A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

 

14 Nisan 5760
April 19, 2000
Issue number 268

Events...

Tuesday May 2, 8:00pm

Canadian Jewish Congress presents Rabbi Shlomo Riskin speaking at Shaarei Shomayim on "Israel and Peace: Hopes and Problems".

News...

Barak Would Recognize Palestinian State - On Condition

Prime Minister Barak briefed the Cabinet Sunday on his conditions for recognizing a Palestinian state. He said that Israel will grant recognition to such a state only if the state is demilitarized; an absolute majority of settlers remains in Israeli settlement blocs; Jerusalem remains united in its present borders under Israeli sovereignty; and Arab refugees do not enter Israel. Yasser Arafat said on Thursday that he rejects Barak's conditions, and that he will declare a state in any event on September 13. U.S. President Clinton, who will meet with Arafat in Washington this Thursday, has said that he expects to hear "new ideas" from Arafat. Yoram Levy, diplomatic correspondent of Itim News Agency, summed up: "The most important element of today's Cabinet meeting, from my point of view, is that Barak said that he would be willing to give an 'advance' on the third withdrawal even before any agreement is signed. He is most definitely preparing the way for a Palestinian state, of undetermined size and location... Barak told Clinton that he is willing to go that far, and the ball is now in Arafat's court. We all await, therefore, Thursday's meeting in Washington." Likud MK Silvan Shalom told Arutz-7's Monday of his dismay with Barak's stance: "What kind of diplomatic thinking is this? He said last week - and it did not receive the proper publicity - that he is willing to annex Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev - two Jerusalem neighborhoods that are already part of Jerusalem and Israel-proper - and he goes and says that he is willing to 'annex' them? This will only cause damage to their status in the long run, unfortunately... Why does he have to talk about recognizing a Palestinian state now? Even if he is willing to do that at some point, why now, before he knows what type of state it will be, or with what borders? And what will he do with the refugees - put them on the border from where they will 'see the land but won't be allowed in'? This will only make the problem even more serious. And what about Jerusalem? He must first struggle for his own interests, and only afterwards grant Arafat this gift of recognizing of his state." When asked what he would recommend to Barak, MK Shalom said, "He must say unambiguously that he is against the formation of a Palestinian state, just as we did last year. When Arafat said that he would declare a state by May 1999, we informed him in the strongest terms that he had better not do so, or else the entire process would be endangered - and in fact he did not declare a state." Shalom was asked about the differences now between the Likud and Labor, in terms of their approach to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Shalom answered, "Oh, the differences are very great. First of all, Labor is in favor of a withdrawal from the entire Golan, which we are against. In Yesha, we - and I hope this includes most of my colleagues - are against a Palestinian state, and certainly against a return to the 1967 borders, and certainly against any harm befalling Jerusalem. When Barak talks about not wanting to annex Jerusalem-environ villages such as Anata and Abu Dis with their 50,000 Arabs, it must be remembered that Abu Dis is only 1,000 steps away from the Western Wall and the Temple Mount! This will bring them right up to the Temple Mount! I think that in these areas there is an essential difference between us." (arutzsheva.org Apr 16)

Barak Closes the Book on Syrian Deal?

"The Syrian story is over," Prime Minister Barak told his coalition partners last Wednesday night, "and will be so for a long time." As a result, the Prime Minister's Office has informed the Golan Regional Council that the government will now remove all obstacles to continued construction and development in the Golan. Projects that had been halted within the past few months in light of the talks with Assad include new neighborhoods in Ramat Magshimim, Kanaf, and other Golan communities, as well as the expansion of Hamat Gader and a new hotel on the eastern Kinneret's Kurasi Beach. Eli Malka, Chairman of the Golan Residents Committee, has sent a letter of thanks to the residents of Judea and Samaria for their part in the struggle against the abandonment of the Golan Heights. "You were among the most dedicated in the struggle - a struggle that the Prime Minister was unable to ignore," Malka wrote. "The inhabitants of the Golan will continue, with you, to wave the banner of Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel." The Syrian government, via its media, has returned to threatening Israel. "The few meters that Israel refuses to turn over to Syria," writes the Al-Baath government newspaper, "will cost it dearly, and the Barak government will bear the responsibility." The paper adds that Syria will not be deterred from using all means to protect its territory. (arutzsheva.org Apr 13)

The Five No's

The closing of the Syrian option and the almost simultaneous release last night of a periodic report by Israel's intelligence establishment place Israel's diplomatic position in a somewhat new light. None of Israel's fronts - the Lebanese, Palestinian, or others - are particularly stable, according to the report, and the months ahead could well bring military friction between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Hizbullah has accelerated the pace of its training program in Iran, which continues to provide unprecedented levels of financial support. This, together with Syrian frustrations at Israel's plans to withdraw from Lebanon, will lead to intensified Hizbullah attacks against Israel. Within Judea and Samaria, warnings of imminent terrorist attacks are received daily, and several such attacks have reportedly been thwarted. Hamas has been solidifying its cooperation with Israeli-Arabs, and has also recently rebuilt much of its terror infrastructure, according to the report. Arafat is expected to declare a Palestinian state even without Israeli consent by September, in a move which is liable to lead to a military clash with Israel. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reports that the IDF conducted an extensive military exercise this week simulating an armed conflict with the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza - including a "re-conquering" of various Yesha areas from the PA. The exercise involved armored troop vehicles, helicopters, and tanks. Upon the release of the report last night, an Israeli spokesman said that there is a reasonable likelihood of the exercise becoming a reality in the near future. It has now been learned that the Palestinians recently hardened their negotiating positions, and presented their "Five No's" to the Israelis at the last round of talks in Washington. The Five Palestinian No's include:

Arson Cited in Northern Fires

A special committee of the Haifa Fire and Rescue services has concluded that arson was responsible for the fire in Haifa's Denya neighborhood in December of last year. The findings are supported by evidence showing that the blaze began on an extremely steep incline that does not serve as either a tourist/camping or grazing area. In a related story, Itim news agency reports that four Arab residents of Nazareth were indicted Monday in that town's District Court for setting fire this winter to the Balfour Forest, adjacent to the northern town of Migdal Ha'emek Two Israel Air Force helicopters and seven fire trucks were dispatched to extinguish the blaze; damage was estimated at some 750,000 shekels. (arutzsheva.org Apr 17)

Russian Olim and the Golan

Israel's largest Russian-language newspaper, Vesti, has published the results of nation-wide survey of its readers on a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Speaking with Arutz-7, Vesti's Roman Gurevich said that some 10,900 Vesti readers, mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union - cast votes on the topic in 11 polling stations around the country. In the south, slightly more than 82% of respondents opposed a withdrawal; in the north, 86.5% were opposed, and in the center of the country - including the greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas - some 77% of readers voted "nay." Gurevich added that responses to a related query indicated a general disenchantment with Ehud Barak's negotiating tactics with Syria. Some 58% of respondents were dissatisfied with his performance, while another 32% rated it as "fair." Fifty percent of Israel's Russian immigrant voters supported Ehud Barak in last year's elections. (arutzsheva.org Apr 17)

Israeli-Arabs Join Druze Rally for Syria

For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, Israeli-Arab residents of the Galilee celebrated Syrian independence day. Hundreds of Galilee Arabs made their way to the Golan Heights in chartered buses, waving PLO flags, and shouting pro-Palestinian slogans. At a joint Arab-Druze gathering in a Golan village Monday, MK Muhammad Kena'an (United Arab List) declared that Golan Druze "are suffering from the Israeli occupation just like the Palestinians" and that efforts must be made "to end the occupation." Hundreds of Druze residents in Majdal Shams waved Syrian flags and called for the transfer of the Golan Heights to Syria. Israeli security forces were on alert, but kept their distance from the demonstrators. In mid-February, Golan Druze marched in support of Syria chanting pro-Hizbullah slogans, and called for the shelling of Jewish Galilee settlements. Prof. Mordechai Nissan of Hebrew University noted at the time that the Druze "perceive that their self-interest is in identifying themselves with Syria... They recognize that Israel's presence and control of the Golan Heights may turn out to be temporary, as a result of which they... want to demonstrate their solidarity with Syria in order to remove from them the [image] that somehow they supported Israel's presence on the Golan Heights." (arutzsheva.org Apr 17)

Maccabiah Defendants Convicted

The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court Monday convicted the five Israeli defendants for their role in causing the death of two athletes at the 15th Maccabiah Games three years ago. During the games' opening ceremonies, a pedestrian bridge leading to the stadium collapsed as some 100 Australian-Jewish athletes were crossing it. In addition to the two fatalities, 68 other participants were injured in the accident. (arutzsheva.org Apr 17)

Palestinian Arab Attitudes

Palestinian approaches on a wide range of current issues are the subject of a study released by the Shechem-based Center for Palestine Research and Studies. Of some 1,300 Yesha Arabs questioned, only one-third felt that a final-status deal will be signed in the near future. Over 58% of respondents, on the other hand, believed that there "is no possibility to reach a solution acceptable" to the two sides on issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, Yesha settlements, and borders. More of the study's findings: 70% of Yesha Arabs believe that there is corruption in PA institutions; only 23% rated democracy and human rights under the PA as "good" or "very good," and 65% of respondents felt that they "could not criticize the PA leadership without fear." The survey also found that Palestinians have not fully denounced terrorism, with some 44% of respondents expressing support for "armed attacks on Israeli targets." (arutzsheva.org Apr 17)

Terrorism Outside Netzarim

Arabs fired shots on an Israeli convoy of cars leaving Netzarim, in Gush Katif, Saturday night. No damage or injuries were caused. IDF soldiers returned the fire and combed the area. This was the 3rd attempted terrorist attack in the Netzarim area in three days. Last Thursday night, IDF soldiers quickly returned fire when two roadside bombs were detonated and shots were fired on Israeli cars simultaneously. No one was hurt. The soldiers will receive certificates of commendation from the army. Netzarim chief Shlomo Kustiner: "On Thursday night, while we were in the midst of a thanksgiving dinner for a miracle that happened exactly five years before - a terrorist attack in which people were hurt but no one was killed - we received word of the attack. We have not asked the army for its opinions as to the reason for the increased pace of terrorism of late, but in general we know that whenever the talks with the Palestinians resume, or stall, or enter a critical stage, terrorism increases..." Kustiner concluded on an optimistic note: "We have grown in almost every area - from 17 families when we first became surrounded by Palestinian territory, to 50 today, and people are building houses, etc. This shows that even in circumstances that appear to be very difficult, or even impossible, it is possible - with a strong, serious, group of people of faith, together with public support - to overcome them. "

(arutzsheva.org Apr 16)

AJC Publicizes Arab Anti-Semitism

The American Jewish Committee has placed full-page advertisements in the New York Times and other newspapers, exposing the rampant anti-Semitism in newspapers and textbooks sponsored by Syria, the Palestinian Authority, and other Arab regimes. The AJC's ad in the New York Times noted that "hatred of Jews seethes in the Arab government-controlled media," and concluded: "Such virulent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world must no longer be tolerated. The spreading of hatred and the pursuit of peace cannot coexist. Which will it be?" Some examples noted by the AJC:

The Zionist Organization of America notes that a poll carried out earlier this year on behalf of the Middle East Quarterly found that by nearly 4 to 1 (64.8% to 16.6%), Americans believe that Syria should be required to halt all anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic incitement in the Syrian government-controlled media before the U.S. should consider giving any financial aid to Syria. (arutzsheva.org Apr 16)

PA Incitement in Word And Deed

Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority have renewed their incitement against the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha). Chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abu Alla, called for a struggle against the resumption of construction of Jewish homes in Yesha communities. According to Abu Alla, verbal condemnations issued by Arabs are insufficient, and must be followed up by "actions." Abu Alla was reacting to last week's activism by Yesha Council leaders in both Efrat and Har Gilo. In related news, Middle East Newsline reported last week on PA cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman's April 10th statement that the PA plans to organize "a new and more dangerous intifada if the Palestinians are denied their national rights." (arutzsheva.org Apr 14)

Flying the Friendly Skies

Prime Minister Ehud Barak's plane - en route to Cairo last week - was forced to take an alternate, longer path over the Mediterranean Sea after the chief Egyptian air traffic controller forbade Barak's jet to fly over the Sinai Desert. (arutzsheva.org Apr 14)

Ambitious Olympic Bid

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli International Olympic Committee representatives have announced that the Tel Aviv Municipality will submit a bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. According to business correspondent Seth Vogelman, a survey will be conducted over the next two years to determine the feasibility of the proposal. Mayor Huldai's plan has already received the approval of Prime Minister Barak and Finance Minister Shochat. The International Olympic Committee is slated to issue its decision on the matter in 2005. (arutzsheva.org Apr 14)

Arafat Breathes Sigh of Relief

German prosecutors have decided not to open a formal investigation of Yasser Arafat regarding his ties to the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games. Federal German prosecutors began checking some time ago "to determine if Arafat had links to the attack" following the publication of terrorist Abu Daoud's book associating Arafat with the massacre. "German national interests and fear of endangering the ongoing Middle East peace process" were cited as the reason for not pursuing the investigation of Arafat. (arutzsheva.org Apr 14)

Tal Recommendations on Yeshiva Students

The Tal Committee Report on the controversial matter of inducting Yeshiva students into the army was released last Thursday. It recommends the continuation of the exemption from army service for students who wish to study full-time in Yeshivot, with certain changes: The age after which Yeshiva students should be exempted totally from service should be lowered from age 29 to 24, and a year of adjustment should be allowed for those who wish to enlist after leaving Yeshiva. The committee was headed by retired Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal. MK Ra'anan Cohen (Labor), Chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on IDF Personnel, explained to Arutz-7 why he objects to the committee's recommendations: "They do not give expression to the concept of equalobligations for all Israel's citizens. Thousands of people will continue not to serve in the army... and this will lead to refusal to enlist by other soldiers..." Deputy Education Minister Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP) praised the Tal Committee: "Its recommendations will turn many hareidi citizens into productive members of society." His party colleague, Housing Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, also welcomed the Tal recommendations: "The report was very smart in recognizing that this process must be done slowly and gradually..." United Torah Judaism head Rabbi Meir Porush said that the only aspect of the report that interests him is the fact that Yeshiva students will be allowed to continue to study.(A7 Apr 14)

PA Owes Israel over 570 Million Shekels

The Palestinian Authority and Arabs who live there owe Israelis well over 570 million shekels (over $140 million). In addition, it is assumed that many other debts have simply been forfeited by private Israelis who do not wish to wage legal battles for the money, knowing that their chances of success are nil. The Justice Ministry compiled the data following complaints by Arafat that Israel is not transferring required funds to the PA. (arutzsheva.org Apr 13)

Gaza Gas

The Knesset Audit Committee deliberated last week on a recent government decision to grant the Palestinian Authority rights to search for natural gas off the coast of Gaza. Arutz-7 spoke yesterday with Dr. Moshe Goldberg, a former senior geologist in the Ministry of Infrastructures who was responsible for natural gas and crude oil research and development. In Goldberg's estimation, given recent Israeli energy findings north of Gaza and similar Egyptian discoveries to the south, the Palestinians are likely to see similar successes in their explorations. "In any event," he said, "profits garnered from an area's natural resources must be [partially] funneled back to the region's residents - mostly Palestinians, in this case - such that the 'loss' to Israel was not total. But if Israel could have left this to be the subject of negotiations [with the PA], Israel would have certainly received something in exchange." Dr. Goldberg said that if gas is found off the coast of Gaza in the volume expected, its value would be "in the billions of dollars." (arutzsheva.org Apr 13)

Quotes of the Week...

"We chose a peaceful route. But there are other alternatives...We must have two capitals in an open and free-access city. Nothing can convince us why the Old City should not be under Palestinian control. It is not logical for the Israelis to say they want control of the Old City." - Faisal Husseini, PLO representative for Jerusalem, speaking to 'The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine.' (Jerusalem Post Apr 7)

"We're hoping for quiet. But the fact is that there won't be quiet. It's ridiculous to conduct foreign policy based on public opinion. Today 80% of the public is in favor of leaving Lebanon, and the day after the withdrawal, I can assure you that some organization named Five Mothers will be established and call for a return to Lebanon!" - MK Avi Yechezkel (Labor) commenting on the planned Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon. (arutzsheva.org Apr 11)

"Foreign correspondents always ask us why do we want to massacre Jews, why do we want to destroy them, but we say that there is a way to avoid any bloodshed in the region and that is by ending the state of Israel and returning the land to its rightful owners... Let the Jews go back to where they came from. Why don't they take planes, trains, ships, even air conditioned buses and return the land to its people. This is the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.'' - The leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, commenting on his vision of peace in the Middle East.

