24 Av 5759 August 6, 1999 Issue number 229
Two Wounded in Terrorist Attack
Two residents of the Kiryat Arba-Hevron area were wounded Tuesday night in a terrorist-shooting attack. The attackers, who escaped afterwards towards the Palestinian-controlled parts of Hevron, shot at the victims' car with automatic gunfire as it was winding its way towards the Machpelah Cave around 9 PM. Ephraim Rosenshtein, listed in moderate condition, has apparently lost parts of two fingers on his right hand, while Baruch Ben-Yaakov was lightly wounded. Israel demands that the PA apprehend the perpetrators. Some 24 spent bullet casings were found at the scene, and at least 11 bullets hit the car.
The attack occurred in the same area where two previous terrorist shootings occurred: In January of this year, two nursery school teachers were shot and injured, one critically, while a few weeks earlier two men traveling from Hevron to Kiryat Arba were also attacked there. Following the second attack, the Israeli army stationed an outpost at the site, but removed it a few months later, claiming a manpower shortage and that "the area has settled down." Prime Minister Barak said that the fight against terrorism takes precedence over everything else, and demanded that the Palestinian Authority act aggressively and determinedly to capture the perpetrators and to prevent further attacks. Barak's spokesman said, "The Prime Minister's call to do what is necessary to bring about genuine peace in our region... takes second place in the face of such attacks."
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Dan Meridor (Centrist party) said that the fulfillment of obligations in the Oslo process cannot be one-sided. Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover said that the solution must be the formation of Jewish contiguity between Hevron and Kiryat Arba. Arutz-7 spoke with Labor MK Ephraim Sneh, who has served in the past as Deputy Defense Minister and is scheduled to be appointed to the same post. Sneh said that Israel's demand that the Palestinian Authority apprehend the terrorists "is a standing demand, and is not connected with the negotiations." When asked if it is merely a demand, or an ultimatum, Sneh answered, "It is a demand. There is nothing on which to make it conditional." (Arutz 7 Aug 4)
Arafat Pledges Jihad
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat drew angry reactions from the government Wednesday by pledging in Ramallah that his people would "continue with our struggle, our jihad... and once again enter the city of Jerusalem as the Moslems did for the first time." Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office declined to comment on Arafat's statements, but Foreign Minister David Levy went on Channel 1 news to say that "This is a different Arafat... This style does not advance the peace, and it would be beneficial if he were to get off this path. We are not going to accept a situation whereby someone threatens Israel. This will undoubtedly raise within every Israeli question marks about the future. This is not peace. Apparently they are trying to portray the prime minister as someone who is not going to fulfill commitments," said Levy. "There is no logic to this, there is no crisis, the two-week period for considering Barak's suggestions is not yet over." Palestinian leaders responded in turn by voicing bitterness last night over the Barak government's conduct and took issue with Levy's statements that the PA has deliberately created a crisis atmosphere over the issue of Wye implementation.
Arafat made his remarks while celebrating his 70th birthday in Ramallah yesterday. He accepted bouquets of flowers from some young children, and voiced his hope that "some day soon, our children will be able to fly the Palestinian flag from the mosques and churches of Jerusalem... God willing we will continue with our struggle, our jihad... and once again enter the city of Jerusalem as the Moslems did for the first time." Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo further escalated the rhetoric, charging that Israel was responsible for the attack in Hebron Tuesday night in which terrorists fired on a settler's car, wounding two. Abed-Rabbo said Israel brought on the attack by stalling on a handover of territory under an accord signed by the previous government last October. Levy denounced his remarks and declared, "Their basic obligation is to fight terrorism and prevent it. Without that, there is no basis for talks at all." (Jerusalem Post Aug 5)
Preparations for Withdrawal Have Not Begun
The security establishment has not received instructions from the political echelons to prepare for the Wye withdrawals. A senior military figure has said that he heard about Prime Minister Barak's planned Wye timetable only over the radio. He further said that the Americans well know that the Palestinians have not fulfilled their part of the Wye agreement. Meanwhile, leading Palestinian figures continue to object to Barak's proposals, claiming that he simply wants to avoid his Wye obligations. Arutz 7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that neither has the military received instructions to prepare new withdrawal maps, and the present maps were prepared under the Netanyahu government. "There were seven points of contention between Yesha settlement representatives and the government," Huberman recounted, "and these issues were left open... The Yesha Council has been informed that it will take part in the preparation of the new withdrawal maps."
In a related item, Prime Minister Barak has decided that almost all of the new civilian outposts in Judea and Samaria will remain in place. It was reported that O.C. Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who informed the Yesha Council of the decision, qualified the news by saying that some problems remain with a few of the outposts. Ya'alon has denied the reports. Barak's decision not to dismantle the outposts is a result of an oral promise he made during coalition negotiations with Yisrael B'Aliyah leader Natan Sharansky. Reactions from the left have come fast and furious. Meretz demands that the relevant ministerial committee be convened immediately to deal with what it labels the "illegal" outposts. Sources close to the Prime Minister estimate, however, that the objections will be overruled once the committee convenes. Peace Now leader Musi Raz is incensed by Barak's acceptance of the status quo, saying "protests will begin even sooner than anticipated, assuming that this policy supportive of the settlements and against the rule of law and the peace process continues..." (Arutz 7 Aug 4)
Yatom: No Crisis in PA Negotiations
Prime Ministerial aide Danny Yatom today deflected assessments that negotiations with the Palestinians have reached a "point of crisis." Yatom, labelled the crisis "a mere Palestinian negotiating tactic." (Arutz 7 Aug 3)
Tensions in Golan, Jordan Valley
The possible conflict of interests between the Labor government and settlements associated with Labor in the Golan and the Jordan Valley is becoming apparent. In the Golan, the administrator of Kibbutz Geshur has criticized the Kibbutz Ha'Artzi movement for announcing that its settlements would not be "an obstacle to peace." He said that announcements of this sort must not be made without first consulting with the kibbutzim themselves. The Golan Communities Council also condemned the Kibbutz Ha'Artzi announcement, calling it "against the national interest, and serving the Syrian interest." (Arutz 7 Aug 2)
Education Ministry Re-directs New Immigrants
Most newly-arrived Ethiopian Jewish children, those from Quara, will study in public non-religious schools. The children of Ethiopian immigrants until now have been directed to public religious schools. The last of 1,388 Quara Jews were flown to Israel last Thursday night, in an operation that spanned five weeks. Several hundred still remain, and are expected to be brought to Israel within a few months. (Arutz 7 Aug 2)
Stealing Car Parts Isn't Enough?
Israel Border Guard Policemen arrested three Palestinians near the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis yesterday. The Arabs were in the midst of smuggling tank parts - stolen from IDF training grounds - to the Palestinian autonomy... (Arutz 7 Aug 2)
Ramon And Beilin Negate Total Golan Withdrawal
Ministers Yossi Beilin and Chaim Ramon declared today that if Syrian President Assad sets, as a pre-condition for negotiations, Israeli willingness to retreat to the pre-1967 borders, the talks will not be held. Ramon added that even at the end of the diplomatic process, it cannot be assumed that Israel will agree to give up Hamat Gader or the eastern shore of the Kineret. (Arutz 7 July 30)
Arab MK Blasts SLA
Arab MK Issam Mahoul (Hadash) apparently does not appreciate the efforts of the Southern Lebanese Army soldiers on Israel's behalf against Hizbullah. "Collaborators and traitors," he called them on Wednesday from the Knesset podium, and yesterday added the term "Quislings" to his description. He has refused to apologize. The SLA has aided Israel's anti-Hizbullah efforts for almost 15 years. (Arutz 7 July 30)
: "Every morning, when the child Jamil al-Barghuti arrives in his school in Ramallah, he hates the Jews anew. The first thing he sees upon entering the school is a map of Israel with the word 'Palestine' written across it in big letters. His friends wear shirts bearing the picture of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian flag, and a map of Greater Palestine.
In class, Jamil hears his teacher saying that the Jews are cheaters and traitors, that he should beware of them. In grammar lessons, he reads that his role in life is to "free the captive mosque and the mourning dome from the hands of the robbing occupiers." In literature class, the teacher asks him to learn the martyr's song by heart. For homework, he will write an essay on "How We Will Free Our Stolen Land." "This is terrible, terrible," sighed Itamar Marcus of the Look at the Palestinian Media Institute in Jerusalem, and shifted uneasily in his chair.
Browsing through colorful textbooks that lie scattered on his desk, he said they contain dangerously explosive materials. "Look at this book," Marcus said. "Look how the childish drawings seem naive and pretty. Yet, right next to them, there is an instruction to go on jihad. When I first came across this material, I was so scared I shivered. I could not believe that right here, next to the Temple Mount, while the parties are trying to make peace, these children are taught to hate and destroy us."
Marcus and a team of translators from the institute spent months reading 140 textbooks published by the Palestinian Education Ministry, and could not believe their eyes. At the end of the research, they reached a very harsh conclusion: the Palestinian Education Ministry is officially educating its young generation to hate the Jews and destroy the State of Israel. More than 800,000 Palestinian students are exposed daily to severe incitement against Israel, in the media and in textbooks. The research studied textbooks on civil law, grammar, literature, history, geography, and Islamic teachings for grades one through 12.The researchers say that they did not find a single book that was free of incitement. All the books they examined, present the Jews as enemies of Islam, equating Zionism with Fascism and Nazism. For example, here is a sentence from the book on "The Modern History of Arabs and the World" studied in history classes: "The clearest examples of racist beliefs and racist discrimination are Nazism and Zionism." "Who is the thief who ripped our land apart? "Sixth graders are asked in the book "Our Arabic Language." "We should beware of Jews because they are cheaters and traitorous," ninth graders are warned by the author of "Islamic Education."
Marcus noticed that the Palestinians often describe the Jews in the same repeating terms: "cunning," "disloyal," "wild animals," "aggressive," "robbers," "locust," "occupiers," "bandits," "enemies of the prophet and the believers." "There is a method there," said Middle East expert, Prof. Yohanan Manor. "I expected them to turn their hatred mainly against Zionism and the State of Israel, but no: they turn their hatred mainly against Jews. They make generalizations, compile negative things said about the Jews in the Koran or ancient history books of the Islam, and reach conclusions based on them about all the Jews, ignoring the positive things that appear in the same sources." They take recent events, the researchers say, and present them in a twisted manner, in an attempt to show that Israel is following in the footsteps of all the enemies of the Arabs and Islam. "In 1969, for example," said Marcus, "an Australian tourist set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, school children in Palestinian Authority [PA] schools learn that it was Israel that did it. Eighth graders learn in literature classes that "the arson was another chapter in the Zionist plot, the aim of which is to seize this holy Muslim site." There is no such thing as Jewish history for them, only Christian and Muslim. The children are taught that the Jews are a Christian sect; that Abraham was the first Muslim; and that he had only one son, Esau. They teach their children that there is no linkage between the Jews and Eretz Yisra'el.
In the tenth grade, in history classes, the children are taught that the Zionists established a state in Palestine "using false historical and religious argumentation," in an attempt to rip Palestine apart and split the Arab world. They mention World War II and Hitler, but ignore the Holocaust and the Jews. "The Palestinians are the offspring of the Canaanites," their books say. Jerusalem's original inhabitants were Arabs, they say, who built the city. Mentioning religious and historical sites in Israel, they will only describe Muslim or Christian places, ignoring Jewish sites. They even deny that the Western Wall has a Jewish identity. "The Jews claim that this place belongs to them and call it 'the Western Wall,' but it is not true," the literature textbook for eighth grade reads. All the books note that Israel is a temporary entity that will soon vanish.
"When I read this," Itamar Marcus said, "I am shocked all over again each time." Marcus, aged 45, a teacher of Judaism by profession, served as adviser to Religious Affairs Minister Shim'on Shetrit during the term of the Labor Government. He was first exposed to the Palestinian inflammatory material then and was deeply shocked. He decided to establish an association that would fight the phenomenon, which turned into the focal point of his life.
Having no political affiliations, his institute is monitoring the Palestinian media out of a small flat in Jerusalem. Eight translators, mostly graduates of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Intelligence Branch, read newspapers published in PA territories and monitor all the television programs broadcast there. The translated inflammatory material is distributed to the various government offices and, sometimes, even to the US Congress...
It appears that Palestinian children are exposed to incitement from a very early age. Children's programs on the PA television are full of hatred for Israel, Marcus said. "The children sing songs praising the martyrs. Reports from summer camps show children being trained in using weapons, marching and singing military songs, but no soccer or basketball games." Coming and going, all Palestinian children see the map of Greater Palestine, covering all of Israel's territory. The television shows the map several times each day. The New World Atlas that the schools use does not mention Israel even once. Israel's cities are presented as the "cities of Palestine," and Jerusalem is the "capital of the State of Palestine." Haifa appears as a favorite Palestinian resort. "Jaffa is a Palestinian town conquered by the Jews. Name three other cities that the Jews have conquered," seven graders are asked in the textbook named "Our Arabic Language." "Jaffa still exists. Our spilled blood still covers its ancient walls, and our fields are bare after the locust raided them?. Jaffa, we will return to you tomorrow, with the harvest." ("Articulation and Epigrammatism for the Eighth Grade").
Even Israeli industries are presented as Palestinian. The Haifa and Ashdod oil refineries are described as "the refineries of Palestine," and the Israeli exported citrus are "the fine citrus of Palestine." Palestinian teachers encourage the students to cultivate longing and love for the occupied Israeli cities, promising that soon they will return there. Little by little, teachers instill a fighting spirit in the children. The holy war of jihad is praised on every occasion and the students are encouraged to take part in it. The teachers stress that jihad is a religious edict and warn that evaders will be punished severely. "Mark the subject and the object of the following sentence: 'Jihad is the religious duty of every Muslim man and woman,'" eight grade students are asked in "Our Arabic Language." In seventh grade, the children are ordered to write an essay on "How We Will Free Our Stolen Land," using the following ideas: "Arab unity, true faith in Allah, advanced weapons and ammunition, use of oil and other expensive resources as a weapons in out struggle for liberty."
Marcus has found that Palestinian children are taught to admire the shahid [martyr]. The books are filled with songs and poems that encourage the children to seek a martyr's death. "Draw your sword," the literature textbook for the eight grade cites a martyr's song. "Death will call upon you and your sword will go wild. Palestine, the young will redeem your land." In "A Guide for the Improvement of Your Arabic," twelfth grade students are asked to learn the "Shahid Song" by heart:"I shall take my spirit in my hand and cast it in the realm of death! "I swear upon your life, I can see my own death, "But I extend my pace walking toward it for your life. "This is death that befits a man. You who wish to die honorably - this is the way to die."
The harsh findings of the report were presented to the US Congress several months ago. Several congressmen contacted President Clinton and asked for his immediate intervention. Itamar Marcus, who sits on the US-Israeli-Palestinian Committee for Supervision on Incitement, established after the Wye agreements were signed, presented the findings to the Palestinian members of the committee. According to him, they just dismissed them. "Until this day, we have reached no understanding on any issue," Marcus said. "The Palestinians are not willing to even admit that this is incitement. They would not remove inflammatory material from the textbooks, even when the American members of the committee promise to finance the reprinting of all the books. They get all worked up, saying that we are trying to dictate their history and heritage to them, and deprive them of their freedom of speech."
