Israel News

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

 

Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5760
May 5, 2000
Issue number 271

Events...

Tuesday May 9

Community Yom Hazikaron Commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut Celebration at Shaarei Shomayim.

 

News...

Abu Dis on Hold

The Cabinet did not consider a proposal to transfer Abu Dis to the Palestinian Authority at its session Wednesday - because Prime Minister Barak does not currently have a majority to support it. Prime Minister Barak's secret emissary, Yossi Ginosar, had briefed Yasser Arafat Sunday on an upcoming transfer of Abu Dis, Azariyah, and Swahara to Palestinian control. The Prime Minister was of the opinion that Israeli confidence-building gestures such as this are vital for the negotiating process. Barak is now still waiting for an answer from Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef of the Shas party, who has indicated that he would accept the consensus of the Ashkenazic Council of Torah Sages. A poll conducted this week by Bar Ilan University's Dr. Yaakov Katz shows that 69% of Shas supporters will continue to object to the transfer of Abu Dis even if Rabbi Yosef supports it. Also on Wednesday, three prominent members of the directorate of UTJ's Council of Torah Sages issued a public call against an Israeli retreat from Abu Dis. The Grand Rabbis of Sadigorah, Boston, and Erloi wrote: "The transfer [to the PA] of Abu Dis constitutes a great danger to the residents of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well as for those attending funeral processions to the Mt. of Olives." The rabbis also called on the government not to transfer more than 1% of the Eretz Yisrael to the Palestinians in a third withdrawal. Rabbi Menachem Porush, head of the World Agudat Yisrael movement (aligned with UTJ), is finalizing plans for a massive rally against the intention to give away areas near Jerusalem to the PLO. Porush promises that the rally will be even larger than the vigil protesting the "long arm" of the Supreme Court, which drew close to 400,000 people last year.

Both Foreign Minister David Levy and Tourism Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shachak said Tuesday that there is no reason to give away Abu Dis before the implementation of a final-status arrangement. It also appears that both Yisrael B'Aliyah and the National Religious Party, have decided to leave the government if it decides to give away Abu Dis. Sharansky: "If Abu Dis is the 'advance' payment, then it is clear what the final payment will be - Jerusalem itself. That's why it's so dangerous to even discuss this possibility at this time, and I very much hope that the government will not deal with this proposal, and if it does, we will do everything to ensure that it does not pass." Former Chief Rabbis Shapira and Eliyahu publicized a call to the "Rabbis of Israel" to stand firmly against any attempt to strike a blow at the integrity of Jerusalem. Leading Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri released a strong statement today against the transfer of Abu Dis, located at the foot of the Mt. of Olives, to the Palestinian Authority. MK Mordechai Zandberg - of the anti-religious but somewhat right-wing Shinui party - was asked by Arutz-7 about Abu Dis. "In my opinion," Zandberg said, "if Barak gives away Abu Dis or one of the other villages around Jerusalem to the Palestinians at this stage, he is making a terrible error. Abu Dis is a negotiating card, even for those of us who don't see it under Israeli control in the final-status arrangement. If we give it away now, without receiving anything in exchange, this is simply a net loss for Israel, in that we will not be able to play this card later. The Palestinians will continue to demand still more concessions, and we will have lost this card. This is all part of the tragically-flawed Oslo process of staged withdrawals," Zandberg continued. "In each of these withdrawals, we gave away territory without receiving anything in exchange. I can understand why we made the original agreement, including giving away parts of the Land of Israel and why we agreed to have them conduct internal elections - these were concessions that showed our serious intentions. But to keep on giving away land in the phased withdrawals, without getting anything at all in return, and the serious problems remain unsolved - I can't understand how Barak and all his advisors don't understand how this weakens Israel's negotiating position and leads to the division of Jerusalem." (A7 May 2,3)

Palestinians to Blame For Lockerbie?

At Wednesday's opening of the Lockerbie bombing trial, the two Libyan defendants unexpectedly shifted the blame for the 1988 massacre - which claimed the lives of 270 people - to Palestinian Arab terrorists. According to a FoxNews report, "the defense statement named Mohammed Abu Talb, a Palestinian serving a life sentence in Sweden for earlier bombings in Denmark and the Netherlands, as one of 10 other alleged conspirators." The defense also claimed that the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by Ahmed Jibril, as well as the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, masterminded the Lockerbie bombing. The Libyan defendants had already pleaded innocent at a hearing in February. (arutzsheva.org May 3)

Activism for Imprisoned Jews

"Monday's confession by one of the (thirteen) defendants (in Iran) cannot be confirmed as legitimate," said Rabbi Avi Weiss, National President of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns - AMCHA, "since it is not known whether the defendant was tortured or whether his 'contacts in Israel' were anything more than a hand-shake with an Israeli soldier on a visit to the country." Iranian Jew Danny Tefilin, who confessed before television cameras on Monday, declared once again to the Iranian media that his admission of guilt was authentic and not extracted from him under pressure. (arutzsheva.org May 3)

Religion-Bashing at Tel Aviv U

Tel Aviv University announced that the editor of the Student Council newspaper apologizes for what many consider to be "one of the most bitter attacks on the Jewish religion to have appeared in Israel in recent years." Tuesday's edition of the paper carried an unsigned article that read, in part, as follows: "Citizen, religion is your enemy, and it is the obligation of every Israeli to fight it. Every person whose heart is not stone must go to the religious people and secularize them... When a person chooses to believe these lies [of religion], he throws the essence of his humanity into the garbage... Some will say that it makes people feel good; many of those who joined the Nazi movement also felt uplifted and joyous..." University Student Union head Guy Kellner also apologized on air Wednesday and told Arutz-7 that he had not read the article prior to its publication, but was taken aback by its extremism, and especially its equating religious with Nazi fervor. "If I had read it, I would have removed that reference," Kellner said. He added that the paper does not represent the view of the Student Union: "It is a purely autonomous publication that permits students to air their views on a variety of current topics." MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, expressed revulsion at the article, and said that he will take "legal and other measures to totally uproot phenomena of this sort." The NRP has called upon the President of Tel Aviv University to expel the article's author, Adam Hofri and to fire the editor of the Student Union newspaper in which the article was featured. Hatzofeh editor Gonen Ginat welcomed the apologies but added: "It is important to note that the article was not written in a vacuum. The atmosphere of late at Tel Aviv University - with its clear anti-religious sentiments - provided fertile ground for the publishing of this kind of piece. I can remember the slanderous responses and uproar not long ago when it was announced that a synagogue would be built on the campus! The university is proud of its theatre company, which is presenting a drama on 'religious people who leave the fold.' Who can ignore the university's outcry against the conclusions of the Tal Commission that sought a compromise on the issue of yeshiva students and military service? Many at the university declared that the committee came to the conclusions it did because 'it was made up mostly of religious people.' This is simply incorrect, but ignorance has always been an inseparable part of prejudice..." Ginat concluded: "The section that bothered me most was not that which equated religious observance with Nazism, but rather the declaration that one who adopts religious belief has 'thrown the essence of his humanity into the garbage, or forfeited his identity as a human being. This comment can have very far-reaching implications...'" (A7 May 3)

 

Anti-Semitism Report

Dr. Esther Webman, a scholar in the Institute for Anti-Semitism Research, told Arutz-7 Tuesday that although anti-Semitism has decreased somewhat throughout the world, the Arab world still shows many signs of anti-Semitism, which is, paradoxically, getting even stronger as the peace process advances. When asked if she was referring to hatred for the State of Israel or for the Jews, she replied, "First of all, we must remember that anti-Semitism lies at the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It begins with hatred for the State of Israel, hatred of Zionism, and then it branches out into extreme rhetoric against Judaism altogether." Fellow researcher Dr. Avi Becker told Itim News Agency that the increasing anti-Semitism in Arab countries should be made into an issue in the peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and other Arab nations, and that Israel and its media tend to ignore this "ugly phenomenon." (A7 May 2)

Israeli Negotiator Recognizes Palestinian State

Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Oded Eran, said Monday that the result of the current round of talks would be a Palestinian state. He said this at the opening of the second day of talks in Eilat with the Palestinians. The Prime Minister's Office published a "clarification" soon after, saying that if a Palestinian state is established, it will be the result of the negotiations. (A7 May 1)

