Panic in the Barak camp
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Panic in the Barak camp

January 27, 2001


Everything went wrong for Sharon last week, but he is still way in the lead and it is Barak who is desperate.

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. Peres, always the politician, is at this point treated more sparingly; but he too it appears would loose now to Ariel Sharon.

Thus Labor's demise. It really started in the late '70s when Yitzhak Rabin lost out to arch-nemesis Menachem Begin. Then switching power regularly, the Begin years were followed by Yitzhak Shamir, with Labor's top guys sometimes serving as Ministers in National Unity Governments led by the Likud Revisionists.

Now there is the coming of Ariel Sharon, someone most Israelis, and certainly most American Jews, never thought would have a chance of taking power. But then the liberal Germans never expected Hitler and the Nazis to do so either.

The unraveling of the duplicitous "peace" and the coming of Sharon is causing some to even think it just could be the beginning of the end -- read David Hirst's remarkably insightful article that follows later today, "The End of Israel?"

As for Peres' comment -- "I wish I would (be hopeful), but, as I said, we don't have enough time" -- what patent nonsense. Peres -- a disciple of Ben-Gurion who made the fateful decision to estabish a "Jewish State" rather than an all-inclusive "bi-national State" -- has had 52 years to stop the racism, to stop the illegal policies, to stop the deceptions, to stop the killing, and to provide justice to the Palestinian refugees. Having failed on all counts now we are all on the threshold of a new more hateful era of ceaseless communal warfare between Jews and Arabs that shouldn't and needn't have been. And in this new era that they have collectively wrought there are ballistic missiles, nuclear bombs, and biological toxins, not to mention cell-phone bombs.

By Megan Goldin

JERUSALEM, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong this week for Israel's leading hawk, Ariel Sharon, but it barely made a dent in opinion polls that predict he will be victorious in a February 6 election.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak's team waited with bated breath for the latest opinion polls published in Friday newspapers, certain the tide was finally turning in Barak's favour.

Instead the polls predicted Sharon was maintaining his double-digit lead of between 16 to 18 percent despite a series of foul-ups this week in the Likud leader's carefully managed election campaign which included being publicly chided by a schoolgirl who said he was unfit to serve as prime minister.

"It was the worst week ever for Sharon, but despite this we are in trouble," one of Barak's cabinet ministers told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Israeli pollster Hanoch Smith said his poll published in the Jerusalem Post newspaper indicated a slight change in Barak's favour, but he said the turnaround was so small and so close to the election that he doubted it would make much difference.

"We do have a little of a shift but it's not enough to say we are having a fantastic reversal," Smith told Reuters. "It's highly doubtful (the gap could close), but it could happen."

Smith said coming from behind at so late a date would be an unprecedented feat for Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier and a former army general who swept to victory in a general election only 20 months ago.


Sharon has tried to shed the warmonger image he holds in the minds of many Israelis by cultivating a persona as a kindly, grandfatherly figure through a series of school visit where he patted children on the head before television cameras.

But he stopped after a 16-year-old schoolgirl lambasted him on Monday for causing Israeli families to suffer, including her own, by orchestrating Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The girl's father suffered shell shock from fighting in Lebanon.

Polls in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily also show Barak has taken a beating by agreeing to hold peace talks with the Palestinians in Taba, Egypt, so close to the election despite predictions a deal would boost Barak's chances in the ballot.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled earlier in the week it was legal for Barak's minority, caretaker government to conduct the talks, but the negotiations have nevertheless come under attack and not just from Barak's right-wing opponents.

One of Israel's leading political scientists and a figure with strong roots in the Israeli left, Professor Shlomo Avineri, slammed the negotiations as a violation of democratic norms and said it hurt "the legitimacy of the peace talks."

Despite the bleak predictions and overwhelming odds, Barak was heartened by a mock election at a Tel Aviv high school.

Students at Blich high school in suburban Tel Aviv cast 57 percent of their votes for Barak and only 42 percent for Sharon. The vote would be meaningless except the mock election at Blich has been wrong only once in the last 30 years.

That was when it predicted victory for Shimon Peres in a 1996 race against right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres lost by a razor-thin margin of less than one percent


DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Israeli Minister Shimon Peres said on Friday a deadlock over Jerusalem's status had all but blocked prospects of striking a peace deal with Palestinians before Israeli elections on February 6.

"While the territorial issues were narrowed down to the point where we can almost conclude the issue, the issue of Jerusalem still remains the hard core of the problem and I am not sure that in the available time, which is extremely short, we should be able to solve the problems," he told Reuters Television on arrival at the annual Davos business summit.

He was set to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for talks on Sunday, but he said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was not expected to take part.

"I am afraid the calendar will be the most important reference for the future," Peres said when asked if a peace deal was possible before February 6.

Asked if he was hopeful, he answered: "I wish I would (be), but, as I said, we don't have enough time."



[Ma'ariv - 25 Jan - by Eldad Bek, Menahem Rahat, Ron Levine and David Lipkin]: The political establishment is in uproar over the secret meeting in Vienna between Ariel Sharon's people -- son Omri, former Foreign Ministry director general Eitan Bentzur and attorney Dov Weissglass -- and Yasser Arafat's economic advisor.

Palestinian and Austrian sources asserted vigorously last night that the meeting focused on the future of the Jericho casino. Prime Minister Barak also hinted at this possibility. On the other hand, Sharon's people denied it vehemently and contended that the meeting was meant to assuage the Palestinians prior to Sharon's becoming prime minister.

Sources close to the Austria Casino company, which operates the Jericho casino, alleged last night that the meeting focused on the future of the casino and the compensation that the government of Israel, headed by Sharon, would be willing to pay the owners for the losses caused them by its closing when the Intifada broke out.

The sources said that the meeting was held at the initiative of the director of the Austria Casino company at the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna.

These Austrian sources said that senior members of the Austrian company and businessmen who'd invested in the Jericho casino, including Jewish millionaire Martin Schlaff, who refused to comment yesterday, were present at the meeting. The Austrian sources said that Dov Weissglass, Sharon's lawyer, who also represents Schlaff, raised various ideas at the meeting for compensation arrangements that would be paid by Israel. The articipation at the meeting of the PA's economic advisor Mohammed Rashid, these Austrian sources said, was not at the behest of the PA but in his capacity as one of the casino owners. An official Palestinian source in Vienna also said that Rashid is not authorized to conduct any diplomatic negotiation on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and that "the talks dealt only with the future of the casino, if Sharon wins the elections."

Prime Minister Ehud Barak was sharply critical of the Vienna meeting yesterday. He said this was a "very vexing matter from an ethical aspect." Barak said that "opposition elements should not be conducting negotiations with the Palestinians on the day the two Israelis murdered in Tulkarm are buried." The prime minister also indirectly related to the possible economic aspect of the meeting and said: "The matter is disturbing and perplexing. Who are the figures involved? This is the son of the candidate, the lawyer of the candidate, who also happens to be the lawyer of the businessman broker, who happens to have a thriving business that is dependent on Israeli good will, while the man on the other side is a businessman and not just the economic advisor to the PA. This is tireless political subterfuge."

In an election rally with new immigrants in Ashdod, Barak said: "The State of Israel is not a casino and Sharon must not be given the controls over the State of Israel, perhaps only the roulette wheel."

Countering these harsh accusations, MK Sharon thoroughly denied the charges that his representatives had purportedly conducted diplomatic negotiations in Vienna or dealt in matters concerning the Jericho casino. Sharon associates claimed the Vienna meeting was "meant to calm the Palestinians and to tell them that no war would break out on the day after elections, when the media would proclaim the results."

Sharon himself said yesterday: "There were appeals to us to hold contacts with a representatives of theirs and we consented. There were no negotiations, I am not authorized to conduct negotiations and I have no intention of conducting negotiations because my position on the issue of negotiations is unequivocal -- there will be no negotiations under fire.

"I want to say in the clearest manner possible: there was no talk about the casino, and this is entirely irrelevant. In contrast to Ehud Barak, I do not gamble on the fate of the people. There were no negotiations there, but rather a meeting where they wanted to find out my position directly, not through the media. Arafat also apparently reads the polls."

Sharon also disclosed that he had received appeals from other Arab and Moslem countries, close and far from Israel, asking to speak with him or with his authorized representatives, to clarify his diplomatic positions.

Attorney Dov Weissglass also told Ma'ariv last night that "all the talk about onducting negotiations or opening the Jericho casino are stuff and nonsense.

The word casino never even came up." As for his personal involvement in the matter, Weissglass said: "I have had a close personal relationship with these people for many years. I met them in Ramallah and in Gaza and in European capitals, with their families.

This was not on a political basis but a professional one and we forged warm ties. They asked for me to be present to break the ice, and so it was."

It has been learned that preparations for the meeting began already three weeks ago, following an appeal by the Palestinians to Sharon's headquarters, with a request to send them an authorized representative to explain Sharon's positions.

In order to accede to this appeal, Sharon set up this ad hoc team and stressed that this would not be a permanent team for contacts with the Palestinians, neither before nor after the elections.

Sharon's headquarters expressed satisfaction over the meeting because it caused the political debate to be diverted from the issue of Lebanon and Lieberman to the current diplomatic issues, "where Sharon is stronger." They also said that the meeting disproved claims by the Left that the Arabs would not want to talk to Sharon and that war could therefore be expected after his election.

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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