Even as Israeli forces continued their unrelenting efforts to kill Palestinian terrorists and to arrest their political leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon planned to meet with a high-ranking Palestinian leader to renew peace talks.
In an interview published Wednesday by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Sharon said the meeting with an unnamed official would take place in the next few days: a sign, he said, that the Palestinian war machine is breaking down.
Gary Rosenblatt |
Editor and Publisher
It’s no secret that Israel has a number of pressing internal problems, from the declining economy and religious-secular tensions to bureaucratic bloat and political cynicism. But many Israelis, engaged for two full years now in a war imposed by the Palestinians and suffering from reports of fatal casualties on an almost daily basis, believe the social and political troubles must take a back seat to the military effort. Defeat the terrorists and get the peace process back on track, they say, and then we’ll attend to our own issues.
The specter of a fifth column, Israeli Arabs, conspiring from within Israel to help Palestinian terrorists emerged anew this week with the arrests of seven Israeli Arabs from one family in the Galilee. Members of the Bakri family were charged with helping the suicide bomber who blew up an Israeli bus Aug. 4 that killed nine Israelis and injured dozens of others.
Since the start of the Palestinian violence almost two years ago, Samech Zakout, a 19-year-old Israel Arab from Ramle, said he has lost all of the Jewish friends he once had.
"They think Iím a terrorist," he lamented.
But Zakout said he has made three new Jewish friends at Open House since joining this community center six years ago that fosters Israeli Arab-Jewish relations. And Zakout said he hopes to make other Jewish friends through his music.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon walked a tightrope this week, trying to downplay the significance of an Israeli troop withdrawal from Bethlehem to mollify the political right while at the same time giving the green light to proceed with pullbacks elsewhere.
"All that Israel has done is to pull a few jeeps and tank transporters out of the center of Bethlehem," Israel Radio quoted Sharon as telling his security cabinet Wednesday, even as concern increased about Iraq attacking Israel.
Israeli officials continued their crackdown on Palestinian militants this week, including charging a top Palestinian leader with murder, while early elections suddenly loomed as a possibility and Haifa's mayor announced his candidacy for the Labor Party leadership.
In an indictment unsealed Wednesday in Tel Aviv District Court, Marwan Barghouti, 43, who once was touted as a successor to Palestinian President Yasir Arafat, was branded an "arch-terrorist whose hands are bloodied by dozens of terror actions."