A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
Rosh Chodesh Elul 5760
September 1, 2000
Issue number 288
Three Soldiers Killed in Botched Mission
Efforts to capture one of the most-wanted Palestinian terrorists failed Saturday night, when three members of an elite IDF unit were fired on and killed, apparently by the terrorist himself. In an attempt to soften the blow of the botched mission, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that several weeks ago, the army did confiscate tons of explosives in a laboratory overseen by the terrorist. The incident began at 9:45 Saturday night, when IDF troops arrived in Kfar Atzira, north of the Shomron town of Shechem; the mission was to apprehend arch-terrorist Mahmoud Abu-Hunud, who was hiding in one of the houses there. "After a difficult chase through orchards and terraced farms near the village, Abu-Hunud reached an Arab-run hospital in Shechem, and soon turned himself into the Palestinian Authority paramilitary police," reports Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman. "It was during the pursuit through those orchards that a fourth soldier was injured. IDF forces inspected the house and its environs throughout the night and into the morning, after which it was razed. In the process, they apprehended another Palestinian, named Nidal, who had been in the house with Abu-Hunud. The dead soldiers are: Twenty-one year-old Staff Seargents Ro'i Even Fielsteiner of Hod Hasharon; Liron Sharvit, 20 of Moshav Beit Hashmonai; and Nir Yaacobi of Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement Sunday morning, offering his sympathies for the deaths, and expressing understanding for "the deep mourning of the families who lost their sons in the incident." He said that "despite the high price, Israel will continue to fight terrorism with all its strength. The terrorists and those who dispatch them will not escape. The IDF and the security forces will continue to stand guard and defend the State of Israel and its citizens." IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz appointed a special commission of inquiry to identify the causes of the debacle. During his review of the incident, Mofaz indicated that "very grave" errors by one of the support units led to the tragedy. Mofaz did not rule out the possibility that the soldiers were killed by "friendly fire."
Mahmoud Abu Hunud is responsible for the deaths of at least 21 Israelis over the past five years. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reviewed Israel's file on the terrorist: "Abu Hunud's worst atrocities were the Machane Yehuda and Ben-Yehuda street suicide bombings in the summer of 1997, attacks that killed 19 people. Of the six suicide bombers dispatched to carry out those attacks, four were from his village of Kfar Atzira. He began organizing 'local militias' about ten years ago, but intensified his activity when he took the helm of a unit of the Hamas Izadin-el-Kassam terrorist cell. He was first cited in connection with the shooting of a Jewish doctor in the vicinity of the community of Elon Moreh in 1995, and he helped plan the 1996 murder of high-school student David Boim on the outskirts of Beit El." Rabbi Uzi Navo, of the Yesha community of Kochav Ya'akov, was the first victim of Abu Hunud's violence. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Navo described how, while driving down a main road one day, an Arab car pulled up next to him, "and then, at point blank range - they fired three bullets at me!" Originally listed in very serious condition with injuries to the mouth, jaw and neck, Rabbi Navo says that he has now almost fully recovered, and has returned to a relatively normal life.(arutzsheva.org Aug 27)
Israel security forces arrested four Arabs suspected of serving as accomplices to terrorist Abu-Hunud. Their arrests came on the heels of the interrogation over the past day of Abu Nidal, who was captured by IDF troops in the course of Saturday night's gun battle. In the wake of the tragedy, Monday's newspapers engaged in a brand of "soul-searching" about the peace promised by Oslo proponents. Ma'ariv writes: "This event has made it clear that whoever was misled by the quiet which has prevailed in the north and the territories into thinking that we are approaching a new era, is mistaken." A more explicit concern was sounded by Yediot Acharonot: "Many Israelis are asking themselves today," writes the paper, "what kind of peace can we expect with the Palestinians, and is it worth paying such a heavy price for peace if, in their dark hiding places, they are preparing terrorist acts against us and we pay for them with the lives of our children?...There is nobody in Israel today who can, is capable of, or wants to, sign an insurance policy for peace with the Palestinians. After more than 100 bloody years, the 'weaning period' from terrorism will still take many long years, if it will take place at all. The question of whether or not to believe the Arabs and go towards peace with them will occupy our thoughts for a long time to come." (arutzsheva.org Aug 28)
Will Abu Hunud Be Extradited?
