Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
January 30, 2001
SHARON - THE LEGACY OF CLINTON AND BARAK IN THE MIDDLE EAST
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.
Most significant of all is the way the two major parties, representing
the two major ideological wings of Zionism, are in the end dancing around
each other with plans to work together. They call it a "national unity
government"; and they traditionally come together in times of crisis and
war, saving their political competition for yet another day.
AN ENORMOUS EFFORT THAT ENDED IN NOTHING
By Aluf Benn
(Ha'aretz, 1-29-01, p. 1) Ehud Barak is ending his term as PM without
bringing about the signing of final status arrangements with the Syrians
and Palestinians. A tremendous effort of thousands of hours of negotiations
on many tracks and quite a number of leaders' meetings, in the shadow of
far-reaching promises, ended yesterday with nothing. The only diplomatic
agreement that Barak signed with Yasser Arafat was the Sharm el-Sheikh
memorandum, which was meant to implement the Wye Agreement signed by Binyamin
Netanyahu. Since then Barak has not made one real step toward the Palestinians,
and even his decision to transfer Abu Dis and the neighboring area, which
he managed to pass in the Knesset, faded to nothing.
The hasty negotiations Barak tried to push forward just before the elections,
under pressure from the left wing leaders who make up the "peace cabinet"
and with the help of his ally Bill Clinton, had no chance from the outset.
Despite the enthusiastic rhetoric, Israel and the PA are not really interested
in reaching a permanent agreement, because they are not so weak that they
have to give up on their national symbols. The talks with the Palestinians
during Barak's term were more like a game of tennis and were characterized
by a mutual effort by him and Arafat to toss the ball of responsibility
into the other's court. The game ended on Saturday with a draw at Taba,
and Barak passed on another round at Stockholm, after he heard Arafat berating
Israel in his speech at Davos.
The Israeli public heard, over and over, from the negotiators, headed by
Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, that the end of the conflict was just
around the corner, and were disappointed anew each time. Not long ago Shlomo
Ben-Ami divulged in an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth that the Palestinians
had never internalized the need for compromise and suddenly sounded like
his predecessor David Levy, who had tried to stop Barak from his collision
course and was punished by being removed from office.
Now, on the eve of elections, Israel finds itself in an unprecedented armed
conflict with the Palestinians, whose position has never been tougher,
as Abu Ala said at the farewell party for the Taba talks two days ago.
Hundreds have been killed, the territories are under siege, and only international
pressure stopped the air force's bombardments of the Palestinian cities.
The result, by all indications, will be the rise to power of a right wing
government headed by Ariel Sharon, only due to the hope that he will display
a tougher hand toward the Arabs.
Israel's relations with the Arab states have sunk to their lowest point
since the war in Lebanon. Egyptian Ambassador Mohammed Bassyouni was recalled
and the delicate relations with peripheral states were severed. Only little
Qatar has kept its Israeli mission open.
The serial failures have brought Israel's relations with the U.S. to a
deep crisis, due to Barak and Clinton's decision to harness defense and
strategic ties to progress in the peace process. Clinton turned Israel
into a strategic burden and this affects America's position in the Arab
world. The new administration in
Washington has learned the lesson and is trying with all its might to flee
the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and any involvement in the Israeli
elections. George Bush apparently does not want to stumble like his predecessor,
who interfered on Shimon Peres's behalf in the '96 elections and failed.
The ones who starred during Barak's term were the Europeans and the UN,
whom Israel had objected to including in the peace process for years, due
to their consistent support of the Arabs. Now Kofi Annan and Miguel Moratinos
are picking up the pieces left behind by Clinton and Barak, with the keen
support of Shlomo Ben-Ami, who wants to internationalize the process "in
order to protect Israel from the Palestinians."
The more interesting question, one that will be left to biographers and
historians, is who Barak really was:
Was he, as his supporters in the Left assert, someone who strove with all
his might for peace?
Or, did he never intend to give the Arabs even one millimeter of anything
and only tried to embarrass them by his ostensible willingness for concessions,
in order to tip the balance in Israel's favor internationally and to spare
it the need for withdrawals and dismantling settlements?
Verbally, Barak was the revolutionary who came to make peace. In the positions
he displayed in negotiations with Syria and Arafat, he always stopped short
a few meters before an agreement, and in his forceful response to the Palestinian
Intifada, he remains the tough occupier of yesteryear. And perhaps, actually,
he was some of this and some of that.
SHARON: ARAFAT WANTS WAR
by Nehama Duek
(Yedioth Ahronoth, 29 January): Likud candidate Ariel Sharon sent a letter
to American Congressmen in which he states that if the Palestinians should
unilaterally declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state
this would be tantamount to the abrogation of the Oslo, Wye and Camp David
agreements, and would nullify any and all commitments that Israel had made
in the course of years towards the Palestinians.
The head of Ariel Sharon's strategic team, Eyal Arad, said yesterday: "This
is in keeping with the policy of the governments of Israel, which was adopted
by Netanyahu, Barak and the Americans, by which a unilateral declaration
of an independent Palestinian state would lead to the abrogation of all
agreements reached to date."
In the detailed document, Sharon says that Arafat has made a strategic
decision to unilaterally declare independence in tandem with a decision
to launch an extended war of attrition against Israel and its citizens.
According to Sharon's plan, Israel will declare its own unilateral program,
that will include the seizing of control over Area C, which is under full
Israeli control, and the immediate deployment of IDF troops "in the eastern
security zones in the Jordan Valley, the Judean Desert, and in the western
security zone in Samaria, Judea and the areas under Israeli supervision."
Barak's campaign said in response: "The truth about Sharon's extremist
positions, which lead to war, can be found only in foreign languages --
hidden far away from the eye of the general public."
SHARON TALKS WITH BEN-ELIEZER ABOUT NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT
by Nehama Duek and Yuval Karni
(Yedioth Ahronoth - 1/29/01): Likud candidate Ariel Sharon has spoken
with Labor Party minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer a number of times in the
past few days about the establishment of a national unity government after
The two spoke on the telephone with the knowledge of Ehud Barak.
Officials in the political establishment said that Sharon and Ben-Eliezer
have had a good personal relationship for a long time and that the two
respect one another. They noted that in the past when Barak had wanted
to look into the possibility of establishing a national unity government
he had placed Ben-Eliezer in charge of the negotiations with Sharon. Ben-Eliezer
is also fully aware of all of the agreements reached between the two.
Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that Ben-Eliezer reported the content of his
conversations with Sharon to Haim Ramon. In closed conversations Ramon
said that he could not rule out the possibility of joining a national unity
government under Sharon's leadership, but noted that the new government's
guidelines would first have to be examined.
Senior Labor Party officials said last night that in the course of the
talks the two men had also discussed the possibility that the Likud would
join a Barak-led government. A senior Labor Party official said last night:
"We are interested in conducting negotiations over the establishment of
a national unity government, regardless of whether Barak forms the next
government or Sharon wins. We need to prepare for every possibility.
Sharon yesterday repeated that he was talking with Labor Party officials
about the establishment of a national unity government immediately after
the elections. Sharon said yesterday: "A national unity government is what
is needed. On the night of the elections I will turn to Mr. Barak and I
will propose that we establish a national unity government in order to
reach the security, peace and unity that will prevent rift and separation.
That is the right step to take and Barak understands this as well. There
are already talks and contacts under way about this issue.".
However, Barak's advisers denied reports that Barak would refuse under
any circumstances to serve in Sharon's cabinet as defense minister. His
advisers said that if the guidelines for Sharon's government were to be
formulated so that they differed from Avigdor Lieberman's statements there
might yet be room for negotiations.
Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last night that he had no
relationship with Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu said this in response to
allegations made by senior Likud officials that Lieberman had deliberately
begun to voice extremist positions in an attempt to thwart Sharon's effort
to establish a national unity government. Netanyahu said he was acting
with all of his power to help Sharon win the elections and noted that he
had appeared at more than ten campaign rallies.
ISRAEL RADIO NEWS - 1/29/01
Sharon wants unity government? Ariel Sharon has relayed to Prime Minister
Ehud Barak via Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer a message that he is serious
about a national unity government after the elections. Sharon and Ben-Eliezer
did not discuss the portfolio distribution for the two parties. Minister
Haim Ramon does not rule out the idea of a unity government under Sharon's
leadership but demands that Ehud Barak not head the working team that
negotiates if Sharon wins. And Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg does not rule
out the Labor Party joining a government headed by Ariel Sharon if he wins