Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 8, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Military Planners Focus on Syria - William M. Arkin (Washington Post)
    Last year, U.S. intelligence agencies and military planners received instructions to prepare up-to-date target lists for Syria and to increase their preparations for potential military operations against Damascus.
    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed U.S. Central Command to prepare a "strategic concept" for Syria, the first step in creation of a full-fledged war plan.
    The planning includes courses of action for cross-border operations to seal the Syrian-Iraqi border and destroy safe havens supporting the Iraqi insurgency, attacks on Syrian weapons of mass destruction infrastructure supporting the development of biological and chemical weapons, and attacks on the Syrian regime.
    U.S. forces have also been operating along the Syrian border since early 2003, and there have been numerous reports of clashes between U.S. and Syrian forces on Syrian soil, as well as reports of U.S. special operations forces operating inside Syria.

    See also U.S. and Iraqi Forces Target Flow of Insurgents from Syria - John Ward Anderson (Washington Post)
    U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major offensive Saturday along a key part of the Syrian border to combat smuggling of foreign fighters and materials into Iraq.

British MI5 Probes Suicide Attack Plots on Washington - David Leppard (Sunday Times-UK)
    MI5 is investigating a suspected plot by Islamic terrorists to carry out multiple suicide bombings of the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
    Whitehall officials say the alleged conspiracy was organized by a senior al-Qaeda member using the codename Maximus, who communicated by e-mail with associates in Britain and elsewhere.

Canadian Terror Cell Busted - Al-Qaeda Bomb Expert Among Four Algerians in Toronto - Stewart Bell (National Post-Canada)
    Canadian counter-terrorism investigators have dismantled a suspected terrorist cell in Toronto whose members included an al-Qaeda-trained explosives expert.
    The cell consisted of four Algerian refugee claimants who had lived in Canada for as long as six years and were alleged members of a radical Islamic terror faction called the Salafist Group for Call and Combat.
    The central figure was a former al-Qaeda training camp instructor who studied bomb-making at Osama bin Laden's Al Farooq and Khaldun training camps in eastern Afghanistan.

