|VIEW FROM THE FIELD: CHARLES KRAUSE ON THE MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS|
November 18, 1997
in this forum:
Is Israel on the verge of a "nervous breakdown?" If the peace process deteriorates, what will happen to U.S. interests in the Middle East? Are the leaders the barriers to peace, or is it the general will of the Israeli and Palestinian people? Did you experience distrust of the American press in the region?
November 7, 1997:
Charles Krause investigates the political pressure facing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
November 5, 1997:
Charles Krause explores the political pressure facing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
November 3, 1997:
Israel's Prime Minister on the latest round of Mideast peace talks.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle-East.
Jennifer Paley of San Francisco, CA asks: It's been said that the only way to loosen Hamas's power and its ability to waylay the peace process is by addressing the severe economic problems of the Palestinian people.
As you must have seen while you were over in Israel, Palestinian children don't go to school, their parents can't get jobs or apartments. Do you think it is possible that the Israeli government will address these issues? Do you think it would work?
Charles Krause responds:Of the three weeks we spent in the Middle East on this trip, we spent four days in Gaza and several days in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Gaza, we accompanied Hamas leader Sheik Yassin to prayer and interviewed his second in command, Mr. al-Rantisi. We also interviewed many Hamas supporters, as well as Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's office of counter-terrorism.
I think everyone---on all sides---agrees that poverty plays into the hands of Hamas. Despite its reputation, Hamas is essentially a charitable organization that provides medical care, education and sports facilities for poor Palestinians. The Israelis say it is from these activities that Hamas recruits potential suicide bombers, young Palestinian males who come to believe that blowing themselves up will guarantee them a place in Heaven, and help their families economically here on Earth.
Everytime Hamas carries out a terrorist attack, the Israeli government closes its borders with Gaza and the West Bank, which means that thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel cannot get to their jobs. The poverty and the vicious circle continues. Any number of Palestinians, even those who do not agree with Hamas, told us that the Oslo process has been a tremendous disappointment. They thought it would bring peace and prosperity---just as the Israelis thought it would bring peace and security. Both sides have been disillusioned and peace seems father now than it has at any time since the Oslo Accords were signed three years ago.
It is unlikely the Israeli government will provide economic aid to the Palestinians. There is still a slight possibility the Israelis will agree to let the Palestinians open an airport in Gaza and eventually build a seaport---two developments that might increase prosperity in Gaza and lessen Hamas' appeal. But clearly, time is of the essence because the situation is deteriorating rapidly; Arafat is ill and politically weakened while the pro-peace forces in Israel have become disspirited by the current government and its policies.