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BICOM Daily Briefing October 20 203

Last updated: 2003-10-20

Palestinian terror continues unabated with the deaths of three Israelis in a terrorist ambush in the West Bank. As Yasser Arafat continues to present obstacles to the government of Abu Ala, Israel once again calls upon the Palestinian leadership to take responsibility and to commit to resolute action against the terrorist infrastructure that is causing such misery to both Israelis and Palestinians and blocking the prospects of peace.

Media Summary

The deaths of three Israeli soldiers killed in a Palestinian terrorist ambush is reported by The Guardian, Independent, Financial Times and briefly in The Daily Telegraph. A strong rebuke from French President Jacques Chirac to Malaysia over its prime minister’s anti-Jewish remarks at an Islamic conference is reported by The Daily Telegraph. The Guardian features an examination of the deaths of a number of foreigners killed in incidents in the Palestinian territories, including comment from  ISM activist, Tom Hurndall’s mother, Jocelyn Hurndall. The paper also reports on a dispute over accusations against a Palestinian charity operating in Britain. In opinion pieces, The Independent publishes an extract from a speech by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, where he pushes for more European involvement in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Quotes of the Day

French President condemns Malaysian PM’s anti-Jewish remarks:

Jacques Chirac, French President (19/10): “Your remarks on the role of Jews provoked strong disapproval in France and around the world. Even though you yourself and your government were careful reject all accusations of anti-semitism, these remarks can only be condemned by all those who remember the Holocaust.”

Three soldiers killed in Palestinian ambush:

Tommy Lapid, Israel Justice Minister (19/10): “These madmen causing us sorrow and pain are also causing the Palestinians a deterioration into helplessness. The Palestinians don't realise the disaster they are bringing upon themselves.”

Behind the News

Three Israeli soldiers killled, one wounded in Palestinian terrorist ambush:

Three Israeli soldiers were killed and another wounded Sunday night in a terrorist ambush near the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank. The attack occurred as the soldiers were on foot patrol near a Palestinian village north of Ramallah. Security sources said that Palestinian gunmen fired at the Israelis and detonated an explosive charge. The three soldiers died at the scene while a fourth was evacuated to hospital, where his wounds were described as moderate. The IDF searched the area and entered Palestinian-controlled territory while following the assailants. A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

Defence Minister criticises PA for lack of action against terror:

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz says there is a crisis of power and a security void within the Palestinian Authority. Addressing the weekly meeting of the cabinet, Mofaz said that the Abu Ala government is hanging by a thread because of the obstacles placed in its way by Yasser Arafat. The Defence Minister said that until the Palestinians can nurture an alternative leadership to Arafat, one that fights terrorism, Israel will have to act on its own to stop attacks. Mofaz charged that even last week’s bombing, in which three Americans were killed in the Gaza Strip, has not triggered the Palestinians to launch a determined and real effort against the terrorist infrastructure. The Defence Minister said that Israel relates to the attack on the American convoy as though it were directed against Israel and the incident will be investigated as such. 

Knesset to open session amidst tighter security:

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, begins its winter session on Tuesday amidst tighter security following security service warnings that it is now high on a list of terrorist targets. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that the Shabak security service has alerted Israel’s parliament to step up security measures in light of the terror threat. One source did not rule out the possibility that a suicide bomber may try to infiltrate among the 4,000 people who enter the Knesset on a weekly basis.

Comment and Opinion

Dominique de Villepin (The Independent, 20/10): “The security of Israel and the sovereignty of the Palestinians cannot be dissociated.”

“We must all take the initiative: the Quartet, Europe, America, Russia, the UN. This time, let's do it together. As the region's leading economic partner and the Palestinians' main supplier of aid, Europe has a special responsibility. Let us speed up the implementation of the road map by convening a peace conference. Let us guarantee the process by means of a collective monitoring mechanism and the deployment of an interposition force. There is no place for preconditions. We must map out a path towards peace, and persuade Israel and the Palestinians resolutely to embark on it. And there must be no turning back.”

The Jerusalem Post (20/10): “When the Palestinian Authority arrested eight Palestinians following the bombing that killed three Americans in Gaza last week, it was noted with equanimity, as if nothing could be more natural. Palestinian leaders, after all, roundly condemned the attack, so why should they not take action against the perpetrators?

What has not been noted is the striking contrast between the PA's response to terrorism against Americans and its response to similar attacks against Israelis, both of which it claims to oppose.

In the case of the murdered Americans, who were on their way to interview candidates for Fullbright scholarships in Gaza, Yasser Arafat ordered an immediate investigation. The arrests came soon after.

Israeli officials have dismissed the arrests as a sham, and many expect that even the low-level terrorists apprehended will be soon released. There is no indication that any systemic action against the Resistance Committees - a catch-all term for bands of terrorists from different organisations - will be taken.

But even if the investigation and arrests amounted to "rounding up the usual suspects," terrorism against Israelis does not produce even this attempt at creating the appearance of action on the part of the PA. It is telling that, when Americans are killed, we hear none of the standard PA excuses for inaction, such as we have no power, no control, and Israel has destroyed our institutions of justice.

In the aftermath of American deaths, the PA has been at pains to demonstrate what it can do, rather than what it cannot.”

Amnon Rubinstein (Ha’aretz, 20/10): “The anti-Semitic outburst by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the Islamic summit conference he was hosting last week is not surprising. Back in 1984 Malaysia - a country in which there are no Jews - prevented a visit by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra because of its intention to perform a work by a Jewish composer (Ernst Bloch's "Schelomo - A Hebrew Rhapsody") and this even before the intifada and with no connection to Israel. In 1997 Mohamad blamed Jewish billionaire George Soros for the currency crisis in his country.

Therefore, what is more worrying than the statement itself is a different phenomenon: that Mohamad's claim that, among other things, the Jews control the world, received the blessing of the Egyptian representative and aroused no reservations among the 57 states that participated in the conference and supported the renewal of the boycott of Israel. Indeed, the attitude of the Muslim world - Arab and non-Arab - toward both Israel and Jews, has become threateningly more extreme. Anyone who believes that it is necessary to make a supreme effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to reduce its dimensions, will see in this development yet another reason to do so.”

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The Israel Daily Briefing is supplied by BICOM