A Collection of the Week's News from Israel

A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee
of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation

8 Elul 5759    August 20, 1999    Issue number 231


NEWS

Two Soldiers Killed in 13-hour Battle in Lebanon

A 13-hour battle with Hizbullah terrorists Tuesday in southern Lebanon claimed the lives of two IDF soldiers, and injured seven others. Three soldiers injured in the fighting - Erez Ben-Aryeh of Maccabim, Ronen Berkovitz of Holon, and Barak Meron of Tel Aviv - are hospitalized in serious condition in Haifa's Rambam Hospital intensive care unit. Two other soldiers, including the battalion commander, were injured moderately. O.C. Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, summing up the battle, said that despite the painful casualties, "It is important to say that one of our chief objectives in the area - preventing the planting of roadside bombs that could have killed or maimed countless soldiers - was achieved." Four terrorists were killed in the fighting, and others were injured. (Arutz 7 Aug 18)

Barak "Helping" Clinton Hold up Embassy Move

Prime Minister Ehud Barak is pressuring U.S. Congressmen to halt the plans to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Barak told Congressman Jim Bunning Sunday that such an American initiative could harm Israel's chances of reaching a deal with the Palestinians. Reactions included:

* Likud leader Ariel Sharon sharply attacked Barak for "weakening Israel's hold on Jerusalem."

* Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert called Barak's actions "intolerable."

* United Torah Judaism Knesset faction head Rabbi Meir Porush said that it's not Ehud Barak's decision as to whether the embassy will relocate, and that his advice to American representatives to delay the move was "political light-headedness."

Barak has apparently ordered a thorough check as to how the story was leaked to the press in the first place. Former Israeli liaison to the U.S. Congress Yoram Ettinger offered Arutz-7 some background on the story: "This is not the first attempt by the Prime Minister to postpone the embassy move. When he visited the States several weeks ago, he met with the pro-Israel Aipac lobby, and instructed its members not to push the embassy issue at that time. Details of that request were communicated in direct and indirect ways to senior U.S. politicians. A total of 84 out of 100 senators - who were ready to grant Barak a gift by passing a law that would obligate the President to avoid procrastinating any longer - were shocked by the news. Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, a close political ally of Clinton, was among those taken aback by Prime Minister Barak's words."

News editor Ariel Kahane cited Barak's claim that in any event, Clinton plans to delay the embassy move for another year. "This comment indicates two things," Ettinger said. "It shows a complete lack of understanding of the American system of government. Congress is not inferior to the President, and does not simply act according to his dictates, but is an autonomous body equal to the President in the framework of mutual checks and balances. Incidentally, there is nothing more upsetting to a legislator than to be told that he must 'wait for the go-ahead from the President' - especially for a conservative-minded Republican legislator who functions as a political opponent of the Democratic President! Secondly, the impression left in Washington is that Jerusalem has been placed on the negotiating table. Barak claims that raising the issue now 'will make negotiations difficult.' If Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table, why is it harmful to negotiations to move the embassy? If Barak expresses hesitation and doubt regarding Jerusalem - which is supposedly Israel's red line - Congressmen and Senators are wondering what to expect from him on Yesha and the Golan!" Ettinger added that American legislators were hoping to lower Palestinian expectations: "The [Congressman] were hoping to contribute to a more realistic Arab approach in the negotiations by making the non-negotiability of Jerusalem a concrete 'given.' Barak has now fed the other side's radical expectations, which in the end, will itself hinder the negotiations." (Arutz 7 Aug 18)

Israeli Help in Turkey

The death toll from Tuesday's earthquake in Turkey has officially reached 3,000 - with expectations that it will climb - and 15,000 others were injured. The Israeli Consul-General in Istanbul, Eli Shaked, reports that no Jews or Israelis were injured in the quake. An Israeli mission composed of 163 IDF soldiers in active and reserves service arrived in Turkey to help with rescue efforts. They will turn their attention first to a Turkish naval base, where hundreds of people are said to be buried under the rubble. Jewish Agency officials have also arrived in Turkey, to check on the needs of the local Jewish communities in Istanbul and Izmir. (Arutz 7 Aug 18)

