17 Adar 5759 March 5, 1999 Issue number 207
Brig. General, Three Others Killed in Lebanon Sunday
Four Israelis were killed on Sunday when a Hizbullah-planted roadside bomb exploded as an Israeli military convoy passed by. The four victims are Brig.-Gen. Erez Gerstein, commander of the IDF forces in the eastern sector of the security zone in southern Lebanon; Voice of Israel correspondent Ilan Ro'eh;.St.-Sgt. Omer Alkavetz; and Senior Warrant Officer Imad Abu-Rish. Gerstein was well-regarded in the army. In June of last year, he made headlines when he said that public protests in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon "are a threat on [the soldiers'] lives," from two standpoints: "*by encouraging the local population to cooperate [with the terrorists], and by encouraging the terrorists themselves."
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz, said Sunday, "The fighting in southern Lebanon is difficult, it is a day-and-night job. A stranger would not understand it, but whoever is there, whoever is fighting there, knows why he is there, and how to carry out his job in order to guarantee the safety of the northern residents. The greatest achievement of the IDF is that it is carrying out a tough war against Hizbullah, and only a kilometer or two away, the residents of the north are able to live normal lives as if they were anywhere else in Israel... No other army would be able to carry this out. This achievement has a price, of course, and we paid that price today." The Chief of Staff dismissed reports that Hizbullah had been specifically tracking Gerstein. Mofaz also said that immediately after word of the death of Brig.-Gen. Gerstein became known, several officers of the same rank immediately asked to take over his position. In the end, Brig.-Gen. Eli Amitai was chosen. (Arutz 7 Mar 1)
Withdraw, Talk, or Fight
Israel's Lebanon policy has once again become an issue of public debate. Ma'alot Mayor Shlomo Buchbut called on the government to strike heavily at Hizbullah, while the Four Mothers group continues to demand a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday that his government will find a way to leave Lebanon, but not at the expense of forsaking the security of the northern towns. Senior security officials say that our policies in Lebanon are appropriate, despite some recent serious losses. They say that the army has succeeded in pre-empting many more attacks than those in which Hizbullah is successful. "If the IDF would just be permitted to continue the war against Hizbullah, it would win in the end," said the officials. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Rafi Noy - former senior officer in the Northern Command, who served as an aide to former Defense Minister Mordechai - spoke to Arutz-7 about the recent developments in Lebanon. Asked why Israel did not initiate these strikes before the recent Hizbullah attacks, Noy said, "Hizbullah has located most of its terrorist bases in civilian population centers. Ever since the Grapes of Wrath understandings of 1996, Hizbullah knows that we will not initiate attacks on Lebanese civilians. If we were to do so, katyushas would come raining down on Kiryat Shmonah... The reason there are no katyushas this time is not because Hizbullah has learned its lesson, but because it understands that this was not a regular offensive, but rather a response to the heavy losses they inflicted upon us Sunday."
