A collection of the week's news from Israel
Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5760
December 10, 1999
Issue number 249
Barak Ready to "Discuss" Golan
Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his spokesmen continue to deny that a full withdrawal from the Golan is inevitable, despite Wednesday night's surprise announcement of a Washington summit next week between Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shara. A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office said today, "Clinton's announcement that the talks would continue from the point at which they left off three years ago does not mean that Israel has agreed to a full withdrawal from the Golan." Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, however, said today that there are "not many secrets here," and that no one will be surprised at the final results. Opposition leader Ariel Sharon, whose Likud Knesset faction convened this afternoon to discuss ways to block a Golan retreat, says that the Barak government has totally surrendered to Syrian demands and American interests. Sharon said that he would call on other opposition parties - including Shinui - to form a united front in the fight against a withdrawal. MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) told Arutz-7's Ron Meir today that he has been informed that that which finally convinced Assad to accept the Golan from Israel was an American promise to revamp the entire Syrian army, which at present is very outdated. The Labor Party Central Committee greeted Ehud Barak with cheers and applause late Thursday. Although the party meeting was called to discuss issues on which Barak and his party are in disagreement - such as the budget for the year 2000 and the system of direct election of the Prime Minister - Barak did not relate to these topics. He talked instead, as expected, only about the newly-announced resumption of talks with Syria, and concluded, "I am confident that Israel is headed for a shining period of growth in technology, science, and standard of living."
"There is no chance in the world that Assad would have agreed to this unless he had received a guarantee that Israel will withdraw from the entire Golan Heights." So said today Yossi Ben-Aharon, the former Director of Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir's Office and the head of the talks with Syria at that time. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Ben-Aharon said, "When Clinton says that the talks will resume at the point where they let off three years ago, this means that Barak has finally accepted Assad's demand, namely full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in exchange for security guarantees to be negotiated. I say this not as a politician or an opposition member, but as someone who knows the precise situation from first-hand experience... The three-year time period refers to the time in which Netanyahu apparently hesitated to revive Rabin's promise for a total withdrawal - but Barak has now agreed to this. Those who are denying [that there will be a total withdrawal] are simply not telling the truth..." Ben-Aharon emphasized that the inevitable retreat will be even further than the international border - that which left a few extra kilometers in Jewish hands - but all the way up to the borders that were in effect from 1949 til June 4, 1967, "a few meters away from the Sea of Galilee." Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last night that in his indirect contacts with Syria, President Assad had agreed to Israeli control of Mt. Hermon - known in Israel as the "eyes of the country." Netanyahu, speaking in Paris to Likud supporters, said that he never agreed to a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, and that the present government must not agree to this either.
The Golan Residents Committee Chairman Eli Malka said, "Our [organizational] activities are important, but we must remember that the Golan does not belong only to us, but rather to the entire country. We merited to live here, to develop this area, to plant trees here, to raise children here - for three generations already - but it's up to the people of Israel and what they do in the coming months to determine whether we will succeed in keeping the Golan." Malka continued, "We must not allow ourselves to despair. This is the chance to stop the Prime Minister and save the government from itself, lest we find ourselves in a few months with an agreement that signifies the destruction of a glorious settlement enterprise, the expulsion of [almost 18,000] people from their homes, the loss of water sources, the loss of security, and - worst of all - the loss of the true Zionistic values by virtue of which we returned to this Land and settled it. Everyone must roll up his sleeves and see what he can do in this struggle - come out to demonstrations, stand at the intersections, speak to friends and convince them of the folly of leaving the Golan. If we work together, then I have no doubt that we will be able to succeed."
"What type of security arrangements in the Golan are being talked about, and can they serve as a substitute for Israel's actual presence in the Golan?" So asked Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane of Brig.-Gen. (res). Uzi Keren, who commanded an IDF armored division and a veteran of Golan battles in 1967 and 1973. Keren's response: "Early-warning stations, for instance, have a certain advantage - but this is simply one aspect of a much larger picture. Take the element of deterrence, for example [which we are giving up]. The position of our forces today in the Golan Heights is 60 kilometers from Damascus. This means that any battle must necessarily take place close to their population centers. This is a fine deterrent for Syria not to start a war, as the last decades of peace have proven..." Regarding de-militarizing the Golan, Keren said, "Israel will of course demand that Syrian forces not be allowed in the Golan. Again, this is better than nothing - but [not by much]. Syria will certainly deploy very large forces around its capital, Damascus. Syria's standing army can be mobilized in a matter of 2-4 hours, and only has to travel about 50 kilometers until it can overlook Israel from the Golan - well before Israel has managed to mobilize its reserves. In the Sinai, this is not the case - the Egyptian army has to cross the Suez Canal and then travel 250 kilometers in order to get to Israel, by which time the IDF could already have mobilized to meet the threat. In the Golan, a 'de-militarized area' is nothing more than empty words, and does not provide real protection...” “Our situation at present in the Golan is optimal,” Keren said. “Even missiles shot from Syria towards Tel Aviv can be neutralized much more effectively when we are on the Golan, and not when we are below it... Syria [as opposed to Egypt in 1982 ] is totally hostile, and has two other very hostile countries right behind her, ready to pounce. Now of all times, when Israel is so strong, and Syria has never been weaker, and has an outdated army - why should we give everything away? But I would like to make a different point,” Keren concluded. "We must remember that the Golan is not only a security issue. It also represents values, our sovereignty, settlement. How many times in one generation can a country tell its citizens, 'We made a mistake, it's time to pack your bags and leave?' It happened once in the Sinai, but we must not let this precedent become a norm... It's a matter of values. Until now, settlement and Zionism, for the past 100 years, stood for persistence, for 'no giving in.'... So I say: we should talk with them, and see if there is a willingness for mutual concessions - and if there isn't such a willingness, then we can wait another 10 years, or 15 years, until there is a ruler there who is willing to talk in a different language than only demanding the entire Golan." (arutzsheva.org Dec 9)
A withdrawal from the Golan cannot be effected without a popular referendum approving the move. This is so by virtue of the Golan Law, passed ten months ago during the term of the previous government, which states that no part of the Golan or Jerusalem may be transferred to a foreign power without a popular referendum and the approval of an absolute majority of 61 Knesset Members. In addition, Prime Minister Barak made the holding of a referendum into a basic campaign promise. A debate has begun to heat up, however - and is likely to intensify in the coming weeks - over exactly how the referendum will be held. Arutz-7's Haggai Seri reports that there are currently three different proposals - from the Justice Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, and from the Knesset Speaker. The questions that must be resolved include:
* Will the referendum law cover only the Golan issue, other related matters, or all such questions that are considered basic and of critical importance?(arutzsheva.org Dec 9)
* How will the referendum be funded?
* Will each party be allowed air-time, as in general elections, to express its views? The Likud and those opposed to a withdrawal are very much in favor of such an arrangement, in order to neutralize the effect of the many government spokesmen who are given extra air-time by nature of their positions.
* What will be the majority that will be required for the resolution to be passed?
* Who will formulate the question to be voted on, and how will it be formulated?
Yahalom: We'll Fight from Within
Deputy Education Minister Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP) was asked today if he believes that Barak has not already promised Syria a full withdrawal from the Golan. Yahalom's response: "Maybe [he] didn't promise, but I have no doubt that the Syrians would never have agreed to enter into these talks unless they understood clearly that this was Israel's basic position. Syria has been very consistent in its demand for the entire Golan, and therefore whoever enters into talks with Syria knows full well what this means." When asked if his party would leave the government, Yahalom answered, "Our job in this government is to be its brakes. We didn't enter this government because we thought it had great tidings for Israel, nor did we support Barak in the election. We are here only as a way to stop certain moves... We will fight on three fronts against a withdrawal from the Golan. Our first front will be in the government itself... then we must fight to ensure that a referendum is held, and it should be held with the right conditions, such as demanding a sufficiently large majority for leaving the Golan - and the next front will be winning the referendum itself... We have no problem with fighting from within the government against the Prime Minister on this issue. If Barak tells us that this is not acceptable to him [and that we must choose either to side with him or to leave the government], we will immediately leave the government. Until that time, however, we will try to work from within, where we can do much more than from outside." (arutzsheva.org Dec 9)
Barak Freezes Yesha Construction; PA: That’s Not Enough
Less than one day after the Palestinians stopped the final status talks in response to construction in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha), Prime Minister Ehud Barak has announced that his government will not issue any new building tenders for construction in Yesha communities. Monday, the Palestinians initiated a crisis when they walked out on a session of the final-status talks with Israel. PA negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo cited construction of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria as the reason for the walk-out. In a conversation with senior Labor party activists Monday night, Barak said, "the settlements are causing Israel great damage," and that he would therefore not approve any new tenders while negotiations with the Palestinians continue. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin observed that there was no point in building in Yesha communities "that would at any rate be transferred to the Palestinians." Regarding those communities which - according to Beilin - would not be uprooted, "construction may continue unrestricted only after the consummation of a final-status deal." "There will be an agreement on final-status principles within three months in any event," Barak said Wednesday, "such that it makes no difference if there is no construction during this period. It takes two years from the time a tender is issued until an apartment is built. It makes no logical sense to continue with something that hurts us from an international point of view, while it brings no tangible benefits at all." Housing Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Levy (NRP) suggested that Barak was "just discounting the issuing of building tenders on the scale of 500 apartments at a time." The Yesha Council Director-General Atty. Shlomo Filber expressed greater wariness of Barak's declaration, saying "It is becoming increasingly apparent that the people who are directing our Yesha policy are none other than Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid." Filber was hinting at the threat issued by Sarid's Meretz party yesterday to quit the government if Yesha construction was not halted. Filber added "What happens in the weeks ahead - whether tenders are issued in practice or not - will determine our next steps." Palestinian Authority negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo has rejected Prime Minister Barak's decision to cease construction in Judea and Samaria. Abed Rabbo said that nothing less than a total halt to all Jewish construction in Yesha would be acceptable to the PA, and that this is the only topic he will be willing to discuss at opcoming talks. MK Yuli Edelstein of Yisrael B'Aliyah said that his party would not cooperate with the government on Knesset votes if Barak's new decision is implemented. Shomron Regional Council Head Bentzi Lieberman said, "The way we understand it, we're not talking about a total freeze on construction, but only that new tenders will not be issued. Public building that is already underway can continue, as can private construction." (arutzsheva.org Dec 7,8)
Attorney General: We Have Lost Control Over Temple Mount
As debate over the Moslem Waqf's newly-opened illegal entrance on the Temple Mount continues, so does the construction. The Moslems have recently opened a 12-meter wide opening in the Solomon's Stables area under the southern area of the Temple Mount, and great damage to Jewish archeological artifacts there is feared. Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami says that no forceful entry to the Temple Mount will be made to seal the new 12-meter entrance. "We will not be like the Netanyahu government," he said, "that opened the Hasmonean tunnels without considering the ramifications... I believe that it will be possible to have the entrance sealed without the use of force... I don't want to put on a show of force that will cause the entire city to burn - but there are other ways to ensure that the artifacts on the Mount are preserved, and that there will be effective archaeological supervision there - and I will recommend to the Prime Minister that we go all the way on this matter." At a meeting on the matter last week in the Public Security Minister's office, senior police officials said that if the entrance is sealed up - as occurred three months ago with a much smaller entranceway illegally opened by the Waqf - there are liable to be severe Arab riots on the Temple Mount. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein admitted at the meeting that the Israeli law enforcement authorities have basically lost control over what happens on the Temple Mount. Antiquities Authority chief Amir Drori called the Waqf action an "archaeological crime," while the Attorney-General said that "the remnants of the history of the Jewish people are being trampled. The Waqf must be told that we have tolerance for their worship, but that they will not be allowed to kick aside our history." Likud MK Danny Naveh, speaking on Arutz-7, commented: "I agree that the Temple Mount issue in Jerusalem is sensitive and potentially explosive, but the question is how did the Barak government allow itself to get into this situation in the first place. Three months ago, Barak knew of the Palestinian plans on the Mount, and said, 'OK, let them do it, as long as they coordinate it with us.' So the Palestinians carried out their works, and didn't coordinate with us. Over the last ten days, the government saw tractors and trucks coming in to the Mount, and didn't do a thing to stop them." Gush Shalom [Peace Bloc] issued a statement today calling upon the government to announce unequivocally that "the Temple Mount is a Moslem area, and that it has no intention of intervening in what goes on there, so that this issue may be removed once and for all from the public agenda."
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert ordered a stop-work order on Waqf activities. He has also instructed the city's District Attorney to begin proceedings against the Waqf for the works it has already carried out. If the Moslem Waqf does not halt its activities there next week, the city will ask for police intervention. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin is troubled by the new activism emanating from the Jerusalem Municipality. "Ever since 1967, no Israeli government has tried to fully exercise Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount," Beilin said today. "The issue there is a 'very sensitive one..., and every Moslem home boasts a photograph of the Al-Aksa Mosque." Jerusalem businessman Yisrael Goldberg has found that Jewish Israelis are also fond of the Temple Mount. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Goldberg told of how he sold and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies of a photo-montage of the Temple on the Temple Mount. "People from all walks of Israeli life, religious Jews and many who do not wear yarmulkas, common folk and politicians, and even deputy mayors from all over the country - have mounted the picture in prominent places in their homes and offices," he said. Prime Minister Barak refuses to hear criticism by Likud members of his handling of the matter. "To hear criticism of our judgement from some of the main players in the [Hasmonean] Tunnels fiasco," he said today, "the ramifications of which we have made an effort to neutralize, but which helped foster the friction between the Waqf and the police, which has in turn brought about a situation whereby Waqf works are occasionally carried out without being coordinated with the Antiquities Authority - to hear criticism from those who were key players in this fiasco, is... strange, and even absurd."
Knesset Members toured the site this week "We saw extensive works being carried out, involving the opening-up of the large arches there. Two of the arches have already been opened, and the Moslems have broken through the third. The police are trying to stop this, but the Moslems are continuing to work, and we saw trucks and much activity going on." Chairman Zevulun Orlev said, "There is no ethnic dispute here, it is a dispute over sovereignty - does the State of Israel enforce its laws on the Temple Mount or not?" Committee member MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) disagreed: "It is not just a question of violating the Antiquities Law, which is an important issue in itself. There are also deep religious-political ramifications: We heard from several sources that the reason the Waqf is doing this is to prevent the Jews from being able to pray on the only place on the Temple Mount where they are halakhically permitted to do so." Other reactions:
The illegal Arab construction on the Temple Mount was also the central issue of a popular Israeli talk show. One of the guests on the show, Knesset member and former Arafat confidant Ahmed Tibi, issued an on-air ultimatum to the Barak government. Following is an excerpt from the interview:
Knesset Member Tibi: If the Israeli government and elements in the right wing will not recognize -
Interviewer: Do you not identify with the Israeli side?
Knesset Member Tibi: No, not on this point..I am a Moslem, and I identify with [the] Al-Aksa [Mosque]... If the Israeli government and the Israeli side and people on the right refuse to recognize the adminstrative authority of the Moslem Waqf, and continue to be affected by the incitement coming from the right wing - then there will be no 'Millenium' here, there will be an 'Apocalypse' here! If someone has the nerve to contemplate closing the two entrances that have been opened, I am saying to you, and this is a warning -
Interviewer: Are you saying this as a representative of Arafat or are you expressing your own view?
Knesset Member Tibi: I know what will happen - if someone has the nerve to close the entrances, he is declaring war on the Moslems! (A7 Dec 2-8)
Needy Families "Adopted"
Concerned citizens have started to chip away at some of the country's social problems. In the Ramat Hasharon region, several dozen financially-stable families have adopted less affluent local families. The program is the fruit of the labors of the local branch of the Chabad movement. Each "adopting" family has committed itself to supplement the income of another family unit to the tune of 400 shekels a month, with the funds earmarked mainly for groceries. As part of the same initiative, a number of local food stores have pledged to provide free fresh vegetables to the area's needy families. (arutzsheva.org Dec 7)
Suit Against PA to Proceed
In what may become a landmark case, the Tel Aviv District Court has rejected a request by the Palestinian Authority to summarily dismiss a damages suit brought against it by an Israeli father and son injured in a Palestinian Arab terror attack several years ago. The PA argued that as an independent entity, it is immune to such litigation. The Israeli family charges that the PA did not take the necessary steps to prevent terror attacks within Israel, as it had committed itself to do in the 1993 Oslo Accords. In light of the court's decision, the plaintiffs could recover up to five million shekels in damages. (A7 Dec 7)
Bodies of Yom Kippur Warsoldiers Recovered
Two IDF soldiers will be buried this week, more than 26 years after their deaths. An Israeli search team discovered the soldiers' bodies last month but succeeded in positively identifying them only Monday. The soldiers were found under three meters of sand in the Sinai Desert where their tank was hit by Egyptian fire on Oct. 7, 1973 on the second day of the Yom Kippur War. (arutzsheva.org Dec 7)
Russian Paper Goes Left?
Former refusenik Eduard Kuznetsov, the editor of the Russian-language Vesti - the 3rd largest paper in Israel - has been fired from his position. Sources within the paper feel that Yediot Acharonot, Israel's largest paper and the parent company of Vesti, wishes to remove the right-wing slant that Kuznetsov and many of the paper's writers represent. Kuznetsov himself said that it is still too early to talk about the motives for his firing. Yediot Acharonot, had ordered Kuznetsov, to take a leave of absence from his editorial position some weeks before this past May's national elections. At that time, many Vesti staff members had anticipated the eventual removal of their chief editor, "for his right of center political leaning." Ehud Barak's advisor on immigration, Ina Isakov, was reportedly instrumental in bringing about Kuznetsov's dismisal. A group of Vesti writers met this week to discuss the establishment of a new Russian-language paper with Kuznetsov at the helm. (arutzsheva.org Dec 5,6)
Palestinian Incitement: a Deeper Level
A significant change of emphasis in Palestinian anti-Israel incitement has been noted of late by observers of the situation. Itamar Marcus, chairman of the Palestinian Media Watch, explained to Arutz-7 Monday: "The government ministers, both in this and the previous administrations, have a basic misconception in the way they view PA incitement. They seem to think that incitement is merely a statement here or there that may be anti-Israel. In truth, however, it's much deeper than that. There is a general trend and desire on the part of the Palestinian Authority to increase its people's hatred against Israel. For example, Palestinian Television recently screened a movie, in which an Israeli-Arab boy kills an Israeli soldier, then dies a 'martyr's' death at the hands of other Israeli soldiers, and with his last words, says, 'I killed a Zionist!' They simply want to build hatred..." Marcus added that there is a tendency among Israelis not to believe the hatred expressed for them by Palestinians, because it is so exaggerated. "People think that it obviously can't be as bad as it sounds. But this is exactly what happened with the Nazis in World War II, as well as before the Yom Kippur War. No one believed that our enemies were actually planning what they said they were planning." (A7 Dec 6)
Ma'aleh Hazeitim on the Map
The Jewish neighborhood of Ma'aleh HaZeitim in eastern Jerusalem, which only three years ago was at the center of a battle for Jewish rights in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, is now a well-established fact, and even some of its most bitter enemies admit that "there is no stopping it now." Nadav Shragai reported in Ha'aretz that four Jewish families are already living in Ma'aleh HaZeitim, and new families are expected to move into the first apartments currently being built within a few months. The compound, owned and developed by Dr. Irving Moskowitz, will comprise a total of 119 apartments, a synagogue, a commercial center and a kindergarten. Shragai writes that 60 families, both religious and secular, have already signed up for the project - only hundreds of meters southeast of the entrance to the Western Wall. Chaim Ramon, the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs who has not concealed his disdain for the Jewish presence in the mostly-Arab neighborhood, admitted this week, "All the legal aspects of this matter have been examined. The professional opinions we have received have determined that the construction at this site is legal and it is not possible to stop it." Another left-leaning public personality, former Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, has expressed support for the activities of Ateret Cohanim association in settling the currently-Arab areas of Jerusalem, and opined that the people of that organization want to live together with the Arabs in peace. "The riots we see from time to time, or so I understand, are not real riots, but the initiative of Arabs who have sold houses to Jews, Arabs who have to demonstrate their opposition to Jewish settlement if they don't want to be devoured by their friends, who suspect them of collaboration," said Lahat. (A7 Dec 5)
Temple Menorah in Time for Chanukah
Chanukah was given special significance this year, when the Temple Institute in Jerusalem unveiled its newly-completed Menorah (candelabrum) at a special ceremony in the Old City's Cardo plaza Sunday. Rabbi Menachem Makover, director of the Institute, said that the new approximately six-foot high Menorah has been built according to the exact specifications of the Torah. "This does not mean that it will necessarily be used for the Temple and in fact we are forbidden to consecrate it now for Temple use. All those who contributed to the Menorah were made aware of this point. However, it is suitable for use in the Beit HaMikdash." Rabbi Makover said that while the original Biblical Menorah was comprised of solid gold, "a kosher Menorah may be made of bronze, or may even be hollow - but if it is made with gold, then the gold or gold-plating must be of one piece. In order to do this, we built a bronze substructure, which we then immersed in a vat of gold. This Menorah is thus plated with almost 43 kilograms of 'one piece' of gold." He added a timely message: "We felt that on Chanukah, there could be nothing more appropriate than to have the golden Menorah return to Jerusalem as a symbol of the rebirth of the Jewish people and our march towards fulfilling the vision of building the Temple." Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane pointed out that "some people have raised halakhic [Jewish legal] problems associated with building Temple vessels - maybe you're running ahead a bit too fast?" Rabbi Makover: "We are simply fulfilling one of the Torah's commandments. Maimonides, in his list of Torah commandments, enumerates the positive injunction to 'construct the Temple.' An important element in the fulfillment of this mitzvah is the construction of the Temple's vessels. We believe that the vessels should be the inheritance of the Jewish people, and we are able to prove this view from a halakhic standpoint." The Institute has just recently completed two other central Temple Vessels, namely, the Golden Altar and the Table. (arutzsheva.org Dec 5)
PLO Accounts Discovered by Hackers
Hackers have cracked the computer system of PLO headquarters in Tunisia, only to find that "Yasser Arafat has salted away billions of pounds for the Palestinian Liberation Organization in secret foreign bank accounts and investments." So reported the London Sunday Telegraph Sunday. The article writes that the hackers discovered that the PLO maintains about £5 billion in bank accounts in Zurich, Geneva and New York, along with accounts containing smaller sums in North Africa, Europe and Asia. In addition, the records reportedly show that the PLO owns shares on the Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo stock exchanges, including stock in Mercedes Benz, and property in prestigious areas of European capitals. The paper claims that the reports "are likely to prompt international donors* to ask why Mr. Arafat is still demanding aid for his Palestinian Authority." (arutzsheva.org Dec 5)
Barak: Forget about the Guns
Prime Minister Barak has instructed the relevant authorities not to worry about the number of guns in the Palestinian Authority. This represents a change in Israeli policy; one of Israel's long-standing demands of the Palestinian Authority has been to limit the number of guns to the number allowed by the Oslo agreements, and to collect the rest. Barak said that the guns do not represent a threat to Israel. Arafat apparently feels differently, however. Speaking to a cheering crowd last year, Arafat said, "The guns are ready to protect the right of Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem, as the capital of the future Palestinian state. Our guns are ready and we are ready to use them against whoever will try to prevent us from praying in Jerusalem." Likud MK Danny Naveh said in response, "What is the value of an agreement if you tell the other side that he doesn't have to adhere to it?" (A7 Dec 2)
Peace Now has withdrawn its Supreme Court petition against the outposts in Judea and Samaria. The judges made clear in yesterday's preliminary hearing that they would not intervene in the matter. One of the judges called the suit "political," and asked the Peace Now representatives why they do not protest the illegal Arab construction in Yesha. (A7 Dec 2)
Struggle For Jerusalem
The Palestinians are making preparations for Jerusalem to become their capital - and some Israeli groups wish to head off these efforts. The Lebanese Daily Star reported on Nov. 10 that a study by Samih Abed, a Palestinian Authority deputy minister for planning and international cooperation, advocates that Palestinians start shaping Jerusalem as their capital, even though - or because - it is currently cut off from other Palestinian territories. A recent Palestinian conference on Jerusalem focused on such issues as the "Judaization" of Jerusalem, and ways to "counter Israel's attempts to cut off Jerusalem from Palestine." Abed's proposals state, "Now is the time to start making concrete, detailed plans for a physical capital within Jerusalem - identifying potential sites, designs for a national parliament, industries, health and educational services..." Khalil al-Shaqaqi, director of the Center of Palestine Research and Studies, said, "Without Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, I doubt the Palestinian state would be capable of fulfilling our aspirations for independence and geographic integrity." In contrast, Jewish elements are redoubling their efforts to keep Jerusalem Jewish and Israeli. Yeshivat Beit Orot, for instance, located near Mt. of Olives in the capital, and the Ateret Cohanim Association in the Moslem Quarter of the Old City, are two of these groups. Chaim Silberstein of Beit Orot recently wrote, "The Palestinians are not wasting time in their efforts to create their sovereignty in Jerusalem. Feisal Husseini has prepared plans for an infrastructure of 'Palestinian' neighborhoods in and around eastern Jerusalem, aiming to connect with Ramallah and Bethlehem, and to outnumber the Jews. Note that they admit that without Jerusalem, they have nothing. This is the struggle and we cannot afford to waste time in combating it. We must succeed in asserting Jewish sovereignty in the inner core of east Jerusalem, surrounding the Old City, and in the Old City itself. This means developing, purchasing, living and controlling large areas of the city." (arutzsheva.org Dec 2)
Arab Killers of Americans May Be Brought to Justice
U.S. President Clinton signed into law last week the first-ever legislation concerning American victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism. The Zionist Organization of America, one of the major proponents of the law, reports that 12 American citizens have been murdered by Arab terrorists since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Of the 23 terrorists involved in these killings, most are free in Palestinian Authority territory, and at least five are serving in the PA para-military police force. The new law requires the State Department to provide Congress with regular, detailed reports on American efforts to bring the killers to trial, including the latest information on which Palestinian Arab killers are serving in the PA police or are out of prison, and more. (A7 Dec 2)
Great Moments in Clintonian Diplomacy
In a speech to the Israel Policy Forum on Nov 20, Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak, tried to help the Clinton administration extricate itself from the embarrassment caused by Suha (Mrs. Yasser) Arafat's remarks in Hillary Clinton's presence, in which she slandered Israel. Barak emphasized that "Mrs. Clinton has touched the heart of many in our country," and that "she has encouraged efforts for peace in the region." He went out of his way to dismiss the criticism of Hillary Clinton's failure to quickly and forcefully respond to Suha Arafat's accusations against Israel, saying that Mrs. Clinton "should not be blamed because she could not have reacted immediately on the spot." Upon hearing the news, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's camp accused Barak of interfering in the Senate race in his attempt to get Hillary off the hook. Ma'anv reported the following response from Barak's aides: "The criticisms of Giulian’s associates were dismissed by those inside Barak's entourage, who described those statements as mild compared to the pressure exerted on them by senior levels [in the United States] to speak on Hillary's behalf." (The Weekly Standard Dec 6)
Violations Swept under Media Carpet By Ezra Levant,
When politicians embarrass themselves by accidentally saying what they really believe, that's called a gaffe. By that definition, then, the recent diatribe by Suha Arafat, the wife of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, was not a gaffe at all. In a televised speech last month, Mrs. Arafat made an unsubstantiated claim that Israel was using cancer-causing poison gas on Palestinian women and children. Hillary Clinton, who was Mrs. Arafat's guest of honour, sat silently until her hostess finished her tirade. Then she gave her a big hug.
Clinton's warm response has caused problems back in New York, where she's campaigning for a senate seat and needs the Jewish vote. But, ironically, it has caused no grief for Mrs. Arafat herself. When called upon to recant, she stood by her libel, apologizing only for embarrassing her guest. This was no gaffe -- her remarks weren't accidental, and she wasn't embarrassed by them -- so why would she apologize? A month has passed, but the incident is still a live wire for journalists in New York. The sizable western press corps in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, dropped the matter long ago. That's because while Mrs. Arafat's comments might seem vicious to North Americans, her comments are typical of remarks made regularly by officials in her husband's Palestinian Authority (PA) government, and his tightly-controlled state media. Never does a week go by without an official Palestinian newspaper, radio or TV program serving up such propaganda -- in Arabic of course. Mrs. Arafat's remarks didn't make news because they were novel; they made news because they were translated into English, and because they embarrassed Clinton.
When Yasser Arafat, who is courting the U.S. Congress for an additional $400-million (US) grant, heard about his wife's speech he told reporters -- in English -- that he was shocked, just shocked. But the very next week, the official PA daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, repeated and expanded upon Mrs. Arafat's comments -- in Arabic. "Israeli companies are carrying out a covert war against the Palestinian land and the Palestinian people....Israeli chemical companies are using the Palestinian land and population as their own testing ground." The PA's official weekly, Al-Manar, chimed in, too. "Israel has conducted a pre-meditated campaign against the Palestinians and their land....Water poisoning incidents are known and proven; the burial of nuclear waste is not a secret....Suha Arafat's statements represent what the people suffer from the hated Israeli colonialism, which continues."
It's not just Yasser Arafat's hand-picked newspaper editors who make these remarks. His cabinet ministers do, too. The PA's health minister, Riyadh Al-Za'anoon, claimed that Israeli doctors "use Palestinian patients for experimental medicines and training new doctors." And last month, the PA awarded the Palestinian Prize for Culture to Abu Daoud, the terrorist who masterminded the murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
This constant drum-beat of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement is not only morally wrong, it also violates the letter and the spirit of the peace accords signed by the PLO at Oslo and Wye. Such violations -- and more serious ones, such as the refusal of the PLO to demilitarize -- are ignored by the western media who, almost unanimously, regard democratic Israel as the obstacle to peace and who never seem to run out of excuses for relapses of Palestinian terror. Perhaps a news story out of Tunis last week will change this unwavering bias. According to London's prestigious Telegraph, a dissident faction of Palestinians hacked into the PLO's computers and discovered that Yasser Arafat has salted away nearly $10-billion in personal bank accounts in Europe and the United States. The money was skimmed over the years from "taxes" paid by Palestinian workers in the Gulf States and from foreign aid destined for the PA.
Perhaps this stunning revelation will cause a re-evaluation of how the press covers the Arafats. More likely, though, like Suha Arafat's remarks, it will be swept under the media carpet with a knowing nod and a wink.
Ezra Levant is an editorial writer for the National Post.
(Calgary Herald Dec 9)
Banker in a Bunker By Uri Dan
Why did it take Monaco's special police force and 28 firemen more than an hour to reach Edmond Safra after they arrived at his home?
The investigation into the tragic death of the world's wealthiest Jewish banker in his magnificent "bunker" in Monte Carlo is still under way.
Daniel Serdet, Monaco's attorney-general, said he would contact the US authorities for information about Ted Maher, the nurse who treated Edmond Safra and has admitted to setting fire to the banker's magnificent penthouse.
Serdet also wants to find out how Maher came to be in Safra's service five months ago as part of the medical team that treated the banker for Parkinson's disease. After all, Safra had financial adversaries in the US and not just in Russia.
The beautiful, postage-stamp sized principality of Monaco, which derives its wealth from its famous casinos, breathed a sigh of relief when Maher admitted he had invented the story of an attack by two masked intruders. Monte Carlo's image as a safe haven for capital and its owners is usually more important here than the truth.
But several questions remain, not only regarding the way Maher was recruited, but also concerning the performance of the Monaco authorities. Why did it take the special police force and 28 firemen more than an hour to reach Safra after they arrived at his home?
Between 5:27 and 6:30 that morning, Safra and his Philippine nurse, who was trapped with him, called for help on the intercom and cell phone. The firemen broke into the bathroom only 45 minutes later. According to Serdet, this can be explained by the firemen's having to fight both fire and smoke.
The Monaco authorities, who tend to sweep any unpleasant incident under the carpet, prefer the explanation that the banker fell victim to conditions in his own bunker, as if he was overprotected in his own safe and the only person capable of opening it from the inside. This scenario, combined with Maher's admission, would appear to free Monaco of any liability, leaving its picture-postcard reputation unblemished.
Could this story really be true? It is a tale of an unusual Jew, a financial wizard, who preferred to live anywhere but Israel and who fell victim to his own suspicions, concerns, and anxieties. He was so afraid of being kidnapped that he protected himself, perhaps more than any other private person in the world. And so, he didn't believe his wife's pleas over the intercom to open the door to the firemen. He probably believed they had come to attack him. In any event, how the American nurse Maher, who has admitted he was on tranquilizers and had undergone psychiatric treatment, managed to find himself in physical proximity to Safra, inside the billionaire's bunker, must be clarified.
As soon as Safra's death was announced, the international media, as usual, began concocting stories to the effect that Safra had been a victim of the Russian mafia. This reminded me of the negligence of the press in February 1993 following the explosion at the World Trade Center in New York. Suspicion was immediately cast upon “Serb extremists.” Less than a week later we learned that a Moslem-Egyptian-Palestinian terrorist organization was responsible for the crime.
The media, in their ignorance and in their desire for scoops and sensational stories, immediately string unrelated issues together.
That was the case, too, in the death at sea of media mogul Robert Maxwell. From the moment it transpired, after he was buried on the Mount of Olives, that he had stolen the pension funds earmarked for his employees, the press peddled the story that he had committed suicide.
The postmortem at the Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir)proved Maxwell had been severely beaten. But the press investigation in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, showed that the captain of Maxwell's yacht was an American who had previously run a ferry between Malta, Tenerife, and Libya. Even worse, he had not passed any security check prior to taking charge of the yacht.
Did Ted Maher pass a security check before being admitted to Edmond Safra's bedchamber?
Safra was buried in Geneva at the request of his wife, though the family has a plot on the Mount of Olives. At least this time a thorough investigation must be conducted into the death of the banker who was murdered in his own bunker. (Jerusalem Post Dec 9)
U.S. Pressure Belongs on Arafat, Not Israel By David Bar-Illan
Yasser Arafat's announced visit to the White House next week (which the administration has yet to confirm) and the Palestinians' refusal to accept the territory Israel has agreed to relinquish (not good enough, they say) have a common motive: They are intended to persuade the United States to pressure Israel to make more concessions. On the face of it, this is not an auspicious time for the Palestinians to invite such pressure. Last week, 11 prominent Palestinian academics and professionals, joined by nine members of the Palestinian legislature, branded the Arafat regime "corrupt, unjust, exploitative and manipulative." Arafat promptly had the 11 arrested and, accusing the legislators of treason, threatened to lift their parliamentary immunity and throw them in jail unless they publicly recanted.
One legislator was accosted by three masked gunmen and shot in the leg. In the scuffle, he managed to remove one assailant's mask and identified him as a member of Arafat's security forces. If all this sounds familiar to students of the Soviet Union, it is no accident. This is not the only indication that the hope for a peaceful Palestinian democracy may have been a trifle premature. Arafat's Fatah movement, whose charter still calls for dismantling the State of Israel, has just issued a warning to Palestinians to prepare for a violent confrontation with Israel.
Nor should the administration be pleased by the charge published in Arafat's official newspaper Al Hayat Al Jadida after Suha Arafat accused Israel of causing cancer among Palestinian women and children: "We understand the administration's defense of Israel's right to oppress our people and murder us with poisonous gases, since these gases, and most of the murderous Zionist technologies, are of American manufacture," wrote the paper's editorial columnist, Fuad Abu Hajla.
It would have been reasonable to expect U.S. pressure on Arafat, not on Israel. Pressure to democratize, liberalize, comply with agreements and stop preaching violence. And pressure to extradite the 23 terrorists, now roaming free in Palestinian Authority areas, who are implicated in killing Americans. Five of them are serving in the Palestinian police.
But the chances of the administration seriously demanding anything from Arafat are slim. The basic assumption of U.S. policy is that Arafat is the only Palestinian leader capable of making peace, and that pressure on him may cause his collapse and destroy the peace process. This is why Hillary Clinton never condemned Mrs. Arafat's blood libel speech specifically, and why the White House never demanded a Palestinian apology for the contents of her anti-Semitic speech but only for embarrassing the first lady.
The administration is not alone in this attitude. Ever since the Oslo agreement was signed more than six years ago, four Israeli prime ministers have subscribed to the same seductive premise: Arafat may be a corrupt tyrant, but he is the only game in town, the only Palestinian leader with the power and prestige to make a deal.
But the premise is fatally flawed. Arafat is tirelessly inculcating the Palestinians with expectations that even the most recklessly concessionary Israeli government could not fulfill. At most, Israel may be able to avoid immediate confrontation by reaching another interim agreement, which might put these expectations on hold.
But such a deal would not only be fraught with uncertainty, it would condemn the Palestinians to life under an oppressive, despotic and corrupt regime. Hardly a prescription for peace.
The alternative is to effect a policy change that neither the administration nor Israel seems ready to make. It would require uncompromising insistence on the development of a system of accountability in the Palestinian Authority and a total change in its education system before any more land is relinquished. And it would demand open and concrete support for democratic elements in Palestinian society.
This may be more difficult than the quick fixes of White House Lawn ceremonies. But it is the only way to lasting peace. (New York Post Dec 6)
Nothing New By Efraim Inbar
Only a position of strength can lead us to the best outcome possible - an armed peace.
The debate over Israel's borders with the Palestinians and Syria must be rooted in an understanding of the strategic environment we should expect in the near future.
The US is the sole world power and is likely to stay so. But the impact of the 1991 war by the American-led coalition has dissipated.
This means that the US, as in the past, has but limited ability to impose its own order, a Pax Americana, on the Middle East. The result is continued insecurity, militarization, and violence. Regional players pursue their own interests, constrained only by the regional balance of power.
In that respect, the international dynamics in the post-Cold War Middle East show much continuity, although there are also departures from past patterns. One novelty is the greater acceptance of Israel by its neighbors. In contrast to the not-so-distant past, one can travel on an Israeli passport to several Arab countries.
Yet most intellectuals and professionals in the Arab world still see Israel as a state settled by foreigners with no legitimate claim to become part of the region. The radical Islamists see the Jewish state as a temporary theological aberration. Even countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel do not use their education systems to promote a vision of reconciliation, which is necessary for peaceful coexistence.
Another important change is the return to the Middle East of Turkey, which for years eschewed any entanglement here. The participation of Turkey, which is more advanced than its Arab neighbors, changes the regional balance of power. Moreover, with a population of more than 60 million, Turkey challenges the Arab demographic dominance in the Middle East. Its decision to form a strategic partnership with Israel brings together two pro-Western, democratic, and militarily strong countries.
That is a powerful deterrent to the revisionist states: Iraq, Iran, and Syria. The friendship with Turkey also dilutes the Islamic dimension in the Arab-Israeli conflict and strengthens the peace process which is predicated on a strong Israel.
THE Middle East is generally poorer than it was two decades ago, when there was an energy crisis and huge sums of petrodollars were available to the Arab ruling elites. This leadership, with few exceptions, squandered a historic opportunity to build modern economies and to guarantee the economic future of their peoples.
We saw widespread corruption and mismanagement of resources, which resulted in weak economies and poverty. Economic backwardness leads to international insignificance and is a recipe for political instability.
No wonder the Islamic groups, which combined vocal opposition to corrupt and authoritarian leaders with services to the needy, became more appealing. The struggle against Islamic radicalism has become a new feature of the Middle Eastern political landscape.
Looking on the bright side, so far the Islamic wave has had only limited successes: Only Sudan has succumbed to the Islamic temptation emanating from Iran. Indeed, the political systems of the Arab states seem to have matured; they are less beleaguered by frequent coups and changes of regime.
Arab states have been relatively successful in strengthening their institutions and in crystallizing their individual identities.
The Arab leadership seems also better able to fend off challenges from outside or within than in the 1950s and 1960s. Succession in the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world is still a political problem, although the monarchies fare better because of the dynastic principle. But the search for legitimacy, once the defining characteristic of the Arab political body, still preoccupies the agenda of many countries in the region.
Palestinian nationalism has remained a revisionist force. It challenged unsuccessfully the political order in Jordan (1970) and destabilized the fragile fabric of the Lebanese political system (1975).
Now it is entrenched in parts of Palestine and will soon have at its disposal the full capabilities of a sovereign state. The dissatisfaction of the Palestinians with the evolving status quo, in view of their past behavior, could easily bring about a violent Palestinian state, entertaining irridentist claims to both the east and the west.
Middle Eastern countries are still trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, as time passes, efforts to slow this process seem less effective. The countries of the region should prepare for living among a nuclear crowd.
These are the contours of our environment that Israel's peace negotiators should remember. This means that only a position of strength can lead us to the best outcome possible - an armed peace. Military strength is also needed in the postpeace agreement period to maintain the balance of power.
The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University (Jerusalem Post Dec 6)
Lying with the Lion National Post Editorial
The Lion of Damascus -- President Hafez al-Assad -- is deciding whether to risk venturing from his Syrian den by making peace with Israel, his lifelong enemy. On Tuesday, Madeline Albright, the U.S. secretary of state playing the part of Daniel, gingerly visited Mr. Assad to elicit his terms and she is due in Jerusalem today to discuss details with Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister.
In a nutshell, what Mr. Assad wants (or rather, what he says he wants, which may be an altogether different thing to what he actually does want) is for Israel to hand over the Golan Heights -- a strategically valuable piece of real estate wedged between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel which the latter captured in the 1967 war. Mr. Assad claims Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister, promised him a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders in return for a peace treaty. Though the Israeli government declares no such deal was proposed, Mr. Assad now wants Mr. Barak to deliver.
So does the White House, where Mr. Clinton is desperate for some sort of Middle East peace deal to finish out his flickering presidency. Just as with the Wye Agreement (and the comprehensive test ban treaty), Mr. Clinton would prefer to forge a bad deal rather than none at all. Hence Mrs. Albright has been dispatched across the water to pressure Jerusalem into relinquishing the Golan.
Although the Golan is not the vital protection against a Syrian armoured invasion it once was (partly owing to modern satellite and missile technology), it should not lightly be handed over to Damascus. The territory controls access to the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the source of one-third of Israel's water supply.
So Mr. Assad, in order to curry American favour, may make a "spectacular" concession: he will "consider" partial withdrawal by Israel in exchange for lavish U.S. aid and support. But to believe that Mr. Assad is concerned with the Golan and an Israeli peace because he makes a lot of noise about it is to misread the Syrian president's Byzantine mind. Sickly and dying, Mr. Assad is obsessed with regime survival, maintaining Alawi supremacy, and, most importantly, prolonging Syria's grip on Lebanon while fending off Turkey. If Mr. Assad can gain control of just half the Golan and sign a mere piece of paper with Israel in return for American support, he will have fulfilled all these goals -- in spades.
Does this deal make sense from a Western point of view, however? Pandering to Syria will entrench the continued exploitation of Lebanon and strengthen Assad against our staunch allies in Turkey and Israel. Above all, it will not meet the real security needs of the region. What the West should aim at primarily is not a fragile Syrian-Israel treaty, but a comprehensive peace plan satisfying the security, water and territorial concerns of not just Israel and Syria, but also Lebanon and Turkey. Alas, for that, it may take longer than President Clinton can afford. (National Post Dec 8)