Egypt Stops Third Israeli Plane

Foreign Minister David Levy has instructed his ministry to investigate an incident Tuesday in which Egypt prevented an El Al flight from flying through its airspace - the third such incident in a few days. In the latest case, the pilot of the Bangkok-bound flight was suddenly told by the Egyptian control tower that he did not have the necessary flight permits. From mid-air, the pilot radioed El-Al, which in turn appealed to the Foreign Ministry. Hurried contacts with the country's ambassadors bore no diplomatic fruit, and after an extended mid-air delay, the jet and its 329 passengers performed an about-face and returned to Ben Gurion Airport. Some of the passengers boarded other flights to Bangkok, others were put up in Tel Aviv hotels, and still others went home. Egypt's Aviation Authority head said today that the incident was caused by a technical problem, and will not be repeated. Two other Israeli planes were refused passage through Egyptian airspace for similar reasons. (Arutz 7 Aug 18)

Golan Residents Not Quite Ready to Move

Reports that the Kibbutz Movement is searching for places to which to relocate its Golan Kibbutzim Geshur and Natur have taken the residents there by surprise. According to the reports, the relatively empty areas of Pelech and Tzivon in the Galilee are being considered. Sarah Rubenstein of Kibbutz Natur told Arutz-7, "We are not happy with this announcement. The leadership of the Kibbutz Movement did not contact us on this matter." She said that the residents have not yet formulated their position on this issue, "and many of us don't even know personally what we would do" in case the government decides to withdraw from the Golan in the framework of an arrangement with Syria. Rubenstein said that if a decision is made to evacuate the communities, "We would of course not fight against husbands who serve in the army, and we will not be an 'obstacle to peace,' as the Kibbutz Movement announcement said, but this decision was taken too early, and too publicly. Many people here don't agree with the announcement, and many people think that peace with Syria is possible even if we remain. I would expect a bit more sensitivity on the part of people who talk about 'removing us' and 'finding us a new place' and the like. They must remember that our lives are here..."

Four families have moved to a military outpost at the foot of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights within the past several weeks. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Seri reports that two more families are expected to move in to the outpost, named Nimrod, shortly. Nimrod was "adopted" by the Golan's Kibbutz Ortal after it became clear that the ministerial committee on settlements was unlikely to approve the establishment of a new Golan settlement. In February of this year, Avi Ze'ira, Chairman of the Golan Settlement Committee, rebuffed the charge that Nimrod's establishment involved secret dealings. "Nimrod began as army outpost almost 15 years ago," he told Arutz-7 at the time. "When the army left a short time ago, it handed over jurisdiction to the Defense Ministry, which then turned it over to the settlement arm of the Jewish Agency. Though we didn't go out of our way to publicize the move, everything was done above board, in coordination with the relevant government departments." (Arutz 7 Aug 18)

Barak Planning For Pre-final Status Agreement?

What is Ehud Barak really planning? This oft-asked question receives yet another answer from Yediot Acharonot in Tuesday's edition of the paper. Journalists Shimon Shiffer and Nachum Barne'a claim that Barak plans to sign a pre-final status agreement with Yasser Arafat that includes the uprooting of remote Yesha settlements, the isolation of others, and the release of almost all terrorists imprisoned prior to the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Shiffer added that Barak has targeted a summit meeting for next February, at which Israel will agree to recognize a Palestinian state. "In exchange for these concessions," Shiffer explained, "Barak will push for a joint declaration of principles for final status talks between the two sides, as well as for Palestinian acceptance of a revised Wye withdrawal map tied to these final status talks." Regarding the location of future planned withdrawals, "Barak feels that Netanyahu erred in agreeing to forfeit parts of the Judean Desert, and that such a move was more a response to pressure from Yesha leaders than a correct strategic move. The Prime Minister has therefore instructed officials in the Defense Ministry to draw up new maps, and most of the third withdrawal will take place in the mountain ridge (central Samaria),"

Shiffer said. "In Barak's plan, Jerusalem and its vicinity are to remain under complete Israeli control." Shiffer then explained what's in it for Arafat: "Barak estimates that Arafat is aware of his own age and health situation, and will therefore be prepared to come to an agreement in order to become the first president of his longed-for state of Palestine." However, Arafat's right-hand man and possible successor, Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - said, "No Palestinian leader will not dare agree to borders that do not give us all the territories captured by Israel in 1967." At the same time, however, Abbas ruled out a clash with the Barak government, which he called a "government of peace." Shiffer concluded, "I personally don't think that a 100-year-old conflict can be resolved in six months. When I trace the tactics of Yasser Arafat since the start of Oslo, it is clear that he is using the approach that was once Israel's trademark: attaining sovereignty over land little by little, dunam after dunam." (Arutz 7 Aug 17)

Be'er Sheva Mayor Meets Jabali

Be'er Sheva Mayor Yaakov Turner met with Gaza Police Chief Razi Jabali Monday in Gaza. Jabali is wanted in Israel for his role in sending three terrorists to murder Jews in Har Brachah in 1997. During the Wye negotiations, however, it was agreed that the Palestinian Police would incarcerate all the 30 or so terrorists whose extradition Israel had earlier demanded - except for Jabali. Turner explained to Arutz- today that he was invited to meet with the Palestinian Authority Governor of the Gaza region, and that in the course of the meeting he was introduced to Jabali. Haggai Segal asked, "How do you explain the fact that you, a former Israeli Police Chief, met with someone wanted in Israel for terrorist acts perpetrated so recently?" Turner answered heatedly, "I don't plan to relate to this point. I'll just say that I have some news for you: Peace is not made with your friends, but rather with your enemies. I also have done some things in my security career that the Palestinians were not particularly happy with, but they have learned to live with them." Segal insisted: "But here we are talking about attacks that occurred since the Oslo agreements!" Turner: "I don't intend to argue with you. I'm simply telling you that peace, which I am interested in achieving, will only occur through meetings like this one." (Arutz 7 Aug 17)

Turbine Issue Resolved - For Now

Shas has backed down on its threats to quit the coalition over the Turbine Crisis. The giant electric turbine was transported last Shabbat from Ramat HaSharon to Ashkelon, involving the participation of many police escorts and road workers. The religious Shas party had objected to this large-scale Sabbath desecration, and threatened to quit the government - but in the end did not do so. Although the police continued throughout most of last Friday to say that they were searching for alternative ways in which to transport the turbine, it was suddenly announced two hours before the onset of Shabbat that it would be transported that night. Prime Minister Barak told the four Shas ministers today that no deceit was intended, and the explanation was apparently accepted. The ministers told Barak, however, that the Shas Council of Torah Sages strenuously objects to the transport of the remaining turbines on Shabbat. The United Torah Judaism party, which gathered the required 30 signatures of MKs for a special mid-recess Knesset session on the matter, will also apparently not quit the government over this issue. MK David Azulai of Shas told Arutz-7 Sunday that Prime Minister Barak called Shas leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef last Friday to tell him that he understands the gravity of the matter. Barak and Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami agreed Sunday that the police, the Electric Company, and the Department of Public Works would continue to search for ways to transport the remaining turbines on weekdays with a minimum of disruption to the public welfare. The Knesset Interior Committee, headed by Azulai, will discuss the matter on Wednesday. Deputy Education Minister Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP) explained to Arutz-7 today why his party had not entered the public turbine debate: "The holiness of the Sabbath is very important, and [Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy] clearly expressed our position to the cabinet ministers that the Sabbath must not be desecrated and that alternative solutions for weekday transport of the turbine should be sought.