(Reuters Apr 9)

Commentary...

The Friendship Clause Jerusalem Post Editorial

In quick succession, diminutive Israel has hosted the leader of one billion Catholics and now the leader of one billion Chinese. While the first visit can be considered an unmitigated success, President Jiang Zemin's visit is rightly being met with some degree of ambivalence.

The ambivalence arises not from lack of a potential for the relationship between the Jewish and Chinese peoples. As Jiang generously noted, both peoples have ancient histories which have contributed much to mankind. Israel has much to learn, offer, and gain from a closer relationship with a people great not only in numbers, but in the richness of its culture.

The problem is the extent to which the Chinese government represents the interests of the people it rules. According to the venerable American human rights organization Freedom House, China receives their lowest possible rating for political freedom, coming in a notch below Iran in their comparative survey. Chinese-occupied Tibet made the group's list of 15 "most repressive regimes" as submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission. The 1999 US State Department Human Rights Report found that China's "poor human rights record deteriorated markedly throughout the year" and noted that the government holds an estimated 1.7 million people per year in some form of administrative detention.

Given the record of the Chinese government, it should be embarrassing to Israel that Jiang would even attempt to enlist Israel in a common cause against the United States. In his remarks at Beit Hanassi on Wednesday, Jiang declared, "It is becoming increasingly difficult for hegemonism and power politics to continue controlling the fate of other countries. Multi-polar politics is a more powerful contribution to the peace process and for stability and development."

Jiang's anti-American taunt should have prompted an immediate response from President Ezer Weizman, rejecting the idea that the US should be treated as a latter day imperial power. The remarks also should be treated as a general wake-up call concerning the company Israel is keeping.

There is nothing wrong with Israel maintaining correct diplomatic and trade relations with China, as do most countries in the world. It is quite another matter to assist China militarily in a manner that the US clearly perceives as threatening to its interests.

This is exactly the wrong instance for Israel to tap into the instinct that Jiang cleverly sought to reinforce - that of a small nation's resistance to a larger nation's dictates. Despite the attempts of high-level Israeli officials to disparage US concerns over the sale of the Phalcon AWACs radar system to China, those concerns are not driven by competition from American arms merchants, or even by human-rights concerns.

As President Bill Clinton pointed out to Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Washington, US opposition to the sale is not confined to Israel's critics, but includes the administration and Israel's friends on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Jiang himself reiterated why when he stated on this visit, "Taiwan is an internal problem that we cannot rule out resolving through the use of force."

The correct claim by Israeli officials that the US attempted to pass off its own AWACs radar sale to Saudi Arabia as a harmless "defensive" system in 1981 can easily be turned on its head. Israel vehemently opposed the Saudi AWACs sale then for the same reason the US is opposing the Israeli sale now: airborne control systems are designed to enhance effectiveness in air battle, whether offensive or defensive. Israel was right then and the US is right now.

From Israel's point of view, the timing of the crescendo of US opposition during Jiang's visit could not be more awkward. It would be the height of folly, however, for Israel to attempt to "split the difference" between US security concerns and the Chinese desire for Israel to honor its contract. That contract should have had a clause in it saying "not valid in case you threaten to invade a friend of our friend, the United States." Such a clause would never have been acceptable to China, yet it implicitly had to exist with regard to the United States.

Preserving that friendship clause is much more important than preserving Israel's reputation as an arms merchant, protecting the defense industry, or proving our independence. The flip side of Israel's not wanting to be dictated to is that even superpowers have interests deserving of respect, and sometimes even sacrifice. (Jerusalem Post Apr 14)

