A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
Av 3 5760
August 4, 2000
Issue number 283
Katzav Overcomes Odds to Become Israel's 8th President
Israel's new President is Moshe Katzav of the Likud. After receiving 60 votes in the first round of Monday's Knesset vote - one short of the 61 required - he received 63 votes in the second round. Jubilation was the order of the day in the nationalist, Sephardic, and other sectors of Israel. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Jerusalem, Katzav's hometown of Kiryat Malachi, and elsewhere. The first official act of President Moshe Katzav, upon being informed of his election by Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, was to don a yarmulke and publicly recite aloud the Shehecheyanu blessing. He later visited the Western Wall, where he recited a prayer of thanksgiving, verses from King Solomon's dedication prayer for the Holy Temple, and Psalm 122: "Seek the welfare of Jerusalem, may those who love it prosper." He said there that the height of his excitement is not the announcement of his victory, but his visit to the Wall. In his acceptance speech, Katzav said that he would "surprise favorably" even those who voted for Peres. He said that his victory is a call for a new, calmer style in the Presidency. The support of Shas gave Katzav the victory. Katzav was the first Presidential candidate in Israeli history to be fielded by the nationalist camp and win. The Likud, which the new President represented as a Knesset Member until today, rejoiced in Katzav's victory, and MKs of Shas, United Torah Judaism, and others also took part in the party's informal celebrations. The celebrants seemed to also feel that a victory was won over the media, which almost unanimously predicted that Peres would win. Ze'ev Boim was sworn in Tuesday as a Likud MK in place of Katzav Moshe Katzav was born in 1945 in Iran, from where he immigrated to Israel at the age of 6. Married with five children, he graduated Hebrew University with a degree in economics and history. Katzav has been a Member of Knesset since 1977, and served as Minister of Welfare and Labor, Transportation, and Tourism. Katzav's son studies at Yeshivat Or Etzion under Rav Druckman. (arutzsheva.org July 31)
Government on Last Legs
Several more blows were dealt to the sickly Barak coalition this week - and the Likud has already begun making plans to call a special Knesset session to topple it altogether. The barrage began Wednesday with Foreign Minister David Levy's resignation from the government this morning. The 16-month old alliance between Levy and Ehud Barak came to an end after Levy said that today's government policies are not those of the government he joined. "Jerusalem has been divided [by Barak's promises] in a way that is not reversible," he said, "and we're not just talking about Arab neighborhoods, but rather the heart of ancient Jerusalem!" Levy also said that he is not satisfied with the Prime Minister's efforts to form a national-unity government. Levy's resignation came after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright phoned him in an attempt "to save the coalition of Prime Minister Ehud Barak..." - according to Middle East News Line. The Zionist Organization of America has listed other examples of what it calls the Clinton administration's "interference in Israeli affairs," including Clinton's Israel Television interview last week in which he said he might move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to western Jerusalem; the dispatch of Clinton's top public relations adviser, James Carville, to Israel to help Ehud Barak's 1999 campaign; help to Peres' campaign in 1996; and blatant intervention by U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk in Knesset votes and other internal matters. Indyk met yesterday with Levy in an attempt to convince him not to resign. Shortly after Levy's resignation, the Knesset voted to approve preliminary readings of five separate resolutions to dissolve the Knesset - most of them by a margin of 61-48. All five of the bills received the support of at least 60 MKs. The broad majorities were enabled after the five MKs of United Torah Judaism decided in mid-vote to support the resolution. Calls are increasingly being heard from both sides of the political spectrum for new elections. The government will now benefit from the upcoming three-month Knesset recess, which began Thursday, and during which further readings of the dissolution bill will not be introduced. However, 61 MKs may request a special session for the purpose of raising a no-confidence motion. Likud leader Ariel Sharon told his fellow MKs that he has already taken steps to garner the necessary signatures for such a session.
"Barak has begun implementing a policy that is not acceptable to most of the public," Foreign Minister Levy said this morning, explaining his decision to resign. Even Tali Lipkin-Shachak - wife of Government Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shachak and someone known for her strong left-wing views - agrees. She wrote the following in Ma'ariv today: "...Anyone who claims that the Knesset is detached from the nation, and does not reflect the public will, is simply not yet ready - even after the sound defeat [of Peres] this week - to understand Israeli society, and to define it based on reality. The Knesset, with all of its sectarianism, is a true reflection of our society. The right wing-religious-ethnic front that formed around the candidacy of Katzav is a front that reflects the Israeli street of today... Anyone who believes that behind the peace initiatives of this government (?) stands a broad sector of society... also believes that the majority of Israeli society supported Shimon Peres..." All the above stands in stark contrast to the Prime Minister's repeated insistence that he has the support of most of the country. "Before my eyes I see the Rabin government," Barak said, "which was what you like to call 'supported by Arab votes' and which accomplished great things for the Nation of Israel. We can continue working in that way... The public is very enthusiastic about the great changes that we are bringing about." Likud MK Limor Livnat was particularly happy with the results of the votes - she sponsored one of them - and said later that the government "has basically crumbled." When reminded that the situation could change if Barak uses the next three months to conclude an agreement with the Palestinians, she said, "It is very dangerous that he is ignoring the other branch of democracy in Israel - the Knesset." Likud leader Ariel Sharon also warned Barak against making a "grab" by signing an agreement during the Knesset recess. The Yesha Council, too, warns against what it calls the anti-democratic move of signing an agreement during the Knesset recess. "There are no black holes in a democracy," stated the Council. (arutzsheva.org Aug 2)
The Government That Was
Following is a list of Ministers and Deputy-Ministers who have resigned from the Barak government over the past year:
Health Minister Shlomo Benizri (Shas);
Industry and Trade Minister Ran Cohen (Meretz);
Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas);
Foreign Minister David Levy (One Israel-Gesher);
Housing and Construction Minister Yitzchak Levy (NRP);
Transportation Minister Yitzchak Mordechai (Center Party);
Agriculture Minister Chaim Oron (Meretz);
Education Minister Yossi Sarid (Meretz);
Interior Minister Natan Sharansky (Yisrael B'Aliyah);
Infrastructures Minister Eliyahu Suissa (Shas);
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Eliyahu Yeshai (Shas);
Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Yigal Bibi (NRP);
Deputy Finance Minister Nissim Dahan (Shas);
Deputy Education Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas);
Deputy Immigration Absorption Minister Marina Solodkin (Yisrael B'Aliyah);
Deputy Communications Minister Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas);
Deputy Education Minister Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP).
Former Tourism Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shachak has taken over the Transportation Ministry, but the other ministries - Health, Industry and Trade, Religious Affairs, Foreign Ministry, Housing, Agriculture, Education, Interior, Infrastructures, and Labor - are not under the supervision of any minister at present. In addition to his role as Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak has official jurisdiction over the vacated ministries. (arutzsheva.org Aug 3)
Likud Flexes Muscles
Some 15,000 Likud supporters gathered in Ma'aleh Adumim Wednesday in a show of strength for the party. Many of them had spent the day touring Yesha and the Jordan Valley in solidarity with the residents there, and ended the day with a celebration of Moshe Katzav's win in the Presidential race. Likud leader Ariel Sharon rejected once again the idea of a national-unity government, and promised the crowd that the Likud would win in the next elections. Excerpts from an interview he granted Arutz-7 Thursday appear below. The Likud has already begun gathering the signatures of the 61 MKs required to convene a special mid-recess Knesset session to vote on a no-confidence motion in the Prime Minister. If such a vote passes, it would mean the immediate toppling of the government and the holding of new elections within three months. As the situation stands now, the bill to dissolve the Knesset will only be acted upon - i.e., debated by the relevant Knesset committee and returned to the Knesset for further readings - during the next Knesset session, three months from now. (A7 Aug 3)
Another Drought Would Be Catastrophic
Another drought-ridden winter next year would result in losses of six billion shekels to the State of Israel. So reported Agriculture Ministry Director-General Yossi Yeshai to the Fruit Growers Association today. Yeshai said that a drought year would cause severe damage to fields and orchards across Israel, as well as introduce thousands of agricultural workers to the unemployment lines. He estimated that such a situation would also mandate a 60-70% cut in water use for farmers. Yeshai said that his office is in the midst of drawing up emergency plans for the event of another dry winter. (arutzsheva.org Aug 3)
Settling in Yesha
In light of reports of increasing population in Yesha, Meretz MK Mosi Raz said that the government must make it clear that whoever relocates now to Judea and Samaria is doing so at his own financial risk. "The future of the settlements is uncertain," he said. In response, former Housing Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy of the NRP wished to reassure those who are moving now to homes in Yesha - "which were built under our term of office in the Housing Ministry" - that they may be certain that there will always be dynamic Jewish life in Judea and Samaria. The number of Jews living in Judea and Samaria increased over the past year by 7.5%, and is now close to 200,000. Sample Interior Ministry numbers, as of June 30:
Ma'aleh Adumim - 25,422 people; Ariel - 16,134,
Modiin Illit - 14,264, Beitar Illit - 14,115,
Givat Ze'ev - 10,332, Gush Katif - 6,755.
