Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 29, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Hints Talks on Ending Its Nuclear Program Are Near Collapse - Nazila Fathi (New York Times)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi warned Thursday that his country would resume uranium enrichment if there was no progress Friday in the discussions in London over Iran's nuclear program.
    The U.S. and Europe want Iran to renounce all uranium enrichment, in order to guarantee that it is not secretly preparing to make weapons-grade fuel.

In the Abu Mazen Era, PA Universities Continue to Serve as Centers of Incitement (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies)
    In the era of Abu Mazen, incitement continues in the PA education system, including the universities, and was expressed vividly during student elections held in March and April in a number of schools, in most of which Hamas scored significant success.
    On the eve of elections at the University of Hebron, the Islamic Bloc published a leaflet stressing that the strategic goal of Hamas is an Islamic Palestine from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan ) river, lashing out against Abu Mazen, glorifying martyrs, and preaching terrorism and hatred.

    See also Bashar Assad's Syria : A Focus of Continued Incitement to Venomous Anti-Semitism (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies)

U.S. Seizes Zarqawi's Laptop - Peter Grier and Faye Bowers (ABC News)
    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - Iraq's most wanted fugitive - eluded capture by American troops on Feb. 20, but left behind a treasure trove of information on a laptop computer, a senior U.S. military official said.
    The covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi - Task Force 626 - learned of a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, and set up checkpoints around the city's perimeter.
    At one checkpoint, a pickup truck quickly turned around and headed in the opposite direction.
    A senior military official said they learned later that Zarqawi jumped out of the vehicle when it passed beneath an overpass and then ran to a safe house in Ramadi.
    When the truck was pulled over several miles later, Zarqawi was not inside but his computer was discovered.

Palestinians in Lebanon Won't Disarm - Donna Abu-Nasr (AP/Washington Post)
    Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon may end the foreign army presence, but armed foreigners certainly remain.
    The UN resolution that forced Syria to withdraw says Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should disarm, but the Palestinians say they won't.
    After reports that Syrian intelligence officers are present at the Haret al-Naameh and Qosaya bases of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Lebanese lawmaker Nematalla Abi-Nasr asked, how can the government "explain the presence of military bases...that are equipped with heavy weapons?"
    Abi-Nasr said the UN team that will verify Syria's withdrawal should also inspect the two bases.
    While Palestinians in Jordan and Syria enjoy the same rights as the citizens of those countries, the 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from work outside the camps.

Palestinians to Hold More Local Elections May 5 (Middle East Online-UK)
    The next phase of local Palestinian elections will take place on May 5 in more than 80 municipalities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian electoral commission said Thursday.
    Around 400,000 Palestinians will elect councilors from more than 2,500 candidates, among them 399 women.

Report: Son of Jordanian Minister Hospitalized in Israel (Albawaba-Jordan)
    The son of a prominent Jordanian minister has entered the Beit Loewenstein rehabilitation center in Israel.
    According to Israel Radio, the patient arrived in Israel on board a Jordanian air force helicopter.

Palestinian Professor Accuses PA of Car Torching - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian professor Abdel Sattar Kassem, who has been waging a public campaign against corruption in the PA for many years, on Thursday accused PA security forces of torching his car in Nablus on Wednesday.
    Kassem escaped an attempt on his life in 1995 when a gunman opened fire and wounded him.
    He is closely associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and between 1996 and 2000 was arrested three times by PA security forces.

Muslim Group in France Is Fertile Soil for Militancy - Craig S. Smith (New York Times)
    The Tablighi Jamaat, or Preaching Party, a global army of Muslim missionaries, is one of the primary forces spreading Islamic fundamentalism in Europe today, and many young Muslim men pass through the group on the way toward an extreme, militant interpretation of the religion.
    European terrorism officials who follow Tablighi closely say they know many cases in which terrorists have emerged from the movement, but they say they have never been able to penetrate the group sufficiently to prove that it plays any direct role.
    "It is definitely fertile ground for breeding terrorism," said a French intelligence official.

Battle for Egypt's Future - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)
    An electoral farce featuring the persecution or jailing of liberal Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour and the ballot-box stuffing widely reported in previous Egyptian elections would eliminate the possibility that Egypt, like Mexico or South Korea, will be led to democracy by its ruling party.

Palestinian Journalists Beaten by PA Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian journalists on Wednesday refused to cover a visit by PA Chairman Abbas to the Civil Police headquarters in Gaza City after some of them were beaten by security officers.
    The journalists complained that while they were waiting for Abbas to arrive, some policemen started pushing them in a violent manner and cursing them.
    Information Minister Nabil Shaath revealed on Wednesday that many Palestinian journalists and media outlets had been on the PA's payroll for years.

Useful Reference:

Ezer Weizman (Telegraph-UK)
    Ezer Weizman, the former President of Israel, was perhaps his country's most memorable head of state; certainly, he was one of the most colorful.
    In younger days a dashing and audacious airman, Weizman had the appearance and bearing of a Hollywood hero.
    But he was also moody, impatient and unpredictable, and had a high opinion of himself - which was all the more insufferable for being justified.
    See also Weizman, As He Was - Uri Dan (Jerusalem Post)
    See also Ezer Weizman Photo Gallery (Maariv-Hebrew)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Putin Warns Iran Against Atomic Arms - Steve Gutterman
    On the first visit by a Kremlin leader to Israel, Russia's Vladimir Putin soothed his hosts Thursday by aiming sharp words at Iran over its nuclear program, but he sparred with his Israeli counterpart on a Syrian missile deal that Israelis see as a threat. "Our Iranian partners must give up development of nuclear cycle technology," he said, referring to enriched uranium that can be used in weapons, "and must not hinder putting all their nuclear programs under complete international control." Putin defended Russia's agreement to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. He said the missiles could not be converted to portable use by terrorists without authorities being aware, and he repeated earlier assurances that the short-range missiles are no threat to Israeli territory. (AP/ABC News)
        See also Putin Banned Sales of 300-km Iskander Missiles to Syria
    "Our military intended to sell to Syria the Iskander system with a range of 300 km. I have vetoed the deal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a visit to Israel. "We cannot be described as irresponsible partners; we do take due account of the concerns and wishes of our partners and do everything not to break the balance of power in the region." (Novosti-Russia)
        See also Putin, Sharon: No Serious Disagreements between Russia and Israel
    In his meeting with WWII veterans on Wednesday, Putin said Russia and Israel "have no serious, real disagreements. The common past unites us. Our common task is to fight terrorism. We also have many common economic and cultural interests."
        "I should reveal a secret. We had a dinner with the prime minister. We joked when I said we should solve problems as partners even if we have disagreements. The prime minister was surprised and said we have no disagreements," the Russian president said, adding that he agreed with him. "The peoples of Russia and Israel are very close because they sustained the biggest losses during World War II," Putin said. (ITAR-TASS-Russia)
  • U.S. Balks at Putin's Mideast Peace Conference Plan
    The U.S. balked on Wednesday at a proposal by Russian President Putin for a peace conference this fall to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the timing was not right. "We believe there will be an appropriate time for an international conference, but we are not at that stage now and I don't expect that we will be there by the fall," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Raps Putin Over Proposed Sale of Missiles to Syria - Aluf Benn
    U.S. President George W. Bush made plain his unhappiness over a proposed Russian arms deal with Syria Thursday. "We didn't appreciate that," he said, "But we made ourselves clear." Bush and Russian President Putin are scheduled to meet in Moscow early next month. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Militants' Patience for Cease-Fire is Wearing Thin - Back Truce But Only to a Point - Matthew Kalman
    Mahmoud and Munif Remawi, with pistols tucked into their waistbands, are in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah party that dominates the Palestinian government. For security reasons, their sojourn in the cafe is too brief for them to order lunch. But their message is clear: Time is running out for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. "The current cease-fire is for a limited period only," says Munif. "Unless the political dialogue produces real results from Israel, the intifada will resume." (San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Israeli Army Says Fighting Likely After Pullout - Joshua Brilliant
    Top Israeli army officers warn that Palestinian militants are preparing to resume hostilities, possibly after Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. A senior military source interviewed this week said that the militant Palestinian groups' leaders and operational commanders assume the calming-down period will not last long. Members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade want to resume fighting, and are arming, recruiting, training, and planning for the next round, the source said. Palestinians in Gaza are working to extend the range of their rockets and conduct "very many" test firings into the sea, he said.
        In some instances, when Israel provided the PA with weapon smugglers' names, Palestinian security officials warned the smugglers that the Israelis were on their trail, he said. The Egyptians, too, "could do much more to stop the smuggling. They know the smugglers quite well," he added. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Rice: Syria Must Halt Covert Activity in Lebanon - Rosalind Jordan
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told NBC News on Wednesday: "Syria needs to continue to make sure that it lives up to the letter and the spirit of [UN Security Council Resolution] 1559. That means that their security forces also need to be out of Lebanon. And I mean both declared and undeclared security forces because with a country like Syria there is always nontransparent activity and that needs to be dealt with." (NBC News/State Department)
