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February 09, 1990 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACKGROUND

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In
Jewelry & Watch Repair

Speck Of Hope Seen In Mideast
As Realpolitik Grows Elsewhere

Repair

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

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Redesi

Reasonat

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34

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1990

352-0920

J

ommunism in
Eastern Europe is be-
ing unceremoniously
buried; no less a revolution
has overtaken South Africa,
where Nelson Mandela, once
considered to be the most
dangerous terrorist of all, is
being accorded an extraor-
dinary degree of respect.
In this charged at-
mosphere of heightened ex-
pectations, amid all the
frenetic reform, with hither-
to unthinkable thoughts
now being given concrete
expression, can Israel and its
Arab neighbors be persuad-
ed to abandon their taboos
and embrace the sort of
realpolitik that seems to be
guiding the world in the last
decade of the 20th century?
Apparently not.
In Israel, all the old feuds
persist with biblical intensi-
ty: Likud Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir continues to
fight off the challenge of
Trade Minister Ariel
Sharon, while Labor
Finance Minister Shimon
Peres continues to rebuff the
on-again, off-again challenge
of Defense Minister Yitzhak
Rabin.
On the Palestinian side,
too, PLO leader Yassir
Arafat is concerned about
the growing threat to his au-
thority, not only from the
hard-line rejectionists but
also from the burgeoning
Islamic fundamentalist
Hamas movement which has
taken root in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip.
And yet . . . and yet, a tiny
speck of light is discernible
at the end of the tunnel, and
this time it might not be the
oncoming express train that
has derailed so many
previous attempts to get the
parties around the
negotiating table.
Despite the apparent
impasse — and despite last
weekend's murderous attack
on Israeli tourists in Egypt
— there is growing specula-
tion that Shamir may be
ready to abandon his pro-
cedural inhibitions and
allow tripartite talks bet-
ween the foreign ministers
of the United States, Israel
and Egypt to finally get
underway in Geneva early
next week.
The meeting is designed to
lay the groundwork for
direct negotiations between
Israelis and Palestinians

who will hammer out details
for elections in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip aimed
at producing Palestinian
delegates to negotiate a form
of autonomy with Israeli au-
thorities.
Arafat is painfully aware
that elections in the ter-
ritories, like those in Jordan
late last year, could produce
substantial gains for the
fundamentalists, a result
that would seriously under-
mine the PLO's claim to be-
ing the "sole, legitimate
representative of the Pales-
tinian people."
He is also known to have
accepted Egyptian asser-
tions that, in the event of
local elections, the absence
of a common front in the ter-
ritories could lead not only
to a damaging political set-
back for the PLO but also a
bloodbath between rival
Palestinian factions.
Clear signs that something
was underway could be de-
tected in last week's feverish
activity among Arafat loyal-
ists to find common cause
with the fundamentalists in
the territories, just as
Shamir was preparing to

Yitzhak Shamir:
Fighting challenge.

head off yet another leader-
ship challenge from Sharon.
Whatever the personal
predilections of Shamir and
Arafat, however, the scope
and the pace of de-
velopments in the Middle
East are more likely to be
determined by the unfolding
events in the Soviet Union
and by the effects of these
events on relations between
Moscow and Washington.
Particularly important is
the continuing exodus of
Jews from the Soviet Union,
now arriving in Israel at an
unprecedented rate.
The nature of the effect,
however, is neither obvious
nor predictable. Israelis are

interpreting the phenom-
enon according to their es-
tablished political pre-
ferences and are reaching
quite different conclusions
about its implications.
For some, the mass im-
migration is pushing back
the threat of the
"demographic time bomb"
(see boxed story) and
therefore reducing the need

Jr

Yassir Arafat:
Recognizes threat.

to negotiate; for others, the
addition of hundreds of
thousands of new im-
migrants is serving to
strengthen Israel's bargain-
ing position and should em-
bolden its leaders to agree to
negotiations.
The second point was
taken up by former Soviet
activist Natan Sharansky in
London last week.
The large-scale influx of
Soviet Jews, he declared,
would go a long way toward
bolstering Israel's sense of
security and making its
leaders more amenable to
negotiations: "I think that
the stronger Israel becomes,
the more secure Israelis will
feel." he said. "And a feeling
of security is what is missing
from the Middle East."
With flights out of Moscow
fully booked through March
next year, Sharansky con-
servatively estimated that
at least a half- million Jews
were waiting to emigrate. If
Jerusalem and Moscow
could agree on direct flights
to Israel from a number of
Soviet cities, he believed
that 500 new immigrants
would arrive at Ben- Gurion
Airport each day — almost
200,000 a year.
That message has not been
lost on Arab leaders who are
calling on Moscow to refuse
to allow direct flights to
Israel.

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