by Michele Chabin |
Jerusalem — Give up on Oslo and Arafat. That’s what political pundits are saying the Labor Party, the dominant left-of-center force in Israel since its founding in the late 1960s, must do to maintain its political viability after leaving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coalition government.
The collapse of Israel’s unity government after 20 months in office is seen as almost certainly paving the way for early elections even if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can put together enough support to adopt the 2003 state budget.
A vote of no-confidence is slated to be held Monday and Sharon has reportedly said he would call for new elections on Sunday to stave off such a vote.
It’s been a week of death and foreboding. Israel is on the verge of a three-front war: against the Palestinians, against Iraq and against itself.
While 13 Israelis are sitting shiva after Monday’s bus bombing, the rest of the country is debating the violent settler resistance against soldiers closing down the illegal settlement of Havat Gilad — illegal not only by international standards but by Israel’s.
Israelis were shaken this week by another bus bombing that killed 13, the fear of civil war after militant settlers clashed with police and soldiers, and the Health Ministry’s recommendation that the entire population be immediately vaccinated against smallpox in the event of an Iraqi attack.
In Monday’s suicide bombing, two teenage members of Islamic Jihad from the West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin rammed their jeep into the rear of a public bus midway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, engulfing the two vehicles and two nearby cars in flames.
Even as they firmed up Israeli-American strategy in their handling of a war with Iraq, this week’s meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush focused also on ways to best to defuse the Palestinian conflict.
The Wednesday Oval Office meeting — the seventh since Sharon took office in March 2001 — was to ensure that both were on the same page to prevent surprises in the future, according to Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University.
Just hours after outlining ways he would like to use the entire $20 million allocated by the United Jewish Communities for school security, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office was told he could use only $8 million. The remaining $12 million is now to be used for other projects.
“The $12 million is now off the table [for school security],” Stephen Hoffman, UJC’s chief executive officer, told Avigdor Yitzchaki.
“It is news to me that the $12 million has now vanished,” Yitzchaki said.