A Collection of the Week's News from Israel

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

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5760    September 10, 1999    Issue number 235


Cabinet Ratifies Agreement

Prime Minister Barak told the Knesset that it is "difficult for [him] to part with portions of the Land of Israel" and that the agreement brings Israel closer to a final-status arrangement with the Palestinians. He said that he understands the pain of the Jewish settlers in Yesha, "who came there to live according to the dictates of their conscience and as emissaries of Israeli governments." The achievements of the agreement, according to the government, include: the beginning of final-status talks, the renewal of trust between the Israelis and Palestinians, a strengthening of Israel's international status, a tightening of the PA's security obligations, and the delay of the last withdrawal until February 2000. Opposition leader Ariel Sharon (Likud)responded with criticism of the new Sharm agreement. He said that the new agreement is worse than the previous Wye Memorandum, in that it forsakes the principle of reciprocity. Sharon added that Israel is now bound by a tight time-schedule, while the PA is not. On Wednesday the cabinet approved the implementation of the first stage of the Sharm a-Sheikh agreement, including the planned transfer of 7% of Judea and Samaria to PA-civil control, and the freeing of 200 Palestinian Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons. (Arutz 7 Sep 8)

Reactions Sunday to the Sharm a-Sheikh agreement:

MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman (NRP): "This is a sad day. The Palestinians are progressing steadily towards their goal of an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem, as Arafat himself announced last night, and we continue to retreat and give in. It seems that we've forgotten that we are talking about our own homeland, and yet despite this, we keep giving it away without getting anything in return. The absurdity is simply outrageous: the Palestinians today expressed disappointment with the agreement, while our government professes to be happy. This is simply Chelm - to give up on land, while the other side isn't keeping promises that it made long ago!"

"This agreement shows that behind Barak's guise of a tough statesman, is nothing more than a weak politician who cannot withstand pressure," said MK

Uzi Landau (Likud) Asked if the Likud could really afford to criticize Barak for signing an agreement based on the Netanyahu-signed Wye accord, Landau said, "First of all, it's time that the Likud admits that Wye was a bad thing. Secondly, no matter how bad Wye was, this new agreement is even worse." (Arutz 7 Sep 5)

Aharon Domb, secretary-general of the Yesha Council: "Barak has proven that he's a good prime minister for the Palestinians. He fought like a lion, and fell like a little cub. He tried to fight like Netanyahu, but surrendered like Peres." (Ma'ariv Sep 6)

200 Prisoners to Be Released

A list of 200 terrorist-prisoners to be released next week has been prepared. For the first time, representatives of the Palestinian Authority were members of the committee that determined the prisoners to be freed. A second group, of 150 terrorists, will be released on October 8 - Palestinian "Prisoner Day." Hamas and Islamic Jihad members will not be freed, nor will be those who committed their crimes after the signing of the original Oslo agreement in September 1993. Dov Kalmanovitch, the first Jew injured in the intifada - he still bears the scars of the burns over 75% of his body - has been active against the freeing of Palestinian terrorists. With bitterness in his voice, he told Arutz-7's Haggai Seri today, "The red lines have been crossed, and I can promise you one thing: Not one Arab terrorist, not even the most cruel murderer of Jews, will remain in Israeli prison after the final status agreement. There is a minister in the government who is working very strongly in order that this will happen, the precedents have already been set, and the Palestinian Authority will simply not give in until every prisoner is out." (Arutz 7 Sep 5,8)

