Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 30, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Recruit Says He Was Trained in Syria This Year - Ravi Nessman (AP/ABC News)
    Osama Mattar, 20, now in Israeli custody, told the Associated Press he was recruited from a mosque in Gaza by Hamas militants and received military training in a Hamas camp in Syria this year.
    He said he was trained for five weeks by nine instructors - taught to read maps and use a compass, build an electric timer for a time bomb, use light weapons, fire rocket-propelled grenades, and throw hand grenades.
    Syrian intelligence agents "know very well about the presence of Hamas," Mattar said. "What they may not have known about was the presence of a guy from Gaza coming to train at the training camp in Syria."
    Israeli officials say Syria continues to be a hub for Palestinian militants.
    "There is ongoing intelligence information that the terrorist groups working out of Syria are directly responsible for suicide bombings in Israel and continue to function and operate with the facilitation of the government in Syria," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
    "We see today a growing understanding in the international community of the Syrian regime's collaboration with terrorist groups."

"Allah" Inscribed in Arabic on Temple Mount Wall - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    The word "Allah" was found inscribed in Arabic on the eastern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, in one of the single worst acts of vandalism at the site in years, archaeologists and eyewitnesses said Wednesday.
    The vandalism was discovered Tuesday on the 2,000-year-old wall, which is undergoing repair by a team of Jordanian engineers.

Russian-Made Rockets Found in East Lebanon (UPI/Washington Times)
    Seven Russian-made Grad rockets were found in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley Tuesday and handed over to the Lebanese army.

