5 Shvat 5759 January 22, 1999 Issue number 201
Two incidents of Arab-instigated violence in Gush Katif (Gaza) occurred last Saturday. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the first one began when Israeli soldiers, on a joint patrol with Palestinian para-military policemen, noticed a suspicious Arab woman nearby, and asked their Palestinian colleagues to investigate her. The Palestinians began to ask her questions, at which point she threw a knife at the Israelis. A disagreement then broke out between the Israelis and the Palestinians as to whether to detain her, and in the end, Arabs opened fire on the Israelis. The Palestinians later claimed that they were merely reacting instinctively to a shot fired in error by the Israelis. Army sources deny this explanation, however, saying that the Palestinian fire took place about eight minutes after the errant shot, and after the Israelis clarified the mistake. No one was injured in the shooting, and the Israelis decided not to return the fire.
Another incident took place a bit later at the Kfar Darom junction, where Israeli soldiers had closed off the road because of the above incident. A long line of Palestinian cars was held up by the roadblock, and Palestinian police soon arrived at the scene. Some of them shoved and pushed Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint. An Israeli decision was finally made not to escalate the situation further, and to open the road. The IDF spokesman at first denied the entire story, Huberman said, "but when I told him that I had testimony from eyewitnesses from Kfar Darom regarding the story, he said he would check again. When I spoke to him later, he confirmed the story as I have just recounted it to you." (Arutz 7 Jan 17)
Terrorists Kill Soldier at Otniel Junction
St.-Sgt. Yehoshua Gavriel was killed last Wednesday night in a battle with Palestinian Arab terrorists near the Har Hevron community of Otniel. The attack occurred when the terrorists ambushed a Border Police unit from behind a large road sign at the Otniel junction. Another soldier was also wounded, and is in light-to-moderate condition. One of the terrorists was apprehended after being seriously wounded, while the other escaped. Security sources assume that the attackers were of the same terrorist cell that carried out an attack at the same junction two months ago, in which two soldiers (including one who was a resident of Otniel) were injured. The attacks occurred at an intersection used daily by residents of Otniel, Beit Haggai and other communities. Shmuel Lorentz of Otniel told Arutz-7 today that following the attack there two months ago, the community asked that lighting be placed all along the road to Beit Haggai. "The army agreed with us, but told us that there is no budget for the move," he said. Otniel residents also asked the army at the time to establish a permanent army presence at the Dahariyah junction. "Within a short time," he said, "the army brought some soldiers with concrete blocks. After a couple of hours, however, the blocks were there, but the soldiers had left..."(Arutz 7 Jan 14)
Moslem Incitement in Jerusalem
Severe Palestinian incitement was again heard Monday, in the context of an end-of-Ramadan sermon delivered by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Akrama Sabari, before thousands of Moslem faithful. Sabari, appointed by the Palestinian Authority, called for the "liberation of the entire city of Jerusalem" from the hands of the Jews "to its rightful owners, the Arabs." The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that the Mufti's words not only constitute harsh incitement but also represent a blatant violation of the Wye Agreement. Last Friday, Sheikh Abu Sneinah sermonized at El Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, "Our struggle in Palestine is an ideological struggle between Islam and the enemies of Islam." (Palestinian Media Watch/Arutz 7 Jan 19)
Arab MK Dahamshe Accuses Terrorist Victims
Wednesday's Ma'ariv newspaper displayed a picture MK Abdel Malek Dahamshe (Arab Democratic Party) embracing Labor party leader Ehud Barak Tuesday while the latter was visiting Dahamshe's home. The caption explained that Dahamshe did not want Barak to be photographed with a picture of Hamas terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - which hangs in Dahamshe's living room - in the background. Arutz-7 correspondent Ariel Kahane asked Dahamshe about the picture of Yassin: "The man is a terrorist, you know..." Dahamshe responded: "You are a terrorist, and so is anyone who calls people like him a terrorist. Ahmed Yassin is not a terrorist. He is a man who works to defend the rights of his people. He never killed anybody, and never supported murder. The real terrorists are the settlers, who, on a daily basis, continue to murder Palestinians. He simply wants peace." [Ed. note: Yassin was sentenced to life imprisonment by Israel in 1989 for founding the Hamas terrorist organization and ordering attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli targets.] Kahane: "Do people exploding in the streets constitute peace, in your opinion?" Dahamshe: "The people exploding in the streets are the ones who don't want peace, and are preventing it, and you are their representative." (Arutz 7 Jan 20)
Barak and Clinton Share Advisors
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Labor party leader Ehud Barak continue to trade veiled accusations about the break-ins to Labor party advisors' offices in Washington and Tel Aviv. Barak said that the break-ins show that "someone is panicking," and Netanyahu retorted that the break-ins are a "provocation." Netanyahu said, "It is strange that Labor spreads hints to the effect that the Likud is involved, and then right under the FBI's nose, another break-in occurs [in Washington], as if to reinforce the message." One of the offices broken into last week - and again yesterday - was that of Stanley Greenberg, a chief campaign advisor of Barak. Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli Embassy liaison to the Congress, told Arutz-7 today that Greenberg and top Barak campaign director James Carville are two of U.S. President Clinton's leading consultants. "Carville has served as Clinton's top political strategist since he was first elected president," said Ettinger. "Both Carville and Greenberg have a close friendship with Clinton, though the White House does not officially employ them. Both have job offers throughout the U.S. and the world. It is hard to conceive that they would agree to run Barak's campaign without coordinating such a move with President Clinton."
