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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine