Saturday, December 29

Deceptions and Whitewash

Trust between Israel and Hamas is non-existent. Israel views Hamas’s tentative attempts at an all-embracing cease-fire as a respite working in their (Hamas’s) favour in order to re-group after the heavy losses they suffered, and carry out another round of terrorism against Israel. They need a period of quiet in order to re-arm and initiate a new cycle of terrorism. Hamas has taken a severe beating from the Israeli security forces and many of their ringleaders in organizing terror have been killed.

Despite all this terrorist activity and cycle of violence, whether it is the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot, and its environment, Israel should accept the cease-fire and at the same time be ready to retaliate if Hamas and Islamic Jihad break the cease-fire when it suits them. The advantages of a cease-fire are obvious for both sides. The biggest advantage, of course, is the saving of innocent lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.

We are all aware that the presence of international observers to ensure that the cease-fire is kept by both sides had failed in the past. Perhaps the system of cease-fire monitoring should be reviewed in order to increase its effectiveness in preventing cease-fire violations. The cease-fire should be advantageous to both sides. It should also be bolstered by trust-building measures for serious negotiations for a settlement. If this is done wisely it could open a window of opportunity for Hamas to give de facto recognition to Israel, despite it uncompromising rhetoric against Israel. The mindset of Hamas is adamant and unyielding, and to date, apart from the obvious difficulties that Hamas faces (international boycotts, violence between Hamas and Fatah, the cycle of violence between Hamas and Israel as well as an economy that is non-existent) because of its uncompromising position towards Israel, attainment of some kind of rapprochement with Hamas remains beyond the realm of reality at this stage.

While Palestine is still divided into two entities, Gaza and the West Bank, each ruled by Hamas and Fatah respectively, the chances of any realistic peace negotiations for two separate states, Israel and Palestine, would never really get off the ground.

Nevertheless, Israel is negotiating with the West Bank leadership under the weak President Mahmoud Abbas. As the situation stands now, the Olmert government has angered the Palestinian representatives by not freezing Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands. They are not keeping to the spirit of Annapolis to which they are committed. If Israel committed itself to peace negotiations and cessation of settlement activity beyond the green line including building new homes then Israel should have kept to its side of the bargain. Instead, the Israel Housing and Construction Ministry is seeking budget approval for 2008 to build 500 apartments in Har Homa, a highly disputed area of East Jerusalem and a further 240 apartments in Ma’ale Adumim, the largest Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Ma’ale Adumim has a population of more than 30 000 Jewish inhabitants. Perhaps Israel’s tactic is such that it will slowly encroach into Palestinian areas by establishing illegal settlements ensuring that a two-state solution will never be attainable.

If this trend continues, the two-state solution will cease to be a viable reality. The idea of a one-state solution will gain more support as well as legitimacy. After all, if the Israeli occupation continues to encroach upon Palestinian lands, there will be no room for a separate Palestinian state. The potential Palestinian state will have so many corridors of illegal settlers that it will not be an option. The Palestinian state will be a “never-land” forever unattainable. The right wing faction in the coalition government must be held accountable for the one-state solution. It is just a matter of time unless they come to terms with a total freeze on settlement activity in the occupied lands as well as voluntary withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. There is no other territory available for a Palestinian state!

It is obvious from these facts that Israel is deceiving the Palestinian representatives and this could endanger the fragile spirit of Annapolis. How can Israel accuse the Palestinians of breaking agreements while they, themselves, are building more illegal settlements? Surely in order that the spirit of Annapolis is maintained both sides must abide by the understandings reached.

While Israel is deceiving the Palestinians by enlarging existing settlement by stealth, its behaviour towards its own citizens is hardly any better. The Israeli government is a government of cartels – scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours! Israel has no leaders but a dearth of mediocre, corrupt and selfish politicians who warm their behinds on Knesset seats for their own personal aggrandizement and egos. Their interest in the citizens they claim to represent is directly proportional to their own self interest! Many of these gentlemen enjoy hobnobbing with the wealthy oligarchs from the ex-Soviet Union and other wealthy businessmen who wield the real power. Many of these politicos also have an aura of corruption hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles. The poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being wiped out. At the same time, the rich are getting richer!

At the same time, all is not well on the West Bank, the Israeli Army still carries out abuses against many innocent Palestinians and nobody says a word. It is all whitewashed very effectively by the Israeli Army spokesman. Either there is no comment or else there are the vague promises of an enquiry when soldier abuses are carried out. There have been no removals of humiliating check posts within the occupied territories itself and there are still tremendous difficulties for innocent Palestinians to travel and carry out their daily business. Promises made by Israel to ease the situation for the Palestinians in the West Bank have not been carried out and the situation there remains intolerable. The situation is made difficult for the Palestinians on the West Bank in order to protect the illegal Jewish settlers living there in their palatial homes.

There is no doubt, that while Israel has very little credibility - not because of its words but because of its actions, it cannot be held blameless for the hopeless economic situation that is the Palestinians’ lot. The inhuman treatment meted out by the Israeli Army on Palestinians at check posts in need of medical attention as well as the suffering of pregnant women about to give birth does much to increase the hate against Israel. Many Palestinian terrorist groups have mushroomed because of much of Israel’s occupation policies.

Saturday, December 22

The Call of Hamas for a Cease-Fire in Gaza

Hamas has created a situation of total turmoil in Gaza. The situation is desperate for the Palestinians living there with all the international economic boycotts and isolation; the cycle of suffering is increasing. The Hamas leadership still encourages the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot and the surrounding areas causing tremendous damage and shock to the economically deprived citizens of Sderot. Many residents of Sderot have limited economic means and many are unemployed and have nowhere to go. What are Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies hoping to achieve? Do they believe that Israel will surrender to them in the hope that it will cease to exist?

Hardly a day passes without a volley or two of Qassams being fired into Sderot creating havoc and fear as well as casualties. Israel has pulled out from Gaza and Hamas and company filled the vacuum created. They are on the road to violence and instability. Why? The strength of Hamas in Gaza is dependent on its ability to stir up violence and hate rhetoric for Israel. There is no plan to stabilize Gaza and create a responsible government in order to attend to the needs of a desperate Palestinian population that is poverty-stricken and unemployed. As we are all aware, Palestine is now divided into two entities – Fatahland (the West Bank) and Hamastan (Gaza). The chances of these two entities uniting under a moderate Palestinian Authority with President Mahmoud Abbas at its head is close to zero. This is what makes the aftermath of Annapolis so hopeless for the Palestinians to create a semblance of unity so that Palestine can negotiate with Israel in order to arrive at an agreement.

Now the sanction belt is tightening around Gaza which is close to being under siege. Israel is pounding the Hamas terrorist leaders responsible for the Qassam rocket fire into Sderot and the surrounding environment. They have killed many of them but the rocket firing continues and so does the stress of the inhabitants of Sderot with no end in sight.

Hamas is not showing any signs of recognizing Israel’s right to exist under any circumstances. Their manifesto remains unchanged towards Israel and they are now seeking a way to sign a cease-fire without any move towards reconciliation with Israel’s existence. However, it is obvious that they are feeling the pressure because of Israel’s retaliatory actions, and the Hamas PM, Ismail Haniyeh, now shows signs of softening up and making overtures towards a hudna or cease-fire.

Israel will not accept Haniyeh’s offer because it views this as an attempt by Hamas for a respite in order to re-arm for another round of terrorism against Israel. While the basic concepts of Hamas in its attitude towards Israel’s existence does not change and Hamas terror continues, there is no point in even moving towards negotiating as there is nothing to discuss. It looks as if Israel is on the verge of a huge military operation against Hamas and its terrorist allies. While the terrorist threat against Israel’s citizens in Sderot and its environment remains and continues, it is very difficult if not impossible to negotiate.

The other alternative is to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas in order to avert a wide scale military operation in Gaza with all its implications. A military operation will cause great suffering to many innocent Palestinians and further destruction of the poor institutions of Gaza. These negotiations could be carried out under mediation of the UN who must agree to send in observers to monitor the situation to prevent either side from attacking each other. However, the hate-rhetoric coming out of the Hamas leadership in Gaza is not conducive to any form of negotiation. The only legitimate reason for any form of negotiations is to prevent the cycle of violence and the intense suffering that it causes for both sides. If there are negotiations, Israel will have to remain on its guard for any future Hamas attack once they decide to terminate the temporary hudna, if by some miracle it is achieved. Note that there has been no desire to discuss a permanent peace settlement on the part of Hamas. This in itself is suspect of Hamas’s intentions.

A military operation, if carried out in the near future, would also result in heavy casualties on both sides and Gaza, once more, would fall under Israeli jurisdiction which is not desirable under any circumstances. As the situation remains now there is a “Catch 22” situation with neither side gaining any advantage. Even if Israel does conduct a wide scale military operation into Gaza, within days they would have to withdraw because there would be mounting world pressure against Israel.

Of course, under these circumstances, the only hope for a solution would be for Hamas to cease its terrorist activities against Israel, by climbing down from the tree of intransigence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and show a desire to negotiate with Israel. There should also be a willingness on the part of Hamas to release the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit. There is really no alternative to avoid further destruction and violence.

Friday, December 14

Religious Zionism is Racism

The definition of Zionism has many facets. Before one can discuss this highly charged subject, it would be helpful to define Zionism in general terms. Zionism is the national revival movement of the Jewish people. It holds that the Jews have the right to self-determination in their own national home, and the right to develop their national culture. Historically, Zionism strove to create a legally recognized national home for the Jews in their historical homeland. This goal was implemented by the creation of the State of Israel. Today, Zionism supports the existence of the state of Israel and helps to inspire a revival of Jewish national life, culture and language.

Today, since the establishment of Israel, Zionism has lost its relevancy. It is alive and kicking in the comfortable armchairs of Diaspora Jewry, most of whom do not intend to leave the fleshpots where they live in order to settle in Israel.

However, religious Zionism – an offshoot of general Zionism, has an ideology based on occupation and with it very extreme self-righteous racism. This occupation gained tremendous impetus after the Six Day War of June 1967 whereby successive governments in Israel encouraged illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

In 1968 a group of religious fanatics under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Levinger founded the settlement Kiryat Arba near Hebron. These were the predecessors of Gush Emunim. In 1974, following the shock of the Yom Kippur War, the organization was founded more formally, by students of the younger Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who remained its leader until his death in 1982.

In late 1974, an affiliated group named Garin Elon Moreh, led by Rabbi Menachem Felix and Benjamin (Beni) Katzover, attempted to establish a settlement on the ruins of the Sebastia train station dating from the Ottoman period. After seven attempts and six removals from the site by the army, an agreement was reached. According to the agreement, The Israeli government allowed 25 families to settle in the Kadum army camp southwest of Nablus/ [[Shechem]. The Sebastia agreement was a turning point which opened up Samaria to Jewish settlement. The small caravan site with 25 families eventually became the municipality of Kedumim, one of the major settlements in Judea and Samaria. The Kadum army camp settlement model was copied over the years in Beit El, Shavei Shomron and other settlements.

The religious Zionist Zealots believe that greater Israel (which includes the territories occupied since the Six Day War) was ordained by God for Jewish settlement. They established settlements. They built religious institutions on Palestinian lands as well as palatial homes in these settlements.

Another well-known right-wing rabbi who was the champion of the settler movement and one of its ideologues was the late ex-chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Avraham Shapira who died at the age of 94 years in October 2007. He was a very divisive religious leader. He urged soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate the Gaza Strip in 2005. Shapira believed that the territory Israel had won in 1967 was promised by God and belonged to Jews in perpetuity. He felt that “surrendering an inch of sacred turf was tantamount to blasphemy”. After leaving the chief rabbinate he co-founded the Rabbis' Union for the Complete Land of Israel. Its 500 clerics attacked the Oslo Accords for transferring land to Palestinians - forbidden under Jewish law, they claimed. In 2003 Shapira asked the Knesset to boycott a ceremony honoring the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. American evangelicals, he claimed, were deceiving Jews and Christians into imagining a "common faith shared by both".

Shapira inspired thousands as dean of the Mercaz Ha-Rav Kook Yeshiva, one of Israel's largest talmudic academies and the flagship of religious Zionism. He probably wielded more influence in that post than as chief rabbi, as most settlement rabbis are Mercaz graduates. Many national religious Jews, who make up two-thirds of Israel's 12% observant minority, considered Shapira the gadol ha-dor - greatest authority of his generation on Jewish law.

Palestinian agricultural lands were severely compromised as a result and many Palestinians suffered hardships because of being uprooted from their homes by the encroaching settlements. This is one aspect of religious Zionism in action. This did not contribute to improving relations between Palestinians and Israelis. The religious settlers behaved in a brutal manner towards the Palestinian population. They uprooted their olive tree plantations and destroyed much Palestinian agricultural land. They also regarded themselves as superior to the Palestinians. These Zealots were imbued by the spirit of their faith in their right to occupy lands that was not theirs. Here we have a perfect example of religious Zionism being a racist colonizing ideology. Religious Zionist adherents must share the blame for the deteriorating situation between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to a B’tzelem report, the establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

International humanitarian law prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.

The establishment of the settlements leads to the violation of the rights of the Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.

The illegality of the settlements under international humanitarian law does not affect the status of the settlers. The settlers constitute a civilian population by any standard, and include children, who are entitled to special protection. Although some of the settlers are part of the security forces, this fact has absolutely no bearing on the status of the other residents of the settlements.

Taking Control of the Land

Israel has used a complex legal and bureaucratic mechanism to take control of more than fifty percent of the land in the West Bank. This land was used mainly to establish settlements and create reserves of land for the future expansion of the settlements.

The principal tool used to take control of land is to declare it "state land.” This process began in 1979.It is based on a manipulative implementation of the Ottoman Lands Law of 1858, which applied in the area at the time of occupation. Other methods employed by Israel to take control of land include seizure for military needs, declaration of land as "abandoned assets,” and the expropriation of land for public needs. Each of these is based on a different legal foundation. In addition, Israel has assisted private citizens purchasing land on the "free market.”

The process employed in taking control of land breaches the basic principles of due procedure and natural justice. In many cases, Palestinian residents were unaware that their land was registered in the name of the state, and by the time they discovered this fact, it was too late to appeal. The burden of proof always rests with the Palestinian claiming ownership of the land. Even if he meets this burden, the land may still be registered in the name of the state because it was transferred to the settlement "in good faith.”

Despite the diverse methods used to take control of land, all the parties involved - the Israeli government, the settlers and the Palestinians - have always perceived these methods as part of a mechanism intended to serve a single purpose: the establishment of civilian settlements in the territories. Accordingly, the precise method used to transfer the control of land from Palestinians to Israel is of secondary importance. Moreover, since this purpose is prohibited under international law, the methods used to secure it are also unlawful.

Israel uses the seized lands to benefit the settlements, while prohibiting the Palestinian public from using them in any way. This use is forbidden and illegal in itself, even if the process by which the lands were taken were fair and in accordance with international and Jordanian law. As an occupying power in the Occupied Territories, Israel is not permitted to ignore the needs of an entire population and to use land intended for public needs solely to benefit the settlers.

The High Court of Justice has generally sanctioned the mechanism used to take control of land. In so doing, the Court has contributed to imbuing these procedures with a mask of legality. The Court initially accepted the state's argument that the settlements met urgent military needs, and allowed the state to seize private land for this purpose. When the state began to declare land, “state land,” the Court refused to intervene to prevent this process.

The involvement of the religious orthodox establishment in Israeli politics in practice curtailed religious freedom and resulted in many laws that are prejudiced towards non-Jewish citizens. There is no separation of religion and state in Israel. It is all dependent on coalition deals in the Knesset between the ruling parties and the religious parties. Today, the National Religious Party (Mafdal) is part of the extreme right wing Herut Party and sits on the opposition benches.

