A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
June 1, 2001
Issue number 329
BAYT Israel Action and Bet El Twinning Committees present The Truth About the PA: An Inside Report with Yitzhak Sokoloff, Associate Director of Palestinian Media Watch, at the Shul. Refreshments will be served.
Monday June 4, 8:00pm
Shaarei Shomayim hosts a presentation by Yitzhak Sokoloff, Associate Director of Palestinian Media Watch.
Two Efrat Women Killed in Terror Attack on Way to Gilad’s Funeral
"Blood mixes with blood" [Hosea 4,2]. Residents of the Gush Etzion city of Efrat, south of Jerusalem, set off Tuesday afternoon for the funeral of this morning's terror victim - and themselves fell victims to murderous terrorist fire. The murderers shot at a van on its way north from Efrat to Jerusalem; two women died of her wounds, one of whom’s husband and child were wounded, and two others are listed in moderate condition. The women killed were Esther Alwan, 20, and Sarah Blaustein, 53. The Blaustein family immigrated to Israel from New York less than a year ago, and Sarah Blaustein's weekly schedule included prayer at Rachel's Tomb and Torah study at the Beit Medrash for Women. Esther Alwan was said to have a glittering future in her chosen field of education, and had served as a teacher during her year of National Service. She was eulogized by Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who cried, "We demand not vengeance, only justice!" Communications Minister Ruby Rivlin, representing the government, said, "When I am asked about the government policy, I must bite my tongue and say that we need patience, together with obstinate perseverance and uncompromising belief in our moral right to live here in our Land…There will never be surrender, but we will have vengeance on our enemies…" The Blaustein family asked that the government not send a representative to her funeral, until and unless the government changes its policy of restraint, which, they feel, is costing innocent Israeli lives almost every day. (arutzsheva.org May 30)
Bombs in Netanya and on Jerusalem-TA Highway; No Casualties
Aa car bomb was parked at a bus stop in an industrial area of Netanya, near the ORT High School, Wednesday. It was apparently timed to go off just as students were scheduled to gather there for their ride home, but once again the miraculous occurred, and the bus in fact left the spot only minutes before the car exploded. The only injuries from the blast - which left absolutely nothing of the back half of the car - were caused to seven youths who were treated for shock in a nearby hospital. Tuesday night, the Palestinian Authority strategy of attempting to paralyze life in Israel was strongly felt along one of the country's main arteries. Traffic on the all-important Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was stopped for two hours after a large explosive device was discovered near the Motza bend. Cars were kept away from the area, and the five-kilogram gas canister bomb was exploded shortly afterwards, causing damage only to a police robot. (A7 May 30)
Jerusalem Building Collapse Kills 23, Injures 377
The Versailles Wedding Hall building collapse in Jerusalem last Thursday night is being termed the worst civilian disaster in Israel's history. An estimated 650 people were celebrating a wedding in the building when its top floor collapsed, bringing down the entire center of the building. Only one wedding was taking place in the building at the time, on the top floor - as opposed to on many other evenings in the past, when a second simultaneous wedding was held on a lower floor. One television commentator said, "There is a miraculous aspect to this, as the number of casualties could have been not double, but four times as many." The bride, Keren, suffered a broken pelvis, while the groom, Assaf Dror, was physically unhurt. The government has established a national commission of inquiry to investigate the collapse. (arutzsheva.org May 25,29)
Sharansky: 'If Arafat Doesn't Stop Violence, We'll Go to War"
The current unilateral cease-fire cannot continue indefinitely, and if Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat does not take this opportunity to stop the violence, Israel's next step will likely be to go to war to wipe out the military and terror infrastructure in the PA, Housing Minister Natan Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "I think that for many years we have made great efforts to turn Arafat into a partner," Sharansky said. "I think now we are at the end of the road; it is the last chance for Arafat to prove that he can still be a partner. I don't have a lot of hope. At some point we have to be willing to say we did not succeed, he is not willing to be our partner. Then you have to know how to fight and defend your people." Asked if this means that if Arafat does not join the cease-fire, Israel should go to war against the PA, Sharansky replied: "What does that mean, to initiate a war? We are in a war, no? We are in a war where we are not using our strength. Everyday our people are being killed. I am not saying to reconquer Gaza, but we need to fight with all the strength we have against the terror infrastructure." He further said the purpose of a war with the Palestinians would be to "destroy the military and terrorist infrastructure in the PA. We tried, are trying [to return to negotiations], but now have arrived at a moment of truth. Not only is Arafat not a partner, not only does he not fulfill his obligations [under the Oslo Accords], he fights and kills us." He said that advisers to Arafat have said in moments of candor that their strategy is to make Israelis afraid "to go to the movies or send their kids out," so that eventually "we will do everything they ask, will allow the right of refugees to return. He is trying to destroy us through a war of attrition, every week killing a number of people. This is the last chance to convince him not to take that path, but to return to the route of negotiation."
