Amid new peace bids, Israel stays tough
Israel has announced a new $56-million program to double the number of settlers in the Golan Heights.
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Gold dismisses Jordanian arguments that the Iraq war has opened the way for new Israeli flexibility in the West Bank. Jordan says that with the US occupying Iraq, Israel can no longer credibly say it needs the strategic Jordan valley as a buffer to protect it from invasion from the east.Skip to next paragraph
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The area, Amman insists, should become part of a Palestinian state. But Gold says that the Iraqi army's inventory of shoulder fired missiles was found to be missing, and that they and other lethal weapons could end up being used against Israeli targets.
"If Israel left the Jordan Valley it would lead to the hills of the West Bank being flooded with the illegal weaponry moving around the area," he says.
Gold adds that talk of a "window of opportunity" with the Palestinians is baseless since the Palestinian Authority is not implementing its obligations under the international peace blueprint known as the road map which requires them to disarm and dismantle militant groups that carry out terrorist attacks.
Pedhazur believes the government's strategy is to avoid negotiations "We could use this window of opportunity to try to work on agreements with the Palestinians and Syrians but Sharon does not want this.
When they speak of the threat of illegal Iraqi weapons being trafficked through the Jordan Valley, they are still talking as if the Iraqi army exists as an enemy. They do not want to give up anything so they invent enemies and blow up any kind of threat."
Yossi Sarid, an opposition lawmaker, says the government's posture reminds him of how Israel dismissed a peace overtures from Egypt in 1971. He recalls that at the time, as a young activist in the Labor party, he brought Prime Minister Golda Meir a message from an acquaintance who had met with President Anwar Sadat.
The message was that Mr. Sadat wanted to negotiate. Mr. Sarid says that Ms. Meir flew into a rage, saying that she knew of the offer and that Sadat would expect all of the Sinai Peninsula, captured in 1967, to be returned to Egypt.
"I left her office distressed and I was embarrassed to tell the emissary her answer," he says.
Two years later, Sadat launched the Yom Kippur (October) war.
Sarid believes Israel will not face a repeat of that, but could face more severe terrorism as a result of the government's posture.
Jordanian political analyst Radwan Abdallah says the Arab world is grappling with how to react to Israel's strategic gains. "These are the most favorable conditions that can ever exist for the Israelis, and that should make other states more inclined to compromise," he says. "But if Israel does not take this opportunity, it will be a signal it is not interested in peace. The whole region will really feel insecure about Israel's intentions and there will be more of an interest in cooperation among Arab states and between Arab countries and Iran. The Middle East could become even more dangerous."