Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/26/2001
Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/26/2001
Opposition leader Ariel Sharon is still way ahead in the race for prime minister, according to three polls out today. The polls, published in Friday newspapers, showed Sharon ahead by 16 to 18 percentage points. Thatâ€™s a two point gain for Barak, but hardly an encouragement. "We do have a little of a shift but it's not enough to say we are having a fantastic reversal," said Hanoch Smith, who conducted one of the polls. "It's highly doubtful [the gap could close], but it could happen." Sharonâ€™s lead is all the more impressive because it follows a week of foul-ups in his election campaign, which included being publicly chided by a schoolgirl who said he was unfit to serve as prime minister because of his role in the unpopular war in Lebanon. "It was the worst week ever for Sharon, but despite this we are in trouble," one of Barak's cabinet ministers told Israelâ€™s biggest newspaper "Yediot Ahronot."
The polls continued to show that if Sharon would run against 77-year-old former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, the race would be a virtual dead heat, with Sharon holding a two-percentage point advantage. That is putting pressure on Barak to drop out of the race, although he insists he has no intention to do so. Peace activists ran a front page advertisement in the "Haâ€™aretz" newspaper today urging Barak to step down so Peres can run. "Your decision will decide the fate of Israel," the ad said. "Ehud, the responsibility is entirely on your shoulders."
The poll in "Yediot Ahronot" attributed Barakâ€™s poor showing to his decision to hold peace talks in Egypt so close to the election. One of Israelâ€™s leading political scientists and a leading peace activist, Professor Shlomo Avineri, described the negotiations as a violation of democratic norms that hurt "the legitimacy of the peace talks." Barak has also been hurt by his decision to continue negotiations as Palestinian violence continues. Last night, another Israeli was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen, this time in Jerusalem. Akiva Pashkous, a 45-year-old father of five, was gunned down in his car near a factory where he worked in the Atarot industrial zone in north Jerusalem. A group believed to be an offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for Israelâ€™s assassination last month of Thabet Thabet, a senior Fatah official in Palestinian-ruled Tulkarm. Prime Minister Ehud Barak vowed to catch and punish the killers, but he decided to continue the Taba talks.
Israeli negotiators in Taba say the aim of the talks is to draw up a declaration of principles that will serve as a guideline for future negotiations, but the Palestinians say they will not settle for a partial deal. "We want a comprehensive agreement which covers all issues with a clear timetable and clear mechanisms of implementation," senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Korei told reporters. "I think it is very difficult to reach an agreement in the time left. We might end this negotiation at a certain point that keeps the momentum until after the election," he said. The parties are discussing the most sensitive issues of the conflict, including Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, borders and Jewish settlements. "We are making a very serious effort to achieve as much as possible," said negotiator Yossi Sarid, who added that progress has been "slow." The talks are expected to continue until the middle of next week, when they will recess for elections.