A Collection of the Week's News from Israel

A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee
of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation

15 Iyar 5759    April 30, 1999    Issue number 215


News

Palestinians Not Happy with Clinton Letter

Despite the official Palestinian announcements of satisfaction with the letter written them by U.S. President Clinton this week, internal Palestinian discussions reveal a different story. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the Arabs are disappointed that Clinton did not include a commitment to support a Palestinian state in the future, nor does the letter employ the term "self-determination." Another fault in the letter from the Palestinian standpoint is the lack of a deadline therein for the end of the negotiations, but rather a general recommendation to conclude them within a year. The full text of the letter has not been released. Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon sees the Clinton letter as an "achievement for the government." He said that the Netanyahu government's unambiguous stand insisting that a Palestinian declaration would violate the Oslo accords was that which led Arafat to look for a way to back-track from his threats to declare a state. Prime Minister Netanyahu's senior foreign press aide, David Bar-Illan, also praised the Clinton letter. Opposition leader Ehud Barak, however, claimed that the American message to Arafat promising that the Palestinians will "one day be a free people in their own land" was a "Balfour declaration for the Palestinians." Correspondent Huberman added that senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath is working diligently to create a de-facto state, even if it is not

formally declared. For instance, passports will soon be issued bearing the title "State of Palestine," and the minting of a Palestinian coin is planned. Yasser Arafat has also toured Europe extensively this past month, receiving assurances from many European leaders that they would be willing to recognize their PLO embassies as official embassies of 'Palestine.' "But all of this European support is worth nothing to Arafat without the support of Washington," Huberman said. "Despite the strategic agreement between the Clinton administration and Arafat, his letter reconfirmed that America's traditional opposition to a Palestinian state has not changed, and this worries the Palestinians." (Arutz 7 Apr 28)

P.A. Relies on U.N. for Partition, Refugees

The Palestinian Legislative Council essentially decided Tuesday to delay the date of the Palestinian state's formal declaration, probably until after a visit to Israel by the Pope next year. Significantly, however, the PLC defined the borders of the future state as based on United Nations resolution #181 of the year 1947 - thus including Tzfat, Be'er Sheva, Jaffa, Nahariyah, Ashkelon and dozens of other Israeli localities within the Palestinian entity. Furthermore, as David Bedein of the Israel Resource Review reports, the PLC affirmed that the future Palestinian state would demand the enforcement of UN resolution #194, calling for the repatriation of three million Arab refugees to the villages they left in 1948. Simultaneously, the UN Human Rights Commission passed a resolution in Geneva yesterday, calling for the same things: Palestinian self-determination on the basis of the UN partition resolution #181 and refugee-return resolution #194. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold said in response, "In the past, 181 and 194 have been referred to in UN resolutions, but there has generally [also] been reference to ... a general commitment to the peace process. This time it is 181 and 194 alone. We see this as part of an orchestrated campaign by the Palestinians to press [the old partition plan]." (Arutz 7 Apr 28)

P.A. Police Shoot IDF Soldier

An IDF soldier was fired upon and wounded by Palestinian para-military policemen near Jenin Wednesday afternoon. He is listed in moderate condition in the Ha'Emek hospital in Afula. The soldier mistakenly entered the Arab village Silat al-Charatiya, and when he attempted to find his way out, the Palestinians fired upon him. The IDF is investigating the incident, and has imposed a closure on the city of Jenin.

The condition of the eight soldiers injured in Lebanon Tuesday has improved, and they are all now listed in light condition. The soldiers were injured during a battle with Hizbullah terrorists, who attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the Sujud outpost. Three SLA soldiers were also injured, as apparently were several of the terrorists. O.C. Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy expressed his admiration of the performance of the IDF and SLA soldiers. (Arutz 7 Apr 28)

Tibi on Trial

The trial of Arafat-confidante Ahmed Tibi continued Wednesday, for its last session until after the elections. This, by request of Tibi's defense attorney. Border Guard policeman Hadi Ibrahim testified today as to how Tibi had insulted and humiliated him at a checkpoint last year. Ibrahim told how when he began to carry out a check of Tibi's car, Tibi said to him, "You are a Druze and that's why you're collaborating with them. My shoe is cleaner than your family." Tibi is currently running for Knesset. (Arutz 7 Apr 28)

Police Prejudice Against Jews

Supreme Court Judge Michael Heshin has ordered a hearing within two weeks on the appeal by the Hevron Jewish community against the Military Prosecutor's special procedures regarding Yesha residents. The Israeli weekly Makor Rishon reported last Friday that the procedures are clearly biased in favor of Palestinians and against Jews. The regulations allow for the detention of Jewish minors under the age of 16, and the indictment of Jewish minors under 14 and of public figures - all of which are not allowed for Palestinians. Similarly, the special guidelines allow for the closure of files against Palestinians "for lack of public interest," but not those against Jews. (Arutz 7 Apr 25)

Labor's Anti-Settler Campaign Revives Itself, Settlers

The election campaign: All the political parties appear to be quite pleased with the campaign commercials they each aired Monday night. The One Israel Party says that its commercials were superior to all others, though it admits off the record that Binyamin Netanyahu's performance was more impressive than that of Barak. Likud sources accuse Ehud Barak's One Israel of slanderous comments and incitement against entire sectors of Israeli society - most notably, the settlers of Yesha. It's now official: The Labor party line, according to its ads aired on national television last night, is that "Only Ehud Barak has the strength to give equal treatment to everybody and not to be subject to political extortion. Only Barak has the strength to say 'money for education' instead of for new settlements, to say 'more jobs' instead of preference to the hareidim..." This, despite hints over the past weeks that the anti-hareidi and anti-settler direction of the party would be played down. On Sunday, for instance, Labor MK Shlomo Ben-Ami visited the largely-hareidi city of Bnei Brak, where he termed "total nonsense" the idea of changing priorities by channeling money from the hareidim to public education. Labor MK and former Finance Minister Avraham Baige-Shochat told Arutz-7 today, "Listen, I'm not an analyst of Shlomo Ben-Ami, and I'm not going to try to relate to a possible contradiction between a statement of his - that was said in a particular place - and what appears on the party ads. I agree with the position expressed on the ads." "Ehud Barak has succeeded in doing in three minutes what the Prime Minister hasn't been able to do in many months: namely, bringing Yesha residents out to the streets." This was the Yesha Council reaction to One Israel's campaign ads against the Yesha settlements. Secretary-General of the Yesha Council Aharon Domb says that as a result of the ads, it has now been decided by the Council to send hundreds of volunteers to intersections around the country in support of Binyamin Netanyahu. (Arutz 7 Apr 27)

Syria Not Interested in the Golan?

Dr. Guy Bechor, a renowned Arab affairs commentator in the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliyah, says that Syrian President Assad is not interested in receiving the Golan, and for this reason is interested in a Netanyahu victory. "The announcement by Syrian Foreign Minister Ashara that Syria is interested in Barak winning simply proves my point. For after all, he knows that such an announcement will only strengthen Netanyahu - and this is exactly his intention. Assad was offered in the past the entire Golan by Rabin- and he turned it down! For Assad knows that an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan will obligate him to conduct full diplomatic relations with Israel, including free borders. This means that thousands of Israelis will visit the Damascus market, which is only an hour and a quarter's drive from Tiberias - every week. The entire Syrian rulership is based on the conflict with Israel, the entire military, the entire society. Assad says to himself, 'At my age, I have to undergo such a major change in thinking?' This is why he would prefer that Netanyahu win." Regarding the main question occupying the Palestinian leadership at the moment, Dr. Bechor said unequivocally, "They will definitely not declare a state at this time. This has been obvious for some months now. However, Arafat has climbed a very high tree with his announcements until now regarding the Palestinians' right to declare a state on May 4, and it is not so easy for him to climb down. This is why he is convening the Palestinian institutions, so they can 'cover' for him. Note that he is not convening the popularly-elected Council, which the Oslo agreement recognizes as the representative body of the PA. This is because he doesn't have as much control over the members of that body." The date for the declaration of a Palestinian state will simply be delayed until a different, more politically convenient, date, according to Bechor.