"Next you will start telling us what to eat, what to wear, and how to cut our hair," Marwan Kanfani, Arafat's adviser and chairman of the Palestinian team on the anti-incitement committee, said angrily last week. "We do not teach our children to hate. The opposite is true: We studied your textbooks and found out that they are full of incitement against us. Your study is full of misquotes that were taken out of context. We will not change our textbooks just because the Israelis do not like the things they say. We need to sit down and make peace, and solve the education problems. Until then, there is no reason to change the style."
"This is coming from the top," said Marcus. "My impression from discussions I had with Palestinian members of the committee, held off the record, is that some of them may be willing to change the tone, but their leadership will not let them. An educator I met on the committee said as much. He told me that his daughter came from school one day, and described the Jews negatively. 'This is what we learned today,' she told her father. He corrected her and said this is not true. 'But daddy,' the daughter insisted, 'I have to write this in my homework, or else I get a low mark.' 'You will write what I tell you, even if this gives you a low mark,' the father said." The PA schools are currently on summer vacation. Jamil from Ramallah will soon start a new grade and obtain new books. The style will remain the same, only the material will change. The Jews will be the same as last year: "cunning," cheaters," "wild animals," and "bandits." (Yediot Ahronot July 23)
Remembering Hevron Massacre of 1929
The Jewish Community of Hevron marked the 70th anniversary of the 1929 pogrom, in which 67 Jews were slaughtered by their Arab neighbors, at a public ceremony Sunday. Survivors and descendants of victims of the carnage were present, as well as rabbis and public figures. The massacre destroyed the Hevron Jewish community and shook the entire Jewish "yishuv" in pre-State Palestine at the time. Though these riots were foreshadowed by earlier attacks in 1920 and 1921, the country-wide scope of the riots in 1929 surpassed the previous ones in severity. Fortunately, an early formation of the 'Hagana' defense forces prevented the massacre of the Jews of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, as well as holding at bay thousands of Arabs who had come to kill the Jews of Hulda. The Hagana had not yet made its presence felt in Hevron, the Galilee city of Tsfat, or the Jerusalem-area community of Motza, and all three of these, especially Hevron, suffered heavy losses. Arutz 7 interviewed Rabbi Dov Cohen, survivor of the massacre,, who was 17 at the time:
Arutz-7: What were you doing at the time of the massacre?
RC: I was a yeshiva student learning at the Yeshiva of Hevron, Knesset Yisrael - Slobodka.
Arutz-7: Prior to the massacre were there signs of what was about to happen?
RC: Until that time, in Hevron, the Jews lived in peace and quiet with the Arabs. There was tension in the country for a whole a week or two before the massacre. As I said, relations with our Arab neighbors, prior to that night, were very good. After a day of studies, the yeshiva boys used to go for long walks on the outskirts of the city even very late at night, and feared nothing...
Arutz-7: Did the Arabs also attack the yeshiva in Hevron on the night of the massacre?
RC: Not exactly. Allow me to explain: On Friday, Arab youths started to throw rocks at us in our part of the city. Late that afternoon, a young student named Shmuel Rosenholtz went to the yeshiva before the rest of the students. He was there alone, and some time later, Arab rioters broke into the yeshiva and murdered him. After Shabbat began, we were informed that Shmuel had been murdered, and that he was lying dead [in the study hall]. We were instructed not to go to the yeshiva over Shabbat. Anyhow, that night, the son of Rabbi Slonim, who was the manager of what later became Bank Le'umi, went from house to house, telling people that, upon his father's instructions, whomever was concerned for his own safety could stay in his home. Rabbi Slonim was highly-regarded in the community and even had a gun. I was personally not so worried about the danger, and so I did not go to the Slonim home, although many people did. In the course of that Shabbat, the Arabs murdered more people in that house than anywhere else. On Shabbat morning, almost the entire Jewish population gathered at the Police Station, Beit Romano.
Everyone recounted what had happened in his home the previous night. We prayed the morning service. There was no Torah there from which to read, just a Bible. After completing the Musaf service, we prepared to recite the Kiddush. All of a sudden, we began hearing noises outside the building; masses of Arabs were gathering on the streets outside of the police station. I looked out the window, and saw that thousands of Arabs were descending from Har Hevron to the valley below - all shouting, "Itbach el Yahud!" ("Kill the Jews!") At one point, some of them tried to break down the door of the police station. [Ed. note: The survivors remained in Beit Romano for three days. The Arabs rampaged their houses, and destroyed their property. A religious quorum of 10 men was allowed to participate in the funeral for the murdered Jews, held at night, in the ancient Jewish cemetery in the city. The surviving Jews were taken to Jerusalem - exiled from their homes, the city of the Patriarchs. For the first time in hundreds of years, Hevron had no Jewish residents.]
Arutz-7: What do you think today of the Jewish settlement in Hevron?
RC: I am very happy ...but I am still sad that we were exiled from Hevron, I still have a heavy heart when I think of it. When there wasn't a Jewish community there at all, it was painful. It is a little bit of a consolation [that a Jewish community exists there today]...but it is still impossible for Jews to reach certain neighborhoods where we used to live...
Arutz-7: There is a portion of the Israeli population that believes that Jews there are guilty of harming the relations with the Arabs.
RC: Why? The Jews have no right to live there? The Jews, who were bequeathed the city from the patriarchs? And who lived there hundreds of years? (Arutz 7 Aug 2)
A World of Symbols By Ruby Rivlin
A short memory is one of the most celebrated components of the Israeli consciousness. We have so short a memory that the "save" function seems to be non-existent in our collective consciousness. At the very most, our minds process "save current screen" - and that with difficulty.
The pace at which the screen scrolls here, with affair chasing affair, and a new event, whether actual or totally virtual (such as the "statement" - that independent entity, peculiar to this country, which, following its release from a politician's mouth, can easily take over our entire world within a few moments), pushes out of the mind that which preceded it. We tend to forget yesterday's happenings completely, even if they convulsed us.
(There are those who say that this tendency is what allows the average Israeli, bumping from news bulletin to news bulletin, to maintain some kind of equilibrium.)
This cognitive transience evidences itself in many aspects of our lives. There are those who say that the impatience Israelis display in private, as well as in the management of public policy, is our Achilles' heel, as our neighbors have the patience of Job. This is also the source of the deep contempt that not a few Israelis feel - and there are political leaders among them - toward gestures, symbols, slogans, and national psychological processes that are influenced by them.
The Oslo architects, for instance, completely ignored the psychological processes required for both peoples to reach an historic settlement, such as recognition of the right of each to independent national existence. Questions dealing with genuine education toward peace and mutual recognition, the cessation of incitement and demonization in the media, the building of trust between peoples rather than only security organizations, were all shoved aside.
The resounding speeches by Yasser Arafat and his colleagues to the official Palestinian leadership; incontrovertible facts regarding Palestinian education of hate toward the Jew, the Israeli, the conqueror; quotes and recordings of songs lauding the perpetrators of suicide bombings; organized demonstrations during which Israeli flags were burned - all these were deliberately shunted to the edge of consciousness in the name of progress toward peace.
Who does not remember the claims from Shimon Peres or Yossi Beilin that what Arafat says to his people in Arabic isn't important, and that one must understand the internal pressures to which he is subject. Who does not recognize that there's a difference between statements "for internal use" and those intended for Israeli ears, actually for those of the Americans.
Our blatant disregard of words and symbols, of the influence of songs praising the murderers of children, or the power of the message emanating from the burning of our flag, proves how detached we are from the reality that surrounds us.
THIS IS true not only for our relationship with the Palestinians. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for example, who, when he was asked whether he would visit Israel following its change of leadership, categorically quashed any such possibility because Ehud Barak and Israel have yet to prove themselves worthy of such a gesture. Because of its disregard for the power of words or symbols, the Israeli ear failed to hear Mubarak's message.
