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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Inside Israel's circle of violence
settlers with flags
Unsettled: The conflict dominates every aspect of life
For both Israelis and Palestinians, every aspect of life is dominated by the conflict. In the first of two special features, our correspondent Paul Wood looks at a day in the life of an Israeli minister as the government wrestles with the problem of how to bring security to the state of Israel.

Click here to read Paul Wood's second feature - a day in the life of a Palestinian official.

For Israeli Cabinet minister Danny Naveh, visiting bereaved Jewish families has become a grim part of his official duties.

I join him as he sees one family, the Avrahamis, who lost their son Yossi in one of the most violent incidents of the conflict with the Palestinians.

Every day is a punishment

Murder victim's mother

The crime caused anguish throughout Israel.

"This was a killing for killing," says Yossi's mother, Esther.

Her son and a friend - both army reservists - were torn apart by a frenzied mob after taking a wrong turning into the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

The incident became known as the Ramallah lynching.

There was shock around the world at television pictures of the bodies being thrown from the window of the town's police station and the killers raising bloodied hands in triumph.

"Every day is a punishment," Esther said, stroking a framed photograph of her son.

Apart from one month a year doing his reserve duties, he worked as a photocopier salesman.

He left behind a wife and three young children.

Sobbing, Esther continues: "I have other children, grandchildren. All I want for them is peace and security, but how? How?"

Fighting talk

Mr Naveh is deeply affected by all this.

He says the killing of Yossi and his friend helped convince many Israelis that the Palestinians are not serious about peace, that perhaps no settlement is possible while Yasser Arafat remains in charge.
Jewish boy with soldier
Innocents lost: Children are caught in the crossfire

"Our responsibility is to do whatever we can so that we wake up every morning without fear, without waiting for the next piece of terrible news like this," he said.

"We have to take measures for our security. Unfortunately, the only way to get security for the Israelis is by deterring Mr Arafat and his people, by convincing him that he can lose a lot and gain nothing by violence."

Safety

The issue dearest to Israeli hearts is security.

The Sharon government was elected on a promise of security - but remains divided on just how to deliver it.

The doves in the Knesset want more generous peace proposals.

The hard-liners want the Palestinian Authority to be labelled a "terrorist entity" and declared an enemy of Israel.

That could mean reoccupying parts of the West Bank and delivering what commentators in Israel call the "knock out blow" to Mr Arafat and his administration.

Trading fire

Nowhere is the issue of security more keenly felt than in Gilo.

Here, Jewish housing sits on land occupied by Israel since 1967, but residents see it as very much a part of Jerusalem.

Since the current conflict with the Palestinians erupted, Gilo has often been fired on from the Palestinian village of Beit Jala.

It sits just a kilometre away on the opposite side of the valley.

Mr Naveh introduces me to a Gilo family.

We stand in their kitchen as the minister points out a large hole in the fridge door - a small sign of what life is like here.

"This is from a bullet that came over here to this apartment straight from Beit Jala," he said.

"They were lucky not to be in here with the children when this was fired."
soldier with gun
Under the gun: Both sides answer violence with violence

I point out that when the Palestinians fire bullets at Gilo, the Israeli Army replies with tank shells aimed at similar civilian housing in Beit Jala.

"Our only aim is to stop the shooting at our people who live here in Gilo," Mr Naveh said. "We have no wish to harm innocent people in Beit Jala."

Land claims

I ask Mr Naveh about international opinion, which says Israel stole the land on which Gilo is built.

"Look," he says, "This is Jewish land, we have no other place to go in the world. Jerusalem is the Jewish state capital. We have no other capital. These people live here. Some of them were born and grew up in Jerusalem; their grandparents were born here."

He continued: "We're trying to find a compromise between the Palestinian aims and needs and the Israeli aims and needs. But the way to achieve such a compromise is not through the use of terror and violence such as the Palestinians are using."

This is the Sharon government's much repeated policy of "no negotiation under fire".

It is coming under increasing strain as the bodies pile up on both sides.

But for now, Mr Naveh says, Israel has no alternative.


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