing and swelling. It was a momentous event, and it led to the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. It is, indeed, the time for change. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Iraqi Car Bomb Kills 115 - Oliver Poole
    More than 115 people were killed and 130 injured on Monday in the single bloodiest attack in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein when a suicide bomber exploded a car near a market in the predominately Shia city of Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad. (Telegraph-UK)
  • UN Condemns Tel Aviv Bombing
    The UN Security Council Monday condemned the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last Friday which killed 5 Israelis and wounded more than 50, saying such attacks undermined "the hopes and aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian people." Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group, said it was responsible for the attack. The original statement, initiated by the U.S., mentioned Islamic Jihad's claim but Algeria, the council's only Arab member, insisted it be removed, diplomats said. (Reuters)
  • Britain Tells Damascus to Cut Links with Terror - Richard Beeston
    Britain added its voice Monday to the growing criticism of Syria for its links to Palestinian militants responsible for Friday's bombing in Tel Aviv. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, accused Damascus of harboring "rejectionist terrorist groups" such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, despite assurances that their operations had been shut down. "I hope that the government of Syria is reassessing its strategic position now," he said. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Terrorists Shoot Two Israeli Security Guards - Amos Harel, Roni Singer, and Aluf Benn
    Two Israeli civilian security guards were wounded Monday in a shooting attack while patrolling in a security vehicle in Kfar Oranim-Menorah, northeast of Modi'in, alongside the "green line." (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Destroys Massive Car Bomb Near Jenin, "Huge Disaster" Prevented - Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
    A car bomb discovered by IDF troops in the West Bank on Monday parked 50 meters from the Mevo Dotan settlement, near Jenin, contained half a ton of explosives, the army said Tuesday, making it the largest bomb ever used by Palestinian militants in the past four years. The car bomb, believed to have been assembled by the Islamic Jihad cell behind Friday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, was neutralized in a controlled explosion. Regional commander Col. Oren Avman told Army Radio, "Even an armored vehicle or bus could not withstand such a huge bomb," and that the officer who discovered it prevented "a huge disaster."  (Israel Radio/Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Territory Near Airport Will Not Be Ceded - Nina Gilbert
    The IDF will stay positioned in the territory beyond the security fence that overlooks Ben-Gurion Airport, and is putting a priority on completing the security barrier in the Jerusalem area by the end of July, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz, nominated as the next IDF chief of staff, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. "We are not ceding the territory" of the Ben-Gurion enclave, he said, adding that there would be a physical presence of troops in addition to technological means employed in the area. Halutz said the fence was not aimed at blocking ground-to-air threats. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Surefire Path to a Nuclear Iran - Editorial
    One option being considered by the Administration is to join the EU in offering Tehran a package of incentives in exchange for a formal Iranian commitment to renounce plans to build a bomb. The intention is to create a united front with the Europeans now in the hope that they will join the U.S. later if Iran continues to violate its NPT commitments. The U.S. cannot be indifferent to a nuclear Iran. The problem is not that we have yet to hit on the right mix of carrots and sticks to cajole Iran into responsibility. The problem is that Iran's theocratic regime is by its nature inimical to American interests; any move that extends its life also prolongs the hazard it poses to the U.S. Signing on to Europe's strategy offers one certain outcome: a nuclear Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Syria Courts Disaster on Two Fronts - Editorial
    Assad has set his face against attempts to bring democracy to Iraq and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In so doing, he has forfeited any chance of engaging Tel Aviv in talks for the return of the Golan Heights and has put at risk his country's hold over Lebanon. If he fails to recover the first and loses the second, he could well be overthrown by forces within Syria. His father, Hafiz, always managed to persuade the world that he was a key player. Bashar, by contrast, is digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble by defying the seismic changes in the region. Few would shed tears for the extinction of Ba'athist rule in the Middle East. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Road Map to Damascus - Editorial
    There is no tolerance for Syria's links with the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Guardian-UK)
        See also The Road to Damascus - Editorial (Boston Globe)
  • Mideast Climate Change - Editorial
    This has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Their Worst Nightmare: Itamar Rabinovich on the Crisis in Lebanon
    - Roi Nachmias (Yediot Ahronot)

    • The dramatic events in Lebanon are sure to resonate throughout the Middle East and accelerate democratization processes, says noted Syria expert Itamar Rabinovich. "The pressures for democratization exist in other places and I have no doubt they would erupt, in one way or another, in the future....There is almost no Arab state where such pressures don't exist."
    • The Syrians are unlikely to renounce their dominance in Lebanon without a fight, he says, though pressure on Syria to pull out of Lebanon will intensify, and a precedent of a non-violent popular protest bringing down a puppet regime has been set.
    • For Syria, he adds, this is no longer a war for Lebanon, but a struggle to protect their home turf because the Lebanese example could stimulate internal Syrian opposition forces, dormant for a long time.

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