The extremist Shas Party remains in the Government in order to coerce the government to look after its own interests which are very narrow indeed. It takes its orders from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (the Sephardi ex-chief Rabbi) who is well known for making insulting statements directed at those whom he considers heretics who do not hold his bigoted world view tinged with racism.

Reactions to Rabbi Yosef's "political" quotes have ranged from laughter to fury among more secular Israelis, both in the political sphere and among common citizens. Shas spokespeople and Rabbi Yosef's followers argue that his quotes are taken out of context and that they include technical religious terms which the average person is not familiar with, and therefore, misunderstood. For instance, in April 2001, Rabbi Yosef was widely criticized for what was interpreted as a call for the unconditional annihilation of Arabs, saying, "It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable” and "The Lord shall return the Arabs' deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and banish them from this world." However his second comment was in fact a slightly modified quote from Obadiah 1:18, referring to the descendants of Esau. A Shas spokesman defended Rabbi Yosef, saying the speech had been in reference to "Arab murderers and terrorists", not all Arabs, and that the Rabbi had been saying that the state of Israel should pursue its enemies mercilessly, as God had commanded the ancient Israelites to fight against their own adversaries. [14].

If one were to substitute the word “Jew” in the place of “Arab”, in Yosef’s statement it would correspond to the kind of anti-Semitic utterances straight from the mouths of fanatic Islamist or Hamas Imams. This shows that Hamas and Shas ideology could be the mirror image of each other directed to their own communities. The so-called excuse of Yosef that “not all Arabs are terrorists” is pathetic. It is parallel to the anti-Semite’s denial of being anti-Semitic by saying “after all, my best friends are Jews!”

Israel’s discriminatory practices are rooted in Jewish religious law. In 1995, the rabbis of Safad, joined by then Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron, issued a judgment prohibiting Jews living in the Land of Israel to lease or sell any real estate property to non-Jews. These rabbis are on the State of Israel's payroll. Yet all too clearly, their judgment contravenes Israeli state laws proscribing public expressions of racism and utterances hurtful to human dignity. The situation is still very much the same today.

Another aspect is the religious monopoly the orthodox establishment has on Judaism, conversion and all aspects of Jewish religious life in Israel. The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel do not have the right to convert or marry couples. They do not receive state subsidies as the orthodox establishments do and are not considered on an equal footing. An example of this attitude was reported in the Jerusalem Post 19th November 2007:

“Reform and Conservative synagogues reek of hell [Gehinom] and a Jew should not even come near their entrance, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu said last week.

"Once I was invited to be the sandak (godfather) at a brit in a three-story building," recounted Eliyahu in his weekly flyer called Kol Tzofayich, which discusses various halachic issues.

"On the first story was a Reform temple, on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue and on the third floor was an Orthodox synagogue where I was invited.

"I wondered how I would manage to pass by those two synagogues that reek of hell. I asked if there was a way of avoiding those two entrances and I was told that there was a kitchen through which it was possible to reach the third floor. I announced that I would not go up any other way besides through the kitchen so as to avoid passing by those prohibited synagogues."

It is obvious that the authoritative orthodox rabbis in Israel do not bring any credit to Judaism at all. They are no examples to emulate. They are indicative of a society that is bigoted, discriminatory and intolerant. They claim to be religious Zionists. Many Jews, including myself, have been estranged from Judaism because of establishment orthodox bigotry and racism. Their attitude towards the Arabs is hateful. Orthodox Judaism is associated with the political right wing and maintaining the occupation. They are also on a campaign delegitimizing Reform and Conservative Jewish belief. The environment for Reform Judaism or any other non-Orthodox stream of Judaism is hostile in Israel.

Lately the Ethiopian children have also suffered discrimination at religious schools. The discrimination against Ethiopians is more widespread in Israel than one would wish to believe. Their Judaism is not recognized and they have to undergo a giur (conversion) process before being accepted.

All these incidents orchestrated by the Orthodox establishment of Israel have created much suffering and hardships to people whose Jewishness is questionable according to Halacha (Jewish Law). Religious Zionism is part of the Orthodox establishment in Israel and is discriminatory towards non-Jews (including Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied territories), Reform and Conservative Jews. This puts them into the racist category.

Wednesday, December 5

After the Annapolis Summit

The red carpet treatment was meted out to the main players and the overflow went to the other delegates as well. The main players were President Mahmoud Abbas, P.M. Ehud Olmert, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and President George Bush who was trying to emulate ex-President Bill Clinton. All the speeches that were made were very diplomatic - almost mesmerizing. So many hopeful statements were made giving an air of optimism that in reality is an illusion. How can one not feel a sense of cynicism and skepticism after hearing the speeches of all these players?

What was interesting to note was the body language of the participants in their interaction with one another. So much warmth was exhibited between Bush, Olmert and Abbas. These three gentlemen have one big thing in common – their common weakness! This weakness will illustrate their inability to make any decisions in the near future. It showed up so blatantly during the summit proceedings. There was no joint declaration between Israel and the Palestinians. This came as no surprise. Instead, we all witnessed a rather watered-down statement read out by President Bush at the commencement of the summit. This was followed by Abbas and Olmert’s speeches. Here was a hint of more banalities to come. Both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders gave good speeches, saying the right things that the other delegates wanted to hear.

The end of the summit did not give the successful photo scoop that we all wanted to see. There was a fizzling out of proceedings as the Summit ended and the delegates returned home. No momentum was created nor did any reason for optimism come out of all this. Instead we were all left “high and dry”. Perhaps “low and dry” is more appropriate. There was a false feeling that the attendance of the Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and some other non-Arab Moslem countries added a certain amount of importance to achieving a positive result. This was not the case. The whole Summit was a blip on the TV screen and newspaper media which will go down in history as another non-event soon to be forgotten like all the other meetings in the past.

It is almost certain that Israel will not be prepared to discuss “core issues” such as right of return of refugees, Jerusalem being the capital of two states, final borders of Israel which includes a return to the borders prior to June 1967 and thus an end to the occupation. The reason – Olmert does not have a mandate from his coalition to negotiate these issues despite what he said at the summit. Abbas is not in any better position to make decisions in security matters. Palestine is divided into two entities today - Gaza ruled by Hamas and the West Bank by Fatah. The latter will lose strength as it is under threat from Hamas to take over the West Bank the way they took over in Gaza. The only way that Abbas can survive is by getting support from the US and Israel. This is not a healthy state of affairs from the Palestinian viewpoint. It turns Abbas and his Fatah supporters into Israeli and US stooges and this would result in their grassroots support being further weakened.

It will become clear that Abbas’s power base, or what is left of it, will be further weakened. A huge question remains to be answered. Where does Hamas fit in the negotiating patterns? Hamas is so opposed to any form of rapprochement with Israel. The statements of Hamas PM Haniyeh of Gaza have made this so crystal clear as to leave no doubts. This goes against all the statements made by Abbas. The conclusion is that the Palestinians were not represented in their entirety at Annapolis. Their representation was a problem even prior to the Annapolis Summit.

It is very unlikely that Israel will stick to its side of the bargain as proposed by Ehud Olmert at Annapolis. The chances of movement towards a negotiated settlement leading to a Palestinian State are remote. It is also unlikely that Israel will cease existing settlement expansion as well as establishing new settlements in the occupied territories. The right wing parties, Shas and Israel Beitenu, will pressure the coalition government to expand settlement activity. How this can be an impetus to the creation of a Palestinian state defies all logic.

It is doubtful if President Mahmoud Abbas will use his security police to fight terror against Israel. Apart from that, Hamas will be doing everything to destroy Abbas’s minuscule power base. Abbas will lean more on US and Israeli resources to keep him in power.

Maybe it would be a good idea for Olmert to fire his right wing coalition partners and replace them with Meretz and the Arab parties. It could strengthen Olmert’s negotiating stance with the Palestinians as he would gain support from the Israeli Arab community. It could also neutralize Hamas by either pushing them further into the sidelines or making them more pragmatic in their attitude towards Israel. This idea will not be approved by most of the Israeli electorate. If the right wing remains in the coalition, it will lead to a dead end and a total lack of progress. The question is whether this is a gamble worth taking.