Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 15, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Attacks Destroy Lebanese Statue of Syrian President - Mohammed Zaatari (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    The statue of late Syrian President Hafez Assad in the southern Lebanese village of Qana was completely destroyed on Thursday as anti-Syrian sentiment gains force.
    The monument was first attacked on Feb. 27 when the metallic statue of Assad's head and torso in the middle of a water fountain was felled from a stand hailing "the eternal leader."
    The president of the Committee for Immortalizing Martyr Hafez Assad, Hussein Dakhlallah, accused the Israelis of perpetrating the attack.
    Sources said that local officials have decided not to rebuild the statue.

Freed Palestinian Prisoner Arrested at Checkpoint - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
    On Monday, Naim Hable of Kalkilya, a Palestinian security prisoner freed as a good-will gesture on Feb. 21, was caught at a checkpoint along with two others with 102 M-16 rifle bullets, a knife, and stolen property.

Saudi Killer Spearheads Chechen War - Mark Franchetti (Times-UK)
    A ruthless Islamic militant from Saudi Arabia who has been accused of financing some of Russia’s most deadly terrorist acts has emerged as joint commander of the Chechen rebels after the killing last week of Aslan Maskhadov, former president of the breakaway republic.
    Abu Havs, 40, a Wahhabi extremist, is said to have become one of Russia’s two most wanted men, along with Shamil Basayev, the rebel leader who claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege in September.
    The FSB security service (successor to the KGB) believes that Abu Havs helped organize and finance the Beslan siege, in which 331 hostages died.
    It claims he is the main channel for funds from the Arab world for the Chechen rebels and it suspects him of links with al-Qaeda.

