A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
June 8, 2001
Issue number 330
Sunday June 10, 8:00pm
Canadian Friends of Laniado Hospital presents Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau at the Inn on the Park.
Sunday June 17, 2-5:00pm
Aish Toronto’s Kids for Israel Carnival & Bazaar at Westmount C.I., Bathurst and New Westminister.
Twenty Killed in Suicide Bombing in Tel Aviv
A suicide bomber detonated himself shortly after 11 PM last Friday night outside a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing 20 young people Close to 100 people were injured. Most of the dead were immigrant teenagers from the former Soviet Union. Deputy Minister Avi Yechezkel (Labor) represented the government at one of the funerals on Sunday. He told Arutz-7, "Arafat has, with the means available to him, declared war on Israel." Yechezkel continued, "We must make it clear that if within 24 hours, or 48 at the most, he doesn't issue an absolutely unambiguous order to stop the violence, then we have no need for Arafat or the Palestinian Authority... Even I, a member of the left, say that if he wants war, then he'll get it. If he doesn't issue the order and return all the Hamas terrorists to prison, then that's the end of Arafat and the PA, and maybe we'll have to say that there is just no solution to this problem..." (arutzsheva.org June 3)
Another Jew Murdered in the Shomron
Late last week a Jewish resident of the northern Shomron, 63-year-old Tzvika Shelef, was shot in the head as he was driving near Tul Karem, along the Green Line in the Netanya area. A helicopter was rushed to the scene, but life-saving efforts failed and he died at the scene. Shelef was a founding member of his northern Shomron community Mevo Dotan, established in 1978. He was buried there late this afternoon. (arutzsheva.org May 31)
5-Month-Old Mortally Injured by Ceasefire Rock-Trowing
Doctors were fighting to save the life of five-month-old Yehuda Chaim (ben Bat-Sheva) Shoham, who was very critically wounded Tuesday night in a Palestinian rock-throwing attack. Arabs threw rocks at his family's car as it drove north of Shilo, in the Shomron. The baby was hit by the rock while seated in a back-seat baby chair. The baby's father, Benny Shoham, speaking on Voice of Israel Radio Wednesday morning, asked the entire public to pray and recite Psalms on behalf of his son. He later publicly called on Prime Minister Sharon to "come here to the hospital and see for yourself the results of your peace process and diplomatic achievements." (arutzsheva.org June 6)
Arafat’s Incitement Continues
Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch discussed with Arutz-7 Sunday whether there has been a noticeable change in Palestinian broadcasts:"This morning, Friday's terrorist attack was condemned. But regarding incitement, hate songs are still being broadcast on TV, calling for martyrdom and hitting the 'Zionist enemy.' Even more significant, though, is the fact that in the official PA newspaper, Al Hayat al-Jadida, the first page mentions Arafat's call for a ceasefire - flavored with an attack on Ariel Sharon for violating his own self-proclaimed ceasefire - but then on the second page, there is an ad from the "National and Islamic Forces" This is the name of the umbrella organization of Fatah, Hamas, Force 17, etc., and its ad says that the intifada will "continue until victory," "Long live the intifada," and the like... In short, on the first page you have Arafat telling the whole world that he has ordered a ceasefire, but on the second page of the official PA organ - in which everything is published only with Arafat's approval - you have everything continuing as usual, with the same militant calls for the continuation of the intifada and the like..." Marcus also noted the significance of the an attack on new Russian immigrants to Israel: "The topic of Russian immigration to Israel is something that greatly occupies Palestinian attention. This is because the Arabs have a demographic plan to, within a few decades, outnumber the Jewish population, based on simple calculations of their much higher birthrate than the Jews. But they feel that the immigration from other countries will mess up their plans. In an article in the official Al Hayat al-Jadida a few months ago, a clear call for terrorist attacks against the Russian immigrants was published: 'We must choose targets that will cause them death and fear... that will lose them sleep and give them all sorts of torture. We long for the tears of the prostitutes of Tel Aviv who came from Russia and elsewhere, and that their mothers' hearts will burn... We must transfer the war to the lands of the enemy - if we may use this phrase, with the knowledge that all of Palestine is conquered, and the time has come for us to wake up and fight them on every centimeter - let's move the fight to the land that has been conquered since 1948." Marcus concluded that Friday night's attack shows that the Palestinians were quite serious in their threats.. (arutzsheva.org June 3)
