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BICOM Daily Briefing October 29 2003

Last updated: 2003-10-29

As it becomes increasingly likely that Abu Ala will stay on as Palestinian Prime Minister and form a new government, Israel hopes that the Palestinian leadership will finally fulfil its obligations and take the necessary action against the terrorist infrastructure to revive the peace process. Israel awaits the emergence of a Palestinian leadership committed to peace and an end to terror.

Media Summary:

Potential plans to use pigs to guard Jewish settlements features in the pages of The Guardian, Independent and Times. In more serious news, The Financial Times reports that Abu Ala has agreed to stay on as Palestinian prime minister. The Guardian reports on Israeli government opposition to foreign backing for the Geneva alternative peace accord, while The Independent reports on the condition of a British student shot in the Gaza Strip. The Guardian reports on reaction to the suspension of the Oxford academic who refused to hire an Israeli student on the basis of his nationality.

Quotes of the Day:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (28/10):The noble Lord is quite right to remind us that since the fence built around the Gaza Strip has been in place, almost all the suicide bombings have come from the West Bank—indeed, I believe that only one has come from the Gaza Strip. I am sure that that unites Israeli public opinion around the feeling that there is a real necessity for the fence, for the sake of their own security.”

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean  (28/10): “On 14th October the Security Council voted on a text that demanded Israel should cease the construction of the fence. We considered that that draft had insufficient references to terrorism and, therefore, that it was unbalanced and unhelpful to the implementation of the road map.”

Shaul Mofaz, Israel Defence Minister (28/10): “We know that most of the Palestinian population doesn't deal in terrorism and we want to take every possible step to ease up on the Palestinian population.”

Behind the News:

Palestinian PM to stay on:

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath has said that Abu Ala has agreed to the request of Yasser Arafat to form a new government, which will replace the emergency cabinet, whose term expires on November 4. It is, however, thought that Abu Ala wishes to resolve the dispute over security measures prior to formally accepting the offer. Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala has said that Palestinian factions including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have agreed to resume talks over ceasefire plans but that no date has yet been set for the talks to begin.

Bush critical of Palestinian leadership:

US President George W. Bush says that the Palestinian old guard is not committed to fighting terror and that it hinders American peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. Speaking at a news conference, the President said that the long-suffering Palestinian people need a leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth. Bush praised former Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen, whom he said pledged a firm and concerted effort to fight terror but was eased out.

Comment and Opinion:

Adar Primor (Ha’aretz, 29/10): “The Foreign Ministry is treating the visit of the 150 lawmakers - who represent the 15 EU countries, the 10 new members and the European Parliament - with the "appropriate excitement," as one senior official phrased it. "It is an impressive mass. There has never been a visit here of such a large multinational delegation of MPs. Some 70 percent have never been to Israel before and if they are able to see the reality from close up, it is possible that they will refrain from reciting the official positions of their countries," he said.

A conversation with Francois Leotard, a former French defence minister who is one of the heads of Med-Bridge, the strategic centre that initiated the visit, throws some light on what Senator Norris was getting at. The average profile of the lawmakers in the delegation, so it seems, is not exactly that of someone who "recites his government's official positions."

The declared purpose of the organizers of the visit is to build a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and to shatter preconceived ideas. But Leotard, free of any diplomatic formalism, admits that, "at least from my point of view," this is a solidarity visit with Israel.

While the EU considers Arafat the elected leader of the Palestinian people, a leader with whom a dialogue is unavoidable, Leotard places sole responsibility for the failure of the Oslo process on Arafat, talks of the rampant corruption in the PA and calls for the establishment of a new reservoir of Palestinian leaders over whom the mythological "rais" will no longer hold sway.”

Michael Freund (The Jerusalem Post, 29/10): “To be fair, Bush did condemn the Gaza attack, and went so far as to publicly blame "Palestinian authorities" for their failure to combat terror, a lapse, he noted, which "continues to cost lives."

Nevertheless, in the time which has elapsed since the assault, there have been no indications that the Palestinians will be made to pay a price for their actions. And that is where the Bush administration is making a very big mistake.

By all accounts, the Gaza attack left America's emissaries in the area in a state of shock, and rightly so.

The evidence clearly indicates that this was no case of mistaken identity. The perpetrators are said to have used a remote-controlled device, allowing them to set off the explosion only once a Palestinian police vehicle accompanying the Americans had safely passed by.

The vehicles targeted all bore diplomatic plates, and they were travelling on a road that is closed to Israeli cars. Hence, there can be no doubt that this was a calculated and premeditated assault on Uncle Sam.

In effect, it was a Palestinian declaration of war against America.”  


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM