Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5759 April 16, 1999 Issue number 213
Yom Hazikaron Commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut Celebration at Shaarei Shomayim. The guest speaker is Rabbi Bernard Rosensweig.
Palestinians Hope to Revive 1947 Partition Plan
The Palestinian Authority has launched an international diplomatic campaign to revive the 1947 United Nations partition plan. Israel's Foreign Ministry has recently received reports that Yasser Arafat has been conducting numerous meetings around the world on the subject, and will attempt to bring before the General Assembly a draft resolution to vote once again on UN Resolution 181 of 1947 on the partition of the Land of Israel. Sources in Jerusalem are apparently greatly concerned over the initiative and the support it may receive at the United Nations. In a meeting two days ago with U.S. Undersecretary of State Martin Indyk, Prime Minister Netanyahu requested that the United States take a firm position against the renewed introduction of the resolution. Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon said that the idea is totally unacceptable. Arab studies expert Professor Mordechai Nisan of Hebrew University told Arutz-7 Tuesday that Arafat has been building what he hopes will be the new "pan-Palestinian infrastructure" for some time now. "The 1947 UN Partition Plan would have placed towns of the Western Galilee, such as Acre and Nahariyah, as well as Safed and Nazareth, in the hands of the proposed Arab state," Nisan explained. "Arafat is hoping to foster the renewal of Palestinian nationalism to link towns such as Jenin, Ramallah and Gaza City with Arab centers inside the Green Line, i.e., Israel proper.
Given the Palestinian success in recent years in obtaining sovereignty over various sections of the Land of Israel, this latest initiative is hardly surprising." "On the contrary," countered Arutz-7 News Editor Haggai Segal, "Arafat's tactics are somewhat surprising and foolish. Israelis who would otherwise be willing to let the Palestinians take over Judea and Samaria will reconsider their positions when they hear that he also seeks sovereignty over places such as Jaffa and Safed." Nisan responded: "For this reason, Arafat is working first within the international arena. He assumes, perhaps correctly, that the UN will feel that it is obligated to abide by the decision it once made and to ensure that it is implemented." (Arutz 7 Apr 13)
Debate Over the Debate
Tuesday night's televised debate between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and centrist party leader Yitzchak Mordechai turned out to be more of an exchange of insults than a substantive discussion of the issues. Netanyahu dubbed Mordechai's list "the party of losers," and Mordechai accused Netanyahu of having been deserted by numerous former Likud members. When Netanyahu boasted that his government had improved Israel's security situation, Mordechai said that he [Mordechai], as Defense Minister under Netanyahu, should take credit for that. Mordechai accused Netanyahu of agreeing to give away 13% of Judea and Samaria, to which Netanyahu responded that Mordechai [who helped negotiate the Wye Agreement in Washington] had praised the agreement at the time. Headlines in most of the Israeli press gave Mordechai the victory in the debate, although it was noted that Netanyahu's concluding foray - "Tell me your party's way! Tell me your party's approach!," which he repeated several times and to which Mordechai did not have a ready answer - partially erased the confident image that Mordechai had projected throughout most of the debate. Netanyahu obtained Mordechai's promise to remain in the race until the end. (Arutz 7 Apr 14)
Arab MK to Be Indicted for Call to Murder
Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein has decided to indict Arab MK Salah Salim (Hadash), for his call upon Palestinians several months ago to kill Arabs who sell land to Jews. Salim will be charged with publicly praising violent acts. Coincidentally, the Jerusalem police have arrested four Arabs from Shu'afat on suspicion that they murdered land-dealer Ali Jamhour two years ago. One of the suspects - all of whom have confessed - is the victim's widow. The police say that they warned Jamhour that he was targeted for murder, and in fact senior Palestinian Authority officials were the ones who gave the order to murder him. (Arutz 7 Apr 14)
Missing Soldier Sought
The Chever family of Kochav Ya'ir, whose son Guy has been missing since August 1997, believes that their son is being forcibly held in a Middle Eastern Arab country. He was last seen at his army base in the Golan Heights. In a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the family wrote that the notion that Guy is somewhere in Israel is highly improbable. Netanyahu met with the family a month ago and promised to use the diplomatic channels at his disposal to inquire about Guy. (Arutz 7 Apr 14)
Soldier, Killed by Hizbullah Bomb
Wt. Officer Noam Barnea was killed by a Hizbullah-planted roadside bomb Monday in southern Lebanon while on his way, with his unit, to dismantle another bomb - apparently deployed there as 'bait.' The other soldiers were not hurt, thanks to the distance they kept from one another. O.C. Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy says that it would have been possible to prevent Hizbullah from planting the explosives if local residents had not removed - with help from the Lebanese government - the fence built by the IDF around a nearby village. Hizbullah terrorists are said to act freely from within the village. (Arutz 7 Apr 13)
Likud Platform Announced
The new Likud party election platform bears a striking resemblance to its previous edition in the 1996 election campaign. Former Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Uzi Landau, and new Likud Knesset-hopeful Dr. Yuval Shteinitz authored the platform. The platform contains no surprises, and focuses chiefly on security issues. It opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state while accepting Palestinian autonomy. (Arutz 7 Apr 13)
80 Yugoslav Jews Arrive
The Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that it has responded to a request by the Jewish Agency, and has granted tourist visas to 80 young Jews from Yugoslavia. The newcomers arrived in Israel in two separate groups of 40 each, and some of them arrived without travel documents. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has formally thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the aid extended to his people by the State of Israel. Majko wrote, "The Government of Albania and our public opinion are fully aware of the political, moral and material support and assistance of the Israeli people and government to the Albanian people and government in these dramatic moments -- and we are very grateful." (Arutz 7 Apr 13)
New Settlement Attempt Foiled
Approximately ten Israelis attempted to establish a temporary "settlement" on the Givat Harsina hilltop near Hevron and Kiryat Arba Sunday night. They brought tents and small water tanks, but Israeli soldiers did not allow them to erect the tents. By order of Defense Minister Moshe Arens, the would-be settlers were evacuated around mid-morning, and at least one was arrested. (Arutz 7 Apr 12)
FBI In Israel to Investigate Terrorist Murder of David Boim
FBI investigators have arrived in Israel to inquire into the 1996 terrorist murder of U.S. citizen yeshiva student David Boim, who was shot to death outside the entrance to the community of Bet El. Witnesses to the attack were questioned Monday by an FBI agent. Israel's Justice Ministry sources say that the investigation is part of the process leading to a formal American request from the Palestinians to transfer Boim's murderers to the U.S. David's mother, Mrs. Joyce Boim, told Arutz-7 today that FBI investigators had contacted her while on a previous visit to Israel. "They called and asked to meet with me, but later called back to say that they were not allowed to meet with victims' families. Then, just before Passover this year, I heard that they were coming to Israel again, to talk to David's friends who were with him at the scene of the murder."
One of the two Palestinians responsible for the murder of David, Ibriham Kalil Sharif, was imprisoned in Schechem after the killing, but was soon freed, and later killed five Israelis in a suicide attack at Jerusalem's open-air Ben Yehuda market. The second of Boim's murderers, Amjad Hanawi, was tried "- if you can call it a trial," said Mrs. Boim - by the Palestinian Authority, and was sentenced to ten years of hard labor. "I would have definitely thought that the punishment would either be life imprisonment or the death penalty," she said. Mrs. Boim added that she is "exasperated with the inefficiency and the foot-dragging of the FBI. During the FBI's last visit here, I asked the agent whether he had gone to the prison to see if Hanawi was there. He answered that when his men arrived at the jail, the PA prison authorities were busy dealing with a prisoner escape, and that nobody was available to show them Hanawi. This has been typical of their incompetence. Not once has the FBI conducted a surprise visit, nor have its agents taken along fingerprints to determine whether a given prisoner is in fact Hanawi," she said. The Americans blame their failure to have Hanawi extradited until now on a "lack of key information," a claim which Boim rejects: "A lawyer from Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi's office appeared at the recent [U.S.] Senate hearings on the matter and has just handed the FBI all the information it needs to carry out the extradition. Hanawi admitted in his PA trial that he murdered my son. What more do they want?" Boim asked. (Arutz 7 Apr 12)
Could the West Act Against Israel?
Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, do not rule out the possibility that the West would intervene against Israel as it is now doing in Yugoslavia. Middle East correspondent Steve Rodan reports that it was Italy's ambassador to Israel, Gian Paolo Cavarai, who first raised such a possibility during a meeting of diplomats last month with Mr. Sharon. Sharon was at first stunned that a NATO ambassador would raise such a prospect just days after the beginning of the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia. Later, however, Sharon admitted that Israel's Arab minority might call for autonomy in the future, and, as a senior government source put it, "the West would consider Yugoslavia a precedent to intervene in our part of the region." Rodan reports that Sharon's warnings could serve as a basis for a Jewish lobby against the NATO campaign. In his meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders on Monday in New York, Sharon said that the Kosovo Liberation Army is strongly supported by Iranian-backed terrorist organizations, and that an independent Kosovo would enable Islamic terrorism to spread throughout Europe. He appealed to U.S. Jewish leaders to call for an end to the fighting in Kosovo. The PA has not taken a stand on the Kosovo issue, but PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman appears to feel that the Palestinians can only benefit from the NATO strike. "We must make it clear that what is happening in Yugoslavia must serve as a lesson to Israel to withdraw from its current policies before something similar happens to it as what is now taking place in Yugoslavia," said Abdul Rahman. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, commander of the Saudi Arabian army during the Gulf War, has called upon Washington to take the same tough stance against Israel that it is taking against Serbia. Writing in the London-based Saudi paper al-Hayat last week, Khaled expressed his hope that the American people would soon realize that "it is their interest to achieve justice and lift repression and not to abide by whatever is said by Israel... We ask the US, when you are the only superpower, to get rid of [sic] being a follower of Israel, and her supporter, when she is oppressive or very oppressive, since Israel has never been oppressed, [so that] we can praise you, as we praise you now [for your action in Yugoslavia]." (Arutz 7 Apr 12)
Sharon Meets Albright
Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright this week. The atmosphere in the Sharon-Albright meeting is the subject of conflicting versions. A State Department spokesman says that Albright expressed concern during the meeting about recent expansion of Yesha communities. Sharon denies that Albright reproved him, although he admitted that the U.S. has a long-standing policy of opposition to the settlements. Another bone of contention between Albright and Sharon was said to be the latter's statements about the situation in Kosovo. (Arutz 7 Apr 11)
Water Quotas Cut
The government decided on a 40% cut in farmers' water quotas today - a sad consequence of the winter drought. The water cuts will total over 250 million cubic meters of water. (Arutz 7 Apr 11)
Three Arabs Held in Murder of Jewish Taxi Driver
The police have arrested three Arab suspects in connection with last week's murder of taxi-driver Yechezkel Firan in the Jezre'el Valley region. One of the three is a Jordanian citizen, and the other two are from Jenin and a nearby Arab village. Firan was murdered while driving the three from Haifa towards Beit She'an. The murder weapon was a pistol carried by one of the Arabs. (Arutz 7 Apr 9)
Peace Now Demonstration Against Jewish Construction
Peace Now activists demonstrated last Friday in Hevron, near the Machpelah Cave, in protest of the renewal of construction in the Jewish areas of the city. Some 150 demonstrators - including MKs Yael Dayan and Chaim Oron - held signs with such messages as "Settlements are an Obstacle to Peace." One of the speakers at the demonstration was Hevron's Arab mayor, Mustapha Natsche. Hevron leaders addressed the demonstrators, greeting them with "Welcome to our Peace Now brothers," to which the protestors responded, "Evacuate Kiryat Arba!" Hevron leader Noam Arnon called on the demonstrators to repudiate racism, and not call for the "transfer" of any people, be they Arab or Jewish. "Do you believe in 'ethnic cleansing?' Why should a Jew not be allowed to live in Hevron just because he is Jewish?" he asked them. A group of young Jewish Hevron children sat on the steps leading to the Machpelah Cave wearing signs saying, "Mommy, Help. These bad people want to throw me out of my house." Hundreds of policemen were on hand to maintain order, but their active intervention was not required. (Arutz 7 Apr 9)
Terrorism and Oslo Process Directly Related
A joint study by the State Prosecutor's Office and the General Security Service has found that there is a direct connection between perceived "progress" in the Oslo process and the incidence of terrorist attacks. Ha'aretz newspaper reports today that the report was prepared three months ago, but has not yet been published. The document states clearly that since the beginning of the Oslo process, the terrorist threat upon Israel has become stronger. (Arutz 7 Apr 9)
Fear and Censorship in the Palestinian Press
The international Committee to Protect Journalists reports that "fear and self-censorship continue to hamper the Palestinian press." The report for 1998 states, "Yasser Arafat's Palestinian National Authority's... authoritarian-style tactics against independent-minded journalists have forced most to steer clear of sensitive topics such as corruption, mismanagement, or any news that would cast Arafat or his authority in a negative light." Two of the three private Palestinian dailies have direct financial or political links to the PNA, while a columnist for the third - the privately-owned, Jerusalem-based Al-Quds - has this to say: "They [the editors] censor about 40% of my articles concerning Palestinian policies, corruption, and mismanagement. I don't send them sensitive stories because I know what they will and will not publish." The report notes that private broadcast media were targets of repeated harassment and censorship, and the Palestinian "Ministry of Information" banned all broadcasting of opinion and analysis about the recent U.S.-Iraqi crisis.
More than 100 police surrounded the offices of the Bethlehem-based Al-Roa' TV and forced the station to suspend broadcasting after it had aired news about pro-Iraqi demonstrations in the autonomous areas. The station remained closed without official explanation for five months. In December, police ordered six private television and radio stations in Ramallah and Bethlehem to suspend broadcasting until further notice. The report states that police and security forces continued to operate outside the law in 1998, arbitrarily intimidating and arresting reporters. Security forces detained free-lance journalist Abbas Moumani last May, holding him incommunicado for nine days. Following the October signing of the Wye River peace accord between the PNA and Israel, Palestinian authorities moved to muzzle criticism of the deal. The day after the signing, ten journalists were detained while attempting to interview Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin about the agreement. The report includes a list of 17 reporters who were harassed, censored, attacked, or imprisoned by the PNA over the course of 1998. (Arutz 7 Apr 9)
Russian Jews to Find Housing Solutions in Yesha
The Yisrael B'aliyah party is establishing its own settlement movement. So declared Trade Minister and party head Natan Sharansky last week in the Samarian township Karnei Shomron. The purpose of the movement will be to provide housing for Jewish Russian immigrants throughout Yesha. Party Spokesman Arik Helman said that the first stage will be to populate existing communities in Yesha, while a second stage will be the establishment of new settlement locations for groups of Jewish Russian immigrants organized for that purpose. Minister Sharansky said that this move coincides with the party's "clear and unambiguous affirmative answer to the question of the rights of the Jewish People to Yesha." According to recent polls, only 22% of Russian immigrants support Labor's Ehud Barak while some 59% back the incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu. In an attempt to improve his standing amidst the party's voters, Ehud Barak has recently initiated contacts with senior party members. Yisrael B'aliyah activists explained that the establishment of the settlement arm of the party is a signal to the Russian Jewish sector that the party's natural place is amidst Israel's political right. Yisrael B'aliyah has announced that in the first round of the Prime Ministerial election, it will not officially endorse any candidate. The party's second minister - Yuli Edelstein - is a resident of Gush Etzion in Yesha. (Arutz 7 Apr 5)
Arab Stone-throwers Caught Red-handed
IDF Binyamin Brigade Commander Col. Gal Hirsch carried out another successful operation last week in which six more Palestinian Arabs were caught in the act of assaulting an Israeli vehicle. The six suspects, as well as 12 others apprehended the previous week, are from the Arab village Dir Abu Mishal (western Binyamin region). The suspects were transferred to Israel Police for questioning. The Palestinian Arabs who severely injured 7-year-old Yael Hodaya Amar recently in a stone-throwing incident, came from the same village. Yael underwent head surgery after rocks knocked her unconscious while she was riding with her parents to celebrate the Passover Seder in Central Israel. Col. Hirsch, who was himself seriously injured when Palestinians stoned his vehicle in the Bir Zeit area several months ago, viewed Wednesday's attack with severity and personally commanded the operations to arrest stone-throwers in the area. (Arutz 7 Apr 5)
Meretz MK Calls upon Mordechai to Back out of Race
MK Amnon Rubinstein (Meretz) issued a call last week to Prime Ministerial-hopeful Yitzhak Mordechai to remove his candidacy for Prime Minister, saying that it is necessary to unite all of opposition elements in order to triumph against Netanyahu in the first round of the May elections. (Arutz 7 Apr 5)
Christians and Moslems Clash in Nazareth
Christian-Moslem clashes in Nazareth continued today in a dispute over a piece of land upon which local Moslems plan to erect a mosque and which Christians have designated for a tourist center. Tens of Moslems filled one of the cities main streets today and stoned passing cars. An Itim correspondent reported that Islamic activists forced store-owners to close their shops, under the threat that the stores would otherwise be burnt down. (Arutz 7 Apr 5)
Modern Industrial Park in Binyamin Region
Minister of Industry and Trade Natan Sharansky laid the cornerstone for the Jerusalem area's new industrial park, "Sha'ar Binyamin," in late March. The Ministry invested $4.5 million in developing the industrial area. The first manufacturing plant is scheduled to enter the location in approximately six months. The industrial area will be among the most modern in Israel and will include advanced communications networks, exercise rooms, child-care services, extra-wide roads and sidewalks, high-standard gardening and safety networks, a shopping mall, water purification services, a satellite reception unit, and more. Sha'ar Binyamin is located a short drive from Jerusalem, just north of the Binyamin community Adam. Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai prohibited the use of dynamite in the initial groundwork for the park for fear that the explosions might upset Arabs in the area. His decision pushed the project's timetable back by several months. (Arutz 7 Apr 5)
The Panacea of Demilitarization By Bernard Smith
The word seems to have more therapeutic value than Valium or Prozac. But it can have lethal side effects.
With May 4 approaching, Israelis will be focusing on the possible declaration of a Palestinian state. Subjected for 50 years to the burdens and pressures of a stifling socialist socioeconomic system compounded by terrorism, periodic war and the threat of national extinction, Israelis long for relief. Peace through the Oslo process is the palliative seducing them to accept an Arab state on land they claim as their own. Even a section of Jerusalem may ultimately not be too high a price.
Yet, there is an undeniable problem. Israelis are also apprehensive, disturbed by the vision of an irredentist, undemocratic, corrupt, unstable state, which, in combination with the armies of other Arab countries, could pose a danger to their very existence.
How to resolve the conflict? Simple. Introduce a factor which alleviates the anxiety by denying one aspect of the problem. Demilitarize the new entity. No army, no weapons platforms - no threat.
There's that wonderfully reassuring, calming word again. Demilitarization. We hear it every time a politician, academic or reserve general advocates territorial concessions. The word seems to have more therapeutic value than Valium, Prozac or sleeping pills. Worse yet, people believe demilitarization acts like a vaccine. Inject it and the body politic is immune to war. But, beware. It can produce a lethal side effect. History reveals that demilitarized territory is eventually remilitarized. There is no reason to suspect any future deviations from this trend.
The Egyptian example offers a prognostic and a warning. The Egyptians have attempted to restructure the demilitarization of Sinai by seeking the elimination of the Multinational Force and Observers - the guarantors of the military limits in the desert set down by the peace treaty - and the positioning of Egyptian soldiers along the border with Israel. (They also practice large unit crossings of the Suez Canal - not a treaty violation, but hardly a peace-loving gesture in the spirit of demilitarization.)
A more obvious indicator is the Palestinian Authority's flagrant violation of the demilitarization clauses of the Interim Agreement of September 1995. According to Israeli sources, the PA is stockpiling weapons prohibited by the accords. Its embryonic army - also forbidden - is "training in the use of formations of teams and squads for defined missions like gaining control of an area of land, holding down a post, and attacking an IDF post or settlement." (Gal Luft, The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and Army) Only the naive believe that Yasser Arafat is not building an army. In fact, he recently confirmed what Israeli sources already revealed when he declared that the PA is prepared for armed conflict should Israel employ force to prevent the creation of a state.
For such warfare to be politically productive, Arafat's military must hold out long enough to inflict sufficient IDF casualties and induce international intervention. This cannot be achieved with assault rifles, pistols and light machine guns. By issuing his threat, Arafat is admitting he possesses heavier weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and land mines.
Usually, prophecy is a risky business. But if a weak PA is already breaching the demilitarization clauses of the Oslo Accords, there is no doubt that a sovereign state of Palestine, a United Nations member no longer in fear of Israeli intervention, would fracture the demilitarization terms of a final agreement with Israel. Within five years of independence, there will be a well-trained Arab army west of the Jordan River, equipped with mortars, artillery, advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and after 10 to 20 years, with tanks and fighter planes. This army - which many Israeli politicians still aver will not emerge - could very well tip the balance in favor of an invading Arab coalition.
It is patently evident that demilitarization will not deliver Israelis from their dilemma. If they decide to yield territory, they will have to search for a different, more effective, guarantee of security. Israelis had better rethink the results of creating an Arab state carved out of 70 to 90 percent of the territories. It is not the means to achieve lasting peace and a less pressured existence.
The writer is a member of the board of directors of the Jerusalem Institute For Western Defense. (Jerusalem Post Apr 13)
By Danny Rubinstein
With Arab nationalism on the decline, and support for Arafat and his government eroding, more Palestinians seek a religious lifestyle
The Jerusalem Media Communications Center (JMCC) run by Ghassan Khatib last week published an opinion poll carried out in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) that contained some interesting data: About half of the respondents said that, in their opinion, there was no difference between the Likud and the Labor Party and therefore they did not care who won the Israeli elections. A majority of those asked (56 percent) do support the Oslo peace process, but this represents a slide in comparison with earlier polls.
Similarly, the standing of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has continued to erode. In recent years Arafat had the support of 70 percent and more of Palestinians; his approval rating is now less than 40 percent.
The most important findings of the survey, however, concerned the attitude of the Palestinians to Islam.
A particularly large majority - 80 percent of the West Bank and Gaza respondents - want the law in the Palestinian state-in-the-making to be based on Islamic law and not secular law. A similar number - more than 70 percent - want the Palestinian government to be a national unity government that would include the Islamic bloc (in other words, Hamas and Islamic Jihad).
A majority of those surveyed (56 percent) are opposed to military action against Israel, and an even greater number are against suicide attacks (66 percent), but the most important finding in the survey came in response to the question of "What would you prefer to happen in Israel in the event that negotiations toward an independent Palestinian state fail?"
In this regard, two questions were asked. The first was, would you then support the establishment of a single state for Israelis and Palestinians throughout Israel and the territories? The second was, would you then support the establishment of an Islamic state in Israel and the territories?
The responses to these questions were very clear; 60 percent oppose a joint Israeli-Palestinian state (compared to less than 20 percent in favor). In other words, according to the poll, most Palestinians are opposed to any type of bi-national state. In contrast, 63 percent support the establishment of an Islamic state throughout Israel and the territories (in the event that the current negotiations fail). These findings are interesting because less than a generation ago (until the early 1980s) the predominant idea among Palestinians in Israel and abroad was the establishment of a single, secular and democratic state. Today, as this survey shows, the Palestinians no longer want to hear about it, and if they do not succeed in establishing a national state on the West Bank and Gaza, they would prefer to fight for a single Islamic state in all of Israel and the territories. These data confirm what is already known about the growing Islamic trends among Palestinians. People in the West Bank and Gaza were always recognized as traditional and conservative, and the Islamic movements have increased their strength considerably since the collapse of the Soviet Union and leftist ideologies.
But what is happening now gives the impression that support for Islam is increasing even more because the national ideals are declining. There is no need to go into detail about the decline of Arab nationalism. It has been going from bad to worse for a long time, ever since the decline of Nasserism and the failure of attempts to unify Arab states. What qualifies as news is the apparent growing disappointment with Palestinian nationalism as well.
Many people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip predicted this development. The Palestinian government there is not independent and its sovereignty is limited, but in terms of the population it has most of the elements of a complete government, which dictates how its residents will live.
The expectations from a national Palestinian government were as great as the disappointment. This phenomenon, of great expectations followed by great disappointment, has occurred in other societies that realized their national aspirations, and the Palestinians are no different. Everywhere from Rafah to Jenin, the talk is not of Arafat's successes, but of his failures; about the Palestinian security forces, whose members act like militias and gangs of thugs; about Arafat's government being lawless, about favors handed out to cronies and increasing corruption.
The JMCC poll also showed that a significant number of respondents (37 percent) have no faith in the Palestinian justice system. If there is no more socialism, and no more nationalism, the only thing left is Islam, which "is the only answer," according to the well-known Hamas slogan.
A series of events, here and abroad, have reminded the Palestinian public of the problems related to Islam's position. The details of the dispute between the Christians and Muslims in Nazareth were featured on the front pages of Palestinian newspapers, and it seems that residents of the territories were surprised at the violence that erupted there. The Jerusalem area has also been the site of tension between Christians and Muslims, but the Palestinian establishment makes a great effort to conceal these occurrences.
Last year, for example, there was a stormy demonstration in the Christian village of Beit Sahur, south of Bethlehem, after local Christian girls complained that Muslim police officers from the town's police station had harassed them. There were no reports of this in the Palestinian media, just as there were no reports about the young Muslims from Bethlehem who attempted to organize protests in the city against Christian residents who had erected large neon crosses on the road leading to the Church of the Nativity. In Palestinian reports of the suffering of the refugees who were forced out of Kosovo, too, the fact that it is Muslims who are suffering at the hands of Christians is emphasized.
One of the reasons for the increasing tension between Muslims and Christians is the preparations for the millennium celebrations. Arafat and his associates are making a great effort to take advantage of these events to recruit diplomatic support and to turn them into an economic lever for developing the Christian area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Devout Muslims are uninterested in the events of Bethlehem 2000, the company that Arafat set up to handle the issue. Radical Muslims in Bethlehem speak with anger about the new hotels sprouting up in the city that will draw young women from Europe and America who will walk around the city dressed immodestly, drinking alcohol and spreading the immoral customs of Western culture.
Against this background, the Islamic opposition on the West Bank and Gaza Strip seems the only real alternative to the regime of Arafat and his men, an alternative of honest, modest people who spend their lives providing for the education and welfare of the people. This is the reason that the Islamic lists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters have made such impressive gains in the recent student council elections at Palestinian universities. It is also the reason that the JMCC poll revealed such a high degree of sympathy for Islamic law, for the religious lifestyle, and for the possibility of the establishment of an Islamic state throughout Israel and the territories (Ha'aretz. Apr 11)
Policies, Not Referendums Jerusalem Post Editorial
Israel is in the throes of an election season, so much so that almost everything else has been driven off the national agenda. Yet ask a voter what this election is about and they might be hard-pressed to say, and not for lack of following the candidates. Ehud Barak's call for a referendum on an eventual final-status agreement only accentuates the lack of substance that plagues the current long and expensive election campaign.
To the extent this election is about anything, it is supposedly about which leader and party should carry the nation through the looming final-status talks with the Palestinians. The major candidates, therefore, ought to use this election to create a mandate for their approach to the peace process. Instead, Labor Party leader and One Israel chairman Barak is pledging to hold a national referendum to ratify a future final-status agreement. This call makes a mockery of the election before it has even taken place. If the 1999 elections are not about alternative approaches toward the peace process, then what are they about?
Referendums make sense for critical issues that transcend nations and cut across party lines - such as the national referendums held to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. If Israel were to adopt a constitution, this might be another reasonable subject for a referendum. In general, however, the democratic mechanisms designed to decide even the weightiest matters are periodic elections, and the plenum votes between elections.
We go through the divisive and costly election process to choose a government and parliament to represent us. Though representative democracy has its flaws, a system in which the Knesset were disbanded and every question brought to a popular vote would, even if technically feasible, not be desirable.
A democratic system demands leaders who are representatives of the popular will, but not unthinking conduits for that will. Oscar Wilde may have gone too far in declaring, "Whatever is popular is wrong" - but neither is what's popular always right. The very momentousness of a final-status agreement requires that its negotiation be filtered through the mechanisms of democratic government. The proper mechanism for imposing the public's will on the peace process is an election that decides between clear alternatives. The prospect of a future referendum only serves to blur the stakes of the election. This is particularly so when the candidates shy away from clear stances on the issues.
The principles put forward by Barak concerning a final-status agreement - no division of Jerusalem, no return to the 1967 borders, no foreign army west of the Jordan River, and no dismantling of major blocs of Israeli settlements - do give some indication of where he wants to go. These principles, however, do not distinguish him from Binyamin Netanyahu or Yitzhak Mordechai. Barak has been almost silent regarding the critical questions of Palestinian statehood, and to what degree the Palestinians will be held to implementing their commitments. Nor is Barak alone in his penchant for not pinning himself down. Netanyahu has vacillated between minimizing the significance of the statehood issue, speculating about different forms of demilitarized states, and vociferous opposition to Palestinian statehood. MK Michael Kleiner, of the new right-wing National Unity list, is probably right when he accuses Netanyahu, Barak, and Mordechai of not leveling with the public regarding what they will give up to achieve peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syria.
Some of this vagueness can be justified by not wanting to telegraph Israel's position in advance of the tough negotiations ahead. But it should be possible to say at least enough to distinguish oneself from the other parties, and therefore create a mandate for action if elected.
Barak's refusal to participate in tonight's informal television debate also raises questions. The One Israel leader insists he will participate in future, more structured debates. But in a campaign so bereft of issues the public can sink its teeth into, any missed opportunity for head-to-head debate is unfortunate. That a challenger is avoiding this opportunity is particularly strange; it is usually incumbents who shy away from debating their record.
This campaign sorely needs a refocusing on the many real issues facing the nation, rather than the usual - media-driven, we confess - obsession with the personalities and polls. Of the major parties, only the Center Party has gone beyond slogans and jingles and featured a 15-point "contract" with the voters in its campaign advertising.
Unless candidates are forced by the press and the public to flesh out their positions, this democratic exercise will be largely wasted as a guide to how the next government should govern. (Jerusalem Post Apr 13)