Peres Approves Arafat Flight
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres contradicted Wednesday a government decision of a few days ago. Peres said that the government had not forbidden Arafat from flying from Ramallah to Gaza, and that if he submits a request to leave, it would be granted. Prime Minister Sharon's Bureau said Tuesday that Arafat would not be allowed to leave, but Peres' announcement may render that decision moot. (arutzsheva.org June 6)
Denmark Continues to Justify Arafat
Denmark's Foreign Minister said again today that despite the slaughter of 20 Israelis last Friday, he continues to adhere to his position that Israel is responsible for the violence in the region. The Danish Ambassador was summoned to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Wednesday, where he was told that as long as Denmark and the rest of Europe continue to treat Arafat as a hero, the violence would not end. (arutzsheva.org June 6)
Digging an Anti-Smuggling Ditch in Gaza
The IDF worked Wednesday to dig a very large and deep ditch in the Rafiach area as a way of stopping the massive arms smuggling from Egypt into the Palestinian Authority. Large army bulldozers digging the trench are simultaneously plowing over underground smuggling tunnels dug by the Palestinians during the past months and years. The Palestinians slowed down the work with heavy shooting onto the IDF forces and with explosives. (arutzsheva.org June 6)
Another Left-Winger Turns Right
One of the founding members of Peace Now, Edna Shabtai, has publicized a letter she wrote to former MK Geulah Cohen. Shabtai states in the letter that she now recognizes that the Palestinian entity wishes nothing more than to eradicate the Jewish presence in Israel. Shabtai later explained, "Now, after the past nine months, everyone whose eyes are just a little bit open can see where Arafat is headed: towards the conquest of all of Eretz Yisrael, and the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians. For us, this is a death decree... I keep thinking about Abba Kovner's call to Lithuanian Jewry on Jan. 1, 1942, which began, "Jewish youth, don't trust those who are leading you astray... Don't go like sheep to the slaughter." We must recognize what we are headed for if we allow our hands to be tied and our eyes to be bound..." Excerpts from Shabtai's letter to her former political opponent, MK of the now-defunct nationalist Techiyah (Revival) party: "The government must
immediately issue the following announcement: 'The State of Israel recognizes the state of war waged against it by and under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority for the past nine months. This is a war of terrorism, the PA's answer to the generously outstretched hand of peace proffered by its elected Prime Minister, Ehud Barak... Instead of peace, the Palestinian answer is the dispatching of brainwashed young killers, outfitted with vests of death, to purposely kill children and youth in our cities in mass murders that outrage the heart of all humans. Israel sees itself, starting from June 2, the morning after the mass slaughter of the children, in a state of genuine war, and will do everything it can to protect itself and its citizens, according to international law...'" Government Minister Shlomo Benizri (Shas) also expressed full remorse yesterday for his support of Oslo. (arutzsheva.org June 5)
Palestinians Support Suicide Attacks, 3-1
Over three-quarters of Palestinians support suicide bomb attacks against Israel, according to a poll released this week. The poll of 707 people, carried out by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion in the PA town of Beit Sahour, was commissioned before both the Tel Aviv slaughter outside the Dolphinarium and before Arafat's announcement of a ceasefire. The findings showed that 76% of respondents favored operations like the May 18 suicide blast in Netanya, which killed five Israelis. Only one out of eight people opposed such tactics. Almost half of the respondents said they would resist a halt to the intifada if called for by Arafat, while just over a third said they would back him.. (A7 June 5)
Egypt Warns Military Response If Israel Acts Against PA
Senior aides to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have threatened military response if Israel attacks Palestinian Authority targets, according to a report published in 'The Middle East News Letter.' "The Egyptian armed forces [are] ready to deter aggression," Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi said. "They are ready to carry out instructions." The aides asserted that the Egyptian military is ready for any prospect, including a war with Israel, the report said. The state-run media in Egypt quoted officials as vowing that Cairo will not be again defeated in a war with Israel. Ibrahim Saada, editor-in-chief of Al Ahram, and regarded as a spokesman for Mubarak, said in an article entitled 'War or Peace,' that Egypt is ready to confront any danger to its borders and any operation ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The escalation in rhetoric began last week on the eve of the commemoration of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war in which Egypt lost the Sinai peninsula to Israel. "The Egyptian army is constantly kept in excellent shape in terms of training and armaments. It is prepared for any eventuality. "The 1967 defeat is blamed on the then military establishment which was distracted from its key role by the pursuit of personal gains. The situation is entirely different now," Samir Ragab, another confidante of Mubarak, averred. "The recurrence of the 1967 debacle is remote for a host of reasons," he added. "The crushing Egyptian defeat in 1967 was because of the rivalry between the military and government," Ragab said, concluding, "Under Mubarak, that rivalry has been eliminated." In a related development, Egypt and the United States launched a military exercise yesterday. The maneuvers, entitled 'Eagle Hunter 2001', were to last several days, diplomatic sources said. The exercise would focus on training and an exchange of combat expertise and methods, according to the Al Ahram daily. The United States cancelled military exercises with Israel and Yemen last month amid threats to US troops in the region. (Jerusalem Post Jun 4)
False Anti-Religious Story Widely Broadcast over Shabbat
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau sharply attacked the media Saturday night for "driving a wedge" between the religious and secular sectors with a "viciously untrue" story. The media had reported throughout Shabbat - when the observant do not listen to radio or watch TV - that the religious burial societies had refused to bury the three non-Jewish victims of Friday night's terrorist attack. However, by last night it had become clear that there was no truth to the story, and in fact non-Jews who request are buried in special sections of the Jewish cemeteries. IMRA notes that Ha'aretz reported the correct version of the story in its Hebrew print and internet editions last night - as opposed to the English versions. "The information that the story was not correct was available at 9:00 PM last night," wrote Dr. Aaron Lerner. "It remains unclear why Ha'aretz opted to distribute the viciously incorrect story in its printed English edition. It should also be noted that as of 8:00 AM - 11 hours later - Ha'aretz's website [had] no correction of the vicious story." Israel Radio's Matti Golan reported that the false story originated with Labor MK Sopha Landver, who represents the new-immigrant sector in her party. "She appeared all over the media yesterday," Golan said, "but now, when the story has been shown to be untrue, she refuses to be interviewed, and suffices with a written explanation that she heard the story from a social worker..." (arutzsheva.org Jun 3)
Was Husseini a "Moderate?"
Despite widespread talk on Israeli and world-wide media about the late PA Jerusalem Chief Faisal Husseini's "moderacy," and despite the publication today of condolence announcements by left-wing parties for Husseini, the following selection of quotes by Husseini presents a different picture:
"[This is] an expression of our feeling about the occupation; I have no problem with the deed." - Husseini commenting on the murder of an Israeli security guard in eastern Jerusalem last November. "Taking Israeli citizenship is something that can only be defined as treason... Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship don't have a place in our state. If they want rights, they should go to the Israelis to give them these rights."
- Speaking to a Christian/Moslem conference in Ramallah, August 2000."We must have two capitals in an open and free-access city. Nothing can convince us why the Old City should not be under Palestinian control. It is not logical for the Israelis to say they want control of the Old City."
- Speaking to 'The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine' , April 2000."We will forcefully open up our borders with Jordan and Egypt, which are currently controlled by the Israeli army. There will be violent confrontation and death, but this time on both sides. Are the Israelis more numerous and better equipped? Yes, but the superiority of us Palestinians lies in the fact that we are willing to lay down our lives, whereas for them every death is a tragedy that society cannot bear." - Quoted in Le Nouvel Observateur, August 1998. (arutzsheva.org Jun 3)
Quote For the Week...
