A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
21 Iyar 5760
May 26, 2000
Issue number 274
Carlebach Minyan at BAYT.
Israel Quits Lebanon
The security zone in southern Lebanon is no more, as the Israel Defense Force completed its withdrawal Wednesday morning. Hizbullah shelling accompanied the troops on their way out, but no Israelis were hurt. Residents of the north were instructed to leave Wednesday morning. The withdrawal itself was rushed and panicky in many cases. In at least one location, the soldiers received a sudden order that they have five minutes to pack up their rifles and army vests and leave; they then ran six kilometers to the border, leaving behind ammunition, communications equipment, clothing, tefillin, and more. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz called upon "the entire nation to rally and unite around the IDF on this historic day." He said that a mission such as this is judged only by its results, and praised the officers and soldiers for carrying out an orderly retreat under difficult conditions, "without even a scratch to IDF troops." Mofaz emphasized that four goals governed the planning of the withdrawal: "Safety for our forces during the pullout; advance readiness for any possible date of withdrawal and scenario; the implementation of the pullback all at once; and preparedness to meet any external threat with determination and strength." The IDF is now guarding Israel's northern borders under less than optimal conditions. Many sections of the new border fence are not yet ready, and UNIFIL has not yet established itself in a buffer zone between Israel and Hizbullah terrorists. Hizbullah's intentions are not yet clear; some analysts fear that they will continue their attacks against Israel in one way or another, while others predict that they will suffice with their political achievements for a period of time. Chief of Staff Mofaz threatened that if Israeli targets are attacked, Israel will not hesitate to attack with full strength against those responsible, including Syrian targets in Lebanon. "The planes are ready, the pilots are on the alert, and their abilities are well-known," he said. Foreign Minister David Levy reviewed the reasons for the withdrawal from Lebanon. He said, "The unanimous decision to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon was the result of our recognition that the security zone could not stop the katyushas that threaten and inflict damage on our northern settlements. Our continued presence there:
* endangered the lives of our soldiers and citizens;
* legitimized attacks against Israel as an occupying force;
* severely limited the action of our soldiers by the presence of Hizbullah in the heart of the Lebanese civilian population and our consequent fear of harming innocent civilians;
* forced us to accept the rules of the game as dictated by Syria and Iran, implemented by the Hizbullah and their like; and
* resulted in ongoing attrition and the inability to achieve results."
Levy then explained that by redeploying along the international border, Israeli regains control of the initiative, and "if our security is threatened by anyone - whether directly or through any organization - we will act in accordance with the right to national self-defense accorded by international law." He specifically mentioned in this regard the Syrian and Lebanese governments.
Kibbutz Manara resident Barak Meiri told Arutz-7 Tuesday that he can see Hizbullah terrorists perched on the mountains not far from his home: "I'm not afraid personally, but this could be because I am single and have no family to worry about; maybe if I did, I would answer differently. At any rate, the main impact of the present situation is on my work here. Our orchards are only four meters from the border, and our main work now is there..." Meiri laughed when asked if the construction of the new security fence and IDF base had been completed. He said that although the old fence is still standing, "it is the only thing blocking the way of a Hizbullah terrorist cell that may want to infiltrate the kibbutz." (arutzsheva.org May 23,24)
6,000 SLA Refugees Expected
Hizbullah terrorists took an unknown number of SLA soldiers to the roofs of houses in villages in the former security zone and shot them to death. A senior officer in the northern command confirmed the reports. According to Lebanese Army sources, two-thirds of SLA fighters - over 1,600 fighters - did not come to Israel, but rather turned themselves in to Lebanese forces or terrorist organizations. Many Israeli organizations have offered their services to the Lebanese refugees - including the opening of eight medical clinics, youth activities, and more. Kibbutz Gesher HaZiv has absorbed 120 families. The IDF estimates that a total of 6,000 southern Lebanese will arrive in Israel, although many of them will ultimately not remain in Israel. Housing has already been found for many of the refugees, but another temporary camp has been set up near Korazim, north-west of the Kinneret. A small demonstration was held this afternoon outside Defense Ministry offices, against what the protestors called the "abandonment" of the SLA. Prime Minister Barak visited today in several communities along the northern border. He met with soldiers who left Lebanon this morning, as well as local residents. Hundreds of Gazan Arabs demonstrated today, chanting the words, "Lebanon today - Palestine tomorrow." (arutzsheva.org May 24)
