Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/17/2001
Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/17/2001
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators say they see no chance of a breakthrough before President Clinton leaves office this weekend. In a sign of the low expectations, US envoy Dennis Ross called off a planned visit to Middle East. However, talks are continuing today, and Palestinian officials indicate they will go on until Israeli elections on February 6th. But with a full agreement out of reach, it is no longer clear what goal the negotiators are setting for themselves. They had been working on a document to guide future negotiations under the Bush administration, but the Palestinians have now ruled out a partial deal or a declaration of principles.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Ariel Sharon have kicked off radio and TV election ads, putting the campaign into high gear. Barak, well behind in the polls, vowed to correct his government's mistakes, while Sharon sought to reshape his own image from hawk to peacemaker. "Only Sharon can bring peace" said a soft jingle, as pictures showed him hugging his grandchildren on his ranch. "For 52 years, all of us in the state of Israel have been fighting for the same thing, to live here in peace...The only way to do this is through unity," Sharon said, promising to form a broad national unity government after the election. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert slammed Barak for vowing in 1999 to keep Jerusalem united, and then agreeing to turn half of the city over to the Palestinians. "Barak promised. Barak disappointed. Barak needs to be replaced," an announcer said.
In his ad, the Prime Minister adopted a strategy of repentance. "There were mistakes...and we will correct them, Barak said. "If you give me the chance I will do it better, with a wider team. I will listen more and will do everything in my power to gain your trust." He said it was not a mistake to pursue peace, but added that "peace must not be at any price." Barak rejected the Palestinian demand that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, nearly 4 million people, be given the right to return to their former homes in Israel. He also vowed not to relinquish Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount, effectively a reversal of a tacit agreement during the latest negotiations. Barak's campaign also went on the offensive against Sharon, attacking his leading role in Israelâ€™s ill-fated invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Immediately after the campaign broadcasts ended, Barak continued his attack on Sharon. "With...Sharon we will have an eternal war with the Palestinians," the Prime Minister told Israel television.
Israel is easing a tight closure clamped on the Gaza Strip after the killing of a Jewish resident two days ago by Palestinian terrorists. Several roads and border crossings, as well as the Gaza airport were reopened. The gradual lifting of the closure was agreed upon at security talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials. The talks, under CIA mediation, have been continuing for about 10 days, with the aim of reducing violence and preventing terrorism.