Poll: Palestinian Perceptions of Countries' Political and Financial Support (AMIN)
    Alpha International Research, in cooperation with Ellam Tam public relations, published a study conducted in January on Palestinian perceptions of countries in terms of political and financial support.
    In terms of political support, France ranked first, followed by Russia and the U.S., among non-Arab countries. Egypt, followed by Syria and Jordan, ranked highest among Arab countries.
    In terms of financial support, 37% saw Saudi Arabia as the Arab country that provides the most financial support, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Among non-Arab countries, France ranked as number one, followed by the U.S.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas: Accused Militants to Go Free After Pullback
    Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who has been held in Jericho after being accused of ordering the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi in October 2001, will be freed from jail when Israel pulls back from the city this week, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday. "Saadat and [Fuad] Shobaki will be released from prison in Jericho when Jericho is handed over to the Palestinians," Abbas said. Saadat and three others blamed for the killing of Zeevi, as well as Shobaki - the chief financier of the Karine A weapons ship in 2002 - are being guarded in a Jericho prison by the British under a deal between Israel and the Palestinians in 2002. (Reuters)
        See also Israel: Murderers Will Be Rearrested - Eliel Shahar
    The Defense Ministry said Israel "strongly opposes" the release of Zeevi's murderers and that "if they are released, they will be rearrested." (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Huge Demonstration in Lebanon Demands End to Syrian Control - Neil MacFarquhar
    Lebanon's anti-Syria opposition regained momentum on Monday as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese jammed Beirut's central square to demand the end to Syrian control of their country, in a showing that easily rivaled a pro-Syria rally last Tuesday organized by Hizballah. (New York Times)
  • Idea of Truce Drives Wedge Between Militants - Laura King
    PA Chairman Abbas heads into talks with representatives of the armed Palestinian factions in Cairo Tuesday hoping to come away with a formal cease-fire pledge in hand. But some disaffected young foot soldiers are poised to break away and violate any accord. A growing split has emerged in recent weeks between the groups' leadership based inside the Palestinian territories and their "outside" leaders, based mainly in Syria, raising questions as to whether the groups' leaders, let alone Abbas' government, are in a position to stave off violence that could destroy efforts to restart peace talks.
        "Abu Mazen can't get into a face-to-face confrontation with these groups because he will immediately be tarred as a collaborator with Israel, but if he can't establish order, Israel won't talk to him about the real issues," said Mordechai Kedar, a former Israeli military intelligence officer. "He's trying to run between the raindrops and somehow stay dry, but there is a limit to how long that can last." (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon: "Hudna" (Cease-Fire) Not Enough - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Sharon has made clear that any intra-Palestinian hudna (declaration of truce) is not enough. Sharon reiterated Israel's demand that the PA dismantle the terrorist organizations, not make agreements with them. He said that political agreements with Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not lead to their disappearance, and that the longer Abbas put off tackling the terrorist organizations, the harder the job would be.
        "The cease-fire that the Palestinians are working toward does not mean the renunciation of the terrorism option and is no solution; therefore, we will not agree to it," Sharon said. He warned that Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not renounce terrorism, that they would merely hold their fire until it was once again convenient, then they would renew their terrorist war. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel, PA Agree on Jericho Handover - Margot Dudkevitch
    After a meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and PA Interior Minister Nasser Youssef on Monday, the PA is expected to receive security control of Jericho on Wednesday, with Tulkarm due to be handed over the following week. Israel will retain control of the Jordan Valley highway and the DCO checkpoint outside Jericho. (Jerusalem Post)
  • All's Getting Quiet on the Southern Front - Amos Harel
    IDF officers in Gaza are saying that the Palestinians are more serious than ever before. "There's no double talk. When we have an agreement with them on a PA patrol being some place at a certain time, they're there. And there's no more PA police standing by idly while a few meters away someone fires at us," said a senior officer. Many of the old-timers from Tunis have been removed from the PA security services, replaced by new officers who are graduates of Israeli prisons and know Hebrew. But the Palestinian effort falls short of Israeli expectations for "a chain of prevention" - i.e., arresting suspects, interrogating them, checking the information they provide, and then charging them and putting them on trial. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Syria Collapse? - Robert D. Kaplan
    Rather than Iraq, it could be Syria that ends up collapsing. Syria is but a Levantine version of the former-Yugoslavia. In Syria, each sect and religion has a specific geography. Aleppo in the north is a city with greater historical links to Mosul and Baghdad than to Damascus. Between Aleppo and Damascus is the increasingly Islamist Sunni heartland. Between Damascus and the Jordanian border are the Druze. Free and fair elections in 1947, 1949, and 1954 exacerbated these divisions by dividing the vote along sectarian lines.
        Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970 after 21 changes of government in the previous 24 years. For three decades he was the Leonid Brezhnev of the Arab world, staving off the future while failing to build a national consciousness by virtue of a suffocating and calcifying tyranny.
        In Jordan, the Hashemite dynasty - unlike the Alawite one in Syria - has spent decades building a state consciousness through the development of a unified national elite. Amman is filled with ex-government ministers loyal to the Jordanian monarchy - people who were not imprisoned or killed as a result of cabinet reshuffles, but who were merely allowed to become rich. (Wall Street Journal, 14Mar05)
  • What Role for the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria's Future? - Michael Jacobson
    In calling for a demonstration in Damascus on March 10, Haitham Maleh, an opposition figure with close connections to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, proclaimed, "We are 85 percent of the country" - an apparent gesture of solidarity against Syria's ruling Alawite minority. The group of about 100 demonstrators who answered his call was reportedly dispersed by several hundred pro-government demonstrators. Along with President George W. Bush's rejection of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's ambiguous proposal for a phased or partial withdrawal from Lebanon, the incident fed speculation on whether Assad's regime will survive the current tumult. Although few would mourn the regime's collapse, many are concerned that such a development would allow an Islamist group such as the Muslim Brotherhood to take control. The writer is a Soref fellow at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe - Lorenzo Vidino
    Europe has become an incubator for Islamist thought and political development. Since the early 1960s, Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations. They now lead organizations that represent the local Muslim communities in their engagement with Europe's political elite. These organizations represent themselves as mainstream, even as they continue to embrace the Brotherhood's radical views and maintain links to terrorists. (Middle East Forum)
  • Observations:

    Syria Must Get Its Act Together Before It Is Too Late - Anton La Guardia (Telegraph-UK)

    • Increasingly, Damascus resembles Beirut more than Baghdad. Syrian troops may have physically occupied Lebanon, but the Lebanese spirit is capturing Syria.
    • By his own ineptitude, President Bashar al-Assad has elevated Syria into President Bush's "axis of evil," isolated his country, and made himself the next candidate for regime change. Syria has earned America's wrath for sponsoring Iraqi insurgents, Palestinian suicide bombers, and Lebanon's Hizballah movement.
    • Bashar does not realize that the game has changed: September 11 removed America's fear of casualties.
    • Amer Salem, a Syrian who now works in America, called on Bashar to transform his regime before it is too late: support the PA rather than its opponents, offer the help of Syria's secret services to fight al-Qaeda, sweep away the old guard, and establish the rule of law to promote investment. And as a grand gesture to get America's attention, he should go to Baghdad, embrace Iraq's new elected rulers, and tell his Ba'athist friends to stop the insurgency.
    • Bashar should heed this advice. It may endanger his power base, or even his life, but his regime is already in mortal danger. Look at Libya's Gaddafi. By giving up his nuclear program, he has quickly changed from Reagan's "mad dog" into a friend of the West - and nobody is asking him to become a democrat.
        See also Bashar Assad: A Powerful Leader or "an Empty Vessel"? - Barbara Slavin (USA Today)

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