But at the same time, a million Israelis are patronizing the country's shopping malls on the Sabbath. Why choose the turbine issue, and not the mass Sabbath desecration occurring throughout Israel?" Beit El's Shas representative Aharon Chilkiyah responded, "There is a difference between public Sabbath desecration that public servants are able to stop, and the Sabbath actions of private individuals. The Shas movement has never believed in religious coercion on the personal level, but here we have a case of public bodies, and the granting of official Sabbath work permits, etc." Yahalom had other objections to the public belaboring of the issue: "It could well be that a solution would have been found had the issue been dealt with in another fashion. As it happens, there were two negative consequences: the Sabbath desecration itself, and the fact that thousands of people stood and applauded the turbine as it passed - as if the incident represented some great victory over religion and religious people." Ma'ariv's gloating headline today bore out this point: "Secular Independence Day." (Arutz 7 Aug 15)

Experts in the Department of Public Works - a branch of the Infrastructures Ministry, headed by Eli Suissa of Shas - have so far rejected the various proposals raised by Electric Company officials to transport the next turbine over three weekdays, with periodic stops. Public Works personnel claim that the roadside stops will cause major traffic jams. The police have also proven unreceptive to the proposals, although their final word has not yet been given. Shas ministers Suissa and Yeshai said again Tuesday that a decision to move another turbine this Shabbat would leave Ehud Barak without Shas in the coalition. (Arutz 7 Aug 17)

Korman Acquitted

Nachum Korman, who was charged with manslaughter almost three years ago in the death of an Arab boy who threw stones at him, and who was then incarcerated for 8 ½ months, was acquitted from all charges Monday. Korman, who served at the time as Security Officer of Hadar Beitar, protested his innocence throughout the proceedings, and in fact claimed that his only direct contact with the deceased was to offer him first aid. "Give thanks to G-d," Korman emotionally told Arutz-7, only a short time after learning of the judge's decision. On the day of Oct. 27, 1996, Arab children told police that they threw stones at passing Israeli vehicles, and that Korman - one of the drivers - had gotten out of his car to chase them, and that he beat the boy - Chilmy Shoosha - who later died. Korman admitted that he chased the boy after seeing him throw rocks, but that Shoosha fell and sustained a blow to the neck while running away. No signs of beating were noted when the boy arrived at Ein Karem Hospital, and a pathological examination after his death showed only that he suffered a fatal blow to the neck; the origin of the blow could not be determined. Jerusalem police soon requested that Korman be charged with manslaughter, in accordance with Shoosha's friends' version of the events, and even demanded - and received - Korman's custody until the end of the proceedings against him. Eight months later, he was released, but was not allowed to return to Judea and Samaria, where he resided. One of the Arab boys who testified against Korman later admitted to having fabricated his testimony at the behest of the dead boy's brother. The judge today criticized Pathologist Dr. Yehuda Hiss for testifying that the boy died as a result of Korman's "beating" him. MK Chanan Porat (National Union) calls upon "all those who hurried to blame Korman at the time, and all those who hurried to pay condolence calls to the Shoosha family, to apologize now to Korman." Porat also called upon the Attorney-General to compensate Korman for the suffering caused him and for the time he spent in prison. (Arutz 7 Aug 16)

Bombs in Netanya, Near Bet El, Hevron

A bomb exploded Sunday morning in Netanya, although it caused no injuries or damage. The police assume that the bomb, which was planted outside an office building near city police headquarters, was the work of Arab terrorists. (Arutz 7 Aug 15)

A large explosive device was planted near the Yosh junction between Ramallah and Beit El Monday night, and IDF sappers took three hours to safely dismantle it. The bomb was placed in the precise spot in which Israeli soldiers often guard the junction. Hundreds of Israeli cars pass by the spot daily. (Arutz 7 Aug 17)

A car bomb exploded Sunday in the Palestinian-controlled H-1 section of Hevron, within earshot of the Jewish Community in Hevron - in an apparent "work-accident" by Arab terrorists. The perpetrators - two brothers who are members of Hamas - were recently released from Israeli prison after serving over five years for terrorist activities. They attached the bomb to a toy truck, and hoped to detonate it by remote control. After extended investigations, Israeli security officials feel that the Arabs intended to detonate the car bomb adjacent to Jewish homes in Hevron. The Palestinian Authority says that the explosion was caused not by a car bomb, but by another bomb that was in proximity of the vehicle. The PA continues to claim that it is pursuing the two terrorists, and has arrested two people in connection with the explosion. Arutz-7 correspondent Kobi Sela adds that fortunately for Israelis, the two terrorist brothers were poorly trained in the operation of electrical systems and explosives. IDF security officials noted, however, that the incident shows that the Palestinians are improving their ability to carry out long-distance attacks via remote control devices. Overall, Sela reports, Hamas and Islamic Jihad operational abilities have been weakened in recent months, but motivation to carry out attacks remains high. IDF officials say that the PA has put a red light on "serious" attacks such as bus explosions, but that more "minor" acts of terror, such as individual murder attempts or the hit-and-run attack at the Nachshon Junction last week, are "overlooked" by the PA leadership.

