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Middle East - Conclusions to Peace - A Rejectionist Revival.

The downturn in the prospects for peace have benefited above all the rejectionists and hardliners on both sides. Each side blames the other for instigating the violence. On the Israeli side, the current leadership is hardline as one can get from the mainstream parties. Israeli leader Sharon is regarded in the Arab World as a war criminal, and other parts of the world are beginning to see him in a similar light - judging from a case brought against him in Belgium by survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacres which occurred in Lebanon in 1982.

Sharon's coalition partners in the national unity government are equally as hardline in their views. But more dangerous is the fact that the Jewish extremist groups like the Temple Mount Faithful are becoming increasingly active. Settler vigilantes have become more violent than they used to be. Reports of shooting deaths among the Palestinians caused by these vigilantes have made even the hardliners in the Israeli government wary about the implications of the current tension.

On the Arab side, APS sources have been indicating that, with the downward spiral of the Middle East peace process now apparently unstoppable, an upsurge in Islamic militancy in the Arab World and beyond can be expected. According tot hem, the targets will be the geo-political and economic interests of Israel, as well as of the US and its regional allies. The sources believe that the next wave of attacks are likely to have a high profile, like the US embassy attacks in August 1998 in East Africa.

Indicators of such a revival became clear almost immediately after the violence exploded in September 2000 in the Palestinian territories, beginning with the attack on the American warship USS Cole in Aden Port on Oct. 12. Washington says that the exiled Saudi dissident and Islamist figurehead Osama Bin Ladin was behind the attack. The US has already warned the Taliban in Afghanistan that it will be held responsible if Bin Ladin carries out another strike.

Fears of such a strike dominate thinking in Washington, and are in subtle ways already conditioning its responses to the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. On July 19, the US issued its third alert in three months that "terrorist groups sponsored by Bin Ladin" may attack American targets in the Persian Gulf. US forces in the Gulf went on the highest state of alert on June 22 - Threat Condition Delta - a move that also closed down several US embassies in the Gulf and Africa. The first alert this year went out on May 29 (see this week's Diplomat News Service as well as NS No. 5).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Strategic Balance in the Middle East
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Aug 6, 2001
Previous Article:Opposition To Middle East Peace Ending - The Conclusions.
Next Article:Middle East - Conclusions to Peace - The Moderate Perspective.

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