Israel Air Force Seeks Expanded Anti-Terror Role - Christian Lowe and Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News, 28Mar05)
    The Israel Air Force is looking to improve its ability to strike terrorists, their weapon labs, and rocket launchers from the air through quieter, more capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better target detection systems, and improved information technologies, senior officials said.
    A senior Air Force officer said his goal is to be able to strike emerging targets in 50 seconds or less.
    He emphasized, however, that avoiding civilian casualties in such strikes remains crucial.
    "Philosophically, the difference between me and the terrorist is that he wants to hurt me and my children and my wife, while I want to hit him and spare his children and his wife...because even the killing of one innocent person is unfortunate and should be avoided."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Isn't In Control, Israel Asserts - Steven Erlanger
    For Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the smuggling of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles into the Gaza Strip, which he contends has been done with the help of members of Palestinian military intelligence, is a measure of how little Mahmoud Abbas has been able to put his stamp on competing Palestinian security services. In addition, he said the Palestinians have not kept their promises to disarm wanted fugitives in Jericho and Tulkarm, ensure that they abandon their military organizations and give up terrorism. "They've had Jericho back for two weeks and Tulkarm more than one week, and we don't see them dealing with the fugitives as we agreed," Mofaz said. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Israel Doubts Egyptians Will Halt Weapons Smuggling to Palestinians - Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
    The arms smuggling from Egypt has given some Israelis pause about trusting the job to the Egyptians. Israeli media reported that Palestinian militants had received antiaircraft missiles capable of reaching planes over Israel through the tunnels. Israel refuses to leave the Egypt-Gaza border without assurances that Egyptian Rafah won't become a transit point for terrorists targeting Israel, less than an hour's drive away.
        Israeli officials say Egyptian forces haven't done enough to curb the steady flow of weapons to Palestinian militants through tunnels dug beneath the border. "We've seen in the past that Jihadist groups try to smuggle in weapons - high-grade explosives and rockets - through the Egyptian border, and they will continue to do that," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "We want a situation where the border is sealed to prevent this smuggling. What we're asking for is not impossible. We have a long border with Jordan, and the Jordanians do a very good job of preventing the illegal smuggling of weapons." (Knight Ridder/Kansas City Star)
  • U.S. Probes Syria's Future With Assad's Opposition - Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler
    The Bush administration is reaching out to the Syrian opposition because of growing concerns that unrest in Lebanon could spill over and suddenly destabilize Syria. "They're taking seriously that a consequence of getting out of Lebanon will be the collapse of the Assad regime, and they're looking around for alternatives," said Flynt Leverett, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council under Bush. Syrian Americans who attended a meeting Thursday hosted by new State Department "democracy czar" Elizabeth Cheney urged the administration to take tentative steps to pressure Damascus, such as having Bush call for greater freedoms and release of political prisoners, said Farid Ghadry, president of the Syrian Reform Party. (Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Dissidents' U.S. Talks Divide Opposition (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Gaza Terror Groups Trying to Move Know-How to West Bank - Gideon Alon
    Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash) told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that the Palestinian terror organizations are trying to export technological know-how and arms experts from Gaza to make weapons in the West Bank. While Ze'evi noted a discernible lessening of motivation to carry out attacks, at the same time, the capability of terror groups has improved. Security sources also said they are concerned that anti-aircraft missiles recently smuggled into Gaza might be moved into the West Bank and used against commercial aircraft landing at or taking off from Ben-Gurion International Airport. (Ha'aretz)
        Ze'evi said attacks had already been prepared and were being kept on hold, and some tunnels had already been booby-trapped. The Hamas leadership abroad opposed the group's entry into the political system, whereas the local Hamas leadership wanted to be a part of the process to exploit the PA system and foil the peace process, he added. Ze'evi also said Abbas was not succeeding in advancing the reform in the security forces, which were continuing to work as they had in the past "only on the surface." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Intelligence Head: Abu Ala Behaves Like Arafat - Arik Bandar
    PA Prime Minister "Abu Ala is continuing the way of Arafat in the Palestinian Authority. He is advancing an agenda which opposes that of Abu Mazen. The Palestinian prime minister is undermining him," Ze'evi said. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 30Mar05)
  • IDF Arrests Arms Smugglers at Philadelphi Route - Gideon Alon
    Israel Defense Forces troops arrested three Palestinians smuggling 13 Kalashnikov assault rifles and ten handguns at the Philadelphi Route in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. On Tuesday IDF troops caught another Palestinian in the area with an assault rifle and 50 handguns. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel, Too, Has a Right to Self-Determination - Amnon Rubinstein
    International law recognizes a nation's right to self-determination. This right is the basis of nation states, of which Israel is one. This recognition subsumes that a nation has the right to preserve its majority in its own country. However, not all means to that end are justified: Discrimination between Israeli citizens is absolutely taboo. What is permissible? The state may make use of immigration, both by encouraging immigration through the Law of Return and by restricting other immigration that could pose a danger to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
        Those who claim that human rights demand Israel commit national suicide - because without a Jewish majority, there is no Israel - are also endangering the standing of human rights. The writer, a former education minister, is dean of the Radzyner School of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Deterrence Instability: Hizballah's Fuse to Iran's Bomb - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Iran is moving steadily to a nuclear weapons capability, European diplomatic efforts notwithstanding. The "window" within which Iran might be stopped short of the finish line is closing quickly. Iran, with its terrorist proxies and clients including Hizballah, poses the greatest danger to Israel's survival. Its frequent, emotion-filled declarations of intent to "wipe Israel off the map" are often matched by actions to support attacks. The evidence shows that the Iranian regime and its clients have aggressive objectives. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Unbridled Mullahocracy - Arnaud de Borchgrave
    The EU's big three recently persuaded President Bush to let them offer bigger carrots in their negotiations to coax Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The ayatollahs and mullahs clearly don't like U.S. carrots. Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "Death to America" should now be read or spoken before any chapter of the Koran, "so the believer will never forget, even for a moment, the presence of Satan." According to Iran's minister for intelligence (the spying kind, not IQ), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "is the queen of violence and war....She herself is a terrorist." Not to be outdone, President Mohammed Khatami - the head of a so-called "moderate faction - chimed in with an "America is the root of worldwide terror" speech. The regime has been working secretly on producing nuclear weapons for the past 18 years. (Washington Times)
  • The Apparition in the Levant - Fouad Ajami
    In a radically different era, America was "burned" in Beirut and quit the city under the gaze of Arabs who took the withdrawal as a sign of American abdication. There had been that searing October 1983 attack on the Marine barracks which took the lives of 241 Americans. The U.S. Embassy was targeted by terrorists, and American missionaries and educators were murdered or taken as hostages for a cruel trade with Syria's and Iran's rulers. For good reasons, America gave up on Lebanon. But now the world is different, and there is in America a willingness to come to the aid of the Lebanese. It is Damascus and its tyranny on one side and the cedar revolution of the vast majority of Lebanon's people on the other. For once, there is an easy and good choice in an Arab land. (US News)
  • Observations:

    Europe Votes for Hizballah - Editorial (Wall Street Journal, 30Mar05)

    • Europeans attach quasi-mythical dimensions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Solve that, the thinking goes, and the region's problems will magically disappear. So one would think that putting Hizballah on the EU terror list would be a no brainer. The Lebanese-based terrorist group, bent on the destruction of Israel and the Middle East peace process, is now the main sponsor of Palestinian terrorists.
    • Yet, 22 years after the group pioneered suicide bombings by killing 251 U.S. marines and 62 French paratroopers in Lebanon, Europe can't bring itself to act on Hizballah. France, together with Spain, Belgium and others, argues the group should be kept off the list because it is also a "political force."
    • Curiously enough, Europe's domestic terrorists don't get the same free pass. By and large, their "political parties" are routinely banned and exposed for what they are. In November, a Belgian court declared Vlaams Blok, the most popular party in Dutch-speaking Flanders, as racist, forcing it to disband.
    • If the EU is looking to raise its profile in the Middle East, it could take no stronger step than ban Hizballah. A barrier to Lebanese democracy and peace between Palestinians and Israel could be fatally weakened with the stroke of a pen. Free elections in Lebanon are unthinkable as long as Hizballah militias control large swathes of the country.

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