A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
11 Tamuz 5760
July 14, 2000
Issue number 281
The Camp David summit began Tuesday in the Washington area. Prime Minister Barak's opening position includes a willingness to relocate to Israel 100,000 displaced Arabs. Barak is also ready to give up on the Jordan Valley and at least 40 Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha). In addition, he is prepared to grant the Palestinians certain sovereign powers in Jerusalem and several Jerusalem neighborhoods; an additional offer includes the release of all Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel. MK and former Industry Minister Ran Cohen (Meretz) said on television last night, "When the full extent of Barak's concessions becomes known, not only will the Israeli right wing be in shock, but the left will be as well." As the summit begins, Palestinian delegate Yasser Abed Rabbo says that if the Prime Minister does not agree to the complete implementation of the Security Council resolutions relating to a full Israeli withdrawal from Yesha and for the "right of return" for Palestinians, "nothing will be achieved either before or after the summit." Military Intelligence Commander Maj.- Gen. Amos Malka told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that should there be a deterioration of the security situation after the summit, thousands of Palestinians may well storm Jewish Yesha townships. Malka added that Arafat is unlikely to sign on an agreement that overtly declares the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (A7 July 11)
The Chief Rabbi and the Temple Mount
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who was quoted Wednesday in Ha'aretz regarding which holy sites may or may not be given over to foreign control, issued a clarification Wednesday afternoon. Ha'aretz reported that according to Rabbi Bakshi, holy sites such as the Machpelah Cave, Rachel's Tomb, and Joseph's Tomb may be given over, but not the Temple Mount. This afternoon, he issued an announcement stating that Hevron and environs, "as well as other cities that are holy to the Jewish nation," must remain under Israeli sovereignty. "If these holy sites contain a house of prayer for other religions, their adherents must be allowed to pray there," the announcement added. (arutzsheva.org July 12)
Maps of Jerusalem Withdrawal
Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that maps have been drawn up in security circles for a possible withdrawal from Jerusalem. (A7 July 12)
P.A. Prepares For War
The PA has begun hoarding food and other necessary supplies. The reason: anticipation of a Palestinian-initiated military clash with the IDF following the declaration of a Palestinians state on Sept. 13. The manager of a flour mill in PA-controlled Gaza reports a present supply of 8,000 tons of flour, and five large aluminum storage containers - each of which can contain enough flour to supply the entire population of Gaza for two months - have been ordered. PA hospitals have also been hoarding emergency medicine supplies. It has been learned, as well, that PA leaders are supplementing their electrical system with private generators in the event that Israel cuts off electricity to the PA. Gaza security chief Muhammad Dahlan, for instance, has purchased a generator both for his own private home and for his command headquarters. The Israeli security establishment is perturbed with the increased pace of PA training exercises, which include suburban warfare exercises and drills preparing forces to conquer Yesha settlements. There has also been a noticeable intensification of reinforcement of Palestinian paramilitary posts throughout Yesha, and tunnels in Gaza are also being dug at an unprecedented pace. (arutzsheva.org July 12)
The Palestinian Authority has lately been sending top security officers to military training courses in foreign countries so that they can learn how to lead regiments and companies - apparently in preparation for the possible failure of the Camp David summit, IDF sources said Tuesday. According to the sources, the training is taking place in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Pakistan. Israeli security sources say that most of the top leadership of the Palestinian security forces has already been through such courses. "An officer who comes back from a course like that is no longer a policeman, but a regimental commander. He knows how to think operatively," said one source. (Ha'aretz July 12)
The IDF is preparing for a possible eruption of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem. According to a senior Home Front Command officer, the Palestinians will attempt to mass-march towards the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem - something for which the IDF presently has no response. He said that hundreds of photographers from around the world are preparing to capture these marches on film, and have already rented spots around the Old City from which to do so. Arutz-7's Kobi Sela reports that the IDF is making preparations to station sizeable forces in the Old City. (arutzsheva.org July 10)
David Levy Meets Yesha Council
Foreign Minister David Levy met Wednesday at his office with Yesha Council leaders. Levy was instrumental, as Likud Housing Minister in the early 1980's, in building and developing much of Judea and Samaria. Levy refused to take part in the Camp David summit, but voted against the no-confidence motion in Barak two days ago. (arutzsheva.org July 12)
