Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 2, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Bin Laden Urged Zarqawi to Attack U.S. (VOA News)
    U.S. counterterrorism official Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the U.S Homeland Security Department, said al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden recently communicated with his ally in Iraq - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - suggesting that he get involved in potential attacks in the United States.
    See also Zarqawi Group Says It Set Bomb That Killed 125 in Iraq - Caryle Murphy (Washington Post)

Palestinian Gunman Challenges PA Security Minister - Mohammed Ballas (AP/Los Angeles Times)
    In a confrontation between Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, the new PA security chief, and Zakariye Zubeydi, a militant who is seen by residents as the ruler of Jenin, Zubeydi Tuesday brazenly fired his weapon outside police headquarters in the West Bank town as the commander was holding meetings in the building.
    Zubeydi said he was upset that Yousef had not coordinated the meeting with him and demanded the security chief leave. "Nasser Yousef did not come through the proper gate of Jenin," Zubeydi said.
    Yousef ordered the gunman's arrest, but quickly backed down and let him walk away.
    See also Gunmen Shoot at PA Minister's Motorcade - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Gunmen opened fire on Minister Nasser Youssef's motorcade, injuring a PA policeman.
    A top PA Interior Ministry official said the gunmen "behaved in an irresponsible manner and endangered the lives of many people, including the minister, by firing wildly into the air and toward the vehicles accompanying him."

Saudi Arabia: A Terror Breeding Ground? - Ed Bradley (60 Minutes-CBS News)
    According to the Justice Department's indictment last week of Arab-American Ahmed Omar Abu Ali for plotting to assassinate President Bush, it was while he was studying in Saudi Arabia that Ali made contact with al-Qaeda.
    The kingdom's mosques and schools have been cited as a breeding ground for extremism.
    "Extremism has unfortunately become a part of our everyday practice," says Saudi columnist Suleiman Al-Hatlan. "In schools, in mosques, almost everywhere you go to in Saudi Arabia."
    "I think Wahhabism participates in producing these extremists. Yes, I do believe," says Al-Hatlan.

Useful Reference:

Conclusions of The London Meeting On Supporting the Palestinian Authority (Foreign Office-UK)


