A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
20 Nisan 5760
April 25, 2000
Issue number 269
Friday Apr 28, 7:00pm
Shabbat Mevorchim Carlebach minyan in the Bet Midrash at BAYT
Tuesday May 2, 8:00pm
Canadian Jewish Congress presents Rabbi Shlomo Riskin speaking at Shaarei Shomayim on "Israel and Peace: Hopes and Problems".
Arafat "Rigid" Going Into Talks
Final-status framework talks between Israel and the Palestinians are slated to resume in Eilat next week, and are expected to last some thirteen days. So declared head of the PA delegation to the talks, Saeb Erekat. Yasser Arafat will report to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today on the former's talks with US President Clinton last week. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright called Prime Minister Barak Saturday to update him on the contents of the Arafat-Clinton meeting. She told Barak that Arafat's position remains "very rigid," and that he still demands that Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. Arafat also insisted that Clinton pressure Barak to halt all building in Yesha communities. Ha'aretz Sunday quoted Saeb Erekat as predicting the formation of a Palestinian state in the near future, "with the June 4, 1967 borders, [and] with East Jerusalem as its capital." (arutzsheva.org Apr 23)
Ramon Prophesies, Barak Silent
A senior member of the Barak government would like to see most of Judea and Samaria in Palestinian hands. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Chaim Ramon (Labor) says that he favors the transfer of some 70% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians in the framework of a final status deal. According to Ramon, only 130,000 of the 200,000 residents of Jewish Yesha communities will, in the end, live under Israeli sovereignty. Ramon also recommends that Israel postpone discussions over the status of Jerusalem for several years, as well as other issues "that cannot currently be solved." The Yesha Council responded to the Ramon declaration by calling upon Prime Minister Barak to publicly condemn his minister's comments - but no official statement has been forthcoming so far from Barak's office. One reason for the silence may lie in a report by Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman on April second. Reviewing Israel-PA talks in Washington in late March, Huberman explained that Barak - anxious to secure an agreement with the PA in light of his failure to do so with Syria - offered to turn over another 20% of Judea and Samaria to full PA control in exchange for Israel's annexation of 10% of Yesha. The offer was presented as an option for the third Oslo withdrawal, even prior to a final-status agreement."The 10% would be the settlement blocs to which Barak has so often referred," Huberman said, "and all told, 60% of Yesha would be firmly in Palestinian hands before a permanent agreement." A key element of Barak's pre-election promises - a pledge he has repeated on numerous occasions - is merely that "the majority of Yesha residents will find themselves in a final-status arrangement, within settlement blocs, under Israeli sovereignty." (arutzsheva.org Apr 23)
A Traditional Passover
Israel's Jewish population exhibits largely traditional attitudes and habits towards the Pesach (Passover) holiday, if a recent poll of 500 Israelis is any indication. In a Dahaf survey published in Yediot Acharonot today, Pesach led the way as the "favorite Jewish holiday" of one third of the respondents, with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Succot (the Festival of Booths) placing second and third, respectively. Some 58% of those questioned said that they recite the entire "Hagadah" on the night of the Seder, while 39% said they read "part" of the text; some 77% of respondents say they spend an hour or more on its recitation. The study also found that 76% of Israeli Jews eat only matza as opposed to leavened bread during the festival. Seventy percent of those questioned also said that they are careful to clean their homes from "chametz" (leaven) before Pesach. (arutzsheva.org Apr 23)
Pollard's Seder Night
The Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization reports that Pollard - who is serving the 15th year of a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel - spent the first night of Pesach "the Seder night, scrubbing toilets and washing floors." Pollard was given a direct order to do the work in preparation for a special inspection the next day. Refusal to obey such an order, says the organization, would likely have led to him being held "incommunicado in a punitive cell for up to 90 days." Pollard activists are dismayed that the Israeli government - in addition to its general apathy regarding the release of its agent - has also failed to make sure that Pollard's Pesach dietary needs are met; the situation has forced Pollard to spend the holiday consuming only whatever fruits and vegetables he has been able to obtain. B'nai Brith has repeated its call on U.S. President Clinton to release Pollard in honor of the Jewish festival of freedom, and is calling on all Jewish organizations and community leaders to follow suit. (arutzsheva.org Apr 23)
Yesha Council Against Barak's "Alibi" Policy
Conflicting reports have been issued regarding last Monday night's meeting between Yesha Council representatives and the Prime Minister. It was "conducted in a pleasant atmosphere," according to Prime Minister's Office staffers, while Yesha sources say that it was a "difficult" meeting. Barak asked the Yesha leaders to be "realistic" and to "consider the alternative" to the present direction of the negotiations with the Palestinians. The Council representatives warned the Prime Minister that the uprooting of settlements will lead to a split in the nation, "the likes of which has not been seen since the beginning of the state." Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef summed up the meeting for Arutz-7: "I would say that Barak was not angry, but rather 'perturbed' that we didn't buy his explanations as to the need for tossing additional acres of Eretz Yisrael to Arafat merely in an attempt to achieve quiet [as opposed to peace]... We came to discuss with the Prime Minister not individual details, but the basic principles of the government's policy. We said that a Palestinian state endangers the entire State of Israel, and not only Judea and Samaria - we know that a military exercise conducted 2-3 months ago found that one battalion of the Palestinian para-military police can block a much larger Israeli division from reaching the eastern front - such that this is a matter of acute security concern. Mor-Yosef quoted other points raised by the Yesha Council leaders: "We told Barak that even if he doesn't want to divide Jerusalem, this is what will happen when it's surrounded by the Palestinian entity on three sides - north, east, and south. We also emphasized how important it is that there be land around the various Yesha communities for their development, security, and roads. We asked him why he wants to give more in the third withdrawal than even Clinton thinks is necessary [a reference to a letter he wrote Binyamin Netanyahu in favor of a third withdrawal of 1%]?" The Yesha spokesman said that he understands that the left-wing of Barak's government is "giving him a hard time for not having conceded a bit more in the talks with Syria - 'just a few more dozen meters on the Kinneret,' they say... He feels, therefore, that the burden of proof has been placed upon him by Clinton and Minister Yossi Sarid [of Meretz] to show that he wants peace. For this reason, he is willing to give Arafat an 'advance' of 2 or 3% of Yesha, even without any prior agreement, and if there is an agreement, he'll give him another 10%.
The bottom line is that if there is an agreement on a final-status framework alone, Barak is willing to give more than 10% of Yesha..." One Barak statement quoted by the Yesha leaders has been denied by the Prime Minister's Office: "I heard him clearly say," said Mor-Yosef, "that 'the Palestinian state will not be more than 50% of Yesha if Arafat doesn't first recognize our sovereignty over Ma'aleh Adumim.'" Mor-Yosef said that he received the sincere impression that the issue of "causing a split in the nation" - the Yesha Council theme of late is "Uprooting Settlements will Tear the Nation Apart" - is of great concern to the Prime Minister: "He said several times during our meeting last night that he does not wish to accept this 'hot potato' as his responsibility, and that he wishes to pass it back to us. We explained to him that the foreseen split is not something over which we have any control, but something spontaneous that will occur if he proceeds with plans to isolate Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in Yesha." Mor-Yosef informed the listeners that a giant Yesha demonstration is planned in Zion Square in Jerusalem next month, "where we will cry out, 'No More Free Withdrawals!' Barak himself said it best: he knows that these withdrawals are not designed to achieve peace, but are only for his alibi - so that Clinton and Sarid will not be able to say to him later that he did not do enough for the 'peace process.' For this, parts of Eretz Yisrael do not have to be sacrificed." (arutzsheva.org Apr 18)
Palestinian Homes Demolished near Ma'aleh Adumim
Four houses and dozens of tents between Anata and Isawiya were torn down Sunday, in a move aimed at thwarting alleged Palestinian attempts to build on land slated to be part of Ma'aleh Adumim. The infrastructure of a fifth home was also demolished. One person was injured in a scuffle with IDF soldiers, witnesses said. The IDF Spokesman said the structures were first demolished on April 18, and had been illegally rebuilt by the Palestinians. Security sources accused Palestinian Authority Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Faisal Husseini and Jerusalem legislator Hatem Abdel Kader of orchestrating the illegal activities in an attempt to establish facts on the ground and grab land surrounding Jerusalem.
