By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
Israel's recent war in Gaza has not only failed to halt rocket fire on Israel's southern cities, but it has also strengthened Hamas in the West Bank at the expense of the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority. A key casualty of the war is the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, who resigned. Salam Fayad, a former World Bank executive and political independent, had been crucial to U.S. hopes for rekindling the peace process. Fayad said he resigned to clear the way for a national unity government between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank. The PA was obliged by Palestinian and pan-Arab public opinion to seek a unity government after the war cast it in the image of a collaborator while raising Hamas up as the Palestinian symbol of resistance. The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reports on a poll showing the shift:
The survey said [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh would garner 47 percent support, beating [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas with 45 percent, if a presidential election was held today. Three months ago, Abbas received 48 percent and Haniyeh 38 percent.
The face-to-face poll of 1,270 people by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research was conducted on March 5-7 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the factions tried to reach agreement on a unity government with Egyptian mediation.
Bracing for Avigdor Lieberman 's World Debut
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu appears resigned to forming a purely right-wing government now that the centrist Kadima (Forward) and Labor parties have turned down his dogged offers to join his coalition. Failing a last-minute surprise, the ultranationalist, anti-Arab Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party was the Cinderella ticket in the recent election, will get the showcase post of foreign minister—a prospect that has filled many Israelis with dread. The liberal daily Ha'aretz reports that Lieberman's looming appointment is playing terribly overseas:
No American official is likely to convene a press conference publicly condemning Lieberman's appointment. However, such a choice will almost certainly encourage the U.S. administration to keep its distance from Benjamin Netanyahu's government, as Washington will not want to take the flak absorbed by demonstrating closeness to a government whose public face is widely considered to be a racist.
Feminists Cheered by Planned Rape Charges Against Katsav
The decision by Israeli prosecutors to indict former Israeli President Moshe Katsav on rape charges is being welcomed by the country's feminist organizations. Katsav stands to be charged with raping an employee about a decade ago when he was tourism minister, as well as with alleged sexual offenses against two other employees. Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who is issuing the charges, has described Katsav as a "serial sex offender." Katsav denies the charges vehemently and says he "welcomes the chance to prove my innocence." Ha'aretz reports:
Said Dorit Abramovich, who coordinated the organizational effort [to campaign for Katsav's prosecution]: "We are happy that after two years of a feminist struggle to indict Moshe Katzav and to bring justice to victims of sexual violence, we have finally reached the day when the attorney general sees eye to eye with women's organizations. We are pleased that he agrees with us that if a man is suspected of serial sexual offenses, he must be brought to trial—especially if he is a high-ranking functionary."
WIZO-Israel chairwoman Yochi Feller noted the timing of the decision—International Women's Day—and said: "It doesn't matter who has hurt you, he must pay the price. This a celebration not just for society, but of the very notions of justice and the rule of law."