20 Sivan 5759 June 4, 1999 Issue number 220
Days of Fury
The Palestinians are stepping up their incitement against Yesha just as the main stumbling block in the coalition talks appears to be the issue of Yesha communities. Voice of Palestine Radio broadcast Monday morning, "The land on which the settlements were built is stolen land," and called upon the listeners to act against them "at any cost" until "they are erased from the face of the earth." Thursday, Friday and Saturday have been announced to be a "days of fury" against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The Israeli police did not allow the PLO's Fatah wing to convene in a hotel in eastern Jerusalem for this purpose last night. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the decisions made this past Sunday by the Palestinian National Committee Against Settlements included a clause calling upon the public to "take part in Friday prayers in the Al-Aksa Mosque [on the Temple Mount]." They also called "to take active part in the demonstrations at Ras el-Amoud against the attempts to establish a settlement in the heart of the holy city." In addition, "public clashes" are planned in places that "face the burning threat of land expropriations and the construction of settlements there." The committee called these activities the "active beginning of the popular fury that can be called the 'uprising of the land.'" Huberman reported that Israeli security services will be on special alert in areas such as the Ayosh junction north or Ramallah and Joseph's Tomb in Shechem. As of now, however, Jewish residents have not been advised to change their routines for tomorrow. "The Palestinians are upset at Barak for not meeting with them," Huberman said. "Even Netanyahu, a day after his election, sent his advisor Dore Gold to meet with them. True, they have met with Yossi Beilin, but they don't feel that he represents Barak. They're also talking about grabbing and taking over more lands, in longer-term projects." (Arutz 7 June 2)
Palestinian terrorists opened fire at two Jewish cars south of Hevron Monday night. One Beit Haggai resident stopped to help another whose car broke down, and shortly afterward close to 20 gunshots were fired at the cars from a passing vehicle. Four bullets hit the cars - one of which held a mother and her two babies - but miraculously no one was hurt. One driver was able to return fire towards the attackers as they escaped into a Palestinian Authority area. In a separate incident, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at an IDF patrol near Rafiah on the Egyptian border; no one was hurt. Hevron's Jewish community issued the following statement: "This is the second shooting incident in a few days. The PA incitement is bringing about a serious escalation of violence. We call on Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak to announce that he will work to prevent terror attacks against all segments of Israeli society and will supply protection and security to all of Israel's citizens. The long period of quiet, together with the present escalation, proves that Arafat has total control over the terrorists in and around Hevron. When Arafat gives the signal, the violence stops, and when he flashes a green light, it begins again. The green light is again flashing." Ofer Halfa, one of the Israeli drivers in Monday night's incident, told Arutz-7 today that it was a "clear and open miracle" that the people sitting in the car were not hurt. "For us in Beit Haggai," he added, "every incident of this sort is a further mandate for us to bond even closer with the Land, with our community, and with the region. These events only strengthen us - even as we will also have to increase our personal security measures." He said that the fact that so many bullets were fired on a central road that was built in order to by-pass Arab population centers represents a major escalation in the Palestinian campaign against the
Jewish residents. "I think that any talk of giving in strengthens them... I personally am a bit embittered and concerned that none of the political leaders from the left or right have reacted to this incident." (Arutz 7 June 1)
Palestinian papers wrote that "Yasser Arafat has reportedly developed early signs of senility, as well as other health problems... Arafat is increasingly showing signs of memory loss, speech interruptions, as well spasmodic reactions." The article adds that Arafat did not attend Sunday's "Day of Fury" planning session "due to ill health and dwindling mental concentration." (Arutz 7 June 2)
Coalition Talks Limp along
Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak met with Acting Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon Wednesday to continue coalition talks. One Israel negotiators met also with representatives of Shinui. The latter party now agrees to sit in a coalition with United Torah Judaism - "if UTJ accepts our formula for the drafting of yeshiva students" - but not with Shas. (Arutz 7 June 2)
Golan Campaign on Again
Long-time Golan Heights resident and activist Efrat Badihi told Arutz-7 Wednesday that no Golan officials were particularly surprised by the news that Prime Minister Netanyahu had been close to negotiating away parts of the Golan. "We place our full trust only in G-d, and not in the Prime Minister or his party," she said. "In recent years, the Likud was somewhat sympathetic to our cause, but it was probably the weakest link in the coalition. It is easier to deal with Barak, to a certain extent, as he at least was courageous enough to tell us at the 30th anniversary celebrations that we will have to make some 'painful concessions,' as opposed to Netanyahu, whose stance on the issue was somewhat ambiguous." Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that it was he who had put a halt to Netanyahu's negotiations with the Syrians, in order to "prevent major territorial concessions." Ms. Badihi said that Golan activists plan to refresh their public relations campaign within both political and public circles - minus the traveling Golan trailer. "Peace Now launched legal action against the display, and though we won the case, it definitely was a setback for us. In addition, the costs of bringing the 'groom' - the Golan, represented by our traveling audio-visual display - to greet his 'bride' - the Jewish people, have become too high to bear. So, instead of dismantling and reassembling it, the display is temporarily located in Katzrin here in the Golan. We try to show it at least to all the tourists who arrive here so that they may learn the importance of the Golan." She said that she does not believe that public support for the Golan has declined over the last few years: "We just have to find a way to bring out their latent feelings." (Arutz 7 June 2)
Barak May Opt for Final-Status Talks
David Makovsky reported in Ha'aretz Tuesday that Barak is considering proposing to the PA that final-status talks should begin immediately, The paper also reported, in the name of One Israel sources, that the implementation of the Wye Memorandum will not be mentioned in the government guidelines, in order to facilitate an understanding with the Likud and the NRP. Makovsky told Arutz-7 today, "Barak was always in favor of pushing off the interim agreements and going straight to final-status talks, and he took this position when he was Interior Minister during Rabin's government. He will have to convince the Palestinians first, of course, and he will tell them that the Israeli public simply won't accept so many withdrawals..." Another point to be raised by Barak, according to Makovsky, is that his government will have the political clout - which the Netanyahu government lacked - to deliver a final-status deal, and that there is therefore no need for interim steps. (Arutz 7 June 1)
Bar-Illan Explains Netanyahu's Loss
David Bar-Illan, Director of Communications and Policy Planning in Prime Minister Netanyahu's Office, accuses the Clinton Administration of waging an unyielding and well-orchestrated campaign against the re-election of Binyamin Netanyahu. In an article appearing in the latest edition of the National Review, Bar-Illan writes, "In the four months preceding the election, hardly a day passed without a Washington story about Netanyahu's failure to keep his word on the Wye agreement, settlements, building in Jerusalem, and even on Israel-Russia relations." Bar-Illan lists several other reasons for Netanyahu's loss:
* The fortune spent on the anti-Netanyahu campaign. The strict Israeli laws on campaign financing were blatantly circumvented [by One Israel]... Most contributors remained anonymous, but prominent Clinton-supporters Daniel Abraham and Lawrence Tisch were reported among the heavier givers. The Likud lodged a complaint with the police about this conspicuous violation of campaign laws, but the press virtually ignored the story.
* The loyalty shown by Netanyahu to convicted Shas-leader Aryeh Deri cost him much support among the Russian immigrant public.
* A string of criminal investigations launched against Foreign Minister Sharon, Justice Minister Hanegbi, and the former Dir.-Gen. of Netanyahu's office Avigdor Lieberman... which are expected to [be dismissed]. Likud leaders can hardly be blamed for suggesting that the investigations - and particularly their timing - were not unrelated to the election campaign.
* The unrelieved enmity of the Israeli press. Israel's mainstream media are notorious for their obsessive bias against right-wing leaders... Yet nothing like the monolithic assault on Netanyahu has ever occurred in Israel's history... A statistical study shows that more than 90% of all opinion columns opposed him.