"Al-Boraq Wall: It is part of the exterior facade of the western wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque. "Al-Boraq" creature which carried Mohammad during his ascension to heaven was tied to this wall . Some Orthodox religious Jews consider it as a holy place for them, and claim that the wall is part of their temple which all historic studies and archeological excavations have failed to find any proof for such a claim In order to undermine the foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli government has convert it into a religious shrine for jews, prohibiting non Jews to enter it, except for a limited number of tourists ." - Official PA webpage on Jerusalem holy sites. (http://www.minfo.gov.ps/j_ourcap/sites.htm)
Arafat's Arsenal of Missiles By William Safire
In launching a war to drive the Jews from his Palestine, the Arabs' Arafat has come up with an impressive array of weaponry.
It goes beyond the rifles and grenades that too-trusting Israeli governments permitted, which helped transform a police force into an army spoiling for a fight. Now it includes mortars built in Gaza factories and rockets smuggled in from headquarters in Syria. These are fired into Israel from sites near Muslim mosques, hospitals and schools so that when Israel retaliates Europeans watching CNN and the BBC will be shocked.
But the pride and joy of Arafat's arsenal is a weapon of mass terror that has no known defense: the human missile.
The latest in a series of these, carried by a brainwashed suicide bomber, ripped apart a score of young Israelis last week. These were mainly Russian immigrant women of child-bearing age, a high-priority target for those in Baghdad, Damascus and Jericho who dream of militarily or demographically overwhelming the Jews.
Because the human missile that massacred Tel Aviv teenagers so satisfied the lust for casualties, and because the incredible restraint of Ariel Sharon was about to snap, Arafat "condemned" this attack and told a visiting German diplomat he would join Sharon's self-imposed cease-fire "unconditionally."
That means only that Arafat will not insist on the latest reward for violence recommended by the Mitchell commission, Bill Clinton's final vehicle for appeasement: cessation of construction in and around already-existing settlements.
Sharon had already pledged to build no new settlements, a concession not offered by Rabin or Barak, for which he got no credit. An unnatural "freeze" on the natural growth of existing Israeli settlements would be fair only with an equivalent restriction on the expansion of Arab villages in the disputed territories. Not in the cards.
Arafat's guilty promise of a cease- fire may stay Israel's avenging hand if he finally takes the steps necessary to stop his war. His word is worthless because he has long specialized in what the poet Milton called "a certain clandestine Hostility covered over with the name of Peace."
Arafat knows where the bomb factories are in Gaza because he ordered them set up. He knows what new and deadlier weapons of war are being smuggled in from Damascus because he pays for them. He knows who the most fanatic Muslim terrorists are because he released them from jail to prey on Jews.
And he knows where the human missiles are being programmed and armed. Such fanatic indoctrination takes time and isolation; it takes teachers of terror skilled in evoking visions of a martyrdom and requires recruits from vulnerably infuriated families who are known to other cells. The brainwashing is reinforced with official broadcasts of films of a dead boy beckoning potential suicide killers to join him in paradise.
Does anybody still believe that Yasir Arafat is out of the loop in all this? For years, doves have bought the illusion that he was a peacenik at heart who had to bring along the extremists of the "Arab street." Yet, when the moment of decision came at Camp David, he was the man in the street, demanding all or nothing. When nothing was what he got, he became a hero by launching a war. Because his terrorists are ecstatic at their famous victory over the Russian immigrant youths in Tel Aviv, and because his European allies are a little embarrassed by his bloodletting, Arafat will lower the level of violence —— for a while.