Arutz-7 News Editor Haggai Segal asked Noy whether all future governments are locked into the Grapes of Wrath agreement. Noy responded: "No, but until the government adopts a different strategy, it's the best solution. Let's say Israel wages an all-out war on Hizbullah. It is very possible that a similar event will happen [as in 1996, when Israel accidentally killed many civilians in an air strike on a Lebanese village]. This could very well lead to another 'Grapes of Wrath'-type of arrangement, but not before we will have suffered many katyusha strikes and casualties. In the meantime, at least this arrangement provides both sides with a framework to return to, even if once in a while it is violated." Noy added that by striking only at Hizbullah, Israel ignores the source of the problem: Syria. "We must change our strategy, and enter into direct negotiations with the Syrians on what interests them - the Golan Heights." In response to a question, Noy admitted that there was another option: "To issue Syria a real ultimatum, such as the one Turkey issued Syria not long ago, in which we threaten not to hit Lebanese targets, but to hit targets inside Syria. This is also a possibility." (Arutz 7 Mar 1)
The Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, responsible since 1996 for tracking the Grapes of Wrath understandings, has determined that Hizbullah is the side that violated them. The committee was referring to Hizbullah's firing of 70 mortar shells from a civilian village earlier this week and the launching of katyusha rockets upon the northern community of Margaliyot. Recent Israeli losses in Lebanon have once again prompted representatives of Israel's political left to call for negotiations with Syria as the only solution for the problems in southern Lebanon. Uri Heitner - a Third Way party activist, member of the Golan Settlements Committee, and secretary of Kibbutz Or Tal - spoke to Arutz-7 Wednesday about the political atmosphere in the Golan. "We try not to become too tense when we hear the [topic of a Golan withdrawal] mentioned, since we have been dealing with such comments for 32 years now," Heitner stated. "Having said that, recent talk admittedly gives us many reasons for concern." Arutz-7 News Editor Ariel Kahane played for Heitner an excerpt of a political affairs television program broadcast last night, in which Shas leader Aryeh Deri predicted that "a broad national-unity government will be formed after the elections, and it will enter into direct negotiations with Syria, which will exact from us a painful price [a withdrawal in or from the Golan] - and the sooner this is done, the better." On the same show, host Nissim Mishal asked Prime Minister Netanyahu whether he would be prepared to forfeit the Golan in exchange for a 'true peace' and security guarantees from Syria. Netanyahu responded: "I think that Israel has some vital assets on the Syrian front, beginning with Mt. Hermon and other strongholds, which prevent the conquering of the State of Israel [by Syria]. I am not prepared to pay the price demanded by [Syrian President Hafez El-] Assad." Mishal asked: "What are you prepared to give up?" Netanyahu: "That will certainly be a subject of negotiations..." Heitner told Kahane that he had watched the program, and was greatly distraught by Netanyahu's response. "As far as he [Netanyahu] is concerned, Israel seems to possess only the 'Hermon and some other strongholds.' He repeated this phrase three times during the interview. So before he's even begun negotiations about the renewal of negotiations, he doesn't even talk about the Golan itself, or its settlement enterprise... We now know his position on the matter even before he's entered into a National Unity government [with the Labor party.]" Kahane suggested that Golan residents (who generally supported Labor or the Third Way in the 96 elections) must conclude "that it's time to take a sharp turn to the [political] right to save the Golan." Heitner disagreed: "I will call on everyone I know to vote for the Third Way, the only party that has put the future of the Golan at the top of its agenda. Personally, I will support Benny Begin in the first round of the Prime Ministerial race, since he's the only one of the four candidates who has stated clearly that he will not withdraw from the Golan. It may be that we have an interest in being part of a more narrow, right-wing government. On the other hand, if Ehud Barak becomes Prime Minister, the Third Way would be able to influence policy from within a narrow Labor government." (Arutz 7 Mar 3)
Sharon's "Emergency Gov't" Idea Rejected by Labor
Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon proposed Tuesday night that a "national emergency government" be formed immediately, headed by both the Likud and Labor parties. Its mandate, according to Sharon, would be to reach a decision for a staged unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, and to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. Legal experts said that the Knesset is authorized to vote to postpone the date of early elections (although not to schedule them later than the end of the regular four-year Knesset term). The Labor party has already rejected the idea. (Arutz 7 Mar 3)
Porat Quits NRP
National Religious Party Knesset Members Chanan Porat and Tzvi Hendel announced officially Wednesday that they are leaving the NRP. The two have formed a new party called "Emunim" which enables them to benefit from Knesset election funding. They insist, however, that "Emunim" will not run on its own in the elections. Both are strongly considering joining the Tekumah party. Porat said Wednesday that a united right-wing front could win 10 Knesset seats. (Arutz 7 Mar 3)