Kosher for Passover in Ethiopia

The firm intervention of General Gad Navon, the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, saved many IDF warehouses full of food from becoming unkosher last week. HaModia reported on Friday that when Israel decided to send planeloads of food to famine-plagued Ethiopia during the week of Pesach, the original list of supplies included "crackers, cookies, and biscuits" - all to be taken from the strictly non-Passover army warehouses. The warehouses and their contents of chametz (leaven, which is forbidden to be eaten or owned on Passover), had been sold to a non-Jew in order to avoid the chametz prohibition. Rabbi Navon immediately issued an order forbidding the opening of the warehouses. If food is to be sent out on Pesach, Rabbi Navon said forcefully, it must be Kosher for Passover, such as matzot and special Passover cookies. Opening the warehouses would void the sale of the chametz, and would render the chametz forbidden for consumption even after Pesach. Rabbi Navon made sure to emphasize that this was not a life-threatening situation, since Kosher for Passover foodstuffs could just as easily be sent to Ethiopia. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz decided, however, in a surprising and unprecedented move, to override Rabbi Navon, and ordered the chametz flown to Ethiopia. Rabbi Navon, unfazed, relayed the following message to Mofaz: "The moment that one of the warehouses that were sold to a non-Jew is opened, all the food in all the army's warehouses will be forbidden for consumption even after Passover. Do as you please." Mofaz backed down, and several tons of matzot, Pesach cookies, meat, and vegetables were sent to the starving Ethiopians. (arutzsheva.org May 1)

Apprehension in Misgav Am

A suicide car-bomb explosion in an SLA outpost last Friday killed three SLA soldiers. IDF officials have expressed concern that similar Hizbullah assaults may be aimed at IDF troops in the weeks ahead. South of the security zone, striding Israel's northern border, residents of Kibbutz Misgav Am held a protest last Friday against the upcoming withdrawal's ramifications upon their town. Kibbutz secretary Chanan Rubinsky told Arutz-7 Sunday, "We don't have all the exact details, but what we do know for sure is that Israel is returning to the 1980 border, and that the kibbutz fence - which is one meter from my home - will be the Israel-Lebanon border. This is simply total insanity." Rubinsky explained that a 1980 terrorist attack at Misgav Am prompted the army to pave a road 400 meters from the edge of the kibbutz that marked off a security buffer zone. "With the upcoming withdrawal, we will return to the old border, which will traumatize many of our residents," Rubinsky said. He noted that the Kibbutz as an entity would not take any measures other than "sounding our protest," but that individuals would have to decide what to do on their own. "I imagine that some will walk around armed, while others might feel that they have no choice other than to relocate southward, where the fear of daily attacks is not so acute." (A7 Apr 30)

Police Commander Takes on Israeli-Arabs

Northern Police District Commander Alik Ron had some scathing criticism of the Israeli-Arab public Sunday. He said that this sector has taken a sharp turn towards national extremism, under the leadership of Arab Knesset Members and municipal leaders, and the Islamic Movement. "Israel's leaders are mistaken by thinking that if they close their eyes, the extremism will disappear," he said. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reports that Commander Ron, speaking at a gathering of police officers summing up their 1999 activities, said that Israeli-Arab media call for the liberation of lands even at the expense of bloodshed. Referring to the recent Israeli-Arab student protests, he said, "It's inconceivable that the police can't enter the campuses and restore order when Arab students wave PLO flags and chant anti-Israel slogans." Ron said, "I know that what I have said here is harsh, and that it may even prevent me from becoming the next Police Commissioner." (arutzsheva.org Apr 30)

Wakf Continues Removal

The just-ended Passover holiday saw a renewal of the Moslem Waqf's construction activity on the Temple Mount. Tractors were again seen removing huge mounds of dirt from the Mount into the Kidron Valley, despite the government order forbidding the entry of trucks to the holy site. (A7 Apr 27)

Peres Rebuked by Peace Partner

Yasser Arafat's Fatah branch of the PLO has launched a harsh attack on the Israeli political left - specifically at Minister for Regional Development and Oslo architect Shimon Peres. The official Fatah newspaper "Our View" blames Peres for "wiping out Palestinian nationalism by promoting normalization, and a by creating a dependence [of the Palestinians] on Israel." The article refers to left-wing Israeli leaders as "the leaders of the Zionist entity" and "merchants of peace." The paper notes that "the Palestinian people expects from both the PA and the PLO to make good on their commitments to the Palestinian people... Security, normalization, and the 'Peres Peace Center' are traps intended to stifle Palestinian nationalism." (arutzsheva.org Apr 24)

Quotes of the Week...