PA to Control 40% of Yesha

The first withdrawal of the Sharm agreement is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 15. It will involve the transfer of 7% of Area C (full Israeli control) to B (Palestinian administrative control). According to the original Wye Agreement, only 5% was to be transferred at this stage. The next stage calls for the transfer of 3% from C to B, and 2% from B to A (full Palestinian control). In the third stage, scheduled for Jan. 20, 2000, Israel is to transfer 1% of C to A, and 5.1% from B to A. In total, another 8.1% of Israeli territory will come under total Palestinian control, and another 2.9% will come under Palestinian civil control. This will bring the total of Palestinian-controlled Yesha to 40 % - 18% in A, and 22% in B. There then remains the third Oslo withdrawal - the extent of which has not yet been determined - and then the final-status agreement; the two may be merged. In addition to the percentages, the location of the land to be transferred to the PA represents another problem for Israel, noted Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman: "Barak has totally eliminated Netanyahu's idea of 'nature reserves' in the Judean desert - in which the Palestinians would have civil jurisdiction, but no rights to build - which in effect would have limited the true scope of the withdrawal to merely 10% and not 13%. In the 'new Wye,' Arafat will be handed the entire 13% (2% under Netanyahu, 11% under the new agreement) with full building rights. What's worse, the land will be derived completely from the Samarian mountain plateau. The additional 3% represents no less than 150 square kilometers, a concession that will necessarily have a serious impact on access by road to the Yesha communities, especially on Route #60." (Arutz 7 Sep 5)

Bombs Greet New Agreement, Israeli-Arabs Arrested

Two attempted Arab terrorist attacks in Israel greeted the newly-signed Sharm a-Sheikh agreement Sunday. A car bomb on Alchadif St. in Tiberias went off prematurely Sunday afternoon, killing the two terrorists, and injuring four. One of the injured is in critical condition, and the other three were lightly hurt.

Shortly afterwards, a bomb exploded in Haifa, killing the terrorist who set it off. Seven Israeli-Arabs have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the car-bomb attempts. The terrorists killed in the attempted attacks were also Israeli-Arabs. The terrorist killed in the Haifa car bomb attempt was from the village of Kfar Mashhad. The two terrorists killed in the failed Tiberias attack were residents of Daburiye, near Kfar Tavor; one of them was the Imam (Islamic religious leader) of Kfar Mashhad. The perpetrators of the attacks - which were aimed to kill dozens of passers-by - were apparently aided by Hamas elements from the autonomous Palestinian areas. As in the recent murder of Yechiel Finfiter and Sharon Shteinmetz, the terrorists were members of the Islamic Jihad. Northern Police Chief Alik Ron said, "It's not that terrorism has jumped up a step [with the formation of this terrorist cell within Israel] - this is a jump of an entire stairwell." Daburiyah Regional Council head Dr. Faisal Aziza condemned the actions of the terrorist cell that originated in his village. He said that he and his colleagues will now engage in serious "introspection." Police Chief Yehuda Wilk said that neither the Police Department nor the General Security Services had any information on the cell, and that this demands some introspection on the part of the police.

Likud MK Yisrael Katz had some sharp words regarding the increase in Israeli-Arab terrorism activity. He recommended the placing of a closure on the village from which the terrorists originated. When asked if he doesn't feel that the terrorists were simply exceptions, or 'wild weeds,' Katz answered: "I asked Israeli-Arab leaders to condemn these activities, and to uproot these wild weeds - but I feel that the condemnations by the Arab MKs are simply lip service. They can't call upon people to support Hamas and Hizbullah, and encourage Arabs in Gaza to kill Jews, and then the next day 'wash their hands' of this type of murder. Maybe they don't want it to happen in this way, but their message is clear, and we hear it in the Knesset too: Israel should not be a Jewish state, they say, when it's obvious that this can only happen by force... I think that we must see this situation as it is. A struggle between [the two] peoples is going on all over the country. There are those who say, 'we'll let them have Shechem, but when they start fighting us in Tel Aviv and the Galilee, then we'll fight.' These are the same people from the left who told us that they would be the first not to accept Palestinian violations - but when it comes down to it, it's the same old story, and those who give in, continue to do so... " Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon said that Israeli-Arabs are exposed to harsh anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian media, which is a cause for their increased involvement in terrorism. Former MK Atty. Amnon Lin, author of a book on Israeli-Arabs entitled "Before The Storm," explained that increased Israeli-Arab hostility towards Israel could have been easily foreseen, and will likely get worse. "I am surprised that [GSS head] Ayalon said that he is surprised," he told Arutz-7 . "Everyone who knows anything about this issue could have foreseen it. We are in the beginning of a major crisis, and it will get worse as the final-status talks go into high gear." Lin started from the beginning: "Since the early days of the State, up until, I would say, Oslo, Israeli-Arabs for the most part were careful to define themselves as Israeli Arabs. They did not want to be counted as Palestinians. Since Oslo, however, they more and more define themselves as 'Palestinians upon whom Israeli citizenship was forced...' There are still those among them who are more moderate, mostly the older people... But let there be no misunderstanding: When the struggle begins for Jerusalem, and for the right of return [for the Arabs who left in 1948], and for the borders of the Palestinian state, and over the fate of the Jewish settlements - and then there will be calls for autonomy for the Arabs of the Galilee, etc. - we will then see the extremist elements attempt to drag everyone along with them in a violent wave against Israel." Lin described the following scenario: "Just picture to yourself how Arafat, as he has promised to do, calls upon the Arab-Palestinians in Jordan and Lebanon to 'return to the homeland' - and hundreds of thousands of people start marching on Israel's borders. And then he calls upon the Arabs living in Palestine/Israel to 'go out and greet your returning brethren.' Will any of the moderate elements be able to stand in their way? We stand now at the beginning of a big storm..." (Arutz 7 Sep 7,8)

