4 Tamuz 5759 June 18, 1999 Issue number 222
Monday June 21, 8 pm:
The Toronto Zionist Council presents a presentation by Mordechai Sones, a Reservist in the Israel Defense Forces from Nachliel, on "Yesha Communities' Vulnerability to Surprise Attack by Armoured PA Forces" at B'nai Torah, 465 Patricia (at Bathurst).
Deri Resigns as Shas Leader, Paves Way for Coalition of 70 MKs
Shas leader Aryeh Deri Tuesday night announced his resignation as party head, paving the way for Shas to enter the coalition. Shas MKs rejected Deri's letter and immediately went to the home of party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to plead for his intervention. Among the likely replacements for Deri are David Yosef, Yishai, and Interior Minister Eli Suissa. Deri's resignation paves the way for Barak to establish a coalition of at least 70 MKs. The most likely make-up of the government will be One Israel (26), Shas (17), Meretz (10), Yisrael Ba'aliya (6), the Center Party (6), and the National Religious Party (5). A key to Barak's plans is Meretz's reaction to the resignation. Originally, Meretz said it would not sit in a coalition with Shas, because it would be impossible for the party to cut itself off from its leader. In the past few days, party leader Yossi Sarid said Meretz would insist on three conditions before it would agree to sitting with Shas in the coalition: that Shas prove that Deri is playing no part in its decison-making process, directly or indirectly; that the party's methods of "corrupting and being corrupted" are brought to an end; that Shas radically change its approach to democracy, the legal system, and in particular the High Court. Tommy Lapid confirmed that Shinui will not be a part of the coalition should Shas be included. United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush said Deri's decision will have no effect on his party's negotiations with One Israel. Shas has said it supports UTJ's stand against drafting yeshiva students. However, Porush said that should Shas decide to enter the government, his party will stick to its guns.
The factions are still jockeying for the best positions in the cabinet. Center Party leader Yitzhak Mordechai told Barak that should his party not receive two portfolios, "we can most definitely remain outside the government, while offering our support." The NRP's Yitzhak Levy was scheduled to meet Barak early this morning and intended to push three key issues: A commitment on the future of the Golan; a guarantee that the party receive the Education Ministry; and that there would be no minority government which would be reliant on the support of the Arab parties. "If all three are rejected, we won't be in the coalition," said an NRP source. Yisrael Ba'aliya's Natan Sharansky is insisting the party receive both the Interior and Absorption ministries, in addition to a pledge to introduce an immigrant absorption law. Party officials said Barak has already committed himself to including the party in any dealings with the countries of the former Soviet Union.(Jerusalem Post Jun 16)
Arms-Smuggling Tunnel in Gaza Blocked up
The IDF discovered and blocked up a modern subterranean tunnel under Rafiach in Gaza last Wednesday. The tunnel, used for weapons smuggling between Egypt and the autonomous areas, is eight meters deep, and contains train tracks, a phone line, lighting, and a ventilation system. The IDF has submitted a complaint to the Palestinian Authority. IDF officials suspect that both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority knew of the existence of the large tunnel. The tunnel reportedly enabled the PA - which claims that it did not know of the tunnel - to smuggle into the autonomous areas anti-tank missiles, terrorist suspects and people whom Israel has forbidden to enter the PA autonomy. An IDF official declared that Israel has discovered 23 such tunnels in the past two years, although this one was unprecedented in its large size and advanced features. It is suspected that the Palestinians wished to transfer kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Egypt via the underground passage.(Arutz 7 June 10)
Iran Accuses U.S. of Double Standard
Iran is accusing the United States of hypocrisy and a double standard of justice. According to Radio Teheran, the U.S. refuses to release its own Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard, and yet insists that Iran should release its Israeli spies. A Kol Yisrael news report filed by senior news correspondent Mickey Gurdis on June 13, 1999 quoted Radio Teheran as pointing out that the U.S. has rejected every request for the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard - including the personal request of the Israeli Prime Minister at Wye Plantation- at the same time the U.S. is insisting that Iran release its 13 Israeli spies. (Kol Yisrael Radio June 15)
Fierce Clash Between Netanyahu's Office and the Clinton Administration
A fierce clash has erupted between the office of outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American administration. The reason: an interview given to the Jerusalem Post by David Bar-Illan, Communications Director in the Prime Minister's Office and a close adviser to Netanyahu, in which he charged the Americans with dragging their feet on investigating terror attacks in which American citizens were killed. The United States is required by law to investigate every such terror attack and to demand the extradition of the perpetrators. But according to Bar-Illan, the United States has refrained from doing so to avoid embarrassing the Palestinian Authority. Bar-Illan cites as an example the failure of the United States to demand the extradition of the murderers of yeshiva student David Boim, an American citizen who was shot to death in Beit El in 1996. He also points to the Americans' refusal to demand the extradition of Muhammad Deif, involved in the kidnapping and murder of American citizen Nachshon Waxman, despite President Clinton's promise to Waxman's mother. The United States was furious over Bar-Illan's remarks. Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk met with Israeli Ambassador to Washington Zalman Shoval and submitted a formal complaint about Bar-Illan's comments. Indyk said the charge was unjustified and the United States expects an apology from an authorized source in the Israeli government. "Not only is there no foot-dragging, but we are dealing with the matter in the most determined fashion. Just recently, three FBI investigators visited Israel to investigate these incidents," Indyk said to Shoval. Bar-Illan said in response that he will not apologize for the remarks. "The facts speak for themselves," he said. Bar-Illan has criticized the administration and said that Clinton's men did all they could to bring down Netanyahu in the recent elections. (Yediot Aharonot June 15)
PA Budget: Short on Facts, Shady with Funds
Reported missing: the Palestinian Authority's 1999 budget proposal, as submitted to members of the Legislative Council. Until last week all attempts to learn its whereabouts had been repelled with confusing and evasive replies, but last Wednesday, an administrative explanation was added: The budget proposal had been returned to the treasury upon the written request of Chairman Arafat, as reported in the Arabic daily al-Haya al-Jadida, so that various ministerial requests for amendments could be made. It was said that a new proposal would appear "in a week or two." Thus, so far this year, the various Palestinian ministries have been operating without clear budgets. If the problem were not life endangering, as it has in the case of the Health Ministry's budget crisis, it could be dealt with simply as a long-standing administrative problem - as an observer from the group of donor nations has said - but last week the Health Ministry's serious financial distress came under discussion at the PLC, and it was emphasized that the problem was not merely sloppy accounting reminiscent of the PLO's administration in exile. Among the most pressing problems, according to a report last week in the daily al-Ayam, is a decision by importers to supply only 18 of the 600 medicines listed by the Health Ministry as vital.
Speaking before the Legislative Council, the Palestinian health minister said that, due to his ministry's failure to pay last year's outstanding debts, suppliers are no longer answering the ministry's supply tenders, forcing it to offer above-market prices. The situation has resulted in only 25.7 percent of the requested medicines being delivered and 36 percent of the necessary surgical supplies being purchased. A similar situation exists in regard to shortages of food for patients, oxygen tanks and hospital janitorial services. Like last year, this year's budget was not actually presented before the beginning of the fiscal year, instead going before the parliament's budget committee only in April. Members discussed it and returned it to the treasury, claiming it was incomplete. Government ministers complained to friends that in order to finance even basic and vital activities they were forced to call Arafat's office, something which hampered the normal functioning of the various ministries. Sources within the PLC and the group of donor nations have reported that the proposal's three main flaws were the complete absence of a sizable portion of the PA's revenues, the fact that a comparative itemization of last year's expenses were not part of the 1999 budget proposal, as well as insufficient itemization of this year's expenses. The first two claims reinforce the growing suspicion among the PLC and the Palestinian public that the PA's revenues are greater than it claims, because most of its funds are given to sources not appearing in the budget, and thus not under international supervision. (Ha'aretz June 15)
Two Leadership Votes For Likud
