March 10, 2006


Israel's election season under way (Jeremy Bowen, 3/10/06, BBC)

On polling day voters will be asking themselves which leader is going to be best for their security. The parties will play on the nation's insecurities to take votes away from their rivals.

Whoever ends up as the next Israeli prime minister will have to deal with a Middle East that is looking more and more unstable.

The victory of Hamas, the Islamist, nationalist group in the Palestinian elections does not change as much for Israel as some might have expected.

Israel under Ariel Sharon was not negotiating with the Palestinians when the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas was in charge; now that Hamas is forming a government, Israel is still not talking to the Palestinians.

If Ehud Olmert is in power after 28 March, he has said he wants to fix Israel's eastern border with the Palestinians.

It looks as if his idea is to pull as many settlers as possible back behind the separation barrier once it is completed. The problem with that idea is that some of the most fanatical settlers live in places that the barrier will not enclose.

Mr Olmert, if he is prime minister, will have to decide what to do with them.

As the outlines of Mr Olmert's plans emerge, it is looking increasingly clear that they do not leave the Palestinians with much.

Some Jewish settlements that have been built in the occupied West Bank in defiance of international law may go, but Israel will most likely keep its soldiers there, and will also want to keep the occupied sections of the Jordan valley.

It is not a recipe for peace, but Mr Olmert will be hoping that it might be one for quiet.

So it's more and more stable, not unstable and whoever wins will end up giving Palestine more than they promise in the campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2006 7:33 AM
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