7 Tishrei 5760 September 17, 1999 Issue number 236
Prosecution: Islamic Anti-Jewish Incitement Led to Murders
The Northern District State Attorney claims that anti-Jewish incitement sounded by Islamic religious leaders during their weekly sermons pushed Israeli-Arab Abdullah Akabaria to murder the two Jewish students in Megiddo two weeks ago. In an indictment submitted to the Nazareth District Court, the Prosecution states that Akabaria had become convinced that if he was killed in the course of fulfilling the "religious commandment" of killing Jews, he would become a "shahid" - holy martyr. The murderer is accused of winning the trust of the two students, then stabbing Yechiel Finfiter in the back with a long knife, and then - after a struggle - killing Sharon Shteinmetz. He then badly mutilated their bodies. The murderer also planned to murder other Jews, and to use the couple's vehicle for a car bomb. (Arutz 7 Sep 14)
Mofaz Considering Replacing Soldiers in Yesha
Statements made Wednesday by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz besmirching relations between IDF soldiers and the Yesha residents they protect were rejected soon after by at least one other high-ranking IDF officer. Mofaz said that the army may consider replacing the guarding soldiers with private security agencies, as the residents do not treat the soldiers well and do not provide proper lodging for them. O.C. Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, however, said that the relations between the residents and the soldiers are "warm and cordial." Later today, the IDF spokesman stated that Mofaz is considering changing the system of civil protection in the communities - where the soldiers serve without constant supervision by their officers - "because of a number of incidents of soldiers playing with guns." Two soldiers were killed in accidents of this nature in the recent past. Yesha Council chairman Benny Kashriel said that he has not received any request from the army to alter the current security arrangements. "If the army wants to change something, it must say so directly, and not make excuses," Kashriel said. He added that the army is responsible for living conditions of its soldiers in the communities, and emphasized that no private agency can replace the IDF in Yesha. (Arutz 7 Sep 15)
A Palestinian Arab was arrested this week for "staking out" Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in order to rob cars and other items. He admitted under questioning that he had driven eight of his friends to observe the routines of residents of Shaarei Tikva and Oranit. The group would then report back to "headquarters," by cellular phone, on which houses were empty and which cars could be stolen. (Arutz 7 Sep 15)
Demand for Equal Rights at Machpelah
Responding to the upcoming convening of a special Israeli-Palestinian committee on the future status of the Machpelah Cave in Hevron, Hevron's Jewish community has called on Prime Minister Ehud Barak to declare the compound a "Jewish national holy site" administered by a national authority. Community spokesman Noam Arnon told Arutz-7 correspondent Yosef Zalmanson today that the current final-status talks call for a committee to discuss the cave, and "experience has taught us that when the Palestinians make demands, the Israeli representatives usually give in - even on holy sites and the like. This is because their knowledge of our history and our land is simply lacking. We therefore have provided the government with a short background on the Jewish history in this area, showing that the Cave was a Jewish site from the times of Abraham, and that the building atop it was built by the Jews 600 years before the founding of Islam." Arnon added that it's time that the Israelis make their own demands, instead of merely listening to those of the Palestinians.