Hevron's Jewish community noted Monday that the thwarted car-bomb further proves that land transferred to the PLO serves as a base for terror attacks, "as opposed to inspiring peace between Israel and Palestinian Arabs." Minister of Industry and Trade Ran Cohen (Meretz) repeated his call this morning to uproot Hevron's Jewish community should its representatives not agree to reinforce school buses and vans with bullet-proof glass. "I don't want to be responsible for people who are willing to offer their children as sacrifices," Cohen said. "In the past, the Netanyahu government was willing to take responsibility for this craziness, but that government was itself crazy. The residents of Hevron are no different than the American suicide cults." Yonit Avichzer, who lives in the Avraham Avinu complex in Hevron, explained to Arutz-7 today why she and her co-residents object to the IDF's defense measures: "For 50 years already the Arabs have been trying to take our land. This is nothing new. Today, one of their ways is shooting cars on the road. For this reason, the security forces wish to protect us by bullet-proofing our cars. We object, first of all, because a state is not to get 'defensive' against threats against its citizens, and lock them up inside cages, but is rather supposed to fight back* We feel that if we show our own strength [by not accepting these defensive measures], we will strengthen the entire country. The country and the government are strong, but this potential has to be actualized... Throughout our history, we have shown that we are very strong. Our nation simply needs a catalyst that will present it with its own inner truth. We must therefore continue to live here naturally, despite the threats, and be strong and not fear... Otherwise, there is no end - what about when there is terrorism in Tel Aviv, such as bus attacks - will people there be told not to ride in buses for a few months?" "Ran Cohen says that you are simply crazy," Arutz-7's Haggai Segal challenged her. Yonit Avichzer responded, "This is the second issue I would like to address - the practical level. The fact is that these measures simply don't work. When the Arab stone-throwing began, [Hevron leader] Rabbi Levinger was very against the idea of getting protective windows for cars, and he was right, because then the Arabs began with the idea of shooting. When [the army] bullet-proofed our buses, Nachum Hoss of blessed memory was killed when a terrorist threw a bomb on top of the bus. There are 1,000 ways that the terrorists can find to get around these measures..." (Arutz 7 Aug 16)

Russian Journalists for Political Hire?

The Labor party paid money to journalists of Israel's Russian-language press to write pre-election articles in favor of Ehud Barak. This story, including admissions by journalists that they received payments for their pro-Barak pieces, appears in Monday's Yediot Acharonot newspaper. According to the paper, the arrangement was supervised by someone who now serves as a senior minister in the Barak government. Edvard Kuznetzov, editor of the Russian-language Vesti newspaper, says that the scoop does not surprise him, and that most Russian journalists "would be prepared to sell themselves to any party, to any taker, because of the low salaries they receive." Vesti journalist Sofia Ron agrees. "This kind of arrangement is not new to me," Ron told Arutz-7, "and is not surprising. It's been known for a long time, going back to the 1996 and even 1992 elections. Aside from the low-salary issue, journalistic ethics are not particularly well-rooted among Russian journalists, especially in the smaller papers... Not only did certain journalists maintain close connections with the Barak camp, receiving money in exchange for their articles, but they would submit their pieces to a Barak spokesperson who would examine them prior to publication."

