A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|No to Palestinian State|
|05/12/02 at 21:05:10|
At least now they (Israelis) are saying clearly what they believe... so world can see for itself .... will the next step be the Palestinian right to live?
Sharon loses key party vote
May 12, 2002 Posted: 8:43 PM EDT (0043 GMT)
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a political defeat Sunday, as his own Likud party voted to restate its opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, despite his strong objections.
The party's central committee voted almost unanimously for the resolution, which was proposed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his main political rival.
Sharon tried to block the vote, saying any decision would be "dangerous to the state of Israel and will only intensify the pressure on us."
But around midnight, at the end of a stormy Likud party meeting, 59 percent of the 2,600 voting members decided by secret ballot to oppose Sharon and vote for Netanyahu's proposal.
The prime minister had argued the issue of Palestinian statehood was not on the agenda of the Likud Central Committee, and a decision on the topic would only harm efforts to reach peace in the Middle East.
"Together we will lead the state of Israel, together we will overcome terrorism, together we will make peace," Sharon said. "With God's help, we will win."
Sharon has said he would support the formation of a Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.
After the vote, Netanyahu told CNN the vote should be interpreted not as a political contest, but as a policy issue about how to relate to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
"The question is do we reward the campaign of terror that Arafat has launched against us for 18 months with the promise of a Palestinian state that could turn into a fortress of terror against us and people resoundingly said 'No, they don't want that'," he said.
"They want peace, they want unlimited self government for the Palestinians and the future negotiation, but they don't want that self government to have those sovereign powers that destroy the Jewish state. For example the right of a Palestinian state to make military pacts with Iraq or Iran and so on."
Netanyahu laid the blame for continuing suicide attacks at the feet of the Palestinian leader. "Arafat is not doing a damn thing to stop it, and at the same time, he's going to get diplomatic rewards?"
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat reacted angrily to the vote, calling it "a very dangerous development."
"I think that this is a very clear cut message that the war being waged by Israel against the Palestinians is not a war against terror, as they call it, it's a war to maintain occupation, it's a war to sustain occupation, it's a war to beef up the settlement activities and to introduce more and physically impact on the ground as far as Jerusalem is concerned," Erakat said.
The Likud decision is non-binding and its practical impact on Sharon's diplomatic efforts in the Middle East remains to be seen.
The Bush administration reiterated that President Bush's "vision" for the region remains two states -- "an Israel and a Palestine, living together side by side in peace and security and that is the goal towards which this administration will work," said a senior administration official.
The official downplayed the significance of the vote, calling it more a matter of "party-politics" in Israel than a true setback for the peace process.
In an interview Saturday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt and Shields," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israeli officials perhaps should have offered Palestinians their own state earlier in peace talks. Peres is a member of the opposition Labor Party.
"I believe that a Palestinian state is inevitable as soon as possible," Peres said. "When I think back on Oslo, I feel maybe we made a mistake by not offering a state of their own." (Full story)
Israel delays Gaza retaliation
The Israeli army Sunday began to stand down some of its reservists mobilized for a potential offensive in Gaza, according to Israeli military sources.
Sharon ordered the deployment in preparation for an attack after a Palestinian terror bombing Tuesday in the coastal city of Rishon Letzion that killed 15 people.
But concerns were raised that if Israeli soldiers were to enter Gaza, they would face fierce fighting in the heavily populated area, and there could be civilian casualties even higher than the dozens who died in Jenin during Israel's sweep of the refugee camp there last month.
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told CNN Sunday on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Israel had no immediate intention to launch an offensive into Gaza.
"We will decide when and how" to retaliate, he said, adding he wants to avoid an operation "that will cause suffering to both sides."
"I'm ready to say at this stage of the game that I'm willing to give [peace] a chance," Ben-Eliezer said. "I'm willing to give a chance and to wait."
The Hamas suicide bomber who launched the attack Tuesday in the coastal city of Rishon Letzion was from Gaza, said Ben-Eliezer. But Israelis don't know whether the man embarked on the bombing from Ramallah, Nablus or Gaza, he said.
"Gaza is the Hamas capital, and -- sooner or later -- they should realize we will reach everyone, unless they decide to change direction," Ben-Eliezer said.
Speaking for the Palestinians, Israel Cabinet member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN Sunday:
"What we need right now is a political program, which Israel lacks, that says they are willing to deal with the imperatives of peace in a responsible way, and that they're not going to go on bashing and battering the Palestinians into submission, that's not going to happen.
"The occupation is a source of violence that has to stop," Ashrawi said.
Arafat strongly condemned the Rishon Letzion attack and promised to take action against those responsible.
Meanwhile, services were held Sunday for the first time at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity since a siege by Israeli soldiers began last month when several Palestinian fighters took refuge there. The siege was lifted last week.
Orthodox services were held at the Church of the Nativity while Roman Catholic services held at the adjacent St. Catherine's Church.
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