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                    "PEACE PROCESS" MANEUVERS

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 6/7/00:

This just in from Israel -- new elections ahead?

But it's hard to say at this point, what's going on.  Barak is a former commando General who knows well how to manipulate and deceive in order to prepare the way for what he wants.  He and his largely military and intelligence government are now using a similar approach manipulating the levers of politics in addition to Israel's military and covert capabilities.

The recent "assassination" scares, all the hoopla about Abu Dis, talk of a "fund" for "resettlement" of refugees, pushing for an Arafat-Barak-Clinton Camp David summit, and now this -- it all fits in well with what appears to be Barak's complicated multifaceted and multi-option strategy.  And it goes something like this.

Let the U.S. do much of the heavy lifting and pay the big bills; get the Europeans to continue staying out of the way but also to promise more big money to Arafat; use the Clinton situation and Israeli power in the States to continually press Arafat into a corner for a "final settlement"; manipulate Arab opinion by repackaging old policies with new rhetoric and terminology; keep playing the Syrians off against the Palestinians, using military threats to further worry them coupled with economic and personal bribe incentives to further entice them.

This is a time of major leverage for the Israelis and they know it.  Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright haves always been in their pocket, no matter what political theatrics are played out for public opinion, and never has Clinton wanted and needed a Middle East deal at any cost more than now.   Arafat is in a corner and on the ropes -- and no matter how much he squirms and pretends otherwise he is controlled and manipulated by the Israelis and the CIA which are everywhere around him, listening and watching everything he does, and well aware that they have unprecedented leverage over a Palestinian leader.  Iraq has been destroyed, the Syrian military is in bad shape, the Hashemite King is their man as was his father before him, they have extricated themselves from Lebanon with the U.N. now being pushed to protect that border for them, and their military and economic strength relative to all the Arab states combined gives the little State of Israel quite an unbelievable 8 to 1 edge.

So, if the historic deals Israel desperately wants the current Arab leaders to sign before its too late can be made, fantastic.  If a historic deal that suits Israel's long-term interests and which legitimizes most of Israel's gains can be had, they want very much to quickly grab it while Arafat is there to sign on the dotted line; and the same with Assad.  The time has never been better for them; the deals have never been more weighted in Israel's favor.

But if for whatever reasons neither deal with the Palestinians or Syrians works out as Israel wants to "end the conflict", they are still positioned extremely well.  Barak will claim the Israelis went the extra mile time and again "to achieve peace".  The Arabs and their friends are as incapable of defending against the Israeli-American propaganda machine as they are of taking on Israel militarily.  The Israelis can fall back on alternative policies, including their military might, if anyone dares to seriously challenge them.  Syria only has to look at what was done to Iraq and Yugoslavia in recent years to see how dangerous the situation is for them.  And Iran should be very worried as well.

And furthermore, if Barak really gets into any serious problems he can let the "new election" gambit go forward, buy himself more time, see if he is going to be dealing with George W. or Gore in Washington, let Arafat's stew boil over into further chaos and mafioso ways further demoralizing the Palestinians who are now on reservations patrolled by Palestinian police with overall Israeli-CIA control.  And all the while the Israelis and the Americans will keep telling Arafat and Assad, for as long as they are alive, that they are missing their historical moment; continually squeezing and threatening them hoping one or both will choose the accolades the Israelis can arrange for them rather than passing away with the much more negative legacies the Israelis can also help arrange for them.

This article about the latest political maneuvers in Israel from the AP this morning:


JERUSALEM (AP by Mark Lavie, 6/7/00) - Israel's parliament gave preliminary approval today to a bill to hold early elections - a move that could freeze Middle East peacekeeping for months.

The legislation was approved with a clear 61-48 majority in the 120-member parliament, with the support of three of six parties in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government.

However, the legislation faces three more votes, leaving plenty of time for political maneuvering, and there were indications that some coalition legislators who backed the bill simply wanted to send a warning to Barak, but not topple him.

Cabinet Minister Haim Ramon said he was confident the bill would be voted down in the next session.

The crisis erupted after Barak refused to give his largest coalition partner, Shas, millions of additional dollars for its bankrupt, scandal-ridden Orthodox school system. He also broke off talks after Shas announced it would vote for new elections.

Health Minister Shlomo Ben-Izri of Shas suggested today that the party's 17 legislators supported the early elections bill because they did not want to give in to Barak's ultimatum over the school system, not because they wanted early elections.

``We don't want to topple the government,'' Ben-Izri said. ``No one wants to go to early elections, and the ball is now back in the prime minister's court. ... If he wants to sit down seriously and solve the crisis, then he is welcome.''

Before the vote, Barak and his aides warned that Cabinet ministers who voted for the early elections bill would not be able to remain in the government.

Ramon, speaking in parliament, said the vote was a watershed. ``You cannot fight from inside the government against the government,'' he said.

A defiant Barak had said Tuesday that his government would ``not give in to threats, external or internal.'' Sitting next to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - visiting to promote Israel-Palestinian negotiations - Barak denounced coalition parties prepared to endanger his government as peace moves intensify.

Barak now has several options. He can try to appease Shas by resuming negotiations over funding for the school system, or he can fire all the ministers who did not support him and try to put together a new coalition ahead of the next vote. One candidate is the secular rights party Shinui, which has said it was ready to join the government provided the religious factions were expelled.

If Shinui joins the coalition, Barak could count on a narrow majority in parliament, with Arab legislators backing the government from the outside.

The other two coalition partners that supported the early elections bill are the National Religious Party, a patron of the Jewish settlement movement, and Israel B'Aliya, which represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Both parties are hawkish and have said they would quit the coalition over territorial concessions to the Palestinians and Syria.

Barak said he is not afraid of facing the voters, adding that ``the people will judge all those who are interfering'' with his efforts to make peace with the Arabs.

If elections are called, Barak himself might remain in power. Under Israel's election system, the prime minister is elected separately from legislators.

Today's preliminary reading could have passed even with a simple majority of those lawmakers present and voting. The subsequent three votes require an absolute majority of 61.

Israel's election system, instituted in 1996, contains its own triggers for constant coalition crises, fragmenting the parliament into more than a dozen factions. In last year's election, Israelis split their ballots, voting for Barak in overwhelming numbers but giving his party only 26 seats. Shas received 17 while Likud, the main opposition party, got 19 seats.

Barak's coalition contains its own seeds of self-destruction. His left-center One Israel faction is teamed with the secular, dovish Meretz on the left and right-leaning parties like Shas, the National Religious Party and Israel B'Aliyah.

Barak took office hoping he could cement wide support for his peace efforts, but that hope quickly faded as his partners returned to their traditional positions.

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