|By Paul Usiskin||
3 January 2002
It could be the best of times and of course it could be the worst of times. Much has happened since the last Update and yet little has changed. A New Year has begun and whilst our prayers are for a better one, various events suggest more of the same. Where to start?
Deeply pessimistic is an Israel military intelligence analysis suggesting that the apparent calm of the last few days is in fact a lull before a new storm of conflict and one whose character will be different. This isnt just the Palestinian response to Israeli and International pressure to clamp down on extremists, or a quiet preface to the second Zinni mission. The analysis suggests a formalisation by the Palestinians of their various security units into some kind of cohesive force which will then combat the IDF in more acceptable military methods.
The Israeli warm-up for Zinni II is an IDF withdrawal from most of the Palestinian towns it occupied in the last two or three weeks. Of course they are able to return with the same ease with which they first entered.
All this must be music to Arik Sharons ears for it simply perpetuates the necessity for military conflict something of which believes himself to be a past master. The grand design which he has never detailed from the beginning of his Premiership pre-occupies him. So much so that Israel Radio reported that he had postponed four times meeting with parents of IDF fallen, an uncharacteristic act by any Israeli Prime Minister, least of all one who depends so much on the courage and heroism of the soldiers. And as if he needed reminding about those other responsibilities he has as Prime Minister, the hunger strike by Israels paraplegics in a tent-city directly opposite his Jerusalem Office has not concluded despite attempts at negotiations with them for better Government support.
As usual we seek out the checks and balances for the impasse that has become Israel/Palestinian relations and Israels democratic process. The election by default of Fuad Binyamin Ben Eliezer currently the Defence Minister to the leadership of the Labour Party has not presaged a strengthening of Labours position in Israels political scene nor has it signalled the emergence of a strong opposition voice. Fuad, another ex-General, also trumpets great plans for the future but hasnt really detailed any of them so far.
The greatest indication so far that there is a small quiet voice willing to speak of conciliation and plant a signpost to normality is President Moshe Katsav who last week announced a willingness to address the Palestinian Parliament and urge a temporary armistice as a prelude to renewed talks. The next we knew of this was a CNN tag-line declaring that the Prime Minister had vetoed this idea. In Hasbarah terms this is of course a disaster. In terms of what we can expect from the Prime Minister it is nothing new.
Copyright 2002, by Paul
Usiskin and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
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Mr. Usiskin is Chair of the Israel Policy & Planning Group of the RSGB - Reform Synagogues of Great Britain. Visit the RSGB at www.reformjudaism.org.uk.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.