A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
17 Adar 2 5760
March 24, 2000
Issue number 264
Prime Minister Ehud Barak Wednesday met twice with American ambassador Martin Indyk to discuss the upcoming summit in Geneva. The pair also discussed the visit to Israel next week of US Defense Secretary William Cohen, whose trip will deal in part with American defense aid toIsrael following a peace agreement. Meanwhile, Patrick Seal, the British journalist known to have close ties with Assad and who was in Syria earlier this month, echoed these predictions Wednesday, telling reporters in Vienna that Clinton would bring up a compromise solution on the border - involving the Israeli withdrawal and the Syrian Kinneret concession. He also stressed that Assad would not come to the meeting if he did not intend on accepting the compromise. (Jerusalem Post Mar 22)
Abu Sitta wrote that a recent poll conducted by the PA showed that 90.8 % of respondents would refuse to accept a Palestinian state at the cost of forfeiting the "right of return." Michel Sabbah, the Catholic Church's Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, together with the Palestinian Authority, organized buses to transport thousands of Arab refugees to participate in a rally in Dehaishe Wednesday, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, calling for the "right of return." The PA's first act of legislation in 1994 was that refugee camp residents must be absorbed in the pre-1967 boundaries of the state of Israel, and that the PA would therefore deny any assistance to the UN refugee camps. (A7 Mar 22)
Israel's former liaison to Congress Yoram Ettinger explained that the declaration is really a letter addressed to U.S. legislators. "What seems to be little understood here in Israel," he said, "is that the U.S. administration does not hold the Treasury's purse strings - Congress does. The Administration can ask for money, and can even exert pressures to obtain it, but cannot actually allocate it. The attitude of Congress towards Assad has been traditionally suspicious and unfavorable, and when such an approach is confirmed by top U.S. military personnel, that attitude is just strengthened... Syria will not agree to a deal unless it gets these funds, and the Americans simply do not have the billions to give to Syria." (A7 Mar 22)
Other speakers at the gathering included Meretz secretariat member Gil'ad Natan, who told of the various threats and warnings he had received over the week from Meretz members not to appear there, and Four Mothers member Danny Reshef, a former senior intelligence officer. U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is against both an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan and U.S. aid to Assad's Syria. In a recent letter on the topic, Helms wrote, "I do not believe the U.S. should be in a position of bribing the two sides [Israel and Syria] with large aid packages in order to secure an agreement. In addition, Israel must not be forced to compromise its security by giving up the Golan Heights... Until we see fundamental changes in the nature of the Syrian regime and its activities, I will oppose any form of U.S. support for Syria." (arutzsheva.org Mar 20)
News Editor Haggai Segal said, "Why would investors sink such large sums of money into such an uncertain situation?" Shragai: "It could very well be that the purpose of those who have now gone public with the plan is precisely to thwart the plans to transfer Walajeh to the PA." Shragai added that Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert fully supports the new project, and has promised to provide the resources to make the new Jewish neighborhood a reality once the formal acquisition of the property has been finalized. The new neighborhood, Shragai wrote, "would create Jewish territorial continuity in Jerusalem from East Talpiot, to Har Homa, to Gilo, and balance a growing Arab block extending from Beit Sahur, to Bethlehem, to Beit Jalla." The Palestinian Authority initially jailed members of the Arab families that had sold the properties, but they were released after Israeli officials intervened on their behalf. (arutzsheva.org Mar 20)
Meretz party officials reacted sharply to Rabbi Yosef's words. Shas spokesmen said that the comments reflect the anger and frustration within the party over how it has been treated by Sarid since the elections. MK David Azulai (Shas), speaking with Arutz-7, opined that it would be preferable for a figure more acceptable to Israelis as a whole, "and not a left-wing extremist," to serve as Education Minister. MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) advised Att.-Gen. Rubenstein not to open a criminal investigation against the rabbi, "since if the trial of [former Shas leader] Arye Deri brought the party 17 Knesset seats, a court case against Rabbi Yosef is bound to land Shas 40 MKs in the next elections!"(arutzsheva.org Mar 19)
"Once upon a time we had a homeland, with districts like the Galilee, Judea, Samaria and the Negev. Today these districts have turned into the letters A, B and C. Instead of the historical names given to [the areas] by our forefathers, we have letters covering the barest parts of our homeland, which they want to give to the Palestinians."- MK Rehavam Ze'evi (National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu) taking issue with the code designations of lands abandoned by Israel and given to the Palestinian Arabs. (Ha'aretz Mar 21)
"I don't like the book of Esther, because of the book's ending - there it refers to the revenge against some 500 anti-Semites perpetrated by Jews. Retaliatory actions do not sit well with the leanings of my heart, and I am not convinced that all of the 500 victims that were killed were indeed anti-Semites."- Israeli Minister of Education, Yossi Sarid, at a recent conference. (Yediot Ahronot Mar 13)
Which is the greater threat: George W. Bush meeting with Bob Jones III, or President Clinton meeting with Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad in Geneva to further grease the slope leading to Israel's ultimate demise?
