Israel Resource Review 8th February, 2000


When the Palestinian Army Invades the Heart of Israel
by Yuval Steinitz

Whatever they may have accomplished or failed to accomplish politically, the Oslo accords of 1993 between Israel and Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization have transformed Israel's security situation in ways that have still not been squarely faced. Much of the territory in the West Bank and Gaza that Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day war is now governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

This embryonic state already possesses a large, militia-like police force comprising some 40,000 men; depending upon the outcome of present negotiations, it may come to acquire a combination of paramilitary and military forces as well.

Although Israel will undoubtedly retain military superiority over its fledgling Arab neighbor, the threat it poses in combination with the rest of the Arab world is already significant, and is certain to grow with time.

Despite its obvious strategic strengths, Israel has chronically suffered from two Achilles' heels that make its defeat militarily thinkable. The first is demographic.

Israel's minuscule population, combined with the sensitivity of Israeli society to the loss of life, casts a giant shadow of doubt over the country's ability to withstand an extended conventional war with the surrounding Arab world. If its enemies could force upon it a conflict lasting months or years, they would significantly improve their chances of prevailing.

The Israeli response to this long-standing problem has been to accelerate the moment of cease-fire by rapidly transferring the battleground to enemy territory and/or attacking the enemy's infrastructure by means of air power.

Of much greater importance, however, is the second Achilles' heel, which is geographic. The tiny area of the Jewish State, together with its over-reliance on reserve forces (itself partly a product of the country's demographic weakness), casts a giant shadow of doubt of another kind altogether: namely, over its ability to withstand a lightning strike.

An enemy's penetration into the heart of Israel could prevent the mobilization and equipment of its military reserves in addition to interrupting many other vital operations. To this second problem the traditional Israeli response has been a very fast system of mobilization-since the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the entire procedure has been designed to take no more than 24 hours-plus the reliance on superior air power to abort an enemy's attack on the first day of battle.

This is where Oslo comes in: the influx of Palestinian forces into Israel's center has greatly exacerbated the problem presented by the country's second Achilles' heel, to the extent that a total collapse of the overall strategic balances now possible. How so? The approximately 40,000 policemen now at the disposal of Arafat are already organized into a semi-military structure. They are known to have some 30,000 automatic weapons in their arsenal, along with a significant number of machine guns, light antitank missiles, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades, land mines and explosives. They may also have, or be able surreptitiously to obtain from Arab countries, more advanced weapons, including handheld Strela and Stinger surface-to-air missiles. Obviously, these forces are not going to defeat the armed might of Israel in battle. But if; even as currently constituted, they were to be deployed in a coordinated fashion in the opening phases of a broader Arab assault, they could wreak havoc of a decisive kind.

A good portion of the Palestinian police is installed in the towns of Qalkilya, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Jenin on the West Bank-in other words, in areas adjacent to Israel's most vulnerable sectors, military and civilian alike.

These nerve centers of Israel's life could be successfully infiltrated by a mere 10 percent of the Palestinian police force, thus transforming them into a crucial front in a comprehensive regional conflagration.

Crossing Israel's 1967 borders in small fighting units of ten to twenty men, these 4,000 men could make their way in civilian vehicles along a labyrinthine network of roads and paths with which they are intimately familiar. They would need no more than an hour to reach extremely sensitive points in the heart of Israel.

Once there, they could wholly subvert the 24-hour mobilization strategy Israel relies on to fend off the far larger armies of its Arab adversaries.

If Israel were still at the initial stages of an alert, the enormous numbers of its as-yet-unarmed reservists streaming to arms depots and mobilization points would form attractive prey. Gaining control of key intersections or other advantageous locations, the Palestinian guerrilla units would be in a position to create chaos on the roads that serve as the primary arteries of mobilization and, in all probability, to kill large numbers of would-be fighters. They could also attack some of the mobilization centers themselves, most of which are not only within easy striking distance of the West Bank but are also lightly guarded. The damage that can be inflicted by small units operating against the vulnerabilities of a larger and more powerful adversary is not a matter of speculation. Among the wealth of cases that one could cite, some are from Israel's own military past.