Barak Orders PR Blitz to Prepare for Referendum
Prime Minister Ehud Barak has instructed his aides in Israel to begin preparations for a national referendum or election in case the Camp David summit ends successfully. Barak's election committee was told to begin financial and public relations preparations for a peace referendum or general election campaign. The prime minister's election committee will begin preparations for enlisting volunteers, setting up public relations headquarters, fundraising, and cooperating with other parties and the peace movement. Professional campaign advisers will not be hired until the Camp David summit is over and it is more clear what kind of campaign will be necessary. (IMRA/Ha'aretz July 12)
Bidding Barak Farewell
The NRP, Yisrael B'Aliyah and Shas all resigned from the coalition and the cabinet within 24 hours on Sunday and Monday. Barak now represents a government that has the overt support of only 32 Knesset Members. "Never before has a national leader left for such a fateful mission so internally weakened, as is Barak today... The disintegration of the government is the price Barak is paying for both his arrogance and his political inexperience..." So wrote Yoel Marcus in a front-page op-ed in Monday's Ha'aretz. Opposition leader Ariel Sharon said Monday, "He who thinks who knows everything himself, and consults with no one, ends up going to Camp David by himself."
Just prior to Barak's flight to Washington, a Knesset majority of 54-52 voted no-confidence in his government. The opposition fell short of toppling Barak, possible only through an absolute majority of 61 Knesset members. The United Torah Judaism party abstained in the vote as did the Shinui party. MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said on Arutz-7's nightly newsmagazine that were his party's five votes to have been decisive in reaching the required 61-MK threshold, UTJ would have voted in favor of the no-confidence motion. The party's Council of Torah Sages, he said, did not feel it was correct to engage in a "symbolic rejection of the government," and to thereby halt legislation of the current Tal Committee bill on yeshiva students and the military draft. Foreign Minister David Levy, who refused to attend the Camp David summit, took a stone-faced pose alongside Barak at the start of Monday's vote. Despite the apparent rift that has developed between himself and Barak, Levy voted against the no-confidence motion. After the vote, Barak told Israel television: "I wish that we would have had 75 MKs vote with the government...This was an incidental majority - several of our people weren't present. What we saw today was simply the childishness of the opposition." Likud leader MK Ariel Sharon, on the other hand, revelled in the opposition's symbolic victory: "Mr. Barak has no majority in the Knesset, no majority in the government, and no majority in the nation. It is becoming clearer as time passes that Barak feels he can decide everything on his own." (arutzsheva.org July 11)
Israeli Media Lashes out at PM
Voice of Israel Radio Director Amnon Nadav complained Tuesday that the Prime Minister's Office is applying heavy pressure on his workers regarding the manner in which they report on the Israel-PA negotiations. He says that the pressures have increased of late, in light of an anticipated national referendum.
In Tuesday's Hebrew edition of the left-leaning Ha'aretz, diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Barak's lack of political savvy and manipulation of the media. Following is an excerpt from the article: "The rise and fall of Ehud Barak will yet be learned in political science forums as a thrilling lesson in the anatomy of a political collapse. Barak needed only a year to lose his magic, to plunge the state into a serious constitutional crisis. The Prime Minister claims that 'the people are sovereign,' ....and that the parties, the Knesset, and cabinet ministers no longer play an important role in fateful national decisions. Historians will ask the question who Barak really is: Is he - as his supporters claim - a synthesis of some flesh and blood messiah and Gulliver - whose vision was stifled by the shackles of coalition punks? Or perhaps he is an arrogant whipper-snapper, [bent on making his mark] in history? Barak believes that he has received his mandate from the nation. The more Barak is ousted from the political system, the more he tries to speak directly to the nation and in the name of the nation... In his pre-election campaign commercials, Barak presented himself as a true leader, unlike Binyamin Netanyahu, who [Barak claimed] 'ruled only on television.' Barak's [inarticulate style] was even presented as a sign of his trustworthiness. There is nothing further from the truth! No Prime Minister before him - not even Netanyahu - made such efforts at manipulating the electronic media. Barak and his office attempt to influence the content of programming in every manner possible, from determining camera angles, through gathering information on [upcoming] talk-shows, thrusting interviewees supportive to his policies onto TV and radio spots, and lodging endless complaints against reports and analyses [by television and radio reporters]."
MK Uzi Landau (Likud) also claims that he has proof that members of the Prime Minister's office - including Cabinet Secretary Yitzchak Herzog - are brazenly interfering in broadcasts. MK Landau explained that Barak aides are exerting pressure on news and program editors and even, in some instances, have offered bribes. Next week, Landau hopes to convene a session of the Knesset Audit Committee for an urgent deliberation on the matter. (arutzsheva.org July 11)
Veteran residents from the Golan Heights, Yesha, and the Jordan Valley began a hunger strike at noon today outside the Knesset, in protest of Barak's plans to give away almost all of Judea and Samaria. The strike is scheduled to last as long as the Camp David summit. Arutz-7's Effie Meir reports that as of mid-day, 15 people had joined the hunger strike, while 15 others had joined a sit-in. Prof. Eli Pollack of Rechovot's Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the strikers. "Although I have had to leave my students for several days, I have joined the strike, because Israel just cannot continue in the present situation! If everyone asks what he can do to save the State of Israel, then the country will be saved." In addition to the strike, thousands of Israelis attended a massive prayer service at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Tuesday. Former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, as well as Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, called upon all citizens to attend the event. In dozens of places in the Galilee, massive prayer vigils were also held. Yisrael B'Aliyah leader - and until this week Interior Minister - Natan Sharansky continues to push for a national unity government from his protest tent across from the Prime Minister's office. The parents of Israeli MIA Zechariah Baumel paid a solidarity visit to Sharansky there Tuesday. They were accompanied by members of the women's committee of the International Coalition for Missing Israeli Soldiers. Mr. Yonah Baumel headed to Camp David this week to protest Barak's agreement to attend the summit without receiving information on his son or other missing soldiers. Ha'aretz reported Tuesday that residents of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea will travel to Camp David to set up a protest tent. The paper quoted Megilot Regional Council leader Mordechai Dahman - himself a member of Barak's Labor party - as saying: "Whoever thinks that it is possible to fool the public is making a big mistake. The public has a good memory. Ehud Barak is violating his commitments to the residents of the [Jordan] Valley, the northern Dead Sea [region] and the nation of Israel, and I have no doubt that the public will make itself heard on voting day." (arutzsheva.org July 11)
The Bnei Akiva youth movement has issued a call to all its members to take part in all "activities on behalf of settlement in Eretz Yisrael." Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri took an aerial tour of the Binyamin communities Sunday, and landed by helicopter on Mt. Artis in Beit El. He was accompanied by hundreds of dancing students, town leaders, and local residents to the yeshiva, where Beit El's Rabbi Zalman Melamed asked him for a blessing that all Yesha residents should be able to remain in their homes. Rabbi Kaduri, who similarly blessed the Golan residents several months ago, responded with a heart-felt prayer for the peace and welfare of the Yesha inhabitants.