After setting protections of Israelis in place, the surprisingly patient Sharon will ultimately offer half of the Barak-Clinton deal. Then the European Union and the U.N. will turn up the economic heat on Israel. Colin Powell will hear the pleas of Dennis Ross, Martin Indyck and the other architects of the current disaster to "get involved and make peace." When such pressure fails to deliver the whole West Bank and divide Jerusalem, Arafat's way is to open his jails and launch his human missiles again.
And at that point we may just hear from the Israeli "street." With doves turned to realists and pressure from Bibi Netanyahu to defend the nation, and with Israelis unwilling to further expose their children to lives of terror, Sharon will let Sharon be Sharon. (New York Times June 4)
A Reform Blow to Jewish Unity Jerusalem Post: Editorial
If there has been a glimmer of hope to emerge from the ongoing violence of the past eight months, it has been the renewed sense of unity among the Jewish people, which has largely put aside its differences and come together to confront the mounting dangers facing Israel.
After his election victory in February, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon succeeded in forging a broad-based national-unity government, something that had eluded the grasp of Ehud Barak. Bridging the gap between Right and Left, Sharon's government has significantly toned down Israel's otherwise raucous political discourse, thereby facilitating an increased sense of harmony throughout Israeli society.
Diaspora Jewry has also coalesced, as the impressive solidarity rally held in New York this past Sunday amply demonstrated. Organized by leading Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of Amcha: the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, the gathering heard speakers from across the religious and political spectrum, sending a clear and most welcome message of support for the people of Israel. Yet, even as the security situation here continues to deteriorate, the first cracks in American Jewry's united front have sadly begun to appear, and the primary culprit is none other than the Reform movement.
In the past two weeks, Reform groups have taken a series of ill-conceived and divisive steps that belie their stated commitment to Jewish unity. The first came at a May 23 meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella body for America's leading Jewish groups, where US publishing magnate Mortimer Zuckerman was up for election to serve as the conference's new chairman.
Zuckerman has been a long-time supporter of Israel, and his candidacy for the conference's top post received warm bipartisan support from the likes of both Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu. Nevertheless, the four Reform groups in the conference led a noisy and disruptive, though unsuccessful, media campaign against Zuckerman's nomination, likely due to Zuckerman's right-of-center political views. The final tally of the vote was 46 to 6, a result described aptly by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as "a rare instance of dissension in a conference election, where votes usually are unanimous."
In opposing Zuckerman, the Reform ostensibly cited concerns that his opinions, as expressed in a regular column in US News & World Report, might be viewed as representing those of the conference rather than Zuckerman's own personal views. This fallacious concern could easily have been addressed, as prominent personalities affiliated with organizations frequently pen columns that do not necessarily represent the views of the groups with whom they are associated. A simple qualifier added to the byline usually does the trick.
But perhaps the best example of the disingenuousness behind the vote was provided by Reform Zionist leader Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, who said, "My hope is that he fully understands the responsibility of the chairman, that at all times he represents and articulates the consensus and only the consensus." Thus, in the name of preserving the consensus of the conference, the Reform movement decided to shatter that very same consensus in the vote over who would be its chairman.
Barely a week later, another prominent Reform official decided to fragment the Diaspora's unified support for Israel. Speaking at a national board meeting of the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), union president Rabbi Eric Yoffie became the first American Jewish leader to publicly criticize the Israel since the start of the intifada. Yoffie reportedly accused Israel of committing "acts of degradation and cruelty" against the Palestinians, called Israel's settlement policies "fanatic" and blamed Israel for "demonizing" its enemies. At a time when Israel is fighting an uphill struggle in the war over public opinion in the US, Yoffie's impetuous remarks were especially harmful and regrettable.
To top it all off, the Reform movement has now cancelled its youth trips to Israel this summer, citing security concerns after recent Palestinian attacks. The UAHC typically sends some 1,500 Jewish teenagers to Israel every summer, giving them an opportunity to explore their heritage and develop bonds with the Land and People of Israel. While concerns over security are of course legitimate, the cancellation of all Reform summer programs is an unfortunately rash step, one that will likely have a domino effect on other Jewish groups and summer tours planning to come to Israel.
