A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto


29 Elul 5760
September 29, 2000
Issue number 292


Netanyahu Cleared

Binyamin Netanyahu's return to national politics has paved with the announcement by Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein of the dropping of all charges against him. Netanyahu had been accused by the police of not returning gifts he received while in office, and of accepting free services from contractor Avner Amedi in exchange for unspecified benefits; Amedi himself, who signed a plea-bargain agreement with the Prosecution, said that he never received any benefits from Netanyahu. State Prosecutor Edna Arbel had been in favor of pressing charges against Netanyahu. Rubenstein's report, in which he explains why he is closing the file - lack of evidence - will express criticism of Netanyahu's behavior. Charges against his wife Sarah have also been dropped. Reactions in the Likud to Netanyahu's expected return to politics were mixed. MK Michael Eitan praised Rubenstein's decision, but said, "He will not be the star to save the Likud. I would like to note that he resigned from the leadership of the Likud not because of the police investigation against him, but because of his defeat in the election. Nothing has changed politically that would justify his return to the arena." Arutz-7's Haggai Seri reports that several Likud members with Prime Ministerial ambitions of their own - Ariel Sharon, Silvan Shalom, Meir Shetreet, and even Limor Livnat - maintained a 'wait and see' approach. One of Netanyahu's main supporters, MK Yisrael Katz, said today, "A giant majority of the Likud supports his return and is hoping that he will become head of the party." A close former aide to Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman, predicted that Netanyahu will not make an immediate decision regarding his political plans. Another former top Netanyahu aide, Uri Elitzur, said, "This whole investigation was something that never should have started. These were very insignificant things, but were blown out of proportion by a network powered by the media, police, and some politicians." Elitzur expressed the hope that Netanyahu would return to politics, and attacked Eitan's remark that nothing had changed politically: "What has happened is that Barak has brought the country even lower than anything we ever dreamt: his concessions to Arafat leave us practically naked; his government has fallen apart - supported only by an unprecedented 30 MKs; the Prime Minister's Office is one big mess... For these reasons, the Likud must field a candidate who can win and who can govern." Elitzur later clarified: "Netanyahu has proven himself as one who can stand up to pressures - his goal was to make the Palestinians lessen their expectations, and he was in fact the first one to make Arafat sweat... He is not of Gush Emunim, true, but then again, a Gush Emunim candidate will not win a national election. Netanyahu would definitely be tougher than is Barak on matters such as Jerusalem, giving away settlements, and a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria." Elitzur added, "Some say that Netanyahu should make his decision [whether to return or not] only after it becomes clear whether Barak reaches an agreement [with the Palestinians] or not - but I don't agree. I am not concerned for Netanyahu's career, but for the country; if he waits [until after an agreement], there will be nothing left for him to save." MK Benny Elon, leader of the 7-seat National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction, said that he is very happy for the Netanyahus: "Finally, the right-wing can sit back and enjoy the fact that justice has been served, and we hope that the decision will include Netanyahu's two aides as well. [From the political standpoint,] I can only say that I hope his decision [whether to return] will be quick, so that we don't have to waste energy on in-fighting between ourselves, and thus lose our momentum. Right now, the left is falling apart - as is written in Psalms, 'the workers of iniquity shall be scattered' - the conglomeration of One Israel no longer exists... and we just have to keep the momentum going." (arutzsheva.org Sep 27)

Palestinians Would Rather Wait it out

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has made it clear to Yasser Arafat that it is not worth his while to sign an agreement with Israel at this juncture. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports, based on Israeli government sources, that Mubarak told Arafat at their last meeting, "Clinton is a dead horse - you have no reason to rush to sign an agreement. Better wait for the next President." Huberman explained, "First of all, the U.S. has long ceased regarding Egypt as an impartial mediator... The Palestinians have also begun thinking that they should wait until after the elections, and this is because Arafat realizes that he cannot unilaterally declare a state - the leaders of many countries told him so. He therefore knows that he needs an agreement with Israel, but he also wants the extra goodie that comes along with it - the huge sums of aid that Clinton promised." (arutzsheva.org Sep 27)

