A Collection of the Week's News from Israel

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

9 Nisan 5759    March 26, 1999    Issue number 210

NEWS

PA Taking over in Eastern Jerusalem

One of the key aspects of the Likud party platform is the claim that Labor party leader Ehud Barak, if elected, will divide Jerusalem. Journalist Nadav Shragai Tuesday reiterated a view he expressed on Arutz 7 last week, namely, that Prime Minister Netanyahu has himself been less than effective in ensuring Israeli control over Jerusalem. In a an op-ed appearing in Ha'aretz, Shragai bemoans Israel's "vanishing sovereignty" in the capital: "The silent partners of the Shin Bet [General Security Service] in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority's security services, are helping to impose order on the eastern part of the city as a matter of routine," writes Shragai. Shragai describes how the Palestinian Authority has virtually taken over health services in eastern Jerusalem. The PA is now in control of the Mukassad Hospital, after Israel reportedly transferred to the PA two million shekels to cover operating costs. In the area of transportation, the PA has begun to reorganize passenger-carrying vans, collecting license fees and demanding that the vans be painted a uniform identifiable orange color. The PA has its own nascent judicial system, as well, Shragai writes: "Judges are routinely dispatched from the Orient House in order to broker civil and criminal cases. The most amazing innovation is the takeover of the Sharia [Islamic religious] court... by the Authority.

Over the past few months, the entrance has been guarded by plainclothes PA policemen. In at least one case, [a judge] recommended that one of the parties in a land dispute approach Jibril Rajoub's 'preventive security service' in order to obtain a necessary document." Shragai writes that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows all the details, but does nothing. A source closely identified with Jerusalem affairs Tuesday confirmed Shragai's claims in a conversation with Arutz 7 correspondent Ron Meir. The source explained that the Mukassad Hospital has been run by a private charity for some time. About a year ago, "certain people associated with Yasser Arafat were put in control of the facility, with his blessings. The hospital appealed to the Israeli Health Ministry for a license, which it granted. From Israel's perspective, it is preferable that Arabs are treated at a facility run by them. This was the chief consideration in granting the license. Once the hospital became an official Israeli health care facility, the national health funds sent their patients to the hospital, and then had to reimburse it for insured services it provided them." The source also verified Shragai's claim that the Sharia court has essentially been taken over by the Palestinian Authority. (Arutz 7 Mar 23)

Arafat: "We're Ready to Fight"

The Israel Government Press Office reports that threats of violence against Israel continue to be expressed by top Palestinian Authority figures. "We carried out the longest intifada in history," said Arafat this past Thursday, speaking to 3,000 Fatah members at a Ramallah ceremony marking 31 years since Israeli forces clashed with Jordanian soldiers defending the PLO terrorist base in Karameh, Jordan. Arafat continued, "[The Israelis] should know that we can start it again if they try to prevent us from exercising our rights... The state will be established with Jerusalem as its capital whether they like it or not. If they don't like it, they can drink from the waters of the Dead Sea... We, the Fatah and the PLO, are ready to fight a new battle of Karameh every single day if anyone tries to stop us from exercising our rights, particularly that of proclaiming an independent state." Only a few days earlier, PA "Minister" for Jerusalem Affairs Feisal Husseini said, "The battle for Jerusalem is near. It requires determination and it carries a heavy responsibility, for it is the key to war and peace." He was speaking at a conference of the Fatah Youth Organization in Al-Bireh, north of Jerusalem. The Israel Government Press Office contrasts these and other statements to the Wye River memorandum, according to which the PA is required to "take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against the Israeli side... and to prevent incitement." MEMRI [Middle East Media and Research Institute] reports that the Commissioner of the PA's Political Guidance Directorate, Othman Abu Gharbiyya, told "mothers of martyrs" in Gaza last week, "Peace is a higher humane value and a noble goal, but freedom and honor precede peace. There cannot be peace without independence, without freedom, and without honor. There can also be no peace without Jerusalem becoming the capital of our state..." Rasha Fatuh, Head of the Directorate's Youth Department stated: "We promise our heroes and all the faithful warriors that we will continue to march with a loyal word and a brave gunshot until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine. For the sake of the Palestinian homeland we wave the flags of victory and chant in a loud voice: 'the soul and the blood we will give to thee, oh martyr, the soul and the blood we will give for thee, oh Palestine.'" Both quotes are from the March 20 edition of the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda. (Arutz 7 Mar 22)

Palestinian Declaration May Lead to Annexation

Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement that he will consider annexing parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza if Yasser Arafat unilaterally declares a Palestinian State is apparently more than just that. Sunday's Yediot Acharonot newspaper reports that Netanyahu means it this time, but that seniors in the both the Justice and Foreign ministries are against the plan. Justice Ministry officials feel that the declaration of a Palestinian state on May 4 has some legal basis, since the Oslo accords elapse on that date. The officials suggested that Netanyahu should instead warn Arafat that such a declaration would prevent him from demanding any further land from Israel, such that his "state" would be limited to the small, scattered territories currently in his possession. Currently, roughly 70% of Judea, Samaria and Yesha still remains under full Israeli control. Of the remainder, one-third is Area A (full Palestinian control), and the rest is Area B (Palestinian administrative control, Israeli security control). There is a widespread impression that annexing the 70% will carry a demographic price. This is incorrect, since approximately 99% of Yesha Arabs are already under Palestinian control. Only 60,000 Palestinians - equivalent to 1/10 of the entire Israeli Arab population - live in the area that could end up being annexed. (Arutz 7 Mar 21)

Barak Uses Hired Thugs to Assault Netanyahu Supporters

Last week in a tour by Ehud Barak of the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, something different happened. Barak's people scored a knock-out victory in the campaign they are running alongside the election campaign of their candidate. The battle began hours before the start of the tour, with the violent assault by thugs from one of the South Tel Aviv neighborhoods hired by Barak's people on people from the market who refused to take down signs supporting Netanyahu that they had put up with the help of Likud people. These hired people began their expertise in this field with Amnon Shachak during his famous tour of the Hatikvah neighborhood, continued with Yitzchak Mordechai on his tours of Carmel Market, Bat Yam and Holon, and yesterday, surprise surprise, they cleaned the area for Barak. The battle continued with a misinformation campaign regarding the cancellation of the tour and a planned delay in its start, in order to thin out the presence of Likud people in the area and ended with the complete control of the area by activists from the Barak headquarters, who drowned out, with nonstop singing and megaphones, the calls 'Bibi, Bibi' and 'Ehud abandoned'. 'Because of the violence of the Barak people our people ran away' Gilead Ardan, number 26 on Avigdor Liberman's Knesset list said his voice shaking. (Ha'aretz March 19)

Cabinet Meets at Jerusalem City Hall

The Israeli Cabinet held a special cabinet session at the Jerusalem City Hall Wednesday. Prime Minister Netanyahu convened the meeting in the framework of his election campaign, which is aimed at concretely displaying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. To this end, the government will also transfer 300 million shekels to the Jerusalem Municipality. The government also decided today that the sum to be invested in eastern Jerusalem infrastructures would be determined within a month. The goal is to equalize the infrastructures in the eastern and western halves of the city. Transportation Minister Sha'ul Yahalom criticized the present situation in which the Palestinians have taken an "unrestrained" role in illegal construction and in security-related matters in Jerusalem. He said that Israel appears to be powerless against these phenomena. (Arutz 7 Mar 24)

Japanese Sympathetic to Israeli Positions

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told Knesset Speaker Dan Tichon - heading a Knesset delegation to Japan - that his country does not support a unilateral declaration of independence by Yasser Arafat. Minister Komura added that he will advise Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Ashara, who will arrive in Japan tomorrow, to resume negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. (Arutz 7 Mar 24)

PA Thwarts Terrorist Attack

The Palestinian Authority aided Israel in thwarting a mass terrorist attack in Tel Aviv some three weeks ago. Israeli security elements are of the opinion that the PA is not interested in terrorist attacks before the elections, in order not to bolster the electoral chances of Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Arutz 7 Mar 24)

Netanyahu Brings Back Eight New Olim

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, and their entourage returned Tuesday from Georgia, after a two-day visit to the former Soviet Union. Eight new immigrants arrived with them on the plane, and another planeload of immigrants from Moscow will arrive later in the day. Netanyahu and Ukrainian leaders signed a joint security understanding during the trip. Dov Kantorer, an Israeli-Russian press reporter who accompanied the Prime Minister, said that the Ukrainian President raised a toast to the "present and future Prime Minister of Israel," Russian Prime Minister Primakov (who is Jewish) said that if he was an Israeli, he would vote for Netanyahu, and Georgian President Edouard Shevardnadzeh noted that most Georgian Jews in Israel support Netanyahu. Asked whether Netanyahu had convinced Russian Prime Minister Primakov not to sell weapons to Iran, Uri Elitzur, head of the Prime Minister's Office, answered, "The word 'convinced' is not appropriate in diplomatic meetings of this sort. It's not as if we expected Primakov to respond, "Wow! You just told me something new! You have convinced me.' In actuality, however, something very positive was accomplished, in that the Russians acknowledged, for the first time, that there is a problem regarding the export of technology to Iran, and they have agreed that their Foreign Minister will sit on a committee to deal with the issue." (Arutz 7 Mar 23)

Lapid: No Hareidim in My Coalition

Cracks in the Israeli left: Journalist Yosef "Tommy" Lapid announced today that he will head the Shinui party, which split off recently from Meretz in order to run independently in the upcoming elections. MK Avraham Poraz vacated his spot on the Shinui list in favor of Lapid, in the hope that the party will pass the required minimum of votes, which will thus enable both of them to receive Knesset seats. Poraz says that Meretz invests too much effort in diplomatic issues and the Oslo process, and not enough in social-secular matters. Lapid said today that he is in favor of withdrawing from the Golan as the price for a Syrian-approved cease-fire and Israeli withdrawal in Lebanon, and added that he would join any coalition that has no hareidim. Dedi Tzucker, another MK who left Meretz recently - after he failed to secure a "realistic" spot on its list - also plans to run independently for Knesset. Meretz leader MK Yossi Sarid fears that if the left runs with "three heads," it will likely lose valuable votes, to the benefit of the right wing. (Arutz 7 Mar 21)

Golan Politics

Benny Begin, the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Herut-Tekumah-Moledet list, visited the Golan this morning. Avi Ze'ira told Arutz-7 today that the Golan Communities Committee, which he heads, officially supports the Third Way party, but will offer support to any party that stands firmly against a withdrawal from the Golan. He enumerated the NRP, Herut-Tekumah-Moledet, and Avigdor Lieberman's new Yisrael Beiteinu as parties that fall under that category. "Public support for the Golan is as strong as ever," Ze'ira said, "but the statements about the Golan by political leaders are not very reassuring. For instance, Yitzhak Mordechai of the centrist party has come out in favor of a territorial compromise on the Golan, and Ehud Barak talks about 'the depth of the withdrawal being equal to the depth of the peace.' Netanyahu is a bit more reassuring, in that he recently called the Golan a "strategic and historic asset' - but he did not guarantee that he would not have to cede this important asset. We are therefore renewing our public campaign - posters and stickers all over the country that say 'The Nation With the Golan' [many of which still remain throughout the country from four and five years ago], public gatherings, and the like." (Arutz 7 Mar 21)

Palestinian Security Not Very Secure

Last week's death of Sa'ed Alawi, a 20-year-old Arab from a village near Ramallah, was the seventh case in eight months of fatal gunshots fired at civilians by Palestinian security officials. A Palestinian para-military policeman opened fire at a group of youths who had broken the windows of his uncle's house, and by mistake hit Alawi, who happened to be passing by. Law, a civil rights organization which generally emphasizes alleged Israeli civil-rights abuse, noted that the event "highlights the growing problem of abuse by members of the [Palestinian] security forces," and added that "there appears to be no reason for such widespread carriage of arms, particularly in a poorly trained security force." (Arutz 7 Mar 21)

Seven More Terrorists Wanted

The Justice Ministry has submitted to the Palestinian National Council seven new requests for the transfer of suspects to Israel - the first such requests since the signing of the Wye Agreement. Three suspects are wanted in connection with the car-bomb attack of April 1994 near Kfar Darom, in which eight people were killed. Four other suspects are wanted with the murder of Yizhar Mantzour in February 1993 in Petach Tikvah. The seven requests bring the total to 44 - to none of which have the Palestinians responded. (Arutz 7 Mar 21)

Netanyahu Waffles on Jerusalem

Despite the fact that he later said he was merely joking, the protocol shows that Prime Minister Netanyahu in fact stated at a meeting he had last week with American-Jewish leaders that the Jerusalem Arab suburb of Abu Dis could serve as the capital of a Palestinian state. On the other hand, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Arens last week revoked the special travel privileges of Palestinian seniors Ziyad Abu-Ziyad, Feisal Husseini, and Hanan Ashrawi. Abu-Ziyad will no longer be allowed free entry into Israel, while the others will not be allowed free passage within Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This was the government's response to the Palestinians' hosting of ten foreign consuls in the Orient House. Before the meeting - in which the British, Canadian, Australian, French, German and other consuls participated - Husseini said that its goal was to disprove Netanyahu's claims that he has reduced the scope of Palestinian diplomatic activity at the Orient House.

At the meeting, Husseini warned the American administration not to implement the Congressional bill to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem two months from now. Prime Minister Netanyahu met with European Union representative Miguel Mauritinus to discuss the recent European Union letter questioning Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Netanyahu stressed the severity with which Israel views the letter, while Mauritinus emphasized that Israel and the PA are the parties that must come to an agreement on the status of Jerusalem. Mauritinus added that he has never visited the Orient House, and does not intend to do so. (Arutz 7 Mar 19)

Eitan to Run on Likud List

Tzomet party leader Rafael Eitan has secured the consent of Prime Minister Netanyahu to be placed in the fifth spot on the Likud Knesset list for the upcoming election. Eitan was promised that he would be appointed to a ministerial position should the Likud form the next government - unless it is a national-unity government. (Arutz 7 Mar 19)

Hizbullah Leader Wants All of Israel

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week that his purpose is to "push the Jews out of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." He said that he is acting to unite the entire Arab world to this end. (Arutz 7 Mar 19)

Israeli-Arabs Being Persuaded to Vote

Jewish activists of the left are working together with Arabs to raise the voting rate in the Arab sector. The Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha'ir reports today that the group's declared goal is to utilize the Arab vote to depose Netanyahu. They have raised $100,000 in the U.S. for a media campaign to persuade Israeli-Arabs to "use their influence and vote." (Arutz 7 Mar 19)

Deri's Conviction

"G-d has performed a kindness with us, in that the verdict was delivered so close to the elections." So said Aryeh Deri to hundreds of his supporters in Jerusalem yesterday, explaining that the best public response to the guilty verdict must be made "with prayer, and at the ballot box." Deri, the chairman of the Shas party, was found guilty last week by a Jerusalem court of accepting over $150,000 in bribes over the course of five years from Yeshivat Lev Banim. At an emotionally-charged press conference in his home last Thursday night, Aryeh Deri said that the judges were wrong, and that he did not take a penny in bribes from anyone. He said, however, that he accepts the Divine decree with love and faith, according to the Rabbinic dictum of "accepting the bad along with the good." He said that he can and will appeal the actual verdict, but not what he called the judges' "cruel" attack upon him. He defended his use of the right to remain silent, which the judges attacked, by saying that his lawyers forbade him to speak, and that one of them even resigned from the case when Deri threatened to disobey this order. An emotional Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, who burst out in tears when he heard the guilty verdict, said that Deri is innocent, and that Deri will continue to head the Shas party. (Arutz 7 Mar 18)

Pentagon Golan Policy Criticized

The Zionist Organization of America has criticized the Pentagon for forbidding a delegation of U.S. military officials from visiting the Golan Heights. The ZOA, quoting Ha'aretz, learned that "the Pentagon told the delegation that such visits would violate U.S. policy against touring Israeli-occupied territory." A study prepared in 1967 by the Pentagon itself, however, recommended that Israel keep the entire Golan Heights in order to defend itself against future Syrian aggression. "Israel must hold the commanding terrain east of the boundary of 4 June 1967 which overlooks the Galilee area. To provide an in-depth defense, Israel would need a strip about 15 miles wide," i.e., the entire Golan Heights, according to a report by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the Six-Day War. ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "The Pentagon is banning visits to the Golan Heights while it is under Israeli rule, yet the Pentagon never had such a ban when the Golan was occupied by Syria during 1948-1967. By employing this double standard, the Pentagon is in effect accepting the false Arab propaganda claim that the Golan belongs to the Arabs." (Arutz 7 Mar 18)

Pepsi Buys Half of Elite Snacks

Pepsico Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of Pepsico, has signed an agreement to buy 50% of Elite Food's salty-snack unit for $10 million. Elite has cooperated with Pepsico for the last nine years manufacturing the latter's Frito's and Dorito's snacks for the local market. Elite Industries is Israel's largest chocolate and sweets manufacturer, and its second-largest food and beverages manufacturer. Pepsico is the world's second-largest beverage company. (Arutz 7 Mar 18)

Centrist Party 'Supporter' Hasn't a Clue About Platform

IMRA interviewed a Centrist Party worker at Raanana Junction on March 23. The teenager, wearing a Centrist Party T-shirt, was distributing stickers supporting the party and Yitzhak Mordechai.

