Israel. After rolling according to plan for several
years, the peace process between Israel and Palestine seemed to
stop in 1996. Militant Islamists carried out terrorist
attacks in Israel, which helped Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of
the conservative Likud and opponents of the peace process,
take over government power at the May elections.
Countryaah.com, nearly 60 people were killed in four blasts in
February-March in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and outside Ashqelon.
Militant Islamists from Hamas (the Islamic Resistance
Movement), who believe that the peace process involves
excessive concessions to Israel, blasted themselves into the air
in order to deter Israelis from further closer ties with the
Palestinians. However, Prime Minister Shimon Peres responded
only with conventional means: mass arrests and barring the
autonomous Palestinian territories.
In April, when only six weeks remained for the
parliamentary elections, it was called again, this time at
the border with Lebanon. The Iran-backed guerrilla Hizbullah
(God Party) fired small towns in northern Israel, and now
responded with grenades and missiles in an operation called
the Grapes of Wrath. On April 18, 13 Israeli grenades fired
at one of the UN refugee camps in the Lebanese city of Qana.
At least 100 people were killed. "A very serious mistake"
was Israel's explanation, but according to a UN report, Israel
probably knew that it was a refugee camp that was the
target. A few days later, the fighting for American
mediation was interrupted.
The shooting of Lebanon was not enough to profile Peres
and the Labor Party as a guarantor of Israeli security ahead
of the May 29 parliamentary elections. Netanyahu won, albeit
by less than one percentage point, after an election
campaign in which he played on the Israelis' fears by
swearing never to return the occupied Golan Heights to
Syria, never giving the Palestinians their own state and
never even discussing Jerusalem's future status.
With the change of government, the peace process was
stalled. Netanyahu announced that settlements on the West
Bank would continue to expand, and Palestinians became
increasingly frustrated. The drop came when Israel in September
opened a new exit from an archaeological tunnel under part
of central Jerusalem, near the Klipp Mosque and al-Aqsa
Mosque. The protests began with stones and bottles met by
tear gas and rubber bullets, but soon escalated into regular
war between the Israeli army and the Palestinian troops in
the autonomous territories. To stop the fighting, US
President Bill Clinton called Netanyahu and Palestinian
leader Yasir Arafat to a summit in Washington.
At the end of the year, both sides had contacts that
touched on the city of Hebron on the West Bank. According to
the peace agreement, Israel would have handed Hebron into
Palestinian hands even before the election, but the issue of
450 Jewish settlers in the city has caused the surrender to
be postponed. If Netanyahu hands over the city, it means
that all agreements already entered into have been
fulfilled; If the peace process is to continue, new
negotiations must begin.