Australia Foils "Catastrophic" Terror Attack (Telegraph-UK)
    Australian police say they have foiled a major terrorist attack on the country, and have arrested 17 men on charges of committing to "violent jihad in Australia."
    In raids in Sydney and Melbourne, police seized chemicals, firearms, computers, backpacks, and travel documents.
    "Intelligence was received that a group was making arrangements to stockpile chemicals and other materials capable of making explosives," said Morris Iemma, the New South Wales state premier.
    Australian media had reported that possible targets were the Sydney Opera House, the harbor bridge, oil refineries, and the stock exchange.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • French Officials Try to Ease Fear as Crisis Swells: Some Islamists Try to Spread Violence - Mark Landler and Craig S. Smith
    While the violence in France has not taken on religious overtones, most of the young people involved are nominally Muslim, raising fears that Islamist groups could capitalize on the unrest to recruit new members. Internet postings from one such movement encouraged young Muslims elsewhere in Europe to riot in the name of Islam.
        "Oh, you Muslim people in Europe, walk with and like your brothers in Paris and learn that these people are dogs," read a message posted on Monday on the popular Web site of a dissident based in London. "Teach them that we are a single nation and if a single member is touched, then all the others will erupt like a burning volcano." The Web site, the same one that has posted claims of responsibility for terrorist attacks including the July 7 bombings in London, showed images of vehicles in flames and a photo image of a smiling French Interior Minister Sarkozy, dressed as a gangster in a black suit and alligator coat and carrying a machine gun in each hand. (New York Times)
        See also Riots Spark Fear Among French Jews - Shirli Sitbon
    French Jewish community security services say the number of anti-Semitic attacks is so far unchanged. Arsonists threw at least two Molotov cocktails at synagogues in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine and Garges. Rioters confronted police forces near the synagogue of Stains. "It's business as usual," said Samy Ghozlan, head of the anti-Semitism vigilance bureau. "These communities are used to these daily assaults." (European Jewish Press-Belgium)
  • Israel-EU Dispute Holds Up Gaza Border Accord - Dan Williams
    A disagreement over the role of EU security monitors kept Israel's cabinet on Sunday from approving a border crossing for Palestinians between Gaza and Egypt, political sources said. Israel had accepted an Egyptian proposal to let Palestinians travel freely via the Rafah terminal, but with foreign oversight - a role to be filled by EU monitors. "Israel wants the EU to have powers of arrest should its inspectors encounter a terrorist at the crossing. The EU wants to limit its role to oversight and reporting only," an Israeli political source said.
        The EU's Middle East envoy, Marc Otte, said the EU was ready to play a "third party" role at the crossing and monitor both Israeli and Palestinian operations there. "Obviously what we will not be doing is taking the place of the Palestinian customs and security officials. In the end the Palestinian Authority will be in charge of its borders," he added. (Reuters)
  • Murder Attempt, Hijack Points to Al-Qaeda Presence - Leonard Doyle
    A failed assassination attack on the prime minister of Somalia and an attempt to hijack a luxury American cruise ship off the coast has reinforced fears that the country is spiraling out of control as a center of al-Qaeda terrorism. The unsuccessful attack by pirates at the weekend was the first on a luxury cruise liner in the area. Political collapse in this failed state has created a power vacuum that is posing a danger to Somalis and the outside world. Since 2003, Somalia has witnessed the rise of a new, ruthless, independent jihadi network with links to al-Qaeda.
        During the 1990s, extremism in Somalia was centered on the al-Ittihaad al-Islaami, a band of Wahhabi militants bent on establishing an Islamic emirate. Al-Qaeda also became established and attacked U.S. and UN peacekeepers, using the country as a transit zone for terrorism in neighboring Kenya. Leading members of al-Qaeda's East African network still hide in Somalia, according to the International Crisis Group. (Independent-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamic Jihad, Riddled with Losses, Vows to Fight On - Matthew Gutman
    Abu Assad, one of the few remaining senior Islamic Jihad leaders in Tulkarm, vowed that his Iranian-backed group would continue to dispatch suicide bombers to Israel until "all of Palestine" is liberated. Five years ago, notes Abu Assad, the Tulkarm refugee camp was home to some 40 wanted men from Islamic Jihad. Only three are alive today. The rest died attacking Israel, were killed in IDF raids, or were arrested. The IDF estimates there are between 100 and 300 active Islamic Jihad fighters in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Poll: 3/4 of Israeli Jews Believe Even Full Withdrawal from Territories Will Not End Palestinian Violence - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    According to the Peace Index survey for October 2005, conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Studies at Tel Aviv University, 74% of the Jewish public believes that even if Israel evacuates all the territories beyond the "green line," Palestinian violence will not stop and may even intensify. Only 19% of Jews think leaving the territories will bring an end to the violence. 70% believe Sharon is justified in refusing to meet with Abbas, despite the perception that Abbas wants to prevent terror attacks but is unable to. 60% also say that even if Hamas becomes part of the government after the PA elections, it will not moderate its positions toward Israel nor its involvement in terror attacks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Muslim Groups May Gain Strength From French Riots - John Carreyrou
    Islamic organizations like the Tabligh, which advocates strict adherence to Islam as well as disengagement from society, stand to benefit from the riots. These organizations are positioning themselves as mediators who can bring back the order the government has been unable to restore. These groups don't preach violence, but they do advocate that Muslims should identify themselves with their religion rather than as citizens. Effectively, they are promoting a separate society within a society, and that brand of Islamist philosophy is seeping into many parts of Western Europe.
        The violence in France is a stark reminder that reaching an accommodation with Islam is one of the Continent's most pressing problems. Low birth rates and Europe's geographic position just north of the Muslim world means that increasing numbers of its citizens will be Muslim in the future. Muslims account for an estimated 5% or more of the populations of France, The Netherlands, and the UK, and are heavily concentrated in and around big cities. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Ahmadinejad Has Done Seven Things to Alarm the World - Bronwen Maddox
    In the three months since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office, he has done seven things which have rightly alarmed the rest of the world. He restarted the processing of uranium. He delivered a provocative defense of Iran's right to develop nuclear power at the UN. He replaced Iran's nuclear negotiating team. He called for Israel to be wiped off the map. He axed half of Iran's ambassadors, many known to be moderates or reformers. He appointed Sadeq Mahsouli as Oil Minister, despite his lack of oil experience. Last week Iran announced it would send a second batch of uranium ore to Isfahan for processing. Ahmadinejad clearly wants the world to know he doesn't care what it thinks. (Times-UK)
  • The Yasser Arafat War is Over - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The upsurge in Palestinian terror after the disengagement has led to talk about a "third intifada," but this assumption is not supported by the evidence - history has moved on. Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's uncharismatic successor, lacks the power to unite a divided and disheartened Palestinian population in order to start another confrontation with Israel. In addition, the broad international support that the Palestinians enjoyed has been seriously eroded. The romanticism and wall-to-wall enthusiasm for Palestinian victimization adopted by many journalists has also weakened. Palestinian terror attacks are no longer granted the international acceptance they once had.
        Finally, the Palestinians now know that Israel was able to defeat Arafat's war. Following the Park Hotel mass bombing on Passover 2002, the IDF mobilized for Operation Defensive Shield, and the Palestinian defeat began. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    The Wolfensohn Mission - David Brodet (

    • James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, took upon himself a near impossible mission to generate an economic dimension to Israel's unilateral disengagement plan and to stabilize, with the help of economic components, the new political reality in Gaza in its post-occupation independent status. His plan presumed close links with Israel, considerable international aid, and the existence of a rational PA.
    • The reality of the first two months has been particularly hard. The crossing to Egypt has not been regularized, and Israel feels its interests have been damaged by Egyptian and Palestinian failure to supervise the passage of goods and ordnance. The security situation and acts of violence are preventing realization of Wolfensohn's proposal regarding the escorting of regular convoys between Gaza and the West Bank.
    • Wolfensohn's initiative to purchase the hothouses and turn them over to a Palestinian company was unique and praiseworthy, with 80% of the hothouses transferred to the Palestinians. But the lack of clarity in the Gaza-Israel link is liable to sabotage any chance of exporting the hothouses' agricultural produce, while at the same time preventing supply of production inputs such as fertilizer.
    • The unstable security situation and uncertainty regarding internal governance are discouraging international initiatives to invest in vital economic projects. The danger in delaying projects assigned to the international community is that its attention will be diverted to other regions that have urgent needs.
    • Finally, Israel's departure from Gaza in favor of an independent Palestinian regime has not, thus far, produced a stable and efficient government that can exercise authority and generate the necessary conditions for moving the economy forward and creating confidence.
    • Wolfensohn brought to our region good will, a proven track record from public and private endeavors, and exceptional international connections. He received the backing of all actors in the region and beyond, and formulated a precise plan for dealing with the challenges. He now finds himself, along with his sponsors, the Quartet, as but one more in a long chain of figures over recent decades who have fallen victim to the syndrome of an extended and complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      The writer, former director general of the Ministry of Finance, headed the Israeli delegation that negotiated the Paris commercial protocols with the Palestinians in 1993-94.

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