Ettinger said that it is possible that Carville advised Barak not to sign a joint letter with Netanyahu on behalf of Jonathan Pollard because he feels that "quiet diplomacy will achieve more. If so, however, this raises question marks as to why Barak said on national television last night that he had telephoned Bill Clinton regarding Pollard's release." President Clinton's efforts to impact on Israel's domestic political scene have been apparent lately, according to Ettinger. "During his recent visit to Gaza, he told the audience that its vote to affirm the Oslo process is a message not to the Israeli government, but to the Israeli people.' This terminology, by the way, is an adaptation of [former U.S. President] Jimmy Carter's approach. Whenever Carter wanted to 'sting' the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, he would refer to the 'wishes of the Israeli people,' as if to ignore Begin. In addition, just recently, Clinton sent a letter to Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai, commending him for his reliability and his commitment to furthering the Wye agreement.
This type of letter is not unusual, but why was it sent to Mordechai three months after the Wye summit? It is clear to me that this is another attempt by Clinton to identify the 'good guys' and 'bad guys' within the Israeli government, to help consolidate certain politicians' positions within parties and between parties in advance of the Israeli elections. Though this phenomenon was present prior to the 1996 Israeli elections, it has received an extra push by the Wye agreement itself, which invites more intensive US involvement in internal Israeli security issues." (Arutz 7 Jan 20)
Meridor in Bet El
Prime Ministerial-candidate Dan Meridor visited Beit El Monday, and attempted to explain his left-ward political shift: "There is no choice but to compromise [with the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria]. For many years I thought otherwise, and the people here know that I worked hard so that it could be otherwise. But now I see that whoever wants to live with both feet on the ground, and not in a dream, must realize that we will now enter into negotiations that will be difficult" When asked if he could echo Labor party leader Ehud Barak's guarantee that Beit El would remain under Israeli sovereignty forever, he said, "Beit El is already in the national consensus, since even Barak promised that it would remain." He then continued more seriously, "The struggle is not only over Beit El. The struggle is over the final borders of the country. There will be painful concessions, and whoever says otherwise is misleading the public." Meridor, who resigned from the government last year and who is a bitter personal rival of the Prime Minister, criticized Netanyahu sharply, saying that whoever believes Netanyahu's promises "refuses to face reality." (Arutz 7 Jan 18)
Begin Registers Party; Unity Efforts Continue
Prime Ministerial-candidate Benny Begin registered his new party - "Herut - The National Movement" - Sunday. Herut (Freedom) was the name of the movement headed by his father, Menachem Begin, which was the forerunner of the Likud, from which Begin-the-son resigned last month. The party's campaign slogan will apparently be, "Begin - Because He is Right." Efforts are being made on various levels to unite Begin with the Tekumah, Moledet, and Tzomet parties. MK Rabbi Benny Elon (Moledet) said today that he will not allow the situation of 1992 - in which the right-wing splintered into many small parties - to repeat itself. (Arutz 7 Jan 17)
Arens Would Fulfill Wye
Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, running against Prime Minister Netanyahu for leadership of the Likud, told Arutz-7 that in the event that he loses the race to lead the Likud, he would run for a Knesset spot on the party list. Arens explained earlier that he accepted Uzi Landau's point that a candidate should not be supported if he does not promise to retain an active role in Likud politics even if he loses the leadership race. Arens said that the Wye and Oslo agreements were a grave error, and that they exact a high price from Israel. He said, however, that he would implement the accords if he were elected Prime Minister - on condition that the Palestinians fulfill their part - because "the price for not fulfilling a signed international agreement would be even higher than fulfilling it... Other countries would refuse to enter into agreements with us." On the topic of the Golan Heights, Arens said he saw no reason to withdraw from the Golan, even in exchange for a peace agreement with Syria. "There is no precedent for a country withdrawing from territory that it conquered in a defensive war - aside from one case, which I hesitate to mention." He admitted afterwards that he was referring to Israel's withdrawal from Sinai in 1982. (Arutz 7 Jan 17)
Greece Apologizes for Orient House Meeting
