8 Iyar 5759 April 23, 1999 Issue number 214
Israel Defends Yesha Growth
"Israel and the United States have always had their differences on the matter of settlements." So announced the Prime Minister's Media Advisor last Thursday, in light of various reports of American criticism of the growth of Jewish population in Judea and Samaria. The spokesman continued, "With all due respect for the friendship between the two countries, the Prime Minister is committed to ensure, first and foremost, the interests of the State of Israel. On various occasions, the Prime Minister has clearly told the U.S. government that Israel's policy is to enable the development and expansion of existing communities in Judea and Samaria, just as there is no restriction on the continued expansion of Arab communities." Meanwhile, Meretz party leader Yossi Sarid pledged this morning that if a left-wing government is formed next month, he will personally work to remove all of the temporary neighborhoods established by Yesha residents on the outskirts of their communities. The Labor party's spokesman also released an announcement today condemning the accelerated pace of construction of new Yesha neighborhoods. The number of residents in Judea and Samaria is approaching 190,000 and will likely surpass the 200,000 mark by the end of the summer. So estimates Ya'ir Ma'yan, who is completing his tenure as Netanyahu's advisor for settlement affairs. Ma'yan emphasized that no new communities had been built during this time, but that the increase of 50,000 during Netanyahu's term in office is a result only of the expansion of existing towns. Ma'yan told Arutz-7 today that he is not sure why U.S. authorities have become exceptionally critical of Israeli settlement policy of late. "It could be that some internal Israeli sources are spreading rumors to foreign interests as if there have been changes in our national policy. From the first day, we promised that we would strengthen settlement in the area - and we did, but no new settlements have been built." Ma'yan is leaving his advisory role in order to run for the leadership of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. (Arutz 7 Apr 15)
Weizman Banishes Terrorism-Victim Family Member
President Weizman's appearance at the terror victims memorial ceremony this morning was interrupted by Kach-activist Tiran Pollack, who lost two sisters in a terrorist bus-bombing in Jerusalem 18 years ago. Pollack later recounted the events to Arutz-7: "Before the President started to speak, I attempted to ask him if he was aware that because of things that he did - such as his call for the release of terrorists with blood on their hands, and his participation in a memorial ceremony several weeks ago for Arabs killed in the intifada - many families did not arrive for today's ceremony here. When he calls for the release of such terrorists, it shows that he does not have the slightest sensitivity to what we are going through." Weizman, who has reacted excitedly in similar situations in the past, screamed back, "Shut up and sit down!" six times, and then called out, "Police, take Pollack aside." Weizman also yelled, "Young hooligan! Go enlist in the IDF!" Pollack, speaking on Arutz-7, said that this particularly incensed him, as he did in fact serve in the army, and several of his family members were killed fighting for Israel's defense: "What, because I have tzitzit (ritual fringes) and a beard, the President has a right to scream that I didn't serve in the army?" The police detained Pollack, but later released him on bail. Pollack said that he still does not know whether he will be charged with insulting a public servant, disturbing the peace, or not at all. (Arutz 7 Apr 20)
Arabs Ambush IDF Patrol; No Injuries
Palestinian Arab terrorists shot, from several different points, at an IDF patrol near Kibbutz Nir Oz, on the border between Gaza and the Negev Tuesday morning. The Israelis returned fire, and no Israelis were hurt. The force that was attacked entered the autonomy shortly afterwards, accompanied by Palestinian police representatives, and combed the area. (Arutz 7 Apr 20)
Oslo Expert: Palestinian State Is a Violation
Oslo-agreement architect Yoel Singer has determined that Israel has the right to annex parts of Judea and Samaria, in the event that the Palestinian Authority unilaterally decides to declare a state. In an article in the American quarterly journal The National Interest, Singer writes that a Palestinian declaration of a state would be a flagrant violation of the Oslo accords, and that it would immediately entitle Israel to annex parts of Yesha without the consent of the PA. The Egyptian paper Al-Wafd reported today that Arafat plans to declare a Palestinian state a few weeks after the election in Israel. (Arutz 7 Apr 19)
State Department Refuses to Recognize Jerusalem as Part of Israel
The case of two American babies born in Jerusalem is threatening - unsuccessfully, so far - to change United States policy in the Middle East.