Rather than deny students the choice of whether to travel to the Jewish state, Reform groups should have presented them with the option of doing so, leaving the decision up to them and their families. Instead, they have chosen to send their youth, and their membership, the message that Jewish unity is fine, but only until a certain point. At this difficult juncture in Israel's history, that is perhaps the most damaging message they could possibly have chosen to send. (Jerusalem Post June 6)
America's Moment of Truth Jerusalem Post Editorial
Cemeteries across the country yesterday were filled with scenes of pain and anguish as the nation began to bury the young victims of Friday night's horrific terror attack at a Tel Aviv disco.
Nearly all the victims were recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, people who had uprooted themselves from the land of their birth and made their way to Israel in search of a better and more secure life. In an instant, those dreams were dashed. The ubiquitous cries of grief in Russian and Ukrainian, alongside the traditional Hebrew of the funeral service and the ancient Aramaic of the Kaddish prayer, only further underlined the devastating toll that the attack took on Israel's large immigrant community. After eight long years of crises, agreements, terrorism and violence, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are now poised on the brink of all-out confrontation. Thanks to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's intransigence, the process that began in September 1993 on the White House lawn under the auspices of the United States has melted down, perhaps irrevocably.
Having pushed the Oslo process along and encouraged its implementation, the US now has a special responsibility to prevent further bloodshed. But it will require far more than a handful of long-distance phone calls from Secretary of State Colin Powell to do the job. The Bush administration must now act quickly and decisively to adopt a series of resolute steps that will put the pressure on Arafat to end the carnage.
To begin with, the State Department should declare the Palestinian Authority, the PLO and its constituent organizations to be terrorist organizations. Under the Antiterrorism Act of 1996, the secretary of state is authorized at any time to add groups engaged in terror to the list of organizations whose activities are banned in the US. Just recently, the Real IRA, a group active in Northern Ireland, was added to the list as a result of the heinous acts of terror it has perpetrated against innocent civilians.
There is little reason why Arafat and the forces under his control should not similarly be designated, for it is no longer a matter of dispute that the PA has become a terrorist entity, as the IDF chief of staff and the head of the General Security Service have all confirmed in recent months. Such a step would send a clear message to the PA that its terror campaign against Israel must come to an end, and it would punish Arafat by reversing some of the diplomatic gains he has made in recent years.
Similarly, there is a bill making its way through the US Congress, H.R. 1795: The Middle East Commitments Act of 2001, that would impose sanctions on the PA if it continues to violate its commitments under the agreements with Israel. The bill would deny American entry visas to senior Palestinian officials, downgrade the status of the PLO office in Washington and bar any further US assistance to the PA. It is to be hoped that the bill, sponsored by Congressmen Gary Ackerman, Ben Gilman, and Tom Lantos, will meet with approval and support by the Bush administration as yet another lever of pressure that can be applied on the recalcitrant PA chairman.
The US should also consider the rapid approval of the $800 million in military aid to Israel promised by former president Bill Clinton. Faced with soaring defense expenditures due to the ongoing intifada, Israeli officials have sought to convince the Americans to release the promised funds. Fearful of the reaction in the Arab world, the Bush administration has, thus far, been reluctant to push the aid through. This is unfortunate, because it is precisely at times such as these that the Palestinians, and their Arab backers, need to be reminded that Israel is not alone in confronting the scourge of terrorism.
At Camp David last summer, Arafat decided to abandon the negotiating table and return to the trenches. The time has come for him to start paying the price for doing so. (Jerusalem Post June 4)
Sharon's Moment Wall Street Journal Editorial
People get confused about the direction of aggression in the Middle East, so let's see if we can get the past days events straight. On Friday night a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up 20 young Israelis, mostly Russian immigrants, outside a disco. Israel does not retaliate. While Israel's cabinet meets, Yasser Arafat appears to issue a cease-fire. Israel replies that it wants Arafat to match words with "deeds," specifically rearresting the Islamic militants who in the fall were let out of a Palestinian prison and then proceeded to the recent terror campaign. A more fundamental "deed" would be if Mr. Arafat ceased indoctrinating Palestinian school children with hatred of Israel. Alas, no.
