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ARABS-ISRAEL - June 8 - Palestinians Pessimistic About Peace.

PM Barak is fighting to reshape his government after a parliamentary defeat that brought the future of the ME peace process into question. The weakness of Barak's position follows a Knesset vote in favour of holding early elections, a measure that members of Barak's ruling coalition supported. The event shakes the confidence of Palestinians in the prime minister's ability to deliver a peace settlement. Chief Palestinian negotiator Erakat says on June 8: I don't want to be confronted on June 12 when I begin the negotiations with my Israeli colleagues telling me they cannot do it", adding: I hope this event in Israel will not be used as a pretext to bring us further and further from the requirements of peace". In the immediate aftermath of his parliamentary defeat, Barak pledges that no new elections will be held. He says he will reshape his coalition without those parties who voted in favour of an opposition-backed measure calling for early elections. Barak also says the vote will not slow the momentum of the peace process. (But the largest of the 3 coalition parties who voted with the opposition was the ultra-Orthodox Shas party whose 17-seats make it a linchpin in Barak's 68-52 parliamentary majority.) Political analysts say Barak's best option would be to keep Shas in the government by giving in to the party's demands and allocating massive funding to its educational network. Analysts say his other option is to form a minority government supported from the outside by Arab parties. But they warn Barak could still face elections by the end of 2000 because the life-span of a narrow government is limited. Dr. Reuven Hazan from Hebrew University, an expert on Israel's political system, says Barak's problems will probably slow the peace process because he will have to concentrate on holding his coalition together. Hazan says that previous bills of the sort passed on June 7 had a "snowball effect" and eventually led to new elections. (Barak's apparent political weakness has Palestinians, particularly the young, doubting whether he can deliver a peace agreement acceptable to the Palestinians.) A recent survey revealed a majority of young Palestinians are becoming impatient with the slow pace of peace negotiations and believe that pressure, violent or otherwise, is the best way to win concessions from Israel. Only a small percentage believe negotiations can fulfil Palestinian aspirations. Palestinian political analyst Ghasan Khattib says: There is a strong negative feeling towards the peace process among the new generation", adding: There is a feeling that we, as a people, are humiliated by this peace process through the humiliation of our leadership". Though the bill to dissolve parliament must go through committee and face 3 votes in parliament before becoming law, some political commentators say the vote sounded the death knell of the Barak administration. The prime minister's office says Barak will "initiate contact over the coming days to examine the composition of an alternative coalition". Barak vows that he would sack cabinet ministers from the parties that opposed him.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 10, 2000
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