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WWIII Is Coming ´Whether They Like It Or Not´ -Top Sharon Aide

March 18,2003

By Stephanie Innes

Arizona Daily Star

"The terror attacks on Sept. 11 and extreme turmoil in the Middle East point to one thing - World War III, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday during a visit to Tucson.

"We´ve been fighting a war for the past 18 months, which is the harbinger of World War III. The world is going to fight, whether they like it or not. I´m sure,´´ Ra´anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Sharon, said in an interview Friday.

"Sept. 11 was a watershed event, and things will never be the same. The battle lines have been drawn.´´

Gissin, 53, is in Tucson this weekend as part of a 12-day tour of the United States to promote the purchase of Israel Bonds. The bonds are part of a program that began in 1951 in which securities are sold to individuals and corporations to finance economic growth in Israel.

"The Israeli government pays them back. . . . The collateral is the eternity of the Jewish people,´´ Gissin said, dismissing an April 1 Newsweek story that questioned the future of his country.

"We believe the state of Israel will continue to exist forever. Therefore, it´s a sure investment."

On Friday night he spoke to an audience of about 300 people at the Reform Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road, as police stood on guard at the doorways of the synagogue. Today at 5 p.m. he is scheduled to speak at the conservative Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St.

Gissin called the war a clash between the civilized and uncivilized worlds.

"It´s a clash between the forces of evil, as (President Bush) so neatly described it, and forces of life."

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, 54, a Tucson resident and Palestinian who grew up near Ramallah, did not attend Gissin´s talk. But in an interview Friday night he said the Israeli point of view does not take into account the suffering of Palestinians who live in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

"This is a war that is being fought against a largely civilian population. It is a one-sided war,´´ said Abdulaziz, who still has family living in the West Bank. "The Palestinians do not have one tank, one airplane, one helicopter. These are people who have been under a brutal occupation for 35 years and every nation on this Earth has recognized it as an illegal occupation.

"We have generations of Palestinians who know nothing but brutal occupation,´´ he said. "The West Bank and Gaza are only 22 percent of the geographic area of Palestine, and it´s all the Palestinians are asking for. They want a place to call home."

Gissin said he did not believe that the Israeli incursion at the West Bank refugee camp in Jenin earlier this month was a massacre as some Palestinians have said. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has accused Israel of trying to hide "terrible things" at the camp. Palestinians say hundreds died. The United Nations is sending a fact-finding team there.

"Real peace can only exist or come about when there is an understanding and a commitment among our Arab and Palestinian neighbors to a process of reconciliation - to accept the fact that Jews also have a right to their own land, to their ancestral homeland," Gissin said. "

Stephanie Innes email: sinnes@azstarnet.com

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