Shoshana Walker, whose two children were born in the Israeli capital in 1985 and 1986, is attempting to raise public awareness of the fact that their birth certificates lists their birthplace only as "Jerusalem," without specifying Israel. She has been attempting for some time now to have the United States State Department recognize Israel's sovereignty over the city. Mrs. Walker has been told by State Department officials that Jerusalem - all of it - is not in Israel, but she claims that this directly conflicts with a Congressional decision of November 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One State Department official at the Country Desk for Israel in Washington, D.C., told Shoshana that the State Department cannot favor requests for documents to read "Jerusalem, Israel" over those requesting "Jerusalem, Palestine." Greg Rickman, an aide to Senator Alfonse D'Amato, who attempted to help Mrs. Walker, told her that "the State Department was adamant about not changing its position on Jerusalem." Senator D'Amato's office also sent Ms. Walker's complaint to the State Department. In response, the Senator received a letter from Barbara Larkin, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, which cited U.S. passport law: "The practice of listing Jerusalem without a country in a U.S. passport as the place of birth of a U.S. citizen born there is a long-standing one. We do not believe that this is an appropriate time to change that practice."
Arab Party Endorses Barak
The Arab party Hadash announced its endorsement of Ehud Barak for Prime Minister. MK Abdul Wahab Darawshe said, at the signing of a surplus-votes agreement between Hadash and the Arab Democratic Party, that the Palestinian Authority is "uncomfortable with the prospect of continued Likud rule." He criticized Arab MK Azmi Bishara for running for Prime Minister, claiming that it would hurt Barak's chances. A PA representative was present at the signing ceremony. (Arutz 7 Apr 16)
Remembering the Fallen Soldiers
Israel's Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers began Monday at 8 PM with a State ceremony at the Western Wall. Tuesday morning at 11 AM, following the nation-wide sounding of a two-minute siren, memorial ceremonies were held in military cemeteries around the country. Government ministers and Knesset Members were present at the various ceremonies; for example, Uzi Landau (Likud) will be in Eilat, Haggai Merom (Centrist party) in Beit Jann, Naomi Chazan (Meretz) in Binyamina, Yigal Bibi (National Religious Party) in Tiberias, where he served as mayor, Shimon Peres (Labor) in Nachalat Yitzchak, and Rehavam Ze'evi (National Union) in Petach Tikvah. The Ministry of Defense inaugurated a new website in honor of the Day of Remembrance. The site < www.yizkor.gov.il > includes a listing (in Hebrew) for every one of Israel's fallen soldiers, including a picture and a short biography (where available), and place of burial. The site also features the Yizkor (remembrance) prayer, appropriate poems (with audio), and general information on the Day of Remembrance. Last year at this time a new monument for the victims of Arab terror was unveiled at Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. Monday, the brother of one of these victims - Ze'ev Dasberg, brother of Effie Ungar, who was murdered by Arab terrorists together with her husband in June 1996 - told Arutz-7 that he feels that a major differentiation must be made between fallen soldiers and terrorist victims: "The former are killed in a 'fair fight,' so to speak, and we do not consider those who kill our soldiers 'criminals.' On the other hand, every society condemns terrorist killings, and the terrorists are nothing more than common criminals. If we equate the victims of war and those of terrorism, we are in a sense giving a stamp of legitimacy to the terrorists, which in my opinion is unacceptable." Dasberg said that just as the Holocaust victims are remembered separately from the fallen soldiers, so too should terrorist victims be remembered in a different format. Dasberg emphasized that he recognizes that the pain of the bereaved families is the same whether the killing was perpetrated by terrorists or by soldiers, and that he does not espouse lessening the rights and benefits granted to bereaved families. "But it cannot be said that citizens who are killed while returning home at night from a wedding, or the like, have contributed to the development and security of the State, in the way that soldiers killed in battle have contributed." Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane said, "I must admit that it is difficult to hear such things," to which Dasberg responded, "It is hard to say them, and to live them." (Arutz 7 Apr 19)
The Gush Katif community of Atzmona celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding Tuesday night with a dinner for all past and present residents. Founded the day after the signing of the Camp David Accords, Atzmona was originally located some 40 kilometers south of its present-day site, in the Yamit strip of settlements along the northern Sinai coast. As a result of the 1978 Israel-Egypt Camp David Accords, the entire Sinai settlement enterprise was uprooted in 1982, and Atzmona's residents were moved to Gush Katif. "Atzmona was founded as a response to Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin's plan to give away this beautiful stretch of land - and the entire Sinai Desert," explained Adina Amitai, one of Atzmona's original founders. "The Central Committee of the Gush Emunim settlement movement made the decision to establish a community, and sought volunteers from various communities for the new project. We lived in Kiryat Arba at the time. Our group left in several cabs, and finally found the spot slated for settlement by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel - a hill near the sea. Everything began from there, out of nothing," explained Amitai. (Arutz 7 Apr 20)
Benny Begin's Letter
Hundreds took part in Sunday's kick-off of the National Union's election campaign, at Beit Orot in Jerusalem. Party leader Benny Begin attacked the call by National Kibbutz Movement leader Avshalom Villen to "halt the influx of religious officers into the top brass of the IDF." Chanan Porat criticized the diplomatic policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu, while Rehavam Ze'evi said that the upcoming election is the most fateful in the history of the State. Benny Begin, the National Union's Prime Ministerial candidate, sent a letter to the residents of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza this week, asking for their support: "There is no doubt that Mr. Barak and Mr. Mordechai and Mr. Netanyahu plan to continue to abandon parts of Samaria, Judea and the Gaza Strip to the PLO and Hamas. The three have in effect resigned themselves to the establishment of a Palestinian state... From the standpoint of protecting our country, every vote given to Mr. Netanyahu or the Likud in the coming elections is a wasted vote. Moreover, such a vote means that the [Yesha] voter has not only accepted the establishment of a PLO-Hamas state next to his home, but also effectively gives Mr. Netanyahu a license to continue abandoning the territory. If Mr. Netanyahu gets your support, he will abandon the territory in your name." Begin writes that his candidacy for Prime Minister presents the only alternative to this disastrous policy: "No more territory should be transferred to foreign rule... A vote for our Knesset list will enable the building of a political power that can influence the government's policies, perhaps even decisively." (Arutz 7 Apr 19)
Lubotsky Leaves Politics
MK Alex Lubotsky has announced his resignation from the Centrist party, which he recently joined after three years as a Knesset Member of the Third Way. He explained Monday that he is "truly saddened that my dream has not been fulfilled. I have long felt that Israel needs an ideological and political center, in light of the increasing polarization in our society. I was working on this, and gathering together truly 'centrist' people - but what happened was that in the midst of my efforts, all of a sudden along came a large group calling itself the center. The problem was that the players involved were not centrist by nature, but were simply an alliance of right- and left-wingers coming together. Still, it could have worked, but only if it had at least one of the following: common ideals among the members, common tradition or background, or friendship. None of these exists among the centrist party members." Lubotsky did not deny that had he been in a higher position on the list, he may have felt differently - "but not because of my specific placing on the list. Rather, if I would have felt that I had an important role in the leadership of the party, then things would have been different. I'll give you an example: I brought a proposal for the party platform on religious issues, and I passed it around among the party leaders. People like Roni Milo didn't like certain of the more religious aspects, and Yitzchak Mordechai, who is very careful not to antagonize Shas, didn't like other aspects, and so on and so forth. Each one removed certain passages, and I soon found myself in the same position as the man in the Talmudic story who was married to two wives, one young and one old; the former plucked out his white hairs, and the latter picked out all his black hairs, such that he soon found himself totally bald... Then, to make matters worse, the number 2 on our list [Amnon Shachak] suddenly announces that he is in favor of the separation of church and state in Israel - which could not be further from my position, or from those of a true centrist party." Lubotsky denied that he now endorses Ehud Barak. "In fact, I will have trouble deciding which, if any, of the Prime Ministerial candidates to support," he said. He added that he would like to continue contributing publicly in three areas: "The Y2K bug, the joint Orthodox-Conservative-Reform conversion study course, and a religious-secular manifesto that I am working on together with the Meimad movement." (Arutz 7 Apr 19)
Fly and Vote
Air shuttles between New York, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal and Israel for supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu are being organized for the upcoming election. Interested people eligible to vote can call toll-fee 1-877-VOTE-999 Peace Now is also arranging cheap charter flights from New York to Israel for left-wing voters. (Arutz 7 Apr 18)
Four-Year Deri Sentence Will Wait for Appeal
The four-year sentence that was handed down against Aryeh Deri last Thursday will not begin until after the Supreme Court rules on Deri's appeal of his conviction. So decided the Jerusalem District Court judges after they sentenced the Shas leader to four years in prison. Deri was also fined a quarter of a million shekels. The judges declined to accept the prosecutor's request to have the jail term begin immediately. Initial responses by Shas supporters to the stiff sentence were shock and weeping. The drama of the Deri sentencing began when the judges agreed to delay it for an hour so that Deri could visit with Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in the hospital. Rabbi Yosef underwent a heart catheterization procedure at Jerusalem's Haddasah-Ein Kerem Hospital. The other defendants in the case, who were convicted of paying the bribes to Deri, were also sentenced today: Moshe Weinberg was sentenced to one year in prison, Yom Tov Rubin - six months of public service works, and Aryeh Weinberg was sentenced to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels. Aryeh Deri's brother Yehuda reacted emotionally to the harsh punishment meted out to his brother: "How is it possible that such a sentence could be handed down upon a righteous man such as Aryeh, who has saved thousands of people? How could it be that the judges simply ignore the feelings of a million people here who know that he is innocent, and give him such a strong sentence!?" Yehudit Rubin, wife of one of the defendants in the case, said, "The judges made a grave error. I know for a fact that my husband did not bribe Aryeh Deri, and a terrible miscarriage of justice has occurred here. Aryeh Deri is our best friend, we love him, and it is terrible to think that he has been sentenced to four years in prison despite his having done nothing wrong." The judges' decision mentioned at length the severity of the crime of bribery, quoting Biblical verses, rulings by Maimonides, and other Jewish and legal sources. "Bribery undermines the foundations of society. In our renewed State of Israel, we must make sure not to stumble on this grave obstacle." They claimed that Deri's crimes were committed systematically for a number of years, and "became his way of life." The judges refused to shorten his sentence in view of the lengthy, nine-year trial, and said that they blame the defendants themselves for most of the delay. (Arutz 7 Apr 15)
The Centrist party's number-two man Amnon Lipkin-Shachak pledged Monday morning that his party will not conduct coalition negotiations with Aryeh Deri, as long as the latter's conviction is not overturned by the Supreme Court. He thus echoed Labor party leader Ehud Barak, who made a similar announcement Sunday. Centrist party leader Yitzchak Mordechai, however, refrained from making the same commitment. Prime Ministerial candidate Ehud Barak of Labor furthered his attack on Shas, hinting that he would not assign the Interior Ministry to the party in the event that he forms the next government. Shas has controlled the Ministry for the past 15 years, and Barak's statement was viewed as part of his attempt to woo the new immigrants' support. Barak also revealed his economic plan at yesterday's press conference, emphasizing that he would not repeat the mistakes of "free economics," but would also not implement a welfare policy. He announced his plan to establish a special economic-social Cabinet-level council, promising a "change in national priorities" and the creation of 300,000 new jobs. Shas MK David Azulai today responded to Barak's statements by threatening that Shas might not enter coalition negotiations with Ehud Barak should he be elected Prime Minister. Azulai also criticized Barak's statement that he would not award the Interior Ministry to Shas: "He's attempting to play to the Russian immigrants, hinting that they will get the Ministry. It's very easy for him to make promises, since he has a feeling that he won't be elected... This technique of pitting one population against another is becoming a trademark of the Barak campaign: First, he incited against the [Yesha] settlers and pitted their interests against those of low-income Israelis. Now he is pitting hareidim against new immigrants... We hope that this won't help him, and that Netanyahu will win." (Arutz 7 Apr 19)
Israel business correspondent Seth Vogelman reports that the state of Oklahoma has opened a trade office in Israel, in cooperation with the Oklahoma-Israel Exchange. Representing Oklahoma in Israel will be Atid,
E.D.I., a Jerusalem-based business consulting firm, promoting local trade contacts and facilitating communications between Oklahoman and Israeli companies. Oklahoma thus joins a growing family of American states that have established their own trade presence in Israel, including California, Connecticut, Alabama, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, Utah, and New York. (Arutz 7 Apr 16)
Freedom from Religion By David Weinberg
Imagine that a leftist, secularist government is formed later this summer, comprising Labor, Meretz, Shinui, Balad, the Center Party and Hadash, and that it sets out to "fully democratize" Israel.
September '99: Justice Minister Yossi Sarid initiates the new Basic Law: Freedom Of and From Religion, which the Knesset passes, 70-50. The law states that "the institutions of state shall not provide or insinuate a preference for religion, or for one denomination within a religion, over other religions or denominations. "This important amendment will bring Israel into line with the enlightened democracies of the Western world," Sarid proclaims proudly.
Responding to expressions of concern by the religious public, Meimad members of the coalition say that they have received assurances from the prime minister that he "is committed to strengthening the Jewish character of the state." Environment Minister Michael Melchior expresses confidence that Judaism will flourish by competing openly in the free marketplace of ideas without state support.
October '99: Basing itself on the new Basic Law, the Supreme Court strikes down as unconstitutional "all government institutions whose purpose is the establishment, propagation or support of religion," and instructs the government to enact legislation within one year to dismantle state institutions "that relate to faith." Supreme Court President Aharon Barak also hints broadly that the court is unlikely to uphold the validity of religious parties in the next elections. "Israel", he writes, "is firmly on the road towards fuller enlightenment and the civilized values of the democratic world."
November '99: Interior Minister Haim Ramon introduces legislation instituting civil marriage, divorce and burial, which cancels altogether the mandate of the Chief Rabbinate in these areas. Attorney-General Yitzhak Elyagon clarifies that under the new constitutional situation, conversion to Judaism is no longer an area of government concern. Ramon abolishes the "religion" line on all identity cards. "This will bring Israel into line with the enlightened democracies of the Western world," he says.
January '00: Transport Minister Dalia Itzik issues directives allowing El Al to fly, and public transportation to operate, on Shabbat. The Jerusalem District Court rules all Shabbat street closings in the city to be unconstitutional. Itzik and Labor Minister Ahmed Tibi introduce legislation ending Shabbat shopping restrictions. Industry and Trade Minister Ronni Milo annuls kashrut regulations in the manufacturing and import of foodstuffs. A timetable is set for the draft of haredi yeshiva students. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Itzik avers that she lights candles every other Friday night and "believes in strengthening the Jewish character of the state."
March '00: Religious Affairs Minister Avrum Burg, who crows in every speech that he is "Israel's last religious affairs minister," ends government stipends to yeshiva students and all subsidies for the construction and maintenance of synagogues, ritual baths and eruvs. With nothing left to its purview, the Chief Rabbinate disbands itself, its courts and all the religious councils, calling for civil disobedience in protest. Burg warns that "the clerics are threatening the fabric of our enlightened Western democracy. What we are doing will produce a healthier Judaism for future generations." In response to expressions of concern from delegations of liberal Diaspora Jewry, Burg affirms that "prayer remains a legally-protected, permissible activity," and he enshrines equitable rights to prayer at the Western Wall for non-Orthodox denominations.
May '00: Education Minister Yosef Lapid triumphantly informs the nation that he terminating the "medieval" state-religious school system. "We will support only one democratic, enlightened educational track," he explains, sneering. Lapid also outlaws Jewish "proselytizing" as missionary activity, similar to Christian proselytizing. Ba'al teshuva seminaries go underground. Even liberal "Jewish studies festivals" are branded as illegal outreach activity, drawing protests from the Reform and Conservative movements. UJA leaders fly in urgently to express disquiet.
Meimad threatens to leave the government. But the prime minister reaffirms his "commitment to the Jewish character of the state," and attends services at the Great Synagogue on Yom Ha'atzmaut.
September '00: Deputy Defense Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak cancels a paratrooper swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall, saying it violates the required separation between synagogue and state. He also announces the disbanding of hesder units in the army, and confirms that IDF kitchens no longer will be kosher. Elyagon, however, stipulates that under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights "Israeli soldiers of Jewish religious faith" have "the constitutional right of a minority" to order special kosher meals.
December '00: With the "Jewish and democratic character" of the state now firmly established, the Supreme Court rules that the Law of Return is racist, and no longer necessary.
February '01: Culture Minister Yael Dayan signs into law an amendment amending Hatikva, by removing the reference to a "Jewish soul" and to "Zion." "This will bring our national anthem into line with the non-theocratic, enlightened democracies of the Western world," she says.
Just imagine. A democratic state of the Jews. You want to vote it into office? (Jerusalem Post Apr 18)
In his appearance before the Palestinian legislature in February, Shimon Peres passionately called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. A few weeks before, 22 members of the Knesset's Labor faction, including six in leadership positions, either abstained on or voted for two separate resolutions calling for a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
The Peres speech and the Knesset vote faithfully reflect the Labor Party's position on the final-status settlement with the Palestinians. Labor supports a Palestinian state as a historic imperative, and while its leaders vow during the election campaign to preserve the integrity of Jerusalem, there can be no doubt that a Labor government will be ready to accept a "territorial compromise" in the city and redivide it.
I do not believe a sovereign Palestinian state is a historic imperative, any more than the triumph of socialism - which the same leftist parties once touted as inexorable - was preordained. Nor do I think that Israel can achieve peace only by making egregious unilateral concessions. On the contrary. I am convinced that Labor's way will endanger Israel and cause war.
My position on the peace process has been consistent. I say now precisely what I said in the 1996 election campaign: Israel should adhere to the Oslo agreements because democratic governments honor accords signed by their predecessors.
But the only way to make these agreements viable is to insist on reciprocal fulfillment of Palestinian commitments, particularly in the fight against terrorism. With reciprocity, "territory for peace" may work. Without it, we shall have "territory for terrorism," which is sheer insanity.
The consistency of my position has disappointed both those on the Right, who wanted me to scuttle the Oslo, Hebron and Wye agreements; and those in the leftist opposition, who wanted me to put my faith in a chimeric "New Middle East" and overlook Palestinian non-compliance.
It was this middle-road consistency which caused the fall of the government. The Right withdrew its support, and the Left reneged on its promise to provide the government with a "safety net."
Yet my aims remain the same: maximum self-rule for the Palestinians, with minimum risk for Israel.
After a half century of hardship, poverty and humiliation caused by a self-inflicted catastrophe in 1948, it is time the Palestinians had peace, prosperity and progress. They can thrive and flourish if hostilities truly cease, if there is free movement of people and goods between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian entity, and if the Palestinian economy adopts transparency, accountability and free-market principles.
Over 95% of the Palestinians are already ruled by a Palestinian administration. But a Palestinian state and all it implies would threaten Israel's security. If peace is to prevail, the Palestinians must not have a large army equipped with tanks, missiles and artillery, a contiguous border with Jordan, and the capacity to form alliances with such regimes as Iraq and Iran. Israel cannot relinquish control over air space, strategic areas and vital water resources, and must retain security supervision over seaports and airports. Jerusalem, never the capital of any other nation, must stay Israel's undivided capital.
To return to Labor's policies of unilateral withdrawals, indifference to the Palestinian coddling of terrorists, and acceptance of virulent incitement in official Palestinian pronouncements and school books is to turn the clock back to the bad old days of fear and terror.
It is a prescription for Palestinian irredentism, and the radicalization of the whole land mass stretching from Kfar Sava and Jerusalem to Baghdad and Teheran. It ensures violence, terrorism and war.
The return to Labor rule would be disastrous in the economic sphere, too. The Likud-led government has begun a transformation of the Israeli economy - moving it from irresponsible spending and stifling centralization to budgetary prudence and sound free market principles.
Without such a change, Israel will be unable to compete in the coming era. In three years, we have halved inflation, cut the budget to the tune of NIS 8 billion, dramatically reduced the trade deficit, privatized more than all previous governments put together, deregulated the currency, attracted more foreign investments than ever, instituted the "computer for every child" project and a longer school day in development towns and the minorities sector, and survived the worldwide economic crisis - all without raising taxes.
The economy is now poised to receive and integrate hundreds of thousands of immigrants, to expand its high-tech industries to the point of making Israel the second largest "Silicon Valley" in the world, and to begin real, large-scale and solid growth. It is no wonder that the world's leading economists praise our performance with unalloyed superlatives.
As in all major transitions, some painful side effects are inevitable. In Israel it has taken the form of a two percent rise in unemployment. That the number of Palestinian and foreign workers is double that of the jobless indicates that the problem is more social than economic, but this does not diminish the humiliation and hardship of the unemployed.
The latest statistics are encouraging - unemployment has been going down steadily - and I have no doubt that if we continue our policies the number will reach an acceptable level.
In the next few years Israel will face crucial decisions. The negotiations with the Palestinians on the final status will begin, and the negotiations with Syria will resume.
To secure our future, we must not only achieve safe agreements with our neighbors, but make economic conditions and the quality of life in Israel attractive enough to draw Jews from the West and the former Soviet Union.
Internally, too, much must be done. We shall have to ease tensions between the secular and religious, Arab and Jew, Diaspora Jews and Israelis. The intensity of these tensions is often exaggerated, but they do exist. They should be ameliorated through dialogue and compromise, not judicial coercion, abrasive legislation and offensive rhetoric.
These are daunting challenges, and the people of Israel will soon have to decide who will best lead the nation in meeting them. I am sure they will make the right choice. (Jerusalem Post April 20)
One of the positive features of the American system of government is that when one branch gets something very wrong, there is a chance that another branch will limit the damage.
This is the case with the American policy on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In their craving for a foreign policy success, Clinton administration officials have created a mythical Middle East, but Congress, with participation from both parties, is attempting to prevent them from straying too far from reality.
The Clinton administration has been a foreign policy disaster, as the president flits from issue to issue with short periods of high-intensity attention, but little follow-through.
This pattern is clearly evident with respect to Kosovo, Iraq, and the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The process that began in Oslo had been collapsing for years, and the Wye summit (amidst the impeachment process) was too late to reverse the rot.
Knowing that changes in Palestinian behavior would be very difficult, the White House took the easy route of blaming the Netanyahu government.
However, members of Congress, who justify their role in foreign policy by keeping a close watch on the Executive Branch, were not convinced, and began to examine the details.
A few weeks ago, Republican Sen. Connie Mack (from Florida) came to the area to learn the details for himself. Mack returned with one basic question: "How is it possible to engage in peace negotiations with people who maintain the right to obliterate you, who are filled with hatred toward you, and who harbor the dream of one day destroying your homeland?"
Mack did not come as a supporter of the Netanyahu government, and his report is properly outside the framework of the Israeli election campaign.
He came with a common-sense approach to the evidence. In a speech delivered on the Senate floor, he presented his stark conclusions. "What I saw convinced me that the Palestinian leadership does not want peace. They want, first, their own state which they can control with total power. Then they want to use that state to eliminate the State of Israel."
In the wake of Sen. Mack's report, and while Yasser Arafat was being welcomed again at the White House, 50 members of Congress wrote a stinging letter to Clinton on Palestinian incitement to violence. Placing the issues in their proper context, they noted that "The issue here is not disagreements over certain aspects of the permanent agreement, but the incitement and indoctrination of a whole generation to hate Jews to such an extent that irrespective of existing formal agreements, genuine reconciliation and peace may be impossible to attain."
By an overwhelming majority, the Congress also passed resolutions opposing a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, warning that such a move "would be a grievous violation" of the Oslo agreement that "would not be recognized" by the US.
Thus, while Arafat was collecting rewards in Europe and the White House for agreeing not to take this step (and destroy any chance of eventually gaining control over more territory), Congress was reminding the Palestinian leader of the costs of such a move.
The contrast between the congressional assessments and those coming from the State Department (known, for good reason, as Foggy Bottom), could not be sharper.
In their eagerness to salvage something from the shattered Middle East policy, officials of the Clinton administration seemed have gone from supporting Israel to "even handedness," and then to a pro-Palestinian bias. They have apparently given up on the efforts to change the Palestinian and Arab "hearts and minds," and have focused on what appears to be easier - changing Israeli policies and its government.
However, there are still enough people in Congress who understand that Israel, like the US and in sharp contrast to the rest of the Middle East, is a democracy.
In 1996, the Israeli public rejected the simplistic myth that Palestinian terrorism and incitement were somehow compatible with the concept of peace. Clinton's anti-terrorist summit at Sharm e-Sheik, transparently designed to rescue Shimon Peres's election campaign, did not change any votes.
Congress recognizes that the Palestinian rejection of Israeli legitimacy still constitutes the main obstacle to progress. The evidence is too strong to be ignored, even by those who would prefer to see Netanyahu and his policies replaced in the next Israeli elections.
The central problem with all of the agreements, from Oslo through Wye, is that they have not changed these deeply rooted attitudes. Mack also got this one right, noting that "there will not be peace until hearts and minds are changed, and we must focus our attention on these issues.
"If the Palestinian leadership fails to abandon incitement of hatred, persecution, and terrorism, then we are all dreaming, only dreaming."
The question is whether anyone in the State Department or White House is listening.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post Apr 16)