Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
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Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon

January 27, 2001


"The End of Israel?" Arafat Fears Label As Benedict Arnold Rather than George Washington

by Hemi Shalev

[Ma'ariv - 21 January -Translated from Hebrew}: 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. Its principle conclusion is clear and unequivocal: on February 6, Israel will have a new Prime Minister.

Chances are it will be Ariel Sharon. Only in theory is there a slight chance it will actually be Shimon Peres. What is certain, unless there is a cataclysmic event that changes the way the world works, Ehud Barak is going to lose these elections, probably big time. Polls can be wrong, but not that wrong.

The incredible gap between Sharon and Barak remains stable, around 20 percent. The election broadcasts have not helped; Barak's frequent media interviews have made no difference, and the negative campaign against Sharon hasn't done a thing. When that is the situation 18 days prior to elections, the expression "not taking off" is the height of tactfulness.

The writing is clearly on the wall. The public simply does not like Barak. Full stop. That is what the new poll shows. When you add to that the epileptic peace process, the deteriorating security situation, and a widespread feeling, even if not completely justified, of a worsening economy, you get a sure recipe for certain knockout for the Prime Minister. Barak's decision to advance the elections seems, in retrospect, one of the biggest slip-ups in the history of Israeli politics.

In military terms, Barak is reminiscent of the famous American General George Custer, who became known as a brave commander who consciously led his soldiers, against all reason and with impossible inferiority, to a fatal loss against the Sioux Indians. The Americans dubbed the 1876 battle at Little Big Horn, Montana, "Custer's last stand,". Custer and his soldiers became famed for their bravery, but the bottom line is they were all massacred.

Now, in their time of distress, Barak's advisors are trying to shift the blame to Peres. They claim Barak voters will continue to remain undecided as long as Peres is a present-absentee candidate. They are forgetting that Barak's public standing began to fall to hitherto unknown depths long before anyone even breathed the name Shimon Peres. The poll shows that even if Peres were to clearly leave the race with determination, it would change nothing in terms of Barak.

Barak swore this week that he would not leave the arena. It will be very difficult for him to release himself from this vow, and it is not so clear he would want to. From his tone in private conversation, it is very possible Barak himself would prefer to have Sharon as Prime Minister and not Peres. The way to ensure that, for now, is to stay in the race to the very end. "Only Barak will bring Sharon," a frustrated left-winger said this week, paraphrasing the Likud slogan.

At any rate, Peres is far from being a sure thing. Although the public has great sympathy for him, the polls foresee a tie, and based on past experience, Peres is a sure loser in tie situations. A lot will depend on organization and motivation, and the Likud has an incredible advantage in both these. But at least Peres would lose honorably. One cannot say even that about Barak.

Head to Head

Q: If elections for the premiership were held today and the candidates were Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, for whom would you vote? Sharon - 51% (50% last week); Barak- 31% (same as last week); Blank ballot/don't know - 18%

Q: Suppose Shimon Peres were running for the premiership instead of Ehud Barak, for whom would you vote? Sharon - 45% (44% last week); Peres - 44% (46% last week); Blank ballot/don't know - 11%

Q: And if Shimon Peres were to make a final and unequivocal announcement that he will not run for premier, for whom would you vote? Sharon - 52%; Barak - 31%; Blank ballot/don't know - 17%.

Gut Feeling

Those who support Barak do not understand why he deserves this. They can understand the right wing, who is ideologically hell-bent against Barak, but not the center, and certainly not the left. Especially, when it is against Sharon, the man who until recently was considered decidedly unelectable.

Objectively, Barak indeed is not without achievement. He got the IDF out of Lebanon and the economy out of recession, and went a long way in trying to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Outside observers , most of whom like Barak a lot more than his public does, cannot fathom how incredibly behind he is in the polls.

It is reasonable to believe that the central reason for Barak's inferior position stems from the shaking of the public's feeling of security as a result of the al-Aksa Intifada, and perhaps just as importantly, from the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness in face of the situation that has arisen. But even that is not enough to explain the force of Barak's fall.

Something basic went wrong in the relations between Barak and the public, between the leader and his congregation. And that is a gut feeling, it does not come from the head.

Barak, even those who oppose him will agree, is full of good intentions, but they are not what led him to the image-hell he is in currently. His "conduct" is what brought him here, fighting alone without any allies, with such supporters as Peres and Yossi Sarid, who even in the televised broadcasts cannot hide their aversion for the candidate they are endorsing.

This is reminiscent of the 1999 elections, but in reverse. Then it was Netanyahu who had no chance, because everyone, with the exception of a core of supporters, simply had had enough of him, in the government, in the Knesset, in the media and among the public. Sometime, during his short term of office, Netanyahu passed the point of no return, after which it would make no difference what he said or did. The question was not whether he would be kicked out, but when. The public wanted a divorce, at all costs. Now, they want the same from Barak.

Barak dug this hole with his own hands, with the help of mistaken advice from some of his advisors and confidants. He brought himself to a political death through continuous zigzagging, always doing so through some convoluted internal reasoning clear only to him. Every time he changed direction, Barak lost another group of supporters, raised disappointment and even grudges. Now he is trying to convince his public of the need to unite in view of the big danger of Ariel Sharon, but the public is not ready to do so, neither to forget nor forgive. Even if there are many people who will not vote for Ehud Barak and then regret it after February 6, they cannot overcome their desire to punish him, here and now.

A candidate who 57% of the public say they do not like, cannot win the elections and this truth cannot be changed in the 18 days before the elections. In the following "sympathy parade" Barak is way behind, closer to Yasser Arafat than to Bill Clinton, as it were. His rival, Ariel Sharon, is liked by 48% of the public, whereas Peres, as always, is the king of the polls.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday [17 January] and questioned 1,100 people who form a representative sample of Israel's adult population. The maximum margin of error is 3%.

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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