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

 

14 Iyar 5760
May 19, 2000
Issue number 273

Events...

Wednesday, May 24, 7:00 pm

Israeli journalist David Bedein presents a preview of an investigative TV documentary on the PLO to be aired in June on the BBC. Toronto Zionist Center, 788 Marlee. RSVP required by 5:00pm Tuesday (416) 781- 3571.

Thursday May 25, 8:00pm

Bnai Brith presents Yoram Hazony, speaking at Beth David, 55 Yeomans. Yoram is the President of the Shalem Centre in Jerusalem and is the author of the article on Israel's school curriculum published last month in The New Republic and featured in Israel News. (Yoram regrets that his travel schedule has forced the cancellation of his address on Shabbat at BAYT.)

News...

Knesset Votes to Transfer Abu Dis

The decision to transfer Abu Dis and two other Jerusalem-area villages to PA control passed Monday night by a vote of 56-48, with one abstention. The margin of Prime Minister Barak's victory in the vote was provided by the abstention - i.e., the absence - of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Shas and Yisrael B'Aliyah. The following is the vote tally:

For: 56

25 One Israel; 10 Meretz; 10 Arabs; 4 Shinui; 1 Democratic Choice (Bronfman); 5 Centrist; 1 One Nation (Amir Peretz);

Against: 48

18 Likud; 9 Shas; 5 NRP; 5 United Torah Judaism; 7 Yisrael Beitenu/National Union; 1 Herut (Kleiner); 1 One Nation (Chaim Katz); 2 Yisrael B'Aliya

Not present: 15

8 Shas; 1 Shinui; 1 Democratic Choice (Tzinkar); 1 Centrist (Mordechai); 1 Likud (Livnat - overseas); 2 Yisrael B'Aliya (Sharansky amd Solodkin); 1 One Israel (David Levy - overseas)

Abstained: 1

1 Shinui (Zandberg)

The transfer will not be implemented, however, until "after Monday's events have been clarified." Prime Minister Barak informed PA Chairman Yasser Arafat of this decision Monday night. Barak told Arafat that he regards Monday's events with utmost gravity, that they must not be allowed to recur, and that the two sides' representatives must discuss the events forthwith and draw the necessary conclusions. Mati Dan, a tireless activist for the cause of Jewish settlement throughout Jerusalem, told Arutz-7, "Despite the decision to give away Abu Dis, we must never despair, especially as Abu Dis is a place where we have papers from 1920 showing that Jews bought lands there, and we believe that we will be able to actualize the Jewish ownership there. I am referring to areas of Abu Dis that are in Jerusalem's municipal borders - Mayor Olmert has drawn up plans to build there, and we plan to put him to the test next week." Dan said that the original papers describe Abu Dis as being "four kilometers from the Central Post Office [still located in the same place today, on Jaffa St.]," and that the Jews decided to buy lands there instead of their other choice - west-Jerusalem neighborhood Beit HaKerem - because "we can see the Temple Mount from Abu Dis." Dan said that the Jews bought 800 dunams (200 acres) of land there, and then made aliyah [immigrated to Israel] from Iraq in order to live there. Dan concluded with the hope that Barak would not actually implement the transfer of Abu Dis until the final-status stage.

Housing Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, in what was apparently his last speech in the Knesset, explained Monday why his National Religious Party is resigning from the coalition. "We joined the government with the goal of marching together and acting together as much as possible... Today, from this point in time, it appears that we have reached the limits of our ability to cooperate. Our influence on the government, in the 11 months we were there, was important and not a waste, and I am happy that it was so... But today marked a milestone in Israel: the transfer of villages around Jerusalem... Do not understate the difference between [Areas] B and A: we have already seen attackers escaping to area A, and it is impossible [for our security forces] to chase after them, and we have seen the immunity that the Palestinian security forces have in area A as compared to area B... Arafat will come tomorrow and ask for the rest of the villages around Jerusalem. What reason will we have to refuse? With our own hands we are creating a belt of villages armed by Palestinian police around Jerusalem, that will stand between [Jerusalem and] the Jewish settlements. How easy it will be for Palestinian forces to cut off Maaleh Adumim from Jerusalem! How easy it will be for Palestinian forces in Anata to cut off north-east Jerusalem from Jerusalem! It should be known that we are talking about the beginning of a process. I do not accept what the Prime Minister says, that it is only a matter of 0.24%. We are talking about the beginning of a process in which Jerusalem finds itself on the negotiating table, [with] no agreement, and we are already withdrawing from around Jerusalem... Abu Dis is the first village Arafat is asking for - [because] it is the closest village to the Temple Mount. The goal of Arafat is the Temple Mount... And the [Palestinian] parliament was built in Abu Dis because it is the closest point to the Temple Mount. And so the next advance payment and gesture that will be asked for will be "just" a strip connecting Abu Dis to the Temple Mount. And the Prime Minister will say "no" and Arafat will say "yes" and the Prime Minister will come and say, "Why should we have friction with tens or hundreds of thousands coming to pray at the Temple Mount?..." and then it will happen slowly, in a predictable process, I don't know how long it will take, but it starts today and we will lose our sovereignty over part of Jerusalem. The second reason we have for leaving the government is the transfer of parts of the Land of Israel as a free present in order to bring the negotiations out of a dead end. The Land of Israel is a dear land. The Land of Israel is holy land. The Land of Israel is our land. It is not to be given away as a 'present.'"

