Israel News

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

April 20, 2001   -   27 Nisan 5761
Issue number 322

Upcoming Events

Sunday April 22, 8:00pm

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, will be speaking at Shaarei Shomayim on "Are We Waking up from the Zionist Dream?"

Wednesday April 25, 7:00pm

Community Yom Hazikaron Commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut Celebration at Shaarei Shomayim.



IDF Enters Gaza, Then Withdraws

The IDF entered into several Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in Gaza late Monday night followed the firing of a few mortar shells into the city of Sderot, within Israel-proper, early that evening. Political and military leaders explained throughout Tuesday the need and justification for the wide-scale operation. Gaza battalion commander Brig.-Gen. Ya'ir Naveh told reporters late Tuesday afternoon, "We will remain [in Gaza] for days, weeks, or months, as long as it takes……" Israel began withdrawing its forces around midnight Tuesday night - only slightly more than 24 hours after the IDF had entered Gaza. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that as Defense Minister, he stands behind both the entry into and the withdrawal from the Palestinian-controlled areas in Gaza, and that he does not plan to bounce the responsibility onto anyone else. He defended Naveh's remarks of yesterday as a form of warning to the Palestinians not to renew their mortar attacks. However, this approach was belied by an IDF spokesman's statement that blamed Naveh for "speaking on a matter that was not within his realm of authority." Ra'anan Gissin, chief spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, also criticized Naveh by saying that he mis-spoke by implying that the army might remain in Gaza for an extended period. Gissin said that the decision to withdraw was not made under American pressure, and was in fact made yesterday afternoon, well before the State Department's harsh criticism. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz took another approach. He told government ministers Wednesday that both he and Naveh were aware in advance of the decision to pull out by last night, and that Naveh had only meant that the IDF has the ability to remain there for as long as it wanted. But IDF Southern Command officers said that at Tuesday afternoon's army meeting about future steps to be taken in Biet Hanoun, the word "withdrawal" was not even mentioned. ( Apr 18)

Israel Destroys Syrian Radar Installation in Lebanon

Israel attacked a Syrian position in Lebanon this week, for the first time in five years. Israel Air Force fighter planes attacked a radar installation north of the Beirut-Damascus road at around 1 AM Monday morning. The Syrian site, located some 20 kilometers east of Beirut, was destroyed by six air-to-ground missiles fired by four IAF planes. The mission was a retaliatory raid for Hizbullah's Saturday missile attack that claimed the life of St.-Sgt. Elad Litvak. In addition, two other soldiers were killed by Hizbullah fire along the northern border in the past several months, and three soldiers and one Israeli businessman were kidnapped in late 2000 and are still being held captive by Hizbullah. Syrian officials claim that three of their men were killed in last night's attack. The government stated Monday that Hizbullah had been acting with Syrian approval and help. It further noted that despite the fact that Israel was in total compliance with the UN resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon, Hizbullah was continuing its acts of aggression against Israel. The statement also said that the Israel holds the governments of Lebanon and Syria responsible for ending the Hizbullah terrorist attacks across the international border. The air strike drew praise from across the Israeli political spectrum. Former Minister Yossi Beilin (Labor) said that the air strike was "correct and just." Science and Culture Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor), a former IDF major-general, similarly stated that Israel has no other way to tell the Syrians that continued Hizbullah terrorist attacks across the border would not be tolerated. Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi said that now the Syrians will begin to be afraid, instead of the Jews in the Galilee. ( Apr 16)

CIA Recorded Dahlan Ordering Fatal Bus Attack

The CIA has a secret recording of Muhammad Dahlan giving the orders to bomb an Israeli school bus. The recorded telephone conversation features the Palestinian Security Chief in Gaza ordering the bombing of the Kfar Darom school bus on November 20 of last year. Two adults were killed in that attack, and several children were wounded - including the three Cohen siblings, each of whom lost part of a leg. The American intelligence organization has other recordings of Dahlan's deputy Rashid Abu Shabak giving the orders for other terrorist attacks. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman, who broke the story in the HaTzofeh newspaper last Friday, reports that the Americans chose not to keep the information to themselves but rather to share it with Israel. Based on the CIA tapes and other information, the IDF has submitted a report to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in which the terrorist attacks ordered by Dahlan and Abu Shabak are detailed. Dahlan was quoted this morning as saying that Israel had "killed the security cooperation" between the sides. ( Apr 15)