IMRA: Do you have any campaign literature presenting the party platform?

Worker: No. I have no literature, only stickers.

IMRA: That's because the Centrist Party doesn't yet have a platform.

Worker: That's right.

IMRA: So you don't know yet what the positions of the party are.

Worker: That's right.

IMRA: Can you explain this to me. You haven't a clue what the party stands for yet you are handing out stickers.

Worker: They are paying me. Want a sticker? (IMRA Mar 23)

Minister of Defense Arens Never Spoke about Illegal PA Weapons

IMRA interviewed Avi Kalstein. Media advisor to Minister of Defense Moshe Arens, in Hebrew, on March 23, 1999:

IMRA: Today Minister Arens mentioned the Palestinian Authority's (PA) role in thwarting a terrorist attack. I was wondering if during the same presentation, Arens expressed concern over the failure of the PA to get rid of its illegal weapons stockpile.

Kalstein: He did not relate to the matter of illegal weapons. He did not talk about it at all. It is not a matter on today's agenda. I don't really understand the question.

IMRA: When people come out praising Arafat they don't also provide perspective?

Kalstein: The context was the thwarting of a terrorist attack by the PA. The other matter is not on today's public agenda. He wasn't asked about it and he did not comment about it. So I can't tell you anything about this matter in his name. I also don't intend to ask him now what his opinion is about the confiscation of weapons.

IMRA: Today Yasser Arafat is sitting with the President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, and on the question of if Arafat is or is not honoring his obligations, the only thing coming out from an Israeli leader is that the Minister of Defense and Prime Minister praise the PA for thwarting an attack without saying a word about their failure to confiscate weapons. I am simply trying to understand the situation here.

Kalstein: I don't know. And I am not going to try and interpret the system. I am not the spokesman for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense said nothing.

IMRA: You have been with Arens since he took the position?

Kalstein: Yes.

IMRA: To your best recollection has he ever talked about the confiscation of weapons?

Kalstein: It was never raised at any forum I remember. I don't recall him ever being asked about it or anyone relating to it or that it was dealt with in the media area.

IMRA: It has no significance?

Kalstein: Everything has significance. Everything from small to big. I don't say that it is more or less important. Just that he hasn't commented on it. (IMRA Mar 24)

Commentary

Clear Signal From The White House by Orly Azulai-Katz

The invitation received by center candidate Yitzhak Mordechai to meet with President Clinton wasn't an accidental incident involving the U.S. government. In Washington, Mordechai is regarded as a candidate who could defeat Netanyahu decisively in a second ballot; and the defeat of Netanyahu is the goal of Clinton and his peace team. The Americans blame Netanyahu for the impasse with the Palestinians and for trying to besmirch Clinton at the Wye Plantation at least twice -- when he announced they were packing, and when he threatened to boycott the ceremony if Pollard was not released. Officially, the American administration claims that it does not intervene in Israeli elections. However, behind the screens, there is a special team in the National Security Council which closely follows all political developments in Israel. Even before Mordechai decided to quit the Likud, administration officials encouraged him to do this, in order to defeat Netanyahu. A special report submitted to President Clinton only a few days ago states that Mordechai holds moderate political positions, that he would be willing to immediately implement the agreement with the Palestinians, and that he would be flexible in matters concerning negotiations with Syria over the Golan. After the Monica affair, Clinton needs diplomatic achievements to enable him to leave the White House covered in glory. He knows that a peace agreement between Israel and Syria is the only thing which could bring him the Nobel peace prize, and to that end he thinks that Netanyahu should be replaced. The administration won't say this explicitly, but the hints are as thick as an elephant's hide. (Yediot Ahronot Mar 22)


Saddam May Soon Have the Bomb By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Just west of Baghdad sits al-Ubur, a complex of buildings surrounded by barbed wire and antiaircraft guns. The Iraqi government says it's a tractor factory. The facility, which opened to official fanfare in July 1994, was likely designed to build key elements of Iraq's secret nuclear program: huge particle accelerators known as calutrons, which Iraq used before the Gulf War to enrich uranium for bombs.

With the end of United Nations inspections in December, the skeleton 1,500-man work force - mostly drawn from Iraq's earlier uranium enrichment program - could already have begun building new enrichment systems. And there is mounting evidence that Iraq may be assembling a secret nuclear reactor to generate plutonium, an alternate nuclear weapons material.

Information about both programs was delivered to U.S. government officials more than four years ago, but was never passed on to the U.N. Special Commission for the Disarmament of Iraq (known as Unscom) or to U.S. decision makers. It is revealed publicly for the first time here. Both the calutron-enrichment system and the reactor are of great concern because each could provide Saddam Hussein with the fissile material-- weapons-grade uranium and plutonium--he needs to build a nuclear weapon. 'If Iraq had access to nuclear material, [it] could produce a workable nuclear weapon within one year,' a top official at the International Atomic Energy Agency told me recently in Vienna.

Western governments have known for years that Saddam has pursued weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear bomb. In fact, after the Gulf War, U.N. arms inspectors uncovered thousands of documents revealing a vast nuclear-weapons program. But although U.N. inspectors found clear signs of chemical and biological weapons, they were not able to uncover conclusive evidence that Iraq was on the verge of joining the nuclear club. This fed Western complacency, or at least a feeling that the West had breathing space. The Clinton administration insisted that Iraq's nuclear research was essentially capped, because U.N. weapons inspectors were on the ground, preventing Iraq from restarting weapons programs that were destroyed or damaged during the war.

But during an investigation for Reader's Digest, I discovered evidence indicating that Saddam's nuclear research-and-development program is probably much further along than the administration believes. Al-Ubur is one example. U.N. weapons inspectors who visited al-Ubur as recently as last year noted the factory was equipped with a high-voltage power source and its own water-purification plant--two telltale signs of calutrons. This technology, while obsolete in the West, is nevertheless a functional and proven uranium-enrichment system. 'We are worried what the Iraqis can do in this facility in the future,' one U.N. weapons inspector says.

Another disturbing piece of evidence about Saddam's nuclear program was provided to me by officials of the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group. In early 1994 an Iraqi nuclear technician who had worked on uranium-enrichment programs defected to the congress in northern Iraq, carrying an extensive collection of documents, including rough, hand-drawn diagrams for a nuclear reactor Iraq planned to build with components probably purchased from China. He also provided detailed reports on ostensibly civilian manufacturing facilities where he worked on secret nuclear-weapons projects for more than a decade.

This man, whose identity cannot be revealed because of family in Iraq, was debriefed by analysts from the CIA's Middle East Operations Directorate for two months at a U.S. embassy. Inexplicably, details from the debriefing were never passed on to such presumably interested parties as the International Atomic Energy Agency or Unscom. Even the head of the CIA's nonproliferation center, Gordon Oehler, doesn't recall receiving detailed reports on the defector's information. When asked to comment for this story, the CIA declined.

Of course, defectors are not always reliable. I showed the defector's information to nuclear experts at the IAEA in Vienna and to U.N. weapons inspectors in New York. They expressed surprise that so much of the information was new to them. But items they were familiar with, such as details of Iraq's little-known laser uranium-enrichment program, and the names of scientists working at various nuclear establishments, added to the credibility of the defector's information.

The IAEA had long monitored Iraq for evidence of a nuclear reactor, using sophisticated environmental sampling gear that could pick up heat signatures and other telltale signs from an operating nuclear plant. They never detected such activity. The defector's report gave a coherent explanation why: Iraqi technicians stripped it down, hiding the various components at sites throughout the country.

IAEA officials told me that while they never uncovered evidence of the nuclear reactor's existence, Iraqi officials at one time admitted to building experimental reactor fuel assemblies prior to the Gulf War, but claimed they were destroyed. The defector's report said the Iraqis had manufactured 200 uranium fuel bundles (almost enough for an entire reactor core) before the war and hidden them from U.N. inspectors. The core fuels the nuclear reaction and generates plutonium as a byproduct. While the IAEA has never found a full core load, drawings provided by the Iraqis to the IAEA of their planned core design matched the defector's reactor sketch. The defector's documents included data about the reactor's uranium fuel rods and a fuel fabrication facility that tracked with information the IAEA had previously uncovered.

While this type of reactor is not the ideal way to obtain weapons-grade fuel, it does produce plutonium, says former IAEA inspector David Kay. 'Are there advantages to plutonium over enriched uranium as a weapons material? Yes. it's a lot easier to make smaller warheads you can put on missiles.'

And now Iraq is free to pursue its nuclear ambitions without restraint. It has blocked Unscom and IAEA investigators from carrying out their work since last August. Those inspectors left Iraq altogether on Dec. 16, just hours before the Desert Fox bombing campaign.

IAEA officials confirm that Iraq maintains a vast nuclear production capability, only small portions of which were subject to U.N. monitoring. With the end of the U.N. inspections, they say, Saddam is free to bring his nuclear gear out of hiding and resume a crash program to build the bomb. 'The threat is in the present and the future,' a top IAEA official said. Despite American knowledge of these Iraqi capabilities - and the almost daily bombing runs by U.S. and British pilots - most of the facilities where Iraq is storing or operating this equipment are still standing. In fact, a U.S. intelligence source said that several key weapons facilities were removed from the target list for the Desert Fox bombing campaign last December, due to 'environmental' concerns. 'The fear was that nuclear or biological material could leak into the atmosphere and cause a widespread disaster,' the source said.

Such considerations may have shaped U.S. bombing policies, but those who have worked with Saddam on his weapons projects say that fear of a disaster does not register with him. In the end, says Khidhir Hamza, former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, Saddam's logic is frightening and simple: 'He is hated by his neighbors, and has become an international pariah. Saddam without the bomb is dead.'

The writer is a contributing editor of Reader's Digest.

(Wall Street Journal Mar 18)


Israeli Settlements vs. Palestinian Settlements by Rudy Boschwitz

If an Israeli family living in the town of Elon Moreh, in the northern West Bank, builds an additional bedroom in their house for their new baby, that harms Middle East peace. But if a Palestinian family living down the road in the city of Nablus adds on a bedroom for their new baby, it does not undermine peace.

Does that make sense? Not really, but it is, nonetheless, the implication of the recent statement by U.S. envoy Dennis Ross on the subject of what he calls "settlement activity." According to Ross, the construction of houses, buildings, or even additions on existing homes in Israeli settlements is "very destructive to the peace process." Oddly, Ross has said nothing about the construction activity that is taking place in Palestinian towns throughout the disputed territories.

An Israeli government official has said that the Palestinians are building ten times as much as the Israelis. Media reports have indicated that the financing for the Palestinian construction campaign comes from around the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Morocco. Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority both finances and directs much of this Arab "settlement activity."

Ross says that Israeli construction is bad for peace because it is an attempt to impose Israeli control over parts of the territories, rather than negotiate the final status of those areas. Why, then, doesn't Ross say the same thing about Palestinian construction? How can it be that Israeli house-building prejudges the final status talks, but Palestinian house-building has no affect on the final status?

Dennis Ross's double standard makes no logical sense. But then, very little the State Department does with regard to Israel follows any logic. There is a certain mind set among the State Department's Middle East experts, according to which Israel can do no right and the Palestinians can do no wrong. Even when the Israelis and Palestinians are doing the same thing --in this case, building houses-- the State Department still manages to denounce what Israel is doing and ignore what the Palestinians are doing.

The idea that Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace implies that before there were settlements, there was peace. We all know that's not true. There was no peace in the 1950s or 1960s, when the Arabs ruled the West Bank and "settlements" did not exist. There was no peace in the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, when Israel did not yet even exist, but "settlements" like Tel Aviv were greeted by waves of Arab violence. Which brings us to the heart of the problem: many Arabs still hope to destroy Israel, all of Israel, regardless of the settlements issue.

Talking about settlements is a convenient way for those who dislike Israel to divert attention from the fact that the Arab world has not yet really reconciled itself to the existence of the Jewish state. Convenient, but dishonest--because settlements are not the obstacle to peace. Arab attitudes are the obstacle.

One could even reasonably argue that Israeli construction in the West Bank is actually a force for peace. After all, Israeli construction reminds the Palestinians that Israel is here to stay, thus compelling them to lower their expectations. Moreover, Israeli construction offers the Palestinians an opportunity to get to know their Israeli neighbors, an opportunity they would cherish if they were sincere about living in peace with Israel. People with sincere peaceful intentions should not be bothered if some Jews move in down the block. It is only those with hostile intentions or racist attitudes who object to having "others" in their neighborhood. There's something for Dennis Ross and his colleagues to ponder.(March 21)

Rudy Boschwitz is a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota (1978-1991).


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