A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
5 Sivan 5760
June 8, 2000
Issue number 276
Wednesday June 14, 8:00pm
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin will speak on "Religious Zionism in Crisis?" at Yeshivat Or Chaim, 159 Almore.
Final Deal Won't Resolve Jerusalem Issue
Even if a framework for a final status accord is reached with the Palestinians in the near future, the question of Jerusalem will be left unresolved, Minister Haim Ramon, responsible for Jerusalem affairs, acknowledged last week. Ramon, interviewed on Channel 1, said that "if there is an agreement, it will not include the issue of Jerusalem, because I do not believe it is possible to resolve this delicate matter at this point. Both sides have to understand that the other side cannot and will not give up its position, and we have to agree to disagree. We want to postpone any decision on Jerusalem for a number of years. [The Palestinians] want division of the city. We have not bridged this gap at all." (Jerusalem Post Jun 1)
Polls Show Barak and Netanyahu Tied
The following are the results of a survey of a representative sample of 590 adult Israeli (both Jews and Arabs) carried out by Gallup on May 31, 2000. Sampling error +/- 4.5 percentage points:
If elections were held today: Barak 41% Netanyahu 41% (IMRA/Maariv Jun 2)
Knesset Members for the Land of Israel
MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu) has established a new Knesset lobby called Hamal - the United Front for the Preservation of the Land of Israel. The lobby's first meeting was held Monday, with the participation of right-wing Knesset Members and extra-parliamentary groups such as Women in Green, Gamla Shall Not Fall Again, and others. Hendel explained to Arutz-7 that the lobby is different than the previous Knesset's Land of Israel forum, in that "we are not working with individual MKs, but with parties - each party will send one representative. In addition, it's not only a Knesset body, but one that incorporates extra-parliamentary groups as well... Our goal is not necessarily to topple the government, but to stop its defeatist policies [of giving away the Land of Israel]. I think that if we unite all the Eretz Yisrael forces together, under one umbrella, then where there is unity, we can win." (arutzsheva.org June 5)
Mosque in the Jewish Quarter
Residents of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City are up in arms at what they feel is the latest attempt by Arab interests to gain yet another foothold in the neighborhood. Several weeks ago, in the heart of the Jewish Quarter - frequented by tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers, yeshiva and seminary students, school children, residents, and tourists every day - Arab workers began renovation work on an old mosque near the famous Ramban synagogue. PLO official Faisal Husseini claims that the purpose is only to provide Moslems who wish to pray access to the facility. Residents fear, however, that the hidden goal is to saturate the Jewish neighborhood with Arab provocateurs who will instigate riots and terrorist activity. (arutzsheva.org June 5)
The Hasmonean Palaces
A new exhibition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem entitled "The Hasmonean Palaces in Jericho - Discoveries from the Excavations," has been mounted by the university's Institute of Archaeology on the Mount Scopus campus. Visitors to the free display can see relics such as coins, oil lamps, and other objects excavated from the winter palaces of the kings of the Hasmonean dynasty in Jericho. The Hasmoneans ruled briefly over the Land of Israel over 2,000 years ago in what was the last era of Jewish independence until the establishment of the State of Israel. The exhibition also consists of a large model and a painted conception of the palace gardens and pools. (arutzsheva.org June 5)
Ha'aretz: Barak Promised Abu Dis Weeks Before Cabinet Decision, Dividing Fence Requires 4 Years
Few ministers know that their vote approving of the transfer of three villages in the Jerusalem area to the Palestinian Authority was nothing more than for show. Barak finalized this matter in a face to face meeting with Yasser Arafat that took place at Ben Gurion Airport weeks before it was brought up to the cabinet for approval.
