Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 26, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: "Damascus Pursuing Innovative Chemical Warfare Program in Cooperation with Iran" (Reuters/Ynet News)
    Damascus is pursuing "an innovative chemical warfare (CW) program in co-operation with Iran," Jane's Defence Weekly reported Monday.
    Tehran made a contractual commitment to Syria a few months ago to provide Iranian technical assistance to facilitate Syria's CW program.
    Iran will assist Syria in the planning, establishment, and pilot operation of four or five facilities throughout Syria for the production of precursors for VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent.

Iran Lauds Palestinians, Approves Plan to Allow Foreigners to Participate in Its Nuclear Program (Persian Journal-Iran)
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a cabinet meeting Sunday the Islamic Revolution in Iran has brought the Palestinian issue to the top of the Islamic world's agenda.
    Pressure from the Islamic world, international public opinion, and above all resistance by brave Palestinian youth have forced the Zionists to withdraw gradually from their demands and now they are trying to survive, the Iranian president noted.
    At the meeting, the Iranian cabinet approved the outlines of a plan which allows foreign countries and companies to participate in Iran's nuclear program.

PA to Build Huge Arafat Mausoleum - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The PA, which in recent years has been facing a severe financial crisis, has decided to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a large and magnificent mausoleum for former PA chairman Yasser Arafat.
    Sources estimated the cost of the project at over $1 million, to be carried out under the auspices of the PA's Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR).

Jordanian TV Airs Anti-Semitic Ramadan Series (MEMRI)
    For Ramadan 2005, the new Jordanian TV channel Al-Mamnou is airing the Syrian-produced TV series "Diaspora," which depicts a "global Jewish government" that is described in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
    The series was first aired on Hizballah's Al-Manar TV in 2003 and appeared on two Iranian channels during Ramadan 2004.
    View excerpt.

Possible Terror Links in South America - Kenneth Rapoza (Washington Times)
    Since the early stages of its war on terrorism, the Bush administration has said the Triple Frontier region near Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, generates funds for Hamas and Hizballah.
    Documents found during U.S. military operations in Afghanistan reportedly included photographs of Paraguay and letters received from Arabs living in Ciudad del Este.
    When U.S. soldiers arrived in Paraguay in July, the Asuncion-based newspaper ABC Color, citing "intelligence sources," reported that $20 million a year leaves the Triple Frontier to fund Hizballah.
    The article said some of the money is hidden in Brazilian banks.


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  • U.S., France, and Britain Join to Press Syrians at the UN - Warren Hoge
    The U.S. and France circulated a draft Security Council resolution Tuesday ordering Syria to cooperate with the UN investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon and threatening sanctions if it did not. (New York Times)
        See also Bush: "Syria Must Take the Demands of the Free World Very Seriously"
    President Bush said in an interview with Al Arabiya television on Monday: [UN Resolution] "1559 was a very serious statement by the free world and the United Nations to say to Syria, get out of Lebanon, leave Lebanon alone, let the Lebanon democracy flourish and function. Syria saw that the world spoke in one voice. And nobody wants there to be a confrontation. On the other hand, there must be serious pressure applied so that the leader understands that, one, they can't house terrorist groups that will destroy the peace process with Israel and Palestine, for example; two, they should stop meddling in Lebanon; three, that they should stop allowing transit of bombers and killers into Iraq that are killing people that want there to be a democracy. In other words, there are some clear demands by the world. And this Mehlis report, as I say, had serious implications for Syria, and the Syrian government must take the demands of the free world very seriously."  (White House)
        See also Bush: "Syria and Its Leaders Must Be Held Accountable"  (White House)
  • Israel Responds to Palestinian Rocket Attacks - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Israel launched missile strikes in Gaza on Tuesday, targeting buildings it said were used by militants, in response to renewed Palestinian rocket attacks. Islamic Jihad gunmen said they had fired 25 rockets into Israel to avenge Israel's killing on Monday of Loai Assadi, one of their commanders. The Israeli army accused Assadi of masterminding two suicide bombings that killed 10 Israelis since the truce and said he was planning further attacks.
        Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa vowed authorities would no longer tolerate militant rocket fire, saying several rockets had fallen short, landing in Palestinian residential areas. "This act does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people, especially since there was a Palestinian agreement not to launch these actions from the Gaza Strip," he said. (Reuters)
        See also Israeli Airstrike Targets Palestinian Rocket Launchers - Nir Hasson, Arnon Regular, and Jonathan Lis
    An Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at an open field in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday about two hours after Palestinian militants launched a rocket into Sderot in southern Israel. Ground forces also aimed artillery fire at the area, the army said, and several sonic booms caused by Israeli warplanes were heard in Gaza during the night. The air strikes in the Beit Hanun area caused no injuries or damage, Israel Radio reported. A Palestinian official said Israel had warned Palestinian civilians to stay away from the area. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Islamic Jihad in Syria Ordered Rocket Strikes on Israel - Alex Fishman
    The order to fire Kassam rockets at Israeli communities in recent days came from the Islamic Jihad's headquarters in Syria, Israeli security officials say. Israel also informed the PA that terrorists were planning to launch rocket attacks and asked PA security officials to take steps to prevent the fire, but the officials did not even pretend to act on the information. (Ynet News)
  • Rice: Palestinian Freedom of Movement Issues Need to Get Resolved
    In response to a question, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday in Ottawa: "Jim Wolfensohn has had discussions with both parties about what they need to do. And it is very clear that the [Gaza border] crossings issue needs to get resolved, not just the Rafah crossing but the issues of freedom of movement within the West Bank and issues about other crossings that need to be freed up so that the kind of economic program that we all want to see in the Palestinian territories, that indeed the G-8 signed on to the Wolfensohn plan. And I took what Jim is saying as simply asking the parties to do everything that they can now that the Israelis are out of the Gaza to make sure that Gaza is going to be a place that Palestinians can see a different kind of life and therefore start to build the foundations for a Palestinian state." (State Department)
  • Iraq Voters Approve U.S.-Backed Constitution - Claudia Parsons and Andrew Quinn
    Iraqi voters ratified a new U.S.-backed constitution, results showed on Tuesday. Iraq's Electoral Commission, giving final results from the October 15 referendum, said 79% of voters backed the constitution against 21% opposed. Only two of Iraq's 18 provinces - the insurgent stronghold of Anbar in the west and Saddam Hussein's home region of Salahaddin - had mustered a "No" vote of at least two-thirds, one short of the three provinces necessary to veto the measure. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Looking to Kidnap Israelis; Rejects 1967 Lines - Arnon Regular
    Hamas will increase the number of kidnappings of Israelis if Israel does not release Palestinian prisoners, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, told Ha'aretz in an interview. Zahar said that while it may agree to temporary political arrangements, Hamas has not changed its basic position that Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is sacred Muslim land. "Hamas regards these [1967] borders only as a stage in the struggle, which will be decided by a change in circumstances. Some Israelis think when we speak about the West Bank and Gaza it means we have given up on the historic war and this is not the case."
        "Oslo has fallen and is done....We did not create this god called Oslo, and we do not serve it. We want to move in a different direction, and if we succeed in the elections we will also get rid of Oslo."
        "Experience shows that our maintaining the cease-fire significantly hastened the withdrawal from Gaza....In the end he [Sharon] withdrew even from clearly Jewish land like Kfar Darom....Hamas understands that Israel left the Gaza Strip defeated but not entirely so. It was not a clear victory or total defeat for either side. Israel today does not want to learn from its experience in southern Lebanon and Gaza and the West Bank. It is waiting to see when missiles fall on Kfar Sava or Gilo."  (Ha'aretz )
  • Israel Worried About New Russia-Syria Arms Deals - Aluf Benn
    Israel has expressed concern over Russia's intention to sign new arms deals with Syria, following the already completed deal to provide Syria with SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who is to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, will tell him of Israel's objection to the sale of more weapons to Syria, a political source in Jerusalem said Tuesday. The source said Syria was still providing arms to Hizballah and Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organization in Lebanon. "Weapons sold to the Syrians could reach the terror organizations in Lebanon," the source said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The UN Route for Syria - Editorial
    As Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor directing [the UN] probe, reported to the Security Council Tuesday, top Syrian and Lebanese officials were deeply involved in planning and organizing this spectacular crime as part of an effort to terrorize restive Lebanese politicians into carrying out orders from Damascus. Once the investigation is done, those formally charged should be tried and held accountable, perhaps before an international tribunal.
    Like pre-invasion Iraq, Syria has long been forcibly ruled by a secular faction based in a religious minority that has ruthlessly suppressed all opposition. In Syria's case, the ruling clique is Alawite and the repressed majority is Sunni. Should President Bashar al-Assad fall, the likeliest successors would be even more ruthless Alawite generals or the Sunni fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. (New York Times)
  • Dead Jews Aren't News in Britain - Tom Gross
    Rachel Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall following a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of teenagers on 16 February 2002. Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper. Rachel Corrie, on the other hand, an American radical who died in 2003 while acting as a human shield during an Israeli anti-terror operation in Gaza, has been widely featured in the British press. She has been written about or referred to on 57 separate occasions in the Guardian alone. Last week the play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," reopened at the larger downstairs auditorium at the Royal Court Theater (a venue which the New York Times recently described as "the most important theater in Europe"). Rachel Thaler, unlike Rachel Corrie, was Jewish. And unlike Corrie, Jewish victims of Middle East violence have not become a cause celebre in Britain.
        Unfortunately for those who have sought to portray Corrie as a peaceful protester, photos of her burning a mock American flag and stirring up crowds in Gaza at a pro-Hamas rally were published by the Associated Press and on Yahoo News on 15 February 2003, a month before she died. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the group with which Corrie was affiliated, is routinely described as a "peace group" in the media. Few mention the ISM's meeting with the British suicide bombers Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Muhammad Hanif who, a few days later, blew up Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv pub, killing three and injuring dozens, including British citizens. (Spectator-UK)
  • Observations:

    Abbas's Missed Opportunities in Washington - David Makovsky
    (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Abbas could have demonstrated progress on the security issue. Even if one accepts the Palestinian premise that Abbas is not strong enough to dismantle Hamas now, there are a variety of steps Abbas could take to demonstrate that he is getting a grip on the situation.
    • Abbas would have benefited had he been able to demonstrate progress in reducing the number of Palestinian security forces from eleven to three, the focus of Lt. Gen. William Ward's attention as U.S. security envoy. However, there is little expression of progress on security reform.
    • So far, the promised "crack force" of five thousand PA troops in Gaza has not materialized. Kassam rockets are being fired from Gaza at Israeli border towns. In the wake of the Washington visit, there are promises of dismantling the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and perhaps that will occur. That promise would have had more impact had the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza been disarmed before Abbas's trip.
    • Another mistake of the Abbas visit was his unrealistic focus on the third phase of the Roadmap while skipping phases one and two. In an article he penned for the Wall Street Journal on the eve of his visit, Abbas implied that he did not want to deal with the phases of the Roadmap that impose obligations on Palestinians as well as Israelis.
    • The Gaza withdrawal was a significant event to which the Palestinians need to respond by taking major steps of their own.

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