State Department spokesman James Rubin betrayed the indefensibly flawed and fatal (for Israelis) philosophy behind resumption of the "permanent status negotiations" between Israeli and Palestinian delegates when he said March 17, "The Palestinian issue represents the core of the conflict." No, it doesn't -- and it never has. The core of the conflict is the rejectionist policies of Israel's enemies to the very existence of the Jewish state, which preceded even the 1948 reconstitution of Israel. A largely ignored article in U.N. Resolution 242 requires of the Arabs "termination of all claims and states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
There has been no such termination. The Jerusalem Post, on Feb. 11, ran a picture of a small Palestinian child dressed as a suicide bomber taking part in a rally in Nablus observing the 12th anniversary of the terrorist group Hamas. The Post reported theatrical shows that included blowing up cardboard Israeli buses and setting mock Jewish settlements on fire. Do people who desire peace behave like this?
Is Assad a peacemaker? According to the Ariel Center for Policy Research, which published an ad in the Feb. 8 issue of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, President Assad provides safe haven to international terrorists and to Nazi war criminals, including Alois Brunner, one of Adolf Eichmann's senior henchmen. Assad is also a leading Holocaust denier. On Jan. 31, the editor of Assad's official newspaper, Tishrin, wrote: "Israel invented the legend of the Holocaust so as to blackmail the world and wield terror among intellectuals and politicians." This is a strategy of peace?
There's plenty of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Middle East, but Assad's brand is particularly venomous. On Nov. 27, 1999, the Syrian weekly al-Osbua al-Arabi ran this: "The Passover Matza is soaked with the blood of Iraqis, Lebanese and Palestinians ... the Talmud is drenched with hatred ... the hostility toward humanity is imprinted on the Jewish soul ... the Jewish Shylock spreads throughout the world and acts under American sponsorship."
Since seizing power 30 years ago, Assad has maintained his position by treating his opponents to execution, torture, imprisonment without trial and kidnapping. Assad has used various means to deter the Sunni majority, including poison gas, which he employed to murder 20,000 residents of the city of Hama. One out of 240 Syrians is employed in "security" organizations, their main purpose to keep Assad in power. Syria is still defined by the United States as a terrorist state and is the axis around which much of the world's terrorism revolves. Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba are among those that maintain terrorist ties to Syria.
Assad has not been a peacemaker with his own Muslim neighbors. He supports and harbors anti-Turkish PKK Kurdish terrorism, claiming Syrian sovereignty over southeastern Turkey. He continues the 13-centuries-old conflict with Iraq. He occupies Lebanon, which he has turned into the world's largest terrorist camp, and is now ready to inflict even more death and destruction on Israel as it withdraws soldiers from the "buffer zone" between the two nations.
Syria is also one of the most active proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, especially the chemical and biological variety.
Nothing that Israel or the United States may do will deter Syria or Israel's other implacable enemies from their appointed and, they believe, divinely mandated objective to eliminate from the region Israel as a nation and all Jews as a people. How can differences be bridged if terrorists and terrorist states hold steadfastly to this objective? There is no evidence that they are prepared to change. There is plenty of evidence they will use the leftist government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the strong-arm tactics of the Clinton administration to hasten Israel's apocalypse and realize Hitler's dream. (Los Angeles Times Syndicate Mar 22)
Prime Minister Ehud Barak likes to project the image that he is completely in charge. So much so that at times one is tempted to assume that when things appear to flounder that it is only part of some elaborately planned smokescreen. After all, that's the image that helped get him elected: the general with the carefully prepared notebooks just itching for the opportunity to move the nation's chess pieces across the board.
So one would assume that BEFORE Barak even went to meet the Syrians in Shepherdstown that he had all the information he needed not just for a photo opportunity but for serious negotiations.
That's why I was so surprised when Ha'aretz Diplomatic Correspondent Aluf Benn reported on March 13 that Prime Minister Ehud Barak was still waiting for a professional opinion from Military Intelligence, which would decide whether American technology is a sufficient substitute for the Hermon.