In the course of Sunday's press conference, Mofaz said that the fact that Abu Hunud is now in PA custody "is a real blow to Hamas, and it will make their efforts at planning terrorist attacks more difficult to implement." Not everyone agreed with this assessment, however. Likud MK Gideon Ezra noted that Abu Hunud had "escaped" from PA custody on a previous occasion, "as part of the PA's revolving door policy." Correspondent Haggai Huberman said: "Today - and I repeat: today - he is detached from the Hamas terrorist network. But it is noteworthy that Muhammed Def, also a Hamas arch-terrorist, met with Hamas officials in the PA's Gaza offices last week, and is reported to be in good health and good spirits. We can safely assume that Abu Hunud will not be subjected to any worse treatment in Shechem than Def receives in Gaza. If and when the PA wishes, it can choose once again to activate its 'revolving door.' Prime Minister Barak said that Israel will, in the future, demand that Abu Hunud be turned over to Israeli authorities. In August, 1997, Palestine National Council member Hanan Ashrawi told a Voice of Palestine interviewer: "No Palestinian will ever be extradited to Israel. A decision has been made to this effect, and it is inconceivable to think that such a thing would ever happen." For the Prime Minister to pretend otherwise, National Religious Party leader Rabbi Yitzchak Levy said today, is an "embarrassment and a national disgrace."
In response to Barak's pledge, Tzafi Adorian, whose husband Ali was murdered in the Machane Yehuda bombing in July 1997, wrote to Barak Monday to request that Abu-Hunud be immediately handed over to Israel. Abu-Hunud masterminded numerous terrorist attacks over the past five years, including the murderous summer '97 suicide bombings in Jerusalem. Speaking with Arutz-7, Adorian rejected the view that pressure on the Palestinians would upset the delicate relations between the sides. "In the same way we pursue Nazi war criminals while simultaneously maintaining diplomatic relations with Germany, we should seek to imprison Palestinian terrorists parallel to talks with the PA," she said. In her letter to Barak, Adorian noted that the PA does not imprison terrorists for extended periods of time, and that the "whole matter [of his arrest there] is a joke." Some months after the attack that killed her husband, Adorian met with Congressmen in Washington to convince them to halt economic aid to the PLO; extradition of wanted terrorists was also discussed at the time. Congressman Eliot Engel (D, NY) responded: "You have no problem with us. The question is what will your government do? Why is your government transferring millions to them?"
Six American Jewish organizations have urged U.S. President Clinton to demand that Yasser Arafat surrender the terrorist Abu Hunud to the U.S. Abu Hunud is responsible for the deaths of three American citizens - in addition to 19 Israelis - and the wounding of many others. Many American citizens were also wounded in those bombings. The Jewish leaders expressed concern that Abu Hunud "will not receive an appropriate punishment at the hands of the PA," whose justice system "was referred to by Secretary of State Albright as a 'revolving door,' because terrorists detained by the PA are routinely set free or given extremely lenient sentences." The statement continued, "Just last week, President Clinton wrote to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which we are member-organizations, pledging to do everything he can to bring Palestinian Arab killers of Americans to justice. The detention of Mahmoud Abu Hunud provides the United States with an opportunity to ensure that a suspected killer of Americans receives American justice..." The statement was signed by the leaders of the Zionist Organization of America, National Council of Young Israel, Jewish War Veterans of USA, Emunah of America, Poalei Agudath Israel, and the American Sephardi Federation. (arutzsheva.org Aug 29,30)
"Creative Ideas" on Jerusalem
There is a purported American proposal to dividen Judaism's holiest site - the Temple Mount - into four different zones and jurisdictions: 1) the mosques, 2) the plaza, 3) the external wall, and 4) the cavities beneath the Mount. A government official said Tuesday that Israel would agree to entertain "creative ideas" regarding the Mount. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said that such a plan is completely unfeasible, noting that "major conflicts would erupt within a week." Olmert added that the Israeli team negotiating with Arafat is doing the PLO leader's work "even better than him... They are presenting negotiating positions vastly different than the promises issued by Barak during last year's election campaign." Olmert was also quoted this week saying "The members of the Arab and Moslem world are uniting totally behind the Moslem claim to the city, while the government of Israel appears to be uniting for the same cause - in favor of the Moslem claim. This is a tragedy of historic proportions..." When asked how he would respond to those who say that hardly any Jews frequent eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, Olmert responded with scorn: "This argument is totally absurd. When was the last time most Jerusalem residents were in Me'ah She'arim, or in Har HaHotzvim Hi-Tech Center? When was the last time most Israelis were in Kiryat Shemonah? Should we give these away, too?"
Atty. Dr. Shmuel Berkovitz, author of a thorough study on holy sites in Jerusalem, is skeptical about the feasibility of the above proposal: "I doubt whether either side would be willing to agree to divide the holiness of the Temple Mount. Neither does the proposed division itself make sense. For instance, how can you divide the mosques from the plaza? And what about the rooms underneath? The area is too small to divide up in this way. It is also hard to envision that the Israeli public will be willing to give up the holiest site to the Jewish people, the source of the nation's holiness, to a foreign element... On the other hand, all previous governments have neglected the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem... and neither have I seen the religious parties protest in any way against the Waqf's control of the Mount during this period. Neither have they, or the religious public, cried out in a major way against the Waqf's desecration of and illegal construction on the Temple Mount..." (arutzsheva.org Aug 29,30)
Belin and Ben-ani Broach Temple Mount Giveaway
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami have volunteered to kick off the government's campaign paving the way for the transfer of control of the Temple Mount to Moslem hands. Speaking on Army Radio Tuesday, Beilin said that the Mount has not been under Israeli control since it was captured in 1967, and "all that remains is to legally formalize the situation." Ben-Ami, at a press conference in Paris yesterday, said, "The dispute is only about symbols. After all, ever since the days of Dayan [Defense Minister during the 1967 Six-Day War], the Palestinians have had functional autonomy on the Temple Mount. No matter what, there will be no major changes there." (arutzsheva.org Aug 29)
Arafat Hosts Moslem Conference on Jerusalem in Morocco
The Moslem countries' Jerusalem conference ended with the usual call for Moslem rights to Jerusalem - but nothing more. Sixteen Arab foreign ministers and the King of Morocco, who convened Monday in Agadir, Morocco, made it clear that the return of the Arab refugees must be one of the main principles of any final-status agreement. They negated any division of eastern Jerusalem and insisted on total Palestinian sovereignty over the area - but the most extreme remarks about Jerusalem were made by Arafat himself. In his speech before the conference, Arafat said that there is no basis to Jewish claims on the Temple Mount, and that "we will never agree to give up on the Temple Mount or Jerusalem." (arutzsheva.org Aug 29)
On the Northern Border
Rock throwing has continued at the northern border, but last Friday it was headed in the opposite direction. In protest of the daily violence of Lebanese villagers towards soldiers and northern residents since the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in May, several residents of Netanya parked their vehicle at Fatma Gate, and began hurling rocks over the fence into Lebanon. IDF forces quickly dispersed the demonstrators.
IDF soldiers retaliated against Lebanese rock-throwers near the Fatma Gate Wednesday. They shot in the air in response to rock-throwers, and when two Lebanese attempted to penetrate the border fence, IDF forces fired at their legs and lightly injured them. The army has of late decided to respond more harshly to the violent actions of Lebanese villagers towards Israel's men in uniform. (arutzsheva.org Aug 25,30)
Arms Cache Discovered in Israeli Arab Village
A raid by Israel police today uncovered a major arms reserve in a raid on a house in the Arab village of Kfar Abu Snan in the western Galilee. In the operation, police confiscated mortar shells, a rocket launcher, magazines, thousands of bullets, and three automatic weapons. Six suspects were arrested for stealing and storing IDF ammunition. Among those detained were an army tracker and another soldier who serves in an elite undercover IDF unit. The police suspect that the weapons were designated for use in internal village clashes that are expected to precede village elections. (arutzsheva.org Aug 28)
Majority of MKs Sign on Barak-Blocking Bill
Sixty-two Knesset members are sponsoring a new bill aimed at preventing Prime Minister Ehud Barak from signing diplomatic agreements as long as he does not have a Knesset majority. The bill was initiated by National Union MK Rabbi Benny Elon. Should the bill pass - as it is expected to - a minority government would be unable to legally sign deals that entail the transfer of sovereignty to a foreign entity or the alteration of the country's borders. Arutz-7 Knesset correspondent Haggai Seri reports that the 62nd name on the list is that of MK Chaim Katz (Am Echad) - whom Ehud Barak has been courting, of late, to join his coalition. "This is not just another bill," reports Seri. "It is an amendment to the (quasi-constitutional) Basic Law: Government. This means that what has been dubbed a 'law to block Barak,' will be even more far-reaching, and would bind any future minority government." Speaking with Arutz-7 Sunday, MK Elon said: "It's true that we have not yet obtained the 61 MKs required for toppling the government; that's one matter. But Mr. Barak cannot operate as if he heads a majority government ... All of the legal experts I have spoken to about this amendment, including the bill's author, Prof. Eliav Shochatman, feel that such a move would have great constitutional significance. We hope to pass it. It is important to both the Land of Israel and to the democracy of the State of Israel." Correspondent Seri notes that despite the 62 signatures, opposition Knesset members are not prematurely celebrating. Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg (Labor) refused to conduct a special mid-recess preliminary vote on the bill, but did agree to an initial debate on the matter during the recess. As a result of Burg's decision, opposition forces will be hard-pressed to pre-empt any Barak-Arafat summit this fall. (A7 Aug 27)
Air Force to Forfeit Crucial Early Warning Station
Israel plans to evacuate the Israel Air Force early-warning station at Ba'al Hatzor within a year. IAF commander Brig.-Gen. Dan Halutz conveyed the information several days ago to officers stationed there. The plan is to transfer the base to the PA by the end of the year 2001. A contingent of IDF personnel will remain there, but will function in an administrative capacity only; an IDF liaison officer will also visit the site at regular intervals. Ba'al Hatzor is considered one of the Air Force's most vital bases, located on the highest mountain in the Judea and Samaria region. The site reportedly provides troops with a view well beyond the borders of the state. (A7 Aug 27)
PM: Arafat Holds Key to Future
Prime Minister Barak says that "the ball is in Yasser Arafat's court." Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Barak explained that it is Arafat who must now decide whether or not he wishes a deal. "If not," Barak warned, "he (Arafat) will be responsible for the situation that results." Barak added that although contacts are being conducted at various levels, "we will only know in which direction the process is headed when Arafat comes to a decision in the weeks ahead." Barak also boasted of Israel's success in elucidating its diplomatic position on the relevant issues to the international community. (arutzsheva.org Aug 27)
A Brush with Peace
A Jewish man last Thursday night got a chance to taste the fruits of Middle-Eastern peace. Voice of Israel radio reported that as the man dropped off Arab workers at a junction north of Jerusalem last Thursday evening, several Palestinians blocked the path of his car and then hurled rocks at his windshield, shattering it. The stunned driver was then kidnapped by his attackers, who blindfolded him and transported him to a refugee camp, where he was physically beaten and relieved of his wallet. After the assailants fled the scene, the driver managed to call home on his cellular phone. He was soon rescued by police. (arutzsheva.org Aug 25)
Police Detain Letter-Writer
The Deputy Mayor of Mazkeret Batya, Moshe Muskal, was detained by police for a number of hours because of a letter he wrote to the Prime Minister. Muskal's letter compared Barak to the head of the Judenraat and Arafat's "stages" plan to Hitler's final solution. Speaking with Arutz-7 Thursday, Muskal explained that Barak "seems to feel the need to constantly give up more and more, with the promise that this will be the last time - just as the Judenraat head felt." Police officers took him to the station, questioned him, and then released him on his own recognizance. Muskal asked, "Have we reverted to a 'dark regime' here in Israel? I was simply exercising my right to complain to the Prime Minister about the dangers I see facing the country. I was not trying to incite, but rather to convince him to see the folly of his ways."(arutzsheva.org Aug 24)
From Zion Comes Biotechnology
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved clinical testing on humans of a pill that uses video photography to help diagnose the condition of the digestive track. The new technology was developed by "Givun Imaging" corporation of the northern Israeli city of Yokne'am. It features a $300-a-swallow pill, which measures 2.5 centimeters in length, passes through the digestive track, and leaves the body naturally. It contains a tiny video camera powered by two miniature batteries. A computer program also developed by Givun permits the information amassed during the test to be transformed into a videotape for later analysis and diagnosis. (arutzsheva.org Aug 30)
Three IDF soldiers weren't the only casualties in the Duvdevan unit's preemptive operation near Nablus. The myth of the IDF's ability to capture any terrorist threatening the safety of Israel was also wounded.
The implications of the tragic incident were more than just the death of the courageous and worthy soldiers who volunteered for a unit that battles with the infrastructure of terrorism. The failure of the operation is liable to have implications for the peace process as well.
A week ago the Palestinians heard Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaking of the danger of an outbreak of hostilities if the negotiations with Arafat broke down. They heard what he said about a national unity government, and they concluded the prime minister wanted to prepare Israeli society for the possibility of conflict with the Palestinian authority.
I don't know if the prime minister's intention when he spoke of national unity was to warn Arafat that if he didn't modify his position on Jerusalem, Israeli society would close ranks and defeat any unilateral plans made by the PA.
But the Palestinians took it as a warning that he intended to act against the PA if a Palestinian state was unilaterally declared. In theory, this impression on the part of the Palestinians might have discouraged them from taking hasty steps, but several shots fired between Israeli politicians on the subject of unity showed Arafat that Barak's threat was completely unrealistic.
If the Duvdevan operation near Nablus had been successful, the Palestinians might have seen it as confirmation of their fears that Israel was planning to take steps of its own if the PA tried to seize territory in Judea and Samaria and establish a state there. But since the operation failed they see it as symbolic of the impotence of Israeli society. They want to apply the military model to diplomatic prospects.
The unit sets out in full force to its objective. It reaches the suspect's house and fires from the roof, and then a hail of gunfire breaks out from all directions, Israeli soldiers are killed and the Hamas member escapes.
Hamas members take pride in the success of a lone terrorist against hundreds of IDF soldiers, and point to this incident as proof that the agreement with Israel is unnecessary. They assume that although all the Israelis will set out to battle together, they will get disoriented on the way up the hill and begin firing criticism indiscriminately at one another, and split off because of competing compromise proposals. That is the way the Hamas describes Israel's failure among themselves. The PA, combatting its political rivals - the Islamic groups - is liable to buy into the same interpretation.
In the cabinet meeting this Sunday, Barak pleaded with the ministers to refrain from pouring out public proposals for solutions to the crisis in the talks with the Palestinians over Jerusalem. These proposals are undermining the official negotiators and harming those conducting negotiations, in which many international parties are involved.
Barak's request to the ministers came straight after the discussion which exposed the failures in the Duvdevan operation, in which one Israeli force fired on another Israeli force and caused losses of life. There is no need to labor the point: the symbolic similarity is obvious.
So what should Barak do in response to Arafat's new slogan, "Jerusalem is the key to peace or war" which he presented Monday at the Agadir conference?
Barak should once again make it clear that he won't allow Arafat to hold his government hostage until Israel leans to his demands. Barak has an alternative: an emergency government which will unite the nation and stand against possible violence. This government would not lead a social revolution, but would focus on one central issue: ensuring the security and survival of the state and its citizens. Such a move might deter war and secure Jerusalem.
(Jerusalem Post Aug 30)
Having presided at Camp David over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's previously unimaginable concessions -- giving up almost all the West Bank and sharing sovereignty in parts of Jerusalem -- President Clinton goes to Cairo tomorrow. He will plead with Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, to tell Yasir Arafat to grab the deal before an astounded and dismayed Israeli public rises up and tosses out its Great Conceder.
The lame-duck American will promise Egypt to continue billions in U.S. foreign aid to prop up its regime, as we have for a generation. Clinton also promises Arafat tens of billions to finance his future operations in payments fungible enough to arm an ever-growing "police force."
Aware that future Congresses may not want to pick up the tab for history's most expensive Nobel Prize, Clinton will argue that if we ever renege on his departing budget commitments, blame for a new war will fall on the U.S.
Similarly, Barak predicts "tragedy" if his concessions are not accepted by Palestinians. That message is also aimed at Israeli voters: if you do not support my division of Jerusalem and withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, then you will have to fight Palestinian terrorists, with an unsympathetic world saying that you brought it on yourselves.
As a result, Barak, with Clinton's active "facilitating," has emboldened Arabs who are now convinced the Jews will cut a deal at any price. Such inflated expectations drove up the price and made agreement less likely. It is also why the frustrated Barak is now bruiting about coalition with Likud; the prospect of Arik Sharon as deputy prime minister is designed to shock Arafat into signing.
What if Clinton in Cairo convinces Egypt's Mubarak that American largesse will cease if he doesn't lean on Arafat to take this once-in-a-lifetime offer? And what if the Palestinian leader graciously accepts the split-level sovereignty that gives him ownership of the Temple Mount and lets Israel keep the Temple underneath?
At that point, as Barak's concessions lead to a grand photo-op on the White House lawn in time to meet American political and legacy needs, the go-it-alone prime minister would have to submit to Israeli elections.
Right now, his public support is hemorrhaging. Likud's leaders want to replace the government rather than join it. Bibi Netanyahu, though interminably hectored by investigators, leads Barak in polls; Likud leader Arik Sharon is close behind, and Limor Livnat, the Jewish Maggie Thatcher, is in the wings.
Desperate to shore up his former leftist support and to appeal to the Russian immigrants, Barak has now called for a "civic revolution" against the religious parties. Israel could benefit from less religio-political activism, but this is Barak's second time around; after hawking this secular line before his election, the victorious loner surprised supporters by embracing the religious parties as soon as he came to power. Now his sudden reconversion smacks of political panic and many, even on the Israeli left, are disinclined to be triple-crossed.
The good to have come out of this negotiation is to show that for Arab leaders, the issue is less territorial than existential. Abu Dis, the Jerusalem suburb, was not enough; soon East Jerusalem will not be enough; eventually all Jerusalem will not be enough. But the Barak-Clinton concessions cannot be withdrawn until the conceders leave the political scene.
In light of escalating Arab demands, new negotiators need to consider alternative strategies. In five years, Iran and Iraq are likely to have weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. At that time Israel's nuclear deterrent will be matched in the region much as America's was by the Soviet Union. What happens when each adversary has the power to totally destroy the other?
Unless madmen take charge, you do not have nuclear war. Instead, as when the Warsaw Pact faced NATO, conventional defenses help keep the peace. Super-tech anti-missile defenses may also cause future military leaders to turn to tanks and even (gasp!) infantry. If so, the Jordan Valley escarpment, which Barak is so ready to give away, would be vital to Israel's survival.
It's not too late. If Clinton's call on Cairo leads to Arafat's agreement, Israel's last line of defense will be its belatedly aroused electorate. (New York Times Aug 28)
I work with a senior Palestinian TV journalist, Mustafa, who, like me, hits fifty this year and, like me, has a child, Muhammad, who begins first grade this week. My Meira, also six, is excited to know that ever so soon she will learn how to read and write like her older siblings.
I witness the same excitement that I see on Meira's face when I see Muhammad at his home in Ramallah, sitting with his older siblings. Muhammad, who always runs to get me Kosher cookies when I come to work with his father on a fliming assignment, tells me that now that he's in first grade he'll be able to read the kosher label on the cookies.
Yet when I joined Mustafa this week to cover the beginning of the school year in both the Israeli and Palestinian first grades, the difference in the curriculum could not be more dissonant.
When I went to the curricula center in the Al Bira, the well kept middle class Palestinian suburb of Ramallah, the PA director of textbooks and printings, showed my Palestinian journalist and myself the new school books that have been published for the first time by the Palestinian Authority itself, with special grants received from the nations of the European community, beginning this year with brand new books for the first and sixth grade.
The other school books used by Palestinian school children, published for the PA in Egypt and in Jordan, are rampant with passages that prepare Palestinian children for war against the state of Israel, while describing the Jewish state in Nazi-like terms.
When the Israel Civil Administration had supervised the Palestinian school system until 1994, Israel had deleted all such passages. The PA simply reinstated them.
Many people had held out hope that the new school books published by the Palestinian Authority would contain passages of peace, unlike the others. No such luck. The history and geography books for both the first and sixth grades contain maps which portray all of Palestine, and numerous new passages that call on a new generation of Palestinian children to liberate all of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.
The contrast with what Israeli school children are learning is striking, since a peace curriculum has been required in the Israeli schools and Israeli educational Television since 1993.
As I browsed through the Palestinian school books, I could not help but think about the difference between Meira and Muhmmad. Meira knows the Sesame Street song "let's be friends" in Arabic from the program that he has been watching on Israeli educational TV since she is four, and she sometimes insists on singing it at the Shabbat table. For her, the idea that she might make friends with Arab kids her own age has caught her imagination from a young age. Yet Muhammad, at the same age, can't stop singing the Biladi song of the PLO, the marching song which calls on every Palestinian youngster to take up arms against the Jews.
Such manipulation of children was not supposed to be part of the peace process. After all, "peace education" was to be included in the second paragraph of the Oslo declaration of principles that was signed and issued by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jorgen Holst, and PLO leader Yassir Arafat back in September, 1993.
Yet almost seven years to the day from that declaration of principles, and despite numerous grass roots efforts at reconciliation, the official organs of the PLO and its administrative creation, the Palestinian Authority, have yet to issue their first statement in Arabic that calls for peace and reconciliation with Zionism and/or the state of Israel.
Recognizing that the PLO and the PA had instead substituted incitement for peace in their official rhetoric, the US, PLO and Israel agreed at the Wye conference in October, 1998 to establish a continuing task force to address the subject of official PLO incitement to war. That task force met constantly for more than a year, even into the Barak administration, which assumed the helm of Israeli leadership in July of 1999. Barak appointed Yaakov Erez, the editor of Maariv, to head Israel's delegation to the task force on incitement.
The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an agency that monitors school books on all sides of the middle east conflict, dispatched streams of material to the task force, and organized an unusual nonpartisan session of the Knesset in May to address the subject of PA education, which constantly depicts Israel as a Nazi entity that needs to be wiped off of the face of the earth. The Center's website can be accessed at: www.edume.org.
Following my visit to the PA curriculum center at AL Bira, where I had perused the new textbooks of the PA, I called Yaakov Erez to ask him if the textbooks had been seen and evaluated by the task force on incitement. Erez told me that he had resigned from the committee, and referred me to the Israel Foreign Ministry, who had assigned a senior staff member to continue Israeli representation at the committee.
When I got to the Israel Foreign Ministry and finally located the Ministry staffer who was assigned to the incitement committee, he informed me that the task force on incitement was no longer meeting. Because of PLO opposition, I asked. No, he said. It was because the new American ambassador, Martin Indyk, had indicated little interest in the subject. His predecessor, Edward Walker, had devoted much time and effort to the subject.
I inquired as to whether the Italian consul, Mr. Gianni Ghisi, who was responsible for organizing the funding of the European consuls to fund the new Palestinian textbooks, had even seen the new textbooks of the Palestinian Authority that he had funded. Mr. Ghisi responded by saying that the PA would not let him see the books before they were published, despite an agreement that they had to review the texts before publication.
So there you have it. Meira begins first grade singing the Sesame Street song in Arabic, wondering aloud if she will ever have an Arab friend, while Muhammad will be handed a map of the whole of Palestine on his first day of school, and inculcated to everything that he can in his young life to make war on my children.