At least two cases of violence against nationalist-camp protestors have been registered Sunday. Two Yesha Council activists were assaulted Sunday morning while trying to hang posters in a gas station near Beit Lid outside Netanya. One of them suffered a broken jaw. In the Negev city of Arad, residents of Susia were assaulted Sunday while staging a protest vigil. Yesha Council activist Ariel Hazani, speaking with Arutz-7 from the Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera, recounted the first incident. He said that at about 5:30 AM, "we were about to hang up posters, when four men called out to one of us from a nearby gas station. The men approached us, then began taking things out of our car, and began punching us. One of our people was hit in the face, the other was punched in the jaw... It lasted a total of five minutes, and at one point a group of about ten Arabs who were working nearby joined the scuffle and started beating us too. I was finally able get to my phone and call the police, and the attackers fled." Labor party sources said that the attackers could not have been organized by their party, since their first meeting to discuss their upcoming public campaign in support of Barak was held only last night. IMRA noted that during the course of the 1999 election campaign, some of the organizations supporting Ehud Barak used illegal campaign contributions to hire thugs who tore down Netanyahu banners and assaulted people holding signs in support of Netanyahu. IMRA further noted that men dressed as Department of Public Works (DPW) workers were seen removing banners against withdrawal on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway this morning, while leaving banners in support of the Barak government. A DPW spokesperson told IMRA that DPW workers remove all banners. During the course of the 1999 election campaign, teams hired to support Ehud Barak to tear down Netanyahu banners wore DPW uniforms. (arutzsheva.org July 9)
The Two Largest Flags Ever
An almost 800-square meter Israeli flag - the largest flag in the world, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records - was set on fire by Arab hoodlums last Friday night. Fashioned by the youth of the Yesha township of Karnei Shomron, the giant banner was spread out over a nearby hillside and was visible for miles around. Only three days later, it was set afire by local Arabs; weeping citizens watched it burn, but did not extinguish the blaze, in keeping with Jewish Sabbath laws. The Karnei Shomron municipality organized a youth camp, that began on Monday, for the purpose of making an even bigger flag. (arutzsheva.org July 10)
Palestinians Harden Their Positions
Palestinian "Information Minister" Yasser Abed Rabbo said Monday that they would refuse any "partial" or interim deal, and they would not agree to suspend deliberations on the status of Jerusalem or on the refugees. The Palestinians announced yesterday that Palestine National Council member Hanan Ashrawi would serve as spokesperson for their delegation in Washington. (arutzsheva.org July 9)
Yasser Arafat demands the evacuation of the 70,000 Jews of N'vei Ya'akov and Pisgat Ze'ev in northern Jerusalem. Arafat is, however, apparently "prepared to permit" certain Yesha settlements along the border to remain in place. His conditions for doing so: Firstly, the communities must be transferred to PA sovereignty, with Israel being permitted to lease them for "a number of decades;" secondly, the Palestinians must receive commensurate territories within "Green Line" Israel. The Americans support Palestinian sovereignty over certain sections of eastern Jerusalem. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Jewish leaders in Washington yesterday, "It is impossible to totally ignore the yearnings of a billion Arabs for Jerusalem." (arutzsheva.org July 7)
Prosecutors Recommend: Don't Indict Netanyahu
The Jerusalem District Attorney's Office recommends that Binyamin Netanyahu not be indicted in either of the two cases being investigated against him. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein said that he will make his final decision shortly. (arutzsheva.org July 6)
Edward Said Participates in Lebanese Intifada
Rocks continue to fly from Lebanon into Israel, at the Fatma Gate in Metullah. An Israeli soldier was hospitalized last week in moderate condition after being hit by a rock, and another soldier was lightly injured. The French News Agency AFP circulated a photograph, taken last week, of American-Arab scholar Edward Said throwing a stone at Israeli soldiers across the Lebanese-Israeli border. (arutzsheva.org July 6)
No Justice, No Peace By Natan Sharansky.
Since my arrival in Israel, I have been criticized for not struggling for human rights in my new country with the same vigilance as I struggled for human rights in the Soviet Union. That criticism is sure to grow now that I have announced my intention to resign from an Israeli government that is making concessions to the Palestinians with insufficient popular support. To these critics, it would seem, something happened to me on the way from the prisons of the Gulag to the halls of the Israeli Knesset. In truth, not only has my adherence to the sacred human rights principles I fought for never wavered, it lies at the core of my entire approach to the peace process.
There were two fundamental ideas that guided my struggle for human rights in the Soviet Union. First was the sanctity of individual autonomy. It was clear that a totalitarian regime, by its very nature, could never respect human rights. The institutions that enable free societies to protect human rights -- a freely and fairly elected government, meaningful opposition parties, a free press, law courts with due process, not to mention human rights organizations -- were all glaringly absent from communist societies. The sovereignty and autonomy of the individual is incompatible with any society that maintains stability by controlling the minds and bodies of its subjects.