During the 1982 war in Lebanon, for example, a few dozen young, untrained Palestinian fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades operating from hills and orchards proved far more effective in delaying Israeli traffic on a vital military highway than batteries of cannons and Katyusha rockets launched from a distance. If mini-units of this kind can succeed against heavily armored columns, how much more damage could they inflict on buses and cars filled with unarmed reservists making their way to equipment depots?

Nor do key thoroughfares, intersections, and mobilization centers exhaust the list of possible targets. In all its wars, Israel has depended heavily on the ability of its air force to gain mastery of the skies at the outset. But most Israeli air bases are quite exposed to guerrilla attack, being located within 20 to 40 kilometers of Palestinian territory. British commando operations in World War II are testimony to how easily an enemy can penetrate such installations. Leading small teams of men, Colonel David Starling of the Special Air Service successfully destroyed 250 German warplanes parked on the runways of military airfields located many kilometers behind Rommel's front lines on the North African front.

Palestinian soldiers need not actually penetrate air bases, as Starling did, to achieve their goal. Lying hidden in the foliage of orchards or farmlands outside an airfield's perimeter fence, they could employ light mortars or handheld anti-tank or surface-to-air missiles to strike Israeli planes. In previous conflicts, the Arabs have never been able to counter Israel's superiority in the air; a surprise ground attack on its planes would thus undoubtedly present an appealing option to Arab war planners.

Finally, targeting the military is not the only means by which a broad series of Palestinian commando attacks could contribute to an effective Arab assault. Terrorist raids on residential neighborhoods or the seizure of national television and radio stations might serve to promote widespread demoralization and civilian flight.

Another set of potential objectives consists of technical installations: the electric power plant in Hadera, the oil refineries of Haifa, the chemical tanks of Gelilot, or the switchboards, transformers, and distribution boxes of the Bezek national telephone company. Power outages, huge blazes near Israel's large cities, and temporary interruptions of communication lines would all serve to paralyze if not cripple Israel in the early phases of a war.

Are there no effective counters to the peril posed by the armed Palestinian police? Of course there are, at least in theory. For example, Israel could fortify its border with the Palestinian Authority in particularly vulnerable sectors. It could also draw upon reserve soldiers on kibbutzim to establish lightly armed, mobile patrol teams designed for immediate intervention in any threatened locality. Alternatively, several thousand infantry soldiers could be transferred from fighting units and assigned to a light militia scattered at different points in the Israeli rear.

Whether such measures would work if put to the test is another question. But that aside, there is, in fact, little evidence that Israel's military or political planners are giving serious attention to this or any other aspect of the ongoing transformation of the county's security position.

A number of factors are at work here. For one thing, Israeli military officials, focusing on the extreme relative weakness of the Palestinian forces and the fact that an operation involving dozens of separate guerrilla units against Israel has never been attempted, simply discount the possibility of a synchronized assault. For another, they appear to believe that Israeli intelligence would definitely enjoy between 12 and 24 hours' warning in advance of any large-scale attack, an interval sufficient to seal the borders. And even if a limited incursion were to occur, they argue, attack helicopters could provide sufficient defense for border areas.

These are all questionable assumptions. History seldom serves as a certain guide to future behavior, and to rely inflexibly on precedents is to set oneself up for a shock.

It is especially foolish to depend on fixed notions of warning time: Israel's worst military fiasco occurred when it was caught unprepared by the Egyptian attack in October 1973.