Kiryat Arba is 5,779, Hevron - 460,
Karnei Shomron - 5,995, Efrat - 5,446.
Beit El - 4,035. (arutzsheva.org Aug 3, July 27)
Peres Defeat Deals Blow to The Clintons
Arutz-7 correspondent Yedidya Atlas reports, based on sources close to both the Clinton Administration and to Hilary Clinton's Senatorial campaign in New York State, that the Clintons were "shocked and dismayed" by the news of Shimon Peres' loss in his bid for the Presidency. Both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton had been relying on a President Peres to promote their respective agendas, say the sources, including the American plan for the division of Jerusalem and improving Hilary's lagging support among Jewish New York voters. Nationalist-camp sources in Israel also expressed relief that U.S. President Clinton had now lost some of his leverage in pushing his Jerusalem plan. (arutzsheva.org Aug 1)
Concern is mounting in Jerusalem over the continued preparations by the Palestinians for a military clash with Israel - despite recent assessments that no such clash would erupt in the weeks ahead. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that Palestinian hospitals are now on "high alert." He adds that the IDF is also concerned with the increased incitement against Yesha residents over the past weeks. A high-ranking Palestinian official has publicly accused "terrorists of [the Shomron city] Ariel" of planning to murder local Arabs. (arutzsheva.org Aug 1)
Schultz: Bush Will Support Israel Unconditionally
As president, George W. Bush would support Israel even if it decides not to take risks for peace, former president Ronald Reagan's secretary of state told a Jewish audience gathered for the Republican National Convention. Former secretary of state George Shultz, who served in the Reagan administration during Yitzhak Shamir's premiership and who is now a foreign policy adviser to Bush, echoed the Republican platform's Middle East position, saying "it is up to the Israelis to decide" what is best for them. He recalled a speech made by Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, last year in which Gore said America should stand by Israel when it takes risks for peace. "I said I didn't agree with that. I think the US should stand by Israel. Period. When you say risks for peace you are saying risks to your security," Shultz told the audience of about 150 Republican Jewish activists and leaders, who responded with a loud ovation. "I've discussed this at some length with Governor Bush. I know he has the same view I do," he added. (Jerusalem Post Aug 2)
Terrorist Corpse Returned
Israel continues to make gestures towards the Palestinian Authority. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that Israel transferred the body of one of the Taibe-cell terrorists to the PA last week. The terrorists infiltrated Israel six months ago, and found refuge in the Israeli-Arab city of Taibe. (arutzsheva.org July 27)
Palestinian Summer Camp Offers the Games of War
It is summer camp time for 25,000 Palestinian teenagers, and strikingly unusual camps they are, too. As run by the men who handle psychological warfare for Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, they allow no horsing around in the dorm, no fun-in-the-sun by a cool clear lake, no rousing sing-alongs beside a roaring campfire. Instead, there is the chance to stage a mock kidnapping of an Israeli leader by masked Palestinian commandos, ending with the Israeli's bodyguards sprawled dead on the ground. Next, there is the mock attack on an Israeli military post, ending with a sentry being grabbed by the neck and fatally stabbed. Finally, there is the opportunity to excel in stripping and reassembling a real Kalashnikov rifle. In the summer of the latest Camp David talks, a summer that was supposed to produce a final peace settlement between Israel and its Palestinian adversaries, the Palestinians' idea of a teenage boys' camp is a reminder of how deep old enmities run. At 90 two- and three-week camps on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, youths from towns and villages already ceded to Israel by Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority are learning the arts of kidnapping, ambushing and using assault weapons.......Suleiman Nubaim, 16 - "I want my country to be free," he said...Asked how he defined Palestinian freedom, he said it included having Jerusalem, and then the rest of Israel. "As long as Israel occupies any part of our land, in Tel Aviv or Jaffa or Haifa," he said, "we have not liberated our homeland." (The New York Times Aug 2)
Palestinians Favor Violence If Peace Deal Fails
Most Palestinians support violent confrontation with Israel if the two sides fail to seal a peace treaty by a mid-September deadline, a Palestinian survey found yesterday. The independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) said that 60 percent of respondents said they favor clashes with Israel if a peace deal is not reached by September 13. The survey, with a margin of error of 3%, showed 67% of Palestinians supported Arafat's refusal to compromise at the talks. Some 63% of respondents thought Palestinians should emulate Hizbullah, which waged a guerrilla war against Israeli troops until they withdrew from south Lebanon in May. Fifty-two percent of the 1,259 Palestinians questioned from Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem supported armed attacks against Israeli targets, the survey found. (Jerusalem Post Aug 3)
Reports: Arafat Will Not Declare State
Latest Israeli security reports are that Yasser Arafat despite his public statements will not declare a Palestinian state on September 13. Arafat reportedly does not want to endanger his relationship with the United States, nor has he strong support for the move around the world. France, Turkey, and other nations have announced that they will not recognize a Palestinian state that is established without Israeli consent. (arutzsheva.org Aug 2)
"You write a letter to Clinton stating that suddenly it has become clear to you that the Palestinians are not partners to the talks and they are not negotiating in good faith. For this we should say 'good morning, Elijah.' Finally you have discovered what we have known for a long time."- MK Limor Livnat (Likud) prior to the recent no-confidence vote in the Knesset. (New York Times Aug 1)
"[Barak] is prime minister simply because there are not 61 Knesset members who want to go to elections. [He] cannot pass anything in the Knesset - not a president, and not a budget and not gardening and watering legislation."- Yaron Dekel, Israel Television's chief political commentator, on the current political situation. (JTA July 31)
"While we have hopes for the peace process, our commitment to the security of Israel is an overriding moral and strategic concern."- Excerpt from the platform of the Republican party. (Jerusalem Post Aug 1)
"If you look at what the president said, he said only that he would review the issue and make a decision by the end of the year. He said nothing more than that."- US State Dep't Spokesman: Philip Reeker clarifying President Clinton's comments about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. (IMRA Aug 2)
Arutz-7: [Referring to Wednesday's Likud celebrations] Aren't you celebrating a bit early?
Ariel Sharon: ... We definitely think that the election of Moshe Katzav as President is a real revolution, a very welcome development, something that will help increase unity in our nation... Yesterday, we conducted a mass tour in the Jordan Valley and in other places - similar to those which we conducted around the country in the campaign of 1981, when we scored an amazing victory and won 48 Knesset seats. This was the first of a series of such marches - and it was very successful - to explain the critical importance of the Jordan Valley, and to show the public all the things that Barak promised and did not fulfill - education, health, welfare - there is hardly any area in which he made a promise and fulfilled it.
A7: He lists the withdrawal from Lebanon as one of his fulfilled promises...
AS: Yes. Look, this too he did not exactly invent. I can tell you regarding myself that three years ago I demanded a unilateral withdrawal - and even further back, in October 1982 [four months after the beginning of the war in Lebanon] I proposed that we leave Lebanon, but I then ceased being Defense Minister, such that I could not act on this... Barak swore that he would not divide Jerusalem, but he violated his vow and divided Jerusalem, and we heard Foreign Minister David Levy say clearly in what is practically an official confirmation that Barak was dividing the very heart of the city. Barak also violated his promises regarding the Jordan Valley and the return of Arab refugees, something which no Prime Minister in Israel ever agreed to. He must therefore be replaced... and we will do so, with a nationalist government that has Israel's basic national interests at heart...
A7: The question is when will this happen, because as you know, Ehud Barak hopes to bring an agreement with the Palestinians before the election campaign.
AS: Barak is apparently very inexperienced in political matters, and he thinks that he will be able to sneak something by us...
A7: You mean that he will not succeed?
AS: What do you think, we're going on vacation? We might be sending our children, or our grandchildren, on vacation, but we ourselves are not. We are working straight through, and are standing guard. All his talk about three months [of Knesset recess] in which to work are meaningless, and we are very much on guard...
A7: Will you submit a no-confidence motion during the three-month recess?
AS: All our options are open... We will not weaken until we switch this failing government...
A7: Do you think that a Likud government will be able to stand firmly on its demands and interests, even at the price of an armed clash with the Palestinians?
AS: I would advise the present leaders not to threaten their own people, their own country, with all sorts of scares about war and the like. I think that Barak made a great error when he went even further than that and enlisted foreign leaders to explain to the Israeli public that if it does not give in then there will be terrorism and war. At such a rate, there will be no end to Arafat's demands, because they can always threaten us with war! Even now, Arafat continues to demand, because Barak went to Camp David without clear and agreed-upon red lines. Arafat, who is much more experienced and wily in negotiations of this sort, saw right away that he was dealing with a man without experience and who could easily be pressured. Both of them came to Camp David with nothing, but at the end, Barak returned with nothing, while Arafat returned with several promises from Barak for future concessions...
A7: To what extent would a Likud government be obligated to these promises?
AS: These promises will not be fulfilled [by us], as Barak himself and the Americans said that these promises are null and void in light of the failure of the Camp David summit. The problem is, however, that Barak will continue to make every effort to reach an agreement... including further concessions. We will not rest, however, until we switch this government, and form a nationalist government, with peace with security, peace for generations, and with a united Jerusalem... (arutzsheva.org Aug 3)
Camp David II had a topsy-turvy quality to it, as two facts suggest. First, Israel, the major power of the Middle East, the victor in war, the economically prosperous and politically stable country, did all the giving while the Palestinians - losers, weak, poor, and unstable - were to get the practical benefits.
Lest this seem like an exaggeration, consider the issues under discussion at Camp David: Jerusalem, borders, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees. In every one of these, Israel gives and the Palestinians take. Issues that would benefit Israel - normalizing relations, changing school textbooks, the Arab League declaring a formal end to the conflict - were not even on the table. The old "land-for-words" formula of UN Resolution 242 is apparently defunct, replaced by Oslo's "land-for-nothing" logic.
Second, and stranger yet, is the fact that the Israeli side made almost every concession at Camp David. It made a heart-wrenching compromise on Jerusalem, a strategic one on the Jordan River front, and a Zionist one on the return of Palestinian refugees. Despite the remarkable nature of these steps, much at variance with traditional policy, polls showed Israeli public opinion, with reservations, endorsing the prime minister's efforts.
In contrast, the Palestinian side mounted a wall of opposition to Yasser Arafat's presence at the negotiations, seeing in this alone something terrible. Hamas, the leading Islamist group, declared the Camp David meeting to be nothing less than "a new Zionist and American conspiracy" against "the rights of our people."
Islamic Jihad, a yet more radical group, concurred: "The summit is in the Israeli interest and Israel and the United States will try to pressure the Palestinians and impose Israel's position on them."
The prospect of Arafat making any concessions was anathema to his constituency. On the issue of refugees returning to Israel, for example, one member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hussam Khadir, warned Arafat that "A pistol bullet has been passing from generation to generation and its last destination will be the heart of those who cede the refugees' right to return." With this kind of threat hanging over the Palestinian delegation, it is not surprising that they stood tough on nearly every point.
Whatever the summit might have achieved would have been unwelcome to Palestinians. "I consider any agreement that might be reached at Camp David to be a failure because it is not what the Palestinians are looking for," Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of Hamas proclaimed. Like Hafez Assad four months earlier, the Palestinians would not take yes for an answer.
All this is really very odd. Not only is the stronger power unilaterally handing over its trump cards, but the recipient is loath to take them. What explains this upside-down circumstance?
Palestinians have, over the seven years of the Oslo process, grown accustomed to taking from Israel and offering very little by way of compensation. In fact, they have come to take this for granted. They expect more of the same - land, autonomy, tax income - culminating in the declaration of a Palestinian state.