On Sunday a meeting of Palestinian factions -- there are 14 factions -- said in a statement that "Our people have a right . . . to pursue the popular Intifada (uprising) as a legitimate means against the continuing occupation of our land and to achieve our national rights."
We have arrived at a familiar place. Let us explain.
It's almost 20 years ago that Ariel Sharon stopped by the editorial rooms of The Wall Street Journal to tell us, as he had just finished telling the Reagan administration, of the danger of war in Lebanon. He pulled out his famous maps, and sketched the problem, which was that Soviet- and Syrian-backed terrorists had set up operations in the village of Damour and, from that redoubt, were running terrorist operations against Israel and other nations.
Upon the next incident that could be traced to any one of the terrorist factions operating out of Lebanon, Mr. Sharon warned that Israel, which had already massed its troops, would invade. He was then asked what, minimally, Israel would seek to accomplish. He said it would seek to seize enemy weapons and materiel that had been stockpiled at caves near Damour. He said Israel would go as far into Lebanon as need be, and he said the country intended to dismantle the PLO infrastructure that was there. The Wall Street Journal printed 2 million copies of its story conveying that news.
Not long thereafter, Palestinian Arab terrorists operating out of Lebanon attacked Israel's envoy in London, and the war began. Arabs and their communist sympathizers and other left-wingers sympathetic to the Arabs sought from the start to undermine support for Mr. Sharon in Israel and abroad. Eventually, after the Syrian-backed assassination of Lebanon's president, Bashir Gemayel, Lebanese phalangist forces seeking revenge entered the Palestinian Arab refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila and committed a terrible massacre. Mr. Sharon's enemies pounced. An Israeli commission said Mr. Sharon should have foreseen the danger. He was driven from the defense ministry. The left-wing history of the Lebanon war prospered, and it took a generation for Israel to call back Mr. Sharon to lead the nation in its worst crisis.
It would not be surprising to us if this history turned out to be the explanation for one of the most puzzling facts about the Middle East crisis today -- the fact that the question heard most frequently: Why doesn't Prime Minister Sharon do something? Far from being reckless, it turns out that Mr. Sharon has been exceptionally prudent in his conduct of the country's leadership, as the past weekend makes clear. No doubt he knows what he is doing. Our sense of the situation is that the terrorist violence has reached the point where even his political adversaries at home in Israel and erstwhile skeptics overseas understand the need for action.
What the American President can do at this point is articulate his support on behalf of the U.S. and the world. Mr. Sharon has said all along he will make his decisions based on what is right for Israel, without allowing himself to be pushed around by any foreign power. He is right to do so. What was the point of having Mr. Bush demand that Yasser Arafat condemn the latest bombing? Stopping civilian massacres is a "deed" Mr. Arafat should have accomplished long ago.
It would have been far more appropriate for Mr. Bush to say, simply, that Mr. Sharon and his democratically elected national unity government, including hawks and doves, will -- when they make their move -- have the support and understanding of the administration, the Congress and the American people.
There are some things that cannot be settled by diplomacy, and the kind of terrorist war that Yasser Arafat has launched against Israel is one of them. That he launched it in the face of an offer from then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak that was far more generous than anyone had a right to expect only underscores this point. (Wall Street Journal June 4)
The Evenhandedness Doctrine: A recipe for more violence - not peace
By Seth Gitell
Israel suffers its worst terrorist act in the current spate of violence - 20 youths killed at a beachfront Tel Aviv disco. Secretary of State Colin Powell urges Israel not to retaliate and continues to criticize Israeli settlements. Such is a recipe for more violence - not peace.