Besides, it is not inconceivable that a future Palestinian government, in coordination with the major Arab states, would opt to invade with almost no advance field preparations, in a kind of "get-in, go-shoot" operation wherein commando teams would be dispatched into battle with only an hour or two of notice. This would not only achieve the element of surprise but likely increase the number of Palestinian saboteurs who could be infiltrated. Finally, since these infiltrators would need to traverse but a very short distance before being in a position to wreak major harm, and since any battles that ensued would be taking place in heavily populated areas, attack helicopters would be next to useless, if not calamitous, as a means of response.

Perhaps the most dubious supposition of all, however, is one now being bruited about in Israeli political circles. This is that the Palestinian leadership would itself be reluctant to see a decisive Arab victory over Israel, out of fear that the new Palestinian political entity would then inevitably slip under the control of either Egypt or Syria, two military giants with claims on Palestinian/Israeli territory. Since, in other words, the Palestinians have a vested interest in Israel's survival, they would not participate in any such operation. But this line of thinking is speculative in the extreme, and the very fact that it is seriously on offer suggests how eager many Israelis have become to avoid facing the still very menacing realities of the Middle East. One does not have to go far back into the past for an example of a much greater degree of realism.

Here are the words of Shimon Peres in 1978:

"The influx of a Palestinian fighting force (more than 25,000 armed fighters) into Judea and Samaria [would signify] . . . an excellent starting point for mobile forces to advance immediately toward the infrastructure vital to Israel's existence."

Even after he negotiated the Oslo accords, Peres did not alter his gloomy estimation. As he argued in The New Middle East (1993), the situation created by an armed Palestinian State would be strategically fraught with catastrophe: the [country's] narrow "waist" will be susceptible to collapse by a well-organized surprise attack.

Even if the Palestinians agree to demobilize their state from both army and weapons, who can guarantee Israel that after a certain amount of time an army will not be formed, despite the agreement, which will camp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches of the coastal plain, and pose a substantive threat to Israel's security? This, indeed, was the ground of Peres's opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Yet what was self-evident a mere six years ago to Israel's most determined advocate of negotiations with the Palestinians is now being dismissed in the rush to conclude the "peace process."

Almost 2,500 years ago, according to Thucydides, the Greek statesman Themistocles succeeded in persuading his fellow Athenians to transform their city-state into a naval power. Yet despite the vast strategic superiority it thus acquired, Athens still remained vulnerable to a simple, surprise ground attack from Sparta. In order to protect and ensure access to its new strategic assets-that is, its advanced navy and port facilities-Themistocles advocated linking the city of Athens to its port at Piraeus by means of two parallel walls.

Like ancient Athens, Israel enjoys strategic superiority over its neighbors, primarily in the realm of aeronautics and technology. Over the decades, whenever armed hostilities have broken out, this advantage has permitted Israel to strike at its enemies' rear in a manner that has eventually led to victory at the front.

After 1967, Israel also enjoyed its own "walls of Themistocles," in the form of the geographic expanses of Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank.

These double walls are what enabled Israel to survive the successful surprise Egyptian-Syrian attack that opened the 1973 Yom Kippur war but that was neither penetrating enough nor quick enough to take control of Israel's "Piraeus"- its airports, its reserve bases, and the like.

The deployment of light Palestinian forces throughout the West Bank has already collapsed Israel's eastern "wall" of mountains and the Jordan River, neutralizing their vital function of protecting against a sudden lightning strike aimed at the country's soft eastern flank. Indeed, if we were to consult Themistocles, he would assuredly advise us that the current Israeli defense posture is absurd. On the one hand, the state invests billions of dollars in building a modem army; purchasing state-of-the-art warplanes and constructing modern airfields; equipping and training reserve battalions; and deploying Arrow missiles. All this is right and proper and necessary. But on the other hand, it has permitted a situation to develop in which these selfsame modern, expensive systems are liable to be rendered irrelevant.

On the basis of such wishful thinking, battles, and wars, are lost.

Yuval Steinitz, a new contributor is a senior lecturer at Haifa University and the author of four books in the fields of philosophy and the philosophy of science, as well as numerous articles in Hebrew-language publications on military strategic issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Formerly an activist in the Peace Now movement, Mr. Steinitz now serves as a member of Israel's parliament (Knesset) for the Likud party.