Abu Dis Delay
The Knesset decided Tuesday that Prime Minister Barak must effect the transfer of Abu Dis and neighboring villages only after the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee reviews the situation. The resolution was initiated by National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu faction Chairman MK Benny Elon. He noticed that last week's Knesset vote approving the Abu Dis giveaway was not passed into law, but was rather only a Knesset decision, and vulnerable to changes. His aides convinced right-wing MKs to remain until the end of the Knesset session - which ended late at night - and when the coalition MKs left for home, the resolution was passed by a vote of 21 to 14. MK Elon later explained the value of the bill: "This resolution ensures that the transfer of Abu Dis will not be done suddenly and arbitrarily, but will rather be carried out under close Knesset supervision. There are many questions that still remain to be addressed - such as the Palestinian parliament building, 20% of which is within Jerusalem borders, as well as the new Jewish neighborhood that is to be built there, etc." (arutzsheva.org May 24)
Newsweek Exposes P.A. Corruption
In a detailed expose published in this week's edition of Newsweek entitled "Something Rotten in Palestine," journalists Daniel Klaidman and Matt Rees describe Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority as a "Mafia State." The article begins with a description of how the PA confiscated land from local resident Mahmoud Hamdouni several years ago, in order to build a multi-million dollar casino there. "Accused by Palestinian security services of treason two years ago, he was freed from jail only after he signed over his land to the Palestinian Authority," writes Newsweek. The article details various examples of corruption among top PA officials, and notes that the corrupt system is perpetuated by Arafat's practices. Newsweek predicts that in the near future, Palestinians will direct most of their fury not at Israel, but at the corrupt Arafat regime. (arutzsheva.org May 22)
Israel Destroys Ten Tanks in Lebanon
Israel Air Force jets bombed and destroyed ten tanks that were on their way to Hizbullah terrorist forces Saturday. The manner in which the tanks blew up indicated that they were heavily laden with explosives, according to army sources. The attack was reportedly meant as a sign to the terrorists and the Syrian government that Israel would not tolerate the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah for use against Israel after the withdrawal from Lebanon. (arutzsheva.org May 21)
Jericho Firebomb Leaves Toddler in Serious Condition
A two-and-a-half-year old Jewish child is in very serious condition, after Arabs firebombed the car in which she was travelling in Jericho early Sunday morning. Two other passengers, including the toddler's mother, were also hurt in the attack. Two hours earlier, a Molotov cocktail was thrown on the Israeli highway bypassing Jericho. As a result of the attack, Prime Minister Barak has placed the city of Jericho under Israeli closure, until such time as the terrorists who threw the Molotov cocktail are apprehended. Israelis are forbidden to enter the Jericho casino as well. A statement released by his office said that the Prime Minister views the incident with "great gravity," and that he demands that the Palestinian Authority apprehend the attackers. (arutzsheva.org May 21)
More Arab Violence in Yesha
Arab violence continued this week in several locations throughout Judea and Samaria. Last Friday, at the Netzarim junction in Gush Katif, a soldier was severely wounded by Palestinian-fired shots while accompanying a convoy to Netzarim. He underwent a 21-hour operation on his shattered jaw, and is still listed in serious condition. Arabs threw rocks at Israeli targets in the Netzarim junction, with Palestinian Army policemen standing by. Three Arab firebombs were tossed at a Border Guard patrol near Kalkilya Sunday. A cache of firebombs was found nearby, as well as announcements of a planned "demonstration" there today... Near Kfar Darom in Gaza, Palestine Liberation Army police assaulted IDF soldiers, lightly injuring three Border Guard policemen. In the course of the incident, PLO troops cocked and aimed their rifles at the Israeli forces... Gaza Palestinians destroyed the 1.5-kilometer fence that divides Khan Yunis from the Jewish community of N'vei Dekalim... There was rioting near Jenin, and a firebomb was thrown on an Israeli car near Alfei Menashe... Shots were fired at an Israeli vehicle outside Tulkarm... An Israeli-Arab bus was stoned by Palestinians near Halhoul Saturday, injuring one passenger. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman summed up the situation: "Arafat understood that he crossed a red line and that he lost control, and he is now making an effort to regain control... One possible explanation for why Arafat started this whole cycle of violence - considering the fact that not only did he win Abu Dis, but that he's also getting more of Yesha than he thought (even though he has rejected Israel's current offer) - is that he knows he's coming close to the moment when he will have to make some hard decisions, and is therefore stalling while at the same time allowing his people to let off some steam. He knows that on several major issues there will not be Israeli concessions, such as refugees, full withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem - Israel won't give up Gilo or Ramot, for instance - and so he's afraid of the moment when he will have to come to terms with this..." Huberman said that a new feeling is coming over many top Israeli army officers: "Some army seniors have expressed the feeling, for the first time since the signing of the Oslo accords, that maybe Arafat is simply not the right man for us to be talking to, that maybe he just cannot deliver the goods - i.e., a Palestinian commitment to peace with Israel. Until now, it has always been said that Arafat is the only one who can make peace with us, and that we have to hurry and talk with him because only he can unite the Palestinians, etc. Many of the army officers now feel that Arafat is simply no longer in control, and that some of the violence is even being directed against him..." (A7 May 21)
Yesha Council: "Arafat Shoots - Barak Folds"
Rabbi Ya'ir Heller was one of several Netzarim residents who almost didn't make it home for Shabbat last Friday, due to the Arab riots. After being detained for four hours at the Karni checkpoint - after stoning attacks on Israeli vehicles forced the army to close the road - an army helicopter flew was finally brought in to fly them home. Despite his appreciation of the IDF efforts on their behalf, Heller was critical of the overall situation: "Instead of solving the problem, and using the ammunition we have in our hands to put them in their place... the army is forced to impractical methods." Rabbi Heller added that it is finally time to try in court those politicians who were responsible for providing the PLO army with the various weapons "that they are using against us" - or at least to confiscate the weapons. The Yesha Council held a protest vigil outside the Prime Minister's home this morning, under the motto, "Arafat shoots - Barak folds." Yesha Council chairman Benny Kashriel, speaking to Arutz-7 today from the site, said, "Sadly, we are forced to come and say, 'we told you so.' Here they [the Palestinians] are, shooting at us from the very guns that we gave them... What will happen is that Arafat will quiet things down for a couple of weeks, and then his men will shoot at us from Abu Dis. What's done is done, and there's no turning back. A soldier and a baby were seriously hurt in Jericho and Netzarim - are we taking those areas back? No!...Arafat simply wants Jerusalem, and the return of all the Arabs from pre-1948 Israel - in short, the whole State of Israel! This is simply his way of getting it in stages. I say this not as an extremist, but as a resident of Ma'aleh Adumim, next to Jerusalem... Our deterrence factor is dissolving here in Yesha just as in southern Lebanon, and I feel that we are in for some tough days ahead." (arutzsheva.org May 21)
Letter to Rescue Personnel
The residents of Negohot - a small Yesha town south of Hevron - have become the first in Israel who are entirely dependent on the good will of the Palestinian policemen for their personal safety. This was the result of the recent handing over of part of the access road to Negohot to full Palestinian control. Israeli rescue personnel are not permitted to enter the community without prior permission from the Palestinian Authority. Some 30 professors and rabbis signed an open letter yesterday addressed to "Security and Rescue Personnel of the State of Israel - the IDF, the GSS, Police and Border Police, Firefighters, Medical and Rescue Teams," asking them to remember their overriding responsibility to the citizens of Israel. The letter reads, in part:
"We turn to you with a warning about a new and unprecedented situation which puts both you and us to an almost impossible test. "In the framework of the most recent agreements, the State of Israel has handed over the access road of Negohot to complete Arab control. No legal authority at all remains for the security and rescue forces of the State of Israel (as opposed to the road leading to Netzarim [in Gush Katif], over which Israel maintains joint control). As is known, the Negohot road is a test case for all other roads which are to link the planned 'settlement islands. If an Israeli citizen who lives in Negohot (and soon, in other places) calls for your assistance, you are not legally allowed to provide him with the assistance which you are duty-bound and trained to provide. All such assistance can be provided only on the authority of that Palestinian policeman who has received complete and exclusive control over this road. Even if you are called to help a family wounded in a terror incident, to rush a woman in difficult labor to the hospital, or to save a house going up in flames, you will be unable to intervene. You will stand idly by, because legally your hands will be tied. Unfortunately, these incidents are not imaginary. Remember the girls on the "island of peace" along the Jordanian border, who cried out and bled to death over the course of several hours, while Israel's rescue team was denied permission to go in and save them. You are liable, G-d forbid, to be part of a new situation like this - but much worse. Tragedies will occur... What will you be able to explain to your Jewish relatives and brethren then? Remember one thing: You are not a machine! As a person in uniform, it is forbidden for your political views to influence the performance of your task, but when you are prevented from rescuing any citizen of your country, you have to know that that is happening. You need not disobey any order or take off your uniform. Tell your superiors that what is happening is unacceptable to you, until your words penetrate and have an affect. Don't despair! In a Jewish country, as opposed to a dictatorial country, you are not just a cog in the wheel. Even the word of a lone individual has meaning and influence."
Shmuel Medad, a resident of the Hevron area, explained today that the Palestinians have been careful to ensure that the Negohot road remains quiet, "in order that this test case should work, and then the rest of the roads in Yesha will be similarly handed over to them. Let me be clear: The road to Netzarim looks terrible - with convoys, and bullet proof cars, and military jeeps all over - but the fact is that the IDF has joint control there, and if something happens, the army can send in whatever forces it wants. But the road to Negohot, which looks pastoral - except for the dozens of Palestinian policemen stationed all along the road, to 'demonstrate their presence' - is off limits to Israeli forces! An IDF jeep goes by once in a while, but only after receiving permission from the Palestinians, and its soldiers have no authority." (arutzsheva.org May 19)
Arafat Turns down Israeli Plan
Reports of possible permanent-status arrangements continue to circulate. Israel's leading daily Yediot Acharanot publicized a final-status map last Friday as envisioned by Israeli negotiators - which was turned down by both Yasser Arafat and the Americans. According to the plan, Israel will turn over to Palestinian sovereignty, either immediately or within a few years, all the Jordan Valley communities and Kiryat Arba; dozens of Yesha towns will become isolated enclaves within the Palestinian state. Arafat continues to demand that Israel withdraw from Judea and Samaria in toto. ( arutzsheva.org May 19)
Life in the P.A.
Concern is growing within Palestinian society that the life in the Palestinian entity "is spiraling out of control towards chaos, autocracy, and thuggery." So reports the Middle East Media Research Institute in a study released last week. The clearest, most public indicator of this trend is the prevalence of violence within the Palestinian Authority itself: On April 2, an internal power struggle led to the assault of the PA Minister of Environment, Yusef Abu Safiyyah, at the hands of his own director-general and his associates. A day later, PA human rights leader Qaddura Fares was beaten by members of Arafat's Force 17. Back in February, 1998, PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo - until recently the head of the PA negotiating team with Israel - ordered his guards to physically assault his deputy and to ransack his offices. Other examples abound. The situation has led even members of the PA inner circle to call it "total chaos." Ibrahim Abu Al-Naja, Deputy Head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said, "Everybody beats everybody else… we Palestinians have to ask ourselves today, where are we leading our people?" In April, Gaza psychiatrist and human rights activist Iyad Al-Sarraj wrote in a London Arabic-language paper that the hooliganism in the PA is a product of an educational message conveyed to Palestinian children by their parents, to the effect that the expression of anger through the use of force is permissible, honorable and courageous. In conclusion, the authors of the study write, "the most striking thing about the situation is that they are not blaming Israel for this situation. This is a major departure from Palestinian rhetoric which blames Israel for almost every problem." (arutzsheva.org May 18)
"Whoever tells you that this is the scenario he expected is simply lying. The worst thing that could happen happened - our old friends in Lebanon stand squeezed together, empty handed and running for their lives. We were not prepared for it."- A senior officer in the Liaison Units to Lebanon standing at the border crossing, in reaction to the collapse of the SLA. (Ha'aretz May 24)
"The rights and obligations of the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel are eternal, and no element has the authority to nullify the Jewish nation's right over any part of Eretz Yisrael. In these days, when we hear words of weakness and the desire to give away parts of Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, we call on everyone to take part in [the rally], in order to strengthen the Jewish settlement presence in Yesha and Jerusalem! We must be strong on behalf of the nation and the cities of our G-d, and may we see the fulfillment of the prophecy, 'I will plant them on their land and they will never again be uprooted from their land.'"- From a joint statement by Rabbis Eliyahu, Shapira, Druckman, Melamed, Rabinovitch, Drori, Aviner, and Lior calling on the public to attend a recent rally in Jerusalem (Arutz 7 May 12)
"Sorry I couldn't call in an update earlier - I was ducking bullets...all hell has broken loose."- Margot Dudkevitch, reporting from the Yosh junction between Bet El and Ramallah, describing the heavy fighting between the Israeli army and PLO armed forces. (Jerusalem Post May 15)
"[We take] great pride in the great popular awakening that swept all areas of our nation and refugee camps on the occasion of the Naqba.'' - The PLO Executive Committee responding to the recent Palestinian Arab violence. (A/P May 16)
Barak Now Faces a Bitter, Disappointed Army, and It's Not the SLA
By Amir Oren
Mofaz is currently doing battle in two wars.
One is against external enemies - Hezbollah, Syria, the Palestinians. The second is against the political leadership, which compelled him to undertake a military action that he has regarded all along to be a mistake.
Senior officers, both in the General Staff and the Northern Command, are currently furious with their former commander, Ehud Barak. Half a year ago, they kept misgivings about the withdrawal plan in check, deferring to Barak's authority as a leader elected on an explicit platform.
As months went by, their anger mounted, especially when Barak deferred their requests relating to timely preparations for a one-sided withdrawal. They believe that the events of recent days would have been avoided, had the IDF been allowed to assume unilaterally new configurations months ago, instead of just a few weeks ago....Barak now faces a bitter, disappointed army, and it's not the SLA. (Ha'aretz May 24)
Critics of Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon have long compared that policy to America's ill-fated involvement in Vietnam. The comparison is especially apt now that Israel's withdrawal has turned into a rout, leaving a betrayed ally, a critically endangered civilian population and a footloose horde of Hezbollah thugs who have good reason to believe that their terrorist acts have finally paid off.
This news must come as a real head-scratcher for those who've spent the past 18 years calling on Israel to withdraw. The logic of the peace process gurus has been that unilateral territorial concessions by Israel would yield fabulous dividends in security, prosperity and the fellowship of man. For them personally anyway, this was right. Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has his Nobel Prize, and nobody's going to rescind it. President Bill Clinton has photographs with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat and King Hussein and Hosni Mubarak -- ensuring that the legacy will say he went the extra mile for peace.
But for Israelis themselves, the peace dividend has yet to materialize. The West Bank is coming off one of its worst spates of violence in recent memory, and that's after Israel relinquished control of three Jerusalem suburbs to the Palestinian Authority. Syria grew more, not less, truculent following Prime Minister Barak's promise in March to get out of Lebanon.
For the immediate future, the question is how best to guarantee the safety of those put at risk by this pullout. So far, the U.S. has offered only diplomatic assistance, which is to say no assistance at all. Kofi Annan proposes to raise the number of U.N. peacekeepers stationed in the area to 7,900 from the current 4,500. Given the U.N.'s track record in places like Srebenica and Sierra Leone, the southern Lebanese had best take up Israel's offer of asylum while they still can.
Israel, too, faces a reckoning. Mr. Barak, voted into office in part because of his tough guy image, is now responsible for one of the greatest military humiliations in the country's history. How did this happen? The Prime Minister seems to have calculated that the SLA would be able to hold out on its own - an error that calls into question his military judgment. Then, too, there were reports that Mr. Barak expected U.S. help, perhaps in the form of pressure on Syria to restrain the Hezbollah while Israel withdrew. That error calls into question his political judgment.
Then there is the matter of the negotiating partners the U.S. has steadfastly foisted on Israel. For Syria's Assad, as for Mr. Arafat, Israel's sin has nothing to do with its occupation of Lebanon or the West Bank, or the status of Palestinian refugees, or the question of Israel's treatment of its minority Arab citizens. Israel's sin, in their eyes, is the sin of its existence. And there's only one way to erase that.
Israel's presence in Lebanon exacted a toll in lives - some 1,500 over 18 years -- and a heavier toll in public morale. But perhaps its heaviest toll was on Israel's memory, in particular its memory of the constant attacks it sustained prior to its 1982 invasion. It had better prepare for a sharp awakening.
Meanwhile, we're heartened that at least one would-be world leader, Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush, seems to have gotten wise to a peace process driven by politics. On Monday he accused the Clinton Administration of trying to make Israel conform to American "plans and timetables" and of "taking sides" in the last Israeli election. Vice President Gore blasted Mr. Bush's views as "reckless" and "irresponsible." Insofar as an Israeli pullout from Lebanon has long had the support of the Clinton Administration, we'd enjoin Mr. Gore to dwell on his own recklessness instead.
(The Wall Street Journal May 24)
Who will pay for the 'brilliance' of Israel's most decorated warrior in his handling of the withdrawal from Lebanon?
Ehud Barak sat opposite Israel's TV Channel One diplomatic reporter this past Monday night and was asked if he had made a mistake in his early troop redeployment last week of an army outpost in southern Lebanon. Barak, Israel's prime minister and, by his own election propaganda, Israel's most-decorated warrior, smiled and niftily avoided the trap. "I never look back but always to the future," he said. The viewers, left in the vacuum of a politician's self-enhancement, gained an insight into what is perhaps the empty void that now stands at the top of the country's administration.
Barak may be in a process of political deconstruction. His most recent problems began when, despite his magnanimous gesture of altering the status of three Arab villages overlooking Jerusalem, gunshots rang out in Ramallah and Gaza. Bullets from rifles delivered by Israel wounded Israeli soldiers and sent civilians in nearby Jewish civilian communities scurrying for cover.
In his May 15 Knesset speech, Barak sarcastically referred to the knights of the Hasmonean Tunnel and Joseph's Tomb, the bloody incidents of September 1996. Those disturbances were former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's responsibility. But within hours, Barak's own shining armor was bestained as the sounds and pictures of the Palestinian violence were broadcast on television screens. Stunned, Barak assumed an assertive stance but, nevertheless, the shooting continued and, at week's end, one soldier had been shot in the head and an infant was torched by a firebomb in Jericho.
Left with little choice, Barak's plans were adjusted. His secret Stockholm channel of final-status negotiations was interrupted, and his representatives were called home to Jerusalem. More ominously for a politician, he is being threatened with internal coalition desertions, and the transfer of the three villages was put on hold. And then, with an echo of Jeremiah's prophecy, the troubles began in the north.
For months, Barak has informed all and sundry that Israel will leave the south Lebanon buffer zone, with or without an agreement. Israel's populace assumed that in either case their security concerns and those of their allies--the soldiers of Gen. Antoine Lahad's South Lebanon Army--were being taken into consideration in the planning of the retreat. We may never know exactly what those plans were because, in the past few days, the several hundred-strong Hezbollah terror militia sprung a surprise on the brilliant strategist who is Israel's prime minister and defense minister as well.
Talks on Israel's withdrawal to the international border had been held with U.S. officials, United Nations' diplomats and other Middle East players. Yet for all the planning, the concept of an orderly rearrangement along the border collapsed as did the SLA units that, with survivalist cunning, smelled the developments that Barak overlooked.
At present, fully 70% of Kiryat Shemona's population has left the town and the rest are in underground shelters. Upward of 3,000 SLA personnel and family members are knocking on Israel's gates. The new security fence is being built only meters from homes at Metulla and other kibbutzim along the Galilee panhandle. And the Hezbollah has announced further territorial demands: the lands upon which sit seven agricultural communities and the military base at Shaba, on the Mt. Hermon slopes. In other words, the Hezbollah struggle is far from over, and the Syrians are still demanding all of the Golan Heights and the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Critics have pointed out that for all his bluster, Barak failed last month to use effectively the military might he has at his disposal when Katyusha rockets fell, during the day, on Kiryat Shemona. Moreover, by denigrating the worth of the South Lebanon buffer-zone, his response to future attacks on Israel can only be at the risk of a major confrontation with Syria, something that has been avoided until now. Barak hasn't solved the problem of border attacks but perhaps has only cleared the decks for a better shot.
Barak's "brilliance," so skillfully nurtured during his election campaign, still needs to be tested. The fear, though, is that the price for his failure will be paid by those
who are less able to do so, even if they enthusiastically voted for him a year ago.
(The Los Angeles Times May 24)
The writer is the, Director of Israel's Media Watch.
Life, it is said, is what happens while you are making plans. Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon was not supposed to be like this. Yet the idea of an "orderly unilateral withdrawal" always seemed a contradiction in terms, like a controlled free fall. The unsettling pictures of fleeing Lebanese and rejoicing Hizbullah forces, however, do not change Israel's fundamental objectives, nor the chances of achieving them.
Those objectives are straightforward: to leave Lebanon, restore security to the northern border, and safeguard the lives of our South Lebanese Army allies. The importance of the first objective should not be minimized or taken for granted. The celebrations of the withdrawing IDF troops say volumes. Having to safeguard the border by occupying hostile territory was a nightmare that is ending. Whether that nightmare is replaced with a worse one depends on accomplishing the other two objectives.
The flight of many residents of Kiryat Shmona and other northern towns seems to indicate a lack of confidence that Israel's primary objective - a secure border - will be achieved. Those residents, who have stuck it out through thousands of Katyusha attacks over the years, will surely return if peace does come to the area. Whether that peace is achieved depends less on the scenes of civilians waving Hizbullah flags as they move south than it does on the new deterrent policy emerging from Israel.
Over the past two days, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister David Levy, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz have all made it clear that following (and possibly during) Israel's withdrawal, the ground rules of the Lebanon war will change dramatically. In Barak's words, "Israel will soon deploy along the international border and if a single hair should fall from the head of one of our civilians, Lebanon and Syria will bear responsibility and we will respond with all the power at our disposal." What was hinted for months has become completely explicit: Lebanon and Syria, not Hizbullah, will hereafter be held responsible if the war against Israel continues despite its withdrawal.
This shift of responsibility from the proxy to its national sponsors (Iran should also be named in this regard) is the core strategic basis for Israel's withdrawal. A critical component of this strategy is international recognition of a right that should be axiomatic, but has not been - Israel's right of self-defense.
For the war to end, messages from the US and the UN to Syria and Lebanon must go beyond the usual request for calm in the region. The US and the UN need to hold these countries equally responsible for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425. That resolution created UNIFIL for the purpose of "confirming" an Israeli withdrawal and "restoring international peace and security and assisting the government of Lebanon in insuring the return of its effective authority in the area." Ensuring that Hizbullah does not continue its war against Israel is therefore not just Israel's problem, but that of Lebanon, Syria, and the UN. These nations and the international community cannot have it both ways: allowing attacks against Israel and expecting Israel not to respond.
Though it is clear that the IDF did not plan for the two Shi'ite battalions of the SLA to collapse before UNIFIL was ready to increase its presence, UNIFIL should never have been expected to replace Israel militarily and secure the border. UNIFIL's purpose, after all, is restoring Lebanese sovereignty, not acting as a substitute for proper sovereign control.
Neither Israel nor Lebanon has an interest in saddling UNIFIL with a mission it is incapable of fulfilling, because both nations will suffer the consequences of UNIFIL's failure.
UNIFIL could play an important role in the important humanitarian objective of safeguarding the SLA fighters and families who remain in Lebanon. The idea promulgated by the Lebanese government and, incredibly, by Israeli Arab leaders that the SLA are mercenaries and traitors who should be punished amounts to a glaring double standard. If an alliance with a foreign power constitutes treason, then Hizbullah and the Lebanese government are hardly in a position to accuse, given their own relationships with Syria.