"We therefore demand the full recognition of our Jewish national rights to this land, and we will of course allow persons of other faiths to pray here as well,"he said. The statement issued by the community said that Jews are allotted less than 1/5 of the entire 3,779 square-meter Machpelah Cave building, while the Moslems receive the rest. "The Muslim Waqf (Religious Trust) is solely responsible for the maintenance of Ma'arat HaMachpelah, even on the Jewish side," continued the statement. "Jews are forbidden to have any responsibility for its upkeep. The result is continued magnificence and splendor on the Muslim side, while the Jewish side is disgracefully neglected." It also states that while Jews have no access to the Muslim side, Muslims are allowed on the Jewish side, where they maintain an office and a special room for the Muezzin from which Muslim prayers are broadcast over loudspeakers five times a day - causing major disturbances during Jewish prayer services. (Arutz 7 Sep 15)
Palestinians Anticipate Return to All of Israel
Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch told Arutz-7 Tuesday that the official Palestinian press is quite skeptical of the possibilities that a final-status deal can be reached in the near future. "A political cartoon in the Al Quds paper features an Arab climbing a set of ascending stairs, labeled 'Oslo,' 'Wye,' and 'Sharm,'" Marcus noted. "The character is able to climb each one of the stairs, but cannot reach the last step, labeled 'final status.'" Marcus noted that given the stated "red lines" of the two sides, the cartoon is not so far-fetched: "Last night, Foreign Minister Levy said that Israel would not return to the pre-1967 borders, and that it would insist on the maintenance of settlement blocs. But today's P.A. Al Hayat paper asserts: 'There will be no peace until the very last blade of grass is uprooted from the settlements.' Another article states that there is no hope of peace "unless Jerusalem is the capital of our state, and unless all Palestinian refugees return to their homeland.'"
Arutz-7 News Editor Haggai Segal suggested that such statements simply represent the opening, and not final, positions of the Palestinians. "I don't think so," Marcus responded, "especially if you read their papers on a daily basis and examine what they are teaching Palestinian children in their schools and summer camps - namely, to anticipate the eventual return of refugees to Haifa and Jaffa. While our politicians and journalists refer to Arafat's goal of a Palestinian 'return' to Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians themselves are talking about millions of Arabs returning to modern-day Israel." Marcus noted that to complement its media campaign and educational messages, the PA has invested significant resources in liaisons with Israeli-Arab towns and villages. "Last week, for example, a three-day cultural festival held in the Israeli-Arab city of Um-el Fahm opened with the Palestinian national anthem," Marcus noted, "and it was funded by the PA Department of Cultural Affairs." (Arutz 7 Sep 14)
Jerusalem Committee Adopts Plan
The ministerial committee on Jerusalem came to a number of decisions Monday aimed at strengthening Israeli sovereignty in the capital. Amongst the decisions was the adoption of a plan for greater financial investment in industrial development and infrastructures in eastern Jerusalem. Prime Minister Barak noted the national consensus on the need to maintain the unity of Jerusalem. Also participating in the deliberations was Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, who praised the decisions, but stressed that their true test would be in their implementation. In another apparent move of support for Jerusalem and environs, Prime Minister Barak visited the Judean town of Ma'aleh Adumim today, his first visit to a Jewish community over the pre-1967 border since being elected. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that Barak rejected a Palestinian claim, during the recent talks, to transfer to Palestinian civil control areas under Ma'aleh Adumim's jurisdiction. (Arutz 7 Sep 14)
Y2K Solved at Hebrew University?
A solution to the Y2K problem, applicable to all databases, has been developed by Ben-Etzion Yaron, head of the Manpower and Payroll Section at the Department of Computerized Information Systems at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Announcement of the new Y2K solution was made at a press conference at the Hebrew University. The development is claimed to provide an exacting and speedy solution to most of the problems that may develop in operation of large information-processing systems at the approach of the year 2000, thus preventing possible crises in the operations of banks, insurance companies, government offices, payroll operations and other systems. Yaron explained that his solution for the Y2K problem compresses four digits for the years 2000 and the years following into two symbols. It accomplishes this by utilizing special algorithms for expanding two symbols into four digits and for compressing four digits into two symbols. The solution, for which patents are pending in the U.S., can reportedly be applied to all computer languages and be used with all computers. Yaron estimates that the time required to convert databases to deal with the year 2000 problem using the new solution is 15-20% of the time required using other solutions. For his invention, Yaron has already won an award - the Kaye Innovation Award issued by the Hebrew University's Board of Governors. (Arutz 7 Sep 14)
Administrative Control of 7% More of Yesha Transferred to P.A.