Labor Finalizes Agreement with Gesher and Meimad
The Labor party reached an agreement last Thursday night with the Meimad and Gesher factions for reserving slots on Ehud Barak's One Israel Knesset list. Meimad candidates will receive slots 17, 33 and 38 on the ticket plus a reserved cabinet post for a fourth member of their party. David Levy of the Gesher party will be allotted the number three spot on the Labor list, and two additional Gesher party candidates will receive the 29th slot, as well as a slot between 11-20. The Labor party Central Committee will convene next week to approve the new agreements. (Arutz 7 Feb 26)
David Levy's Gesher party appears to be disintegrating. Armand Suissa, head of the Tel Aviv division of Gesher, told Arutz 7 that his branch decided last week to break off from the party, and will decide next week whether to join the Likud. "I am not authorized to speak for other chapters," he said, "but some 20 other local Gesher offices have called me to say that they have made a similar decision, and my understanding is that this involves half or more of the party." Suissa explained that he has been a political loyalist of Levy for thirty years, but "Levy's decision to join Barak's 'One Israel' list shows that he is not only deserting the Likud, but also the social platform which he has always stood for." In a related development, former Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lachyani has announced that the 34th spot offered him on Ehud Barak's 'One Israel' list is in violation of previous understandings he reached with the Labor party leader. As a result, Lachyani said he will not join 'One Israel.' (Arutz 7 Mar 3)
Shas to Back Netanyahu
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and Shas are backing Binyamin Netanyahu for Prime Minister. This was made clear by various comments of Shas party leaders over the Purim holiday. During Netanyahu's visit to Rabbi Yosef Tuesday, the Prime Minister broke out in laughter when Rabbi Yosef told him a Purim joke: "Why were the ten sons of Haman hanged in one breath (a reference to the custom of publicly reading the names of the ten executed sons in one breath)? - In order to ensure that the Supreme Court would not issue a restraining order in the meantime." (Arutz 7 Mar 3)
PA Justice Criticized
The Palestinian Authority executed Palestinian Police Col. Ahmed Abu Mustafa in Gaza City after a two-hour trial last Friday. He was arrested, charged with raping a five-year-old boy, tried, convicted, and shot by firing squad - all within 48 hours. The PA was sharply criticized by Palestinian human rights activists for this manifestation of justice, although the execution was personally endorsed by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Despite the defendant's protestations of his innocence - he had been identified in a police line-up by the boy - he was barely allowed to speak at the trial. Gaza Police Commander Razi Jibali told the AP after the execution: "The people are pleased and justice has been served." (Arutz 7 Mar 1)
Arab MK Supports Hizbullah
MK Hashem Mahmeed, of the Arab Hadash party, has again made severe statements, this time in support of the Hizbullah terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility for the death of seven IDF soldiers and civilians in the last two weeks. In a gathering at Haifa University, Mahmeed said that Hizbullah is a "national liberation movement of the first order." He said also that Lebanon will become a graveyard for any conqueror. (Arutz 7 Feb 26)
A-G Supports Court Appeals Against Arutz 7's Licensing
In its response to the petitions against the licensing of Arutz 7 Israel National Radio, the State Attorney's office has told the High Court of Justice that it does not object to the issuing of an "order to show cause" against the Knesset and the government, as requested by the petitioners. This response marks a significant divergence from the State Attorney's usual practice of asking the court to summarily reject all petitions. The State Attorney also told the court that it does not object to the issuing of an interim junction blocking the implementation of the new licensing law. However, the State Attorney has asked the court to reject the petitioners' request for an order to block the new law from taking effect. If the State Attorney's position is accepted by the court, Arutz 7 will be forced to continue to broadcast from sea until a hearing takes place and a final decision by the High Court of Appeals is handed down. During the interim period, Arutz 7 would be considered to be operating with a license. Arutz 7's attorney's are requesting that the court summarily dismiss the appeals submitted by left-wing activists, and allow for the law to be implemented immediately. Atty. Yehuda Ressler, who may represent Arutz-7 in the Supreme Court next week, says that Atty.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein must either represent Arutz-7 in court or resign. "As his title indicates, the Attorney-General must represent the government and municipal authorities in legal cases. If Rubenstein feels that he cannot represent the government, then he must realize that its choice not to listen to his advice on this issue shows a lack of faith in him as its legal advisor, and Rubenstein should draw the relevant conclusions."