If the passages between the Palestinian state and the outside world are under exclusive Palestinian control, Israel will have to erect a fence separating between it and its new neighbor. Otherwise it will not be possible to supervise the passage of people and goods into Israel through the Palestinian state. The erection of such a fence would take four years. September 13, the target date for an agreement or the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, is 105 days from now. (IMRA/Ha'aretz Jun 1)
Hillary Clinton's Ties
Hillary Clinton has raised tens of thousands of dollars from associates of Yasser Arafat at private fund-raisers for her Senate race in New York. So reports the Jewish Forward, whose reporter Eli Lake writes that Mrs. Clinton attended a private fund-raising reception on May 12 at the Washington mansion of Hani Masri, a close confidante of Arafat. The event, which reportedly raised more than $50,000, was closed to the press. Yigal Carmon, President of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), said that his organization has done extensive research on the Masri family's control of the Palestinian Development Investment Co. and its ties to Arafat. This is far from the first time Hillary Clinton has had connections with militant Arab and Palestinian organizations. During the 1980's she served on the board of the New World Foundation, funneling money to the PLO, which at the time was recognized as a terrorist organization. In February 1996, Hillary hosted a reception at the White House for leaders of Hamas-supporting groups such as the American Muslim Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In January 1998, Hillary hosted a White House reception organized by Muslim leaders who defended militant Islamic fundamentalism and supported radical Islamic groups. (arutzsheva.org Jun 2)
Special Evening for Israeli MIA's
The International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers held a special "Evening of Conscience" in Jerusalem Sunday night with the participation of approximately 700 people. Minister Natan Sharansky, U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida), Esther Wachsman and Rabbi Baruch Taub of BAYT were among the speakers at the event on behalf of missing IDF soldiers Ron Arad, Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz. Mrs. Wachsman, whose son Nachson was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in 1994, bemoaned the fact that another year has passed "and I'm hearing the same words being said over and over - we're still in this same dreadful situation. Ringing in my eyes are Justice Minister Yossi Beilin's comments [in response] to Batya Arad [the mother of Ron Arad]... Beilin stated: 'Batya Arad and the other mothers are doing their job as mothers to get their sons back, and I am doing my job as a minister of Israel to further peace.' Does justice contradict peace?... Are these families meant to sacrifice their children on the altar of peace?"Interior Minister Natan Sharansky spoke appreciatively of all that had been done to keep his plight as a Prisoner of Zion at the top of the agenda for so many years, and admitted to the crowd, "it is not easy to stand here representing the government..." The event was broadcast live on Arutz-7. (arutzsheva.org June 6)".">
Largest Sale of Israeli Company
The American communications giant Lucent Technologies Inc., an arm of Bell Laboratories, agreed yesterday to buy the Israeli company Chromatis Networks for some $4.5 billion worth of stock. Chromatis, whose 130 employees will share $672 million, has developed a system allowing voice, data, and video to travel quickly on optical wavelengths across optical city networks. The purchase price is more than three times the previous highest price ever paid for an Israeli company. (arutzsheva.org June 1)
When you hear people like [Knesset Speaker One Israel MK] Avraham Burg warn of threats to kill the Prime Minister - know that [the government] is about to do something bad to the people of Israel." - Journalist Amnon Lord of Makor Rishon (Arutz 7 June 4)
"Thus far, the Palestinian and Israeli teams in Sweden have agreed that the framework agreement will include Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state and a Palestinian declaration that the conflict between the two peoples has ended."
- Israeline, quoting Ha'aretz, June 1.
"Hey, Jew, we're going to kill you. We've liberated Lebanon and now it's our turn to liberate Palestine.'', "My boy will slit your throat once he grows up. You're never going to be safe until your country is destroyed.''
- Some of the jeers at Israeli soldiers from residents on the Lebanese side of the fence by the border. (Reuters May 26)
"I believe it will be very hard for him to be a non-political president - it's practically impossible for him. He's basically a very political person." - Leah Rabin speaking to Army Radio about the Peres campaign for the presidency. Nonetheless, she still supports Peres. (Jerusalem Post 5/30)
"First of all, I represent the government of Israel, not a Zionist state. I am part of the Labor party, the Prime Minister is the head of the Labor party, and he was elected by 95% of the Arab vote, so there is no problem representing his government...The Oslo Accords, for instance, were approved by a majority of 61 to 59, seven of the votes in favor came from Arab Knesset members. In the same way, there is no chance that a peace treaty with the Palestinians, Syria, or Lebanon will pass by a majority without the Arab vote." - Deputy Foreign Minister, Knesset Member Nawaf Masalha, in an interview that appeared in News of Arabs in Israel - May 2000 published by Nazareth Arab Institute.
"The Palestinian people are accumulating an extensive ability to fight, and we hope that will not have to be reflected in a blow-up." - Palestinian negotiator, Hassan Asfour, commenting on the status of the negotiations. (Ha'aretz May 30)
Too Eager to Close the Deal By Natan Sharansky
As a nonpolitical observer in 1993, when the Oslo accords ushered in a new era in relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I thought that many Israelis had made up their minds about the accords based not on a careful review of their contents, but on assumptions. On the left were those who seemed to support any agreement so long as the process moved forward. On the right, many opposed any territorial compromise with the Palestinians, regardless of the where, when and how.
But while I counted myself among those who were prepared to compromise with the Palestinians, I was gravely concerned that the assumptions underlying the Oslo process were fundamentally flawed and would not yield the historic reconciliation for which its proponents hoped.
One problematic assumption concerned compliance. With no direct mechanism to hold the Palestinians accountable, the results were predictable. While Israel was transferring real land and releasing real prisoners, the Palestinians were strenuously avoiding their obligations, from extraditing terrorists to disarming militants. Unfortunately, the terrorism and violence that ensued did not cause the Rabin-Peres administration to consider how a flawed accord might be improved, but only convinced it of the need to move more quickly toward a final agreement. Instead of holding the Palestinians to their promises and establishing mutual trust, it looked only at the goal of peace.
In negotiating the Wye Accord in 1998, the Benjamin Netanyahu government put reciprocity back on the agenda. It was agreed that each side would fulfill its commitments before the process went to the next stage. While I was hoping for other improvements, such as the linking of territorial concessions to the liberalization of the Palestinian regime, at least one gaping hole in Oslo had been filled.
When Ehud Barak came to power, determined to breathe new life into the peace process, he quickly abandoned the principle of reciprocity. Now all Palestinian commitments have been forgotten and the days of good will gestures to the Palestinians for the sake of an improved climate of negotiation have returned.
The wrongheadedness of this approach was proved last month; on the same day the prime minister was marshaling a vote in the Knesset to transfer areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem's Old City to the Palestinians, violence engulfed the territories. It is encouraging that Mr. Barak, a man I believe is firmly committed to Israel's security, has now decided to postpone this transfer and that even members of Israel's far left are voicing concerns over the bloated Palestinian police force and the stockpiling of illegal weapons.
But I fear that as quiet returns, the allure of peace will again affect the otherwise sound judgment of much of the current government. Israel must return to the principle of reciprocity.
In making painful compromises, we must demand the same in return. Giving the Palestinians Abu Dis, an area only a few meters from Jerusalem's old city, on a silver platter will not help us achieve that goal. If Mr. Barak really intends to reach a final agreement resolving the thorniest issues, then why is he willing to transfer Abu Dis without demanding a concession in return? If, as he has stated, he is giving it as a down payment, one wonders how the full bill can be paid while preserving the undivided capital of which he has so repeatedly spoken.
Moreover, if the Palestinian Authority can get a toehold into the eastern part of Jerusalem without extraditing a terrorist or changing a textbook, why should it ever agree to the painful compromises that are the only way to bring real reconciliation?
The Palestinians will not easily embrace compromise; nor is more violence unlikely. But if the Jewish people are not prepared to hold their ground in the city that for 2,000 years kept the dream of Jewish sovereignty alive, I shudder to think of where we are willing to draw the line. (New York Times June 6)
Natan Sharansky is the interior minister of Israel.
On Friday, Prime Minister Ehud Barak let one cat out of the bag. In a speech at a meeting of the Labor Party, Barak stated that, "If 80 percent of the settlers remain under Israeli sovereignty it will be an historic achievement." The attaching of a number to what had been a vague commitment simultaneously threw the gauntlet to the Palestinians on one side, and to the settler community on the other.
Since his election campaign, Barak has included among the pillars of a prospective final-status agreement that "most" Israelis living in Judea and Samaria would be included within Israel's future permanent borders. By committing to including "settlement blocs," the clear implication was that at least some of the more isolated settlements would be left outside of Israel.
Despite this implication, it has been hard for the public as a whole, let alone those Israelis who live in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip (and the Golan) to fully grasp that an enterprise that has been painstakingly built over the last 33 years will not be preserved in its entirety.
Looking back, it is possible to argue that another million Israelis could have made the settlement enterprise much more successful. There is little doubt, however, that the roughly 180,000 Israelis who have made their homes in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza have succeeded in shaping a future agreement in a manner that should win the gratitude of all Israelis. The settlement enterprise has, more than any government statement or action, embodied the legal, historic, and religious claims of the Jewish people to live in the biblical Land of Israel.
At the same time, however, over the last 33 years, no Israeli government has attempted to assert that the permanent border would be the Jordan River, and that all residents of the West Bank would become Israeli citizens. Well before Oslo, and before a Palestinian state became essentially inevitable, the prospect that some territorial compromise would be made on the West Bank was a certainty as well.
It is not really material now to what extent the goal of the settlement movement was to shape a territorial compromise, or to prevent the possibility of such a compromise altogether. The main ally of settlers against any compromise would be Palestinians who are also unwilling to yield at all, who may yet prevent the reaching of an agreement (just as Syrian President Hafez Assad's intransigence has preserved Israel's presence on the Golan).
At some point, however, the settlement movement itself has to decide whether attempting to preserve every settlement, no matter how surrounded by what will be Palestinian territory, is in the national interest - even if that interest is narrowly defined as maximizing Israeli territory under an agreement.
From the point of view of maximizing Israel's area for the purpose of future settlement, the greatest reservoir of territory uninhabited by Palestinians is in the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert. In a final-status negotiation, Israel will attempt to avoid having to choose between keeping every settlement and retaining large areas between Jordan and the populated mountain ridge. If, however, that choice is unavoidable, the question must be asked which is more important: empty territory with the potential for settlement, or existing settlements embedded in Palestinian populated areas?
Just weeks before his election, Barak told Jordan Valley residents that he regards retaining that area as an imperative not only from a security perspective, but as part of the settlement enterprise. Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset speech on final-status principles that he made in presenting the Oslo 2 agreement, spoke of retaining the Jordan valley "according to its broadest definition." Despite such declarations, suspicions abound that Israel is considering defining its security interests very narrowly in the Jordan Valley, and abandoning its future settlement potential entirely. This would be the effect of an arrangement along the lines of the unofficial Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, which provided only for temporary Israeli security control of a strip along the Jordanian border.
If an agreement that would cede parts of Eretz Yisrael is in the works, the greatest imperative of the settler leaders should not be to preserve every existing settlement at any price, but to retain large areas for potential settlement. Such an approach would be strengthened by the fact that the areas in question would, in general, not reduce the contiguity of the Palestinian area nor adjoin Palestinian towns or villages. Unless the settler leaders are completely confident of their ability to prevent Barak from closing a deal along the lines that seem to be emerging, they would do well to engage in dialogue with the government. In this way, they may enhance their ability to influence the ultimate shape of the final-status arrangements.
In addition, it would seem that most settler leaders understand that threats of violence and other forms of incitement only hurt their cause. Besides being dangerous, attempts to brand Barak a "war criminal" or "traitor" isolate the extremists who do so more than the government, and reduce the government's need to take settler concerns seriously. (Jerusalem Post June 5)
The very same open-minded liberals who treat Jewish nationalism as utterly contemptible, irredeemably irrational, tribal and ethnocentric, devote their utmost energies to the creation of a rabid, jingoistic Palestinian state.
It has always been a great puzzle why many self-styled liberals have such a strong attraction to dictatorships.
Take "peace now" advocates. The very same open-minded liberals who treat Jewish nationalism as utterly contemptible, irredeemably irrational, tribal and ethnocentric, devote their utmost energies to the creation of a rabid, jingoistic Palestinian state. They promote it even when it is explicitly racist, encouraging the dissemination of The Protocols of The Elders of Zion as authentic evidence of how dangerous and despicable Jews are; even when the Authority's "educators" incite kindergarten children to murder Jews, and when the life of any Jew who mistakenly wanders into a Palestinian town or village (except for car thieves or buyers in borderline markets) is threatened, sometimes by the same Arabs who visit or work safely in Israeli cities.
Worse still, "liberals" who promote "civil rights" as the utmost value, who vehemently protest against their slightest infraction by Israel, are eager to subject Palestinian Arabs, for whose welfare they seem so solicitous, to an oppressive, cruel and corrupt regime that routinely violates civil rights, ruling by gangland methods, extortion, kidnapping and torture. Self-determination (unless it is Jewish), they seem to believe, transcends even the value of human life, and certainly an individual's rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Under Arafat's rule, it is not wrong if "self determination" actually makes Arab lives far more miserable, less free and more impoverished, robbed of even the few rudimentary rights they did enjoy under a justly resented Israeli occupation. Nor do "liberals" ascribe any value to the Arabs' own choice, as when most of them (the more responsible wage-earners, not the incited adolescents and their hotheaded "intellectual" leaders) send a clear message by choosing, when they are not terrorized or frightened, to stay under Israeli rule (as they did in East Jerusalem), however discriminating and onerous it may be.
Or, consider the paradox that the very same people who would deny legitimacy to an ethnocentric and democratically imperfect Jewish state eagerly assist the establishment of a dictatorial state that does not tolerate any pluralism and oppresses ethnic or religious minorities, women and children, as if they do not deserve to be treated as born in God's image, as our liberals insist even terrorists must be treated.
Enter Amnon Lord, tracing in his The Israeli Left: From Socialism to Nihilism the stages by which this "liberal" moral blindness has evolved; why the Left was traditionally so taken by dictatorships, and leading segments of "progressive" Israel fell fatally in love with communism in its worst Stalinist manifestation (some even prepared to welcome the Red Army during the Korean conflict). Lord's is a powerful analysis because it is rooted in a personal odyssey. He grew up in a kibbutz and was, until Oslo, a Leftist intellectual.
Zionism, few realize, was taken over in the early 20s by Bolshevik revolutionaries who bent its enterprise to their purpose. Lord traces a later evolution - after the Yom Kippur War shattered the Sabras' complacent chauvinism - of the then-bankrupt collectivist Left into a trendy New Left. It continued to promote the old communist shibboleths of equality, social justice and peace (to be enforced, naturally, by the coercive state and self-chosen elites).
But it replaced self-denial, hard work and patriotism with an anti-patriotic individualism, and an alienated counter-culture of rock, sex and drugs. Lord reveals the direct line leading from its worship of Sartre, Fanon, Ho-Chi-Min, Che Guavera and Pink Floyd, to its embrace of a Palestinian nationalism defined by terrorists like Arafat, Habash and Hawatmeh.
Lord also exposes the powerful undercurrent of anti-Jewishness that unites the warring factions of the counter-culture, how it has merged with nativist and "Cana'anite" mysticism (especially in the work of S. Yizhar and Uri Avneri) to shape the Palmach-style adolescent camaraderie, the new collectivism practiced by our ruling elites.
Moral perversion seems to afflict all utopian messianic movements (as Ari Shavit so accurately observed about the peace camp) from Shabtaism onward. Consequently, even when the innate falsehoods of communism and its murderous record were revealed, none of the true believers repented. Until Lord's courageous expose (it cost him his career as a leading film critic), not one Israeli intellectual or leader of the Left wrote his version of "the God that failed," or apologized for misleading so many and so fatally.
Do not expect our peace camp advocates (who failed to protest the shabby betrayal of our South Lebanese allies), to become contrite when time more fully reveals the murderous nature of the regime they have promoted, and the human costs involved. (Jerusalem Post June 5)
The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social Economic Progress
Absence of Shtarkers By William Safire
When Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel meets President Clinton in Lisbon today, he will report his expectation of a deal with Yasir Arafat that can be signed on the White House lawn in time to affect the U.S. elections. It is a great political gift and a greater security gamble.
Key to the establishment of a Palestinian state in almost the entire West Bank is Barak's startling decision that the Jordan Valley is no longer needed for Israel's defense.
Even in Labor's dovish "Allon plan" of generations ago, that buffer behind the West Bank of the Jordan River was considered essential to slow an Arab attack. But Barak, along with another former army chief of staff, just made a military decision that changed today's negotiating equation.
In the new military thinking, it would be unwise to continue to station Israeli forces in the valley between the Kingdom of Jordan and the new state of Palestine. If those two states were in alliance, goes the convenient analysis, Israeli troops would be in a crossfire. If those two states came into conflict, then Israel would be in the middle, unwillingly involved.
Nobody likes to admit this, but Israel's abandonment of the historic valley presages the end of minority Hashemite rule in Jordan. The new king is pleading with Barak to retain at least a sliver of territory along the river to shield his regime from Palestinians bent on avenging their bloody defeat in "Black September" of 1970; they still want a trans-Jordanian "Greater Palestine." "With a common border," says Ariel Sharon, leader of Israel's opposition, "the end of the existence of the Hashemite Kingdom is only a matter of time."
Barak's military reassessment clears the way for the kind of pre-emptive territorial concession Arafat cannot refuse. For years, realistic deal makers have been talking about a final settlement that would give the Palestinians two-thirds of the West Bank, with Israeli settlements not close to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in security zones. The addition of the Jordan Valley means that some 93 percent would go to the new Palestinian state.
However, casualty-weary Israel's badly organized retreat from its buffer zone in Lebanon, betraying longtime local allies, has whetted Palestinian appetites: if Hezbollah can force the Jews out of "every inch," why can't we?
"I hear that Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem," says the Likud's Sharon, "will get a Zone B status, with municipal administration by the new Palestinian entity. That means the division of Jerusalem." He calls the overlapping jurisdiction and befuzzing of sovereignty -- a sure source of future friction -- "foolish and irresponsible."
Barak and Arafat will call it peace. In his farewell October surprise, with his wife campaigning at his side, Clinton will confidently give America's promise to underwrite the cost.
Barak has also promised Israelis a referendum on both this deal and his giveback of the Golan Heights to Syria. He will argue that such a Lesser Israel is not necessarily weaker; on the contrary, that a time of peace in the region will let Israel strengthen its alliances with the U.S., the Europeans (already offering inducements in the U.N.) and the technology-hungry Chinese.
The political presumption is that if he can set the rules for a referendum to require only a majority of those voting, Barak's sweeping concessions are likely to prevail. Diplomatic cheering, economic incentives and global media enthusiasm provide momentum; the despair of Israel's battle-fatigued and the hopefulness of its forgetful add to the campaign against caution.
Is acceding to a Lesser Israel a dangerous gamble? Yes. Are these leaks about the extent of Israel's concessions intended to shock so they can be reduced? Probably. Should Israel seek evidence of Arab trustworthiness before rolling its security dice? Definitely.
People with views like mine call themselves shtarkers. That's based on the German word for "strong," with a self-mocking Yiddish connotation of "hard-line, insufferably resolute." Israel started out as the land of shtarkers. Maybe that's changed. (The New York Times June 1)
Does Israel's retreat mark the beginning or the end of its demoralization?
All that was missing from the scene were the helicopters lifting people off the embassy roof. Otherwise, Israel's panicked evacuation from Lebanon last week looked eerily like America's last hours in Vietnam.
Lebanon was, in fact, Israel's Vietnam. The analogy is almost perfect: a guerrilla war that the conventional army was winning in military terms, but whose losses the home front could not sustain. The difference, of course, is that having withdrawn from Vietnam, the United States still had a buffer zone between it and the enemy: the Pacific Ocean. Israel has a fence.
Has there ever been a more defensive occupation? Israel occupied a small patch of Lebanon only because it had been used by various enemies to launch attacks against Israel's civilian settlements in the Galilee. This was territory that Israel never claimed, never developed, never exploited. (Given Israel's chronic water shortage, it could have greatly benefited from the waters of the Litani river. It never diverted a drop.) Israel sought only a buffer for its northern border.
Nonetheless, the U.N. Security Council passed one uncompromising resolution after another demanding Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon. Syria, with no such defensive requirements, has 35,000 troops in Lebanon. The "world community" has made no effort whatsoever to get their removal.
The response of the world to Israel's withdrawal is not encouraging. Israel earned no credit, just gloating about its humiliation. The Lebanese government has openly, contemptuously refused to police the border and guarantee security. The Hezbollah guerrillas who defeated Israel refuse to take yes for an answer, promising to keep fighting until Israel meets an escalating list of demands, ranging from the release of prisoners to the evacuation of a piece of the Golan Heights that Israel captured from Syria (!) in 1967 and that the Hezbollah now claims is really Lebanese territory.
The net effect of the withdrawal is that Israel now has a border with Iran. The Shiite guerrillas are not just ideologically committed to and militarily supplied by Iran, but they share the same radical Islamist anti-Zionism. Their pretext was liberation of sacred Lebanese territory. That pretext is now gone. We'll see whether they intend to carry out the fight, as they like to say, "until Jerusalem is liberated."
We will see also how the world reacts if they do. Land for peace: That has been the universal demand on Israel. Well, Israel has given up every inch of Lebanese territory. Under the land for peace formula, and under the U.N. resolutions ordering Israel out of Lebanon, both Lebanon and the United Nations should now deploy troops on the Israeli-Lebanese border to ensure tranquility.
In fact, neither of these feckless and somewhat fictional entities will do anything serious to stabilize the border. That is a job once again left to Israel itself. The problem is that Israel's deterrent capacity has now been seriously damaged.
For Israel, the retreat from Lebanon is a grave geostrategic setback. For the first time in 22 years, it faces an active, hostile, well-armed enemy right on its border. This is important. The Sinai desert is Israel's buffer with Egypt; the largely uninhabited Golan Heights are the buffer with Syria; the Jordan Valley and Negev--with the Dead Sea in between--are the buffer with Jordan. On its northern frontier, however, Israel today finds Hezbollah guerrillas just meters away, waving rifles, positioning tanks, and aiming Katyusha rockets at Israel's border villages and collective farms.
Hezbollah has the capacity to make northern Israel uninhabitable. The decision whether to do so, however, lies with Syria's President Assad. Assad wants to pressure Israel into a withdrawal from the Golan as complete and, possibly, as humiliating as the one that just occurred in Lebanon--one in which he could actually revise the internationally recognized border and take a piece of the Sea of Galilee.
Barak was quite willing to give him every inch of the Golan, until Assad upped the ante a few months ago by demanding control of the northeast part of the Sea of Galilee, which is entirely on Israel's side of the internationally recognized border. Talks broke down over this breathtakingly bold demand for Israeli territory. Now, however, Assad has a useful tool to pursue this objective.
The conventional wisdom is that, because Syria could turn Hezbollah on and off like a tap and thus control the flow of Israeli blood in the guerrilla war, Syria lost a bargaining chip when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. The conventional wisdom is wrong. Syria retains the bargaining chip because the guerrilla war option is not dead. It is indeed far more explosive. A sustained guerrilla war along the Israeli-Lebanese border would cause not just a few military casualties. It would kill many civilians. It could easily demoralize and quickly depopulate northern Israel. That is an extremely potent tool.
Assad would have to use it with great delicacy and precision. But use it he could. Hezbollah could start with small arms fire or a few Katyushas fired over the border to provoke an incident. Israel then would be in a terrible dilemma. If it retaliates in kind, it is simply inviting guerrilla war on its border and allowing the enemy to dictate the level of violence. Tit for tat might not even work. Hezbollah has rockets that can threaten large swaths of Israel. When Israel still had its security zone, Hezbollah's Katyushas could send only 300,000 Israelis into bomb shelters. Now that they are nine miles closer, they can put 800,000 Israelis--almost one in seven--into bomb shelters. A cross-border war of this sort would be intolerable for Israel.