* Seen in a larger context, Netanyahu's defeat may be viewed as another in a series of setbacks for conservatives throughout the Western world: in Germany, Britain, France, Italy and even in the last Congressional elections. (Arutz 7 June 1)
Dakar Submarine Found After 31 Years
Israel's Dakar submarine, which sank 31 years ago without a trace, and for which the Israel Navy and other bodies have been searching ever since, was finally discovered this past Friday. The Dakar, in which 69 Israelis lost their lives, was found under almost three kilometers of water midway between Crete and Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel Navy Commander Maj.-Gen. Alex Tal said last night that no technical means are currently available in the world to bring the craft up from the depths. Col. (res.) Dr. Yehuda Melamed, former commander of the medical services in the Israeli navy and now an expert on underwater pressure chambers at Haifa's Elisha Hospital, told Arutz-7 today that a recovery operation is not likely to bear fruit. He explained that the tremendous depth at which the Dakar is located, atmospheric pressure is 300 times greater than normal atmospheric pressure, such that it is very likely that any remains have been crushed. "Furthermore," Dr. Melamed continued, "the search operations have revealed that the ship split into three pieces when it hit the ocean floor. It's hard to know, but I imagine that ocean currents carried off a good portion of the remains. There's little question that significant remains will not be found." Melamed also offered his opinion as to whether retrieving the Dakar and its crew is advisable, now that the crew members are "safely buried" at sea: "We know the identities of the crew members who died. An effort to rescue their remains would cost billions of dollars, and in a country which often strains itself to find the necessary funds to treat its ill, I think that a retrieval operation, even if technically possible, is out of place." Some family members appeared to agree with Melamed, but Mr. Shmuel Shnapper, whose son Reuven Snapir was the ship's navigator, does not. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Shnapper said, "Many parents passed away without knowing how and why the Dakar sank. I would like to see a full investigation of the incident. So I think they should make an effort to recover the ship to solve the mystery and to enable a Jewish burial for the 69 crew members." Haifa's Chief Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen - once a military chaplain - also disagreed with Melamed. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Rabbi Cohen (son of the Nazir, Rabbi David Cohen) said, "From a Torah point of view, there is no bigger commandment than bringing bodies to burial, no matter what the cost." He also related how his brother-in-law, Chief Army Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren, ruled about a year or two after the ship's disappearance that the sailors had died and that their widows could remarry. Rabbi Cohen said that Rabbi Goren had received a letter years before from the famed Chazon Ish in which the latter ruled the same way in a similar case. Arutz-7 correspondent Kobi Finkler reported that the new high-tech underwater sonar system used to discover the whereabouts of the Dakar has concluded definitively that no torpedo or explosion sank the submarine.
"This puts to rest theories over the years that Egyptian or Russian forces sank the ship," Finkler said, despite at least six different Egyptian boasts over the years to the contrary. "Regarding the feasibility of a retrieval operation, one theory suggests that an effort to raise the Dakar at such depths will tear away even more sections from the ship, as happened in a similar case a while back." Finkler noted that the craft that located the Dakar was also involved in finding the Titanic several years ago. (Arutz 7 May 30)
Arabs Unhappy with Crucial Ma'aleh Adumim Plan
The Palestinian Authority's Nabil Amr has labeled it a "provocation and a declaration of war against the Palestinian Authority and against Palestinian soil." The U.S. has also expressed its dismay at it, as has Labor MK Yossi Beilin. At issue is the decision by the outgoing Netanyahu government to officially expand the municipal borders of the town of Ma'aleh Adumim. The plans - signed by Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who said that it was decided on before the elections - concern 12,500 dunams (3,120 acres) of land initially expropriated in 1993 by the Rabin government. Prime Minister-elect Barak has refused to comment on the move, but Beilin assured listeners of Voice of Israel radio late last week that the new Barak government will not permit the implementation of the plan. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman explained the importance of the decision today. "The expansion of Ma'aleh Adumim, which will allow uninterrupted Jewish construction from there to Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood, has even greater strategic significance for Israel than Har Homa or Ras-Al-Amud (Ma'aleh HaZeitim on Mt. of Olives), as vital as those projects are," said Huberman. "The Palestinian Authority is attempting, through mostly illegal construction, to establish its own territorial contiguity from Bethlehem to Ramallah. Its plans are to expand the current Arab construction in Abu Dis northward to the village of Azayim, to Anata [hometown of the prophet Jeremiah], across to Hizma (north of Jerusalem's
Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood) to A-Ram, which borders Ramallah. The Palestinian plan is clearly strategic in nature: to create facts on the ground such that the slated Palestinian state will stretch on the east from Jerusalem's northern to its southern boundaries. Eastern Jerusalem is set to be the heart - the capital - of the nascent state. Expanding Ma'aleh Adumim westward to Jerusalem will ensure that this contiguity is broken." Huberman continued, "Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat indicated that he understands the implications of the Netanyahu decision very well, when he exclaimed, 'Israel is trying to prevent us from establishing our state!' In actuality, the expansion of Ma'aleh Adumim won't block the formation of a state, but it will create an entity comprised of several different cantons that will enable Israeli supervision over the traffic between the areas. This may include Israel imposing sanctions on the PA should Palestinian actions warrant it." (Arutz 7 May 30)
Two Women Killed by "Typically Reckless" Palestinian Driving
Two Jewish women from Bet El were killed when a Palestinian car crashed into their car last night on the Ramallah by-pass road. The Arab car apparently tried to pass while speeding around a curve, and crashed head-on into the oncoming Jewish car. The victims were Orit Filber, 26, mother of three, and Tamar Weissrosen, 23, mother of two. The Arab driver is in critical condition. Army radio reported that the military commander of Judea and Samaria will sign a decree in the coming days allowing police on the spot to revoke the licenses - and possibly confiscate the cars - of delinquent Palestinian drivers. Avigdor Schatz, security coordinator of the Binyamin Regional Council, told an Arutz-7 correspondent today that Israel police have no other recourse against these drivers, who don't pay fines and find asylum within the Palestinian autonomy. "Israel sends the tickets it issues to the Palestinian police, who often just throw them away," Schatz said, adding that "very reckless driving is typical of Palestinian drivers. They almost totally ignore solid white lines, and pass other cars with abandon." The police admit that they do not enforce many traffic laws on Palestinian drivers. (Arutz 7 May 31)
Barak Slaps Beilin on Wrist
Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak called off a meeting planned for this week between Yossi Beilin and other Labor MKs, and Oslo Agreement architects Ron Pundak and Ya'ir Hirschfeld. Ha'aretz reports today that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to speed up the Oslo process, as well as to help Beilin's chances of being appointed Foreign Minister. The scheduled meeting reportedly greatly angered Barak, saying it was an attempt to dictate his policies. Barak's cancellation of the meeting has apparently decreased Beilin's chances of receiving the coveted Foreign Ministry post. (Arutz 7 May 28)
The Price of Unity By Limor Livnat
If Barak is serious about a broad government which includes the Likud, he is going to have to limit his leftist ideologues' ability to conduct national policy.
As one who called for a national-unity government to deal with the nation's most critical issues long before elections were on the horizon, I find Ehud Barak's repeated calls for a broad-based coalition inviting.
Indeed, only a truly representative government can overcome the political, social, and economic challenges the people of Israel now face.
Prime Minister-elect Barak will not be judged, though, by unifying rhetoric but by deed, and the only harmonizing action which can pave the way for the Likud's entry into the new government is the total neutralization of Israel's post-Zionist Left.
This group's agenda, predicated on the academically popular notion that Zionism's role is over, includes: a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights; first a freeze on and then dismemberment of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the creation of a fully sovereign Palestinian Arab state; and the redivision of Jerusalem.
It is the agenda of unilateral concessions which guided the last Labor-led government. The Likud had no part of it then, and if it is to be repeated, must have no part of it now.
Immediately following Labor's victory in June 1992, the late Yitzhak Rabin declared, "I will navigate, I will decide." Good intentions aside, Rabin fast became a prisoner of his own government. It was the radical Left, led by Meretz, Labor's senior coalition partner, which "navigated" and "decided" just as Yossi Sarid promised they would.
Rabin apparently believed that he alone could counterbalance the pressures from the Left.
That he failed is now history.
Sarid, of course, was not alone. To most of Labor's ideologues, Rabin was just a figurehead without whom they could not have won and then maintained the government. In a bare-all interview (Ha'aretz, 7/3/97) Yossi Beilin cavalierly admits that he had no permission to proceed down the Oslo track, and that had he asked Rabin for permission, it would have been flatly denied.
Beilin's message is clear: He could not have pursued his version of peacemaking with Rabin, but once he succeeded he could not sell it without him.
Shortly after these last elections I had the opportunity to meet with the leading New York Times' columnist, A. M. Rosenthal. We began our conversation by wondering aloud if Barak was serious about forming a representative government or if he would rather go the route of Rabin in 1992. He then told me of a conversation he had had with Avraham Burg, then and now a top figure in the Labor Party, one week before the 1992 elections. He had already spoken to the two contenders for prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir and Rabin and had found that there was little difference between them on all the important national issues.
He had also met with then-chief of General Staff Ehud Barak and he, too, had sounded very much the same as the two opposing political leaders.
When Burg told him about Labor's concessionary plans for the post-1967 territories of Israel were they to win, Rosenthal responded that he did not sound anything like the leader of his own party.
To which Burg retorted, "Rabin is our rocket, but we are the propeller. We determine which way the rocket will go."
Once again it is a military hero who has brought the Labor Party a victory at the polls. Ideologues like Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Burg, did not and could not bring Labor a victory. Indeed during the campaign, all were kept well hidden from the public eye, lest they distract the voters from the meticulously projected military prowess and security-mindedness of Ehud Barak.
No one expects Barak to continue to keep them in hiding, but if Barak is serious about national unity and a broad government which includes the Likud, he is going to have to do what it takes to drastically limit their ability to conduct national policy. The election results in no way gave the liberal Left a license to run the country again.
Barak is right when he stresses the need for national healing. He was not my choice for prime minister, but if he is seriously committed to finding enough common ground to unite and withstand dangerous foreign and divisive domestic pressures, if he is determined that no segment of the population shall be disenfranchised and feel that their country is lost, he may find a cautious but willing partner ready to help propel the country to a brighter future.
The writer is Minister of Communications (Jerusalem Post May 31)
By Charles Krauthammer
Ehud Barak did not win last week's Israeli election so much as Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu lost it. He lost it badly, 56 percent to 44 percent. In Israeji terms, that is a landslide.
Why did the election come out the way it did? First, the timing. Bibi did not want this election. His plan was to wait until next year. Not just because his mandate ran till then, but because Israel has been in a mild recession, somewhat comparable to the recession that President Bush suffered under in the '91-'92 campaign. Netanyahu cut the deficit in half, broke inflation, and launched the deregulation of one of the last socialist economies, but the immediate result was a rise in unemployment and slowing of growth.
In a parliamentary system, where the prime minister has the prerogative of calling an election, recession is an odd time to call one. But Netanyahu did not have the prerogative. Why? Because the zealots in his own coalition brought his government down.
Which brings us to a second, larger reason for his defeat: the fracturing of the political right.
The basic problem for Netanyahu throughout his three years was that the Oslo peace agreements created a crisis of ideology for the Israeli right. Before Oslo, the right could simply unite under the banner of Greater Israel. Concede no territory~ Instead, offer the Palestinians autonomy, as defined by Menachem Begin in the Camp David accords: The Palestinians run their lives but do not control the soil on which they live.
After Oslo, that kind of autonomy, always a Likud wish, became demonstrably a pipe dream. Once Arafat already had Gaza and Jericho and Nablus and Jenin and the soil under them, the Begin idea of autonomy became entirely obsolete.
When Yitzhak Rabin sprang Oslo on Israel in 1993, the right opposed it. But by presenting a fait accompli, Rabin ideologically undermined Likud forever. When elected in 1996, Netanyahu knew he couldn't tear up what Israel as a country had signed on to. He had to keep Oslo, yet minimize its damage.
Navigating a nationalist coalition (historically opposed to any territorial compromise) through Oslo was a harrowing task. Yet Netanyahu succeeded to a remarkable extent. He got Likud to give up Hebron which marked the first time in Israeli history that the right gave up West Bank territory. Over the next three years, Netanyahu forged a broad national consensus again for the first time in Israeli history, for territorial compromise. His last such compromise was the Wye River Memorandum, a relatively small concession of territory in return for relatively serious concessions on security by the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, this was not good enough for the people in his own coalition. The more traditional ar conservative elements accused Bibi of capitulation and weakness. The National Religious party, tribune of the West Bank settlers, withdrew its support on the grounds that Wye gave away too much. The government collapsed. Elections were called.
It was the kind of political stupidity conservatives are famous for. The very parties that brought Netanyahu down then immediately turned around and spent the last six months frantically trying to reelect him, because the alternative-the Labour party-would give away far more. Alas, too late. Not only did Labour win, but the NRP saw its vote (and parliamentary strength) cut in half. And Benny Begin, son of Menachem Begin, who had quit the government even earlier and taken the more extreme Likud elements out of the party to form his own, did so badly in the election that the next day he not only resigned as head of his splinter party, he quit politics altogether admitting that he had lost the argument. And indeed he had. In a Knesset of 120 members, there are now exactly 4 who oppose all the agreements signed with the Palestinians. Condign punishment for zealotry.
But there was another fault line that fractured the right. The Netanyahu political coalition fell apart not just over territory. It fell apart over the dominant domestic issue of the day: religion.
There is no group on the Israeli political spectrum more religious than the Shas party (representing traditional Israelis of Sephardic, i.e., mostly North African, origin). And there is no political group in Israel more secular than the recent immigrants from the Soviet empire, collectively known as the Russians.
They are both huge constituencies. The Russians constitute one of the largest immigrations not just in Israeli history but in world history: a million, in a population of 6 million. And Shas last week won almost one sixth of the seats in parliament. In 1993, the Russians and Shas were part of the outsider coalition constructed by Netanyahu against Labour's secular, Ashkenazi (i.e., of European origin) landed establishment.
But the tensions between secular and religious Jews in Israel found their most acute expression in the tension that developed between Shas and the Russians. Shas controlled the Interior Ministry, which controls the privileges of citizenship: residency papers, marriage licenses, burial rights. Shas used its power to question the Jewishness of many of the Russian immigrants, some of whom, after 70 years of state-enforced atheism, were highly alienated from their Jewish roots, and some of whom, notably spouses and relatives, were not Jewish at all.
The resentment that built up among the Russians against the orthodox establishment that they saw discriminating against them was exploited by Barak, the Labour candidate. He very cleverly offered the Russians the Interior Ministry. That may sound like an arcane and minor offer to Americans, whose interior ministry looks after Yellowstone Park and Smokey the Bear. But in Israel it controls the essence of civil life. Netanyahu could not match Barak's offer for fear of playing one constituency against another. As a result, he lost the Russians. In 1996, he got 60 percent of their votes. Last week, he got 40.
But beyond the timing and the structural problems in the conservative coalition there was the problem of Bibi himself. This was his worst campaign ever. He was off-stride, ill at ease. Barak, on the other hand, ran a smart, minimalist campaign. He basically hid. Hiding is a very useful technique for a politician-whenever Newt Gingrich curtailed his public exposure his poll ratings went up-and particularly for a politician with the kind of Eisenhower candidacy that Barak presented.
There was endless debate over whether Barak is really a dove or a hawk. That is because he was really a sphinx. His pronouncements were generally bland and vague. His slogan was Carvillean: "Change." As a decorated war hero and former commando, he had the kind of reputation and popularity that allowed Ike in '52 to say he'd get us out of Korea without exactly
telling us how. Barak said he'd get Israelis out of Lebanon in a year without telling them how either.
His low profile served him well. There was only one debate in this campaign. The three major candidates (at the time) were invited. Netanyahu showed up. Yitzhak Mordechai, former defense minister who defected from Bibi's party to head a new center party, showed up. Barak didn't. The empty chair won.
Mordechai and Netanyahu savaged each other and both sank in the polls. Perhaps for the first time in his career, Bibi looked flustered on television. The reviews were terrible. And not just for this performance. It is safe to say that no candidate has ever been as consistently and universally vilified by the press as has Netanyahu. Already two years ago, an article that violated the anti-Netanyahu consensus-a sympathetic article by a man of the left called "The year of Hating Bibi"- caused a sensation. Typical during the election campaign was a column by Israel's leading columnist in Israel's leading newspaper entitled "The Prince of Darkness and Hate."
This is not to say that Barak was a bystander in his own successful campaign. He was very disciplined and very cautious. But his victory, encouraged by everyone from Yasser Arafat to Hosni Mubarak to Bill Clinton, does not herald the kind of supine Israel that they are hoping for. The Clinton administration in particular, which did everything but break out the champagne and bongo drums on election night, is being very premature in assuming that Barak will be a malleable figure.
First, Barak is no Shimon Peres. Peres, the former Labour prime minister whom Netanyahu defeated, was a dreamer, and a dangerous one. He believed that we had come to a kind of end of history where power politics was obsolete, where borders didn't count, and where Israel and the Palestinians and the Jordanians would live together in harmony like Benelux.
Barak, on the other hand, is a realist. A military man all his life, a man concerned with security, he has already given the first hint of where he is going by indicating that he wants to bring Likud into his government. Most important is the reason he gave: not only to create a national consensus but to signal the Palestinians to "expect to receive less."
Moreover, the Labour party that Barak is leading is not the Labour party that Peres led. Barak has consciously tried to steer it towards the center, using Tony Blair and Bill Clinton as his model. His will be a different Labour government with a far different coalition. Rabin built his- and pushed Oslo through-with a very narrow coalition of the left, indeed a majority of one in the Knesset. Barak seems intent on building a broad coalition that represents the overwhelming 80 percent national consensus- bequeathed him, ironically, by Netanyahu-that favors territorial compromise so long as it does not return Israel to the '67 borders or redivide Jerusalem.
In the short run, Barak will be a lot easier for Arafat and Clinton to deal with. In the long run, he will be a lot harder. In the short run, he will undoubtedly go ahead with the rest of the Wye agreement. Wye commits Israel to pulling out of 13 percent of the West Bank. Netanyahu had pulled out of 2 percent when he halted the process and his government collapsed.
There is no doubt that Barak will give up the other 11 percent fairly rapidly. The result will be new life to the "peace process" -since "peace process" is a euphemism for Israeli withdrawal. This will create much goodwill. Barak will be received in all the Arab capitals with a handshake and a smile. He will be toasted in Washington. He might even get as warm a reception from Bill Clinton as Yasser Arafat now routinely gets.
But this will all be temporary, because coming up are the final-status negotiations which are to determine once and for all the final borders between Israel and the Palestinians, the question of Palestinian statehood, the status of Jerusalem, and the future of the Palestinian refugees. On these issues, there is very little difference between Barak and Netanyahu. Barak might be a bit more willing to give a bit more territory with a bit more contiguity and show more tolerance for a Palestinian state. But Likud had all but conceded that there was going to be a Palestinian state. The only question is whether its powers be circumscribed. Will it be able to have an army? Will it be allowed to have alliances with Iraq and Syria or any other neighbor at war with Israel? Will it be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction? Will it have control of the air above and the water below?
Barak is not very far from Netanyahu and, indeed, from the Israeli consensus in believing that the answer to these questions must be no-otherwise Israel becomes an unviable state and Palestine's creation makes Israel's demise only a question of time.
How long will the honeymoon last? I give it six months. It will come to an abrupt end when the Wye withdrawals have been completed and final-status negotiations are deadlocked. Barak will take a position identical to Netanyahu's against dividing Jerusalem, against a Palestinian state with unrestricted powers, against the return of refugees to Israel, against retreating to the 1967 borders. On all of these demands the Palestinians have not moved an inch in the six years since Oslo.