A Foreign Ministry spokesman announced today that the Greek government apologized to Israel for the meeting held yesterday between Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis and Faisal Husseini at the PA's Orient House in Jerusalem. In a telegram sent to Jerusalem, Greek government officials explained that though the Deputy Foreign Minister was in Israel on an official trip, he visited the Orient House as a guest of the Labor Party and Shimon Peres' International Peace Center. The telegram came in response to a protest registered by Israel that the Orient House meeting was held without its prior knowledge.
Barak Hushes Peres
Labor Party Chairman MK Ehud Barak has warned Shimon Peres that if he continues to make declarations in support of a Palestinian State, Barak will disassociate himself from Peres publicly. Today's Ha'aretz newspaper reports that Barak is furious at Peres for endorsing a Palestinian State in his speech in Ramallah. Barak expressed concern that Prime Minister Netanyahu will take advantage of Peres' remarks to hurt the Labor party in the election campaign. (Arutz 7 Jan 15)
Sharon Clarifies Remarks about Palestinian State
Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon has clarified his remarks in France last week regarding the possibility that the Palestinian autonomy could become a state. He explained that if the Palestinians expect to "have what they want to have," they would have to accept certain restrictions, such as buffer zones on the east and west, and limits on its military and foreign ties. Israel Wire reports that Sharon, speaking before the Institute for Foreign Relations, a French think-tank, said yesterday, "For us, a real independent Palestinian state is a real danger... There will be limitation of weapons, there will be limitation of alliances with other countries, and Israel will have the right to fly over this area."
Asked about the Jewish communities inside the Palestinian entity, Sharon answered ambiguously, "I don't see why any of these would be removed." In his original remarks, the Foreign Minister said that if the Palestinians declare a state unilaterally, Israel would annex areas of Judea and Samaria that had not been transferred to Palestinian control. Deputy Minister Michael Eitan, speaking for the government in the Knesset yesterday, said that the government does not support "at this stage" a proposed law by the National Religious Party that would automatically annex such areas in the event of a unilateral Palestinian declaration. Eitan said, however, that the government would see such a declaration as a "fundamental violation of the agreement," and would react sharply, including the possibility of annexing those areas. A vote on the bill will be held next week. (Arutz 7 Jan 14)
Riot in Tirah
There were serious disturbances Sunday night in Tirah, a northern Israeli town with a significant Arab population. Hundreds of residents celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast blocked the path of policemen who were pursuing a group of thieves. The mob threw bottles, rocks, and other objects at the officers. Six policemen were injured during the hour-long riot. No suspects were arrested. (Arutz 7 Jan 18)
2.2 Million Visitor Arrivals in 1998
The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reports that there were a total of 2,198,000 visitor arrivals in Israel in 1998, a 4% drop compared to 1997. There has been a steady decline in tourist arrivals since 1996, particularly by sea and land, and 1998 was characterized by considerable fluctuations in arrivals. The CBS also reports that Israel's foreign trade deficit in 1998 amounted to $5.8 billion, $2 billion less than in 1997 (a decline of 26%), which in turn was $2.5 billion less than the 1996 deficit. Total exports amounted to $21.2 billion, $400 million greater than in 1997 (+2%). (Arutz 7 Jan 18)
More Election News
At least four new political parties have registered or were announced over the past few days. These include:
Former IDF Generals Matan Vilna'i and Oren Shachor formally joined the Labor party today. Vilna'i, who recently resigned from the IDF, said that he is aware that he will be plagued throughout his career by the fact that he discussed his political future with other parties, "but I had much to learn." Shachor was forced to resign from the army two years ago after he met with then-opposition leader Shimon Peres contrary to army regulations. He was suspected at the time of leaking details of the negotiations with the PLO regarding the Hevron agreement to Peres, but Shachor's spokesman said then that the three meetings with Peres were of a social nature. Shachor admitted today that he "went to warn Peres about Binyamin Netanyahu." (Arutz 7 Jan 20)
Former Labor Secretary-General Zvilli said that Labor has turned into a one-man party, and that Barak does not have great chances of winning the election. He announced his resignation from the party in a letter to all the party convention delegates.
Shinui, headed by MK Avraham Poraz, joined with Mapam and Ratz in 1992 to form Meretz; Poraz now says that Shinui will run on its own, and that he will support Amnon Lipkin-Shachak for Prime Minister. (Arutz 7 Jan 20)
Chanan Porat has decided to remain within the National Religious Party. He had deliberated over whether to join the new nationalist party, but a recent poll shows that his popularity in the NRP is second only to party leader Rabbi Yitzchak Levy. Transportation Minister Sha'ul Yahalom is third.
Former Director-General of the Environment Ministry, Nechama Ronen, has established a new environmental-issues party, named "Kol HaSvivah" (The Total Environment). Ronen, until now a member of the Tzomet party, told Arutz-7 today, "I'm not sure that the peace process is the main issue bothering the average Israeli... Perhaps we should look our country in the face, and tell them the truths previously unknown to them. Maybe we should tell them about the 1500 people who die each year - not from Arab terrorists, not from car accidents, not in Lebanon - but from our polluted air, contaminated by our country's vehicles." Ms. Ronen did not explain this claim. "To date, no government office is willing to support tougher legislation so that our children can breath fresh air, so there will be fewer respiratory problems in our country," she said. "Environmental issues get special treatment throughout the western world, and most developed countries have a political party or lobby dealing with the issue. I think that after 50 years of statehood, Israel should have such an entity, represented in the Knesset, that will fight this battle."(Arutz 7 Jan 18)
According to last weekend's polls, Netanyahu has all but closed the gaps between himself and his competitors in the Prime Ministerial race, Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shachak. According to two different polls published in Friday's newspapers, Netanyahu leads his competitors in the first round, with 38% of the vote, while support for him in a possible second round is equal, or almost equal, to any of the other competitors. (Arutz 7 Jan 17)
Likud MK Uzi Landau announced last Thursday night that he is stepping down from the race for Likud Party Chairman and Prime Minister. Landau did not announce who he would support for the party's leadership. The two remaining Likud candidates are incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak has turned down Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer to engage in a series of televised debates. Barak's press office announced that Barak would be happy to coordinate a later date for the debates, but "at this time, Netanyahu would better spend his time running the country."(Arutz 7 Jan 15)
The renowned Israeli creativity has lately found a rather bizarre expression in politics. "Government by abstention" enabled several cabinet ministers, elected to make decisions, to abstain in two crucial votes concerning the Wye agreement. Then, public vacillations transformed the political arena into a poor theater, in which Hamlets shop around for a safe seat, under whatever banner.
Another novelty is leadership through silence, or the art of saying less. Aimed at producing an image of depth, it fails to conceal the real deal: What you hear is what you get.
These are mere additions to the older politics of deception that prevails within the emptiness of the new Israeli center, comprising Likud, Labor, and the embryonic centrist party. Attempting to create a false impression, their leaders hint that they possess the key that will open the door to peace and security with the PLO. Alas, they don't.
All three parties are held captive by a 30-year old dogma, completely detached from Middle Eastern reality. It is the notion of "territorial compromise," that trick which, by splitting sovereignty in Samaria, Judea, and Gaza, is to win the heart of Yasser Arafat. It will not. The PLO cannot be appeased by a mere piece of cake, however large.
The conclusion is simple. After further territorial concessions, a stalemate is bound to take place, and a violent clash must be expected.
The territory ceded to the PLO will then serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israelis. The logic is so clear that it makes one wonder what happened to Jewish intelligence, but further observation reveals that there is method to the silliness.
Drifting without compass (the result of a politically correct effort to reject ideology), proponents of the older banner of "land for peace" actually abandoned it in view of the harsh reality. Aiming too high, the old slogan was replaced by another one, "land for security," considered good enough under the circumstances.
However, being out of touch with the new-but-old Middle East, even this slogan is now clearly obsolete. The long-term strategic alliance between the PLO and Hamas, which was formalized in 1995 (when Shimon Peres served as prime minister), turned into futility the hope that the PLO will crush Hamas on behalf of Israel.
But our hopefuls always think of something. The new thing is an ingenious justification for ceding more of our land to the PLO/Hamas alliance. Terror cannot be eliminated, these champions of peace now concede, so the only remaining option is to satisfy Arafat to the degree that will make him refrain from initiating a major, violent eruption.
The more territory we relinquish, the new logic goes, the more Arafat will lose by misconduct. The result of this thinking process is sad. "Land for peace" has now turned into "land for limited terror." What a modest goal, and even that cannot be achieved.
The most outstanding failure of Likud leadership under Binyamin Netanyahu is the despair it projects. There is no choice but to withdraw, they say.
Two years ago, they intimate, there was no alternative but to relinquish most of Hebron to the PLO; two months ago, there was no alternative to the relinquishing of 400 square kilometers in Samaria to the PLO.
Asked about his future plans, Netanyahu explained to Ha'aretz (January 1): "To give away what must be given away; to refrain from giving away that which we possibly can refrain from giving."
How do we know what "must be given?" Simple - Netanyahu will tell us, after consulting some public opinion polls.
In other words, Netanyahu plans (if this is the correct term) to continue drifting down the Wye River. Sensing public fatigue through the polls, he interprets leadership as echoing public sentiment and moulding it into the despair of "no choice."
In the same desperate vain, National Religious Party leader Yitzhak Levy defined his policy this week as "salvaging whatever can be salvaged," as if the State of Israel, at a peak of its economic and military strength, is a burning Jewish shtetl following a pogrom.
Netanyahu invests much energy in an attempt to sharpen the non-existent difference between himself and Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. But all three have expressed, one way or another, their agreement to the establishment of a PLO state, and all three view Samaria, Judea, and Gaza as pieces of real estate to be traded away.
An alternative to this dangerous concept is a must in order to stop the illogical process whereby Israel strengthens its enemy on the eve of a violent collision. (Jerusalem Post Jan 15) The writer, an MK, has announced his candidacy for the premiership as head of the Herut Party.
It was exactly 730 days ago, two years ago, when the State of Israel willingly and intentionally abandoned 80% of Hebron to Arafat and the terrorists. It was such a terrible Friday morning when the military commander of the Hebron Brigade, Lt. Colonel Gadi, walked out of the Israeli military compound on a hill overlooking much of the rest of the city, entered his jeep and drove a few minutes 'over the border' into the "Israeli" side of the city.
It was not unexpected. The 'Hebron Accords' had been signed and then ratified by the Israeli cabinet only days before. That agreement, coming on the heels of the cursed Oslo accords, had almost fallen through. Here in Hebron, together with Jews around Israel and throughout the world we had worked day and night for months on end, attempting to prevent implementation of the decree. Cabinet ministers and Knesset members visited Hebron in order to 'learn the subject' from up close. As a matter of fact, on the very day that the accords were voted on in the cabinet, Minister Natan Sharansky made a special trip to Hebron, to once again see with his own two eyes, and hear from the Hebron leadership, the situation which would be created as a result of the agreement. Hebron was not new to Sharansky - he had been here before, for the same purpose. And he also believed, as he had said here on a previous visit, that 'signed agreement's must be honored but not at the expense of Jewish lives and security.'
Concluding his mission here, he returned to Jerusalem, where he expressed his doubts and fears to his friend, the Prime Minister. Netanyahu allayed Sharansky's qualms, assuring him that 'Hebron's Jewish Community would have full security and not be in danger.' Later that day Sharansky voted in favor of the Hebron Accords.