Mideast 'Peace in Our Time' CSP National Security Alert

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat will be traveling to Washington next week to meet President Clinton in the hope of securing further U.S. pressure on Israel to meet Mr. Clinton's artificial deadline of May to reach a framework agreement and September for a final status treaty -- dates set less with a view to promoting genuine peace than with securing another diplomatic trophy for the lame-duck President. Unfortunately, all signals indicate that the United States is prepared to become ever less the "honest broker," to say nothing of Israel's unwavering ally, and ever more the enforcer for Israeli territorial and other concessions to Arafat's PA. The shape of things to come for this meeting was set during the past week by visits in the region by two foreign leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told the Palestinians that the best way to secure peace is to threaten a unilateral declaration of independence. According to Chretien, if "this possibility is there, it's an element that will incite the parties to an agreement." Yet, official Palestinian television, textbooks or maps reflect the fact that the Palestinian State Arafat and Company are determined to create is one that includes all of the land of Israel. For his part, Chinese President Jiang Zemin indicated that China intends to become more involved in Middle East peace diplomacy. If Israel thinks that it will be able to translate that worrisome promise into new help for its negotiating position by providing the PRC with whatever advanced military technology Beijing desires, it is in for a rude awakening: Yet another big power undermining Israel's security diplomatically in order to cultivate ties with the latter's enemies while arming the Jewish State's foes with the fruits of Israeli weapons transfers. (Centre For Security Policy Apr 17)

Forward's Great Leap Backward By Eric Fettmann

News that Seth Lipsky is in the process of being forced out as president and editor of the newspaper he founded a decade ago -- the English-language edition of the venerable Yiddish paper, the Forward -- is profoundly distressing news. And not just to the New York Jewish community, which remains the paper's main target audience. The wider ramifications of the ideologically driven campaign to oust Lipsky were immediately obvious by the prominent play that the New York Times gave last Saturday to an article on the dispute - a four-column headline at the top of page B3.

For to remove Seth Lipsky would not only be a monumental act of ingratitude, it would represent a despicable triumph for the kind of ideological fascism that demands slavish adherence to political orthodoxy at the expense of editorial independence and journalistic quality. Under Lipsky, the Forward has become a must-read paper: To miss an issue means you will miss at least one story of local and/or national political importance.

First, some background. The Jewish Daily Forward, founded in 1897, was the greatest name in Yiddish journalism in this town. Under its founding editor, Abraham Cahan, the socialist paper agitated for the rights of its working-class readership - mostly immigrants from eastern Europe - and helped them integrate into American society.

Over the past half-century, however, that immigrant generation has disappeared. Their children and grandchildren no longer speak Yiddish, and the Forward itself ended daily publication in 1983; the paper now survives as a small-circulation weekly.

As far back as 1980, Seth Lipsky - a neoconservative Wall Street Journal editorial board member and longtime Cahan admirer - had dreamed of carrying on the paper's crusading tradition, and keeping its rapidly vanishing name alive, by putting out an English-language edition for a new generation of Jewish readers.

From the start, there was dissent - on purely ideological grounds. At his first meeting with the directors of the Yiddish paper's owners, the Forward Association, he later wrote, "I felt a little like Judge Bork going before the Senate Judiciary Committee." Despite a tense interrogation, the Association eventually gave the go-ahead, and the English Forward was born in 1990.

Almost immediately, it gained a reputation for breaking important stories and developing talented young journalists - whose stories, incidentally, show no ideological bias on either side. Lipsky's editorials won notice, too - a few years back, he was the runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.

But the old-line socialists and trade-union types on the Forward Association couldn't abide Lipsky's right-of-center political approach. As he wrote in an incisive 1997 article for Commentary, he was constantly "denounced as an unfit heir to Abraham Cahan." This despite the fact that Lipsky constantly went to the Yiddish Forward's old files to prove that his editorials were in sync with Cahan's own writings.

Attacked for his admiration of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the fiery Revisionist Jewish leader who was anathema to a generation of Jewish leftists, Lipsky found that the Forward had published an admiring eulogy in 1940, lamenting that Jabotinsky's death was "in the true sense of the word, a national catastrophe."

Assailed for defending America's role in Vietnam, Lipsky discovered that the post-Cahan Forward had not only endorsed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that widened U.S. participation in the conflict, but also presciently warned when Saigon fell in 1975 that "the bloodbath will not cease, even after the cease-fire. Then the bloody revenge of the Communists against their opponents will only truly begin."

Indeed, wrote Lipsky, "every time I have dipped into the files of the Forward, I have found editorials ... hewing to what, in the contemporary context, can only be called a hard line." Certainly not conservative, of course, but without "any hint of wavering in the face of Israel's enemies."

Predictably, that hasn't assuaged his left-wing critics, who demand that the Forward adhere to the same politics that animated its founding a century ago. (Ironically, the same crowd waxes nostalgic for the New York Post's liberal past - although that ideology was 180 degrees removed from that of this paper's founder, Alexander Hamilton).

Perhaps the leading anti-Lipsky crusader has been Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, past president of the American Jewish Congress, who complains that "Lipsky is not staunchly for the welfare state" and once demanded that unless Lipsky was removed, the only "morally correct thing to do" would be "to close the paper."

That may be the end result. The Forward Association has rebuffed an attempt by its co-owner and financial angel, philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, to assume full control because he insists on keeping Lipsky. The staff, aghast at the current moves, has signed a letter warning that if Lipsky is ousted, "The Forward as we know it will cease to exist."

They're right --- and all New York would be a loser. What a shame that those who claim to be saving the Forward may end up destroying it --- by looking hopelessly backward. (Jewish World Review April 13)

The writer is a columnist with the New York Post.

Peres Isn't Our Man By N. David Gross

All the president has to do is to serve as a role model for the nation, not use his position to further his political beliefs.

Can the Labor Party really be serious in suggesting that its oldest MK, Shimon Peres, succeed the ailing and troubled Ezer Weizman as president of the state?

It should not be forgotten that, shortly before the revelation of unpleasantness in Weizman's past, he virtually declared himself unfit to hold the highest (albeit not the most powerful) office in the land.

This Weizman did by stating, in response to criticism of his open and ardent support of one side in the national argument over concessions to Syria, that he could not be the president of all the people. He should have instantly followed this admission of failure by resigning, for his job is just that: to represent us all.

Ehud Barak is said to be pushing his MKs to back Peres, his rival. When Barak formed his cabinet last year, he said that he was prime minister "of every one of you." That is true, whether he or we like it or not, but we can't complain if he sees the interest of the whole nation from his own political perspective.

The office of president was created for the purpose of representing if not every one of us, then at least 80 to 90 percent of the population. And even if the president had his own opinions on certain public issues, at least he would represent the consensus on all major ones.

In controversies, he must hold his peace and refrain from acting to further his own agenda but to seek out and give voice to what unites, not what divides, the people. Each and everyone of us must feel he is our representative.

Shimon Peres is disliked and despised by half the population, and the other half can hardly be said to love him. There was once a satire on gangster movies in which a mob leader eulogizes his rival by saying: "He had no enemies. Just a lot of friends who disliked him."

Were Peres to occupy Beit Hanassi, not only would he continue to expound his political beliefs on every possible occasion, he would, I am sure, be unable to restrain himself from continuing to express his disdain for political opponents, and display his less than absolute adherence to the truth.

If the Labor Party insists that one of its MKs become president, it could do no better than pick on Uzi Baram. He is a man who has earned wide respect in parliament and in the nation for his decency, uprightness, and courtesy, even in the most fiery of political frays. He could be relied on not to exploit the high office to further his political beliefs.

At the other end of the political spectrum is a man the equal to Baram in civilized conduct, but with the added gifts of a sharp intellect and, most rare among politicians, a sense of humor. This is Ze'ev Binyamin Begin, who quit active politics last year because of what he felt was his loss of public appeal.

Begin is a man who had personal appeal way beyond his small number of voters. As president, Benny Begin would serve all sectors of this splintered society, eloquently voice the feelings of the vast majority and never force his private opinions on anyone.

But why limit the choice of president to politicians? There are other things in life, even in Israel. And after all, the president has no need, as the prime minister has, to coerce or cajole coalition partners, fight day and night to implement even one or two of his many election promises, or bully and bribe rebellious party colleagues. All the president has to do is to serve as a role model for the nation.

Justice Meir Shamgar has been mentioned in the past - an excellent choice, as would be Justice Moshe Landau - two distinguished retired members of the Supreme Court. And there are other fields of endeavor which have elevated honest citizens to distinction. In science, the name Professor Herman Branover springs to mind.

I would not rule out the world of entertainment. Who does the country love and respect more than Arik Einstein? How well he could represent us all! For many years he has been admired as a true artist, a star who has retained his modesty, who has never exploited his popularity for political aims, and who is a secular Jew with family connections to the haredi world. (Another bearer of his surname was importuned by Ben-Gurion to become president in 1953, but Albert declined.) (Jerusalem Post Apr 17)

The writer is a former editor of The Jerusalem Post.


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