Peres must put alternatives to Sharon's policies

In Liverpool yesterday, I joined a large number of people who marched from Mulgrave Street to the Pier Head to voice their anger at the present Israeli incursion in the West Bank and Gaza.

My position, I wanted to protest at the treatment of journalists within the present conflict which has set a terrifying precedent and I am sure will have grave consequences for those who report on conflict around the world.

These actions against journalists also take away hope for those suffering oppression for fair reporting of their plight and can only be regarded as a tactic of terror by those who impose ìclosed security areasî and dole out sanitised images to CNN and the BBC, with official army spokespersons addressing the camera in a more than media savvy manner in their battle fatigues.

In recent days Operation Protective Wall has been protected itself by the shooting of journalists, the use of stun grenades and live rounds to force those who would report to the world, the conduct of engagement in this conflict, to stay out. It is apparent that there is a game being played and time has taken on a strange dimension.

The US has called for IDF forces to pullout from Palestinian-ruled territory in the West Bank "now ... not tomorrow" this statement by President George Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and echoed by Colin Powell totally ignored by Ariel Sharon and the Likud led right wing coalition in the Knesset.

In fact one would be forgiven for thinking Israel had been given a week to mop up by the US, given that speaking of his trip to try and broker a cease fire, Colin Powell went on national television last night and stated that he doubted if he would return to the US with a deal. He will visit Morocco, Egypt and Spain before arriving in the region on Friday of this week. A certain lack of urgency and will to resolve the situation.

Analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian position and recent statements from President Bush and Tony Blair brings into question the current position of Shimon Peres and the Israeli Labor Party. The time is surely right for MK Peres to leave the government and take up the leadership of the Israeli peace camp.

Events in recent days have led to National Religious Party ministers, led by Effi Eitam a former Brigadier General, described in the Israeli press as an extreme hawk, being invited to join the government. Eitam is on record as stating that ìArab Israeliís are a cancerî evidence enough of an even wilder swing to the extreme right in the Knesset. The NRP representatives will be joining the security cabinet and influencing governmental decisions. Yisrael Beitenu, with its hard-line positions, and Gesher, are also conducting talks about joining the government.

This will mean that hard-line right wing figures such as Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Elon and David Levy will also possibly join the coalition.This will surely lead to a split in Israel. Between those who would favour possible peace and security within a framework that would mean no further settlements and a return to 1967 borders in compliance with UN resolutions and those who see the end game being played out with the integration of the Palestinian occupied territories into the state of Israel. Fulfilling the religious and ideological hard line Zionist project that calls for the occupation of the whole of Palestine.

The time is right for the Israeli Labor Party to summon up the will and determination to seize the opportunity at hand. There is worldwide pressure on Israel to moderate and negotiate and the Labor party are the only faction capable of engaging in this process. After the extreme right joins the coalition, Labor's influence in the government will be virtually nil, especially whenever there is a vote in the Knesset.

The demarcation is clear, for Jews worldwide not only in Israel, must make their moral decision upon which camp they join. This the real dividing line between the peace camp and the right wing. This is how the state of Israel and Jewish individuals must align themselves and be counted. Opinion polls in Israel suggest that 60% of the population support current Israeli government policy.

A clear alternative to Sharon's policies should be outlined by the Labor Party, this can only happen if Labor leave the present government and present the foresight of an Israeli state that wants to live in security inside the 1967 borders. The future of Israelís standing in the world community depends on the personal decision of every Jew on this key issue.

Photo Credits: Kristin Karlsson

Joseph Cooper is a journalist, documentary film-maker, and ex-TV Producer of Current Affairs programming focussed on Europe and the Middle East. He is currently based in Liverpool, England.