When Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Israel this weekend to discuss the "road map" for peace, he will find Palestinian President Yasir Arafat still firmly in control of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refusing to even discuss the plan until the Palestinians give up their right-of-return to Israel.
"The big issue is that Arafat is still in control and there has been no regime change," said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.
The Tel Aviv beachfront bombing that killed three Israelis and injured 50 early Wednesday (just five hours after the Palestinian parliament confirmed Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister and approved his cabinet) reinforced the view of many Israeli analysts that little has changed despite earlier optimism.
"It's incredibly funny how people are capable of self-deception, how they can distort realities to suit political hopes and promises," said Uzi Arad, former director of intelligence in the Mossad, Israel's spy service.
by Stewart Ain and Joshua Mitnick |
Staff Writer and Israel Correspondent
This week's clash between Palestinian President Yasir Arafat and Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas is being seen as Arafat's last-ditch effort to hold onto power, but observers say that in the end it may delay peace efforts and set back Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
"From my reading and the good contacts I have with the Palestinians, they understand how crucial and fragile the situation is," said Yoram Meital, chairman of the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
An Israeli lawyer who twice failed to convince Israel, the United States and Italy to demand the arrest and extradition of Abu Abbas fears the Palestinian terrorist leader will again escape justice.
But Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said she will appeal for a third time to the High Court of Justice in Israel to have Abbas extradited there.
Darshan-Leitner, whose Israel Law Center in Jerusalem is dedicated to protecting Jewish rights and interests, called Israel, the U.S. and Italy "hypocrites."
In a move that could scuttle renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts now that the war in Iraq is over, the Palestinians have included in their new constitution their right to return to homes they fled in 1948. But the Israeli government insisted this week that the "road map" toward the creation of a Palestinian state be amended to preclude the right of return.
Israel's Interior Ministry is revamping its procedures for allowing Christian clerics, religious students and volunteers to enter the country in response to growing complaints by Christian groups, The Jewish Week has learned.
The groups said they have had serious trouble in recent months obtaining entry visas and renewals for their flock.