A Collection of the Week's News from Israel

A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee
of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation

13 Tevet 5759    January 1, 1999    Issue number 198


Chizuk X

A delegation of American and Canadian supporters of Israel will leave from Toronto on February 14, 1999 to visit Yesha towns and meet with government and community leaders. For further information please call; (416) 781 35 71 (Nomi) or (416) 663 8121 (Izzy)


Elections to Be Held on May 17

The date for Israel's upcoming national elections has been set for May 17th, the 2nd of Sivan, four days before the Shavuot holiday. So determined the Knesset Law Committee Tuesday, after representatives of the two large parties, the Likud and Labor, agreed on the date. MK Rabbi Laizerson (United Torah Judaism) objected to the date on the grounds that "the week before the Festival of the Receiving of the Torah is not the proper time for holding elections." (Arutz 7 Dec 29)

Benny Begin Heads New Party

MK Binyamin Ze'ev Begin (Likud) announced in Tel Aviv Monday that he is leaving the Likud Party to run for Prime Minister as leader of the new nationalist camp party. Begin launched his press conference today with a biting attack on the Oslo Accords. "In two and a half years of Likud rule, the Palestinians have progressed, and Israel has withdrawn," he said, noting also the abundance of terrorist attacks since the beginning of the withdrawals. "The Likud, Labor and the new centrist party all share the same basic views, which will hinder them from bringing peace and security to the country... The challenge of the hour is to prevent the implementation of the Wye Agreement, and to thereby prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state." Begin stressed that Netanyahu's verbal attack against the political left last night can't hide Netanyahu's own lack of resolve and capitulation. He made mention of the concern of some on the right that his candidacy will split the right wing. "The current situation is different than it was in 1992, given the fact that Prime Minister is elected directly," he said. "Mathematically, if there are only two right-wing candidates, and if 50% of the electorate votes for the right-wing, there is no chance that my candidacy will hurt." (Arutz 7 Dec 28)

Election Notes

Binyamin Netanyahu and Uzi Landau are the two candidates who will vie for the leadership of the Likud party, in an election one month from now that will determine the party's nominee for Prime Minister. So determined the Likud Central Committee convention Sunday night in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu, speaking at the convention said, "We find ourselves with a two-pronged leftist camp, a camp that is dividing into two: One says, 'I won't say left-wing statements, because I want to be elected.' That's Barak. The second one says, 'I don't want to join the left wing party, so that I won't be considered a leftist.' But the left-wing people who are moving back and forth between the two groups are having a very hard time detecting the differences between them." (Arutz 7 Dec 28)

Arab Aggression

A Tel Aviv taxi driver was kidnapped to the Palestinian Authority city of Kalkilyeh Tuesday morning. An Arab passenger who claimed that he was headed for Kfar Saba hijacked the driver at knife-point and forced him to pick up two accomplices who were waiting at an intersection. The three Arabs forced the driver to Kalkilyeh, beat him, robbed him, and finally released him. Palestinian policemen detained three Israeli citizens yesterday, and beat one of them, at a checkpoint south of the Tulkarm, within Palestinian Authority territory. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that three Israeli citizens from Nili were stopped at the checkpoint and asked to show their identity cards. When they refused, the Arabs beat the driver, and released the three only after detaining them for a while. After a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation, the IDF submitted a sharp complaint against the violence of the Palestinians, in violation of the agreements. It was revealed Tuesday that the terrorists who placed the murderous roadside bombs near the Tel Kab'a outpost in southern Lebanon were killed by IDF forces. An elite Egoz patrol unit encountered them some two weeks ago on their way to another terrorist attack, and liquidated them. (Arutz 7 Dec 29)

Palestinians Want "Anyone - Just Not Netanyahu"

The Palestinians are preparing for the Israeli elections, with one goal: to remove Binyamin Netanyahu from power. An analysis of the PA strategy by Roni Shaked, published in Tuesday's Yediot Acharonot, explains its main elements: the prevention of terrorist attacks, the downplaying of the intention to declare a Palestinian state, and the uniting of the various Israeli-Arab lists into one political party. "This time, we will not repeat past mistakes," say senior Palestinian Authority officials. "The main thing is to remove Netanyahu from power. Barak, Shachak, Meridor - just not Netanyahu." (Arutz 7 Dec 29)

Arafat Smuggles in Four

Four unidentified passengers were smuggled into Gaza aboard Yasser Arafat's plane in the Palestinians' Dahaniyeh airport. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the Palestinians gave the Israelis a list of names for the passengers, but Israel was not allowed to check the men individually. "How do we know that the names match the people? In all likelihood, they are Arabs prevented by Israel from entering because they are security risks," an Israeli security figure told Huberman. Arafat returned to Gaza from his visit in Egypt on an Egyptian plane Monday, and the Egyptians apparently instructed the Palestinians not to allow Israel to conduct security checks on the plane. Israeli security representatives told their Palestinian colleagues afterwards that if a similar incident recurs, Israel will close the airport. Huberman quotes Israeli security sources to the effect that the Egyptians, who did not allow Israel to conduct security checks on their plane once before, may be taking this position in order to make the Palestinians look bad. Egypt is not happy with the Palestinian airport; in a recent flight from Dahaniyeh to Cairo, the passengers - 30 Palestinians - were kept on the plane for 90 minutes after it landed and the crew disembarked, on the pretext that the "airport was full." It is believed that the Egyptians apparently intended merely to humiliate their passengers. (Arutz 7 Dec 29)

Music in Hevron

Over 1,000 people visited Hebron last Sabbath to celebrate the tunes of the late Jewish Hassidic singer, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The visitors worshipped together outside the Machpelah Cave, and ate at the Gutnick Center and with families from Hevron's Jewish Community. Morning prayers inside Me'arat HaMachpela continued the next day for many hours as the worshippers sang and danced their way through the Shabbat liturgy. On Saturday night, over 2,000 people participated in a tribute-to-Carlebach concert at the Gutnick Center near the Machpelah Cave. (Arutz 7 Dec 29)

El-Ad Projects for Jewish Contiguity

Within the next two months, eight families will move into the El-Ad neighborhood in the City of David neighborhood of Shiloach (known in Arabic as Silwan), bringing the total number of Jewish families there to 30. The El-Ad organization treated journalists Monday to a tour of the residential project in eastern Jerusalem, below the entrance to the Western Wall. El-Ad's projects are an attempt to compete with illegal PA-funded construction in the area. The City of David enterprise is one of several El-Ad initiatives aimed at creating a corridor that will hinder the development of Palestinian villages springing up around Jerusalem. For example, Bidu and Nebi Samuel were built by Arabs just north of Jerusalem in order to prevent Givat Ze'ev from being connected to Jerusalem.

Another example is the Palestinian Authority's attempt to build an Arab town in the El Azaria and Abu Dis area in eastern Jerusalem, aimed at breaking the contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. Of late, a 100-dunam (25 acres) project in the vicinity of Jerusalem's Armon Hanetziv neighborhood - funded by Jewish philanthropist Jacques Nasser - has gained government approval. El-Ad spokesman David Be'eri told Arutz-7 that a short time ago, he saw several Arabs digging pits on the site slated for the neighborhood. "I asked them what they were doing there, and they responded, 'What do you care, who are you?'. I left, and called the police. It turns out that they were hired by the Muslim Wakf, and were in the midst of setting the foundations of a mosque on the location. One more day, and the foundations would have been laid for a mosque in the heart of the neighborhood. Who would've been able to destroy a mosque?" (Arutz 7 Dec 28)

Y.U. Dean in Bet El

The renowned Torah scholar Rabbi Tzvi Herschel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, delivered an hour-long Talmudic lecture before hundreds of students at Yeshivat Bet El Monday. After dining with the students, Rabbi Schachter spent over half an hour answering a variety of halakhic questions that were submitted to him. Bet El Rabbi and Dean of Bet El Yeshiva Institutions Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed hosted Rabbi Schachter at his home prior to the class. The Rabbi Herschel Shachter chair of Talmudic Studies in Yeshivat Bet El was established earlier this month at the annual Bet El Yeshiva Center dinner in New York. (Arutz 7 Dec 28)

Withdrawal from Lebanon Nixed by Hizbullah Statement

The inner security cabinet convened Sunday for another meeting on the security situation in Lebanon. A senior security source reported that in light of the Hizbullah announcement that it will continue its war against Israel in any case, the security cabinet would no longer consider a unilateral Israeli withdrawal. The international tracking committee supervising the implementation of the Grapes of Wrath understandings has condemned the Lebanese government for last week's katyusha attack upon Israel. It also condemned Israel for the results of its mistake last week, which caused the death of a Lebanese woman and her six children - although it acknowledged that the killings were caused in error. (Arutz 7 Dec 27)

Barak Arouses Religious Ire

Labor leader Ehud Barak's "holiday visit" to Christian and Moslem Arab religious leaders in the Galilee this past Sabbath has drawn strong criticism. Speaking with Arutz-7 Sunday, Deputy Housing Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) remarked: "What kind of response could Christian religious leaders be expected to have to a high-profile official political figure who ridicules his people's day of rest in such a manner? Can they at all regard him as a serious person?" Rabbi Porush added that public reverence for Jewish religious observance by official Israeli personalities has long been part of political protocol: "Even Ben Gurion walked to the Shabbat funeral of [French President Charles] DeGaulle!" Porush did not agree that this latest move by Barak was part of his electoral strategy: "Even if he has good reason to believe that he has already lost the support of religious citizens, why does he have to antagonize such a large sector of the population and cause such a major split?" (Arutz 7 Dec 27)

Border Guard Soldier Dies from Wounds

Doron Ben-Zichri, a fighter in the Border Guard's special anti-terrorist unit, passed away earlier this morning from wounds incurred three years ago in the line of duty in Hevron. He was injured when his unit stormed into the hideout of wanted terrorist Heman Kapisha. Before being eliminated, Kapisha managed to fire one shot which hit Ben-Zichri. (Arutz 7 Dec 25)

Egypt Dis-invites Israel

The Egyptian Minister of Education and Culture, Farouk Hosni, rejected an Israeli request to participate in the international book fair slated to be held in Cairo next month. Hosni emphasized that the request was rejected because of "Israel's failure to implement the peace process with the Arabs." Some 80 nations will participate in the fair. The Zionist Organization of America is urging the Clinton administration to respond by reducing the $2.1 billion annual American aid to Egypt. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979 requires Egypt to conduct normal trade, cultural, and diplomatic relations with Israel - which it has not done - irrespective of Israel's other agreements. (Arutz 7 Dec 24)

Students Feel Press Is Leftist

A poll by the Education Ministry's journal finds that 91% of the students in Israel believe that the media tilt to the left, while 63% believe that the press is downright not objective. The poll was conducted amongst 1050 high school students studying communications technology, by the Science and Technology Administration in the Education Ministry, together with Bar Ilan University. 61% of the students said they read a newspaper every day, and 98% said they read one at least once a week. (Arutz 7 Dec 24)

Northern Israel Bombarded with Katushas

Thirty-two katyusha rockets launched by Hizbullah fell in two waves last Wednesday in northern Israel. Local residents spent the night and morning in bomb shelters, and were instructed to return early this afternoon. Ten people were lightly hurt by the katyusha attacks, and one was moderately injured. The Hizbullah onslaught hit two residential buildings directly, caused damage to water and electric lines, and ignited several fires in the region. Hizbullah says that the attacks are in partial revenge for last Tuesday's IDF bomb attack on a home in Lebanon, in which seven members of one family were killed.