"We don't want [US President Bill] Clinton or [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat. We want to cast our lot with the Holy One, blessed be He, alone." - Former Sephardi chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu speaking to a crowd of hundreds in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post Apr 24)

"We're not staying in the offices anymore and waiting for people to come. We're saying 'let's go get 'em' and offering opportunities to people who want to make aliya but are afraid to follow through." - Akiva Werber, who runs the Jewish Agency's North American desk and has just returned to Israel from recruiting at Israeli hi-tech job fairs in San Francisco, Boston, and New York. (Jerusalem Post Apr 23)

Commentary...

The Four-Cubits Syndrome By David Weinberg

With major withdrawals imminent, why are the streets so quiet? Because we've become indifferent about what happens beyond the boundary of our own backyards.

The country is shrinking by the day, yet the streets are quiet. Prime Minister Ehud Barak is speeding ahead with plans to hand over yet more land to the Palestinian Authority, including the immediate environs of Jerusalem - an "advance deposit" he euphemistically calls it - yet there are no protest demonstrations. Why?

Why is it that all of Israel appears to be asleep? How is it that the touchstone of Israeli politics - the dispute over giving back or giving up Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem - has fallen into disregard? Do we not realize that the "difficult, big decisions" about our borders, previously dreamed about only in futuristic terms or the worst nightmares, now are about to be made?

One explanation, which I don't buy, argues that the streets are quiet because everybody trusts Ehud Barak. This prime minister knows what he is doing. Mr. Security (didn't they once call Yitzhak Rabin that?) won't give the store away, so there's no need to get alarmed. Trust him.

Uh-uh. After the failed Syria caper - during which Barak pumped Hafez Assad and us with weekly doses of propaganda about "Assad the brave," "Assad the wise" and "Assad's strategic decision to sue for peace" - I don't think the public any longer places great stock in Barak's negotiating sagacity. You can't tell me that confidence in Ehud explains the eerie tranquility as we head into final-status talks. Others will tell you that Israelis are calm because they believe in reconciliation with Yasser Arafat and his state-in-the-making. Unfortunately, this argument is hard to sustain.

It is now clear that the more we withdraw, the more the Palestinians hate us. Antisemitic and anti-Israel vituperation in the PA has reached unprecedented, pandemic heights (or depths) - despite our repeated territorial withdrawals and the pliant Labor government.

Ten years ago, who would have believed that the PLO would control 40 percent of the West Bank and 95 percent of the Palestinians through a state-like entity recognized internationally - and still preach regularly that Jews are Nazis and the Holocaust never happened?! Remember, Oslo was supposed to usher in a period of incremental coexistence, of confidence-building measures, of learning not to hate and not to threaten violence. As we withdrew, we were to witness the emergence of a civilized, neighborly Palestinian entity. Instead, a perverse dynamic is at work. We get used to giving-in; they get used to hating us. And to demanding ever more.

No, the cause of the perilous quiet, I'm afraid, is the Four-Cubits Syndrome; an ailment that causes apathy and indifference. Four small cubits, the Talmud's measure of a person's private domain, is about as far as our myopic, selfish concerns extend. The epidemic Four-Cubits Syndrome has contracted our attentions to the route we drive from home to work, to the mall, and back again. It prevents us from caring too much about what is happening beyond the tips of our own noses or the boundaries of our backyards.

Indeed, Israelis have become very liberal about giving away the land of other Israelis - as long as it doesn't immediately and directly (they think) affect them. Thus, Ehud Barak can count on the fact that the hand-over of Abu Dis and eastern Jerusalem will pass quietly - as long as Arafat doesn't cut off our private, high-speed Internet lines or access to on-line stock trading. Simply put, the peace process just doesn't bother or interest us when it isn't inching-up right on our doorsteps.

As long as Arafat's boys don't throw stones or shoot at the fancy cars along the way from Ramat Aviv to Silicon Wadi in Herzliya, who cares whether the PA army is on the outskirts of Kfar Sava?

As long as it is quiet in central Jerusalem, why should anyone from Rehavia care whether Eizariya and Abu Dis are handed over to the 50,000-strong PA "police" force? Only the residents of East Talpiot or Gilo on the edge of Jerusalem will be harassed by the terrorists and raiding robbers, right?

Barak's attempt last month to hand-over Anata just north of Jerusalem proves my point. The move was scuttled (temporarily) by protests led by residents of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neveh Ya'acov, the nearby, most-imminently-affected neighborhoods. They feared of becoming another Hebron, where there about 200 anti-Jewish incidents a month; a good example of what happens when you live in close proximity to a PA-controlled zone. But where were all the other Jerusalemites and other Israelis?

Where were they? Home tending to their own, personal garden patches, stricken with Four-Cubits Syndrome.

Pursuit of personal happiness in absolute disregard for what is happening more than a kilometer away is a frightening ethos. Sounds an awful lot like the Second Temple's final days. The Talmud (Gitin 56) says that one half of Jerusalem was still partying while the other half already was burning. Continue down this path, and pretty soon all we'll be left with is four cubits. (Jerusalem Post Apr 30)

 

A Forgivable Lapse Editorial

A five-person medical team will leave for Ethiopia this week, its clear humanitarian value well beyond the reach of partisan bickering.

Not so last Tuesday's aid shipment to the disaster-struck nation: There was uproar over reports OC Chaplaincy Corps Maj.-Gen. Gad Navon ordered three tons of matza and 700 kg of kosher-for-Pessah cookies sent, despite nutritionists' contentions that foods containing hametz would be better for the starving recipients. It seemed a bloody-minded last official act for the 79-year-old Navon, who retires on Independence Day.

The public, already habituated to television coverage of the famine, now imagined crueler images of withered Africans desperately contending with the peculiar Jewish food - a perverse inversion of the perennial complaints of indigestion and constipation that accompany the holiday.

Furthermore, Navon's apparent indifference to gentiles echoed all-too-frequent episodes of so-called religious piety being an excuse for opposition to lifesaving missions. In August 1998, for example, the haredi daily Hamodia denounced the IDF's mission to help the victims of the US Embassy bombing in Nairobi as "violating the Sabbath to save goyim." Not surprisingly, Meimad Rabbi Yehuda Gilad was quick to take issue with Navon's decision last week. Especially at Pessah, he said, the nation of Israel should be sensitive to the needs of the stranger. Moreover, he argued that Halacha would not have been compromised by Jewish soldiers handling hametz during the holiday. As the hametz had been symbolically "sold" to a Druse officer, the IDF could simply have acted as intermediary between him and the Ethiopians in delivering the goods.

The media pundits were further aggrieved by the fact Navon had overruled Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz's order to throw open the army's hametz stores. This was decried as yet another example of the religious meddling in affairs that shouldn't concern them, and the differing rabbinical opinions on the matter were cited as further proof of the capriciousness of the Orthodox institutions' decision-making process.

But it is wrong to take the Chaplaincy Corps to task over this incident. After all, there has been no negative feedback from Ethiopia about the food shipment. Indeed, some nutritionists have pointed out that matza has twice the caloric value of bread, and is therefore good for starvation victims. And it is worth remembering that, had the IDF sent hametz, the shipment would likely have contained crackers, the favored long-life breadstuff; crackers are hardly more digestible than matza.

But Navon is not the only IDF chief chaplain to fight on point of principle. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the first to fill the office, was at least as tough. In 1953 he insisted that if defense minister Moshe Dayan attended the General Staff Seder, he should not drive home afterward; Dayan refused until Goren persuaded prime minister David Ben-Gurion to intervene on his behalf. And following the Six Day War, Goren ordered that no milk be sent to the IDF soldiers at the newly occupied Jordanian army bases until the kitchens were made kosher.

In the final reckoning, the apparent pedantry of religious authorities such as Navon and Goren should be seen for what it is: a specialized and particularist form of caring. In fact, it is a variation on the national sense of beneficence which brings about aid efforts like the one to Ethiopia. Again and again, Israel is first among nations to offer disaster relief to countries with which it has little affinity.

The Foreign Ministry's NIS 100 million budget for aid to Africa is a sliver of what is needed, just as the 30 tons of medical equipment and food sent last week go only a little way to meeting the 1 million tons required to save Ethiopia from mass starvation. Yet coming from a nation so small and preoccupied by fiscal difficulties, the contribution is significant.

Any anger over aid to Ethiopia should be directed at the international community, which seems too bored to launch the large-scale, coordinated campaign necessary to save 12 million people from death. It is significant that, after Israel rushed to get the aid shipment to Addis Ababa in time for the second Pessah holiday last week, the goods sat idle at the airport for over a day until distribution was arranged. Against such a backdrop of global apathy and local inefficiency, the minor conflicts of religion and ethics at home seem more than forgivable. (Jerusalem Post Apr 30)

 

NPT or Nuclear Cynicism Jerusalem Post Editorial

The 2000 Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) Review Conference has opened at the UN in New York, and once again Israel seems under the scrutiny of and isolated by the international community. But the fact that Israel is now one of only four nations that have not signed the NPT is not a failure on Israel's part, but of the non-proliferation regime to adapt to the real challenges of the post-Cold War order.

The NPT, though lauded on Monday by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as "an indispensable agreement for all nations, for all people, for all time," is as quirky an agreement as the international community has ever produced. The treaty embodies a bargain among the five declared nuclear weapons states (US, United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia) and the rest of the world: We will disarm our nuclear arsenals if you commit not to join the nuclear club. This bargain is, in turn, enforced by another - in exchange for accepting nuclear safeguards and inspections, signatory states are given greater access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses, such as generating energy.

In principle, Israel is perhaps the country which stands to gain most from the success of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Mideast peace process has not yet changed the fact that Israel is a small country that some of the world's most aggressive dictatorships still pledge to destroy. It is therefore one of diplomacy's great ironies that Israel, of all nations, finds itself outside the NPT process. The reason for this anomaly can be found by noting Iran, Iraq, and North Korea are NPT signatories. No one seriously believes that these states have abandoned dreams of building or acquiring nuclear weapons, yet all have come to the conclusion that joining the NPT does not materially hinder the quest for the bomb, and may even assist in their race to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

In case there were any doubts on this point, the 1991 Gulf War provided a case study of how a determined outlaw state could use the membership to its benefit. Years of invasive UNSCOM inspections revealed that Iraq was much closer to building a bomb than International Atomic Energy Agency (the agency enforcing the NPT) inspections had indicated. Among the items found in Saddam Hussein's temporarily arrested nuclear program were critical "dual-use" technologies to which Iraq would not have had access without its NPT signature.

Following these revelations, the IAEA did tighten its inspection regime, but Iran has not acceded to the new inspection rules. Iraq, too, has avoided the new rules, and is no longer under the even more intrusive eye of UNSCOM.

Given this record, Israel has had ample reason not to trust its security to the effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime. Faced with the choice of signing and cheating like the rogue states, or implicitly admitting that it cannot commit to unilaterally desisting from the development of nuclear weapons, Israel has chosen not to sign the treaty.

To single Israel out for criticism in this regard, as Egypt has led the Arab world in doing, belies incredible cynicism. Among the three other non-signatory nations, two - India and Pakistan - have not only declared their nuclear arsenals, but provocatively tested their weapons in 1998. Israel, by contrast, has signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, thereby wisely committing not to follow in those nations' footsteps.

Israel also supports the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East, as was called for at the 1995 NPT conference. The logical forum to reach such an agreement is the multilateral wing of the peace process, in this case the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks.

By continually stomping out of the ACRS talks, Egypt has shown that it is more concerned about scoring propaganda points against Israel than finding practical ways to promote effective arms control and disarmament in the region.

Rather than focusing on "universality" - the code word for pressing countries like Israel to sign the NPT - the review conference should ask itself how to strengthen an enforcement regime so weak that nations most threatened by proliferation, such as Israel, cannot rely upon it. In addition, US efforts to come out from under outdated restrictions on building defenses should be encouraged, not rebuffed. Treaties are potentially not the only, or even the most effective, form of arms control.

