Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 14, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Looting at Iraqi Weapons Plants Was Systematic - James Glanz and William J. Broad (New York Times)
    In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, in what appeared to be a highly organized operation that pinpointed specific plants, Sami al-Araji, the Iraqi deputy minister of industry, said this week.

Arafat's Money Bag - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Arafat was in the habit of traveling with a suitcase full of cash for "emergencies" - to be used for gifts, bribes, and tips.
    On Arafat's last trip to Paris in late October, the bag contained $1.6 million, but when Arafat's coffin was returned to Ramallah two weeks later, many PA officials noticed that the suitcase was missing.
    According to Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda editor Hafez Barghouti, "Arafat's secret-keeper who carried the black bag has gone to work in the Palestinian embassy in Moscow and no one knows what happened to the suitcase."
    Barghouti accused the unnamed bag-carrier of stealing the suitcase and hinted at the involvement of many of Arafat's longtime aides in the theft.
    Barghouti said Arafat had for years surrounded himself with a group of arrogant, pompous officials, describing how one of Arafat's top aides "used to collect money from prominent businessmen for arranging meetings with Arafat."
    "He also used to take commission from the businessmen in return for getting Arafat to approve various financial deeds."

Hamas to Conduct Secret Primaries (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas will conduct secret primaries to choose its candidates for parliamentary elections in July, senior West Bank Hamas leader Mohammed Ghazal said Sunday.
    The Fatah movement's Old Guard has promised younger activists they would hold primaries as well.
    Hundreds of supporters of both movements clashed at Hebron University on Sunday, throwing punches, sticks, and stones during a Hamas rally for student council elections.
    At least nine people were injured. Student supporters of Islamic Jihad acted as a buffer.