It was therefore not surprising that the New York Times, in a front page story on August 3, 2000, entitled "Palestinian Summer Camps Offer Games of War", documented how the schoolyards of Palestinian educational institutions were used all summer to train 25,000 Palestinian school children in the art of war.
In a recent speech in Israel, Condoleeza Rice -- one of George W. Bush Jr.'s key advisors -- provided a high-level overview of the challenges that the next president will face in foreign policy. Despite the victory in the Cold War, and the talk of "a new world order", the global threats and instabilities have not disappeared. China and Russia will continue to pose difficulties, and in areas of regional conflict, including the Middle East, the next U.S. administration will face at least as many dangers as in the past.
Rice acknowledged that the U.S., as the world's only global power, has the primary responsibility for preventing war and chaos. America is the only country with the capabilities to block or respond to aggression and terror, as demonstrated in 1991 following Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, and in last year's belated bombing campaign to rescue Kosovo.
However, Prof. Rice also candidly admitted that America is finding it increasingly difficult to fulfill this role. Since the draft was abolished after the Vietnam War, the U.S. has relied on a paid army. However, with the extended economic boom and full employment, and in the absence of a "clear and present danger" to America's well-being, the difficulties in maintaining a high-quality military force are growing. New recruits with the necessary skills are hard to find, and those that spend a few years in uniform are leaving to take less demanding and better paying jobs. For those who stay in the military, morale and motivation are growing problems.
Rice's admission highlighted the growing inconsistency between the limits on America's ability to project force, and the extension of American security guarantees. This problem is particularly blatant in the case of Israel. In its pursuit of the Arab-Israeli peace, successive US Presidents have played the role of guarantor for over twenty years, since the Israeli-Egyptian treaty. The Clinton Administration has upped the ante, offering to provide a wide range of security packages to Israel to offset the loss of territory and strategic depth. In the negotiations over the Golan, when an agreement seemed possible, the White House and State Department suggesting a bilateral defense treaty, as well as multi-billion packages of advanced weapons. Similar discussions are taking place now on the assumption that permanent status agreement with the Palestinians is still feasible.
For many Israeli officials, a formal defense treaty with the US, and pledges of billions of dollars for new weapons look very attractive. Based primarily on their meetings in Washington with members of the Executive Branch, they see these offers as providing solutions to many of threats that Israel faces in the next two decades. From the vantage points of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the President of the United States often appears all-powerful. Few top Israeli officials understand that even with a defense treaty, the President must still obtain congressional approval and widespread popular support to send or maintain armed forces in a war zone. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and also in the case of Kosovo, Congress, reflecting public opinion, was very reluctant to commit US troops. Defense treaties and other formal commitments have some advantages, but they are far from ironclad guarantees.
Given the problems faced by the US military, as outlined by Condoleeza Rice, and the difficult debate that would take place in Congress and around America, no country, including Israel, can or should rely on the world's only superpower to defend its security. Domestic American political factors have and will continue to influence key decisions, including the level of military readiness, and the allocation of foreign military assistance. Disagreements, such as the one that erupted over Israeli weapons sales to China, could also trigger opposition in Congress and within the Department of Defense.
In the past, Israel has been burned by taken guarantees at face value. In 1957, President Eisenhower's "promised" that the US would keep the Red Sea open to Israeli shipping and would prevent Egyptian troops from taking positions along the border, but in 1967, President Johnson could not deliver. In 1970, the Nixon Administration promised to force Egypt to move its missile batteries back to previous positions. Nothing happened, and when the 1973 war broke, Israel paid a heavy price. In 1991, President Bush told Israel to ignore the Iraqi missile attacks, and guaranteed that the US would put an end to the threat from Saddam. Neither he nor his successor has redeemed this pledge.
It is time for American officials to stop dangling treaties, strategic weapons, and huge aid packages in order to gain further Israeli concessions in negotiations with the Arabs. At the same time, the Israelis need to take a more realistic look at the complexities of American politics, and check the fine print on these guarantees. The bottom line is "don't make promises you can't keep" -- however tempting this may be.