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BICOM Daily Briefing December 10 2003

Last updated: 2003-12-10

Israel coverage today centres on speculation surrounding the latest statements by Prime Minister Sharon regarding possible unilateral moves by Israel, with The Guardian and the Financial Times both reporting on Sharon’s ‘complex new plan’ for peace. Reuters focuses on what it describes as US scepticism toward Israeli unilateralism. BBC Online covers the killing of two armed infiltrators by IDF troops on the Lebanese border yesterday. The Glasgow Herald, meanwhile, has a feature on the decline of Israel’s kibbutz movement.

In the Israeli press, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post both also lead with stories on PM Sharon’s latest statements, and the implication in them that the removal of Jewish settlements may be imminent. Both papers report on Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom’s upcoming meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak in Geneva. Maariv has a piece quoting senior Sharon aides, who predict the re-formation of a national unity coalition in Israel.

Quotes of the Day:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, (Haaretz, 10/12): “We can't wait five years until the Palestinians implement the road map - we have to set a date and not wait forever…But first we will try some unilateral steps, and possibly at that stage there will be some movement of settlements, even before the road map is abandoned."

Ephraim Halevy, former Mossad Director, (Jerusalem Post, 10/12): “We are committed to the road map and we cannot break nor annul this commitment…A country cannot renege on its formal commitments even if it knows or feels that it made a mistake and therefore the only way to progress is one that supersedes the road map."  

Behind the News:

Latest PM statements on possible unilateral moves

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee yesterday, Prime Minister Sharon revealed that he is weighing the possibility of a ‘comprehensive unilateral security move’, in the event that he becomes convinced that the Road Map has failed. He added that some Jewish settlements in the West Bank may be moved as part of initial unilateral steps intended to ease conditions for both Israelis and Palestinians. Sharon confirmed yesterday that he remains determined to stick to the Road Map and is opposed to the idea of an overall unilateral settlement, as recently advocated by his deputy, Ehud Olmert. But at the same time he said he was working on an alternative plan, involving limited unilateral measures, which would be put into action if the Palestinians show they have failed to meet their commitments as laid out in the Road Map. Sharon stressed that the Palestinians would gain less from a unilateral arrangement than they would by continuing negotiations in the framework of the Road Map. He nevertheless concluded that Israel has seen no signs that the new government of Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) seriously intends to act against the infrastructure of Palestinian terror, as the Road Map requires.

The Prime Minister derided yesterday statements of concern regarding the demographic challenges facing Israel made by individuals who he described as ‘self-appointed experts.’ ‘Time is on our side’, Sharon asserted.  The latest statements by the Prime Minister have angered right wing members of his Cabinet, precipitating a potential internal political crisis.

Shalom to meet Mubarak in Geneva for talks on Road Map

According to Haaretz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom will meet today with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Geneva, to discuss ways of reviving the Road Map to Middle East peace. An aide to FM Shalom said Mubarak would be asked to send an ambassador back to Israel, after Egypt withdrew its envoy at the start of the current intifada. The meeting marks the first time the Egyptian leader has met with a representative of the current Israeli government. A Foreign Ministry statement said the talks “signify a warming of relations between Israel and Egypt.”

The foreign minister will also meet today with Pope John Paul II, the first high-level talks between the two sides since the pope criticized Israel's security fence.

Nablus mother of seven involved in foiled bombing plot

Israeli security forces yesterday arrested a suicide bomber who was on his way to carry out a suicide bombing in Rosh Ha'ayin. Early yesterday morning the suicide bomber, a 20-year old resident of the Balata refugee camp, and his counterpart, a 37-year old husband and father of seven from Nablus, left Balata in order to carry out a suicide bombing. They were accompanied by a 40-year old resident of Nablus and mother of seven. The woman was the one who smuggled the explosives belt from the West Bank into Israel and wore the explosives belt around her waist, since IDF soldiers very rarely conduct body searches on women. However, due to intelligence information, the security agencies had massively increased their presence in the region, causing the terrorists to abandon the planned attack and return to the territories, where they were later arrested. Under interrogation, the suspects said that the bomber's goal was a shopping centre in Rosh Ha'ayin. The bombing was planned by Fatah's military wing, the Tanzim in Nablus. 

