- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

‘Pre-emptive’ strikes

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon defended his country’s attacks on terrorist leaders as the last option against Palestinian snipers and suicide bombers.

Mr. Ayalon, addressing congressional aides last week, also compared the disputed security fence being built in the West Bank to the one separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, which, he said, had prevented terrorist infiltration from that area.

Israel has killed at least 11 leaders of the Hamas political and terrorist wings, along with three bystanders, in six helicopter attacks in the past two weeks. Dozens more have been injured.

“We started the operations, the pre-emptive operations … after all other options were exhausted,” Mr. Ayalon said.

He added that his government had given the Palestinian Authority the names of 37 terrorist suspects and expected them to be arrested.

“If they don’t arrest them, we will not wait for them to explode and kill children,” he said.

Israel confronts “20 terror events a day” on average, Mr. Ayalon said, adding that 20 Israelis had been killed and 280 injured in suicide bombings since Israel agreed to the U.S.-backed road map for Middle East peace.

Mr. Ayalon defended the construction of a West Bank security fence and barrier as a “defense mechanism.” He said the “hard core” of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in Gaza and are blocked from conducting terrorist operations in Israel because of a security fence, while more than 150 suicide bombers have infiltrated Israel through the West Bank.

“A fence will stop the suicide bombers. The fence saves lives and ultimately, I say, it will also save the political process,” he said.

“Because it keeps the terrorists at bay … it will give us more latitude not to have to do intrusive pre-emptive operations in the Palestinian territories. So we say it will save lives, and it will save a political process.”

Mr. Ayalon emphasized that Israel wants peace and will support a Palestinian state that prevents terrorism.

“For us, peace is not just a strategic choice. It is a moral obligation,” he said, adding that Israel is prepared to “make painful concessions” to the Palestinians just as it did when it negotiated peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

“We can take a lot of risks … if we have a democratic partner or an effective partner with whom we can trade concessions,” he said. “But there is one thing we cannot compromise on. No democracy would compromise on the security of its citizens, on the defense of its institutions and of its sovereignty.”

Philippines visit

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines is due in Washington this week to help plan for President Bush’s visit to Manila next month.

“We’re planning as normal for a very nice visit here, and the reason for it is to show our support for the Philippines and its president and people,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told reporters in the Philippines last week.

Mr. Ricciardone was trying to dismiss speculation that Mr. Bush might cancel his visit because of fears of another coup attempt against the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Philippines put down a brief coup attempt led by junior officers in July.

Mr. Bush wants to thank Mrs. Arroyo for her efforts to combat terrorism, the ambassador said.

Mr. Ricciardone also denied rumors that the Bush administration was trying to persuade Mrs. Arroyo to run for re-election next year.

“We respect the president, who has carried this country forward,” the ambassador added. “That said, it is not for the United States to say who should or should not run here.”

Immigrant money

Central America and Caribbean workers in the United States and other industrialized nations contributed $32 billion to relatives back home last year, says a study prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank.

The Washington-based bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund will sponsor a conference tomorrow in Guatemala City to review how governments in that region depend on the capital sent by legal and illegal immigrant workers.

Patricia Ramirez Ceberg, Guatemala’s economics minister, and Donald F. Terry, the fund’s manager, will open the conference.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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