Just days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s scheduled arrival in Israel Saturday night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced a series of moves to bolster the Palestinian Authority, including the deployment of another 600 Palestinian policemen and approving permits for thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel.
The issuance of work permits is a major change in Israeli policy, according to Yitzhak Reiter, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised expectations with their almost identical pledges for an end to violence, Sharon’s own political fortunes at home were not as bright.
He faces a fight with his own foreign minister and other members of his party who are supporting calls for a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal plan. And Sharon does not yet have enough votes in the Knesset to win passage of the 2005 budget. If it does not pass by March 31, his government would collapse and new elections would be held.
Jerusalem — Opponents of the Gaza disengagement plan are focusing their efforts now on more street demonstrations to force either a referendum on the issue or the collapse of the Sharon government. But they acknowledge that their chances of success are slim.“I think this [turnout] is very good,” said Mordechai Afargan, 23, a yeshiva student from Ashdod, as he scanned the estimated 150,000 who gathered Sunday night in front of the Knesset. “This is the biggest rally we have had here and they say it is going to be the turning point.”
Tel Aviv — Having survived an early attempt at a putsch within his own party and an immediate outpouring of public protest, Ehud Olmert’s tenure as prime minister now seems to be in the hands of his chief coalition partner, the Labor Party.
With the party divided over whether to oust Olmert immediately to satisfy public sentiment or prop up the coalition to avoid early elections likely to crown Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud, all eyes are now fixed on the May 28 Labor leadership primary.
Analysts this week had conflicting views of how the Winograd Commission’s report would impact the two leading contenders in the Labor Party’s May 28 election for party leader. But one thing is clear — party leader Amir Peretz may have been fatally hurt in his bid for re-election.
Israel’s proposed $58 billion budget scheduled for government approval Sunday would split the country into two states, one rich and one poor, two prominent Israelis from opposite ends of the political spectrum warned this week.
A series of developments this week suggested that the stage may be getting set for renewed Palestinian-Israeli peace talks even as Palestinians prepared for new elections and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon worked to form a new coalition government.
The future of the once-dominant Labor Party as a major player in Israeli politics is at stake as party voters go to the polls Tuesday to select their candidate in January’s general election.
An internal Labor Party poll placed Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna ahead of his nearest challenger, former Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, by 18 percent. The third candidate in the race, veteran politician Haim Ramon, trailed Mitzna by 30 percent.
Pembroke Pines, Fla. — Sen. Joseph Lieberman sounded an ominous warning last week when he told The Jewish Week that Sen. John Kerry’s failure to speak substantively about Israel during campaign appearances here had weakened his support among Jewish Democrats.
“I was here two or three weeks ago and this question came up a few times, not from the media [but] from people,” said Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat.
“Why isn’t he talking about Israel?” he said voters wanted to know.
When Ariel Sharon returns to Israel at the end of this week, he will face what could be his most challenging two weeks as prime minister as he attempts to persuade his Likud Party to adopt his disengagement plan in a May 2 referendum.
Sharon hopes to use the commitments he won this week from President George W. Bush as leverage to garner support for the plan. But Shaul Goldstein, mayor of the regional council of the Gush Etzion bloc just south of Jerusalem, said that may backfire.