A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
28 Shvat 5760
February 4, 2000
Issue number 257
Motzei Shabbat February 5,
Rally for Equality in Educational Funding, Hollywood Princess Conference Centre, 2800 Highway 7, Concord (east of Hwy 400).
Sunday February 6, 8:00pm
T.J. Leyden, a former Neo-Nazi, will be speaking at BAYT.
Wednesday February 16, 8:00pm
Canadian Friends of Laniado Hospital presents John Loftus, author of The Secret War Against The Jews, at Shaarei Shomayim, $18.
Three IDF Soldiers, SLA Deputy Commander Killed
Government sources in Jerusalem declared Tuesday that Israel would not avenge the Hizbullah attack Monday which claimed the lives of three IDF soldiers, or this week's assassination of SLA deputy commander Col. Akel Hashem. The Barak government reportedly fears that a sharp response would escalate the violence in the area and soon lead to the collapse of the diplomatic negotiations with Syria. When news of the killings was released Monday, Ehud Barak sufficed with the following statement: "Just as I committed myself to the Israeli people, the government intends to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon in an agreed-upon arrangement as soon as possible, anyone who dares attack the IDF, SLA or our northern communities will pay a heavy price." The government's restraint stands in sharp contrast to opinions expressed by top IDF officials to take swift and harsh action against Hizbullah, but reflects the positions of Ministers Yossi Beilin (Labor) and Yossi Sarid (Meretz) in Monday's cabinet meeting. A Clinton administration communique dispatched to Barak Monday also pleaded with the Prime Minister not to strike back at Hizbullah. The three fallen IDF soldiers are St.-Sgt. Lior Niv of Tel Aviv, St.-Sgt.Tzachi Malka of Metulla and Maj. Tidhar Templehoff of Netanya. Four more soldiers are being treated in Haifa's Rambam Hospital; one of them, Ron Ben-Shmuel, remains in critical condition, suffering from a serious head injury.
These deaths followed by one day the killing of Col. Akel Hashem, the Deputy Commander of the Southern Lebanese Army by a Hizbullah-planted roadside explosive early this afternoon in southern Lebanon. Arutz-7 correspondent Kobi Finkler reports that Col. Hashem was being groomed to be the next SLA commander. IDF sources predict that his death will have a significant impact on SLA morale, as well as on other faces of the army's deployment and operations. Hizbullah had issued a death decree on Hashem, who was thus forced to go into a virtual state of hiding for several years, and even sometimes took on a false identity to avoid being murdered. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh blamed Syria for allowing the killing, and said that it shows that Syria is not interested in the success of the talks with Israel.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) called on Prime Minister Barak Tuesday to strike at the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. MK Moshe Katzav (Likud) told Voice of Israel radio that the government's weak response will likely invite further terror attacks. Similar calls were heard from leaders of several northern communities. Mayor of Metulla Kobi Katz told Arutz-7 that Israel must exercise a strong hand against the Hizbullah. "It is intolerable for us to think of continuing talks in the United States while this is going on," Katz said. "A precondition for further negotiations must be the complete cessation of Hizbullah terror." Prime Minister Barak declared Monday that "the absence of a climate for peace will make the negotiations with Syria more difficult." Speaking with Arutz-7, Tel Aviv University Professor Ayal Zisser said that he does not think that the Assad government is responsible for directing each attack on IDF and SLA forces, but that "Syria has definitely hinted to the Hizbullah that it may, and even should, go ahead with the attacks. Hafez Assad's son and probable successor, Bashar, meets regularly with Hizbullah leaders in Damascus, and if the Syrian regime wanted quiet in the region, it could certainly achieve it." Zisser added that Assad is probably delighted with the lackadaisical Israeli response to the four killings. "Israel is bleeding, he and Lebanon are not hurting - for him, it's a reason to celebrate," Zisser said. "An Israeli strike on an individual Lebanese highway or bridge would not affect Assad, but Syria has a lot at stake in Lebanon, and cumulative damage by Israel to Lebanon's transportation and economic infrastructure would take its toll on Damascus. Assad is a patient character, and I'm not certain that Israel currently possesses the necessary resolve to strike at his interests over an extended period of time."
Syria today blamed Israel for the resurgence of fighting in southern Lebanon. According to Syria's official government paper, Tishrin, "Israel is the main party responsible for the acceleration of violence since it continues to occupy Lebanese and Syrian lands, and refuses to retreat from them, in total derision of international decisions." (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
PA Rejects Israeli Final-Status Maps
In the Ramallah region today, the Israeli-Palestinian talks - aimed at establishing principles for final-status negotiations - continue. The Palestinians rejected final-status maps presented by Israel, insisting on the pre-1967 borders instead. The maps reportedly propose that Israel annex communities situated on the "Green Line," around Ariel in the Shomron, Ofra and Bet El in Binyamin, and Ma'ale Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc in Judea. Israel's final-status vision apparently does not include, however, the majority of townships on the mountain plateau - nor the town of Kiryat Arba. (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
Barak Associations Scandal Rocks Israel
The publication last Thursday of the State Comptroller's official report on party funding in last year's elections has shaken the country's political establishment. Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, a former Supreme Court justice, wrote that the associations working for the campaign of Ehud Barak and his One Israel party had struck a "great blow at the rule of law and at an important fundamental in our lives." While presenting the report to the Knesset Deputy Speaker, Comptroller Goldberg had severe criticism of Ehud Barak. Goldberg said that his investigation had revealed a "worrisome method [of funding] that arrogantly tramples the rule of law," and that a "clear red line must be drawn between 'rule' and 'money.'" Although the report briefly analyzed the funding of many of the parties, and levied fines upon them for various offenses contrary to campaign protocol, the State Comptroller spent no less than 23 pages discussing the Barak campaign and the individual associations that took part in it. He concluded his treatise on the issue by imposing a fine of 13.7 million shekels (over $3.4 million) on the Labor party. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein, only 15 minutes after the publication of the report, ordered the police to begin a criminal investigation of the associations that helped Ehud Barak win the elections, as well as of other parties. Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Barak delivered a televised speech. He said that he is happy about the opening of a criminal investigation, and that he would cooperate fully with the police to the extent that he is asked. Barak does not agree with Goldberg's claim that as head of the party, he "should have known" about the associations' activities. "As candidate for Prime Minister and party leader, I certainly knew that there was great public support for our party and for my candidacy," he said, but added that he was very busy with campaign appearances and the like and could not get involved with the details.
At issue are 17 associations that helped out in various ways in the campaign of then-MK Ehud Barak. As Justice Goldberg wrote, the associations were officially established for various philanthropic and social purposes - such as promoting immigration, the social involvement of Israeli students, the deepening of the values of democracy in Israel, and the like - but deviated from these goals by working solely for the election of Ehud Barak. By the end of the campaign, some 5.2 million shekels had been diverted to, and spent by, the associations in question. "As my investigation progressed," the report states, "I became increasingly suspicious of the systematic use of entities not officially connected to the party, to illegally further the Barak campaign." The two key figures in the funding and operation of fictitious associations were the present Cabinet Secretary, atty. Yitzchak Herzog, and Barak campaign advisor Tal Silberstein. Goldberg explained that Herzog was the chief fundraiser, while Silberstein directed the funds to the respective associations. According to the report, most of the money came from the estate of the late Jewish philanthropist Octov Butner, who died in Switzerland in the summer of 1998. Herzog was Butner's legal advisor and the administrator of his philanthropic activities in Israel. One of Butner's endowments, the "Camilla Fund", was earmarked for the relief of poverty in Israel as well as for the strengthening of Israeli education. Atty. Herzog - who was given the authority by Butner to sign disbursements from the fund - testified before Goldberg that he was acting "within the framework of the deceased Butner's desires." Another source of money was the Israeli branch of a Calgary, Canadian charitable fund, The Kahanoff Fund which was officially established "to provide funds for Israeli education, health and welfare and culture, aid to medical institutions, research and academic facilities, community centers, and to help new immigrants and economically disadvantaged Israelis." Atty. Herzog serves as that organization's legal advisor and is authorized to sign on its checks.
In addition to the obscurity surrounding the diversion of the above funds, two major legal problems are highlighted in the Comptroller's report: Much of the Barak campaign was funded through monies that were in excess of the ceiling set for outside contributors, and the associations were systematically utilized for other than their officially-stated purposes. Justice Goldberg rejected a Labor party claim that it was unconnected with the associations' operations. In addition, Labor party officials had claimed that the law governing the limitations of party election funding is not equally applicable to the Prime Ministerial campaign, and that the party had legitimately taken advantage of a legal loophole. The Comptroller wrote, "A central claim brought before me was that [this interpretation] had been supported by a decision by the Attorney-General. I weighed this claim seriously, and decided that it is unacceptable." Because of the severity of the illegalities committed by the party and its associations, State Comptroller Goldberg wrote that he felt compelled to specify the names of all the central people involved. The names of two other players, who did not cooperate with Goldberg's investigation, have been passed on to Atty.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein. In his conclusion, Goldberg related to the question of whether Ehud Barak did or did not know of the operations of the associations. Barak testified that that he was unaware of the associations' specific activities, and stressed that he had instructed his aides to "work only within the parameters of the law." Justice Goldberg, after summarizing Barak's position, wrote, "In my opinion, a candidate for Prime Minister, who also serves as the chairman of his party's campaign, has not fulfilled his obligation by simply issuing instructions to work according to the law. He must also take interest in that which is going on in the 'field' in order to ensure that his directions are executed. This is certainly true in light of the extensive activity, as described in this report, which should have lit a red light in the mind of the candidate, which would motivate him to ascertain that the campaign, for which he is responsible, is operating legally."
At a press conference following both the report's release and the Attorney-General 's announcement of a police investigation, Barak explained his position: "I am personally convinced that there is a need to alter the law on party funding, such that both parties and Prime Ministerial candidates can clearly understand what is permissible and what is forbidden... We won the elections as a result of our broad societal support and volunteers throughout the country." After reassuring his listeners that he knew nothing of the associations' activities, Barak took issue with the Comptroller's conclusions regarding his overall responsibility: "In such a large-scale campaign, during which I had to make many public appearances, film campaign commercials, give interviews, and simultaneously head the Labor party and One Israel, as well as running for Prime Minister - with such a tremendous personal burden - and when I instructed my aides to operate only within the law, responsible people on whom I rely - it was not my responsibility to oversee the specific execution of my instructions." MK Limor Livnat said that Barak was acting like a "crybaby" in complaining of his heavy workload: "If it's so hard to be a candidate and to know about criminal activity going on under his nose, how can he function as Prime Minister?" (A7 Jan 27)
Herzog had ordered a Tatzpit survey on behalf of the Labor/Barak campaigns, for which he paid over 28,000 shekels. Comptroller Goldberg's report stated that investigation showed that the money originated in Octav Butnar's Camilia Fund. Tatzpit Research Institute Director Dr. Aharon Fein, in an interview with Arutz-7 some weeks ago, said that after being questioned by a representative of the State Comptroller's office, he called Herzog. "What particularly perturbed me," Fein said, "was Herzog's reaction. 'How did they get to those checks?' he asked me. He was clearly in shock. As soon as I heard this response, I began to understand that something was not quite right." Globes suggests that there was even more that was "not quite right." Three such conversations took place between Herzog and Fein, simultaneous with the State Comptroller's investigation. Under Israeli law, one who has received a "warning" by the Comptroller is forbidden to talk to witnesses about details relating to the investigation. Herzog, before the conversations with Fein, had been questioned by Justice Goldberg, and received such a warning. Herzog was clearly aware of the problematics involved in their conversations; in their second call, Herzog said to Fein: "I'm just asking... I don't want there to be problems, so, I - we didn't talk, okay?" In the third discussion, Herzog was more explicit: "I don't want them to think that someone here spoke, or coordinated, forbidden things... OK, when you answer [the Comptroller], just write a standard, simple letter..." Fein explained that when he saw that Herzog was not forthcoming on the identity of the donor, and when he heard Herzog's reactions, he began to be suspicious: "I then taped the conversations - so it would be clear that I was not a partner in activities outside the parameters of the law."
