BICOM Daily Briefing January 13 2004
Last updated: 2004-01-13
In today's papers, The Independent carries an editorial looking at the prospects of peace between
In the Israeli press, all papers report on yesterdays heated debate in the Knesset. Haaretz carries an assessment by US Senator Bill Nelson, who claims that Syrian President Assad is willing to restart negotiations with Israel "from scratch." However, Israel Radio reports that
Quotes of the Day:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (12/01): In a few months, we may come to the conclusion that the Palestinians continue to refuse our outstretched hand in peace and that they avoid fulfilling their obligations with regard to the road map. This scenario should not be ignored, and therefore we are preparing for it today. If we reach the point when we realize that all possibility of implementing the road map has been exhausted, we will have to take a series of steps to ensure maximum security for
Yemeni President calls for Arab world democracy
Ali Abdullah Saleh, (12/01): "Democracy is the choice of the modern age for all people of the world and the rescue ship for political regimes." (Daily Telegraph)
Behind the News:
Sharon wins Knesset endorsement of disengagement plan
In a stormy debate, Ariel Sharon yesterday told the Knesset that he would bring any decision made in the Cabinet regarding his plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinian territories for ratification by the Knesset. The debate ended in a vote, and the Prime Minister's announcement was approved 51 to 39.
However, the support was for a far softer stance than
EU delegation to investigate PA funding
According to Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, a European Union delegation is due to arrive in Israel in the coming days, in order to investigate whether European financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority was used to fund terror activities of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation. The investigation is apparently causing great embarrassment to the EU Commission, which for months denied that EU monies were being used to fund Palestinian terror against
Arab pro-democracy conference draws 600 delegates to Yemen
More than 600 delegates from 40 countries and international organisations are meeting in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, to promote democratic change in the Arab world.
According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, the conference was organised in the wake of two reports from the United Nations Development Programme, which also co-sponsored the conference. The reports criticised the region's dictators for a lack of political freedom, blanket press censorship, discouraging their people from exploring the world of ideas, repressing women and stunting research in science and development.
Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, which all sent high-level delegations, are taking slow but concrete reform initiatives in the context of their cultural and religious heritage. All held at least partially free democratic elections last year, after decades of autocratic rule.
Comment and Opinion:
Mark Steyn (The Daily Telegraph, 13/01): Let me see if I understand the BBC Rules of Engagement correctly: if you're Robert Kilroy-Silk and you make some robust statements about the Arab penchant for suicide bombing, amputations, repression of women and a generally celebratory attitude to September 11 - none of which is factually in dispute - the BBC will yank you off the air and the Commission for Racial Equality will file a complaint to the police which could result in your serving seven years in gaol. Message: this behaviour is unacceptable in multicultural
But, if you're Tom Paulin and you incite murder, in a part of the world where folks need little incitement to murder, as part of a non-factual emotive rant about how "Brooklyn-born" Jewish settlers on the West Bank "should be shot dead" because "they are Nazis" and "I feel nothing but hatred for them", the BBC will keep you on the air, kibitzing (as the Zionists would say) with the crème de la crème of London's cultural arbiters each week. Message: this behaviour is completely acceptable.
So, while the BBC is "investigating" Kilroy, its only statement on Mr Paulin was an oblique but curiously worded allusion to the non-controversy on the Corporation website: "His polemical, knockabout style has ruffled feathers in the
Mr Paulin's style is only metaphorically knockabout. But, a few days after his remarks were published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, some doughty Palestinian "activists" rose to his challenge and knocked about some settlers more literally, murdering among others five-year-old Danielle Shefi. In a touch of symbolism the critic in Mr Paulin might have found a wee bit obvious, they left her Mickey Mouse sheets soaked in blood.
Gavin Esler (The Scotsman, 13/01): The problem, of course, is that Arab culture is at a dangerous turning point. Arab regimes often do not share the confidence of their people. There are no fully-functioning Arab democracies. And Arab societies are torn between nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and those who want urgently to modernise and democratise Arab society. Everywhere, Arabs themselves are in a ferment of debate about their own futures, about the role of women, about westernisation, democratisation, a free press and their relationship with the West.
There are, in fact, great opportunities for the Arab world over the next few years, but also profound dangers: youth unemployment, young disaffected but often well- educated populations, and a legacy of the official toleration of intolerant and extremist ideas.
I wonder if Arabs and Muslims who live in Britain, France and the United States can play a key role in bridging the gulf between Arab, Muslim and western cultures, explaining one to the other? People from different cultures are a great strength in this country, if we have the wit to use them.
The Independent (13/01): A flurry of increasingly public and decreasingly diplomatic exchanges between
The hurt responses are understandable. Both the Syrian leader, by first broaching the resumption of the peace talks that were broken off in 2000, and the Israeli head of state, by making public his invitation evidently without the support of the Prime Minister, were taking a risk. Nor can it be excluded that they were following a script that had been drafted by others. By officials in
Whether there was third-party involvement or not, each side was undoubtedly acting as much out of self-interest as out of any greater vision for bilateral, let alone regional, peace. Mr Assad's position is weaker now than this time last year; he needs better relations with his neighbours and with
Yesterday's irritated exchanges may suggest that the moment has been squandered. Yet the very fact that the heads of state of
- Deadly thirst (The Guardian);
- Israel goes ahead with plans for border changes (The Guardian);
- Middle East press review (The Guardian);
- It's nothing to do with free speech (The Guardian);
- Pressure grows on resolute Sharon (The Times);
- Letters: Views expressed by Kilroy-Silk (The Times);
- Syria rejects Israeli invitation to talks as a media manoeuvre (The Independent);
- Sharon heckled as left and right hit at separation plan (The Financial Times);
- Road to Middle East peace disappearing from the map (The Financial Times);
- Letter: Europeans are too slow to react to anti-Semitism (The Financial Times);
- Letter: Turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism (The Financial Times, 10/1);
- Assad rebuffs Israeli 'PR ploy' (The Scotsman);
- Sharon 'still committed' to peace road map (The Scotsman);
- US State Department: Liberty attack was mistake (Associated Press);
- Syria rejects Katzav's peace offer (Associated Press);
- Israeli President Invites Syria's Assad for Talks (Reuters);
- U.S. Diplomat Says Israel Must Stop Settlements (Reuters);
- Sharon Says Israel Not Set to Write Off 'Road Map' (Reuters);
- U.S. senator says Assad willing to start negotiations from scratch (Haaretz);
- Sharon pledges: No unilateral steps in territories without Knesset's okay (Haaretz);
- Assad turns down Katsav's invitation to visit Jerusalem (Haaretz);
- Assad rejects Katsav's invitation (Jerusalem Post);
- Knesset endorses Sharon plan (Jerusalem Post);
- US in contact with Hamas on truce (Jerusalem Post);
- Golan residents unfazed by Assad's overtures (Jerusalem Post);
- US supports Israel - Syria track (Jerusalem Post);
- Turkey: Suicide bombing a "crime against humanity" (Jerusalem Post);
- The region: A veritable army of lies (Jerusalem Post)
Israel briefing supplied by BICOM