A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
14 Shvat 5760
January 21, 2000
Issue number 255
Talks Continue, Despite Syrian Announcement
The Syrians have called off the next round of talks with Israel, which was to have begun in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, this week. Assad demands that Israel agree to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 border. Barak refuses to give such a commitment- although it was learned today that IDF personnel completed within the past few days a study of the exact location of the pre-Six Day War border. Despite press reports of a "deadlock in the talks" and the like, the Israeli-Syrian working groups continued to meet in Shepherdstown. He said that State Department Spokesman James Rubin said specifically last week that the presence of Barak and A-Shara would not be necessary in order for the talks to continue.
The Syrian Times wrote Tuesday, "The American Administration is called upon not to stand by Israel... Syria asserted that she refuses the policy of deception, procrastination, and intransigence being practiced by the Israeli side." Syria's Tishrin newspaper wrote on Sunday, "There are half a million Syrian immigrants who are waiting to return to Golan, regain their properties, and live normally under the Syrian flag... Israel has no choice but the complete withdrawal from Golan and southern Lebanon." The paper emphasized that Syria will not sign any peace agreement unless Israel's dispute with Lebanon is resolved, which requires reaching "a fair solution for the Palestinian refugees [in Lebanon]." (arutzsheva.org Jan 18)
Terrorist Attack Wounds One; Major Attack Thwarted
A Palestinian-planted bomb in a trash can in downtown Hadera injured 22 people Monday. One of the injured is in moderate condition, and many others were treated for shock. "We're looking at this as a nationalist incident," a police spokesman said - meaning that it was of a terrorist nature. Israeli Army radio said there had been warnings earlier in the day of such an attack, and some 85 Arabs have been detained for questioning. Security sources presume that the perpetrators are from the Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization with a base in the Shomron. Similar explosives were planted in Netanya in early November, injuring 27 people. Israeli security forces succeeded several days ago in preventing a massive terror attack slated for this week. General Security Service (GSS) agents, acting on intelligence information gathered from inside the Palestinian autonomy, arrested four Arab students enrolled in the UNWRA college in Ramallah. The four admitted under interrogation that they had received orders from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus to carry out a large-scale terror attack Thursday. That day marked the sixth anniversary of the one of the worst terrorist attacks in Israeli history - the Islamic Jihad double-bombing at Beit Lid, outside Netanya, in which 22 soldiers and one civilian were slaughtered and over 100 were injured. The interrogation of the four terrorists last week resulted in a special undercover IDF commando operation on villages in the areas of Jenin, Ramallah, and Hevron. By the end of last week, 20 more Palestinian terrorists involved in planning the Damascus-directed attack had been captured.
A senior security source, quoted anonymously in the Israeli media Wednesday, claims that the Palestinian Authority knew in advance of the terrorist bombing, but did nothing to stop it. The source said that the attack is an expression of Palestinian "frustration" over the developments in the Israeli-Syrian talks. Yasser Arafat denies that the PA has an interest in terror attacks against Israel. (arutzsheva.org Jan 17,19)
Barak Hosts Arafat
Prime Minister Ehud Barak hosted Yasser Arafat in his home in Kokhav Ya'ir Monday night for a meeting that lasted several hours. Barak attempted to convince Arafat to agree to a delay of up to two months in the third Oslo withdrawal, which - according to Barak's plan - was to have been executed together with the signing of final-status principles. An agreement on such principles, however, is still apparently far off. Arafat reportedly demands, in return, that the third withdrawal be significantly larger than the 1% of Yesha that has been mentioned by Israeli leaders until now. The final stage of the 2nd Oslo withdrawal, scheduled for this week, will take place within three weeks, according to Barak. (arutzsheva.org Jan 18)
Police Eager to Enforce the Law
Citizens from around the country have called Arutz-7 of late to complain of "intensified" police activity regarding actions that heretofore have not been regarded as illegal. A Golan volunteer in the southern town of Netivot, Elkanah Ba'avad, reported as follows: "We were a group of about 20, with the proper police permits and all, standing on street corners, engaged in the traditional practice of pasting [Golan] bumper stickers on cars [after asking the drivers' permission]. A policeman came over and said that whoever steps off the curb onto the street would get a ticket [summons]. We said, 'What?! We just want to give them stickers!' He said, 'There's no point in arguing - I've received orders from higher up.' We're talking about the most common thing in the country - putting bumper stickers on cars..."