Ariel Sharon won a decisive victory in the Likud Central Committee Monday night when it decided to hold two sets of elections for Party Chairman over the next two years. Internal elections for party head will be held in September of this year, and additional elections for chairman and Prime Ministerial candidate will be conducted in the summer of 2001. Sharon's challengers, Ehud Olmert and Meir Sheetrit, withdrew their proposal for only one election when it became clear that it would not pass. Likud MK Uzi Landau told Arutz-7 that the decision made by the Likud was "the only logical one to make, since we cannot know today who will be the appropriate [Prime Ministerial] candidate so far in advance." Landau said that the two-year "breather" will give the Likud a chance to "rediscover its lost ideological roots... Then we must learn how to bridge the gap between this ideology and the current reality, so that the Likud can be a new ideological and material home for the entire national camp, which punished us in the recent elections." (Arutz 7 June 15)
Landau on Tibi's Bid
As Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the previous Knesset, Uzi Landau commented on new MK Ahmed Tibi's declaration Tuesday that he intends to vie for a spot on the committee: "Anyone who is looking to see the level to which the State of Israel has deteriorated, and the extent to which it continues to lose its Zionist and national character need look no further than this," Landau said. "It is only his 'chutzpah' and our foolish blindness that has permitted a PLO agent - someone who has advised Yasser Arafat how to undermine the Zionist and Jewish foundations of the country - to become an MK and to ask for access to a crucial Israeli security forum... Someone like Tibi, who is a close confidante of Yasser Arafat, surely knows that Arafat's Palestinian Authority is blatantly anti-democratic and summarily mocks human rights. So he slips into the Knesset, where the democratic State of Israel allows someone hostile to our existence to use our democratic institutions as a podium for his agenda." (Arutz 7 June 15)
Quote: Palestinians Want All or Nothing
IMRA reports that Nabil Sha'ath, head of the Planning Department in the Palestinian Authority, told Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper last week, "There can be no peace without a total end to settlements and the return of East Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty as our capital. We are willing to negotiate the terms regarding open borders between East and West Jerusalem but an agreement must be based on the premise that what was occupied in 1967 must be returned... We are not only against settlements being built now, but also those that were built as long as 30 years ago." (Arutz 7 June 15)
PA Forbids Workers in Gush Katif Communities
The Palestinian Authority has forbidden Arab workers to continue working in the Gush Katif communities of Netzarim and Morag. Gaza Regional Council Head Aharon Tzur discussed the matter with Arutz-7 : "We had friendly work relationships with the neighboring Palestinians for some time. Then along came the Palestinian Authority, whose representatives simply have little understanding of the area, and began destroying positive relationships... If they mean to slow down the growth of our communities - which is apparently their intent - the PA can expect the opposite result. When a lengthy closure was put into effect at the start of the intifada in 1988, our farmers realized that they had to move forwards, and they increased mechanization in their operations. This made our products more competitive in foreign markets. We will do that again, and we will also bring in more Thai workers. In the long range, if the PA prevents its workers from coming here, we come out on top, while the Palestinians themselves are the ones who lose their jobs. If and when the PA leadership wakes up, there may not be any more jobs available." (Arutz 7 June 15)
The Ethiopian Jews in Kwara
Prime Minister Netanyahu convened a meeting Monday to discuss expediting the immigration of the Jews from Kwara, Ethiopia. Foreign Minister Sharon was appointed to coordinate the overall activity for bringing about the speedy arrival of the approximately 3,500 Kwara Jews, who have been waiting to immigrate to Israel. Once in Israel, Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein will head an inter-ministerial team for coordinating their absorption. In the meantime, the government will dispatch medical aid and food to the Jews in Kwara, thus joining American Jewish humanitarian aid groups in this effort. Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia Ariel Kerem has warned that an airlift of Jews from Kwara could lead to a political fight with the Ethiopian government, while a low-profile, discreet operation - such as increasing the number of passenger flights to Israel - may be ignored by the Ethiopians. (Arutz 7 June 14)
Abu Daoud Not Allowed in to Israel
The German decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of Abu Daoud has caused a bit of consternation within Israel. Daoud wrote in a recently-published book that it was he who masterminded the slaughter of the Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Germany issued the warrant on Thursday, and submitted it to Interpol. Daoud - who carries a VIP card issued by Israel - is presently in Jordan and planned to cross the Allenby Bridge Sunday or Monday into Israel on his way to the Palestinian autonomous areas. Israeli police said Sunday that ignoring the German request could lead to the Germans ignoring Israeli extradition requests in the future. After emergency talks involving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein, Netanyahu instructed Israeli security forces not to allow Abu Daoud to enter Israel. Abu Daoud reportedly intends to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court against the decision, claiming that the decision to issue him a VIP pass three years ago stated explicitly that his terrorist actions from before the Oslo accords would be "erased." Meanwhile, the Terror Victims' Association insists that Netanyahu retract the decision in order that Abu Daoud enter Israel from where Israel could then extradite him to Germany. Abbas Zaki and Amin al-Hindi - two other terrorists involved in the Munich slaughter - presently reside within the Palestinian autonomy. Israel issued VIP passes to both of them some time ago. (Arutz 7 June 13)
Palestinians Training in Egypt
Officers of the Palestinian paramilitary police force are being trained at the top army academy in Egypt. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that a first contingent of Palestinian officers spent the past month completing an intensive, advanced staff course at Nasser Military Academy in Cairo. Following the course, a senior Palestinian security source told the official PA daily, Al Hayat Al-Jadida, that "the Palestinian military command is working to improve its effectiveness to build a recognized and high-skilled military staff." (Arutz 7 June 13)
Road Fatalities down
Two people - a relatively low number - were killed last week in car accidents, and seventeen were severely injured. Since the beginning of the year, 203 people have been killed on the roads. In 1998, 540 victims were claimed in car crashes. (Arutz 7 June 11)
Economic Achievement For Outgoing Gov't
The government's share in the gross national product in 1998 was only 45% - 2% less than planned. This represents a notable achievement for the Netanyahu government, reports Arutz-7 correspondent Ariel Kahane, as economists see low government spending as directly connected with stable and healthy economic growth. This is even more impressive considering the recession that Israel is currently undergoing. The Netanyahu government's cutbacks have reduced the share from 47.9% three years ago. The rate of most western countries is not higher than 40%. (Arutz 7 June 11)
Looking for Oil in Dead Sea
The Bi-Weekly Economic Update reports that the U.S.-based NESS Energy International plans to raise $20 million on American capital markets to finance oil exploration in the southern Dead Sea area. With investment amounting to a total of $31 million, plans are for the drill to reach a depth of 9 kilometers. A NESS spokesman said it would be importing special equipment to handle the job, which is to begin by April 1, 2000 at the latest. (Arutz 7 June 11)
One Soldier Killed in Lebanon Last Wednesday Night
Lt. Ro'i Keller, 21, was killed last Wednesday night when his Egoz reconnaissance unit encountered a terrorist cell in the eastern section of the southern Lebanese security zone. Another soldier was lightly injured in the incident. St. Sgt. Shimon Kislasi, 27, of Mitzpeh Ramon died last Wednesday from injuries he suffered two weeks ago when an Apache helicopter made an emergency landing in the Negev desert. The IDF continues to investigate the circumstances of the accident. (Arutz 7 June 10)
More drought damage news: 98% of Israel's wheat crop was ruined this year because of the lack of rain. At an emergency meeting of agriculturalists and water experts last week in Tel Aviv, it was announced that 150,000 extra tons of flour will have to be imported from the U.S. Tzvi Ortenberg, chief of the Kineret [Sea of Galilee] Administration, warns of "public apathy" regarding the water shortage. "Some 50 million cubic meters of water - 30 centimeters of Kineret height - could have been saved this year if every home would have carried out water conservation measures," he said. (Arutz 7 June 10)
Shas in Kiryat Arba
The Shas party dedicated a new chapter in Kiryat Arba last week. Rabbi Yehuda Deri, brother of Shas leader Aryeh Deri, said at the ceremony, "I don't think that there is a force in the world, and certainly not a Jewish government, that would cause harm to the Jewish community in Kiryat Arba. It's no secret that most Shas voters want to strengthen Kiryat Arba and [the Jewish community in its neighboring] Hevron." Yossi Ben Chamu, Jerusalem regional head of Shas, told Arutz-7, "We sat yesterday with Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover, who was very surprised at the election results - an increase of 35 votes for Shas in 1996 to 270 votes this time. This major increase obligated us to come and see what the people want, and we found that what they want is education according to the Shas ideals." Arutz-7's Haggai Segal asked, "The relations between Shas and the residents of Yesha were not always so fantastic. Does this represent the turning over of a new leaf?" Ben Chamu said, "Shas has always supported settlement efforts. Katzover reminded me that the very building in which we were sitting was a result of the efforts of Aryeh Deri. Of course, regarding the political issue, we go by the rulings of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef [who has come out expressly in favor of 'land for peace']. But as long as the settlement enterprise continues, we will always help and strengthen it." (Arutz 7 June 10)
