Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
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Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians

January 16, 2001

With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals. Last night Israeli television reported that Shimon Peres himself said that a major new agreement with "the Palestinians" (read Arafat of course) may be signed on Thursday. A few hours earlier this brief news story was published by the Ha'aretz news service: "MK Rehavam Ze'evi (National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu) said a credible source has informed him that an agreement of principles will be signed between Israel and the Palestinians on Thursday, Israel Radio reported.

According to the agreement, 250,000 Palestinians will be allowed to return to Israel over a period of five years to be reunited with their families. Ze'evi said that Israel had agreed to transfer East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, to the Palestinians.

Ze'evi said that Prime Minister Ehud Barak received a draft of the agreement in the weekend. The Prime Minister's Office denied Ze'evi's claims and said that the fact an MK had said such things could weaken Israel's position in the negotiations. Israel will renew negotiations with the Palestinians on Tuesday. Talks were halted for one day Monday to protest the killing of Jewish settler Roni Tzalach."


"Barak to Army: 'Shake out the dust from every corner to complete preparations' for war."

In the Egyptian publication Al-Ahram Weekly -- an attempt by the Egyptian government to give international readers something useful in English -- an article appears this week by Graham Usher with a picture captioned: "Israeli war criminal Sharon during an election tour."

What the article, and what the publication, forget to mention is that in recent years Sharon has been the invited guest of both the Egyptian and Jordanian governments; that they themselves have helped legitimize Sharon and made his rise to the Prime Ministership possible.*

But then that is the role of Al-Ahram, and the journalists it courts -- to be politically correct from the point-of-view of the Arab "client regimes". I.E., to mention those things that are OK to mention at the time it is OK to mention them; to cover up and twist from memory those things that are not. It is a more sophisticated kind of propaganda machine then in the past; and admittedly some interesting and worthwhile articles are published when it comes to what is happening in Israel and to the Palestinians.

Even so, when it comes to Al-Ahram, Al-Hayat, as well as Al-Jezera, always remember the following:

They all have lots of money, publish a variety of acceptible journalists, and oftentimes what is published on certainly subjects is quite informative. Yet always remember that these are essentially Arab government-manipulated publications with an agenda of their own and don't expect to find the whole story, especially when it comes to the realities of what the "client regimes" themselves are doing, not doing, and why.

With these important caveats in mind, this is an insightful article about both Generals Sharon, and Barak, and the state of Israeli politics today.

By Graham Usher

[Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, 11 - 17 January 2001]:
On 8 January tens of thousands of Israeli Jews gathered before the floodlit ramparts of the Old City to "pledge allegiance" to Jerusalem as the united, eternal capital of Israel. They danced alongside its walls, surged up Jaffa Street and down Road Number One, the highway that today marks the border where the Green Line used to run. But not a single one spilled over onto the eastern side of the city. For most Israeli Jews, Palestinian Jerusalem is instinctively off-limits. And this is because it is not "united". It is under occupation.

Not that such political and national realities were going to spoil this Jerusalem bash. Billed as a "non-partisan solidarity demonstration" against any division of Jerusalem, the party was actually the opening salvo in Ariel Sharon's campaign to become Israel's prime minister on 6 February. The gathering was peopled by his staunchest constituencies: Israeli nationalists from his Likud Party and National Religious Jews from the settler movements.

The fact that Sharon did not show at the rally is entirely in keeping with his campaign strategy. For that intends to erase from the Israeli collective memory such minor blemishes as his role in the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982 and the recommendation by an Israeli Independent Commission that such a man should never be allowed to hold the post of defence minister. In those days the idea that Sharon could become prime minister was simply unimaginable. But times change.

And so to all electoral appearances has Sharon. Out on the stump he rarely speaks of war or even "security." He speaks of peace, but "a different peace, a safer peace, a better peace" than what either US President Bill Clinton has proposed or the Palestinians could possibly accept. On the contrary, the discourse of war belongs not to Sharon and Likud but to their main contenders, Ehud Barak and Labour.

Last week, Barak said that he had ordered his army to "shake out the dust from every corner to complete preparations" for war. This nightmare scenario was woven from a wholly idiosyncratic vision sketched by the Israeli leader. Under this, unless an agreement is signed with the Palestinians before the next Israeli elections, the Intifada will develop into a wholesale regional conflagration, burning away Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in the blaze. The choice before the Israeli electorate on 6 February is therefore stark: vote for Barak or face the apocalypse.

Barak's warning sent shudders down the spines of the Israeli public (and a portion of the Arab public too). But it was news to the Israeli army. True, there had been an upgrade in strategic assessments that the likelihood of a regional conflict has increased due to the Palestinian uprising. But that assessment took place three months ago. Nothing since then has either heightened or lowered the chances of war. Nothing that is except Barak's desperate gamble to run head-to-head against Sharon in the race to be Israel's next prime minister.

The same cynical manipulation of the public mood can be seen in the "negative" campaign Barak and his team are waging against Sharon. The Likud leader -- who has long been a confidante of Barak -- is portrayed as the wolf who today dresses as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother. It was Sharon -- intones Barak -- who took Israel into Lebanon. It was Sharon who built the "political" settlements in the West Bank and Gaza that today are proving such an "obstacle" to peace. And it was Sharon's reckless visit to the Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September that sparked the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

None of this is false by way of historical record. But coming from Barak it is utterly disingenuous. For as a then major general in the army, Barak supported Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. As prime minister, he also built more settlements in the occupied territories in his first (and probably only) year of office than Binyamin Netanyahu did in his last. And for the last three and a half months Barak has been telling all and sundry (including the Mitchell Committee established by the Sharm Al-Sheikh summit) that the Intifada had nothing to do with Sharon's visit. It was rather "orchestrated" by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to improve the Palestinians' position at the negotiating table.

Nor is he fooling anyone, least of all the Israeli electorate. The latest polls show him trailing Sharon by some 18 points. The sad truth is the more Barak bangs on about peace, war and Sharon, the fewer Israelis believe him.

In such circumstances Sharon could probably stay at home for the next month and still win the election. Instead he is preening himself as a dove and mouthing the words to Likud's campaign jingle that "Only Sharon can bring peace." But Sharon's peace is no less a fiction than is Barak's war.

In an interview last week with the Reka radio station for Israel's Russian immigrants, Sharon reminisced about the methods he had used as the head of the army's Southern Command to crush the Palestinian resistance in Gaza in 1970. He had ploughed through the camps, shot dead anyone suspected of nationalist activity and conquered the strip area by area. "I succeeded in bringing quiet to Gaza for 10 years," Sharon recalled. Would he use the same methods again? "Today the situation is different but", he added, "the principles are the same principles."

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

Locking in Oslo
(January 12, 2001)
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict. It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed, but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation" that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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