From the Tel Aviv area, at the busy Mesubin junction, Eli Abramovitch reported the following: "Because we stood on the street and asked drivers if they wanted bumper stickers, a policewoman actually came up to us and gave my friend a ticket for 70 shekels. The ticket actually reads, 'for standing on the street not during the course of duty.'"
Arutz-7's Kobi Sela was told that not far away, this happened: "Our friends were hanging posters about the giant Golan demonstration, when suddenly we saw a police car stop near them. We went over and joined them. The police questioned us, and took down all our information, and even after we said that we would not post the posters anymore, they threatened us that if they saw any other posters, they would come back to us... They also threatened us with arrest." (arutzsheva.org Jan 17)
The owner of a hall in Haifa has been summoned for police questioning for the "crime" of allowing a group of pro-Golan activists to meet on his property. A policeman and policewoman arrived in the middle of the meeting Monday night, and said to owner Yigal Abutbul, "What are you connected with these guys for? What are they doing here?" The officers ordered him to show up at the police station. Public figures and lawyers who were present at the time reacted with astonishment, and one of them said, "This shows that Israel is becoming a KGB state in every sense of the word." They said they would accompany Abutbul to the police station. The police told Abutbul's lawyer that the timing of the summons was simply a "coincidence," and that Abutbul was being called to provide testimony about an event that was held in his hall over a year ago. Abutbul himself, however, told Arutz-7 Tuesday that that explanation is not true: "The policemen last night did not mention the event of a year ago at all, and said clearly that they were summoning me about the event that was going on at the time [last night]. I am a law-abiding citizen, and have held meetings here for many other parties - the Likud, the Communists, Arab parties - I couldn't sleep all night worrying about this. What, I'm not allowed to rent out my hall to nice Jews who are worrying about their rights?..." (arutzsheva.org Jan 18)
Rubenstein Shows "Restraint" - in Tibi Case
Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein made three decisions this week regarding the indictment of Knesset Members: He decided to drop charges against Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, who was accused of insulting and striking a Druze Border Guard police officer; He decided to indict Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi for financial irregularities in a non-profit association headed by Hanegbi: He announced that he had also decided to indict MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), on charges of insulting a public servant: Speaking in April 1999 at a closed forum of about six people, Lieberman called a police officer "racist" and "an anti-Semite." Both Hanegbi and Lieberman will have the right to special hearings before the indictments are served. Hanegbi set up the association five years ago to advance legislation regarding the prevention of traffic accidents. It is claimed, however, that most of the monies raised by the association were used to pay association workers' salaries and to rent a car for Hanegbi's use. The MK claims that the association's activities were legitimate, and that other MKs established similar associations to push favored legislation. Rubenstein, in explaining why he had dropped the charges against Tibi, said that Tibi recently produced an audio cassette that casts doubt on the circumstances of the incident in question - which occurred two years ago. He did not explain why the cassette was not presented earlier, but said, "There is no doubt that Tibi raised his voice and used inappropriate language. However, considering the restraint that is customary in the activation of criminal law regarding this area of speech violations, I have decided not to proceed with the request for the removal of his Parliamentary immunity." A faxed question to Rubenstein's office asked how this explanation jibes with his decision to indict MK Lieberman for a "speech violation" in a closed and small forum; no response had arrived by the time of this report. (arutzsheva.org Jan 19)
The level of the Kinneret Sea rose to -212.98 meters Wednesday, which is two centimeters above the red line, as a result of storms this week. (A7 Jan 19)
The shekel continued to strengthen against the dollar this week, reaching 4.058 shekels to the dollar. The shekel had fallen to almost 4.30 last September. (arutzsheva.org Jan 18)
Dry-Out of Yesha to Continue
The Yesha Council accuses the government of essentially "carrying out a drying-out policy in every sense of the word" in Judea and Samaria. Council leaders met with Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh Sunday night, in what they described as a "very difficult" meeting. Sneh told them that he will not approve any construction activity in Yesha other than for schools, health, landscaping, etc. Sneh told Arutz-7 Monday that even those areas that the government intends to keep in Israeli sovereignty "do not have to be built up all the time. Our intention is that until the end of the talks - which we plan to conclude by the end of the current year - there will be no changes in the map." Sneh said that small neighborhoods of "20 houses" would not be a problem to approve, and that by-pass roads are not being frozen. Sneh also claimed that there is no intention to give over Abu Dis to the Palestinians. Prime Minister Barak also said today, in response to a question on the topic, "We will carry out the next withdrawal from 6.1% of Yesha within three weeks. I do not think that Abu Dis will be included in this withdrawal." Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, speaking with Arutz-7 Monday, did not accept what Sneh said. "There are even freezes in places that are in the national consensus, such as Ma'aleh Adumim - the entire Yesha Council and others had to spend hours simply getting approval from the Deputy Defense Minister's office for two buildings in Ma'aleh Adumim to be switched on the zoning plan - and the like... We don't buy his sweet-talking answers - for instance, he said that there are by-pass roads being planned, and that he is fighting for them to be budgeted. If so, why didn't they simply appear in the just-passed national budget?" Mor-Yosef concluded, "He was given to understand that we will give him until the end of the week, and if the answers that we receive then are not sufficient, we will take action in the field." (arutzsheva.org Jan 17)
P.A. Minds Israel's Bees' Nests
Beekeepers around the country have begun a national protest against what they call the "carefully-calculated buildup of a Palestinian beekeeping industry by destroying ours." Some 2500 beehives were stolen in 1999 by Arabs and taken into the Palestinian autonomy. Beekeeper Levy Schneersohn of Kfar Chabad spoke to Arutz-7: "We raise bees in wood boxes - the contents of each one costs 2000 shekels ($487) - which must be left out in the open. 100 of our hives have been stolen, even though there is protection around the town, as well as a gate. But they simply broke through the gate, and made off with them. They are simply looting us, and somehow we as a nation accept this... No, we are not insured, because no one agrees to provide insurance for this, but we have gone to the government - which we hold to be responsible for this situation, because of its policies - but so far, to no avail. The absurdity of this situation is that we know where our hives are - near Halhoul (south of Gush Etzion) - and if I could go there I would be able to find them. But the army will not designate a group of soldiers to accompany me... This is simply a national humiliation - they are robbing us blind, and we do nothing about it." (arutzsheva.org Jan 17)
Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane reports on possible Israeli concessions and ramifications of an agreement with Syria and Lebanon: "One Israeli concession that has been discussed has been a symbolic demilitarization of none other than the Galilee. It's not clear what this means exactly, but it is reminiscent of the consent once given by Yitzchak Rabin for Syrian officers to be present on Mt. Meron in the Galilee, in exchange for an Israeli presence on Mt. Hermon in the Golan. The spirit of such proposals seems to jibe with something that Gen. (res.) Amos Gilbo'a told Arutz-7 last week. He said, "I was present at a session of the Council for Peace and Security when a senior IDF officer said that the Galilee is not a vital interest for the existence of the State of Israel. He said that in the worst case, if we give away the Golan, and a war breaks out, and the Syrians capture the northern Galilee, it would not be so terrible. It was simply traumatic for me to hear a senior IDF officer speak this way... In the western Galilee, other measures are planned in case of a pullback from southern Lebanon. The army has written a letter to the heads of communities on the northern coast, telling them that for the first few months after a withdrawal, the coastline from Nahariya up to Rosh HaNikra [about 12 kilometers] will be declared a closed military area [in case terrorists attempt to attack Israel via the water]. This decision has already been the subject of strong objections from local residents, many of whom depend on water sports and tours for their sustenance. Sasi Shemesh, head of the Achziv resort, said that the law will have damaging economic results, and is not very enforceable - ‘but I gave up a long time ago trying to find logic in the authorities' decisions...’" (arutzsheva.org Jan 17)
IMW Defends Freedom of Speech
Israel's Media Watch submitted a criminal complaint Monday against three employees of Reshet Aleph (Channel A) of Israel Radio: Director Eitan Almog, and broadcasters Judy Lutz and Elihu Ben-On. IMW claims that they prevented call-in listeners from raising the issue of the police raid of Arutz-7 three weeks ago, thus violating the Broadcasting Authority law. "Israel Radio is not private property, but rather belongs to the public, and its employees must not censor callers," claims IMW. (A7 Jan 17)
Former US Jerusalem Consul-General to Work for Arafat
Edward Abington, former U.S. consul-general of Jerusalem, has been hired by Yasser Arafat to serve as a Palestinian lobbyist in Washington. They have reportedly signed on a $ 2.25 million contract. (A7 Jan 16)
Quotes for the Week...
Quotes for the Week...
"We hope that one day you will choose to live in your only homeland. The first step is the first visit." - Jerusalem mayor, Ehud Olmert, speaking to a group participating in "Project Birthright". (Ha'aretz Jan 7)
"I can't believe I'm here, it's kind of overwhelming. There is a feeling of being connected to all these other Jews and to history. I feel that a whole new world has just opened up to me." - Jessie Oser a college sophomore from New Jersey who is participating in "Project Birthright" after tucking a note in the Western Wall. (Jerusalem Post Jan 9)
Shepherdstown Blues The New Republic Editorial
Millennialism in Middle Eastern diplomacy has always taken the form of a "comprehensive peace," or the dream of it. Israel's peace with Egypt is more than two decades old; its de jure peace with Jordan is younger, but its de facto peace with Jordan is older; and its peace with the Palestinians is young but growing less and less fragile. These accomplishments, plus the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago, have had the additional wonderful consequence of weakening and isolating Syria. All in all, it is a picture of a healing region, in which reconciliation has been accomplished realistically, and compromise has been accompanied by vigilance--a stirring picture, except for the millennialists and the Syrians, for whom the exclusion of Damascus from the charmed diplomatic circle represents a fundamental historical flaw, as if peace that is not "comprehensive" is not peace.
It is the idyll of comprehensiveness that has brought Ehud Barak, Farouk al-Shara, and Bill Clinton to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. As soon as the talks convened, it started to rain; and the weather had a point. There is no evidence of exhilaration in these talks, and its absence is owed not merely to the obvious difficulty of the negotiation that lies ahead. It is owed also to historical memory. Syria is not a state that has any claim whatever upon the admiration and the sympathy of Israelis, Americans, and other seekers of mercy and justice. The courage of Anwar Sadat, the decency of King Hussein, the pragmatism of Yasir Arafat: None of these qualities have manifested themselves in Hafez al-Assad. He has always played a cynical and dirty game, within his borders and beyond his borders. There is something darkly comic about the Syrian sense of grievance.
The Syrian position in Shepherdstown appears to be this: In return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a return to the 1967 borders, Syria is fully prepared not to normalize relations with Israel. The Syrian negotiators have recoiled in indignation from the Israeli suggestion that Israeli troops withdraw not to the 1967 lines, which would put Syrian troops on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, but to the 1923 lines, which would put Syrian troops a few kilometers from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee; and from the Israeli suggestion that an early warning station be established on Mt. Hermon; and from the Israeli suggestion that Syrian troops not be deployed at the very provocative western edge of the Golan Heights. The Syrians have no time for Israel's concerns about its own security. They want to proceed directly to their rewards, which will include the modernization of the Syrian military by the United States.
What is in it for Israel? The answer is far from clear, at least to us. Ehud Barak promised the Israeli electorate that he would bring Israeli military casualties in Lebanon to an end; and Lebanon is now a Syrian satrapy; and it may be that the regime in Damascus, in return for everything it wants, and for no other reason, will crack down on Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and the other local groupuscules of blood. Of course, Syria can crack down on the terrorists any day it wants, and thereby demonstrate its good intentions; except that it has no good intentions to demonstrate.
The Israeli government's apparent willingness to evacuate the Golan Heights, moreover, is premised on one of the great strategic fallacies of recent decades: that territory no longer matters. In the age of long-range ballistic missiles, it is said, death flies, and territory is no protection against it. It is certainly true that tanks cannot defend against missiles; but not all war is fought with missiles, and tanks can certainly defend against tanks. Territory may not be everything, from the standpoint of security; but it is not nothing. (The Gulf war and the Kosovo war proved these propositions.) And there is a political danger, too. Can the Israelis reasonably be asked to assent to the simultaneous creation of a Palestinian state on most of the West Bank and Gaza and a total surrender of the Golan to a profoundly belligerent regime that anyway will not last much longer? Surely the experiment with the Palestinians is more primary, morally and historically, than the experiment with the Syrians.
And what is in it for the United States? A bonanza for the defense industry, certainly; and an enhancement, always desperately needed, of Bill Clinton's legacy. "You shouldn't read Great Expectations or Bleak House into every arrival or departure of the president," James P. Rubin told reporters in Shepherdstown. Actually, it is Our Mutual Friend that has us worried. One of the president's interlocutors is a garden of democracy and capitalism and a proven ally of the United States, and the other is one of seven countries the State Department has designated as "state sponsors of international terrorism." Treating the two as equals in a common search for peace and magnanimity is a little grotesque, a little millennial. (The New Republic Jan 17)
Mountaineers Are Free By Sarah Honig
Were it not for inconsequential historical vicissitudes, Ehud Barak would have returned this week from negotiations at New Mecklenburg, Kanawha. But the name of the settlement established in 1727 by German immigrants who trekked southwards from Pennsylvania, was eventually changed to Shepherdstown.
Kanawha was the name the western counties of Virginia picked in August 1861, when they seceded from their state because it had seceded from the Union the previous April. Virginia's westerners resisted powerful pressure from eastern plantation owners to drag them into the Confederacy. They resolved to form a new state and give it the Indian name which meant Place of the White Stone, referring to the region's salt deposits. Yet by the time they drew up their constitution in November, they reconsidered the name and chose West Virginia. Because of all these name games, Barak did not end up holed up in New Mecklenburg, Kanawha. Yet his stay in Shepherdstown W.Va. is likely to lead eventually to new name changes.
The Golan will probably revert to the Syrian Heights, while Katzrin, Neveh Ativ, Ortal and 30 others will become historic episodes as esoteric as New Mecklenburg. Barak's name changes of course will be more than cosmetic and far from innocuous. They will also mean population displacement and the destruction of three decades of dedicated labor.
Nonetheless, Barak is intent on facilitating them, not because he doesn't know what they entail and not because he is a villain or a traitor. Not at all.
Barak has in recent years undergone a conversion. The general who once warned darkly against ceding the Golan is now pushing with all his might for it, and not because conditions have altered. His mind set has.
He has convinced himself that it's really all for the best. His recent confinement in the former New Mecklenburg constituted the final phase of the process. He has come a very long way since his days in uniform.
In his civilian life, the most significant factor has been his growing chumminess with Bill Clinton. He has done for Barak what few American presidents have openly dared do for even their most promising foreign proteges. Clinton pulled out all stops in his unabashed intervention in Israel's domestic politics, when he supported Barak in a fashion unseen since the CIA's blatant interference in Italy's post-World War II election.