No Enthusiasm for Minority Gov't

Labor party seniors are doubtful that Prime Minister Barak's attempts to form a minority government of 50 MKs, with the outside support of the ten Arab MKs, will succeed. Minister Chaim Ramon says that it will be impossible to pass the national budget with such a government. Two other likely partners to such a government also poured cold water on the idea: MK Roman Bronfman (Democratic Choice) said that a minority government would not be able to rule properly, while MK Amir Peretz (Am Echad) said that there are no coalition negotiations with his party. Shas leader MK Eli Yeshai said Tuesday that a minority left-wing coalition would be "reminiscent of a government-in-exile in a Tel Aviv cafe." (arutzsheva.org Sep 27)

The Latest in "Secular Revolutionizing"

The latest sign of the "secular revolution:" Acting Interior Minister Chaim Ramon announced Wednesday that municipal councils in Israel may pass by-laws permitting the sale of pig meat within their boundaries. National Religious Party head Rabbi Yitzchak Levy showed his disgust by predicting that this would lead to a disgraceful end to the government. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, has called on all European rabbis to fervently call upon the Government of Israel to put an end to the "secular revolution." (arutzsheva.org Sep 27)

More Jews Living on the Mt. of Olives

Eight young Jews from different parts of the country have moved into a site on the Mt. of Olives, not far from the area's "pioneers" in Ma'aleh HaZeitim (Ras el-Amud). The new site contains three old houses in disrepair, which are owned by the Chief General Jerusalem Burial Society. It is not close to any Arab houses, nor has it been earmarked for future gravesites; it is situated between a Sephardi burial section and an area planned for a parking lot. No complaints have been submitted against the new residents, and in fact, "until 8 months ago, this place was a center for drugs," Ma'aleh HaZeitim resident Aryeh King said. King also reported that 51 new units are being built in Ma'aleh HaZeitim. (arutzsheva.org Sep 27)

Barak & Arafat Meet in Kochav Ya’ir

Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat met Monday night in the former's home in Kokhav Ya'ir. The meeting did not produce any significant developments, according to Palestinian sources afterwards. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, too, admitted to Arutz-7 Tuesday that there were no real developments, although "the positive environment [at the meeting] is also progress." Prime Minister Barak called this week’s round of talks "possibly the last round in the current framework." A group of Kokhav Ya'ir residents demonstrated Tuesday against the presence of Arafat in their community. Resident Eldad HaLachmi told Arutz-7 today, "We don't want this child-murderer in the house down the block... Some of those who protested today voted for Barak, but we call on him not to bring this murderer here any more. Let him host Arafat somewhere else, and I'm sure the residents there will protest too..." Danny Yatom, Barak's security chief of staff, announced Tuesday that Israel would not agree to either Palestinian or international sovereignty over the Temple Mount: "Israel will not give up its sovereignty in Jerusalem or on the holy sites to Judaism." This, despite reports of the latest American proposal to grant sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the UN Security Council and several Arab countries, with Palestinian custodianship. Arafat-aide Nabil Sha'ath said Tuesday that the Palestinians would be willing to consider a proposal to station an international supervisory force on the Temple Mount, if the sovereignty there was exclusively Palestinian. Regarding the unresolved refugee issue, Danny Yatom said that Israel will not agree to allow more than a small number of Palestinian refugees to enter Israel, and these only for purposes of family reunification. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said Tuesday that there is no choice now but to reach a limited agreement excluding issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees, "as long as it stipulates the framework for talks on these two issues." His colleague Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh feels, however, that there "is no point" in reaching such an agreement: "An agreement without Jerusalem will not have the aspect of finality that is very important to us. We want a final agreement that will put an end to this conflict once and for all, and will leave some 80% of western Eretz Yisrael officially in our hands." Sneh expressed the opinion that Israel's sovereignty on the Temple Mount must be manifest as follows: "The situation will continue as it is now, but there must be a sign clearly showing the Jewish People's absolute bonds with the Temple Mount. Our forefathers did not pray to Shuafat or to Ras el-Amud, they prayed to the Temple Mount... Even I, not a religious man at all, say this." (A7 Sep 26)

P.A. Textbook: "Israel must Be Destroyed"

Fifteen newly-printed Palestinian text books still define Israel as a "conquering state," and one - a sixth-grade book originally published in 1965, which has been printed again and again since then with barely any changes - even states, "There is no alternative other than to destroy Israel." One or more of the books mention Jaffa and Acre as occupied lands that must be recovered, while Jews are mentioned as a target of Islamic scorn. (arutzsheva.org Sep 26)

Golan Reaches New Heights

A surge of building is underway in the Golan Heights. In the area's "capital" city of Katzrin, the construction of another 56 housing units began this week. Another 100 units are in the midst of construction there, and most of them have already been sold. The Golan communities of Ma'aleh Gamla, Kidmat Tzvi, and Ramat Magshimim are also in the midst of adding new housing. (A7 Sep 25)

Palestinians Trying to Forget ABC

Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports on an increasing phenomenon of Palestinian attempts to blur the division of Judea and Samaria into Areas A, B, and C. Many PA para-military policemen have lately been reported entering Area B - under Israeli military control - without Israeli permission. Huberman reports that the Palestinians are trying to "show their presence" in Israeli-controlled areas, and are increasing the number of both legal and illegal penetrations as if to "get Israel used to the idea." No official Palestinian nullification of Oslo has been registered, but officials such as Abu Ala have said that they no longer recognize the Oslo-mandated division of the territory. (arutzsheva.org Sep 24)

Indyk Suspended

The U.S. State Department has suspended security clearance for U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, pending an investigation into his handling of intelligence information. Officials emphasized that Indyk is not suspected of espionage, but only that he may be guilty of "possible sloppiness" in his handling of classified information. Charge d'affaires Paul Simons is now the most senior U.S. official in Israel. Likud MK Uzi Landau was pleased by the development, from the standpoint of Israeli domestic affairs. Landau called on his government to ask the U.S. Administration to recall Indyk last week, after Indyk said that Israel should "share" its capital with the Palestinians. Speaking with Arutz-7 Sunday, he allowed himself to gloat somewhat, saying, "For the righteous, their work is done for them by others [a reference that the his request to have Indyk recalled had actually occurred] even if it is for other reasons. Indyk has often intervened in internal Israeli matters. For instance, right after he arrived in Israel, we began to hear about initiatives to 'prepare' the Israeli-Arab public for the Golan referendum - and we all know that that means to get them to support a transfer of the Golan to Syria. In addition, he intervened in the religious debate between Reform and Orthodox, and of course regarding his last statement about Jerusalem." Landau decried the fact that Prime Minister Barak had not protested Indyk's statement regarding the "sharing" of Jerusalem. (arutzsheva.org Sep 24)

Shoval: PLO Acts as If Charter Still in Effect

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, and currently responsible for the foreign affairs department of the Likud, was asked today his opinion on the PLO's request to be accepted as a member of the United Nations. "It is probably only propaganda," he said, "because the PLO is not a nation, but only an organization. The Palestinians do not fit the qualifications of what constitutes a state. The PLO has observer status, but is not eligible for anything more. If they declare a unilateral state, which they might do, then the state would be illegal, because it would fly in the face of previous agreements - Oslo, Wye, Sharm a-Sheikh - and would not be recognized by the U.S., Israel, or many other states. If, on the other hand, Israel recognizes its declaration, this would be a different story." Arutz-7's correspondent asked if there is any case of a UN member state that calls for the destruction of another member state; Shoval said, "Not to the best of my knowledge, and this is a very good point. For even though the Palestinians officially annulled the charter, in practice the declarations of Arafat and the material that their children are being taught in school still call for the elimination of the State of Israel." (arutzsheva.org Sep 24)

Waqf Builds on Mount

Despite reports that Israeli authorities were holding up the delivery of construction materials to the Temple Mount, the illegal Waqf construction there continues. The materials are being brought in through Tribes Gate, next to Lions Gate, from where they are taken by tractor to the Temple Mount area. Rabbi Chaim Richman, of Jerusalem's Temple Institute, told Arutz-7 last week that at present, the Moslems are only paving the top level. He added, however, that "whether they are working on the top level or building a mosque underneath the surface, their intentions are the same: to totally wipe out any trace of Jewish identity and history on the Temple Mount." (A7 Sep 22)

Meretz Against B'datz

The anti-religious Meretz political party is leading a campaign to boycott goods that have the "B'datz" kosher supervision - an independent rabbinical supervision upon which many hareidi and religious Jews rely. The head of Voldan Eilat, a food importer, said last Friday that he sees this move as "anti-democratic," a "threat to the right to choose one's place of work," and "liable to hurt hundreds of workers." He is considering submitting both criminal and civil suits against the organizers. His company received a threatening letter last week, signed by Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, threatening that the "Organization of Free Consumers" will add Voldan to its list of boycotted companies if it does not remove its B'datz supervision. (arutzsheva.org Sep 22)



Quote for the Week...

"With thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job you did on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm!" - An inscription on a satellite photo of the destroyed Iraqi nuclear reactor. The photo is signed by then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, and is currently hanging in the office of Israeli ambassador to Washington David Ivri. Ivri was in command of the Israeli Air Force at the time of the mission. (New York Times Sep 18)



Palestine: The Dream And the Nightmare By Bret Stephens,

If there is a dream that is Palestine, surely it looks like the American Colony Hotel. Built by an Ottoman pasha in the 19th century, this elegant establishment is just around the corner from Orient House, from which Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority runs a shadow government over Arab East Jerusalem. In the courtyard restaurant, shaded by palm and lemon trees, Western diplomats and aid workers can be seen "dialoguing" with their Palestinian counterparts over plates of goose-liver ravioli and other delicacies. Sitting nearby, I can't help but wonder what they are discussing, and who will pick up the tab.

I decided to stay at the American Colony after several Palestinians with whom I had arranged interviews suggested it as meeting place. And I had arranged these interviews in hopes of finding out just what sort of state the Palestinians would have got had Mr. Arafat made good on his promise to declare one on Sept. 13. What I found, after conversations with Palestinians from every walk of life, did not much resemble the world within the American Colony.

Among those I met at the hotel was a 44-year-old Palestinian journalist named Said Ghazali, who traveled with me as my interpreter. In the 1970s, Mr. Ghazali spent 18 months in an Israeli prison for his membership of Fatah, then a wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. But later he grew disenchanted. These days, Arab-language newspapers will not publish his stories about kidnapping, torture, intimidation and corruption in the territories under Mr. Arafat's control.

So he works mostly for foreign news outlets. But even they, he complains, don't do a particularly good job. "They write about settlements, land confiscations -- routine cliches. I try to write truthfully about internal problems. Mostly they're not interested. So to whom can I sell my honesty? Who will buy it?"

Mr. Ghazali is not alone in his predicament. In Gaza City, I spoke with a journalist who complained, "You cannot criticize the president. You cannot write about the monopolies of Authority officials. You try to write about things in a vague way, so that some people will know what you're getting at." He envies Israeli journalists, who can write what they want. "Sometimes I feel sad for myself. I should struggle more for freedom of the press." He asked that I not publish his name.

Not everyone is quite so apprehensive. Abdel Sattar Kassem, a 50-year-old professor of political science at Najah University, was imprisoned for six months this year for putting his name to the "Petition of the 20," written to "stand against this tyranny and corruption." In jail he was not allowed to see his lawyer. Nor was he allowed papers, pens, phone calls or visits from human rights groups. Though he's the author of 15 books, he can no longer find a publisher. "I am fighting alone," he says. "Our people are not up to their historic responsibility to defend those who would defend their rights."

The Authority takes a different view. Freedom of the press is on the books. Still, says Brig. Gen. Abdul Fattah Jaidy, "whenever the media tries to create some sort of anxiety and then broadcast it as news, we will try to prevent them."

This is the mindset. The Authority is a fledgling enterprise, its future uncertain and its enemies legion. Criticism only creates openings for subversion. So when I raise the subject of corruption with Abdel Malik Al-Jaber, the managing director of the Palestine Industrial Estate Development and Management Company in Gaza, I get a sharp reply. "This issue of corruption is used for manipulation, for putting pressure on the government for political reasons," he says.

Mr. Al-Jaber adds, "Everything is solved by the peace process." The Israeli government shares that view and is doing what it can to keep Mr. Arafat afloat. Though security concerns have led to a sharp decrease in the number of Palestinian day laborers that Israel takes in, the Israeli government remits to the Authority the proceeds of import duties, taxes and wage deductions paid by Palestinians to Israel to the tune of some $500 million per year.

According to Rawya Shawa, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, this money does not go to the state budget. It is deposited in what she calls "the black box," a kind of personal kitty for Mr. Arafat to dispose of as he sees fit. Supplemented with the proceeds of the Authority's monopoly control of oil, Ms. Shawa estimates that the black box contains about $4 billion, though it would be difficult to verify that figure. How is the money spent? Here too, it's hard to say, though as Mr. Ghazali and I drive past the palatial seaside villas of Mr. Arafat's top lieutenants, it isn't hard to guess.

Although little of this makes it into the Palestinian press, it is widely known and widely resented. "If this continues," Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi told me in her offices near Ramallah, "we will be repeating the mistakes of the Arab world."

That should come as no surprise. The Authority's leadership draws from a cast of people who spent much of their lives planning, executing or applauding the murder of civilians. The 1993 Oslo accords, sold to the public as a peace deal, did little more than deputize the PLO to crack down on Islamic militants in exchange for territory.

By and large, the Authority has complied. It tries to control Hamas, but not quash it: The Islamic group has its uses as a card to play against Israel. Among other things, Mr. Arafat has removed Hamas clerics from mosques and replaced them with his own people.

Ismail Abu Shanab, a spokesman for Hamas whom I met late one night in Gaza, isn't unduly bothered: "I don't need to go to the mosque to tell people to attack Israelis." He's convinced that the Authority's corruption, its repressiveness and the widespread perception that it has become a stooge of "the Mossad and CIA" will play into the hands of Hamas. "Nobody believes Abu Mazen can lead," he says, referring to the PLO general secretary likely to succeed Mr. Arafat .

I arrived in Gaza shortly after there had been a riot. Black smoke still rose from one of the many tires that had been set afire in the streets. The violence had broken out because of a dispute over control of a trade union between Mr. Arafat's brother, who is head of the military intelligence ser vice, and members of Fatah.

"This kind of thing happens every week," I was told. Given that Mr. Arafat maintains nine separate security forces and financially supports some 20 competing "political parties," most of them former PLO factions, it's little wonder.

But worrisome as this infighting is, it is as nothing next to what I encountered at the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank. What Palestinians call al-Nakba, the catastrophe, refers to the 1948 exodus of Arabs from the land that would shortly become Israel. The reasons for their departure are controversial, but the fact remains that there are now several million refugees living in camps throughout the region who demand "the right of return." Virtually all Israeli leaders are dead-set against this (as, until recently, they were on the question of redividing Jerusalem). But however improbable their hopes, theirs is a cause with many champions. At Balata, that champion is Husam Khader.

Mr. Khader is president of the Jaffa Cultural Center, funded in part by the European Union, whose activities include "human rights courses for children." I watched as one class of 15 children was instructed to go home and ask questions of their elders about their ancestral homes. "What did it look like? What did they do? Were they farmers or merchants? Did they fish?" And so forth.

It wasn't long before I realized I was witnessing a first-rate indoctrination effort. No tirades, no boring lectures, a friendly, engaging attitude. What would their grandparents tell them, I wondered, amid the squalor of the camps, of what had once been theirs? And how would that shape the children's moral and political imagination as they grow into adolescence, and perhaps occasionally travel through a fertile land inhabited by a wealthy, alien people? Would they think: All of this is rightfully mine; why has it been stolen? Palestinians are not, as a rule, a people who lack for dreams. Some dream of a universal Islamic state, some for the return of "the whole of Palestine," some for a prosperous and democratic country within its current borders, some for a tolerant bilateral federation with Israel. For now, it seems unlikely that any of these scenarios will materialize, though I doubt that will prevent Palestinians from pursuing them.

In Balata, however, Mr. Ghazali and I met a man with more simple hopes. "I do not discuss politics," he announced to us in Arabic when we entered his shop. But we drew him on, asking about business, which is terrible; about crime, which is rampant; and about the Authority, which does nothing to help.

Finally, in English, in a whisper, he said: "Sometimes, I wish the Israeli occupation had never ended." (The Wall Street Journal Sept 20)

The writer editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.



No Final-Status Shortcuts Jerusalem Post Editorial

'It will be a mistake on our part to [sign a new] interim agreement that will entail the further giving of assets on our part without getting any substantial quid pro quo," Prime Minister Ehud Barak reportedly told his cabinet this week. This is sound reasoning, but it applies even more strongly to the partial agreement that the government seems more than willing to consider.

The temptation to reach a partial final-status agreement has been around for some time and was considered and rejected by both sides at Camp David.

Though Minister Haim Ramon remains an active proponent of the concept, neither Israel nor the Palestinians has been enamored of the idea.

After the failure of the Camp David Summit and two months of follow-on negotiations, talk of a partial agreement has once again emerged.

According to the partial agreement concept, the two most difficult issues - Jerusalem and refugees - would be set aside for a set period, allowing a deal to be signed on the remaining issues.

To the US, and perhaps to a Barak government that has lost its parliamentary majority, almost any agreement may seem more attractive than none. Barak's political weakness, however, does not change the soundness of the logic that led him to reject such a "solution" at Camp David.

Israel should continue to reject a partial agreement for the same reason Barak has tried so hard to end the "salami" aspect of the Oslo process: It makes no sense to hand over its territorial cards for something less than a full peace.

Israel (and the international community) have three basic assets to use as leverage to achieve a formal "end-of-the-conflict" agreement: territory, recognition, and financial assistance. To the extent that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat can obtain any more of these assets without agreeing to peace, the prospects for peace are made more, not less, remote.

The worst possible scenario in this regard would be an agreement in which Israel withdraws to final-status borders and a Palestinian state is widely recognized and showered with assistance, but the matters of Jerusalem and refugees are left open. This supposed peace agreement would be a recipe for continued struggle in which the most critical issues are at stake, but Israel has nothing left with which to bargain and the Palestinians nothing left to lose.

Given that such an agreement would go against Barak's every instinct, one can only imagine his possible assent as an act of political desperation.

Yet such an act would fail dismally in political terms as well.

The alternative is for Barak to stick to his original mission: either a full agreement or a consensus that agreement is not possible, despite the convergence of unusually favorable circumstances for its achievement.

For this mission to be fulfilled, Barak - and as importantly, the US - must be willing to recognize that Israel can go no further. It seems that this point will not be reached at least until after the US elections, on the theory that Arafat will not make his final concessions until then.

Whether the Barak government is able to survive until then is another question. In the meantime, Barak should not be encouraging the Clinton administration to memorialize in writing the agreements and non-agreements of Camp David. This exercise violates a cardinal ground rule of Camp David, namely that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed.

The all-or-nothing ground rule of the Camp David summit is standard for almost any serious negotiation, because without such a rule neither side has an incentive to make bold trade-offs between tough issues. If the US cajoles Israel into acquiescing to the scrapping of this rule, Israel's boldness will have been punished and the Palestinian's rejectionism rewarded. Rather than marking progress in the peace process, such a document would make a final-status agreement even more difficult to reach.(Jerusalem Post Sep 26)



A Futile Exercise By Yossi Ben-Aharon

The Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement was concluded but not signed, in October 1995.

Although much of its substance has since been leaked to the media, Newsweek's is the first, authoritative exposure of the lengths to which the Labor party in Israel was willing to go, in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some of the agreement's salient points are: Israeli withdrawal, within 12 months, from all of the Gaza Strip (that is the entire Katif Bloc), as well as the overwhelming majority of the former West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

"The State of Palestine shall be demilitarized".

Israelis residing in areas to be delivered to Palestine "shall be subject to Palestinian sovereignty and Palestinian rule of law" and shall be offered Palestinian citizenship, or choose to remain as alien residents.

The municipal boundaries of Jerusalem will be expanded to include four Arab and three Jewish suburbs.

The city will then be divided into a Jewish zone ("Yerushalayim" - capital of Israel) and a Palestinian zone ("Al-Quds" - capital of Palestine).

Although the city will be run by a Higher Municipal Council, its sovereignty will be split between Israel and Palestine, while the State of Palestine shall be granted extra-territorial sovereignty over Haram ash-Sharif (the Arab term for the Temple Mount).

An International Commission for Palestinian Refugees will be established.

Israel acknowledges the Palestinian refugees' right of return to the Palestinian state. In addition, Israel will participate in the program for the resolution of the refugee problem, including enabling family reunification and absorbing Palestinian refugees in specially defined cases.

The style and text of the Beilin-Abu Mazen draft agreement shows that the negotiations between the two sides had reached a very advanced stage.

I very much doubt whether the concise wording, which covered virtually all the contentious issues, could have reached such a level without authorization of Beilin's superiors - Shimon Peres for sure, and probably that of prime minister Rabin as well.

One must therefore conclude that this document exposes Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ultimate positions. Indeed, all information available regarding positions adopted by Barak at the Camp David talks and subsequently, come very close to the Beilin-Abu Mazen draft.