The alternative--the only rational response--is for Israel to retaliate massively. The dilemma, of course, is that this risks a major war. Hitting Beirut is mandatory, but Lebanon does not make its own decisions. The point would be to bring Lebanese pressure on Assad to call off his dogs in the south. Assad, however, cares little for Lebanon. He is unlikely to bend. Barak would then be forced to carry out the threat he has already made to attack Syrian troops in the Bekka Valley. That could very easily trigger a new Arab-Israeli war.
The assumption that it would be an easy victory for Israel is false. Such a war could trigger a generalized Palestinian uprising, which would create a new front and make Israel's mobilization at home difficult. And Egypt, which has spent billions of American aid on very modern American weapons, has already begun speaking of joining the Arabs in a war provoked by Israel.
Israel's Lebanon problems do not start and end with geostrategy, however. The psychological effect of the Lebanon debacle might prove even more important in the long run. The picture of Israelis and their allies fleeing before triumphant guerrillas is one not often seen in the Arab world. It is already having its effect among West Bank Palestinians. Why should they agree to give the Jews anything in return for the West Bank and Jerusalem? Did not Hezbollah get Israel out of Lebanon for free?
And how did they do it? Constant guerrilla war, until the Israelis tired and gave up. The Palestinians had their own version of guerrilla war before the Oslo accords, the intifada. They recently staged a reprise, the "days of rage" rioting on the anniversary of Israel's independence on May 15. The temptation to produce a full-scale reenactment has only been strengthened by Hezbollah's success in Lebanon.
What's more, the fate of the South Lebanon Army, the local militia that sided with Israel against Hezbollah, is a lesson to all those Arabs in the Middle East who might be thinking of throwing their fate in with the Jews. The SLA was supposed to carry on like the South Vietnamese after the American withdrawal. Well, the South Vietnamese held out for two and a half years. SLA did not hold out for two and a half days. The sight of Israel's only Lebanese allies fleeing for their lives will give pause to any Palestinian or Jordanian or even Egyptian who thinks that acting friendly toward, making deals with, or relying on the Israelis is a good idea.
There is only one possible salutary aspect to this disastrous situation. Israel's decline has mostly been psychological. It is because of war weariness and exhaustion that it has been conceding territory unilaterally--both in Lebanon and on the West Bank--in the hope of depriving its enemies of a reason to want to fight on. But the appeasement hasn't worked. Israel is as vilified as ever in the region and even more threatened physically, both in the north and in the heartland, than it has been for decades.
The reality of their enemies coming ever closer to their gates, unmollified and indeed energized, might shock Israelis back into some renewed perception of reality. For the first time in two decades they have an active front on one of their borders. Under the old dispensation, with buffer zones all around, Israelis could go about their day-to-day lives under the illusion that they were living in some kind of European-like protectorate with vague enemies far away.
The enemies are not vague, and they are no longer far away. They will be there every night on Israeli television, as they were just a few nights ago, dancing at the Israeli border fence, chanting "I will kill you" to the Israelis on the other side.
That change in perception might be accompanied by a renewal of will. It has happened before. America was deeply demoralized and in general retreat after the Vietnam War. It took a series of setbacks in that annus mirabilis 1979--the invasion of Afghanistan, the communization of Nicaragua, and most important, the fall of the shah and the seizure of American hostages in Teheran--to shock America out of its geopolitical lethargy. There's nothing like an acute humiliation to wake up a sleeping giant.
Israelis are exhausted. But they are also tough. At some point, their neighbors may push a little too far. It won't take a Pearl Harbor. Israelis wanted to get out of Lebanon, but they did not like the way they were expelled. Israel's adversaries certainly have the upper hand today. But they would be wise not to push their luck too far tomorrow. (Weekly Standard June 5)