13 Sivan 5759 May 28, 1999 Issue number 219
Palestinian Police Participate in Near-lynch
An organic tomato grower from the Gush Katif community of Kfar Darom was almost lynched in Gaza Monday afternoon. Oz Levran and a passenger had just left Kfar Darom when Palestinian children began hurling rocks at Levran's car, one of which smashed the windshield. "I jumped out of the car to try to catch the who threw the stone, but he escaped," Levran told Arutz-7. "Once I returned to my car, Palestinian cars came and encircled us. We couldn't move. The drivers left their cars and began pounding my car with stones. I pulled out my gun and fired a shot in the air. Only then did the joint Israeli-Palestinian patrol, which was stationed about 200 meters from the site of the attack, come to help." The Palestinian members of the joint patrol did not help much, though, according to Levran. They cocked and aimed their rifles at Levran and his companion, and while their Israeli partners were attempting to restrain the mob, the Arab policemen joined the attackers by throwing rocks themselves, kicking the car, and cursing the two besieged Israelis. The mob took advantage to come closer to their "hostages." The two were finally freed only when Border Police arrived, but their seriously-damaged car was abandoned at the Kisufim crossing. "This is clearly intolerable," Levran said, "where the PA police threatens to shoot Israeli civilians and our police barely react." He was mildly consoled, however, by the fact that his gun - with which he shot in the air - was not confiscated by the army, as has been the usual practice in similar cases. Reacting to accusations that he shouldn't have stopped his car in the first place, Levran said, "Looking back, it could be that I shouldn't have. But stones are thrown at me every day when I pass that spot, and no one can judge my actions taken in the heat of the moment." (Arutz 7 May 25)
Ehud Barak's representatives met first this week with a delegation from Meretz, led by MK Ran Cohen. Barak said again that he wishes to have as broad a government as possible, while Meretz again announced that it would not sit in the same government with Shas. Meretz prepared a long list of its demands, including a freeze on Jewish construction in Yesha, a renewal of talks with Syria from the point the Rabin government left off [i.e., a withdrawal from the entire Golan], and the formulation of a constitution. Meretz was apparently told "not to stand in the way of a broad government," and in fact, Yisrael B'Aliyah members, who were next on line for coalition talks, were promised by Barak's representatives that the new government would not freeze Yesha construction, nor "dry out" the communities there. The Centrist party and Shinui also met with One Israel representatives Sunday for coalition consultations. Barak's One Israel negotiating team includes former Justice Minister David Liba'i, new Labor MK and former Deputy Chief of Staff Matan Vilna'i, Meimad leader Rabbi Michael Malkior, Labor MK Shlomo Ben Ami, and others. Leading Labor MKs Yossi Beilin, Chaim Ramon, and Avraham Burg did not attend the party's victory celebration Saturday night. They are apparently upset that Prime Minister-elect Barak has not included them in the coalition negotiations. Barak, in fact, has not spoken with Ramon since the election. (Arutz 7 May 24)
The Likud leadership, consisting of Ministers Arens, Livnat, Katzav, and Shalom, met Tuesday afternoon with the One Israel coalition negotiating team in the Dan Acadia Hotel in Herzliyah, and were told, "You will be our top choice for the coalition." Not all of the Likud is so excited about the possibility, however. MK Yisrael Katz said that the Likud need not serve as Ehud Barak's subcontractor for withdrawals from the Land of Israel. Minister Silvan Shalom said that if Labor is planning to dictate the terms, Likud would not join the government. Leading Labor MK Shlomo Ben-Ami confirmed wide-spread reports today that Barak plans to establish "as broad a government as possible" to support his policies. Ben-Ami said, "We learned our lesson from the Rabin government." One Israel's coalition talks began Tuesday with the Arab list of Azmi Bishara and Ahmed Tibi. The latter confirmed today that his party leader MK Bishara did in fact reach an agreement with One Israel's Yossi Beilin prior to the election. The Likud had charged that a secret agreement was forged between Barak's representatives and Bishara, in exchange for the latter's withdrawal from the Prime Ministerial 36 hours before the election. Tibi confirmed this when he arrived for coalition talks with One Israel Tuesday. One Israel sources denied the story at the time, but Tibi said "We'll show them the promises now, and we'll see if they deny them!" (Arutz 7 May 25)
Shas is saying that it is prepared to end its relationship with Deri, in line with the Meretz ultimatum - so that it may be able to join the coalition. But the party's inner circles admit that Deri will in actuality continue to be active in Shas. There is really no separating Deri from Shas." Arutz-7's Haggai Segal asked, "Is Shas not considering the possibility of remaining outside of the coalition?" Rahat responded: "No. Shas learned a lot from the National Religious Party over the years, namely, how to build institutions that are dependent on the government for their survival." Segal challenged this, noting that though the NRP was not a member of the Labor government for four years, it survived quite well and even strengthened its standing in the 1996 elections. Rahat responded: "True, but the NRP had options that Shas does not have. When the NRP was being 'dried up,' it turned to other sources, like donations from Diaspora Jews. It also received more tuition money from parents committed to sending their children to the Hesder yeshivot, Yeshiva high schools and girls' seminaries. But support for Shas comes specifically because it provides a long school day, hot food, and transportation - all for next to nothing! Should Shas remain outside of the coalition, it would be forced to extract 800-1000 shekels per child from [low-income families]." This is exactly why Meretz, Shinui, and even the NRP are interested in not having Shas in the coalition, Rahat added. "Even if Shas does join the coalition, life just won't be the same. Any money allotted to it in a left-wing coalition will be placed under a microscope. It has been accurately said that Shas today, with 17 Knesset seats, is worth much less than the 10-seat Shas under Netanyahu." Shas MK Shlomo Benizri said today, however, that it "would not be the end of the world" if Shas were to remain outside the coalition. (Arutz 7 May 25)
One Israel representatives met Wednesday with the small parties that supported Binyamin Netanyahu during the election: the National Religious Party, United Torah Judaism (five seats each), Yisrael Beiteinu, and the National Union (four each). Upon arrival at the hotel, Rabbi Yitzchak Levy of the NRP said that his party would not sit in a government that will "dry out" Yesha communities. "Ehud Barak will not be able to be the Prime Minister of the whole nation if he dries out part of it," he said. Rabbi Levy said that his party will want the Education Ministry. Labor's partner Meimad, a religious-Zionist organization to the left of the NRP, has also set its sights on the Education Ministry. NRP leaders said after the meeting that One Israel is very interested in the NRP joining the coalition, and that its representatives told them that "drying-out settlements is not in our lexicon." Outgoing Minister of Transportation Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP) told Arutz-7 that he gives "equal odds" regarding his party's inclusion in the coalition. "Given our modest accomplishment in the election of only five Knesset seats, we will apparently not be able to lead diplomatic initiatives, but will only be able to act in stopping negative left-wing intentions, such as freezing Yesha construction and 'drying-out' or removing settlements," said Yahalom. When asked if his recent election competition with the National Union had cooled the party's ardor for Land of Israel-related issues, Yahalom responded, "Not in the least. However, again, we will have less influence. For instance, when we were in the Transportation Ministry these past three years, we increased transportation in Yesha many times over. But with less MKs, we will have less authority in the government, and less room to influence and maneuver."
The National Union presented its case for incorporating the Wye Agreement into a final-status arrangement with the Palestinians. Rehavam Ze'evi, the party's senior MK, said afterwards, "As Menachem Begin once said, we can serve the nation very well in the opposition." Yisrael Beiteinu, which is similarly not expected to be a part of the coalition, was represented by MK Yuri Stern and others. The United Torah Judaism delegation was led by MK Rabbi Meir Porush, who said that the meeting with One Israel was "friendly and conciliatory." (Arutz 7 May 26)
Bet El to Absorb New Olim
The Bet El Local Council is continuing with its plans to run an absorption program for new immigrants from English- and French-speaking countries beginning this coming summer. Although a full-fledged Absorption Center will not be built, the families will participate in what is called "direct absorption." Several families have already notified their aliyah [immigration] agents in their home countries that they intend to come to Bet El, where adoptive families will guide the newcomers along their first steps in Israel. Bet El boasts some ten different educational institutions for all ages, as well as stores and shops, small factories, a bakery, two restaurants, two mikvaot, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and more. (Arutz 7 May 26)
Fans Want Weekday Soccer
A group of soccer fans from northern Israel turned to the Supreme Court yesterday, in an attempt to have the national soccer games moved from Shabbat [Saturday] to weekdays. The petitioners are suing the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport, as well as the Soccer Association. Their contention is that the fact that the games are held almost exclusively on the Sabbath violates the civil rights of thousands of fans, including many who have become observant of Jewish law over the past few years. "Equality is a central and fundamental value in human life, and the religious public must be accorded the benefit of equal standards," according to the petition. It is further claimed that moving the games to a different day will not significantly cause a decrease in the number of fans, as the Soccer Association has contended. (Arutz 7 May 25)
Temple Mount "Under Discussion"
The security mini-cabinet of the outgoing government convened this morning, under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu. At issue were reports that the Palestinians are taking advantage of the current transition period to create new facts on the Temple Mount. The Moslems are reportedly building a fourth mosque there, and making other permanent changes. (Arutz 7 May 26)
Israel Unimpressed with P.A. Reports
Israeli security forces are not impressed by Saturday's Palestinian Authority reports that it had arrested two top associates of chief Hamas terrorist Mohammed Def. The PA had boasted that it was now on the verge of capturing Def himself. Security sources say that the two who were arrested have not been involved in terrorist activity for years. They further say that the PA knows Def's whereabouts, but is not interested in arresting him. Palestinians attacked IDF agents today in Silwad, near Ofrah, when the latter attempted to arrest riot-suspects in the village. In a separate incident, an IDF undercover force arrested a Hamas terrorist in Hevron today - Bassam al-Batat, whose brother Ayad al-Batat is wanted for committing a murderous terrorist attack. (Arutz 7 May 24)
Porat to Remain in Knesset - For Now
The leadership of Tekumah has decided not to accept Chanan Porat's request to resign from the Knesset - for now. Porat said that since he will not continue serving as Knesset Law Committee Chairman, he feels that Tzvi Hendel - the next in line to replace him on the National Union list - would be a more effective legislator. The party, however, decided that the resignation of Porat so soon after that of Benny Begin would be interpreted as a sign of the disintegration of the nationalist camp. Chanan Porat explained his view on the matter to Arutz-7 today:
"My intention to resign came not from a feeling of despair, or out of a feeling that we had no followers, but solely in order to ensure that Tzvi Hendel would get into the Knesset. I began thinking about such a possibility even before the elections, when I thought we might get only five seats [Hendel is #6]. However, when I saw that certain interested parties began to interpret this move as some sort of 'admission' that we had possibly erred by standing strong for the Land of Israel, I realized that I should re-think the matter. In addition, I began to receive an barrage of phone calls from many people who said that my resignation would be a breach of trust, etc. In light of such, the leadership of Tekumah convened yesterday for a couple of hours, together with the rabbis who have been guiding us. Thank G-d, their considerations are not personal, but are concerned only with what is in the public interest and that which will Sanctify G-d's Name. It was decided that at this point, I would remain a Knesset Member."Porat said that he was well aware of the counter-pressures upon him to resign because of what some claim is his responsibility for the fall of the Netanyahu government. "These pressures do not come from those who voted for us in the elections," he said. "The 100,000 people who voted for us feel very strongly that we acted correctly." Porat gave a quick review of the events leading to the fall of the Netanyahu government: "When Netanyahu went to Wye, I and my colleagues in the National Religious Party told him quite clearly that if he signs an agreement to give away portions of Eretz Yisrael, we will topple him. Unfortunately, one of our number made sure to tell him that we didn't really mean this... Did anyone think that we should then be a party to the formation of a Palestinian state?!" Arutz-7's Haggai Segal said, "You could have simply voted against the agreement, but remained in the government." Porat: "Yes, but this would not have been a full utilization of our political power to affect the events. At that point, Netanyahu asked for a two-week timeout, and we in fact backed him, and voted against the toppling of the government. We did not zig-zag: when he stopped Wye, we supported him. True, at that point Rehavam Ze'evi [then of the opposition Moledet party, and now Porat's partner in the National Union] continued to object to the government. But Netanyahu's real problem was that his own party [Likud] began to disintegrate - Mordechai was waffling [as was Livnat], David Levy [and Ne'eman] had just left, Meridor and Begin were already out... He realized that he had to start all over or else everything would crumble in his hands. And so he called new elections. The attempt to attribute the fall of the government to us is shaky, to say the least. But this is not to say that I regret our standing strong at the time. We did what had to be done." Regarding the future, Porat said reflectively, "I tell you, 'Wondrous are the ways of G-d.' If Netanyahu would have been elected - and I wanted him to win, because I saw him as the lesser of the evils - but who knows if he wouldn't have been rushing by now to complete the Wye Agreement. On the other hand, Barak, who is certainly more to the left of Netanyahu, is not as bad as some tried to portray him, and we can't be sure that, out of his desire to reach a final arrangement, and with his promise for a referendum, he won't lead to a delay of some sort... We will meet with [his representatives] tomorrow, and explain to him the logic of combining the Wye Agreement with the final status arrangement. We will tell him that there is no reason to unilaterally give up territories under the Wye Accords - this miserable agreement that gives us nothing except for a Palestinian state - but that we should instead first reach a final agreement that will include everything, and if we ever reach such an agreement, it can be brought in its entirety before the nation for a referendum." (Arutz 7 May 24)
Israel on Fire Alert
Israel's fire fighting forces have been placed on special alert, as of yesterday and until Tuesday, in light of the sharav [heat wave] conditions and the fires that began raging yesterday in various areas of the country. Some 20 fires were extinguished yesterday, including one in the western Galilee which burned some 70 dunams (18 acres) of natural forest. Arson by hostile elements is suspected in many of the cases. Four fires are presently burning in the Sharon area, in the north, and elsewhere. A major fire in the Telz Stone area was put out for the third time today. Residents of the Arab village of Sakhnin attacked firefighters today, claiming that they arrived late. (Arutz 7 May 23)
Palestinian Editor Arrested by P.A.
The editor of an Islamic newspaper in the Gaza Strip was arrested this morning by the Palestinian security forces. The charges: he reported that Palestinian para-military policemen tortured a prisoner in Gaza and attempted to extort money from the prisoner's family in exchange for his release. Gaza Police Chief Razi Jabali has confirmed that the editor, Razi Hamad, was arrested. (Arutz 7 May 23)
Palestinians Challenge Barak
November 15 is Yasser Arafat's new target date for the declaration of a Palestinian state. The Algerian News Agency quotes a "senior Palestinian figure" explaining that this is the date that the Palestinian National Council, sitting in "exile" in Algeria, declared a state in 1988. He emphasized that this declaration was based on UN resolution 181 of 1947, known as the Partition Plan. Yesterday, Palestinian Authority secretary Taib Abdul Rachem made similar remarks, and the PA announced that "in the coming days we will be witness to the liberating of more land and the restoration of our rights." Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb Erekat calls Barak's opening diplomatic positions "a sad beginning." Erekat objects to "Barak's intention to retain most of Jerusalem, a significant portion of the settlements, and the Jordan Valley." He said that Jerusalem and the return of the Arab refugees of 1948 are "red lines" for the Palestinians. Maj.-Gen. Matan Vilna'i, newly-elected to the Knesset on the One Israel list and one who sees himself as a candidate for Defense Minister, said this week, "No Palestinians will be allowed back, period, because the refugees can be resettled exactly where they are - within the areas under the control of the Palestinian National Authority." The official PA newspaper, Al Hayat al-Jadida, claims that "Ehud Barak is a settler." Its feature article on Barak yesterday states that the Prime Minister-elect lives in the "settlement" Kochav Ya'ir on the Green Line border in "northern West Bank." It was reported in Arutz-7 two days ago that Barak himself said that he lives "50 meters from Judea and Samaria." (Arutz 7 May 20)
Benny Elon Remains in Knesset
Developments in the National Union party: With the resignation of Benny Begin, and the addition of a fourth seat to the party following the announcement of final election results (see below), its MKs will be Rehavam Ze'evi, Chanan Porat, Michael Kleiner, and Rabbi Benny Elon. Other changes in the distribution of Knesset seats were as follows: One Israel and Yisrael B'Aliyah each lost a seat, while Meretz gained a seat. Meretz's 10th Knesset Member is Husseina Jabarra of Taibe, the first Moslem woman to serve in Israel's Knesset. (Arutz 7 May 20)
Holocaust Denial in the Palestinian Media
Following are excerpts from an article entitled "The Legend and the Truth: An American Expert Discusses the Details," discussing the Zundel trial, which appeared in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Manar, on May 3 (translated and distributed by Middle East Media and Research Institute):
"Nobody in the West dares to stand up, when the subject is the fictitious Nazi Holocaust against the Jews of Europe. Since the end of WWII, the victors have imposed their hegemony over history, and forged the legend of the Holocaust to extort the entire world, using the face of the ugly Nazi. They planted a thorn in the side of defeated Germany to extort it forever. Whenever the truth reached the tongues of western intellectuals, the democratic regimes abandoned their liberalism and treated these scientists of History the same way the Catholic Church treated the Italian scientist Galileo when he tried to prove the world is round. His fate was to be executed... Dozens of intellectuals and politicians in the West. refuted the false claims of this legend, ending with the renown French intellectual Rojer Garaudi. who exposed the legends that served as the foundations of the state of Israel, and first and foremost, the legend of the Holocaust. Despite the importance of all these efforts, the knockout came from an American expert, a specialist in building gas chambers in American jails. This expert, Fred Leutcher, prepared a scientific field report about the Nazi execution camps. [proving] that even if all of the Nazi camps had been operating at full capacity, the total number of victims would not have exceeded a hundred thousand... (Arutz 7 May 20)
Self-Proclaimed Mediator By Moshe Zak
Some world leaders proferring congratulations should remember that 'peace process' is not a synonym for Israeli surrender.
Along with the flood of good wishes received by Ehud Barak on his election as prime minister, there was also a statement that sounded like a joke:
Overwhelmed by joy at the change of government in Jerusalem, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin promised the Israeli voter a prize: he informed the members of the French national assembly, who are not familiar with the details of the agreement between Israel and the European Union, that as a mark of its satisfaction with Barak's election, France would ratify the agreement, which was signed in 1995. This agreement is valid and has been implemented in practice for years.
The honorable prime minister forgot to explain that trade relations between Israel and the EU have already been conducted over the last four years as outlined in the agreement between Israel and the EU, without needing individual countries' ratification. In fact, the EU countries are profiting much more than Israel in trade. As for not activating the political part of the agreement, this has harmed France much more than Israel as it is France which aspires to increase its involvement and that of the EU in the Middle East peace process. During the four years that France held up ratification of the agreement - six months of which were under the Peres government - France has continued to harass Israel in the political arena.
However, it is not entirely clear that this behavior is solely the result of its hatred of Binyamin Netanyahu. Last month, in the UN Commission on Human Rights, France voted in favor of Palestinians rights under UN Assembly Resolution 181. It was not deterred by Israel's claims that the wording of the resolution would adversely affect the peace process, as based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Resolution 181 gives Israel extremely limited borders, and places Jerusalem, Beersheba, Lod and Ramle outside its jurisdiction.
The agreement, ratification of which was held up due to French (and Belgian) objections, has been ratified by the other members of the EU. French refusal to ratify the agreement was used to pressure Israel to agree to the EU's participation in the peace process.
French pressure on Israel was to no avail. Israel showed no enthusiasm for European involvement in its negotiations with the Arabs, as the EU had, in its declarations in Luxembourg and Berlin, announced what outcome it wished to see from the Arab-Israeli negotiations, without leaving the parties any room to negotiate.
There was therefore no reason to regret that France had prevented the institutionalization the Israel-European dialogue.
The Arabs expressed willingness to have European involvement in a solution forced on Israel, which is also why the Europeans gave preference to UN Assembly Resolution 181 over Security Council Resolution 242, as a basis for Israel-Arab negotiations.
Resolution 242 includes the element of negotiation between the parties. Israel will never reject a proposal from any country to assist in achieving peace in the region. But it is doubtful that Ehud Barak will take any pleasure in institutionalizing political dialogue with the EU on the peace process, at the expense of the US role in the negotiations. Until now, the US has been careful not to adopt the path of forcing a solution and has preferred the role of a honest broker. This cannot be said of the EU, which has proved its bias towards the Arab states.
So there is no reason to celebrate a promise to ratify the agreement between Israel and the EU. The decision on cooperation in a four-year plan for R&D worth $16 billion, approved two months ago, is far more significant.
We saw the grotesque side of European involvement just a few days ago, with the visit by Miguel Moratinos, the EU Middle East representative. The day after the elections, the EU ambassador-at-large hurried to Damascus with a fanfare of declarations on Barak's intentions regarding Syria, basing himself on opinions he had heard from "those close to Barak," without bothering to verify them with Barak himself. Funny, the top 10 members of the One Israel list still don't know who is "close to Barak," but Ambassador Moratinos seems to have already identified these cronies well enough to quote them as gospel on Barak's future moves.
The EU representative is himself jockeying for position. He is proclaiming himself a mediator without receiving a mandate from one of the parties. He wants to be first in line for the job of mediator between Barak and Syria President Hafez Assad. Barak, however, who has faced the Syrians in negotiations, knows that not everyone who grabs a place in line can necessarily bring Assad to agree on the quality of peace.
This week, the Lebanese press reported that Jospin had told Lebanon's prime minister that Israel must withdraw from Lebanon unconditionally. If these reports were accurate, Jospin has already sabotaged the negotiations between Israel and Syria - and Barak based his promise to withdraw from Lebanon on an agreement with Syria.
From this we learn that all the blessings from abroad - including those from neighboring states - must be taken with a grain of salt. Some of those proffering congratulations to Barak may need to be reminded that "peace process" is not a synonym for Israeli surrender. (Jerusalem Post May 26)
The writer, a veteran journalist, comments on current affairs.
An old joke in Israel, dating back to pre-Camp David days, described Arab negotiating positions in a very concise manner: Egypt wanted to turn the clock back to 1967, the Palestinians to 1947, and the Syrians to 1917.
Given all the progress in the Middle East peace process in the past 20 years, that quip long ago lost any relevance. Recently, however, while the attention of most Israelis was focused almost exclusively on the election campaign and Ehud Barak's landslide, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has quietly been engaged in a diplomatic tour of world capitals aiming precisely to revive demands from 1947, by insisting on the applicability of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of that year. Arafat's campaign has disturbingly received favorable responses in many countries, including a number of European ones. The strong statement categorically rejecting any use of Resolution 181 as the basis for negotiations issued earlier this week by American Vice President Al Gore and special Middle East coordinator Dennis Ross, is commendable and will hopefully put an end to any serious contemplation of the anachronism being pursued by the PA.