Asked whether he agrees with Sharon's cease-fire policy, Sharansky said it is "very important" to give a last chance to the possibility of ending terror and returning to negotiations. But, he added, as important as it is to want to gain understanding abroad, at some point the government will have to say that fateful decisions affecting the Jewish people are in its hands and not in the hands of the rest of the world. "The main reason why people immigrate to Israel, stay in Israel, is because this is the country where the fate and future of the Jewish people is in the hands of the Jewish people," Sharansky said. "I lived in other countries, and I know how big and important that difference is, that this is a state that stands behind every citizen. That is the reason for the country's existence." Sharansky said the government must be careful not to be so concerned about world opinion that it damages the feeling "that this is the only country where Jews are champions of their own destiny." Asked what plan of action he recommends to Sharon, Sharansky said: "I think we must tell the truth, all the truth, about Arafat, not to censor anything. And then if, God forbid, there is no choice, if it is clear there is no partner, then we need to choose our strategy of how we fight against the enemy, we need to explain that strategy very clearly to our friends, and also to our people, and enter into a war." Sharansky said that Sharon's decision to unilaterally call a cease-fire was genuine in that he hoped that Arafat would take him up on the offer. At the same time, it was also meant to show both the world and Israelis who is to blame for the violence. As to whether the cease-fire was meant to prepare the nation for war, Sharansky said: "I think it was one of two things. Either Arafat would go this route [of the cease-fire], which would be great. Or he would not, and at least we could say that we did everything we could." (Jerusalem Post May 31)
Jerusalem Hit by Two Car Bombs
Two car bombs exploded within a few hours of each other Saturday night and Sunday morning in Jerusalem. The first explosive was detonated next to the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem, adjacent to the city's courthouse complex. At the time of the blast, dozens of young people were dining inside the string of pubs and lounges that line the alleyways adjacent to the Russian compound complex. Miraculously, nobody was physically injured from the blast, but several people were taken to hospital suffering from shock. Approximately nine hours later another powerful car bomb exploded in Jerusalem at the corner of Jaffa and Heshin streets - near Zion Square, only a hundred meters from the previous blast. An apparent miracle occurred in this second attack, as well: The explosion caused only light shrapnel injuries and cuts to seventeen people; the victims, as well as other passersby, were taken to local hospitals suffering from shock and hysteria. An eyewitness to the blast, Elkana Perel, was standing a few blocks away when the second bomb went off: "I suddenly heard an extremely loud explosion. The blast physically shook me - I still feel the sensation in my stomach now, several hours after the bombing. The whole of downtown Jerusalem was filled with smoke and with the smell of a fire. Nails that were in the car bomb reached the road where I was standing - several hundred meters away."
Jerusalem Resident Chaim Tzur was on his way to work: "After the explosion, the bus I was on had to change its route. There was a lot of smoke and a smell of burning. People were shoving and running. On Ben Yehuda street there was a woman screaming; she appeared to be in a state of shock... " The morning car-bomb was characterized by a significant new twist: it included six mortar shells ejected from the car at the time of the blast. Police bomb experts said that it was a miracle that none of the shells exploded, and that no people were injured by any one of the six mortars. Two landed on the roofs of buildings while another landed in Independence Park, several streets away. Israel Television noted today that the large number of mortar shells loaded in the vehicle serve as a reminder that the Palestinians now have mortars in the Jerusalem area as well as in the Gaza Strip. Police cordoned off much of downtown Jerusalem and transported the unexploded mortar shells to a safe location outside of the city. The Iran and Syria-backed Hizbullah terrorist organization televised live footage of the attack as the Arab television announcer stressed the intimate coordination between Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorist organizations. (arutzsheva.org May 29)
At this point, after Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's offer of Israeli concessions and unleashed the Al-Aqsa Intifada, there is probably little disagreement that those who thought they saw in Arafat a partner for the "peace of the brave" and granted him Israel's recognition as its negotiating partner at Oslo in 1993 committed a monumental error.It is they who gave legitimacy to this arch-terrorist, enabling the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to award him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994; and they, as part of the Oslo accords, who provided him with the weapons that permitted him to launch his murderous campaign against Israel. They refused to believe his pronouncements that he represented the Palestinian "diaspora" and demanded for them the "right of return," nor to take seriously the military uniform he insisted on wearing.