Barak's office denies these accusations, despite the declaration by a source in the immigrants' committee of the Barak campaign that the journalists even signed contracts to formalize the pay-per-article deals. Arutz-7's Haggai Segal asked Ron whether she believes that the pro-Barak articles had an impact on the voting behavior of the Russian immigrant public. "I think so," Ron answered. "But let me explain: The pro-Barak articles would not have such an impact if they were the only factor in the equation. What made a difference was the parallel campaign by the Yisrael B'Aliyah party, in cooperation with Labor, to wrest the Interior Ministry away from the Shas party. This succeeded in turning voters' attention away from the diplomatic negotiations - most Russian immigrants have right-wing views - to the topic of religion and state." (Arutz 7 Aug 16)

PA to Claim 6,000 Jerusalem Buildings

The Palestinians are planning to claim ownership of 6,000 buildings in western Jerusalem under the final-status arrangements. So said the Jerusalem representative in the Palestinian legislative council, Hattam Eid. Among the buildings is the Ministry of Industry and Trade, headed by Ran Cohen of Meretz. Eid said that the Palestinians are making great efforts to prove their ownership of the buildings. (Arutz 7 Aug 15)

With a Little Help from His Friends

A detailed investigative report appeared in last week's edition of Makor Rishon on the fictitious non-profit associations that helped Ehud Barak win the recent election. The B'Tzedek legal organization has filed a complaint with the police, which has transferred it to the State Prosecutor's Office, which in turn would like to pass it on to the State Comptroller. "B'Tzedek and its sympathizers very much hope that the police carry out a full investigation," Kalman Liebskind - the report's author - told Arutz-7, "because it may very well end in the filing of criminal charges, if necessary, whereas if the Comptroller gets involved, the story could end with a 'scathing' report - but one with no teeth at all." Providing an overview of the situation, Liebskind explained to Arutz-7 listeners: "The election campaign laws limit individual campaign donations to 1700 shekels [currently a bit over $400]. Labor-One Israel's needs far exceeded that which could be raised in such small donations, and so non-profit organizations were either enlisted or created for the cause. In this way, much larger donations - many of them from abroad - could be 'laundered' through these associations. What is illegal about this?" Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane asked. Liebskind: "There are two problems. One is that this is in direct contravention of the intention of the law, which wanted to limit the amount of money coming into political campaigns from individuals. Secondly, the law governing non-profit associations is being violated. These associations were created and recognized for specific worthy social purposes, and instead were used to get Barak elected. As an example, let's take a genuine organization established to fight unemployment, named Tnu La'avod B'Khavod [Allow Us Work with Honor]. Barak campaign workers offered the association large sums, mostly from donors abroad, in the neighborhood of a million shekels - and the association basically became an arm of the Barak campaign. Whenever Barak would speak about unemployment, the association members would come and demonstrate against [the Netanyahu government], and they would show up at [many] Netanyahu speeches and heckle him... Barak's brother-in-law Atty. Doron Cohen attempted to set up five fictitious non-profit associations in one day in May '97, all with the same address and with the identical list of social goals - such as the advancement of sport, distributing scholarships to students, etc. In that particular case, the Associations Registrar noticed what was happening, and voided four of the associations." (Arutz 7 Aug 15)

Simchon: Preserve Jewish Communities in Golan

Labor MK Shalom Simchon opposes the evacuation of Golan Heights communities in the framework of a peace deal with Syria. Simchon - who also serves as the secretary of the Golan Settlement Movement Council - says that the Golan communities were established by the Israeli government with a broad public consensus. As such, says Simchon, a solution must be found for them to remain intact even if Israel and Syria reach an agreement. (Arutz 7 Aug 13)


Quote

"An evil spirit has entered the decision makers, including those at the prime minister's office, and it is causing them to desecrate the Sabbath."

- Eliahu Suissa, the minister of national infrastructure commenting in the moving of the electrical turbine on Shabbat. (NY Times 8/15)

"They are signaling to the Arabs that our blood can be spilled. It is a matter of life or death. The time has come for the state attorney and the attorney general to put an end to Peace Now's incitement campaign against the settlers. It is incitement and rebellion against us."

- Ron Nachman, mayor of the city Ariel, in the Shomron, commenting on the activities of the 'Peace Now' organization. (Ha'aretz 8/15)


Commentary

Tragic Choices By Jonathan Rosenblum

Many life-and-death decisions must be made with imperfect knowledge. But it's crucial not to focus on only one side of the equation.

Most Western societies claim to put an absolute value on human life. Millions of dollars are often spent to rescue a single individual in peril.

