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A New Government
By Steven Ehrenberg

Thursday, April 24—Palestinian leaders agreed on a new Cabinet on Wednesday. The move was essential to restarting the peace process and creating an independent Palestinian state.

For weeks, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat battled over who belonged in the top government circle. The argument centered over who should be put in charge of Palestinian security.

Abbas wanted Mohammed Dahlan to take the job, but Dahlan and Arafat do not get along. Eventually, Arafat gave in—but only after Abbas offered to give several top posts to Arafat's friends.

Representatives from nations around the world urge Arafat to hurry up and decide on a new government. Now that the Cabinet matters has been settled, the U.S. will introduce its peace plan for the region. U.S. officials refused to propose the plan to Arafat, who they believe to be unreliable.

Late on Wednesday, Arafat, Abbas, Dahlan, and an Egyptian intelligence chief who helped along the meetings, smiled and hugged each other in front of Arafat's headquarters. "We have reached an agreement," announced Arafat.

But the road to peace will not be smooth. The following morning, a suicide bomber killed a security guard at a train station and wounded at least six others.


Bush Renews Push for Palestinian State
By Suzanne Freeman

Thursday, March 20—In a move that is sure to diminish Yasir Arafat's authority, 67-year-old Mahmoud Abbas accepted the new post of Palestinian Prime Minister on Wednesday. The appointment of the well-known peace advocate has renewed hopes that Palestinians and Israelis may soon resume peace talks.

Although Arafat has served as the main Palestinian leader for more than three decades, his power has been weakened over the past year. In recent weeks, international pressure for him to share his power increased. The United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States are trying to revive peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

For days, Arafat has argued with Palestinian lawmakers about how much political control he would be forced to hand over to the new Prime Minister. It was decided that Arafat will remain as commander of the security forces and maintain the final say on the peace process with Israel. Abbas will create a new cabinet and take over the day-to-day operation of the Palestinian Authority's government.

Abbas played a significant role in the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel. He has also publicly denounced the violence that has killed an estimated 3,000 people during the 30-month-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While the fate of the region remains uncertain, Middle East officials are hopeful that Abbas will make a difference.

"The man will have to make himself," said Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "How far this positive development will go, only the future will tell."


Bush Renews Push for Palestinian State
By Suzanne Freeman

Friday, March 14—A roadmap for peace in the Middle East will soon be released, announced U.S. President George W. Bush today. The proposal calls for an end to Israeli settlements, or new housing developments, in Palestinian territories, and the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. Palestinians must also promise that they will live in peace with Israel.

The peace plan was delayed until after the January elections in Israel. The elections strengthened Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It also increased the power of the parties that favor military action against Palestinian terrorists and support for Israeli settlements.

The roadmap was also put on hold until the Palestinian Authority appointed a new Prime Minister. Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat named Abu Mazen as Prime Minister this week. Mazen has not yet accepted the post. A Palestinian Prime Minister is expected to share power with Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat. The Israelis have said they will not deal with Arafat because he has done little to stop suicide bombings in Israel.

"The new Palestinian Prime Minister must hold a position of real authority," said President Bush from the Rose Garden at the White House this morning. "I call upon all parties in the Middle East to abandon old hatreds and meet the demands for peace."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also held a press conference to announce his support for the peace plan.

"This roadmap represents the will of international community to resolve this issue," Blair said. "It provides the route to a permanent two-state solution, with a destination of the final settlement of conflict by 2005."


Violence On the Rise Yet Again in Israel
By Suzanne Freeman

Thursday, March 6—Less than a day after a suicide bombing in Haifa, Israeli soldiers entered a refugee camp in Jabaliya, killing 11 Palestinians.

At least 15 people in Haifa were killed in the first suicide bombing since January 5. The violence came on the heels of a newly formed conservative Israeli government, and two weeks of Israeli military action against the terrorist group Hamas.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a new coalition of political parties. The coalition voted to retain him in his position as the country's leader.

The new coalition of conservative parties favors aggressive military action against Palestinian terrorists. It does not support certain aspects of a "roadmap" for peace proposed by the U.S. Their main problem is a plan to establish a Palestinian state by 2005.


Sharon Forms Coalition to Stay in Power
By Suzanne Freeman

February 25—A three-party coalition in the Israeli parliament was formed yesterday to keep Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in power. The new coalition, which could be approved on Thursday, is expected to take a hard line with the Palestinian Authority and possibly put an end to the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.

The road map is a peace plan approved by the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. The plan calls for formation of a Palestinian state by 2005. It also calls for Israel to dismantle its settlements and allow Palestinians to travel freely between Palestinian territories and Israel.

Sharon's Likud Party has joined with the Shinui Party and the National Religious Party (NRP) for the majority coalition it needs to keep Sharon in his position as Prime Minister. With Likud's 40 members, Sharon now has 61 votes in the 120-member parliament. He is expected to add to his one-vote margin by enlisting other parties before a final vote.

Sharon's new coalition is made of members who oppose the 2005 timetable and support more settlements in Palestinian territories. In his first two years in office, Sharon was backed by the more liberal Labor Party, which supports the road map for peace.

"If Sharon was ready to make great steps toward peace, then Labor would be his partner," said Hanan Krystal, an Israeli political analyst.

Sharon says he still supports the road map for peace, but will not support a Palestinian state until the violence against Israel and its citizens has ended.


Israel Reacts to Continued Suicide Bombings
By Suzanne Freeman

January 8—Israel stepped up its military actions against Palestinians this week in response to suicide bombings on Sunday that killed 22 people and seriously injured 100.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also banned Palestinian representatives from attending a January peace summit in London next week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Sharon called the summit a farce, or a ridiculous situation. Along with the Palestinians, the summit was to include representatives from the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations, but not Israel. The purpose is to discuss reforms of the Palestinian Authority's administration. Authority President Yassir Arafat was also not invited.

"We consider (Prime Minister) Blair an important figure and a friend," an Israeli official told reporters. "But the feeling was that he was taking us for a free ride. The idea behind the conference was not to advance peace but to score points with the Arab world at our expense."

The summit may be postponed until after Israeli elections on January 28, when Sharon could be unseated by Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna. Mitzna is expected to meet with Blair privately on Thursday.


A Political Mess
By Steven Ehrenberg

January 4—A growing scandal threatens to engulf Israel's most powerful political party less than a month before national elections.

Likud, the political party led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, faces charges of accepting money for votes. Even the Prime Minister's sons were accused of corruption and criminal activity. As a result, the party's popularity has plummeted.

Israeli citizens do not vote for Prime Minister. Instead, the vote for a political party, and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister. (This would be like Americans casting their ballots for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, with the winning party selecting the President.)

Hoping to clear up the political mess, Sharon fired one of his top assistants, who refused to answer investigators' questions. He denied that his sons committed any wrongdoing, but promised that he would spare nobody in rooting corruption from his party.

The elections will take place on January 28. Sharon's main rival is Amram Mitzna of the Labor party. Mitnza wants to restart peace talks with the Palesitinians immediately. Sharon will only renew the talks after the violence stops.

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