By Jennifer Thompson
The latest deadline for Palestinian elections and Israeli redeployment from occupied Palestinian territories, July 25, has passed without any agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The failure of the peace process was highlighted by the suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv by the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.
The redeployment and elections deadline was to have been July 1, but this had to be postponed. The July 24 attack, which killed seven people and wounded more than 30, was the first since April 9. It brought an end to the two-month old unofficial understanding between the PNA and the Islamic resistance to halt their attacks and to see if Israel would redeploy as promised on July 1.
The Australian Jewish peace group Shalom-Salaam expressed its horror at the latest killings and linked them to the failure of the peace process. Green Left Weekly asked Vivienne Porzsolt from Shalom-Salaam about the peace movement in Israel.
Porzsolt said the 1993 Oslo Agreement between the Israeli government and the PLO had presented Peace Now, an Israeli umbrella group, with a dilemma because of its uncritical support for the Labor government and its coalition partner Meretz — the so-called doves in the Israeli parliament.
There are other more left groupings such as Women in Black, however Porzsolt said their activity "has been scaled down enormously".
Another group, Gush Shalom (Peace Block), is critical of the Rabin government. Porzsolt said the government tends to portray the settlers as its opponent in the peace process (giving it an excuse to compromise) which is also the position of Peace Now. Gush Shalom's Uri Avnery has made the point that the government has consistently supported the settlers.
Porzsolt reported that a new settlement had been recently set up in the West Bank. On July 17 Israelis from the Efrat settlement placed 18 trailers on land belonging to the Palestinian village of El Khader, near Bethlehem. Three days earlier the settlers had illegally placed a trailer on this site. Israeli authorities then gave the settlers permission to install 20 trailers on the El Khader land.
The government is doing nothing about this Porzsolt said. "It won't compensate those settlers who are willing to move [back to Israel], because most of the settlers went [to the West Bank] as opportunists, for the cheap loans." Many would be quite willing to move, she said, which would isolate the hard core of the settler movement, but they are too poor to move.
Porzsolt said that "there are a whole lot of things the government could do short of actually physically forcing them to leave". The government could, for instance, take steps to disarm the settlers, compensate those willing to leave and withdraw economic support to those who choose to remain. [Shalom-Salaam can be contacted at PO Box 194, Woollahra NSW 2025.]