Census Report on U.S. Arab Population - Genaro C. Armas (AP/ABC News)
    People of Arab descent living in the U.S. tend to be better educated and wealthier than other Americans, the Census Bureau says.
    There are about 1.2 million U.S. residents whose ancestry is solely or partly Arab, less than a half-percent of all Americans.
    The report released last week covered the 850,000 people who identified themselves in the 2000 census as having only Arab ancestry.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice, Hadley Press Syria for Prompt Troop Withdrawal
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday called Hizballah a terrorist organization that must disarm in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559. National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said Sunday, "The sequence needs to be: Get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, get free and fair elections, get a democratic government in place." (AP/Washington Post)
  • Hamas Election Bid Could Undermine Abbas - Ali Daraghmeh
    Hamas, the major force behind a four-year suicide bombing campaign and sworn to the destruction of Israel, decided Saturday to run in the July 17 Palestinian parliamentary election, a move that threatens to undermine Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, who is under intense Israeli and U.S. pressure to rein in Hamas and other militant groups, is trying to co-opt the groups, fearing a crackdown would lead to internal fighting. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Fatah Fears Parliamentary Elections - Karin Laub
    The Palestinians' ruling Fatah movement, tainted by corruption and cronyism, is increasingly worried it will get trounced by political upstart Hamas in parliamentary elections. If Hamas wins control of parliament or even a large chunk of the seats, it could hamper Abbas' ability to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Iran Dismisses Economic Offer from U.S. - Nazila Fathi
    Iran reacted testily on Saturday to a statement from the U.S. offering modest economic incentives if it permanently ended the enrichment of uranium, saying that it would not give up its right to nuclear power. "No pressure, bribe, or threat can make Iran give up its legitimate right," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Assefi. (New York Times)
  • Egyptian Opposition Leader Freed on Bail - Daniel Williams
    Egyptian authorities released presidential hopeful Ayman Nour from prison Saturday after supporters posted his bail. The politician's detention had drawn criticism from the U.S and EU. (Washington Post)
        See also Mubarak: Democracy Can't Come From Outside - Nadia Abou El-Magd (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel's New Holocaust Museum Keeps Memories Alive - Megan Goldin
    Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial opens a new museum Tuesday to teach about the Nazi genocide of the Jews in an era when there will be no survivors left to bear witness. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan heads an impressive guest list of international leaders attending the dedication of the museum at Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. (Reuters)
        See also Holocaust Through Victims' Eyes - Joel Greenberg (Chicago Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon to UN Chief: No Progress on Road Map Until Militants Disarmed - Akiva Eldar, Arnon Regular and Yoav Stern
    Prime Minister Sharon was meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Sunday in Jerusalem when Israel Television carried an interview with PA Chairman Abbas, who said he would be ready for full-scale diplomatic talks after the anticipated announcement of a formal cease-fire by all the Palestinian factions. Sharon responded by telling Annan that there would be no progress on the road map peace plan until the Palestinian armed factions are completely disarmed, rejecting Abbas' proposal that a cease-fire would be enough to allow the start of final-status agreement negotiations.
        Sharon told Annan, who is in Israel for Tuesday's opening of the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem, that the PA must also end incitement in mosques and eliminate anti-Israeli incitement from PA schoolbooks before Israel would agree to peace negotiations. Sharon said that there has been a drop in incitement, but that it was not enough. Sharon also told Annan that Hizballah's meddling in Palestinian affairs, including by financing terrorist attacks, was endangering Abbas' rule. (Ha'aretz)
  • Temporary Fence to Go Between Jerusalem, West Bank
    Israel plans to build a temporary fence separating Jerusalem from the West Bank by July, leaving the structure in place while legal challenges to the permanent barrier are decided by the courts, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday. Jerusalem has been a frequent target of Palestinian suicide bombers during the past four years of violence. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Thousands of Palestinians Attend Pro-Syria Rally in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Thousands of Palestinians attended a rally in support of Syria and Hizballah Friday in Gaza, organized by Islamic Jihad. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will the Mideast Bloom? - Youssef M. Ibrahim
    From Casablanca to Kuwait City, the writings of newspaper columnists and the chatter of pundits on Arabic language satellite television suggest a change in climate for advocates of human rights, constitutional reforms, business transparency, women's rights, and limits on power. Their common feature is a lifting - albeit a tentative one - of the fear that has for decades constricted the Arab mind. But the Middle East may more closely resemble 1989 Beijing than 1989 Berlin. While communism collapsed largely of its own weight in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union without U.S. intervention, pro-democracy demonstrators in China were squashed. What will U.S. policy in the Middle East look like if the autocrats, princes, and religious fundamentalists make a stand against the voices of freedom?
        There is a keen sense of irony that a passionately Christian American president who has supported Israel, invaded an Arab country, and presided over an occupation marred by violence might actually make a positive difference in the Muslim world. It has people citing the Koranic verse that speaks of a catastrophe that bears good fruits. (Washington Post)
  • New Signs on the Arab Street - Thomas L. Friedman
    In December, Egyptian President Mubarak's decision to sign a substantial trade agreement with Israel brought Egyptian workers into the streets to protest that they were not included in the new trade deal. Now, that's a new Middle East.
        Democracy will not just spring up in the Middle East because autocrats fall down. It will arise only if these countries develop, among other things, export-oriented private sectors, which can be the foundation for a vibrant middle class that is not dependent upon the state for contracts and has a vital interest in an open economy, a free press, and its own political parties. Free Egypt's economy and they will change the rest of the Middle East for us - for free. (New York Times)
  • Israel's Defense Industry as a Key Component of Israel's Qualitative Military Edge - Giora Shalgi
    In order for six million Israelis to face the quantitative asymmetric population imbalance with their potential enemies, they must maintain an asymmetrical qualitative edge. Israel's defense industry has focused on innovative system applications using proven technologies, avoiding investments in major platforms (except for the Merkava tank which has a unique history). Export is essential for Israel's industry to keep its critical mass because the internal market is too small to support it. Israel's defense exports have reached $3 billion annually, which makes it a significant player in the global export market in certain areas. The writer is former CEO of the Rafael Israel Armament Development Authority. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    The Lebanon Stakes: Hizballah Has a History of Killing Americans - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • The CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley, was beheaded by Hizballah on June 3, 1985. Robert Dean Stethem, a Navy diver, was murdered by Hizballah the same month aboard hijacked TWA Flight 847. This is hizb Allah, the Party of God, the spear of Iranian influence in the Levant and chief local enforcer of Syria's occupation of Lebanon.
    • The dividing line in Lebanon, separating a pro-independence coalition of Druze, Christians, and Sunnis from the pro-Syrian Shiite Hizballah, has now become clear. As have the stakes.
    • For Syria the stakes are economic and political. An estimated one million Syrian guest workers reside in Lebanon and remit their wages to relatives back home, and Syrian officials have plundered much of the international aid Lebanon received over the past decade. The Bekaa Valley also serves as a lucrative transit point for narcotics and other contraband. Without Lebanon, Syria's economy might collapse.
    • For Iran the stakes are strategic. Its elite Revolutionary Guards operate terrorist training camps in the Bekaa. Iran has also placed upward of 10,000 missiles in Lebanon, including the medium-range Fajr-5 rocket, bringing half of Israel within their reach. It thus maintains the option of igniting a new Mideast war at any moment.
    • During the years when Israel maintained a security zone in southern Lebanon, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah could present himself as a patriot fighting occupation. But Israel removed its forces from Lebanon in 2000, and now Nasrallah's support for Syrian occupation exposes a different set of motives: not patriotic, but Jihadist. And the last thing the Jihadists want is for Lebanon to again become a flourishing, pluralist, cosmopolitan Arab state.
    • Syria's withdrawal would likely precipitate a Lebanese decision to enforce UN Resolution 520, which requires the Lebanese Army to patrol its border with Israel, a function now performed by Hizballah. At length, it could lead to the disbanding of Hizballah as an independent militia, though its terrorist wings would likely continue to operate.
    • The Cedar Revolution began as an outburst of rage against Hariri's killers. A joint Franco-American declaration that a crackdown in Lebanon would have serious consequences for Damascus would help give all Lebanese patriots the courage to move forward.

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