Seven percent of Judea and Samaria (Yesha) was officially transferred Monday to the Palestinian Authority's administrative control. In an exchange-of-maps ceremony in the offices of the Civil Administration Authority in Bet El, the PA received jurisdiction over such matters as transportation, public works, tourism, holy sites, and others. The Arabs will no longer require Israeli permission to build in these areas, and based on past experience, Israeli troops will not enter the territory as freely as before. Environmental elements in Yesha have warned against the resulting ecological effects of PA construction. "Already now, it is clear that the PA will not build according to Israeli standards," warns Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, "and the planned PA industrial zone and quarries will have disastrous effects on the entire region and further away." (Arutz 7 Sep 13)
Burger King Caves in Again; Disney under Pressure
Burger King's surrender to Arab pressure has gone a step further. Following its closure of its branch in Ma'aleh Adumim, the fast-food giant has now decided to freeze the opening of a new branch at the Latrun armored corps memorial site. Latrun, off the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, was a buffer zone between Israel and Jordan up until the Six-Day War. Yesha Council Chairman Benny Kashriel warned today of the ever-expanding Arab boycott weapon. "Whoever deludes himself into thinking that this is just a matter of the settlements, can now wake up and see that Latrun - in the heart of the State of Israel - is also considered occupied territory," he said. Kashriel demands that Barak raise this issue at the beginning of the final-status talks. In a related item, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amru Mussa warns Disneyworld against opening its new Jerusalem pavilion. He said that the Arabs would take "appropriate measures" against the company if it opens the pavilion - which is to be the largest exhibition in the new Millennium Village at Epcot Center in Florida. The Arabs are against any presentation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. IMRA reports that the Palestinian Authority has also joined in the call to boycott Disney. In an official statement, the PA writes that the exhibit contradicts " the world's massive recognition of Jerusalem as an occupied city." It further writes that it "considers this exhibition as constituting... support to [Israel's] non-stop attempts to Judaize Jerusalem... [The PA] appeals to both Saudi Arabia and Morocco to boycott" the entire exhibition if Jerusalem is portrayed as Israel's capital, and "also urges all sisterly Arab and Islamic nations to boycott the company's products as a means to force it to cancel this exhibition." (Arutz 7 Sep 13)
Barak Willing to Settle for Long-term Interim Agreement
In holiday interviews with various news media, Prime Minister Ehud Barak says that if he does not succeed in reaching a permanent-status arrangement with the Palestinians within a few months, he will settle for a long-term interim arrangement. (Arutz 7 Sep 10)
Terrorist Attacks Thwarted
Several major terrorist attacks were thwarted by the security services last week. Jerusalem Police Chief Ya'ir Yitzchaki said that one of them was to have taken place in a major Israeli city; he would not name the city. It was reported this week that the miraculous failure of two separate car-bombs - last Sunday, in Haifa and Tiberias - to kill anyone other than the terrorists themselves has a very simple "earthly" explanation: Israel's return to winter time two days earlier, which the Palestinian Authority - in principle - refuses to follow. The PA bomb-setters didn't switch their clocks back, while the watches of the Israeli-Arab car-bomb drivers were set to Israeli time - such that when the drivers were told that the bombs would go off at 6:30 PM, they assumed they still had another hour. Prime Minister Barak, while not relating to this story, did confirm today that the Israeli-Arab terrorist cells received their orders from within the autonomous areas, and cooperated with Hamas in Jordan as well. (Arutz 7 Sep 10)
Aliyah from Degastan
More than 500 Jews have immigrated to Israel from Degastan since the war started there some weeks ago. About 11,000 Jews still live in Degastan, in the former Soviet Union. (Arutz 7 Sep 10)
Terrorists Released Last Week
Two hundred Arab terrorists were freed last Thursday from various prisons in Israel today. They include 150 who killed Arab collaborators with Israel, and another fifty terrorists who attempted to murder Jews but succeeded only in wounding them. They were taken to different checkpoints leading to the autonomous areas; most of them were released at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza. A group of members of the Terror Victims Association protested the release at the Ofer checkpoint. A verbal and physical conflict developed between the Arabs celebrating the return of the prisoners, and the Israelis who came to protest the injustice. The list of released prisoners was submitted, after their release, to the Terror Victims Association. It includes at least two murderers of Arab collaborators after the first Oslo accord was signed - Fatah-member Majed Asfour of Khan Yunis, and Popular Front member Mar'in Masri Majbalyah. Many of the freed prisoners are from the PFLP, which has never agreed to recognize Israel or to the diplomatic process with Israel. Many of the murderers released served ten years or less in jail. Dov Kalmanovitch, the first victim of the intifada ten years ago, told Arutz-7: "I stood this morning near the Ofer checkpoint, nor far from where I was severely injured ten years ago from a Molotov cocktail, and was treated in the hospital for over a year for burns [all over my body]. I could not sleep all night last night, knowing that terrorists who injured Israelis will be freed today. It seems that my prize for remaining alive is to see these terrorists go free. I cannot calm myself. I could not stay home, and I went out to stand there to register my personal protest of this outrageous injustice... [In response to the claim that peace with the PLO obligates the freeing of terrorists:] We made peace with the German government, yet still continued to pursue Nazis... This is not a personal vendetta; neither my human image, nor my fingers that were cut off, will be returned to me if a terrorist remains or doesn't remain in prison. This is a moral message: murderers must be punished." Arutz 7 spoke with a former Arab collaborator with Israel, whose name was not divulged. The latter expressed his feelings about Israel's release of terrorists who had murdered his fellow Arabs who cooperated with the State's security services: "Israel has gone bankrupt by abandoning those who worked with it. They helped the security of this state, and without them, there would have been no security. It's not the investigators who provide the security, but those of us who brought the information. Israel has thrown them to the dogs... To rely on the PA for security is a big mistake... I have seen many collaborators who were murdered, and I know many of the murderers, and I know that they can do it again. They have 'backing" in the PA. A murderer stays a murderer, it's in his blood, he doesn't care. Even if he kills again, he knows he'll be released a year or two later... The GSS has abandoned the collaborators, and has no program for helping them - whatever they have is worth nothing. No one is helping them. We all believed that Israel would stand by us... We worked days and nights, without seeing our families, and nothing came from it. For the past few months, I've barely been able to pay the rent. Some Jews relate to me OK, if they know what I did, but the Israeli-Arabs relate to me very negatively... Oslo is a sham. There will never be real peace with the PLO - look at what they did in Jordan and Lebanon. Wherever they go, they destroy... The current Arab MKs no longer represent the Israeli-Arabs, but rather the PLO and the Palestinians. [This is because] Hamas is stronger than the GSS, and things are dangerous..." (Arutz 7 Sep 9)
Two More Israeli-Arabs Arrested
The number of Israeli-Arabs arrested in connection with the recent failed car-bomb attempts is now nine, following the arrest of two more late last week. This is in addition to the three Israeli-Arabs killed in the attempts, as well as the murderer of Sharon Shteinmetz and Yechiel Finfiter in Megiddo. The General Security Service has recommended that steps be taken against the Islamic Movement, of which the terrorists were members. A security source said that two leaders of the movement, Sheikh Nimar Darvish and Sheikh Raid Salah, incite openly in favor of the liquidation of the State of Israel. They are in close contact with the Hamas leadership, and have organized fund-raisers for the children of suicide terrorists. (Arutz 7 Sep 9)
It's Ours - We May Not Give it Away by Elyakim Haetzni
Good morning and Gmar Hatimah Tovah (may you be inscribed for a good life).