Likud MK Michael Eitan, the driving force behind the exposure of the illegal associations' activities in the Barak/Labor electoral campaign, had sharp words against the police and the Attorney-General Monday, for not investigating the matter earlier. "The police and the Attorney-General failed in a major way when they did not understand that these violations - of which I informed them long ago - should not be placed at the bottom of the pile, to be dealt with later, but should have been dealt with immediately. Where was the Attorney-General when he received the letter about these violations? Why wasn't a red light lit up in his mind, or for the police?" Eitan said that he had had a conversation with Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg as early as January 1999, four months before the elections, in which he warned Goldberg that the election-campaign funding law was likely to be violated. "Goldberg then sent a letter of reminder to the parties, explaining the law's requirements," Eitan recalled today. Yesterday, Eitan promised that the revelations in the Comptroller's reports are "like a drop in the ocean, compared to the true scope of illegal activities that actually took place."
Attorney-General Rubenstein, reacting to recent Labor party claims, said yesterday that neither he nor anyone representing him had ever stated that the Parties Financing Law does not apply to a candidate running for Prime Minister.
The Meimad and Gesher parties have rejected the proposal by Labor Party Secretary Ra'anan Cohen that they participate in paying the 13.7 million shekel fine.
Police Commissioner Yehuda Wilk and the Police Investigations Unit head Yossi Sedbon met Sunday with State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, who has officially presented them with his report. The meeting had been slated for the middle of the week, but was moved up at Atty.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein's request. State Prosecutor Edna Arbel and Fraud Squad Superintendent Miri Golan - who will head the investigation - were both present. (A7 Jan 30)
Barak to Porush: Call off Protest
Prime Minister Barak continues to exert heavy pressures on leaders of Agudat Yisrael to refrain from launching a public protest against the government's intention to transfer the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis to the Palestinian Authority. This week, Barak asked Agudat Yisrael Honorary President Rabbi Menachem Porush to call off a massive pro-Jerusalem Rally slated for the near future. Along with Yesha leaders, Rabbi Porush participated in a joint tour of Jerusalem today; he was accompanied by Mks Nissim Z'ev, Shmuel Halpert (United Torah Judaism) and Yigal Bibi (National Religious Party). Porush told Arutz-7 last week that the demonstration will unite all Israelis, religious and secular alike, who hold dear the verse, "If I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning." (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
Ambulances Withdrawn from Yesha
Drastic Defense Ministry cutbacks on emergency medical aid for citizens in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) went into effect Monday night. Ten Magen David Adom ambulances stationed in Yesha were withdrawn, and some 35 Magen David Adom medics in the area have been reassigned or fired. In protest of the cutbacks in emergency medical services, six ambulances from communities in Judea, Samaria and Binyamin parked in front of the Prime Minister's Jerusalem residence Tuesday and left the keys with the guards at the entrance. Some overseas donors of ambulances which were earmarked for Yesha communities have expressed concern that the vehicles remain in Yesha. (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
B'nai Brith Condemns Arab Incitement Against Hadassah Women
"The bigoted, anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish language used by a Syrian delegate to the United Nations this week - and echoed by Syria's Lebanese counterpart - casts doubt on Damascus' real intentions regarding its negotiations with Israel." So said B'nai Brith International President Richard D. Heideman this week. Both the Syrian and Lebanese delegates to the United Nations issued their comments in response to the application of Hadassah - the Women's Zionist Organization of America - for consultative status at the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council. "We all know that Zionism is based on the concept of ethnic superiority, of occupation and exclusion of others," the Syrian delegate declared, in an effort to deflect Hadassah's description of its work in medical care of Jews and Arabs. The Lebanese delegate resurrected the "Zionism-is-racism" equation, adding that the UN resolution was only repealed "due to political reasons." The Hadassah Women's organization has provided medical services to Jews and Arabs in Israel since 1913. Heideman added that Syria seems to be going out of its way to undermine confidence in itself as a peace partner for Israel. "From its foreign minister's refusal to shake hands with the Israeli Prime Minister during negotiations, to its rigid insistence on regaining Israeli territory it illegally occupied along the Jordan River, to this latest outburst, Damascus signals that whatever it wants, it is not peace." (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