        See also U.S. to Avoid Confrontation with Hizballah in Lebanon - Tyler Marshall
    The Bush administration has decided to avoid any immediate confrontation with the Iran-backed Islamic militant group Hizballah in the wake of this week's departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon, according to senior U.S. officials. Disarming the group's large militia, along with those of others in the troubled country, is a key part of a UN resolution that the U.S. co-sponsored last year to end foreign meddling in Lebanon.
        Those familiar with the country's politics note that any immediate American demand on Hizballah to disarm its militia prior to the upcoming elections could backfire. "Given the fact that America is not the flavor of the month there, it could enhance Hizballah's chances at the polls," said Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and currently head of the Washington-based Middle East Institute. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Lebanon Government Removes Pro-Syrian Officials - Sam F. Ghattas
    The Lebanese government removed the country's top prosecutor and a security chief Thursday, and replaced two other security chiefs who had stepped aside in a campaign to purge the administration of pro-Syrian officials. Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet also appointed a new police commander and a new head of military intelligence. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Iraqi Unit Brings Calm to Baghdad Rebel Stronghold - Ann Scott Tyson
    The 302nd Battalion, an Iraqi unit that U.S. officers consider one of the most capable in the Iraqi army, formally took charge of the Haifa district of Baghdad early this year. In recent weeks, attacks have fallen off sharply. What the Iraqi soldiers sometimes lack in discipline, they make up for in street savvy, U.S. advisers say. They can more easily spot an out-of-place bomb wire, detect nuances in dress and accent, or sense a subtle change in mood that alerts them to their enemy. Not only do the Iraqis see telltale signs of bombs in the cluttered landscape, but they often audaciously run over, grab the wires, and pull them out, U.S. officers say. Public support for the Iraqis seems to be building, judging by the number of phone calls and handwritten notes from residents that have led them to suspected attackers and large weapons caches. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S., Insurgents Compete to Win Informants (AP/New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • The Putin-Sharon Meeting
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Jerusalem. Sharon said an international conference would be held at the beginning of the second stage of the Roadmap and not before. Putin said that Russia's intention was to propose a professional meeting at the level of experts in order to advance the diplomatic process in the region; in any case, no kind of forum would be convened without Israel's assent. Putin said that it would only be in coordination and agreement with Israel that Russia would assist the Palestinian security forces to fight terrorism more efficiently.
        Putin emphasized that a nuclear Iran frightens Russia as much as it frightens Israel and said that Russia would not help Iran achieve a nuclear bomb. He added that on the Iranian issue, Russia was Israel's ally and called for cooperation in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Putin said the terrorist organizations must receive no concessions and must be shown no weakness. He stressed that Russia was Israel's strategic ally. (Prime Minister's Media Adviser/IMRA)
        See also A Friend in the Kremlin - Yossi Melman
    Sources who attended Putin's conversations with President Katsav and Prime Minister Sharon said that he was well-prepared for the issues on the agenda. He was attentive, focused, and responded swiftly. His reserved demeanor notwithstanding, he conveyed the message that Israel has a friend in the Kremlin, despite disagreements. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sharon Nixes Abbas Plan on Militants' Arms - Ze'ev Schiff
    Israel has flatly rejected plans by Abbas to absorb wanted Palestinians and their weapons into the PA's security mechanisms and thus "launder" their possession of arms in the future. The PA is not fulfilling its commitments regarding the wanted men in the two cities - Jericho and Tulkarm - already vacated by the IDF. Israel has stipulated five conditions for reaching an agreement concerning wanted men who have been involved in terror activities:
        1. The wanted men will hand in their arms to the PA.
        2. Every wanted man will sign an undertaking to sever all ties with the terror groups in which he operated in the past.
        3. Every wanted man will undertake not to take part in acts of violence or terror.
        4. The wanted men will remain for now in the cities where they currently reside and will not move to alternative locations.
        5. The PA will take responsibility for the actions of the wanted men.
    The Israeli demands were passed on to the PA and the U.S., with U.S. officials characterizing them as reasonable from a security point of view. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Scores of Armed Fugitives Hiding in Jericho and Tulkarm - Margot Dudkevitch
    Israel estimates that scores of armed fugitives, who have been involved in attacks against Israel, are hiding out in the cities transferred to Palestinian security control last month. There are no plans to hand over Kalkilya to PA security control until the weapons of fugitives in Jericho and Tulkarm are collected, a security official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Rejects Arming Palestinian Police - Aluf Benn
    A political source in Jerusalem said Bush administration envoys Elliott Abrams and David Welch raised Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef's request for arming the Palestinian police during their visit to Israel last week. Israeli officials responded: "Let them first take the weapons from the terrorists."