But in the Middle East - not just here by the way, and that is precisely the problem - every gesture, every symbol, every statement is attentively absorbed and carefully assessed by the other side. Those unaware of the power of the gesture may unintentionally deliver a message they did not wish to deliver. That is why caution, forethought, restraint, and responsibility are necessary characteristics for those in leadership positions.
Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurie's reception at the Knesset last week as the speaker of a sovereign parliament, with status equal to that of the Knesset speaker, sent a clear message to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian public, and the whole world. If the message was blurred a little to Israelis, Qurie pointedly delivered it within the Knesset - Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian state.
Did Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg mean by his invitation to let the entire world know that Israel recognizes Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem? I don't think so. I think that it was a combination of a desire for publicity and a lack of judgment and restraint, together with the bottomless contempt that Burg feels, together with many of his colleagues, for the other side.
Maybe the roots of that deep contempt for words and symbols has its roots in David Ben-Gurion's saying that "it's not important what the gentiles say about us; it's important what the Jews do." It's possible that the answer lies in the argument that split the Zionist movement at its beginning, between the "practical Zionism" of Berl Katzenelson and the central socialist stream, and Theodor Herzl's - later Ze'ev Jabotinsky's - "political Zionism."
I think that these attitudes are the result of ignorance, arrogance, even sometimes racism toward Arabs and Palestinians, and primarily, of course, because of the boastful vanity that is responsible for so many of our catastrophes.
If Israeli politicians paid the tiniest bit of attention to their surroundings, if they were a little sensitive to the significance of their deeds and gestures in other eyes, we wouldn't give up so many assets with our own hands, nor would we play into the hands of those waiting in ambush for more superfluous gestures from us to exploit.
The writer is a Likud Knesset member. (Jerusalem Post Aug 3)
When Yitzhak Rabin ran for election in 1992, he publicly declared at a giant election rally just two weeks before the election: ôWhosoever gives up the Golan Heights, abandons the security of the State of Israel.ö It is now a matter of record that the late Prime Minister misled the public on this key issue. Ehud Barak has been more honest with his voters in this regard. But he has yet to explain how he came to perform his turnabout: When he was Chief of Staff, he strongly maintained the vital necessity of retaining the ôGolan Heights west of Quneitraö (i.e., everything Israel presently controls) for IsraelÆs strategic survival. Yet today, just a few years later, on a political whim, he suddenly feels that the Golan is negotiable.
The fate of the Golan Heights, officially designated by law as part of the State of Israel, is not merely an issue of 17,000 Golan residents/settlers, but a question of national life and death. The fact that weak-willed politicians are prepared to sacrifice the very land under our feet, is cause for serious concern. To better comprehend this issue of serious national anxiety, one must first understand what the Golan is, and what it means to Israel's survival.
Topographically, the Golan is a 60-km. long by 20-km. wide mountainous plateau running from the upper Jordan Rift Valley and Lake Kinneret in the west, the Yarmuk Valley in the south, and Mount Hermon in the north. On Israel's side of the Golan, there is a steep incline from the Golan plateau down to the densely-populated Hula Valley and eastern shore of the Kinneret.. The Golan is one of three sources that supplies Israel's fresh-water needs. It comprises the headwaters of the Jordan River (60%), and the mountain streams (40%) that flow down into the Kinneret. However, with the widespread contamination of the coastal plain's aquifers, and the Oslo Accords giving over control of the aquifers and rainflow runoff from the hills of Judea and Samaria over to Yasser ArafatÆs Palestinian Authority, the Kinneret becomes Israel's main, even sole, fresh-water source. Today, water flows freely into the Kinneret and then, via massive pumps using 5% of Israel's electric power, the National Water Carrier supplies this water to the rest of Israel. It was not always so.