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Intercepted Order from Jihad Leader in Damascus for Tel Aviv Bombing
    Israeli intelligence officers briefed ambassadors of the EU, the G8, and the UN Security Council on Friday's Tel Aviv bombing. They read from a transcript of an intercepted telephone call in which Ramadan Shallah, Islamic Jihad's Damascus-based leader, ordered a West Bank commander to go ahead with the bombing. Mark Regev, the foreign ministry spokesman, said: "In a regime like the Syrian regime, such an order could not come from Damascus unless the regime was acquiescing or collaborating." (Independent-UK)
        See also Rice: Syria-Based Terror Group Planned Tel Aviv Attack
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "There is firm evidence that Palestinian Islamic Jihad sitting in Damascus not only knew about these attacks, but was involved in the planning." She added, "the Syrians have a lot to answer for" and need to be more active in fighting "Palestinian rejectionists, if indeed they want to support the peace process as they say they do." Rice also warned Syria not to interfere in the upcoming Lebanese elections, noting "a lot has happened in Lebanon in the last two or three days, and what the Lebanese people should know is that the international community stands with them in their desire and aspirations for free and fair elections." (ABC News)
  • World Powers Demand Palestinian Security Crackdown - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    World powers on Tuesday demanded immediate Palestinian action to catch those behind a Tel Aviv suicide bombing that broke a fragile ceasefire with Israel. The Middle East quartet, comprising the EU, Russia, the UN, and the U.S, met on the sidelines of a London meeting on Palestinian reform and called for "immediate action by the PA to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators" as well as "further and sustained action" against terrorism. Palestinians responded angrily to the quartet statement. (Reuters)
  • Western Donors Weigh Billions for Palestinians - Josh Meyer
    Top U.S. and European officials met with the new Palestinian leadership in London to consider $4.5 billion or more in new aid that they hope will bolster the Palestinian government. Pledging money may prove to be the easy part. The larger challenge will be avoiding the corruption that drained the life out of aid programs during Arafat's long tenure. "Things haven't changed as much as they need to change, and it is going to be very difficult," said Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.
        The PA has received billions of dollars for schools, hospitals, roads and other basic needs in the last decade, one of the most expensive development programs ever on a per-capita basis. But millions of dollars disappeared. Last year Congress stipulated that outside auditors must be able to monitor how the money was used. But a few months ago, as Congress considered a request for another $20 million, aides said they learned that U.S. auditors were not permitted to enter the building where they thought the records were. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Syria Steals Blair's Thunder at Summit - Richard Beeston
    Lebanon dominated a conference Tuesday aimed at boosting support for the Palestinians. (Times-UK)
  • Assad to Withdraw Syrian Army from Lebanon "In a Matter of Months" - Joe Klein
    Q: Can you tell me when you will you be out of Lebanon?
    Assad: "It [withdrawal] should be very soon and maybe in the next few months. Not after that. I can't give you a technical answer. The point is the next few months." (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jerusalem Says London Parley "Absolves" PA of Fighting Terror - Herb Keinon and Douglas Davis
    A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said that although Israel welcomed "international efforts at nation-building for the PA," and although Jerusalem believes that a democratic Palestinian state next to Israel will increase the chance for peace, the [London] conference's concluding statement largely ignored terrorism and "almost absolved the PA of the need to dismantle the terror infrastructure." A statement Tuesday from the Prime Minister's Office said: "As long as the PA doesn't act immediately, thoroughly and effectively in sustained and targeted operations to dismantle the terror infrastructure, and as long as fundamental reforms are not implemented, there can be no progress according to the road map." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: No Progress Until PA Tackles Terror - Aluf Benn and Peter Hirschberg
    Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday that unless Abbas took action to dismantle militant groups, peace efforts would be stymied. "It has to be understood that as long as they do not take the strategic decision to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, we cannot make real progress toward peace," he told Army Radio. "No economic assistance will help as long as the area remains one of violence." (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Uncovers Rocket Lab in West Bank - Efrat Weiss
    Israel Defense Forces troops uncovered a Hamas weapons lab in the West Bank village of El-Yamon, next to Jenin, containing large amounts of explosives and parts to build Kassam rockets. Military sources said Wednesday that there is an ongoing effort to carry out attacks from the Jenin area. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lebanon's Lesson for Arab Leaders - Dennis Ross
    Some say Iraq's elections inspired the Lebanese, who saw that Iraqis would not give in to fear. But it is not just the "Iraq effect": it is Palestinian elections and the paradox, as Arab commentators have observed, that only where there is external occupation are Arab peoples gaining a voice in shaping their future. Does it take occupation, they ask, to empower Arab individuals? Certainly the more George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac keep up the drumbeat of their support, and the more they insist on the Security Council fulfilling its call in resolution 1559, the more the Lebanese are likely to believe they can succeed. (Financial Times-UK/BICOM)
        See also Spring of Hope - Hassan Mneimneh (New York Post)
  • Syria Gives One Up - Editorial
    It's remarkable what a little pushing back against a dictatorship can accomplish. That's the lesson of Assad's decision to turn over the half brother of Saddam Hussein, a ringleader of the Iraqi insurgency who has long been known to be operating out of Syria. The Pentagon has been arguing for months that only a tough line will get Syria to stop bleeding the U.S. and Iraqis who are trying to build a democracy, while the CIA and State Department prefer to plead and cajole. The Syrians naturally interpret the latter as a sign of weakness. The U.S. should keep the pressure on, including Predator strikes against terrorist targets inside Syria, until the Assad regime rounds up all of the Baathists and al-Qaeda operatives that it knows are operating on its soil. (Wall Street Journal, 1Mar05)
        See also Backed Into a Corner, Don't Underestimate Bashar Assad - Simon Tisdall (Guardian-UK)
  • A Crack in the Sphinx - Saad Eddin Ibrahim
    The surprise decision by Egyptian President Mubarak to open up the process of electing the president by direct competitive balloting may well be a giant step for democracy in Egypt and the Arab world. Not only Egypt is embarking on the road of democracy. Turkey at one end of the Middle East and Morocco at the other are already well on the way. The real groundswell this time seems to have come from the close timing and positive outcomes of recent elections in Iraq, Palestine, and to a lesser degree in Saudi Arabia. Egyptians are already weary of token reforms a la Tunisia, where longstanding President Ben-Ali caricatured a constitutional amendment that made it look as if he was opening the door for competitive presidential elections, then staged a sham contest with a few hand-picked "opponents."
        I announced that I would contest this upcoming presidential election as a way of opening debate on these needed reforms, but I would gladly go back to my role as a private citizen once guaranteed a free and open election this fall. The writer, an Egyptian pro-democracy and peace activist, is a professor at the American University in Cairo and is currently at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. (Wall Street Journal, 2Mar05)
        See also Cairo's Freedom Surprise - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    PA Media Glorify Tel Aviv Bomber as Martyr - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Jerusalem Post)

    • The PA-controlled media glorified the bomber in Friday night's terror attack on a beachfront Tel Aviv night club as a shahid (martyr who died for Allah) - the highest level of human achievement for a Muslim. By granting shahid status to the murderer, the PA media are portraying bombing as a positive religious act.
    • Sunday's front-page coverage of the story in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda featured a giant color photo of the terrorist at the top of the page, with the caption: "The executor of the Tel Aviv operation, the shahid Abdullah Badran." Another photograph shows his mother holding a picture of her son, captioned: "The mother of the Shahid." The newspapers Al-Ayyam and Al-Quds also referred to "the family of the Shahid."
    • Given this ultimate veneration of the act of murder, condemnations of the suicide attack within the Palestinian-controlled media have focused on the "poor timing" and the fact that the attack was a violation of the agreement between Abbas and Hamas. The killings were detrimental to PA policy - nothing more. As in the Arafat years, the act itself was not portrayed as immoral or wrong.
    • Under the new leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the message to Palestinian society remains essentially unchanged. PA leaders condemn the potentially negative ramifications of a terror attack, but not the act itself.

      Marcus is founder and director, and Crook is associate director of Palestinian Media Watch.

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