Ultimately, the best hope for stopping or rolling back nuclear proliferation lies in reducing the value of such weapons through the global deployment of missile defenses. (Jerusalem Post Apr 28)

 

Borders in Shifting Sands By Dore Gold

For more than 30 years, Israeli diplomacy has sought to avoid withdrawal to the vulnerable 1967 armistice lines in the West Bank, and struggled to obtain recognition for the right to defensible borders instead. The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin described his version of defensible borders before the Knesset on October 5, 1995, when he brought the Oslo II Interim Agreement for approval. It was not surprising that Rabin`s description closely followed the contours of his mentor from the Palmah, Yigal Allon, who prepared a map, right after the 1967 Six Day War, of what Israel needed to be secure.

The heart of the Allon Plan was Israeli control of a strategic desert zone rising from the Jordan Valley up the steep eastern slopes of the West Bank hill ridge. According to Allon, this area encompassed about 1,813 square km., or 33 percent of the 5,439 sq. km. that make up the West Bank. Additionally, Allon wrote in July 1967 that Israel needed to include the road connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea as well as a widened Jerusalem corridor west of Ramallah. Rabin himself stressed the importance of Greater Jerusalem. These additions could easily bring the Allon Plan to about 40 percent of the West Bank.

The original Allon Plan was conceived when Middle Eastern armies were relatively small (Iraq had 7 divisions and not today's 30 divisions) and were mostly slow infantry formations, rather than the current, rapid-moving armored and mechanized divisions. Indeed, after Iraq recovers from UN sanctions, Iraqi expeditionary forces, which attacked Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, could forcibly cross Jordan in less time than it takes Israel to complete its reserve mobilization. In fact, the Israeli army's definition of its vital strategic interests in the West Bank is now even broader than what was proposed by Allon three decades ago.

Given the legacy left by Allon and Rabin, recent statements concerning massive Israeli territorial concessions, attributed to Prime Minister Barak`s ministers, are disturbing. Instead of Israel retaining more than 40 percent of the West Bank for secure borders, according to repeated leaks, Israel may only be seeking 10 or 20 percent.

Israeli claims to the Jordan Valley and Jerusalem's suburbs are changing. What happened? Did Israel make peace with Iraq and Syria? The Jordan Valley is today more important than ever since it serves as a buffer preventing the Palestinianization of Jordan by a dissatisfied PLO and the creation of a politically contiguous line from the suburbs of Tel Aviv to the Iraqi border.

As Israel slides down the slippery slope of new concessions, the PLO seems to be digging in its heels. After Syrian President Hafez Assad walked away from President Clinton in Geneva because Syria could not obtain what it defined as the June 4, 1967, line, how can Arafat now agree to compromise on the Palestinian demand for the June 4 line? Arafat cannot ignore the fact that Assad`s firmness earned Syria broad admiration in much of the Arab world.

In truth, Arafat was reluctant to compromise in the past: in the fall of 1995, when shown the Beilin-Abu Mazen paper on final status that entailed Israel conceding 95 percent of the West Bank (yet no recognized Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem), Arafat refused to agree with the proposal.

He was only willing to call it a "basis for further negotiation." Abu Mazen subsequently disowned the plan that bore his name.

What does Israel have to lose if it keeps making concessions and Arafat doesn't budge? There is a big difference between the Syrian and Palestinian diplomatic tracks: Assad may prefer the status quo, but Arafat plans to change the status quo this coming fall when he declares a Palestinian state.

Israel will be entering a major diplomatic struggle over its future borders with the Palestinians. Arafat has considerable advantages. Already, a majority of members of the UN General Assembly vote yearly for resolutions that call the West Bank and East Jerusalem "occupied Palestinian territory." In 1999 the German presidency of the EU resurrected UN General Assembly Resolution 181 from 1947, with its internationalization of all of Jerusalem. In March 1998, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stated in London: "International law requires Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, southern Lebanon, and the Golan Heights." Cook was inserting the definite article that was left out of UN Security Council Resolution 242.

Israel's main counterclaim is its right to defensible borders, backed by past US secretaries of state. But if Israel begins to shave down its concept of defensible borders in a fruitless attempt to win Palestinian approval, then how can it turn to its friends abroad and seek their support against Palestinian unilateralism?

Successful diplomacy requires flexibility and creativity, but most importantly it requires a consistent message. Prime Minister Barak would be best served by disassociating from the trial balloons of his ministers and by returning to the legacy left to him by Rabin and Allon.

The writer, who served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Jerusalem Post Apr 28)

 

Culpable or Gullible By Daniel Doron

In l977, after being deposed from a half century in power, Labor politicians and intellectuals bitterly accused a public of being "riffraff" and black-hats of stealing "their" country. An old guard socialist leader suggested the voting public must be replaced with a better one. Since then it has become customary for our politicians and media to blame "the public" for everything, even when it just reacts to misguided and inept leadership.

If we have an extremely autocratic and secretive government, constantly making backroom deals at the public's expense, it is because the public is not democratic enough. If the shekel falls, "the public" is guilty of a run on the dollar, even when few were permitted to buy it, and banks and large enterprises made massive purchases. When stock markets collapse, the public is blamed for panicking, although banks urged them to buy their stock funds at speculative highs, and markets are routinely manipulated.

When acrimonious and violent strikes erupt as a result of our politicized Byzantine labor market and a discriminatory wage structure, employees are usually blamed. Fires threaten lives in not properly fire-proofed high-rise buildings, so it is the public's fault if it panics.

Fatal accidents reoccur in dangerous roads, but it is only the drivers' fault.

The public is driven to distraction by thousands of arcane laws and obscure regulations, and by inept bureaucrats, who imperiously deny service paid for in very high taxes. But the public is always guilty of unruly behavior.

These may be just growing pains, but shifting blame to an amorphous public is permitting our elites to disastrously shirk responsibility, even, ominously, in national security matters.

Recently, for example, several generals conceded that Prime Minister Barak's decision to unilaterally withdraw from south Lebanon may be very risky. Barak takes this risk because he and the army leadership believe that "the Israeli public" is incapable of bearing the sacrifices required to keep it.

A similar perceived weakness probably motivates Barak to cut a precipitous deal with Syria, though the benefits of an agreement with an aging dictator of a bankrupt country may be rather transitory and ephemeral.

Barak may be expecting a confrontation with the Palestinians prior to a settlement, and is convinced, it is reported, that "the Israeli public" cannot stand its ground on two fronts. He therefore feels he must regroup and eliminate a Syrian front before he can successfully tackle the Palestinians.

Whether this is entirely true or not (Barak does not consult anyone, so there is no way of knowing), it is dangerous when leadership is perceived as following trends rather than leading. Defeatist Israeli attitudes are not innate. They are born of the public's perception that its leadership, both civilian and military, is weak and inept, that it has lost its stomach to stand up and fight even for vital security needs.

The same Israeli public that was deeply depressed when its leadership exhibited confusion and indecisiveness on the eve of the Six Day War, rallied behind Moshe Dayan, mostly because he conveyed a can-do attitude.

Since the intifada, most of our top brass have become dangerously risk-averse in preparation for a political career. So, they tell us that their mission is a mission impossible, that you cannot control stone-throwing mobs, that the grand Israeli army is no match even for 300 to 500 Hizbullah fighters, who seem to outsmart and outfight our bravest and brightest.

The media, convinced apparently that a strong military is an impediment to peace-now-under-any-circumstances, has done its bit to foster no-win attitudes with close-ups of wounded soldiers, funerals and weeping mothers, and by the ceaseless promotion of small, militantly anti-war groups, that, perhaps with best intentions, are emasculating our forces (how can any army function if its objective is not to win, but only to return "our boys" unscathed to their mother's lap). They also endanger the very peace they so yearn for, since peace will not last if Israel is perceived as weak. Had Churchill concluded after the Dunkirk debacle that the British were beaten and exhausted and he must therefore sue for peace, Hitler's Germany would have dominated the world.

By relying on polls reflecting temporary attitudes, and a reaction to weak leadership, our leaders may be selling us short. Their perceptions become self fulfilling prophecies, and actually further lower the public's morale. To matter, a leadership must chart a course that reverses dangerous trends.

There is nothing Israelis fear more than being taken for suckers. Perhaps the way their leaders shirk responsibility, while putting the blame entirely on them, proves that the public has excellent reason to fear.(Jerusalem Post Apr 27) The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social Economic Progress.


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