Is Israel Defense Minister Barak Interested In Peace?

Mohammed Shehada, head of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing and four associates were told by Egyptian mediators that a truce was now in effect and they could safely return to their homes in Bethlehem which recently had been bulldozed into rubble by the Israel military. As they left the scene, all five were killed in a hail of bullets from members of a special unit of the Israel army. Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended funerals of the men in scenes of anger and mourning that were shown all over the Middle East. Saleh Al-Naam, writing in al -Ahram, raises the question as to whether Israel is committed to the roadmap to peace or is it pursuing its own political and personal policies toward Palestinians.

He regards Defence Minister Ehud Barak as central to efforts to destroy peace efforts and quotes a recent statement: “Israel is committed to pursuing Palestinian resistance fighters who have been nvolved in opertions” that result in death to Israelis. Deputy Defense Minister Amos Harel insists “We will not allow the Palestinians to determine for us the timing, location or conditions of security operations.” Al Naami charges there is a deliberate program in effect by some members of the Israel government to destroy peace efforts in order to find justification for continued construction of housing on the West Bank as well as hoping chaos only results in continued division among Palestinians. He quotes Israel intellelctual Gideon Levy who recently wrote in Haaretz: “Barak hasn’t talked about peace for a long time and he surely doesn’t believe in the peaceful efforts of Olmert. In fact, he does all he can to destroy what little remains of them.”

Among the most important steps Prime Minister Olmert can make in the peace process is firing Barak and placing the Defence Ministry under control of someone who is committed to peace. Barak operates on the assumption Israel should retain the power to make unilateral determinations as to how the peace process will unfold. If a truce has been arranged it must include ceasing of military operations by all parties, not just one.