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BICOM Daily Briefing November 24 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-24

The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph both feature pieces on the visit of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini to Israel. The Daily Telegraph also reports on the scrapping by the EU of a research study into antisemitism following a report in Saturday’s Financial Times. The Times, meanwhile, quotes remarks by Prime Minister Sharon criticising the growth of antisemitism in Europe. The Independent contains two pieces on the unofficial peace plan, the Geneva Accords - the first detailing results of a poll showing majority support for a two state solution among both Israelis and Palestinians, the second describing a demonstration by Palestinian extremists against the accord. The Guardian’s G2  section contains a piece by Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soneif on daily life in the West Bank. The Financial Times, Reuters and BBC Online all report on Prime Minister Sharon’s remarks concerning the possibility of the dismantling of settlements in Gaza. In the Israeli press, the Jerusalem Post leads with this story, while Ha‘aretz focuses on the Prime Minister‘s meeting with senior US official Eliot Abrams. Ma‘ariv and Yediot Ahronot focus on the current public sector strikes in Israel.

Quotes of the Day

Terrorism hinders the peace process:

Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary, on BBC Radio Four’s ‘Today’ Programme (21/11): “Of course we should try and make progress in the Middle East and in other areas where there are conflicts. But I also say, so far as the Middle East, the Israel Palestine conflict is concerned, what is it that has disrupted progress most in respect of the road map? It is the terrorists, the rejectionist terrorists, who are continuing their evil work. And that's not only put fear in to the minds of Israelis, but it's also wholly undermined the democratic and peaceful leadership of the Palestinian Authority.”

Avi Dichter, Shin Bet Director (23/11, Jerusalem Post): “Hamas chiefs spend 90% of their time hiding and 10% of their time planning attacks. They are interested in a Hudna [temporary cease-fire] so they can come out of underground and strengthen their terror infrastructure.”

Israel willing to resume negotiations:

Ehud Olmert Deputy Prime Minister (23/11, Ha’aretz): “The moment Abu Ala's government is ready to begin negotiations and all the conditions are ripe, the talks will be resumed.”

Anti-Israel as an excuse for anti-Semitism:

Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister (24/11, Ha‘aretz): “These days to conduct an anti-Semite policy is not a popular thing, so the anti-Semites bundle their policies in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Of course there are anti-Semites who use the events in Israel and the argument that Israel uses excessive force, and through this they are trying to compromise Israel's right to self-defence. Thus there is a danger to Jews.”

The world should apologise for the Holocaust:

Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini (Ha’aretz 23/11): “Not only Fini, but the entire world, including the Vatican and the pope, should beg forgiveness of Israel.”

Behind the News

Widespread Support for Two-State Solution:

According to a poll commissioned by the Baker Institute, a Washington think tank, and published on Sunday, there is support for a two-state solution to the conflict among a majority of Israelis and Palestinians. The poll revealed that 55.6% of Palestinians and 53% of Israelis backed the principles of the Geneva Accords, the unofficial plan which is based on such an arrangement. It surveyed 1,241 Israelis and Palestinians for their views on the peace plan’s terms without mentioning it by name.

For details on recent developments in the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, please see (weekend brief 22-23 November).

Shin Bet Director reports on successes against Hamas:

Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter informed ministers on Sunday that Hamas leaders currently spend 90% of their time in hiding, and only 10% actively planning terror attacks. He asserted that Israeli agreement to a second ‘hudna‘ (temporary cease-fire) was desired by Hamas, since the organisation would again use this period in order to re-build their terror infrastructure. Dichter informed ministers that the number of attempted attacks against Israelis had risen in the last period, but that his officers had succeeded in foiling 14 attacks over the Ramadan period alone. The last ‘hudna’ took place over the summer of 2003 and ended when a Hamas suicide bomber blew up a bus full of people in Jerusalem on 19 August.

PA security forces ordered to draft plan to meet Road Map security commitments:

According to Haaretz, the Palestinian Higher National Security Council has stated that it will appoint a committee to formulate a plan to ensure that the Palestinian Authority meets security commitments as agreed in the Road Map peace plan. According to PA officials, the US has presented the Palestinians with a list of measures that PA security forces must take in the context of the implementation of the Road Map. “These include collecting illegal weapons, banning the show of power on streets, closing down tunnels used for smuggling on the Egyptian-Palestinian border and searching houses to collect illegal arms," said a senior Palestinian official.

Al-Qaeda Cells target UK Jews:

According to a report in the Sunday Times, British security services are searching for two cells of al-Qaeda terrorists believed to be targeting Jewish targets in the UK. The cells are believed to involve about 10 terrorists, all hailing from the Middle East. According to the report, warnings of a possible attack were raised by MI5 Director Eliza Manningham Buller, in a briefing to the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. Manningham Buller informed the Committee that al-Qaeda "sleepers" are conducting surveillance on potential targets. She said that finding the sleepers was proving difficult, since many are thoroughly integrated into British life, and some have British citizenship.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister visits Israel:

The Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Italy’s National Alliance party, Gianfranco Fini, began his four day visit to Israel today. The trip began with a visit to Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem. Fini is expected to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. He will also meet with Shimon Peres, leader of the Labour Party, and with President Moshe Katsav.

Comment and Opinion

Zalman Shoval (Jerusalem Post, 24/11): “It is too soon to declare the road map dead, not least because both the US and Israel have, for now, no interest in doing so.”

“Israelis view the evolution of America's role in the Middle East in the light of two recent anniversaries: 30 years after the Yom Kippur War and a decade after Oslo. The two events are in a sense mirror images of each other. The Yom Kippur War started disastrously, but ended with one of Israel's greatest military victories and created the conditions for eventual Egyptian-Israeli peace. Oslo, by contrast, was initially greeted with almost universal acclamation and ended in disaster - for peace, for Israel's security, and in the view of many, also for the Palestinians. Both the Yom Kippur War and Oslo and are traumas Israelis do not want to repeat.

THEREFORE, IT'S only natural that many Israelis see matters through a glass darkly, and that what they see is the lack of a significant body of Arab opinion recognizing the right of the Jewish state right to exist. Indeed, Israelis ask themselves, given that Oslo, Camp David II and the road map had actually brought about an increase in Palestinian terrorism, is this not proof that real, historic, ideological compromise was never really part of the Palestinian leadership's agenda? In the meantime, the most important operative condition in both the road map and in the Bush concept was the imperative to stop Palestinian violence and to dismantle the terrorist organizations. This was especially important to Israelis in light of the failure of the Oslo agreement and Yasser Arafat's "Aksa intifada" following the breakdown of the Barak-Clinton initiative at Camp David. There also is agreement that, in addition to breaking up the terrorist infrastructure, the frozen process of Palestinian political reform must be relaunched.”