28 Iyar 5759 May 14, 1999 Issue number 217
Netanyahu Is Confident
Prime Minister Netanyahu denied today's newspaper reports that he foresees defeat. "The opposite is true," he said. "The support that we are receiving all over the country is simply massive - but the media doesn't report that." Pollster Dr. Yaakov Katz said today that his latest survey shows that the gap between Barak and Netanyahu is closing, and is now roughly estimated at 6%. An anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem last night turned into a pro-Netanyahu rally. Some 250 people arrived at Zion Square to protest against the re-election of the Prime Minister - out of 500 that had been approved by the police - and held signs "Just Not Netanyahu." Passersby cut out the word "Not" from the signs, joined the rally and turned it into a pro-Netanyahu event. (Arutz 7 May 12)
Barak and Arab Parties Sign Secret Agreement
Ehud Barak's One Israel party has signed an agreement of cooperation with the Arab parties Hadash and Mada. The Arab parties will work for the election of Barak, but the corresponding commitments of One Israel - a conglomeration of Labor, Meimad, and David Levy's Gesher - were not publicized and remain secret. Press photographers were not allowed to record the signing ceremony. (Arutz 7 May 11)
Either Netanyahu, or Barak-Meretz
The nationalist camp, which helped topple the Netanyahu government several months ago, is now consolidating more and more around the candidacy of Binyamin Netanyahu. The right-wing HaTzofeh newspaper editorialized last Friday, "The nationalist camp's problem is not Ehud Barak, personally. The problem is that whoever votes for Barak also gets [left-wing Labor MKs] Yael Dayan, Yossi Beilin, Chaim Ramon, and all of Meretz as part of the package... The previous Labor-Meretz government showed how destructive this partnership could be for the settlement effort, and indeed, for the future of Zionism as we have known it until now... The conclusion is that we must enlist with full force on behalf of Netanyahu." Yehudit Katzover, leader of a local Kiryat Arba campaign for the re-election of Netanyahu, explained her thinking on Arutz-7: "Despite everything, he is the best of all the candidates. We must be realistic. I know that many people feel that the term 'realistic' means capitulation, weakness, etc., but I still prefer 'realism' over 'suicide.'" She admitted that though she is unsure of what Netanyahu's red lines are, "under his leadership, there won't be the de-legitimization of Yesha settlers that prevailed during the Labor-Meretz government. We seem to have forgotten what life was like under Labor: the freeze on construction; the abuse heaped upon us; the persecution of religious-Zionist rabbis, the police horses at our demonstrations... We have put together posters with headlines from the Labor years. Here are a few sample headlines: '24 indictments in one day against right-wing activists'; 'Yossi Sarid: Jews must be removed from Hevron'; 'Minister Yair Tsaban: Rabbi Lior should be immediately relieved of his position as the rabbi of Kiryat Arba'; 'Barak: Extremist Jews shouldn't make Aliyah.'" Mrs. Katzover, the wife of Kiryat Arba mayor Tzvi Katzover, added that there has been an awakening amongst community residents, 'who have realized that by placing a blank ballot for Prime Minister on election day, they are in effect helping elect Barak and Meretz.' (Arutz 7 May 9)
Court Orders Delay in Orient House Closure
Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner issued a restraining order against the closure of the Orient House offices Tuesday. The order is valid for one week, until after the coming elections. The decision by Justice Dorner was greeted with singing and dancing by Jerusalem Arabs outside the Orient House. Foreign consuls arrived during the celebrations to meet with Feisal Husseini. Following Monday night's refusal by Husseini to accept Israel's last-minute compromise offer regarding the Orient House, the government-ordered closure papers were served, and police and other government bodies began their preparations to close the illegal offices. These came to a grinding halt this morning when, as threatened beforehand, nine Peace Bloc members submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court to delay the closure until after the elections. Justice Dorner accepted their claims that the closure might endanger the public. The petitioners also claimed that the pre-election decision "reeks" of electioneering. Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon sharply criticized foreign consuls who had intended to be present at the Orient House during a police closure of the building. Sharon called on the opposition to condemn such foreign intervention as well. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday, "My concern is not the elections - it is the Palestinians who attempted to take advantage of the days before the elections for their own purposes... Can it be imagined that in Paris or Washington, a group would be allowed to take over a building in the capital in violation of the country's sovereignty?!" (Arutz 7 May 11)
Shinui Youth Beat Up Hareidi Volunteers
Tommy Lapid's anti-hareidi election campaign has already borne "fruit." Some 15 supporters of Lapid's Shinui party attacked a group of United Torah Judaism volunteers in Rishon Letzion last Friday, yelling out, "Lapid will finish you off!" One of the victims told Arutz-7 Sunday that the attackers - several of whom were wearing T-shirts bearing emblems of Shinui and Free Nation (an association headed by candidates on Shinui's Knesset list) - "asked one of our volunteers what he was doing there. He answered that he was distributing pamphlets and stickers. 'You shouldn't be here, you should be in Bnei Brak,' was their response. Then they took out sticks and clubs and began pounding us with all their might for about two minutes... They cut open my friend's head, and my arm was later put in a cast. No drivers stopped to help us, and we felt very much alone. We finally decided to leave, instead of fighting back with them - for fear that we would be blamed - and headed for Beilinson Hospital. I couldn't sleep the entire Sabbath, I guess because I was in a state of shock at the hatred and incitement that filled these people." The UTJ party says that it will continue to distribute its campaign literature in Rishon Letzion, and asks any eyewitnesses to the incident to contact its central election branch. "Most unfortunately, we did not get the license plate number of the van, and we have no way of identifying them in order to press police charges," one of the victims told Arutz-7. A Shinui official, contacted by Arutz-7, denied the entire story. (Arutz 7 May 9)
A giant sign hung over the Bilu junction outside Rehovot Monday morning announced, "Dosim [an insulting reference to hareidim], go to the crematoria." MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union), who noticed the sign, removed it himself this morning, with help from passers-by. He later said that the "moral responsibility" for such incitement and hatred lies with Shinui party leader Tommy Lapid and his vitriolic anti-hareidi positions. Other anti-hareidi graffiti was found scrawled on Tel Aviv streets this morning. The leadership of the UTJ party convened last night to discuss the increased hatred against them by portions of the secular public. Meretz has also claimed that it has become the victim of frequent attacks. A party car was set on fire in Rehovot yesterday, and, in a separate incident, a Meretz volunteer was assaulted. Lapid has strongly criticized Meretz leader Yossi Sarid for agreements he made with the hareidim during the outgoing Knesset session. A large ad in Monday's Ha'aretz compared Shinui's campaign slogans to those of the Nazi party in Germany over 60 years ago. The ad notes that Shinui claims that the hareidim are the source of the country's problems, that they are parasites, that they must be stopped, and the like - exactly what the Nazis said about the Jews. Legal expert David Rotem was asked by Arutz-7 News Editor Haggai Segal, "Why can't Shinui simply be prevented from running for Knesset on the grounds of its racist statements?" Rotem answered, "First of all, because the deadline for voiding parties from running has already passed. Secondly, 'racism' can only be against ethnic groups, not against other population sectors. However, Election Committee Head Hon. Eliyahu Matza has the sole authorization to disallow certain campaign propaganda if he deems it to be racist or otherwise wrong - such as when he outlawed the use of children in campaign ads. In addition, the parties signed an agreement to respect one another and not to publicly insult or abuse other candidates or parties. They also agreed that Matza would be the arbiter in cases where one party feels that another has abrogated the agreement. In this case, then, if someone feels that Shinui has done something wrong, he may submit a complaint with Judge Matza, who may then disallow such campaigning." (Arutz 7 May 10)
Prime Minister Puts Media on Defensive
"Today's example is a classic, and should be written up in the books." So said Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, in a sharp attack on the media. Speaking on a popular radio talk show with prominent interviewers Dalia Ya'iri and Chanan Crystal, Netanyahu was asked about a four-year-old video cassette recording of a rabbi associated with Netanyahu expressing the wish that "Peres, Rabin, and Arafat end up like Pharaoh." Netanyahu said, "Here's a perfect example. On the one hand, the news yesterday reported the unworthy remarks made by the rabbi four years ago, remarks that shouldn't have been said... This was four years ago. But yesterday - yesterday - a university professor, a supporter of Ehud Barak, said disgusting things about me and said that he would be happy if Ariel Sharon died! Now, I would have expected that when a prominent supporter of Barak, who teaches thousands of students [in Ben Gurion University], stands up and says these things, I would have expected that you [the media] would do a story on this, and that you would ask Barak about this!... Instead you ask me about something that happened four years ago!" (Arutz 7 May 12)
Chabad to Stay Out; Religious Support Netanyahu
The Shas Council of Torah Sages, headed by former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, announced its support today of Binyamin Netanyahu in the Prime Ministerial election. Another former Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who is associated with the religious-Zionist public, also announced his endorsement of Netanyahu Wednesday. A similar announcement by Ashkenazi hareidi Torah leaders is expected on Saturday night or Sunday, according to Eliezer Rauchberger, Knesset correspondent for the Yated Ne'eman hareidi newspaper. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement will, officially, stay out of the election campaign this time. Chabad leader/spokesman Rabbi Guluchovsky said that, "The last campaign [in 1996], when we took a very public stand in favor of Netanyahu, was a one-time affair, because of the matter of 'pikuach nefesh' - the danger to life that we felt would arise from a victory by Peres. But we saw that it did not bring the desired results, so we are reverting to our usual position, and we will not be actively involved in this campaign. On an individual level, we all feel a responsibility to vote. We will do so in accordance with the instructions of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who said to vote for the party that will do the most to preserve the integrity of the Torah, the land, and the nation. The same guidelines apply for the Prime Ministerial candidate. Each person will decide for himself how to vote based on those criteria." (Arutz 7 May 12)
Deputy Minister Eitan Levels Charges
Likud Deputy Minister Michael Eitan called a press conference Wednesday in which he leveled sharp accusations at persons close to Ehud Barak. He said that various associations, such as Tikvah L'Yisrael, "are supported by close associates of Barak and operate in a delinquent and illegal manner, including destroying Likud campaign signs and other provocations." Eitan also accused these associations of misuse of funds and violating the campaign-spending laws. He mentioned the names of at least two persons close to Barak, and said, "I accuse them of being parties to, and responsible for, all these crimes... I call upon Barak to suspend them immediately from all activity and to take all measures to make known to the public their involvement and responsibility for these actions. I will assume that Barak did not know of these beforehand, and call upon him not to whitewash the events, but to deal with them immediately." The police are investigating the charges. (Arutz 7 May 12)
NRP, Shas to Support Netanyahu
The National Religious Party has reiterated its full support for Binyamin Netanyahu's candidacy for Prime Minister. The statement was issued in response to calls from within the religious Kibbutz movement on behalf of "NRP neutrality." Eliezer Sheffer, a member of the Jewish Agency administration and a leader of the NRP's centrist wing, told Arutz-7 Tuesday, "If Ehud Barak is elected, we must try to ensure that he doesn't act in a hostile fashion to the religious Zionist enterprise." Rabbi Yitzchak Levy said, "Our polls show that 8% of NRP voters will vote for Barak, while 92% will vote for Netanyahu. We have nothing against Barak personally, but we feel that Netanyahu better represents our positions, and we will work to ensure his re-election." Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has announced his full-fledged support for Binyamin Netanyahu. (Arutz 7 May 11)
More Election News
Regarding the NRP-National Union rivalry, MK Nisan Slomiansky, in an appearance in Beit El last night, said, "We are very much in favor of a strong National Union party - but at the expense of the Likud, as its founders intended, and not at the expense of the NRP."
