A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
July 20, 2001
Issue number 336
Jerusalem Hit By Mortar Fire
Mortar rockets fell on Gilo and the Tunnels Highway area on Tuesday, after they were fired from Beit Jala under Palestinian Authority control. Any Israeli retalliation was held up, according to many reports, following American pressure upon the Israeli government. U.S. President George Bush phoned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last night. (arutzsheva.org Jul 17,18)
Gush Katif Advises Gilo
How is Gilo holding up after the long-expected mortar shell was fired upon it yesterday? The shell fell on Havush St., the most southeastern street in Jerusalem's southern-most neighborhood. One resident told Arutz-7's Benny Toker that she will leave when the contract on her rented apartment runs out, while another said that she would not leave even if she could, "because this would be too easy for the Arabs. If we all leave, they can just come in and take over." A third man said, "It's a difficult situation, but there's no need to panic. We will hold on even for another year if we have to; if the residents in Hevron can deal with what's happening to them, then we can also. "
Meir Turjeman, head of the Gilo neighborhood administration, told Arutz-7 today that officials of the Home Front Command are scheduled to brief the residents tonight on how to act during mortar attacks. "We have also met with city psychologists," he said, "for help in dealing with our children's fears and the like..." Asked to evaluate his fellow residents' staying power, Turjeman said,"Look, we have come through a lot. There have been many shooting attacks over the past few months, and we have stood fast and strong, but the truth is that this strength can't last forever. Somewhere along the line, you just lose it. How many times can we tell our children, 'Don't worry, soon there will be an agreement,' or, 'Soon the army will take care of it,' and then it turns out that the shooting starts again? It's impossible to live like this for an extended time. We tried to explain this to the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, but it's hard to understand for someone who has not experienced it." Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane then said, "Allow me, then, to include in our conversation someone who has experienced the threat of mortar attacks for many months: Yigal Kirzenshaft of N'vei Dekalim in Gush Katif. Yigal, I understand that the threat of mortar shells is somewhat different than that of shooting, am I correct?"
Kirzenshaft: "The thing is that with mortars you just cannot know when or where they could fall... Not long ago, we were having dinner when suddenly a shell was launched not far away. Another time, in the middle of the night, a shell landed close to my car and damaged the windshield. The uncertainty is very difficult."
Kahane: "How do you deal with it, then?"
Kirzenshaft: "First of all, we rely on G-d, and thus we simply cannot fall - just like a storm cannot uproot a tree that has strong roots, so too the residents of Gush Katif are people of strong faith, and they don't give up. We live with the situation. We sleep under concrete roofs, even though the Arabs are beginning to fire larger shells that can even penetrate them... We take precautions, but we make sure not to cancel any events, trips, or the like; we recently had a wedding in Atzmonah that we moved to a safer location here in Gush Katif... We have to be careful, but we do not give in to the terrorists... We have cultural events, Hassidic gatherings, and even the annual two-day Hassidic Music Festival will be held festively, as always, to which we invite all of Israel to come and take part... I would advise my friend Meir [from Gilo] to fulfill the meaning of his name and "illuminate" his neighborhood of Gilo, and to hold special events, and to do things that will increase the unity among the residents, and to bring happiness, such as the Music Festival that we'll be having - they can invite all of Israel to come to Gilo for such an event and thus strengthen each other. I think this is very important. In general it is important to project an image of Am Yisrael's national strength, and show that their bombs will not scare us..."
Kahane: "Meir Turjeman, how do these ideas sound to you?"
MT: "Listen, this is encouraging to hear, without a doubt. It is encouraging
to hear those who have been suffering much more than us. I definitely accept
that which my friend from Gush Katif has said. 'Each man helps his friend, and
to his brother says, Be of good courage' (Isaiah 41,6). We will help each other,
and we will hope for better times for all of Israel."
Kirzenshaft: "Maybe you'll pop over for a visit to Gush Katif, Meir?"
MT: "Very happily... I would be very, very happy to come there, together with my friends..." (arutzsheva.org Jul 18)
Four Arab terrorists were killed in a successful air strike by Israel Air Force helicopter gunships this afternoon. The Israelis fired air-to-surface missiles at the Bethlehem home of a senior Hamas terrorist, killing four Hamas members and injuring other terrorists and passers-by. General Security Service (Shabak) sources reported that the terrorists were planning to carrying out a major attack against the Maccabiah Games, being held not far away in southern Jerusalem, and that a "much larger catastrophe" had been averted. (arutzsheva.org Jul 17)
Two Killed in Separate Terror Attacks Near Hebron Last Week
Yechezkel Mualem, 49, father of four and a Kiryat Arba Municipality councilman, was murdered last Thursday night by Arabs at the eastern entrance to Kiryat Arba, at the Lapid Junction, while he and other municipality members were in the midst of checking whether the IDF had restored the terrorism-impeding barriers along the highway. Terrorists opened fire on the group from adjacent PA-controlled territory in Hevron. IDF soldiers accompanying the group returned the fire, and the evacuation of the wounded took place while the Arabs continued shooting at them. A second victim of that attack, shot in both legs, remains hospitalized in moderate condition. The Hevron Jewish Community reported that Hezi Mualem was the construction manager for the Kiryat Arba Development Company. He lived in Kiryat Arba with his family for over 20 years. A well-known figure in the city, Hezi is remembered as a "chazan" (the conductor of prayer services), a "Ba'al Hesed" (a man of great mercy) and a "Ba'al Tzedakah" (a man of charity), who never said no to anyone needing help. A registered ambulance driver, Hezi Mualem was a tank commander and was injured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During his eulogy, Kiryat Arba-Hevron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior called Hezi, "a soldier who died in the service of his country, on the front, for his people and for his community." He added, "Hezi was a 'public sacrifice,' pure and unblemished."
On the other side of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hevron, Beitar Illit resident David Cohen was shot in the head last Thursday morning, and he died last Friday. Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover told Arutz-7 Thursday, "We have long asked the army to put up barriers and checkpoints along this road, but the army said it had a different approach. The terrorists saw that they could attack and then return freely home, so they did. The IDF made a mistake, and we ask that it now correct this error."
Hevron/Kiryat Arba was bombarded with several days and nights of terrorist gunfire this week. Shooting was reported in all areas, from Harsina in Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of Ruth in the Admat Yeshai neighborhood of Hevron. After several warnings went unheeded, the army went in on foot and with tank-fire cover on Sunday and destroyed four points from where the Arabs had fired. Gunfire was also reported both north and south of Hevron. (arutzsheva.org Jul 13,16)
Words of Praise From Top Army Commander
"The way the residents of Yesha are acting reminds me of the bravery and forbearance shown by the people of London during the German air raids in World War II." So says O.C. Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzchak Eitan in an interview in this month's edition of Nekudah. Nekudah is a Hebrew monthly geared to the intellectual right-wing population. Eitan says that the decrease in the Yesha population is not significant, and that those who are moving out this summer are not doing so for security reasons. "The settlers are very strong in spirit, with a firm ideology, and this makes it easier for the army," Eitan says. "I have no doubt that in the end, the IDF will defeat the Palestinians. Our ability to penetrate deep into their territory and pluck out wanted terrorists is maddening to them." (arutzsheva.org Jul 16)
Sharon Defends Peres Meeting
The meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat in Cairo Sunday made waves within the national unity government. Prime Minister Sharon defended it by saying that it was never certain that the meeting would be held, and that it did not deal with diplomatic issues. Likud government ministers such as Limor Livnat dismissed both assertions out of hand: "Every intelligent purpose knew, as early as Thursday and certainly by the time Peres left for Cairo, that he would meet with ArafatŠŠ I call upon the Prime Minister to put a stop to Peres' efforts and not allow him to continue meeting with Arafat." Communications Minister Ruby Rivlin, speaking with Arutz-7 Monday, also said, "I can't deny that my heart is heavyŠŠ I suspect that Arafat is laughing at us, saying that he can even outsmart Sharon by using terrorism and still talk with us. This is very worrisome, and we are broadcasting a harmful double message - we tell the world, and we told our own public, that Arafat is an arch-terrorist, and then we meet with himŠŠ" Ministers Ze'evi and Landau made similar objections. Peres admitted Monday that the issue of the Arab "refugees" (up to 3.7 million people, of whom more than 95% are the children and grandchildren of those who actually left Israel in 1948) was raised during his meetings in Cairo yesterday. He said, however, "I didn't talk with Arafat about the refugees; it was Mubarak. There's a difference. Listen, in general, there's a difference between 'negotiations' and a 'discussionŠŠ'" The proposal submitted by Peres was to stop talking about the "Right of Return" and instead use the term "the problem of the refugees." On the way to Cairo, the Foreign Minister expressed his hope of creating a permanent channel of communications with Arafat - though Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane noted that since Peres is not the Defense Minister, it is hard to assume that they would be discussing security matters. Peres and Prime Minister Sharon agreed that his meetings with Arafat would continue. Sharon and Peres met with the Likud Knesset faction this afternoon and deliver a diplomatic/security report. Before the meeting, Sharon emphasized that the principle of "no negotiations under fire" is still valid. Likud MK Yisrael Katz objected to Peres' presence, calling him a "serial diplomatic pyromaniac." (arutzsheva.org Jul 16)
Afula Police Officers Receive Award
The weekly Senior General Staff meeting of the Israeli Police took place Monday in the Afula Police Station, as a sign of esteem for the three police officers who prevented a major terrorist attack there last week. They noticed a suspicious male, and when they approached him, he attempted to detonate a large bomb he was carrying in a bag. The police officers succeeded in overpowering the would-be killer and prevented him from exploding his bomb. This was the first time a suicide killer had been caught so close to actually carrying out his plans. Public Security Minister Uzi Landau and Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki awarded the three police officers with citations of bravery for acting courageously and with determination to save innocent lives. (arutzsheva.org Jul 16)
Five New Towns
The government approved the establishment of five new communities in the Halutza sands, in the western Negev, at its weekly meeting Sunday. All Labor ministers voted in favor, except Salah Tarif, who abstained. Prime Minister Sharon says that this will prevent the area from being turned over to the Palestinians in an exchange for Yesha lands - an idea that had been raised by the Barak negotiating team. Oslo proponent Yossi Beilin has already attacked the idea, saying that it will require Israel to give away "higher-quality territory." (arutzsheva.org Jul 15)
The Postal Authority has stopped delivering mail to the Shechem-area communities of Elon Moreh, Itamar, Brachah, and Yitzhar. The Authority says that it will not bring mail to these towns until it can acquire a bulletproof van for the purpose. (arutzsheva.org Jul 15)
AP: Arab Accusations Regarding Baby's Death Were Lies
Yet another example of how Palestinians "use" the world media to unfairly paint Israel in an ugly light was revealed last Thursday. Associated Press quoted Palestinian sources last Tuesday saying that Israeli checkpoint soldiers held up an Arab woman-in-labor for an hour, leading to the death of the baby soon after its birth. The director of a nearby clinic, Dr. Abdel Hassan Daraghmeh, told AP that the taxi had been held up at the roadblock for an hour, and the family's physician, Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, similarly said that he delivered the baby at the checkpoint after soldiers prevented the mother from traveling to a hospital. AP dutifully spread the shocking "story" around the globe - until learning yesterday that the doctors had lied. What in fact happened, according to a "corrected" AP report yesterday, was that the young mother's father-in-law - from a Bedouin family in northern Shomron - took her by taxi to a nearby hospital, and soon came upon an Israeli army checkpoint, which was closed to Palestinian traffic at the time. The man did not tell the soldiers that his daughter-in-law was in labor, and after 15 minutes, she gave birth. At that point, the taxi driver went up to the soldiers, and they allowed the car to pass. The baby, however, died of suffocation en-route to the hospital - because the family members assisting in the birth did not know how to keep his airway open. (arutzsheva.org Jul 13)
Margalit Har-Shefi Receives Pardon
President Moshe Katzav signed a pardon for Margalit Har-Shefi Wednesday. Margalit is serving a nine-month prison sentence for "not preventing" the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. She has claimed all along that though the assassin Yigal Amir had told her that he wanted to kill Rabin, she informed him that if he appeared to her to be serious about this, she would report him to the police. Many judicial experts expressed their strong objections to the conviction and sentence for judging her thoughts in a crime of omission President Katzav noted in his decision that Margalit did not have a hand in facilitating or planning the murder, and that she has in fact expressed her strong condemnation of it. He also noted her young age, the fact that there is no religious wing in the women's prison, and the fact that she had suffered in many ways throughout the long five-year period preceding the sentencing. The President said that he had consulted with various judicial elements, noting that State Attorney Edna Arbel and former GSS heads Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon had supported the decision to pardon Har-Shefi. Justice Minister Meir Shetreet said afterwards that though he disagrees with the decision, he can understand it: "It is not an unreasonable decision, considering the fact that much more dangerous criminals receive the same 1/3 off for good behavior, and her behavior was perfect." (arutzsheva.org Jul 18)
Call to Patronize Estee Lauder
Estee Lauder Corporation is being boycotted by a loud and ambitious campaign by the world's Arab and Muslim community due to Ron Lauder's (Estee Lauder's President) support for Israel, and Mr. Lauder has been extremely courageous and public in his support for the Jewish State and has taken great personal and financial risks to inform the world of the war that the Palestinian Authority has declared on Israel and Jews worldwide. To combat this boycott Jews are encouraged to buy Estee Lauder and Clinique products and to make the Estee Lauder and Clinique counters their gift of choice.
"I have confidence in the IDF, and in the security forces, who [can] provide the appropriate solutions - if only the government is determined and gives clear instructions. We don't need a 'reaction,' or 'retaliation,' or 'vengeance' - but rather the liquidation of terrorism! The liquidation of terrorism!! Not to react - but to initiate, and initiate, and again to initiate. We must make the enemy face a new situation every day, we must shake his self-confidence, make him worry about protecting himself instead of how to attack us. We are facing a war being conducted by the Palestinian AuthorityŠ The foolish Oslo Agreement is no longer in existence. We must win against terrorism; this is possible, and this is our goal now. After the situation is calmed, we will go for a better diplomatic agreementŠLook how the state looks now. Children can't travel safely to school, car bombs in city streets, Jerusalem residents under fire, communities are attacked, roads are frequently closed, theaters and malls are emptyŠ Citizens of Israel - and this is possibly the worst of all - are afraid in the only place where Jews have the strength and the rights to protect themselves. For these rights and strength, we must thank G-d every day. Mr. Prime Minister [Barak], go into the street and look what is happening. What is happening to you?! This is not the way to run a country! This nation deserves security! And it is possible to do this! We, the nationalist camp, will restore security - I promise you all, we will restore security! We know how to do it, and we also know better than them to reach a diplomatic agreement, and we will do that too! There is no reason for despair! We will win! We will win! We will win!" - Then opposition leader Ariel Sharon, speaking to over 100,000 people gathered at Zion Square in Jerusalem last Nov. 22 to protest the Barak government's policy of restraint. (arutzsheva.org Jul 17)
The 'Kapara' Syndrome By Emanuele Ottolenghi
I recently attended, in London, the screening of an Israeli documentary called The Tour - a vivid account of a bus tour of Israel by Palestinians from the territories. The movie attempted to convey a sense of sympathy to the Israeli viewer, by showing the point of view of the other: the need to empathize at a basic human level with the enemy as a precondition for reconciliation.
This theme is not new to Israeli documentaries or feature movies. What is worth mentioning is the motive behind the event, the audience it meant to target and the debate it solicited. The screening was an initiative to induce British Jews to "open their eyes" to the present reality, in order to take action and become more critically involved in the current conflict.
The debate was a typical act of Jewish self-flagellation. Buzzwords such as "apartheid," "sanctions," "war crimes," and "the need to overcome the suffocating Jewish solidarity" were the evening's shared vocabulary.
