The Guardian December 6, 2000


Barak goes for broke

Israeli Premier Ehud Barak has bowed to opposition demands for a snap 
election two years ahead of schedule vowing to lead his Labour bloc to 
victory when the time comes. "I have won every election I have participated 
in. I am ready for new elections", he told the Knesset (parliament) on 
Tuesday evening (November 28), following the failure of his latest bid to 
form a Government of national unity.

But nothing is never quite the way it seems in Tel Aviv's hothouse 
politics. The elections will not take place for another six months and the 
extremist Likud opposition leader, General Ariel Sharon, may not be too 
keen to hurry the agenda.

Sharon, whose provocative actions sparked off the current Palestinian 
uprising in the first place, knows that former Likud leader Benyamin 
Netanyahu, is planning a come-back at his expense.

Sharon needs time to fend off the challenge so he is now reconsidering 
Barak's offer of a "national unity" coalition to see out the crisis.

Barak's decision was met with indifference by the Palestinian masses. 
Fighting rages throughout the occupied territories and along the Lebanese 
frontier and few  if any  Arabs believe that Barak is a man of peace.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said that it was not 
important for the Palestinians which Israeli Government remained in power. 
What mattered was that Israel's policy should change.

This was echoed by Palestinian negotiator Saab Erakat on Voice of Palestine 
radio. "It seems that Israeli politicians who inflict harm, kill and 
threaten to use the military machine against the Palestinian people will 
get more votes", he declared.

But it seems that Barak is trying to cut some sort of deal with Palestinian 
President Yasser Arafat to end the fighting so that he can concentrate on 
getting returned to office in Tel Aviv.

Barak has put out feelers to the Palestinian leadership suggesting that his 
government may now be interested in yet another "interim" agreement, 
putting the thorny question of Jerusalem and the Zionist settlers on the 
backburner for another day.

This proposal has been rejected by the Palestinians.

On the international front the Palestinians are winning diplomatic backing 
for their call for international observers to stop the violence.

Last week Russian leader Vladimir Putin met Palestinian leader Yasser 
Arafat in Moscow and put forward a three-point plan to resolve the crisis.

The first is the dispatch of international observers to monitor a cease-
fire.

The second stage would be the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian 
territory and an end to the economic blockade and the third would be 
serious talks to try to reach a final settlement.

The People's Republic of China is also calling for a new breakthrough in 
the "peace process". This was made clear in a keynote speech given at a 
reception to mark the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in 
Beijing on Wednesday.

Chen Yongchang, vice-president of the Chinese People's Association for 
Friendship with Foreign Countries said the Chinese people were "gravely 
concerned" about the clashes between Israel and Palestine since September 
and they deeply mourned the civilian casualties caused by Israel's use of 
violence.

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New Worker (abridged)

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