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."
Clinton departed Washington Saturday after giving Israel Presidential statements
for still more billions in the next eight years as well as a new high-tech fighter/bomber
never yet provided to any other country. Literally as Bush took the oath of
office American jets bombed Iraq, killing six more -- the new President having
noted that "we will deal with Iraq" in a pre-inaugural interview. And at the
same time Clinton was going and Bush was coming the Barak government announced
round-the-clock negotiations with the Arafat regime desperately looking for any
possible way to head off the sweeping Sharon victory expected in just a few weeks
Barak and the Labor party are now reeping what they themselves have sown.
Whatever the merits of the current arguments, whatever the realities and dangers
of Sharon, there's not much credibility left for those who have for so long practiced
the art of gross political deception and chicanery -- both with their own people
as well as with the Palestinians.
And down the road the Americans may well face a similar fate as they too will
eventually have to pay a price for their many duplicitous, repressive, and blood-drenched
deeds. They too will one day reap what they have sown. What the CIA and the
American military have been able to get away with in past decades has set the
stage for ongoing regional turmoil, growing disallusionment, violence, and bloodshed.
BARAK IN UPHILL ELECTION BATTLE
By DAN PERRY
"If a deal is somehow reached before the election,
the entire dynamic of the campaign could change."
JERUSALEM (AP - Jan 20) - Running out of options fast, embattled Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak now hopes the ``painful truth'' will get him re-elected.
Trying a new, blunt, go-for-broke approach, Barak has been telling Israelis this
week that it's time to discard illusions - that for peace, Israel must give up
more than 90 percent of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, dismantle settlements,
and negotiate with the Palestinians even under fire.
``I have decided to end once and forever the reality in which (Israel's) leaders
mislead the public,'' Barak told TV viewers. ``The truth hurts, but the public
is mature and will be able to handle the painful truth.''
Maybe not, suggest the polls, where Barak trails hawkish challenger Ariel Sharon
by some 20 percent - unprecedented this close to an election and doubly surprising
given Sharon's controversial past.
In the past decade, the complexities of the peace process and its accompanying
violence have managed in one way or another to fell four successive Israeli prime
ministers, from Yitzhak Shamir to Benjamin Netanyahu, regardless of whether they
are hawks or doves.
Now Israelis look set to turn hawkish again by electing the Likud Party's Sharon.
Barak's key problem ahead of the Feb. 6 vote is that what many Israelis perceive
as his generous offers to date not only were rejected but also met with a four-month
Palestinian uprising that has killed hundreds of people and left the security
and economic cooperation of the 1990s interim accords in ruin.
``The last months have not increased Israelis' belief that the Palestinians will
keep their commitments in a peace agreement,'' said Barry Rubin, an Israeli analyst.
Since July, Barak has agreed to a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank
and Gaza, and a Palestinian capital in the Arab part of Jerusalem. He also agreed
to dismantle many Jewish settlements deep in Palestinian territory while annexing
blocs of others close to Israel - giving the Palestinians a swath of Israeli
desert in return. And he has dropped Israel's demand to hold onto the strategic
Jordan River Valley.
These are breathtaking concessions by Israel's standards, but they leave two
huge issues unresolved: control of Jerusalem's holy sites and the Palestinian
demand for the right to return to homes they lost when Israel came into being
in 1948. Barak refuses even to discuss the latter demand, believing like most
Israelis that millions of returning Palestinians would swamp the country's 5
Most of the victims of the violence that erupted in late September are Palestinian,
and Israeli travel restrictions have disrupted every aspect of Palestinian life.
What matters most to Israeli voters, however, is the bombs that explode in their
cities, the Jewish settlers gunned down on the roads and, this weekend, the killing
of a 16-year-old boy who apparently was lured to his murderers over the Internet.
Many Israelis have criticized Barak's agreement to go on negotiating under such
circumstances - and at the height of an election campaign.
The proud - some say arrogant - Barak insists there is no alternative and describes
the fighting as the ``probably inevitable'' endgame of tough negotiations.
Barak and his top Cabinet ministers on Saturday agreed to hold marathon talks
with the Palestinians in Egypt. The new talks were expected to start Sunday night
in an isolated area outside Cairo, or in the Red Sea resort of Taba.
If a deal is somehow reached before the election, the entire dynamic of the campaign
But for now, Barak is hobbled among some key constituencies:
The 1.2 million Israeli Arabs who helped propel him to victory in 1999 and now
are outraged that 13 of their number were gunned down by Israeli police in October
during protests in support of their Palestinian brethren.
Jewish leftists, angry that it took Barak so long to make the concessions they
regard as essential for peace, and that he failed to deliver on promises to curb
the power of religious parties.
Centrists alarmed at the extent of his concessions to the Palestinians.
A grass-roots campaign has sprung up to replace Barak with dovish elder statesman
Shimon Peres. Polls show Peres matching or even overtaking Sharon, aided largely
by the probable support of the Israeli Arabs.
While Barak struggles to explain his concessions, keep Peres at bay and mollify
Israeli Arab voters, Sharon presents himself as a kindly grandfather who will
somehow get more from the Palestinians and give less.
A Sharon plan leaked to the Haaretz newspaper this week speaks of allowing a
Palestinian state only in islands of disconnected territory, of maintaining the
settlements and conceding nothing in Jerusalem.
``I will bring peace,'' Sharon nonetheless promises. ``For 52 years all of us
in Israel have been fighting to live in peace. We need peace. We need security.
We must have both together.''
Sharon, a constant and powerful patron of the settler movement, also plays to
a yearning for national unity by promising to invite Barak into his government.
Barak's TV campaign hammers away at Sharon's record of consistently opposing
earlier Mideast peace accords. He is reminding voters that Sharon, as defense
minister, launched the bloody and unpopular invasion of Lebanon to expel the
PLO in 1982.
Sharon stepped down as defense minister a year later after a commission of inquiry
found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon by an Israeli-allied Christian militia.
Israel's ordeal in Lebanon ended only last May, when Barak ordered a unilateral
pullout from the strip Israel occupied in the south of the country.
BACKGROUND: BARAK'S PRE-ELECTION TABA TALKS
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
[IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis - 20 January)]:
Israel Radio senior diplomatic correspondent Yoni Ben Menachem
reported this evening that a senior source in Prime Minister Ehud
Barak's office says the purpose of the ten days of
Israeli-Palestinian marathon talks staring on Sunday at Taba is to
neutralize the Israeli Left.
The source explained that Barak plans to veer Right in the last days
of the campaign (when it is too late for Shimon Peres to replace him)
in order to garner more of the undecided votes. Barak will point to
the failed talks and present his plans for unilateral actions, asking
for public support. Barak believes that the Left will be unable to
criticize this move after top leaders of the Left, including Beilin
and Sarid, fail to reach a deal at Taba.
Many analysts believe that Arafat plans to negotiate with the Barak
team as long as Israel continues to make additional concessions.
Concessions it hopes to set as Israel's opening position in further
negotiations. Over the weekend the Palestinians reported "progress"
in the form of additional Israeli territorial concessions but the
Prime Minister's Office denied them to Israel Radio.
While many observers point to the right of return as the issue that
will ultimately bury the talks, this is far from clear since a
politically workable resolution of the issue is possible if the
politicians are convinced that they can rely on the sophistication of
the Palestinian community and the naivete of the Israeli public.
A "Beilin type" of solution would have several points:
+ Israel agrees to the return of Palestinian refugees to within the
Green Line within the framework of "family reunification" and
"humanitarian considerations" without defining what constitutes a
"family" (nuclear, cousins, etc.), "humanitarian", or setting a
+ Israel recognizes the application of Resolution 194 (right of
return) as being implement through the agreement.
+ The Palestinians agree to declaring the end of the conflict AFTER
Israel has satisfactorily implemented the agreement.
The Israeli side can explain that they are confident that the
agreement means the immigration of a small number of refugees into
Israel, noting the many Palestinian "winks" and "off the record
promises" that this was the unwritten understanding. This would be
consistent with the seven years of such Palestinain communications.
On the other hand, the Palestinian side can point to the land gained
and reassure their public that they will only declare an end of the
conflict when they are satisfied that Israel has satisfactorily
implemented 194 via the agreement.
The Palestinian leadership can note that when they determine that
Israel has failed to honor its obligations that they will be able to
pursue other options from a far stronger position against Israel than
it enjoys today (as evidenced by Chief of Staff General Mofaz's
warning that the Clinton plan withdraws Israel to indefensible
Would the Israeli public be so naive? Some believe that a
combination of heavy media support for a deal plus the notoriously
short Israeli attention span might make such a move possible.
As for the Palestinian side, success depends on the willingness of
opposition forces to cooperate. In the past, Hamas leadership has
cooperated from time to time when it was clear that short term
cooperation would yield significant Israeli concessions. In addition,
the Palestinian leadership can even publicly spell out their plans to
the Palestinian public without having to worry that this may
undermine Israeli support for the agreement as the Israelis will
excuse the talk as being "for domestic consumption."
ISRAEL'S BARAK SNAPS OVER OPINION POLL QUESTIONS
By Howard Goller
JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - 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
Trailing rightist Likud party leader Ariel Sharon by double digits, Barak was
asked repeatedly whether he would abandon the race against Sharon to his Labour
Party comrade, Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres.
"I'm not prepared to deal with this issue," Barak said.
The interview reached a nadir when his Army Radio host Razi Barkai asked whether
Barak would drop out of politics if he lost the election.
Barak complained he was not being given the time he needed to answer the questions.
Having reached half past the hour, Barkai promised to continue talking to Barak
after a news bulletin.
"So if you are ready, just to listen to the news bulletin, I will immediately
get back to you," Barkai said.
"I am not ready, thank you," Barak snapped. "I am not going to continue," he
said -- and cut short the conversation.
Barak agreed to resume the telephone interview a short time later, but the incident
raised more questions than it answered.
"He speaks from the heart," his campaign adviser Eldad Yaniv told Army Radio
later. Yaniv said interviewers should be asking the candidates about more serious
issues at so critical a time in the country's history.
Barak has come under fire from leftist politicians who prefer Peres over him
and from right-wingers who accuse him of launching marathon talks on Sunday in
hopes of forging a peace deal with the Palestinians to save his political skin.
"Are you asking the candidates the serious questions they must be asked and not
the tasty bits?" Yaniv asked his interviewer.
"'Peres yes?' 'Peres no?' Indeed the prime minister has announced he will run
until the end, so he will run to the end. There's no point in asking that question
day and night."
SHARON NOT BOUND BY ANY DEAL
Underscoring Barak's problems, advisers to Sharon said their candidate would
not be bound by any Palestinian peace deal Barak might reach in up to 10 days
of ministerial-level talks due to begin late on Sunday in Egypt's Red Sea resort
"He has no mandate to do what he is doing now. All these talks in Taba are simply
regrettable because they bring about a situation where he does everything to
save his seat," Sharon's campaign adviser Silvan Shalom told Army Radio.
"Any paper Ehud Barak will sign with the Palestinians now a week before the elections
in our view doesn't bind us," he said.
A peace deal could boost Barak's re-election hopes -- or hurt him if voters believed
he had made too many concessions.
The ballot is being held against the backdrop of almost four months of bloodshed
in which at least 309 Palestinians, 45 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been
Barak insisted in his radio interview: "We intend to win these elections despite
the polls." Justice Minister Yossi Beilin predicted the Sharon-Barak gap would
narrow with the approach of the election.
Barak lost his coalition majority in July over his willingness to make compromises
with Palestinians and resigned under pressure in December to pave the way for
elections more than two years before the end of his term.
Sharon opposes concessions favoured by Barak in talks with the Palestinians.
"It must be clear to the Israelis, to the Palestinians and the Americans every
paper of this kind deviates from the mandate Ehud Barak has," Shalom said. "Since
his resignation, he has no moral or legal mandate to do this."