Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/25/2001
Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/25/2001
Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly suspended peace talks with the Palestinians in Taba, Egypt, after the brutal killing of two Israelis by Palestinian gunmen. The Israelis went to Palestinian-ruled Tulkarm north of Tel Aviv to shop, despite a military order forbidding Israelis from entering Palestinian areas because of the danger. The two Israeli cousins, Motti Dayan and Etgar Zeituni, entered the town, accompanied by an Israeli Arab; they were shopping for supplies for their sushi restaurant, Yuppies, located in a trendy Tel Aviv neighborhood. The army says the men stopped to eat a restaurant, ironically named after the notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal. Word spread that Israelis were in the town, and a short time later, masked gunmen entered the restaurant and abducted the two. They were driven away and shot time and again. The Israeli Arab wasnâ€™t harmed and is not believed to be an accomplice. The incident is further evidence that the streets of the Palestinian territories are now controlled by heavily armed gangs.
Suspending the peace talks poses a dilemma for Barak. On the one hand, he's under pressure from cabinet doves who believe the only way to stop the violence is through negotiations. "Every time things are delayed the price is greater for both sides who want to reach peace," Justice Minister and negotiator Yossi Beilin told Army Radio today. "There have always been extremists who don't want peace and who will try to halt the talks." But this way of thinking is becoming less popular with Israelis who are fed up with endless Palestinian violence and killing. Barak has already paid a heavy price for negotiating with the Palestinians as the violence continuesâ€”he's running way behind hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon ahead of elections on February 6th. Barak will probably resume the talks once the two murdered Israelis are buried tomorrow, but every funeral means more votes for Ariel Sharon.
As for the Palestinians, negotiator Ahmed Qureia condemned the killings, but said he was surprised Barak recalled his negotiators. "Of course it will adversely affect negotiations," he told reporters in Taba. With elections less than two weeks away, the suspension of the talks is a blow to chances for an agreement, as negotiators were already running out of time. Even if the talks resume, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that prospects for a final deal are slim. "The easy chapters are behind us. We now have to deal with the sticking points," Sneh said. Before the talks were suspended, Barak proposed the idea of "joint management" for the historic Old City of Jerusalem. But the Palestinians, who oppose any Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount and other areas such as the Christian Quarter, rejected the idea out of hand. Barak's proposals on Jerusalem "were absolutely a non-starter, and if the Israelis press this position we are not going to achieve any progress," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Itâ€™s been a tough week for Ariel Sharon, whose been campaigning in some of the countryâ€™s schools. Since no debates have been planned, the countryâ€™s high schools have been the only place where the two candidates have appeared together. Barak received a heroâ€™s welcome at the New Rabin High School in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of students cheered and surrounded him in hopes of shaking his hand. Sharon got a much cooler reception, and his comments were greeted with a mixture of cheers, boos and heckling. The mock election result reflected the receptions. Barak won, 58 to 42 percent. For the second day in a row, Sharon was grilled about his role in Israelâ€™s unpopular invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Sharon was forced to step down as defense minister in 1983 after being found indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinian refugees by an Israeli-allied Lebanese militia in two refugee camps near Beirut. "How can he be prime minister if he can't be the defense minister?" 17-year-old Orit Usher wondered. The day before, at another school, a student caused a stir by blaming Sharon for her father's troubles. He suffered shell shock in the Lebanon War and is still undergoing treatment. Sharon responded that Israel was forced into Lebanon in response to continuing attacks by PLO terrorists.