Ahmed Tibi's brother Munzir was arrested last night for attempting to stab a Shas activist, during a Shas election rally in the Arab town of Taibe. (Arutz 7 May 11)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made his first appearance on a Likud television ad in several days last night, and made the following direct appeal to the public: "We are approaching the fateful moment of this election campaign. Some of you do not agree with everything that I have done. I am not claiming that I have never made mistakes. But I can say, with my hand on my heart, that I have led the State of Israel along the only path that will lead to security and true peace. ... The question is: In the final-status negotiations, who will stand up against the pressure of Assad and Arafat in their demands for a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights all the way up to the Galilee, and for the establishment of an Arab state with Jerusalem as its capital? Barak and the people on whom he relies - Beilin, Sarid, Bashara - will not stand up to these demands; they are already now proposing a withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the establishment of a Palestinian state. They believe if we just withdraw to the 1967 lines, the Arabs will be satisfied. They are mistaken. The Arabs will not be satisfied with this [because] the left's concessions have so weakened us..." (Arutz 7 May 11)
Efrat on the Move
Ten caravans (mobile homes without wheels) were stationed on Dagan Hill in the Gush Etzion town of Efrat this afternoon, with the authorization of the Civil Administration. Some three and a half years ago, the Rabin government thwarted the same action, although then too the Civil Administration approved the move. (Arutz 7 May 11)
Barak on Settlers
Leading Labor MK Ephraim Sneh told Arutz-7's Ron Meir Monday night that Ehud Barak, if elected Prime Minister, would not remove any settlers from Judea and Samaria, nor would he evacuate any settlements from Yesha. This is in direct contrast to remarks made by Ehud Barak himself on Arutz-7 in January 1997. Barak said at the time, "Under the permanent-status arrangement, most of the settlers must remain under Israeli sovereignty. I say 'most' because in my opinion, a realistic approach leads us to realize that it won't be 'all.'" (Arutz 7 May 11)
NPR Hushes up Terrorism Reports
The Journal of Counterterrorism & Security International has just published a new report on trends on the National Public Radio station in the United States, concluding that NPR has deliberately censored stories on Islamic terror activities both in the United States and around the world. Journalist Steven Emerson, the report's author, reviewed over 4,000 NPR stories during the past four years. He found that NPR "engaged in deliberate misrepresentation of the activities of Islamic terrorist groups and intentionally withheld information on the pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-Semitic platform of American-based front groups for Islamic fundamentalists." The report states, "The directors of the FBI and the CIA have repeatedly testified that the primary threat facing the United States today is from militant Islamic terrorist groups... In the span of four years, [however,] NPR News has done only one short report exclusively focusing on the militant Islamic threat in the U.S." Emerson's study also finds that NPR consistently broadcast uncritical interviews with, and profiles of, militant Islamic groups falsely masquerading as civil rights groups. (Arutz 7 May 10)
Yesha Outpost Evacuated; Arabs Go on Planting
The police and Civil Administration officials evacuated a group of residents Monday morning from Hilltop #10, south of Shvut Rachel and east of Shilo in Binyamin. Boaz Melet, a resident of a nearby hilltop, filled Arutz-7 listeners in on the background: "Hilltop #10 is state-owned land, and the outpost there was established several days ago. It should be noted that the Arabs all around us are engaged in what they call their 'Mivtza Milyon' - the planting of a million trees on state-owned lands, in order to grab these lands for themselves, and the Civil Administration is not yet doing anything about it. We are acting out of concern for the future of these lands. A few students went to the outpost and made their home in an old bus - which is not legally considered a home. We are generally coordinated with the authorities here, and in accordance with an arrangement we made with the Civil Administration, we agreed to move the bus to a nearby hill. Then suddenly this morning, in violation of the agreement we made with them, they confiscated the bus from its new location." Civil Administration officials said in response that there was a "reasonable suspicion that the bus would be used for illegal purposes in the future." They did not relate to the charges that they turn a blind eye to the Arab land-grabbing. The three students who were evacuated from Hilltop #10 are being held by the police, and have been ordered to sign a promise not to enter the area again with the next month. The boys refused to sign, and were brought before a judge early this afternoon. Officials in the Defense Minister's office say that they were "surprised" by Monday's evacuation, and one even said that it will likely cost Netanyahu some right-wing votes. It has also been suggested that the timing of the evacuation is connected with a front-page report in Ha'aretz today accusing Netanyahu's office of "repeatedly scuttling army plans to dislodge" outposts set up by Yesha residents on the state-owned lands. (Arutz 7 May 10)
Plan to Unify Jerusalem
The Cabinet decided Sunday to allocate 400 million shekels over the next five years for the development of infrastructures in eastern Jerusalem, in the framework of the plan to physically unify the city. In addition, incentive-grants of 20,000 shekels will be given to purchasers of apartments in the capital's new neighborhoods. The Finance Ministry objects to the granting of the benefits, saying that it will not be able to fund them. (Arutz 7 May 9)
She Never Lived There
Who is Raya Ginsburg, and why is she claiming that she lived in Beit Hadassah? These are some of the questions occupying the Hevron Jewish Community today, after she appeared on the popular television personality Rafi Reshef's show last Thursday evening. During an interview with Reshef, the girl said that she had grown up in Beit Hadassah in Hevron, and that the atmosphere there was "hareidi-like, repressive and closed." Immigration Minister Yuli Edelstein was also appearing on the program at the time, and his spokesman Yehuda Glick was watching from the audience. Glick told Arutz-7 today, "In the middle of this interview, I received a beeper message from Noam Arnon, telling me that no such girl or family had ever lived in Beit Hadassah nor in Hevron. At the commercial break, I showed Reshef the message, and said that he may want to say that such-and-such a message had been received, or make a disclaimer of some sort. He dismissed me with a derogatory hand motion. Embarrassed, I went back to my seat. They soon sent me the show's producer, Netanel Semrick, and I told him that he could be making a grave mistake here of broadcasting false information. He said that he had known the family personally for some time, and that he knew the girl personally, and that I didn't know what I was talking about... They did nothing." Arnon told an Arutz-7 correspondent this afternoon that the girl had definitely never lived in Beit Hadassah, although her parents once lived in Kiryat Arba. He said that the Hevron Jewish Community is considering launching a libel suit against the show's producers, "but our problem is that we have many other legal matters to deal with - tomorrow is our court case against the discriminatory police regulations, for instance - and we can't handle them all at once." (Arutz 7 May 9)
More Homes in Har Homa
The Ministry of Infrastructures released third-time tenders yesterday for builders to construct another 800 homes in the Har Homa neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. A spokesman for the Peace Bloc movement called the move an election gimmick of Prime Minster Netanyahu. However, Yehuda Oliva, head of the religious home-purchasing association Ganei Har Homa said, "The government is merely responding to the market. The sales of the first two groups of houses in Har Homa have gone very well, and the government recognizes that this project is answering a true need." (Arutz 7 May 7)
Arutz Sheva Law Challenged in Courts
The Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Appeals heard final arguments last Friday on the petitions against the Arutz 7 law. The court ordered the sides to submit written summations within three weeks following which a verdict will be handed down at a later date. Executive-Director of Arutz 7 Yaakov "Ketzele" Katz said after the session, "I am confident that the Court will not nullify the law. Justice Barak, in my opinion, presided over the session in a very straightforward and professional manner. It was evident from the judges' statements that they would not want to nullify a law that was legislated by the Knesset... Even Judge Cheshin, who sharply criticized the law, said, 'The [Arutz 7] law is a law, and that's that. 'At one point, Justice Barak turned to the one of the petitioners' lawyers and said, 'You have your interpretation, but there are other interpretations. Our duty is to interpret the law, and not to contest it.'" The judges hinted that they do not see fault with the technical procedure in which the law was legislated in the Knesset. They implied, instead, that the central issue is whether the law negates the rights of the regional radio stations. When a representative of the Second Broadcasting Authority claimed that a private radio station cannot receive a national license, Justice Barak cut him off by saying that this is a matter of interpretation. The judges implied that technical details of the law can be amended to incorporate certain objections. Katz said, "Knesset Counsel Tzvi Inbar stole the show at the end, by coming out against Atty.-Gen. Elyakim Rubenstein. Inbar said, 'It's clear that Rubenstein simply doesn't like the law, for reasons that have nothing to do with legal considerations, and that's why he is not defending it. If he liked it, or if it was another law, he would be here presenting the legal defenses that we are bringing, instead of attacking it.'" (Arutz 7 May 7)
HaTzofe: Israel Press Council Biased to Left
In an act of protest, HaTzofe newspaper, identified with the National Religious Party, quit the Israel Press Council last Thursday. In a harsh letter of resignation, Hatzofe Editor Gonen Ginat recounted several incidents of vandalism against the Hatzofe offices carried out by left-wing vandals (including a break-in two weeks ago by Meretz Party youth) adding that in every case, Press Council Head Chaim Tzadok refused to condemn the acts. Ginat accused Tzadok of pursuing a political and not professional agenda. (Arutz 7 May 7)
Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Booming
Share prices in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) hit record levels yesterday. The increase in activity continues the trend of the past few months. TASE rose by 6.4% in April 1999, after rising 13.2% in March. The Tel Aviv-100 rose by 6% (14.6% in March), the Maof-25 rose by 5.3% (15% in March), other stocks and negotiable securities rose by 8.3% (7.6% in March) and the General Bonds Index rose by 1.8% (0.7% in March). Total trading was approximately NIS 13.7 billion in April (excluding offsets and off-floor trading), compared to NIS 12.8 billion in March. Of this, NIS 5.1 billion was in stocks and NIS 8.6 billion in bonds. Using the new TACT system, April 22 saw a record of 21,275 trades, and 42,000 investor orders, with total volume in shares, bonds and T-bills equaling $250 million. (Arutz 7 May 7)
PLO States its New Demands
An editorial posted on the official Fatah website http://www.fateh.org/e_editor/99/300499.htm succinctly formulates the "new" Palestinian position regarding its negotiations with Israel. The editorial states clearly that the PLO's future demands will be based on UN resolutions 181 (calling for partition and the placement of Be'er Sheva and other Israeli areas in the Palestinian state) and 194 (calling for the return of the 1948 Arab refugees to within Israel). The editorial states: "Although the statement of the Central Council reflects Palestinian willingness to continue the process of negotiating for peace, all decisions have been made within revised terms of reference. It is on the basis of these that progress can be made in two directions: first, toward true Palestinian independence and the actualization of full Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza; and second, toward resolution of the remaining interim issues. UN Resolutions 181 and 194, which predate the Oslo Agreements, now form the frame of reference within which all Palestinian parties will make future decisions. Palestinians will now act on the basis of these and all UN resolutions relating to the Palestinian issue." (Arutz 7 / IMRA May 11)
Israel's High-Stakes Election By Cal Thomas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts that if the opposition Labor Party wins the May 17 elections, "it will endanger Israel and cause war.''
Responding by e-mail to a list of questions, Netanyahu told me: "That the Palestinians have no intention of being satisfied with (a) state is made obvious by their campaign to return to the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which would be tantamount to dismantling Israel. It would cut off half the Galilee and half the Negev and the Jerusalem corridor from the State of Israel and internationalize Jerusalem.'' That resolution was rejected at the time by the Palestinians and every Arab regime, which then vowed to evict all Jews from the land, eradicating the embryonic nation. Now, after four wars and numerous terrorist acts, we are asked to believe that Israel's enemies have suddenly had a change of heart and that a diplomatic land grab is not a prelude to seizing the rest of the country.
Netanyahu's uphill reelection battle -- polls show him trailing Labor's Ehud Barak by eight points in a multi-candidate race -- is focused on his fulfilled promise of reducing terrorism and "a dramatic improvement in the personal safety of Israelis.'' It is also based on the principle of reciprocity. Netanyahu said Israel has given, while the Palestinian side has taken and made only token responses. "If peace is to prevail," he told me, "the Palestinians must not have a large army equipped with tanks, missiles and artillery, a contiguous border with Jordan and the capacity to form alliances with such regimes as Iraq and Iran.'' Press reports indicate that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat is working behind the scenes to raise the level of diplomatic relations with several nations, including Iraq, in a flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords.
Netanyahu said a Labor victory would return Israel to the policies of "unilateral withdrawals, indifference to the Palestinian coddling of terrorists and acceptance of virulent incitement in official Palestinian pronouncements and schoolbooks ... turning back the clock to the bad old days of fear and terror.''