But the matter is hardly so simple. The very same societies that expend millions on rescue operations at the same time refuse to pay a similar price for preventive measures that might avert such tragedies in the first place.

As a society, for instance, we accept a certain level of traffic fatalities as being, in some sense, "tolerable.'' Experts believe that hundreds of lives could be saved annually in Israel by lowering highway speeds, but we have "decided'' that the inconvenience entailed would be more than we can bear.

The requirement for extensive long-term testing prior to licensing new drugs has largely prevented recurrences of tragedies like the Thalidomide babies of the 1960s. But strict licensing procedures have costs of their own. They dramatically increase the price of new drugs, in many cases beyond the reach of those most in need of them. In addition, they may delay by years the availability of drugs that could save many lives in the interim.

There are no magic formulas to determine how much money should be allocated to, say, dialysis machines versus money allocated for education. Nor do we possess any calipers capable of measuring the cumulative inconvenience of lower speed limits versus the lives saved.

The choices made can be tragic; who will live and who will die often depends on those choices. They frequently involve decisions about the allocation of scarce resources. And they are inevitably made with imperfect knowledge. It is, for instance, impossible to know with certainty how many lives will be lost or saved by one set of drug licensing regulations versus another. What is crucial, however, is to identify the nature of the choices being made, and not to focus on only one side of the equation. A society that has lost the capacity to recognize costs beyond the most immediate and obvious is a society in deep trouble.

Lebanon presents Israelis with a classic example of a tragic choice. As Labor MK Ephraim Sneh has bluntly put it, the question is whether we can "afford'' 24 young lives a year in Lebanon. By framing the issue that way, Sneh is not showing less sensitivity to the cost involved than those who clamor for unilateral withdrawal. Rather, he is suggesting that there are two sides to the equation, and both have to be carefully weighed.

In the very short-term, it is clear that we could save those 24 lives by an immediate withdrawal from Lebanon, just as we could cut traffic deaths to zero by outlawing all motorized vehicles. Yet no country is going to return to horse-drawn carriages no matter how many lives would be thereby "saved'' by doing so. The resulting economic chaos would likely result in dramatically lowered life expectancy and cost far more life-years than would be saved.

By the same token, it is by no means certain that a withdrawal from Lebanon, even in the context of a negotiated settlement with Syria, will not pose costs in terms of lives far beyond the benefits. Hizbullah is not under Syria's absolute control. We cannot be certain that Syria could guarantee us respite on the northern border. Nor is it clear that after regaining the Golan Heights, Syria would have much incentive to do so. The Syrians could simply disavow any responsibility for Hizbullah, confident that Israel would not go to war to retake the Golan - at the cost of thousands of lives - simply because it had been gypped in the bargain.

If as a country, we cannot live with 24 deaths a year in Lebanon, than surely the residents of Kiryat Shmona and Nahariya will not tolerate a far smaller number of deaths from Katyusha rockets each year. Resumed attacks from Lebanon would almost certainly result in a massive exodus from the major urban centers of the North towards the already densely populated center. Israel would contract even further.

Recapturing a security zone in southern Lebanon, once we had pulled out, would likely entail a cost in lives many times that now being incurred there annually, and leave us right back where we started. Yet, if opinion polls are to be believed, a majority of Israelis now appear prepared to pay any price and incur any risk in return for a withdrawal from Lebanon. A narrow majority now claim to support full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty with Syria. Agitation for withdrawal from Lebanon has played a primary role in this dramatic reversal in public opinion.

Neither the loss of control over nearly a third of our water supply, at a time when drought conditions are an increasing fact of life, nor our weakened ability to deter aggression by our traditionally most belligerent adversary, nor the loss of one of the few remaining areas where the army can conduct large-scale training operations, are deemed to outweigh the incentives for returning the Golan. The majority is fixated on the 24 annual casualties in Lebanon to such an extent that it is unable to think about anything else. And in this fixation lies perhaps the greatest cost, albeit an intangible one.