They fostered the illusion that Arafat would moderate his positions, and that peace with the Palestinians was around the corner - if only Israel would be generous in the concessions it offered to Arafat. In the meantime, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has gone on to consider other candidates for its prize, while Israel now has to deal with daily acts of Palestinian terror.
When, in recent history, have a country's leaders made errors of such magnitude? The obvious example that springs to mind is Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938. He, too, refused to take Hitler's rhetoric seriously, believing that he had met a man "you could do business with," and that the Munich agreement had achieved "peace in our time" It only took a few months before he and the rest of the free world were disabused of these illusions.
In 1948, Henry Wallace, who had been Franklin Roosevelt's vice president and who had broken with the Democratic Party, ran for the White House as the leader of the Progressive Party. He was convinced that Stalin was genuinely interested in peace with the West, and that Truman's strategy of confronting Soviet expansionism was leading the world to nuclear war. Unlike Chamberlain in his time, Wallace was fortunately not in a position to apply his mistaken policies, but many of his supporters continued their "peace" campaigns right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Just like Chamberlain and Wallace, Israel's leaders at Oslo were blind to reality, preferring instead to engage in wishful thinking. Similarly, Israel's leaders at Oslo convinced themselves and their followers that they were the prophetic messengers of a vision of peace.
At Oslo in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were, no doubt, influenced in their thinking by the Intifada that broke out in 1987. Rabin, at the time, was the Defense Minister and Peres was the Foreign Minister in the National Unity government led by Yitzhak Shamir. Rabin's policy of heavy-handed repression of Palestinian demonstrators and closure of their schools and universities was unsuccessful. It was during his tenure as Defense Minister that then-Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Dan Shomron declared there was no military solution to the Intifada, implying that Israel had no choice but to give in to Palestinian demands. It was only after Peres had brought about the downfall of the National Unity Government, a Likud-led government was established and Rabin had left the Defense Ministry that the Intifada was brought under control. The measures used included the deployment of the IDF's elite units in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, while simultaneously avoiding, as far as possible, fatalities among the Palestinian population; keeping open dialogues with Palestinian personalities; giving aid and encouragement to Palestinian business entrepreneurs; and gradually reopening all schools and universities. By the time the Labor Party came to power in 1992, the Intifada was over. But they went straight for the disaster at Oslo.
Now, dealing with the Al-Aqsa Intifada is far more difficult for two reasons: The first is the large quantity of automatic weapons in the hands of the Palestinians - weapons supplied, courtesy of the Israeli government, as part of the Oslo accords. The second is the fact that the Palestinian Authority is in control of the areas labeled "A," which provide a safe haven for the preparation of acts of terror and violence against Israelis. For the violence to be suppressed, certain strategic locations in the "A" zone will have to be occupied by the IDF, and a maximum effort will have to be made to reduce the number of guns in the hands of the Palestinians and to prevent the introduction of even heavier weapons.
The effort will have to be made. A return to talk that there is no military solution - implying that Israel has no choice but to give in to Arafat's demands - is a prescription for disaster. (Ha'aretz May 30)
The Settlement Myth
By Jeff Jacoby
The Palestinians, you may have noticed, have changed their tune. When the current orgy of violence against Israelis began last fall, the explanation out of Gaza City - faithfully echoed by most of the Western media - was that it was all Ariel Sharon's fault. His visit to the Temple Mount on Sept. 28, it was said, outraged and infuriated Palestinians. That, apparently, was why many took to hurling rocks, firing guns, demolishing Jewish shrines, lynching Israeli drivers, and bombing children taking the bus to school.
There were always a few problems with this explanation, such as the fact that the violence began before Sharon's visit. But it is especially untenable now: Even Palestinians admit it isn't true. ''Whoever thinks that the Intifadah broke out because of the despised Sharon's visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong,'' Imad al-Faluji, the Palestinian communications minister, declared in March. ''This Intifadah was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat's return from the Camp David negotiations.''
