Internal Political Fights Plague Middle East
In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, completed on September 12th, there have been sporadic exchanges of rocket fire between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.
LIANE HANSEN, host:
NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: In the hope of getting American pressure for a cessation of hostilities, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is journeying to Washington later this month to see President Bush, for in the coming months, the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship may be influenced more by power struggles in the two camps than developments between the two camps.
On the Israeli side, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bent on the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the leader of the governing Likud Party. Netanyahu narrowly failed to win a vote in the Likud Central Committee to hold a new election for party leader next April, but Netanyahu continues to be a thorn in Sharon's side. If Netanyahu eventually succeeds in deposing Sharon from the leadership of the right-wing party, the incumbent prime minister would probably try to stay in office, assembling a new coalition of supportive Likudniks along with Labor and perhaps one or more of the fringe parties, but Sharon will probably be weakened in negotiations with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian leadership also faces an early trial by ballot. President Abbas has renounced violence in the quest for a Palestinian state, but has so far not managed to win over the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad. An election next January 25th, for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian parliament, will determine how much support he has among the population. In recent municipal elections, Fatah, Abbas' party, and Hamas emerged as the major players. Even while Hamas has been gaining ground against Fatah, Abbas continues to enjoy popular support and, significantly, in opinion polls, 57 percent of Palestinians oppose armed attacks on Israel.
On both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, there appears to be a struggle for legitimacy. On each side, there are hard-liners seeking to wrest control of policy and return to confrontational oppositions. That this drama is being played out, at least for now, by ballot rather than bullet may itself be a hopeful sign. But as we have so often seen, that could change in a minute. This is Daniel Schorr.
HANSEN: It's 22 minutes before the hour.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.