Our Arab adversaries increasingly perceive us as a society that has lost its will to such an extent that rational cost-benefit analysis is beyond us. We have shown again and again that we can be spooked. We were spooked by stone-throwing children during the intifada; we are spooked by every hint of the threat of renewed missile strikes from Iraq, and we are spooked today in Lebanon. Just as Hizbullah can already smell victory in having forced the SLA withdrawal from Jezzine, so the Palestinians and Syrians view us as fighters incapable of holding up our guard any longer.

Can we be surprised that they continue to boast in all their propaganda ultimate victory, even as we speak of compromise and pray for some modus vivendi? (Jerusalem Post Aug 15)

The writer is a biographer and contributing editor to the Jewish Observer


Fewer Alarms, Fewer Compliments by Moshe Zak

Israel's security services have not disclosed who is telling them that as the peace process progresses, terror attacks will increase. It wouldn't be surprising, however, if it would emerge that the source is in the Palestinian security services, who are trying to strengthen the notion that terror attacks do not have to prevent Israel from making territorial withdrawals.

But these type of publicized assessments regarding continuing terror despite ongoing peace talks, do not serve any good purpose. These assessments of some Gordian link between terror and progress in negotiations paves the way for the "privatization" of terror. Thus, the Palestinian Authority can absolve itself of responsibility for the eradicating terrorist infrastructure, which is focused on known groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and instead blame individual, unknown Palestinians, who are harder to find, just as the Israel Police have not been able to catch the serial rapist.

If Israel seems to accept this Palestinian attempt to get it to ignore terror, it is likely to encourage such acts by lone terrorists, whose purpose will be to sow fear among Israelis and reduce their steadfastness. This is why Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was prepared to tell MK Abdul Malik Dahamshe that he is opposed to acts "that are likely to interfere with the return of land to the Palestinians." Because he is hoping that attacks carried out by individuals won't interfere with this process.

It's interesting to note that we haven't, in fact, been hearing too many protests from radical Palestinian groups against Palestinian Authority cooperation with Israel. Israeli ministers having been heaping fulsome praise on the Palestinian security services for the help they are providing their Israeli counterparts in the joint battle against terror, and there has been no Palestinian criticism to counter these compliments.

The Palestinian leadership is obviously enjoying these reports, because they improve its image abroad. Therefore, it's time, that we examined how Israeli responses impacted on three occasions this week. Our reaction in these instances should teach us not to panic when Palestinians alert us to forthcoming terror attacks, and not to overplay our praise of their security services' cooperation.

The postponement of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit has made a significant contribution to settling the current stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians tried to create an atmosphere of crisis by threatening to an cause explosion in the presence of the American mediator. But Ehud Barak played it cool, and refused to be dragged into a crisis. So it was in vain PA Chairman Yasser Arafat tried to encourage opposition among the Israeli public to Barak's suggestions, going so far as to call him a liar; there was simply no response to his incitement. So they didn't get excited in Washington, either, and readily responded to Barak's request that Albright delay her visit. And Arafat thus learned that the US will not always get panicked by his threats.

The sealing of the window on the Temple Mount has so far passed without any violent Palestinian response, even though Israel's security establishment expected one. But this time - unlike during the opening of the Western Wall tunnels in September 1996 - this forecast was kept a closely guarded secret and not leaked by anyone to land a political blow. Publicized warnings of violence have generally proven to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Such publicity pours oil on the fire, and encourages our rivals to instigate disturbances.

The terror attacks at the Nahshon Junction and at Mevo Dotan proved that the compliments voiced by Israeli politicians regarding the Palestinian security services were exaggerated. In the Nahshon Junction incident, it was the father of the terrorist from Bethlehem who warned Beit Shemesh police of his son's intentions, albeit only 15 minutes before the attack. And in the Mevo Dotan attack, carried out by a Hamas gang, the Palestinians did not warn us, nor did they catch the perpetrators after they escaped to Palestinian-controlled territory.

So there was no reason this week to continue making comments about how the Palestinians had helped us prevent other attacks. The Palestinian forces' constant feeding of the Israeli ones with warnings of future attacks - which then reach the media- only serves to keep Israel feeling as if it is under a persistent threat. (Jerusalem Post Aug 13)


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