Israel criticises ‘Al-Shatak’ TV series

Israeli officials have harshly criticised the content of a TV series broadcast throughout the Arab and Muslim world during Ramadan, Haaretz reports. The 29-part series, produced in Syria and broadcast throughout the region by Al-Manar, a station established by Hizballah, depicts the killing of a Christian child by Jews for the purpose of baking Passover matzas. This revival of the blood libel was described by Minister for Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky yesterday as ‘dehumanizing’ to Jews. US diplomats last month issued official complaints about the program to the Lebanese and Syrian governments.

Comment and Opinion:

Sharon Sadeh (Haaretz, 10/12): “How does it come to pass that a public body, financed by the European taxpayer, shelves a first-of-its-kind study on anti-Semitism in Europe? What can be inferred from the fact that, in contrast, the European Union agreed to immediately publish the results of a dubious survey concluding that Israel was the greatest threat to world peace? The EUMC whitewashing was designed to hide the most severe indictment in recent years against the insensitivity and neglect by the governments of Europe to the phenomenon of the new anti-Semitism. Establishment Europe prefers to tolerate a "bearable" measure of anti-Semitism and not risk a head-on collision with the increasingly dominant Islamic communities.”

“Moreover, reception in Europe of the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar is unimpeded, together with a host of other media that spread anti-Semitic incitement, emanating mostly from North Africa. When senior officials in the European Commission are asked why they do not act to prevent this, their response is that anti-Semitic incitement exists in Jordan and Egypt, as well, and Israel continues to maintain its peace treaties with these countries.

Thus, Europe has betrayed the trust of its Jewish citizens twice - once in not upholding their security and basic rights, theirs by virtue of the European Convention on Human Rights, and again in the way it relates to its obligation to "mend its ways" and to base life in the "new Europe" on norms of tolerance, openness, and coexistence.

Response to the injury of Jews is limited to the social sphere, on the mistaken yet widespread premise that discrimination, poverty, and social injustice are the causes of anti-Semitism among the Muslims. This mistaken premise went to work as, in the wake of the Gagny arson attack, the French government urgently alloted $6 billion to improving the economic state of the Muslims. Full-bellied Europe does not understand that tyrants, terrorists, and factors of foment cannot be placated. Post-World War II Europe, which has enjoyed the U.S. defensive umbrella for decades, has become sullied and sunk into a hedonistic way of life instead of struggling against domestic and foreign threats that endanger personal freedoms and the foundations of civic society. The price of unwillingness to remain true to its principles is being paid by the Jews.”

Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post, 10/12): “There are seemingly endless meetings, speeches, and ceremonies aimed at solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But underneath it all, nothing changes. Why this is so can be understood in terms of two disproved propositions:

Israel must keep offering the Palestinians more until they accept a deal. This is the only way to achieve peace. If Israel keeps offering more concessions it will win international support and sympathy. Both these ideas seem logical. This is how international relations often works and conflicts are resolved. And this set of ideas was the basis for the Oslo peace process. Moreover, this approach has basically governed Israeli policy during the last decade. The problem is: In this specific case the formula does not work. On the contrary, it is road map for disaster. Several thousand people have died partly because of a well-intended but misconceived acceptance of the concessions strategy.”

“What has instead happened is that the Palestinian appetite grows with the feeding. The more Israel offers, the more Palestinians demand. Experience has taught the Palestinian leadership that as it refuses compromise, Israelis who claim to speak for Israel offer more concessions. The central problem is a Palestinian refusal to settle for anything but everything, either immediately or in stages. The use of terrorism as the main strategy of the Palestinian movement (and of the sponsoring Arab states) both reflects and deepens the problem. I do not write these words lightly. This is the result not of a predetermined ideology but rather of experience, along with a careful reading of what is actually said and done by the Palestinian leadership and opinion-makers. These are not people whom Israel will persuade by concessions. This is neither a colonial problem nor the mere result of an oppressive occupation. It is an ideological issue on the Arab side, one of how the conflict is defined and the methods deemed worthy of pursuing it.”


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM