1996: A Turbulent Year for Israel


1996 has been a very turbulent year for Israel. This lies in the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. Rabin\'s great work in the
peace process with it\'s Arab neighbors has been nearly reversed by Israel\'s
newly elected Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who actively opposed the peace
process in the election. Netanyahu\'s term of service has not only affected
Israel politically but also socially, intellectually, religiously, and
economically.
In dealing with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians Netanyahu was
originally quoted saying that he would only meet with Arafat under special
circumstances and that, "the era of one-sided giving was over." Warren
Christopher, Secretary of State for the U.S., was able to arrange a peace
conference with Arafat on the Gaza border. One article called it a ,
"Psychological breakthrough" (Netanyahu meets with Clinton). The issues at hand
were Israel fulfilling it\'s pledge to the Palestinians to redeploy it\'s troops
stationed in the West Bank town of Hebron so that they will only guard the 440
Jews who live there, from the tens of thousands of Palestinians. Also at issue
were the exit permits given to Palestinians allowing them to go from there jobs
in Israel to there homes in Gaza and the and the West Bank. That leads to
another issue over whether or not a rail link between Gaza and the West Bank
should be formed. The major problem with that would be the cost. In the next
round of Israeli-PLO peace talks, both sides could not reach a compromise and
after four hours talks failed. To complicate matters further 3,000 houses were
approved to be built in the West Bank by the Israeli government. "Peace Now
spokesman", Alon Arnon, called the housing, "A final burial of the hope of
peace." (West Bank Settlement Approved) Netanyahu also ended the month by
opening a tunnel to Muslim and Jewish Holy sites that resulted in bloody riots
that killed 76 people.
The month of October cooled down a bit with an ice breaking summit in
Washington. Netanyahu returned with a change in attitude calling Arafat a
person whom he could resolve problems with. But aside from his change in
demeanor no substantial agreements were made.
In November Israel went on high alert in fear of an attack planned to
disrupt the peace process, possibly on the one year anniversary of the Jihad\'s
leader Fathi Shakaki. Again the peace effort was thrown back when the Israeli
government announced plans to double the number of Jewish settlers in the West
Bank. At one point Netanyahu asked the U.S. and Germany to help use their
influence in Iran and Syria to hold the terrorists at bay. Arafat also grew
tired of what he considered to be stalling on the part of the Israeli government.
He called for plans already agreed to, to be put in motion. Netanyahu then
makes a statement that he envisions, "A Palestinian entity with broad power,"
but fell short of declaring full independence. One article called this a sign
that Netanyahu was, "moving towards the Israeli political center."(Netanyahu
Mulls Palestine Land) Towards the end of November peace talks tookplace about
the redeployment of troops in Hebron. The main issue that stalled the talks was
Israel\'s insistence on written agreements that Israeli troops could chase
Palestinian suspects into the city.
In December, peace talks continued and as of now a decision was on the
verge of being reached once final details were worked out. On January 1, 1997 a
Jewish military officer, believed to be mentally disturbed ,walked into a
Palestinian market and opened fire. Waving after being arrested he said,
"Hebron, always and forever."
Israel also had some serious problems with it\'s Arab neighboring
countries. In September Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks to
counter Lebanese guerrillas who had ambushed an Israeli patrol. The guerrillas
are part of Hezbollah, or party of god. Shortly after the attack Lebanon moved
300 commandos to the southern border to, as a Lebanese statement says, "cope
with any Israeli venture in the region." Both Israel and Lebanon are under
investigation to find if they had broken any cease-fire agreements.
Jordan, Israel\'s closest Arab ally issued a blunt statement to Israel
declaring, "Anything can happen if peace is not achieved."(Rift widening quickly
between Israel and Jordan) Hussein attended a luncheon with Netanyahu, Clinton,
and Arafat saying, "What you need sir, is not the arrogance of power but the
vision that Rabin had... Maybe one day you will have it."
Israeli-Syrian relations also were greatly strained. Syrian peace talks
have been greatly strained since the May terrorist attacks. As a precondition
for opening