Let me repeat this because it is so mind boggling: as of this Monday Prime Minister Ehud Barak was still waiting for a professional opinion from Israeli Military Intelligence, if American technology is a sufficient substitute for the Hermon. By the way - this incredible news was buried in the middle of an article.
But this was only the beginning. For those of you who think that the army is full only of yes men consider this next item:
Ha'aretz Diplomatic Correspondent Aluf Benn reported on March 16 - just yesterday - that Israeli Military Intelligence decided that the surveillance technology America offered to replace the Golan with is not a sufficient substitute for the Hermon.
Again - because this item is so important I will repeat it: Israeli Military Intelligence decided that the technology America offered to replace the Golan with is not a sufficient substitute for the Hermon.
In a normal country this would be front-page news. The morning radio programs would be interviewing everybody and his brother about the ramifications of the finding and the talking wouldn't stop until Barak had no choice but to tell the public what he planned to do given that American gizmos can't replace the Golan.
By the way, Aluf Benn does report that the Israelis think that they may be able to develop their own gizmos to replace the surveillance coverage of the Golan - but the opening estimate is that it will take five years and a billion dollars to develop and introduce into active service an alternative early-warning system that will provide the IDF with coverage similar to that provided by the existing station on Mount Hermon.
It doesn't take much familiarity with the way defense projects are to know three things about this kind of estimate:
One: The price tag at the end will bear no resemblance to the opening estimate.And you certainly would not sign an agreement to leave the Golan banking on a yet to be developed gizmo.
Two: There is no telling how long it would really take to develop something when the opening estimate is already half a decade
Three: Most important of all, when you think it is going to take a billion dollars and five years to make a gizmo to replace the Golan there is no certainty that such a gizmo can ever actually be made.
This leaves us with a completely different perception of Ehud Barak.
Instead of the careful planner, we find that Barak is no better than a sky diver who jumps out of a plane, with the hubris to assume that somehow a parachute will show up on the way down.
Again though - please keep your eyes on the ball: as of yesterday it is official: there is no substitute for the Golan. (IMRA Mar 16)
Late Friday morning I took a half hour ride, driving south of Hebron. About 20 minutes outside of Hebron is a turnoff leading to the headquarters of the Israeli Hebron Brigade at Aduraim. To the left of the army base is a road, continuing west. Sometime during the coming week, this road, along with much of the land around it, is to be abandoned by the State of Israel. Total military and administrative control is to be transferred to Yassir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. This is part of the six and a half percent of Judea and Samaria (the equivalent of six and a half Tel Avivs) due to be abandoned to the terrorists, the final remnants of the three year old Hebron Accords, more recently dressed up and called the Sharm Accords.
About ten minutes after turning onto this road, following around winding bends and hills, I arrived at my chosen destination, a small community called Negohot. The name is derived from the Hebrew word Noga, which means bright light. Negohot is perched on the top of a hill with a breath-taking view westward, towards the Mediterranean Sea. On a clear day you can see the sea and the entire Israeli coast.
Negohot came into existence sixteen years ago, the work of Ariel Sharon, then a minister in the Israeli government. The objective of Negohot, as well as other such settlements, was to form a belt protecting other Israeli communities. Negohot is only three kilometers east of the "green line" the pre-1967 Israeli border. The community was settled by the Nachal military division. Two years ago the first civilians were allowed to move into "caravan" - trailer homes. Presently 12 young families, along with the Nahal soldiers, live at Negohot. A few more caravans await new families. Plans to expand the community to surrounding hills are pending approval by the Judea and Samaria civil administration. It is clear that whoever lives on and controls hilltops such as Negohot, has a lot to say about security along the entire Israeli west coast.
In addition to the caravan homes is a nursery school and playground for the little children. A sky-high water tower is next to the first and only constructed building in the community, that being a Mikvah, (ritual bath). Other buildings await official approval before their construction can commence.
Unfortunately, these 12 families have quite literally been abandoned by the Barak administration. If the road, stretching for a few kilometers, leading to the community, is really turned over to Arafat's control in a few days, these families will have no choice but to drive through 'Arafat-land' in order to get to and from their homes. This is not a pleasant prospect. There are not any other Israeli citizens anywhere in Israel who must travel through official, Palestinian Authority controlled lands, to get to and from their homes.
In order to translate this action into plain language: This road, (and anyone travelling on it) will be at the mercy of Arafat's 'police force' - armed terrorists, called police, who are nothing less than an army. These armed terrorists will patrol this road. The road will be totally off-limits to any and all Israeli security forces. In other words, if an Israeli civilian vehicle travelling on this road is attacked, the rescuers will not be Israeli soldiers. Rather, they will be Palestinian. Not too appetizing a thought.
What can Israel do as an alternative to this catastrophic situation? Ideally Israel should not give even a centimeter of Eretz Yisrael to Arafat. This we all know. However, given the decision to go ahead with this continued lunacy, Israel could easily maintain military control of the road, even if the surrounding lands are lost to the terrorists. This is certainly not a good solution, but it has been undertaken in other areas of Judea and Samaria. At the least it would allow Israeli security access to the road, thereby offering some kind of real protection to the 12 families living at Negohot. The way things stand now, the lives of these people will literally be in the hands of Arafat. This is unthinkable!
It is known that concerning the Negohot road there are differences of opinion within the security camp. It is known that one of the most senior Israeli officers, is not actively protesting this disgraceful abandonment of Jewish lives. This man is an extremely intelligent individual, and also a superb officer. The question being asked is why he is not vehemently expressing opposition to this absurdity. One possibility, as unfortunate as it may sound, is that he is one of two candidates to succeed the present Chief of Staff, General Shaul Mufaz, when his term ends. He is also being mentioned as a possible head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. It would be a sorry state of affairs when such a senior officer makes life-and-death decisions based upon his future plans, in order to stay on the right (or left) side of his boss, in this case, Prime Minister/Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
It is important to clarify one point: Presently the Negohot scenario is one of a kind. However Israel is now in the midst of "final status" talks with Arafat. We face the prospect of many more Negohots, throughout Judea, Samaria and Gazza. In the not to distant future we will not be dealing with the lives of 12 such families, but rather with the lives of tens of thousands of people. Negohot is just the beginning. The road to Negohot leads not to 12 families. The road to Negohot leads to Tel Aviv, Eilat and Haifa. (The Jewish Community of Hebron Mar 19)
On the 17th of October, 1975, the United Nations passed its now famous declaration equating Zionism with racism. Some 70 member states supported the declaration, while 29 opposed it and 27 abstained. Israel and its allies were shocked by the decision, and ever since then, successive Israeli governments have exerted enormous efforts to have it annulled. The Arabs and their UN sympathizers, including many dictatorial regimes, claimed that two central practices of the State of Israel define it as a racist state: the provision of land by the Jewish Agency for the construction of Jewish settlements, and the Law of Return, which grants automatic immigration rights to Jews.
In response, Israel and her supporters conceded that although technically, Israel was practicing a form of "discrimination," there could be no more ethical or righteous policy than to provide the Jewish nation - a people forced to wander the earth for 2,000 years, from inquisition to pogrom to Holocaust - with its own state in its ancient homeland. As such, it was noted, policies aimed at strengthening the Jewish state were simply a classic example of what has become known as "reverse discrimination."
Last week, we witnessed a pitiful about-face on this issue. Israel's Supreme Court actually decided that the 1975 UN resolution was correct - that Zionism is, in fact, "racism." It ruled that the Jewish Agency may not allocate land only to Jews, and that an Arab family may in fact purchase land in the Jewish community of Katzir, east of Hadera. Those unfamiliar with the ruling may mistakenly believe that it merely involved a private petition that may only incidentally produce more far-reaching results. True, the petitioner was a private party - the Kadan family - who insisted on being accepted into Katzir. But their specific claim was rooted in a more fundamental argument: that the State of Israel, via the Jewish Agency, cannot establish Jewish settlements, since such a policy is discriminatory, even racist. Our Supreme Court agreed, and ruled in favor of the Kadans not in just their private petition, but on the fundamental principle that lay at the basis of the petition.
Our High Court effectively breathed new life into the Arab world's decades-long goal of destroying the State of Israel. The Katzir ruling represents not just an affirmation of the UN "Zionism is Racism" declaration, but also signals the Court's openness - in principle, and perhaps also in practice - to the dismantling of the Jewish state. With this ruling, Israel's High Court is essentially stating that the thousands of Jewish communities founded by the Jewish Agency since the early days of the state were illegal from their very inception. There is even a clear indication in the ruling that Chief Justice Barak would have been prepared to apply his ruling retroactively, but did not do so only because "the present petitioners did not request the court to rule on such a question[!]"
There is no doubt in my mind that from now on, the Arabs can and will shift their entire war against the State of Israel to the "turf" of Israel's very own Supreme Court. Whereas, over the last several years, Arab energies successfully ate away at Israel through the Oslo process, the dismantling of Israel can now be done more directly and efficiently in a perfectly legal fashion. After its success with the Kadan family and the negation of the Jewish Agency law, Arab interests will almost certainly target the Law of Return. They know well that Israel's enlightened High Court will be hard-pressed to reject such a petition, since the logic of such a claim would be identical to that of the Kadan petition. Soon, by way of the same logic, Israeli Arabs will launch a case that questions the very legality of the State of Israel.
Various theories have been bandied about in an effort to explain why Israel's High Court would make such a suicidal decision. Some voices in the country's political right suggest that the Court is teaching us about the supreme value of democracy, and that the Court believes that it supersedes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. These right-wing analysts object to the Court's ruling by quoting the late President Chaim Herzog, who once asserted that when there is a clash between democracy and the State's existence, the latter takes precedence. We are asked to believe that Chief Justice Barak just made the opposite calculation, and that democracy supersedes the value of Israel as a Jewish state.
This explanation is questionable. Perhaps if the Knesset, and not the Court, had nullified the Jewish Agency law, I may have accepted this kind of explanation. Such a Knesset decision would have been immoral and even infuriating, but it is not impossible for me to imagine the majority of Israeli legislators determining that in Israel, democracy is more crucial than the Jewish state itself.
But - and here is where I differ with the analysts I mentioned earlier - I cannot subscribe to the theory that the Supreme Court deems democracy the overriding principle of Israeli society. For what could be more anti-democratic than a group of people, members of a narrow elite, who continually foist their narrow, elitist philosophy upon the Knesset and the nation? Instead of simply interpreting Knesset laws, the Court over the past several years has declared all matters justiciable! What could be more antithetical to democracy than a ruling [i.e., the Katzir decision] with which at least 80% of the Knesset and general population strongly disagrees?
If our High Court was indeed concerned with democracy, why has it resisted for years the licensing of Arutz-7 radio? What could be more anti-democratic than stifling the free speech of half the nation, on the basis of some obsolete telegraph law from the 1930's?
Some of you readers may be saying to yourself that I've gone too far. "OK," you may be saying, "let's say that the Supreme Court is somewhat dictatorial and perhaps threatening to Israeli democracy. But the Court holds dear one fundamental principle: equal rights for all of Israel's citizens, regardless of race, religion, or creed. It's this principle that inspired the Court to allow the Kadans to build a house in Katzir!"
Dear readers, you may then be disillusioned when you hear of another Supreme Court decision, a copy of which lies before me on my desk at this moment. The case involved an Israeli Jew named Eliezer Avitan. Some years ago, the Israel Lands Administration founded a community near Be'er Sheva for the express purpose of providing a permanent community for Bedouins. Avitan petitioned the court to permit him to purchase a home in that settlement. Like the Kadans, he claimed that not permitting him to do so was discriminatory.
Our enlightened, unbiased Supreme Court rejected his petition. "The principle of equality is designed to serve a just goal," wrote the Court. "It is not aimed at providing mere technical 'equality' for equality's sake. The state [of Israel] has a specific interest in promoting Bedouin settlement, and it is for this reason that the Court has no interest in permitting the petitioner to acquire a house in the community in question."
Follow the Court's logic? The State has an interest in establishing a Bedouin community - but what interest could Israel have in providing communities for Jews? For the Kadans, the principle of equality reigned supreme. But the same court said that in the case of Bedouin settlement, the principle of equality takes a back seat.
Attorney Elyakim Ha'etzni said recently that the next hareidi protest against the Supreme Court should not simply be attended by hareidi and other religious people. Anyone who identifies with the colors "blue and white," who truly cares about the survival of the State of Israel, must also raise their voices.
Let us close by praying to G-d to "restore our judges as in days of old, and our advisors as they once were....save us from trouble and sorrow."
The writer edits the weekly Israeli magazine Kfar Chabad and hosts a show on Arutz Sheva's Hebrew radio channel. (arutzsheva.org Mar 14)
Below is the text of an official State Department Press Statement (emphasis added). Incredible, isn't it?
U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, Press Statement
Press Statement by James P. Rubin, Spokesman,March 17, 2000
We told you it was incredible.
"The Palestinian issue represents the core of the conflict?"
Silly us. We thought the core issue was Arab rejection of the establishment of the State of Israel -- beginning well before 1948 and only partially overcome today. A nearly forgotten article of UN Resolution 242 requires of the Arabs, "termination of all claims and states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
The Palestinians were not recognized as a "State in the area" by Res. 242, but if they aspire to that status, it is incumbent upon their leadership to assume the same obligations toward Israel that every Arab country has. And since obligations are generally honored in the breech, an appropriate role for the United States would be to insist that the Arab states, and the Palestinian leadership, change both their behavior and their propaganda as a prerequisite to changes to the borders of Israel. (JINSA March 20)