This is not the first time Powell has encouraged Israel to break its policy of retaliating against the acts of violence committed on its people. The first time Israel allowed that principle to be broken came in 1991. As a diversionary move that came in a conflict to which Israel was not a party, Saddam Hussein of Iraq fired some 40 Scud missiles at the Jewish state. Israeli pilots were ready to retaliate, but they refrained. The architects of America's Gulf War - President George Bush and Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - convinced Israel that America would take care of Saddam. Never mind that now, more than ten years later, Saddam Hussein is still in power with even more lethal weapons in his arsenal. Now, in the wake of the latest terrorist attack, Powell is once again urging Israel to refrain from retaliating. "I would encourage [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] to keep having this measured response so that we don't get into another cycle that takes us off into, frankly, worse than just another direction of terror, but into an abyss that we might not be able to get out of," Powell assured Israel on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday.
So the world is to believe Powell, who failed to finish the job against Saddam Hussein a decade ago, that he can protect Israeli lives. Somehow Powell seems to miss the fact that since then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, the greatest concessions ever, including shared control of Jerusalem, the Middle East has been spinning into the exact "abyss" of which he is so afraid. Maybe it's time to reorder the thinking of Powell - almost identical to that of the Clinton administration which preceded him.
Key to Powell's ideas is the so-called Mitchell Report. That document follows a policy of evenhandedness that diplomats like so much. The Palestinians are blamed for launching the campaign of violence that began in late September. Israel is faulted for its policy of settlements in the West Bank. "Let's try to build on the Mitchell report, which gives us a way out of this," Powell said. Yet if it is evenhandness which can bring an end to the Middle East violence, why did it start in the first place? Why didn't the seven years of Clinton's evenhandedness avert the terrible violence that has rocked the region since last fall?
The answer, while nobody wants to say it, is that evenhandedness doesn't work. Since Arafat signed the first Oslo Peace Accord with Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, he has gained land, an army, and an ample supply of American funds. Through thick and thin, Arafat has almost without interruption continued to receive funds from the United States and from governments around the world. This flow of money has continued despite the PA's importation of thousands of illegal weapons - many of them being used in the current campaign - and the incitement of violence on official PA media outlets and in the schools.
For many years, when some raised questions about this incitement in the PA, the Clinton administration brushed off such talk. Focusing on such things would serve as an obstacle to the peace process. Only by ignoring reality could the peace process move forward, which it did until Arafat was finally forced to show his cards.
Numerous voices - Democrats mainly, but their critiques echoed by Tim Russert on NBC - now fault the current administration for failing to emulate the Clinton administration's desperate grasp for a Nobel Peace Prize. Rather than offer a cogent explanation for why the administration tried this, Powell now says the current crew is just as willing to meddle in the Middle East as the prior one. "We have been actively engaged from day one of the Bush administration," Powell said defensively.
What the administration did fail to do is sell their policy of non-involvement. The administration could have simply said that it supported its ally, Israel, and would not deal with the Palestinian Authority until it ceased fomenting violence in the region. Instead it allowed American funds to still flow to Arafat, and when Israel used F-16 jets against the PA several weeks ago, Powell came down hard on Israel. When someone like Arafat sees America coming down hard on Israel for striking back against an act of violence, he sees that as a green light to keep the violence up. After all, Powell is so interested in implementing the Mitchell Report, maybe he'll force Israel to abide by it. So, contrary to protestations the other way, Powell's statements actually lead to more violence - not an end to it.
Some have seen irony in the fact that the current Bush administration is facing saber rattling from Saddam Hussein, whom the prior Bush administration failed to eradicate. The truth is that there is no irony. Saddam Hussein sees America continuing to prop up his ally Arafat, despite the violence he is perpetrating, and senses weakness. Arafat, in turn, is emboldened by the American inability to subdue Saddam Hussein. Others in the region, such as the Kuwaiti foreign minister, know which way the wind is blowing; hence, his statement in defense of Friday's suicide bombing. More such evenhandedness and Powell may find the rest of the region in an even worse abyss than he imagines. (The New Republic June 4)
The writer is a political writer for the Boston Phoenix.