New Israeli Prime Minister Barak

America's Death Squad Peacenik

Revolutionary Worker #1008, May 30, 1999

The Zionist state of Israel now has a new Prime Minister--Ehud Barak. In the May 17 elections, Barak won by a "landslide" over Benjamin Netanyahu. This was a "landslide" engineered and welcomed by Israel's main imperialist backer, the U.S. President Clinton sent his top three campaign advisers to help run Barak's campaign. And Barak's election was greeted in Washington with what the New York Times called "jubilation."

Barak received the Clintonian stamp of approval because he has pledged to get the U.S.-directed "Middle East peace process" back on track. (Barak also said that he will move to withdraw Israeli troops who have been occupying southern Lebanon for many years.) Under Netanyahu, the negotiations between Israel and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority had stalled. And this was leading to what the U.S. considers a dangerous situation in occupied Palestine--mounting frustration and anger among the Palestinian people and the possibility of new upsurges of mass struggle. Barak is seen as someone who is more in tune with the U.S. imperialist program for the Middle East. And this can only mean more oppression and more injustice for the Palestinian people.

A look at Barak's background is revealing. Barak spent 36 years in the Israeli Army, and he was chief of staff from 1991-95. For many years he headed up the army's special forces which carry out commando operations and assassination plots against Palestinians. In other words, he was the leader of the Zionist military's premier death squad.

A full account of all the crimes committed by Barak will have to wait until Israel's secret archives are forced open. But a few of his actions are known. In 1973, he was part of a commando operation into Beirut, Lebanon to murder three leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1988, Barak commanded the political assassination of top PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) in Tunis where the PLO was headquartered at the time. While Barak oversaw the operation from a ship off the coast of Tunisia, Israeli commandos riddled al-Wazir's body with bullets. The assassins videotaped the whole thing so that their leaders back in Israel could watch the footage. This murder was meant as a blow at the Intifadah, the Palestinian uprising which was raging at the time.

The Israeli military countered the Intifadah with brutal tactics such as firing rubber bullets--and at times regular bullets--into crowds of protesters and breaking the bones of young stone-throwers. Reuters news service reported in 1997, "Military sources said Barak devised many of the tactics used to combat the Palestinian uprising." Barak left the military in 1995 to become an official in the Labour Party. The 1997 Reuters report noted, "On the eve of leaving the army, Barak took pride in the deaths of 10 of 12 most-wanted guerrillas and vowed his forces would hunt the others down."

Barak is a man who has much Palestinian blood on his hands. But for the U.S. and Zionist rulers, Barak's military background is precisely what gives him the "credentials" to lead the Israeli state. There are sharp divisions within the ruling elite in Israel. In 1995, those contradictions exploded onto the surface with the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was known as Barak's "mentor." The U.S. imperialists hope that Barak--with his image of a "dovish hawk" who is for the "peace process" but is "tough" enough to protect the security of the Zionist state--can bring some unity to Israel's official politics.

An Unjust "Peace"

Arafat and the Palestinian Authority also welcomed Barak's election. This is because these so-called leaders are in fact collaborators of the U.S. and Zionist oppressors, and they have totally sold out the interests of the Palestinian people.

Arafat claims that the U.S.-sponsored negotiations with Israel will eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The U.S. and Israel might, at some point, allow the setting up of some kind of an entity that is called a "Palestinian state." But this would not represent genuine independence and sovereignty for the Palestinian nation. In fact, such an imperialist-created "state" would be part of U.S. plans to suppress the just struggle of the Palestinian people and protect the Israeli state--in order to strengthen U.S. control and domination over this part of the world.

Under the "peace process," Israel is supposed to eventually transfer about 40 percent of the occupied West Bank to full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority. But the reality is that, even if all these land transfers are carried out, the Palestinian people will remain surrounded by a hostile and heavily armed oppressor state. For the most part, the areas under Palestinian "control" are broken up into small, separate pieces that can be easily isolated, surrounded and attacked by the Israeli military. The economy in these areas is very dependent on Israeli or U.S. and other imperialist "aid." Israel monopolizes the water resources, which are crucial to agriculture, industry and the daily life of the people. Many Palestinians depend on jobs in Israel, where they are hired for the lowest paying and most back-breaking work; and the Israeli government often refuses entry to these workers as a form of "collective punishment."

A major question is the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Many of these settlements are run by extreme right-wing Zionists who oppose giving up any land to the Palestinians. Well-protected access roads link the settlements to each other and to Israel--while it is difficult or even impossible for Palestinians to move between various areas under the various pieces of land under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The settlers--who are well-armed--serve as sort of an auxiliary force for the Israeli military. These settlements have continued to expand during the "peace process."

The Palestinian people consider the city of Jerusalem as their capital. But Jerusalem is under tight Israeli control--and Barak has stated that he will keep it that way. Meanwhile, Israel is building new settlements in and around Jerusalem at a fast pace--in the process driving out more Palestinian residents.

Stepping Up "Security Arrangements" Against the People

Last October, Netanyahu and Arafat signed the interim Wye Agreement under U.S. guidance. Netanyahu refused to carry through with the land transfers that the agreement called for--even though this was land that the Zionist state already should have turned over according to the original agreement signed several years ago. The U.S. government said it will call Barak and Arafat back to the negotiating table soon to get the agreement "back on track."

A large part of the Wye Agreement also dealt with "security arrangements." It called on the Palestinian Authority to step up efforts to combat "terrorism" and "weapons trafficking." What this actually meant was that Arafat agreed to intensify moves against opposition, especially armed opposition, to Israel and the "peace process."

The Wye Agreement also gave the CIA an open role in "monitoring" the security arrangements. This unprecedented intervention by the U.S. spy agency made Arafat's actual role even clearer. The U.S. has assigned Arafat to be the local enforcer over the masses of Palestinians. The Palestinian police force now carry out a lot of the repression that the Israel police and military used to carry out directly. The role of the CIA means that the U.S. is more openly directing the Palestinian police in this repression.

And now Barak--with his long and bloody history in the Israeli military--has risen to the head of the Zionist government. Even as the recent election brought much talk of "peace," the enemies of the Palestinian people are preparing to carry out more reactionary violence.

During the years of apartheid rule in South Africa, the white government set up so-called independent homelands, or bantustans, in remote and poor areas of the countryside. The South African regime forced millions of black people onto these bantustans, as a way to contain and suppress the struggle of the people. The U.S. "peace process" can only lead to a similar apartheid situation for the oppressed in Palestine.

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