Dr. Bechor said that the question of who Arafat really supports for Prime Minister is an interesting one: "On the one hand, many Palestinians say that Barak would be more 'pliable' during negotiations. But you also have many who say that under Netanyahu, Israel is more isolated, and relations with the U.S. are not as good - a situation from which the Palestinians would therefore benefit. I don't think the Palestinians themselves have come to an agreed-upon decision in this matter." Bechor said that it is most significant that Hamas leader Yassin, who has always claimed leadership over the Palestinians, is taking part in today's PLO meeting: "The explanation is that just like three years ago there was a silent understanding between them regarding the giant wave of terror against Israel, now there is a similar understanding between them about the need for quiet. I'm not like the Americans who get all excited about Arafat's great success in containing terrorism, because I know that he did not do it by force, but rather with a convenient mutual understanding with Hamas." It was learned Tuesday that Arafat recently released, or will do so very soon, three major Hamas terrorists who were involved in suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem three years ago, causing the deaths of 58 people. (Arutz 7 Apr 27)

Orient House Rally: "Death to Bibi"

The Jerusalem Police have a video of a Palestinian rally Monday night outside the Orient House, in which demonstrators are seen shouting, "Death to Bibi!" A complaint has been submitted to the police against the instigators by an observer, who noted that Israel TV cameramen filmed the event, but it was not reported on the TV news. Left-wing Israeli groups arrived at the Orient House in the late afternoon to demonstrate their support for the Palestinian Authority's presence there after a cabinet decision last week to close the PA offices there. (Arutz 7 Apr 27)

More Families Move in to Shimon Hatzaddik

MK Rabbi Benny Elon presided over the next stage in the renewal of the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem Tuesday. Several Jewish families moved into their new homes there, and Elon took the opportunity to announce future plans for the neighborhood - sometimes known by its Arab name Sheikh Jarrah. Before 1948, dozens of Jewish families lived in the area, located adjacent to the major artery connecting the Old City with the northern Jewish neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and French Hill. Rabbi Elon told Arutz-7 yesterday that another family had moved in last week, and that "Jews will now be able to get used to the fact that when they cross Highway #1 from the Me'ah She'arim area into the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood, they are still in Jerusalem, and not in an Arab city where they have to beware of who's walking behind them... Jerusalem is truly united, and I know that Netanyahu and even Barak talk a lot about that - but someone has to actually do it." Students from Beit Orot - which is active in reclamation efforts in the neighborhood - maintain an advanced Torah learning program in one of the Shimon HaTzaddik buildings, and the Yeshiva has organized the purchase of some nine properties in the area. Chaim Silberstein, Executive-Director of Beit Orot, said, "Despite consistent efforts by Feisal Husseini to assert Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem and violate the Oslo accords, we will maintain our efforts to redeem and inhabit Jewish-owned property throughout Jerusalem." A large Lag BaOmer celebration of the new Jewish presence will be held next Tuesday in the neighborhood, which is only a few hundred meters away from the Orient House. (Arutz 7 Apr 26)

One Round or Two?

Ma'ariv reported Sunday that despite yet another denial by Yitzchak Mordechai that he plans to drop out of the Prime Ministerial race, Netanyahu's office is preparing for the eventuality that this will not be the case. If Mordechai drops out, it is likely that either Barak or Netanyahu will receive more than 50% of the vote, thus eliminating the need for a second round. Dr. Aharon Fein, of the public survey institute Tatzpit, said that both the Centrist and One Israel parties have reached the conclusion that a one-round election would favor Barak, and are working to ensure that this will happen. "The main difference is that the second-round turnout of Arabs - who would overwhelmingly support Barak - would be much smaller than in the first round," explained Fein. Asked for his prediction of the final results, Fein said, "Because of the composition of the country, we feel that Netanyahu will continue to serve as Prime Minister after the elections, and that he would have to form a national-unity government. This could change if there is only one round, but not significantly." (Arutz 7 Apr 26)

Ivanov Sees Yesha From Above

Russian Foreign Minsiter Ivan Ivanov arrived in Israel last week, for meetings on the minimizing of Russia's role in providing nuclear technology to Iran. Ivanov met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trade and Industry Minister Sharansky and Foreign Minister Sharon, as well as with Prime Ministerial candidates Barak and Mordechai - in order that he not be accused of attempting to influence public opinion so soon before the election. Ivanov was greeted at the airport by a military helicopter, in which Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon then accompanied him on an air-tour of Judea and Samaria. (Arutz 7 Apr 22)


Commentary

May 4, 1999 - Some Frequently Asked Questions

From the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1. What is the significance of the date May 4, 1999?

The Oslo accords are based on the principle that there will be a transitional period leading to a final settlement. During this period Israel and the Palestinians will implement interim arrangements and, at the same time, conduct negotiations on the permanent status arrangements to be implemented at the end of the transitional period.

In the Declaration of Principles the parties stated their intention of concluding permanent status negotiations after a transitional period of five years. However this was expressed not as a fixed deadline but as an "aim" of the negotiations (later, in the Wye Memorandum the parties termed it a "mutual goal").

Article V of the Declaration of Principles provided that this transitional period would begin upon the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area. This withdrawal took place on May 4, 1994. Accordingly the transitional period was intended to continue until May 4, 1999.

2. Will there be a legal vacuum after this date?

No. If the two sides do not succeed in concluding the permanent status negotiations by the ta rget date of May 4, 1999, the interim arrangements will continue until these negotiations have been concluded. It is for this reason that the Interim Agreement contains a date for its entry into force, but no date for its conclusion.

This reflects the understanding of the parties that the Oslo process is not a temporary and reversible experiment. To the contrary, as the parties affirmed in the preamble of the Interim Agreement:

The peace process and the new era that it has created, as well as the new relationship established between the two parties, are irreversible. If this were not the case, and the intention was that in the absence of agreement on May 4, 1999 the Oslo arrangements would expire, the result would not be the creation of a legal vacuum. Rather all powers and responsibilities would revert to the Israeli military government, which under Article I of the Interim Agreement retains the residuary jurisdiction.

It was indeed the hope of the parties to reach agreement by May 4, 1999. However this was an aspiration, not a mandate to jettison everything achieved after that date. For this reason, as noted above, the date is described in the Israel-PLO agreements as an "aim" or "mutual goal" and not a fixed deadline. That the intention of the parties was not to gamble all the agreed arrangements on the conclusion of negotiations by May 4, 1999 was recently acknowledged by Herbert Hansell, former legal adviser of the US State Department who observed: "... it is difficult to believe that the parties could have intended that the entire legal structure they so laboriously established would self-destruct on May 4... the interpretation that the Oslo agreement terminate seems so at odds with the language of the accords, and with the spirit of the extended legal regime the parties have constructed, that no interruption in the performance of the Oslo agreements could be based on that interpretation. This approach reflects not only the language and logic of the accords, but also the practice of the two sides to date. Where, in the course of implementing the Oslo accords, the two sides have been unable to reach agreement by the specified deadlines, the arrangements in force have continued to apply until the negotiations on the new arrangements have been concluded. Thus, for example, pending the conclusion of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement in 1994 and the Hebron Protocol in 1997, both of which were concluded some months after their envisaged target dates, the existing arrangements continued in force until the negotiations were successfully concluded.

3. Can the Palestinians declare a state unilaterally after May 4, 1999?

The answer is emphatically no. As noted above, the Interim Agreement, which prohibits unilateral attempts to change the status of the territories, does not expire on May 4, 1999 but continues in force until superseded by agreed permanent status arrangements. In fact, for the avoidance of any doubt in this context, the Interim Agreement does not link the prohibition to a specific date but rather prohibits the initiation or taking of "any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations" (Article XXXI.7, emphasis added).

Additionally, it should be recalled that the Palestinian undertaking not to declare a state unilaterally is enshrined in documents which are independent of the Interim Agreement and unrelated to the transitional period. Thus, in his letter to Prime Minister Rabin dated September 9, 1993, Chairman Arafat undertook that "all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations".

Finally, it should be stressed that the Palestinians, after refusing Israel's repeated invitations to negotiate a permanent status agreement, cannot be permitted to rely on the absence of such an agreement to justify a unilateral declaration of statehood.

4. What would be the legal effect of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood?

International law has established a number of criteria for the existence of a state: effective and independent governmental control, possession of defined territory; the capacity to freely engage in foreign relations; and control over a permanent population.

In order to be recognized as a state, an entity must satisfy all four criteria; the Palestinian entity, however, cannot actually be said to satisfy any of them: Palestinian governmental control is far from independent - it is partial, temporary, and reliant on Israeli assistance and cooperation; the territory is not defined - it is non-contiguous and indeterminate - nor do the Palestinians hold sovereign title to it; the interim agreements explicitly prohibit the exercise of foreign relations by the Palestinian Council; and its control over its population is neither independent or comprehensive.

Additionally, over recent years new additional criteria have been established by the international community for recognition as a state. These include the principle that a state cannot arise as a result of illegality. It follows that, even if the Palestinian entity were to satisfy the criteria for statehood, the unlawfulness of a unilateral declaration of statehood would invalidate any Palestinian claim to recognition.

Accordingly, however decisively phrased, a declaration of statehood could not have the effect of bringing a state into being. Moreover the conferral of recognition on such an entity by a state would, under international law, itself be an unlawful and invalid act.

5. What would be the practical effect of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood?

A Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood is more than simply an unlawful act. It is a rejection of the two fundamental principles of the peace process: the need to accommodate the legitimate rights of both sides, and the recognition that this accommodation can only be achieved through negotiation. It would thus undermine the only framework that has proved capable of bringing about genuine changes in the situation of the Palestinian people - to the extent that today over 97% of the Palestinians of the West Bank, and all the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip live under Palestinian, not Israeli, rule.

A Palestinian rejection of this framework in an attempt to establish the final status of the territories on a unilateral basis would also inevitably force Israel to take corresponding unilateral measures to protect its own position, and would ultimately frustrate the possibility of achieving a durable and lasting negotiated settlement.

6. Does the peace process mandate the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state?

As regards the status of the Palestinian entity to be established at the end of the interim period, the Israel-PLO agreements make it clear that this is a subject for negotiations between the two sides. Pending the outcome of these permanent status negotiations, all options are to remain open. The Declaration of Principles (Article V.4) provides that "the outcome the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period" while the Interim Agreement (Article XXXI.6) adds: "Neither party shall be deemed, by virtue of having entered into this Agreement, to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights claims or positions".

While the Israeli-Palestinian agreements leave the outcome of the permanent status negations open, some guidance is given by Article I of the Declaration of Principles. Entitled "Aim of the Negotiations", the Article provides that the goal of the talks is to establish interim arrangements "leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338". The reference to these United Nations resolutions is significant, for while they set out a number of principles to be applied in the final settlement, including the termination of states of belligerence and the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries, no reference is made to the need to establish a new, Palestinian state.

Both sides approach the final status negotiating table with a clean slate. Beyond the general principles set out in UN resolutions 242 and 338, all options remain open.

7. What should the international community do?

The outstanding issues of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations cannot be resolved unilaterally. The Oslo process, and UN resolutions 242 and 338, provide that bilateral negotiations are the only way of reaching a just and lasting peace. And in practice, it is only face to face negotiations that have proved themselves capable of creating genuine changes on the ground and bringing the Palestinians closer to their aspirations.

The responsibility of the international community, therefore, is clear. It must refuse to recognize any unilateral attempt to change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It must call on the Palestinian side to comply with its obligations under the continuing interim arrangements. And it must urge the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table. This is not just its legal obligation; it is also the only way to reach a genuine and lasting peace. (PMO Apr 26)


Netanyahu Still the Media Master by Calev Ben-David

Campaign broadcasts opened Monday night on Channel 2 at 8:30 with a Likud segment that was vintage Binyamin Netanyahu.

Sitting in a study-like setting, casually dressed in a blue sweater, the prime minister dramatically whipped off his reading glasses, looked up at the cameras, and delivered a flawless performance.

Looking relaxed and confident, he concisely spelled out the Likud's central campaign messages: We promised and we delivered, terrorism is down because we were tough with Arafat, only the Likud can be trusted to continue the peace negotiations.

And, despite the current economic difficulties, more prosperous days are ahead of us.

The ideas were easy to grasp, the delivery lively and compelling, and the use of Russian subtitles a shrewd tactical move; this was the very model of a modern campaign ad. The tense, confused Netanyahu who debated Yitzhak Mordechai two weeks ago was gone, and in his place was media-master Bibi at his very best.

In contrast, One Israel batted next with a condensed military resume of Ehud Barak that seemed a little off the point, and a brief summary of his party's platform that used too many images and not enough plain speaking by Barak himself.

One Israel did better with its attack ads savaging Netanyahu, making full use of the prime minister's habit of making shifty expressions when he thinks he's off-camera, and constant repetition of a slogan with that real James Carville touch: "100,000 people have lost their jobs; why should he keep his?"

One Israel was at least able to use its substantial air time advantage to keep pounding away at Netanyahu. But if the Likud was limited to throwing fewer jabs, it made every shot count.

Especially effective was a brief appearance by Finance Minister Meir Sheetrit, who gave the evening's best supporting performance, counterpunching One Israel on the education issue.

As for the Center Party, if it expected its campaign ads to save it in the polls, then somebody there better get on the phone to Barak before the first round. Party leader Mordechai came off wooden on camera, his message - "Vote for me because only I can beat Netanyahu" - was one-note and uninspiring, and its commercials totally lacked any zing.

As for the smaller parties, Yisrael Ba'aliya didn't seem to be running for the Knesset, but the Interior Ministry. Almost every second of the party's commercial time was utilized to have Russian immigrants detail the humiliations they've suffered at the hands of Shas Interior Ministry functionaries.

Shas's ad also seemed to have almost nothing to do with the election, and everything to do with vindicating party leader Aryeh Deri. Other than boosting the spirits of a depressed-looking Deri, Shas didn't bother to offer any reasons why anyone should vote for it. The party also clearly tipped its hand in support of Netanyahu, who more than once was shown hanging together with Deri and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Another party that seemed to be confused about why it is running is the National Union. Party leader Ze'ev (Benny) Begin never once uttered the words Judea and Samaria, never directly condemned the Oslo process or railed against Yasser Arafat's treachery.

Instead, he and Moledet's Rehavam Ze'evi talked vaguely about "building throughout the land," and stressed, of all things, the theme of religious-secular unity.

As if that wasn't bad enough for the National Union, the National Religious Party brilliantly sucker-punched it by using an old clip of NRP defector Hanan Porat persuasively explaining why national religious voters should stick with the NRP instead of switching "to a party with Gandhi [Ze'evi]."

The entire NRP commercial, with a catchy campaign song by Haim Moshe, a clever graphic of an unraveling crocheted kippa to symbolize disunity on the Right, and a good montage of Bnei Akiva youth, was the best all-around ad of the night.

The strangest commercial was a brief plug for United Torah Judaism, which featured a bizarre graphic of a black gimmel (the party's symbol) swaying back-and-forth as if in prayer. This was followed by a montage of hands putting little notes in the cracks of the Western Wall, that looked like it was some kind of avant-garde student film. Good thing most of UTJ's voters don't own a television set.

To sum up the first night of the television campaign war: Netanyahu shows again why he's the master; One Israel delivers quantity rather than quality; the Center Party comes off looking desperate; Shas and the National Union need to remember what they stand for; and the NRP wins the opening night election Oscar hands down from this reviewer. (Jerusalem Post Apr 27)


Stately Misunderstanding By Max Singer

The widespread misunderstanding of Israel's negotiating policy with the Palestinians is demonstrated by reactions to the new American letter to Yasser Arafat. On the main point, immediate and accelerated final-status negotiations, the letter is long delayed support for what Netanyahu has been trying to get for over two years.

Immediately after the Hebron Agreement was signed, Netanyahu proposed beginning final-status negotiations. At the same time he signaled, among other ways through a public interview by David Bar-Illan, that Israel was prepared to agree to a Palestinian state with the kind of provisions concerning foreign armies, etc. that all Israelis have assumed must be part of realistic Palestinian statehood.

Arafat refused, insisting instead on negotiations about future further redeployments and other Interim Agreement issues.

The reason Netanyahu was eager to begin final-status negotiations was that he understood the need to restore Israeli unity by demonstrating, to those Israelis who believe the war can be ended through reasonable compromise, that Israel is ready to make a generous peace. This demonstration can only be made in final-status negotiations.

In contrast, negotiations on implementation of the Interim Agreements have to be used to demonstrate that the Palestinians can be held to what they have agreed to ("reciprocity").

Arafat has been able to conceal his refusal to negotiate about final status partly because of the Israeli opposition's false reports of "Netanyahu's determined opposition to Palestinian statehood," and its denial that Netanyahu is ready to fulfill Rabin's commitments.

The most recent expression of Netanyahu's view was in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, "Looking forward" (April 20), in which he says that he is unwilling to agree to a Palestinian state "and all that implies," and goes on to describe an opening position on security provisions that would need to be incorporated into Palestinian statehood at this time.

In other words, if statehood automatically implies "foreign armies west of the Jordan" he is against it (as is Ehud Barak), if it doesn't, he is ready to negotiate.

A false picture of Israeli reluctance to move toward peace has been spread partly by concealing the two issues that lie behind the diplomacy of negotiations about a Palestinian state.

First, for obvious reasons, the Palestinians would like to have agreement that they are entitled to a "state" before the negotiations start; whereas Israel would like to negotiate about the terms of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship before it formally concedes that a Palestinian state should be established.

For example, why should Israel agree to what a Palestinian state should have before that state agrees to what Israel should have? The only reason Israelis are ready to have a Palestinian state created in their midst is to produce an end to the war in support of Palestinian claims against Israel.

This means that a state shouldn't be created except as part of the permanent settlement that Monday's White House statement called for. A permanent settlement requires that Israel relinquish its claims to land on which the Palestinians live to a Palestinian state in exchange for that state relinquishing Palestinian claims against Israel.

Second, is the question, "what is implied by statehood?" For example, part of Barak's platform is "no foreign armies west of the Jordan," and this was certainly Yitzhak Rabin's position too.

IF you begin by saying that the Palestinians are entitled to a state you will certainly be faced with the plausible claim that a Palestinian state that doesn't have the right to have an army and to invite foreign military units into its territory, as every other state does, would not be a real Palestinian state.

It is because of such issues that neither Rabin nor Netanyahu were ever willing to say officially or publicly that there should be a Palestinian state before agreeing about particular terms. And these issues underlie the semantics of "autonomy plus plus" or "statehood minus."

Before they came to believe that Israel must negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state, both Rabin and Netanyahu had long records of fierce opposition to statehood. Both changed their minds; and because of political and diplomatic considerations, neither said so publicly and officially.

Netanyahu's critics from the Left object to his claim that Palestinians have no right to national self-determination without Israel's agreement. But this is misleading. It is always true that a people's abstract right to self-determination cannot be separated from the practical circumstances in which they find themselves.

Since the Palestinians, who are also Arabs, have been fighting against Israel, are allied with Israel's enemies, and are living in areas related to Israel's security, actual Palestinian statehood (as distinguished from some abstract right) must depend on Israel's agreement. This is the position of Rabin and Netanyahu and Clinton and almost all Israelis. It just confuses the issue to draw a false distinction between Rabin and Netanyahu on this issue.

Netanyahu has lost many of his supporters on the Right because they know that his real policy has been to try to start final-status negotiations on the terms by which a Palestinian state could be created - while, of course, maintaining the traditional formal opposition to such a state.

Netanyahu's critics on the Right are challenging his real position; his critics on the Left are making false claims about his position - false claims that have enabled Arafat to avoid genuine peace negotiations.

The writer is co-author of 'The Real World Order: Zones of Peace/Zones of Turmoil' and a senior research associate of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post Apr 28)


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