So the party line has been updated. The real cause of the violence, Palestinians now claim, is the growth of Israeli communities in Gaza and the West Bank.
''A cessation of settlement activities is part of a cessation of violence,'' says Faisal Husseini, a prominent Palestinian official. Jibril Rajoub, one of Arafat's top militiamen, seconds the motion. ''Everybody should know,'' he announced, ''that those settlements are the cancer and the reason at all times for tension.''
This excuse, too, has found a ready reception in the media - especially since the international fact-finding committee headed by George Mitchell recommended, as a ''confidence-building measure,'' that Israel declare a moratorium on expanding the settlements. When Secretary of State Colin Powell briefed the press on the Mitchell Committee report, he was repeatedly asked what Washington would do to compel Israel to freeze its settlements. No reporter seemed to wonder what Washington would do to compel Arafat to stop his murderous offensive.
It hasn't taken long for the Palestinian line - Jewish settlements justify Arab violence - to become conventional wisdom. ''Stop those settlements,'' commands The Economist this week; it asserts that Jewish neighborhoods in the territories ''negate all chance of Palestinian-Israeli peaceful coexistence.'' The Chicago Tribune editorializes: ''There is little incentive for the Palestinians to return to the table without an Israeli freeze on settlements.''
Eight months ago, Israel offered not only to freeze its settlements but to dismantle most of them and pull out of 98 percent of the territories altogether. Ehud Barak laid on the negotiating table nearly everything the Palestinians had demanded: all of Gaza and the West Bank, a sovereign state, power-sharing in Jerusalem, control of the Temple Mount. Arafat responded by kicking the table over and starting a war. In short, Palestinian violence did not explode because Israel refused to give up the settlements but because it agreed to do so.
The Arab rocks, bullets, Molotov cocktails, and suicide bombs of the past eight months are no different from the Arab rocks, bullets, Molotov cocktails, and suicide bombs of the past eight years - the years of the Oslo ''peace'' process. The more Israel has agreed to give, the more enraged and uncompromising the Palestinian reaction has been. A paradox? Only to those who have never mastered Appeasement 101: Give a dictator the sacrifice he demands and you inflame his appetite for more.
To insist that Israel ''stop those settlements'' in exchange for an end to Arab violence is to insist that Oslo be upended. The Israeli-Palestinian accords have never barred Israel from building or expanding settlements in the territories; the ultimate fate of those communities has always been one of the ''permanent status'' issues to be decided at the end of the process.
By contrast, the starting point of the peace process - the foundation on which it was built - was that Palestinian violence had ended. ''The PLO commits itself ... to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides,'' reads the document that Arafat signed on Sept. 9, 1993, ''and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.... The PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.''
That was the promise that earned Arafat his invitation to the White House, his handshake from Yitzhak Rabin, his Nobel peace prize. That was the promise in exchange for which Israel gave Arafat land and power, money and weapons, diplomatic recognition and the status of a peace partner. The Palestinians did not retain the right to resort to rocks and bullets and bombs whenever they find it useful. They did not promise to end the violence only if Israel agreed to their every demand. They promised to end the violence for good.
If that promise was a lie, the entire peace process is a lie. Was it? Look at the Middle East and draw your own conclusion. (Boston Globe May 28)
Living in The Face of War on The Road Where We Live
By Sara Bedein
Yesterday three brutal murders rocked our community. Two were from Efrat. Sarah Blaustein, 53 was shot to death while on the way with her family and some hitchhikers picked up in Efrat, to the funeral of Gilad Zar, a civilian security specialist whose job was to travel the roads of Judea and Samaria and to report security infringements. Gilad had been ambushed and shot to death that morning while he was riding the roads and protecting our families..
The Blaustein family had moved to Efrat from New York only eight months ago to fulfill their dream of living in the Land of Israel. Sarah's brother, a resident of Efrat was one of the influencing factors of their moving to Efrat. Sarah's daughter, Atara is my thirteen year old daughter, Leora's classmate. Later in the evening we learned the name of the other woman who was murdered in the car. Leora was on the way to console her friend Atara when she heard on the Israel radionews that the young woman who was travelling with Atara's mother, twenty year old Esther Elvan, had died in Hadassah Hospital from the wounds that she suffered in that drive-by attack. Esther was Leora's youth counselor.