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Eye on Syria:
Timely Report on Developments
Vol. 1 No. 3
Prepared by Steve Rodan,
head of MENL, Middle East Newsline
Tuesday, 8th February, 2000

Our Top Stories

  • Syria Expected to Become Missile Exporter
  • Assad's New Man is His Son-in-law
  • Syria Compares Israel to Nazis; Denies Holocaust

Syria Expected to Become Missile Exporter

Syria is building its arsenal with North Korean help and is expected to eventually be an exporter of missiles, the CIA said.

In a report, the CIA said Syria and Iraq may soon emerge as suppliers of missile-related technology. The CIA said that at first the two countries will offer technology and equipment related to shorter-range ballistic missiles.

"But as their domestic infrastructures and expertise develop, they will be able to offer a broader range of technologies that could include longer-range missiles and related technology," the report said.

The report said that in addition to North Korea, China and Russia are helping their clients develop missile arsenals. The report said a main client is Iran, Syria's chief ally.

"Despite international efforts to curtail the flow of critical technologies and equipment, Teheran continues to seek fissile material and echnology for weapons development and has set up an elaborate system of military and civilian organizations to support its effort."

Syria Remains on Ban of U.S. Computer Exports

Syria and other nations on the State Department list of terrorist sponsors will continue to be banned from high-performance U.S. computers used in military programs.

In a review that eases restrictions, the Clinton administration said it will continue to ban advanced computer exports to Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, and Syria. Officials said the United States will maintain a virtual embargo on computer exports.

The changes are part of an easing of U.S. export controls that will make it easier to export advanced computers to countries in Latin America, Asia, much of Africa and the former Soviet bloc. The changes were announced on Feb. 1 as part of a six-month review.

Clinton plans to raise the licensing threshold for Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries. Tier 2 countries include Latin America, South Korea, the Association of South East Asian Nations countries, Slovenia and most of Africa. Tier 3 countries include India, Pakistan, all Middle East and North African countries, the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Central Europe.

Clinton said that under proposed legislation Tier 3 nations will require congressional review periods of only one month for future computer exports. Currently, the review period is up to six months.

" I also will work with Congress to explore longer-term solutions to how we control exports of items like computers and microprocessors when they become widely available commodities," he said.

This is the fourth Clinton's fourth revision of U.S. export control parameters since 1993 and are designed to increase computer and technology exports. The new regulations will seek to control exports from 12,500 MTOPS for most countries.

For Middle East and former Soviet republics, exports are permitted without an individual license up to 6,500 MTOPS, and require individual licenses for military end-uses and end-users above that figure. Exports without an individual license are permitted for civil end-users between 6,500 MTOPS and 12,300 MTOPS, with exporter record keeping and reporting as directed. Individual licenses are required for all end-users above 12,300 MTOPS.

Saudis to Launch Effort to Persuade Syria on Peace

Saudi Arabia plans to launch an effort to persuade Syria to embark on the final mile to achieve a peace treaty with Israel.

Arab diplomatic sources said the kingdom has acquiesced to appeals from U.S. and European Union leaders and will discuss with Damascus Arab and Gulf aid to Syria as part of any peace treaty with Israel. The sources said Riyad has resisted making specific pledges but will likely commit to helping develop Syria's economy.

The Saudi effort will formally begin in Riyad on Feb. 15 when Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal meets Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shaara. Saudi officials acknowledge that such a meeting has been scheduled and will concern the negotiations between Syria and Israel.

The meeting will be held within the framework of a Syrian- Saudi committee in which both foreign ministers will attend. Officials said the Saudis agreed to discuss their role in any Syrian peace treaty with Israel as long as the United States presses the Jewish state to acede to Syrian demands for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 war.

Israeli-Syrian negotiations have been suspended amid a demand by Damascus for an Israeli commitment for a withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines. Israel first wants the negotiations to focus on security arrangements and normalization.

Last month, a delegation of American Jewish leaders visited Riyad and held talks with Saudi officials on the prospect of aiding Syria.

Arab diplomatic sources expect Syria to soon return to the negotiating table as part of a U.S. compromise. They said both U.S. and EU leaders have been urging Assad to seize the opportunity over the next few months to conclude a peace agreement.

Last week, British House of Lord member Michael Levy met in Damascus with A-Shaara and delivered a message for Assad from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Officials said Levy's visit was meant to provide a British role in helping revive Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

A-Shaara also discussed the stalled peace talks Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Later, A-Shaara discussed the issue with the new Japanese ambassador in Damascus.

Syria Pledges Better Times After Peace

Syria might be refusing to negotiate peace with Israel. But Syrian officials are already touting the benefits of any U.S.-arranged peace treaty.

Syrian officials are now telling their countrymen in the state media that peace with Israel will result in an expanded economy that will ease social strain. They are saying that peace will lead to more jobs and prosperity.

Currently, Syria admits to an unemployment rate of eight percent. Labor Minister Ali Khalil said this was an increase from the six percent unemployment in 1994. In previous years, he said, unemployment was as high as 8.4 percent.

Khalil said the current unemployment rate is too high for Syria. "But it will be eventually decreased with the increase in stability in the region," he said on Feb. 2.

The minister blamed Israel for Syria's economic woes. He said Israel has forced Syria to spend badly-needed funds on weapons.

But Khalil said after a peace treaty Syria would focus on developing infrastructure and civilian projects. He said this will increase jobs and maintain the currently low prices.

"Inflation did not eat the wages," he said.

Khalil listed other measures Syria is considering in the wake of a peace treaty. This includes introducing new requirements for state companies to ensure they operate on a profit basis, lifting export restrictions and incentives for investment.

But Syrian officials are not promising immediate changes. They said the country's huge public sector will not be cut because they don't want to increase unemployment. He said about 200,000 Syrians join the labor force every year.

Syria reportedly has 500,000 foreign workers, mostly from Sri Lanka, Egypt and Somalia. About 1 million Syrians work in the Gulf and Arab diplomatic sources said another 1 million are employed in Lebanon. Syrian officials said the number in Lebanon is 225,000.

The public sector employs 25 percent of the labor force in Syria, officials said. They said this does not include Syria's huge military.

Syria will probably not end its subsidies either, officials said. Khalil said about $2 billion of the $5.1 billion state budget is designated for subsidies of staples and basic services such as free education and medical care as well as cheap transportation.

Hundreds Have Disappeared in Latest Syrian Arrests

Opposition sources and human rights groups said hundreds of people have disappeared in the latest crackdown by Damascus against critics of Syrian peace talks with Israel.

The London-based Amnesty International has expressed concern for the safety of hundreds of political opponents arrested since Dec. 12. The group said torture and ill-treatment are systematically used against political detainees in Syria.

"The military intelligence and other branches of the Syrian security forces have made the arrests in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and other parts of the country," Amnesty said. "Those arrested come from political or religious groups which oppose the peace process with Israel and include large numbers of members of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brothers or Hizb al-Tahrir as well as supporters of leftist groups. They are also said to include former political detainees and people who are unaligned but who oppose the peace process."

The group said information about the arrests is extremely difficult to obtain. Only recently have the names of a few of those arrested been made public, Amnesty said.

Human rights groups said hundreds of people are in prison in Syria for political reasons, some for many years without charge or trial. Others have been brought to trial before the Supreme State Security Court where trials fall far short of fair trial standards.

The Syrian Human Rights Committee said thousands of political detainees have vanished as authorities simply deny their existence. The committee said United Nations efforts to find them have failed.

Assad's New Man is His Son-in-law

President Hafez Assad has found himself a new strongman meant to ensure that the aging leader's son becomes successor.

He is Assaf Chawkat, the president's son-in-law and head of military intelligence and the first of a new generation of Syrians meant to ensure stability in Damascus. Intelligence sources as well as some Arab diplomats said Chawkat has been groomed to watch the back of Bashar Assad as he wages the struggle to succeed his 69-year-old father.

The sources said Chawkat, 36, so far serves two purposes. First, he ensures that the junior Assad will not have any rivals within the family. Some members of the family, particularly younger brother Maher, were said to have expressed skepticism regarding Bashar's chances to succeed his father.

"He is both a political and physical force and he is loyal to Bashar Assad," a senior intelligence source said.

The second purpose is to prove to Syria's Alawite elite and the Baath Party that Bashar can maintain stability under his leadership. The sources said Chawkat will be the first of several military strongmen with whom the junior Assad will form alliances. They said the 34-year-old optometrist will eventually surround himself with a coterie of hatchet man who will ensure loyalty in all military and security services.

Later this year, the president is expected to submit Bashar as a candidate for a leadership position.

Intelligence sources said the emergence of Chawkat has dampened criticism of Bashar within the Assad family. In November, Chawkat was sent to a French hospital for a bullet wound that sources said was sustained during a fight with Maher.

The sources, however, said the dispute did not diminish Chawkat's authority. If anything, they said, the elderly Assad cracked down on dissidents within the family who opposed Chawkat or Bashar.

"Chawkat is very unimpressive, to say the least," a U.S. intelligence source who closely follows Syria said. "But right now, he is all Assad has."

A key role of Chawkat, the sources said, is to ensure that Bashar will be allowed to continue the grooming process. The sources said the elderly Assad is slowly but steadily preparing Bashar's skills in both diplomacy and military.

But the process has been slow. The sources said Bashar did poorly in his meetings in November in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac and the president does not want this repeated in any visit expected in Teheran.

"Bashar is coming to Teheran as a student not as an equal," the intelligence source. "So, for Assad, there's no hurry. The president has other ways to inform Iran about the peace process."

Syria, Lebanon Rejoice Over Hizbullah Attack on Israel

Syria and Lebanon have expressed satisfaction with the Jan. 31 Hizbullah attack on Israeli troops in which three soldiers were killed and raised the prospect of massive retaliation.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told the Beirut-based daily A-Safir on Feb. 1 that the attack was worthy of praise and was necessary to expel Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. Lahoud said Hizbullah was shedding blood to ensure the liberation of Lebanese territory.

"There is no alternative to the liberation of Lebanon even though these activities are an exception to the political game," Lahoud said.

Other Lebanese ministers were quoted as also expressing praise for Hizbullah while raising the prospect of Israeli retaliation.

State-run Damascus radio did not directly praise the attack. But it quoted Lebanese ministers as doing so. The Syrian Al Baath daily blamed Israel for the attack and called for a full withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

The newspaper said Israel is leading to repeated deteriorations in the area and said the Jewish state can not rely on force. Tishrin echoed the assertions

Syria Asks Russia for Multilateral Update

Syria has asked Russia for a briefing on the multilateral talks taking place in Moscow and boycotted by Damascus.

The London-based Al Hayat daily on Feb. 1 quoted Russian diplomats as saying that the regime of President Hafez Assad has requested that a Russian envoy be sent to Damascus to brief the Syrians on the multilateral talks. The newspaper said this marks the first break in Syria's refusal to participate in any regional cooperation talks that involve Israel.

Russia has not objected to the Syrian request.

Representatives of 40 countries are in Moscow and on Feb 1, a steering committee met to set dates for five working groups to deal with regional economic development, environment, Palestinian refugees, water and security. The arms control committee is not expected to convene.

Syria and Lebanon are boycotting the conference. The talks are being attended by the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia -- representing the Gulf states -- and Tunisia representing North Africa, Canada, Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

Four working committees were established for the continuation of talks in the coming months.Water issues will be discussed in Oman, the environment in Tunisia, refugees in Canada and economic issues in Morocco.

Syria Compares Israel to Nazis; Denies Holocaust

Syria launched a bitter media attack against Israel comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany.

The Syrian government daily Tishrin said on Jan. 31 Israel has committed crimes against the Arabs that were no less grave than that of the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II. Tishrin, however, questioned whether the Holocaust actually took place and said Israel has tried to stop those who doubted the Nazi extermination.

"Zionism is erasing from human memory 50 million Nazi victims and concentrating on the suffering of Jews, although historical facts prove that Zionist leaders then collaborated with the Nazis for the Jewish problem to get worse," Tishreen editor Mohamed Kheir Wadi said. "Zionism hides these dark pages of its history, blackens them completely, and invents stories about the Holocaust and exaggerates it to astronomical levels."

"Israel, which is presenting itself as heir to the victims of the Holocaust, committed and keeps on committing against the Arabs crimes that are uglier that the ones committed by the old Nazis," the newspaper continued. "The Nazis, for example, did not drive out a whole nation from their homeland and did not bury people alive, which is what the Zionists did."

The attack by the Syrian newspaper was the harshest against Israel since the two countries resumed peace negotiations in December. Over the past few weeks, however, Syrian media attacks have grown harsher as the suspension of the negotiations continued.

"Why does Israel insist on bringing up this alleged Holocaust policy?" the newspaper said. "I believe Israel and the Zionist organizations have two aims. The first is to receive more money from Germany and other Western establishments on the pretext of compensation for the Holocaust. The second aim is to invest the myth of the Holocaust and accuse anyone opposed to her Jewish lies about the Holocaust in the face of credible voices questioning it, including that of the controversial British historian David Irving."

Holocaust denial, however, has been a familiar theme in the Syrian media. It is also repeated in the Arab and Iranian press.

Israel quickly responded to the report. Social and Diaspora Affairs Minister Michael Melchior expressed his revulsion over the article.

"It is not possible to show restraint over these unbridled statements which deny the Holocaust and compare Israel to the Nazis," he said. "The Syrians know no bounds in anti-Israel incitement, both morally and diplomatically. This makes continued dialogue with them more difficult."

Melchior called on Syria's leaders to disavow the article in the government newspaper "and to change their style, which only makes peace and normalization between Israel and Syria more difficult."

Likud parliamentarian has called for Israel to end peace talks with Syria.

Earlier, the weekly of the Syrian Arab Writers Association said Damascus will obtain the Golan Heights by force and must reject U.S. or Western aid, which will be meant to prevent Syria from restoring its military. Ali Orsan, the chairman, wrote in the association's weekly, Al-Usbu Al Adabi that Syria would face a disaster if it recognizes the Jewish state.

The writer asked whether the agreement with Israel would prevent Syria from joining the next war against the Jewish state.

Syria, Sudan Sign Counterterrorism Accords

Syria and Sudan have signed several cooperation accords.

The two nations signed agreements to cooperate in the areas of counterterrorism, criminal investigations and drug-trafficking. Syria and Sudan are on the list of U.S. State Department sponsors of terrorism.

The memorandums were signed by Syrian Interior Minister Muhammad Harba and his Sudanese counterpart, Abdul Rahim Muhammad Hussein. In the accords, the two countries distinguish between terrorism and the struggle for national liberation.

Officials said the cooperation and exchange of experts will be conducted with Arab agreements on counterterrorism. The accords also called for coordination on bilateral and regional issues, particularly during international and security regional conferences.

For Sudan, the agreement was another achievement in its efforts to break Khartoum's international isolation. Sudan has launched a campaign to increase its diplomatic and economic relations since the ousting of parliamentary leader Hassan Turabi, the leading of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir is also trying to organize a reconciliation conference with his opposition. The effort is being supported by neighboring Egypt and Libya.

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