That same cabinet decision also guaranteed 'to substantiate" Hebron's Jewish community. A half a year later the community received permits to begin construction of a new - six family building in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Following the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, five months ago, Netanyahu agreed to allow permanent housing at the Tel Rumeida - Tel Hebron neighborhood. However this work cannot begin until archeological excavations are completed at the site, excavations which have not yet begun. Last week, after another shooting attack against Hebron nursery school teachers, construction finally began on Beit HaShisha, for an additional 6 families. By the time the elections roll around this government will have agreed to 'substantiate' Hebron's Jewish community of 54 families with an additional 20 families, in Israel's most ancient city.
This is the way it has been for the last two years, surrounded by hills filled with armed terrorists who shoot at us, throw hand grenades, firebombs and rocks. So, the question must again be asked: How can we stay here?
I'd like to tell you about three people, three very different kinds of people who, together with so many others, give us the strength to stay, despite all.
Groups continue to visit Hebron. Sometimes large, others smaller, but almost every day, another group arrives. As a representative of the Hebron community, I speak to many of these people, explaining the present situation and answering questions. Yesterday one such group sat in the Avraham Avinu Shul, listening to me describe how, for 700 years, Jews could not enter the 2nd most holiest site to our People, Ma'arat HaMachpela - The Tombs of our Forefathers. Only since our return in 1967 are we again allowed to pray at this sacred place. As I told them that only because of our presence in Hebron is this site still accessible to us, I noticed that one of the women in the group was wiping her eyes. I wasn't saying anything out of the ordinary, but she continued to cry quietly for about 20 minutes, until I had finished. I later found out that she had to be convinced to visit Hebron, because originally she was afraid to come. Afterwards, meeting the person who had convinced her to make the trip, with tears rolling down her cheeks, and not being able to speak, she hugged her.
Last week we had a number of very distinguished guests. One of them, a Christian, is an influential Congressman from New York, Mr. Michael Forbes. I had the honor to spend some time conversing with the Congressman, and was utterly amazed, not only by his comprehension of what is happening here, but also by his emotional reaction and attachment to Hebron and its community. While visiting the caravan house of a family with twelve children I could literally see the light in his eyes, light of wonder and admiration. Upon hearing that this neighborhood was the home of Abraham, and later, King David, I could literally feel that his soul was filled with awe. Sitting with Mrs. Chaya Ra'anan, widow of the murdered Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, the hurt and pain in his eyes was tangible.
Here is an American gentile politician, who not only has the time to investigate parts of Israel which few actually get to see, but also exhibits a true, unbreakable bond between himself and a small group of Jews living in one of the most controversial locations in the Middle East, if not in the world. I was truly impressed and touched by his genuine interest and desire, not only to know more, but more importantly, to assist in any way possible.
The last visitor I'll tell you about is actually not one person, rather, they are a couple: Dr. Irving and Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz. Much ado was made concerning their visit to Israel and their involvement in Israeli politics. What is perhaps less well known is that on their final day in Israel, the entire group, led by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz, charted four six-seater airplanes and flew to Kiryat Shmona, on Israel's northern border. There, they met with a woman who had lost twin fetus' due to a katusha missle attack a few weeks ago. And later, when meeting with the city's mayor, Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz presented him with a check for $100,000, for the city of Kiryat Shmona.
The Moskowitz's can only be described as 'Tzadikei HaDor" - the righteous of the generation. They don't talk - they do; they do what they believe in, be it Hebron, Jerusalem or Kiryat Shmona. Standing at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, surrounded by dancing children, the love and warmth radiated by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz was palpable. Dr. Moskowitz took Hebron children in his arms, dancing with them to the tune of Hebron-Meaz u'letamid - Hebron: From then and forever. Later, while bidding them farewell, and thanking them for all they have done, Dr. Moskowitz, with true sincerity and humility replied, "I couldn't do it if you weren't here."
These are three, but only three examples, of the over 600,000 people who have visited Hebron in the past 730 days. This is what gives us the strength to continue, come what may. For in all actuality, our reality is not that of 730 days - it is a reality of almost 4,000 years - a reality not of Netanyahu and Barak, but rather a reality the likes of Mike Forbes, the Moskowitz's and a women weeping while hearing about the people of Hebron. Seven hundred and thirty days out of four thousand years - right now it's not so easy, but in the end it will be like a single grain of sand on the beach, a grain washed into the ocean of our heritage and tradition, beginning here in Hebron. (The Jewish Community of Hebron Jan 18)
The writer is a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron and was the speaker at a recent BAYT Oneg Shabbat.
