ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Two Step Stability

Two Step Stability

29 May 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The Israel state budget passed last night despite the thousands of objections posted by the opposition.  The coalition sped up the process of voting placing thousands of objections in the same bag and ended the long arduous farce by 3AM.  Finance Minister Netanyahu was pleased, thanked PM Sharon for his support and got his 9 billion shekels worth of cuts.  The first step in solidifying rule and administration both on the domestic and foreign front was taken.  Economists believe the plan will bring stability, not growth.  It’s a start.

Next is Sharon’s meeting with Palestinian PM Abu Mazen in preparation for the Aqaba summit next week between Sharon, Abu Mazen himself, King Abdullah II of Jordan and US President Bush.  Abu Mazen wants an Israeli declaration of recognition for the Palestinian state to be, a halt in Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas (anti-terror activities) and a cessation of all Israeli building in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza.  Sharon demands an end to all Palestinian terror activities, radio and TV anti-Israel incitement and antisemitism, the collection of illegal weapons by the Palestinian security forces and most importantly a declaration by Abu Mazen recognizing Israel as the ‘Jewish’ state.  The last demand is most significant since it blocks any future Palestinian demands for the ‘right of return’ of refugees.  Sharon wants to pre-empt a crisis in the third step of negotiations.

Should the two agree and implement, PA Chairman Arafat will be circumvented along with other Arab world radicals, especially Syria and the different Palestinian Islamic groups.  So far Damascus is silent, their recent run-in with the US over the pro-Iraqi actions causing them to hold their tongues.  The Islamicists, led by Hamas Sheikh Ahmed Yassin are considering a ‘hudna’ or limited cease fire but have attached a string of conditions, including the release of all Palestinian prisoners, which Israel cannot accept.  Abu Mazen will face his first major test enforcing a cease-fire on the Hamas and Jihad.

Sharon will need to rip down illegal proto-settlements for a start.  The right wing National Union and National Religious Parties (13 seats all tolled) could live with this.  But should the PM announce his recognition of a Palestinian state they can be expected to bolt the coalition.  As far a Sharon is concerned, this is no great loss and Labor may be ripe to join a National Unity Government.

Labor stalwarts claim they will not join Sharon’s government, but should he take all the steps they demand and the Right bail out they will have a tough time explaining why they do not take the ‘golden opportunity’ to make peace.  Shimon Peres is getting a grip on the party in an effort at rehabilitation after the resignation of Chairman Amram Mitzna.  Labor (19 seats) could support the remaining 55 coalition members from the outside or replace the right wing parties.  The second option could possibly leave the party will only 12 Knesset members as another seven are threatening to split off and possibly join the left wing Zionist party Meretz.  In any case the government would be assured a stable majority.

Until now Labor could not join because of opposition to the austerity plan.  With the budget now law, that obstacle is removed.  Should Sharon move forward on the diplomatic front, a second wall will crumble.  Sharon would like nothing better than to ditch the Right and work with Shimon Peres once again and bring stability on a second front.

Positive moves on the Palestinian front could inspire investor confidence, turning an economic stabilization plan into one for growth.  Furthermore, the Likud right wing would have to tone down criticism of Sharon’s concessions since the main beneficiary will be Netanyahu, their supposed unbending leader.

But of course it depends on the end of Palestinian terrorism.  Bets anyone?