Israel:Right-wing pressure on the peace process
by Hans Lebrecht in Tel Aviv According to a leak published by the Israeli Ha'aretz daily, President Clinton and Madeleine Albright, the "neutral" Camp David mediators, presented the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams with their own proposal. The proposal was meant to "bridge the gap" between both sides in order to achieve some kind of agreement. However, the US proposal was also designed to curtail sovereign freedoms for the Palestinian State in a way that makes that sovereignty a sham. No wonder, the Israeli side showed "willingness to consider it", while the Palestinians in Camp David, as well as the Palestinian public outright, rejected the US proposal as being biased in favour of Israel's annexationist designs. Meanwhile, back in Israel, the united right-wing and right-radical Greater- Israel Front was brutally attacking Barak's withering coalition and its pledge to achieve some kind of peace. Three right-wing parties in Barak's former coalition have left the government. While Barak was at Camp David, the Greater-Israel chauvinists motioned no-confidence votes again and again, as well as Bills to undermine the government and torpedo Barak's promise to get any peace accord he signs endorsed by a public referendum. One of these Bills, already adopted by a preliminary Knesset vote attempts to restrict such a referendum with an outright racist qualification — the right to participate would be for Jewish citizens only. Barak and Clinton try to blame Arafat and his team for the impasse but Arafat and his followers are demanding respect for the vested national rights of their people. These rights, accepted by the world community, were formally recognised in the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles, signed by the PLO and Israel, and co-signed by the US administration. As long as Arafat adheres to these principled stands, and does not give in to extremist demands by radical Palestinian elements, who advocate not signing any peace agreement with Israel, he will have the backing of the vast majority of his people. Even the Israeli peace camp will stand by his side. On July 16, the Israeli Right ferried more than 100,000 Israelis to Tel Aviv, using hundreds of buses, to protest against the peace process. The cost for this mobilisation — about $5 million — was, as openly admitted, carried to a great extent by some American moneybags. Spokespersons for the united, mainly Zionist, peace camp excuse their failure to counter with similar rallies on the grounds that they are unable to finance such a rally. But the regrettable truth is an obvious, hopefully temporary, weak position of the major Zionist parties of the peace camp. At a peace camp rally at Paris Square in Jerusalem, slogans brought by the more militant peace forces, such as demands to recognise the Palestinian right to establish their capital in eastern Jerusalem, or to recognise the Palestinian refugees' right to repatriation, were confiscated by the Peace- Now marshals. Only non-committal slogans, such as "Barak, bring home peace" or "Peace without settlements" were allowed. The truth is that the Zionist peace forces, led by the Meretz party leadership, are "stuttering, vague, fuzzy and frightened to raise former slogans, abandoning its clear positions in favour of an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, which now have become unmentionable", (Ha'aretz, July 23). However there are activities by peace groups in spite of financial weakness. Parts of the Hadash Front and Communists, as well as other peace groups, mount vigils using real peace slogans. With the failure of the Camp David talks, the reaction in the Israeli and Palestinian homefronts will be fateful for the future of our region. After his return to Israel, Barak's Foreign Minister has resigned, saying he cannot defend policies he does not support, meaning the peace policy. Barak is under intense pressure from the right to resign or call new elections.
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