Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 29, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Says Percentage of Foreigners Increasing in Iraq - Jim Garamone (American Forces Press Service)
    The percentage of foreign fighters in Iraq is increasing, Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, told CNN Sunday.
    While most of the insurgents in the country are Iraqis, "the percentage of foreign fighters over the past several months seems to have increased," he said.
    Abizaid said the most well-established and well-known route for foreign terrorists goes through Syria.
    Syrian forces know there are cells in Damascus, Aleppo, and other Syrian cities that facilitate foreign fighters going to Iraq.
    "Their security services can find those facilitation cells; they can dismantle them," Abizaid said.
    "And they can certainly go after the people we have identified by name that are former members of the regime that are coordinating actions inside Syria."
    "The Syrians certainly aren't doing enough to shut off their support for the insurgency."

In Beirut, a Case of Missing Millions - Edward T. Pound (US News)
    Two years ago, the private Beirut Bank Al-Madina collapsed in one of the biggest banking scandals in Lebanon's history.
    But behind the scenes there's an even bigger story - how the bank allegedly funneled money to powerful Syrian and Lebanese officials, laundered funds for Iraq's Central Bank when Saddam Hussein was in power, and funded Hizballah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization.
    Investigators say that in January 2003 Al-Madina paid $941,000 to the brothers of Gen. Rustum Ghazali, then the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.
    The following March, a $300,000 "donation" to General Ghazali was made from bank funds.
    In November 2002, $100,000 moved through an account at a sister bank of Al-Madina's to a Lebanon bank account of Mustapha Tlass, then the minister of defense and the deputy prime minister of Syria.

Hamas Wins Hebron Student Council Election (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas won 16 of the 31 seats at the 3,800-student Palestine Polytechnic in Hebron, followed by Fatah with 14 and one for Islamic Jihad.

