Sharon maneuvers for starting position
February 9, 2001
SHARON PREPARES FOR CONFLICT WITH "MODERATE" PROPAGANDA OFFENSIVE
AND ATTEMPTS TO CO-OPT EVERYONE
It's time for serious political confusion and disinformation now. As the
armies prepare themselves for the clashes likely to come in one form or another,
the politicians maneuver for new starting positions. Of course in many cases,
especially that of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, the armies and the politicians
are one in the same.
Part of preparation for conflict and war these days is positioning oneself
in public opinion. And that is precisely where Sharon has gone, full-speed
ahead. Top-level propaganda teams have already been dispatched to Washington
and European capitals. They will court the media in public; discuss things
with key allies and political leaders in private.
As for Arafat and Regime...ill-prepared and not up to the task as usual.
The Palestinian people are saddled with this corrupt, inept, and incompetent
regime. They are now paying the price for so many years of mistakes and, at
best, mediocrity. Unless the Palestinian people can somehow remove Arafat
and Regime and replace it with some of the far more capable and far more principled
Palestinians -- Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi at the top of the list -- they cannot
expect things to get better for them. Indeed, far more tragic times might
be ahead for the Palestinian people facing the thugs of Sharon and the right-wingers
in the U.S. -- even the possibility of another mass expulsion or the forceable
conversion of the Hashemite Regime into the Palestinian State.
More on this from MER in the weeks ahead. As we've said before...stay tuned.
SHARON OFFERS BARAK DEFENSE POST
By Laurie Copans
JERUSALEM (AP - 9 February):
Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon on
Friday offered his predecessor, Ehud Barak, the job of
defense minister in a joint government, even though
the two disagree sharply on how to make peace with the
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Sharon,
meanwhile, spoke by phone - their first direct contact
since Sharon's election victory Tuesday. Palestinian
officials confirmed the call, but would not reveal
what was said.
Israeli radio stations said Arafat told Sharon he was
interested in resuming peace talks with Israel, and
congratulated him on the recent birth of twin
grandsons. Sharon responded that peace was important
to him and not an election gimmick. Sharon also said
he wants to alleviate the suffering of the
Palestinians, but that first there must be an end to
violence, the radios said.
In their meeting Friday, Sharon offered Barak the
position of defense minister, according to a Sharon
aide. Barak's aides were not available for comment on
how he responded to the offer, but Israeli radio
stations said Barak told Sharon he would stay out of
politics for a while.
As Sharon and Arafat spoke, an intense gun battle
erupted between Israeli troops and Palestinians near
the West Bank town of Ramallah. Twenty-seven
Palestinians and a Belgian news photographer were
injured, Palestinian medics said. Of the injured,
eight were hit by live fire, including the
photographer who was shot in the leg.
During the gun battle, which raged for most of the
afternoon, Israeli soldiers aimed machine gun fire at
empty high-rise apartment buildings used by
Palestinian gunmen as cover. Smoke billowed from one
of the buildings as shots hit the wall.
In the Gaza Strip, the Islamic militant group Hamas
threatened to carry out more suicide attacks against
Israel; on Thursday, unidentified assailants had
exploded a car bomb in Jerusalem, injuring an Israeli
woman. In the Gaza march, some 2,500 Hamas supporters
chanted "Destroy the center of Tel Aviv," and burned
effigies of Sharon and President Bush.
One Hamas banner held up by the crowd read "Generals
like Sharon only understand the language of resistance
and holy war."
Overnight, Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen
battled for about three hours near the Jewish
settlement of Psagot, adjacent to the Palestinian town
of El Bireh. Several buildings in a residential
neighborhood of El Bireh were damaged by Israeli fire,
including the offices of the Konrad Adenauer
Foundation, a German aid group, and the Red Crescent,
a Palestinian first aid organization. No one was
Sharon said in an interview published Friday that he
would seek an open-ended non-belligerency pact with
the Palestinians, not a peace agreement, and that he
would not follow Barak's path.
Barak's far-reaching offers to the Palestinians "made
it difficult for all future Israeli governments,"
Sharon told the Yediot Ahronot daily.
Still, Sharon said, he felt sorry for his predecessor.
"So many dreams, and everything crumbled between his
fingers," Sharon said of Barak whom he trounced in
Tuesday's election, winning by a margin of almost 25
On Thursday, Barak baffled his Labor Party when he
said he wanted to lead the coalition talks with
Sharon. On election night, Barak had announced he was
stepping down as party leader and was withdrawing from
politics for a while.
Labor's elder statesman, Shimon Peres, supported the
idea of a so-called national unity government, saying
the nation is going through a "great crisis,"
reference to months of
Israeli-Palestinian clashes that have killed 385
people, most of them Palestinians
The Labor Party is deeply divided over whether to
accept Sharon's offer. Labor Party doves, including
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, said Labor must not
join forces with the hard-line Likud party which
opposes concessions to the Palestinians.
Barak's offers included setting up a Palestinian state
in the almost all of the West Bank and Gaza, sharing
Jerusalem and dismantling many Jewish settlements.
The Palestinians did not accept Barak's proposals, but
negotiator Ahmed Qureia said talks must restart from
the point where they ended just before Israel's
Sharon said all along that Barak's ideas would not
obligate him, and Barak agreed.
Barak's Labor party was the first Sharon invited for
coalition talks, which began Thursday evening. Likud
officials told Labor representatives that they would
be offered such top portfolios as the defense or
foreign ministries, Israeli media reported.
But the Labor negotiators said they wanted details on
Sharon's plans for peace talks with the Palestinians
before they agreed to discuss the distribution of
ministries. The two teams will meet again Sunday.
If Sharon is unable to come to quick agreement with
Labor, he is expected to turn to right-wing and
Orthodox Jewish parties and form a coalition with a
LIKUD INVITES ARAB PARTIES TO COALITION TALKS
By Mazal Mualem
[Ha'aretz - 2/9/01]:
Likud secretary general, Uri Shani, invited the
leaders of Arab parties in the Knesset yesterday to
begin negotiations in an effort to include them in a
broad coalition government.
Shani approached MK Talab A Sana (United Arab List),
and MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta'al), and invited them to meet in
order to conduct negotiations over their participation
in a coalition government.
The senior Likud official added that he also intended
to invite MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) and MK Azmi
Bishara (Balad) to join the talks.
It is expected that meetings with the Arab MKs will be
held early next week.
The Likud issued a statement which said that the
purpose of the meetings was to create a dialogue with
the Arab parties in the Knesset and to inform their
representatives of developments in the efforts to form
a coalition government and seek their opinions on the
In addition, there are those around Sharon who are
considering offering Arab parties the option of
joining the coalition if initial meetings produce an
appropriate climate for the move.
In response to the invitation, MK A Sana said that
this is an important development and saw Sharon's
willingness to encourage a dialogue with the Arab
representatives as a welcome change of approach.
"The call from Uri Shani surprised me. At first I
though that he had made a mistake," A Sana said. He
added that the meeting with the Likud did not, of
course, bind them to an agreement to join the
coalition, but "Barak did not even give us the chance
to say No."
Barakeh said that "as a public relations idea, this is
not bad, but I am not part of it. This may [simply] be
an effort to embarrass the Labor party and Meretz.