The IDF explained that the bombs were meant to hit a Hizbullah terrorist building only 300 meters away, and that an investigation into the mistake will be held. IDF forces returned artillery fire towards the sources of the attacks. Some 250 homes were damaged, and total damages in the area are estimated at one million shekels. Four of the wounded civilians from yesterday's attack are still hospitalized, including one in severe condition; his life is not in danger. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced yesterday that Israel would respond to the katyusha attacks "at the time and place that is convenient for us." Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai, however, said that we should avoid "heating up the arena." At least five Israeli-Arab teenagers from the Galilee have been arrested on charges of throwing stones at Israeli cars. After questioning the suspects, the police said that the Arabs threw the stones in solidarity with the Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. (Arutz 7 Dec 23, 24)

Arab Terrorist Murderer "Escapes"

Jamal Jadallah, the Arab terrorist who murdered Itamar Doron near Moshav Orah and Danny Vargas near Kiryat Arab within the past three months, has escaped from his Palestinian Authority jail cell. The PA announced that Jadallah escaped from the Hevron prison, and that a search for him is underway. (Arutz 7 Dec 23)

Arafat to Help Labor: May Push off Declaration of State

Ma'ariv newspaper reported that a senior Palestinian Authority figure said that Arafat may postpone his declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state, in order not to help Binyamin Netanyahu's election campaign. The PA feels that Netanyahu will attempt to use the declaration as a "scare tactic" in his campaign. A report in Ha'aretz quoted senior Labor officials to the effect that Arafat promised them that he would not proclaim the establishment of a state in May 1999 if the Israeli election had not been held by then. The upcoming issue of the weekly Foreign Report - a prestigious British military-issues magazine - predicts that Yasser Arafat will be the first leader in the Middle East to disappear from the world arena. Three other leaders in the region who will follow Arafat soon after, according to the Foreign Report, are Syrian President Assad and Saudi Arabian King Fahd, for health reasons, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who is likely to be killed in an American or British attack. (Arutz 7 Dec 23)

"Partition State" Statement Called Violation

David Bar Illan, Director of Policy Planning and Communications in the Prime Minister's Office, has responded to a recent statement by Chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council Abu Ala. Abu Ala wrote that a Palestinian state will be established in May 1999 according to the borders of the UN Partition Plan of 1947. These borders would include cities such as Beit Shemesh and Acre within Palestinian borders, and make Be'er Sheva a border city. Bar Illan said that Abu Ala's statement itself represents a violation of the Wye agreement, which stipulates that future borders will be mutually agreed upon. (Arutz 7 Dec 23)

From the PA Press...

Arafat's Fatah Faction Threatens Use of Force Against Israel

[Following are excerpts from the bi-weekly communique entitled "Our Position" issued by Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO. The communique was published on December 19, 1998 in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda.]

"The map of Palestine, about which Netanyahu protests so much since it still bears its historical name as it appears in the Old and New Testaments, is mentioned in the Koran... This is Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, from Rosh Hanikra to Rafah...

The gap between Palestinian expectations and the Israeli conspiracy will inevitably lead to a collision... It is impossible to struggle against the settlements, the confiscation of land and cold-blooded killings via negotiations. There is no alternative but a struggle that will smash the Israeli aggression and emphasize the readiness of our people to explode with force against any aggression..." (GPO Dec 23)


Fatah Preparing for "Intifada of the Settlements"

By Khaled Abu Toameh,

Now, after the "Intifada of the Prisoners", the Palestinians are preparing a new intifada to be called the "Intifada of the Settlements". Senior sources in the Palestinian Authority confirm that the intention is to organize mass demonstrations with the aim of initiating clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers in protest over the expansion of settlements and the paving of bypass roads.

Reports reaching the Palestinian Authority indicate that the Netanyahu government intends to use the period before the elections to create new facts on the ground, including the expansion of a large number of the settlements and the paving of new bypass roads in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority believes that a new intifada will force the Israeli Government to give up, at least partially, on its plans to expand the settlements.