        A source within the defense establishment said the U.S. security coordinator in the Middle East, Lt.-Gen. William Ward, "did not ask to supply the Palestinian police officers with weapons, but merely asked what Israel's position would be regarding Russia's request to give the Palestinian police armored vehicles. He was told that Israel was opposed to this." (Ha'aretz)
  • Shots, Mortar Fired at IDF Forces
    Shots were fired towards IDF forces near the Awarta checkpoint south of Nablus Thursday. A mortar landed Thursday near an IDF post in southern Gaza. No one was injured, Army Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Boycotting the Jews - Gerald M. Steinberg
    In truth, the direct impact of unspecified academic sanctions adopted by the Association of University Teachers (AUT), Britain's largest teachers' union, against the faculty at Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities is likely to be minimal. The quality of Israeli academic research is generally very high, and good work still trumps bad politics, even in the nonsense of "post-colonial," post-modern, and post-Chomsky/Said theory. The real threat, as its authors realize, is not from the direct academic impact, but rather from its broader political objectives.
        The boycott is only a small part of the broader political war against Israel's legitimacy as a sovereign Jewish state, and the effort to label Israel as the next "apartheid regime" is designed to put an end to Zionism. The use of the apartheid label does a gross injustice to those who suffered under the real thing, and is a form of modern anti-Semitism, this time turning the Jewish state into the devil. This is the real tragedy of the AUT boycott decision - while talking about peace, its backers are actually contributing to war and hatred. The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar-Ilan University and is the editor of NGO Monitor. (Wall Street Journal-Europe, 29Apr05)
  • Terror Convention in Iran - Editorial "Reflecting the Views of the U.S. Government"
    The group called the Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign held a registration meeting recently in Iran's capital, Tehran. The group's aim is to boost its roll of volunteers willing to carry out suicide attacks in Israel and Iraq. According to Reuters news agency, "the presence of President Mohammad Khatami's adviser on women's affairs and a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leant some official backing" to the group's latest meeting. A so-called religious decree by Ayatollah Hossein Nuri Hamedani was read aloud at the meeting. Echoing previous statements by Supreme Leader Khamenei, the decree said that suicide attacks are "permitted and relevant in the holy war for the good of Allah."
        President George W. Bush envisions a far different future for the people of Iran than signing up for missions of death: "I believe that the Iranian people ought to be allowed to freely discuss opinion, read a free press, have free votes, be able to choose among political parties." (Voice of America)
  • Turkish-Israeli Ties - Ayse Karabat
    Despite the occasional tensions, Turkish-Israeli ties never come to the point of breaking. At the time the war on Iraq started, some Turks, including some state officials, got suspicious about the designs of Israel for the future of Iraq. Maybe Israel wants an independent Kurdish state. This was the beginning of a new "cold cycle" of relations. But Prime Minister Erdogan, who is a pragmatist, sent his four advisers to Tel Aviv and then Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. The death of Arafat served the interest of Ankara-Tel Aviv relations, too. Erdogan will visit Israel next week.
        There are almost 2,500 Israeli companies working in Turkey or doing business with Turkey, not to mention the almost 300,000 Israeli tourists coming to Turkey every year. Israel sells $700 million and buys $1.3 billion from Turkey. (Turkish Weekly)
        See also Turkey-U.S.: Air Base Use Extended, Warplane Deal Clinched, Amid Armenian Complaints (AKI-Italy)
  • After Decades as Nonpersons, Syrian Kurds May Soon Be Recognized - Katherine Zoepf
    While about 1.5 million Kurds live in Syria, 200,000 Kurds are denied citizenship, with no right to own property, to travel abroad, or to go to high school. Yet speculation that President Assad is planning to do something about the "Kurdish problem," as the issue of Syria's stateless Kurds is known, has been circulating widely in recent weeks, as government officials have been quietly taking a census of Kurdish families.
        On March 30, 312 Kurds who were imprisoned after the demonstrations last year were released under a presidential amnesty. On April 6, when the Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was chosen as president of Iraq, Kurds living in Damascus played the Kurdish national anthem without official interference in a street celebration, an act that Syrian Kurds say would have been unthinkable a year ago. "The situation for the Kurds has really eased in Iraq and Turkey," a Western diplomat said. "The Assad regime probably realizes that the best way to weaken any separatist sentiment is to give the Kurds more of a stake in the country." (New York Times)
  • Crosses, Crescents and Stars - Editorial
    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has member organizations from more than 180 countries, but not Israel. Excluding Israel is wrong, and it diminishes the Red Cross movement's moral standing. But there is a real chance that under heavy pressure from the American Red Cross, the policy will change in the near future. For the sake of the Red Cross as much as Israel, it should. (New York Times)
  • How Would Americans React to Terror? - Dennis Prager
    During the worst of the Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis, I visited Israel and made a documentary ("Israel in a Time of Terror") about how Israelis regarded and lived with the murdering of their fellow men, women, and children. I will forever regard the Israelis of that period as achieving a rare level of national greatness: They were able to go on living normal lives, returning the next day to the same cafes bombed the day before, riding on the same bus line that the day before had its passengers blown up, blinded, maimed, and brain damaged. While making the documentary, I often wondered how we Americans would react if such terror came to our restaurants, malls, and buses. (

    Weekend Features:

  • Putin to Find "Little Russia" in Israel
    More than a million Russian engineers, physicists, and artists left for Israel in the dying years of the Soviet Union. Now almost one of every four Israelis is of Russian origins. (Reuters)
        See also Soviet War Vets in Israel to be Lauded
    More than 20,000 Soviet World War II veterans living in Israel will receive Russian state medals commemorating the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday. (JTA/Jerusalem Post)
  • BBC Reporter's Award Stuns Israel - Herb Keinon
    BBC reporter Orla Guerin is to receive a Member of the British Empire (MBE) honor from the British government for "outstanding service to broadcasting." Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky, who last year wrote a formal letter of complaint to the BBC over Guerin's coverage, said it is a pity that the absence of anti-Semitism was not a criterion for the award.
        In response to one of Guerin's dispatches about Israel's capture of a mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Sharansky protested that Guerin, in her report, portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes." He said this "reveals a deep-seated bias against Israel. Only a total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups would drive a reporter to paint Israel in such an unflattering light instead of placing the focus on the bomber and the organization that recruited him." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rudy Boschwitz, the Ambassador Nobody Knows - Scott Johnson
    The UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) is a cesspool of anti-Semitism - of which Israel is, of course, the primary focus. As Anne Bayefsky noted, business as usual at the 60th session of the UNCHR included the adoption of five resolutions condemning Israel and devoting three hours of the schedule to mourn the death of Hamas terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. On March 4, President Bush nominated Rudy Boschwitz to represent the U.S. in this troubled body.
        Boschwitz was born in Berlin in 1930. When Hitler was made chancellor of Germany in January 1933, Boschwitz's family emigrated to the U.S. Boschwitz was elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1978 and has been an ardent advocate of Jewish causes and of America's alliance with Israel before, during, and since his tenure in the Senate. (Weekly Standard)
        See also A Dictator's Dream - Anne Bayefsky (National Review)
  • Penitence and Prejudice: The Roman Catholic Church and Jedwabne - Laurence Weinbaum
    The revelations about the slaughter of over a thousand Jews in Jedwabne by Poles in July 1941 precipitated an unprecedented collective soul-searching in Polish society. The Roman Catholic Church in Poland has been deeply involved in this discussion. Not surprisingly, those elements within the Church that demonstrated the greatest sympathy for Jews were among the most eloquent voices calling for contrition. Those who generally viewed the Jews with suspicion found additional reason to give expression to their antipathy. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Kibbutz Movement is Making a Comeback - Avi Krawitz
    For the first time since 1985, the kibbutz population grew in 2003 and Kibbutz Movement spokesman Aviv Leshem said the figures for 2004 show that the trend continued. Leshem explained that major changes had taken place to bring in a more capitalistic approach. "Heavy debt forced 180 kibbutzim to radically change their way of life and methods of doing business," he said. "Members now have more freedom to work outside and greater independence with their own money." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Interview with Israeli Military Intelligence Head Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash - Smadar Peri (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 29Apr05)

    • The Mossad and Israeli military intelligence recently thwarted ten terrorist attacks overseas against Israelis.
    • Q: To what extent is Bashar Assad's position in power unstable?
      A: I estimate that he will get through this year, but the internal tensions in the Alawite community will intensify. The Alawites have no intention of losing their senior status within Syria. We already hear voices that say perhaps Bashar cannot deliver the goods, perhaps a replacement must be found. I also envision struggles emerging between the Sunnis and the Alawites, while al-Qaeda, that has decided to become involved in what goes on in Syria, does not intend to pull its hand away from the Syrian dish.
    • Q: Are they already speaking about an alternative leader?
      A: The name of General Asif Shawkat, the head of the intelligence apparatus and Assad's brother-in-law, comes up. He is seen within the Alawite community as being strong. They even talk about Major Maher, Bashar's brother. After five years in power, Bashar is not a kid. And after he was forced to pull his troops out of Lebanon, he is perceived as a weak leader. We identify cracks in the connection between Syria and Hizballah because of Bashar's behavior. I am uncertain whether Bashar has the strength and talent to act decisively: he must decide whether he will be Saddam Hussein or Qadhafi.
    • Q: What is your view of the struggles between Abu Mazen and Abu Ala?
      A: It doesn't work between them. The source of the conflict between them is the fact that they have two different world views and perhaps some jealousy. These are two people that Yasser Arafat built up over forty years using the system of divide and rule, it's hard for them to cooperate. Aside from that, Abu Ala is a man of interim agreements, while Abu Mazen speaks about reaching a final arrangement and ending the armed struggle. Abu Ala, like Arafat, believes in obtaining political achievements through terrorism.
    • Q: Abu Mazen doesn't want to or cannot (change things from the Arafat era)?
      A: Abu Mazen changed the chief of staff and spokesman of his office, but doesn't deal seriously with his opposition. He is not preparing to confiscate weaponry or put down the terrorist infrastructure. There could be a situation whereby he will have to receive U.S., Israeli, and Egyptian pressure in order to continue. If he doesn't deal with the deep roots of the problems, it will be difficult to move on to the next stage of the Roadmap. And generally, it is hardly certain that Abu Mazen will survive after the disengagement from Gaza.
    • Q: To what extent should we be pressured by the Iranian nuclear threat?
      A: Whoever is pushing all the time that we should climb to the top of the hill and lead the struggle against the Iranian nuclear matter and the Revolutionary Guards is mistaken. Just like in the war of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, their number one target is the United States, "the Big Satan." One must follow what they are doing. Iran is developing missiles with a range of 5,000 kilometers, and at a second stage they are getting ready to develop missiles with a range of 10,000 kilometers. Israel is located "just" within the range of a little more than 1,000 kilometers. The Iranians present a problem to the U.S., the Far East, Russia, South Asia, and Europe.

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