As the Palestinians have become the beneficiaries of Israeli largesse, their earlier fear of Israel has been replaced with a disdain that borders on contempt. The result is plain to see. The Barak government signals a willingness to turn over about 90 percent of the West Bank, a much larger percentage than ever previously discussed, and the Palestinians react with indifference. Why bother with this, they ask each other. Why settle for anything less than full control of the land?
At the very least, they can hold out for a better offer. Or they can turn to the alternative, the one that Hizbullah trail-blazed in Lebanon.
Instead of the indignity of negotiations, Palestinians can resort to the (for them) more noble and redeeming use of violence to extrude the Zionists from every last meter of what they consider to be their land.
A perverse dynamic, in other words, is at work here. The more that Israelis are reasonable and flexible, the less likely Palestinians are to accept a compromise with them. The grander Barak's gesture, the more trivial and even unwelcome it appears to his opponents.
This self-defeating logic is likely to continue until Israel again shows the kind of fortitude that it once made famous.
The writer is director of the Middle East Forum. (Jerusalem Post Aug 2)
The ultimate irony of the collapse of the Camp David summit is that Yasser Arafat ended up saving Israel from a disaster.
In rejecting the most far-reaching offer of territorial concessions ever made by an Israeli leader, Arafat did more than pass up an historic opportunity that likely - and hopefully - will never come his way again. He's also made it necessary to ask whether the Palestinians truly mean to reach a serious, lasting peace.
Make no mistake: This was more than a sweetheart deal for the PLO leader. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, by all reports, went far beyond what even Israel's doves thought he'd offer.
More disturbingly, he patently abandoned the very "red lines" - most prominently, Jerusalem would remain undivided - he promised Israelis he'd abide by before leaving for Camp David.
It was the Israeli equivalent of President Bush violating his "read my lips" pledge, though whether Barak pays the same political price remains to be seen.
Yet even this was not enough for Arafat, who refused to budge from his all-or-nothing position.
Genuine peace is impossible without painful Israeli concessions - and Israel has made them time and time again since 1993. But there is a point at which Palestinian intransigence has to be met with something other than more and more appeasement.
The danger of reversing course on the 33-year-old pledge by every Israeli leader, left and right alike, that Jerusalem would remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty was made clear the other night by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"A nation does not hand over its capital and does not divide it, Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast speech. For, as he added pointedly, "A man who can divide Jerusalem will end up also dividing other cities."
Some suggest that Netanyahu and the rest of Israel's right wing bear a measure of blame. Ever since the original Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, it's been argued, the Israeli right has never clearly articulated its vision of what sort of peace agreement it envisioned.
The complaint goes like this: Leaders like Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and others have spoken only in the language of rejection, without offering an alternative. And, like the boy crying wolf, they constantly warn that any agreement with Arafat will lead to Israel's extinction.
But in the wake of Camp David's failure, the language of rejection suddenly emerges as the language of pragmatism and realistic thinking.
No matter how many times Arafat and President Clinton talk of the "peace of the brave," it won't be accomplished by words and smiles alone.
After all, it was the pessimists who in 1993 argued against the utopian belief that peace was just around the corner, warning after the Rose Garden ceremonies that Arafat could not be trusted to make peace.
Now Arafat has proved intransigent over much more than Jerusalem: He refused to reach even a partial agreement in which he would pledge an "end to the conflict" and an end to Palestinian claims against Israel.
In other words, Israel was almost ready to sign away virtually all its entire negotiating assets without a clear indication about what kind of peace Arafat envisions - or even if he envisions one at all.
At the White House seven years ago, Arafat pledged himself to "peaceful coexistence, free from violence." Yet violence - both explicit and implicit - remains a critical weapon in his diplomatic arsenal. Clinton plainly believes those threats - why else his expressed fears of renewed fighting as the reason why the summit had to succeed?
Those who insist the PLO has renounced its "phased plan" - in which a state is proclaimed on a small part of "liberated Palestine" while the fight to conquer it all continues - will have to explain why Arafat refuses to declare an end to Palestinian claims against the Jewish state.
Arafat no doubt was emboldened by the willingness of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Barak to turn a blind eye toward repeated Palestinian violations of previous accords and agreements. Indeed, when Netanyahu - alone among Israeli leaders since Oslo - demanded true reciprocity and insisted that Arafat keep his word, Clinton very publicly clipped his wings.