Second, I believed, along with men like Andrei Sakharov, Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and President Ronald Reagan, that the most reliable way to gauge a state's intentions towards its neighbors was its treatment of its own citizens. Put simply, a country that respected the rights of its own people would also respect the rights of its neighbors. A repressive regime would always need internal and external enemies to justify its policies, and would therefore always pose a threat to peace. This idea was the basis of the dissidents' demand that the West must link international agreements with the Soviet Union to its human rights record.
When I arrived in Israel, I was deeply disappointed that the principles for which I fought were not well understood. The fact that brutal Arab dictatorships had the temerity to attack Israel on the issue of human rights did not surprise me. The Soviet Union, with similar Orwellian flare, used to allege that rights in the West meant nothing more than the right to die from hunger.
But Western and even Israeli critics would condemn Israeli human rights policies without acknowledging the unique dangers facing a state that is an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarian regimes. Not that there was nothing to criticize. As minister of the interior, I can appreciate as much as anyone the human rights problems that are created by illegal immigration, the illegal seizing of land and building of property, and the many other violations that fall under my authority. I must bear the consequences, both personal and political, of my decisions, and I must make those decisions under the constant glare of the international media and the pressure of public opinion around the world.
But what makes these painful decisions bearable is not merely that I am convinced that I have made the right choices, but the fact that I know all too well the face of a society where ministers don't have such headaches. Human rights advocates must recognize that while Israel must improve its human rights record, it remains, despite the existential threat it faces, an open, transparent society, with independent courts and a free press. Most importantly, its human rights activists are free to criticize the government and write press releases, rather than having to conduct hunger strikes from the confines of a punishment cell.
After the peace process began, the misunderstanding became even more apparent. Not only was the non-democratic nature of Mr. Arafat's emerging regime hardly ever criticized, it was actually viewed as advancing the cause of peace. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, articulating an attitude that is still pervasive among Western leaders, coined the phrase that chillingly summed up this entire line of thinking. Mr. Arafat would deal with terrorists, he said, "without a Supreme Court, without Betselem [a human rights organization] and without all kinds of bleeding heart liberals." Unfortunately, the shrill voices of most human rights organizations went silent -- a notable exception being Bassem Eid, who, after years struggling against Israeli violations of human rights, now continues, as the director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, to criticize the Palestinian Authority.
In effect, the peace process has betrayed the two core principles for which I have so bitterly fought. Not only has individual autonomy been sacrificed on the alter of political expediency, but the link that Sakharov and others drew between a state's internal policies and its external behavior has been flipped on its head. The undemocratic nature of Mr. Arafat's regime, far from being an obstacle to further peace, is now considered a crucial asset in the fight against terror. In the euphoric march towards peace, we seem to be losing sight of the fact that the Palestinian society that will emerge -- a society with no supreme court, no human rights organizations and no bleeding heart liberals -- will not only undermine the rights of Palestinians but also endanger the security of Israel.
The same human rights principles that once guided me in the Soviet Union remain the cornerstone of my approach to the peace process. I am willing to transfer territory not because I think the Jewish people have less of a right to Judea and Samaria than do the Palestinians, but because the principle of individual autonomy remains sacred to me -- I do not want to rule another people. At the same time, I refuse to ignore the Palestinian Authority's violations of human rights because I remain convinced that a neighbor who tramples on the rights of its own people will eventually threaten the security of my people.
I trust Mr. Arafat no more than I trust any despot. He has spent the seven years since Oslo building a repressive regime and repeatedly inciting his people to violence instead of opening Palestinian society and preparing his people to live in peace. Therefore, I will continue to see an emerging Palestinian state as a threat to our security -- and continue to demand that our negotiating position reflect this reality.
A genuinely "new" Middle East need not be a fantasy. But it will not be brought about merely by ceding lands to Arab dictators and by subsidizing regimes that undermine the rights of their own people. The only way to create real Arab-Israeli reconciliation is to press the Arab world to respect human rights. Israel must link its concessions to the degree of openness, transparency and liberalization of its neighbors. For their part, Western leaders must not think the Arabs any less deserving of the freedom and rights that their own citizens enjoy -- both for their sake and for ours.(Wall Street Journal July 6)
The writer was, until his resignation Sunday, minister of the interior.
