[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 30, 2006
Farewell to Wolfensohn
In the history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the USA, the UN and others appointed many envoys to resolve the conflict or to alleviate the economic crisis in the conflict area. None of those envoys can compare with the knowledge, background, and dedication of former World Bank President James Wolfensohn. His appointment was made by the Quartet to deal with the disengagement by Israel from Gaza, and for the development of the strip.
Wolfensohn, succeeded in coordinating, between Israel and the PA, solved the crisis for paying for the greenhouses in the former gush Katif by contributing from his pocket and locating others. His involvement led the G7 to promise $3 billion for the development of Gaza. Wolfensohn antagonized AIPAC, which influenced the NeoCons and the Bush administration not to back his efforts and not to extend his tenure. Wolfensohn had to cope also with the emergence of Hamas as the legitimate leader of the PA cabinet.
The great promise of the valued work of Wolfensohn was blocked by internal and external developments. No previous envoy came to head such a mission with the knowledge and contacts he developed as the head of the World Bank. It is a shame that he is leaving at such a crucial period, politically and economically. It is hard to find a worthy replacement. The internal differences within the Quartet will not allow the appointment of an envoy in the near future. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 29, 2006
Coalition coming together
The new coalition agreement is likely to be completed early next week. The Kadima party has already signed the agreement with the Labour party and the Pensioners party. Kadima and the Pensioners agreed to merge into one Knesset faction putting the joint list at 36 seats in the Knesset. The meaning of the merger is that Kadima and the Pensioners will vote as one block in the Knesset. In a surprise testimony, the Pensioners’ leader, Rafi Eitan, one of the more right-wing former Mossad officers in the history of that organization, admitted that the has changed his position and that he fully backs the political line of Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert. Eitan also admitted that Ariel Sharon has used his services in trying to convince Gaza settlers to leave (this was reported in a former edition of this column). Eitan will serve as special minister for senior citizens and the number 2 of the list Yaacov Ben Yizri will be the new Minister of Health. A third member of the Pensioners’ list will head the Welfare Committee of the Knesset. READ MORE...>>>
April 25, 2006
The recent clashes between Hamas and Fateh spell out the national crisis for leadership of the Palestinian people. The choice is not only between Hamas and Fateh, it is also a choice between governance and total anarchy. The decision of the Israeli government and the international community to force the Hamas-led PA government to either accept the three Israeli demands or to collapse has ignored the third possibility of total chaos and a breakdown of any leadership to govern the Palestinian people. Led by the continued assumption that there is no Palestinian leader, the new Israeli government is likely to seek to advance its unilateral convergence plan. If, however, total anarchy should emerge in the Palestinian territories, it is more likely that the Israeli government will not be able to implement the convergence plans and will have to face a new round of acute violence and terrorism.
Despite formal statements to the contrary, Palestinian President Abbas has been working to secure leadership and governance under the Office of the President that would either replace or supercede the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet. Abbas has created a set of shadow ministries and authorities directly loyal to him and the Fateh movement that has to the potential to govern and assume full responsibilities for civilian and military control. The Hamas-led Cabinet has so far failed to take effective control due to several reasons including the international and Israeli boycott preventing all funding from entering the Treasury. Most of the Arab world has also denied the Hamas-led PA formal recognition and Abbas’ moves to create alternative shadow-like government bodies are aimed at replacing the failed Hamas leadership. Hamas’ decision, perhaps without choice and without realizing the international and local consequences to ally with Iran and Syria has now placed them in direct confrontation with Jordan as well.
"Politics is war
without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
Israeli-Palestinian relations are heading towards a total cut off and violent escalation with rounds of mutual reprisals that will produce a bath of bloodshed. The political options look very bleak and total chaos is impending. It seems that democratic elections were not the way to bring positive changes for the Palestinians. The results that emerged were unacceptable and now we confront an infuriated public facing the reality of political stagnation, economic and security digression.
"The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain."
The Palestinian political arena is now facing total isolation and there is no solution in sight. All previous political initiatives were derailed by both sides, and both sides are reluctant to find a new solution. While it would seem that negotiations are the best mechanism to move forward, it doesn't appear as the preferable option to both leaderships.
The international community is behaving in total ambiguity and has abdicated its responsibilities regarding the merits of a negotiated solution. Israeli egoism has turned into an obsession in self reliance preferring unilateral actions without even recognizing the other side. At the same time, a destabilized Hamas government finds itself incompetent to mitigate the drastic impacts of its victory while chaos and anarchy escalate and the daily confrontations between the government authorities spirals from day to day. The new cabinet appears unable to alleviate the situation and the promise of law and order and internal security disappears in the face of fighting vigilantes. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 24, 2006
Reverberations of Islamic Jihad’s Suicide Bombing
President Mahmoud Abbas condemned in the strongest terms the suicide bombing that Islamic Jihad undertook in Tel Aviv. Abbas remained true to his declared position against harming innocent civilians. The President did not mince words and expressed his position loud and clear. In contrast, the position of Hamas was to justify the suicide bombing as retaliation to the killing of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the massive bombardment of Gaza. In Gaza, the Al-Aqsa Brigades that belong to the Fateh movement criticized Mahmoud Abbas, but the President did not budge from his position based on moral grounds.
A New Internal Security Force
Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam in Gaza, appointed the leader of the popular brigades, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh as the head of a new security force to be formed from the various militant organizations to assist the national police and to uphold law and order. Abu Samhadaneh was simultaneously appointed Controller General, a very high position in the Interior Ministry. Abu Samhadaneh started his career in the Fateh ranks, was wanted by Israel, in the 1980’s he escaped from the Gaza Strip.In 1994 he returned to the Gaza Strip with the PLO and served in the security forces. Later he joined Hamas in the second Intifada, and is rumored to be a suspect in the killings of the three diplomats from the American Consulate in Gaza. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 21, 2006
Terror hits again
Nine more Israelis were killed this week when an Islamic Jihad youngster murdered innocent holiday celebrators at a popular worker’s restaurant near the old Tel Aviv bus station. This is the second time the same restaurant was hit. Reminiscent of the bloody Pessah of 2002, it seems that Israelis were deeply impacted by the attack and many of the usual Pessah celebrations had unusually low turnouts. Many Israelis felt safer to stay closer to home and not to show up to places where there would be large crowds. We were once again reminded that the war has not yet ended and even though the Hamas has kept itself out of direct aggression, it has not done anything to prevent other forces from attacking Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quick to condemn the attack in very strong language. All ears were waiting to see if the Hamas Prime Minister would follow in Abbas’ path, but there was no announcement at all from the PM’s office. Instead, some Hamas spokespeople said that Hamas would not condemn attacks against the occupation and the occupiers, and that Israel continues everyday to kill innocent Palestinians and that no one is raising a voice against Israel’s terrorism. READ MORE...>>>
Salvage the PA
Only way to stop deterioration is international effort to save PA
The Passover terror attack in Tel Aviv's old central bus station immediately brought back sad memories from the intifada's difficult years.
After a long period of relative quiet, fears aroused that we are again at the edge of a new cycle of violence and blood that will not lead us anywhere, just like the previous cycles. Yet despite the sorrow, anger, and desire to immediately respond in kind, we should hope that the prime minister's declaration – "We'll know how to respond and use all means at our disposal" – will be well considered.
This consideration must make a distinction between the Palestinian Authority's presidency, which condemned the attack, and the Hamas movement, whose government indeed views the attack as a "legitimate" move, but which also steers clear of carrying out similar attacks. Then there's the Islamic Jihad, the group behind the attack, which should be handled using bolder patterns than those used against it for a long time now.
דווקא עכשיו: להציל את הרשות הפלסטינית
כשעשרות אלפי רעבים יצעדו בטירוף לגדרות, העיסוק בגבול הקבע יהפוך חלום נשכח. הדרך היחידה לעצור את ההידרדרות היא להעמיד את הרשות על רגליה, במעורבות אדירה של הקהילה הבינלאומית
פיגוע הדמים בתחנה המרכזית בתל-אביב בעיצומו של חג הפסח עורר מיד זיכרונות נוגים מהשנים הקשות יותר של אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה. לאחר תקופה ארוכה של שקט ביטחוני יחסי בתוך גבולות המדינה, עולה שוב החשש כי אנו בפתחו של מעגל חדש של אלימות ודם, שכקודמיו, לא יוליך לשום מקום טוב יותר. למרות הצער, הכעס והרצון להשיב מיד מנה אחת אפיים, צריך לקוות כי הצהרת ראש הממשלה - "נדע איך להגיב ונפעל בכל האמצעים העומדים לרשותנו" - תמצה את מיטב שיקול הדעת.