Meetings Continue Amidst Strong Criticism

The Sharon government continues to talk with leading Palestinian Authority figures. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met at the end of last week with Abu Ala to discuss the possibility of renewing negotiations between the sides. Even more significantly, Omri Sharon, the Prime Minister's son, met again last week with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. GSS head Avi Dichter also took part. It was Sharon, Jr.'s second meeting with Arafat in two weeks. MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu) said that the meeting was an outright violation of the Prime Minister's pledge to the National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu faction last week that there would be no negotiations with Palestinian leaders while their attacks on Israel continue. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein also criticized Omri's meeting with Arafat. "Sending a family member to official meetings is not the way a properly-run country does things," Rubenstein said Sunday. ( Apr 15)

March for Unity

Hundreds of high school youth, from both religious and secular school, marched to Jerusalem Tuesday in a show of solidarity on behalf of "unity and responsibility." The march is the brainchild of religious high school students from Kibbutz Yavneh, and involves no political statements at all. Organizer Yigal Beit-Aryeh explained: "This is a call to the youth to show that we care, to show that we love the State of Israel and that we are ready and willing to sacrifice our pre-matriculation exams for the State of Israel. We will be enlisting in the army within the next two years, and we want to show that we care for the State, and that we therefore feel the pain of the situation and the lack of responsibility shown by our politicians." The march set off from the Burma Road entrance on the Beit Shemesh-Sha'ar HaGai highway, and the participants slept tonight at the Shoresh Junction Monument, where they held discussions on the issues of unity and responsibility. ( Apr 17)

Beilin Defends Arafat on National TV

Oslo architect Yossi Beilin's visit with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah last week earned the former a lengthy interview spot on Israel's Channel One Television. The main points made by Beilin during the interview:

"Peace Camp" Activities

Left-wing Jewish activists are continuing their pro-Arab protests as the Rosh Hashanah Arab Assault enters its seventh month. One group, led by a woman named Gila Svirsky, is complementing its sparsely-attended protests with an enthusiastic e-mail campaign. "Today's demonstration in Tel-Aviv was wonderful. We were roughly 200, mostly women," Svirsky reported to her faithful last Thursday evening. "We wore black and banged vigorously on our pots and pans in time to the slogans led by Dalit, Iris, and perhaps others. A specially nice touch was the black, helium-filled balloons with the message printed on it 'End the Occupation, End the Closure - Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.'" Another slogan, this one directed at Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer asks: "Fuad, Fuad, Minister of Defense - How many children have you killed today? End the closure in the territories; get out of their bloodstream!" Among the future activities planned by the group: the rebuilding of illegally-built Arab homes bulldozed by the IDF; a joint Arab-Israeli demonstration at the Bethlehem checkpoint, and the removal of the Halhoul roadblock. ( Apr 13)


Interview With the PM...

Sharon is Sharon is Sharon By Ari Shavit

Only those who believe that there is a 'new Ariel Sharon' and that only he will bring about peace have the right to be surprised: Sharon is the same Sharon and for him the War of Independence hasn't yet ended. In a comprehensive interview, the prime minister describes the main points of his plan: Jerusalem, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Golan Heights are ours. Not even one of the settlements will be evacuated because they all have strategic and Zionist value. It is impossible at this time to bring about the end of the conflict, nor is separation from the Palestinians a viable concept. What then? Time is on our side.

One of Ariel Sharon's earliest, formative memories is of the clinic in Kfar Malal, where he was born. It was not to that clinic that his mother carried him when he cut his chin badly at the age of five; instead, she passed it by and took him to Kfar Sava, in those days a long journey. The clinic in Kfar Malal piqued his curiosity and seemed to cast a spell over him throughout his childhood and adolescence, its doors always closed to him because his family was ostracized. Now, though, at the age of 73, when it seemed that it would never happen, Ariel Sharon suddenly finds himself "inside." The ostracism is a thing of the past and all has been entrusted to him. Proud and militant, hated and scorned, sentimental and suspicious, Sharon is at the center of a broad consensus such as he has never known in his life. At the center of a strange surge in popularity, praise heaped on him for his good sense and his moderation and his balanced judgment - and for the way he has dealt in the past two months with the great Israeli crisis of 2001.

Sharon himself is not very moved by all this. And when he strides in, clad in heavy jeans and a blue shirt, his white hair carefully combed, he invites his guests to join him at the breakfast table on his ranch. He shakes hands warmly with the young women in the kitchen, sits down in front of a large salad, sardines and olives, and begins to talk about the olive tree. About its longevity and about how deep its roots go. About how the Arabs split its trunk. How there is no doubt that there are olive trees in this land that are 2,000 years old, which were tended by Jews in the Second Temple period. He seems to remember a few of those. Maybe in the small, hidden grove above the village of Kibiya ...

He would prefer not to talk politics. He understands wheat and olive trees better than politics, he says, laughing. And later, when we are done, he will take me to see the flock, the pen and the old stud bull, Amnon, whose vigor is undiminished. In the meantime, though, the prime minister gets up from the table and gestures toward the hills of wheat through which he raced to victory in the February elections. Those fields are the source of my strength, he says. In the most difficult times, they were what gave me strength. Land, family, farm.

His sons are always there. Gilad tends to Sycamore Ranch, Omri to the State of Israel. Sharon fumes at the criticism that was leveled at him for sending Omri to meet with Yasser Arafat. We are not in a normal situation, he explains. In this region where we live, it is of special value to send the person closest to you to deliver a message. The Arabs respect that. And especially if it can prevent even one death, if it can forestall escalation. After all, this is the main thing he is engaged in now, he says: to get out of the labyrinth and prevent escalation.

Sharon is unique unto himself. Part Dallas rancher, part Israeli rural aristocrat. All his values and all the concepts he espouses are deeply conservative. At his advanced age, he is no longer driven by the old military, power-borne revolutionism; now he exudes some sort of traditional Toryism of an English estate owner. Everything about him suggests slowness. Low gear. There is no reason for hurry, he says. Nowhere to run to. There is nothing new and promising around the corner.

And no new message borne by the gathering clouds of an April morning, which slowly mass on the horizon. Ariel Sharon, your autobiography is called "Warrior." Do you still see yourself like that today, when you are prime minister?

"That is the role of my generation. It was and remains the role of my generation. And it is also the role of the coming generations. If the Jews want a state - and I believe that the Jews do want a state - it is everyone's role. Not necessarily to fight in practice, but to be ready to fight. To be deployed for that.

"You have to understand one simple thing: The Jews have one small state. It is a state blessed with skills, truly blessed with skills. But this is the only place in the world where Jews have the right and the ability and the strength to defend themselves by themselves. And that is a gift of God. That is what we must defend. Therefore, we must all know that we can never place our fate in the hands of anyone else, not even in the hands of those who are our best friends. Never."

Is it your basic feeling that the War of Independence has in fact not ended?

"The War of Independence has not ended. No. 1948 was just one chapter. If you ask me whether the State of Israel is capable of defending itself today, I say yes, absolutely. And if you ask me whether the State of Israel is facing the danger of war, I say no. But are we living here securely? No. And therefore it is impossible to say that we have completed the work and that now we can rest on our laurels. It's impossible to rest here under a vine and fig tree. No. After all, not a day goes by when we can stop being vigilant.

"So I think it is clear today to the majority of Israel's citizens that there are no quick solutions. It is impossible to sign some piece of paper hastily. It is a very long road. We need forbearance and decisiveness and inner quiet. And will. The Jewish people need a great deal of will. Because we have to be able to accept things and see reality and stand firm. Stand with determination."

Are you saying that we will always live by the sword?

"A normal people does not ask questions like that. A normal people knows it has a homeland, has national honor and has a full right to its land, which it is ready to defend. If during the years of the Zionist revolution all we succeeded in doing here was to stand with sword in hand, there would be place for concern. I myself would be concerned. But look at what has happened here in these 120 years: Millions of Jews came here from 102 countries, speaking 82 languages. And despite all the difficulties, they all became Hebrew speakers and became one nation.

"A tremendous infrastructure was built here, 1,400 cities and villages and moshavim and kibbutzim were established. And one of the most sophisticated industries in the world. And a unique agriculture. And an army and a health system and an education system, and a democracy which is the only one in this whole region. And all that was done with one hand holding the sword, when the sword was part of life.

"Therefore, I say that we can look to the future optimistically. I remember when I was working with my father weeding a watermelon patch. It was very hot and I was dying of thirst and thousands of flies buzzing faintly would get into my mouth and my ears, and my father felt it was hard for me, that I was very tired. He would tell me to stop for a minute and both of us would lean on our hoes and he would wave his hand and say, Arik, look how much we've done already. And then we would go on. So that is what I am saying to you now, when you ask me that question: Look how much we've done already."

Do you think the conflict is irresolvable? That we just have to learn how to live with it?

"My whole life has passed in this conflict. I remember sitting at the age of nine on a small stool in our kitchen in Kfar Malal and reading to my mother from the paper the terrible reports about the people who were killed in the 'Troubles of 1937.' And since then, my childhood and my whole life have passed in the shadow of security problems, or in the light of security problems.

"I remember that we were always surrounded. There was a feeling of danger. But there was no fear. Already as a boy I had this feeling that even if the worst were to happen, when it got to the line of our barns, it would stop. It would stop there. That the barns could not be taken from us. In the period of readiness before the [1967] Six-Day War, when I was waiting with my division on the Egyptian border, and I would look behind me at night and see from afar the glow of the lights of Revivim and Mashabei Sadeh [two kibbutzim in the Negev], that same feeling came back to me. Again I felt that it would stop on the line of the barns.

"Even in the hardest days of the War of Independence, when our losses were very high, I don't remember a single day of fearing that we would not be able to hold on. Our company lost 54 men in one battle. They are buried in a mass grave on Mount Herzl [in Jerusalem]: 54 men. But despite everything, our spirit did not falter. We knew that we were on the way to someplace. That we were moving forward to something. To the establishment of a state, to bringing new immigrants. That we were part of something that was always going forward. Forward.

"I think that every effort has to be made to arrive at a resolution of the conflict without endangering Israel. But to come and say that peace is knocking at our door - that is not right. In my opinion, that is not right. I don't believe that it is possible to resolve a conflict that has lasted 120 years in one jump. And I don't think we have to put forward such a pretentious goal of signing peace immediately, what's called ending the conflict. Because the end of the conflict will come only when the Arab world recognizes the innate right of the Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state in the Middle East. And that recognition has not yet come.

"Even the agreements that were signed, to which I attribute great importance, contain only formal recognition. There was no true acceptance of the right of the Jews to maintain a state here. Will that acceptance come in the future? Possibly. But unfortunately, in the meantime it has not happened."

Does that mean that you do not aspire to be the "Israeli de Gaulle"? To be a right-wing military man who surprises his nation with a peace treaty that entails a dramatic withdrawal?

"What for? The problem is not to come up with some fort made of paper. I can bring you a paper like that in a week. But where will it get you? Nowhere. So, what I am proposing is to take a different, less pretentious road. To go for a long-term, gradual solution that will enable us to examine the development of the relations between us and the Palestinians over time."

Is there, then, a new Ariel Sharon, or is it the invention of public-relations people?

"No, there is nothing new, I have always been the way I am. I always looked after people. There was never a time when I was visiting somewhere and I didn't go into the kitchen to thank the workers. There was never a time that I didn't thank someone who did something for me. There was never a time that I didn't get up when a woman entered the room. And I was never patronizing. Personally, I am a sensitive man. I always like to see a tree in the wind with the corner of my eye, or to hear music in the background.

"So I have not changed one iota. There is no new Sharon. There was just demonization. In things that were written and things that were said, most of which were lies. And not just tens of thousands of words - millions of words. The worst things. But I have stayed away from all that for many years; it generated a kind of contempt in me and it put me off. I didn't want to react and I didn't want to touch any of it. Lili [Sharon's late wife] used to say that I could absorb things like a superpower."

Is there a new Sharon ideologically?

"I have not changed my viewpoint. The only thing that has changed is my opinion about Jordan as Palestine. And even that simply because a fact was created. You know, I never intended for there to be two Palestinian states. That is the only change in my positions."

Did your son Omri play a part in the process of reconciliation with a section of the public that despised you?

"Certainly. Without Omri I would not have reached the place I am in today. Already many years ago, he told me that if I want to be involved in politics, I must not see things in black and white. From that point of view, he had an extraordinary influence. He has a great deal of intelligence. He understands people well.

"There are two here, as you saw. Gilad [Sharon's other son] is fragile and thin - but hard as a rock. Omri is large and overgrown, but he will go 200 kilometers to photograph a flower in the Negev or to see a desert flood at night. Undoubtedly he had a conciliating and softening influence on me. He also taught me not to try to settle accounts, not to deal all the time with the past."

Are you enjoying the public's new attitude toward you? The popularity?

"I feel the change but I am not thrilled by it. Is it more pleasant? It is. But I learned that if someone attacks you without knowing you and without sitting down with you to hear what you think, even if he changes his mind about you, he will attack you again in the future. So I am not devoting very much thought to all that. I certainly don't feel a need to say thank you. After all, there were times when people stood here by the gate and shouted that Sharon is a murderer. In the last elections, too, people drew arrows on the road signs in the area and wrote, 'To the murderer.'"

Your reaction to the murder of the infant girl in Hebron was described as restrained.

"At the personal level, it was extremely difficult. When I saw the father carrying his daughter in his hands I thought about one of the most difficult moments in my life, when our oldest son, who was then a boy of 11, was shot in the head by another boy, who was 13, and I carried him and stood helpless in the street looking for a lift to the hospital and I saw my son dying in my hands without being able to save him.

"So it is clear that when I saw the photograph of the bay girl I was filled with a terrible rage. But on the other hand I knew that this was a moment when you had to be able to exercise self-control. Because there were two very complex things that week: the Arab summit meeting and the need to ensure an American veto in the United Nations Security Council. I knew what they were trying to drag us into. How they wanted us to react. So it was clear to me that we were obligated to show restraint, that we must not escalate, we must not be dragged into escalation."

After six months of violence, do you regard Yasser Arafat as a partner or as the head of a terrorist organization who misled Israel for a decade?

A decade? Only a decade? Look, we do not choose their leaders. That is not our task. Therefore, if there is quiet and if there is security, and if there is no terrorism, Arafat can be a partner. But he cannot be a partner as long as terrorism continues and as long as he does not take measures against terrorism and his most loyal forces are involved in terrorism. Therefore, there are no negotiations either. I am saying this in the clearest way possible: There will be no negotiations under fire. There simply will not be. If we agree to hold negotiations under fire, it will haunt us to the end."

How will you react if Arafat unilaterally declares an independent Palestinian state?

"First, I would advise him not to do that. That would be a mistake on his part. Both the last government in which I was a member and the Barak government had a clear stand on this subject. A stand that obligates us to take a series of measures to retain the areas that are vital to us."

In that case, would you annex settlements and security areas?

"Definitely. Whatever is needed. Therefore I advise them not to do it. It would be a mistake."

Do you consider Arafat a significant adversary?

"As far as murder and cruelty and educating a whole generation in hatred and sending children to the front, I have no esteem for him. Those are very harsh, even disgusting things. But on the other hand, it is impossible not to appreciate the Palestinians' readiness for confrontation. You see in them readiness for confrontation. Not that I like it, but I can only treat it with respect."

Do they make you envious?

"When Sadat would tell me that for the Arabs land is sacred, that made me envious. And sometimes I am envious of the way the Palestinians take a stand without any doubts. But there are other things, too. I will tell you something: Years ago, I would watch when a group of Palestinian workers would sit down to eat in a circle and each of them would take out what he brought from home and place it in the center of the circle, and then, with restraint, one would take from here and another from there, and they all sat together.

"While as for our people, each of them would sit by himself and eat his food alone. When I watched the Palestinians, they made me envious. Both the culture of eating and the restraint alike. The Jews as individuals are extraordinarily talented, with a really far-reaching imagination. But as a nation I wouldn't give us a very high grade."

It is said you have no plan? Do you have a plan?

"I see two stages in this campaign. The first stage is to restore security and create the conditions for negotiations. The second stage is to formulate a realistic political plan. In the first stage, the current one, we are working to make things easier for those Palestinians who are not involved in terrorism but who want to bring home a piece of bread and raise their children, and at the same time, we are fighting terrorism according to a systematic, ongoing plan.

"The goal of the plan is to place the terrorists in varying situations every day and to 'unbalance' them so that they will be busy protecting themselves. In this government we do not threaten, we act. I can't talk about everything. But it is no coincidence that one person disappeared here and another disappeared there. There is a plan at work. Terrorists are being removed from our environs. I can promise you that within a certain time all the citizens of Israel will have personal security."

And then what? When quiet prevails, will you agree to recognize a Palestinian state on 40 to 50 percent of the territory?

"I did not say 50 percent. I said 42 percent. Maybe a bit more will be possible. But within the framework of a non-belligerency agreement, for a lengthy and indefinite period, in an agreement that does not have a timetable but a table of expectations. Our expectations lie in three spheres: preventive action against terrorism and the infrastructures of terrorism; cessation of incitement and education for peace; economic cooperation. In my opinion, economic cooperation does not have to be confined to small industrial zones along the [1967] Green Line. It can take the form of big projects that create mutual dependence, such as the desalination project I proposed, which would be the largest of its kind in the world.