Saudi Religious Police Destroy Hindu Temple (AFP/Washington Times)
    Saudi religious police on Thursday destroyed a clandestine makeshift Hindu temple in an old district of Riyadh inhabited by mainly Asian labors and deported three worshippers, the pan-Arab Al-Hayat said.
    All forms of non-Muslim worship are banned in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iraq's Insurgents Seek Exit Strategy - Steve Negus
    Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni Arab insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process in exchange for guarantees of their safety and that of their co-religionists. According to Sunni politician Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, many insurgents including former Ba'ath party officials, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign since the Jan. 30 election. Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralizing blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Iraqi Resistance Begins to Crack After Elections - Jason Burke
    The Iraqi resistance has peaked and is "turning in on itself," according to recent intelligence reports from Baghdad received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies. (Observer-UK)
        See also Pentagon Begins to See Iraq Momentum Shift - Rowan Scarborough
    Military officials and analysts say the clearing out of enemy-infested Fallujah in November, the Jan. 30 elections, and the increasing willingness of Iraqis to fight and die for a democratic country are contributing to the momentum in Iraq. "The momentum is in our direction," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a military analyst. (Washington Times)
  • Palestinian Gunmen Become Lawmen to Avoid Israeli Wanted List - Michael Matza
    PA Chairman Abbas is trying to bring law and order to Palestinian cities while working out an arrangement with the Israeli military in which its troops would agree not to hunt down about 340 West Bank fugitives whom Israel views as criminals. The deal to turn militants into police officers appears to be a shrewd compromise that harnesses the gunmen without completely separating them from their guns. At the moment, it may be the most Abbas can hope for. Israeli officials have said that a joint Palestinian-Israeli commission would decide which names to remove from the lists. Anyone found to be plotting more attacks could be targeted for arrest or death. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • America's Hard Cash and Soft Words Fail to Woo Arabs - Patrick Bishop
    Each year America gives more than £1 billion to Egypt and each year its standing in the country sinks ever lower. Even Egyptian reformers distance their struggle from America. ''I want to make it absolutely clear that this demonstration has nothing to do with support for America," said Wael Khalil, at a rally this week in Cairo. George Ishak, coordinator of the Egyptian Movement for Change, whose simple slogan is "Kifaya" (enough), admitted that it would be political poison to have any contact with American officials. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Egypt Cracks Down on Muslim Brotherhood - Mona El-Naggar
    Thousands of policemen in Cairo on Sunday prevented a protest rally by the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, in front of Parliament and arrested 100 protesters. A day earlier, police arrested 84 Muslim Brotherhood members in a nationwide sweep. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Knesset Rejects Disengagement Referendum - Ilan Marciano
    Israel's Knesset Monday rejected a proposal to hold a referendum on the disengagement plan in a 72-39 vote. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also How MKs Voted (Jerusalem Post)
  • Just-Released Terrorist Helped West Bank Cell Manufacture Kassam Rockets
    Eight Islamic Jihad terrorists involved in producing and testing Kassam rockets were arrested in Jenin Monday. One member of the cell, Muhammed Hasin Mahmed Mashkah, had been banished to Gaza over a year ago and was permitted to return about a month ago, Israel Radio reported. The Defense Ministry estimates that he learned how to manufacture and launch Kassams while in Gaza, and upon his return to Jenin he contacted the terror cell there. (Jerusalem Post)
        The cell members had obtained raw materials used in the manufacture of rockets and had conducted test launches. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Palestinians' New IDs to Allow Easier Access - Amira Hass
    The Israeli civil administration in the territories has started issuing Palestinians a new type of magnetic card that employs biometric identification techniques - face-prints, handprints, eye-prints, and fingerprints. The new identity cards are meant to be used in conjunction with the separation fence, and will be used at seven special access points along the barrier and in the Ramallah area.
        The idea is that card-holders will not have to come into contact with soldiers, but simply swipe their cards through the identification device. The first 2,000 cards have been issued to residents of the Tulkarm area. A civil administration source said the cards are issued within 10 minutes, and on the spot, eliminating the long lines and lengthy wait for the IDs in use today. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Condoleezza Clinton? - Editorial
    Israel is planning to build houses in a suburb of its capital, a capital that, according to the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by Congress in 1995 by a vote of 93 to 5 in the Senate and 347 to 37 in the House, "should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel" and "should remain an undivided city." Meanwhile, Mr. Abbas has failed in his obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. (New York Sun)
  • Syrian Strategy in Lebanon - Robert G. Rabil
    Three bomb attacks have occurred within eight days in predominantly Christian areas of Lebanon. Many Lebanese see the bombings as an attempt by Syria and its loyalists to derail the growing movement for democracy and independence in Lebanon, since Syria has a long history of using violence to accomplish its purposes in Lebanon. Car bombs in Lebanon became almost daily occurrences during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Damascus will most likely try to fragment the opposition and drive a wedge between the Druze and the Maronites who form the core of the opposition. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Saudi Arabia's Top Educator Leaves No Wahhabi Child Behind - Olivier Guitta
    The most important political event in Saudi Arabia in the last year may have been the appointment on Feb. 9 of Abdullah bin Saleh al-Obaid, a hard-core Wahhabi, as education minister. Al-Obaid replaces a secularist reformer at the head of a ministry controlling 27% of the national budget and influencing the minds of the next generation. In choosing a Wahhabi for this vital post, Crown Prince Abdullah snubbed his Western friends and handed a victory to the sympathizers of al-Qaeda.
        From 1995 to 2002, al-Obaid was head of the Muslim World League, an organization that in its origins, mission, and associations is bound up with Islamic extremism. Since its founding in 1962, it has spent billions of Saudi government dollars to expand worldwide for the purpose of spreading Wahhabism. The Muslim World League also has direct links to al-Qaeda. Its branch in Peshawar, Pakistan, was led by Wael Jalaidan, "one of the founders of al-Qaeda," according to the U.S. Treasury Department. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    The "Greater Jerusalem" Building Controversy - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)

    • The decade-in-planning project officially known as E-1 was originally initiated by the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin within the framework of a "Greater Jerusalem" plan which would link the capital with the large settlement blocs just outside the city limits.
    • The as yet uninhabited E-1 corridor is a 3,250-acre stretch that could link Jerusalem to 23-year-old Maale Adumim, with 32,000 residents, only five kilometers east of the city.
    • Most Israelis consider Maale Adumim to be a Jerusalem suburb, long considered by Israelis among the left and the right as one of the Jerusalem-area settlement blocs which will be incorporated into Israel as part of any final peace agreement with the Palestinians.
    • "Anyone who drives from Jerusalem to Maale Adumim knows that there are two options: either there is continuity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, or Maale Adumim will become an island in Palestinian territory," says Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky.
    • Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel notes that the planned construction on empty state-owned land, which falls within the jurisdiction of Maale Adumim, would not displace one Arab family.
    • Israeli demographers said that, politics aside, the plan would prove a boon to the viability of the city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, providing it with badly needed space to expand. "From an urban perspective, this plan will greatly strengthen the city of Jerusalem," said Dr. Maya Hoshen, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Israel Studies.

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