In discussions held in recent days between senior members of the Palestinian leadership and the Fatah organization, it was agreed to initiate protests and clashes with the Israeli army and settlers along the lines of the "Intifada of the Prisoners", which broke out several weeks ago in protest over Israel's refusal to release security prisoners. In the Palestinian Authority it is said that the "Intifada of the Prisoners" was crowned with success since the subject rose to the top of the priority list and since Israel promised to reconsider the issue of the security prisoners. Among other things, members of the Palestinian Authority note the declaration of Israel's President, Ezer Weizman, who hinted that he supported the release of Palestinian prisoners when he said, "Until when will we continue to hold them?"

In recent years, a number of serious clashes have taken place between Palestinians and settlers. During the Western Wall Tunnel riots, hundreds of Palestinians converged on the fences of the Netzarim settlement in Gaza. Last month, during the "Intifada of the Prisoners", hundreds of Palestinians closed in on the settlement of Ariel and damaged property there. Dr. Zakaria al-Agha, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, confirms that the Palestinian Authority intends to act against the Israeli Government's settlement policy. "There is no alternative at this stage to popular opposition to the settlements and the settlers," explained al-Agha. "This is a burning issue which can not be postponed. All forces and resources must be united in the struggle against the settlements."

Al-Agha called upon the Palestinian Authority to prohibit Palestinian workers from working within the boundaries of the settlements and to allocate special budgets to struggle against the settlers. "Israel is disowning all the agreements signed with it and continues with the building and expansion of the settlements to thwart the establishment of the Palestinian state." (GPO / Iton Yerushalayim Dec 25)

Definitely Not Prime Minister Shahak By Stuart A. Cohen

There are three reasons to be alarmed by the news that Amnon Lipkin-Shahak is to announce his candidacy for the position of prime minister.

The first reason relates to his personal status. Shahak is not an "ordinary" citizen, exercising his democratic right to run for public office. Formally, he is still a professional member of the armed forces Although he completed his tenure as the IDF chief of staff last summer, he has only just retired fully from service as a professional soldier. In so doing he has certainly abided by the letter of the law which prohibits military personnel from participating in public political life. Nevertheless, by allowing himself such a short intermission, he has certainly contravened its spirit.

In so doing, Shahak has in fact tarnished Israel's image as a healthy civic democracy. Even as matters stand, at the apex of government the boundaries of Israeli civil-military relations are far too blurred for comfort, and need to be more rigorously demarcated. By those standards, a decision on Shahak's part to run for the highest elected office in the land so soon after his retirement from the IDF would constitute a retrograde step. Besides all else, it would seriously impugn the non-partisan status of Israel's military as a whole.

The second reason for opposing Shahak's candidacy for the office of prime minister is more strictly constitutional. As Dr. Arik Carmon of the Israel Institute for Democracy has recently emphasized, our system of government is parliamentary - not presidential. Even though we do now elect our prime ministers by direct vote, we nevertheless expect them to represent and articulate the platform of an organized political party. Hence, the personal qualities of the candidate are only one essential qualification for office. That criterion has to be supplemented by his or her position as a spokesperson for a body of opinion which has been worked out through the mill of wider public debate.

By that gauge too, Shahak's prospective candidacy falls short of the required standard. Given his personal background, he can be presumed to possess clear-cut policies vis-a-vis Israel's narrowly-defined security concerns (although, to be frank, exactly what his precise positions are on such contentious matters as the retention of Israel's "security zone" in Lebanon are still far from clear). But is the same true of the host of domestic issues which must also demand a prime minister's attention, such as - to name just a few - the religious-secular divide, the future of the health service, and relations between the Treasury and the Bank of Israel? And even if he does come up with a catch-all program on these matters, what evidence can he give to the electorate in order to show that he has formulated his plans in the considered and consensual manner which intra-party discussion and debate is designed to assure?

A parliamentary democracy is not simply an opinion poll, or even a series of opinion polls, about the popularity of a single personality. Its critical component, and one which advocates of Shahak's candidacy seem altogether to ignore, is a far more continuous interaction with the public on the issues of the day. These have to be set out as an integrated whole by an entire team of politicians, whom the prospective prime minister has been democratically elected to lead.