A summit meeting that brings about a real termination of the Arab-Israeli conflict would command the broadest backing in the state of Israel. Such a long-term quest certainly motivated Menachem Begin, when he sat with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and President Jimmy Carter at the first Camp David summit more than 20 years ago. The peace they made removed Egypt from the circle of conflict with Israel and marked the first step in ending the generations-long conflict between Arabs and Jews.
Sadat stood in the Knesset in 1977 and declared "no more wars." While he was a tough negotiator, he refused to use violence or the threat of violence to advance his position.
Unfortunately, today's Camp David summit is very different. Yasir Arafat has never made any such conciliatory move toward peace. Since the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, Mr. Arafat's language and actions have provided evidence that his intentions remain hostile.
"We remind [the Israelis] of al-Karameh battle, the Beirut battle and the seven years of intifada," he said last month, referring to violent Palestinian actions against Israel. "If they don't like it, we will scratch the past and begin anew. Palestine is ours, ours, ours!"
The summit this week is being held with dire predictions of violence should it fail. "We are warning the Israeli generals that Palestinian blood is not cheap," said Freih Abu Medein, the justice minister of the Palestinian Authority. "If Israel wishes that the Middle East be destroyed so be it." This is not a way to negotiate peace.
At the first Camp David summit, Israel gave up Sinai, but it remained protected by a 120-mile demilitarized zone should Egypt ever change its mind about peace.
At the current summit, Israel is being called upon to concede its vital strategic buffer, especially in the Jordan Valley, and to withdraw from 90 percent of the West Bank, precisely at a time in which the Western alliance has failed to maintain the monitoring of Iraq, which is only 250 miles to the east and has engaged Israel in four wars.
What security protections will Israel receive in return? Its "compensation" will be billions of dollars in American military aid, which will only leave Israel more dependent on the United States than ever, and more beholden to the wishes of the White House and Congress.
Finally, the most glaring difference between the sets of two Camp David peace talks relates to Jerusalem. There are certain values on which a nation is built that are simply not for sale. Menachem Begin would not have put Jerusalem on the negotiating table; he would not have traded a few neighborhoods for more tanks and missiles from his superpower ally. Yet Prime Minister Ehud Barak has already turned neighborhoods in Jerusalem over to Palestinian rule and has indicated in negotiations leading up to Camp David that much more would be forthcoming.
Overall, Mr. Barak's singular purpose should not be to reach an agreement for its own sake. This only erodes Israel's negotiating position. Nor should he be seduced by American offers of increased aid. Israel needs a unified Jerusalem and defensible borders far more than its needs more foreign money.
Most important, Mr. Barak must preserve Israel's internal cohesion. Thomas Jefferson said that "large initiatives cannot rest upon slender majorities." Menachem Begin took consensus-building into account. When he departed for Camp David, he had the support of the overwhelming majority of the Knesset. Mr. Barak left for Camp David as the head of a minority government, having barely survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Yet Mr. Barak continues to glibly ignore the opposition, contending that his election last year is enough of a mandate to sign a peace accord on his nation's behalf. The Clinton Administration has supported Mr. Barak's stance. Yet dismissing the Knesset is like dismissing the United States Congress on the grounds that the president is directly elected by the American people.
In the end, peace must be built on national consensus, which includes the preservation of Israel's core values. Even this sort of peace involves risk, but it is the only kind of risk that Israel should take. (New York Times July 12)
The writer is a Likud Party member of Knesset and served in the cabinet from 1996 to 1999.
A quick comparison between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat shows how Israel has been maneuvered into political predicament.
Sadat went to the famous Camp David summit in 1978 repeatedly declaring "No more war!" Arafat goes to the doomed-in-advance Camp David summit of 2000 threatening renewed and intensified war. Sadat went to Camp David after he had stopped all the shooting. Arafat is going to Camp David as a prelude to the shooting. Sadat went to Camp David with a willingness to move his army 200 kilometers away from the new border with Israel. Arafat goes to Camp David with his army ready to march on Jerusalem.
As a result, there are only two possible outcomes from this week's summit: total diplomatic collapse on our part, or war.
We are in deep diplomatic retreat. Over the past month, Israel's negotiating posture and positions have undergone rapid collapse. The long-standing red lines on almost every issue in dispute between us and the Palestinians have been violated with astonishing speed and alarming equanimity.
It is truly amazing. Last month, and for every previous month over the past 33 years, the Jordan Valley was "vital" to Israeli security. By wall-to-wall consensus, the Jordan Valley was a zone that for defense reasons would remain "forever and ever" in Israeli hands. (The Jordanians were certain of this, too. No Israeli government ever would abandon them, they thought, to face the dire predicament of sharing a border with a revanchist Palestinian state!) But now, lo and behold, the Jordan Valley is on the negotiating table.
This month, it is no longer "vital" to our security. According to published reports, Prime Minister Ehud Barak is now willing to completely cede the Jordan rift to the Palestinians. If Arafat deigns to agree, we hope to "lease" it from the PA, or maintain loose "military control" in the area for another 10 years.
Last month, and for every previous month over the past 33 years, it was absolute doctrine, and a Barak promise, that Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty. Now, Barak's ministers Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami are talking about shared-sovereignty arrangements for the Old City and its environs.
Last month, and throughout his tenure as prime minister, Barak has been promising that no settlement in Judea and Samaria would be dismantled and no settler would be abandoned. No Labor Party leader ever spoke about handing over 90 percent (!) or more of the West Bank. Now, it is clear from Barak's withdrawal maps that 50,000 or more settlers are to be abandoned to the rapacity and revengeful rage of the Palestinian Authority. These Jewish settlements will never survive under Palestinian sovereignty.
Last month, and ever since I can remember, it was clear to all Israeli negotiators that a West Bank deal would maintain Israeli control over the strategic Samarian mountain aquifers that hold much of our scarce water supply. Now that, too, is almost certain to be recklessly handed away.
What about the Palestinian so-called "right of return?" For every day since the establishment of this state, in the policy of every prime minister, this was the ultimate red line - the one thing we always said that Israel would never countenance! The right of return means the flooding of pre-'67 Israel with Palestinians and the end of our Jewish state.
Suddenly, we're discussing numbers! Under Prime Minister Barak, we're no longer rejecting or debating the right of return, we're negotiating its dimensions! Indeed, Israel is in the throws of an all-out retreat, a panicked flight into appeasement, in a desperate attempt to head-off the bloody confrontation that the Palestinian Authority clearly is ready for.
When you think back, Israel's mistake becomes clear. At the root of Oslo was the "confidence-building" principle; the premise that, over time, through incremental agreements, the two sides would learn to trust one another. According to the theory, the growing confidence was to spawn heretofore-impossible, creative solutions to the conflict. The two sides would undergo a metamorphosis, and become willing to make compromises previously unthinkable.
We now know, sadly, what nonsense this was. Eight years and more than 40 percent of the land later, Yasser Arafat absolutely shows no signs of readiness to compromise on any of his long-standing, maximalist demands. Today, he is no more ready to forgo his boundless national aspirations for 100 percent of everything than he was before Oslo.
Just the opposite. Now, Arafat is armed and ready to fight us from close quarters, knowing full well that international and Israeli public opinion will not stomach a truly punishing, determined Israeli military response. Going into Camp David, Arafat has Barak, and all of us, on the run.(Jerusalem Post Jul 9)
Since he ran for office, Prime Minister Barak has claimed adherence to Rabin's legacy. However, the program he has been implementing is the one of the far Left.
Going to the summit in Washington amid rumors of ceding 90 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians is evidence of the erosion in Israeli bargaining positions (without any corresponding Palestinian flexibility). Above all, giving up the Jordan Rift constitutes a strategic blunder of the first magnitude.
It is amazing to see that the simplistic argument that territory is not important in the age of missiles is overcoming the judgment of intelligent people. It is of course true that military technology makes it easier to project firepower at great distances than at any time in the past, which to some extent reduces the importance of geography. Yet, military history shows that the equation between defensive and offensive military measures has never been a static one and that its links to factors such as topography or climate has been complex.
The development of military technology could bring about a situation in the future in which territory and its topographical features are again of vital importance. Therefore, any strategic decision which is based on the current state of art in military technology and the present military balance of power without taking into consideration technical and geostrategic dynamics is shortsighted.
If the Jordan Rift is ceded to Palestine, as the Palestinians insist, the West Bank could become the springboard for a potential Eastern front effort to bisect Israel. This would be certainly tempting for any invader, since the distance from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean is 80 kms, and only 14 kms separate the Palestinian town of Tulkarem from the coast. Under changed circumstances, the Hashemites may be compelled to join a military coalition against Israel, as they have done in the past (1948, 1967 and in a more limited fashion in 1973).
Furthermore, there is no assurance of their continued rule in Jordan. Therefore, Israeli control of the Jordan Rift is essential for providing intelligence on impending attacks along the few roads extending from the Jordan River westward, as well as for halting the progress of an advancing army from the east until the reserves are mobilized.
A Palestinian state, even with limited capabilities (there are already over 40,000 Palestinian soldiers), will be able to obstruct Israeli preparations for war, hinder free movement of forces to the front (west-east and north-south), which might require a diversion of Israeli troops from the front line to protect its heartland. A Palestinian state may well decide to invite expeditionary forces or armed "volunteers" from other Arab countries against Israel. Israeli control of the Jordan Rift is essential for preventing such a move by land.
It is the Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Rift that transforms Jordan into a buffer state and provides Israel with strategic depth. Whatever lip service Jordanians pay to Palestinian territorial claims, a common border along the Jordan River would definitely elicit second thoughts in Amman concerning their relations with Israel. Jordan may change its foreign policy to one which relies less on security relations with Israel, and it might undermine the peace treaty between the two.
Indeed, a Palestinian state, particularly if sovereign over the Jordan Rift, could threaten Jordan's stability. Precise data on the composition of the Jordanian population is not available, but most estimates agree that the majority of the kingdom is of Palestinian origin.
In the past, Palestinian nationalism appealed to many in the East Bank, even endangering the Hashemite regime. A Palestinian state would galvanize nationalistic feelings among Palestinians in Jordan, which could be radicalized by the establishment of a Palestinian state so close to their homes.
The geostrategic location of Jordan is pivotal to regional stability, serving as a buffer between Israel and Iraq, and between Saudi Arabia and Syria. The elimination of a pro-Western Jordan would leave Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, without buffer vis-a-vis the radicals and is inimical to Western interests.
Scenarios involving changes in Jordan cannot be dismissed and carry serious consequences. These include a Syrian-Palestinian pincer movement against Jordan. The two have cooperated in the past to undermine the Hashemites. Arafat may join Saddam Hussein in attempting to divide Jordan, thereby outflanking Syria. Both have been involved in military conflict with Syria. Such worst case-scenarios become more likely without an Israeli presence along the Jordan Rift. Should the Hashemite regime fall, it would probably end in an expansion of the Palestinian state eastwards towards Iraq. This could open the option of an Eastern front against Israel with territorial contiguity from the Mediterranean sea to the Persian Gulf (including Palestine, Iraq and Iran). The demise of Jordan could create a large radical bloc from the Levant to the Persian Gulf which would threaten directly not only Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also Turkey and Egypt.
The Jordan Rift is Israel's security belt as well as Jordan's. Foregoing Israel's claim to sovereignty over it endangers regional stability. This is Rabin's strategic legacy. (Jerusalem Post July 10)
The writer is associate professor of political studies and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
By Aaron Lerner
Israel Radio reported this morning that Prime Minister Ehud Barak told their correspondent on the Prime Minister's plane that he expected the Americans to present a bridge proposal that will be closer to the Palestinian positions than Israel's positions.
Barak apparently did not explain to the Israel Radio correspondent (nor is it clear if he was asked) three obvious questions:
#1 Why is he sending a signal to the Palestinians not to show any flexibility and to hold out for an American bridge proposal.
#2 Why does he accepted as "given" that America would favor the Palestinian positions and did not invest efforts in convincing the Clinton team to adopt at least a balanced position before pushing for a summit.
#3 How does pushing for a summit that will focus on a bridge proposal that he himself expects will be BEYOND his own red lines jibes with telling
the Israeli people that he goes to the summit with firm red lines. (IMRA July 11)