- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday became the latest victim of the 4-month-old Palestinian intifada, deserted by Israeli voters who were unable to stomach daily drive-by shootings and bomb attacks by the enemy Mr. Barak had courted in a bid for peace.

"He lost because of what he was not willing to do," said Robert Satloff, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"He was not consistent in requiring that violence cease before returning to negotiations; he was not consistent in the use of force; and he was not consistent in demanding implementation of agreements by the Palestinians on ending violence," Mr. Satloff said.

In the end, Israel's most decorated soldier was ousted because he tried to become a peacemaker but could achieve neither peace nor a halt to the bloodiest conflict with the Palestinians in decades.

Speaking in a choked voice after losing in perhaps the most resounding election defeat in Israeli history, Mr. Barak called his opponent, Ariel Sharon, to concede.

Mr. Barak, 58, then turned to his supporters: "The voters have spoken, and I respect their democratic decision. Friends, we have lost a battle, but we will win the war.

"Our path is the one and only path, the path that will lead Israel to peace and security."

Even before the Palestinian uprising began in late September, Mr. Barak had already been wounded, perhaps fatally, by a failure to resolve deep-seated domestic problems such as the religious conflict between secular and Orthodox Jews, Mr. Satloff said.

When support in the deeply divided Knesset, or parliament, left Mr. Barak with a shrinking majority and ultimately a minority, polls continued to show widespread support for a permanent peace with the Palestinians.

He tried to pressure Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat by reopening long-stalled peace talks with Syria.

It was in Washington at the Rose Garden in December 1999, that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa indicated the old anti-Israel views prevailed in Damascus.

Subsequent talks at Shepherdstown, W.Va., failed to improve the frosty climate and collapsed over Israel's refusal to give Syria access to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

After a summit in Geneva between President Clinton and Syrian leader Hafez Assad failed to resolve differences, Syria unleashed a bloody offensive by its surrogate Hezbollah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon against Israeli occupation troops.

Mr. Barak responded with a unilateral withdrawal from Southern Lebanon after 18 years of occupation.

That proved the critical step in his downfall, analysts said yesterday.

Iran and other hard-liners in Damascus spread word throughout the Middle East that only Hezbollah had succeeded in forcing Israel to retreat and permanently withdraw from land under fire.

Speakers in mosques and on radio and television throughout the Middle East advised Mr. Arafat not to negotiate with the Israelis and to follow the Hezbollah example.

When Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat met at Camp David in July last year, with the thorniest issues such as the fate of Jerusalem and return of refugees on the table for the first time since the 1993 Oslo accords, the Arab world pressed Mr. Arafat to reject any offers short of total Israeli capitulation.

Mr. Barak made the most generous offer by any Israeli leader ever agreeing to give up all of the Gaza Strip, 95 percent of the West Bank and control of Islamic holy sites in West Jerusalem.

Mr. Arafat rejected the package and returned to Gaza to great acclaim.

In September, after Mr. Sharon visited a Jerusalem shrine sacred to both Jews and Arabs, a violent uprising, or intifada, erupted.

With more than 300 Palestinians and about 50 Israelis killed since then, Israelis turned on Mr. Barak yesterday, voting for the man they believe will meet the Palestinian uprising with an equal or overwhelming force Ariel Sharon.

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