But let's assume, for argument's sake, that Shahak, does stand as head of a "third party". His candidacy would still be unwelcome - this time for what might be termed "governmental" reasons. After all, not even the rosiest of polls predict that, if indeed elected prime minister, he will be assured of the support of more than a small minority of members of the Knesset. Rather, all suggest that a "third party" - even one lead by Shahak - will win just a handful of seats: sufficient, certainly, to make it a parliamentary force to be reckoned with, but nevertheless not nearly enough to constitute a certain majority in any coalition.

This, surely, is a recipe for governmental chaos. As Binyamin Netanyahu has already discovered, even directly elected prime ministers cannot conduct the country's business effectively and efficiently unless assured of sufficient parliamentary backing. Personal charisma - which under the best of circumstances must always be a wasting asset - cannot suffice. Ultimately, arithmetic rules. And arithmetic demands that the prime minister's own party commands an undisputed preponderance within the ruling coalition and hence a majority of senior ministerial posts. Shahak, if elected, is very unlikely to enjoy either advantage.

So, whichever way it is examined, Shahak's candidacy appears undesirable. If he really does wish to continue his record of service to the country, he would be advised to choose an alternative course.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University (Jerusalem Post Dec 27)

How Do You Sell Begin to the Public? By Liat Collins

He is polite, quiet, and so decent he verges on the nerdish. He does not have a cellular phone, and his office staff consists of an answering machine, a computer, and an electronic notebook he takes with him everywhere.

He travels by bus and often arrives at the Knesset on foot, carrying a bag with his swimming gear after a dip in the Hebrew University pool. He works hard and is never seen in the MKs canteen, where the other politicians dine with each other and the press.

But he is fired by ideology and wants to be prime minister. In that he is like his father, Menachem Begin, minus some of the charisma. MK Ze'ev (Benny) Begin, 55, is the least prince-like of the Likud heirs. Many note that he is a reluctant politician and would have preferred to remain a geologist.

But several years after his father stepped down as prime minister in 1983, he ran for the Knesset and won a seat in 1988. He was appointed science minister by Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996.

Just hours before being sworn in, Begin threatened to turn down his chance of being a minister when he learned his close friend Dan Meridor might not be joining the cabinet. It was one of his typical stands on doing the right thing. And he later left the job, and its perks, over a matter of principle: He disagreed with the Hebron agreement.

Now instead of remaining a backbench Likud MK, Begin has announced he will leave the party altogether and run against Netanyahu in the race for prime minister.

Image-wise it is hard to imagine a person more different. Netanyahu has taken the use of media to new heights, timing events to coincide precisely with prime-time news broadcasts; making sure to get the best out of a camera; speaking in sound bites; and taking his wife and children along everywhere.

Begin shies away from cameras; rarely issues a press release; prefers rhetoric to one-liners; and most people would not recognize his wife Ruth or any of their six children unless introduced.

And while Netanyahu has US adviser Arthur Finkelstein giving suggestions and Ehud Barak has James Carville et al, Begin seems set to do it alone and his way.

And this might be the best thing he can do, says political media adviser Motti Morel. Media-wise, Begin need change nothing.

"He should just be himself. That's how he is most convincing. When he speaks out, he speaks out the truth as he sees it and this comes across as credible and persuasive. Also, he has some good turns of phrase in his speeches," Morel says.

Morel adds that Begin need not try to exploit the press in the same way that Netanyahu and Barak do. He doesn't need it. Begin's right-wing supporters distrust the media and have alternative channels of information, including word of mouth.

"There is a tendency to exaggerate the power of the press, but it tends to have more influence among the Left than among the Right," Morel says.

Begin also need not play up the "son-of" side. Everyone knows who he is and where he is coming from.

