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VOA-TV Interview with Arie Kacowicz - 2003-01-29


VOA-TV’s David Borgida talks with Arie Kacowicz, a professor of International relations at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, about the recent Isreali election.

MR. BORGIDA
And to provide some more insight into the Israeli election, we have asked Georgetown University Visiting Professor Arie Kacowicz to join us. Professor Kacowicz is with Hebrew University in Israel, and we're here to talk a little bit about the interesting election, in which Mr. Sharon won a very decisive victory, don't you think?

PROF. KACOWICZ
Yes, a very decisive victory, even though the polls were telling us that [it would be] about 31, and the Likud Party is getting 37 seats out of 120 from the Knesset.

MR. BORGIDA
To what do you attribute this decisive victory?

PROF. KACOWICZ
Well, there is a long list, but to say just shortly, first, having to do with the charismatic personality of Ariel Sharon, but, even more, the situation that we are amidst a war. In the last two years we have been at war with the Palestinians, so people are voting under the trauma of a war. And in a way, they are punishing the parties that made the peace process in the nineties, the Labor and Meretz [parties].

MR. BORGIDA
And so the future of Labor? Labor did not perform particularly well in this election.

PROF. KACOWICZ
They dropped from 20 seats to 19 seats. And the question will be whether they will join a national unity government, as was the case in the last two years, or whether they will stay in the opposition for a change.

MR. BORGIDA
Now, what are your thoughts, Professor, about how this will impact U.S.-Israeli relations? Mr. Sharon will be around for a little bit longer, and it is going to be interesting to see how the Bush administration continues to deal with him.

PROF. KACOWICZ
Well, in Israel you never know how long he will be around. The question will be what type of coalition he is going to form, whether this will be a center coalition or whether this will be a rightwing coalition. If it's going to be a rightwing coalition, that's a recipe for an open collision with the U.S. And if it's going to be a central coalition, probably Mr. Sharon will try to play the same type of foreign policy, allying very closely with the Bush administration.

MR. BORGIDA
Professor, does this really mean in fact that there will be continuing violence and clashes with the Palestinians? Because Mr. Sharon at the moment has not been able to find any magic potion or bullet that's going to make all this just go away.

PROF. KACOWICZ
That's probably the reality in the short term. Again, part of the election results are a consequence of interaction with the Palestinians and the continuation of Palestinian violence. What is interesting, I checked on the Ha'aretz Internet before I came here, and one of the interesting news is that Yasser Arafat is calling for a meeting with Prime Minister Sharon to try to put an end to violence. The Palestinians wanted the Labor Party back in power, but that was not the case.

MR. BORGIDA
And as we wind up our chat, Professor Kacowicz, we talked a lot at the beginning of the program about Iraq. You're associated with Hebrew University; while I have you here, how are Israelis preparing for what could be a war situation in that part of the world?

PROF. KACOWICZ
We always prepare for the worst-case scenario, so probably Israel is the best-prepared country in terms of anti-missile defense and so on. The interesting question will be the day after. On the day after, we may see a revisiting of 1991. So, back to a peace process, paradoxically, after war with Iraq.

MR. BORGIDA
And Israelis, sir, are preparing at the street level with gas masks.

PROF: KACOWICZ Yes.

MR. BORGIDA
We see these exercises, Israelis preparing for what might be an Iraqi counterattack with SCUD missiles of the sort we saw over a decade ago.

PROF. KACOWICZ
Right. As well as trying to play a kind of deterrence card, warning Iraq of a possible retaliation.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, the views of Professor Arie Kacowicz of Hebrew University, a Visiting Professor here at Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown University. Professor Kacowicz, thanks so much for your insight. We appreciate it.

PROF. KACOWICZ
Thank you very much.

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