No Prize for "Excellent" Chabad School
The Chabad Girls School in Kiryat Malachi will not receive the Education Ministry's Prize for Educational Excellence after all. The committee that originally awarded the prize to the school rescinded its decision, claiming that the school does not accept Ethiopian immigrant children that have not undergone a ritual conversion ceremony. Mayor Lior Katzav told Arutz-7 that in fact, the school has not turned away even one Ethiopian student, such that the question is academic: "I personally object to this national Chabad policy [based on a Halakhic opinion that considers the Ethiopians' Jewishness to be in doubt], and I will not send my son to such a school. But we must differentiate between this and the fact that this is simply an excellent school - one that accepts new immigrants from Kavkaz, from Georgia, from Buchara, from Russia... This is a miserable decision, a cave-in to two journalists who raised a ruckus the past two days. The committee received no new information yesterday that it did not know before... But something else worries me: This city has absorbed more Ethiopian immigrants than any other city in Israel. Over 40% of our city are new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia, and these numbers are reflected in our schools. How many Ethiopian students are there in schools in Herzliya, or in Kfar Shmaryahu, or Ra'anana, or the Gymnasium in Jerusalem? Those schools can be recognized for their educational accomplishments, but our Chabad school cannot? The prize, after all, is not for immigrant absorption, but for educational achievements." (Arutz 7 June 10)
Makor Rishon: Issue 100
Amidst continuing press reports that Binyamin Netanyahu is raising funds for a new nationalist-leaning newspaper, the right-wing celebrated a different media landmark last week: the publication last Friday of the 100th issue of Israel's independent weekly newspaper, Makor Rishon. Editor Emanuel Shilo told Arutz-7 today that the accomplishment is especially impressive given the numerous hurdles the paper has had to overcome: "The fact that half the nation identifies itself as politically right-wing has not guaranteed us a wide readership at this point," Shilo said. "First of all, we are not working with the vast budgets of the major dailies, which means that we can only publish once a week. Secondly, our exposure is limited by our minimal budget for advertising. All in all, our achievements have been impressive, given our resources, but let's say that we have yet to reach our full potential." Shilo added that the paper's limited exposure has prevented several scoops "that may have even had an impact on the election results. For example, we broke the story on the widespread vote-fixing in the Labor party's Druze sector, verifying [Labor MK] Adisu Messala's claim that a campaign had been waged to ensure that he did not make it into the Knesset." (Arutz 7 June 10)
Sultan Yaakub MIAs Remembered
A number of activities were held throughout the Jewish world last week to mark the 17th anniversary of the capture of Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz during the battle of Sultan Yaakub on June 11, 1982. The activities were jointly backed by the Jewish Agency Education Department and the International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers. In South Africa, the first hour of Thursday's studies in Jewish schools was set aside to learn about the MIA's, responsibility for fellow Jews, and the commandment to redeem captives. In France, youth movement members made special broadcasts on Jewish community radio. Jewish youth in Britain will demonstrate outside the Syrian embassy in London, calling for more information on the whereabouts of the MIAs. They will also submit a petition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling on him to work to obtain more information on the MIAs. Youth representatives in Brazil will present petitions to the Lebanese and Iranian Embassies on the same topic. Amos Hermon, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Education Department, said, "Remembering the day the Sultan Yaakub MIAs were captured and the work done to try and secure their release and that of IAF navigator Ron Arad are true expressions of the concern for our fellow Jews and of the Mitzvah of redeeming captives. Through our efforts today we want to arouse the Jewish people and the international community to work to resolve this issue." (Arutz 7 June 10)
Barak to Inherit American Pressure By Yedidya Atlas
Immediately following Ehud Barak's victory over Binyamin Netanyahu in the recent Israeli elections, the Clinton administration, together with its fellows in the liberal-left media, crowed with exultation. Barak won by a landslide, and Israel's new government would go back to peace process business as usual (read: Israeli unilateral concessions, continued Palestinian violations, and photo-op ceremonies for the Clinton White House). But the Israeli political reality is a bit different.
