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BICOM Daily Briefing November 5 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-05

With Israel debating the 2004 budget today, the focus of local news is on the negotiations between Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Finance, and Amir Peretz, Head of the Histadrut Labour Union. Maariv reports that Defence Minsister Shaul Mofaz is planning on ordering the IDF to remove some 20 outposts, starting next week. Haaretz carries two leaders on Israel’s information and public relations policy in the wake of the worrying views expressed in this week’s EU poll. This month’s Peace Index demonstrates Israel’s continued support for negotiation and for the two-state solution.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland writes in support of the Geneva initiative, whilst the paper also covers disagreement about military hardware supplied by the UK to Israel. The Times reports that six of the seven richest men in Russia, are Jewish. There is coverage across the UK papers of the sacking of a senior German military figure following his expressions of support for anti-Semitic remarks made by a German politician.

Quotes of the Day:

Security at the heart of any settlement between Israel and the Palestinians:

Tony Blair (4/11): "Tackling security remains the essential first step towards this or any other settlement."

Shaul Mofaz, Israeli Defence Minister (4/11): "When (Palestinian leaders) relate to this issue (of security) with all due concern...they will find us to be a partner for a dialogue on co-existence."

Kissinger on peace prospects:

Henry Kissinger (4/11): "Whatever the tactical stiffness of Israel is, on the big issues it has made astonishing concessions every time there was an opportunity for peace. They did it under Rabin, they did it under Barak, and they would do it under Sharon, or anyone else."

Henry Kissinger (4/11): "Arafat knows what he has to do. He doesn't need to be talked to. He's known for 10 years what he should do in order to have peace, and he hasn't wanted it."

Italian support for Israel:

Gianfranco Fini, Italian deputy Prime Minister (4/11): "The government of Israel is an expression of popular sovereignty, it has won elections, and it will answer to its electorate when the next vote comes round. To judge from afar is very easy but also very wrong."

Behind the News:

Israel better prepared to talk with new Palestinian government:

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said that Israel is better prepared to foster diplomatic progress with the new government of Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala than it was with former PM Abu Mazen. He also told Israel Radio that the Israeli government plans to make various concessions in order to smooth the way for a renewal of peace talks. FM Shalom has said that Israel is waiting for Abu Ala to finish forming his cabinet and to begin carrying out Palestinian obligations under the roadmap to peace. Israel has already made plans to aid the new cabinet, as long as it is serious about fighting terror.

Shalom said that he had convened a group of officals to prepare a ‘positive agenda’ ahead of the possibility of a renewal of peace talks.

October Peace Index

The monthly Peace Index poll, published by Tel Aviv University’s Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, reveals that two thirds of Israelis fear the possibility of a de-facto binational state, in which the Palestinians would be a majority. Some 78% of Israeli Jews support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. To that end, an overwhelming 83% of Israelis support the building of a security fence, with 63% preferring that the route be decided with regard to Israeli security concerns, and only 19% supporting the fence line following the 1967 Green Line. Whilst 71% of Israelis support political negotiations, only 7% believe that the Geneva initiative has any chance of being realised. However, this support is divided along political lines, with 80% of Meretz voters and only 16% of Likud voters supporting the Geneva initiative. Amongst Israeli Arabs, 77% support the initiative.

Comment and Opinion:

Jonathan Freedland (The Guardian, 5/11): “Of course, that's a risk for both sides - a fact which cancels itself out. But the obstacles are real. On the Palestinian side, it is legitimate to doubt whether Arafat has what it takes to do a final deal for peace. He seems to prefer the role of revolutionary struggler to pragmatic state-builder.”

Sharon Sadeh (Haaretz, 5/11): “Instead of insulting the Europeans, Israel should thank the European Commission for once again exposing its utter failure to invest in improving its image. Israel should drop its centralized, patronizing approach and allow Jewish communities in Europe to participate in shaping public opinion, like in Britain. The Jewish community has allocated some $2 million to fund a professional organization, BICOM, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre, which in less than two years has become a vital source of information for the entire media when it comes to dealing with Israel and anti-Semitism. It's a model that should be considered in other countries, starting with France and Spain.”


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM