Dmitry Litvinovich: Will there be peace in the Middle East?

Israel is accusing Palestine of supporting terrorists, Palestine is accusing Israel of occupying its territories. Making a speech at the UN General Assembly, the Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres claimed, there would be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinian authorities do not set up control over all Palestinian armed groups.

“As long as the gunmen do not have anything in common with the politicians, then we are not going to have either democracy or safety,” – Peres said. According to his opinion, the authorities of the Palestinian autonomy must control all weapon owners and those, who try to use it.

Yasser Arafat responded that the current Israeli government continued the aggression against the Palestinian people. He called upon the international community to play a more active role in the negotiation process. He also asked to send the international observers to the region, but Israel and the USA were strongly against it.

The American authorities confirmed Thursday that they were working on a new schedule for peaceful regulation of the Middle East conflict. Probably, the details of that plan will be discussed at the meeting between the presidents of the US and Russia.

Israel has made another step and now it is waiting for a reaction from Arafat. Making small steps, peaceful offers, which are not executable sometimes, - this is the position of Israel. The Palestinian militant organizations, like Hamas and Hezbollah have never followed Arafat’s orders. And we are mentioning those well-known organizations in Palestine, what about the rest of them. There is the information, saying there are over 20 terrorist organizations in the region. They are not likely to approve the arrests, carried out by Arafat under Israel’s pressure.

So it stands the reason that Arafat’s current position is not good for everyone. Many Palestinians think they have to refuse from the truce and do not make any other arrests among the leaders of the gunmen. If Arafat agrees for that, then Israel will definitely charge the UN with the refusal from the negotiations. This is what Ariel Sharon wants.

In contrast to his predecessor on he position of the prime minister, Ehud Barak, Sharon is not aspiring to achieve the final peaceful regulation with the Palestinians. He pronounced his main priority was to put an end to Arabs’ violence instead. The goal of the strikes is to make the Arabs understand that any attacks will have a bigger and stronger reaction in respond on the part of Israel – stronger than earlier. Sharon gave to understand that Arafat will have to be responsible for Palestine’s acts of terror. The new Israeli premier is ready to hand over only 42% of the West Bank territory to Palestine - less than a half of what Barak used to offer. Sharon is not even going to discuss the problems, which Barak wanted to solve - Jerusalem’s status the problem of the refugees, the borders.

As Sharon believes, the conflict is not ready to be settled down. The Israeli premier prefers the small steps method instead. The Palestinians think that Sharon’s tactics is a road to nowhere. So there is no end to the mutual accusations, there is no place to the peace in the Middle East.

Short review of the Palestinian militant organizations

HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)

Description Formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various HAMAS elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. HAMAS's strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and a few areas of the West Bank. Also has engaged in peaceful political activity, such as running candidates in West Bank Chamber of Commerce elections.

Activities HAMAS activists, especially those in the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks--including large-scale suicide bombings--against Israeli civilian and military targets. In the early 1990s, they also targeted suspected Palestinian collaborators and Fatah rivals. Claimed several attacks during the unrest in late 2000.

Strength Unknown number of hardcore members; tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers.

Location/Area of Operation Primarily the occupied territories, Israel. In August 1999, Jordanian authorities closed the group's Political Bureau offices in Amman, arrested its leaders, and prohibited the group from operating on Jordanian territory.

External Aid Receives funding from Palestinian expatriates, Iran, and private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states. Some fundraising and propaganda activity take place in Western Europe and North America.

Hezbollah (Party of God)

Description Radical Shia group formed in Lebanon; dedicated to creation of Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and removal of all non-Islamic influences from the area. Strongly anti-West and anti-Israel. Closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran but may have conducted operations that were not approved by Tehran.

Activities Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the US Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of US and other Western hostages in Lebanon. The group also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and is a suspect in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires. In fall 2000, it captured three Israeli soldiers in the Shabaa Farms and kidnapped an Israeli noncombatant whom it may have lured to Lebanon under false pretenses.

Strength Several thousand supporters and a few hundred terrrorist operatives.

Location/Area of Operation Operates in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. Has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia.

External Aid Receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria.

Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)

Other Names Fatah Revolutionary Council Arab Revolutionary Brigades Black September Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims

Description International terrorist organization led by Sabri al-Banna. Split from PLO in 1974. Made up of various functional committees, including political, military, and financial.

Activities Has carried out terrorist attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring almost 900 persons. Targets include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, moderate Palestinians, the PLO, and various Arab countries. Major attacks included the Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul and the Pan Am flight 73 hijacking in Karachi in September 1986, and the City of Poros day-excursion ship attack in Greece in July 1988. Suspected of assassinating PLO deputy chief Abu Iyad and PLO security chief Abu Hul in Tunis in January 1991. ANO assassinated a Jordanian diplomat in Lebanon in January 1994 and has been linked to the killing of the PLO representative there. Has not attacked Western targets since the late 1980s.

Strength A few hundred plus limited overseas support structure.

Location/Area of Operation Al-Banna relocated to Iraq in December 1998, where the group maintains a presence. Has an operational presence in Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley and several Palestinian refugee camps in coastal areas of Lebanon. Also has a limited presence in Sudan and Syria, among others, although financial problems and internal disorganization have reduced the group's activities and capabilities. Authorities shut down the ANO's operations in Libya and Egypt in 1999. Has demonstrated ability to operate over wide area, including the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

External Aid Has received considerable support, including safehaven, training, logistic assistance, and financial aid from Iraq, Libya, and Syria (until 1987), in addition to close support for selected operations.

Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Description Originated among militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s. Committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war. Because of its strong support for Israel, the United States has been identified as an enemy of the PIJ, but the group has not specifically conducted attacks against US interests in the past. In July 2000, however, publicly threatened to attack US interests if the US Embassy is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Also opposes moderate Arab governments that it believes have been tainted by Western secularism.

Activities Conducted at least three attacks against Israeli interests in late 2000, including one to commemorate the anniversary of former PIJ leader Fathi Shaqaqi's murder in Malta on 26 October 1995. Conducted suicide bombings against Israeli targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.

Strength - Unknown.

Location/Area of Operation Primarily Israel and the occupied territories and other parts of the Middle East, including Jordan and Lebanon. Headquartered in Syria.

External Aid Receives financial assistance from Iran and limited logistic assistance from Syria.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Reuters photo: Israeli residents walk past the site where a small bomb exploded in a garbage bin in Jerusalem slightly injuring two municipal street cleaners November 14, 2001

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Author`s name Editorial Team