On one issue alone Barak has apparently vetoed Beilin's concession - on Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Here, even the Left rose against Beilin's cavalier disregard of the Jewish attachment to the holiest site to Judaism.

Overall, the Beilin-Abu Mazen document is an impractical and futile exercise. Already in October 1995 it had become plainly evident that the Palestinian Authority had no intention of living up to its commitments under previous agreements, and chose to carry out only those that fulfilled its desires.

Once it established its independence, there was nothing, short of war, that could induce its government to live up to its undertakings.

Requiring a sovereign state to undertake its own demilitarization is nothing short of a travesty. The division of Jerusalem envisaged in the agreement would be a nightmare to Jerusalemites, exposing especially those who live in the Old City and the borderline suburbs to constant harassment and danger.

The opposition parties in the Knesset must take the Beilin-Abu Mazen document very seriously. They must require the government to state openly whether that document has any standing, and to what extent it reflects the government's position in the current negotiations.

If it does not, the prime minister must be required to dismiss Yossi Beilin from his cabinet forthwith, so as to demonstrate clearly that his policy is radically removed from that which is expressed in this infamous betrayal of Israel's vital interests and security. (Jerusalem Post Sep 26)

The writer is a former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.



Almost a Year of 'Almost' By Moshe Zak

'Almost" was the key word in the reports about the Israeli team in the first week of the Sydney Olympics. The high jumper almost won the bronze medal. The judoka was close to a medal.

It's not their fault, they tried their best to make the Israeli public proud, but as in any contest there is no guarantee of success.

"Almost" was the motif of the Jewish year that ends this week. We almost supplied a sophisticated spy plane to China, but because of American pressure the deal was cancelled. We joined the bloc of European countries at the UN, almost as full members.

During the year we were told several times that the peace agreement with Syria was almost in the bag, but at the end of the year the "almost" got further and further away.

We would almost have had a stable government, thanks to the direct election of the prime minister, if it hadn't been for those ministers: Natan Sharansky, Eli Yishai, David Levy and Yitzhak Levi.

"Today we have set out on a new path. We are paving the way to settling the 100-year-old dispute between Israelis and the Palestinians," Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced a year ago (on the eve of Rosh Hashana) when he signed the Sharm e-Sheikh agreement with Arafat laying down a timetable for accomplishing the framework agreement by February, 2000 and the date for accomplishing the permanent agreement for September, 2000.

Both dates have passed and on the eve of a new year the disagreement the two leaders cannot agree whether it is possible to declare the end of the conflict without reaching a compromise on Jerusalem and the refugee question.

Has the "almost" brought us any nearer to our objective, or are we getting further away from peace?

The American mediators can be proud of reducing the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions, but paradoxically as the gaps become smaller, an agreement becomes less likely. The two sides didn't get closer together: one side, the Israelis, moved unilaterally nearer to the other, Arab side, and this denied the Israeli side its bargaining cards, which are essential to the continuation of the negotiations.

In the Olympic Games, fourth or fifth place is a respectable achievement, even if it doesn't mean a medal. This is not true of peace negotiations between enemies. What matters isn't the distance from the target, but whether the target has been reached at all. "Almost peace" is actually "no peace," or even worse.

If after the Palestinians reject the "Clinton formula" and Israel accepts it as a basis for negotiations, US President Bill Clinton will continue to "work on reducing the gaps," meaning he expects more concessions from Israel.

And the Palestinians will conclude that it's a favorable time to pressure for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967 lines - not that the Americans have ever accepted the Palestinian interpretation of the Security Council resolution 242, which calls for withdrawal from all the territories.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat isn't satisfied with negotiations only with Barak. He prefers talks through many channels, with Israeli ministers and Jewish millionaires, opposition spokesmen and representatives of academia.

Immediately after Rosh Hashana last year, at Barak's urging, foreign minister David Levy rushed into negotiations with the Palestinians on a permanent status agreement. A year later this week, Barak asked Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami to meet with Palestinian negotiatior Saeb Erekat on the same issue.

Nothing has changed since - except the locality.

Last year, negotiations were held at the Erez checkpoint; now they are being held in Washington, thereby highlighting the Americans' tutilage. Everything else is almost the same, despite the many Israeli concessions submitted since. Now, Arafat needs the facade of talks in order to placate UN members and Israel so that nothing stand in the way of "Palestine's" recognition as a member of the UN. (Jerusalem Post Sep 27)

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