Israel Resource Review 16th February, 1998


Egypt: Iraq May Attack Israel
"All Hell Would Break Loose"

The following are excerpts from an article which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, Al-Ahram of Al-Ahram Weekly 5th - 11th February, 1998

Front page headline:

by Dina Ezzat, Galal Nassar and Nevine Khalil

[Heading:] Cairo worked feverishly to prevent yet another Gulf War, but Washington seemed determined to let "all hell break loose" in the region.

In what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to forestall an imminent military strike against Iraq, President Hosni Mubarak, in his capacity as head of the Arab Summit Conference, dispatched Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid to Baghdad yesterday to urge the Iraqi government to comply with Security Council resolutions and to cooperate with UN weapon' inspection teams.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's tour of the region this week seemed to confirm that Washington was no longer talking in terms of if, but how and when a military strike against Iraq would be conducted.

Albright's final stopover in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Amr Moussa did not reassure Cairo as to American intentions. "This time things look and sound different from the last stand-off [in November of last year]. This time the Americans seem more determined to take the road to military action. Their tone is entirely different," an informed source told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Cairo, extremely concerned by the prospect of a military strike against Iraq at a time when the peace process has all but been declared dead, has been engaged in relentless diplomatic activities to prevent it. President Mubarak consulted with over a dozen Arab leaders during the week before dispatching Abdel-Meguid to Baghdad.

"We are asking the Iraqis to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions," Mubarak told reporters yesterday. "It's very important. Otherwise the situation will be very serious."

... Replying to a question as to whether the idea of organising an Arab summit were on the table, Mubarak said: "Not yet, we have not so far discussed this with the Arab leaders."

Presidential advisor Osama El-Baz, in a statement to Al-Ahram Weekly, disclosed that Mubarak had sent a verbal message to Saddam Hussein last Sunday and received a reply on the following day. He said Mubarak sent a second message to Saddam yesterday. El-Baz said that the "thrust of Abdel-Meguid's talks in Baghdad is to prevent the use of force because the consequences can only be destructive for Iraq, the Iraqi people and the entire region."

Explaining the Egyptian position, El-Baz said, however, that Egypt "had not advised Iraq to open the presidential palaces for inspection because this would set a serious international precedent. What we advised them to do is to allow the inspectors to resume their activities, to think twice before rejecting any request and not to take issue with the nationalities of the inspectors, because that is an auxiliary matter."

Secretary of State Albright, during a tour of the region this week, attempted to drum up support for a US military strike, should diplomacy frail. Following visits to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, Albright said the US "has all the cooperation we need" from the Gulf states, but she faced opposition in Cairo.

Following talks with President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday evening, Albright emerged in the company of a somber-faced Foreign Minister Amr Moussa. He told reporters that "all options are still on the table" but affirmed "full support" for the ongoing diplomatic efforts. Moussa also said, that Iraq's compliance "would really help spare us the grave consequences we all want to avoid."

Egypt's concern runs deep. Public opinion in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world would not tolerate an extensive military strike against Iraq by the US, and probably other Western allies "at a time when [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is showing not the slightest respect for his peace commitments," an official source said. He added: "It is a very alarming situation... no one can predict the repercussions of this strike; the Iraqis could well retaliate by striking against Israel: Israel would strike back and the Palestinians already suffering greatly under Israeli occupation, would rise up, and all hell would break loose."

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Cheating the American Public
by Emanuel A. Winston a Middle East Analyst & Commentator

Once again what was to be an open Senate Hearing on the Oslo Accords on February 4th has now been sabotaged by Arabists in the State Dept. What was the great fear? What was to be exposed? What is to remain hidden?

First, the Hearings have been "postponed until March. And, secondly, the title has been changed from hearings on the "Oslo Accords" to "Middle East Development". The sophisticated reader familiar with pro-Arab manipulations of the State Dept. understands that discussions regarding Oslo will be watered down to a point where nothing of substance will emerge. With Oslo mixed up in the agenda of the general Middle East area - especially while the drum beats of war against Iraq are booming, people like Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross will be able to easily confuse the Committee about Oslo.

Although Senator Sam Brownback is Chairman of the Sub-committee who called for hearings on the Oslo Accords, the person who is responsible for re-scheduling military, civilian and diplomatic speakers and arranging the agenda is Danielle Pletka. She is the Director for the Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The reader must understand that, when one is a majority staff director, he/she has the power to pull the direction of a Hearing one way or another. In this case the major Director of the agenda is Danielle Pletka. Those who understood the machinations of Washington, regard Pletka as very politically Left and she is generally viewed as an Arabist.

Although Pletka is the major Director of this Committee, the very conservative Jesse Helms is Chairman. Perhaps you will recall that, although Helms expressed a positive attitude toward Israel, his aide Danielle Pletka worked very closely with State Dept. officials who were decidedly pro-Arab and often quite hostile to Israel. One example was the covert visit by Pletka to Yassir Arafat.

What was Pletka's relationship with Dennis Ross and/or Martin Indyk? They arranged her visit with Arafat. Why did Senator Helms keep her on after it was disclosed in the WASHINGTON TIMES by Jamie Dettmer(1) that she had covertly met with Arafat and discussed the peace process in July 1995? Was Senator Helms ambushed by his own staff or did he know? He said: "I did not authorize or sanction any trip overseas for staff members to meet with the PLO chairman." (2) When telling some American Jewish leaders about her Arafat meeting, Pletka shocked them by saying she had been "thrilled" and "excited" to meet him.(3) Is there a program to penetrate and the Congress through staff assistants who, as everyone knows, controls the agenda of their busy bosses?

The issue is not just one Senate staffer but rather her influence on the continual flow of $500 million in US taxpayers' money to Arafat's Palestinian Authority. That aid was intended to stimulate economic independence for the PA, but contingent on compliance with their commitments to the Oslo Accords. The question is raised: Were US MEPFA funds (Mid East Peace Facilitation Assistance) diverted by Arafat into his own pockets and to wage a parallel political campaign in Israel by buying chunks of Jerusalem real estate with the knowledge and approval of Indyk, Ross, Pletka, etc. Her boss Helms caved on legislation to stop the flow of MEPFA funds to Arafat for non-compliance.

Pletka is reportedly close to Dennis Ross and particularly a fellow Australian, Martin Indyk. Pletka arranged the two Senate Hearings on Martin Indyk when he was appointed Ambassador to Israel and recently as Assistant Sec. of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Most observers considered them merely a sham. Indyk was given a soft pass with puff questions when hired for his first post as Ambassador to Israel. No questions of consequence were asked of Indyk in the Helms hearings run by Pletka. In fact Helms disappeared and could not be reached during those hearings - leaving Pletka to run the show. Indyk's rapid conversion to American citizenship so he could be America's Ambassador to Israel seemed very suspicious. Some questions could have explored his background with respect to any role he played in Australian Intelligence linked to British Intelligence M1-6. Any linkage to the CIA and representing a pro-Arab State Dept. program should have been explored.

Martin Indyk distinguished himself as the American Ambassador to Israel by interfering with the Israeli government and acting in an adversarial role despite the fact that he is Jewish, was a guest in that country and supposed to be a diplomat. He frequently used his position to threaten Israel while forcefully promoting the Palestinian cause.

The trio of Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Danielle Pletka is a relationship worth exploring. Those who came to her office seeking contact with Chairman Helms of the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Relations dealing with issues relating to Israel were generally given short shrift. Although Pletka is also Jewish, her politics seem to match the Arabist team of Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, Dan Kurtzer.

Hearings on the Oslo Accords planned for February 4th were postponed, allegedly because Martin Indyk was too busy traveling with Ms. Albright to attend. The hearing are now switched to March 3 and under a different name, "Middle East Development". Regrettably, as expected, they seem to be easily manipulating Sen. Brownback perhaps because he doesn't know the covert game being played in the Mid-East.

Many more people besides Pletka, Ross, Indyk wish our foreign policy in the Middle East to remain a covert program. Those who cut deals in arms sales, oil contracts, transfers of weapons' technologies simply do not want their nefarious deals to become public knowledge. If they did, this scandal would make the investigations and media feeding frenzy on Clinton romps a children's party.

Dear Reader, where do you think such catastrophes as Iran-gate and Iraq-gate are spawned? In the dark by people who have governmental powers and who use these powers for special interests.

In an open hearing on Oslo you'd hear knowledgeable Middle East experts testify. They'd name private interests such as multi-national corporations, arms manufacturers, et al, who could then be dragged into the sunlight. As bats who only glide through the darkness, special interests cannot abide the sunshine of open hearings.

It appears that the fake illusion of a real Hearing will mark the March 3rd charade.

Pletka has already invited well-known Jewish Leftists who are infamous for their hostility to Israel. As in the two prior Hearings on Martin Indyk, Pletka will load the agenda with witness who are politically Left, Arabist and hostile Jewish leaders. Her trick is to load the agenda with hours of irrelevant testimony which will kill any prospect of real information being exposed about Oslo and the dirty tricks of the Administration.

Other questions come to mind as we observe what seems to be a crass manipulation of the investigating Committee: Is Danielle Pletka reporting to and/or taking orders from other pro-Arab interests? Are other staff level people purposely placed in various Congressmen's offices to divert or shield them from information which other interests do not want them to focus on?

When one wonders whether our Senators are being manipulated from the inside, we recall that J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, compiled extensive files, reportedly blackmailing Senators and other high officials to force compliance with his view of how America should be run.

Suppose you were a top official in the White House or State Dept. and wanted no interference from the Congress or, at least, from key Senators and Representatives likely to be honestly seeking the truth. Planting an employee in their offices wouldn't be difficult.

They would observe and report. Later, as trust and dependence grew, the "mole" would move higher in the ranks of the Congressmen's staff. It's true for any branch of our Government since Congress holds the strings on their money allotment. This includes all three branches of Government, Executive, Legislative, Judicial, plus the Military and our Intelligence Agencies - all of whom have extremely high budgets to protect.

I am not talking about lobbyists but employees, presumably working for Congress when, if fact, they report covertly to someone else. Who would benefit if a Senatorial Committee is tilted by means the staff assistant of one unaware Senator? Most Senators rely heavily on their staffs to analyze and make recommendations. If ever there was a weak link in the American system, this is it.

We may owe Danielle Pletka a vote of thanks by her demonstration of the control which LAs (Legislative Aides) or Administrative Assistants can have on American policy. Some aides come to our American Government with their own biased agendas. Recruiting them would be fairly easy, particularly if the deal was sweetened with under-the-table, no-tax cash payments.

Perhaps Senator Brownback will put Danielle Pletka on the witness stand under oath to speak of what she knows. In any case, we can only hope Brownback himself pulls the Senate Committee Hearing together and schedules hard testimony from real experts on the Mid-East. He should also dis-invite the Pletka gaggle of space fillers and time killers.

While most Administrative Assistants to the Congress are loyal and serve their bosses properly, there are, no doubt, those who would subvert America's National Interest to work for two masters. It's time for Congress to clean up its own House - even to the point of summarily firing assistants acting as moles and betraying the national will of the American people.

Sen. Brownback could turn March 4th into real Hearings simply by inviting whomsoever he pleased and, thereby, bypassing the Pletka cabal. Surely, there are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who would be furious to learn that the Hearings have been set up to hoodwink the American public while advancing the hidden agenda of the White House and State Dept.

I would strongly suggest to that the Reader contact Committee members at these fax numbers:

Jesse Helms (R-NC)
Chairman Senate Foreign Relations
(202) 228-1339
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Chair Subcommittee on Near East & SE Asia
(202) 228-1265
Joseph Biden (D-DE)(202) 224-5011
Charles Robb (D-VA)(202) 224-8689
Gordon Smith (R-R)(202) 228-2997
Dianne Feinstein(D-CA)(202) 228-3954
Rod Grams (R-MN)(202) 228-0956
Paul Wellstone (D-MN)(202) 224-8438
John Ashcroft (R-MO)(202) 228-0998
Paul Sarbenes (D-MD)(202) 224-1651

1."Taming Jesse Helms" by Jamie Dettmer, Washington Times & Insight Magazine, 8/24/95

2."A Shocked Senator Helms Responds to Insight Story", by Jamie Dettmer & Paul Rodriguez, Insight Magazine, 9/18/95

3."Conservatives Say Helms Has Softened on Terrorists", by Jamie Dettmer, Washington Times & Insight Magazine, 9/11/95

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What is the Precise Connection
Between P A. & Saddam Hussein?

by David S. Bedein, MSW,
Media Research Analyst
Bureau Chief: Israel Resource News Agency
Beit Agron International Press Center, Jerusalem

Over the past two weeks, no one can deny that there have been widespread televised reports that have shown mass Palestinian Arab demonstrations for Iraq's Saddam Hussein, with daily Palestinian chants that call for Saddam Hussein to reign missiles again on Tel Aviv, while marchers burn American and Israeli flags.

The question that many people have raised concerns whether or not Arafat and the PLO, now operating the Palestine Authority, gives official "sanction" to these demonstrations.

No one forgets that in 1991, the PLO gave full support to Saddam Hussein, when the Palestinian Arab population, which then lived fully under the sovereignty of the state of Israel, also conducted mass demonstrations under Saddam Hussein.

Today, however, the PLO's Palestine Authority rules over most of the Palestinian Arab population, with a legislative council and a strong police force, things are different.

This time, the marches for Saddam Hussein emanate from the Palestine Authority headquarters in Ramallah.

On February 13, 1998, Danny Rubenstein, the Arab affairs correpondent for the daily Israeli newspaper, HaAretz, published a short investigative piece in which he documented that the Palestinian demonstrations for Saddam Hussein were indeed organized by the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Rubenstein traces the funding of the PFLP to Iraq.

To paraphrase Rubenstein, it would therefore be natural to expect that the PFLP would demonstrate for Saddam.

Meanwhile, the PFLP is categorized by the US state department as one of the thirty organizations placed on the official list of groups that have been officially designated by the US as terrorist organizations.

Yet the PFLP remains an integral part of the Palestine National Council, the Palestine Authority and the Palestine Liberation Army police force, all of which are funded in part by grants from US AID, the Agency for International Development.

In other words, the US knowingly funds an entity that openly incorporates an organization that the US defines as a terror group in supports of the current regime of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Does the Palestine Authority support Saddam Hussein?

The answer remains that the whole is the sum of its parts.

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Review of Syria's Missile Strategy & Iraqi Biological Weapons?
by Aaron Lerner

The following is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the 22nd October, 1996 edition of the London publication, Almashad Alsiasi:

Syria has carried out a reorganization of its surface-to-surface missile units since 1982. At the end of 1988 the Syrians had more than 36 launching systems for SS-21 missiles, 24 launchers for FROG 7, 18 launchers for SCUD-B, and launchers for the SS18 and SSC-3 missiles which are designed for coastal defense.

The Syrian surface-to-surface missile forces are organized in three surface-to-surface missile brigades and one brigade which is in the process of being formed.

Missile Brigade 96 is the most senior brigade and was formed in 1972 and was the first to receive the FROG 70 missiles, the units had 18 TEL-TRANSPORTECTOR type launchers and reloadable launchers in 1988.

The second brigade had 18 SCUD-B SS21 launchers in three battalions. The third brigade had four battalions and 36 SS21 missiles with a range of 120 kilometers.

The fourth battalion had mid range SSC-1B missiles with a range of 300 kilometers. This battalion is stationed in Latakia and Tartus.

In 1987 there were reports of the establishment of a fifth Syrian battalion of SS-23 missiles positioned outside of Damascus but it appears that these reports were incorrect.

The changes in the Syrian missile units did not include only growth in forces, because Syria sees the ground to ground missiles as a way to overcome Israeli air superiority, and as a platform for delivering weapons of mass destruction.

This strength in the missile field enables Syria to deal with Israel's lethal weapons and can be used to attack Israel's air force bases and mobilization centers.

The Syrian army increased the extent of their exercises in the area of battle in a nuclear, chemical and biological environment after American sources advised in 1984 that Syria was engaged in intensive activity in the field of the production and use of nerve gas and other gases since the Lebanon War of 1982.

It appears that Syria has made improvements in the Soviet ZAB shells so that they can be armed with chemical material.

It is possible that the Syrians have made improvements in the PTAB-500 cluster bomb so that is can carry a chemical warhead.

The Syrians have chemical artillery shells and apparently also Syrian SCUD and FROG missiles with chemical warheads.

In 1988 it was clear that Syria acted to produce chemical and biological weapons and when the chemical material was produced in quantities Israeli experts estimated that it included also nerve gas.

It appears that the Syrian developments worried the Soviets and Vladmir Pikalov, who was in charge of chemical warfare in the USSR army visited Syria in March 1988 in order to warn them of the dangers of chemical warfare and that the USSR would not give Syria backing if it used chemical weapons.

The SS-21 missiles which are held by Syria do not have chemical warheads and Syria will encounter many difficulties if it tries to develop chemical weapons without Russian assistance.

Syria does not have the technological capability to develop sophisticated warheads for missiles and despite the accuracy of the SS-21 missile, it will be difficult for Syria to successfully launch nerve gas against Israeli Air Force bases or against C31 command and control centers, the nuclear reactor in Dimona or mobilization centers, in a way that would significantly harm Israel's nuclear and conventional potential.

Apparently the Syrians plan to hide some of the surface-to-surface SS-21 units in shelters located in the mountains around Damascus and in the Tudmur area, despite that in a time of emergency these missiles would be positioned at the advance lines of the front.

Syria acted to obtain long range missiles which can attack every target in Israel with accuracy in order to hurt the air force bases in the Negev and the nuclear reactor in Dimona.

Since 1984 Syria has succeeded in getting S21 and S23 missiles from the USSR and the Syrians were particularly interested in the SS-23 missile with a range of 500 kilometers which can strike targets deep within Israel, Jordan and most of the territory of Iraq.

The president of Syria and the defense minister tried to buy the intercontinental ballistic missile SS25.

Despite reports that Syria has established SS23 bases and that is has an SS23 missile battalion and received SS25 missiles, there is no verification of these reports. Apparently the Soviet Union objected to strengthening the Syrian missile units and carried out a reserved policy in the area of supplying new fighter jets to Syria.

This fact explains the Syrian plans to purchase Chinese 9-M missiles with a range of 175 - 375 miles.

American intelligence sources say that Syria tried to acquire these missiles in 1988 and they were transferred to Syria from China in 1990-1991 despite that China denies it. Syria maintains that these missiles will enable it to deal with Israeli air superiority.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

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Egypt: Israeli Arabs, Clinton Scandal, US-Israel-Turkey, Democracy
by Aaron Lerner

The following is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the 22nd October, 1996 edition of the London publication, Almashad Alsiasi:
The Arabs Inside Israel
by Azmi Bishara
Member of the Israeli Knesset

... One is at pains here to determine how "loyalty to the state" can be accommodated in liberal discourse (What exactly is loyalty to the state in a liberal democratic society. Why should it constitute a condition for granting rights of equal citizenship? What means and standards are to be engaged in determining loyalty in the first place?). One is also struck by the incongruous demand upon the Arab individual to be loyal to a state that was built on the vestiges of his national entity?

... What presents itself as a form of pragmatism -- and how frequently the Arabs confuse pragmatism with shrewdness -- is an integral part of the dominant culture of the Israeli Arab. Inside Israel the appeal for more rights is counterbalanced by the acceptance of the Jewish character of the state and its claims to loyalty, while for Arabs it is justified as coming to grips with reality.

... [T]he only possible way for the Arab minority inside Israel to confront the challenge of Israelification is not to deny the existence of such a process, but to engage in a struggle for equality, a struggle which can simultaneously challenge the Zionist-Jewish essence of the Israeli state while at the same time mobilising the Arab minority in the battle to gain their national rights as Arabs who belong in a wider collective national identity than that of Arabs inside Israel.

"Sex and Saddam"
[column:] Reflections
by Hani Shukrallah

Managing Editor

Distraction on a grand scale, however, is very much at issue, ironically, both in the Lewinsky and Iraqi affairs. What I find most interesting about this latest Clinton sex scandal is not whether or not it involved a conspiracy by the Christian and, in most Arab interpretations, Jewish right wing. Ms. Lewinsky may well have been a right-wing mole, especially planted to entrap the president by capitalising on his well-known "weaknesses". The fact remains that these weaknesses were widely known. Spectacle, rather than substance of any worth, was what I saw in the sordid revelations about a sordid, and especially, heartless and dehumanized kind of sexuality.

... A glowingly oligarchic post-modern capitalism seems to depend increasingly on spectacle for its survival -- the heads and reputations of presidents and royals are a small price to pay, and so, of course, are the lives and livelihoods of unimportant, nameless and faceless men, women and children anywhere from Iraq to Grenada.

A suggested title for a manual on how to govern a Western capitalist country in the late 1990s: Spectacle: Sex and Saddam".

"The Press This Week"

Al-Arabi: "The question is not one of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. The inspection teams have been looking everywhere for seven years and have found nothing. This issue is that Iraq is an oil-rich country, perhaps the second richest in the world. It is also strategically placed and has great industrial and agricultural potential which could be of use to the Arab world. It is also opposed to Zionism and imperial plots. Where lies our duty? We should appeal to the emir of Kuwait to declare openly that he is against a US strike against Iraq and demand that Turkey should not allow its bases to be used for such an attack. We should also appeal to all Arab and Islamic countries to act in order to prevent such a strike. And, finally, back home, we should come out in our millions to besiege the US Embassy, the FBI office and the Zionist embassy in Cairo in order to paralyse their activities." ([written by] Hassan Fami Mustafa, 2 February 1998)

"Citadel or Jail?"
by Ahmed Abdel-Halim

The writer is a strategic expert at the National Centre for Middle East Studies.

[Heading:] Turkish-Israeli military maneuvers signal a step forward in the move from dual to total containment, [A review of] US policy in the region.

One must not take the recent US-Turkish-Israeli maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean at face value, whether in terms of the reasons cited for conducting them or as a potential military axis against Syria. Their implications are far more profound. A closer reading reveals a crucial shift in US policy and strategy toward the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular: to wit, a return to the policy of "containment".

The US first implemented a containment policy against the Soviet Union in 1948, shortly after the end of World War II, when it determined that it could no longer cooperate with its former ally. The "dual containment" version of this policy was applied against Iran and Iraq in May 1993. Today, this declared, specifically targeted policy of containment has become an undeclared, comprehensive policy, which I have termed "total containment".

... The US, in short, is in the process of surrounding the region with a great wall. We must confront the implementation of this strategy, or we will wake up to find that our region has been sealed off from the world and that Israel has a free hand to accomplish its political, strategic and economic designs, which are definitely not in the interests of the Arabs.

President Mubarak was asked recently to assess the ramifications of the Israeli-Turkish maneuvers. He answered that Egypt expressed its opinion at the outset, when the maneuvers were announced. Egypt, he said, objects strongly to this step, which is directed primarily against Syria. Egypt refuses to countenance any alliance against Syria or any other Arab country. The president is also concerned by the announcement that the maneuvers will be repeated in the future. We must monitor future developments closely, he said; based on our assessment, we will decide what action we should take.

"Compromise for Deterrence"
by Amin Hewedy,
former minister of defense and chief of General Intelligence.
[Article repeated from prior issue.]

Apology [from Al-Ahram Weekly]: The WEEKLY regrets that due to a technical error in the printing process, parts of this article as it appeared in last week's issue were blurred and illegible. We are therefore reprinting it here.

Israel is building settlements, roads and bridges -- in a word, transforming the landscape and the composition of the population. It imports Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, to inhabit the land, and subsidises them with funds from the US.

In order to implement this transformation, Israel draws world attention to other, minor, hostilities. The tunnel under Al-Aqsa is a good example of this policy. The Arabs focused on it exclusively.

[IMRA note: In fact, there was NO tunneling under Al-Aqsa. The work involved completing opening a closed off exit to the Via Dolorosa of the existing tunnel along the outside of the Western side of the Temple Mount.]

"Greater Democracy Urged by Parliament"
by Essam El-Din

[Heading:] A People's Assembly report affirmed confidence in the cabinet of the prime minister but questioned its position on political reform.

The People's Assembly will begin its annual marathon of parliamentary debates over the government's policy statement. ... The report reviews a number of thorny issues, including the government's battle with terrorism, the exercise of political rights and the economic reform programme. Although the report urged deputies to affirm confidence in Ganzouri's government, it castigated its policies on political reform, terrorism and corruption.

The report deplored the fact that the Assembly's previous recommendations, underlining the pressing need to introduce a new agenda for political reform, were totally ignored by the government. "The Assembly emphasises again that the scope of the people's exercise of their political rights continues to fall short of the required level. This is manifested by the low turnout of voters in general elections, restrictions on the establishment of political parties and the reluctance of women to participate in political life," the report said.

... Yassin Serageddin, spokesman of the liberal Wafd Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the report's recommendations in this connection are just "talk" because the government has not shown readiness to act. He cited the passing, two weeks ago, of a new companies law which makes the publication of new newspapers conditional on the cabinet's approval. "This law is the prelude to new measures which will end the limited margin of freedom available at present," Serageddin said.

The Wafd, he added, has demanded that the Constitution be amended, restrictions on the establishment of political parties be lifted and a new system of general elections be introduced. "These should run parallel with liberalising the press and media in general, especially in giving citizens complete freedom in establishing newspapers and television channels," said Serageddin.

Sameh Ashour, the only Nasserist deputy in the Assembly, also accused the government of muzzling public freedoms. "Although the report noted that there is remarkable keenness by professionals and workers to participate in syndicate and trade union elections, it is said the government remains determined to be unresponsive in this connection. The government insists on tightening its grip on this essential aspect of political life by placing many bureaucratic obstacles in the way of union and syndicate elections," Ashour said.

... [Serageddin said] he had recently taken the initiative of drafting a new law for the impeachment of cabinet ministers suspected of illegal practices. "This law is essential for checking the proliferation of corruption among top government officials and their relatives.. Citizens want to see the government, if only for once, take a practical step towards ending corruption. Just one time," he said.

But Serageddin did not appear optimistic about the chances of the Assembly approving the draft law. In fact, he expects it to be rejected outright. "Rejection, however, may demonstrate to people that the government talks about fighting corruption, but does not act," he said.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

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