At Camp David, Arafat clearly believed that Barak - his government coalition in a shambles and his once-solid majority in the polls disintegrated - was so desperate for an agreement that he would agree to anything. And Arafat was almost right.
Ultimately, Arafat overplayed his hand. Or, if the cynics are to be believed, he got exactly the result he wanted - no agreement at all.
Either way, Arafat accomplished something extremely important at Camp David. He proved the pessimists were right all along. (New York Post July 27)
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the former chief of General Staff, will go down in Jewish history as one who once again breached the walls of the ancient holy city of Jerusalem.
Not in order to liberate it, as Mota Gur's paratroopers did in 1967, but ito redivide it. Not in the heat of battle, as the Palmah fighters tried unsuccessfully to do in the bitter battles of 1948, when the Old City of Jerusalem was conquered by the Arab Legion, but as a willing hostage in the deluxe conditions of Camp David.
Was this Gulliver, as Barak tried to portray himself to the columnists of The Washington Post and Ha'aretz? No, this was a political and diplomatic Tom Thumb.
For 33 years the US - the modern Rome - attempted to breach the walls of Israeli rule in the city, until finally Barak came to its aid and broke them down. Neither Yasser Arafat nor any other Arab ruler could overcome these walls, until Barak - wearing no disguises this time - came on the scene to do it for them.
But the leaks about the concessions at Camp David were not the worst of it. Far more serious was the wild competition amongst the politicians, MKs, and media commentators to explain how it is possible to give up Israeli sovereignty in east Jerusalem, including the old city. As if at a pre-arranged signal, they all jumped out of the closet to explain, amongst other things, that the holiness of the Old City, and even that of the Temple Mount, is only a myth.
Nabil Shaath, in an interview with Le Monde, joyfully announced that "the Israeli taboo" had been broken, when Jerusalem was also placed on the agenda at Camp David. However, Shaath explained, Barak has not yet conceded enough for an agreement to be reached.
Barak may innocently declare that he has not conceded anything, and may even believe this himself. His confidants have leaked that he was adamant that Arafat agree to allow Jews to worship on the Temple Mount itself.
But this recalls the strip of seashore, 40 meters wide on the shore of the Kinneret, to which Barak retreated in his negotiations with Hafez Assad, after giving up all the entire Golan Heights.
This was not enough for Assad, who wanted everything, and the Golan and its inhabitants were saved - for the moment. In the same way the Temple Mount and the Old City were saved (also for the moment) only because of Arafat.
That Jews are racing to surrender east Jerusalem, and that Shaath can impudently maintain that Arafat is being "fair" by conceding us the Western Wall and the Old City's Jewish Quarter (something he told me this week) are
consequences of Barak's breaching of the city walls. He has eroded what had been an Israeli consensus in return for false delusions, as if Arafat would be happy to sign a peace agreement with Israel, if only it will share its sovereignty in its capital.
THE joint charge of the PLO and the Israeli Left (including the media) against the Old City of Jerusalem in the wake of Barak's breaching of the walls has only begun. Barak has done terrible damage to the ultimate symbol that has unified most Jews for thousands of years, and which finally aided them to establish their State - the eternal capital, Jerusalem.
Not only has Barak betrayed the trust of these Jews, but he has also violated his own campaign promises. He has blatantly disregarded his cabinet and the Knesset, acting like the junta leader in a banana republic.
Arafat and the American administration, who are manipulating Barak and his collapsing government like puppetmasters, are now waiting for the Israelis to do their work for them. Following the breach in the walls, Arafat's path will be paved not only to the Temple Mount but to the entire Old City.
If Barak, who brazenly denies this, does not understand the historical damage he is liable to cause, and therefore makes no effort to prevent the inevitable, this is further proof of his diplomatic immaturity.
And if Barak is aware of what he is doing, and is out to prove that he is more clever and successful than E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E; if he really believes that he is the one who will "fix Israel's recognized borders," then once again, as has been revealed over the last year, he is just a political infant.
In the same way as, with the aid of the lying media, he promised Shimon Peres the Presidency, he can promise Arafat the Old City of Jerusalem. Because believing Jews will always triumph over confused Israelis.
The writer is one of the authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.
(Jerusalem Post Aug 3)