What's New
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 isn’t 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 Sharon’s 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 Israel’s 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 Israel’s 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 Labour’s position in Israel’s 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 hasn’t 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. Further use is prohibited in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired!
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.