Of all our children, Leora has said the least about "the situation". It is difficult to know what is going on in her head. Leora is our only "A" student, sweet, kind, loving, with an immense love of animals, and an innate goodness about her Leora'a paintings decorate our living room. There is one painting of Leora's of which I am particularly fond of and it always makes me smile. It is a painting of our family all wearing big smiles on our faces. She painted it when she was eleven years old. When I look at it I think "all is well in Leora's world".
Today, all is no longer well in Leora's world. Today she will be attending two funerals. One for her classmate's mother and the other of her most beloved youth counselor, of whom Leora had tearfully told me last night that she had always thought what a beautiful life Esther would have because she is such a good person and makes everybody feel so good about ourselves. "I can't believe that I'll never see her again", she said crying inconsolably.
As a parent it breaks my heart to see the loss of innocence and normal childhood that our children are experiencing. Our oldest daughter, Rivka, had been a constant babysitter for years for our friend's son, Koby Mandell, who was brutally stoned to death together with his friend Yossi. Their faces and bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Among the many who came to the funerals were hundreds of children. We are groping in the dark trying to make sense of this catastrophe that has befallen us.
I used to wonder how Jews in Europe continued living where they did after the Nazis rose to power in 1933 when everyday brought more tragedy into their lives. I no longer wonder.
Every Jew in Israel lives in the shadow of an official death sentence that the new Palestinian Authority has pronounced for every Jew. For that reason, you have heard nary a word of condemnation at any time in the Arabic media of the Palestinian Authority for the brutal murder of any Jew during the eight years of what has been called a "peace process"
Yet the State of Israel was created so that Jews would have a safe haven from the anti- semitism of the world which almost succeeded in the genocide of the Jewish people.
Fifty three years after the establishment of the State of Israel we are now in the position of apologizing for wanting to defend ourselves against a ruthless aversary who train their children from infancy to hate and to celebrate the murder of innocent people for the glory of Palestine.
Over the past eight months we have grown accustomed to horrific realities that would have been intolerable in any other country.
Today, we witness daily murders of people whom we have loved. Our children go to school with orphans whose parents have been killed. Our children have teachers whose spouses have been murdered or return to class to find an empty seat of a classmate who will no longer return to occupy the seat. Our children have attended more funerals than most people attend during an entire lifetime.
We live in Efrat, a fifteen minute drive from Jerusalem and situated between Bethlehem and Hebron. Efrat is a town with lush parks and gardens, beautiful homes, excellent schools, with a population of over 7000 residents consisting of many professionals and people working in the education field. The city of Efrat was purchased legally for a dear price by local Arab landlords in 1983. Contrary to what many people would like to believe, Efrat does not rest on land stolen from Arabs, nor do any of the 144 Jewish settlement communities throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All the land in these communities lie on land purchased at full price from Arab landlords or they were constructed on government land (no man's land that did not have any ownership rights to them).
Not everyone living in Efrat moved there for ideological reasons. Many people have moved to Efrat because of a sense of community here, which seemed until recently to be an idyllic place place to raise a family.
When we moved here in 1985 with two small children and one on the way, we never imagined we would be living in a war zone situation. We are now the parents of six children ranging from 19 months to 19 years. Our three eldest dorm during the week at their schools which are situated in various places in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Since September we have equipped them with cell-phones so that we can verify their safe arrival to school. All three have been exposed to shootings on the road from the relative safety of the bullet-proof buses they travel in.
My daughter, Rivka, who goes to high school in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, tells me that she and her friends traveling on their school buses have adopted the odd custom of sitting on their legs when they pass these Arab villages "so as to arrive with our legs on". This custom came about following the deliberate bombing of the Israeli children's bullet-proof school bus in Kfar Darom (the Gaza Strip) in which two teachers were killed and three children from the same family had their lower limbs blown off.
The first time I saw my neighbor, a lawyer who works in Jerusalem, walk out of his house in the morning carrying his briefcase and wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet, I laughed and saluted. The picture was so surreal. Since then, since twenty people from our communities have been murdered on the roads while traveling in their non bullet -proof cars, the sight of people sporting this new fashion has become more understandable. We have somehow become accustomed to this most outrageous form of existence.
We have become used to hearing the sound of shooting in the air.