"As a Jew, I know that it is not easy to be a Palestinian. It is hard to be a Palestinian. There are things they definitely suffer from. They suffer from a lack of continuity of territory and we have to find a solution for that. They suffer from our roadblocks and that also needs a solution. They do not always behave properly at the roadblocks, but our soldiers also don't always behave as they should."

And 42 percent will resolve these problems?

"The question is what the alternative is. The other possibility is to give more, but that will not end the conflict either. In that case we will remain without our historic and strategic assets, and without an end to the conflict. You have to understand: Every step here is irreversible. Because if we have to hit a terrorist and for that specific purpose we have to enter Area A [under full Palestinian control], that is possible. But to take back sections of Area A that were transferred to the Palestinian Authority is impossible. So we have to view things with our eyes wide open and be cautious. Very cautious. To give them the necessary minimum and try to ease things for the Palestinians as much as possible on the roads and at the roadblocks."

Would you be ready to evacuate settlements as part of a non-belligerency agreement?

"No. Absolutely not."

Not even isolated settlements like Netzarim in the Gaza Strip?

"No. Not at any price. Why do we have to evacuate Netzarim? For what?"

Do you believe that isolated settlements in the Gaza Strip have security value?

"First of all, they have Zionist importance. People say to me, why not evacuate Kfar Darom [in the Gaza Strip]? But Kfar Darom is a settlement that was established in 1946 and it held out and delayed the Egyptian army for a few critical days in 1948, even though it was no larger than 100 meters by 100 meters. So why does it have to be evacuated? I don't see any reason to evacuate.

"But if you are asking about Netzarim, Netzarim has strategic importance. It was established as part of a conception that a buffer should be created between Khan Yunis and Gaza City and that we should have access from the Green Line to the coast. In the future Netzarim will enable us to ensure that no heavy war equipment is being unloaded at the port of Gaza. After all, it is no coincidence that the port of Gaza is being built next to Netzarim. So Netzarim has tremendous security importance. It is vital."

And you won't agree to evacuate the Jewish settlement in Hebron either?

"The Tomb of the Patriarchs is located in Hebron. No people has a monument like the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where the patriarchs and matriarchs of the nation are buried: Abraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. No people in the world has a historical asset like that. When I visit Washington, I look at the people who are standing at the foot of the Washington and Lincoln monuments, and they were truly great individuals. But here, in Hebron, we are talking about 4,000 years. 4,000 years. After all, what is Tel Rumeida? It is ancient Hebron. That is where King David was crowned. And he ruled Israel from there for seven-and-a-half years.

"A normal people would see to it that every child was brought there, that Hebron became an obligatory chapter in the education of every young person. And that every foreign diplomat or official visitor was taken there. You know, these are our deepest roots, the deepest roots any people has. So what are people proposing to give up? And so easily, too."

Does that mean that you cannot conceive of the possibility of evacuating the Jewish settlement in Hebron? That you rule out the possibility?


And in Jerusalem? Are you ready to make concessions in Jerusalem?

"We have no right to make concessions in Jerusalem. We simply do not have the right. I have to say that on this subject I respected Arafat when he said at Camp David that on the question of Jerusalem he has to hear the opinion of the Islamic world. With us, in contrast, the subject was not brought either to the cabinet or to the security cabinet or to the Knesset, and the leaders of the Jewish communities were not consulted at all. One person - one person - decided on his own that he is handing over Jerusalem.

"No, I think that we have no right to make concessions in Jerusalem. It is a surety that was deposited with us as the trustee. But beyond that, from the practical standpoint, too, I think the ideas that were raised cannot hold water. The labyrinth of sovereignties that was proposed will not work."

Are you saying to both the Arabs and the Jews that the evacuation of settlements is out of the question and that the map you drew up years ago is the map to which an agreement must be subject?