Rabbi Michael Melchior, leader of the left-wing religious-Zionist Meimad party, voted in favor of the Abu Dis transfer. He explained to Arutz-7, "To say that this marks the division of Jerusalem is ridiculous! It's just a little Arab village outside Jerusalem, the control of which we already gave away a few years ago... This is part of the complex problem of the two peoples living so close to each other, and if we are to reach a solution - and I am among those who want to strive for this, even though I don't know if it's possible, and I'm not sure if the other side is willing - then we have to make every effort to this end... It is in our interest for them to have control over the densely-populated Palestinian neighborhoods. If it doesn't work, then we'll have to struggle, but at least everyone will know that there is no choice and we will be united.Of course, [in light of Monday's hostilities] we have to ensure that the other side keeps its side of the agreement, because if not, then there's no purpose in making agreements. But on the other hand, if there is no agreement, then there will be an all-out war, or something close to it." Rabbi Melchior said that for him, the main issue at present is not the shaky state of the coalition, but the "disunity within our society. Governments may fall and arise, but we have to sit now and solve our internal problems."

A survey conducted by Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach shows that 57% of Israelis object to the transfer of Abu Dis. (arutzsheva.org, IMRA May 16)

Arabs Launch "War" on "Nakba Day"

Palestinians launched a full-scale battle Monday that started the on the outskirts of Ramallah and other places in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians were commemorating the Gregorian date of Israel's Independence Day - May 15 - as their National Catastrophe Day. At the Yosh Junction, between Ramallah and Bet El, the Palestinians opened fire at IDF forces, following two hours of rock-throwing by Palestinian youths. The commander of the Border Guard police in the Ramallah region was wounded from a bullet shot by uniformed Palestinians; he is in moderate-to-serious condition. Two other soldiers were lightly injured. One Palestinian journalist was shot in the chest by Palestinian fire. Bet El residents were confined to their community much of Monday. Security forces there "feel and are acting as if this is a war."

Late Monday, the IDF dispatched Cobra helicopters to the scene in an attempt to put a cap on the Arab gunfire. In Jenin, in northern Samaria, the Israeli Deputy Commander of the Liaison Unit with the Palestinians was wounded. The soldier, an Israeli Druze from Usafiyah, is listed in moderate condition in Haifa's Maimonides Hospital. Residents of the Shomron Jewish towns of Ganim and Kadim were also prevented from entering and leaving their towns. In Netzarim, in Gush Katif, the junction was closed off for several hours after hundreds of Palestinian rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers. Three Border Guard soldiers were lightly wounded in the attacks. Hundreds of Palestinians tried to reach the fences of Netzarim, but soldiers were successful in stopping them. Israeli cars were stoned by Arabs on the only access road to Negohot, south of Hevron. Half the length of the road is under full Palestinian control, but the para-military police did nothing to stop the stonings. In Hevron, dozens of Arabs attacked Israeli security forces with rocks and firebombs, and rolled four burning tires towards the soldiers. Hundreds of rocks covered the road. A spokesman for the Hevron Jewish Community issued the following statement:

"The Israeli response to the Arab declaration of war can only be described as humiliating cowardice... The current administration, with Ehud Barak at the helm, will undoubtedly be remembered in history as the most cowardly leadership in the annals of the Jewish people. The abandonment and division of Jerusalem on the very day that Israeli forces are being shot at by enemy forces is pathetic, inexcusable, and unforgivable."
Fourteen IDF soldiers and Border Guard policemen were wounded in Monday's fighting in Judea and Samaria, including five who suffered gunshot wounds. The army refrained from using live fire, even when the Palestinians did not. Ten Palestinian deaths were reported. The Palestinian Authority's ruling committee expressed "pride" in Monday's events, and stated, "The PLO executive committee is very proud of this strong popular uprising which has spread throughout all the camps in the homeland and in exile..." O.C. Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon, who will soon become the IDF's next Deputy Chief of Staff, laid the responsibility for Monday's fighting squarely at the Palestinian Authority's doorstep, saying that it tried to ignite a "supervised fire" but could not control the height of the flames. A front-page announcement sponsored by the "Prisoners' Welfare Society" in Monday's edition of the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, read: "The fury of the masses must erupt like a volcano in the face of the Israelis and the land should explode under their feet."

Palestinian violence flared up in several locations throughout Judea and Samaria Tuesday, though not as severely as Monday. Specifically, Arabs threw firebombs and rocks, and burned tires, at the Yosh Junction north of Ramallah, Hevron, Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, outside Ariel, Jenin, and other locations. One Israeli was lightly injured by a hurled stone, while at least ten rioters have been hurt. A woman from Efrat was attacked by three Arabs in her car on her way to Jerusalem, but she was able to escape unharmed. Palestinians attempted to approach the city of Ariel, the Yosh Junction, and other locations, but were repelled by IDF forces. On Wednesday the riots spread to Jerusalem and other locations as well. Shots were exchanged between Israeli and Palestinian forces near the Arab village of Kfar Kalil in Samaria. In Jerusalem Arabs hurled a large rock through a bus window and injured two young Israelis early this afternoon. The incident occurred on Sultan Suleiman Street, near the Old City's Damascus Gate. Not far from there, Border Guard policeman confiscated two wagons full of tires that were about to be ignited. Other Palestinian-thrown rocks injured a young Israeli traveling on the Ramallah by-pass road. Arabs shot at soldiers near Psagot and outside Jenin. (arutzsheva.org May 15-17)

At Negohot And Joseph's Tomb Monday Night

Among the Palestinian-initiated hostilities Monday was the closing of the road leading to Negohot, in the south of Hevron, for several hours. Negohot resident Shlomit Gadot told Arutz-7 that rocks and blocks were thrown on the road leading to the settlement: "When we returned from the demonstration last night - after having been stoned heavily by Arabs on the way there, several hours earlier - we were stopped by the army as we arrived at the section of the road that is under Palestinian control. The soldiers said that it was dangerous to enter, and that we were forbidden to drive home from there. That was at 11:30 PM. We waited, and finally the army tried to usher us in with one jeep leading the way in front, and one jeep behind our cars. But the Palestinians continued to hurl blocks at our cars, and so the army turned around and refused to go on. Later on, the IDF was able to convince the Palestinians to calm down, and to let us get home - which we did, at 1 AM. Several weeks ago, before the transfer of the Negohot approach road to the PA, the local IDF commander told us that the army has means of pressuring and influencing the Palestinians - but no such means have been used. The army doesn't want the atmosphere to heat up any more. They want peace and quiet, and so we, the Jewish residents here, have to suffer for it." Heavy damage was caused to the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva compound at Joseph's Tomb in Shechem Monday night when Arab-thrown firebombs exploded and caught fire there. The Arabs also attempted to break through and take over the yeshiva compound. IDF soldiers opened fire and repelled the attackers, and tanks and a helicopter were dispatched to the area. (arutzsheva.org May 16)

Feisal Husseini: Palestinians to Besiege Yesha

Leading PLO official Feisal Husseini said Tuesday that not only will the Palestinian Authority declare a state "on all its lands" on September 13, but that the next day, the Palestinians living in refugee camps will "march" towards Israeli cities and villages. Husseini admitted that violence during such a march would be likely, and that it could lead to a Palestinian 'conquest' of Jewish towns in Yesha: "The Palestinians will be prepared for a confrontation. If the Israelis intercept the marches or cut the roads, the Palestinians will cut the roads connecting Israel to the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian areas, no matter what happens." (arutzsheva.org May 17)

Worrisome Reports From Stockholm For Jordan Valley Residents

Ma'ariv reported Wednesday that Israeli negotiators in Stockholm, led by Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, plan to offer a final-status arrangement that will give the Palestinian Authority up to 90% of Judea and Samaria. Some of the territory would be turned over after a "trial period" of a few years. Most of the Jordan Valley is expected to come under Palestinian control, according to this proposal. Prime Minister Barak's office did not deny the reports, but said only that they are "speculations." The Jordan Valley Regional Council announced that, together with the Dead Sea area communities, it is beginning a public campaign against the above intentions. Council head David Levy said, "Every Prime Minister until now always prevented any Palestinian attempt to raise territorial demands in the Jordan Valley - for the simple reason that there is no Arab population in this area, and because the settlement enterprise here provides strategic depth for the State of Israel. In addition, Prime Minister Barak himself promised us only a year ago, when he came here, that he would not give away this area and that he would strengthen it." A Council statement noted that despite repeated requests, "the Prime Minister refuses to meet Jordan Valley leaders." Benny Tzadok, Secretary of the Jordan Valley's Kibbutz Gilgal, told Arutz-7 that local residents are overwhelmed and "near despair" by the news that the Barak government is planning to forfeit the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians: "We don't know where to go next or what to do... We have many plans, but investors and developers are now hesitating to go ahead with the projects because of the uncertainty... Many of us here are in our 40's or 50's, and we can't deal with this situation, where they say one year this way and then we'll try a trial period of a few years the other way - we can't play games. We have to know where we are going to spend the rest of our lives, and we're not planning to wait and allow ourselves to become pawns." Tzadok described the intention to give away the Jordan Valley as "insanity, pure and simple... Basically, the government is taking a place where no Arabs live, a beautiful green and flowering region, and giving it away along with the major settlement and agricultural enterprise that has been built here over the last decades - and wiping it out as if it never existed." Asked why he was surprised by the left-wing government's plans, Tzadok said, "Perhaps in my naivete, I wanted to rely on that which I heard Mr. Barak say on many occasions. I heard him, in person, lavish praise on our area and say that he will ensure that its population grows and that its employment situation and factories thrive. But we now see that he cannot withstand the pressures, not those coming from the Americans, Palestinians, or those emanating from his own government." (A7 May 17)

More Knesset Votes

The Knesset passed two important Likud-sponsored bills Wednesday, both by wide margins. Likud MK Yehoshua Matza's Jerusalem bill, which prevents the altering of Jerusalem's municipal borders, passed by a vote of 68-21. Shortly afterwards, 66 Knesset Members supported MK Yisrael Katz's bill forbidding the settling of Palestinian refugees in pre-1967 Israel; only 22 Knesset Members voted against. Most One Israel MKs absented themselves from the two votes. Matza's Jerusalem bill is an attempt to improve on the current "Basic Law: Jerusalem," which does not specifically designate the capital's borders. Should the current proposal pass its second and third readings, a special majority of 61 MKs will be needed to legally alter Jerusalem's present boundaries. Likud MK Yuval Shteinitz noted that the bill also states that responsibility for municipal functions and services cannot be delivered into foreign hands with less than a 61-MK majority. The fate of the Jerusalem proposal of former Peace Now chairman and current Meretz MK Mossi Raz is now uncertain. Raz had planned to submit a bill removing all the city's Arab neighborhoods from its official borders, leaving Pisgat Ze'ev and N'vei Yaakov detached from the capital. Many Labor MKs have criticized the proposal. MK Katz explained that his refugee bill states that only 100 cases a year of Arabs who claim to have lived here before 1948 and who wish to be accepted as citizens will be accepted, and only after the requests have been studied by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and approved by the Defense Minister. This bill, too, must also pass in second and third readings. Arutz-7's Ron Meir asked MK Shteinitz if perhaps this bill may prompt a crisis in the Israel-PA talks. "I hope that the two sides came to an agreement," Shteinitz said. "But if a 'crisis' does take place, then it will be a desirable one, because a Palestinian 'right of return' would mean, de facto, the end of the State of Israel." The original formulation of the bills called for a special 80-MK majority, but Katz explained that in order to obtain the support of Shinui MKs, he agreed to reduce it to 61. (arutzsheva.org May 17)

Giant Rally in Jerusalem

Between 70,000 and 100,000 people attended the giant rally in Jerusalem Monday night on behalf of Jerusalem and Yesha, which was rendered even more poignant in light of the Palestinian-initiated hostilities throughout the day. Minister Natan Sharansky, MKs Ariel Sharon, Rechavam Ze'evi, Silvan Shalom, and Yuri Stern (who spoke in Hebrew and Russian) addressed the crowd and spoke out on behalf of Jerusalem and against the government's policies. Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El asked the tens of thousands to raise their right hands and recite together the famous verse, "If I forget thee O Jerusalem...," and he was followed by the teen-age sister of a soldier killed by Palestinian forces during the fighting of Sukkot 1996. Yesha Council Secretary-General Shlomo Filber, who was among the organizer's of last night's rally, was asked today, "The rally went very smoothly - but maybe it was a bit too toned-down?" Filber: "I don't believe so. We set ourselves three goals for this event, which was our first demonstration and public action in a long time: First, to remove the stigma of the alleged 'inciteful behavior of the right-wing' - this is why we chose Zion Square [the site of the infamous demonstration five years ago in which Avishai Raviv played a major role in the incitement for which it later became famous] as the site. Second - to awaken our public, and to begin getting them involved. Third - to help form a broad Knesset bloc that will not allow Barak to continue along this path... This is not the end of our activity, but just the beginning... Let's not forget that our main struggle is not only for Jerusalem, but also for all of Yesha." Filber related to the political implications of the rally: "It could be that Barak is not worried by yesterday's demonstration, but we have seen already that he is not so great at reading the political map - it could be that he simply does not understand the significance of what happened yesterday, but he will certainly wake up in the coming few weeks when he finds himself with a reduced-size coalition or even a minority-government propped up by the Arabs." (arutzsheva.org May 16)

Israeli-Arab Unrest in the News

Two busloads of Arabs arrived in Moshav Zechariah, near Beit Shemesh, on Sunday, and announced that they wish to "receive their lands back." Families with children, together with photographers and journalists, said that they lived there before 1948, and that they now wish to return. The group attempted to enter an old mosque there, but the police arrived soon after and ordered them to leave. Moshav secretary Moshe Yosef told Arutz-7 that the Arabs left in 1948 of their own volition, not because they were thrown out, but because of economic difficulties: "We, or my parents actually, arrived here from Kurdistan in 1951 to a totally desolate fields and abandoned buildings, and have lived here and worked the fields ever since."

Police Commissioner Yehuda Wilk joined the chorus this week of those noting the "increasing extremism among the Israeli-Arab public." He said, "Unfortunately, we are seeing grave incidents such as the burning of the Israeli flag, swastikas... but I want to differentiate between the entire public and a few small trouble-making groups... I have not heard the Arab leadership condemning the violence in Shfar'am..." He gave his full backing to Northern Police Commander Alik Ron, who was forced to shoot at an Israeli-Arab traffic offender who attempted to run down a policeman last week. (arutzsheva.org May 16)

Commentary...

Unreciprocated Generosity Jerusalem Post Editorial

Three events were juxtaposed one atop the other Monday, like a layer cake: cabinet and Knesset votes on Abu Dis, live-fire battles between Palestinian and Israeli forces, and the news of the capture by the Palestinian Authority of top terrorist bomber Mohammed Deif. This constellation of events may illustrate both the dangers and logic behind the Barak government's approach as the era of historic decisions begins in earnest.

Not long ago, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak both expressed their exasperation with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, claiming he was worse than his predecessor, Binyamin Netanyahu. Until now, indeed, the differences between Barak and Netanyahu seemed more in the realm of style than substance. Both leaders worked hard to mitigate what, in their eyes, was Oslo's terrible flaw: putting the (territorial) cart before the (peace) horse.

Netanyahu tried to make the best of Oslo by reducing the territorial down payments to a bare minimum, and making it clear to the public that he had fought for every inch. In doing so, Netanyahu used the concept of reciprocity as a cudgel, insisting that Israel would not unilaterally observe the territorial side of Oslo while the Palestinians had not sufficiently fulfilled their security side of the bargain.

Barak stopped talking about reciprocity and toned down the public debate, both internally and opposite the Palestinians. Judging from the success to date in combating terrorism, Barak has not been less insistent regarding Palestinian security cooperation. Domestically, the changed tone has allowed Meretz and the NRP to sit in the same government, until the NRP's departure over the Abu Dis vote yesterday.

When the Palestinians say that Barak is worse than Netanyahu, what they mean is that Barak has succeeded in increasing Israel's support abroad, without changing Israel's underlying negotiating tactics or fundamental positions that much - until now. The significance of Barak's Abu Dis move is that it is the most substantive departure from the Netanyahu mold to date.

Netanyahu would not have touched Abu Dis, Eizariya, and Suwahra, all of which abut Jerusalem's eastern municipal boundary, with a 10-foot pole before reaching a final-status agreement. All three villages are already designated Area B, and therefore under Palestinian civilian authority. Barak, however, pushed through yesterday's 15-6 cabinet vote transforming the villages into Area A, under full Palestinian control.

Between the catcalls that interrupted his Knesset speech, Barak presented three tradeoffs that explain his seemingly gratuitous concession. First, the Abu Dis handover will shift the Palestinian focus from a battle over Oslo's remaining third redeployment to a serious effort to complete a framework agreement. The framework agreement is a major Israeli objective, because it finally breaks the cycle of endless down payments without knowing what Israel will receive in return, and whether the gaps between the sides are bridgeable.

Secondly, Barak argued that there are two Palestinian camps among those that do not reject the peace process entirely (such as Hamas): those that believe "a nation is born in blood," and those that count the years of the intifada as Palestine's bloody birthpangs. Finally, Barak suggested that Israel's Abu Dis concession was only over 0.25 percent of the West Bank, compared to the 4 or 5 percent of territory that Israel would have had to transfer in a pre-framework agreement redeployment.

All of these arguments can be summed up in one: It is better for Israel to be generous now than to pay more later. Despite efforts by Barak and others to minimize the significance of Israel's concession ("the Jewish people never prayed to return to Abu Dis"), there is reason why this small amount of territory bordering Jerusalem is worth as much to the Palestinians as a much larger territory elsewhere. The reason is that Israel's concession moves the goal posts regarding Jerusalem.

Israel could have insisted that the Abu Dis area become "permanent B," a category that is sometimes discussed regarding parts of the Jordan Valley.

Even if in the end the area was to come under full Palestinian sovereignty, Israel could have traded that concession for Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty, at least in western Jerusalem. With Israel having given up both these options, Palestinian sights can now be focused on wresting Israeli concessions within Jerusalem itself.

Barak, then, has gambled with Israel's negotiating assets. The fact that he did so just a day after the announcement that the PA had captured Deif does not lessen the risk the government is taking, as evidenced by yesterday's images of Palestinian security forces opening fire on Israeli soldiers. The IDF, reportedly, accuses Arafat of approving widespread riots on the 52nd anniversary of Israel's founding, but believes that Arafat was surprised by the deterioration into a shooting battle with Israeli forces.

Regardless of whether the Palestinian forces' gunfire at Israeli soldiers was authorized, responsibility for it, and for the deaths of Palestinian police and civilians, lies with the Palestinian leadership. The only way to prevent such tragedies is not to initiate violent riots in the first place. For the Barak government, the violence should be a reminder that diplomatic generosity not only may not be reciprocated, but may lead to increasing radicalization.

Barak has wisely heeded a request from Shas to suspend implementation of the Abu Dis handover until yesterday's violence is fully investigated. The implication, however, that the Abu Dis concession is being made to prevent an all-out war, or as a reward for restoring calm, is a dangerous one. In the case of Syria, Barak learned that being generous and going the last mile had no moderating effect on the other side. Barring an unanticipated dramatic display of moderation on the Palestinian track, the Abu Dis decision should be Israel's last experiment in unreciprocated generosity. (Jerusalem Post May 16)

 

Jerusalem Now By Uri Dan

The Israeli War of Independence officially commenced on May 15, 1948, about six months after the Arabs started it when they rioted, pillaged, and burned the commercial center of Jerusalem. On May 15, 2000 the Palestinians started their own War of Independence, scenting the smell of victory over the Jews and the State of Israel. On a background of violence and terror on the part of the Palestinians and with overt firing by their PA "policemen" on IDF soldiers, the Jewish government met and decided to withdraw within the walls of its capital city, to retreat from Abu Dis and Eizariya.

Fifteen ministers, by voting in favor of the decision, brought Arafat's war arsenal even closer to the heart of their capital. From Ramallah, Arafat himself gave the green light for the violence which culminated in death. On the same black day in Israel's short history, the Jewish government in Jerusalem gave the impression that it was fleeing under Palestinian fire. And this is only the beginning. The positive side of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's step in handing over Abu Dis and Eizariya to the absolute control of Yasser Arafat is that the future and security of Jerusalem have now been put on the table.

Whether or not he intended to do so, Barak has armed the explosive Jewish-Palestinian conflict with the ultimate detonator. For if there is one issue, for which not only many Arabs but also not a few Jews are prepared to give their lives, this is Jerusalem. Many of them have for some time conceded the settlements of the north, the Golan Heights, and the settlements of Judea and Samaria. Since 1967, every time negotiations have begun between the Jews and the Arabs, and the question of Jerusalem has of course been raised, the Jews have avoided discussing the issue. Some of them, such as Levi Eshkol, Menachem Begin, Golda Meir and of course Yitzhak Shamir, were, justifiably, not prepared even to hear of negotiations about Jerusalem.

There were also some who tried to be clever, such as the late Yitzhak Rabin and of course, Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, and the apparatchiks of the Left who said that the question of Jerusalem would be discussed "at the end of the process." Or, in other words, after Israel has lost most of its territorial assets as a result of the Oslo accords "in order to advance the peace process," they would then discuss Jerusalem. They of course immediately added, with a pious expression, "Jerusalem was and will remain the undivided capital of Israel."

Barak has put the cart before the horse: Jerusalem now, in the middle of the process. The prime minister's apologists are ridiculing the matter and declaring that this is a territorial concession totaling only "a few fractions of a percentage."

"Did our forefathers pray for Abu Dis and Eizariya?" they ask. These remarks probably result from ignorance or demagogy. I'd like to believe that Barak really knows what he is doing. He's bringing Arafat to the gates of Jerusalem and saying to him, as it were, 'now let's see if you agree to my demands regarding the framework agreement. Are you really prepared to be as flexible as I am? Will you prevent Jerusalem from being fired on from Abu Dis and Eizariya, or will your "policemen," when they arrive there, act in the same way as when they fired on our soldiers in Ramallah, with the Kalashnikovs we gave you?'

Even if I am mistaken and Barak does not intend to check this out, the handing over of Abu Dis and Eizariya is catalyzing the Jewish-Palestinian struggle for the heart of the capital of Israel.

In any case, woe to the people who bring the test of strength to its own capital. It raises the question whether we really deserve a state. Every Jew in Israel and throughout the world will be able to view live the development of the Arab siege of the capital of Israel. They will be able to see how, in the next wave of rioting and violence, Fatah and Arafat's "policemen" will run wild, with a hail of shots, firebombs, and stones, launched not only from the Gaza Strip, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Tulkarm. This wave, however, will be visible from their homes in Jerusalem: near Rehavia, Talbiyeh, Givat Ram, and of course near their homes in the Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Western Wall.

Perhaps Barak really believes that the advance payment, with nothing in return, that he gave to dictator Arafat when he advanced his "policemen" (soldiers) to the walls of Jerusalem, will satisfy Arafat's appetite so that he will be able to come to some kind of agreement with him. However, reality and the facts have already proved him wrong. On the very same day on which he rushed to obtain the approval of his government and the Knesset for his concession in Jerusalem, the Palestinians rioted, under Arafat's orders, with wild firing.

Their War of Independence has entered a new phase, without the excuse of "Bibi's Tunnel," simply because Barak has given in to them. The results will be immediately more serious than those of 1948. (Jerusalem Post May 18)

 

 

Nothing Spontaneous about it By Danny Rubinstein

It was not a spontaneous outbreak of Palestinian civil disobedience. This time real battles were involved. True, they were contained and limited to certain locations, but the exchanges of fire yesterday between IDF soldiers and Palestinian security people were significantly more serious than even the Hasmonean Tunnel incidents of September 1996.

Israel opened the tunnel, and the situation quickly deteriorated. Yesterday, by contrast, almost everything was planned. Palestinian security agents and numerous politicians were among the demonstrators. One, Salah Te'amra, a member of the Palestinian parliament, told reporters in Bethlehem that even if Yasser Arafat himself were to come and order him to halt, he would continue marching on the IDF positions near Rachel's Tomb. Then the stone throwing began, followed by live fire. The Palestinian security marched alongside the demonstrators.

In Bethlehem, the situation did not get completely out of hand, but in other locales, the Palestinian security personnel were the first to open fire with live bullets in response to the rubber bullets shot by IDF soldiers. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), considered the No. 2 man in the Palestinian Authority, commented on Palestinian radio yesterday morning about whether the Palestinian Authority had launched the riots for the prisoners held by Israel. "We in the Palestinian government are responsible for the fate of the prisoners because they are our flesh and blood. We believe they fought for peace and now they must go free."

As important as the prisoners issue may be to the Palestinian Authority, it was not the crux of the matter yesterday. While the riots broke out in many places from Jenin to Gaza, it was no coincidence that the most severe incidents took place at the Judea and Samaria junction, north of Ramallah. That is the location of the IDF command post and the Civil Administration in the territories, and it symbolizes more than anything else the Israeli administration of the territories. The intentional shooting at IDF soldiers with Arafat and his people just a few hundred meters away was more not the whim of a junior officer.

Why did Arafat launch the riots? He probably wanted to speed up the deadlocked talks and make diplomatic gains. The Palestinian leadership has been saying for some time now that the Israelis only understand the language of violence. What caused Israel to withdraw from Lebanon if not the Hezbollah attacks? Arafat still has fond memories of his gains after the tunnel riots. Then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had refused to meet him until then, immediately asked to see him and a short time later, Arafat won the withdrawal from Hebron.

Expecting to make similar gains, Arafat will probably start calming his people down. It will not be easy. Yesterday's casualties will be buried today, and a number of angry demonstrations are planned for the end of the week. But the Palestinians security system is disciplined enough to put down the riots immediately if necessary. (Ha'aretz May 16)

 

 

A Contribution to Peace Jerusalem Post Editorial

As critical decisions approach, the process of erecting political firewalls seems to have accelerated. By wide margins, the Knesset decided yesterday to put the issues of Jerusalem and refugees on the same footing as the Golan - requiring a "special majority" to approve almost any concession.

Though all of these measures were offered to shore up classic Israeli consensus positions, their passage is more a sign of the erosion of that consensus than of its strength.

There was a time, not long ago, when no politician in their right mind would suggest withdrawing from the Golan Heights, speaking to the PLO (let alone creating a Palestinian state), ceding part of Jerusalem, or allowing Palestinians the "right of return" to Israel proper. At different points, legislation has been passed to reinforce each of these taboos. It is in the nature of taboos, however, that if legislation is necessary to prop them up, this is an indication their taboo status may have begun to fray.

The Jerusalem bill, sponsored by Likud MK Yehoshua Matza, amends the Basic Law: Jerusalem to require a 61-vote majority to cede any part of the city to a foreign power. A second bill, sponsored by Likud MK Yisrael Katz, required a similar majority to allow Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, beyond a limit of 100 per year on a humanitarian (presumably family reunification) basis.

In a sense, the remarkable news is not that over 65 MKs voted for each bill, but that over 20 MKs voted against each bill. In addition to those present among the 10 Arab MKs, all Meretz MKs present voted against both bills, as did a few Labor MKs. The sentiment among the Knesset doves was, as Meretz MK Naomi Chazan put it, opponents of compromise "will try anything, however absurd, to sabotage the process."

The doves, however, were wrong to reject these measures as mischievous obstructionism, even if causing a breakdown may have been the hope of some MKs. The real message of these votes is not that the consensus is sacrosanct, but that it should take a consensus to amend one.

One of the great, unspoken lessons of the Rabin era, even if it had not ended so tragically, was that the era of passing momentous agreements, such as Oslo, by a single vote, must end. Ehud Barak's determination to form a broad governing coalition was clearly a form of recognition of this imperative.

Barak's pledge that a final-status agreement would be brought to a popular referendum (in addition to the referendum promised by Rabin regarding the Golan), was further recognition of the need for broad popular support for peace agreements that entail painful and risky Israeli concessions. Accordingly, Barak should have stated up front that his goal is to present agreements that will be supported by broad Knesset and popular majorities.

Instead, the Barak government was clearly uncomfortable with the two super-majority bills. Ministers Haim Ramon and David Levy argued that the government had no intention of making the concessions that the bills were designed to prevent. Such assertions are heartening, but the ministers should have argued that the bills were superfluous for an equally important reason: the government's intention to hold itself to a higher standard than a 61-vote majority.

In addition to reinforcing the tender fabric of Israeli society, these supposedly obstructionist measures were good for the peace process. Reiterating red lines may help to inject a sense of realism on the Palestinian side. The peace process on the Palestinian track is radically asymmetrical: the give and take consists largely of Israel giving and the Palestinians taking. What the Palestinians have to give in return is mainly an acknowledgement that Israel has given enough.

In response to the unrestrained pressure to give, Israel's message to the Palestinians is reminiscent of the Rolling Stones lyric, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need." For its part, Israel has psychologically gone far in giving up its "wants" - such as retaining most or all of the Golan and Judea and Samaria. At some point, however, the Palestinians have to understand that Israel also has needs. The prospect for reaching a workable final-status settlement depends on each side recognizing what is essential to the other party. Yesterday's votes are a contribution to that educational process, and therefore a contribution to peace. (Jerusalem Post May 18)


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