Early Sunday morning IDF, Israel Police, and civil administration officials demolished the illegal structures and dismantled approximately 20 tents. The IDF Spokesman said the operation went smoothly. Meanwhile Sunday, thousands flocked to Hebron to show their support for its Jewish community and worship at the Machpela Cave, which will was open only to Jewish worshipers Sunday and Monday. (Jerusalem Post Apr 24)
Prior Experience Required
Israel's Journalists Association has appointed Israel Television cameraman Eitan Oren to its Ethics Committee, leading to reactions such as, "The Association has a sense of humor akin to that of Bolshevik regimes" (Haggai Segal in lat Monday's Ma'ariv). Oren was responsible, with Avishai Raviv, for the staged Eyal swearing-in ceremony shortly before the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. The Shamgar Committee, which investigated the assassination, concluded, "Anyone who was there [at the ceremony] had to know that it was staged." In a letter of protest to the Journalists Association, Israel's Media Watch wrote, "We were astonished to learn of [Oren's appointment to the Ethics Committee]. Mr. Oren, you will remember, was suspended from his regular duties as a reporter on Israel Television in 1988 for one year... Many complaints have been submitted against him for his lack of professional ethics... We plan to fight this appointment..." (arutzsheva.org Apr 18)
Sharon Takes Political Poke
Likud chairman Ariel Sharon said last night that the Likud will not join the Barak government, but will rather replace it. He suggested that the Likud, National Religious Party, Shas, and possibly Yisrael B'Aliyah run jointly in the next elections. The rumors of a possible National Unity government floated by the Prime Minister's Office are, according to Sharon, merely meant to deter Shas from quitting the coalition. (arutzsheva.org Apr 18)
"Allow me to salute the valiant president, our friend, Fidel Castro, for generously hosting this historic meeting and for the pioneering role he is playing in supporting the peoples of the world, who are struggling for their freedoms.''
- PLO leader, Yassir Arafat, after hugging Cuban President Fidel Castro at a recent conference. (Reuters Apr 12)
"Fantastic, fantastic."- 73 year old Chinese President Jiang Zemin, after floating in Yam Hamelach (The Dead Sea) during his trip to Israel. (Reuters Apr 14)
"As far as us getting to a point where we tell Israel what to do about Jerusalem or statehood or borders, that is not envisaged at any time... Only Israel can make a judgment as to what is an acceptable formulation and is one that can meet the needs of the Israeli people as well as their security interests. So the suggestion that we would get to a point where we tell Israel what to do on issues like that strikes me as not likely to happen at any time."- State Department spokesperson James Rubin at a recent news briefing at the US State Department. (Morasha News Apr 12)
Educating Against Zionism By David Weinberg
New post-Zionist textbooks will raise a generation ignorant of, and sheepish about, our national rights as Jews in the Land of Israel.
If you want your child to get a proud Zionist education, that teaches appreciation of renewed Jewish sovereignty in the historic Land of Israel - better take your kid out of school. Because Israel's revisionist educators have taken over the Education Ministry and are out to deprogram our youth. They aim to rid our children of "the blatantly ethno-centric concept" that Zion rightfully belongs to the Zionists.
A frightening expose by Yoram Hazony in this week's issue of The New Republic documents how a group of post-Zionist professors responsible for our formal educational curricula has succeeded in introducing to Israeli classrooms new history and civics textbooks that go far beyond this generation's heightened capacity for Zionist self-criticism or scholarly "myth-smashing."
These teaching texts ruinously deconstruct this country's founding accounts of heroism, and question Israel's very legitimacy as Jewish national homeland. The textbooks are infuriatingly, purposefully neutral in describing the Arab-Israeli conflict, so that neither side seems more right or more just than the other.
The new ninth-grade history books ask students to contemplate the Palestinian "nakba" (catastrophe), and seek to demonstrate that nationalist movements are, by their nature, evil; "the saviors of one people and the destroyers of another."
They contain full-color, full-page maps depicting the flight of Arabs from Israel and photos of Palestinian refugees. All this at the expense of the traditional Zionist narrative.
Gone is the familiar map showing invasion routes of the five Arab armies that attacked the Yishuv in May 1948. The textbook contains not a single photo depicting the heroic Jewish struggle to repel the Arab invaders.
The same with the 1967 war. The unification of Jerusalem, previously understood by Jews as a homecoming to their ancient capital following a war of no-choice for Israel, is transformed into the story of the occupation of an Arab city.
Hazony's careful eye catches the fact that absent from these books are any photos of paratroopers at the Western Wall or Old City Jewish Quarter synagogues. These images might convey to impressionable Israeli students the wrong-headed, chauvinistic notion that we actually belong in eastern Jerusalem! Instead, our kids get photos of Arabic signs and text about the "capture of expansive territory".
The rot runs even deeper. In an attempt, by their own characterization, to liberate Israeli youth from "the problematic idea of a unique Jewish nationality," the new textbooks downplay Jewish history altogether.
In the sixth grade, Israeli school kids are no longer to begin the study of history with the origins of their own people and their own civilization, beginning with the biblical Jewish kingdoms. Israeli children are now to study a historical narrative that begins not with Jews but with Greeks: the Polis, Athens, Sparta, Greek culture, etc.
In ninth grade, Zionism, Israel and the Holocaust has been cut to 30 percent of the curriculum. Most of the time, our kids are to learn about "decolonization," "the establishment of Algeria," "new trends in art," etc.
Chaim Weizmann and Menachem Begin are mentioned only once each in this new curriculum; there are no photos of David Ben-Gurion; and the Jewish armed resistance against the British is dispensed with in two sentences.
That's right. Two sentences to sum up the leaky little boats of the Aliyah Bet defiantly running the British blockade. Less than one page to transmit the daring and cunning of Palmah fighters; the heroics of Gush Etzion's defenders; the perseverance of Jerusalem's besieged residents; and the pioneering of those who drained the swamps.
Tellingly, the post-Zionist textbooks suppress historical facts that don't quite fit its apologetic worldview - like Jewish acts of resistance during the Holocaust (no mention of the Warsaw ghetto uprising), or the Allies' failure to bomb railway lines leading to the gas chambers.
"These items were important to the old narrative," writes Hazony, "because they raised the question of whether the Jews could truly rely on anyone but themselves... But these subjects might produce students who are too nationalistic, who think too 'simplistically' about the right of Jews to a nation-state of their own."
Such teachings might beget students who have, Heaven forbid, latent Zionist tendencies.
So 100 short years after the founding of secular Zionism - Zionism is no longer politically correct. It is to be discarded, like other "isms" that have gone out of style, including socialism and nationalism.
Ironic, isn't it? The teaching of classic Zionism, with its emphasis on geography, demography, nationality and Bible, is to become the preserve of religious schools.
The attenuation of the Zionist-Jewish perspective dangerously threatens to strip our youth of any reason to persevere in the continuing struggle for Israel's place in the Middle East. With such an anti-Zionist ideological perspective destructively drummed into the heads of our schoolchildren, an Israeli prime minister should have no problem, several years down the road, in forking over half or more of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat.
We'll be too ignorant of - or embarrassed about - our national rights as Jews in the Land of Israel to have the moral backbone to oppose him.
(Jerusalem Post Apr 23)
[The full article by Yoram Hazony will appear in Friday's Israel News. Yoram will be in Toronto in late May and will spend Shabbat at BAYT. See upcoming issues of Israel News for details on his public lecture to the community. - Ed.]
Inspired leaks in Washington and Jerusalem, and an array of ministerial interviews indicate that the Barak government has decided to recognize a Palestinian state in September of this year - or even earlier. Israel has come a long way in this matter since the signing of the Oslo agreements in 1993.
Before that, Israel's position had been clear: No second state west of the Jordan river. Indeed, the very concept of a "functional" compromise as espoused by Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan (and for a certain time, Shimon Peres) among others, as opposed to "territorial" compromise, was based on the principle that though the Palestinians would run most of their own affairs independently of Israel - this would not occur within the framework of separate statehood.
This wasn't only Israel's position, but that of America as well; in its letter of assurance to Israel in preparation of the 1991 Madrid Conference, the US specifically stated that it would not support the establishment of a separate Palestinian state; that commitment was conveniently forgotten during President Clinton's visit to Gaza in 1998 when he made a number of statements which indicated at least a quasi-recognition of statehood.
There are now rumors that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has been promised America's outright recognition in September. For the sake of fairness, it must be said that Clinton and his administration are only following in the tracks of senior Israeli politicians who have said more than once that Israel would not object to a Palestinian state.
There are those who believe that a Palestinian state will be the solution to all the problems relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - but conversely, it could also be the creation of a much more serious and long-term problem.
"But isn't a Palestinian state by now inevitable?" - many will ask. The answer probably is "yes." However, there are events throughout history, which may be deemed to have been inevitable - but "inevitable" does not necessarily mean desirable. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia or Khomeini in Iran may have been inevitable, but in retrospect, were they desirable? Surely not.
What sort of country will that Palestinian state be? It is not very realistic to expect it to be altogether different from the political culture in most of the Arab countries surrounding it.
It suffices to look at the administrative, political and economic record of the PA to expect that this "state" will be another undemocratic, and economically non-viable entity. As the Washington Post wrote some months ago: "Many Palestinians are deeply resentful that the autonomy they wanted for so long brought corruption, mismanagement, favoritism and an obtrusive police and security apparatus."
But there could also be a far worse scenario, i.e., the creation of another Middle Eastern rogue state, perhaps repressively Islamic - certainly anti-Israel, probably anti-American, possibly identifying with the most extreme regimes in the region. It could also be a breeding ground for international terrorism, as the PLO semi-state in Lebanon was at the time. Christian Arabs, by the way, have already seen the writing on the wall: Tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians have already left the country, especially Bethlehem - and more will follow.
It is no secret that views on the Oslo agreement are divided. Some saw it as a significant step towards Palestinian-Israeli peace - others as the beginning of the countdown to the next Arab-Israeli war.
The Netanyahu government had achieved a major strategic victory in redefining some of the terms of reference of "Oslo" and in lowering the Palestinians' expectations to more realistic levels, but if the aforementioned "leaks" are true, the present government may now be squandering its predecessor's achievement.
This is so with regard to the tactics employed - practically offering the Palestinians their most cherished goal, recognized statehood, without demanding anything in return - and more importantly in the matter of the geographical dimensions of a future state.
Some ministers speak of handing over to the Palestinians 90% of the territories, others of "only" 80%. Geography and topography continue to be vital factors in Israeli security - even more so in the missile age - and there is a widespread consensus that even for purely military reasons, Israel's future borders must be very different from the pre-'67 armistice lines.
What do we hear now? That though most of the settlements located in large "blocs" will remain under Israeli sovereignty, those areas will not necessarily be contiguous - thus becoming isolated and vulnerable "islands" inside the Palestinian state.
Conventional political wisdom has it that Clinton is determined to have an Israel-Palestinian agreement before his term ends - but I have no doubt that he would not consciously put pressure on Israel to make decisions which will endanger its very existence in the future.
As Henry Kissinger put it: "The Arab side must shed the illusion that it can, with American help, maneuver Israel into yielding, step-by-step, most of its ultimate program. Such a strategy is more likely to lead to an explosion than to a settlement." (Jerusalem Post Apr 21)
The writer is a former Likud MK and ambassador to the US.
The despicable David Irving lost his libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books. An English judge wrote a devastating opinion, deciding in it that Irving was a racist, an antisemite, and an intellectual "cover" for neo-Nazi groups. He also decided that Lipstadt was correct in labeling Irving a Holocaust denier.
I have often wondered why antisemites are Holocaust deniers. After all, should they not be proud of their accomplishments? The neo-Nazis and many of our neighbors here in the Middle East loudly proclaim their intent to rid themselves of Jews and the Jewish state. Yet at the same time, they also deny that the Holocaust existed.
The Mufti in Jerusalem, on the occasion of the pope's visit to Israel, publicly denied the Holocaust. Why? What lies behind this illogical behavior?
Holocaust deniers essentially deny the special quality and unique history of the Jewish people. They seek to make us ordinary, just like everyone else.
If they convince us of that, then the Jew and all of his ages-old spiritual and moral values and proclamations are easily expendable. So many others have passed from the scene, so why not the Jew as well?
It is not the Holocaust per se that Irving, the Mufti, and their ilk deny. It is the concept of there being a unique, special people who defy ordinary social logic and historical imperatives that they deny. That is what disturbs their peace of mind.
They deny the Holocaust, because the Holocaust also is something special and unique in the annals of human history.
Even an inexplicable and horrendous tragedy such as the Holocaust testifies to the Jewish people being unique and special.
Antisemitism is not based solely on the hatred of the Jew. It is based on the hatred of the Jew being special - on the anger of antisemites at the God of history that has somehow always preserved Israel and for allowing it to be such a powerful and influential force in human affairs.
Unfortunately there are Jewish deniers as well. There are Jews who do not wish to be special or unique. So they deny Jewish history, denigrate the Jewish Bible and tradition, and whistle bravely past the graveyard of the dangers that surround us.
Last week Israeli newspapers reported that the minister of justice spoke out against the tradition of large families in Israeli society. He recommended that government assistance to large families be curtailed and eventually eliminated. He decried Ben-Gurion for ever having established such a policy of aid to large families.
The same day an article appeared in the Israeli press about the demographic explosion within the Arab world and especially among the Palestinians. In typical denial mode, there seemed to be no correlation between the two articles in the same paper.
Our Supreme Court is in denial as to what part of the world we live in. Everyone fears to say our neighbors are still out to destroy us and not merely to make us more civil.
It is easier to deny reality than to face the necessity of changing long-cherished hopes that wishes will come true by themselves if we only wish hard enough.
Israeli leaders have long denied the fact that perhaps Assad really does not want peace with us. Because such a realization flies in the face of logic and supposed Syrian self-interest, it requires a special explanation.
And the secular Israeli leadership has long since shed any sense of being Jewishly special.
Covered over with the pious platitudes of the post-modern world's approach to all human problems, our deniers negate our history, the mystery of our survival and success, and avoid the obvious question of why one should be Jewish if it really makes no difference.
Being special is a burden and a trophy at the same time. Our deniers throw away both, without realizing that they are thereby assuming an even heavier and more wearing burden.
It is therefore not too surprising to read the articles of a number of Israel's leading journalists to the effect that the Irving trial itself was not so important. This is because the deeper thrust of the trial was about the Jewish people being special.
And if there is anything our enlightened intellectuals detest it is being considered special.
Antisemitism comes in various forms. Sometimes it is disguised as scholarship - biblical criticism, revisionist history, distorted archeological conclusions.
That is what made Irving so dangerous, since he had standing in the world of historical scholarship. Let us hope that his standing is now destroyed. But antisemitism's main goal remains the same: the destruction of the concept of the uniqueness of the people of Israel.
Pessah represents the beginning of Jewish national uniqueness.
It reminds us of our ancient and our near past. It is the bond of our history and destiny. It reminds us of the dangers and joys of being Jewish. It denies nothing and recalls everything.
It is realistic in its assessment of our place in the world and of the Divine Providence which constantly pushes and prods us to be a special people - a blessing and a light unto the nations of the world.
The Irving trial, sadly, will not prevent the Holocaust deniers and antisemites who somehow still abound from continuing their terrible work. But it served as a reminder to all of us as to the uniqueness of Israel and its story.
That was a good introduction to the Seder evening for each and every one of us. Hag sameah (Jerusalem Post Apr 19)
Since Syria seems to have firmly stopped 10 meters short of an agreement with us, the time has come for Israel to take matters into its own hands with a dramatic unilateral withdrawal.
Yes, all things come to an end. With a heavy heart but valuing peace above all, and taking due regard for the safety of its troops, allies, and civilians, Israel should withdraw its offer of territory to Syria.
Some may call it silly to explicitly withdraw an offer that's been rejected anyway, but better silly and safe than reticent and reckless. Last time we were reticent. We refrained from publicly puncturing the trial balloon that Rabin floated, regarding the full pullback in return for full peace. We refrained from even publicly acknowledging it, until it reappeared as the logical starting point, from the Syrians' point of view, for the new round of negotiations.
Most offers, of course, expire. You can't hold a restaurant to last year's menu, or a phone company to last year's get-acquainted offer. Moreover, the makers of most offers are not obliged to ignore a refusal. If I ask a woman out to a movie and she says "In your dreams, you halfwit son of a buzzard," then she may find that even if she promptly reconsiders, the moment of opportunity has passed.
Alas for Israel, though, we have established the expectation that our generosity is irrevocable. To placate those whom we once vowed never to speak with, we offer them that which we once vowed never to part with, and we waive what we once called the minimal recompense. Today no one expects us to stand by our demands, much less toughen them. But if our concessions never end, then peace will never begin.
Here is an opportunity to say for once, "That was then, this is now." We should withdraw the offer of the Golan before the Syrian refusal disappears from the world's short memory. We should withdraw it before Assad disappears from his palace. Indeed we must withdraw it before Assad's successor arrives, or the world will say something like this to us: Since on the one hand you were willing to accommodate Assad, who was a bloodthirsty tyrant, a liar, and a sworn enemy, how can you on the other hand be less generous to a new Syrian leader who may possibly have the soul of a friendly democrat? How can you shame him? Surely that will make an enemy of him if he wasn't one before.
There is this idea, you see, that the Arabs are what we make of them. Shimon Peres used to like to say, "You don't find partners, you create them." The theory has it that Arabs - even some who today are hostile - will swallow the pill of peace if it is coated with the sweet taste of territory. But there is little evidence that a nation can be tricked into peace. Into defeat, sometimes yes, but that isn't always the same thing.
So let us not be too generous, let us anticipate that the justified expiry of our recent generosity will not be recognized unless made clear, and let us make it clear to all: the Syrians had their chance. Now the Golan stays with us.
The writer is a Herzliya-based freelance writer. (Jerusalem Post Apr 19)
Can the population of a country that has recently reached an envious state of affluence continue to stand up to a prolonged ongoing war, and to an even more problematic situation of half war, half peace-in-the-making?
Eitan Haber, writing on this page yesterday, obviously believes that the answer is a resounding and dejecting no. Today's settlers along the northern border with Lebanon, to which our forces are scheduled to retreat in another two and a half months by order of Prime Minister Barak, are not the settlers of the 1950s who stood up to much worse attacks and remained to rebuild a flourishing Galilee.
Today's settlers, Haber argues, are no different from the Israel of the final decade of the 20th century: If attacks from Lebanon are pressed into their very homes, they will behave like half of the population of Tel Aviv, which fled the city under the Scud missile attacks from Iraq in 1991.
In this weekend's Ha'aretz magazine, that point of view is backed up by a series of interviews with the toughest of the settlers along the Lebanese border, the kibbutznikim of Manara and Misgav Am. Two young mothers are interviewed and say that they are worried to death for the safety of their children if Hizbullah is permitted to come right smack up to the fences around the kibbutz. They both express serious doubts whether they will stay in the Manara they love, if attacks from so close across the border are renewed after the IDF pullout.
One of the original founders of Manara, the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's sister, Rachel, now in her eighties, is quoted as saying: "Young parents here are saying as bluntly as they can that they will not agree to their own children going through what they themselves did in the Manara of a generation ago. Nor will they agree that their children be bused to school in convoys accompanied by IDF armored vehicles."
Haber, in drawing a direct line between panic-stricken Tel Aviv under the Scud attacks and today's settlers along the northern border, is in effect parroting Yitzhak Rabin, whom he served as media advisor. After wrestling with himself for years, Rabin came to the conclusion that major concessions would have to be made to the Syrians on the Golan, because civilian Israel of the 1990s would simply not stand up to Syrian and other Arab war threats.
Yitzhak Rabin was wrong in his assessment of what Israel would and would not stand up to, and so is Eitan Haber, because they were paying attention to the wrong part of Israel. Half of Tel Aviv fled under the Scuds; but half did not. No one fled Haifa, which was also hit by Scuds. Nearly no one flees the kibbutzim and moshavim all through the North which have been targeted by Hizbullah Katyushas.
We do have a serious morale problem, largely because our leaders, who live primarily in affluent north Tel Aviv and the Coastal Plain, have chosen to heed those of us who are ready to throw in the towel in exchange for a mirage of peace, rather than the large patriotic majority of the country.
Barak has chosen to latch on to the message of the Four Mothers, which is "I want my son out of harm's way; the hell with the rest of the country." It's the wrong decision. His relevant population should be the mothers in the settlements along the border. It is primarily a question of leadership to ensure them that no punches will be pulled in ensuring them maximum security.
Let me make two suggestions: the tiniest attack from across the border must invite disproportionately massive retaliation. The answer, however, is not to shoot ourselves in the foot in the important court of Western opinion by shelling Lebanese women and children.
Rather, we should make it absolutely clear that in retaliation for continuing attacks we will shoot to kill top Lebanese political and military leaders who have it in their power to prevent such attacks. It is high time that the people at the top, who are the ones who order or permit attacks, and not their hapless civilian populations, be the ones to pay the price.
A second symbolic suggestion that could be critical for shoring up morale is that Barak and as many of his ministers whom he can cajole move their wives, families and married children into a string of those settlements for the next six months or so, by when it should be clear if we have done everything possible to ensure the security of all those living there.
(Jerusalem Post Apr 19)