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BICOM Daily Briefing November 6 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-06

In a somber mood, Israel officially commemorates the eighth anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. With a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah nearing completion, the Israeli press concentrates on the difficult decision being faced by Israeli politicians of whether to accept the deal. The local press reports on the lifting of all restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank, allowing travel within and between the towns and cities. Maariv and Haaretz report that Palestinian Finance Minister Salim Fayyed has decided to boycott the Palestinian caretaker cabinet formed two days ago.

The Guardian has excerpts from the Arab press with reactions to the recent EU poll, while the Times reports that one of the Russian ‘autocrats’ at the centre of the YUKOS affair has been granted Israeli citizenship. BBC Online reports on the appointment of the new Israeli Ambassador to Egypt. The Times and The Daily Telegraph feature obituaries of David Bar-Ilan, a former executive editor of the Jerusalem Post and media advisor to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Quotes of the Day:

Efraim Halevy on Islamic terror:

Efraim Halevy, Former Head of the Mossad (5/11): “Islamic terror does not see us as a short-term or fleeting target, but in the long term. Their aim is to bring the end of the State of Israel. In this war - a religious war - any Jew anywhere in the world is a target.”

Behind the News:

EU to host a seminar on anti-Semitism in Europe:

In response to the worrying results of this week’s EU poll, the European Commission has decided to host a seminar before the end of the year on anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings in Europe. The release of the poll on Monday, in which Israel is described as a threat to world peace, led to widespread condemnation from Israeli politicians and Jewish rights groups, casting a shadow on the European Union's ability to play a more active role in trying to reach a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

President of the European Commission Romano Prodi has also added meetings with the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish leaders to a scheduled visit to New York this week.

Prisoner exchange deal nearing completion:

A prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah is due to be approved by the Israeli cabinet in the next few days. In exchange for Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three IDF soldiers, Israel is set to release some 400 Palestinian and 20 Lebanese prisoners. Israel is also expected to release a number of Jordanian prisoners in a separate deal concluded with Jordan. According to Haaretz, the list of those to be released will follow the guidelines set for prisoner release during the ceasefire that took place during the summer of 2003. It will include Palestinian prisoners who do not have blood on their hands, those who are serving their first prison terms and those who have been slated for release within the next three years. Nine of the Lebanese prisoners set to be released have blood on their hands.

The negotiations between Israel and Hezbollah have been taking place in Germany with German broker Ernst Uhrlau serving as mediator. There has been dissension within Israel as to whether the deal should take place at all and whether a deal should be accepted without missing airman Ron Arad, currently thought to be held in Iran.

Palestinian Finance Minister boycotts Abu Ala caretaker cabinet:

Palestinian Finance Minister Salim Fayyed announced this morning that he is boycotting Abu Ala’s caretaker cabinet formed on Tuesday. He has said that he will ‘stay at home’ until Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala forms a permanent government since he does not see the present caretaker cabinet as having legal status after its term expired on Tuesday.

Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre poll:

A poll carried out by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre between 18-21 October of 1,198 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, has found that 76.8% of Palestinians support the intifada, with 43% seeing the end result of the intifada as a liberation of all of ‘historic Palestine’. 67.9% see violence against Israeli targets as a suitable response to the current political conditions with 61.8% supporting to some degree suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Politically, 57.5% of Palestinians surveyed did not feel that there was any justification for the formation of a Palestinian emergency government in recent weeks. 61.4% of Palestinians evaluate the performance of the Palestinian National Authority as bad and 49.2% see the performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council as bad. 48.6% of those polled were dissatisfied with Yasser Arafat’s performance as Palestinian Authority President.

Comment and Opinion:

Ben Caspit (Maariv, 6/11): “Sometimes you have to ignore your gut, forget sentiment, close your eyes to pain and mourning. Sometimes you have to take decisions of real, painful leadership, as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. Against the rogue Israeli citizen who was taken hostage and the three tormented families of the captured soldiers, stands the good of the whole state. Ariel Sharon’s decision, to deal with the devil, is the easier one. Actually the opposite decision, that Sharon did not take, is far harder. The decision which reasonably limits the responsibility of the state. The decision which puts and end to abandoning people. The decision which will prevent a rash of terrorist kidnappings in the future. The decision which will not turn Hassan Nasralla into king of the hill. The decision which will not give the Palestinians new ideas. The decision that will not bring back to life those who drove around with Ron Arad helpless in the boot of their car and sold him to the Iranian Repblican Guard. That decision, if and when it is made, has to be taken by the Israeli government once and for all. It is in the hands of the ministers now. Will they have the strength? Will they find the required moral will? I doubt it.”

Israel Harel (Haaretz, 6/11): “When do the terrorists know they have won - that it is worth continuing to carry out attacks like the one against the Twin Towers in New York City, or against the Maxim restaurant in Haifa? When even the residents of countries sitting in safety are panic-stricken, distort the reality and blame the victims instead of the murderers.

Indeed, this is one of the most malignant implications of the survey's results. If after three years of terror attacks against Israel, she and not the Palestinian terror organizations is perceived as the country "most dangerous to world peace," meaning the most hated by citizens of the EU, this grants legitimacy and motivation to Palestinian and world terrorism.

The overwhelming majority of America's residents rejected the charge that Israel is responsible for the evil that befell America on September 11, 2001. The Americans, due to their character, which rejects ingratiation, and certainly capitulation, understood that Osama bin Laden is driven by his hatred of anything that is not Muslim. His sworn oath to fight against Israel is another reason why he must be defeated.

And if one were to ask the citizens of practically the only western country that still has a desire to face terror and not flee from it, they would state, as is the fitting response for any free person, that more than anything else, it is Arab-Islamic terror, and not its victims or those who fight against it, that endangers world peace today.”


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM