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    1996: A Turbulent Year for Israel Essay

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    1996 has been a very turbulent year for Israel. This lies in theassassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. Rabin’s great work in thepeace process with it’s Arab neighbors has been nearly reversed by Israel’snewly elected Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who actively opposed the peaceprocess in the election. Netanyahu’s term of service has not only affectedIsrael politically but also socially, intellectually, religiously, andeconomically.

    In dealing with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians Netanyahu wasoriginally quoted saying that he would only meet with Arafat under specialcircumstances and that, “the era of one-sided giving was over. ” WarrenChristopher, Secretary of State for the U. S. , was able to arrange a peaceconference with Arafat on the Gaza border.

    One article called it a ,”Psychological breakthrough” (Netanyahu meets with Clinton). The issues at handwere Israel fulfilling it’s pledge to the Palestinians to redeploy it’s troopsstationed in the West Bank town of Hebron so that they will only guard the 440Jews who live there, from the tens of thousands of Palestinians. Also at issuewere the exit permits given to Palestinians allowing them to go from there jobsin Israel to there homes in Gaza and the and the West Bank. That leads toanother issue over whether or not a rail link between Gaza and the West Bankshould be formed. The major problem with that would be the cost. In the nextround of Israeli-PLO peace talks, both sides could not reach a compromise andafter four hours talks failed.

    To complicate matters further 3,000 houses wereapproved to be built in the West Bank by the Israeli government. “Peace Nowspokesman”, Alon Arnon, called the housing, “A final burial of the hope ofpeace. ” (West Bank Settlement Approved) Netanyahu also ended the month byopening a tunnel to Muslim and Jewish Holy sites that resulted in bloody riotsthat killed 76 people. The month of October cooled down a bit with an ice breaking summit inWashington. Netanyahu returned with a change in attitude calling Arafat aperson whom he could resolve problems with.

    But aside from his change indemeanor no substantial agreements were made. In November Israel went on high alert in fear of an attack planned todisrupt the peace process, possibly on the one year anniversary of the Jihad’sleader Fathi Shakaki. Again the peace effort was thrown back when the Israeligovernment announced plans to double the number of Jewish settlers in the WestBank. At one point Netanyahu asked the U. S.

    and Germany to help use theirinfluence in Iran and Syria to hold the terrorists at bay. Arafat also grewtired of what he considered to be stalling on the part of the Israeli government. He called for plans already agreed to, to be put in motion. Netanyahu thenmakes a statement that he envisions, “A Palestinian entity with broad power,”but fell short of declaring full independence.

    One article called this a signthat Netanyahu was, “moving towards the Israeli political center. “(NetanyahuMulls Palestine Land) Towards the end of November peace talks tookplace aboutthe redeployment of troops in Hebron. The main issue that stalled the talks wasIsrael’s insistence on written agreements that Israeli troops could chasePalestinian suspects into the city. In December, peace talks continued and as of now a decision was on theverge of being reached once final details were worked out. On January 1, 1997 aJewish military officer, believed to be mentally disturbed ,walked into aPalestinian market and opened fire.

    Waving after being arrested he said,”Hebron, always and forever. “Israel also had some serious problems with it’s Arab neighboringcountries. In September Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks tocounter Lebanese guerrillas who had ambushed an Israeli patrol. The guerrillasare part of Hezbollah, or party of god.

    Shortly after the attack Lebanon moved300 commandos to the southern border to, as a Lebanese statement says, “copewith any Israeli venture in the region. ” Both Israel and Lebanon are underinvestigation to find if they had broken any cease-fire agreements. Jordan, Israel’s closest Arab ally issued a blunt statement to Israeldeclaring, “Anything can happen if peace is not achieved. “(Rift widening quicklybetween Israel and Jordan) Hussein attended a luncheon with Netanyahu, Clinton,and Arafat saying, “What you need sir, is not the arrogance of power but thevision that Rabin had. . .

    Maybe one day you will have it. “Israeli-Syrian relations also were greatly strained. Syrian peace talkshave been greatly strained since the May terrorist attacks. As a preconditionfor opening up peace talks Syria is demanding the Golan Heights, an area oftremendous strategic value and Israel’s only ski resort, to be given back tothem. In September, Syria pressured Israel by moving troops closer to Israelalong the Lebanon border.

    But eventually both sides withdrew. As of now bothsides are at a stand still while Netanyahu continues to approve housing for theGolan Heights. The increase of Jewish settlements also angered Egypt another ofIsrael’s allies in the Arab world. The West Bank housing will, said an Egyptianofficial, “Destroy trust between Israel and it’s Arab neighbors. “Socially Israel has it’s share of problems. In November an Israelilawmaker who advocated a crackdown on violence against women was “under thespotlight” for allegedly beating his own wife.

    Haim Dayan was once talkingabout wife abusers and said, “I would slice their hands to pieces so that wouldbe the last time they ever raised their hand to a women. “(Israeli Lawmaker underspotlight) The women’s rights group, Naamat, estimates that one in every fourwomen are or will be assaulted by their partners. The reason for this saysNaamat spokeswomen, Carmel is, “The level of violence and anger is very high . .

    . and it’s influences the family situation. Another Israeli agreed, “Israelisstill live by the sword”Violence is also frequently seen in the Israeli abuse towardsPalestinians. In November two Israeli border guards were arrested after beingvideo taped beating and kicking six Palestinian laborers. Israeli andPalestinian human rights activists claim that such beatings happen all the timeand are designed to instill fear in Palestinians so that they will not try toget into Israel illegally.

    In response Yasser Arafat said he would distributevideo cameras to Palestinians living near the checkpoints to monitor furtherviolence. Another trend with Israel socially is the ever growing flow offoreigners into Israel from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Theforeigners complain of discrimination and abuse from employers who pay low wagesand house them in rat infested hotels. The Labor Ministry estimates that thereare 300,000 foreign workers in Israel and two thirds of them have overstayedvisas and are there illegally.

    One immigrant commented on the abuse saying,”Society tolerates it because these people are not Jews. “On the lighter side there has been a dramatic increase in the UFOsightings over the Israeli skies. Skeptics say, “Israelis are simply beingswept away by the U. S.

    pop culture. ” The movie Independence day and the seriesX-Files are big hits in Israel. A recent Israeli pole finds that one in everytwo people believe in Aliens. Intellectually there has been little change in Israel. One Palestinecity was connected to the internet in November. When a West Bank Universitytried to lease dedicated lines to be hooked up to the university it got the run-around from Israel, so it turned to a new technology developed in Israel,wireless microwave communications.

    The technology’s founder says he estimatesto have 3,000 clients a year from now hooked up to the internet. Religiously there has been many developments in Israel. On September 22Israel marked a day of atonement, Yom Kippur. Yasser Arafat called Netanyahu towish him a happy New Year. On Christmas eve thousands of pilgrims filledBethlehem’s 1,600 year old church to celebrate Christmas. At the mass’s sermonthe priest criticized Israel’s rough treatment of Palestinians and religiousleaders on both sides that foster extremism.

    Economically Israel has suffered under Netanyahu’s hard-line attitude. Some cold facts include: Exports rose only 4 percent(a third of the recent average increase) Tourism is down 10 percent Unemployment rose with Israel’s high tech industry reporting losses. The GNP spent on the military, currently a 10th is now rising. Netanyahu argued that these problems are inherited but experts citerising Arab-Israeli conflict scaring away foreign investment. Koor Industries,Israel’s largest industrial company reported their third quarter losses at tenpercent.

    The cause for the loss CEO, Benjamin Gaon, says is Israel’s highinterest rates and the shekels rise against the U. S. dollar. Towards the end of December Israel, in an attempt to lower the 300million a month deficit by raising taxes. This, experts claim is a result ofIsrael’s economic slowdown.

    Jacob Frenkel, the governor of the bank of Israelsays that the government should try to focus more on reducing the governmentspending(50% of the GNP) than raising taxes. Either way Netanyahu has a toughroad ahead of him to try to keep down inflation and taxes while still trying toreduce Israeli’s debt. Under Netanyahu Israel has seen rough times in all aspects. Netanyahu’sslow change towards the political center will better serve Israel, but is itgoing to be in time? Netanyahu’s continued West Bank Housing projects keepinfuriating the Arab world.

    In Israel’s future I see more bloodshed but hopestill exists for the peace that Prime Minister Rabin had hoped for before hisassassination. Politically I see peace on the horizon with Arafat and the PLObut see future conflicts with Syria over the Golan Heights. There will berenewed terrorist attacks with the Israeli pullout from Hebron because politicalextremists will not be settled until they obtain all of what they want. Themiddle east is one of the most volatile regions in the world so no one knows forsure what awaits it.

    Category: Social Issues

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