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BICOM Daily Briefing November 3 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-03

In limited coverage of Israel in this morning’s UK press, the Guardian reports on the annual remembrance rally for Yitzhak Rabin, and the official publication of a leaked EU poll that sees Israel as a threat to world peace. Israeli relaxation of restrictions on Palestinians is reported in the Telegraph and the Scotsman, while the Financial Times carries news of the difficulties surrounding the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

In Israel, the confusion surrounding the decision by the national labour court to outlaw a planned general strike dominates the news. There is also discussion of Hamas’ willingness to join a limited ceasefire and a possible Arafat-Abu Ala meeting. The Jerusalem Post carries a report on Palestinian anger at the issue of a reward for information of those who killed US Embassy personnel in Gaza.

Quotes of the Day:

Israeli Foreign Minister on the European Union Commission poll:

Silvan Shalom, Israeli Foreign Minister (2/11): “This isn’t necessarily a matter of anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian; it’s a much broader issue of expressing views different from the U.S., to establish itself as a power.”

Hamas on chances of a cease-fire:

Abdul Aziz Rantissi, Hamas spokesman (2/11): "We are trying to help Abu Ala to avoid the failure of Abu Mazen by offering to stop attacks on civilians if the enemy accepts to do the same."

Behind the News:

Suicide bomber blows himself up before entering Israel:

In breaking news Monday morning, a Palestinian suicide bomber has blown himself up in a West Bank village after seeing Israeli security services searching for him. The terrorist killed himself in the West Bank village of Azun, near Kafr Qasem. Security officials had been on high alert, fearing a terrorist infiltration into the Sharon region. There have been no reported injuries in the blast. Fatah alligned, Al Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade have claimed responsibility for the attack, naming the terrorist as Sabih Abu Saud from Nablus. Security forces remain on high alert in case of a second suicide bomb attack.

Thousands of Palestinians allowed to enter Israel:

Following discussions last week, 6,200 Palestinians entered Israel yesterday and over 10,000 from Gaza are expected to do so today. In addition, some 1,500 workers from the West Bank have been permitted to return to jobs in the Atarot industrial zone on the northern edge of Jerusalem.

Talks between Israelis and Palestinians resumed:
Avi Dichter, head of Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, met Sunday night with the secretary of the Palestinian National Security Council Jibril Rajoub. Palestinian sources reported that their talks were “positive and contstructive”. According to these sources, the talks were aimed at paving the way for Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala, to meet with Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Shalom not disheartened by EU poll:

According to an EU Commission poll leaked over the weekend in Spanish newspaper El Pais and published in full today, 59% of Europeans felt that Israel was a greater threat to world peace than North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom yesterday rejected claims that the poll was proof of European anti-Semitism, saying that it reflects the over-exposure of Israel in European media. Shalom quoted a poll published a month ago, which showed a significant improvement in Israel's image in Europe recent months, whilst he also rejected the importance of such polls. He cited a number of recent Israeli accomplishments in Europe, such as the inclusion of the political wing of Hamas on the EU terrorist list, Research & Development and agricultural agreements which were recently signed with the EU and the European rejection of a Palestinian initiative to send the issue of Israel’s security fence to the international court at the Hague.

Comment and Opinion:

Jerusalem Post (3/11): The fact that so many Europeans feel that Israel and the United States are threats to world peace comparable to Iran and North Korea bespeaks a profound intellectual and ideological malaise.

Is Europe's fourth estate so confused that it would have answered the poll the same way?

In any case, European journalists should ask themselves, did we really intend to lump Israel, now suffering its fourth year of suicide bombings, along with Iran, a primary terrorism sponsor, and North Korea, a nuclear proliferator?

Ironically, the same poll found that 81 percent of Europeans thought that the EU should become more involved in Middle East peacemaking efforts. Obviously, such polls confirm every Israeli instinct to keep Europeans as far away from any position of diplomatic influence as possible.

Memo to Europe: Demonizing a democracy under attack is no way to win friends and influence people.

Rami Livne (Maariv, 3/11): The Sharon government will not fall tomorrow morning, but there is something in the air. Unripe, still fragile, but different from what we have felt over the last three years, and still more than just a tremor. Note that more opposition representatives are on the news and current affairs programmes, like the opposition is an important part of the public debate, and not the hang-over from another reality, like we have become used to thinking. Amazing.

Over the last three years, the media has barely taken notice of what the opposition has to say. Its representatives were invited to appear rarely, and when someone was invited, it looked liked they were doing them a favour. The host made sure to bury his head in his papers, as if to signal to the viewers that nothing important was going on, and looked at his leftie interviewee with faint derision and pity. And now, in the last few weeks, more people from the left are on the screens, and even get some serious response from time to time. The government’s monopoly on setting the media agenda has been challenged somewhat.


Israel Briefing is supplied by BICOM