Another advantage Begin has over his competitors is that his stand is very clear. Netanyahu, Barak, and centrist candidates will have to deal with persuading people on difficult issues, such as the need for territorial concessions under certain conditions. Begin doesn't.

"And he doesn't have the problem about making electoral promises that he knows he can't keep," says Morel, "Because he knows he's not going to be prime minister in the end." (Jerusalem Post Dec 29)

Give the Green Light By Uri Dan, Dennis Eisenberg

Our army knows how to take care of our enemies, if our leaders would just give the go-ahead.

Straining at the bit, ready to swing into action, the IAF was poised during the Gulf War to respond to the barrage of Scud missiles being fired into the Tel Aviv area. Day after day the officers waited for the government's green light. The wait turned out to be in vain - prime minister Yitzhak Shamir succumbed to American pressure not to retaliate.

Instead Israelis simply cowered with their gas masks in their sealed rooms, as Saddam Hussein threatened to burn the land under their feet.

This passive approach established a pattern of behavior which demeaned the reputation of Israel as being a state that was not to be trifled with.

The failure by Shamir to respond to Saddam's attack was an early manifestation of the rot that has infected the Israeli leadership's psyche. It spread to Yitzhak Rabin and other government ministers, whether affiliated with the Left or Right and persists to this very day.

It is strikingly evident in Israel's response to the way the Syrians use the Hizbullah terrorist movement in the Lebanon to threaten Israel's northern border. During the past several years, the IDF has conducted a series of pointless in-and-out land operations which served no purpose whatsoever. Repeated air raids have been staged that were said to be successful, but have produced no visible results. Hizbullah gunmen hiding in Lebanese villages mock the Israeli communiques that speak of accurate hits on targets. If these tactics have been so successful, how is it that Hizbullah is stronger today, and continues to be sustained by the Syrian and Iranian governments?

In earlier times, an effective method would have been devised to handle the Lebanese problem. The country has the men to do the job, and do it brilliantly, as they have done in the past - perhaps even more so today, since they have state-of-the-art technology at their command. But the will at the top has been dulled.

The latest and most pitiful case of this ineffectual leadership was demonstrated during last week's American-British operation against Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. True, it lasted only four days, but Israeli, British and US experts have all said that operations of this type will likely need to be repeated.

What our leaders told us during the bombardment was restated again and again: "It does not affect us. It is none of our business. We are not involved."

Not involved?

Are our leaders so divorced from reality that they believe Saddam Hussein is not out to avenge the destruction of the Osirak reactor - which, if we had not bombed it in 1981, would have given him atomic weapons by the time he invaded Kuwait?

Did they not hear Tareq Aziz last Friday when he coupled Israel and "the Zionists" with Britain and the US in their "plot" to attack Iraq, which was followed by a verbal assault on the "Zionist clique of the Jewish advisers surrounding President Clinton?"

Were their ears stuffed with cotton wool as Saddam Hussein, in his "victory" speech on Sunday saluted the Palestinian Arabs for their firm stand against the Zionist state and for their burning of the US flags they had been waving during Clinton's visit to Gaza only days before?

Their only advice to the public was to make sure that their gas masks were updated. If Israel is indeed so "not involved," why have hundreds of millions of shekels been spent to do this?

Military and government leaders seem to have forgotten that as recently as six years ago, steps were being taken to handle the Saddam Hussein menace via the Tze'elim guided missile project, though the operation's dress rehearsal went tragically wrong. Foreign newspapers made much of the Tze'elim-2 disaster, maintaining that the operation was part of an Israeli plan to assassinate Saddam.

To the West, Saddam Hussein is a threat to the sources of oil. But to Israel he is deadly enemy - as deadly as any the country has faced since its founding. Today Iraq has pilotless planes that can carry biological or chemical weapons. If that isn't a deadly threat to all Israel, then what is?

The country has the men with the courage and imagination to bring Saddam Hussein to his knees. All they need is the go-ahead signal from their superiors.

The superiors, of course, must first be woken from their stupor.

The writers are authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East. (Jerusalem Post Dec 24)

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