IDF soldiers and Palestinian paramilitary policemen exchanged blows at the Netzarim junction in Gaza Monday. Officials at IDF Southern Command believe that the Palestinians initiated the physical confrontations as part of a process of escalation of tensions aimed at bringing about changes in the security arrangements there. (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
Bibi’s Mother Passes Away
The mother of former Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu, Tzila Netanyahu, passed away Monday in Jerusalem at the age of 87. Her first-born son Yoni was killed 27 years ago while heading the famous IDF rescue effort at the Entebbe airport. (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
Nationalist Parties Align
The National Union and Yisrael Beitenu parties have formally united, to a 7-member faction, entitled "National Union-Yisrael Beitenu." MK Benny Elon will head the new faction. The Knesset also approved the splitting off of MK Michael Kleiner to a one member Knesset faction called "Herut." (arutzsheva.org Feb 1)
Wishful Thinking?: No Israel on PA Maps
An official Palestinian map issued recently presents all of Judea and Samaria, including all of East Jerusalem, as territories under Palestinian rule. The State of Israel is not marked on this map in any form. The area west of Judea and Samaria is blank. The Jewish settlements, including the Jerusalem neighborhoods, are marked as "colonies." The map was prepared by the Mapping Unit of the PA’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. The ministry is headed by Nabil Sha'th. A study of the map shows that the State of Israel does not exist at all, and the Palestinian regime does not make do with the Green Line borders and has also annexed no-man's land, such as the Latrun area, which is shown as entirely inside Palestinian territory -- including the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and Canada Park-- as well as Jerusalem's Mamila neighborhood. Jerusalem is divided by a national border. The area annexed in 1967 is shown as under Palestinian rule, and the Israeli neighborhoods including the 300,000 Jews living there – Ramot, Gilo, Neve Ya'aqov, East Talpiyyot, and even Ramot Eshkol and Ma'ale Dafna -- are marked as Israeli colonies as are all the settlements in Judea and Samaria (many of the outposts established in Judea and Samaria in recent years are also marked on the map) unlike the Arab towns and villages, which are marked as Palestinian Built-up Areas. The use of the term "colonies" suggests that the Jewish settlements do not have any right to exist, just as the colonies disappeared from the world. (Hatzofe Jan 24)
National Union MK Comments On Their Clean Campaign
MK Rabbi Benny Elon (National Union) was interviewed on Arutz-7 Monday, and has received kudos for his party's portrayal in the Comptroller's Report. Elon said: "We believe that honesty and integrity go together with good government. The credit for the way we handled our finances in the election goes to Gandi [party-head Rechavam Ze'evi], who is very careful about these matters, and to Benny Weiss, our treasurer. The national norms to which society has become accustomed are terrible, and they must be fought. By the way, thanks for noting this, because when the general media talk about the parties that came out clean, they mention only Shinui, and not us - but this is not the important issue. What I would like to point out is that people have not paid attention to the third part of the Comptroller's report, dealing with the Labor party's illegal practices during 1998 - which contains possibly the gravest accusations of all! It has the Comptroller's seal on it, true, but it reads more like something out of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves! It paints a picture of a group of corrupt people, provocateurs, who with the signature of Herzog... set up totally fictitious organizations, signed with names such as "Angry Citizens" and "Citizens from Right and from Left" - [and they were all] lies and provocations - this is what so infuriates me. There were newspaper ads [in 1998] saying, "Bibi [Netanyahu] is a national catastrophe," signed by "concerned citizens," and there were large signs saying, "Bibi is not trustworthy," and "Bibi is destroying the Likud," signed by the Young Generation in the Likud - and in fact it turned out that these were paid for with donations of $280,000 that came from Europe - arranged by Atty. Yitzchak Herzog!...Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said that Barak was elected by waves of public protest. What is he talking about? [It was the Labor party itself who was against Netanyahu!] Those who threw tomatoes on Lipkin-Shachak were paid by Barak [in order to disgrace the Netanyahu camp]! It's unbelievable! This is not just one Avishai Raviv - it's a whole group of corrupt liars!...There is no doubt about it: these severe findings against Barak and the Labor party must be used in our campaign against a withdrawal from the Golan. The reason for this is because nothing else will stop him now. He is now as dangerous as a wounded animal. This is why he ran to Egypt yesterday, and he will hold a general clearance sale on the Land of Israel. He is more dangerous than he ever was. If until now I thought of him as a security-minded general, who did not do anything bad to the Land of Israel - now I must totally change my opinion of him... When two liars are running the world, namely Bill Clinton, who is running for his place in history, and Barak - then they are capable, given the deadline pressures, and the pressure of the associations scandal, to jump out of their 'window of opportunity to national suicide for Israel." (arutzsheva.org Jan 31)
Kinneret Creeps up
The level of the Kinneret Sea, as reported Monday by the Kinneret Administration Authority, is 212.58 meters below sea level - 42 centimeters above the red line, and approx. 4.5 meters below the optimal level. Each centimeter represents 1.7 million cubic meters of water. Meteorologists are optimistic that if the current rate of rainfall continues in February, the year may no longer be considered a drought year. (arutzsheva.org Jan 31)
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office deny any connection between the intense diplomatic activity scheduled for this week, and the Labor party's illegal fund-raising scandal. Prime Minister Barak flew to Cairo Sunday, accompanied by permanent-status delegation head Oded Eran, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss both the Palestinian and the Syrian tracks. In addition, American envoy Dennis Ross arrived this week to follow the talks with the Palestinians; the talks will be held all day, every day this week. Israeli sources say that despite the concentrated pace, the deadline for a permanent-status framework - originally set for mid-February - will not be met, and that another two months will be needed. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman notes that nothing significant has developed on either the Palestinian or Syrian tracks that would prompt a quickened pace of negotiations. "Just the opposite is true," he explained. "A meeting several weeks ago in Barak's home at Kochav Yai'r led to a decision to delay the February 15 target date... At any rate, the fact that not much has changed on the diplomatic fronts indicates that the talk of more intense negotiations reflects Barak's desire to distract the public from the associations' scandal. He is already succeeding, as today's papers have begun to talk of a new momentum in the negotiations and less of the scandal," Huberman said. Despite his efforts, Barak may yet come up empty-handed, Huberman said: "Party insiders are well aware that, at present, the government would not do well in a Golan withdrawal referendum, as even many Barak supporters are opposed to a Golan withdrawal. Barak initially figured that he would secure a deal with Assad, and then, instead of a referendum, he would go directly to new elections on this issue, while at the same time stressing social and economic issues. After winning the elections, Barak would announce that he has received a new mandate from Israelis for his diplomatic negotiations. With these latest developments, however, he is no longer assured of a victory in a national election. In addition, aside from the difficult job of ensuring a referendum win, members of the Prime Minister's office will now be preoccupied with the associations scandal." (arutzsheva.org Jan 30)
Jordan Valley Communities Guard-free
The IDF has ceased providing protection to five communities in the Jordan Valley. The decision was made as part of the new policy to cut off all such protection in Judea and Samaria by the end of the year 2000. The towns affected are Kibbutz Gilgal, Rotem, Patzael, Kfar Mecholah, and Shadmot Mecholah - the last of which is only 300 meters away from the Jordanian border. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that only last week, there were three cases of illegal penetrations from Jordan to Israel. (arutzsheva.org Jan 30)
Ungrateful Palestinian Arabs Vandalize Snow-Bound Cars
The snowstorm of last Thursday and Friday has left some unpleasant memories for many car-owners of the Gush Etzion and Hevron area. Arutz-7's Kobi Sela reports that some 80 cars that became stuck on the Tunnels Highway leading to Gush Etzion and Kiryat Arba were not only broken into, but also wantonly vandalized over the weekend. HaKol MeHashetach news agency reports that the police have arrested five Palestinians who admitted to vandalizing the cars. Over the course of Thursday night, the army and local police ordered drivers to leave their cars along the highway, as the road had become impassable. One driver told Arutz-7, "My radio-tape and mirrors were taken, as were my two-way radio and even bullets. Others had their batteries and other parts taken. This I can almost understand - but why did they have to destroy doors and other parts of the car, with absolutely no benefit to them?" A representative of the Kiryat Arba Medical Center lamented today, "At the very same time that we were caring for close to 50 Arabs who had become stuck on the roads that night, and providing them with food and warmth, their townspeople were throwing rocks at Jews trying to dig their cars out of the snow, selling them cups of tea for five shekels ($1.20) a shot, and vandalizing their cars!" The victimized drivers have complaints against the army and police, as well, including the following:
This last question was answered in that the Property Damage office has decided that the incident in question does not fulfill the requirements of "hostile acts" for which compensation is offered. Damaged parties may appeal the decision, however. (arutzsheva.org Jan 30)
Barak Raised Money in L.A.
Labor party have sources raised questions about whether Barak could continue to lead the party, in light of Comptroller Goldberg's assertions regarding him. Goldberg wrote that Barak should have known about the illegal funding methods carried out in his party, and should have taken action "to ascertain that the campaign, for which he is responsible, is operating legally." The Likud is considering filing suit with the Supreme Court to have the results of the last election nullified, in light of the Comptroller's findings. Despite Barak's claim that he did not engage in fundraising, he did in fact pay a visit to Los Angeles in March 1999, only two months before the election, in order to do just that. The Parties Funding Law specifically forbids the raising abroad of even one dollar of campaign funds. JTA reported on March 28 that Barak attended a fund-raising event at the home of billionaire Chaim Saban, which apparently raised at least $600,000. Likud MK Michael Eitan related this morning to the differences between the Likud's campaign violations cited by the Comptroller - for which the party was fined only 500,000 shekels - and those of Labor: "The help that the Yesha Council and millionaire Rabbi Yosef Gutnik provided us was at their initiation, while the associations acted with full coordination and at the behest of One Israel - and this is the 'system' that the Comptroller referred to and condemned." Eitan called upon Barak and Attorney-General Rubenstein to suspend Cabinet Secretary Yitzchak Herzog from his post, effective immediately. Herzog was one of the main figures involved in the illegal funding. (arutzsheva.org Jan 28)
Problem For IDF If Egypt Joined War Due Their USA Arms
US Military aid to Syria creates an internal problem in Israel due to opposition in the IDF. The Egyptian threat was the focus of a large command exercise that took place last week. Planners of the exercise wanted to examine the ramifications of Egyptian involvement in a war between Syria and Israel on two levels: the entrance of the army into Sinai and their actually opening fire. The assumption was that Egypt would be enticed into entering the war, and the conclusion was that the IDF would have a problem with the scenario of a two front war, principally because of the high quality weapons systems America has supplied Egypt. It is possible to assess that as a result of the exercise that the army will be used as an argument against repeating the Egyptian model in Syria. It can be assessed that the Americans also won't panic and will find a way to integrate the Syria army into their regional array of forces, despite initial objections. It isn't necessary to send Assad a squadron of F-16s the day after the signing ceremony with Barak. The Egyptians also didn't get modern fighter jets immediately after the peace treaty. The American entrance into the Egyptian army was by stages. In the beginning transport planes and 'passive equipment'. After that armored personnel carriers, and only after years also tanks, jets and attack boats, and not less important, joint exercises and the absorption of American military techniques. The strategic calculation in Washington is that the strengthening of the moderate countries around the oil producers is more important than Israeli concerns, and the Americans will also act this way with regards to Syria. (IMRA/Ha’aretz Jan 18)
Quote for the Week...
Quote for the Week...
"With the President under investigation for receiving millions of dollars in contributions and half a million dollars in gifts, and the Prime Minister being questioned about millions of shekels in donations, Aryeh Deri should have been tried in the Small Claims court." - A spokesman for Shas. (A7 Jan 27)
Lebanon before Syria Jerusalem Post Editorial Feb 1
The killing of three Israeli soldiers in Lebanon yesterday, and the anti-aircraft shell that nearly hit a kindergarten on Moshav Margaliyot on Sunday, along with the assassination of South Lebanese Army Col. Akel Hashem, raise further questions regarding Israeli strategy in the presumed Lebanese endgame.
The emotional reactions among Israeli officials following Hashem's death are a reminder of just how long Israel has been entangled in Lebanon. The relationship between Hashem and some Israeli officers goes back to the 1970s.
Hashem was the most senior SLA officer aside from Gen. Antoine Lahad himself, and was expected to be Lahad's successor. Hashem was one of the first Lebanese officers to establish contacts with Israel, initially by yelling across the border fence. The Lebanese-Israeli cooperation began when the PLO had transformed Lebanon into "Fatah Land," a state within a state that terrorized local Lebanese residents and northern Israel as well.
A strong mutual admiration developed between Lebanese and Israeli officers, as illustrated by testimonials from Israeli commanders upon Hashem's death. These tributes should be remembered as Israel contemplates leaving Lebanon and concrete plans are made to protect and provide for Israel's allies in case of an Israeli withdrawal.
In the meantime, however, Israel cannot act as if wishing - or planning for - the Lebanese war to be over can make it so. Prime Minister Ehud Barak is right to pledge both to retaliate for Hizbullah's latest attacks, and to reiterate his pledge to withdraw from Lebanon by July. Israeli resolve is being tested on both counts, in the face of the resumption and suspension of talks with Syria.
In retrospect, many analysts credit Barak's threat to unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon by a certain date as a major factor in bringing Syrian President Hafez Assad to the negotiating table. Since the beginning of the Shepherdstown talks, however, the Israeli withdrawal seems to have gone back to being linked to an agreement with Syria, and not necessarily to Barak's original timetable. It is perhaps no coincidence that, with the threat of an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon having subsided, Syria suddenly abandoned the talks and seems to have hardened its negotiating position.
Barak now has the task of dispelling the impression that the threat to withdraw from Lebanon unilaterally was just that - a threat, not a promise.
Barak's statement yesterday that Israel will withdraw by July "with an agreement" does not fully accomplish this task, because it begs the question of what will happen if Syria continues to stall and raise obstacles indefinitely. Here Barak should not mince words. He should make clear that Israel would prefer to withdraw in the context of an agreement, but would not hesitate to do so without one. If anything, Barak's deadline should be moved closer in response to Syrian intransigence.
In order to demonstrate that he means business, Barak should let it be known that official Israeli thinking sees advantages in withdrawing from Lebanon before an agreement is reached with Syria. After all, a major plank in the Syrian negotiating stance is that Israel is effectively being held hostage in Lebanon and dare not leave without an agreement with Syria.
Barak, unfortunately, has contributed to this impression by indicating that he considers an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon as a major selling point for an otherwise painful peace agreement with Damascus.
Syria's latest stalling is increasingly forcing Barak to choose between using the threat of unilateral withdrawal against Syria and dangling the carrot of withdrawal by agreement in front of the Israeli public. Barak's choice should be to bolster his original promise of unilateral withdrawal, because appropriately carrying out that promise remains in Israel's fundamental interest. Just as Syria's negotiating position is strengthened with Israel in Lebanon, Israel's hand is strengthened if a withdrawal can be accomplished without an agreement with Syria. An Israel that stays in Lebanon when withdrawal is an option is like a hostage who stays in his cell after the door has been burst open.
Israel can withdraw unilaterally by applying an extension of the strategy successfully employed last June by the departing Netanyahu government, which retaliated against Hizbullah attacks by destroying elements of Lebanon's infrastructure. The message that was sent to Syria by this action was that Syrian interests will not have immunity if attacked by Hizbullah, a Syrian-Iranian client. This threat should be made even more palpable to Syria in the context of a unilateral withdrawal: once Israel is out of Lebanon, Israel will respond to any continuation of aggression by targeting the Syrian military network that supplies Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Israel, arguably, should not have allowed Syria to wage a proxy war against it for all these years without paying a military price. Once Israel is out of Lebanon, however, it will be impossible to argue Israeli retaliation against Syrian interests is an "escalation." Barak knows that his initial threat of unilateral withdrawal provided a critical catalyst to the diplomatic process. The effect of that catalyst has faded, and needs to be boosted by further evidence that Israel is determined not to keep itself hostage in Lebanon. <