Israel Resource Review 31st January, 2003


Ariel Sharon, Amram Mitzne and Yose Beillin won the Israeli Election
Natan Scharansky, Yose Sarid and the Oslo Process Lost in this Election
David Bedein

There were multiple winners of the Israeli elections and there were multiple losers of the Israeli elections.

The winners were Ariel Sharon, Amram Mitzne and Yose Beillin.

Sharon wanted to double the strength of the Likud in the Knesset. He did just that - from 19 to 38 so that he could lead the country into either war or peace with a clear mandate to lead.

Mitzne wanted to lead a small, compact Labor Party based on a new concept for the negotiation process: Unilateral Withdrawal and Surrender of Territory, instead of abiding by the reciprocity principles of the Oslo process, in coordination with the western nations Mitzne has an assortment of MK's with strong international connections, beginning with Shimon Peres.

Yuli Tamir, the titular head of Peace Now, which succeeded in raising more than $2.2 million per annum from abroad and which has recently launched a campaign in the US to demand that US aid to Israel be predicated on Israeli dismantling of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria. Katif and the Golan, and that US AID funds be deducted for any and all expenses incurred in "settlement activity". See the website of Americans for Peace Now for further info on that campaign.

Rav Michael Melchior, who as the chief Rabbi of Norway maintains contacts with Scandanavian governments that continue to pour funds into Israeli peace groups. Michael's father, Rav Bent Melchior, in Denmark, has joined Herbert Pundak's efforts in Denmark to fund TAYOUSH, and organization that works towards the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from beyond the 1949/67 lines. Herbert Pundak is the father of Ron Pundak, the head of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. As the head of the Israel government commission on anti-semitism, Melchior established useful international connections with all Jewish organizations.

Yitzhak Herzog, the Barak cabinet secretary who was the legal counsel to the Peres Center and who in the past raised funds through the Kahanoff and Evergreen Foundations in Canada, both of which are connected to his cousin, Shira Herzog Working with Tamir, Melchior, and Herzog, Mitzne can work with Peres to raise a war chest for the next election campaign. which can also finance effective work with the media.

Yose Beillin is the other winner of this campaign. He maneuvered his way out of a Knesset seat by accepting an unrealistic position in Meretz and will now be able to organize his EU-funded operation without any pretenses of accountability to the Israeli electorate.

The losers of this campaign are Natan Scharansky, Yose Sarid and the Oslo process:

Scharansky tried to be all things to all people. He played hard line while his record at the Wye conference in October 1998 showed that he was part of the Israeli negotiating team that unliterally sacrificed much of Israel's sovereignty to the US. He appealed to religious audiences while at the same time ran a political party that endorsed opening of businesses and public transportation on Shabbat. Meanwhile, he asked the government of Israel to recognize Jewish status of non-Jews.

Sarid became obsolete, parroting slogans of the Oslo process that no longer had any meaning, while his sardonic attacks on Israel's religious community were overshadowed by the direct attacks of years to come.

The Oslo Process died in these elections. The 12 MK's of Meretz and the 44 MK's of Labor (1992-1996) had proven to be a winning formula for Rabin. These two parties now constitute only 25 MK's, less than half of what it took to advance the Oslo process accords of 1993-1995.

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Sharon's Associates:
There is no Such Thing as a "Right Wing Government"
Ben Caspit
Correspondent, Maariv

The first phone call was from his son, Gilad. Ariel Sharon spoke gently, occasionally laughing. Gilad phoned from the farm, immediately after the television polls, to his father sitting in the security cabinet room in the Prime Minister's Bureau in Tel Aviv. The second call was less expected: Amram Mitzna was on the line.

Just then Sharon was watching Barak being interviewed with a serious face, talking about the bad fall the party had taken.

Here he had a problem. Mitzna on the phone, Barak on television. Sharon tried to handle both, but couldn't. He asked to tone Barak down, so he could hear Mitzna. They set up a meeting, even though Mitzna made it clear: "I have no intention of joining your government, I am committed to my positions".

Then Shaul Mofaz called. Sharon cordially informed Mofaz (making sure others in the room could hear): "You were and will continue to be the defense minister of the Jewish people".

The next to phone was Binyamin Netanyahu. Afterwards, of course, Shimon Peres. And so it went, on and on. A parade of phone calls and congratulations. [ . . . ]

On the night of victory, on the sweaty victors' stage, Sharon's tension dissipated and became a great victory swell.

A close observation can reveal some of them most intriguing mysteries of today's politics. For example, who will be a minister in his next government.

Most of the compliments went to Ehud Olmert. Sharon went out of his way to thank his election campaign chairman. The next day Sharon phoned Olmert again. The Jerusalem mayor's position in the next government seems more assured than ever. Even Limor Livnat received a warm thank-you. So did the strategic advisers (Adler, Arad, Horev). Arthur Finkelstein, who phoned from the US, said he was pleased. [ . . . ]

Now Sharon faces a truly difficult task. To form a government that is not a right wing government. "There is no such animal, there is no right wing government, there is no such option", Sharon's associates say. The prime minister himself emphasizes to his close associates that no such option exists. He has no intention, under any circumstances, to bring Avigdor Lieberman into the coalition.

Lieberman, incidentally, is aware of this and is considering what to do. One option is to leave political life in the next few weeks. Sharon won't mourn. "I will not be put under the pressure of extremists, not from the Right and not from the Left", Sharon says. "There are many options and possibilities without being captive to the extremists. The media exaggerates its assessments when it says it will be difficult for me to form a working government".

The prime minister is aware of the Labor Party's decision not to join his government. He is pinning most of his hopes on Shimon Peres. Sharon's people are beginning to put out feelers and apply pressure, mainly among Peres' circle. Peres tells his associates that there is something to talk about. He is vague about this message to the media.

Sharon's people are now putting together a hefty "package of enticements" directed at Peres, in the hope that he will be first to pick up the gauntlet. [ . . . ]

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Palestinian Arab Reaction to the Israeli Elections
Roni Shaked
Arab Affairs Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot

Palestinians: "Now we will continue the intifada"

The Palestinian Arabs were dealt a serious disappointment this week. Their efforts to affect the Israeli political map failed once again.

In the past months they openly supported Amram Mitzna. "Since Rabin's murder there has not been a leader as courageous as he. If he is elected, there will be a peace agreement within a year," said Mohammed Dahlan, Arafat's security adviser.

Even Arafat, in his convoluted way, tried to exercise influence. Just under a month before the elections he called for a cease-fire on the Palestinian side in order to help Labor in the election campaign, and mostly to get rid of Sharon, "the last bullet in the barrel of the Israeli rifle."

This, perhaps, is the reason that the blow was so crushing. Not only was Sharon not vanquished, but the Palestinians and their terror policy played no small part in bringing about the sweeping victory of Sharon and the right-wing bloc as a whole, and the collapse of the Israeli left-wing camp.

"Once more we are stuck, and the situation will lead to more terror," said sources in the security establishment the morning after the election. This assessment is based not only on impressions and analyses of the situation, but on intelligence warnings that the Palestinians are about to begin a new wave of terror.

The Palestinians do not need a new reason to continue terrorism, but the defeat of the peace camp, which leaves them without friends and without hope of a renewed peace process, challenges them to carry out a terror attack in Israel, in order to "send a message" to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. There would be other bonuses to such an attack: Firstly, an attack close to elections would embarrass the prime minister and prove that his promises to bring security, calm, and quiet, are baseless. The Palestinians also believe that attacks inside the territories will be met with less international criticism if Israel is ruled by a right-wing government that supports settlers and continues a policy of force rather than entering negotiations.

"The elections did not open a road to hope, we are going in the direction of fire," said Dahlan the day after the election. "Our situation, yours and ours, will be much worse." Hussein a-Sheikh, Fatah secretary in the West Bank, said, "The Israeli people have not understood that the policy of force will not bring security, and elected Sharon yet again. We have no choice but to continue the Intifada." Hamas and Islamic Jihad spoke in a less moderate tone. Dr. Abd el-Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader, promised, "The new government will strengthen the path of jihad and warfare."

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In an Emergency Government, We'll Sit With Haredim
Mazal Mualem
Correspondent, HaAretz

Shinui Chairman MK Tommy Lapid will meet with Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna, who phoned him yesterday and asked to speak to him about the election results. Lapid said at the opening of the first faction meeting held with all 15 Shinui MKs that Shinui does not plan to retreat from its coalition demands and called on Mitzna to display flexibility.

Lapid said, "Mr. Mitzna is the one who has blocked his party and after the Labor Party's defeat, a way has to be found to rescue it from paralysis. It is important that Labor be part of the coalition because it is still very relevant.

Lapid believes that the Labor Party will eventually join the coalition. He based this, among other reasons, on what Shimon Peres said--that the path is what is important.

It appears that Shinui has adopted the tactic of putting persistent psychological pressure on Labor, by means of a determined stand by the entire faction, and at a later stage it will even take public steps, like having thousands of Shinui supporters demonstrate opposite Labor Party headquarters.

However, Lapid also said that in the case of war, Shinui would be willing to join a national emergency government even with Haredim: "We will sit in the government from the first missile to the last missile. We will not use the war as an excuse. If there is a war and the prime minister asks us, we will consent".

As to a coalition partnership with UTJ (Agudat Yisrael), Lapid said that this is possible because UTJ does not sit in the government, but is only a coalition partner.

Lapid's remarks were backed up by all the faction members. However, MK Avraham Poraz, number two in Shinui, made remarks implying that Shinui was likely to find itself in a unity government even without the Labor Party. He said, "The Likud must make Labor a very tempting offer . . . but I want to make it clear that the keys to Shinui's office are not in the same place as the keys to the Labor Party. We are not Labor Party marionettes, we want the Labor Party very much, we will lie on the fence for it and will even give up on jobs and positions for it".

However, the possibility is being considered that despite Shinui's strength, it will find itself in the opposition.

Poraz told the new MKs: "There is a chance that in the end, we will sit in the opposition; that is where a new MK in particular can stand out prominently. Tommy and I will perhaps be more upset".

MK Yossi Paritzky said, "They can get along without us. Our path is completely contrary to that of Shas and the prime minister has to make an ideological decision and decide which of us he wants. We want a real upheaval in matters of state and religion".

MK Yehudit Naot adopted the same line: "How can we sit together with Haredim if they are in favor of the Large Families Law? How can we revoke the Tal Law in this government? There is a consensus in Shinui. We have an agenda, we do not plan to fall apart the way Dash did. We are here for the long term . . . It's been said about us that we are Tommy's dwarves. I want to make it clear that this faction has members with independent opinions, it's a very opinionated faction, and we'll prove this. It's true that Tommy is the undisputed leader, but he is surrounded by an independent and eloquent group of people".

Shinui has not yet set up a coalition negotiating team and has decided to wait and see who will be on the Likud negotiating team. [ . . . ]. Yesterday the faction met in Tel Aviv. [ . . . ]. Lapid presented Shinui's conditions and was given sweeping support. Everyone agreed that Shinui must not betray its promises, because this is the source of its strength. [ . . . ]

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