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Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Barak suffers setbacks
in Israeli parliament

Bullet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak experiences a backlash in the Israeli parliament after the failure of the Camp David peace negotiations.
Bullet A peace settlement will require concessions that the Palestinians refused to make at Camp David.

THE Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems in greater peril following twin blows to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in his own parliament. Both developments appeared to be a backlash from Barak's failure to win Yasser Arafat's acceptance of his bold concessions at Camp David.

In the first setback for Barak, his party's candidate, Shimon Peres, a former prime minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the principal Israeli architect of preliminary agreements with the Palestinians, was defeated in the parliamentary election for president. It was a stunning upset.

The winner, the little-known Moshe Katsav, was the candidate of the opposition Likud party. The vote appeared to be a repudiation of Barak's policy of offering land for peace to the Palestinians.

Later Barak narrowly survived a no-confidence vote, enabling him to retain the prime ministership but with a weakened mandate. The 120-member parliament voted 50-50, with eight abstentions and 12 legislators not present.

That was 11 votes short of the outright majority needed to oust the government but hardly a resounding vote of confidence.

Barak commands the loyalty of only 42 legislators, but another 20 have said they would not topple his government over his Palestinian policy. The vote left Barak barely clinging to power and his credibility as a negotiator in doubt.

Barak's supporters managed to take some comfort in the fact that the parliament doesn't meet again until October, giving him time to build support for the proposals he made at Camp David.

The Israelis and Palestinians have set a deadline of Sept. 13 for a final peace agreement. This supposedly would include control of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state and the fate of Palestinian refugees who want to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

Although time is short, there is still a possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians, particularly in view of President Clinton's strong statements of support of Barak's position.

Clinton has warned Arafat against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. Clinton is threatening to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which would amount to an unequivocal statement of support for the Israeli position that Jerusalem is the nation's capital. Like presidents before him, Clinton has resisted calls for such a move for fear that it would hamper the U.S. efforts to act as an intermediary between the Israelis and Palestinians.

However, in the wake of the rebuff Barak has suffered in his parliament, it seems clear that no further concessions can be expected from the Israelis. A peace agreement will require movement on the Palestinian side -- movement that did not occur at Camp David.

If there are no such concessions and the peace process fails, Barak may be replaced by a leader who will take a harder line on the Palestinian issue.

Leeward coast route

Bullet Emergencies that have blocked Farrington Highway have created problems in gaining access to the Waianae Coast.
Bullet The city has taken the right step toward connecting mauka roads to be used as an alternate route on such occasions.

EMERGENCIES that have blocked Farrington Highway along the Leeward coast have caused major traffic jams because of the lack of an alternative route. After rejecting proposals for a second highway on a grand scale, the city has approved a sensible plan to connect existing roads mauka of Farrington at a fraction of the cost.

A police standoff with an armed man blocked traffic for 13 hours in January and brought attention to the problem. A water main break stopped traffic on Farrington for several hours on Memorial Day.

On such occasions, the Navy has allowed civilian use of Kolekole Pass, a military road that crosses the Waianae range from Schofield Barracks to Lualualei Naval Reservation. That has hardly been a solution for motorists who have committed themselves to the Farrington route.

A study ordered by the Legislature three years ago determined that construction of a mauka highway on the Waianae Coast would cost $500 million, and land acquisition could increase the total cost to $1 billion.

Some Leeward residents objected to such a highway for environmental reasons, and Governor Cayetano rejected it as too expensive.

Waianae Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes and Mayor Harris favored a more modest plan to connect existing roads mauka of Farrington Highway between Nanakuli and Makaha, building new roads or bridges where needed. The city now has hired a consultant, Gray Hong Bills & Associates, to research the plan. Harris says the project could cost between $30 million and $48 million.

The project may take years to complete, but the route may not be needed for a long time. The last time Kolekole Pass had been opened for civilian traffic before the January police standoff was in 1986, when Farrington Highway was blocked by an overturned gas truck.

The city has wisely begun the process of providing a second access route for emergencies, however infrequently they occur. The approach of connecting existing roads rather than constructing a new highway at much greater cost, makes sense.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

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A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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