Israeli MPS expected in Russia

A parliamentary (Knesset) delegation from Israel will come to Russia for a working visit today. The delegation is headed by Chairman of the parliamentary commissions for repatriation and absorption Colette Avital, and for education and culture - Ilan Shalgi.

During their trip organised with the support of the Jewish agency (Sohnut), the deputies will visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, and meet representatives of Jewish communities and also the leadership of the Duma international affairs committee.

The visit will take place at a time when the Israeli developments are in the focus of international attention, Roman Bronfman, a delegate and chairman of the Democratic Choice party, told RIA Novosti.

He added, "our country is now in a unique situation when the left-wing and centrist opposition supports the government leader, while the Likud party he heads has refused to back him. This is the repetition of the 1979 scenario when the government of Menahem Begin could only conclude a peace agreement with Egypt after he was backed by the opposition in the face of the Avoda party." During the May 15 mass protests, opposition parties and movements came out for early implementation of Sharon's plan to evacuate settlements and withdraw troops from Gaza, after the Likud party had denied this project two weeks earlier.

Bronfman opined that the need to implement Israel's withdrawal plan from Gaza would prompt Sharon to review structure of his cabinet. "The right-wing extremist parties will have to leave the ruling coalition, and a government of national unity will have to be formed to implement the re-deployment plan," said Bronfman.

In this case, the pullout from Gaza will be the first step to be followed by similar actions in regard to the West Bank, said Bronfman. "I think this process will begin already in 2004," he added.

The current developments in the south of Gaza "do not fit into Sharon's evacuation plan unlike the "pinpoint liquidation" of Hamas leaders." The elimination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abd Al-Aziz al-Rantisi was aimed at weakening extremist forces in view of the pullout from Gaza, the parliamentarian believes. At the same time, "the fight against terrorism, which brings suffering to civilians, is not worth it because it lays the psychological basis for the next generation of terrorists," said Bronfman.

He described the plans of the Israeli military top brass to destroy Palestinian houses on the border with Egypt as "an excessive and absolutely pointless operation caused by the emotions in the wake of the death of 13 soldiers in Gaza." "Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will undoubtedly reduce terrorist activity but only if the evacuation is unconditional and final, and if the Palestinians are given the opportunity to build their independent statehood. The Palestinian side has enough moderate forces to take the responsibility for this long-suffering land," said the Knesset deputy.

According to Bronfman, the pullout from Gaza will involve active international assistance, above all from the United States, including international monitoring and economic aid.

"Russia plays a certain role in creating favourable atmosphere in the Israeli-Palestinian tensions too," stressed Bronfman.

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