Dissenting voices were silenced by self-righteous moral condemnation voiced by the priests of critical Jewish conscience. The dominant theme was the effort to break the Zionist "conspiracy of silence" about "the atrocities of 1948" and the "historical injustice that must be redressed." One Israeli reminded the crowd that "our parents' generation lied to us about what truly happened." Another participant advocated the need for Jews to become "more actively engaged in forcing the media to be less biased in favor of Israel."
This anthropologically fascinating discussion is an example of the "Kapara syndrome," just as on Yom Kippur when Jews join a communal gathering to spend a day beating on their chests, repenting for sins committed as well as sins not committed. Kapara urges a sense of moral responsibility, and, if genuinely performed, forgiveness is awarded.
Political kapara has an important additional element - the presence of non-Jews, acting as group therapists. They help Jews acknowledge their sins, repent and turn the page (some kind of modern "secular" conversion to the enlightened values of an open society that rejects Jewish "particularism"). Their contribution is therefore to applaud the kapara effort and encourage more Jews to repent.
Only by breaking the "conspiracy of silence" that "buried the truth" for so long, only by "crushing the barriers of Jewish solidarity," can this awful situation come to an end. As the organizer put it, the most important thing is "to find a way to enable individual Jews to 'stand up and be counted,' and to 'bear witness' to the loss that has been inflicted on the Palestinians." In Israel and the Diaspora there is no such thing as a "conspiracy of silence" about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but rather the opposite.
Jews and Israelis have very heated discussions about it all the time, in the news, on TV, through the papers, academic conferences, public gatherings, synagogue sermons, limud (learning) workshops and youth summer camps. Despite the alleged "conspiracy of silence," the movie in question was actually commissioned by Channel 2 and broadcast in Israel. So much for Jewish silence.
What about the other side, the Palestinians and their "supportive" Arab allies? Fascinating question, to which kapara-syndrome patients have no answer. They actually are not even interested in the question, since their real aim is to have Jews speak to Jews. That is their only real dialogue, because they believe that a solution to the conflict depends exclusively on what Israel and the Jews will or will not do. As in the Orientalist account of the Middle East, the "native" is absent, denied agency and drawn to the margins, at best as an abused child, at worst as an inanimate object with no power, no will and no influence on history and the present. The only exception? An "enlightened" criticism of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, whose contribution to the current conflict was "not making the effort to explain to the Israeli public that by recognizing Israel, the Palestinians had already given up all they could in 1993."
So we learn that the Palestinian contribution is a bad PR effort. We also learn that the Palestinians graciously conceded to Israel "78% of historic Palestine" and that, in exchange, Israel should have given what is "morally and legally" due to the Palestinians: the right of return, the Temple Mount, moral and material compensation and all the rest. It almost feels like Israel lost all the wars, not the other way around.
Amazingly, this London episode has no equivalent among Palestinians. As for self-flagellating Jews, their picture is black and white. They do no wrong.
In their self-righteous effort to denounce Israel and become accepted by the rest of the world, in their unrelenting endeavor to admit how bad Jews are so that the Gentiles might finally like us, these self-appointed critical Jews become like the second son of the Pessah Haggada. They remove themselves from Klal Yisrael and reject what makes us, for better or worse, a nation. "And had they been there, they would not have been saved."
As for me, die-hard Oslo supporter, I understand where I belong during these testing times of tribal violence: with my people, with our country.
The writer is a junior research fellow in Israel Studies, St. Antony's College, Oxford. (Jerusalem Post July
Is It Time for Arafat to Go? More and more Israelis think so.
By Tom Rose
The first crisis to threaten Israel's four-month-old national unity government was caused by a handshake: Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were photographed shaking hands at the Socialist International Conference in Lisbon on July 1. How could Israel expect President Bush and other Western leaders to refuse to meet Arafat, critics asked, when its own foreign minister was greeting him warmly?
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, leader of the right-wing Likud party, was widely criticized for permitting the encounter, but the harshest censure was saved for Peres himself. Opinion polls showed more than 70 percent of Israelis opposed the Peres-Arafat meeting, which dominated public debate for days. Condemned by nearly every newspaper and attacked even by leading members of his own Labor party, the beleaguered Peres threatened to resign and bring the government down.
And yet mere months ago, the Lisbon meeting would have been considered routine for any Israeli leader, left or right. For the past ten years, while there was bitter disagreement about exactly what to say to him, mainstream Israelis agreed that their government had no choice but to negotiate with Arafat. Today, a sea change has taken place. For the first time since the Madrid Conference of 1991, Israelis are seriously looking at options other than Arafat, and clamor for military action is heard on all sides.
After a contentious cabinet meeting on July 9, ministers present described Sharon facing down demands for war against the Palestinian Authority. "You're all big heroes with all your advice," snapped the prime minister and famously hardline former general. "At the end of the day, the responsibility is mine. This region is not going to war." But they also reported a pointed exchange between Sharon and Peres, an architect of the 1993 Oslo Accord for which he won the Nobel prize, along with the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat. "Anyone who thought we could place our security in Arafat's hands was mistaken," said Sharon, to which Peres replied, "Without Arafat, the situation will only be more difficult."
Peres speaks for some on the left who say that, detestable and untrustworthy though Arafat may be, it isn't up to Israelis to decide who should lead the Palestinians. Increasingly, Israeli policymakers counter that it is very much Israelis' place, in fact their responsibility, to decide with whom they will negotiate. Just as three U.S. administrations have refused to negotiate with Saddam Hussein, Israel must refuse to deal with Arafat. Besides, if the last Israeli government already made Arafat the most generous offer conceivable and was violently rejected, why resume a process that leads back to the same endgame?
While most Israelis seem to have concluded that the Arafat era is over, their uncertainty and fear about what comes next are his best hope for political survival. Those who reject the new "post-Arafatism" charge that casting off Arafat, either by forcing him into exile or, should Israeli security deteriorate further, destroying his regime, would bring chaos in the Palestinian Authority and the rise of radical Islamic leaders in his place. Advocates of a new Israeli approach say it has become necessary to isolate and ultimately remove Arafat from power precisely because he has aided, abetted, and armed the terrorists who threaten to engulf the region once again in war. Among those who favor looking beyond Arafat are most of the senior officers of the Israeli Defense Forces, the very people who encouraged Rabin to engage Arafat in the first place. Defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, one of two candidates for leader of the Labor party, is the most prominent advocate of disengaging from Arafat, although he too has yet to specify how. Some military planners are less reticent. What purport to be updated top secret national security plans for an all-out assault‹‹one document is entitled "The destruction of the Palestinian Authority and disarmament of all armed forces"‹‹have been excerpted in Israeli newspapers and cited in the British publication Foreign Report.
Since it is now the position of Israel's leading political and military figures that the Palestinian Authority is not a functioning interlocutor but rather a well-financed terrorist organization, some suggest that it would be better to disable and disarm it and deal separately with the various militias and atomized terrorist cells likely to replace Arafat. IDF commanders seem increasingly of the mind that decentralized Palestinian terror will be easier to combat than centralized Palestinian terror, but also that eliminating the Palestinian Authority's oppressive presence in the life of nearly every Palestinian might allow more moderate figures to emerge.
For all its intensity, the new talk of disengaging from Arafat is still just talk. Foreign Minister Peres has not backed away from his Lisbon meeting. On July 11, he told the Jerusalem Post that Israelis could "once again trust" Arafat. The government of Israel remains committed to "restraint" in the face of Palestinian terror. And it has affirmed its intention to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission, which calls upon Israel to return to the negotiating table and reach a final status peace agreement‹‹with none other than Arafat.
Yet if public pressure continues to grow, this policy may become untenable. "If everyone in Israel comes to a conclusion that the elimination of Arafat is the only way to stop violence," said communications minister Reuven Rivlin the other day, "then we will be forced to do so." (Weekly Standard July 23)
Stopping the Madness A consensus is forming in Israel that it "won't have a peace agreement with Arafat." By Seth Gitell
If circulating reports of a planned major Israeli incursion into the Palestinian Authority are to be believed, we are about to see how reversible Yitzhak Rabin's "reversible experiment" really is. When he acceded to the Oslo Agreement in 1993, Prime Minister Rabin took the sweeping risk of allowing Israel's sworn enemy Yasser Arafat into the West Bank and Gaza in return for a commitment on the part of the Palestinians to settle their differences with Israel peaceably. In retrospect, the scope of the gamble was without precedent. When in history had one enemy not only ceded land to enemy but also given them an army as well? The United States only permitted the Federal Republic of Germany to re-arm once the country had been sufficiently de-Nazified. Japan's military remains a shadow of its prior self. Yet Rabin let Arafat reorganize his Palestinian Liberation Organization under the auspices of the P.A. ‹ in effect legitimizing the very terrorists who had taken Israeli lives not so long before.
Of course, on that bright autumn day in the Rose Garden, it all seemed to make sense. "There is a time for war and a time for peace," Rabin stated in his deep voice, echoing the Bible. Arafat, Rabin believed, would have the power to crush the Hamas and Islamic Jihad within his ranks. President Bill Clinton, who was not involved in that initial agreement, rushed to reap the political benefits ‹ prompting Rabin to take Arafat's hand. Only eight years ago, that seems so far away amidst the snipings and bombings of today.
Now come reports from CBS News and Janes Information Group in London that Israel intends to stop the madness. Both services provided copious details on an Israeli plan to launch a major attack on the Palestinian Authority. This, like Israel's Dead Sea, must be taken with more than just a grain of salt. After all, Israel's seasoned generals presumably know enough than to telegraph their war plans to the enemy. More likely, the Israeli leak was yet another message to Arafat that he really needs to get his act together--or the Israelis will get angry. (The recent news of Israeli tanks moving into Hebron seems not to be the massive attack alluded to in the reports.)
What if such an attack does take place in the days to come? A consensus, after all, already is forming in Israel that it ‹ in the words of Prime Minister Ehud Barak ‹ "won't have a peace agreement with Arafat." Those are strong words coming from the Israeli prime minister who offered Arafat the most far-ranging concessions to date, including shared control of Jerusalem and most of the West Bank and Gaza. Barak did qualify his statement, saying Israel should not remove Arafat. Barak and other Israelis believe not without reason that an attempt to remove Arafat will prompt international intervention in the Middle East comparable to the allied effort in Kosovo ‹ a ludicrous analogy, but one being made in diplomatic circles nonetheless. Others argue that Arafat will only be replaced by someone worse, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad; all three already operate freely within the territories.
The most likely response out of the State Department to an Israeli attack will be to condemn it. This goes without saying. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been slavishly loyal to Clinton's old policy of even-handedness regarding the conflict. But even the self-obsessed Clinton now seems to know the score; at a posh Manhattan book party, Clinton recalled telling Arafat that he made the former president a failure for refusing to take Barak's deal. Well, Arafat and another raven-haired Manhattan resident may have contributed to perceptions of Clinton's administration, but in this instance, Clinton is right. Arafat did ruin things for Clinton and his own Palestinian people. When he saw himself losing the game of world opinion, he again turned to violence.
Diplomatic conventional wisdom may dictate an American condemnation of Israel for doing what it must do. This would be a mistake. A better approach for the U.S. would be to treat an Israeli ejection of Arafat and his forces from the territories the way it handled King Hussein of Jordan after Arafat's mischief forced the Hashemite king to kick the PLO out of Jordan ‹ to stand by its ally. After the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ‹ under the auspices of Arafat's Fatah ‹ highjacked three international airliners and almost 500 passengers to Jordan. Soon after, King Hussein declared martial law and, two days later ordered an assault of Palestinian strongholds in Amman and other cities. Rather than condemn the Hashemite, America worked behind the scenes to make sure he remained in power ‹ even in the face of a possible Syrian attack. The result of that American action has been more than 30 years of stability in Jordan. It goes without saying that America will insist that any Israeli military action result in the smallest number of Palestinian civilian deaths.
The biggest tragedy in the possible violence in the days to come lies in the fact that at any time after 1993 it could have been averted if the Clinton administration had examined the facts in the Palestinian Authority rather than rejecting them as unhelpful to the peace process. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to make an issue out of the incitement taking place in the PA's media outlets and schools, Clinton and his henchmen browbeat him to get Israel back on the give-away track. If the words of Netanyahu had been heeded, then America could have sent a clear, direct message to Arafat to get his act together. Because everyone overlooked the truth, a messy situation in the Middle East is about to get even messier. (The New Republic Jul 16) The writer is a political reporter for the Boston Phoenix.
War is Coming By Michael Freund
It is a chilling thought, but it now seems almost inevitable: the ongoing Palestinian violence will soon ignite an all-out war. It may be just a few days or weeks away, but the die seems to have been cast, perhaps irrevocably so. After eight years of reeling from crisis to crisis, the Oslo process is now poised for its final, Chernobyl-like meltdown. It is impossible to know what the match will be that will spark the conflagration, but chances are that the Palestinians are cooking up something dramatic. Arafat seems intent on dragging the region into war, as his rejection of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak''s proposals at Camp David last year made all too clear. The Americans have come and gone, with the Mitchell Report and the Tenet cease-fire having amounted to little more than an intermission, as the curtain prepares to rise for what might be a fearsome final act.
Indeed, the Palestinians have been conducting themselves as if they wish to provoke an all-out armed conflict. There is simply no other logical explanation for their behavior. The barbarity of the Tel Aviv disco bombing seemed designed to elicit an overwhelming Israeli response. By targeting teenage youngsters out for a night on the town, the Palestinians set a new low for ruthless cruelty, one they surely knew would turn Israeli public opinion still further against them. And now, the Palestinian provocations are again intensifying, as the mortar fire on Gaza''s Jewish communities has returned, the gunfire against Jewish homes in Hebron and Psagot has resumed, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad are again blowing up innocent Israelis.
Arafat knows full well that the consequences of another mass terror attack against Israel will be overwhelming and decisive. According to media reports, the Israeli army is preparing to sweep into Judea, Samaria and Gaza and dismantle the Palestinian Authority should the terror continue. Nevertheless, despite heavy American and European pressure, Arafat refuses to rein in his minions, preferring instead to play with fire.
Perhaps the surest sign of the impending hostilities is the sudden burst of ""desperation diplomacy"". Shimon Peres'' unscheduled meeting with Arafat this past Sunday, just days after Omri Sharon''s secret visit to the Palestinian leader, are eerily reminiscent of the last-minute attempts by the previous Bush administration to forestall the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Western mind stubbornly believes that a last-ditch appeal to common sense can prevail upon hardened dictators such as Saddam and Arafat to step back from the brink. If only it were so.
Many analysts have suggested that Arafat''s goal is to internationalize the conflict, force the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force and thereby turn up the heat on Israel to make further concessions. But such an analysis is faulty, for it is based on the assumption that Arafat sees war as a tactic designed to achieve better results at the negotiating table.
It should be clear by now, though, that Arafat views war with Israel not as a tactic, but as a strategy. His aim is not to regain the 1967 borders, which were offered to him by Barak, but the 1948 borders. His aim is to destroy the State of Israel, to eliminate the Zionist presence from the Middle East.
For some, it is a painful conclusion to reach after hoping for peace for so many years. For others, it is merely confirmation of what we suspected all along: that Oslo was a bad gamble, akin to betting one''s entire paycheck on the roulette wheel of fate.
But however deep the political divisions may have been in the past, let there be no mistake about the willpower and determination of the Jewish people in the present. Arafat''s gravest error will yet prove to be his underestimating the resolve of this people to survive. As Golda Meir told a rally in New York during the 1967 Six Day War, ""Those that perished in Hitler''s gas chambers were the last Jews to die without standing up to defend themselves."" The spirit of Israel will not be broken or subdued.
Standing alone, facing an intemperate enemy bent on its destruction, Israel will still emerge victorious. The price may be high, the cost in lives excruciating, but there are times in history when a nation has no choice but to defend itself. As Woodrow Wilson, the pacifist American president who led his country into World War I, told the U.S. Congress in April 1917, "It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into warŠ But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have carried nearest our hearts."
The coming war is one that Israel neither wants nor hopes to fight. But if Arafat starts it, Israel will certainly know how to end it.
The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999. (J. Post July 18)