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BICOM Daily Briefing October 9 2003

Last updated: 2003-10-09

Israel welcomes the decision by a US lawmaking committee to approve legislation to enact sanctions on Syria. Such a move represents a clear message that states, such as Syria, that support and harbour terrorists, cannot continue to do so with impunity. Syria remains a major obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East and Israel hopes that Syria will take the necessary steps to stop the terror that emanates from its territory.

Media Summary

Yasser Arafat’s apparently ailing health and its implications for the Palestinian leadership succession is covered by The Independent, Times and briefly in The Daily Telegraph. In other news, The Independent and Financial Times report on Syrian reaction to the recent Israeli attack on a terrorist training camp near Damascus, with US moves to implement sanctions on Syria also reported by The Financial Times and Daily Telegraph. In opinion pieces, The Guardian publishes a plea for compromise between Israelis and Palestinians from Avraham Burg.

Quotes of the Day

US paves way for sanctions on Syria:

Scott McClellan, White House spokesman (08/10): “Syria needs to change course, change its behaviour, stop harbouring terrorists.”

Eliot Engel, US Democrat Representative (08/10): “This legislation will send a message to Damascus and the world that the United States will hold accountable nations that support deadly terrorist groups.”

Behind the News

US Committee votes for sanctions on Syria:

After the White House dropped its opposition to the legislation, the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee overwhelmingly voted 33-2 for the Syria Accountability Act. The full House of Representatives is also expected to pass the measure next week. The act calls on Syria to end all cooperation with Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror-linked groups, to halt any development of biological or chemical weapons and of medium- or long-range missiles and to withdraw its several thousand troops from Lebanon, where they have been for decades. The bill threatens Syria with economic and diplomatic sanctions. It would also require the President to impose at least two punitive measures from a list of six offered. They comprise a downgrading of diplomatic ties, a ban on all US exports to Syria, travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats, a freeze on Syrian assets, a halt to Syrian commercial flights to the United States and a ban on American business investment in Syria.

Syria rejects British draft UN resolution on Israeli airstrike:

An effort by European diplomats to draft a consensus resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Israel's attack on a terrorist training base in Syria over the weekend has been stymied by Syria. Syria submitted its own draft resolution at the start of the week, but it encountered stiff American opposition because it included no parallel condemnation of suicide bombings. Britain, Russia and Germany also voiced reservations about the Syrian draft. Britain, backed by France and Spain, then submitted a competing draft that denounced both the suicide bombings and the Israeli strike. However, Syria yesterday rejected the British draft out of hand.

Comment and Opinion

Avraham Burg (The Guardian, 09/10): “And here is my faith: any future agreement will be based on territorial compromise - not just a real estate deal, but a spiritual decision by peoples that have decided to accept one another despite years of hostility. I believe with perfect faith that the entire land of Israel belongs to me. So it is written in the Bible, so my mother from Hebron taught me and her grandchildren. And I know that the dream of greater Palestine passes from grandparent to grandchild in every Palestinian home. Therefore the first compromise is between me and my dream. I compromise with my dream of returning to Hebron in order that I may live free in the new Israel. And my Palestinian brother must give up his dream of returning to Jaffa in order to live an honourable life in Nablus. Only those capable of compromising with their dreams can sit together to forge a compromise on behalf of their nations.”

“I hear the cries of joy when a suicide bomber completes his task. I know the claim that the Palestinians have no helicopters or jet fighters and so the bombers are their strategic weaponry. That is their truth. Well, this is mine: suicide bombing is a weapon of monsters, not freedom fighters. And until the Palestinians spit it and its facilitators from their midst, they will have no partner on my side. And what comes after, when the Israelis are gone and all the great debates surface over the character of the Palestinian state - religious or modern, Islamic or secular? How will these debates be resolved? I'm willing to bet right now: there will be suicide bombers. Hamas will try to dictate these decisions by the tools it knows.”

Uri Dan (The Jerusalem Post, 09/10): “What is the connection between the Palestinian suicide bomber who slaughtered entire families in Haifa's Maxim Restaurant and an Islamic Jihad base near Damascus attacked by the IAF?

Simple. The axis of Muslim terror leads from Teheran through Damascus and Beirut to the Palestinians in Gaza and Ramallah. Similarly, the axis of al-Qaida terror went through Afghanistan and Iraq to the suicide bombers who perpetrated the 9/11 massacre in New York and Washington. The arms ship Karine A captured by Israel in a brilliant operation in January 2002 in the Red Sea was on its way from Iran to Yasser Arafat. Other arms shipments to Gaza captured or sunk in the Mediterranean came from Syria and Lebanon and originated in Iran.

The orders, and frequently the financial backing, for terror attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad come from Iran and Syria. The suicide bomber is only the end of this production line.

It was clear on Yom Kippur 2000, after Arafat rejected the absurd territorial concessions offered by prime minister Ehud Barak, that the Palestinians want to force Israel to give in to all their demands with the aim of bringing about the annihilation of the Jewish State.”

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The Israel Daily Briefing is supplied by BICOM