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Arabs declare jihad and agree $1bn aid deal for Palestinians

Summit: Tough rhetoric but leaders refuse to cut all ties with Israel

Special report: Israel and the Middle East

Brian Whitaker in Cairo Monday October 23, 2000

Arab leaders set themselves on a collision course with the United States yesterday by declaring an economic and diplomatic jihad against Israel. The emergency summit in Cairo accepted a Saudi proposal to provide $1bn (#690m) in support for the Palestinians.

Under the scheme, $800m will be used to "preserve the Islamic identity of Jerusalem" and $200m - to be known as the Jerusalem intifada fund - will be allocated "to the families and education of the children of Palestinian martyrs".

Saudi Arabia, normally a close US ally, will provide 25% of the money. Individual Arabs will be asked to give a day's pay towards the rest.

Although it is not clear how the $800m protection fund for Jerusalem will be spent, it can be seen as a challenge to those who claim the city as Israel's eternal and undivided capital.

The attitude of the Saudis, who received a pre-summit visit from Madeline Albright, the secretary of state, is likely to worry the US. At the summit, Crown Prince Abdullah openly blamed it for the collapse of the peace process.

Accusing the US of neglecting its responsibilities as sponsor of the peace process, he said: "We anticipated, after the positive stand of the Arab side, that the Israeli side would be chastised or at least blamed for its unacceptable conduct."

Other measures agreed by the summit provide the basis for a continuing diplomatic offensive in the UN, which, if pursued, could put the US on the spot. These include:

A call for an international investigation into the causes of the recent conflict which, in effect, rejects the inquiry announced by President Bill Clinton at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit last week;

A call for the UN secretary general to provide international forces to protect the Palestinian people;

A call for an international tribunal to try alleged Israeli war criminals.

Besides pleasing Arab public opinion, the moves seem aimed at driving a wedge between Israel and Washington by pressurising the US to moderate its support for Israel.

At a press conference after the summit, the Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Mousa, warned: "We mean business. All Arabs, left, right and centre, are angry. We cannot accept the current policy followed by Israel."

But the summit rejected moves to sever all Arab-Israeli links built since the start of the peace process. Egypt had argued that maintaining communication was vital. Instead, the 21 leaders decided to halt further development of relations with Israel.

The compromise avoided a rift with Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, which have full diplomatic relations with Israel. A handful of other Arab states, including Oman and Qatar, have low-level ties, but both froze steps towards normalisation three years ago.

Last week, Oman closed its office in Tel Aviv in protest at the violence. Morocco recently downgraded its relations and Tunisia said it had shut both its liaison office in Tel Aviv and Israel's liaison office in Tunis.

Libya had argued that cutting all ties was the least Arabs could do, and its representative walked out of the summit.

The summit also decided to boycott multilateral talks on regional economic cooperation. Although the level of economic cooperation is small, Israel attaches political importance to it.

Other countries were warned against transferring their embassies to Jerusalem or recognising it as the capital of Israel. Mr Clinton has hinted several times that the US may soon move its embassy to Jerusalem.

While the summit was unified in blaming Israel for the violence, moderates cautioned against doing anything that might make future negotiations difficult.

A prominent Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, said the declaration was "a whimper that fell well short of Palestinian expectations".,3604,386556,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, October 23, 2000



JERUSALEM - Israel is preparing itself for an ongoing war of attrition by Yasser Arafat. Prime Minister Ehud Barak told his government yesterday that he believes Arafat has decided to go forward with an armed intifada - meaning more riots and the danger of suicide bombers - in order to declare a Palestinian state amid fire and smoke on Nov. 15.

Barak based his report on top intelligence data from his own services - which was backed by CIA reports presented to President Clinton, according to an aide to the prime minister.

Barak told President Bill Clinton in two phone conversations during the weekend that the cease-fire painstakingly brokered by the United States at last week's summit in Egypt collapsed because Arafat has given his police and paramilitary organization's the green light for reckless fire attacks on Israeli civilians.

In the calls to Clinton, Barak reiterated that Arafat has violated the spirit of understanding the two sides reached at last July's two- week summit at Camp David.

Nevertheless, Barak pledged to Clinton that he is "for the peace process" - once the violence is over.

"I am for the peace of the brave, but not for the peace of the ostrich," he explained.

In the meantime, Barak has decided to prepare a one-sided separation plan from the Palestinians, ordering top military officers to draw up border maps.

He is afraid that, as part of his war of attrition, Arafat will declare a Palestinian state and let loose some 60,000 armed policemen and paramilitaries to take control of much of the territory by force.

Barak may counter that possibility with his own unilateral territorial moves based on the maps being prepared.

When the maps are done, Barak wants his military officials to show them to his chief rival, Ariel Sharon.

In addition to asking for a "timeout" on peacemaking with the Palestinians, Barak has appealed to Sharon to join him in an emergency government.

The two had secret talks last Friday, and are now entering into official negotiations.

As a result of his moves, Barak was under fire in his own government.

Minister of Justice Yossi Beillin - who in 1993 joined Shimon Peres in the ascension of Arafat to legitimacy on the White House lawn - told Barak he and his left-wing backers are opposed to the timeout.

Beillin and his allies know that if Barak changes his line now, it will mean the end of a seven-year flirtation with Yasser Arafat.

In addition, Beillin and other Cabinet ministers are against Sharon joining the government.

But Barak insists that Sharon must join him because the former general and minister of defense has the most experience to deal with the tinderbox situation and would deter Arafat from his war of attrition.

After all, it was Sharon who expelled Arafat from Beirut back in 1982 during the Israeli Lebanese invasion.

And it was Beillin and Peres who put him back on the road to Jerusalem, on a detour through the White House lawn in 1993.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 23, 2000.


Monday News Brief  20:30-IST (IsraelWire-10/23-20:30-IST) GAZA  A powerful explosive device was detonated against a convoy of Israeli motorists escorted by IDF jeeps, heading to the Gazan community of Netzarim. It appears there were injuries. IsraelWire will provide additional details as they are made available.

PSAGOT  Sporadic heavy machinegun fire into the Samarian community continues. Residents are demanding the IDF respond with tank and helicopter gunship fire as it is doing in Gilo, adding the blood of Psagot residents is the same as the residents of Jerusalem.

Shooting into Psagot has become a daily occurrence over the past weeks since the beginning of the PA orchestrated warfare throughout Yesha. The area battalion commander, Colonel Gal Hirsh told Israel TV News that a response will be forthcoming in an effort to bring an end to the daily shooting attacks.

GILO  The southern Jerusalem neighborhood remains quiet at this time after the IDF fired two tank shells and machinegun fire. PA sources report two persons were injured. An ambulance driver was injured when an IDF tank shell exploded in the building next to where he was stationed. He is reported in moderate condition. The condition of the second person remains unknown at this time.

++++ ++++ Courtesy of IsraelWire News Service

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-- Rachel Gibson (, October 23, 2000.

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