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BICOM Daily Briefing October 21 2003

Last updated: 2003-10-21

Palestinian terrorism continues to represent a major obstacle to the resumption of peace efforts. Israel calls upon the Palestinian Authority to take the necessary steps to crack down on the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. In the absence of such action, Israel is forced to act against terrorist targets in order to protect the lives of its citizens.

Media Summary:

A successive wave of Israeli airstrikes against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip is reported by The Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times. In other news, The Guardian and Financial Times feature the use of the children’s television programme Sesame Street to promote peace in the Middle East. The Daily Telegraph reports that US President George W. Bush has rebuked the Malaysian prime minister for his recent anti-Jewish remarks. The Financial Times features the Arab Human Development Report from the UN Development Programme, entitled “Terror war ‘holding back Arab societies’”.

Quotes of the Day:

Sharon defends roadmap:

Ariel Sharon (21/10): “[The road map] is the only hope of achieving a real and genuine breakthrough to peace between the Palestinians and ourselves. It has been accepted by the majority of the world. Any deviation from it will release the Palestinians from the commitments they took upon themselves, and from the international demands made on them to uproot terror. Any such deviation will only encourage terrorist organisations.”

Ariel Sharon (21/10): “Our plan [the road map] represents the only hope of achieving a real breakthrough on the way to peace with the Palestinians. Only a complete a renouncement of terror can lead to a new age of peace for the peoples of the region.”

Behind the News:

Israel launches series of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza Strip:

The Israeli Air Force launched five attacks against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday in which a number of senior Hamas officials died. In a separate incident, two Palestinians were killed trying to infiltrate the security fence at Nahal Oz. The pair tried to flee but their vehicle was hit near the Nusseirat refugee camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The air force also hit, for a second time, a Gaza building which contains munitions used by terrorists. Security forces are currently on a high state of alert for possible terrorist attacks. A senior military source said that the air and land military operations in the territories will continue as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have vowed to avenge the Gaza bombings. The military wing of Hamas has issued a warning that their response will be severe in the extreme. The Islamic Jihad issued a similar warning and such calls have also come from Hamas in Damascus.

UN General Assembly debates security fence:

Israel and the Palestinians traded accusations Monday at the UN over two Arab-backed resolutions condemning the building of the security fence. The General Assembly will meet again later on Tuesday to possibly vote on the resolution, which is said to have a good chance of being adopted. No country has a veto in the General Assembly and there is wide support for the Palestinians. One resolution calls for the international court in the Hague to issue an opinion as to whether Israel has a legal obligation to stop the construction in the West Bank. The second proposal would declare the security barrier illegal because it departs from the armistice line of 1949. Israel insists that the security fence is essential to prevent suicide attacks. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said that the fence is a real chance to take terrorism out of the equation. Resolutions passed in the General Assembly are not binding but demonstrate the opinion of the General Assembly.

Second annual UN Development Programme Report published:

The United Nations has published its second Arab Human Development Report, in which it focuses on the ‘knowledge gap’ between the Arabs and the rest of the world. The report, launched on Monday in Amman, has been prepared by 40 Arab scholars, along with 30 advisers and peer reviewers, and is co-sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.

The report finds that only 53 in every 1,000 people in Arab states buy newspapers compared to 285 in developed countries. Just 1.6% of the Arab population has Internet access, compared to 68% in Britain. In contrast to a global average of 78.3, in the Arab world there are just 18 computer for every 1,000 people. The report calls for the ‘knowledge gap’ to be closed and suggests that a solution would lie in a “strategic vision of the Arab knowledge society, supported guaranteed freedom of expression, universal high quality education, “embedding” science through promoting research, enhancing knowledge-based production in the economy and developing a specifically Arab model of knowledge through linguistic reform and the promotion of cultural diversity.”

Comment and Opinion:

Barry Rubin (The Jerusalem Post, 21/10): “Reorganizing my desk I came across an old column of mine saying that once more the world was giving Yasser Arafat one last chance to change his ways, implement his agreements, and make peace. The article was written in 1996.

So here we are seven sad and bloody years later still having to explain the same lessons which has been proven many more times since then. Now we have even more evidence for the assertion that Arafat is a roadblock not only to full peace but even to the establishment of a real ceasefire.

Arafat quickly sabotaged and eliminated prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his ally Muhammad Dahlan, who was serious about imposing order in the Palestinian-ruled lands. Now he is about to repeat the process with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and his ally Nasser Yusuf. The issue which led Abu Ala to resign was Arafat's refusal to grant real power to Yusuf at the interior ministry.

Arafat's appointment of Hakam Balawi as interim security chief, is a joke. Balawi has for many years been his personal agent and most subservient minion. And of course Balawi has no experience whatsoever in security matters.”

“If terrorism is ended, commitments are implemented, and serious negotiations are pursued in a flexible manner, there would be no violence or occupation. A Palestinian state would come into existence within months, certainly inside of a year. Abu Mazen, Abu Ala, Muhammad Dahlan, and Nasser Yusuf, along with some other Palestinians, understand this completely. There are others who know this to be true, but they are too cowardly or too opportunistic to join in the reform movement.

So the violence continues and the Palestinians are the big losers, except in the world of the international media and the UN which have no positive effect on their material situations.”


The Israel Daily Briefing is supplied by BICOM