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BICOM Daily Briefing November 26 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-26

The Guardian and BBC Online both report on Israel’s agreement to mark all Israeli exports to the European Union with their place of origin. The Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune and BBC Online all cover a decision by the US to cut loan guarantees to Israel, while The Times features a piece on a cemetery in the Jordan Valley in Israel, where the remains of suicide bombers are buried. In the Israeli press, Yediot Ahronot, Maariv, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post all lead with the US decision on loan guarantees. Haaretz also features an article on the controversial cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating a baby winning first prize in the British Political Cartoon Society’s annual competition.

Quotes of the Day

US trims loan guarantees to Israel:

Danny Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the US (Haaretz, 26/11): “[the resolution] proves again the closeness of the relationship and the mechanism of close dialogue.”

Israel decides to mark goods to the EU with their place of origin:

Ehud Olmert, Trade and Industry Minister (Haaretz, 26/11): “This is an economic, not a political decision… We are simply trying to get the maximum for Israeli industries without giving up our own claims…Israel has accepted the long-standing American demand that US aid not be spent over the Green Line.”

Palestinian views of PM Qureia (Abu Ala):

Former PA Cabinet Minister (Jerusalem Post, 26/11): “Abu Ala is not an independent prime minister. By succumbing to Arafat, he has tied his own hands by himself. The situation today is that Qureia needs Arafat’s approval for every single step. He is spending more time in the Mukata (Arafat’s ‘presidential’ compound) than he is at the prime minister’s office. Even if Arafat wasn’t around, he would still have to report to the Fatah Central Council and the PLO Executive Committee, which are controlled by Arafat supporters. Some of Arafat’s low-ranking aides have more power and influence than the prime minister.” 

Hani al-Masri, Palestinian political analyst (Jerusalem Post, 26/11): “It’s time for everyone to admit that this is Arafat’s government… President Arafat has succeeded in scuttling all attempts to sideline him.  Today, he is back at the centre of Palestinian decision-making.”

Behind the News

Spending on settlements, but not on Security Fence, to be deducted from loan guarantees:

During a meeting Tuesday between US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s envoy, Dov Weisglass, a US decision to deduct almost $300 million from the next slice of $1.4 billion in loan guarantees from the US to Israel was revealed. This sum is an approximation of per annum spending by Israel on settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas. Diplomatic sources confirmed, however, that no such provision was made for spending on the Security fence.

Israel expects two similar deductions over the next two years. The loan guarantees are not in any way linked or connected to the overall aid package that Israel receives from the US, nor will the latter be affected by Tuesday’s decision. The impact on the Israeli economy of the decision on loan guarantees would be minimal, sources confirmed. National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said the agreement “acknowledges US policy concerns and US law regarding activities in the West Bank and Gaza and is a reflection of close and continuing consultations between our two governments.”

Change to labelling of European Union goods approved:

The decision by Trade and Industry Minister Ehud Olmert to accede to EU demands to label all Israeli products with their place of origin, has been approved by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. EU officials have argued that since they do not view the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem as part of Israel, goods made there should not be eligible for the customs reductions that Israeli produce enjoys in Europe, thanks to the free-trade pact between Israel and the EU and Israel’s status as a most-favoured trading partner.

The Industry and Trade Ministry has reported that some 4,000 investigations have been launched by EU customs authorities over the last period, in order to ascertain which Israeli companies were based beyond the Green Line. Industrialists based in these areas were shocked by the decision, and pointed out that it represented a major reversal in the stance of the government of Israel on this point, hitherto regarded as a matter of principle. Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed yesterday that producers from the territories will be compensated in full for the extra customs duties they will be required to pay. He stressed that his concern in reaching this decision was to prevent differences between Israel and the EU, affecting Israel’s exports to Europe from within the Green Line area, which are worth $7 billion per annum, about one third of all Israeli exports. In recent months, many European countries have been requiring all Israeli goods to pay full customs duties, with the sums paid being retrievable if the exporter retroactively proves that the produce derives from within the Green Line.

Terror attempts continue:

According to Israeli Army Radio, a Palestinian youth yesterday attempted to stab Jewish worshippers at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza. The youth was overpowered by security forces and no injuries have been reported. In a separate incident, two Palestinian terrorists were arrested in the Balata refugee camp yesterday for planning to carry out suicide bomb attacks. A further Palestinian terrorist opened fire on Mount Eval but no one was injured.

Israel’s gesture of goodwill on Muslim holiday:

In a gesture of goodwill towards Jordan on the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, Israel released nine Jordanian prisoners on Tuesday. Jordanian State Minister Asma Khader criticised the release as insufficient and demanded that Israel release fifty prisoners. An IDF spokesman confirmed that four Jordanians were released from Ofer Military Prison and five from the Nafha, Nitzan and Neveh Tirza prisons. One of the prisoners was involved in terror activities, two were punished for security violations and the rest were incarcerated for entering Israel illegally.

Comment and Opinion

Amnon Rubinstein (Haaretz, 26/11): “The call of the new anti-Semitism of our age is "Jews out of Palestine." It characterized not only the traditional Israel haters but also - and mostly - circles dubbed the left nowadays, in Israel, Europe and among "liberal" Americans. The absurd thing is that negating Israel's right to exist, which provides the intellectual backing for the threats of its destruction, is being done in the name of the most supreme doctrines of human rights and equality. In other words, all nations have the right to self-determination - except the Jews.

The fact that the extremist intellectual left is now carrying the banner once hefted by the fascist right in Europe is as traumatic for many contemporary Jews as it was in the late 19th century. True, there are no pogroms and no Dreyfus trial, but the chief rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, goes on radio to tell Jews to avoid wearing a skullcap in public - a call that should have shocked the most secular Jews to their core. The European Social Forum, meanwhile, invites anti-Semitic Muslim intellectual Tarek Ramadan to join its ranks, and the left in general inspires only deep disappointment when it does not demonstrate alongside Jews who are afraid to wear a skullcap and are killed at prayers in synagogues.

Those not tainted with fashionable academic ignorance who read Moshe Lilienblum and Yehuda Pinsker nowadays cannot help but feel deep identification with those two writers. It's not only Jews who are hurt by the combination of extremist Muslims and anti-Semitic leftists. The French press - including the media very critical of Israel - was shocked by what has happened. On November 18, Le Monde justifiably praised the rapid response by President Jacques Chirac, who called a special session of his cabinet after arsonists struck a Jewish school in Paris on November 15. The newspaper warns of the combination of violent Islamic anti-Semitism and traditional French anti-Semitism. Le Figaro, on November 17, drew a connection between the events in Istanbul and Paris and the public opinion poll in which Europeans ranked Israel as the leading country endangering world peace. The newspaper added that the greatest success of the new anti-Semitism is its very banalization.

Gerard Dupuy, writing in Liberation on November 17, opens an editorial on the Turkish bombings with this stunning statement: "In 2003, a person can be killed simply for being Jewish - in Istanbul, Jerba, and Casablanca." He adds that anyone trying to explain the anti-Semitism, if not justify it, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is making a moral mistake, because it is a murderous trend, rooted in Muslim society, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just an excuse for it. French-Jewish jurist Robert Badinter, a former justice minister and now a socialist senator, was bitter in an interview with a Catholic publication about how the new anti-Semitism is guised in anti-Zionism. And German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced a special session of the European Council on Peace and Security to discuss the issue of the new anti-Semitism in the spring.”

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Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM