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

January 19, 2001   -   24 Tevet 5761
Issue number 309

Events...

Sunday January 21, 12:00 noon

“Bring Our Boys Home” Rally for Soldiers Missing in Action, at Beth Tikvah,3080 Bayview Avenue.

Tuesday January 30, 8:00pm

Community rally for Jerusalem with Natan Sharansky, MK, at Shaarei Shomayim sponsored by One Jerusalem.

Solidarity Missions to Israel

United Israel Appeal / UJA-Federation mission to Israel February 13-18, Cdn$1,500 (plus minimum 2001 donation to UJA of $500); Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza / Inbal (Laromme); Includes visits to Efrat and Gilo; Optional additional day (without UIA) to Bet El and Shomron, BAYT members speak to David Miller (905) 305-6100.and Michael Lebovic (905)882-8725, others - see flyer.

News...

Another Israeli Victim

A large crowd was in attendance at Monday's funeral of Roni Tzalach, of Kfar Yam in Gush Katif, who was murdered by Arab terrorists Sunday night; but not one of the participants was a Knesset Member or a government representative. The funeral began later than planned because of a court-ordered autopsy, against the wishes of the family. The victim's car was found in the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Yunis. His car had been taken there after the murder, and a large mob of Palestinians participating in its burning. His body was found in a field in Kfar Yam. A terrorist organization allied with Yasser Arafat's Fatah claimed responsibility for the murder. The murder stopped the talks between Israel and the Palestinians - but only for about 24 hours. (arutzsheva.org Jan 15,16)

Friend of Victim Talks about Security Situation in Gaza

Shai Chemo, a friend of Roni Tzalach and a fellow-resident in the small community of Kfar Yam, spoke Monday about the security situation in Gush Katif (south Gaza): "I took part in the search last night for my friend Roni, and with all due respect, I was ashamed of the IDF's performance. The army took such a long time to show up and dispatch search teams that we civilians began the search on our own. We found, right across from the entrance gate to [the Jewish town of] N'vei Dekalim, a powerful pair of IDF binoculars inside an Arab greenhouse. The greenhouse was a full-fledged observation post, where the binoculars were used to note every single car that entered N'vei Dekalim [the "capital" of Gush Katif], and everything was written down in notebooks. We showed this to the battalion commander, and he was in total shock. The army has no idea of what is happening here in Gush Katif. Anyone who thinks that the residents here are extremists - I can just say that I live in the community of Pe'at Sadeh, and there is another place here called Rafiach Yam; both were established here in Gush Katif by the Labor party; we are aligned with the party of Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. It was not the National Religious Party, or another right-wing party, that built these towns - it was Labor. Extremists? We are accomplished farmers, whose produce is chosen for export, and trying to provide for our families... And we have been abandoned. The problem is that there is no one to talk to. There is a government in this country, and it has abandoned us. The army's hands are tied... Roni Sunday's terrorist victim] arrived here in the framework of his army service, fell in love with the place, established a family in Kfar Yam, developed a farm here - he was one of those who are the pride of Gush Katif. He was a family man, he has one son, and I heard today that his wife is in her second month of pregnancy...

How can it be that shots are fired here every night and all night upon our homes, bombs go off on the road, and people are murdered? It does not cease to amaze me how the Israeli government, for every slap in the face it receives, turns its other cheek for another slap. We are settling the Land of Israel, and we love this area. We live here; we came here to build meaningful lives; and we have founded successful farms and agricultural enterprises. We are connected to this place with our hearts, and despite all that is happening here, we will continue to live here in Gush Katif - even though Ehud Barak wants to retreat from here, and retreat from the Temple Mount, and retreat from Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights - the guy wants to give up the whole country..." (A7 Jan 15)

Official P.A. Anti-Semitism: Donkey Dressed in a Tallit

Hundreds of Palestinians, including leading Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials, conducted a hate-filled rally against Israel last Friday, complete with a donkey clad in a tallit [Jewish prayer shawl, known as a Jewish religious symbol all around the world] treading over a swastika-adorned Israeli flag. The hatred - which was manifest in Ramallah, the city in which two Israeli soldiers were brutally lynched three months ago - also featured the burning of an Israeli flag, speeches against Clinton's bridging proposals, and calls not to give up on the "right of return" or Jerusalem. Afterwards, some of the demonstrators made their way to the northern entrance of the city, where they began shooting at IDF soldiers and attacking them with large rocks. (arutzsheva.org Jan 14)

P.A. Executes Four Collaborators

The Palestinian Authority executed two “collaborators with Israel” Saturday. Allan Bani-Odeh and Magdi Mikkawi were executed by the Palestinians for assisting Israel in the assassination of terrorist leaders. The executions took place in Gaza and Shechem, in front of cheering crowds of thousands. The bullet-riddled body of 38-year-old Mahmud Musa Abdul Rachman was found Monday in the Arab village of Burkin, near Shechem, in mid-western Shomron. His neighbors say that he worked in the past with Israeli intelligence authorities, and was shot outside his home. The body of Murshad Kassim, 40, was found Tuesday morning near Jenin; he had moved out of his home in the Arab areas of Samaria in the early 90's for fear that he would be killed for his work with the Israelis, but returned to live there within the last few years. Tel Aviv attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who volunteered to represent one of yesterday's two executed Palestinians last month, says that the sentence was handed down after only a two-hour trial; "the world can now see that the PA is a 'banana republic' with a brutal justice system that completely disregards human rights."

"Where are the international organizations like Amnesty International, Middle East Watch and B'Tselem," questioned Darshan-Leitner, "which made no effort at all to save Bani-Odeh?" Sunday, B'Tselem director Eitan Fellner condemned the executions - but said that he sees no difference between them and the recent Israeli policy of targeting and killing Palestinian terrorist leaders. "The Israelis are trying to prevent terrorist attacks," he said, "while the Palestinians are trying to prevent cooperation with Israel in what they consider terror against the PA." Prime Minister Barak condemned the PA executions, saying that they are reminiscent of "dark periods in history." Atty. Leitner said that after she wrote to the GSS asking it to take immediate action to save Bani-Odeh, the organization denied that he was a GSS agent. "These agents endangered their lives in Israel's war against Palestinian terrorists," she said Sunday, "and when these agents are captured, the GSS must do for them whatever it would do for any of its soldiers taken prisoner on the battlefield by any of its enemies. The GSS simply abandoned Bani-Odeh to the Palestinian security forces."

Israel Resource News Agency reports that Voice of Palestine radio reported prominently on the executions of the two men convicted of "cooperation" with Israel. IRNA notes that, "This is the only use of 'cooperation' in the context of Israel that has been heard on Palestinian radio," despite the current efforts supposedly being made for "security cooperation" with Israel. Palestinian human rights organizations reported to Israel's Channel Two Saturday night that Arafat's regime has assembled a list of more than 20,000 Palestinians who are slated for execution for working for Israel. A committee of Arab supporters of Israel - branded as collaborating traitors by Palestinians - has petitioned the Supreme Court to order the government to cut off all ties with the Palestinian Authority. The reason given for the suit: the executions by the PA of collaborators with Israel. The committee states that the executions are in violation of the Oslo accords, and places many collaborators in mortal danger. In contrast with public condemnation of the PA for the rushed trials-and-executions that has been sounded across the Israeli political spectrum this week, Shimon Peres said that the executions by Arafat's PA are no different than those in George W. Bush's home state of Texas. PA officers and Hamas leaders both announced plans for continued operations against suspected collaborators. Hamas said it would cooperate with the PA in apprehending and punishing those who cooperated with Israel. A general amnesty has been offered to collaborators who come forward of their own volition in the coming weeks and divulge all information regarding their Israeli contacts and their methods. (arutzsheva.org Jan 14-16)

Meimad's Rav Amital: “The Temple Mount Is The Heart"

Rabbi Yehuda Amital, co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion and leader of the left-wing religious party Meimad, likens the possibility of giving away the Temple Mount to a Torah law for which one should "be killed and not violate." Makor Rishon newspaper reports that during his Tenth of Tevet lecture to his students two weeks ago, Rabbi Amital said, "Just like the life of an individual is not the supreme value, and there are prohibitions [such as idol worship] which we are commanded to uphold even at the expense of our lives, so too in our national life there are values for which the society and the state must place itself in danger. In our national life, there are issues that are 'red lines,' for which we must 'be killed and not violate.'" Giving up our sovereignty on the Temple Mount can be thought of as one of these, Rabbi Amital said, adding that a society that places the sanctity of life above every other single value, "will deteriorate to ethical corruption. Peace, too, no matter how important it is, is not the sole supreme value, and there are things which we may not give up even for peace." He also said that giving away the Temple Mount would lead to the detachment of masses of Jews from their Judaism, as it would be a break from "historic Judaism." (arutzsheva.org Jan 14)

Geocartography Poll: Sharon 55% Barak 31%; Sharon 49% Peres 40%

The following are the results of a public opinion poll carried out by Geocartography, an independent survey company, on January 14, 2001: Sharon 55% Barak 31%; Sharon 49% Peres 40% (IMRA / elections.walla.co.il Jan 16)

Milo Resigns

Health Minister Roni Milo, of the Center Party, handed in his resignation from the cabinet Sunday. His resignation letter states that as early as July, during the Camp David talks, he said that he would not be able to serve in a government that would agree to give up the Temple Mount.(arutzsheva.org Jan 14)

Why Travel to Israel?

Arutz-7 received a letter from a reader from Sharon, Massachusetts, excerpts of which appear below:
Dear Friends,

Recently my family and I went to Israel (Dec. 19-31). I would like to share some of our experiences with you and my thoughts on the travel there... When we got to Jerusalem, we were initially nervous and cautious everywhere we went or walked. It eventually appeared to be safe, but we were fairly resigned that we would not be able to visit the Kotel (Western Wall)... Eventually, it seemed safe enough, that absolutely nothing was happening in Jerusalem, other than in the territories, settlements, and Arab areas of the Old City, that we decided to go to the Kotel. This, too, from a safety standpoint, became a non-event... We subsequently went to the Kotel several other times and stopped worrying as we walked. There was just nothing happening in the areas we were likely to be visiting. We also hired a guide for three days and went all over the Galil (north).

The guide took us through the extreme north right to the border with Lebanon and showed us where the situations were more tense. We went through the Golan Heights, along the borders with Syria and Jordan, visited Rosh Hanikra and some of the very northern kibbutzim and towns, everywhere wholly without event. We also, on returning, drove on the highways on which some of the more pro-Palestinian, Israeli Arab towns had been agitating, blocking traffic and participating in some of the stonings of Israeli troops. Well, by the time we were there, this activity had completely ceased and driving through also became a non-event. We had a completely wonderful trip, enjoyed having our whole family together for such a good time and blew lots of money as tourists - happily, since it was Israel... If you were otherwise planning a visit or otherwise predisposed to go to Israel, don't cancel the visit for safety concerns. Go. It is completely routine everywhere, outside of the obvious areas you would logically avoid. We all are huge and outspoken supporters and donors of and to Israel. This is the time Israel needs the support, not in cash sent, but in cash spent. You can also enjoy yourself in the process...We were in a large restaurant called Decks in Tiberias. The restaurant was relatively full, but all with Israelis; we were the only tourists. At one point, they turned off the lights in the restaurant, a waitress came over to our table with desserts with sparklers shooting out of them, and an announcement came over the loudspeaker, "We would like to welcome our friends from Boston. We thank them for coming to visit Israel at this very difficult time for our country." If you think that simple act was not an emotional experience, you don't understand the connection between yourself and Israel." (arutzsheva.org Jan 14)

Palestinians Holding and Torturing Two Israeli-Arabs

Palestinian security forces have been detaining two Israeli-Arabs from the Be'er Sheva region for a number of weeks. The PA claims that the two had planned to transfer ownership of properties to Jews. The two Israeli-Arabs are being tortured, and that Israel is apparently not taking action on their behalf. A senior military officer said that he is interested in leaking the story to the press, "as that will be the only chance we have of saving them." (A7 Jan 14)

Battles in Gush Katif, Jerusalem

A Palestinian-laid bomb exploded Monday as a convoy of Israeli Jews made its way from Netzarim to the Karni Checkpoint, in Gush Katif. No one was hurt. Throughout the week, Palestinians shot extensively at the town of N'vei Dekalim, and soldiers returned fire. For the first time in the current war, Palestinians shot at the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of N'vei Yaakov Sunday night. The shots, which came from the direction of Dahiat al-Barid, hit buildings but not people. N'vei Yaakov and its sister neighborhood Pisgat Ze'ev are scheduled to be surrounded by Palestinian-controlled villages such as Dahiat al-Barid under the Jerusalem-partition plan proposed by President Clinton and adopted by the Barak government. (arutzsheva.org Jan 16)

Putting Aside Our Differences

An open letter to the residents of Judea and Samaria, Gilo, and the Jordan Valley: "Since the beginning of the violence three months ago, you and your children have been placed in mortal danger day after day, at home and on the roads. During the evenings, the roads become silent, and the communities look as if they are under siege... Close to 50 soldiers and residents, the best of your friends, have lost their lives. I confess that we sinned: Where were we that first week, the week of the High Holidays of 5761? Looking back, it could be that that was the most difficult period of all. But in the past few weeks, there has been a substantial turnabout in the Israeli public's understanding of your strong stand in this war. Just as you were able to increasingly stand heroically in the face of the difficulties, with determination and with no sign of collapsing - so sprouted up the new movement, 'Israeli Solidarity.' Beginning with an initial group of people who met one evening in the Beit She'an Valley to review such basic and long-understood truths such as "We will not abandon them," it continued into mutual support, encouragement, friendship, and hosting, and quickly grew into an authentic populist movement: "Israeli Solidarity."

Actions include volunteering for guard duty, work in the fields, and much more... More and more citizens from all across the social and political spectrum are putting aside their differences, and organized themselves in this movement to help in whatever area they can... It is very important that you know that the waves of Solidarity are nourished from your strong stand during this war. The stronger and more determined you are, the more we, the residents of [the rest of] Israel, will be able to identify with you and come to your aid. With friendship, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Keren, Kibbutz Ein Gev, Head of the Israeli Solidarity movement. Literature of the organization mentions the Golan Residents Committee, Kibbutz Tze'elim, the northern Regional Councils, Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, the Nachal Sorek and Yoav Regional Councils, and Wingate Institute as some of those taking part in its projects of volunteering and solidarity with the residents of Judea and Samaria. (arutzsheva.org Jan 16)

Beilin Helps Prevent Sabbath Desecration

Prime Minister Ehud Barak had planned to begin partial implementation of his "secular revolution" as early as this week - but was stopped in his tracks by top government ministers. Barak met last week with Ministers Beilin, Ben-Ami, Ramon, and Ra'anan Cohen, and told them that he would like to activate several bus routes on Sabbath. Beilin and others warned him that such a move would lead the hareidi public to come out en-masse to vote for Sharon. (arutzsheva.org Jan 11)

PA Reduces License Fee for Stolen Cars

The Palestinian Authority has reduced the license fee for those who drive stolen Israeli cars. For only 2,000 shekels ($488), instead of 3,000 shekels, a Palestinian can obtain a PA-recognized license for his stolen car, valid for one year. The new fee will apply "until the end of the current intifada," according to the PA decision, which was explained as coming "in response to the difficult economic situation..." (arutzsheva.org Jan 11)

Quotes for the Week...

"[The late Prime Minister Yitzchak] Rabin said that there is an entire army regiment in Hevron, where there are only a few dozen Jewish families, and another one in Netzarim, where there are even fewer Jewish families. Then he added, 'And I am telling you that they will stay there.' I told him that if he authorizes us to say these things in his name, or if he makes them public himself, the tension [in the Jewish communities of Yesha] will disappear overnight... But he said it cannot be made public, because the next morning, the left would be angry with him."
- Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma'aleh Adumim, quoted in Nekudah; with thanks to Cities of Israel. Rabbi Rabinowitz added his opinion that it is no accident that Rabin said these things so close to his death [which occurred three days later]: "This should be regarded as his legacy, that we should not leave Hevron and Netzarim." (arutzsheva.org Jan 12)

Commentary...

The Spirit of Jerusalem

By Natan Sharansky

On Monday, 400,000 Jews gathered outside the walls of the Old City and swore allegiance to Jerusalem. In doing so, those who attended the rally, along with their supporters both in Israel and abroad, joined the countless generations of our people who have affirmed our nation's abiding refusal to turn its back on that which we hold most sacred. In every generation, the Jewish people have faced a clear and often painful choice. While this choice has assumed many different forms throughout our history, from conversion in the Middle Ages to assimilation in the Modern Age, it has remained essentially the same - to be true to our faith, tradition and people no matter what the consequences, or to escape our identity in the hope that this would afford a measure of peace, quiet and acceptance.

We are here today as Jews precisely because our forefathers refused to opt for "peace now" solutions, no matter how difficult the alternative. That is why the spirit of Jews as diverse as those who fought against Greek assimilation, rebelled against Roman tyranny, died rather than convert, and rejected a plan to build a national home in Uganda were all with us this week - for while they are no longer physically present, the idea that justified their struggle endures.

In the last few weeks and months, the hostile intentions of those with whom we seek to make peace have been unmasked. No doubt it is obvious to all who are not blind that the Palestinian leadership is not yet prepared to live in peace with us and that in this environment, concessions will only lead to more violence. But when it comes to Jerusalem, this is beside the point. The Jewish people must refuse to divide Jerusalem not because our neighbors don't desire peace, but because even peace is not worth any price - and a peace that demands that we sacrifice our identity as a nation and undermine our connection as one people is a peace that must be rejected.

Jerusalem is not merely the capital of our country, but also the bedrock of our existence - the nexus of Jewish national and religious life. For 1,000 years of life in the Land of Israel, it was here that our priests prayed, our prophets preached, and our kings ruled. For the 2,000 years of our exile, it was the source of our hopes and aspirations, symbolizing our dream to return to Zion, ingather our people, and rebuild our nation.

We are told by those who support Jerusalem's division that it is only a "symbol." But if there were ever a people of symbols, it is the Jews. We fill our days, months and years with a multitude of symbols of faith, tradition and heritage that give meaning to our lives and purpose to our history. Jerusalem, perhaps more than any other, has proven the most potent symbol of all.

I know the enormous capacity of this "symbol" to empower those who invoke its name and believe in its force. Over two decades ago, I said the following words to a Soviet Court about to sentence me to 15 years in prison for my work as a Jewish activist.

"For 2,000 years the Jewish people, my people, have been dispersed all over the world and seemingly deprived of any hope of returning. But still, each year Jews have stubbornly, and apparently without reason, said to each other, 'Leshana haba'a biyrushalayim!' ('Next year in Jerusalem!') And today, when I am further than ever from my dream, from my people, and from my Avital, and when many difficult years of prisons and camps lie ahead of me, I say to my wife and to my people, Leshana haba'a biyrushalayim."
And this week, together with my family, writing these words in our historic capital city as the leader of the Jewish state turns his back on the hundreds of generations that came before him and agrees to trade his nation's most sacred possession for a promise of peace, quiet and acceptance, I say to my ancient people, Leshana haba'a biyrushalayim.
The writer is leader of the Yisrael Ba'aliya party. On January 3o he will address a rally for a United Jerusalem in Toronto. (Jerusalem Post Jan 12)

Barak's Policies Have Increased the Chances of Conflict in the Middle East

By Tom Rose

With his reelection prospects faltering, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak is employing a political tactic familiar in the annals of doomed campaigns. By charging that his conservative opponent, Ariel Sharon, will "lead the country into war," Barak is trying to scare an increasingly disgusted Israeli public.

Unlike Jimmy Carter, who tried this against Ronald Reagan in 1980, Barak isn't necessarily wrong in predicting that war will accompany a Sharon victory. He's just blaming the wrong person. After all, it isn't Sharon who has accelerated the most dangerous deterioration of regional security in a generation. It is Barak himself. But to admit as much, even at this late hour, would be to concede what even many committed peaceniks in Israel now understand: The Oslo peace process not only failed to bring peace, it has hurtled the region into escalating danger.

Almost all strategic analysts here agree that the risk of war is greater now than it has been since 1973. Just last week, the Israeli Defense Force was instructed to prepare for action. Reservists are being put on notice, and field equipment is being readied for use. Attacks on Israel's northern border by Syrian and Iranian backed Hezbollah guerrillas are testing Israel's resolve. Iran has threatened to attack Israel with ballistic missiles containing non-conventional warheads if Israel responds. Iraq has likewise threatened ballistic missile strikes in addition to moving two mechanized divisions toward the Jordanian border.

What happened? How did a process that was supposed to bring peace, cooperation, and development to the region instead lay the groundwork for war? Oslo lulled Israelis into believing that their neighbors had changed and that a series of one-sided concessions would consolidate the change. Instead, concessions only increased Arab appetites.

From the earliest days of Zionist settlement through that famous handshake on the White House lawn, Israel had followed a strategy whose guiding principle was deterrence. By continually asserting its right to defend itself with whatever means it deemed necessary, Israel had earned grudging respect, if not acceptance, from its neighbors, and life in the region had settled into a recognized pattern. While Arab rhetoric changed little, the actions of Arab leaders changed a great deal. By the early 1990s, most Arab states had given up conspiring to destroy Israel by force. They knew that attempts to harm the Jewish state would be mightily repelled. At the time the Oslo accords were signed, in 1993, the Middle East seemed further from war than it had since Israel's founding.

Oslo started to change that. By conceding territory to Yasser Arafat, Israel seemed to concede the premise that the source of conflict in the Middle East was its military victory in 1967. The Israelis were largely delighted at the prospect of ceasing to occupy a hostile population, but their withdrawal from territories they had captured in defensive wars gave the Arabs their first taste of victory since 1948.

An increasing number of Israelis believed that the Arabs' rising expectations could be kept in check so long as no concessions made went unreciprocated. In fact, in one of Oslo's many ironies, the three-year tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister brought enough equilibrium to the process that even right-wing skeptics began to believe the process could work. The accord's most articulate critic was starting to make it work.

But Netanyahu's defeat in 1999 allowed his successor, former Army general Ehud Barak, to turn Netanyahu's hard-headed concessions into a flood of unprecedented offers. By proclaiming his intention to reach a comprehensive settlement with the Palestinians within 15 months of taking office, Barak shifted all the pressure from Arafat onto himself. He also conveyed a sense of Israeli desperation to an increasingly confident Arab public. Up to that point, Israel's policy had been to wait the Arabs out. While not terribly satisfying, this had worked well.

In May 2000, Barak unilaterally withdrew Israel's troops from its security zone in southern Lebanon. This telegraphed to the Arab world that Israel could be forced to retreat. At the very time he was trying to increase pressure on the Palestinians to settle the conflict completely and permanently, Barak fatally undermined his own effort by showing them that they really didn't need to make any concessions. All Arafat had to do was do what he has always done best: kill Jews.

Why should Arafat concede what a band of Iranian-trained and Syrian-funded Hezbollah guerrillas did not? Rather than punish Arafat for launching a terrorist war against Israel in September, Israel rewarded the PLO leader with still more concessions. In three months last fall, Barak dismantled a deterrent policy fifty years in the making. Because it is now clear that the Palestinians have no intention of reasonably settling their conflict with Israel, one can only ask what possible alternatives to war are left? How can Israel continue Barak's policy of tolerating the existence of a 40,000-man terrorist army increasingly successful in its objective of creating mayhem and panic in Israel? When Israel is finally forced to confront this army, what will the Arab world's reaction be?

And after encouraging Arafat for so long, can even moderate Arab states like Egypt and Jordan stay out of a regional conflict? Arafat has always sought to draw Israel and the Arab world into a war on his behalf in the belief that this war would lead to an internationally imposed solution rewarding the Palestinians at Israel's expense. By continuing to attack Israeli civilians, Arafat is all but begging Israel to do what at some point it must: attack him.

And when Israel does take action, can it allow Syria to exploit the situation by using its Hezbollah proxies to attack northern Israel with rockets and terrorist infiltrations? Won't Israel have to respond even though Iran and Iraq have both threatened war?

Barak's offer to cede Jerusalem's Temple Mount (Judaism's holiest site) to Palestinian control may have pushed the region past the point of no return. Never before had even the most rejectionist Arab leader dreamed that any Israeli would agree to concessions in Jerusalem, let alone offer up the Jewish people's heart and soul. Barak made this offer at the very time Israeli buses were being blown up and Israeli civilians murdered on their roads. Never before had Israel appeared so weak and on the run.

Thus has the government of Israel stoked an Arab frenzy of expectation and awakened fear and fury in Israeli hearts. It is for this reason alone that Ariel Sharon—perhaps Israel's least attractive political candidate, a man reviled in the Arab world and despised on the Israeli left and in the salons of Europe as "Israel's Milosevic”—holds a staggering 30-point lead in the polls over Ehud Barak. Like it or not, Sharon is the only Israeli left whom Arabs fear. He may now be the only one whose election can deter a conflagration.

The writer is the publisher of the Jerusalem Post. (Weekly Standard Jan 15)

Sorry, No Nobel; Ross Cancels His Visit.

By Tevi Troy

Now that Clinton Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross has canceled his final Middle East trip, it's safe to say that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee can officially scratch Bill Clinton's name off the list. The idea of Clinton as Peace Prize winner for his Middle East efforts was absurd to begin with, akin to giving Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton a shared award for fostering racial reconciliation. Clinton's repeated attempts to force a final settlement have been disastrous, and the prospect of a final deal seems further away than ever.

