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BICOM Daily Briefing November 11 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-11

The Independent publishes details of a Control Risks report, according to which London is the most likely target for a terrorist attack, including a suicide bomb attack. The deaths of three Israeli babies from faulty formula milk is reported in the Independent and the Scotsman, and dominates domestic Israeli news this morning. There is also discussion in the British papers of the Hezbollah prisoner swap deal, which appears to be floundering over the release of Sami Quntar, a convicted terrorist currently held by Israel. The Daily Telegraph reports that the BBC has created a position to monitor pro-Arab bias. Many of today’s British papers contain reviews of last night’s Channel Four documentary, Inside the Mind of the Suicide Bomber.

In the Israeli papers, Haaretz has more details on the financial management of the PA, with large amounts of money under Arafat’s direct control. The Jerusalem Post reports on US concerns about the new PA government, and on anti-US remarks made by Jibril Rajoub, currently in London for medical treatment.

Quotes of the Day

Hezbollah deal runs into difficulty over release of Samir Quntar:

Silvan Shalom (10/11): “We have stated in the clearest possible terms throughout the negotiations that Quntar is not on the list.”

US concerns about new PA government:

Richard Boucher, US State Department spokesman (10/11): "Whatever the structure, good or bad, the only criterion that matters is dismantling the terrorist groups. The policy on Arafat hasn't changed at all. We think he is a failed leader."

Behind the News

IMF exposes Arafat’s control over PA budget:

An International Monetary Fund report on the financial management of the Palestinian Authority shows that 8 percent of the PA budget is managed by Yasser Arafat. Under the heading "Economic Performance and Reforms under Conflict Conditions," the IMF document, based on data provided by the PA, describes the financial management of the PA since its establishment in 1995 and through to the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. The figures show, among other things, that some $900 million in PA revenues "disappeared" during the period in question and was transferred from the Palestinian Finance Ministry to unknown destinations.

According to the report, the 2003 budget for Arafat's office totalled $74 million, of which a sum of $34 million is listed as "transfers" that the chairman uses to pay "organisations" and "individuals," as the report puts it.

Egyptian support for the Geneva initiative:

Tariq al-Quni, the Egyptian charge d'affaires in Israel was interviewed on Israel Radio on Monday, saying that Egypt welcomes such initiatives as the Geneva understandings, which would strengthen relations between Israelis and Palestinians and promote positive dialogue. Cairo is pursuing its attempts to promote a cease-fire, but Israel should also assist by implementing positive steps, he said. The new Palestinian government has important missions, the implementation of which will help promote the peace process. The Egyptian charge d'affaires added that Egypt's position regarding the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel depends on an improvement in the political situation.

Channel Four Documentary: “Inside the mind of the suicide bomber”:

Channel Four last night aired a documentary entitled “Inside the Mind of the Suicide Bomber”. Tom Roberts directed the documentary, which interviewed Palestinians who were about to carry out suicide bombings and failed to do so. Two of those interviewed were part of an organisation that built the bombs and transported the suicide bombers to their target destination. Three others were teenagers who had planned to be suicide bombers.

The suicide bombers in the programme described what they believed to await them upon death. They then went on to explain how their weapons were constructed- belts consisting of nitroglycerine tubes and metal pieces, designed to do the maximum damage. According to the interviewees, belts are better than bags as they are less visible. The film then showed the aftermath of the bombings: wrecked buses and people hunting in the rubble for remains so that bodies can be buried complete, according to religious law.

TAU poll shows fall in support for Oslo; rise in support for Palestinian state:

The annual Public Opinion and National Security Poll, published by Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies this week shows that 59% of Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state, compared to 49% last year. Also, 59% percent believe Israel should abandon all but the large settlement blocs, up from 50% in 2002. Support for the Oslo peace process dropped to an all-time low of 31 percent.

The poll found that 29% of the public is willing to make sacrifices to better the country, such as increased taxes and longer army service, up from 21% last year and 14% in 2001. Only 23% want the defence budget increased, compared to 47% last year. One out of five think it should be cut, 10 times more than in 2002. The end of the Iraqi threat and a reduction in suicide bombers at the time of the poll were suggested as reasons for this change.

Israelis are still extremely worried that terrorism will strike them personally, with 83% saying they, or a member of their family, would become a victim of an attack.

Comment and Opinion

Judith Kneen (The Guardian, Education supplement 11/11): “As a focus for classroom study, the crisis in Israel has many valuable lessons for students about the nature and effects of conflict, not least the question of individual and state responsibility, and how one is dependent on the other.”

The idea of suicide bombers is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the conflict for British children.”

Amnon Rubenstein (Haaretz, 11/11): “It is time to listen to Europeans and not shy away from dialogue with them. This is important to Israel economically, diplomatically, socially and psychologically. The poll should by no means be seen as the end of the world.”

Headlines


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM