From: Steve Wagner <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

Subject: * Depression and despair in Israel


>From The Irish Times,
Saturday, 2-2-02:

Depression and despair in Israel

  Depression and despair are the dominant sentiments reported by
European and United Nations representatives from Israel in recent days.
 The Israeli media are filled with warnings of imminent all-out war.
Prospects of any political progress to arrest or reverse the cycle of
violence with the Palestinians are bleak, according to political and
diplomatic reports.

  It is widely recognised that only US and European pressure on the
parties can prevent a further escalation; but there is no sign that
this is a priority for President George W. Bush, who has supported the
Israeli prime minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon's dismissive attitude towards
the Palestinian leader, Mr. Yasser Arafat.

  The Europeans are justifiably furious about Israeli targeting of
buildings and facilities supplied to the Palestinian Authority by EU
states.  These include the airport in Gaza, the official Voice of
Palestine radio station in Ramallah, statistics and forensic offices
and municipal buildings, costing some 17.3 million Euros.  There is a
move to seek compensation from Israel for this at the next meeting of
EU foreign ministers.

  This destructive policy appears to be driven by the Israeli prime
minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, who seems determined to undermine Mr.
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.  Those in Israel who believe an
alternative to him would be worse are very much on the defensive.

  The policy of maximum Israeli retaliation for each act of individual
terrorism is bringing the various groups leading the Palestinian
intifada together.  These include those close to Mr. Arafat's Fatah
organisation, increasingly involved in armed actions and terrorism
against Israeli troops and civilians because they do not want to lose
influence with the Palestinian population.  Mr. Arafat says it is
impossible for him to move effectively against armed groups while he
remains under Israeli house arrest in Ramallah.

  Such an escalation is more and more dangerous for the Middle East
region, but there is little likelihood that it will be scaled down in
the short to medium term.  Yesterday's actions involving Hezbollah
guerillas on the Lebanese-Syrian border reinforced the Israeli
conviction that Iran has decided to arm its enemies.  Such a belief
could embolden Mr. Sharon's right-wing cabinet colleagues to support an
all-out war against Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority and
reconquer the West Bank and Gaza in the name of greater Israel.

  Only the fear that this would be quite unacceptable to the United
States and Europe restrains them.  There is a widespread feeling that
President Bush supports Mr. Sharon's approach and has lost confidence
in Mr. Arafat.  He may no longer feel the need to cultivate Arab states
following military success in Afghanistan and may also believe there is
little his government can do while Palestinians and Israelis are so
comprehensively polarised against one another.  It should fall to the
European states to correct that imbalance.  But as yet they lack the
political will and resources to do so.  Hence the widespread feeling
that this conflict is rapidly spiraling out of control.
(c) 2002, The Irish Times

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