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BICOM Daily Briefing November 20 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-20

British press coverage focuses today on President George W. Bush’s speech given yesterday in London. All papers carry reports and analysis of the speech and its implications. The Daily Telegraph, BBC Online and Sky News report on the terror attack at the Aqaba border crossing yesterday, in which a tourist was killed. The Independent features a piece on emigration by Israelis and its causes, while The Guardian reports that the authors of the unofficial Geneva peace proposal are distributing copies of the document to every Israeli home this week. Yediot Ahronot, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post all lead with the formal adoption by the UN Security Council of the Road Map peace plan, while Ma‘ariv leads with a report on the likelihood that a renewed ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians is imminent. In other news, Sharon Sadeh, London correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been nominated for an award for “Story of the Year by a Foreign Journalist Based in the UK” by the Foreign Press Association.

Quotes of the Day:

Prime Minister Tony Blair supports the Middle East peace process:

Prime Minister Tony Blair (Prime Minister's Question Time 19/11): “First, I can tell my hon. Friend that we hope very much that the President will again give his strong support to the middle east peace process, and to the need to develop a process that will allow us, ultimately, to have an Israeli state that is confident of its security and an independent, viable Palestinian state. That is what we will work towards. Obviously, any measure being taken at the moment that inhibits those developments is not good for the long-term future of that process. In the end, however, the process in the middle east will not succeed until there is the clearest possible security plan that allows us to make sure that the terrorism also stops, so that we can create the confidence in which Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side.”

Excerpts from President Bush‘s Speech during state visit to UK:

President George W. Bush (London’s Banqueting House 19/11): “The forward strategy of freedom must also apply to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It's a difficult period in a part of the world that has known many. Yet, our commitment remains firm. We seek justice and dignity. We seek a viable, independent state for the Palestinian people, who have been betrayed by others for too long. We seek security and recognition for the state of Israel, which has lived in the shadow of random death for too long. These are worthy goals in themselves, and by reaching them we will also remove an occasion and excuse for hatred and violence in the broader Middle East.”

President George W. Bush (19/11): “Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption, and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again have put their own self-interest above the interests of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state.”

For further quotes from President Bush’s speech, see: BICOM website.

Israel remains committed to the roadmap:

Media Adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (19/11): “The State of Israel is committed to the roadmap and expects and hopes that the Palestinians will begin to carry out their commitments, including the cessation of terror, dismantling the terrorist organisations and carrying out a full reform of the Palestinian administration, thus making it possible to reach a settlement that will lead to quiet and peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.”

United Nations debates the roadmap:

Kieran Prendergast UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (19/11): “[Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei would be expected] to take immediate steps to establish law and order, control violence and start operations to confront those who engage in terror.”

Behind the News:

Bush speech in London calls for democratisation in the Middle East:

In a major keynote speech at London‘s Banqueting House yesterday, US President George W. Bush called for security and recognition for the State of Israel, which has “lived in the shadow of random death for too long.”  The President advocated a “viable, independent state for the Palestinian people, who have been betrayed by others for too long”, while delivering a stinging criticism of the leadership of Yasser Arafat, saying that “peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption, and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again have put their own self-interest above the interests of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state." President Bush also called on Israel to freeze settlement construction and dismantle the unauthorised outposts.

Commenting on the President’s remarks on his way back from Rome, PM Sharon reiterated that “Relations with the US are excellent and personal relations with Bush are excellent.... There are issues on which there is disagreement, but this doesn't create a crisis. Israel's strategic cooperation with the US is good, and I don't suggest that you look at this as new tension.”

Woman killed in terrorist attack in Aqaba, four others wounded.

Monica Patricia Teran Norte, 33, a tourist from Ecuador, was killed on Tuesday morning and four others wounded by a terrorist who fired at the group of holiday-makers, as they were crossing from Jordan to Israel via the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing north of Eilat. Israeli security guards shot and killed the terrorist, who was later identified as a resident of the town Zarqa northeast of Amman, capital of Jordan. The wounded were evacuated to the Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat. Monica Norte was then airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where she later died of her wounds. The prompt action of the Israeli security guard prevented any further loss of life. Following the incident, IDF forces, in cooperation with Jordanian authorities, began to scour the area to ensure that no additional terrorists were present. The tourists were part of a group of 29 Christian pilgrims from Ecuador who came from Jordan to visit Israel.