Aside from basic humanitarian considerations, the UN bears a substantial direct responsibility for the fate of the SLA, because the UN has been most insistent that the SLA disarm, disband, and break all contact with Israel. Israel must do its part, as it seems to be doing, by taking in all those Lebanese who seek refuge because of their connection to Israel. It is UNIFIL's job, however, to help protect those who choose to stay in Lebanon, and help create conditions that will allow a maximum number of Lebanese refugees to return home. (Jerusalem Post May 24)
The humiliating scenes of Hizbullah's invasion into Israel's security zone overshadowed the previous week's shocking pictures of violent Palestinian outbursts in Judea and Samaria.
The disturbing scenes reached our homes through the television, reminding us that the Hizbullah invasion is moving along. The Palestinian violence coincided with the Stockholm Israeli/Palestinian negotiations on Israeli withdrawals.
Both events originated from the naive Israeli assessment that Hizbullah will acquiesce to a lasting truce following an Israeli agreement with the United Nations on the delineation of our northern border. The same applies to the erroneous evaluation that our Palestinian interlocutors in Stockholm will sign an ambiguous draft of a peace framework that circumvents the Jerusalem issue.
The IDF's decisive response to the Palestinian police shooting embarrassed Arafat and his aides. Before the riots, they presumed that Israel would swallow provocation during this period of intensive talks, predicting that the Israeli government would prefer talks "further[ing] the political process" to defending its soldiers and citizens.
But their intelligence evaluations were proved wrong. The IDF returned fire. The warning was unambiguous: "If you go on firing on the IDF command building in Beit El, Arafat's command building will not be immune," and "if the Palestinian police don't stop shooting, Arafat can forget about Abu Dis." The Palestinians were angry, but they had to accept a new reality, in which Israel refuses to accept excuses for Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
THE PA can't go on hiding behind the Hamas's and Islamic Jihad's apron strings and blaming them for the bloody riots. It was Fatah, Arafat's own organization, that instigated and organized the demonstrations and violent conflicts with the IDF. Arafat has not yet disclaimed responsibility for initiating "Nakba Day" and "Days of Wrath," which premeditated clashes with Israeli security forces.
Arafat relied on the forbearance of Jews longing for peace, and failed to foresee such large numbers of Palestinian wounded. He supported the riots, believing that the backdrop of its sounds would help him in negotiating with Israel. His philosophy is that negotiations under fire will encourage superpower intervention and panic the Israel public into giving in more quickly.
Arafat didn't take into account the effect of the sight of a two-year-old girl wounded by a firebomb thrown at her by a Palestinian policeman near Jericho. He forgot the shock of the Israeli public 12 years ago when a mother and her two daughters burned to death in a bus near Jericho following a Palestinian terrorist attack.
But the government didn't forget the consequences of that incident in the 1988 Knesset election results. It had to be seen to react in some way, and decided to call back from Stockholm its representatives in the negotiations with the Palestinians "for consultations."
This isn't an outright halt to the talks - only a temporary interval until the public calms down and the government can find justification for returning the delegation to Stockholm. But the PA secretary is doing nothing to help the government calm the public. On the contrary: his threat to increase tension after the halt to the talks arouses suspicions that he intends to connect the rioting to the talks.
At first, the "source close to Arafat" stated that a distinction should be made between the Stockholm negotiations and the actions in the streets (in other words, coexistence between bloody riots and diplomatic talks. But after the Israeli delegation's return from Stockholm, he warned: "Barak's decision [to bring back the Israeli representatives] is irresponsible and liable to bring about a further deterioration in the present situation" - a transparent threat to escalate the violent clashes with the Israeli security forces.
The Palestinians aim to negotiate in Stockholm under the umbrella of disturbances in Ramallah and Jericho. The Palestinians, like Hizbullah, are attempting to undermine the morale of the Israeli public.
Israeli society cannot swallow, and will not condone, shocking scenes reminiscent of America's retreat from Saigon. (Jerusalem Post May 24)