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

 

24 Tevet 5760
December 31, 1999
Issue number 252

News...

Maariv: Israel to Cede Jerusalem Neighborhoods to PA

Israel has decided to award certain eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods an "Area B" status. So reports journalist Nadav Shragai in Tuesday's edition of Ha'aretz. According to Shragai, Israel negotiator Oded Eran made the offer in the latest round of final status talks with the Palestinians. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman adds that Israel has also agreed that the eastern Jerusalem suburb of A-Ram will be the capital of a Palestinian state. Wednesday, Yasser Arafat announced that he would formally declare the establishment of a Palestinian State in nine month's time. (arutzsheva.org Dec 29)

Police Raid Arutz 7

Hundreds of policemen stormed Arutz 7's offices and studios in Bet El at 9:30 Tuesday morning, in an attempt to shut down the broadcasts and confiscate the station's equipment. For over two hours, the police wrenched out soundboard consoles, computers, and other equipment, leaving extensive damage in their wake. They deposited these at the front entrance to the station, but did not attempt to transfer them to their waiting vans, as close to 1,000 residents of Bet El and other communities had gathered on the narrow street outside. The crowd, including many dozens of students of the nearby schools and yeshivot, intermittently sang, danced, and shouted "Police State!" All of the internet department's computers were operating within 4-5 hours after the raid, and the live internet broadcast of Arutz-7 was back on the air by 1 PM. The police were unable, despite repeated attempts, to break down the doors of one of the station's floors, containing a make-shift studio. Regular broadcasts continued from that studio; of the four damaged ones, highest priority was given to repairing the Russian-language studio. During the course of the raid, Internet Director Baruch Gordon was lightly injured, requiring eight stitches in his hand, and student Aharon Amram of N'vei Tzuf had his hand broken.

Communications Ministry representative Chanan Golan, who was present during the police action today, told Arutz 7 broadcasters that the raid was initiated not by his office, but by the State Prosecution and the Attorney-General. Jerusalem Magistrates Court Justice Rafael Yaakobi signed the court order, after approving the State Prosecution's request for the warrant. When the police showed the search-and-confiscation court orders this morning, Arutz 7 management explained that these were based on false information, and that the Knesset had passed legislation almost a year ago permitting the station to broadcast. Some two hours after the raid began, Samaria and Judea Police District Commander Yitzchak Aharonovitch arrived on the scene. After meeting with Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed - the station's Chairman of the Board and Rosh Yeshivat Beit El - Aharonovitch announced the sudden end of the police operation. At approximately 11:45 AM, Rabbi Melamed used a megaphone to inform the crowd gathered outside, "The police are trying to do their work honorably, but we have a problem with the Communications Ministry. We have come to an agreement, and the equipment is all staying here. Please permit the policemen to leave here with honor."

Yaakov (Katzele) Katz, speaking on Arutz-7's newsmagazine today, said: "Police Commander Aharonovitch is a smart man, and after a short time he realized that he was sorely misled. He saw that there are no transmitters here - even though we are allowed to have them here and use them - but he found nothing of the sort... I think that what happened here today is a mark of shame for Prime Minister Barak and for Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who claims to be a man of democracy - but what happened here was not democracy, but dictatorship, pure and simple... In the end, with the help of G-d, they finally left, and apologized, and it was agreed that they would say that they had succeeded in stopping the broadcasts - even though the broadcasts continued throughout, because we simply phoned over to the ship. Their claim that we are an illegal station is simply not true, especially after the passing of the Arutz-7 law in the Knesset, and that's why Beilin and Communications Ministry officials are making intense efforts to pass a different law..." Katzele announced that following the tremendous financial damages caused the station by the police violence, Arutz-7 would hold a marathon fund-raising broadcast Thursday and Friday.

Veteran Arutz-7 broadcaster Adir Zik spoke to the hundreds of Bet El residents and students who came to show their support of the station this morning. Excerpts: "When I used to remark that the State of Israel is turning into a Bolshevik state, I was called 'radical and extreme...' - but here we plainly see that with a court order one morning, the police can just come in and raid Arutz-7. Make no mistake about it: This is a struggle for the future of this land! They are simply trying to shut our mouths!... Truth has tremendous strength, and try as they might, they cannot vanquish our faith. The age of internet and instant communications has arrived, and Arutz-7's Kobi Sela has just broadcast a news report [via] the ship in the middle of the Mediterranean [in the midst of the police attempts to shut down the station]... Don't think for a moment that this is a legal issue. It's intimately connected to the political goings-on at present. They are simply trying to shut us up." Zik later said, "Arutz-7 has been responsible for a revolution in its media message and in its success at disseminating Torah in Israel and throughout the world. It is part of a wider society that sends its daughters to Sherut Leumi (National Service) and its sons to the top IDF combat units, of people who have been able to live a completely observant life while fully participating in modern society. This is the deeper level of the conflict: Because of the high quality of Arutz-7's news and other programming, because we insist on fully participating in the society - this has the establishment, the media, and the political establishment eating its heart out."

Reporters from Israeli television stations were at the scene. They protested the fact that they were not allowed to enter the building, and a Channel Two reporter said, "I access Arutz-7's internet site every day for scoops. It's important to make this information and these pictures available to the public, to see what the police came and did here!"

Deputy Minister of Education Sha'ul Yahalom said that there is no iota of truth to the police allegations that Arutz-7's broadcasts ever disturbed airport radio transmissions. Yahalom, speaking as a former Minister of Transportation, was reacting to statements by Police Investigations Chief Supt. Yossi Sitbon, who said that the police raid was carried out because of such disturbances. MK Rabbi Benny Elon (National Union), a resident of Bet El, who was also on the scene together with party colleague and leading Arutz-7 proponent MK Tzvi Hendel, said, "The truth is that I think the police were led astray by Chanan Golan of the Communications Ministry and Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein, who have an obsession [with Arutz-7]." MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman (NRP) said, "The police raid on Arutz-7 is an anti-democratic scandal, an attempt to shut the mouths of the nationalist camp, the likes of which is only seen in the darkest regimes." Other NRP Knesset Members said that the raid was an attempt to silence those who object to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights. MK Uzi Landau (Likud): "This raid was a manifestation of State Prosecution violence." MK David Azulai (Shas): "This is a leftist government that will do anything to shut mouths."

Atty. Mordechai Haller: "There is a general principle that when a legislature legalizes a certain behavior, all legal prosecution against this behavior is halted, and new proceedings against it are certainly not begun. The Attorney-General simply decides that it is not in the public interest to prosecute these matters... In this case, the legislature has passed a law legalizing Arutz-7; the law has not gone into effect yet, though, such that this is a classic case in which the Attorney-General would normally exercise his discretion not to prosecute... All the above concerns the radio. But the internet department has absolutely nothing to do with this. The publication of internet news is no different than any other completely legal behavior by Arutz 7 staff, such as preparing a cup of coffee. If an Arutz 7 employee prepares a cup of coffee, the police cannot come and arrest him - just like they cannot do so for the equally-innocent act of sending news over the internet... If a judge gave a ruling to confiscate all the equipment in a building used for allegedly illegal broadcasts, when the police knew perfectly well that some of the equipment is not used for broadcasts at all, then that order should never have been given* I think it's shocking that a judge would give an order that was so sweeping... I think the police probably misled the judge in that they did not give him the full picture*"

Yisrael Medad, head of Israel's Media Watch: "I think that this raid was a very foolish move that puts Mr. Barak on the defensive, because he can be seen as approaching dictatorship. We know that during the previous Labor administration of Mr. Rabin, some moves on his part led him to being perceived as someone not interested in the rule of law and citizens' democratic rights to express themselves... I think that Arutz 7 represents a very strong body politic, an important representative of a major cultural and religious element in Israeli society." (arutzsheva.org Dec 28)

For readers who would like to send comments on these events to various public figures, the following are some of their fax numbers and e-mail addresses:

Phone Fax Email Address

Prime Minister

Ehud Barak 02-670-5555 02-566-4838 rohm@pmo.gov.il

Communications Minister

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer 02-670-6301 02-624-0029 sar@moc.gov.il

Interior Security Minister

Shlomo Ben-Ami 02-530-8500 02-581-1832 sar@mops.gov.il

Justice Minister

Yosef Beilin 02-670-8527 02-628-5438 sar@justice.gov.il

Attorney General

Elyakim Rubinstein 02-670-8525 02-627-4481

One letter of support to Arutz 7 came from what some may deem an unlikely source, Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, who serves as Secretary-General of the Italian Muslim Association, as the Imam of the Italian Islamic Community, and as the Muslim Co-Chairman of the Root and Branch Association's Islam-Israel Fellowship. "I have just finished reading what happened to Arutz 7 and my anger knows no limits!" writes Shaykh Palazzi. "Is democracy going to be canceled in Israel? One cannot but say that Leftists are everywhere the same: they claim to be the only true and pure embodiment of democracy, and as soon as they get into power their first concern is to silence all opposition and to equate opposition with a crime. In Italy, where Leftists are in power, they have sued the head of the political opposition in a court of law (the President of the Court is a former Leftist senator!) for 'using a hard tone in criticizing the government!'" Turning to Israel's current plight, Shaykh Palazzi writes: "In Israel things seem to be more or less the same: Palestinian National Authority gangsters are destroying the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) and throwing precious archeological relics into a garbage dump and no one stops them. Arab Knesset members say that "Israel must be destroyed" and no one shuts them up... What is the only dangerous behavior, what is the only terrible crime to be immediately prevented? National opposition, its radio and its information services!" Concluding his letter, Shaykh Palazzi adds: "I want to express my sincere solidarity with the residents of Bet El and with all the staff members of Arutz 7 (Radio Free Israel) in these trying times. May you go from strength to strength and may your spirit never be broken. Salam/Shalom from Rome, Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi." (arutzsheva.org Dec 29)

"The Engineer" Honored by PA Paper

In honor of the Moslem festive month of Ramadan, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, has begun a new "Martyr of the Day" competition. Tuesday's "Martyr of the Day" was arch-terrorist Yichye Ayash, alias "the Engineer." According to the paper, Ayash "commanded the actions that shocked Israel at Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center and in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market. The occupier (Israel)," writes the paper, "paid a million dollars to the person who consented to kill this brave martyr." Ayash, responsible for the planning of terror attacks that killed 51 Israelis, was eliminated in Jan. 1996. His image as a martyr was already evident when tens of thousands of Palestinians attended his funeral during which the PA paramilitary police accorded him a 21-gun salute.

(arutzsheva.org/Palestinian Media Watch Dec 29)

Golan Notes

Shas spiritual leaders are impacting heavily on the Golan decision. Opposition leader Ariel Sharon and National Union MK Rehavam Ze'evi met separately with Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef last week, and explained to him the dangers inherent in a withdrawal from the Heights. President Ezer Weizman met with Rabbi Yosef Sunday, in the latter's home, in an attempt to convince him to support a withdrawal. Meanwhile, the "other" Shas spiritual leader, Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kadouri, who is known to be against a Golan withdrawal, visited the area Sunday, together with Likud MK Silvan Shalom.

Minister of Culture and Sport Matan Vilna'i (One Israel-Labor), a former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, said last Friday that he is not willing to forfeit the Golan at this point. He said that he would first like to see what the issues are and "what we will receive from the other side. It seems to me that we are acting too hastily on this matter."

Geographer Dr. Arnon Sofer warned the Knesset State Audit Committee last week of the dangers to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) that will arise should Syria control the Golan. Globes magazine noted the following points raised by Sofer:

* Pollution: The massive settlement of at least half a million Syrian farmers may be expected in the Golan, whose large amounts of sewage will drain from the settlements into the Sea of Galilee. In addition, the Trans Arabian Pipeline Co. oil pipeline will renew its activity, and its leaks and blowouts will render it a source of crude oil pouring into streams that lead into the Kinneret.

* Return of the Golan will lead to the loss of a third of Israel's water.

* There will be international pressure to turn the Sea of Galilee into a main water source for Jordan and the Palestinians. Syria will use the water of the Banias spring and the Hatzbani river, thereby diminishing most of the sources of the Jordan River. From Hamat Gader in the southern Golan, Syria will completely control the Yarmuk river. (arutzsheva.org Dec 26)

Dolberg Court Decision Annulled

An Italian Court of Appeals has annulled a decision by the country's Minors Court which granted custody of two Orthodox Jewish girls to their self-professed Catholic father. Another custody hearing will be held at a date to be determined later. (arutzsheva.org Dec 26)

Israel Asks U.S. for Golan Aid

According to a Jane's Defense Weekly report published last week, Israel has asked the U.S. for $10 billion of financial aid to purchase American arms in the event of a withdrawal from the Golan, as well as billions of dollars more for the relocation of military bases to areas behind the new borders. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Jane's correspondent Steve Rodan explained that Prime Minister Barak's list of requests included U.S. fighter jets, advanced Arrow anti-missile technology and equipment, electronic reconnaissance aircraft, and money for Israel's own satellite programs. Barak would thus like to determine how serious the U.S. is about Israel's security needs. In addition, Israel has asked the Americans what technology or funding Syria is to receive as part of the deal. Rodan added that Clinton administration officials asked Barak and members of the Israeli delegation not to stress Israel's security demands or Golan-related U.S. aid to Israel, "because Congress would not appreciate demands for such aid. Given the serious Congressional opposition to the $1.2 billion Wye aid package, there will of course be similar objections in this case, in which the cost is $10 to $20 billion. Let's also not forget that many Congressmen are quite skeptical of the value of any deal with Syria," he said. (arutzsheva.org Dec 26)

Self-Proclaimed "Left-wing Radical" Indicted for Incitement

Omer Kligman, 20, was indicted last Friday in the Tel Aviv District Court, on charges of publicizing an internet call for the murder of Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Kligman, otherwise known for his extreme left-wing views, is also suspected of creating a provocation against the nationalist camp, by signing the murder-call with the name of a 17-year-old member of the right-wing Moledet party. The prosecution has asked for Kligman to be held in custody until the end of the proceedings against him, claiming that he is "dangerous." It further claims to be in possession of electronic evidence linking Kligman to the crime, including e-mail correspondence that he sent and remnants of relevant files from his computer. Kligman's home page on the internet claims to be the "Home Page of the Israeli Radical Left." An excerpt from the page: "The drop of motivation for army service in Israel shows hope for the world." (arutzsheva.org Dec 24)

Construction Freeze in Yesha

The Defense Ministry has frozen all new construction in Judea and Samaria. The halted projects include 260 new units in Ma'aleh Adumim - which has always been an area of "national consensus" - as well as a new neighborhood in Revavah (near Ariel), which is presently filled to capacity. The Yesha Council asserted today that this represents a violation of Ehud Barak's many promises to allow the Yesha communities to develop naturally. (arutzsheva.org Dec 23)

Cotler States Golan Residents May Have a Good Legal Case

According to prominent international human rights attorney Irwin Cotler, who was interviewed by Israel's Channel One IBA News Tuesday night, residents of the Golan Heights may have a good case in court should they decide to challenge a treaty between Israel and Syria which would include the giving away of the Golan by Israel. Using the case of Quebec and Canada, Cotler stated that there are issues, which must be addressed. He indicated that the question posed in a national referendum must be direct and clear cut. He explained that how the referendum is phrased might determine the outcome of the vote. Cotler also said that there must be a "clear majority" on a referendum, once again pointing out that the Canadian High Court ruled that 51 percent did not constitute a clear majority. The prominent attorney stated that in the past, referendums do result in a fractured population following a vote and therefore, a clear majority and decisive vote was necessary. Cotler did add that if in fact in a situation where a democracy is dealing with a dictatorship and human rights violator, as in the case with Syria, there are questions such as how much the international community can undertake financial responsibilities which will in turn benefit the dictator country, in this case Syria. He explained that the "thrust" of international human rights laws deal with "accountability" and not "reward" which might be the case if the international community funded the implementation of an Israel/Syria treaty. Mr. Cotler added that the rights of the 18,000 residents of thirty-three Golan Heights communities must also be addressed in accordance with international human rights laws. (IsraelWire Dec 29)

PM Barak: Peace With Syria And Lebanon Can Shorten Military Service

Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking to a joint meeting of the Knesset Finance and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees on the defense budget, said that military service in the IDF could be reduced if peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon are achieved. The Prime Minister noted that regional strategic developments following treaties with Syria and Lebanon would require adjustments by the IDF, including the possibility of reducing military service. IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz has already instructed the relevant units in the IDF to prepare plans to implement the Prime Minister's decision, taking into account the operational and financial aspects of the issue. (Prime Minister's Media Advisor Dec 23)

Breakdown of Support And Opposition to Withdrawal

Veteran Jewish population -- For: 40%; Against: 50%; Don't know: 10%

New immigrants -- For: 20% Against: 67%; Don't know: 13%

Arabs -- For: 97%; Against: 2%; Don't know: 1%

Barak voters -- For: 65%; Against: 25%; Don't know: 10%

Netanyahu voters -- For: 14%; Against: 80%; Don't know: 6%

Haredim -- For: 18%; Against: 82%

Religious -- For: 11%; Against: 80%; Don't know: 9%

Traditional -- For: 32%; Against: 57%; Don't know: 11%

Secular -- For: 48%; Against: 41%; Don't know: 11%

Men -- For: 42%; Against: 52%; Don't know: 6%

Women -- For: 47%; Against: 41%; Don't know: 12%

The poll was taken this week among 585 members of the adult population. The margin of error is 4.5%. (Yediot Achronot Dec 24)


Quotes for the Week...

"Heed my words: You will become part of Greater Syria. If you're not careful now, that's what will happen to you. The Syrians, you see, have no interest in peace with Israel. Not in the same way that you understand the word. But they have a strategy, and this strategy is forcing them to give you a little quiet right now, so that they'll be able to drive the last nail into the independent Lebanon. When they're finished, they'll turn on you. Can Barak seriously believe that this peace agreement he's going to sign in Washington is worth the paper it's printed on?" -Michel Aoun, former leader of Lebanon, now exiled in France. (Haaretz Dec 17)

"Another Clinton was sandbagged by the Arabs. Just as Hillary sat silently through a diatribe of hatred conducted against Israel by Suha Arafat, so President Clinton remained silent during the battery of lies vented by Farouk al-Shara, the Syrian representative, at the White House opening ceremony for the "peace" talks between Israel and Syria." - Herb Zweibon, President of American For a Safe Israel. (Morasha News 12/17)


Commentary...

Total Mobilization By David Bar-Illan

If the almost total mobilization of the media to the cause of withdrawal from the Golan had not been so worrisome in a democratic society, it could have rated as the most amusing comedy of the season.

The alacrity with which almost all newsmen and commentators jumped to attention and tried to outdo each other in supporting government policy recalled the way their spiritual ancestors changed political positions according to the latest party line communique from Moscow.

One of the few exceptions was Emmanuel Halperin, host of Channel 1's late-night News, who interviewed Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ori Orr soon after Clinton's announcement of the resumption of the talks. Orr's smug, arrogant and altogether obnoxious manner recalled the perpetual haughtiness Israeli generals used to sport after the Six Day War.

"Was it all a fraud, was it 30 years of brainwashing?" asked Halperin, referring to the IDF doctrine that the Golan was crucial to Israel's defense. "And were the opinions of all those American generals who said the Golan was indispensable to Israel's survival completely invalid?"

Orr seemed not only to have no trouble toeing the new party line, which represents a 180-degree turn from the old, he averred that the Golan is actually a security burden, not an asset. After all, he said, we lost more soldiers defending it in 1973 than in capturing it in 1967.

It is at moments like these that Harry Truman's unprintable opinion of generals assumes the luminosity of Confucian wisdom.

But Halperin's outspoken doubts stood out as a rare exception. Other news hosts - from the venerable Haim Yavin through the feverishly inventive Channel 2 anchors, to the intemperate Yael Sternhell on Channel 1's 7:30 Edition - could neither contain their enthusiasm for government spokesmen nor conceal their hostility for anyone who dared disagree.

To increase their bullying power, the Channel 1 crew bolstered their ranks with guest co-hosts of identical or even more dovish political proclivities. With Aryeh Golan and Haim Baram in tow, they put on a credible imitation of the monolithic state radio in the days of Mapai, minus, alas, the nationalism that was still in evidence then. It almost made one nostalgic for the days when Jerusalem Post editorials had to be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is easy enough to prove with statistics how lopsided the guest list is on these programs. But numbers tell only half the story. On the rare occasion that credible representatives of the opposition did appear, they were heckled, interrupted, mocked and derided by their interviewers. The only thing these would-be apparatchiks have not done is turn off the microphone when interviewees presented persuasive arguments.

But they all sounded like paragons of objectivity compared to Channel 1 star commentator Ehud Ya'ari, whose harangues were hardly distinguishable from Syrian press releases.

Israelis should understand the Syrians' frustrations, he intoned. When the talks began in Madrid under Yitzhak Shamir, the poor Syrians had to suffer the bad manners of Yossi Ben-Aharon and Yigal Carmon. (This is a reference to a meeting in which Ben-Aharon had the hutzpa to pull out Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass's book about how Jews use gentile children's blood to make matza. Slamming it on the table, he asked his counterpart, Muafek Alaf, how he could reconcile talk of peace with such antisemitic incitement.)

The Syrians first trusted Rabin, continued Ya'ari, but then he turned away from them and made a deal in Oslo with the Palestinians. Then Peres broke off the talks in 1996. And Netanyahu, too, withdrew from the back-channel negotiations just when they thought they were getting everything they wanted. Poor Syrians! No wonder they refused to shake hands.

Ya'ari's sycophancy has become his trademark. He must believe, probably with good reason, that only by playing up to Arab leaders will he get exclusive interviews with them. But to exonerate Assad and blame Israel for the failure of the negotiations in 1991-1999 is the kind of groveling that crosses the line of the acceptable.

That Ya'ari repeated this canard various times, on radio and television, and with unabashed missionary zeal, emphasized the tendentious nature of the message. Perhaps the US administration was so upset by Shara's refusal to shake hands and its impact on the Israeli public that it decided to rationalize Syrian behavior by placing the blame on Israel. Why Ya'ari should serve as an instrument for such inversion of history is anybody's guess.

The printed press was every bit as uniform. Particularly amusing was its search for something to remove the bad taste created by Shara's hand that didn't shake. At one point it gleefully announced that in the secrecy of the negotiation chamber, Shara and Barak did shake hands. It was a false report, generated by an eager member of Barak's entourage.

Far more serious was the deliberate distortion of Syrian pronouncements.

When Shara did not mention the mantra "June 4, 1967" in his abrasive and insulting speech at the White House, the Israeli press pounced on it as a signal of compromise. This was followed by repeated assertions that the Syrians were not insisting on returning to the 1967 lines.

But all these reports were nothing more than part of a disinformation campaign. The Syrians kept reiterating their demand for a return to the 1967 lines at every opportunity. Just this week (December 21) Shara told the London Al-Hayat that the first component of an agreement must be an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4 lines. And the editorials in the official government papers Al-Ba'ath and Tishrin repeated his demand specifically and explicitly. None of this was reported in Israel's ostrich media.

The 'Economist' likes Barak.

The vast majority of the world press likes Israeli leaders who make concessions. Even Menachem Begin, vilified as a terrorist and fanatic when he became prime minister, turned into a media darling after Camp David. Well, at least until he committed the unpardonable sin of saving the world from Saddam Hussein's nuclear bomb.

The phenomenon is so universal that no one seems to wonder why the media in democratic societies are so eager to see a democracy yield to dictatorial regimes, particularly since the same media would never dream of demanding such concessions of their own governments.

But the idea that Israeli concessions equal peace is so entrenched that it has become an accepted truth.

Yet even the sympathy and support for conciliatory leaders cannot suppress the anti-Israel pro-Arab bias, often fed by abysmal ignorance and chronic misinformation, which afflicts some British journalists. An article by Middle East editor of the Financial Times David Gardner in last week's Economist (December 18) is a case in point.

Nauseatingly patronizing, Gardner approves of Barak's readiness to withdraw. But this does not stop him from calling Israel's prime minister "the thinking man's thug." It is difficult to imagine that a similar reference to Tony Blair in an Israeli magazine would warm the cockles of Gardner's heart.

Like most of his colleagues, Gardner keeps referring to "Arab Jerusalem," presumably the part of the city that was under Jordanian occupation for 19 years after its Jewish population was killed or expelled, and which now has a Jewish majority.

He also refers to "historic Palestine," giving an unmistakable impression that a state named Palestine, whose capital was Jerusalem, actually existed some time in the past, and that it is now occupied by Israel.

But a peace settlement seems remote, Gardner avers, because Barak "wants [Jerusalem] off the negotiating table, as though Arabs and Moslems could acquiesce in Israel's continuing occupation of the third holiest site in Islam, the Haram ash-Sharif in the Old City, with the Dome of the Rock and the ancient al-Aksa mosque, a stone's throw from the Wailing Wall."

Leaving aside the condescending sobriquet "Wailing Wall," the passage betrays a double standard so deeply entrenched that Gardner - to give him the benefit of the doubt - may not even be aware of it.

Perhaps one day in the next century a writer with the backbone, honesty and open mind of a Benjamin Disraeli will rise in Britain. And, free of medieval biases and prejudices, he will write: "The Palestinians expect to get the Old City of Jerusalem, as though the Jews of the world and all those who share Judeo-Christian values could acquiesce in relinquishing Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount. How utterly offensive it is to expect Israel to give up half the city that has been the national and spiritual capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years!"

And when that happens, we shall truly know the millennium has arrived. The writer was communications and public policy adviser to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.


But Assad Is an Honorable Man... By Yoram Ettinger

Prime Minister Barak has claimed that Assad is an honorable man. Barak has given the public a false sense of security so as to make a total withdrawal from the Golan easier.

Defying a series of water agreements signed with Jordan starting in 1953, Syria has diverted 50 percent of the Jordanian share supplied by the Yarmuk River. Damascus has used its control of the "Yarmuk faucet" to undermine Jordan's stability and to force change in Jordanian policy toward Iran, Iraq, the Moslem Brotherhood, and Israel.

Formal peace did not prevent a Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 and threats of invasion in 1980 and 1989. In fact, Assad has attempted to topple the Hashemite regime - via subversive activities - since 1970. But Assad is an honorable man...

Syria concluded three major security protocols with Turkey in 1987, 1992, and 1993, in addition to several less comprehensive agreements. Assad violated all of them. In the agreements,Syria promised to expel the PKK Kurdish terrorists from its territory and Syrian-controlled Lebanon in return for additional water from the Euphrates. Syrian support of the PKK has persisted, and more than 20,000 Turks have been killed since the mid-1980s. But, Assad is an honorable man...

In 1978, Syria and Iraq concluded a series of agreements, both military and non-military. But in 1979 they were on the verge of a war ignited by Assad's alleged involvement in an attempted coup in Baghdad. Syrian and Iraqi militias have been engaged in a war by proxy on Lebanese soil since the 1975 Syrian invasion of Lebanon. That year Assad cut drastically the water quota of the Euphrates committed to Iraq. But Assad is an honorable man...

Assad considers peace agreements a temporary tactical means, advancing permanent strategic goals: Greater Syria and regional domination. He has cooperated with Iran, Sudan, Libya, North Korea, and other terror entities to achieve these goals. While he has identified, rhetorically, with inter-Arab covenants of unity, Assad has supported the Popular Fronts for the Liberation of Bahrain, Oman, and the Arabian Peninsula. But, Assad is an honorable man...

The subjugation of Lebanon, the "Western Province," has been exacerbated despite Syria's signing the three Arab Summit Resolutions (1978, 1982, and 1989) calling for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. In October 1990 Assad reinforced his military units in Lebanon, conducting a massive massacre of Christian strongholds there. International agreements, inter-Arab commitments, and basic codes of human rights were brutally violated. But Assad is an honorable man...

In 1973 Assad launched a surprise attack on Israel, violating the cease-fire agreement of 1967. In 1975 he violated the 1974 Disengagement Agreement with Israel, igniting a wave of anti-Israel terrorism, operating from northern Jordan. In 1977 he abrogated the 1976 Red Line Agreement with Israel (in Lebanon). Assad's operational support of anti-Israel Hizbullah terrorism violates the 1974 Disengagement Agreement and the 1993 (Operation Accountability) understanding. But, Assad is an honorable man.. Would it be logical to assume that Assad - a leader of international terrorism, a ruthless abuser of human rights, the ferocious occupier of Lebanon, a chief heroin trafficker and a systematic violator of agreements - is credible? Would it be logical to assume that Assad would accord to the Jewish state that reliability which he has denied his Arab and Moslem neighbors?

Assad sticks by agreements only when they serve his interests or when he feels threatened. In October 1998 he expelled Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the anti-Turkish PKK terrorists, from Syria, in response to Turkish military deployment on his border. In 1970, Syria withdrew from Jordan in the face of a full Israeli military mobilization. Israeli tanks and artillery on the Golan Heights, less than 60 kilometers from Damascus, have kept Assad constrained on that front. A determined Israeli military response stopped Syrian-supported terror in 1975 and the 1977 violation of the Red Line Agreement in Lebanon. But, Assad is an honorable man...

Continued overlooking of Assad's violation of commitments would add to a false sense of short-term security. It may facilitate quick conclusion of an agreement with Syria. But it would jeopardize the long-term survival of Israel and the pursuit of a durable peace. (Jerusalem Post Dec 28)

The writer was editor of Contemporary Mideast Back-grounder and was Minister For Congressional Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.


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