Gov't Rejects Three Yesha Map Concerns

For the first time since Israel's withdrawal from the cities of Kalkilye and Tulkarm in late 1995, Palestinian Authority control will be extended to areas bordering pre-1967 Israel. This was one of the main concerns raised by Yesha leaders after they viewed maps of the upcoming withdrawal. "Yesha leaders raised eleven points at the map committee meeting Tuesday," reported Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman. "Of these, eight were accepted by the committee - chaired by Tourism Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shachak - and three were passed on to the government for a final decision." The government today rejected them. The changes that were accepted related to specific problems of water, electricity, and local roads. The three unaccepted issues have implications not only for the settlement enterprise, but for the entire country, Huberman explained. "Next week's withdrawal in the area of the northern Shomron will see Area B, northwest of Jenin, extend up to the Green Line," he said. "The area will border the Arab village of Mukabila, an Israeli-Arab village. Until now, Israel was always careful to leave a buffer between Palestinian areas and the Green Line." Ecological concerns were also raised: "Without Israeli supervision, the PA is liable to bring about real ecological damage to the communities of the northern Shomron and of the Jezre'el Valley, the Yesha Council fears. Waste products could be dumped into the Kishon brook and soon threaten towns as far north as Haifa." As mentioned, however, the government approved the transfer of this area. No Yesha town will become totally isolated, a-la Netzarim in Gaza, nor will any central highways be affected. However, the growth of several Jewish towns will be impeded due to the proximity of Palestinian-controlled areas. (Arutz 7 Sep 8)

Supreme Court Outlaws "Moderate Physical Force"

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that "moderate physical force" by the General Security Services during the interrogation of security prisoners is illegal. The judges ruled that shaking prisoners or depriving them of sleep in order to force them to reveal information is a violation of their civil rights. The Court recommended that the Knesset legislate - if it wishes to - the GSS methods in question into law, "in a manner that does not contradict the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom." Chief Justice Aharon Barak, author of the ruling, wrote that the decision was a hard one, in light of the security situation in Israel, but that "this is the price of democracy." One of the nine judges added his opinion - not accepted by the others - that the ruling should take effect only one year from now, after the Knesset has a chance to make its stance known, and that emergency security cases be excluded from the ruling. Deputy Defense Minister Sneh said that the decision will make it hard for the GSS to prevent terrorist attacks. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said that he is very proud of the Supreme Court's ruling, although he added, "I hope it will not be impossible for the security elements to take exceptional measures in emergency situations." MK Chanan Porat (National Union) said that the GSS should be closed down, and Israel's security should be entrusted to the judges of the Supreme Court. MK Ruby Rivlin (Likud) called upon the Knesset to pass legislation authorizing the GSS to use the appropriate measures to preserve public security, while MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) called upon the Knesset to pass a law limiting the authorities of the Supreme Court. Former Deputy GSS chief MK Gideon Ezra (Likud) told Arutz-7 today, "There is an atmosphere today in which even the Supreme Court judges have been caught up. It is manifest by the presence an Arab MK in a top-secret Knesset committee, our general euphoria about agreements with the Palestinians - and now this. I think that this mood is out of place..." (Arutz 7 Sep 6)

Noted left-wing television journalist Amnon Dankner wrote in Ma'ariv that it is his political camp that should be worried about yesterday's ruling: "An increase in terrorism, which yesterday's ruling may indirectly cause, will only increase the public's dissatisfaction with the government's policies." On the other hand, attorney Elyakim Haetzni of Kiryat Arba - a former Knesset Member of the now-defunct right-wing Techiya party - was in favor of the ruling. Speaking on Arutz-7 today, Haetzni agreed that the court did not explicitly rule out the use of force in an emergency situation. In principle, however, he said that Israelis should welcome the "tightening of the leash on an otherwise undisciplined and morally-questionable organization." Haetzni explained, "After Judge Landau permitted the use of force 12 years ago, one has to ask why the Supreme Court saw fit to now limit that power. The law hasn't changed, and the terror is the same terror. My explanation is that the leadership and officers of the GSS have proven, over the past few years, in case after case, that they are not trustworthy." Specifically, Atty. Haetzni noted the Bus 300 incident in 1984, in which two Arab terrorists were killed by GSS agents, whose superiors then falsified evidence and lied; and the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that the GSS had used unethical interrogation methods in the espionage conviction of Izat Nafsu. Haetzni also noted the role played by the GSS in incriminating Yesha settlers in the Sept. 1995 murder of an Arab from Halhoul. After the radio reported the killing - which was shown two weeks later to have been perpetrated by Arabs - a Jewish group calling itself Eyal claimed responsibility. Eyal was later revealed to be a fake organization, initiated by GSS agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv with the intention of exacerbating public sentiment against the right-wing. "An organization that illustrates this kind of poor judgement," Haetzni asked, "and stoops to this low level of moral turpitude - should we give them a 'carte blanche' to exercise force during interrogations?" (Arutz 7 Sep 7)

Pollard Sues in Supreme Court

Jonathan Pollard, via his attorney Larry Dub, has sued the Prime Minister of Israel - for the second time in less than 18 months - regarding the State's failure to win Pollard's release from American prison. Pollard has sat in jail since 1985 on charges of spying for Israel, and in May 1998 - as a result of the first suit against the Israeli government - then-Prime Minister Netanyahu recognized Pollard as an Israeli agent. The State of Israel "acknowledges its obligation to Mr. Pollard and is ready to assume full responsibility accordingly," according to the announcement. As a result, the original lawsuit was withdrawn. Tuesday, Dub and Jonathan Pollard's wife, Esther, told reporters that, "It is a very sad day when an Israeli agent must sue his own government, after 14 years in prison, to force it to discharge its responsibility to him." The petition asks the Court to issue a conditional judgment in an emergency hearing in which the respondent [the Prime Minister] shall be compelled to appear and to explain:

* why he "has avoided all contact/information-sharing with the petitioner and his representatives,"

* why he "has not provided the petitioner with the documents he requested for his legal defense,"

* and why he has "ignored his responsibility" to offer financial and medical aid to Jonathan Pollard.

