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ELECTIONS & AGE OF EXTREMES

Abbas To Olmert: 'The Hamas Sweep Of Palestinian Election Is Irrelevant; 'll Retain Control Of Security Forces & Important Functions'

Shabak Security Chief Diskin: 'Danger That Settlers Could Open Fire At Israeli Security Forces During Next Eviction'

The Amona Clash

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is apparently seeking a solution to the election victory of Hamas, an organization that vows to destroy the Jewish state. Abbas has reportedly informed Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the outcome of the Palestinian election is 'irrelevant'. If so, does this mean that Abbas is trying to subvert the election result or that he has struck a deal to be Hamas 'front man'. In the Israeli election campaign, Olmert's rival are trying to make election capital out of the bloody clash between Israeli policemen and settlers during the demolition of the illegal West Bank settlement of Amona that resulted in other two hundred Israelis being hurt.

MK Eitam at the Clash

Is extremism running wild on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The bloody clash between Israeli security forces and settlers at the illegal outpost of Amona has triggered an alarm bell. National Union Knesset member Effy Eitam, who had his head bashed in at the confrontation, warns of a civil war if the Olmert government again tries 'to dismantle outposts with mounted policemen'. These are not empty threats.

The Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin warns: 'There is a real danger that settlers could actually open at Israeli security forces when they again move to dismantle another illegal outpost on the West Bank'. (See IsraCast report of February 1st).

In the season of an upcoming Israel election, the parties naturally view the situation through a voter's prism. Nearly all are demanding an official enquiry into how more than 200 settlers and policemen were injured in the Amona battle royal. The far right charges police brutality with Olmert bearing ultimate responsibility for refusing to compromise. Eitam charges that Israeli Arabs have built thousands of illegal buildings in the Galilee and Negev while the government has done nothing for fear of Arab rioting. He wants the government to legitimize the outposts in the same manner it accepts the illegal Arab building. Moreover, Eitam adds that successive Israeli governments supported the outposts 'under the table'. For its part, the Likud declares the rule of law must prevail and settlers must not stone policemen doing their job and enforcing a ruling by the Supreme Court. But at the same time, it is Acting Prime Minister Olmert who is to blame for sparking the clash in order to score election points. The Likud wants the enquiry to focus on the political aspects. The Knesset is being recalled from its election recess on Wednesday to discuss the Hamas election victory and the Amona clash. If parliament sets up an Amona enquiry this would freeze any new evictions until its findings are released.Labor's position appears a little convoluted. No one has done more in demanding the dismantling of the illegal outposts than Labor. However, now Labor is waffling. Party leader Amir Peretz blames the settlers for the violence but he wants the enquiry to examine Olmert's handling of the affair and the 'original sin' of settlement building.

Olmert and his Kadima party apparently feel they are treading on solid ground. The latest polls after Amona, show Kadima is still maintaining its massive lead in the election campaign. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra contends that police video proves the settlers prepared to assault the police by stockpiling rocks and steel bars and let fly when the policemen moved in to evict them. Ezra adds the mounted policemen were sent in only after the several thousand protesters failed to disperse.

Conclusion: Before the fracas, the settlers offered to dismantle and move the 9 buildings at Amona within a week, if no compromise was reached. However, Olmert officials said the settlers were stalling and opted for enforcing the Supreme Court ruling without any further delay. They contend that if Olmert had prevaricated, the settlers would have come up with some other ruse later on. The officials also say that the settlers are opposed in principle to dismantling any of the scores of outposts: something that Ariel Sharon promised President George Bush. If Olmert had backed down at Amona it would have only encouraged the settlers and led to a greater confrontation in the future.

Be that as it may, tens of thousands of settlers gathered in Jerusalem's Zion Square last night to show the battle of Amona is just the beginning. Tempers are running high - to make their point they decked out Israeli Police Chief Moshe Karadie in a Nazi uniform.

Palestinian Virtual Politics: The Haaretz newspaper writes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has quietly informed Olmert not to pay attention to the Hamas election victory. Abbas called the Hamas landslide 'irrelevant' - Hamas took 20 seats more than Abbas's faction Fatah in the Palestinian parliament. Moreover, Abbas added that he would retain control of most of the Palestinian security apparatus and other ' important functions'. This apparently is designed to allay Israeli concerns that Hamas, a terror organization that vows to annihilate Israel, has now been elected to power in a free and open Palestinian election.Israeli analyst Shalom Harari discussed the possibility of Abbas and Hamas working out a deal to keep foreign aid and money flowing into the Palestinians while Hamas consolidates its position. ( See IsraCast interview on February 3rd ). Yesterday, the Israeli government agreed to pay nearly $55 million in tax money it collects for the Palestinians. But if Hamas does enjoy the support of the vast majority of Palestinians, then Palestinian 'President Abbas' is apparently turning into 'a front man' for Hamas. But on the other hand, can Abbas be subverting the outcome of a democratic Palestinian election? Which ever is the case, it smacks of Mafia style politics.

David Essing

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