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September 25, 2008 - Image 81

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-09-25

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Year In Review/Israel

year 5 7 6 8

Israel looks back on worries about
ut flran,
n e w p e a ce
an d Ol mer t' s

An Israeli mili-

tary convoy carries

the bodies of Ehud
Goldwasser and Eldad

Regev from the Israel-

Lebanon border on

July 16.

Leslie Susser
Jewish Telegraphic Agency



n Israel, 5768 was the year of mul-
tiple peace overtures, a growing sense
of urgency regarding Iran's nuclear
program and an embattled prime minis-
ter's losing fight to stay in office.
Israel and the de facto leadership of the
Palestinian Authority launched renewed
negotiations after a U.S.-hosted peace
conference last November in Annapolis,
Md. Israel and Syria announced in May
they were holding indirect peace negotia-
tions under Turkish mediation. And in
June, Israel and the llamas leadership in
the Gaza Strip agreed to a truce brokered
by Egypt.
But with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
under investigation on a number of cor-

ruption allegations and struggling to hold
onto power, there were lingering suspi-
cions that his peace efforts were aimed
more at helping him survive politically
than at achieving genuine diplomatic
Olmert's political weaknesses cast a
shadow over his strategic and diplomatic
efforts throughout the year.
Even before Olmert and P.A. President
Mahmoud Abbas met at Annapolis, peace
advocates worried that the two leaders
were too weak to reach a peace deal. At the
summit, which drew an impressive array
of Arab leaders from across the Middle
East, the two sides pledged to conclude a
final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the
end of 2008 — a "shelf" agreement that
would be implemented as soon as condi-
tions permitted.
The United States devoted a great deal
of energy to the process. President Bush
visited Israel twice, in January and in May.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made
several trips to monitor progress. Former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the
special envoy of the international Quartet
comprised of the United States, the
European Union, the United Nations and
Russia, helped raise more than $7 billion
to jump-start the depressed Palestinian
economy. U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton trained
Palestinian forces to take over security in
parts of the West Bank.
But as long as llamas controlled
Gaza, full peace between Israel and the
Palestinians seemed a distant prospect.
Shelling and rocket attacks on Israel from
Gaza continued ceaselessly, while Israel's
two-pronged retaliatory strategy — tar-
geting the militiamen and imposing a land
and sea blockade on Gaza — failed to
bring quiet to the beleaguered residents of
southern Israel.
Instead, Israel endured international
criticism for declaring Gaza "a hostile ter-

ritory" and severely cutting electricity and
fuel supplies to the Strip.
In late January, llamas scuttled Israel's
blockade by blowing up the border fence
between Gaza and Egypt, allowing hun-
dreds of thousands of Palestinians to
stream into Egypt. After Egypt resealed
the border, fighting between Israel and
the militants escalated, with llamas firing
longer-range Grad rockets at the city of
Ashkelon and Israel conducting an incur-
sion into Gaza in early March.
Quiet came only when Hamas and Israel
agreed to a truce deal in late June. But
Hamas clung to its refusal to recognize
Israel or contemplate any peace settlement
with the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, Israel launched indirect
peace talks with another sponsor of ter-
rorism and longtime enemy, the regime in

Year 5768 on page A82


September 25 • 2008


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