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BICOM Daily Briefing October 13 2003

Last updated: 2003-10-13

Yasser Arafat continues to prove an obstacle to peace not only for Israel but also for the Palestinians, having engineered the current crisis within the Palestinian Authority. Israel seeks peace and waits to see whether the emergency government of Abu Ala will use its limited time in office to also strive for progress towards peace. Israel stands ready to deal with a partner for peace and hopes that one will emerge from the Palestinian side.

Media Summary

Reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala has stated that he will only stay as the head of an emergency government for a month, appear in The Guardian and Independent. The end of an Israeli military operation to destroy weapons smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip is reported by The Guardian and Times. The Times features a report focusing on support from Israeli peace activists for Palestinian olive farmers while visiting Christian groups express their support for Israel. The Financial Times reports that companies within the EU are planning to sue their national customs authorities for imposing tariffs on Israeli goods believed to have originated from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. In opinion pieces, the latest edition of The Spectator supports Israel’s right to self-defence in light of the recent air strike against a Palestinian terrorist training camp in Syria.

Quotes of the Day

Ariel Sharon, (12/10): “Israel is a peace seeking country. We are seeking peace. For a real durable peace that will last for generations, we are willing to make painful sacrifices, but not on the security of the people of Israel.”

Silvan Shalom, Israel Foreign Minister (12/10): “Recent developments have proven that Arafat will not allow any prime minister to appoint a minister in charge of the Palestinian security forces. Arafat didn't let Abbas get control of the security forces and now he is not letting Qurei, and the world is beginning to understand this. It doesn't matter who is appointed. He will not be able to dismantle the terror infrastructure as long as Arafat is there.”

Dan Kurtzer, US Ambassador to Israel (12/10): “We want to see a Palestinian government arise that will fight the terror infrastructure and that is committed to the roadmap.”

Behind the News

Palestinian Prime Minister declares intention to quit in one month:

New Palestinian Prime Minister ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) says that he will not continue in the post for more than one month. Speaking after a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, Abu Ala said that a new prime minister and government would take over in a month. This follows tension between Yasser Arafat and Abu Ala over the amount of control the Palestinian leader would retain over the security forces. Abu Ala currently heads a one-month emergency cabinet that Arafat appointed by decree a week ago. The Fatah Central Committee convened Sunday night in Ramallah at the request of Abu Ala, to approve the appointment of Nasser Youssef as Interior Minister. The appointment and the struggle over the control of the security forces has been a major sticking point in the argument between Arafat and Abu Ala. Nasser Youssef was thought to be an Arafat-man but last week refused to accept the position of Interior Minister without the backing of the Palestinian Legislative Council due to rows over the extent of his powers.

Israeli opposition formulates peace deal with Palestinians:

Israeli oppostion politicians and Palestinians have concluded a draft document known as the Geneva Accord on Sunday in Jordan. The unofficial Swiss-initiated peace plan would grant the Palestinians sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City would be under Israeli control and the Palestinians would agree to end claims to a right of return to Israel. The meeting between some 40 Israelis and Palestinians included Yossi Beilin, Labour Knesset Member Avraham Burg and Amram Mitzna. The Palestinians were represented by, amongst other, former cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. The agreement is due to be signed in Switzerland in the coming weeks. However, without the involvement of the Israeli government, the proposals have no official status.

Comment and Opinion

The Spectator (11/10): “No country can be expected to sit idly by while its citizens are slaughtered by suicidal fanatics, as those of Israel are. Moreover, virtually by definition, the fanatics themselves cannot be deterred, since they court death rather than fear it. It follows that only the sponsors of the fanatics can be deterred, for they are usually rather more attached to their own lives than the people they send into so-called battle. Martyrdom is for others, not for them.

The European condemnation of Israel for its air raid on Syria in response to the latest suicide-bomb attack in Haifa is therefore unreasonable, unrealistic and offensive in its tone of moral superiority, which is so easy to assume from a safe distance. Israel, like other states, has the right of retaliation, provided it chooses the right targets. Israel’s intelligence about the region is generally a great deal better and more accurate than that of most Western states, because, among other reasons, good intelligence is a matter of life and death for it, and it is concentrated on one subject alone. Nothing concentrates the mind like a threat to survival.

Syria can hardly play the role of the injured innocent. It has supported groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad for many years, indeed decades. It proves its innocence of the attacks on American soldiers in Iraq by stating that the people of Iraq are quite capable themselves of resisting foreign occupation, and do not need Syrian assistance. Its protestations of a change of heart with regard to terrorism and promises of good behaviour are not to be taken at face value. Not only does Syria have a long history of deception, but the collapse of its former sponsor and patron, the Soviet Union, from which it obtained most of its arms, has left it militarily weak and vulnerable vis-à-vis Israel: and deception and double-dealing are the natural responses of the weak but belligerent.”

Danny Rubinstein (Ha’aretz, 13/10): “Yasser Arafat has been considerably weakened of late, both physically and politically. After he quarrelled with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who had to resign from the post of prime minister, Arafat is now in the midst of a whole complex of quarrels with his colleagues in the leadership of his movement, the Fatah, first and foremost Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), and the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament).

Basically, this is struggle for positions of power, a struggle over who will be the heir to an ill and aging leader, and is not at all about diplomatic policy. Arafat's colleagues at the top of the Palestinian leadership, including Abbas and Qureia, identify with Arafat's diplomatic path. If there are differences of approach among them, these are marginal. Since the beginning of the intifada, there has hardly been anyone in the senior Palestinian leadership who has disagreed with him. The only ones who have evinced any real opposition to Arafat have been his rivals from the Hamas and the other opposition elements that have disagreed with Fatah's policy ever since the summer of 1988, when Arafat managed to obtain Palestinian agreement to Resolution 242 and the recognition of Israel by the assembly of the Palestinian National Council in Algiers.”

“Even his close associates are now admitting that all the fuss and bother he is fomenting in the Palestinian leadership is aimed at sending a clear message to the Americans, and to the entire world, that it is impossible get rid of him. That is, if he is not in the centre of what is going on, there will not be anything. As far as Arafat is concerned, all the reforms in government, all the security services, all the committees and the commissions will not be worth a thing if he is not at the helm.”

Eli Kazhdan (The Jerusalem Post, 13/10): “Arafat is connected to the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. While Israel's critics sometimes draw a distinction between Arafat's Fatah organization and the martyrs brigade, which they view as a renegade element, Palestinians refute such assertions. Indeed, the leader of the brigade in Tulkarm told USA Today, in March 2002: "The truth is, we are Fatah, but we didn't operate under the name of Fatah." He then added: "We are the armed wing of the organisation. We receive our instructions from Fatah. Our commander is Yasser Arafat himself."

In the early months of 2002, the number of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade attacks, including suicide bombings, exceeded the attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Over the years, Arafat has been a participant in, and supreme commander of, many of the Palestinians' terror activities. He has knowingly funded terrorists, both before and after they committed crimes. He has authorised plans of terror actions. And of course he has not brought to justice those who perpetrated many of the murderous acts.

At Oslo, Arafat committed himself to "put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict and strive to live in peaceful coexistence, mutual dignity and security."

In fact, however, he has remained a consistent sponsor of violence and terror.”



The Israel Daily Briefing is supplied by BICOM