Ressler expressed his confidence that Arutz 7 will win the case: "The Knesset is sovereign in this area. Despite the separation of powers, the Supreme Court draws its authority from the legislature, and not vice-versa. The Court cannot nullify a law legislated by the Knesset, in my opinion, except on procedural grounds. For example, if a particular law requires a certain special majority, which was not attained, then the Court can annul the law. This was not the case here." Regarding the retroactive legalization of previously-illegal activities, Ressler noted, "the Ministry of Transportation, as a matter of policy, permits taxi cab companies which operated without permission for many years to receive operating licenses thereafter. This policy successfully withstood numerous Supreme Court petitions, in cases in which I was personally involved," said Ressler. MK Michael Kleiner, one of the instrumental figures in ensuring the passage of the new Arutz-7 law, said that the petition by left-wing MKs against the licensing of Arutz-7 reflects a double standard: "One of the petitioners, Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, was among the main sponsors of a proposed bill some years ago calling for the licensing of Abie Nathan's 'Voice of Peace' radio station. Not only did Nathan broadcast near the coast, but the law proposed then was a specifically personal law solely for the benefit of that station. The new law, on the other hand, legalizes any radio station which has operated for five years, not just Arutz 7." The Gesher Foundation, which promotes dialogue and helps foster better understanding between the religious and secular communities in Israel, sponsored a survey two weeks ago on the government's intentions to grant Arutz 7 a broadcasting license. The survey found that a majority of the Israeli public (52.4%) supports the law, while 32.9% oppose it, and 14.7% have no opinion. Gesher Foundation Chairman Dr. Danny Tropper stated in response that the survey's findings again prove that the Israeli public favors dialogue and the granting of a means of expression in the media to the wide range of cultural groups in Israeli society. (Arutz 7 Feb 25,26)
The Supreme Court hearing on the petitions against the Arutz-7 law has been postponed from this past Monday until next week. (Arutz 7 Feb 28)
Yuli Edelstein Visits Arutz 7
Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yuli Edelstein visited Arutz 7 last Thursday, and spoke with News Editor Haggai Segal about the election campaign of his party Yisrael B'Aliyah. "Our election slogan is 'Yes to honor, yes to integration, and yes to Yisrael B'Aliyah.' We specifically used the term 'integration' and not 'absorption,' because the latter term implies that the unique qualities of the new immigrants will eventually 'disappear' in the broader society, while the former term indicates our hope that they become integrated, equal members of the society while still maintaining their particular characteristics." Edelstein said that reliable surveys commissioned by the party in recent weeks indicate that it will maintain its seven seats in the next Knesset, but he added that the party hopes to draw Ethiopian voters as well. Two Ethiopian immigrants placed in the top 10 in the party's internal elections. "We're even hoping to attract the average Israeli citizen's vote. Our approach to this issue reminds me of an advertisement by a New York bread company. The motto was, 'You don't have to be Jewish to love our bread.' We're saying, 'You don't have to be a Russian or Ethiopian immigrant to support Yisrael B'Aliyah.'" (Arutz 7 Feb 25)
From the PA Press...
Palestinian Authority Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial Since the Wye Accord
The October 23, 1998 Wye River memorandum requires the Palestinian Authority (PA) to "take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against the Israeli side... and to prevent incitement." Nevertheless, the official PA media organs continue to engage in crude anti-Semitic incitement and Holocaust denial, as the following examples illustrate:
1) a crossword puzzle clue in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, February 18: clue for 7 across: "Jewish center for eternalizing the Holocaust and the lies" correct answer: "Yad Vashem" [Israel's national Holocaust memorial]
2) excerpts from a religious program broadcast on official PA television on February 16: "The Jews are used to deceit... they fake the facts and changed the laws of Allah.... They faked the words of Allah and changed their religion and laws and they are the wicked. And whomever does not rule according to what Allah brought down, whomever rebelled against this... is the descendant of the Satans and he is worthy of receiving the punishment of the oppressors... They changed this Torah to an expression of the History of the Jews, and their history is full of guilt and crimes... they changed the grace of Allah into heresy and they faked this Torah..."
