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BICOM Daily Briefing December 17 2003

Last updated: 2003-12-17

The IDF plan to kill Saddam Hussein is reported in all the major UK papers, while innovative Israeli technology to reduce civilian casualties is featured in The Independent and BBC Online, with news that a gun that fires round corners may be used by the SAS. The Financial Times reports that the US is stepping up pressure for reforms in Syria. In news from Baghdad, Reuters reports that Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister in Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council said that Iraq was in a transitional phase and the recognition of Israel would have to await a new sovereign government.

In Israel, a rare appearance by Shin Bet head Avi Dichter at the Herzliya Conference on national security dominates most of the headlines. With speculation reaching fever pitch about Prime Minister Sharon’s speech at the conference tomorrow, Maariv publishes an outspoken editorial from the young leadership of the settler movement. Haaretz discusses an IDF Military Intelligence report which credits PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad with transparency in Palestinian finances, although noting that high-level corruption is still rife. The Jerusalem Post notes that the architects of the Geneva Initiative are to meet with Morocco’s King Hassan. Radio station Galei Zahal reports that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher is to visit Israel, his first visit for 2½ years.

Quotes of the Day

Israelis deserve greater security:

Avi Dichter, Head of Shin Bet (Haaretz, 16/12): “We must say this honestly: the defence establishment, and, within it, the General Security Service [Shin Bet] have not provided the people of Israel the security 'suit' that they deserve.”

UN Secretary General urges Palestinians to end terrorist attacks:

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General (UN News Centre, 16/12): "The Palestinian side should live up to its Road Map obligations as regards security and take immediate and practical steps to rein in extremists committing terrorist acts."

After Saddam:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian Supreme Leader (Reuters, 16/12): "I heard the U.S. president saying the world is a better place without Saddam. I want the U.S. president to know that a world without Bush and Sharon is a much better place.”

Ephraim Halevy, Former Mossad Head (Israel Channel 1 TV): “I think Saddam's downfall shortens Arafat's leadership of the Palestinian people, Palestinians will internalise what has happened to Saddam and learn its lessons.”

Israel calls for dialogue; lukewarm Palestinian responses:

Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defence (Kol Yisrael radio 16/12): “I call on Abu-Ala to fight terrorism and return to the negotiating table, where he will find us ready to discuss and make some brave decisions, an agreement, a dialogue of equals with him. “

Rafiq al-Natshe, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 16/12): “Our first choice is a just solution and dialogue in the framework of the efforts towards peace. But if those fail, then the Palestinian people will not hesitate to employ all forms of resistance.”

Behind the News

Shin Bet head speaks at Herzliya Conference:

In a rare public appearance, Head of the General Security Services Avi Dichter spoke yesterday of the difficulties of facing Palestinian terror. His remarks were made at the Herzliya Conference on national security. Despite the fact that more than 20 terrorist attacks were foiled over the last month, Dichter admitted that Israelis still did not enjoy the security that they deserved. He urged for the building of the security fence, which he considers to be highly effective in preventing further terror. He said that when a security agreement is reached, the security fence will be removed and a political fence will be built along a new route. Dichter cited the example of what Israel did when it withdrew from Lebanon, “removing sections of the expensive security fence we built and replacing it with a new political fence along a new route, similar to the 1923 line, following our withdrawal.”

Mililtary Censor incensed over the coverage of the plan to assassinate Saddam:

The publication of details of the IDF plan to assassinate Saddam Hussein has caused dismay amongst senior defence establishment figures. Although the IDF censor officially authorised reports on the cancelled operation, kept from the public for 11 years, it appears that some details were not released for publication. In a press statement yesterday Chief Military Censor Brig.-Gen Rachel Dolev said "the press published many details that were forbidden and that could cause damage." The statement continued that it would consider taking steps against the guilty parties, which are apparently the dailies Ma'ariv and Yediot Ahronot.

Many details of the assassination plan, and the training accident which apparently stopped the operation, have been published both in Israel and abroad. However, the defence establishment was keen to limit the publication of operational plans. Speaking yesterday at the Herzliya Conference, Chief of Staff Lieut.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon said that "there are things that are best left unsaid for security reasons, and should not be told to the whole world in an irresponsible fashion."

Palestinian public support for suicide bomb attacks in Israel at lowest level in three years:

According to a survey by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), found that 48% of Palestinians favoured suicide bombings, less than half for the first time since March 2000. In a report published in October 2003, 59% had backed suicide attacks

In the PSR's latest representative survey of 1,319 adults, support for attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in West Bank and Gaza territory remained high at 87%. But 83% also supported a complete, mutual ceasefire and 53% said they would back a Palestinian Authority crackdown on those who violated such a truce. However, 80% worried that such a crackdown could lead to civil war -- a reason often cited by Palestinian leaders for rebuffing Israeli demands to break up terrorist groups.

Support for PA Chairman Yasser Arafat fell to 38% from 50% in October and his Fatah movement slipped into a tie at 25% with the two main Islamist terrorist factions, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But 40% of Palestinians professed no political affiliation, reflecting a growing trend of disillusionment with the Palestinian political leadership.

Comment and Opinion

Nadav Haetzni (Maariv, 17/12): “A quick question to Effi Eitam, Avigdor Lieberman and their honourable friends in the “right-wing” parties: what else has to happen for you to break free and finally get out of this government? Is there any chance that we will ever stop hearing mumbled excuses, and that you will make good your promises to the voters?

It’s nothing new that your commitment to election promises is very loose. You didn’t get up and go after the Latrun speech, and you are in the Guinness Book of Records for tongue-swallowing from when you agreed to the Road Map. You have become partners in Ariel Sharon’s campaign of manipulation.

But, now, when the Prime Minister and senior ministers declare that they are going to break the Ten Commandments - dismantling settlements and handing over the heart of the Land - what accidents have you still got up your sleeves?

And a question to the Likud MKs and ministers. To those who are reserving their right of political silence, and those who have jumped on the new Peace Now bandwagon: did you ever have a view on the world? Because if we are to judge by your political chameleon act, it’s difficult to see. You were elected to represent the ideas on your political platform, the ones you have preached to us for years as the way. And now, nothing. Is anything acceptable in the service of one’s career?”

Headlines

Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM