"Israel intends to launch an unprecedented global propaganda blitz within days.."
"Former justice minister Yossi Beilin... is embarking on a new diplomatic initiative... - convening a 'second Madrid conference' this October, on the tenth anniversary of the 1991 conference that kicked off the peace process."
MID-EAST REALITIES © - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/13/2001: Gee..isn't this interesting. With the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel -- i.e. Zionism -- about to be challenged by much of the world in Durban; and with the "peace process" itself about to be finally condemned as a "new form of apartheid" -- just as so many of the independent experts have been saying for years now -- the Israelis are embarking on a major international public relations campaign whose top dogs are none other than soft barkers Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin, chief architects and salesmen of the very same.
No, smart buyers wouldn't buy that proverbial polished up used car from either of these guys. But then the Arafat and Egyptian regimes are so corrupted and inept, so weak and often-times ignorant, they probably will. Moreover you can count on both the American government, and many of those oh-so-naive "peace groups", to offer up worthless "warranties" and to spray a lot of cheap new car scent all around. And as usual, most of the media will be taken in by all the glitter and sweet talk, few even bothering to look under the hood...and fewer still qualified mechanics even if they were to bother.
Meanwhile, as the nation-state reps get ready to gather in Durban, with the supposed "peaceniks" making hotel reservations for Madrid, the real action as usual will soon be in Washington again when the U.S.-Israel "Strategic Relationship" will be further upgraded and enhanced and when big plans for containing and controlling the region will be underway in dark secret.
[Those who want to know more about the real Peres and Beilin and what they are up to should go to the new MER search engine and read the dozens of past articles over the years: http://www.MiddleEast.Org/mernew.htm].
[Ha'aretz - 13 August 2001]: Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will from now on be authorized to negotiate directly with senior Palestinian Authority officials over a cease-fire, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed yesterday.
However, it was not yet clear if this included meetings with Chairman Yasser Arafat. Some sources said Sharon refused to agree to meetings with Arafat since they could undermine Israel's efforts to isolate the PA chairman and mobilize international pressure against him.
Other sources said Peres was authorized to meet Arafat as well but believes it would be more productive for now to focus on second-tier officials such as Abu Ala.
The only condition Sharon set is that Peres must be accompanied to the meetings by a senior IDF officer. This is apparently meant to ensure that Peres sticks to his promise to talk only about a cease-fire and not branch out into diplomatic negotiations.
The deal, worked out at a meeting between Peres and Sharon yesterday afternoon, represents a major victory for Peres, who has for weeks been arguing the need to maintain a continuous political dialogue with the PA.
Participants at the meeting said the atmosphere was positive, and both sides remain committed to the unity government. Yet a few hours later, Peres blasted Sharon's policies toward the Palestinians at a meeting of the Labor Party Central Committee.
For the first time in months, Peres also failed to utter a word in favor of the unity government at this meeting - leading many in the audience to suspect that he is preparing to lead Labor out of the coalition. In the past, he has made defense of the unity government a staple of every appearance before the Central Committee.
Peres spoke with great empathy for the Palestinians' distress and the justice of their claims against Israel. "Arik [Sharon], I, and the defense minister [Benjamin Ben-Eliezer] all promised that we would ease the situation in the territories," he said.
"Intellectual honesty obliges me to admit that we have not kept our word. There has so far been no easing of conditions in the territories. This bothers me greatly from a moral perspective. It is inconceivable that three million people should be kept under closure for three months, with unemployment growing, with distress and poverty rising steadily."
He continued: "We too and not just [the Palestinians] need to lower the level of incitement. When we say we will liquidate them, destroy them, banish them, that is incitement. They tell us: `You have us by the throat, economically and politically. What kind of autonomy do we have when you control all the taps, all the transit points, all the employment?' How are we to answer them?"
These remarks elicited angry catcalls from the audience. Peres also reiterated his view that continuous dialogue with Arafat is essential to reduce the violence. "There are those who say we must not negotiate under fire. But in London, in Spain and in Colombia, they do negotiate under fire, even at times of terrorism," he said.
"I'm in favor of a military response when necessary, but I am not only in favor of responses. One cannot fight fire purely with fire, because then you give the rifles a monopoly." He added that the security negotiations are already taking place with the PA should be broadened to include other topics as well.
Both Sharon and Peres met yesterday with American envoy David Satterfield, who sharply criticized the closure of Orient House. Satterfield told Sharon the action had damaged Israel's interests by diverting attention from Israel's key concern - security.
Sharon responded that the closure was intended to pressure Arafat to stop the terror. But Satterfield countered that the closure had turned Jerusalem "into a tool of pressure for Arafat rather than of pressure against him."
Sharon did not offer a straight response to Satterfield's question as to how long Israel intended to hold onto Orient House, saying only "we will not let the Palestinian Authority violate agreements, and we will certainly not let it violate our sovereignty in Jerusalem."
The issue of using CIA personnel as monitors was not discussed.
Peres promised Satterfield that Israel has no intention of changing the status of Abu Dis, which is classified as Area B (Israeli security control and Palestinian civilian control).
Former justice minister Yossi Beilin, meanwhile, is embarking on a new diplomatic initiative of his own - convening a "second Madrid conference" this October, on the tenth anniversary of the 1991 conference that kicked off the peace process. Several European countries have expressed enthusiastic support for the idea, as has UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and even some U.S. State Department officials. Yesterday, Beilin went to Cairo to try to sell his plan to the Egyptians.
[Ha'aretz 13 August 2001]: At the end of August, Ariel Sharon's government will send a team of senior officials to Washington for a first round of "strategic dialogue" talks with the Americans.
For Prime Minister Sharon this will mark a significant achievement in relations with the U.S. administration. It is clear that despite the continuing conflict with the Palestinians, the United States remains interested in cooperating with Israel in formulating regional policy.
The meeting illustrates the unique status of Israel in Washington. The U.S. administration has no similar forum for policy and security exchanges with the Palestinian Authority - nor indeed with any of the moderate Arab states that are close friends of Washington, such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
The convening of this forum, on August 27, will also express an upgrading in the level of strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Israel. Heading the U.S. team will be the Under Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In previous meetings, a lower level official headed the American teams - usually an assistant secretary of state for Middle East Affairs.
The agenda of the strategic talks will reflect the new emphases of the Bush and Sharon governments in Middle Eastern diplomacy - the "peace process" is not on the agenda; instead, the two sides will discuss "regional stability."
Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian Authority will be central in the talks, and the Israeli delegation will exchange assessments with its hosts regarding the condition of Yasser Arafat.
Presumably the two sides will focus on the implications of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation for the general stability of the Middle East and American efforts to isolate Iraq further - and possibly topple Saddam Hussein.
Other issues expected to be discussed have already been raised in earlier meetings. They will discuss "preserving the qualitative edge" of the Israel Defense Forces, and representatives from the Israeli Defense Ministry will outline the army's hardware requirements and the military assistance needed from the Americans.
They will also exchange intelligence information and discuss the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in Iran, and discussions will focus on ways of blocking the flow of Russian technology to Iran. Attention will be given to international conventions on arms control and on the U.S. plans for the development of a ballistic missile shield, which is at the crux of recent Washington-Moscow exchanges.
The decision to hold these talks was made during Sharon's first visit to Washington as prime minister in March. Sharon requested that the level of the dialogue be upgraded and that focus be directed at the regional issues, but did not present the Americans with a "shopping list" or proposals for new agreements.
In charge of setting up the meetings was the Israeli ambassador in Washington, David Ivry, who had been involved for a number of years in the joint strategic talks between the two sides, and handled the matter with discretion with his old friend, Armitage. In Israel the preparations are being handled by the national security adviser, Major General Uzi Dayan.
The new strategic forum has been built on the ruins of previous committees, which operated during the Netanyahu and Barak governments. Strategic talks with the U.S. have been going on since 1983, and have been handled by the Defense and Foreign Ministries. In recent years, Israeli prime ministers have tried to bring the talks under their direct authority, in an effort to give the dialogue greater diplomatic weight rather than a purely security focus.
The first such committee was set up toward the end of Benjamin Netanyahu's term in office. In exchange for the signing of the Wye accords, in 1998, the Clinton administration issued a memorandum of understanding stating that a Joint Strategic Planning Committee would be set up between Israel and the U.S. The dialogue focused mostly on the threats posed by Iran and Iraq.
The forum was dispersed after only two meetings because of the 1999 elections in Israel. When Ehud Barak took over as prime minister he wanted to expand the mechanism to involve the U.S. as an active element in overall peace agreements with the Syrians and the Palestinians.
Barak pursued a "defensive alliance lite" with the Americans, and sought a huge advanced weapons technology package in exchange for his planned pullback from the Golan Heights.
This time it is expectations from the forum that are "lite." No one is talking about peace agreements, or defense pacts. The main consideration in the minds of the Bush and Sharon administrations is how to weather the current regional crisis with minimum damage.
[Middle East Times - Agence France-Presse, AFP - JERUSALEM - 12 August]: Israel intends to launch an unprecedented global propaganda blitz within days in a bid to reverse what it sees as its rapidly diminishing image following 10-months of conflict with the Palestinians.
High-ranking officials have been dispatched to France to hire a major public relations firm to restore the Jewish state's reputation across Europe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' deputy spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, told AFP on August 7.
High-profile intellectuals and artists, including author Amos Oz and conductor Zubin Mehta, will also be called on to influence colleagues and the masses, Nahshon said.
And a "back to basics" campaign will be carried out in North America where government officials are hoping to gather hundreds of thousands of people to support Israel at major rallies in cities including New York, Memphis and Toronto.
More than 540 Palestinians have died since the intifada began last September, and Nahshon conceded that television images of the deaths were hurting Israel's international reputation. "We believe there's been a devaluation of the image of Israel and we want torestore a more positive image," Nahshon said. "We have the feeling the perception of the general public, particularly in Europe, is being judged mostly according to television reports of the conflict, which reflects only a very small part of reality.
"It's portraying a David versus Goliath syndrome. Israel is being portrayed as a strong side and the Palestinians the weak side. We believe this is not a full picture."
Nahshon said Israel had never before hired a public relations firm to carry out such a task in Europe and the final decision came only after a top-level meeting involving, among others, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on August 6.
He said Israel was in final negotiations with an unnamed French firm and a deal could be signed within days, with the campaign to start shortly after.
Nahshon said the duration of the campaign was dependant on the feedback the French company received.
Israel already employs a PR firm in the United States, the New York-based Howard J. Rubenstein Associates, to win the hearts and minds of Americans, The Jerusalem Post reported.
This has already resulted in more women and less people wearing army uniforms in Israeli PR campaigns and the Israeli Defense Force hiring a spokeswoman who speaks English fluently, without an Israeli accent.
Nahshon said the beefed-up propaganda push in North America would include major rallies throughout September and October, and possibly until the end of the year. He said Israel hoped hundreds of thousands of people would turn up at these rallies to support the Jewish state.
Peres is also expected to call on nearly 2,000 rabbis in the United States to emphasize during their Yom Kippur sermons the Jewish state's historic links to the land of Israel.
The propaganda blitz follows unusually heavy criticism from the Western world over Israel's policy of killing alleged Palestinian militants.
Even the United States, Israel's closest and most important ally, said it was opposed to last week's slaying of six Hamas activists and two young brothers in the West Bank town of Nablus, describing the rocket attack as too aggressive.
The public relations offensive comes on top of what is already regarded by the western media as an extremely slick Israeli propaganda machine.
In contrast to the approach of Sharon's predecessor, Ehud Barak, who kept his government at a distance from the foreign press, the Sharon government sends pager messages to journalists around the clock while spokespeople and "sources" are also on hand 24 hours a day.
The Palestinians are outraged over some of Israel's PR successes and this week accused the British Broadcasting Corporation of succumbing to Israeli pressure and diluting its reports of the killings of Palestinian militants.