3) article in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, December 8, 1998: "Israel convinced the world of the lie of the massacre and racism which they [the Jews] were exposed to in Germany and gained [the support of] world public opinion..."
4) article in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, December 6:
"Zionism turned itself into an important player in the defense of the West's interests in the region, by ridding Europe of the burden of her Jews..."
5) excerpt from a television program entitled "Palestine: History and Heritage" broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television on December 1:
"To the east is the Al-Buraq wall, which the Jews call the Wailing Wall, but it is in truth a wall that was built previously by our forefathers the Canaanites... Those who claim it is from the Temple - are of course only the Jewish archaeologists themselves..."
6) excerpt from November 20 Friday prayer sermon broadcast on the official PA radio station the Voice of Palestine:
"So we see that they [the Jews] have complete control over the political leadership, not only in America and the Western world, but also over world leaderships, including the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world. Jewish money and media are the leaders of the nations and continents..."
7) article in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, November 7:
"Corruption is part of the nature of the Jews. So much so that it is only on rare occasions that one finds corruption in which Jews were not behind it. Their intense love of money and accumulating wealth is well known and they do not care what method is used to achieve it. They are likely to use the lowliest and most convenient methods to achieve their objectives.... If one studies their history, it becomes apparent that the Jews were subjected to losses and expulsion as a result of their wickedness and their despicable acts. All this occurred after their true nature and their responsibility for destroying the world was revealed... Since this is their mode of behavior, they have focused their efforts on developing their plotting mentality, as they believe the secret of their survival lies in their control over the economies of the countries which opened their gates before them.... It is interesting how those who are harmed by their curse continue to remain under their influence... among those who have been harmed in this manner are Bill Clinton, the president of the largest country in the world. Zionism began to besiege him when he was still a state governor. He began to carry out what World Zionism dictated to him out of fear that his proclivities would become revealed. Even though he is the head of the biggest country in the world, he understands that he is a servant of his desires, with which the plotters tripped him up..."
8) excerpt from a television program entitled "Palestine: History and Heritage" broadcast on official PA television on November 3:
"Moderator: We will now deal with an important subject - "Judaism: Religion or Nationality".
Historian Jahrir al-Kidwa: The naked truth is that Judaism is not a religion in its fullest meaning, nor is it a nationality at all... Judaism derived from the religion of Moses - Moses brought the Mosaic faith, and it is a continuation of the Islam of our father Abraham."
9) excerpts from a religious program on official PA television on Nov. 3:
"There is no light nor teaching in their Torah today. Their Torah today is just a collection of writings in which those people wrote lies about God, His prophets and His teachings... the Jews are the seed of Satan and the devils.... The Jews believe only in the first five books, which includes the Book of Genesis, all of which is lies about God and about the day of Creation... To their Prophets they attribute the greatest of crimes: murder, prostitution and drunkenness. The Jews do not believe in God nor in the End of Days. They have distorted it [the Torah], lied about it and forged it... They invented it as a history book for the Jews, full of promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would be given the land of Palestine... the entire Torah comes to demand ownership of the land for the Jews. Their history is full of rebellion and humiliation - God protect us from humiliations! They have distorted the faith and exchanged the gift of God for heresy, rebellion and prostitution, and distorted the Torah...."
As the attorney who represented Samuel Sheinbein, the Maryland teenager accused of murder, in his initial court proceedings in Israel, I have witnessed first-hand the Clinton administration's and Attorney-General Janet Reno's intense efforts to secure the transfer of the defendant to the US for prosecution. With last week's Supreme Court decision that Sheinbein is not extraditable and will instead stand trial in Israel, the matter should be put to rest.