The petition noted, "The Prime Minister has demonstrated recently that when a decision is made to negotiate and secure the release of Israel's agents, it is possible to do so in a few days, as was the case recently in Jordan; sometimes in a few weeks, as was the case in Switzerland, and sometimes in a few months, as was the case in Cyprus." The suit further stated that Israel has a "master list" of every document that Pollard ever provided to Israel, which can be used to "rebut the false charges against [Pollard] and Israel that the Americans have disseminated through the media" regarding the amount and kind of information he provided. Pollard maintains in the suit that "[Barak's] recent statements in America ignoring [Pollard's] status as an Israeli agent and referring to the case as 'an internal American problem, best left for American internal deliberation' have seriously undermined the cause." Barak's statements to American-Jewish leaders to "say nothing, do nothing about Pollard" were also noted. (Arutz 7 Sep 7)

Turbine Drives UTJ Out of Coalition

The United Torah Judaism party has quit the coalition. Its MKs emphasized today that the party had never been part of the government, as it had assumed no ministerial position, but that it was resigning from the Knesset coalition in protest of the transport of the latest turbine last Shabbat. (Arutz 7 Sep 5)

Sharon Wins

Both Ehud Olmert and Meir Shetreet congratulated Ariel Sharon for his sweeping victory last Thursday in the Likud's internal elections. Sharon, 71, won 53% of the vote, while Olmert and Shetreet won 24% and 22%, respectively. About 35% of the Likud's 145,000 eligible voters took part in the vote. Sharon will lead the party for the next two years, at which time new elections will be held to determine the Likud's Prime Ministerial candidate. (Arutz 7 Sep 3)

PA Forbids Wedding Gunshots After 12th Death

The Palestinian Authority has issued orders forbidding gunshots at weddings within the autonomous areas. The new rules stipulate that the groom will be arrested if celebratory shots are fired at his wedding. Several weeks ago, a ten-year-old boy was killed by gunfire at a wedding in a village north of Ramallah, and the twelfth such victim this year was claimed last week. The phenomenon of wedding gunshots has increased since the signing of the Oslo Agreements, which allowed local Arabs to acquire large amounts of weapons. One of Oslo's unfulfilled clauses requires the PA to collect the illegal weapons. (Arutz 7 Sep 2)

Second Hareidi Nachal Group

A second group of hareidi youth enlisted in the army last Thursday, in the special "Hareidi Nachal" framework. The IDF hopes that soldiers of the first group, who enlisted eight months ago, will begin officers' training courses next summer. (Arutz 7 Sep 2)


The Middle East Spin Cycle By Cal Thomas

Put simply, the agreement signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and witnessed by Egypt's President and America's Secretary of State, is a piece of theater designed to mask the true intentions of Israel's enemies, which is complete domination of all the land they continue to regard as Palestine. Such an objective remains in their language, in the sermons of their clergy, in their television news, in classroom instruction aimed at creating a new generation of Jewish haters, and in their hearts. Israel's enemies can be likened to a wild animal. The flaw in Western thinking has always been that such a beast will be satisfied with a small piece of meat and will not want the rest. In fact, the animal will continue to demand more and threaten you if you don't give it to him. Finally, when you refuse to give any more, he will forcibly take the rest and then eat you.

There is a cycle in the Middle East, of which the scenario in Sharm El Sheik last weekend is a part. Middle East Commentator Clarence Wagner, Jr. of "Bridges For Peace" describes it this way:

Palestinian negotiators promise minuscule things in exchange for the land that Israel pledges to give them. Who thinks Arafat is more likely to live up to these promises than previous ones he has consistently broken? Within hours after the signing ceremony, car bombs in Haifa and Tiberias exploded in what appeared to be a terrorist attack gone awry. Three people, apparently the perpetrators, were killed. An Arafat spokesman predictably denied responsibility, but Hamas and the terrorism network won't be stopped by ink stains that are dried upon some line. While PLO negotiators claim to want peace, they are making preparations for war. According to an Israeli military spokesman, a new tunnel has recently been discovered running between the Palestinian and Egyptian sections of the Gazan border town of Rafiah (there are many other tunnels in territory relinquished by Israel). Inside the tunnel authorities discovered digging tools, ropes and other devices. Israeli military officials believe terror organizations are using the tunnels to bring arms, explosives and other things into the autonomous areas. Israel says all of the tunnels were dug starting from the Palestinian side.

Why would a people supposedly desiring peaceful coexistence with Israel be engaged in activities one could properly discern as war-like? This is precisely what the Japanese did to the U.S. in 1941. They talked peace while preparing to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Under the latest agreement, which affirms the Wye River accord the Clinton Administration pressured then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign, Israel, in addition to the land installment plan, will also: 1) hand over more than 350 prisoners, many of them involved in violence,

Look for the Palestinians to make only token gestures in living up to their minimal promises. Once the latest land grab is finished, watch for Arafat to demand more land and, when he doesn't get it, the West will put new pressure on Israel to give it to him. The animal won't be satisfied until he has it all, including all of Jerusalem.

On May 15, 1965, Egyptian President Nasser declared, "Our aim is...the creation of a unified and contiguous Arab region from which Israel will be eliminated." There is no reason to believe this objective has been abandoned. There IS reason to believe that the latest "peace" accord will assist Israel's enemies in reaching it.

The Risks of Distorted Perceptions By Aaron Lerner

The news media has played an important role in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's failure at the negotiating table and if things don't change, I fear that this is only a sign of things to come.

Barak himself is quite aware that he failed. He certainly must realize how pathetic it sounded at the Sunday cabinet meeting when he cited a three-month postponement of part of the withdrawals as the major achievement of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. And this at the cost of fudging on Palestinian reciprocity.

The media failed to do its job by seriously understating Israel's position and leverage at the start of negotiations.

Time and again Barak warned that if the negotiations failed, he would carry out Wye 'by the book,' yet the media neglected to seriously pursue what 'by the book' entailed.

So here it is:

On 28 March 1999 then Ha'aretz diplomatic correspondent David Makovsky reported, based on a conversation with special U.S. Middle East peace coordinator Dennis Ross, that Israel need not implement the second pullback from the West Bank under the Wye agreement until the Palestinian Authority (PA) had adhered to all its obligations in the accord's second phase.

That's right. In sharp contrast to the many media reports that claimed that Wye required an immediate Israeli withdrawal, it was still the Palestinians' turn to fulfill various crucial obligations, including the collection of weapons.

Weapons collection is a major issue in the eyes of the Israeli public. A Gallup Poll of Israeli Jews commissioned by IMRA just last week found only 16.9% support an Israeli withdrawal before the Palestinians remove the illegal weapons.

Would Barak have been able to push off weapons collection to some unknown time, as he did in Sharm, if the public had been aware of the situation vis-a-vis implementation of Wye?

The media also failed miserably on the prisoner issue by ignoring the fact that Israel agreed at Wye to substantially increase the prisoner release to 750 in return for Jonathan Pollard's freedom. While this was common knowledge when US President Clinton reneged on his end of the deal, this important perspective, like so much other vital information, has been quickly forgotten.

And what of Foreign Minister David Levy's criticism of Palestinian efforts to take, in gross violation of the very heart of Oslo, the permanent status issues to the UN and other international forums?

Though almost every meeting between Levy and a foreign official was followed by a press release featuring this issue, Levy's extremely serious criticism of the Palestinians was essentially ignored by the media.

The shallow coverage continues, with little, if any, media interest in negotiator Gilad Sher's coy remark to the cabinet that they would not be presented with any Israeli or American side letters since 'there are no letters that are appendices to the agreement.' Keep in mind that such letters rarely take the form of appendices.

These days, with Oslo moving again, the importance of an effective press is even greater. They owe it to their audience and their profession, to provide them with an accurate picture of Palestinian compliance.

Unfortunately, the press tends to take statements complementary of the Palestinians at face value.

This week Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh confidently declared that 'the PA is fighting terror to the best of its ability.'

When I followed up, Sneh claimed that the PA was working with Israel to uncover the tunnels running between the Palestinian and Egyptian sections of the Gazan border town of Rafiah. He also asserted that the tunnels were used mostly for criminal rather than terror activities.

It took me only one telephone call to learn from an IDF brigade commander in the Southern Command that the opposite was the case. He said that the PA has done nothing to help either discover or prevent the construction of the tunnels. Moreover, according to the IDF Spokesman, the tunnels are 'apparently used by terror organizations to bring arms, explosives and other things into the autonomous areas.'