Israeli security sources consider that the attack bore the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda strike. Attacks on tourists have not hitherto formed an element of the violent activities of local Palestinian terror organisations, while they are a well-established tactic of Al-Qaeda. The terror group is currently seen to be increasing activity in Arab countries perceived as sympathetic to the west, such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Sources also consider that local groups such as Hamas would be unlikely to risk their tolerated position in Jordan through such an action.

UN Security Council officially endorses Road Map:

The United Nations Security Council yesterday unanimously voted in favour of a resolution submitted Wednesday by Russia endorsing the International Quartet's "Road Map" for Middle East Peace. In a statement responding to this latest development, Ambassador Arye Mekel, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, asserted that "We do not believe that the key thing now is additional resolutions or statements, there have been plenty of those." Rather, Mekel considered, "We need action, not words." "Israel welcomed the vision of President Bush in his speech of 24 June 2002,” he continued “and we have accepted the steps outlined in the Road Map, even though we have expressed certain concerns in this regard." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had asked the Russian government to refrain from submitting the resolution, during a visit by the Prime Minister to Russia in early November.

Comment and Opinion:

John Vinocur (International Herald Tribune, 20/11): “With his condemnation of the rise of a new anti-Semitism in France, and his promises to combat it, President Jacques Chirac has conceded that his country has a troubled place among the European nations where anti-Jewish outbursts and attacks have become an undeniable and embarrassing pattern. Indeed, after a firebomb attack on an unoccupied Jewish school in the Paris suburbs on Saturday, coinciding with attacks on two synagogues in Istanbul that killed 25 people, including the two bombers, French Jewish leaders greeted Chirac's statement on Monday as a gesture of strong symbolism. It demonstrated for France's chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, that anti-Semitism here is "a French problem, not a Jewish one."

Commentators over a wide arc of French media made reference to the presumed perpetrators and to the probable causes, like the Islamic fanaticism of some of the country's five million to seven million Arabs, the failed integration of a major segment of Arab immigrants, criticism of the actions of Israel that melds into or masks a hatred of Jews, and a French foreign policy that seems to find greater ease in dealing with Islamic dictatorships than with an elected Israeli government, whatever its mistakes and rigidities.

In a book published in 2002 called "La Nouvelle Judeophobie," a French academic, Pierre-Andre Taguieff, explained the new French anti-Semitism as having nothing to do with the "racialist vulgate" of the Nazis. Rather, he wrote, it was transported by Islamic radicalism, and relayed by European political groups looking to replace worn-out battle cries of "Third World revolution and anti-imperialism." Since the 1990's, Taguieff argues, factions of various groups (he points to fragmented segments of anarchists, Trotskyists, Greens and anti-globalists) "have contributed to making judeophobic cliché and slogans acceptable, and then respectable, on the basis of a Nazification of the 'Jews-Zionists-Israelis.'"”

Yair Sheleg (Ha’aretz, 20/11): “Israel is now the only country in the world that not only is facing physical extermination by a country like Iran, which is developing weapons to provide it at least with the option to fulfill the threat, but also, lately there have been voices in the West seeking to fulfill the Iranian goal through more "convenient" ways, by turning Israel into the only country in the world whose existence is politically and morally challenged - a state on probation.”


“Moreover, the Jewish state does not appear to have the same natural right to existence that other states have, but is rather a special favor granted by the international community to the Jews because of the Holocaust, a gift that could be taken back if the price is deemed too expensive.

Israeli policy with regard to this process should be double-edged. On the one hand, there must be an intensive campaign against the trend while it is still in its earliest stages. All the country's experts in such information campaigns must make clear to the international community that Israel is not on probation as a state and even if there is criticism of its policies, Arab acceptance of Israel is not a condition for Israel's existence. On the other hand, for that campaign to be credible, Israel must constantly keep on the table a sincere proposal to end its control over millions of Palestinians. Moreover, it must be understood that it is in Israel's interest for the significance of a new process creating a sense of hope for at least moderation and "management" of the conflict, even if a comprehensive solution appears far off. That is the positive side of the Geneva accords, with all its problematic details and the problematic process that brought it forth. Nonetheless, if it really turns out that there is no chance for a permanent solution with the Palestinians under conditions that Israel could allow itself to accept, a unilateral move would at least ease and moderate the daily aspect of the military-civilian conflict - and that is also an Israeli interest.”

Headlines:


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM