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Key players in the Israel-Palestinian conflict
Ehud Barak -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud "Brug" Barak is Israel's most highly decorated soldier, which makes him seem an unlikely leader of the left-wing Labor Party. But Barak sees himself as a moderate, and in his campaign for prime minister he has sought to balance the Labor platform by running under a new banner: One Israel.
Likud Party -- Currently holds 19 seats in the Knesset, Israel's governmental body. Likud is the mainstream conservative party in Israel, often accusing the Labor Party of giving up too much to the Palestinians in peace negotiations.
Labor Party -- Is currently the majority party in the Knesset. Labor is seen as the liberal mainstream party of Israel and has generally taken a softer approach in relations with Palestinians. Former Israeli Prime Ministers Peres and Yitzhak Rabin led this party.
Yasser Arafat -- leader of the Palestine Liberation
Organization and Palestinian Authority president. Arafat
co-founded the moderate Fatah Palestinian group in 1956, and
became PLO leader in 1969. In January, he overwhelmingly won
the Palestinian Authority presidency in the Palestinians'
first elections. Recently, Arafat has been criticized by
Israel and others for a lack of control over extremist
Palestinians such as Hamas. Arafat has vowed to crack down,
and repeatedly has expressed sorrow over the latest Hamas
Newsmaker profile: Yasser Arafat
Palestine Liberation Organization -- the umbrella
representative group of Palestinians. The PLO, which has
eight factions, was established in 1964 by the Arab League to
press for a Palestinian homeland. Arafat leads the largest
group, the moderate Fatah. Long deemed a "terrorist
organization" by Israel, the PLO recognized Israel in 1990,
and in 1993, the two sides forged a peace agreement.
Palestinian Authority -- the Palestinian governing body. The
ruling body of Palestinians in the occupied territories was
created under the 1993 peace agreement signed by Yitzhak
Rabin and Yasser Arafat, which provided for the gradual
withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and West
Bank. Arafat is president of the Palestinian Authority. Its
legislative body, the Palestinian Council, was elected in
January in the Palestinians' first elections.
Hamas -- a grass-roots Palestinian organization that is the
most significant activist group in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. Hamas is known among Palestinians in those areas for
humanitarian actions such as building schools, hospitals and
helping the community in social and religious ways. The
military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al Quassam, carries out
military and terrorist operations. Hamas means "zeal" and
also is an acronym for Arabic words meaning "Movement of
Islamic Resistance." Hamas was founded in late 1987 at the
beginning of the intifada or "uprising," the largely
nonviolent Palestinian protest against the Israeli occupation
under which many Palestinians were forced to live. In 1988,
Hamas published a statement asserting that since Israel
wanted the destruction of Islam, working against Israel was a