Palestinians Fear Barak's Woes will Toughen his Negotiating Position in Summit
Palestinians were worried on Monday that the collapse of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's coalition would in fact strengthen his negotiating position at a US peace summit with their president Yasser Arafat and US President Bill Clinton.
They believed Clinton would not press Israel to come closer to their demands for an independent state on all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital after three right-wing parties resigned from Barak's government on Sunday.
Some analysts even suggested that the crisis was so perfectly timed with the Camp David summit, due to kick off on Tuesday, that Barak may have orchestrated it himself.
"I don't look seriously to what happened to the Israeli government. To me, it is a kind of pressure tactic to put Mr. Barak in a better negotiating position," said Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh, president of the Arab Thought Forum.
"I have the feeling that when he gets back, the government will be fixed again. I see it as a tactic. It may not be coordinated, but it is a tactic," Abu Arafeh added.
Khalil Shiqaqi, head of the Center for Palestine Studies and Research, said the majority of Palestinians did not trust or understand Israeli politics.
"For most Palestinians, this is nothing but an Israeli conspiracy. The man on the street tends to see the worst and make the assumption is that this is an Israeli attempt to toughen their position and to show that Barak cannot make any further concessions to the Palestinians, otherwise he would have no government," Shiqaqi said.
Israel and the Palestinians have committed themselves to reaching a final peace deal by September 13th and the Palestine Liberation Organization has pledged to declare statehood on that day even if no deal is reached by then.
The extent of the gaps remaining between Israel and the Palestinians can be understood by the latest Israeli coalition crisis.
On July 6th, Barak said he would not cross five "red lines" during the Camp David summit, vowing in particular not to return all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, relinquish control over east Jerusalem or permit Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.
Although Palestinians insist that resolutions of the issues covered by Barak's "red lines" are the minimum they would accept for a peace deal, three parties in the Israeli prime minister's coalition bolted because they considered they were not tough enough.
Shiqaqi said Palestinians had "reached the conclusion that Israel is not ready for peace."
Violence is likely to erupt if no deal is reached and Arafat makes good on the PLO's promise to implement an independent state on September 13th.
"The majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would like to see an agreement signed in Camp David, otherwise turmoil and another intifada (uprising) will be initiated in the streets," said Reyad Agha, president of the National Institute of Strategic Studies, referring to the rioting that lasted from 1987 to 1993.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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