A collection of the week's news from Israel
19 MarCheshvan 5760
October 29, 1999
Issue number 243
Friday November 5, 4:45pm
Carlebach minyanim at NCSY, Emuna Shelema and the Village Shul.
Riots in Bethlehem
An Arab at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem attempted Monday afternoon to stab an Israeli soldier, who then shot and killed his attacker. Intense Arab rioting ensued following the incident, and continued for three straight days; a soldier and an Israeli citizen have been injured. An IDF spokesman said that the soldier had acted appropriately in the face of danger to his life. (Arutz 7 Oct 25,27)
Tzion Levy, a 78-year-old professional driver, realized he was most fortunate. On Monday, he narrowly escaped a lynching attack in the PLO Authority (PA) autonomous city of Bethlehem. Levy was driving in Bethlehem in the course of his job when he suddenly heard the local Arab population begin to shout, "He is a Jew! Kill him!" Levy told police that before he had a chance to react the locals began to bombard his van with stones. Nevertheless, the elderly driver did not lose his cool and he managed to escape the angry mob, without serious injury. He then drove to the nearby IDF checkpoint where he received medical treatment. (IsraelWire Oct 27)
Former Refuseniks Call for Change in Law of Return
A group of former Soviet Jews has gone public with an impassioned plea for a change in the Law Of Return. They bemoan the current situation in which "hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, people who have no connection to the Jewish people at any level, [are] arriving at Israel's borders in droves." They note that "In many cities of the [former Soviet Union], Russian passports with Jewish-sounding names, altered to 'prove' Jewish ancestry, are being sold on the black market, making a 'Jewish passport' a hot item in Russia." A recent report by IMRA confirms the trend, quoting official Ministry of Interior statistics showing that 56.6% of Russian immigrants to Israel during the first three months of 1999 were not Jewish, compared to a rate of 25-30% in the early 1990's. The group of 18 former Soviet Jews calls on Israelis to exert pressure on legislators for a change the Law of Return. "Write your government representatives; make them aware of this flouting of this law," the group writes, adding that the indiscriminate acceptance of these immigrants has contributed to the immigration of Russians with criminal records. "The intent of the law was to help Jews from all over the world, and to welcome them home. It was not for cheaters, liars, anti-Semites and criminals," they write. The signatories, mostly former refuseniks and Prisoners of Zion, include Yuli Nudelman, Hanoch Feldman, Valeria Frekhtman, and Mordekhai, Mikhail, and Solomon Kagan. (Arutz 7 Oct 25)
Torah Celebration at "Outpost"
A festive Torah Scroll arrival ceremony was held in Adei Ad near Shvut Rachel Tuesday, marking the first anniversary of the hilltop community. Popular Hassidic singer Yehuda Glantz performed afterwards. Adei Ad's seven families were threatened with evacuation until the recent agreement that was struck between the government and the Yesha Council.(Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Shinui MKs in Yesha
Five out of six Knesset Members of the left-wing Shinui party toured the northern Shomron yesterday, and received a first-hand look at some of the newer settlements there. MK Victor Breilovsky said, "I very much like this area, and I hope that these communities will all be OK, and that everything will work out." Shinui has not yet formulated its position on the issue of the Yesha settlements. The MKs saw new outposts in Karnei Shomron and Yitzhar. Party leader Tommy Lapid, listening to a Yesha leader's explanation, said to him, "Maybe it's significant that as you speak, we hear the Arab muazzin [Moslem crier] down below us." Lapid's party colleague MK Mordechai Zandberg retorted, "Even from my house in Haifa we can hear it at least once a day." (Arutz 7 Oct 25)
Syrians Threaten to Freeze Golan Issue
Official Syrian sources say that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon will "put a lid" on chances for peace between Israel and Syria. The sources, quoted by the Lebanese newspaper A-Nahar, say that a one-sided Israeli retreat from Lebanon will put the Golan issue into "deep-freeze," and is a most dangerous move. (Arutz 7 Oct 27)
Security Sources: Barak Too Optimistic
"Senior security sources" quoted in Yediot Acharonot today say that Prime Minister Barak is ignoring their opinions regarding the negotiations with the Palestinians. They say that Barak's approach is overly optimistic, and that he ignores extremist remarks made by Palestinian leaders. The 'on-the-ground' friction between the sides will increase as the negotiations proceed, say the unnamed sources. (Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Palestinians Begin "Free Passage" Through Israel
The "free passage" for Palestinians between Gaza and the Hevron area opened Monday morning, enabling even wanted terrorists and accomplices to pass through sovereign Israeli territory without fear of arrest. As was assumed, traffic from Gaza was heavier than from Hevron, since many Gazans have not left their region in many years. The northern section of the route, from Gaza to the Ramallah region, is scheduled to open in a few weeks. The Palestinians demand that the eastern exit point be located near Latrun, under the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, while Israel wants it to be significantly closer to Ramallah. (Arutz 7 Oct 25)
Gush Katif in Economic Danger
The Jewish communities in Gush Katif face economic collapse. So says Yoram Tzror, security coordinator for the town of Netzer Chazani. "The Palestinians here are working quite efficiently to scare our [Palestinian] laborers into not working for us," he told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson today. "There have been beatings, and they throw some of them into jail cells, and the like Their behavior reaches such levels of cruelty that I think the B'tselem civil rights organization should get involved." Tzror said that Netzer Chazani is now left with only 50% of its Arab labor force - only 10% arrived in neighboring Morag today - and "those who continue to work with us are scared stiff." Gush Katif is almost solely dependent on labor-intensive agriculture for its sustenance, and "if the workers continue to leave because they fear for their lives, we will be on the verge of collapse." Tzror said that the Netanyahu government dealt with the problem by telling the PA, 'If you don't allow your people to work in Gush Katif, they won't work anywhere in Israel,' while the present government is not doing anything to remedy the situation. "We attempt to drive our workers home via different routes," Tzror said, "but the PA says that they must come only through the three checkpoints specified in the agreement - apparently because they wish to be able to track down who is working for us and then 'deal with them' in the way they deem appropriate." (Arutz 7 Oct 27)
Ambassador to US, Head of Delegation Chosen
Maj.-Gen. (res.) David Ivry will be appointed as Israel's next ambassador to the U.S. Ivry, a former director-general of the Defense Ministry, deputy IDF Chief of Staff, and Israel Air Force commander, served most recently as head of the newly-formed National Security Council...
The Prime Minister has decided to appoint Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Oded Eran as head of the Israeli delegation to the negotiations with the Palestinians. (Arutz 7 Oct 26,27)
Policeman Attends Rabbis' Conference
Dozens of rabbis - and one policeman - convened Tuesday to renew their Rabbinic ruling forbidding the transfer of any part of Eretz Yisrael to foreign rule. The rabbis belong to a group called Pikuach Nefesh - roughly translated as 'In the Face of Danger to Life.' The policeman, who arrived at Pikuach Nefesh offices and duly identified himself, asked permission to be present at the meeting. A co-founder of the group, Rabbi David Druckman, expressed his protest of the police intentions and said that the meeting was meant only for rabbis - but granted the policeman permission to enter anyway. Speaking with Arutz-7 beforehand, Rabbi Druckman dismissed claims by Education Minister Yossi Sarid (Meretz) that the ruling "of backward rabbis" could lead to political assassinations. "We will not allow the assassination of Rabin to be abused in order to silence the right-wing," he said. When asked to whom this ruling is directed and whether he thinks the government will feel bound by it, Rabbi Druckman answered, "A story is told of the famous Chafetz Chaim [Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan] who once sent emissaries to the Czar to have a certain decree nullified. When they returned with fallen faces and reported their failure, the Chafetz Chaim asked them, 'Did you at least faint [while pleading your case]?' We have to do the maximum that we can, within the boundaries of Jewish Law, and G-d will act as He sees fit." (Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Egyptian Threats Disappoint FM
The cold 20-year-old peace with Egypt is becoming downright frosty. Egyptian Foreign Minister Tantawi even threatened several days ago that a war between Egypt and Israel cannot be ruled out. In reaction, Foreign Minister David Levy summoned Egyptian Ambassador Muhammad Bassiouny for a discussion. Levy told reporters afterwards that he was extremely disappointed by Tantawi's remarks, and that "Egypt must remove the word 'war' from its lexicon." (Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Shots at Beit Haggai
Shots were fired Monday night towards the guard booth in Beit Haggai, a Yesha town south of Hevron. One bullet hit the booth, but no one was hurt. Residents told Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman that the army only arrived at the scene two hours after being notified. (Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Police Won't Investigate Barak Campaign Suspicions - for Now
The police will not investigate, for the present time, suspicions of illegal activities by the associations that aided Ehud Barak during the recent elections. The decision was made by Nava Ben-Or director of the Criminal Investigation Division in the State Prosecution, after consulting with Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein. The material amassed thus far, however, will be submitted to the State Comptroller who will check whether campaign funding laws were violated. The Prosecution will then review the case again. MK Michael Eitan (Likud), a leader in the campaign against the Labor party campaign illegalities, told Arutz-7: "This decision is a blow to my basic rights as a citizen. I file a complaint with the police on an important issue, with sufficient evidence for an investigation and answers, and the police say, No, we don't even want to begin an investigation, we are not willing to look into your complaint... I read the letter that the Attorney-General's assistant sent me six times over, and I simply cannot understand on what basis they refuse to investigate. I plan to turn to the Supreme Court to implement my rights. I don't say that my complaint has to lead to a conviction or an indictment - but not to even begin investigating?!" Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane asked, "You and others in the right-wing camp have made many complaints over the years on issues such as these - police investigations mostly against right-wing figures, and the like - but you seem to leave the exact accusation unclear. Why don't you just come right out and say that the issue is a political one?" Eitan answered, "If you are asking me if I think there is a mafia of sorts that is systematically out to get the right-wing, the answer is no, I don't think so - although I could understand those who do feel that way. However, if this charge is made, then it could be asked why we didn't do anything about it when we were in power. We do have a problem, though, and that is that the media do not allow us to speak. What, would I be able to say what I'm saying now on a different medium? Would anyone write it? They totally ignore us. For example, Yediot Acharonot wrote up this story of the police not opening the investigation - but my response, that I plan to turn to the Supreme Court, is not there! A while ago, when I released much information with all the evidence about grave suspicions against former Labor Cabinet Secretary Yitzchak Herzog, where he admitted that he spent the money, but he said that he did it by orders of someone whose name he does not wish to mention - this means that the Cabinet Secretary admits that he did something illegal but doesn't want to say who told him to do it - yet the papers see no need to talk about it. We have a problem here - but we must continue to work together to ensure that justice is administered equally to all." Kalman Liebskind, a reporter for Makor Rishon who has researched the allegedly illegal Labor campaign practices, said, "The letter explaining the decision [not to investigate] said that the evidence that was provided was anonymous, not concrete, and based only on estimates. I can only say that maybe we're not talking about the same investigation, because the evidence that I saw was very concrete and very documented!" (Arutz 7 Oct 26,27)
Arab Acceptance of Israel Not in Sight
Wanted: Evidence that the Arab world is willing to accept Israel. Israel's weekly Makor Rishon reports that Aryeh Stav - editor of the right-of-center Nativ magazine - wrote eight months ago to 120 left-wing researchers and academics, requesting articles that prove a moderation towards Israel in the Arab world . Among those asked to contribute such papers were Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid, and Oslo-accord architects Pundak and Hirschfeld. In addition, the Jaffe Center, the Van Leer Institute, Beit Berl and Givat Chaviva were contacted for the same purpose. Stav told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson today that not one of the above had replied, nor has any research paper indicating that the Oslo process is leading to the hoped-for "New Middle East" been received. (Arutz 7 Oct 26)
Barak Allows Maalot Massacre Architect Hawatme Into PA Area
Prime Minister Ehud Barak has decided: Terrorist Naif Hawatme, responsible for the killing of a total of 34 children and two adults in murderous attacks in Ma'alot and Avivim in the 1970's, will be allowed to enter the autonomous areas. Barak's office says that Hawatme now supports the Oslo process and should therefore be permitted to enter. Opposition members are against the decision, and note that Hawatme was not even born here. Yisrael Peretz, secretary of the northern town of Avivim, told Arutz-7 today about the attack and his community's reaction to the decision: "It happened in 1970. The children were on their way to school to nearby Dovev when terrorists attacked their bus and killed 12 children. This decision is a big blow to the residents of Avivim, who have suffered greatly over the years. We feel that the blood of our children has lost all value... We cannot forgive those who allow his entry into Israel." MK Benny Elon (National Union) said in response to the decision, "It's a lie to say that Hawatme is in favor of Oslo - he is not! He is in favor of a permanent-status agreement based not on Oslo, but based on the UN resolution 181 of 1947, which gives Be'er Sheva, Jaffa, and Lod to the Palestinians! Therefore, Hawatme's entry to the autonomous areas does not strengthen Arafat in pursuing the Oslo process, but rather strengthens him in the opposite direction - in showing that the Palestinian goal is not only Judea and Samaria, but Jaffa and Be'er Sheva and Ramle as well!" In this vein, MEMRI quotes a member of the Palestinian National Council, Mahmoud Al-'Ajrami, who said on May 12, 1999: "...the total consensus in the [PLO's] Central Committee that the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital is an existing fact on the basis of the natural right of the Palestinian people to establish its state and on the basis of [resolution] 181..." (Arutz 7 Oct 25)
Next Withdrawal - Nov. 5
The Sharm a-Sheikh and Wye Agreement timetables continue to roll along, and next on the list are another withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria, the opening of additional sections of the Shuhada street in Hevron to Arab traffic, and the opening of the open-air market there. Arutz-7's correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that by the end of this week, Arab traffic will be able to travel freely adjacent to Jewish homes from Beit Romano to Beit Hadassah. Israel is scheduled to transfer, on November 5, 3% of Judea and Samaria from Area C (under full Israeli control) to Area B (Palestinian administrative control), and another 2% from B to A (full Palestinian control). The army has prepared a plan to fortify some 40 Yesha communities that will border on autonomous areas following the next Israeli withdrawal. The plan will cost 140 million shekels ($32.8 million), and will include, inter alia, the bullet-proofing of 200 buses. (Arutz 7 Oct 24)
Ben-Ami Orders Police Investigation of Leaks
The apparent police leaks relating to the investigation of Binyamin and Sarah Netanyahu continue to preoccupy the Israeli media and political establishment today. A Ma'ariv editorial opines that the police have "besmirched the honor of the office of Prime Minister, even if Netanyahu no longer holds the post," and adds that "the police must make a self-reckoning with respect to the way in which it investigates public figures and citizens in general." Eitan Haber, a former aide of the late Yitzchak Rabin, joined the chorus of those on both sides of the political spectrum who have condemned the police behavior. Police officials, however, continue to deny responsibility, claiming that the leak of the investigation's timing originated with the Netanyahus - although partially admitting that the police were responsible for leaking the results of the investigation. Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami ordered the police department to investigate whether some of its personnel were responsible for the leaks. Netanyahu himself said last night that he and his wife are undergoing very hard times, though they have done nothing wrong, and that "things are occurring that I never would have imagined would occur in the State of Israel." Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein admitted that Israel's judicial network has not yet found the proper formula by which to interrogate public figures who are under suspicion. Appearing on Channel Two's Meet the Press program, Rubenstein said that a balance between maintaining the dignity of possible suspects and ensuring the efficiency of the investigation has not yet been found. (Arutz 7 Oct 24).
Daniel Cassuto of Ofra told Arutz-7 that three years ago, he learned that Leah Rabin was about to sell a gold-plated vase that her husband had received as a gift while serving as Prime Minister. Cassuto turned to the police, and even sent a telegram to then-Public Security Minister Kahalani, but received no response, and the auction was held as planned. The vase was purchased by television personality Dudu Topaz for $17,000. "It seemed that here was a clear case of dealing in stolen property," Cassuto said today, "for the vase, if not proven otherwise, belongs to the State. Yet a month after I complained, I received a reply from the police: 'Case closed because the actions in question are not in violation of the law.'" (Arutz 7 Oct 25)
Barak Wants Physical Separation
Prime Minister Ehud Barak explained at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that the need for a physical separation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a "logical imperative from a political, security, moral and economic standpoint... We are talking about a separation that will create good neighborly relations, mutual respect and cooperation, and give expression to the interests of both sides." Former Police Minister Moshe Shachal made his case last week in the Prime Minister's Office for a physical separation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The plan calls for electrical fences, barriers, trenches, and the like. Barak said Sunday that he recognizes the importance for the Palestinian economy of Palestinian laborers employed in Israel, and that the development of the Palestinian economy is also in the "long-term security interest of the State of Israel." (Arutz 7 Oct 24)
US Taking Active Role
The United States is beginning to take an actively renewed interest in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. U.S. President Clinton will take part in a summit meeting with Barak and Arafat in Oslo next week. Clinton is likely to follow with a visit to the Middle East. (Arutz 7 Oct 21)
From the PA Press...
PLO Political Bureau Head on Armed Struggle and the Peace Process
Following are excerpts from an interview with Head of the PLO's Political Bureaut,Faruq Al-Qaddoumi (Al-Quds, Oct. 20):
The Future of the Armed Struggle
"We are still in the stage of political settlement, or in other words, political activity, but I don't think the PLO has given up its rifle, even though it currently proceeds with the settlement process. We will fight as long as our lands are occupied and we will use the rifle because we want to liberate our land in reality. If the Israeli side withdraws from the land within the framework of an accord, then there will be no need for the rifle?... [My message to the Palestinian people] is that it should continue the struggle on a daily basis. It must continue to struggle against normalization, settlement, and the demolition of houses. We must be firm in words and deeds, not necessarily through the armed struggle, for this is the stage of political negotiations..."
The Independent Palestinian State
"...[The Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital] requires a long struggle, because Israel may accept the idea of a state with no sovereignty and force many limitations on it, but the state must have complete sovereignty on its land, border-terminals, air, and shores. It must be a full member of the UN and Israel must not have the right to interfere in its matters, because it will be a state of full sovereignty. If Israel wants to impose its terms on the state, then the state would not be independent, and this is totally unacceptable to us..."
Israeli Society and the Peace Process
"The truth of the matter is that we were happy for Netanyahu's fall... but our position right from the start was that the Likud and Labor parties are two sides of the same coin. They only differ on tactics, but it was the Labor party that started to build settlements. Barak represents the Zionist movement and Israeli society in its entirety. Israeli public opinion has not been changed and has not opted for peace... The elections to the Knesset and the policies of both Likud and Labor clearly indicate the continuation of the aggressive settlement policy against the Arabs. This has been their policy for hundreds of years. Following the [UN General Assembly] Partition [Resolution of 1947] they took 27% of the Palestinian lands, and now they want to divide the West Bank. It is not that one Israeli leader or another is an extremist; Israeli society itself is intransigent. [Therefore] there is a certain need for pressures that would affect the Israeli public."
The Refugee Problem
"No Palestinian leader ever accepted the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees [in the Arab countries]. Also, no Palestinian or Arab leader, nor any Palestinian or Arab leadership, has the right to deny a Palestinian his Right of Return. This right was established in the UN and the Human Rights charters. This right is sacred." (IMRA Oct 26)
An American Decision By Moshe Zak
Prime Minister Ehud Barak didn't intercede with the US administration on behalf of Martin Indyk's appointment to a second term as ambassador to Israel. His denial of the report in The Washington Post should be believed.
It's possible that somebody in his government thought we needed a US ambassador who has been involved in Israeli society, to encourage the government through public pressure towards a faster pace of concessions to the Palestinians. But it's unreasonable to assume that Barak shares this view, for several reasons:
With all due respect to the ambassadors and their roles, they are hardly the sole channel through which the relationship between Israel and the US is conducted. When reporting to Washington, the ambassador tries to influence the shaping of American policy in the region, but in the final analysis he implements policy as determined in Washington.
The first American ambassador to Israel, James McDonald, was a good and faithful friend of Israel, but nevertheless, on instructions from Washington, delivered a sharply worded letter to Ben-Gurion in the summer of 1949, whose like has never been seen since.
Ambassador Malcolm Toon had no pretensions as a friend. On his arrival he spoke of his intention to set up in Israel a pro-American "lobby" that would pressure the Knesset and act as a counterweight to the pro-Israel "lobby" operated by ambassador Dinitz in the US Congress.
He failed in this objective for two reasons: firstly because Israel's friendship with the US doesn't need to be lobbied for. Most MKs support political cooperation with the US. And secondly, because he had no links to Israelis. Where Toon, failed Indyk succeeded, due to his Israeli roots as a kibbutz volunteer after the Yom Kippur War, and his year studying at the Hebrew University. He was readily able to be involved in Israeli society and to express his opinions on topics on which there were disagreements between the administration and the Israeli government.
Thanks to the many friends he made, Indyk's opinions became widely known. In many cases they were his personal opinions, which were inaccurately taken by his Israeli contacts as the administration's opinions. Israelis forget the amazing statement that he made when testifying before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in the hearings before his appointment as ambassador was authorized: He said that the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem would lead to an explosion throughout the Middle East. This was an exaggerated assessment with no basis; alarmism that caused, and still causes, damage to Israel's status in Jerusalem.
When saying good-bye to Indyk when his term as ambassador was over, I jokingly said to him, "You will be coming back to us." I had no idea that it would really happen. But I can't join in the rejoicing, which is based on the belief that upon his return, he will determine the future of peace between Israel and the Arabs. That isn't the ambassador's job, but the job of the prime minister of Israel. (Jerusalem Post Oct 27)
And Lieberman, Too By David Bar-Illan
The only thing more irritating than the avalanche of police leaks in the Netanyahu case is the pious disavowal of blame by police officials. That the inspector-general and his investigations chief state on every available news program that the police do not leak to the press is, to put it charitably, disingenuous.
Ma'ariv journalist Amnon Dankner, one of Netanyahu's harshest critics, wrote on Friday what all media people know: "Anyone who lives here knows that the police leak details of investigations to the press in an ongoing, sensational manner. Sometimes it is part of the pressure on the suspects, sometimes part of the 'give and take' relationship between the police and the press. This is bad, because often the suspicions prove baseless, and those investigated remain with a stained reputation, courtesy of the police."
To their credit, political figures and journalists of all political hues have joined in excoriating the police conduct. Former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni, exhibiting the kind of integrity her successor Education Minister Yossi Sarid has only a nodding acquaintance with, was unequivocal. "I am dreadfully ashamed of this police force," she said.
State Attorney Edna Arbel, MK Uzi Baram, and columnists Moshe Zak, Eitan Haber, Nahum Barnea and others have all registered similar sentiments.
Police conduct may be driven by an obsessive need to generate publicity. The televised police caper in August, which traumatized an elderly couple with the charge that they had notified the Knesset of MK Amnon Rubinstein's purported demise, bespoke an obsessive preoccupation with public relations.
This desperate search for favorable publicity is almost understandable if it is meant to compensate for a dismal record. The police have been unable to stop underworld protection rackets, drug trade and gang wars, nor have they apprehended a serial rapist who has been evading them for months despite detailed descriptions of his looks and modus operandi.
On the national security level, the police had no inkling of the widespread terrorist activity among Israeli Arabs in the Galilee, which only a miracle prevented from causing a massive loss of life. And they have proved utterly impotent in dealing with the plague of nationalistically motivated thefts, which cause the loss of huge amounts of agricultural equipment and 50,000 cars a year. Sensational investigations tend to deflect attention from these failures.
YET the thirst for publicity cannot be the only explanation for these investigations. There is a striking contrast between the almost total inaction on charges against Labor leaders - which include substantial accusations of fraudulent funding of Ehud Barak's campaign - and the circus-like ballyhoo which surrounds every charge against Likud personalities. Nor can it be ignored that election campaigns generate investigations of right wingers with amazing predictability, and that after the election they get thrown out of court.
One such election campaign case was the charge that MK Avigdor Lieberman, former director general of the Prime Minister's Office and now head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, had threatened and insulted a public official. After the election, the case seemed to vanish. But harsh criticism of police conduct last week suddenly brought it back to life. To reinforce Netanyahu's guilt - if not by evidence then by association - the police informed the press that the attorney-general would ask for the removal of Lieberman's parliamentary immunity so that he could stand trial.
In fact, no such decision has been made by the attorney-general's office. But the press, which never seems to bother checking the authenticity of police information, printed it as fact.
Lieberman's alleged crime is that in a private meeting with his party activists he called police officers racists and antisemites who should not be the keepers of jails but inmates. If this kind of invective constitutes a criminal offense, few politicians and columnists in this country should be walking about free.
What the police do not seem to understand is that to prosecute anyone for what he says in private is to institute totalitarian thought control. An indictment of Lieberman will only prove that his bluster against the police - hitherto deemed demagogic and unfounded by most Israelis - is all too justified.
Ultimately, police conduct is the responsibility of Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami. Highly cultured and a dedicated liberal, he should have been especially sensitive to the brutality with which the police have been trampling civil rights, free speech and personal dignity. Nor can he be unaware of the incalculable damage the highly publicized, unproved charges of bribe-taking and thievery against a former prime minister can do to Israel's standing in the world.
To say, as he did on Monday, that a law should be passed to prohibit investigations of former prime ministers without the attorney-general's approval is to suggest curing cancer with a Band-Aid. Nor is the internal inquiry suggested by the police more than an invitation to a cover-up.
What is at stake here is not the outcome of the Netanyahu case, but public confidence in the police. Only a probe by a state commission with extraordinary powers can restore that. (Jerusalem Post Oct 27)
Israel in Retreat
The following are excerpts from an interview with Aharon Levran, Middle East strategic expert and Ariel Center for Policy Research member:
Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane: Official Syrian sources say that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon will be most dangerous and will close the door on chances for peace between Israel and Syria. The sources say that a one-sided Israeli retreat from Lebanon will put the Golan issue into "deep-freeze." What is the motivation of Syria to say such a thing?
Levran: It does not surprise me. The entire idea behind the Israeli withdrawal and the deadline of a year that Barak set is to neutralize the card that Syria has against Israel regarding the Golan. Syria is holding a great threat over our heads: if you don't give us the Golan, Hizbullah will continue to attack you in Lebanon. I'm not in favor of a withdrawal, but when Barak came up with the idea of leaving Lebanon within a year, he was strongly criticized here - but in actuality it infuriated the Syrians, and made them realize that if they don't hurry up, they will lose their best card.
Q. If so, then the obvious question is why don't we just withdraw right now from Lebanon? What interest do we have in allowing the Syrians to keep this card?
A. Heh, here is the point which I totally don't agree with, but this is the situation: Barak wants an agreement with Syria. He said as much recently when he said that if he and Assad could sit down in the same room together, there would be an agreement - which obviously means giving up the entire Golan and more.
Q. What do you think the Syrians mean when they threaten that a unilateral withdrawal will cause a very dangerous situation?
A. They are likely referring to one of two things: Israel's northern border, which could be attacked by Hizbullah the same way that Israeli forces in Lebanon are attacked now - in which case we will have gained nothing by leaving Lebanon. Or it could be on the Golan, which even though it has been quiet for 25 years - largely because Syria knows how close it is to Damascus - could become a site for Syrian aggression. The Syrians are saying that if they can't pressure us in Lebanon, they will do so in the Golan.
Q. I understand that you do not support a withdrawal from Lebanon -
A. I don't support it at all! I'm sick and tired of the way Israel has been acting these past few years, of running away and withdrawing from every little difficulty... The right-wing, too, is impotent, and wants to leave Lebanon - even though they [the right-wing] have at least some justification because they are trying to save the Golan by neutralizing the Syrian threat [as above]. But to retreat is very bad from a strategic standpoint. It's a basic strategic principle that if you want to protect a vital line, than you have to do so from a point that is beyond the original one. If you want to protect the Galilee and the border, then you have to be further north of it. We understood this for years, and we were there [in Lebanon] for a long time, usually with great success. But now because they [Hizbullah] have suddenly found a way to cause us more casualties, and we, in our impotency, did not retaliate by lashing back at them - including with a threat on Syria - so because of this we have to run away with our tail between our legs. We retreat on every front! What is happening to us?!"(Arutz 7 Oct 27)