Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 20, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Radio: Palestinians Say Weapons Not Collected (IMRA)
    After PA head Mahmoud Abbas claimed that the PA has collected terrorists' weapons in Jericho and Tulkarem, Israel Radio Arab affairs correspondent Avi Yissakharov checked with Palestinian sources who all denied that this was the case.
    The Palestinians told him that while the PA has made announcements regarding the collection of weapons, in fact the weapons have yet to be collected.

Saudis in Talks on Nuclear Agreement - George Jahn (AP/Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabia has quietly begun talks on a UN-sanctioned agreement that could curtail any outside probe of its atomic intentions.
    Diplomats report heightening worry stemming from past Saudi nuclear interest, coupled with the timing of Saudi efforts to sign on to the IAEA's small quantities protocol that would exempt the country from most of the agency's control authority.
    The protocol frees countries from reporting the possession of up to 10 tons of natural uranium - or up to 20 tons of depleted uranium - and 2.2 pounds of plutonium.
    Experts say 10 tons of natural uranium can be processed into two nuclear warheads.
    While the Saudi government insists it has no interest in going nuclear beyond a small research reactor built in the 1970s, in the past two decades it has been linked to prewar Iraq's nuclear program, to Pakistan, and to the Pakistani nuclear black marketeer A.Q. Khan.
    It has also expressed interest in Pakistani missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and credible reports say Saudi officials have discussed a nuclear option as a deterrent.

Reports Reveal Zarqawi Nuclear Threat - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    Recurrent intelligence reports say al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi has obtained a nuclear device or is preparing a radiological explosive - or dirty bomb - for an attack, according to U.S. officials.
    The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has reported the nuclear threat in several classified reports distributed since December.
    The reported threat of nuclear terrorism comes amid other intelligence indicating that Zarqawi is planning an attack on the U.S.
    Still other intelligence says Zarqawi was planning a chemical weapons attack in Europe.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush: Hizballah Must Be Disarmed - Paul Holmes and Nadim Ladki
    President Bush said in an interview Tuesday with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation that Hizballah had to be disarmed. "You can't have a free country if a group of people are like an armed militia," he said. Bush said Hizballah, which is also backed by Iran, was trying not only to destabilize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but "to impose their will on a free society." Syria reiterated its backing for Hizballah on Tuesday. (Reuters/ABC News)
        Bush said: "There is a reason why we've put Hizballah on a terrorist list. They've killed Americans in the past. We will continue to work with the international community to keep them on that list and we will continue to pressure this group." The U.S. president also stepped up pressure on Syria, saying if Damascus wants to improve its relations with the U.S. it must "completely pull out of Lebanon, shut down the offices of Hizballah in Damascus, and stop arms smuggling into Iraq." (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        Bush called Hizballah "a dangerous organization" and said if Syria refuses to disarm the group, he could work to apply diplomatic pressure and rally the international community against Syria. "Syria has got to do its part about making sure that Hizballah doesn't receive support from Syria," Bush said. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Hizballah Chief Vows to Keep Arms - Paul Holmes and Nadim Ladki
    The leader of Lebanon's Hizballah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called a UN Security Council demand to disarm meaningless on Tuesday and said his guerrillas would keep their weapons. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • U.S. to Provide $3 Billion Loan Guarantee to Israel
    The U.S. is to provide loan guarantees totaling $3 billion to Israel for 2005-2008, the State Department announced after a meeting of the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group on Monday. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also U.S. Disengagement Aid Far From Certain - Ran Dagoni
    U.S. aid to Israel for moving IDF installations and other activity under the disengagement plan, and for developing the Negev and the Galilee, is far from certain, despite President Bush's declared support. (Globes)
  • Abbas Comes Under Increasing Pressure
    One hundred days after he was elected to succeed Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas faces a confluence of domestic and external pressures that put in question his long-term political survival. "Abu Mazen has already proved to be a great disappointment," said Raji Sourani, a lawyer who heads the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. "Nothing has improved on the economic, social, or security levels." His critics accuse him of not moving fast enough to stamp out corruption by removing dishonest and inefficient officials in the PA or to restore law and order by firing security chiefs who run their units almost as independent fiefdoms. Zufian Abu Zaideh, a leading Fatah reformer, regards Abbas's term so far as "100 days of depression," saying: "Abu Mazen doesn't use the power he got from being elected." (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Abbas's Reform Pact Criticized - Joshua Mitnick (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Chief of Staff Briefs Jordan's King Abdullah - Roi Nachmias and Hanan Greenberg
    Army Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon visited Jordan's King Abdullah II on Tuesday, a senior security source said on Wednesday. Yaalon briefed Abdullah on Palestinian Chairman Abbas's efforts to combat growing chaos in the PA and fulfill a long-term Israeli and U.S. demand that he rein in terrorists and dismantle groups like Hamas before Israel would agree to reopen talks on the road map. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • New Pope Seen Continuing Relationship with Israel, Jews - Peter Hirschberg
    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, the new pope to be known as Benedict XVI, will continue positive relations with Israel and Jews, say Jewish figures who know Ratzinger personally. "He has a profound commitment to good relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, and an unquestionable commitment to Israel's well being," says Rabbi David Rosen, a key figure in the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican in 1993. "From a narrow Jewish and Israeli perspective, it is good news for the Jews."
        Shortly after the establishment of diplomatic ties, Ratzinger visited Israel to deliver the keynote address at a Jewish-Christian conference, recalls Rosen, who chaired the event. Ratzinger, who made several quiet visits to Israel before the establishment of diplomatic ties, wrote the introduction to an important Vatican document on Christian-Jewish relations that deals with the central place of the Jewish people and Jewish religious texts in Christian teaching. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Pope and the Jews (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Six Shooting Incidents in Territories Tuesday - Amos Harel
    Five shooting incidents took place in Gaza and one in the West Bank Tuesday, with no casualties reported. Shots were fired at Israeli troops on the Karni-Netzarim road in Gush Katif, as well as in Morag and in the Rafah area. In Hebron, an armed masked Palestinian approached an IDF post close to Romano House in the Jewish Quarter, but soldiers fired shots and the man fled. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tempering Mideast Expectations - Robert Charles
    Will we see Jeffersonian principles embraced by formerly radical Islamic leaders and once privileged princes? Is the Middle East inexorably drawn into the vortex of global freedom? Ideally, yes. Realistically, there is more uncertainty ahead than before. In the Middle East today the dominant culture is unfamiliar with democratic institutions, does not revere tolerance, does not treat as self-evident either the civic duties or civil rights enshrined in Western culture, and has no experience with the basic operations - the ebb and flow, give and take - of democratic society. With several notable exceptions, literacy is low, poverty great, the draw of radical Islam ever-present, and resentment of the West, as well as secular institutions, high. The writer is former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, 2003-2005. (Washington Times)
  • Is Assad's Regime Long For This World? - Michael Young
    A top official at the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) said, "We have told Syria it is responsible for violence in Lebanon. If Syria wants to escalate the violence, it will be another Syrian mistake." This phrase was echoed by a senior Pentagon official who asked: "What mistake will Assad make next?" After 29 years, the Syrian regime, which we must reportedly thank for having robbed Lebanon blind, assassinated its leaders, bombed it cities and killed many thousands of its civilians, leaves a legacy no one cares to resurrect.
        The NSC official also said there must be a "realistic timeframe" for Hizballah's disarmament, and suggests the way to do this is to reinforce the Lebanese Army. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Meeting With Liberal Muslims in Qatar - Christopher Hitchens
    On a small peninsula on the forbidding coast of Saudi Arabia, the tiny emirate of Qatar plays host to Al Jazeera and to the key U.S. base in the region. Qatar is a hereditary Wahabbist monarchy, but several years ago the current emir, Sheik Hamad al-Thani, decided to depose his autocratic father, abolish censorship, and allow women to drive, vote, and run for office. The immigrant workers of the country, mostly Indian, are allowed to follow their own religions and receive a much better deal than their semi-indentured fellows in Riyadh and Jeddah. Since Qatar holds an astonishing amount of the world's natural gas, it is now perhaps the richest nation per capita on the planet and has become a cross between Switzerland and Hong Kong. (Slate)
  • Observations:

    Countdown to Disengagement - Dennis Ross
    (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Several measures can be taken at this stage to advance Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation:

    • The ceasefire must be secured. U.S. Army Gen. William Ward, who is spearheading security coordination in the area, should create a list of goals for Mahmoud Abbas to complete before his visit to Washington.
    • The problem of the 495 Palestinians on Israel's wanted list must be seriously addressed. General Ward can be helpful on this front as well.
    • The EU and the World Bank should create a team to help Abbas clean up the PA. If he cannot eradicate the PA's corruption-riddled reputation, he will never succeed domestically.
    • The $1.2 billion that the international community has pledged to the Palestinians must have tangible effects on the ground. Pledged money must be quickly turned into concrete accomplishments that increase Palestinian employment.
    • The greatest threat facing both sides is violence supported by Hizballah and Iran. The Europeans should make clear to Iran the consequences of Hizballah violence.
    • Arab states must bolster Abbas. American pressure on this subject is long overdue. With Arab states publicly supporting him, Hamas would find an oppositionist stance increasingly costly.

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