Ironically, UN Resolution 181 has long held a prominent place in official Israeli historiography. Generations have been raised on textbooks and documentaries telling of the legendary night of November 29, 1947, when Jews throughout the world stayed up late to count the yeas and nays as the United Nations voted in Lake Success, New York, on the proposal to establish a Jewish state upon the termination of the British Mandate. When the requisite two-thirds majority for passing the resolution was attained, the population of the Yishuv spontaneously took to dancing in the streets. Eight months later, the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel specifically referred to the resolution as one among a list of justifications for establishing the state.
Arafat, however, is not insisting on the renewed application of 181 as part of a history lesson, but of making it a relevant document again. Adopting it now as the basis for further Middle East peace talks would dramatically alter the terms of reference of negotiations. Resolution 181 was a partition plan that envisaged the creation of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state in the territory, linked in an economic union. That Arab state never came into being, chiefly because the Palestinian leadership at the time categorically rejected the resolution and made no effort at building such a state, while Transjordanian forces under King Abdullah I snuffed out any remaining chance a Palestinian state would be created by occupying the West Bank. The PLO, created some 16 years later, also rejected the resolution in its basic charter, because it would imply recognition of the Jewish state. By turning back the clock now and retroactively accepting the resolution, the leadership of the PA intends on turning the question of Palestinian statehood from an item of negotiation to an international fact grounded in UN resolutions. This is in fact not a new attempt on Arafat's part: years ago he demanded a role - as a representative of one of the "legitimate heirs to the British Mandate" - in any negotiations determining the final borders between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. At the time no one took any notice of this demand, apparently because it seemed so removed from reality.
Resolution 181 also specifies borders for the Palestinian state which go far beyond even the maximal demands for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the June 1967 lines. Adopting Resolution 181 literally would mean that Ashdod, Ashkelon, Jaffa - inside Tel Aviv - all of the western Galilee north of Haifa, and the entire Jerusalem Corridor, from Lod and Ramle to Mevasseret, would be "occupied territory." Jerusalem under the resolution was to be a separate UN-administered territory.
All this is so fantastic that Israeli leaders and diplomats have largely refrained from even dignifying calls for the revival of Resolution 181 with a response, hoping that treating it as a bad joke would make it go away. This, however, has not happened, and Arafat has succeeded in more than merely reviving interest in the resolution in diplomatic circles. European statements questioning the legality of Israeli sovereignty in western Jerusalem are one result, as is talk about reviving Geneva Convention meetings under UN auspices to discuss Middle East issues - a forum that became obsolete 22 years ago when Anwar Sadat initiated direct Israeli-Arab negotiations.
The United States, to its credit, could not have been clearer in its rejection of all of these ideas than it was in the speeches given by Gore and Ross before the AIPAC convention in Washington on Sunday. Ross told AIPAC that the Palestinian argument for 181 is "not relevant and is not appropriate, and we will say so." Gore maintained that it is not possible to change the terms of Middle East negotiations, which have always been based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as "the only bases for the talks" and "the foundation of all the progress we have made until now." He asserted that the US would boycott any UN meeting convened under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It is high time for Ehud Barak's new government and the US to team up to put an end once and for all to the diplomatic talk and initiatives involving UN Resolution 181. It should be made clear that, far from bringing about progress, any such moves "back to the past" will indeed revive the past, but that of two and three decades ago: of stalemated talks and a continued state of conflict. (Jerusalem Post May 26)
Barak's victory was personal, not ideological.
Ehud Barak's landslide victory was not a triumph for the Labor Party. Unlike the election victories of Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder, Barak's election has brought no shift from Right to Left.
Nor was it a victory for Israel's doves. On the contrary. Even after incorporating into its ranks the dovish religious party Meimad and the social-agenda party Gesher, Labor lost more than a fifth of its Knesset seats. And while the Likud was even more thoroughly trounced, its votes went to other right-of-center parties, not to the dovish Left.
