News From the Israeli and Palestinian Front: March 18th
A biweekly feature of news and opinion pieces from the Israeli and Palestinian press.
1.) A new poll has found an uptick in popularity for Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. His surge in public approval comes as Mahmoud Abbas’s is dropping. The survey, which was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, also determined that fresh elections would lead to a strong showing for Hamas in both of the Palestinian territories. The poll suggested that IDF raids into Gaza have bolstered Haniyeh’s popular support amongst the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, the inability of Abbas to secure any major concessions from Israel, the survey concluded, explain the decline in his overall approval ratings.
2.) An editorial in Haaretz is calling on the Bush administration not to back down on Israeli-Palestinian peace in the final few months of its tenure. “We can hope that [President Bush] will follow in the footsteps of the three presidents who preceded him: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who did not end their involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even after the American people had elected their successors. Pressure to put an end to the bloodshed and guarantee the Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic country is welcome pressure,” the article stated.
3.) Over the past few days, Palestinian officials have expressed intense frustration with Israel’s recent decision to build an additional 750 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev. The impact of the decision on the peace process is already being felt: Ahmed Qureia, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Monday that he was going to downgrade the upcoming round of talks in order to protest the Israeli decision.
4.) The always-thoughtful Israeli political analyst Daniel Levy has an interesting piece on Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party, who is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal. Netanyahu has been accused of racking up a hefty bill during an August 2006 trip to London, and then charging it to the credit card of a private individual. An investigation has been opened to determine whether the Likud leader has been accepting illegal gifts from outside interests. This latest development is part of a long string of bad political luck for Netanyahu this year, starting with the tepid findings of the Winograd Commission (that were widely believed might lead to the end of Olmert’s Kadima government and bring about the rise of Likud) and culminating with this recent incident. Levy suggests that Netanyahu’s struggles hint at the surprising resilience of the Olmert administration.
5.) About 200 Israelis stormed the house of the Palestinian gunman who killed eight Jewish students earlier this month. The crowd hurled rocks at the windows, destroying parts of the family’s home. Israeli police, perhaps in an effort to allow the protestors to “blow off some steam,” didn’t properly handle the rioters. In the wake of the incident, there has been additional concern about Jewish attempts to “avenge” the deaths of the students. Itamar Ben-Gvir, who led the protest, put it like this: “This is only the beginning. This is the opening shot for a much more complicated struggle against our enemies. We are fed up with the fact that Jewish blood is abandoned and that the prime minister doesn’t care. The rage is erupting and leads to the incidents and anger we saw at the village.”
(Source: Foreign Policy Watch)