Israel: Challenges to Identity, Democracy, and the State

By Clive Jones; Emma C. Murphy | Go to book overview

6

Epilogue

One step forward, two steps back

On 6 February 2001, Israelis elected Ariel Sharon to be their new Prime Minister by an overwhelming margin. 1 Sharon's election clearly reflected deep unease among many Israelis over the failure of Barak, despite his impeccable security credentials, to bring about an end to the Al Aqsa Intifada or uprising, the outbreak of which on 29 September 2000 was occasioned by the visit of one Ariel Sharon to the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount. Indeed, the hubris of Barak's self-declared aim of bringing down the final curtain on the Israel-Palestine conflict was exposed by a level of violence that had, by the end of February 2001, claimed the lives of over 400 Palestinians and 60 Israelis. For some observers, the promise of future reconciliation between the two competing national movements was dealt a shattering blow with the election of a man widely reviled in the Arab world as a war criminal for his role in the massacre of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Chatilla camps in 1982. 2

In offering an explanation for the election of Sharon, one is tempted to quote the Israeli strategist Martin Van Crevald who, in a different context, noted that 'We have seen the future and it does not work'. 3 Despite the clear disparity in casualties between the protagonists, the term 'betrayal' marked popular Israeli discourse regarding relations with the Palestinians. Did not, for example, Barak offer the most far-reaching concessions to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during the course of the ill-fated Camp David Summit hosted by President Clinton in July 2000? Was Barak not reputed to have offered the de facto re-division of Jerusalem that handed practical sovereignty to the Palestinian National Authority? Moreover, Israel had conceded ground over the issue of Palestinian refugees, acknowledging the 'right of return' in Palestinian-controlled areas as well as admitting several thousand refugees into Israel proper under a family reunification scheme. 4

The rejection of such far-reaching proposals, including putting the vexed issue of Jerusalem up for negotiation, was proof to many Israelis that such concessions would never be enough to satisfy a leadership that now demanded full Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem, including the holy sites, and the full right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, a demand seemingly at odds with Palestinian recognition of Israel's right to

-133-

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Israel: Challenges to Identity, Democracy, and the State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xix
  • Glossary xxiii
  • 1 - The Weight of History 1
  • 2 - Political Structures and Social Processes 31
  • 3 - Trials, Triumphs and Tigers 61
  • 4 - A Place Among the Nations 91
  • 5 - Conclusion 123
  • 6 - Epilogue 133
  • Select Bibliography 137
  • Index 143
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