In 1964, Syria, then occupying the Golan Heights, tried to divert these critical headwaters away from Israel in a blatant attempt to cripple Israel's fresh-water supply. Ironically, the IDF operation that destroyed the Syrian damming project was carried out under then-Israeli Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yitzchak Rabin - the same Rabin, who, as Prime Minister, we now know, was prepared to return control of Israel's fragile water lifeline to the Syrians, trusting them not to repeat past sins.
Militarily, Israeli control extends just over the crestline, giving the IDF direct eye and radar contact with the 65 km. plain that runs from the Golan to Damascus. Just 20-30 km. from Israel's forward positions, are the deployment areas of Syria's armored divisions - a mere two-hour tank ride to Israeli territory. The Golan Heights acts as a defensive wall protecting Israel's north. A Syrian attack is topographically channeled via only two passes in which armored vehicles can cross. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, some 150 Israeli tanks stopped invading Syrian columns - with more than 1,400 tanks - in the "bottleneck" Valley of Tears pass in the north, and the pass through the volcanic hills in the south. The surprised and vastly outnumbered Israeli troops held off the invaders for the 48 hours that were required to mobilize and deploy the necessary forces that ultimately beat back and defeated the Syrian aggressors.
Having these critical passes in Israeli hands is no less important now, with Syria's enormous buildup of highly advanced weaponry, than it was in 1973. Since 1982, the Syrian army has doubled in size, whereas according to foreign sources, Israel's army has only increased by 15-20%. On paper at least, it should be understood that Syria has already achieved military parity with Israel. Hence, one needn't be a military genius to realize that it's better to concentrate a small standing force on the high ground, defending the 10 km. area of the passes, than the same force having to defend a 60-kilometer line.
Any proposed pullback of Israeli forces from these passes returns Israel to the vulnerability she suffered prior to the 1967 Six Day War, and more so. It is only the vast size of Israeli artillery and tank forces in the Golan Heights targeting the Syrian army's deployment area beyond, as well as the capability to shell and bomb the outskirts of Damascus at a given moment, that is keeping Hafez al-Assad from implementing his "Greater Syria" strategy where Israel is concerned.
Imagine a Syrian repeat performance of the 1973 surprise attack, this time with 4,000 tanks, and 80-100 Scud-C missiles fired upon Haifa and Tel Aviv within a 2-hour span, sowing widespread civilian panic and seriously disrupting Israel's emergency reserve mobilization. Remember, the Syrian Scuds are twice as powerful as the Iraqi Scuds that hit Israel during the Gulf War, and the Scud-C is four times as accurate.
Can we really afford to even partially pullback our forward positions from the Golan crestline and give control of the key passes to Syria in exchange for Syria's signature on a piece of paper? Prime Minister Barak, in his zeal to make a deal on the Syrian track, tells us that he is prepared to withdraw from most or all of the Golan Heights.
Instead of this defeatist policy, let Prime Minister Barak hold the Syrian regime directly responsible for Hizballah actions in Lebanon. The terrorists there are Syrian-supplied and operate with active Syrian cooperation in attacking Israel's north. The Sagger over-the-shoulder missiles and Katyusha rockets fired by Hizballah at Israeli troops and northern civilian population centers, for example, are supplied by the Syrian army.
Mr. Barak, of all people, should realize that Israel doesnÆt have to prove its peaceful intentions by suicidal unilateral concessions. No matter how convivial BarakÆs Washington visit with US President Bill Clinton (alias the Washington Toy Master) was, it did not lower the Golan Heights, nor did it cause the Syrians to dismantle even one Scud-C missile launcher or reduce the number of tanks in any of the Syrian deployment areas. The Golan Heights is no less vital to IsraelÆs future security as it was until now.
Let Prime Minister Barak suggest that Syria, the beaten aggressor, offer gestures of its peaceful intentions, if indeed Damascus wants peace, and not just an improved position from which to launch its next attack on the Jewish State. (Arutz 7 Aug 2)
The writer is a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz-7.