Israeli responses to the Hebron massacre


VIVIENNE PORZSOLT of Green Left Weekly spoke to Amos Wollin, an Israeli political commentator, on the Israeli response to the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque.

"In large numbers, Israelis have said they understand the murderer", Wollin reported. "Pictures of the doctor who perpetrated the killings were carried round like icons at Kiryat Arba. These were initially shown on Israeli television. That was stopped; they apparently gave orders that this kind of thing cannot go on official Israeli television.

"On the official level, there is condemnation, because of the damage done to the Israeli image abroad, also the political implications which are damaging. They undermine Israel vis-a-vis the Arabs. There are other kinds of damage too, for instance to Israeli tourism."

Wollin said that Israeli Arabs' reaction was one of shock, anger and protest. There were demonstrations in every community immediately after the massacre.

"But also, for instance, there was a strike of all the Arab municipalities in protest against the shooting of one Bedouin in the south when police intervened in a demonstration. There were riots in Jaffa with 100 people arrested. There was heavy rioting in Jericho, a town which has been very quiet all these years and practically not involved in the Intifada."

Speaking about the impact of the massacre on the peace process, Wollin said, "After a relatively short interval, I believe that negotiations for a Gaza and Jericho limited self-administration and the redeployment of Israeli forces will be speeded up under American auspices.

"But I think that the next stage, namely the West Bank and Gaza elections for the self-governing authority of the Palestinians, will be very much in doubt ... In general, I don't think the process will be able to go on as was conceived in the agreement on principles in August.

"Israel rejects the idea of renegotiation at present, but eventually I think there will be no other way. It looks as if the attitude towards settlements will have to change, and the first step will probably be that they will move the people from inside Hebron. The situation is probably untenable now. About one third of the ministers in the Israeli government advocate now what the more left peace camp has been demanding, namely the withdrawal of settlers from Hebron ...

"They will probably have to agree to some kind of international observers stationed inside the occupied territories."

Speaking of pressures on PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Wollin said he was very strongly criticised for the terms of the Cairo agreement by Palestinians inside the occupied territories and also in Tunis. Now the massacre in Hebron has strengthened the criticism of Arafat because the PLO is being blamed for agreeing at Oslo to terms which allow the settlers to go on doing what they like.

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