Israel buys time with 'concession' on Palestinians

'IT SERVES to let us identify needs. It doesn't serve to cover them. It is not a relief action,' said Reto Meister, the senior Red Cross delegate in Israel, putting a brave face yesterday on Israel's first 'concession' in the deportations row.

After refusing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) all access for two weeks, the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, yesterday agreed to give right of passage to two ICRC delegates, but only on a 'one-off basis' and only on condition that they simply checked on the 413 deportees stranded in south Lebanon and returned the same day.

For Mr Meister, after days of brittle negotiations with Mr Rabin, it was an important breakthrough. Israeli officials hope the deal may prove to be a building block in a diplomatic compromise.

With the threat - however distant - of United Nations sanctions hanging over it, Israel has launched a new public relations exercise to soften world criticism and stave off a significant increase in domestic criticism, which has started in recent days with influential Israeli newspapers asking what the benefit of the deportation has been. Reports are also circulating of growing criticism of the decision within the Foreign Ministry and the army.

The PR exercise is intended to present a picture of successful activity to counter Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and to demonstrate what a threat the movement poses.

On Wednesday, amid great fanfare, the Defence Ministry held a press conference to advertise the arrest of armed Islamic activists. Then yesterday the Israeli press reported that senior elements in the Israeli army were considering closing down Hamas-run schools, universities and welfare institutions throughout the Israeli-occupied territories. The idea, said the reports, was to 'liquidate' the infrastructure of Hamas.

At the same time rumours are rife in Jerusalem of an imminent deal with Syria over the Golan Heights. Although Mr Rabin has denied the reports, they appear to have come from official sources and help focus attention on Israel's peace efforts, rather than its illegal deportations.

Whatever compromise is arrived at, it has to achieve the apparently impossible: namely, the threat of UN sanctions must be lifted and the boycott of the peace talks by Palestinians ended - but without forcing Mr Rabin to bring back the deportees.

The short-term scenario painted by Western diplomats goes as follows: for the next few days an illusion of activity will be created by the ICRC visit and by the visit to Jerusalem of a second UN envoy, Chinmaya Gharekhan. Although Mr Gharekhan is likely to leave with a flea in his ear, his visit will delay imminent action by the Security Council until after the crucial hearing of the Israeli Supreme Court on 17 January, when the judges will make their final decision on the legality of the deportations.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to rule the deportations illegal - after its refusal to halt them in the first place - without a nod from Mr Rabin himself. Mr Rabin will only give such a nod if he believes that a serious threat exists of a UN sanctions resolution. He might then decide that a ruling from the Supreme Court would be the lesser of two evils.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement