A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
2 Nissan 5760
April 7, 2000
Issue number 266
Barak Offers 20%
Prime Minister Ehud Barak - anxious to secure an agreement on the Palestinian track, in light of his failure to do so with Syria - offered to turn over 20% of Judea and Samaria to full control of the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for Israel's annexation of 10% of Yesha. Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman reports, based on a source close to the talks, that the offer was made in Washington last week, and that it was presented as an option for the third Oslo withdrawal, even prior to a final-status agreement. "The 10% would be the settlement blocs to which Barak has so often referred," Huberman said, "and all told, 60% of Yesha would be firmly in Palestinian hands before a permanent agreement." He explained that although former Prime Minister Netanyahu had always emphasized that the third withdrawal would never exceed 1%, "Barak's mind-set is such that he feels he must reach an agreement. His problem is that Arafat does not seem to want to make any hard decisions."
The talks in Washington were not particularly productive, Huberman reports: "Despite the uprecedented 20% offer and American support for Israel's proposal, the Palestinian delegation in Washington rejected it. It seems that the Palestinian team came to Washington without any real mandate. On just about every issue, they would run to the phone to consult Arafat, who himself seems unprepared to make difficult decisions. As it stands now, the PA is still insisting on a complete Israeli withdrawal from Yesha and eastern Jerusalem, the dismantling of all Yesha communities, and compensation for Palestinian refugees. Somebody close to the talks joked to me that the only positive development in Washington was the series of basketball games between the two sides..." In light of the above, the statements by Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh Monday took many observers by surprise. Expressing optimism about the talks with the Palestinians, Sneh said that while peace with Syria is doubtful, "there is no contradiction between the Palestinian aspirations and Israel's red lines," and predicted that an agreement could be reached within one month. Huberman: "None of the officials I talked to in the Defense Ministry could understand Sneh's comments! Maybe it was a type of trial balloon, or a government declaration aimed at laying the groundwork for the next move by the Barak government. At any rate, Sneh's words stand in sharp contradiction to what actually happened in Washington." (A7 Apr 3)
There were violent near-riots by Arab students at the University of Haifa this week. Dozens of angry Arabs waved PLO flags Monday, shouted "Death to the Jews," and assaulted Jewish students, in protest of the death of an Israeli-Arab woman last week during Arab "Land Day" in Sakhnin. A new round of violence broke out Tuesday, when hundreds of Arab students encircled and blocked a police van that had arrived to summon Monday's rioters for interrogation. The Arab students sang, "Biladi, biladi [My homeland, my homeland]" - the anthem of the Palestinian Authority. Student Union chairman Peleg Reshef told Arutz-7 today, "We understand the pain suffered by the family of the woman who died - but the entire university was ignited! Such provocations are simply unacceptable..." Reshef said that the Arab student violence was both verbal and physical, and that it was directed at both security officers who tried to contain the riot and Jewish students. Reshef explained that Arab students comprise a significant 18% of the 13,000-strong student body: "As a whole, they are positive people who seek partnership and integration. The leadership of this group, however, is highly politicized, and seems to shoot itself in the foot on occasion by orchestrating such events..." Arutz-7's Haggai Segal then quoted a Jewish student who told Yediot Acharonot Tuesday that although she is a Meretz-supporter, "'since coming to the University of Haifa, I've become a racist in response to the ongoing friction with the Arab students, who consistently provoke the Jewish students.' Are we talking about an isolated incident or an ongoing problem?" asked Segal. Reshef repeated that the "large Arab population here is positive in and of itself, but the real problem lies with the provocations and incitement that lead to these kinds of demonstrations... We will do all we can to ensure that no student feels fear or discomfort on campus..."A Haifa University staff member informed Arutz-7's Ron Meir Wednesday that on Monday he saw 30 Arab students gathered, chanting in Arabic and carrying signs that read "I am a proud Palestinian." A Jewish student told the local university news station that Arab students had yelled at him "Itbach el-yahud!" ("Slaughter the Jews!") On Wednesday the protests spread to Haifa's other major university, the Technion, for the same purported reason: the death of an Arab woman in Sakhnin during last week's "Land Day" demonstrations. No violence has been reported so far from the Technion. The spirit of protest also spread to Jerusalem's Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus, where dozens of Arab students protested Wednesday, waving PLO flags, which were soon confiscated by police. Jewish students faced them waving flags of Israel.
Northern District Police Deputy Police Commander Avi Teiler accuses the leaders of the Sakhnin municipal council of using the death of the Sakhnin woman for their own political purposes. Teiler told an Itim reporter that a thorough examination of the woman's death indicate that she died of an illness, without connection to the evens of Land Day. He added that at no time between her admittance to the hospital and her death three days later did any member of her family claim that she died of inhaling police-fired tear gas. (arutzsheva.org Apr 4,5)
Returning to Maon
Several Judea and Samaria Regional Council leaders arrived Wednesday near the scene of the uprooted Maon farm and set up two tents bearing the pledge: "We are returning to Maon." Negotiations are being held over whether the tents will be allowed to remain. The new initiative buttresses that of Yehoshafat Tor - co-founder of the farm together with the murdered Dov Dribben - and other local residents, who set up camp there several days earlier. Demonstrators at dozens of intersections throughout the country this afternoon held signs saying, "Returning to Maon" and "Uprooting Settlements Tears the Nation Apart." Yesha Council director Shlomo Filber, speaking with Arutz-7, reiterated that the Council had only agreed to its dismantling because of its location within an IDF firing range. "The Supreme Court's ruling that the Arab shepherds can return to the area makes our deal with the government obsolete," Filber stressed. Sneh: "The Maon farm was an illegal outpost. It was taken down, and it will not be re-established." Filber summarized the Council's attitude: "We have drawn the conclusion that it's best to do what most sectors in this country do... If the Prime Minister wants dialogue, that's fine, but if he wants a daily demonstration, then that's fine with us, too." (A7 Apr 5)
Yesha Construction Freeze
Yesha Council director Shlomo Filber told Arutz-7 Wednesday that although there has been no official announcement by the government on a construction- freeze in Judea and Samaria, "it is certainly Ehud Barak's policy in practice. We know that he has instructed Civil Administration officials not to permit construction, but not to reveal the political reasoning behind the freeze." Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, on the other hand, admitted that the move was unabashedly political: "We are in the midst of negotiations, and we will not permit building in the settlements as long as these talks continue," he told Arutz-7. Yesha Council leaders responded sharply to Sneh's remarks: "Sneh has taken off the mask, and has shown Ehud Barak's true face." Another major Yesha Council complaint concerns the twelve by-pass roads that were supposed to have been paved. "Of the twelve," said Filber, "eight were started and then stopped. The present government has not invested one shekel on these roads." Sneh: "We are in regular contact with leaders of the local councils. The problem has been until now a monetary one, and roadwork is to begin soon." Sneh offered a similar response to Filber's complaint that most of the funds earmarked for the fortification of certain Yesha communities has not been forthcoming. Filber warned of what appears to be a grim future ahead for Yesha: "From what we have learned, there has been even greater deterioration in the Israeli negotiating position with the Palestinians. Ehud Barak is apparently willing to offer even more concessions, either because he is afraid of terrorism, or the threat that talks may be halted. We may even see a serious capitulation in the Jordan Valley, and, as we all suspect, Israel has promised real concessions in the Jerusalem area. Barak has simply painted himself into a corner: he needs a diplomatic achievement and is willing to pay a very high price." Yesha leader Elyakim Ha'etzni has called for a public struggle against likely evacuations of many Yesha settlements, including the formation of "walls of thousands" of people to resist what he calls the "blatantly illegal... international crime of 'ethnic cleansing.'" (arutzsheva.org Apr 5)
Arabs Tear Down Karmei Tzur Fence
Over 100 Arabs tore down part of the fence enclosing the Yesha town of Karmei Tzur, south of Gush Etzion, and clashed with security forces for about two hours Tuesday. The Arabs claimed that the fence was built on their property. No Jews were hurt; the Palestinians claimed four injured on their side.Karmei Tzur is surrounded on several sides by territory under full PA control.(A7 Apr 5)
900 Apartments Found for SLA Soldiers
Amidst accusations that Israel plans to abandon its allies of the Southern Lebanese Army when it withdraws from Lebanon three months from now, Israel is working quietly to do the exact opposite. SLA Commander Gen. Antoine Lahad said Monday that his soldiers would not lay down their arms even if Israel withdraws, and would rather kill themselves than become "refugees" in Israel. The Defense Ministry stated in response that "Israel has a deep commitment to the safety and security of the SLA" and that a "major and comprehensive effort is being made to examine a wide range of options regarding solutions for SLA personnel." Arutz-7's Haggai Segal spoke Tuesday with someone in the thick of these efforts - a real estate agent from the northern coastal city of Acre, Shmuel Cohen. Cohen recounted that the Defense Ministry had asked him to find more than 1000 apartments between Kiryat Shmonah and Hadera of 4-5 rooms each. "The request was made three weeks ago," said Cohen, "and we have already found 900 apartments. They are all in Jewish towns; we were told not to look in the Arab villages since it was felt that it wouldn't go over well." Cohen explained that his own experience looking for such apartments in the Arab villages confirmed that the SLA soldiers, who are perceived as 'collaborators' with Israel, would not be accepted favorably. One young Arab resident related to the possibility that SLA soldiers would be re-settled in Tarshiha. "Most Israeli-Arabs would prefer to keep their distance from those who collaborated with Israel for 23 consecutive years," he said. “The Jews," Cohen said, "were actually quite welcoming, and as we got closer to the north and the Lebanese border, they were even more welcoming." Cohen was instructed to find apartments that could be rented for six months, beginning in June, with the option for another year. "I understood from the Defense Ministry that this is a temporary solution until a permanent one can be found. I, for instance, submitted a proposal to have the SLA soldiers relocated to a fine place that I know of in Turkey. But it was rejected, because it would look as if we were pushing our allies out of here and off to Turkey... I agree that we must certainly not abandon our allies in Lebanon." (arutzsheva.org Apr 3,4)
32nd Anniversary for Jewish Community of Hevron
The Hevron Jewish Community celebrated the 32nd anniversary of its renewal Monday in a gala celebration in Jerusalem. Ministers Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) and Rabbi Yitzchak Levy (National Religious Party) attended, and the latter said, "We welcome the blessings we received last week from Prime Minister Barak. He followed in the path of previous Prime Ministers, who all noted the centrality of Hevron... I would just like to remind Barak that the government has a moral obligation to build 15 new houses in Tel Rumeida." Rabbi Moshe Levinger, founder of the renewed Hevron Jewish community, said, "I call upon Barak and ask him: Please! Do not cause any further damage to Hevron - the heart of the world, the heart of the Jewish nation…" (arutzsheva.org Apr 4)
Arens on Lebanon
Likud MK Prof. Moshe Arens, who has served as Israel's Defense Minister thrice in the past, writes in today's Ha'aretz that Israel's upcoming unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon will place the citizens of the north in danger. Asked if he thinks that there is a realistic possibility that Barak will change his decision to withdraw, Arens told Arutz-7 Tuesday, "Look, Barak has trapped himself, and is therefore now trying to find all sorts of ways to get out - Foreign Minister Levy is in Geneva, for instance, to meet with the UN's Kofi Anan... If he [Barak] had the courage, he would simply say that he made a mistake, and would announce that he had changed his mind. I heard [Minister Yossi] Beilin say that Barak made a 'courageous' decision to withdraw; I don't understand what's so courageous about putting the citizens of the north in danger." “You are convinced, then, that the situation will deteriorate, that there will be an escalation of hostilities, with everyone going down to the shelters?" Arutz-7's Haggai Segal asked Arens. "Look," he responded, "no one can predict 100%. But regarding the shelters - that won't even be the issue, because the terrorists will be so close that they'll be in gunshot range..." Arens recommended that the IDF not wait until later to retaliate, "but should attack Hizbullah now… It is ridiculous to think that we can rely on the international UNIFIL peacekeeping force - it is stationed there now, and we see that it is not particularly successful in stopping Hizbullah. Barak is under pressure regarding this decision, and this puts all of us in trouble, especially those in the north." (arutzsheva.org Apr 4)
Singing and Praying for Jerusalem in New York
"We watch Israel's future fly past us on CNN and lament the government's decisions, while not raising a finger to influence them." So writes Ezra Levine, explaining why he and fellow New York college students have decided to organize a mass rally of prayer and song for an undivided Jerusalem. The rally will be held this coming Sunday at 1 PM, at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza opposite the United Nations building. "This rally is unique," Levine said, "in that it was put together solely by students, with no help from the major Jewish organizations" - yet it has garnered the support of leading rabbis such as Rabbis Aaron Soloveichik, Hershel Shachter, and Moshe Tendler. Due to the efforts of many volunteers in colleges and communities throughout the New York metropolitan area, thousands of people are expected to participate in "shaking the heavens with our prayers for a true peace in Eretz Yisrael, and letting the world know that Jerusalem is a part of each and every one of us." (A7 Apr 4)
Environmentalist Prof. Ya'ir Parag, who recently accused his fellow 'Greens' of letting their political opinions get in the way of their environmental efforts, has not been happy with his colleagues' responses. "During the Oslo 2 and Wye negotiations," wrote Parag in the Jerusalem Post last month, "we, the Greens, knew about the dangers to our water sources and our dying rivers - and we kept our mouths shut." Parag then listed a series of additional ecological hazards that have resulted or will result from the "diplomatic process." These include the danger of the Ein Gedi waterfall and springs drying up following the giving away of the eastern mountain aquifer; the salination of the Gaza aquifer by the hundreds of unsupervised drillings there; the "enormous damage to the Temple Mount, one of the most important historical sites in the world" - all of which, Parag wrote, "we [the Greens] ignore." Parag, a member of the Nature Protection and National Parks Authority directorate, told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson Monday that some of his colleagues strongly attacked him for the views he expressed in the article. He said that one environmental activist called him after its publication to say that she had now become more involved in the struggle for the Golan, "but on the whole, my views were not accepted. Many of my colleagues claimed that we are not a 'political' interest group. I said that I agreed with them, and that's why we must take a pro-ecology stand!" The possible giveaway of the Golan, Parag wrote, should have been cause for environmentalist action: "Don't we have to protect the Kinneret from certain destruction? [In the words of] the previous water commissioner, 'Any retreat in the Golan means the destruction of the Sea of Galilee as a source of fresh water…'" Parag said today that one environmentalist had actually told him, "For peace, I am even willing to accept the destruction of the Kinneret." Parag's response to this claim appears in his article: "Nature preservation organizations have struggled vehemently - and rightly so - against developmental enterprises which had been considered essential to the survival of the new state, when such enterprises threatened the
environment," such as the draining of the Hula swamp and the development of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile. "Assad will not preserve Gamla," Parag wrote. "He will not take special care to preserve the place and to continue with the excavations, to use an understatement. We established a vulture reserve on the cliffs of Gamla, we treated carefully each nest and each egg and each chick - Assad will not save the vultures, which will pretty soon be stuffed and find their way to the walls of his senior officers. See how stuffed animals are being extensively sold in the Damascus airport to gulf sheikhs. See what happens to the gazelles under the Palestinian Authority. See what happens to the birds in Lebanon and why the wolves are running away from the Syrian side to our Golan." (arutzsheva.org Apr 3)
Security Measures in The North
The following measures will taken in preparation for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, as reported by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz to the government Sunday:
* Watchtowers and fences will be placed in many of the northern communities, and communications between the towns will be strengthened.
* School buses will be bullet-proofed.
* SLA and IDF outposts in southern Lebanon will be blown up, so that Hizbullah will not be able to take them over.
Ten northern towns are working together to secure significant improvements
in the fortification plans for their communities and homes. (A7 Apr 2)
Terrorism Victims to Be Remembered with Fallen Soldiers
Victims of terrorism will be remembered together with the IDF's fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. The Cabinet unanimously voted today to accept the recommendations of the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies on the matter. Dov Kalmanovich, who was seriously injured in the first attack of the Arab intifada, told Arutz-7 of his successful struggle to have the government recognize terrorist victims together with fallen IDF soldiers. "I have led this struggle for three years," Kalmanovich said. "The previous government made the same decision, but some IDF Veterans' groups objected, and so a special committee was appointed to look into the entire matter - and it again recommended the same thing... Today, when the government has given its final ratification of this decision, is a historic day for terrorism victims, as it now recognizes that terrorism is another front in the war for Israel's existence. We definitely recognize that the IDF victims are the main component of Israel's family of bereavement, both quantitatively and otherwise. But we think it is fitting that on Israel's Memorial Day for Soldiers, there be a rare show of unity; when all of
Israel stands for two minutes of silence, we will remember not only the soldiers, but also those who were felled by terrorism." (arutzsheva.org Apr 2)
MK Demands Investigation into MK's Incitement
MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman has called upon Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein to order a police investigation against Arab MK Hashem Mahmeed. Mahmeed was reported to have told a cheering crowd of Israeli-Arabs at a Land Day rally last week that "Israeli-Arabs must learn from Hizbullah how to fight for their lands, in the same way that Hizbullah forced Israel out of Lebanon." In a letter to Rubenstein, Rabbi Druckman wrote, "These remarks are severe in and of themselves, as they represent incitement to terrorist activity... but they are all the more severe when they are said by a Knesset Member." Mahmeed is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Speaking later to IMRA Director Dr. Aaron Lerner, Mahmeed denied that he had made the remarks: "I think I... said that we have to learn how to stand and how to struggle for our rights in a very strong way. But I never made the connection between the resistance of Hizbullah and our resistance to the road." (arutzsheva.org Apr 2)
"Sharing" With The Press
Further evidence of the close relationship between the police and the media was disclosed yesterday. It was learned that precise details of the ruling in the trial of Margalit Har-Shefi were discovered in the date-book of a secretary of Ma'ariv publisher Ofir Nimrodi - four days before the decision was announced. Har-Shefi was convicted in June 1998 in the Tel Aviv District Court of "not preventing the murder of Yitzchak Rabin." Her appeal, submitted to the Supreme Court in January 1999, is still pending. Nimrodi's secretary's book contained details such as the clauses on which Har-Shefi was to be acquitted and on which she was to be convicted. The secretary claims that she does not remember who provided her with the advance details of the decision. It is against the law for either a judge or his assistants to disclose his final decision before it is officially
announced. (arutzsheva.org Mar 31)
Megaphone Call for Barak in Tiberias
"Don't allow the Palestinian MKs and the Islamic Movement to take over [the city of] Tiberias' Municipal Museum! They are threatening Tiberias and the Galilee with an intifada - and we won't let them! Tiberias will not become a stage for incitement against the Jewish State and Judaism! Tiberias is not the Knesset, where they incite without interruption!" So said Tiberias resident Nava Koren, in an impassioned speech delivered by megaphone recently from her porch to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, standing below. Barak had arrived in Tiberias to spend the Sabbath at the home of his wife's parents, and was said to be listening intently throughout the speech. The backdrop of Ms. Koren's call was a developing struggle over an abandoned mosque in downtown Tiberias, near the city's beach-front promenade. In 1952, the mosque became the home of the city's Municipal Museum - with the agreement of the Muslim Waqf. Over the past several Fridays, hundreds of Muslims have been arriving at the mosque for prayers - and for anti-Israel incitement. City Councilman Eitan Oved said that two weeks ago, he heard Sheikh Sallah tell the crowd, "We are the emissaries of Allah, who has sent us to return to the holy sites and to punish the Jews who burned our mosque [a reference to a scorched wall caused by a loiterer several weeks ago]." Oved later told journalist Avner Lotan, "The crowd shouted things like, 'We are all Hizbullah!' and 'Slaughter the Jews!' These Islamic extremists are working according to plan, whereby they take gradual control of former Moslem sites that are now in the heart of Jewish towns. They are doing this in Herzliya, in Jaffa, in Nazareth, and now they are trying it here."
When hundreds of Arabs - including MK Abdel Malek Dahamshe - arrived in Tiberias three Fridays ago, they were prevented from reaching the mosque by a crowd of Jews. Two weeks ago the Arabs did not arrive at all, by prior agreement, because of the Pope's presence in the area. Last Friday, over 500 Jews were on hand to ensure that the Moslems would not be approach the mosque - but the Arabs again did not arrive. Some reports claimed that two busloads of Moslems were stopped outside the city, but local Tiberians later told Arutz-7 that an "agreement" was apparently reached beforehand between the municipality and the Arabs, by which the latter were made to understand that they had best not arrive. "We will continue to be alert and stand on guard," Yechiel Mekiev told Arutz-7. "We will simply not let them take over." The situation may be best summed up by the words of Nava Koren, in her speech to Barak last Friday which was heard throughout her neighborhood: "We, the residents of Tiberias, have a feeling for national honor and true Zionist pride - not post-Zionist. Ask your wife [a former Tiberian] - we... have true love of and clinging to our Land, the Holy Land, and we will not tolerate any incitement against the Land of Israel and the Jewish People!" (arutzsheva.org Mar 31)
Last Friday’s Poll: Bibi and Barak Virtually Even
The following are the results of a survey of a representative sample of 600 adult Israelis carried out by Gallup during the week of March 31 Sampling error +/- 4.5 percentage points:
If elections were held today:
31 Mar 2000 Barak 42.5% Netanyahu 42.4%
1 Mar 2000 Barak 50% Netanyahu 34%
9 Feb 2000 Barak 42% Netanyahu 37%
2 Feb 2000 Barak 45% Netanyahu 36%
19 Nov 1999 Barak 50% Netanyahu 33%
8 Oct 1999 Barak 56% Netanyahu 26%
14 Aug 1999 Barak 50% Netanyahu 29%
25 Jun 1999 Barak 59% Netanyahu 27%
The police recommended putting Binyamin Netanyahu on trial, in your opinion was this recommendation from political or relevant considerations?
Political 44% Relevant 46% Do not know 10% (IMRA Mar 31)
Turning Defeat into Victory
By Daniel Pipes
The cabinet voted unanimously to withdraw by July all IDF troops from southern Lebanon, where they have been stationed for two decades. The contrast between the Israeli and Arab reactions to this move was telling.
In Israel this vote was seen as a flexing of muscle and a challenge to the country's enemies. Foreign Minister David Levy declared that the pullout would weaken Syria's position; Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami asserted that Assad is very stressed by Israel's decision to withdraw from Lebanon.
Just yesterday, Dan Margalit wrote about the threat of a unilateral withdrawal and suggested that Maybe the sight of Israeli tanks returning to Metulla will have an effect and spur Syria to come back to the negotiating table.
In Lebanon, Hizbullah whooped it up on hearing of the cabinets vote. Likewise, in Syria, the president's son called this an Israeli defeat, the first since the creation of the state. The Syrian defense minister remarked that it amounts to a victory for the Lebanese resistance.
Which side had it right?
The Arabs did. Common sense dictates that an army that retreats has lost and its opponents have won. The Nazis won when British troops fled Dunkirk. North Vietnam won when American troops fled Saigon. The Afghans won when the Soviets abandoned Kabul. The Allies won when Iraqi troops ran from Kuwait.
Likewise, Syria wins when Israel retreats from southern Lebanon. It's obviously a victory for Hafez Assad and his Lebanese allies. The pullout means he no longer faces a rival for influence in Lebanon. He has also broken the dream of his Lebanese subjects that Israel will save them from the Damascene jackboot. He has shown Israel's Arab allies how readily Israel abandons its cause. And he will have a direct shot at towns in the North, which will no longer be protected by the southern Lebanon security zone.
Israelis tend not to see these facts.
They have convinced themselves that their retreat poses dangers to the Assad regime. As Barry Rubin of Bar-Ilan University puts it, "The irony is that a unilateral pullback is a defeat for Syria and a victory for Israel even though on the surface it should be the exact opposite." This mistaken view is based on the idea that pulling back to the border deprives Hizbullah of a justification to attack Israelis. Accordingly, this will end hostilities along the border. and eliminate the main lever Damascus wields over Israel to evacuate the Golan Heights.
But this charming faith in Hizbullah's respect for international borders ignores that organizations oft-repeated intent to take the conflict into Israel proper. Significantly, its leader recently demanded the return of seven Jewish settlements in the Galilee situated on the lands of Palestinian villages. Hizbullah has also proclaimed its intent of liberating Jerusalem for Islam.
Nor is this just words: the director of the General Security Service has announced that Teheran has directed Hizbullah to prepare an infrastructure for terrorism inside Israel.
Beyond that, the Lebanese government has put Israel on notice that it plans to deploy its Palestinians against it. We should soon, in short, expect guns, rockets, and terrorists to target the newly-exposed northernmost towns.
The Israeli consensus that sees retreat as strength fits an unfortunate but venerable Middle Eastern pattern of self-delusion. In 1973, for example, the Arabs managed to convince themselves that a near-disastrous war with Israel was actually a famous victory. To this day, the name October 6 dots the landscape in Egypt and Syria.
In a similar act of imagination, Hamas claims Israel has forgotten that our people defeated it in every one of its battles.
Even more dramatically, Saddam Hussein claims his crushing defeat at the hands of the allies in 1991 was a monumental triumph. In the last days of the war, Radio Baghdad told the Iraqi forces, "You have triumphed over all the chiefs of evil put together."
It would seem that the orientalization of Israel has gone so far that it, too, convinces itself that defeat is victory. This does not augur well for the country as it tries to deal with its real problems.
The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of three books on Syria. (Jerusalem Post Mar 31)
Reject the Deal
By Yossi Ben-Aharon
The Clinton-Assad meeting in Geneva was the third since the beginning of the present phase in the peace process. How many times can the president of the world's one and only superpower afford to invest his own and his country's prestige and get slapped in the face?
One can understand Clinton's desperate need for a major achievement in the international arena, that would overshadow the Monica Lewinsky affair in the annals of the American presidency. But why is Prime Minister Barak pressed for time, and why has he linked himself to President Clinton's agenda and time table?
Only the Syrian president has all the time in the world. His foreign minister, Shara, has stated that if Israel accepts the Syrian demands to the last inch, fine. If not, Syria "will win the sympathy of Arab and international public opinion." President Assad is a master tactician in psychological warfare and military attrition. Following the Yom Kippur War, Assad's army waged a five-month long war of attrition on our soldiers on the Golan Heights. At the same time, he forced Henry Kissinger to shuttle between Jerusalem and Damascus for thirty days. Although the Syrian army had been defeated and pushed back toward Damascus, Assad acted like a victor. He got back all the territory we had taken, plus the town of Kuneitra, which was previously on the Israeli side of the Heights.
Assad's tenacity has paid off. He already has an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Now he insists on Syrian access to the Kinneret and will continue to whittle down Israel's demands on security arrangements and normalization of relations. He will not permit any Israeli presence on the Heights, civilian or military. Nor will he entertain any limits on the size of his army or its deployment. In addition, Syria will not disband the Palestinian rejectionist (and terrorist) headquarters in Syria, nor will it remove antisemitic literature from school textbooks.
Minister Shara had the gall to state publicly that the present agreement was only one stage in the long-term Arab strategy to "liberate the totality of Palestine."
Barak's reaction has been meek and submissive. He is bent on withdrawing from the Golan Heights in expectation of an American reward amounting to some $20 billion, plus advanced arms and equipment. The American aid package is said to include - believe it or not - several billions to Syria, plus American arms, that will substitute for the Soviet equipment in the Syrian arsenal, that is short of parts and replacements and is becoming obsolete.
The proposed deal can suffer any definition except peace. I find it difficult to believe that the US Congress will lend its support for such a debasing performance by the Administration, even if the word "peace" will be trumpeted throughout. Since 1967, hundreds of American leaders, members of both Houses of Congress and senior officers in the US military have visited the Golan Heights. Without exception, they have come away with a conviction that the Heights are vital to Israel's defense at all times. The IDF officers who briefed the visitors were unanimous in their forceful arguments on the vital need to retain the Golan Heights, even in a situation of peace. Only after some of them took off their uniforms and became politicians, did they discover that Israel's defense can manage without the Heights.
It would be a striking demonstration of free choice, true democracy and support of decency, if the people of Israel rejected the deal with Syria in a referendum and the US Congress refused to approve the aid package to sustain that deal. If it leads to the fall of the Barak-Meretz-Left-Wing government, then so be it. Hopefully, new elections will produce leadership that is sane, responsible and a true guardian of our national interests.
The writer is a former Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office.
(Jerusalem Post Apr 3)
Shift the Focus
By Limor Livnat
Prime Minister Barak's campaign promises to commit himself to solving Israel's most pressing domestic problems were, I want to believe, made in earnest, despite the obvious tendency to make empty populistic promises during an election campaign. But as the scholar in Rabbi Judah Halevi's classic The Kuzari said to the king of the Khazars, "Your intentions are desirable, but your actions are not."
Enough time has elapsed since the election to afford us a good indication of how the prime minister's policy agenda is strategically crafted. All government efforts are focused on the peace process, in the belief that once peace agreements are concluded with Assad and Arafat everything else will fall into place. Unemployment will end. Crime will diminish. Health care will be of the highest standard. Domestic violence will become passŽ. Israeli high schools will be drug-free. College degrees will be free. Religious and secular will respect each other. Civility will become the hallmark of Israeli society, and integrity the calling card of every politician.
How this peace panacea is supposed to work exactly we have not been told, its advocates indicate that it has something to do with the anticipated inflow of American peace-dividend dollars.
Aside from the proven fallacy of the socialist elixir that all problems can be solved by throwing money at them, the whole approach is terribly wrong.
Israel's domestic scene continues to deteriorate precisely because it is once again being sacrificed on the altar of the "peace process."
The prime minister has no time for "the old lady lying in the hallway in the Nahariya hospital" because running after Assad takes precedence.
By putting Meretz and Shas in the same coalition rather than creating a government of national unity with the Likud, Barak intended not to bridge the gaps and ameliorate religious-secular tensions, but rather facilitate a "yes" vote on the Golan referendum.
The hard truth is that by putting the peace process first, not only has Israel's domestic agenda suffered, but also the chances for a real peace .
The 20th century's closing years proved that freedom is the best safeguard of democracy, and democracy is the best safeguard of peace.
Syria is a country that possesses neither freedom nor democracy. It is one of the last intransigent holdouts, with no visible signs of change on the horizon. Rewarding Syria under these unconditional circumstances will only work to turn back the clock of human advancement. If strategically important land along with US money are promised to Syria with no quid pro quo toward democracy demanded as a prerequisite, one of the world's last totalitarian dictatorships will have been rewarded, autocracy will have been strengthened, and democracy weakened. Furthermore, without any of the proven safeguards, the very peace in whose name this will be done is sure to be short-lived. Israel may end up with defenses that were debilitated prematurely.
The same can be said regarding premature and frenzied concessions to the Palestinian Authority. It is not yet a sovereign entity, and it is already more an autocracy than a democracy.
The peace process then needs time and patience on our side in order to facilitate peace-insuring change on the other side.
Just like time and patience, determination and deterrence brought democracy to Eastern Europe, there is no reason to assume that the same formula will not work in the Middle East. A formula of hurried strike/withdraw efficiency might work in the Matkal reconnaissance unit, but it will not work in international diplomacy, especially with our Arab neighbors.
Our domestic problems, on the other hand, need to be addressed now. They can no longer wait. Because the peaceful intentions of autocracies must be tested over time, Israel should use that time to address its most immediate domestic crises.
Such an approach will be better for Israel's society and for peace.
Then, if and when peace ultimately comes, the Israel we will have created will be worth the long struggle.