[This week] marked the start of the final-status talks between Israel and the terrorists, with great fanfare and celebration, at the Erez Checkpoint in Gaza. The two sides will most certainly come to a quick agreement on two of the subjects to be discussed, since Israel has already conceded them: the fate of the settlements, and the Palestinian state. For Barak and his ministers have already announced their willingness to uproot most of the settlements, as well as their consent to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The two issues are inter-connected: as long as most of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) continue to exist, a Palestinian state can neither be established nor maintain itself. Palestine and the settlements are mutually exclusive.
Barak must uproot at least most of the Jewish settlement enterprise, if not its entirety, in order to pave the way for a Palestinian state, which is set to be created on the ruins of the former. This may have been Barak's intention when he recently talked about the need to "part from sections of our homeland."
This "parting," however, is a historic milestone, the likes of which have not been seen since the days of our Patriarch Abraham. Up until now, even after the withdrawals of the past six years of Oslo, we have not permanently parted from our Land. According to the interim agreement, even Area A - that which is totally controlled by Arafat - is still formally under the auspices of the Israeli military government. Arafat has received authorities and powers there, true, but the Oslo Agreement clearly states that " the outcome of the permanent status negotiations" - at which will be discussed permanent borders, among other issues - "should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period." We are still entitled to claim all Judea and Samaria, and even Gaza.
The fateful step in which Israel, Heaven forbid, will sign away parts of its Land - has not yet been taken. The wise men of Oslo left this for Barak. And here we see a most amazing thing: Throughout the world, there is almost not a single square centimeter that is void of sovereignty - except for Yesha. It's as if it was desired, from Heaven, that the Jewish People be left with the option of reclaiming its Land.
How did this happen? From the day that we were exiled from our Land, it was never the homeland of any other people. It was rather always part of one empire or another - the Babylonian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman-Turkish, British, etc. Only in this century, did the world again wake up to the realization that it is in truth the homeland of the Jewish People, just like France is French. The League of Nations entrusted the land to the British as a temporary deposit; the mandate specifically mentioned "the historic connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and its right to re-establish there its national home." The mandate instructed the British to allow Jewish immigration to the land, and to allow Jews to settle there.
In 1948, the British departed, and left a vacuum, which was filled as follows: The State of Israel was formed in what was later known as "within the Green Line;" a Hashemite monarchy was established on the eastern side of the Jordan River; the Gaza Strip was captured - but not annexed - by Egypt, which installed only a military government there; Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem were annexed by Jordan, which was never recognized by our Supreme Court, and which in any event was canceled by Jordan itself in 1988.
Thus, Yesha remained in an international vacuum - a vacuum which was simply an invitation for its long-time historic owners to reclaim it. But the owners hesitated and stalled, and since Oslo, have been evacuating room after room. Moreover, in about a year from now, according to the Wye-Sharm time frame, the owner is scheduled to transfer the entire ownership of the land to a foreign nation. This will mean that for the first time since the days of Yehoshua Bin-Nun, a foreign nation will have sovereignty in parts of Eretz Yisrael.
The British, or the Turks, or anyone else, have no right to transfer the land to the Palestinians - only the true owners, the Jews, can do this. In this way, we have reached this hair-raising absurdity, that has not allowed me to rest for several years now.
During the course of the long Exile, there was no way for the Jews to give away their Land. I have asked rabbis: Would it have been possible for any community, or rabbi, or Moses, or Maimonides, to give away the Land of Israel in the name of the Jewish Nation? The answer was no. But the Jews finally found a way to be able to do this: With blood, sweat, and tears, they returned to the Land, built a State, and now they have the proper mechanism, a recognized authority, to cede away the Land.
This can be phrased in a different way: The Nation of Israel was exiled from its Land, but never parted from it. This mission seems to have been left to the Barak government.
We always returned to the Land, and if we couldn't live there, we at least requested to be buried there. We never parted from the Land in our dreams, on our holidays, in our prayers - our entire national and cultural existence revolved around the Land. Now between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, let our rabbis teach us: Is it permitted for the State to cede its Land? Is it permitted for Torah-observant Jews in the government, the Knesset, the Civil Administration, the army - to take part in the transfer of parts of the Holy Land to a foreign nation, and to take part in nullifying the Covenant Between the Pieces? Or is it that even the State of Israel is not authorized to part with the Land, and its decisions to do so will not obligate the Jewish Nation - neither those Jews who live here, nor those who reside in the Diaspora? If this is true, then what will be the fate of a nation that does in fact uproot itself from its past and its roots?
We will discuss this subject again, for it is at the essence of our very existence. (Arutz 7 Sep 15)
The writer, a former Knesset Member (Techiyah), resides in Kiryat Arba. He authors a column in Yediot Acharonot, and speaks weekly on Arutz 7.
Might does not make right, and neither should money. The Walt Disney Company will be foolish indeed to capitulate before the alleged economic clout the Arab world has leveled against it to prevent Jerusalem being represented as Israel's capital at its planned Epcot Millennium Village.
Just as Middle East economic boycotts seemed the way of the past with the start of the Madrid peace conference, it is curious that they may resurface - albeit in a new form - when the peace process is at its most critical stage at the decade's end.
Disney should stand clear of such efforts and not permit politicization of an event that is designed to permit greater cross-cultural enrichment and family entertainment. Disney should not succumb to blackmail.
There is no doubt what is occurring. With the final-status talks between Palestinians and Israelis under way, there is a clear Arab effort to intimidate
Israel by reminding it of the power the Arab boycott once wielded in Western boardrooms. The Disney affair follows hot on the heels of the Burger King affair, when Arab pressure successfully forced the fast-food chain to close its outlet in Ma'aleh Adumim, because it was deemed to be legitimizing a "settlement." The storm in a Disney teacup featured on the agenda of this weekend's high-profile Arab League summit in Cairo, and "high profile" is the tactic Arab allies intend to take in dogging Israel's path
for every step of the peace process. League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid could announce that Disney has invited an Arab delegation to inspect the exhibit at Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, to judge whether it depicts Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The row was initiated by the United Arab Emirates, turning what was supposed to be Florida's innocent (if profit-making) millennial celebration of 40 nations into a new front-line in world information wars. A Saudi intervention has as much to do with "holier than thou" Gulf Arab rivalries as with Jerusalem's status, but billionaire Saudi businessman Prince Al Walid bin Talal, a nephew of King Fahd and a major shareholder in the French EuroDisney, said he has been assured by Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO, that the Epcot exhibition will not depict Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The UAE threatened to ban Disney merchandise in the country. This is no empty threat to Disney - its toys and products are ubiquitous in every home up and down the secular Gulf states and US leisure and entertainment exports there amount to some $100 million a year.
All this does not leave Israel off the hook. Most of Israel's important efforts to project Jerusalem internationally as an eternal Jewish city have been dogged by incompetence, poor planning, and pathetic internal political or religious squabbling. There is little need to recall the fiascoes surrounding Jerusalem 3000 and particularly Jubilee Bells - supposed celebrations of the city as the jewel in the crown of the Jewish nation. It is hard to contemplate without a shudder the woeful preparations so far made to welcome the Christian world for its Millennium year 2000.
Yet, the main blame rests with the Arab groups. Disney should be careful not to fall into the Arab trap, using spurious reasoning. Eisner's reported statement to Abdel Meguid that Disney "was very keen not to cause any harm to Arab countries, or Jerusalem, or the peace process" does not wash. Even if the Palestinian Authority would obtain - which it knows it will not -100 percent of all territory Israel won in the 1967 War, Jerusalem would still be Israel's capital. Hence, such argumentation attributed to Eisner would be disingenuous.
So far, Disney's statements have been largely filtered through Arab parties. It should come out forthrightly and insist to American-Arab groups, which are helping drive this controversy, that they should spend their resources and energies in promoting peace and cooperation with Israel rather than sowing division. The Arabs should be told to stop politicizing the Epcot cultural experience and to check their threats at the gates of the Magic Kingdom. (Jerusalem Post Sep 15)
Butter or Guns By Efraim Inbar
The government has just decided on making a NIS 950 million cut in its defense budget. In light of past experience, it is doubtful whether the government decision will be implemented in its entirety.
Observe, however, the annual ritual in which the Treasury releases figures showing that salaries of IDF senior brass are eating up a larger proportion of the defense budget. Some of the money-saving suggestions made by the Treasury boys, as they are often referred to, deserve much attention.
The IDF is, indeed, a huge organization that can streamline its operations and release a part of its personnel. In addition, some IDF-provided services, particularly in the maintenance area, can be privatized. The IDF is rightly called upon to increase its organizational efficiency.
Yet, the main argument presented by the Treasury officials - that spending eight percent of GNP on the military is too high for a country aiming for economic growth - is not valid.
In the past, Israel achieved high rates of growth despite even higher defense expenditures, proportional to GNP. This is also true of other countries facing serious security problems that devote large proportions of their GNP to defense needs, such as Taiwan and South Korea.
In addition, comparisons between Israel's defense expenditures and those of western European states are totally irrelevant, as western Europe's enemy vanished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Actually, even before the end of the Cold War, most Western European countries had relatively low defense outlays because they passed the buck to their NATO ally, the United States. Israel is not in the same position and it has no American military umbrella.
The type of threats to Israel's security and to the welfare of its citizens should determine the size of the defense budget. Economic constraints are obviously important and also have to be taken into consideration.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak is correct in warning that despite the series of agreements signed with Israel's neighbors, the best Israel can aspire to is armed peace, while the strength of the IDF is the only guarantee for peaceful coexistence with them.
It should be noted that existential threats, primarily in the form of long-range missiles fitted with non-conventional warheads, become more grave as time passes. Moreover, these threats stem from developments in countries far away, such as Iran and Iraq. Dealing with these challenges requires building a military that is able to operate at great distance from home bases. Projecting force at a radius of over 1,000 kilometers is an expensive business.
Spending roughly the same amount annually over the past 10 years is by itself a de facto reduction in the defense budget. The purchasing power of each dollar or shekel (in terms of weapons systems and qualified personnel) is dwindling because of inflation.
A most aggravating budgetary trend is the reduction in the outlays for research and development (R&D). Without investing in military R&D Israel cannot preserve its qualitative edge, which has become especially important now that Arab countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are acquiring from the United States or other Western suppliers weapons no less advanced than those of the IDF.
Staying ahead of the high-tech curve costs a lot of money. This is true regarding infrastructure, equipment, and, of course, personnel. The IDF has to compete with the private sector for bright engineers and technicians. Talented officers face great remunerative temptations in the civilian sector. Incentives beyond patriotism are needed for convincing good people to stay in the military.
IDF personnel, particularly those in combat units, deserve to be paid extremely well. Treasury officials seem not to understand that the IDF, like any military organization, is a very special type of institution that cannot be judged by simple economic considerations. It can lay claim to all of its members' time and even expects them to sacrifice their lives as a part of their duty.
Therefore, the IDF must be treated differently and its members' compensation cannot be compared to that of employees with similar jobs in the civilian sector. A mechanic in the military, for example, is expected to fix a vehicle under enemy fire. Similar expectations to supply food and ammunition to the troops in battle exist for unglamorous logistics units.
Unfortunately, we seem to forget that our military could be called to face the supreme test at any moment. Regrettably, it appears that an Israeli society facing the butter versus guns dilemma, prefers to butter itself.
The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at
Bar-Ilan University and the author of Rabin and Israel's National Security (Jerusalem Post Sep 14)
Attorney Gilad Sher clearly had no intention of misleading the government. He was simply mistaken. He considered Madeleine Albright's letter to Yasser Arafat from a narrow legal perspective, not the diplomatic significance of the promises given to Arafat by Madeleine Albright.