Close advisors to Netanyahu believe that if he can survive the first round and enter a runoff, his reelection chances will improve. Seventy-five percent of eligible Arab voters are expected to support Labor. In a runoff, analysts say only about half the Arab voters would return to the polls.
Netanyahu's mistake was succumbing to pressure from the Clinton administration and signing the Wye agreement last year. He had counted on winning the support of at least some centrists, but few, if any, have crossed over and he has eroded his own base.
The 1999 Netanyahu does not resemble the pre-1996 Netanyahu who correctly analyzed the philosophy of the Palestinian leadership and much of the Arab world in his book "A Place Among the Nations": "...the Arab world's antagonism for the West raged for a thousand years before Israel was added to its list of enemies. The Arabs do not hate the West because of Israel; they hate Israel because of the West.''
The turbulence in the Middle East is not Israel's fault. Giving up more land to Israel's enemies without requiring them to live up to the agreements they signed is a death sentence for the Jewish state.
Again, as Netanyahu correctly stated in his book: "The Arab campaign against Israel is hence rooted not in a negotiable grievance but in a basic opposition to the very existence of Jewish sovereignty. To hope for the abandonment of such a deeply entrenched animosity while Pan-Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism -- both of which thrive by fueling this fire -- wrestle for control of the Arab psyche is to hope for too much, too quickly.''
Had Netanyahu talked more like this during the past three years, he might be ahead in the race today. There can be no peace if one party wants to eradicate the other. Israel is willing to live in harmony if its security can be guaranteed and the agreements it makes with its enemies will be honored.
The question in the May 17 election is who can best do this job. The obvious answer is Netanyahu. Whether that will be obvious to a majority of Israelis we will soon know. (Los Angeles Times Syndicate May 7)
It was considered big news when Yasser Arafat and the PLO decided against unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state on May 4, the date by which the architects of the Oslo Accords had hoped negotiations on the "final status" of the Palestinian Authority might be concluded. But almost nobody seemed to notice that, not long before, Mr. Arafat unilaterally decided to scrap the Oslo agreement itself.
In Moscow on April 6, Mr. Arafat declared that "The right for a Palestinian state to exist is based on Resolution 181 and not on the Oslo agreements." United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, it should be remembered, was the original partition plan for Palestine agreed upon in 1947 toward the end of the British mandate, which would have left independent Jewish and Palestinian Arab states in the area of present-day Israel and the West Bank.
The Arab states rejected Resolution 181 and attacked the newly declared state of Israel in 1948. The cease-fire lines agreed upon at the end of the war left Israel with substantially more land than the original U.N. partition plan, including the western part of Jerusalem. Resolution 181, which as a General Assembly resolution never had binding force, was presumed by everyone involved to be a dead letter. In 1967, defending itself against attack from Jordan, Israel captured eastern Jerusalem and the entire West Bank.
The international community never recognized Israel's right to the West Bank, but even Israel's worst enemies seemed to have no greater ambition than to roll Israel back to its pre-1967 borders. But it now appears that Mr. Arafat's territorial ambitions have expanded. In a classic bait-and-switch, he lured Israel into negotiations on Palestinian self-rule and then upped the price. His current demand would not only require the surrender of all Jerusalem, but much of what has been accepted for 50 years as Israel. Indeed, Palestinian Authority maps show a "Palestine" that encompasses all of present-day Israel.
Despite the lack of good faith thus demonstrated, as Mr. Arafat tours the world talking up Palestinian statehood, he is getting a surprising amount of support for the idea. Citing 181, the European Union informed Israel recently that it does not regard Jerusalem as part of Israel. Late last month, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, with Europe's full blessing, decreed that Palestinian statehood should be based on 181. Mr. Arafat even claims to have secured U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's support, although Mr. Annan himself has not confirmed this.
Meanwhile Mr. Arafat makes it clear that any peace accord is not a commitment but a "strategic option." As he stated on May 4th, "I say to our valiant martyrs . . . that the oath and pledge remain unchanged until one of our young girls or boys hoists the Palestinian flag over the walls of Jerusalem." (The Wall Street Journal May 11)
"Rabbi Yanai was once walking along a road and he saw a richly dressed man. He took him into his house and gave him food and drink. He tested the guest in verses of the Tanach but he didn't know, he tested him in Agada but he didn't know, and he tested him in Talmud but he didn't know. He said to him, wash your hands and make the blessing, and he replied, let Yanai make the blessing in his own house (that is, he didn't know to recite the blessing). So Rabbi Yanai declared: A dog has eaten Yanai's bread ... But he said to Rabbi Yanai: it has never happened that I heard something bad and that I replied by gossiping about the person, and I never saw two enemies fighting without being able to bring peace between them. So Rabbi Yanai said: You have such good customs, how could I have called you a dog? Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Nachman said, Derech Eretz preceded the Torah by twenty-six generations, as is written, 'To guard the route to the Tree of Life' [Bereishit 3:24] - the route is derech eretz, natural habits, and only after this does it mention the tree of life, which is Torah." [Vayikra Rabba 9:3].
This week there will be a momentous event: this coming Friday, we will once again receive the Torah as a heritage. This is the Torah which Moshe placed before Bnei Yisrael; it is the Torah which was forced on us by having a mountain held over us, and also with the enthusiasm of the verse, "We will do and we will listen" [Shemot 24:7]; it is the Torah for which we gave up so many of our people; it is the Torah which will never leave us or our descendants for ever and ever.
And, the above quote is well known, "derech eretz preceded the Torah." The meaning of this phrase, both in the above story and in common usage, is behavior which is proper, moral, and humane, and this is a minimum condition for a life based on Torah. The Torah of anyone who is not bound by the rules of derech eretz is fraudulent and devoid of any proper basis.
(In passing, I leave it for those interested in the fine details of commentary to explain how this specific message is related to the passage in the Torah which is used as its source: "And He banished Adam, and He placed east of the Garden of Eden the keruvim and the constantly twisting sword, to guard the route to the Tree of Life." Where does this passage give any hint of the moral aspects of derech eretz?)
There is another meaning to the trait of derech eretz which is especially appropriate for the approaching holiday of Shavuot and for the receiving of the Torah. This other interpretation, a useful occupation, is also quite common in our language. As is written, "The study of Torah goes well with derech eretz. And any Torah which is not accompanied by labor will in the end cease and lead to sin. And all of those who work with the community should dedicate their work to heaven, because then the merit of their forefathers will support them, and their righteousness will last forever." [Avot 2:2]. Thus, this brand of derech eretz refers to participating in the ways of the world, and to public service.
The phrase, "Torah with derech eretz," was used as a slogan by the religious people of Ashkenaz, who incorporated modern concepts in their faith. This was later transformed into other related themes: Torah and labor, Torah and the state, Torah and the army, and Torah and science. These can all be grouped together in a more general motto: "Torah and life." Religious Zionism acted as the mother who gave birth to these combinations. Even if there were disagreements about the details, such as which aspects are more important and what came first, it was always clear that the two parts are inseparable, and that they should not be split apart by a "twisting sword."
Outside of the circle of religious Zionism, there are sectors which have maintained only derech eretz, while others remain loyal only to the Torah. It is those who remain in the middle of the road who are left to guard "the route to the Tree of Life." And this is in spite of the twisting sword which threatens from one side, and the Garden of Eden which beckons from the other.
But let us leave passages from the Torah and turn to current events. By the end of this week, we might possibly know if we have been able to leave the national stalemate behind, and whether we are facing east or west, going towards the hills or towards the sea! Is the community aspect of Torah ("A Jewish Country") expanding or in retreat? Is Zionism in an era of progress or in a decline?
There is a weighty and basic question waiting for us at the entrance to the polling booth on election day. Which will take precedence, the nation or individual freedoms? Will Eretz Yisrael win over the trend of becoming part of a "Middle Eastern Consensus?" Will the torch of religious Zionism burn brightly or will it become close to being extinguished? Will we remember our "right hand" and our heritage (see Tehillim 137:6)? (Shabbat B'Shabbato May 14)