A FRAGILE PEACE?
AUGUST 8, 1997
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians continue to rise after a recent bombing in a Jerusalem market, leaving security cooperation between the two groups in limbo. Sirah Shah of ITN reports from Gaza.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, a Middle East situation report as tensions have grown between Israelis and Palestinians after the Jerusalem market bombing. Some officials are working to keep the peace process on track. Sirah Shah of Independent Television News has this report from Gaza.
SIRAH SHAH, ITN: The bombings have brought Israeli and Palestinian cooperation on security to a grinding halt. An exception is here at the Gaza headquarters of the joint patrols, set up in the heady days of the peace process. Israeli and Palestinian soldiers worked together to maintain civilians security. Business is often done on a nod and a wink.
LT. COL. MICKI HADDAD, Israeli Commander, Joint Patrol: The joint patrols is good--not very good--not excellent, but good. They are having troubles like any joint patrols, but they can solve everything. Every time there is any trouble, they argue a little bit, but eventually they solved the problem.
SIRAH SHAH: On the ground a Palestinian and an Israeli jeep travel together. They're even careful to take turns at leading the convoy. They've proved adept at defusing potential flashpoints before they get out of hand. But relations between Israel and the Palestinians have all collapsed around them, leaving these soldiers' spirit of cooperation looking more and more out of step with the communities they patrol.
Israel believes that the Palestinian population is sheltering the men who threaten its security. It says Yasser Arafat hasn't done enough to clamp down on the extremists in their midst.
COL. DAVID HACHAM, Israeli Government Security Advisor: What we like to see is that Arafat will act, will take the necessary measures, the necessary steps in order to put an end to this terrorism. Arafat has to know that terrorism has a double target. It's not only vis-a-vis Israel, but at the same time it is undermining all the peace process. It is not going to put an end to this chain of bloodshed and terrorist attacks. The whole peace process is in danger.
SIRAH SHAH: Just a few kilometers from where the joint patrols are operating Mr. Arafat is opening a new police building in Gaza. Foreign donors paid for this apartment block for policemen but Gaza's police chief isn't among the assembled dignitaries. Israel claimed he's a terrorist and demands his arrest. He's holed up in his office for fear of an Israeli snatch squad.
GHAZI JIBALI, Gaza Police. I must laugh about this. I am very sorry to hear this thing from the Israeli government. I am very sorry to hear this thing. When we make agreement, we make this agreement between our authority and the Israeli government. Israel can't. They cannot arrest me. And if they come here to Gaza or to any place where I am, they will not return back.
SIRAH SHAH: Jibali's fighting talk is backed up by Palestinian police muscle and political will. The police forces out on the street haven't arrested a single member of Hamas or Islamic Jihad since the bombings. Mr. Arafat says Israel has declared war on the Palestinian people. He warns of a big explosion. It's a threat some Israelis take seriously.
EHUD BARAK, Israeli Opposition Leader: By pushing or cornering Arafat you might reach one of two conclusions: either a new erupt of violence which cannot serve any side, or alternatively, replacement of Arafat by Hamas or Jihad leaders, which cannot be better neither to the Israelis nor to the Palestinians. And we are slipping on a kind of slippery slope toward new violence.
SIRAH SHAH: This family would maintain that Mr. Arafat has already been tough on Hamas. Their son, a Hamas member, was jailed after the last wave of bus bombings over a year ago. He's been neither charged nor released.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (speaking through interpreter) They've kept our sons in prison. They didn't do anything, but they've been kept there for 15 months so far. We don't know if they're okay. The Israelis only used to keep them in jail for two or three months and then let them go.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (speaking through interpreter) More and more people are rushing to join Hamas because the Palestinian administration isn't good. There are beatings, mistreatment of prisoners, human rights abuses. All that helps Hamas.
SIRAH SHAH: The only member of Hamas to have joined Mr. Arafat's cabinet now talks of quitting, a veiled threat to Israel.
IMAD SALOUJI, Palestinian Authority: If Israel were to see real security for their state, their peoples, they must try and understand the Palestinian advice. But if Israel continues their policy, nobody can speak about security because their security in our hands is a security in our hand, and their security is joined with our rights.
SIRAH SHAH: The perpetrators of last year's bus bombs in Israel are still fated by Hamas supporters. After last Wednesday's bomb, there are few reasons to hope for change.
L. COL. MICKI HADDAD, Israeli Commander, Joint Patrol: My partner was in Gaza when he heard of the bombing. He came especially from Gaza to here to tell me how much he's sorry for this bomb in a residence and for the deaths. Especially he came to here to talk with me, and it was very important to me. The peace process is living. We are the proof.
SIRAH SHAH: However, the commander is one of the few who believes that the peace process is still on track. Israeli intelligence sources predict another wave of bombings inside Israel.