Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 27, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

West Bank Terrorists Have Anti-Aircraft Missiles, Anti-Tank Rockets - Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
    The Shin Bet revealed at a high-level security meeting two weeks ago that Bedouin from Egypt and Israel's Negev have succeeded in smuggling anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to West Bank terrorists.
    In the wake of this intelligence information, it was decided that the Israeli-Egyptian border had become an actual strategic threat and there was a need to redeploy Israeli forces accordingly.

    See also Israel Warns of Renewed West Bank Violence (Scotsman-UK)
    Palestinian militants have stepped up arms smuggling from Egypt in preparation for attacks in the West Bank in September or October, according to Israeli security officials.
    Israeli officials said evidence is mounting that the militants are stockpiling weapons and planning another round of attacks.

Abbas Appoints New Security Agency Chief - Ibrahim Barzak (AP/Washington Post)
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday named Rashid Abu Shbak as the new head of the Preventive Security Service, in charge of reining in militants.

    See also Who is Rashid Abu Shbak?
    In November 2000, a bomb targeted a school bus just outside the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, killing two adults and maiming three children for life. Israeli security sources accused Rashid Abu Shbak of preparing the bomb. (Jerusalem Report)
    Among the Fatah leaders in Gaza, Rashid Abu Shbak is playfully dubbed the "father of mortars," as he had patronized mortar manufacturing in the resistance. (Frontline-India)
    Rashid Abu Shbak is wanted by Israel for his personal involvement in terrorist attacks that have led to the murder of Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
    After the handover of Gaza and Jericho to the PA, Rashid Abu Shbak referred to pre-1967 Israel when he told Yediot Ahronot on May 29, 1994: "The light which has shone over Gaza and Jericho will also reach the Negev and the Galilee." (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    See also Abbas Appoints "Collaborator Hunter" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Abu Shbak is responsible for a ruthless campaign against at least 100 suspected "collaborators" in the Gaza Strip, and among many Palestinians is known as the "collaborator hunter."
    Head of the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in the Gaza Strip for the past three years, he would now also be in charge of the PSS in the West Bank.
    Earlier this year, Israel agreed to remove Abu Shbak from its list of wanted terrorists as a goodwill gesture toward Abbas.
    "The appointment of Abu Shbak as commander of the Preventative Security Service in the West Bank will create many problems," said a top Fatah operative in Ramallah.
    "I don't think many of the security members in the West Bank will accept a commander from the Gaza Strip."