Sher had told the ministers at Sunday's cabinet meeting that Albright's letter shouldn't be seen as a guarantee, because it chiefly repeated previous American statements. Meanwhile, Arafat announced in a public speech in Italy that he had letters from Washington guaranteeing support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on September 13, 2000, if by then Israel hasn't completed the permanent-status talks. By all accounts, Sher is a talented lawyer; the government has been very satisfied with his work.
But to negotiate with foreign entities it's not enough to be a lawyer. Diplomatic skills are also required. A letter including a quotation from Clinton written as a way to stave off a unilateral declaration of statehood last spring, "We support the aspiration of the Palestinian people to determine their own future on their own land," with the addition by the secretary of state that "on the renewal of the talks on the permanent status you will have an opportunity to achieve your aspirations," is more than a series of remarks.
The letter is an achievement for Arafat and from his point of view he was right when a few hours after signing the Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum he called the letter that he had received from Albright "the guarantee letter."
Two weeks before meeting Clinton, he wouldn't spread false rumors about the US. Letters of the kind sent by Albright to Arafat aren't holy writ, to be followed to the letter. Who remembers president Nixon's promise in the summer of 1970, that no Israeli soldier would have to retreat from the Suez Canal until a peace treaty had been signed between Israel and Egypt? Nixon himself forgot that he had sent a letter to Golda to this effect, when some years later he demanded that she pull the IDF back into Sinai, without a peace treaty.
Indeed, in legal terms Albright's letter is not an American guarantee to the Palestinians, since there is no authority for a guarantee from the International Court in The Hague. But in principle it is a promise of American support for steps that will cause problems for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Albright's letter reveals a hidden commitment. The American secretary of state is announcing to Arafat that Ehud Barak promised her to perform the withdrawal scheduled for January 20, 2000, even if it turns out during the five months of negotiations that Israel and the Palestinians are unable to produce a framework agreement on permanent status.
Barak's idea was good: he introduced the idea of a framework agreement, not only in order to gain an extension of time before performing the withdrawal, but also, and most importantly, to examine whether there is a possibility of dialog on a permanent settlement, in the face of the three great obstacles: territorial compromise, Jerusalem, and the right of return. But if it's already clear to the Palestinians that the withdrawal will be performed even without an agreement with Israel, they will lose any motivation to make an effort towards reaching an agreement.
Albright's commitment to Arafat that "the implementation of the outstanding commitments emanating from the Memorandum will proceed as agreed upon and scheduled regardless of developments in the negotiations related to permanent-status issues," isn't consistent with the three options that Barak listed in case the talks on a framework agreement failed: accepting failure in the negotiations, continuing negotiations on the permanent settlement in the time remaining between February and September 2000, or attempting to conduct negotiations on yet another interim settlement.
Barak didn't specify what he meant by an interim settlement, and it's possible that he was referring to the possible establishment of a Palestinian state without an explicit agreement with Israel. An interim arrangement doesn't require laying down boundaries, nor determination of the Jerusalem question, nor a decision on the principle of the right of return. However, if Israel wants to dream of another agreement it must hold territorial bargaining cards and not reach the position described by Saeb Erekat in Ramallah this week. The chief Palestinian negotiator claimed that after the third IDF withdrawal at the beginning of 2000, the whole of the West Bank will be under Palestinian jurisdiction, except for the settlements and army camps. This was the basis of his claim that "Israel is mistaken if it is thinking of partitioning the West Bank." It means he rejects the whole idea of territorial compromise.
Dr. Henry Kissinger once advised Israel never to arrive at negotiations on a permanent settlement after losing the territories in dispute. Albright's guarantee to Arafat invites the loss of the territories before the agreement, and in the final analysis will be a stumbling block in the negotiations on the settlement. (Jerusalem Post Sep 10)