JERUSALEM (May. 31)
Is the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip winding down or merely gathering steam for new explosions as it nears the end of its sixth month?
Israel’s political leaders and military thinkers have varying views on the subject. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin believes the Palestinians realize the “intifada” has failed to bring anything but misery and that the time is ripe for negotiation.
But a group of Israel Defense Force reserve generals, who have formed an organization called the Council for Peace and Security, thinks there is still a tinderbox situation which calls for a drastic re-thinking of Israeli policy.
Voice of Israel Radio on Tuesday quoted a government official, who was not identified, as saying “the chief cause of the continuation of the uprising in the territories” was the acts of brutality by IDF soldiers and the degradation of Palestinians.
The radio report came a day after a 9-month-old Arab girl, Huda Masoud, lost an eye and suffered a broken arm when she was hit by a rubber bullet fired by IDF troops during a violent disturbance at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza.
The child’s mother, Najah Masoud, 29, was holding her daughter in her arms at the time. She too was hit and her left arm was broken. The child underwent surgery at Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon.
Knesset member Yossi Sarid of the dovish Citizens Rights Movement said in the Knesset Tuesday that 5,130 Palestinians have been wounded during the uprising, apart from the 190 killed. Sarid said he was quoting “an official document.” According to those figures, one of every 300 Arab residents of the territories was wounded and one in 80 was detained.
Rabin told Sarid he would have to study the figures before he reacted. But the defense minister said, after a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Tuesday, that the time has come to enter into talks with “all sectors in the administered territories and exchange views with them.”
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that the uprising’s only achievement was in the news media. Its organizers succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue on the agenda because the media presented events in the territories out of proportion to their importance, Peres contended.
The Palestinian residents failed in their most important aim–to create a new political situation, Peres said.
But reservist Maj. Gen. Shlomo Gazit, a former chief of military intelligence, said the Palestinian uprising meant that coexistence, such as it was between Israelis and Palestinians, has come to an end. It has to be replaced by a new policy to resolve the problem.
The Council for Peace and Security was founded this year by Res. Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv, a former chief of military intelligence who now heads the prestigious Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a leading Israeli think tank.
The group is not affiliated with any political party. Its members include dozens of officers of general rank. In this election year, they are advocating moderate approaches to military and political issues.