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syrian Intelligence Still in Lebanon - Robin Wright
    Syria has not withdrawn a significant part of its intelligence presence in Lebanon, U.S., European and UN officials said. The continuing presence of covert Syrian intelligence operatives would violate the promise President Bashar Assad made to the UN last month to withdraw all Syrian personnel. Syrian military intelligence has taken up new positions "in the south of Beirut and elsewhere, and has been using headquarters of parties affiliated with the government of Syria as well as privately rented apartments for their purposes," said a report UN Secretary-General Annan made to the Security Council and released Tuesday. About 5,000 Syrian intelligence operatives were deployed in Lebanon, U.S. and European officials said. (Washington Post)
  • Jurors Convict Muslim Leader in Terrorism Case - Jerry Markon
    A U.S. District Court jury in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday convicted prominent Washington-area Muslim spiritual leader Ali Al-Timimi, 41, of inciting his followers to train overseas for violent jihad against the U.S. Five days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Timimi told his followers that "the time had come for them to go abroad and join the mujahideen engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan," according to court papers. The jury decided that his words were enough to send him to prison for what prosecutors said will be a mandatory life sentence. "If one's demonstrated intention is to procure a violent act, that's not protected speech,'' said Ruth Wedgwood, a law professor at Johns Hopkins University and a former federal prosecutor. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise in Terrorism - Susan B. Glasser
    The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures. Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers "significant" attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from around 175 in 2003. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire Three Rockets at Sderot in Israel - Arnon Regular
    Palestinian militants fired three Kassam rockets at Sderot on Tuesday, causing no damage or injuries. Palestinians also fired an anti-tank missile at Israel Defense Forces troops in the Philadelphi Route bordering Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Significant Increase in Terrorist Activity in the Gaza Strip
    In the last three weeks there has been a significant increase in terrorist attacks against Israeli communities and civilians inside and outside the Gaza Strip, constituting a blatant contravention of the ceasefire agreement. Palestinian terrorists have fired Kassam rockets, mortar shells, and anti-tank missiles. Ten explosive devices have been uncovered and detonated. Fire was opened at Israeli communities and IDF forces in over 30 different incidents. As a result of these attacks three soldiers and an Israeli civilian were wounded. In addition, eight attempted infiltrations into Israel were thwarted, involving 25 Palestinians. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Putin is Coming - Attila Somfalvi
    Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, accompanied by dozens of Russian business figures and government officials. During his Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Sharon, Putin is likely to be faced with Israeli concerns regarding Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran and a contentious missile sale to Syria. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Putin's Visit to Israel a Milestone - Eytan Bentsur
    Putin's visit is an indication of his profound alliance with Israel. Putin asserts that he is determined to enhance relations, foster cooperation, and play a more active role in advancing the peace process in the Middle East. The writer is former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Putin Pushes "Road Map" in Visit to Egypt (AP/Washington Post)
  • Europeans Boycott Israeli Conference Held in Eastern Jerusalem - Eliel Shahar
    EU representatives boycotted a conference of the Israel Ministry of Science because it was held at the ministry's offices in eastern Jerusalem. When Ministry of Science Deputy Director General Ran Yishai invited foreign diplomats and scientific attaches to the conference three weeks ago, the Dutch attache wrote back: "We very much value the initiative, but the Ministry of Science is in eastern Jerusalem and we are prevented from attending." Several days later another letter was received: "On instructions from the Presidency, European Union personnel cannot come to the conference." The rotating presidency of the EU is today under The Netherlands; thus the Dutch attache must have imposed his opinion on the other attaches.
        Yishai replied: "Thank you for your letter. I remind you that Israel is not Indonesia, and here we don't receive instructions from The Netherlands or from any presidency." Despite the boycott, representatives from 40 countries decided to attend the conference, including the U.S., Canada, China, Brazil, and Thailand. (Maariv-Hebrew, 26Apr05)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lebanon's Victory - Editorial
    Syrian soldiers flashed victory signs as the last of them withdrew from Lebanon Tuesday, but no show of bravado can disguise the fact that the victory was Lebanon's. Even after the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri two months ago and the anti-Syrian protests that swept the country, many so-called realists said that rapid Syrian withdrawal was too much to expect.
        As the last of the Lebanese militias to disarm, Hizballah still threatens to be a disruptive force as Lebanon moves back toward democracy. But cut off from its Syrian sponsors, Hizballah may yet find that its welcome, at least as an armed group, has worn thin. It is unlikely the Cedar Revolution would have taken place when and how it did without the example of Iraq's elections. If we've learned one thing from this experience, it is that the Arab world isn't resistant to democratic change, but ripe for it. (Wall Street Journal, 27Apr05)
  • Syrian Pullout Could Signal End of Assad Regime - Eyal Zisser
    Despite the attempts by Damascus to call Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon honorable, the humiliation of being expelled, by a Lebanese and international consensus, could not go unnoticed. True, Damascus is still having trouble letting go of its long-time reign of Lebanon and the political, military, and economic profits it had acquired from its occupation. The Syrians aim to continue reaping such benefits by using the cards they still possess. After all, Beirut is still an hour away from Damascus, and the Syrians have quite a few allies in Lebanon, the primary one being Hizballah. This group will be the next target of a Lebanese revolution, and Hassan Nasrallah is likely to feel the noose tightening around his neck. The writer is head of the Middle East History department at Tel Aviv University. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Syrian Troops Out of Lebanon, But U.S. Doesn't Trust Assad - Nathan Guttman
    The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is far from satisfying the U.S. For Washington, Syria's Assad remains a problematic and dangerous leader. The U.S. charges that Syria is allowing Iraqi rebels into its territory and allows rebel leaders to use Damascus as a base. The U.S. demands that Syria stop helping Hizballah, prevent any transfer of Iranian weapons through Syria to Hizballah, and shut down the offices of the Palestinian terror groups operating in Damascus. For the U.S. administration, Assad at best is unreliable, and at worst is an incorrigible conniver who should not be engaged until he has met all the U.S. demands. The withdrawal from Lebanon only erases one article from the list of complaints. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Forgotten Rachels - Tom Gross
    A new play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, opened this month at the Royal Court Theatre, one of London's most prestigious venues. Corrie was a young American radical who burned mock-American flags at pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza in February 2003. A short while later she died after jumping in front of an Israeli army bulldozer that was attempting to demolish a structure suspected of concealing tunnels used for smuggling weapons.
        My Name Is Rachel Thaler is not the title of a play likely to be produced anytime soon in London. Thaler, aged 16, a British citizen, born in London, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. Rachel Levy, 17, was blown up in a grocery store; Rachel Levi, 19, was shot while waiting for the bus; Rachel Gavish, was killed with her husband, son, and father while at home celebrating a Pessah meal; Rachel Charhi was blown up while sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe, leaving three young children; Rachel Shabo was murdered with her three sons aged 16, 13, and 5, while at home. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Disarmament and Rule of Law in Palestine - Haim Malka
    (Christian Science Monitor)

    • Abbas's courtship of Hamas as a political party avoided bloodshed in the near term, but he enhanced the militant organization's legitimacy without diminishing either its arsenal or its armed capabilities. He remains hostage to the whims of Hamas and the threat of its political veto: violence.
    • If Palestinians are ever to achieve a viable independent state, they must first establish the rule of law, which includes a state monopoly on the use of force.
    • Convincing Hamas to disarm should be the last step in this process. Hamas will not begin to contemplate disarmament as long as marauding gangs of Fatah-affiliated gunmen remain unchecked.
    • Ultimately some elements of Hamas, Fatah, and the other factions will resist this new political contract. Those militants who remain outside the system and refuse to recognize the authority of the state should be dealt with through direct force and legal means - apprehended by the security forces and brought to trial to face prosecution.
    • Many Palestinians, fed up with the lawlessness, will support such a confrontation if it is a part of a genuine effort to establish the rule of law.
    • The only viable option for disarming Hamas and transforming it into a real political party, which Abbas publicly advocates, is to demonstrate that Fatah has also accepted the rules of the game. Abbas must first disarm Fatah.

      The writer is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

        See also Undermining Mahmud Abbas: The "Green Revolution" and the Hamas Strategy to Take Over the Palestinian Authority - Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)

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