When the polls close in a few months, it is far from clear what mandate the winner will have. Of the major candidates, we have one who wants carte blanche, another whose sound-bite platform is internally inconsistent and a third who would not be facing early elections if he had only followed what he has embraced, once again, as his platform.
Does Amnon Lipkin-Shahak have red lines? He claims he does, but won't reveal them. Shahak's unstated motto, "Trust me," denies his supporters the opportunity to vote their views.
Ehud Barak is confusing. He advocates separation - "we here, they there" - yet supports annexing the major settlement blocs and keeping "United Jerusalem" intact.
Barak is equally vague on security issues relating to the Palestinians. He trivializes the issue of illegal weapons - missiles, cannons, mines, etc. - that the Palestinian Authority has and refuses to dispose of, labeling it "a thousand rifles that Palestinians may or may not have," insisting that the real security issue is the non-conventional threat posed by Iran and Iraq.
Does he mean that as long as Yasser Arafat doesn't have a nuclear device we shouldn't let Palestinian weapons get in the way of further withdrawals?
Of course, in the democratic process the voters cast their ballots for the closest available match - which is rarely a perfect match - to their goals and ideals. Hopefully by Election Day, Barak will clarify his program.
But that would still leave us with the Peres problem.
Barak's spokesperson, Aliza Goren, told me that if Barak is elected, Shimon Peres will be a minister. She assured me that Peres would not work behind Barak's back. But given Peres's track record, I tend to doubt this. And I am not alone.
A Gallup Poll commissioned by the Independent Media Review and Analysis organization this week found that over half of adult Israeli Jews believe that Peres would pursue his own program even if it clashed with Barak's policies. Almost 44% of those who voted for Peres in 1996 shared this view.
As for Netanyahu, he zig-zags. He is now proud that he is building on Har Homa, but the construction contracts stipulate that "the manager is allowed to halt construction for governmental reasons."
His campaign slogan on territory is "Barak will hand over, the Likud will keep" - yet Netanyahu pushed through approval of the Hebron withdrawal and pulled out from even more territory after signing the Wye Memorandum.
Netanyahu speaks of "reciprocity" yet he left most of Hebron before reciprocity was assured, and did it again this winter when he termed the Palestinian hand-wave in Gaza a "PNC decision to revoke the Palestinian charter." (It should be noted that the Palestinians' own official news agency, WAFA, doesn't say that there was a vote - only a waving of hands.)
It would have been one thing if the "hand wave" had truly been a watershed event. But it wasn't. Arafat still considers violence to be a legitimate tool for pressuring Israel. The statements of incitement continue; the only difference today is that a committee meets to catalogue them.
Wye was so ambiguous that this committee has yet to even agree on what "incitement" is, let alone actually take measures to stop it.
And the incitement works, with a recent Palestinian poll by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies finding almost 53% of Palestinians supporting armed attacks against Israel.
The prime minister insists that his administration ensured the security of the settlers in the Hebron Agreement, yet he concedes that their security has been compromised by Palestinian violations.
But let's be fair. The withdrawals outlined by Wye, as bad as they were, would probably not have brought the Netanyahu government down. It was the serious uncertainty regarding his true agenda that yielded the critical mass of opponents from his own camp.
Which brings us to MK Ze'ev (Benny) Begin, who at this time is not considered a major candidate.
He certainly has a clear position on withdrawals - he wants none - but is "Just Say No" enough? Does Begin plan, as his detractors claim, to march back into Nablus and Gaza? Is he a one-issue candidate?
Far from it.
Begin told me this week that he would support maintaining the ties and programs between Israel and the PA for the mutual benefit of all. While Barak speaks of slashing the number of Palestinian workers permitted within Israel, Begin sees Palestinian employment as vital for the welfare of our neighbors - criticizing the efficacy of closure as a security measure.
The same goes for Palestinian access to Israeli hospitals, ports and other services.
But can Begin cut a deal with Arafat? Given the declared "red lines" of the other candidates, Begin notes, he is in good company.
Insisting on a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and the retention of major settlement blocks - Israeli demands unacceptable both to Arafat and the Clinton administration - puts Barak and Netanyahu in the same boat as Begin.
With one major difference. Begin would reach the impasse with a stronger position on the ground and the diplomatic advantage of clarity. (Jerusalem Post Jan 20)