"Is it possible today to concede control of the hill aquifer [in the West Bank], which supplies a third of our water? Is it possible to cede the buffer zone in the Jordan Rift Valley? You know, it's not by accident that the settlements are located where they are. They safeguard the cradle of the Jewish people's birth and also provide strategic depth which is vital to our existence. The settlements were established according to the conception that, come what may, we have to hold the western security area, which is adjacent to the Green Line, and the eastern security area along the Jordan River and the roads linking the two. And Jerusalem, of course. And the hill aquifer. "Nothing has changed with respect to any of those things. The importance of the security areas has not diminished, it may even have increased. So I see no reason for evacuating any settlements. In any event, as long as there is no peace, we are there. And if in the future, with God's help, there is peace, there will certainly be no reason for not being there. After all, hundreds of Arab families live in Upper Nazareth, and in Be'er Sheva and Lod and Ramla. So why should the residents of the settlements in Judea and Samaria be an obstacle?"

There will be no replay of Yamit (the city in northern Sinai which Sharon ordered razed in the wake of the peace treaty with Egypt)?

"No. Absolutely not."

And what about the plans for separation between Israel and the Palestinians?

"I see no possibility of separation. I don't believe in the idea of us here and them there. In my opinion, that possibility does not exist in practical terms. I always said that it is possible to live with the Arabs. It is precisely the left that doesn't want to live with the Arabs, the left said that the main thing is that they should not live here alongside us. That they should vanish. I never thought that."

And the Golan Heights? If the Syrians drop their demand to get the shore of Lake Kinneret, will Israel be able to leave the Golan Heights in return for peace?

"No. We cannot leave the Golan Heights."

Why not?

"Israel suffers from permanent inferiority in that it is possible to confront it with serious dilemmas without firing a shot. If, for example, the Syrians violate an agreement and station forces next to the border fence, from their point of view this is only a logistic move, whereas for us a situation is created which obliges us to go to war or to endanger our security.

"What prevents the emergence of situations like that today is the fact that we are close to Damascus. That is what keeps things in equilibrium. Therefore, as long as we are on the Golan Heights, Syria does not constitute a threat. On the other hand, if we do not sit across from the outskirts of Damascus, I cannot conceive that the border with the Syrians will be quiet."

So in your view, the question is not whether the Syrians will reach the water line, rather there is a problem with the conception of a withdrawal from the Golan in order to achieve peace?


If Israel were to withdraw from the Jordan Rift Valley and the Golan Heights, as Ehud Barak proposed, would the country today be facing a security risk?

"Yes, a concrete danger to its existence."

If so, if an agreement on ending the conflict with the Palestinians is not possible and if a peace agreement with the Syrians is dangerous, what alternative are you proposing? What hope?

"From the strategic point of view, I think that it's possible that in another 10 or 15 years the Arab world will have less ability to strike at Israel than it has today. That is because Israel will be a country with a flourishing economy, whereas the Arab world may be on the decline. True, there is no guarantee of this, but it is definitely possible that because of technological and environmental developments, the price of oil will fall and the Arab states will find themselves in a crisis situation, while Israel will be strengthened. The conclusion is that time is not working against us and therefore it is important to achieve solutions that will take place across a lengthy period.

"But if you ask me what hope I am offering to the Israeli public, I propose setting a series of national goals: bringing a million Jews within 12 years, so that by 2020 the majority of the Jewish people will be living in Israel; developing the Negev, which is the last reserve available for Jewish settlement; and renewing education according to Zionist principles, which will restore the sense of the justice of the struggle and the feeling that we have a full right to this land, ideas which have been very much eroded in recent years."

It sounds as though you long for different concepts and a different time.

"Look, people today don't get so excited by the idea of 'another dunam and another dunam' [of land]. But I still get excited. I don't know whether it's possible to reach the same level of enthusiasm as when we were 14 and we walked in the wake of Shmaryahu Guttman's huge mane of hair in the Judean Desert, singing 'Our Faces Toward the Rising Sun.' I don't know whether it's possible to recapture the feeling of excitement I had then, after a day of plowing in the field. You know, that supplied the strength for coping with all the difficulties. It came from the family, from irrigating the orchard, from tending the vineyard and from guarding the field at night. "I have no longings for the past. I am thinking about what has to be done now. But I do feel a longing for that spirit. Because that spirit forged everything that we are here. Today the world is different, more open. But I still think that what was right then, before the state was established, is still right today. Basic things have not changed in any fundamental way. And in the last analysis, when we look back, the Zionist revolution is the only revolution in the 20th century that succeeded.

"Therefore, what is important now is to understand that a democratic Jewish state in the Middle East is something to which we are all committed. And I believe that if we behave as we should, and if we all stand united, we can view the future with hope. After all, when we look back at all we have accomplished, there is room for hope." (Haaretz Apr 12)

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