A minor matter? Hardly. The commander said that Israel considers the lack of PA cooperation to be a 'very serious matter.'

Let's hope that the news media mends its ways. For while shallow coverage of Oslo may provide comfort in the short run, in the long run such distorted perceptions can lead to a disastrous outcome.

(Jerusalem Post Sep 8)

A Good Career Move By Daniel Pipes The Jerusalem Post

(September 7) - Edward Said, the famous Palestinian intellectual, it turns out, was actually raised in Egypt. So out goes his oft-repeated claim about the nasty Israelis expelling him from his "beautiful old house" in Jerusalem; he was living at the time in a luxurious apartment in Cairo.

Said had long presented his own story as a symbol of the Palestinian tragedy; learning that he found himself in Jerusalem only when visiting relatives certainly takes some of the edge off his story.

Unexpected on its own, this dissimulation takes on additional meaning when it is seen as part of a pattern. Remarkably, at least two other very prominent Arabs born in Egypt, have falsely claimed to be Palestinian.

The first of them was the 1930s version of Said - a Christian Arab who mastered Western ways so well and wrote a book so influential (The Arab Awakening, 1938) that he singlehandedly changed European and American attitudes toward Arabs.

His name was George Antonius and he was born in Alexandria in 1891 to a Greek Orthodox family of Lebanese origin. Like Said, he attended the most prestigious school in his home town and went off to the West for his higher education. In 1921 he settled in Jerusalem and became an administrator in the British Mandate for Palestine and, in the words of his biographer, "came to regard himself as a Palestinian" and "acquired Palestinian citizenship."

On leaving British employ in 1930, Antonius demonstrated his new loyalties by becoming informal adviser to Haj Amin al-Husseini, mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinians' political leader. At the all-important London Conference of 1939, Antonius served as a key member of the Palestinian delegation. In short, he abandoned his Egyptian-Lebanese identity to became Palestinian. In the words of Fouad Ajami, he gave "the struggle between Arab and Jew all his loyalty."

The second Egyptian-turned-Palestinian is even better known.

On countless occasions, Yasser Arafat has regaled listeners about his Jerusalem birth and childhood. He fondly recalls his birthplace in a stone house abutting the Western Wall, then how he lived with his Uncle Sa'ud in Jerusalem.

Like Said, Arafat presents himself as a victim of Zionism - someone who lost his wordly belongings and his place in the world due to Israel's coming me into existence. But in fact, as two intrepid French biographers, Christopher Boltanski and Jihan El-Tahri revealed a few years, ago (in their 1997 book, Les sept vies de Yasser Arafat), "Mr. Palestine was born on the shores of the Nile."

The French researchers tell an amusing story of discovery. They went to the University of Cairo and innocently asked for the registration of one Muhammad Abd ar-Ra'uf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husayni at the School of Civil Engineering in 1956.

This, Arafat's birth name, means nothing to the Egyptian clerk, who "sits down behind a rickety wooden table, almost completely hidden by the pile of dusty files bound in black leather" and "blows off a layer of grime in a most professional way," then hands over the records. In a blue ink faded by time, the researchers find that their man, living at 24A Baron Empain Street, Heliopolis, "was born on August 4, 1929, in Cairo."

With this information in hand, they dashed over to the State Registry and found Arafat's actual birth certificate, which confirms the date and place.

Arafat then lived in Cairo until the age of 28 and identified as an Egyptian. His first political affiliation was an Egyptian student organization closed to Palestinians. He fought for an Egyptian group against Israel in 1948-49 and subsequently served in the Egyptian military. He first traveled to Moscow, in 1968, on an Egyptian passport.

Arafat all his life has spoken Arabic like an Egyptian, something that has sometimes impeded his career; on first encountering him in 1967, a biographer recounts, "West Bankers did not like his Egyptian accent and ways and found them alien."

How is it that three men raised in Egypt decided at various points in the 20th century - the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s - to become Palestinians?

The answer probably lies in the fact that for a politically ambitious activist, Palestinian politics has far more to offer than Egypt's.

An intellectual can raise his profile much higher; where would Said be today were he advocating Egyptian causes? And a politician finds the path to power far more open; had Arafat made Egypt his life's work, he might today be a retired deputy from that country's rubber-stamp parliament.

Being Palestinian, in other words, is a good career move.

The writer is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and author of 'Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From.'

Wye-Sharm Comparison

Prime Minister Barak's claim Saturday night that the Sharm agreement is "an improved Wye accord" raises the question, "Improved from whose standpoint - Israel or the Palestinians?" So explained Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman Sunday, lamenting, "As one who is very familiar with Wye, and who read yesterday's agreement from beginning to end, I have a hard time finding any improvements. Just the opposite: the new deal has many aspects that are much worse for Israel than even Wye was." Huberman said that originally, Barak said to Arafat, "'Let's make a deal that will be beneficial to both of us: You waive the third Wye withdrawal for now, and we'll link it to the final-status negotiations. In exchange for that, I'll give you a basket of goodies, such as the Gaza seaport, the free passage from Gaza to Hevron and Ramallah, and more. ' Arafat responded with a resounding No! to the first part, but Barak still gave him the whole package of goodies!" Huberman enumerated several faults with the new agreement, from Israel's point of view: "The third Israeli withdrawal is not at all linked to progress in the final-status talks. The agreement merely states that the two sides will 'make every effort' to come to a final-status framework. In fact, an accompanying letter of guarantees delivered by Secretary of State Albright to Yasser Arafat states that there will be no tie-in between the third withdrawal and 'various problems that may arise in final-status negotiations.'" [Ed. note: Israeli negotiator Gilad Sher stated Sunday that Albright's letter contained only general declarations, but no guarantees or promises.] "The original Wye withdrawals," continued Huberman, "were tightly linked to Palestinian fulfillment of their commitments. This was summed up at the time by Netanyahu's pithy phrase, 'If they give, they'll get; if they don't give, they won't get.' This element of reciprocity is lost in the new agreement. Barak succeeded only in spreading out two Wye withdrawals that were to have taken two months - if the Palestinians carried out their side - and divided them into three stages over five months, with no clear mention of reciprocity." Huberman noted that various dates are mentioned in the new agreement - on September 13, for instance, the Palestinians must present a list of their policemen to Israel, and on October 15 they must report on weapons collection and on arrested terrorist suspects - but no clause states that withdrawals are dependent on the fulfillment of the obligations in question. "By October 15, the Palestinians will have already received another 7%," he said. According to Huberman, Prime Minister Barak is proud of achieving a Palestinian agreement to work towards the signing of a final-status deal by September of next year. "Until then, Arafat has consented not to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. But even this is not a serious accomplishment, because if Israel and the PA don't reach a deal by the target date, Arafat is permitted to nevertheless declare his state, with all the territory that he will then control." Huberman continued to list problems with the agreement from an Israeli point of view:

* Israel's parallel promise not to take any unilateral steps. This means almost a complete freeze on construction in Yesha communities, as well as an end to land expropriation in the area, which in turn means that new by-pass roads for Yesha residents will not be able to be paved. Israel can't build, but when Palestinians build illegally - even in Israeli territory - Israel cannot demolish the illegal structures.

* A date has been set for the beginning of construction on the Gaza seaport - Oct. 1 - even though the necessary security arrangements have not yet been formulated.

* Similarly, dates have been set for the opening of the "Free Passage" routes - Oct. 1 from Gaza to Ramallah, and Feb. 5, 2000 for the northern route - even though here, too, the necessary security arrangements have not yet been formulated.

* In Hevron, Barak has already partially opened the Shuhada road in Hevron, and agreed to complete the process on Oct. 30 - even though the Wye Agreement made this contingent upon "normalization" of relations between the Arab and Jewish residents there, which has not occurred. He also has committed himself to examine the possibility of permitting PA security forces into the Muslim section of the Cave of the Patriarchs. (Arutz 7 Sep 5)

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