Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, widely regarded as a successful military strategist, displayed his political acumen this week when he turned a stunning defeat of his emergency economic package by the Knesset into a victory not only for the package but also for his political career.
"Sharon became a real hero," said Mordechai Kedar, a professor at Bar-Ilan University. "And he is now very high in the polls."
Palestinian President Yasir Arafat came under increasing internal pressure this week to implement structural changes in the Palestinian Authority, but many Israeli leaders and analysts dismissed any chance that the kind of reforms demanded by the United States and Israel would be forthcoming.
In 1969, Israel announced a major project to document the potential billions of dollars in lost property that belonged to the estimated 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced to leave their native Arab countries because of persecution after the creation of the Jewish state.
But the project was quickly abandoned.
James Besser |
Officials in Washington and Jerusalem have embraced it with enthusiasm, but the international peace conference tentatively scheduled for early summer may be intended more as a diplomatic stop-gap than a great diplomatic leap.
“My inclination is to believe it’s a mirage,” said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and a leading critic of the Oslo peace talks. “Nobody really believes in it, but everybody is supporting it in order to look good.”
At the same time a suicide bomber killed 15 in an illegal gambling casino near Tel Aviv Tuesday, President George W. Bush reportedly agreed in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to shove aside Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under the pretext of political reform of the Palestinian Authority.
Senior Israeli officials in Israel were unable to confirm the report, which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said it learned from sources within Sharon's entourage.
With a resolution of the stand-off between Israelis and Palestinians in Ramallah and Bethlehem in sight at mid-week, efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to address the underlying conflict are expected to begin next week when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush at the White House.