Despite All, Israel Maintains a Negative Attitude

The long anticipated meeting between President Yasser Arafat and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres finally took place on Wednesday, 26 September 2001, at Gaza International Airport. The meeting was repeatedly delayed or cancelled by the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ariel Sharon. At some point, Mr. Sharon even set additional conditions in order for the meeting to take place, such as a 48-hour period of complete calm. Obviously, however, the Israeli government had to go along with the meeting as a result of serious American pressure, which acquired new urgency in light of the events of 11 September 2001 along with the administrations efforts to build an international coalition to fight international terrorism.

The meeting between President Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres in itself was reasonable and concluded with positive results. An agreement was reached on how to proceed with the implementation of the Tenet plan and the Mitchell Report up to the point of resuming negotiations on a final settlement. However, the next day, Israeli occupying forces, with the full backing of certain circles within the Israeli government, initiated actions on the ground that appeared aimed at destroying the agreement, and maybe even increasing tension and confrontation. During the following days, the occupying forces made incursions into areas under full Palestinian control, using tanks and helicopter gun-ships to shell homes and buildings and to flatten agricultural areas. Israeli occupying forces indiscriminately shot at demonstrators, and on many occasions without gunfire from the area. The actions led to the killing of 29 Palestinians. At the same time, there were no reported fatalities on the Israeli side.

The nervousness of Mr. Sharon became even more apparent when he made his infamous speech in which he called on the U.S. and the West not to "appease" the Arabs at the expense of Israel. He then called for the U.S. not to repeat the "dreadful mistake of 1938" when Europe "decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia" to the Nazis. Mr. Sharon asserted that Israel would not be Czechoslovakia. Some analysts indicated that this erratic and dangerous outburst was the result of the statement made by President Bush declaring support for a Palestinian state and with the information made public regarding previous plans of the administration to present an initiative on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Clearly, the Israeli government, at least influential parts of it, neither wanted to calm the situation nor planned on implementing its part of the agreement of the Arafat-Peres agreement. Basically, that government does not want to proceed with negotiations to conclude a final settlement. The question now posed is how the Israeli position will develop in light of what is happening in the world and what the world, in particular the U.S., will do to ensure that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is completely resolved once and for all.