שיקול זה חייב להפריד בין נשיאות הרשות שגינתה את הפיגוע; בין תנועת חמאס, שממשלתה אמנם ראתה בפיגוע מהלך "לגיטימי", אך נזהרת כמו מאש מלנקוט פעילות דומה; ובין הג'יהאד האיסלאמי, שידו היא שבמעל וראוי היה שיטופל בדפוסים קצת יותר נועזים מאלה שננקטו נגדו לאורך זמן רב. מערכת הביטחון תמצא ודאי את הדרכים להדק את הפיקוח על דרכי הגישה של מתאבדי הג'יהאד מהגדה לעומק ישראל, וזירת האירועים העיקרית תתמקד לפיכך שוב סביב רצועת עז. קרא עוד...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 17, 2006
The State of affairs in Palestine
The economic performance during 2005 seemed to show some success on the road to economic recovery, since late in 2000 when the economy now nose-dived as a result of the start of the second Intifada and Israeli measures to stifle it. 2006 appears to be heading again to conditions similar to those that led to the loss of 40 percent of GDP in 2000. The situation this year is graver, as the PA, with Hamas in government, has lost for the present time almost all international assistance including support from the EU, USA and other donor countries (Norway, World Bank). The fragile Palestinian economy, that depended on more than a billion dollars of assistance, regular transfer of revenues collected by Israel to the PA, is facing economic strangulation, by being denied the means for recovery, and driven toward total collapse.
Palestinian Democracy under Siege
In 1996, for the first time in Palestinian modern history, the people participated in general elections and elected their first parliament (the PLC) and their first president (Yasser Arafat). In that election, some of the Islamic (Hamas, Jihad) and national (PFLP, DFLP) boycotted the elections, to accentuate their opposition toward the Oslo accord that led to mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. Ten years later, the second parliamentary general elections took place under difficult Israeli repressive economic and military measures to counter the effects of the second Intifada. This time, all the Palestinian national and Islamic movements (with the exception of Islamic Jihad) participated and the democratic process led to the emergence of Hamas as the majority party in the PLC and to the demise of the previously dominant Fateh movement to become the leader of the opposition. READ MORE...>>>
In each generation each person must regard themselves as if they personally were redeemed from Egypt. Abba Eban once said "The redemption of the Jews from Egyptian bondage must be regarded in any serious view of history as one of the authentic points of climax in the progress of mankind. The memory of Israel's first struggle for freedom has inspired and consoled many subsequent movements for national independence. The Exodus is the original and classic episode of national liberation."
That memory and that struggle are retold every year by us to our children so that they will remember that we too were slaves in Egypt and today we are free. This Pessah season we will once again celebrate our liberation from slavery and our freedom as a nation.
Israel was born into struggle in 1948 and national liberation movement was celebrated by us and by humanity as a great achievement, especially after our freedom from the Nazi Pharaoh. Our struggle for redemption was just and efforts to create a free State of Israel were viewed by the world with awe. In June 1967 our victory in war led to our imprisonment into modern slavery as the occupiers of another people. We were drunk in our victory and blindly strengthened our hold on the Palestinians. Their struggle for freedom and independence eventually gained international support and solidarity, and we became the modern day Pharaoh. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 9, 2006
The Hamas Message
The Hamas movement, since before forming the new PA cabinet headed by PM Ismail Haniyeh, is sending direct and indirect messages to the Israeli government that the Hamas movement wants to extend the “tahdea” ceasefire. The Hamas leader’s main thrust is to come to an informal understanding with Israel that would commence by introducing a ceasefire to stabilize the security needs of both sides. So far, this initiative has no takers on the Israeli side which have resulted in the escalation of the cycle of violence. The Qassams continue to pour on Sderot and other targets in southern Israel and the retaliation and targeted killings proceeds as the preferred policy of Shaul Mofaz, as long as he heads the Defense Ministry.
Hamas has to deal with the launching of missiles from Gaza, and the Palestinian public is helping Hamas in demanding those who fire missiles to cease using their neighborhoods. In Israel a change of leadership at the helm of the defense ministry might bring a change of policy. This mini war of attrition will probably continue unabated until PM designate Ehud Olmert forms the new Israeli cabinet in which the leader of the Labour Party Amir Peretz might become the new defense minister, and formulate a different policy. READ MORE...>>>
יוסי בן ארי
כנתינים מיומנים של הסביבה, אנו מורגלים כבר למהומה רבתי בזירה הישראלית-פלסטינית. אך על פי דיווחי התקשורת, נראה כי בלגאן השבוע האחרון הפך כבר לכאוס בהתגלמות אולטימטיבית.
כמה דוגמאות לכך:
אולמרט, לאחר בחירתו, מזמין את אבו מאזן לחידוש המשא ומתן, אך יומיים לאחר מכן מצהיר כי הייתה זו אמירת נימוסין בלבד;
אבו מאזן קורא לחידוש המו"מ עם ישראל, אך הנייה לא רואה מקום להכיר בה ולנהל עימה דיאלוג (מחמוד אלזהר, לעומתו, כן רומז לאפשרות הסדר על בסיס "שתי מדינות לשני עמים"...);
אבו מאזן מתנגד להפעלת טרור ומגנה אותו, אך הנייה רואה בו תגובה טבעית להסלמה הישראלית בשטחים;
אבו מאזן מעוניין (כתמיד) בהרגעת השטח, אך הפת"ח (לפחות ועדות ההתנגדות העממית), המעוניין בכישלון ממשלת ה"חמאס", לא ממש נשמע לו;
הנייה "מכשיר" טרור, אך מעוניין בהפסקת אש בכדי לייצב את שלטונו ולמנוע עילה מישראל מלהעצים את התקיפות נגד הרשות. אולם למרות שהוא הריבון כעת ואחראי על הביטחון, הוא לא עשה בינתיים דבר ממשי בכדי לסכל פעילות טרור בשטח (ולמה שיעשה אם טרור נתפס כדרך תגובה לגיטימית?); קרא עוד...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
April 7, 2006
I was out of the country most of this week attending the Fourth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy held in Istanbul. Together with about 700 democracy advocates from 120 countries, Hanna Siniora and I represented IPCRI in this quite remarkable gathering of activists and NGO leaders from around the world. The World Movement for Democracy (http://www.wmd.org/) brings together an amazing group of individuals who in many parts of the world take great risks and make great personal sacrifices to fight for the cause of freedom. This is the second Assembly of the World Movement that I have attended, at the last one two years ago in Durban South Africa IPCRI was awarded the Democracy Courage Tribute marking IPCRI’s work towards peace and justice between Israelis and Palestinians. This year’s tributes were awarded to the courageous freedom fights from Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Nepal and the Crimean Tartars. It is an honor for IPCRI to be counted amongst these brave people.
The main story of this past week has been the beginning of the scrambling of the various political actors in Israel towards the forming of the next coalition government. On Thursday, President Moshe Katzav formally appointed Kadima leader Ehud Olmert as the Prime Minister Designate. Olmert now has a first period of 28 days to form the coalition of at least 61 members of the newly elected Knesset. In last week’s column I warned not to take all of the news reports concerning coalition negotiations seriously, as most of the announcements published and leaked by the political parties are “spins” that are an integral part of the negotiating process. The best evidence of this are the early announcements that Labour would not be part of the coalition until it became known that Olmert and Amir Peretz held a secret meeting to conclude that Labour would be the main second party in the next government. Now the spins concern the other partners and the appointment of Ministers.
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
March 31, 2006
Elections – finally over!!!!
Elections are finally behind us. I admit, I got it wrong, but I was only guessing, what can the official pollsters say for themselves? Millions of dollars were spent on the polls – did they predict the outcome – no! Did they influence the outcome – probably yes! The election results were a big surprise filled with some good news and with same bad news. The best news is the 12 seats that Likud got. Binyamin Bibi Netanyhu together with a little help from his friend Arik Sharon, brought down the Likud. Now in the aftermath, the in-fighting in the Likud may finally bring down Netanyahu himself. That is good news for Israeli politics. It is also good that Kadima won enough seats to head the next government, but not enough to for them to be as arrogant as they were before the elections. Kadima will need coalition partners, and therefore; it is good that Amir Peretz pulled the Labour party through with 20 seats. I personally wished that Labour would have done better, but 20 seats is strong enough to prevent Kadima from calling all of the shots. Labour demonstrated a strong showing with quite a lot of solidarity that Peretz succeeded in building around his leadership. He came through as the party leader after years during which Shimon Peres sabotaged any chance of new leaders emerging. Amir Peretz is a breath of fresh air in Labour and he deserves a lot of credit. READ MORE...>>>
The outcome of the Israeli elections will determine to a great extent the nature of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians for the years to come. The statements made this week by Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh mark a significant change in Hamas's position.
Haniyeh said: "We don't want a whirlpool of blood in this region. We want the rights and dignity of our people. We also want to put an end to this complicated conflict that has been going on for decades… Hamas's presence in power marks the beginning of resolving the crisis."
This is the first time a Hamas leader has spoken about the possibility of ending the conflict with Israel and it raises serious questions regarding the wisdom of Israel's policy of unilateralism.
Haim Ramon said that Israel will give the Palestinians one year to fulfill their road map commitments regarding "one Authority - one gun," after which Israel would act unilaterally to determine Israel's borders without negotiations. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
March 27, 2006
Abbas Letter to PM Designate
President Mahmoud Abbas, before leaving to attend the Arab summit in Khartoum-Sudan, sent a letter to Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister designate warning the Hamas leadership that if the new cabinet adopts positions that would be detrimental to Palestinian interests, then Abbas will use his authority according to the Basic Law. The Basic Law, in the absence of a Palestinian constitution empowers the president to disband the Hamas cabinet.
In the letter, President Abbas notes that declared Hamas policies would damage diplomatic achievements that previous PA governments realized, also not to give Israel the pretext not to negotiate, additionally not to block precious foreign aid and funding to the PA.
Minister of Tourism Resigns
Tanas Abu Aytah declined accepting the position of minister of Tourism in the Hamas cabinet that is due to be sworn in on Monday before the PLC. Abu Aytah refused to give reasons for declining the post. It is believed that mounting pressure was faced by Abu Aytah not to accept the post of minister of tourism. Abu Aytah is the brother of ex PLC member Mitri Abu Aytah from the Bethlehem district, who was for two terms a former minister of tourism. Until a replacement is found, the Hamas cabinet will lack a Christian Palestinian representative.
Dr. Yossi Ben Ari*
Sunday, March 26, 2006
In mid December 2005 a group of Israelis and Palestinian met in Jericho under IPCRI’s auspices to continue discussing the best way to advance the Israeli-Palestinian political process. The group included academics, journalists, security experts and civil society activists of various NGOs that work on peace building between the sides. The weekend led to the birth of an understanding that on both sides it would be difficult to return to the negotiating table towards advancing a permanent status agreement. It was understood then, by the Palestinian side as well as the Israeli side, that progress is possible in two stages, connected to each other from the outset as a package deal: stage one that would last about three years and would be dedicated to implementing a unilateral Israeli disengagement from most of the West Bank. That time would be used by the Palestinians to build state institutions and the transference of the reins of authority to people in the Palestinian government. In the second stage, following the ripening of the first stage, the sides would return to negotiations to reach an agreement, preferably a permanent status one, in order to finally fulfill the idea of two states for two peoples. READ MORE...>>>
March 26, 2006
The Israeli incursion into Jericho is but another indication to the development of the future of Israeli Palestinian relations. It is a clear sign of the end of any political solution and a final death blow to the peace process. It also signals a new circle of violence between the two people. The unnecessary and unacceptable Jericho military operation was a clear breach of an international agreement by Israel and its actions have slammed the door that was still slightly open for peace. Perhaps Israel can blame the Palestinians for everything that has happened, but in reality, Israel should only blame itself for empowering Hamas. Israel’s failure to engage the Palestinian Authority under Abu Mazen has led directly to the empowerment of Hamas, and now, Israel does not have to worry about keeping agreements because Hamas will systematically revoke all the agreements between the sides.
The Israeli aggressions empower Hamas' position in not trusting the Israeli government. After Jericho, Hamas is right for not accepting the signed agreements between Israel and the PLO. Israel has proven that there no agreements that are sacred for Israel. Hamas is also right in conditioning relations with Israel on Israel first recognizing Palestinian rights and in demanding serious international guarantees. Since Israel has unilaterally revoked all of the agreements, there is no base to demand that Hamas recognize the agreements with Israel. There are no implemented agreements anymore, starting from Oslo and ending with the agreements on Rafah and the other crossings. READ MORE...>>>
יוסי בן ארי
26 במרץ 2006
באמצע דצמבר 2005, התכנסה ביריחו קבוצה ישראלית - פלסטינית, לדיון בהמשך הראוי לתהליך המדיני בין ישראל לפלסטינים. הקבוצה כללה אנשי אקדמיה, תקשורת, ביטחון ופעילי של ארגונים אזרחים שעניינם קרוב השלום בין הצדדים. סוף השבוע המשותף הוליד אז הסכמה, כי למערכות המדיניות בשני הצדדים, יהיה קשה מאד לחזור לדיונים בכדי לקדם הסדר. הובן אז, גם בצד הפלסטיני, כי התקדמות אפשרית רק בשני שלבים, קשורים זה בזה ומוסכמים מראש כחבילה אחת: האחד, שימשך כשלוש שנים, יוקדש לביצוע נסיגה ישראלית חד צדדית, מרוב שטחי יו"ש וינוצל על ידי הפלסטינים לבניית מוסדות המדינה והעברת מושכות ניהולה לאנשי הממשל של הרשות. בשלב השני, לאחר הבשלת קודמו, יחזרו הצדדים למשא ומתן דו צדדי בכדי להגיע להסדר, רצוי הסכם קבע, במטרה לממש סוף סוף את רעיון "שתי מדינות לשני עמים".
זמן קצר לאחר מכן סדרי עולם החלו להתהפך: שרון חלה והושבת מעשייה מדינית וגם אם "קדימה" שמרה על אינרציה, ניצחון ה"חמאס" היה מהלך של "מט" למציאות כולה. מדיניות ה"חמאס", תנאי ממשלת ישראל להדברות עם ממשלת ה"חמאס" והחרמת אבו מאזן כפרטנר אלטרנטיבי אפשרי לאסמעיל הנייה וחבורתו, יצרו מבוי סתום לכל אפשרות לדיאלוג והעמידו גם את "רעיונות יריחו" באור מגוחך. זאת ועוד: במציאות הנתק הדו צדדי, נכונות אולמרט לקצוב זמן להתדיינות מדינית קודם כניסה מעשית לביצוע תכנית ההתכנסות, נראית לא יותר ממס שפתיים שצריך לשלם, הן ל"שלום בית" והן בכדי שישראל תמנע מעצמה בקהילה הבינלאומית קיטונות של רותחין בגין חזרה על דפוס פעולה חד צדדי והתרחקות מאפשרות הגעה להסדר מוסכם. קרא עוד...>>>
Friday, March 24, 2006
The main challenge facing the next government of Israel will remain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There have never been magic formulas to resolve the conflict and even in the era of unilateralism, there are no magic wands that Israeli politicians can wave in the air and make the conflict go away.
Unilateralism developed in an atmosphere created by Israeli so-called “security experts” who manipulated politicians with imbedded anti-Palestinian sentiments that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side. The notion that Yasser Arafat planned and launched the intifada as a political strategy cannot be proven by any real intelligence information. Israeli security officials distorted intelligence assessments that clearly pointed that Arafat went to Camp David and came back from Camp David committed to reaching a negotiated agreement. After the breakdown of negotiations and the Israeli-US attempt to place 100% of the blame for failure on Arafat, he allowed to intifada to carry on without taking decisive steps to rein it in as a tactical move. Arafat’s bad choice was faced with a disproportionate Israeli aggressive military response and a huge amount of civilian casualties in the first weeks of the intifada. Arafat could not contain the Palestinian public’s anger which was too strong to reel in without a full Israeli ceasefire. Israel refused to order a ceasefire until Arafat took full control of the violence. The “catch 22” cycle of violence led to Barak’s downfall – even though he continued to negotiate while the violence continued. Once Barak lost the elections and Sharon allowed battalion commanders to have a free hand, invading Palestinian controlled areas and taking the battle to fight against the Palestinian police and security forces that were not part of the fighting, the wave of suicide bombers was released that led to real Israeli casualties and produced the Israeli demand of seven days of quiet before any talks would take place. READ MORE...>>>
[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
March 24, 2006
Four days until Election Day and there are still close to 20% of the public that has not decided how they will vote. In addition to the 20% confused voters, it is estimated that close to 25% of the public won’t even vote. These numbers are unprecedented in Israeli politics. The media has complained that this has been the most boring, most complacent election campaign in the history of elections in Israel.
The political map in Israel has changed almost beyond recognition in the past four months. During the past few months major changes have occurred that were almost impossible to imagine. Ariel Sharon has disappeared. Amir Peretz took over the Labour party. Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik deserted Labour for Kadima. Most of the previous leadership of the Likud and most of its membership left for Kadima. The new center party has created a mishmash of left and right personified by Shimon Peres on the left and Tzahi Hanegbi on the right. The Labour Party has moved from being the home of the upper middle class Ashkenazi bourgeois to a real social democratic party representing the original values of the labour movement in its early days. Shinui has been wiped of the political map. Leiberman has emerged as a new and potentially strong political force. The radical right has been decimated. Never before has Israel experienced so many significant changes in the political scene. READ MORE...>>>