That is when the crunch will come. That is when this administration-which fancies itself, against all evidence, the most pro-Israel administration in American history-will be tested. It is sure to be tested, because something has happened on the Palestinian side of this equation that has been entirely overlooked by the press and allowed to pass unmentioned by the administration: While everyone had their eyes fixed on Netanyahu, Arafat moved the goal posts.
Remember: Oslo is explicitly based on U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which call for a return of the territories captured in 1967 in exchange for peace. But for the last few months Arafat has been going around the world saying that the new Palestinian position is to establish a state based on U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947.
That may all sound arcane. But it is not. The U.N. partition plan of 1947 created a Jewish state in part of Palestine. It was unanimously rejected by the Arab states and the Palestinians, who responded by launching a war to destroy the newly created Israel. But the Jewish state outlined in Resolution 181 was a much smaller state than the one that emerged from the war launched by the Arabs to nullify it. Not only were parts of the Galilee and the Negev given to the Arabs under this plan, but Jerusalem was an international city. To return to 181 means that not just East Jerusalem (captured in '67) would be lost to Israel, but West Jerusalem-exclusively and always Jewish-as well.
Arafat's new stance is an astonishing violation of the spirit of Oslo. After all, the whole idea of Oslo was that both sides would start from initial positions and over time move towards each other with concessions. That Israel has done. It has essentially accepted a Palestinian state. It has recognized the PLO. It has given legitimacy to Arafat and his Palestinian Authority. It has given up large amounts of territory. It has transferred 98 percent of Palestinians from Israeli occupation to Palestinian self-rule.
And yet at the same time, the Palestinians are moving in precisely the opposite direction, demanding not just all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but now, under 181, claiming large chunks of pre-'67 Israel and delegitimizing Israeli claims to any part of Jerusalem, east or west.
While receiving almost no attention in the United States, this radical expansion of Palestinian claims has received a sympathetic hearing in Europe. The European Union sent a letter to Israel, written by the German foreign minister, saying that the EU position on Jerusalem is that it is a "corpus separatum"-a separate body, an international zone as understood in resolution 181-which means that the EU questions Israel's sovereignty over even West Jerusalem.
One would have thought that the administration, committed as it is to Oslo, might have protested this development and reprimanded Arafat for this gross retrogression. Instead, Clinton has greeted him with kisses on both cheeks.
Why is Arafat doing this? Robert Sadoff, head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, calls this 181 maneuver Arafat's "insurance against Barak." Satloff's theory is that by moving the goal posts, Arafat makes certain that even a Labour-led government can never come to a final agreement with him, because no one in Israelis going to give up parts of the Galilee and Negev and West Jerusalem.
Why would Arafat want to prevent an agreement? Because through his entire career he has lived on crisis, conflict, and tension which he tries to exploit to advance his cause, which, as he tells his own people if not Americans, is ultimately a Palestinian state sovereign over all of Palestine. Maybe not in this lifetime, but eventually.
He doesn't want to close the case. He doesn't want to give up claims irrevocably. He would like one interim agreement after another-always advancing, always gaining more territory, yet always leaving the question of Israel's legitimacy and Israel's territorial integrity in play. In short, he wants a peace process, not peace. Because real peace-a real final-status agreement-means the obsolescence of the Palestinian cause and the end of the Palestinian dream. Those he is not prepared to give up.
Even if one takes the more benign view-that Arafat is simply doing this to give himself more negotiating cards to play-the resurrection of the long- dead Resolution 181 spells great trouble ahead. Barak's election means just a short postponement of that trouble. Those who believe peace is at hand are sadly mistaken. Even if Barak were to go much further than he wants to go today, he can never go near Arafat's new goal post. For all of the goodwill and the handshaking and the hugging that you will see in the next few months between Arafat and Clinton and Barak and the rest, there is trouble over the horizon. In six months, after Wye, Barak will say no. And then Clinton and Arafat and the world will recognize that the problem was not Netanyahu but the Israeli consensus for peace he helped forge-a consensus that will not mindlessly keep moving toward the Palestinians as the Palestinians move away. (The Weekly Standard May 31)