Last Thursday, to the sounds of a gunshot battle (that was taking place in the Dagan - Efrat's furthest northern neighborhood) I was read to my six year old daughter, Meira, a story from Dr. Seuss. As the shooting became louder, I looked outside my daughter's window to see what was happening. From the window I watched the local Yeshiva high school boys carry on with their basketball game. The commercial center was teeming with children out for pizza or just hanging out with their friends. People were visiting the video store, and everyone was carrying out their middle class suburban life style, business as usual, totally oblivious to the sound of loud machine gun fire.
Meira, like many children these days, is having nightmares. Every night when she says her nightly prayers she asks God not to let her have any bad dreams. She has become clingy and though prior to the current situation she had never come into our bed at night, now, she often does. Everyday she asks us if "somebody got killed today". She worries constantly for her father who travels the roads daily to work to and from Jerusalem. When it is night time and her father isn't home yet, she calls him on the cell phone to see if he is all right.
Israel's Defense Minister, Benjamin Eliezer, was asked yesterday whether Israel's one-sided cease-fire will continue. "Yes it will", he answered. "Until when?", he was asked. "Until the Nation Of Israel screams out 'no more'. Open your ears, Benjamin Eliezer. The question remains: What constitutes a scream of "No More".
In a seminal tractate of the Talmud known as "Ethics of the Fathers", we learn that he who has destroyed a single life is rendered as if he has destroyed an entire world. Three Worlds from our world in Efrat were destroyed yesterday.
The Lebanon Pullout
By Evelyn Gordon
The unilateral pullout from Lebanon, a year ago last Thursday, was in the nature of a grand experiment: What would happen if Israel simply acceded fully to Arab and international demands, without asking anything in return?
Would Israel, as the Left hoped, thereby eliminate the cause of the conflict with Lebanon, paving the way, if not for peace, then at least for non-belligerency? Or would the pullback show, as the Right claimed, that the territorial dispute was merely a pretext for the conflict, and that territorial concessions could not solve it?
One year is too short a time in which to assess the significance of any historical event. Nevertheless, the trends that have emerged in the first year of this experiment are highly disturbing.
By far the most serious consequence of the Lebanon pullout was the blow to Israel's deterrence. The withdrawal convinced much of the Arab world, and particularly the Palestinians, that violence does pay: Despite the IDF's vast technological and numerical superiority, Hizbullah was able to cause a majority of Israelis to want to leave Lebanon merely by inflicting a relatively small number of casualties over a period of several years. The immediate result of this lesson was the bloody war of attrition launched by the Palestinians last September - which most Palestinian militia leaders say openly was inspired by Hizbullah's success. In eight months, this war has already caused roughly the same number of Israeli casualties as about four years in Lebanon. Worse, most of the casualties have been civilians rather than soldiers, and normal life has been disrupted all over the country rather than only along the northern border. But even if we look only at the situation in the North, the results are far from encouraging. To start with, the theory that the pullout would put a stop to Hizbullah attacks has proven nonsense. True, the organization refrained from such attacks for all of four months. But since October, it has kidnapped four Israelis and killed three others - a damage level not far below the pre-withdrawal average for that period of time. Furthermore, it has redeployed its forces within meters of Israel's northern border - meaning that should it choose at any point to resume the Katyusha attacks it has suspended for the past year, it is in a position to do far greater damage to Israel's civilian population than it ever was before.
The idea that the pullback would end Israel's dispute with the Lebanese government has also proven false.
Despite official UN certification that it has withdrawn from the last centimeter of Lebanese territory, Beirut still insists that Israel has not completed the pullback. It justifies this insistence through the ingenious method of suddenly asserting that a whole new region, to which it had never before laid claim, is in fact "occupied Lebanese territory." Thus far from ending the conflict, the withdrawal has actually spurred Lebanon to make new territorial demands.
The Lebanese government has also made a mockery of the idea of non-belligerency. The one request Israel made in exchange for the pullout, which the entire international community backed as reasonable, was that Lebanon then deploy its army in the south to control Hizbullah. But Beirut has refused. Instead, it has given Hizbullah free rein to continue terrorist actions along the border.
Finally, there was the hope that Israel would at least gain international support through the withdrawal. This, too, has proven to be largely a delusion. For instance, even though the international community agreed that the Lebanese army should be required to deploy in the south in exchange for the pullback, it has done nothing to back up this demand. Lebanon has suffered no diplomatic repercussions at all on account of its refusal.