Barak's election brought no shift from Right to Left on the Israeli political scene. True, he beat Netanyahu 56% to 44%, but the political parties on the Israeli Left failed to gain a majority of Israel's 120 seat Knesset. On the contrary, even after incorporating into its ranks the dovish religious party Meimad and the Gesher Party of former Likud member David Levy, the One Israel list lost nearly a third of its Knesset representation. And while the Likud also lost seats, its votes went to other right-of-center parties, not to the Left. The right wing and religious bloc increased its overall number of seats as compared to its representation in the Knesset on the eve of the elections. And there's the rub.
As David Bar-Illan, Director of Communications and Policy Planning in Prime Minister Netanyahu's Office, put it in a recent article in the London Daily Telegraph: "It is a personal rather than an ideological victory for Mr. Barak. Or, more precisely, a personal repudiation of Binyamin Netanyahu." Barak didn't win; Netanyahu lost.
The Clinton administration, beset by a growing foreign policy boondoggle in Kosovo and a domestic explosion over Chinagate, needed this victory. He was relying on a return to the pliant Israeli Prime Minister model in Mr. Barak for vitally-necessary White House photo-op ceremonies to divert attention from the reality of Mr. Clinton's problems. But what they, and many others, failed to realize is that the Prime Ministerial race in Israel is not the same as a presidential race in the United States.
In Israel's multi-party system, there are no dominantly large parties such as the Republican and Democratic parties in the US. Everything must be viewed through probable and conducive coalition partners. A prime minister who fails to put together a viable and stable coalition, will be up for reelection within a very short time. Ehud Barak, long on political
expediency, and short on the leftist ideology of his predecessor Shimon Peres, has no choice but to form a broad-based centrist - and possibly even slightly right of center - coalition if he is to have a government to rule. Hence, in practical terms, Prime Minister-elect Barak will have replaced Mr. Netanyahu, but will more or less inherit his government.
Such a situation does not fit in with the Clinton strategy. We can therefore expect the cautious honeymoon with the Israeli election results to cool considerably within six months or so, as Mr. Clinton and Ms. Albright discover that Ehud Barak is not Shimon Peres. He will not, and cannot, continue the great Israeli territorial giveaway they demand. He will not, because as a former Israeli Chief of Staff, he is probably much closer to Netanyahu in these matters than Clinton-crony James Carville realized. (In fact, Barak initially opposed the Oslo Accords on basic national security grounds.) He cannot, because even if he should personally prefer to follow the previous party line, said party has insufficient Knesset seats to rule by itself.
Moreover, there appears to be little substantive difference between Barak's vision of the "final status" agreement with the Palestinians and Netanyahu's. Both are publicly committed to an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, both consider the Jordan Valley to be Israel's strategic eastern border, both oppose withdrawing to the 1967 armistice line, and both have pledged to keep the settlements in Judea and Samaria under Israeli control. Barak may be willing to concede more of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians under certain conditions than Netanyahu, but this will still fall far short of Palestinian ambitions, expectations, and demands.
It is an open secret that Prime Minister-elect Barak dispatched former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Prof. Itamar Rabinovitch to Washington last week. Barak wished to deliver a polite but blunt message to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to lay off pushing him into negotiations with Syria et al, and to allow him to first form a government and work his own way into final status negotiations with the Palestinians.
Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Arafat will soon realize that even after they openly tried to influence the outcome of the recent Israeli elections, they still failed to bring about the narrow left wing coalition government? including the Arab parties? that would continue the wholesale unilateral giveaway that so distinguished the Rabin-Peres government. So Ehud Barak can expect to replace Binyamin Netanyahu not only as Prime Minister, but also as the target of renewed Clinton administration pressure and Palestinian violence.
The writer is a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz 7.
Let's talk about the haredim. No, wait! I've got some nice things to say.
It is easy to play devil's advocate with the haredim, because for all the justifiable harsh criticism they earn, there is so much goodness to report. Strictly "Not Page One" stuff this is, for good news is no news. Every time a journalist writes a negative piece about them, we hear the same refrain: "Sure, bash the haredim. Why don't you ever write anything nice about them?"OK. Here goes.
Their charity, social consciousness, good deeds, communal welfare and human kindness may be unparalleled among the communities of this country. From birth through to death, you can be helped by one do-gooding haredi concern or another. There's a wealth of well-established, nationwide organizations like Yad Sarah, providing free medical equipment for all who ask. Children with Down's go to Shalva, with cancer to Zichron Menahem.
My sister was once laid up with a broken leg, and haredim came to her home with cooked meals. Free, of course - though they gratefully accepted a donation to keep the service going for others. The kindly folks at Ezer Mitzion run a fleet of more than 30 ambulances - free, of course - to transport children suffering from cancer, from anywhere in the country to the Children's Hospital in Petah Tikva. While undergoing treatment, the patient and his family can stay at the nearby Ezer Mitzion Convalescent Home.
The list of gemahim - free loan organizations - is endless. And there are the little people.
Yeshurun, a Habad-affiliated restaurant in Tel Aviv, feeds any beggar who walks in.
Remember Bella Freund? A haredi woman, she leapt into an inflamed lynch mob attacking an Arab terrorist who had stabbed two boys in Jerusalem a few years ago. For half an hour she protected him with her own life, physically absorbing the assaults herself, motivated by her religious convictions.
I'VE had occasion in the last few years to be in a hospital, and that is where the haredim are most outstanding. Making no noise about it, they simply go about helping people. They didn't ask first who I vote for, what Shul I go to, or whether I write negative articles about their community. Every day, a happy haredi lady from Ezer Mitzion - she's fulfilling a major mitzva, which is why she looks so happy - goes room to room offering cooked meals to families attending patients. These ladies do not make a point of reminding their benefactors that the food is provided by those nasty haredim; they wish you "bon appetit" and "be healthy," and they're outta there. Arab patients at Hadassah-Ein Kerem sometimes get upset when Ezer Mitzion passes them over - but why aren't there Arab gemahim?
Fridays are a favorite day for people scoring mitzva points. A bent old man distributes little hallot with a mumbled "Gut Shabbos"; someone brings around Shabbat candles for the women; performing the mitzva of visiting the sick, some haredim just make the rounds and offer a word of encouragement.
A couple of times I asked what group or sect they represent, and all I got was a shrug or a smile. Decency for the sake of decency alone.
The highest form of mitzva is giving of yourself anonymously. With not even a thank you as payment, the reward is knowing you've helped your fellow man. In my case, I was a fellow man who has been critical of these very people (but we agreed not to get into that). No matter: They had what I needed.
Preceeding my bone-marrow transplant, the hospital requested several dozen donations of platelets (thrombocites). It's quite an imposition, to find that many people to go all the way to the hospital, get tested, and then return to be jabbed in each arm and thus kill an hour or so. Many acquaintances, religious and secular, responded to my need. As we struggled to fill the quota of donors, word got around, somehow, to haredi circles. Two carloads of yeshiva students went to the hospital and rolled up their sleeves for me.
I managed to contact one of them, and asked why. "Oh, we like doing it," he answered cheerily. "We do it all the time." Absolutely unbelievable.
The other day, I went to Kupat Holim Meuhedet in Ramot for a blood test. I was too late; Asher, a haredi man behind the counter, said I should return the next day, and told me until what time. But he erred, and the following day, I was again too late, by a few minutes. It turned out, though, that he was more haredi than mindless pakid: "Oy," he said, crestfallen, "it's my fault." He asked the nurse to draw my blood, and - get ready for this - he took the vials, hurried to his car and drove into town to get my blood to the laboratory in time. To a religious man, this was the right thing to do. It was mind-blowing.
There's a common thread that runs through these tales of the unexpected, and it gives me an idea: Draft every single haredi, man and woman, old and young. Put them not in the army, where they're of little use, but in the hospitals. In that altruistic way, even the most anti-Zionist among them could justify serving the nation; the boiling resentment toward them would be stifled; the savings to the health-care system would be enormous; the sick would benefit from the world's most overstaffed, caring, devoted hospitals.
They could replace the legions of foreign workers tending to the frail and infirm. At no cost. To the benefit of everyone. To the betterment of Israeli society. Who, then, could say a bad word about the haredim?
(Jerusalem Post June 8)