Although Ross's cancellation officially placed a stake in the heart of the Clinton plan - which would have involved Israel ceding sovereignty over the Temple Mount in exchange for the Palestinians giving up the right of return for refugees - the plan was a non-starter from the get go. Neither side would have been willing to accept Clinton's take-it-or-leave-it deal as is. According to recent polls, 52% of Israelis oppose Clinton's plan, while 38% support the idea. On the Palestinian side, 52% of Palestinians opposed any negotiations with Israel, while 39% supported such negotiations. The New York Times, which reported the two polls, noted that they had "similar results." The Times and Clinton are making the same mistake, failing to realize that a majority of the Israelis are rejecting this deal, but a majority of Palestinians do not want any deal.

The distinction is an important one. It is clear that Israelis can and do support peace accords. They voted for the late Yitzchak Rabin, they backed the initial Oslo agreement, and they voted for Ehud Barak, who ran explicitly on jump-starting the stalled negotiations with Arafat. It is equally clear that the Palestinians do not support a negotiated deal. Barak has repeatedly offered the Palestinians far more than they had ever been offered before, more than any previous prime minister has offered. Yet Arafat has thus far rejected everything, explaining that if he accepted, Clinton would have to attend Arafat's funeral.

But the difference between the two populations is not the only disconnect. The way Clinton and the media view this distinction contributes to the problem. If the Clinton and the media view hard bargaining and the rejection of bargaining as the same thing, then they are accepting a moral equivalence between the two positions that works to Israel's disadvantage.

In the case of the recent Clinton proposal, Clinton offered a tough position that required more concessions on the Israeli side than from the Palestinians. But it required one concession that the 50% of Palestinians who oppose negotiations were unwilling to make ? the renunciation of all claims on the other party. The willingness to accept some kind of finality should have been the first step that two parties took before coming to the negotiating table. Thanks to the Clinton approach, it would have been the last step. And, given all the concessions that Clinton had wrung out of Barak to this point, concessions that automatically gained the imprimatur of official policy as soon as they were offered, it was far too late in the process to begin talking about what should have been settled at the start. If Ariel Sharon wins the February 6 elections, he is talking about wiping the slate clean and not being burdened with any of the concessions made by the Barak government. While this prospect may horrify Clinton and Ross, it's the best possible thing that can happen to Israel. For too long, Israel has been making concessions without receiving anything in return. Sharon can be counted on to return the bargaining to a more equal footing, but he should not expect any calls from the Nobel Committee anytime soon.
(National Review)

A Nation's Symbols

By Berel Wein

The difficulty in holding elections in such a time of crisis is now apparent to all. The drive for power is so strong that recklessness becomes the accepted method of behavior. There is no other word than recklessness to describe the current behavior of our prime minister and foreign minister.

The rush to sign an agreement, any agreement, with Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton would be laughable if our eyes were not so filled with tears and our hearts with sadness. The strength of the elixir of power is so great that those who pursue it are convinced that they are selfless and have only the public interest at heart.

We are constantly told that the window of opportunity is closing and will never reopen. We are bombarded with threats that war, God forbid, is on the threshold if the Clinton plan is not signed. We are told that Israel will be blamed in the international arena for blocking the peace that the whole world is so anxiously waiting for if we do not surrender Jerusalem and bring back the Arab refugees.

What reckless statements!

Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Yossi Beilin and the others who are pushing for the Clinton peace plan would have a much more receptive audience for their cause if they were not running for office. Barak's victory at the polls is essential for this group to stay in power. There is apparently nothing that will be allowed to stay in the way of this drive to stay in power.

The fact that Clinton's plan not only divides Jerusalem but tears the Jewish people and Israeli public into bitterly feuding camps seems to be of no concern to the peacemakers. The people who are not running for office - Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein and others - have publicly warned against the Clinton Plan. No matter, though, because the drive for power blinds even otherwise sincere and intelligent people to the folly of their behavior.

The damage being done to Israel and the Jewish cause worldwide by the recklessness of accepting the Clinton Plan is immeasurable. One only hopes that somehow it will be reversible.

A nation is united by symbols. A flag, an anthem, a common history, a sense of special pride are all symbols of national unity. The Jewish people, over its long centuries of exile when it had no flag or anthem, relied on other symbols to unite it. The Bible and the Talmud, Jewish values and tradition, became those symbols. More than that, Jerusalem, Rachel's Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the Western Wall, were our flag and anthem. Zionism succeeded only because it promised Jerusalem and the reclaiming of Jewish history.

In all of the bitter contentious infighting within the Jewish people over the past century, there still remained a thread of Jewish unity - Jerusalem and the Western Wall. All Jews felt an affinity to the Holy City and to the place of the Temple. And now that slim thread of Jewish unity has been torn by those who preach unity and practice divisiveness.

One hundred and one "rabbis" in America signed a statement that waives our rights to the Temple Mount. Who authorized them? By what right do they possess the power to annul Jewish history and faith? Do they not care that they are ripping the Jewish people apart with their recklessness? The leader of the Masorti Movement in Israel writes an op-ed piece in this newspaper justifying abandoning the Temple Mount and Jewish sovereignty over much of Jerusalem. Is this an act of Jewish conscience? Will it further Jewish unity, a cause that he espouses? Let us leave the military, political and societal fallout of the abandonment of Jerusalem, tragic as that will undoubtedly be, aside for a moment. Look at the damage it will do to the Jewish people and how it will cripple its fragile hold on its survival as a faith community. No one will recite "Next year in Tel Aviv." Think of how reckless this behavior is. Who can estimate the historical effect of the near-certain dire consequences of such reckless behavior?

Bill Clinton will be out of power soon. But he is desperately trying to play out a role in history, which is after all the greatest bestower of power.

His presidential statement about the Middle East and the peace between Israel and the Arabs is a play to the power thrust within him. And our feckless leaders kowtow to this nonsense.

But history is unforgiving, especially Jewish history. Those who wished to be remembered for bringing peace to Israel through the Oslo Accords have already seen their reputations and memories tarnished by the events of history. Those who now behave recklessly with the Jewish symbols of memory and unity and destiny will not be remembered as peacemakers. They will be remembered as those who needlessly divided the Jewish people and ripped out the heart of the people in the midst of a terrible moment of crisis.

Jewish history will not be blinded by the desperate reach for power. Loyalty to Jerusalem remains our strongest bond remaining. It should not and will not be torn asunder. Shabbat Shalom.
(Jerusalem Post Jan 11)

Letter to Ehud Olmert From Norman Podhoretz

Dear Ehud:

I deeply regret that a prior commitment has made it impossible for me to join you and Natan Sharansky and the many thousands of our people who have gathered to reaffirm what should have been too self-evident to require reaffirmation: that Jerusalem must remain a unified city under full Jewish sovereignty, and must never again be divided.

In saying this, I do not refer only to the kind of obscenely visible division created by fences and barbed wire and armed sentries such as existed between 1948 and 1967. I refer also to the division of sovereignty now proposed under various euphemisms that are intended to disguise a truth so painful that only through the mechanism of denial can many people even begin to contemplate it.

I am an American, not an Israeli. I live in New York, not in Jerusalem. But I am also a member of the Jewish people. And like all Jews, I have a claim--an ancient claim--to Jerusalem. Millions of my fellow Jews from one end of the earth to the other have from time immemorial turned three times every day toward Jerusalem in their prayers. Millions of my fellow Jews from one end of the earth to the other have vowed that they would forget Jerusalem only on pain of losing the use of their own right arms. And millions of Jews from one end of the earth to the other have concluded the annual Passover seder with the hope that next year they would be celebrating the holiday in Jerusalem.

Between 1948 and 1967, when Jerusalem was last divided, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Lately Arafat and his minions have been spreading the preposterous lie that there never was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, where of course there were in fact two. And it is also the Temple Mount that Jewish tradition identifies with Mount Moriah, where the binding and the saving of Isaac took place. But I wish to emphasize that a Jew need not be observant or a believer in the literal truth of the Bible in order to have a special feeling of love and veneration for Jerusalem. It is enough to have a sense of connection with the history of the Jewish people.

As such a Jew, and in the name of that history, I make bold to declare that no Israeli government has the right to override the overwhelming consensus of Jewish hearts and minds and souls that has been formed and solidified in the three thousand years since King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the entire country. What this means, quite simply, is that no Israeli government has the right to divide Jerusalem once again. To redivide Jerusalem, even with invisible barriers, or to forfeit full Jewish sovereignty over its holiest area, would bring not peace, but more violence and war. It would be not a blessing but a curse. It would be an act of betrayal that would never be forgiven or forgotten so long as the Jewish people lives. I stand with you, then, in protesting against any scheme involving the surrender to any degree of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. And I stand with you in pledging my fervent support for the maintenance of this golden city as the undivided and eternal capital of the Jewish state.

Cordially,
Norman Podhoretz

The writer was the publisher of Commentary and is one of America's leading intellectuals of the 20th century.

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