Worse, however, is the speed with which Lebanon's new territorial claims have been given international legitimacy, primarily by the media. For the first few weeks after the pullback, international media reports did acknowledge that Israel had withdrawn to the last inch, as certified by the UN. Now, however, virtually every report about IDF-Hizbullah skirmishing in the area of Har Dov (Shaba Farms) simply refers to the area as "disputed territory." Not territory to which Lebanon has no conceivable claim, according to the UN and all known maps of the international border. Just "disputed territory." And disputed territory, of course, is legitimate grounds for military action - the very justification that Israel's withdrawal was supposed to have removed.
An assessment of the Lebanon pullout is far from an academic exercise, because the Israeli Left is now advocating the same panacea of unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank and Gaza. The majority of Israelis should therefore study the lessons of this failed experiment carefully. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat it. (Jerusalem Post May 29)
Nothing but Self-Deception
By Ron Dermer
Ever since Camp David, most Israelis have seen the violent rejection of prime minister Ehud Barak's far-reaching proposals as incontrovertible proof of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's rejection of peace with Israel. While some still claim that Barak's offer was a few percentage points too short to close a deal, Arafat's orchestrated campaign of terror has proven hard for even the most diehard of Oslo supporters to justify.
But, appearing on a recent political talk show, Yossi Beilin used Arafat's refusal to make a deal at Camp David to actually buttress his own case. Arguing with a colleague from the Right, the indefatigable dove asked the following question: if Arafat had always been committed to annihilating Israel and had simply used the peace process to gain more territory and power to achieve that goal, why did he not accept the deal Barak had offered? How Beilin managed to use Arafat's "intifada" against his ideological opponents is worth a careful examination.
Oslo's supporters saw that famous handshake on the White House lawn as a monumental event that signaled a sea change in Palestinian attitudes toward Israel. According to this view, Oslo achieved a mutual recognition in which both the PLO leadership and Israeli government agreed to respect the national rights of their former enemy.
The opponents of Oslo largely saw those accords as an elaborate exercise in deception. Arafat, they believed, was hoodwinking Israel with empty promises. In reality, he was merely implementing the PLO's infamous "Phased Plan," a political strategy adopted in 1974 which called for the creation of a Palestinian state on any territory vacated by Israel and for using that territory to mobilize the Arab world to launch a general military assault against Israel.
In truth, both supporters and opponents believed that Arafat had agreed at Oslo to a binational solution, but they disagreed over whether this was a genuine objective or a tactical ploy.
In the seven years before Camp David, both sides saw ample evidence for their points of view. Oslo's proponents pointed to that defining handshake and the international goodwill it brought in its wake as part of an irreversible process of reconciliation - a reconciliation that was being tested by the "enemies of peace," but which would eventually come to fruition.
Those critical of Oslo pointed to a slew of Palestinian violations, from a refusal to disarm militants and extradite terrorists to a state-controlled media that incited the masses against Israel. They continued to maintain that Arafat was merely waiting until he was powerful enough to end the Oslo ruse, launch a ubiquitous campaign of terror and plunge the whole region into war.
While the recent violence would seem to support the view of Oslo's opponents, it still begs Beilin's question.
If Oslo was an exercise in deception, why didn't Arafat complete it? Why not take as much territory as possible, achieve international recognition for a Palestinian state, and then find some pretext to renege on his "final status" agreement with Israel?
For Beilin, the answer is that Arafat is genuinely interested in a two-state solution that a few more days around the negotiating table could bring to light.
Yet there is another answer. Put simply, Oslo was an exercise in Israeli self-deception rather than Palestinian deception. The premise that united the supporters and opponents of the peace process - that Arafat, whether genuinely or disingenuously, had actually agreed to a two-state solution at Oslo - was false. In fact, he had agreed to nothing of the kind. Indeed, Arafat had recognized Israel, but not Israel as a Jewish state. He in no way compromised on the so-called "right of return," a "right" that he himself knows is incompatible with the recognition of a Jewish state. Instead, Arafat assumed he would receive 90% of the West Bank and all of Gaza without having to compromise on the one issue that would entail a genuine mutual recognition. The PLO leader never intended to "end the conflict." Rather, he planned to begin an "intifada" the moment Israel understood that a final deal could not be reached and refused to give back more territory. Ironically, Barak, by adopting an all-or-nothing approach at Camp David, exposed Arafat's endgame, leaving the Palestinian dictator in a weaker position to wage his inevitable war of terror against the Jewish state.
Fortunately, even a broken clock is right twice a day. (Jerusalem Post May 30)