Israel. The support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was increasingly eroded during the year. Several ministers
jumped out of the government after conflicts with the prime
minister and even the United States rejected him. Almost
daily, Israeli press speculated on Netanyahu's departure,
but he kept his post nonetheless.
Countryaah, the first of this year's scandals involving the prime
minister involved the government's appointment of the
relatively unmarried lawyer Roni Bar-On as new state
prosecutor. Israeli TV reported that Bar-On had been given
the job after promising to pardon Arye Deri, the
anti-corruption leader of the Shas Orthodox Party. Shas had
threatened to withdraw its support for Netanyahu on certain
issues in the Knesset unless Bar-On was named. The evidence
against Netanyahu was not enough to prosecute, but
investigators criticized him for lack of skills.
In October, it was discovered that Netanyahu had sent two
agents from the Mossad security service to Jordan to murder
one of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) leaders. The
assassination attempt failed and the agents were arrested.
To free them, Netanyahu forced Hamas' founder, Ahmed Yassin,
out of Israeli prison, as well as some 50 other Palestinian
prisoners whom Jordan wanted to be released. Assessors
strongly questioned Netanyahu's judgment.
Another problem for Netanyahu was the Israeli occupation
of the so-called security zone in southern Lebanon. During
the first nine months of the year, the Shiite guerrilla
Hizbullah (God's party) killed at least 34 Israeli soldiers
there. That was more than in any other year since the
occupation began in 1985. In addition, 73 people died when
two helicopters collided in the air near the Lebanon border
in February. A group of soldier mothers launched a campaign
for a retreat from Lebanon. Several ministers also demanded
In November, Netanyahu increased his power in the Likud
Conservative party as he changed the process for how the
candidates for parliament should be elected. Previously,
they were voted on by the party members in the primary
election, but Netanyahu made the party congress decide that
the candidates should be elected by the party's central
committee, which is entirely dominated by Netanyahu's
The change brought sharp criticism within Likud and it
was speculated whether the party would crack.
Likud's rival, Labor Party Israel Labor Party, in June
elected former commander Ehud Barak as new party leader
after Shimon Peres. Barak, who has been Minister of the
Interior and Foreign Affairs, was described as a man who can
compete for political power with Netanyahu. Both were born
in Israel and belonged to the army's counterterrorism force,
where Barak was Netanyahu's commander.
No solution to the current deadlock in the peace process
with the Palestinians was reached during the year. Hamas,
which has not carried out any suicide attacks since
Netanyahu took office in 1996, resumed its terrorist
activities. A total of 24 Israelis were killed in three
blast attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in March, July and
While Netanyahu called for a stop to the terror,
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called for a stop for Jewish
settlements on the West Bank, which has become an
increasingly important symbolic issue for both parties.
Violent confrontations erupted on two occasions: in the
spring when the settlement of Hom Homa began to be built in
eastern Jerusalem and in the autumn around another
settlement in the same part of the city, Ras al-Amud. Later
in the autumn, peace talks started again, but no
breakthrough was achieved.