What surprises me - and many Israelis - is that neither the administration, nor the Congressmen who have taken an interest in the Sheinbein case, have ever asked Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to hand over to the US the Palestinian terrorists who have been identified as having taken part in the murders of Americans and are now living in Arafat's territory. Why the loud demands to hand over an Israeli suspected of killing an American, but total silence regarding the seven Palestinian Arabs who killed Americans in recent years? Five of the seven are roaming free; the other two are in Arafat's custody, but probably not for very long, given his notorious "revolving door" justice system.) Just because Sheinbein is not being exradited does not mean he will necessarily go free. On the contrary, he will undoubtedly continue to be held without bail until his trial, during which US legal officials will be able to assist the Israeli prosecutors in making their case in court.
If Sheinbein is convicted, he will certainly receive a severe prison sentence; life imprisonment is the usual punishment for crimes of this nature. The American public can rest assured that the punishment he would receive in Israel would be comparable to what he would receive in the US.
By contrast, Palestinian Arabs who murder Americans are treated like heroes by Arafat.
Consider the case of Abu Abbas, who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, in which a wheelchair-bound American tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered. Abbas was welcomed by Arafat in Gaza for the PLO's Palestine National Council session in 1996 - just days after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit convened by President Bill Clinton, at which Arafat pledged to fight terrorism! Abbas returned in the spring to Gaza, where he is living openly, thumbing his nose at American and Italian justice.
Or consider the case of Amin el-Hindi. He masterminded the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre in which weightlifter David Berger, a Cleveland native, was murdered. Hindi is currently chief of the PLO's General Intelligence Service.
A more recent case involves David Boim, an American-Israeli teenager who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in May 1996. I have represented the Boim family in legal proceedings related to the case, and I have witnessed their pain and anguish. The pain of their son being murdered has been compounded by the anguish of watching the PA briefly arrest the killer, Imjad Hinawi, and then let him out for a "weekend furlough" from which he did not return.
After Congressional protests, Arafat arrested Hinawi earlier this year, gave him a five-minute trial, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. That's an outrageously light sentence for murder. Even worse, there is little chance Hinawi will stay in prison that long, since many other terrorists whom Arafat has sentenced to jail terms were set free after just a few months.
Israel had also been urging Arafat to arrest the second suspect in the murder of David Boim, Khalil Ibrahim Sharif. But Arafat refused to lift a finger. Sharif later turned up as one of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up on Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda Street in September, killing five
passers-by - including a 14-year-old schoolgirl from California, Yael Botwin. If the PA authorities had arrested Sharif he never would have been able to take part in the Ben-Yehuda bombing. Yael Botwin might still be alive.
If Arafat and the PA could be trusted to seriously prosecute and punish the Arab killers of Americans, most Americans would probably not object to Arafat's refusal to extradite those killers.
But Arafat refuses to prosecute or punish them - some, like Amin el-Hindi, are even promoted to senior positions of authority - and therefore every American has a right to demand that those killers be handed over to the US, where they will be tried according to appropriate standards of modern justice and punished as they deserve.(Jerusalem Post Mar 2)
The difficult and painful images of talented young men whose lives were cut short in their 20s and 30s being laid to rest - especially when they come in as rapid a succession as they have recently - only make the silence and paralysis of thought in the nation's leadership all the more noticeable. Given that a general election is coming up in less than three months and that a wide-ranging public debate over how to find an end to the grinding war of attrition that the IDF is fighting in south Lebanon is taking place, one might expect that the major contenders for the position of prime minister would make the issue a central focus of their campaigns. But instead of exhibiting leadership and explaining in detail how they propose to solve the quandary the IDF is stuck in, the candidates seek to avoid the subject at every opportunity. When they are pressed to address the matter, the best they seem to be able to do is to provide a not very convincing case for continuing the painful status quo.
The two Hizbullah actions against IDF forces in the past week, and the victims that they claimed, were heavy in poignant symbolism of how deeply entrenched the IDF is in a situation in which its hands are tied, and how futile numerous proposed solutions have been. The vehicle that was blown apart near Kafr Shaba on Sunday was a strongly armored, bulletproof Mercedes leading a heavily armed convoy. It was nevertheless sent twisting into the air as a burning wreck by a simple roadside bomb. The fact that the convoy had changed its planned route only hours prior to the bomb's detonation indicates that the roadside bomb was probably not deliberately aimed at Brig.-Gen. Erez Gerstein. What was deliberate was the desire to cause random damage to the IDF, because it is precisely random sources of attack that a conventional army finds most difficult to deal with.
Gerstein, who will be laid to rest today at 38, was the head of the IDF's Liaison Unit to South Lebanon, which meant that he was the senior officer in charge of the IDF's relations with the South Lebanon Army, a force that Israel once hoped would develop into an independent fighting unit which would relieve it of the brunt of the burden of the fighting in south Lebanon, but which has long since failed to live up to these expectations. In the car with him, alongside his faithful driver, Chief Warrant Officer Imad Abu Rish, and his radio operator, St.-Sgt. Omer Alkabetz, was Ilan Roeh, Israel Radio's reporter in the North. The fact that a journalist was riding alongside the general underscores the extent to which military operations are now exposed to media scrutiny. In contrast to what might have been the case 30 years ago, today the IDF's successes and failures are broadcast into every home in Israel.
The clash with Hizbullah guerrillas that took the lives of three soldiers last week hit one of the IDF's most prominent commando strike forces. Israel became a world leader in conventional and commando tactics during the years in which it was faced with the challenges of fighting all-out wars and combatting terrorism. In both cases, the IDF succeeded very well in overcoming the challenges. Faced with the riddle of fighting a guerrilla war with a conventional army, however, the IDF has proven to be as baffled as were the British, Americans, and Soviets.
The basic difficulties of fighting guerrilla battles - especially against an enemy that has proven itself to be cunning and tough, such as Hizbullah - are well known. Hizbullah, which is not forced to defend a well-defined territory, can hide among the population and easily determine the place and time of its hit-and-run attacks, while avoiding the IDF's far superior firepower. While a success rate of 75 percent in a conventional war is usually enough for victory, a similar or even higher IDF success rate in southern Lebanon is perceived by the public as a bloodletting. The overall effect of a long, bloody drawn-out war of attrition is bound to wear down more quickly the domestic consensus in a democratic society such as Israel's than in an authoritarian regime.
None of the methods that have historically ended guerrilla wars are easily available or implementable in Lebanon. Depriving Hizbullah of the support of a significant proportion of the population in southern Lebanon is not a realistic option. Sustained, hard-hitting strikes against Hizbullah's sanctuaries, bases, and supply routes are difficult to initiate, given both the Grapes of Wrath understandings and the fact that such actions run the risk of entangling Israel with Hizbullah's patron, Syria. Micro-attacks frustrate Hizbullah planning to some extent but are not decisive, and often draw Katyusha fire against Galilee, which domestic Israeli opinion cannot tolerate. Unilateral withdrawal would pull the IDF out of the quagmire, but could further expose the North to ceaseless rocket attacks by an emboldened Hizbullah encouraged by Syria. Negotiations with the fictitiously sovereign state of Lebanon will be futile without Syrian acquiescence at the least, which will inevitably mean conducting long and difficult negotiations with Syria on the Golan Heights.
It is when faced with such formidable challenges that true leaders are expected to rise to the occasion and prove that they have the capacities to take the decisions needed to rectify the situation and at the same time forge a stable enough public consensus to implement perhaps painful initiatives. Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Mordechai, and Binyamin Netanyahu have all had extensive experience dealing with the Lebanon situation on a number of levels. It is incumbent on them to come to the electorate and clearly enunciate what they intend to do about the war in south Lebanon if they wish to obtain a mandate for action after the elections. Simply promising more of the same is not satisfactory. (Jerusalem Post Mar 2)
Last week, one of the IDF's most outstanding generals, Avigdor (Yanush) Ben-Gal, was turned into a punching bag and subjected to a public lynching by the Israel Police. On the one hand, Ben-Gal was forbidden by the police to discuss his interrogation publicly, which prevented him from categorically denying the malicious libel that had been concocted against him (and through him, against Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon). But on the other hand, the police kept dealing him glancing blows in the media. Ben-Gal resembled a tied-up wrestler being beaten up by masked thugs. Ben-Gal "was questioned for 11 hours, on suspicion he was bribed by Sharon to change his testimony" in Sharon's libel suit against Ha'aretz, "police sources" reported. Naturally, these police sources never identified themselves, as if they wanted to cover their rears; in case everything they had said and done turned out to be nothing more than spreading stinking smoke where there was no fire, at least they were safe.
These "police sources" also made sure there were photographers on hand to snap pictures of the reserve major-general on his way to the police station. And they made sure to announce it when "Yanush was questioned a second time for seven hours."
And when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dared to say that it was he who had suggested to Sharon that he take Ben-Gal to Russia with him in 1997 (the trip that is at the heart of the alleged bribe), the masked men - that is, the anonymous police sources - ran to inform the media that "this is improper interference in the investigation."
And Insp.-Gen Yehuda Wilk hastened to announce that he had given his investigators a "wide umbrella" under which to work.
Indeed, it will take a wide umbrella to protect this case sparked by Ha'aretz, which has taken on poisonous proportions. Eventually, it will emerge exactly how Ha'aretz, which is constantly battling with Sharon aside from the libel suit, managed to get the attorney-general and his aides to push the police into this foolish investigation.
BEN-GAL and I have known each for many years, though we have never been friends; in fact, we argued frequently. Nonetheless, I cannot forget the courage he demonstrated at the head of his brigade on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, which we heard about even as the bitter battles led by Sharon at the Suez Canal were taking place.
But I have not come to restore a fighter and commander's lost honor; that concept has no meaning in our rotten society in any case.
It is something else, however, to defend a man's dignity and freedom, which are ostensibly enshrined in those basic laws that are the pride of the most hypocritical of legal eagles, including those in police uniform.
These masked men, the anonymous police sources, in their fear of exposing themselves, have created a Kafkaesque situation. They are allowed to leak anything, including lies, and can then say that this was part of "a psychological process necessary for the investigation." But about themselves, about their methods of investigation, its format, and the evil and tendentious leaks that emerge from it, one cannot emit a word of criticism. If this spectacle wasn't so sad, it would be less appropriate for Kafka than for Sholem Aleichem, the humorist who had a knack for portraying the fools, innocents, and wicked men who generated the famous tales about their ghetto lives.
I don't believe Wilk's pious declaration that "we do not set a target at the outset of an investigation that presumes its ultimate results."
For if this is the case, how can his investigators justify their work in this case, which was going on in secret for several months? How can they account for the wiretapping that they carried out with Bolshevik-like enthusiasm? How can they defend the large financial outlay involved in such an investigation, perhaps even including secret "business" trips to Russia? And how can they explain the nasty leaks to the press? They will have to come up with some story to justify an intensive investigation into this wild-goose chase, a product of a sick mind, regarding how "Sharon bribed Ben-Gal into changing his testimony." They will probably tell a tale of "apparent suspicions" ("sort of, like - you know," as teenagers say), so that at least people might believe there had been a goose.
Too bad we don't have a Sholem Aleichem to describe this miserable mockery of a police force. A police force whose minister threw up his hands and called on citizens to protect their own property, and deal with their own stolen cars and burglarized homes, thus publicly declaring that the system he runs is bankrupt. Yet this same system claims it has the ability to investigate these vicious, false charges made by Ha'aretz, regarding how a minister bribed a general - and in Russia, yet.
Perhaps only Sholem Aleichem, with his wild imagination, could find a way to explain to our police inspector-general exactly where to stick his umbrella. (Jerusalem Post Feb 25)