It is, then, a personal rather than an ideological victory for Barak. Most observers view this as an inevitable result of a long and vituperative campaign which focused on personalities rather than issues. On a personal level Binyamin Netanyahu was far more vulnerable than Barak. Throughout the three years of his stewardship, he was savaged by an unprecedented, merciless media assault on his character, abetted by unsubtle calumnies from world leaders irritated by his policies.
By the time of the election, he had become everyone's favorite villain, an enemy of peace, a man devoid of principles and incapable of telling the truth. That no one could actually point to a single major discrepancy between his promises and his performance seemed immaterial. To berate Netanyahu and wish his downfall became the politically correct thing to do.
In fact, few political leaders have been more consistent than Netanyahu. Unlike his martyred predecessor, the late Yitzhak Rabin - who had vowed never to recognize the PLO, never to negotiate with Yasser Arafat and never to relinquish the Golan, but was ready to renege on all three - Netanyahu did not deviate from what he said he would do.
He scrupulously adhered to the Oslo Accords, while insisting that the Palestinians reciprocate by fulfilling their commitment to combat terrorism. With such reciprocity, he said, the Oslo principle of "territory for peace" might work. Without it, the formula would become the sheer insanity of "territory for terrorism."
This insistence on Palestinian participation in the anti-terrorist effort is undoubtedly responsible, at least in part, for the dramatic decline in terrorist activity in the past three years. It is a considerable achievement, considered virtually unattainable not long ago.
Netanyahu was also the first Likud leader who made most of his followers accept the partitioning of the Land of Israel. His agreements with the Palestinians, unlike those signed by the Labor government, enjoyed overwhelming support both in the Knesset and in the public. They were an affirmation of a historic truism: only political hawks can have the broad support necessary to make peace.
But perhaps Netanyahu's most impressive achievement was in the economic sphere. In three years he halved inflation, made unprecedented cuts in the national budget, dramatically reduced the trade deficit, privatized more than all previous governments put together, deregulated the currency, attracted more foreign investments than ever, and survived the worldwide economic crisis - all without raising taxes.
The world's leading economists have praised Netanyahu's performance with unalloyed superlatives, but these achievements, too, were overshadowed by the campaign rhetoric.
There is not a great deal of difference between Barak's vision of the final-status agreement with the Palestinians and that of Netanyahu's. Both are committed to an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, both consider the Jordan valley Israel's strategic border, both oppose withdrawing to the 1967 armistice lines, and both have pledged to keep the settlements under Israeli control.
That Barak may be willing to concede a little more of the West Bank to the Palestinians than Netanyahu would is hardly enough to bridge the gap with Palestinian ambitions. Even what Barak feels Israel can safely forfeit is far short of the Palestinians' minimum demands.
This irreconcilable gap makes expectations for quick progress in the peace negotiations less than realistic. There are those who expect Barak to form a coalition with parties to his Left, including the Arab parties, and accede to Palestinian demands. The Peace Now camp in Israel, as well as the European governments and some influential elements in the US administration, believe that the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital will conduce to peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
But even if Barak wishes to reach such an agreement with the Palestinians, he does not have the coalition in the Knesset to support it. Nor is it likely that such a solution could ever be sold to the Israeli public.
While most Israelis seem to believe that the Oslo process would inevitably produce a Palestinian state, very few support the establishment of such a state unless it is demilitarized. This means that it must be prevented from allowing terrorists from operating from its territory, raising a large army and equipping with heavy arms, concluding treaties with such regimes as Iraq and Iran, and importing thousands of "volunteers" to join its armed forces. In short, it cannot be fully sovereign.
With such differences still separating the Oslo partners, it is unrealistic to expect drastic changes in Israeli policies. What is more likely is a change in style, which many would welcome, and which may improve the government's image both internally and abroad.
If Barak can achieve greater understanding for Israel's position, his personal victory will truly be a turning point in Israel's history.
The writer is director of communications in the Prime Minister's Office.
(Jerusalem Post May 25)