Brashly, Clinton did not even bother to cover up his tracks but sent his own spin doctors to get Barak elected. These same Clinton advisers now advise Barak again - this time on how to win the upcoming referendum, so he can actually deliver the goods to the tyrant of Damascus.
Amazingly, this raises no squawk. We're told Clinton is our best buddy. If we only do his bidding, Bill will foot our bills.
Boosted and flattered, Barak has already come under his sway, is amenable to his persuasion, helps Hillary's New York campaign, would like to oblige her husband, and probably tells himself that there is no other alternative. This will be his message to us in the referendum showdown.
So far we have only heard from opponents of a Golan withdrawal, which is why opinion polls now smile upon them. The proponents have not really begun to answer back. But they will, once Barak produces a pact of sorts - which he will, if Clinton has anything to do with it. The small print won't matter. The public can be counted upon not to examine details.
Moreover, as this week's Labor Party deliberations clearly indicate, we will be told that once an agreement has been contracted and initialled, it'll be dangerous to reject it. We will be warned that such rejection is akin to a declaration of war, especially considering the undemocratic and ruthless nature of our peace partners. Barak's line at that point will be that it's too late to argue about whether we should have at all dealt with this unsavory lot. What's done is done and we must sign on the dotted line. Such fear-mongering will then enable Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to chime in with his sage ruling that we must consent in order to prevent bloodshed.
The stick of scare tactics will be accompanied by an ostensible economic carrot in the shape of vast benefits awaiting us if we only rid ourselves of the Golan - which really was a burden all along, only we didn't know it for nearly 33 years. After a while, the shock of losing the Golan will wear off and the public's resistance will be worn down.
American aid will allure. Local taxpayers won't be told that the losses Israel will incur will far outstrip the compensation. American taxpayers, who'll hate us for picking their pockets, will not be told that either.
We will end up paying over and over for the very same compensation. We will become so reliant on reluctant American handouts that we will be deprived of the ability to say "no" to any dictate. While Syria grows fatter and fiercer on American aid, we will have to make more concessions to win the inadequate compensation for our initial concession of relinquishing the Golan. The weaker we get vis-ê-vis Syria, the more dependent we'll become.
In other words, we will lose our freedom. We will be going precisely in the reverse direction from that taken by the rugged, hardy mountain folk (derisively called hillbillies) who decided to break away from rich Virginia. They were determined to assert their independence of spirit regardless of the awesome wartime risks.
The seal they fashioned for their new state declares "montani semper liberi" - mountaineers are always free. It would be nice if Barak pondered the motto's meaning and considered whether Israel will ever be as free after his sojourn in what was almost New Mecklenburg, Kanawha. (Jerusalem Post Jan 16)
Treating Israelis as Invisible By: Helen Schary Motro
When a group of prominent Jordanian journalists returned from a visit to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in September, their welcome-home greeting was an order expelling them from the Jordanian journalists association. The three were not reinstated until they signed a formal apology for participating in the forbidden dialogue. The apology included these words: "We believe that the opposition to normalization is a crucial matter, which is done to prevent the 'weak-hearted' from falling into an Israeli trap. We still view Israel to be a conquest state, and hold that it's impossible to conduct policies of normalization with her. We know that our profession enjoins us to reveal Israel's racism. We believed this task could not be done without visiting Israel."
Stripping the journalists' credentials until they agreed to sign their "statement" at best smacks of the insidious pressure of the United States House Un-American Activities Committee and at worst is reminiscent of the admissions of misguided Bolsheviks at the height of Soviet repression or the confessions of China's Cultural Revolution. The travesty of the Jordanian journalists coincided with the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.
President Clinton recently noted the significance of the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations to the lives of "hundreds of thousands and millions" in the Middle East. But interaction between leaders is only a first step; it must be allowed to filter down to individuals of each country. When such discourse is prohibited, peace becomes a hollow concept.
Ever since the borders opened with Egypt in 1979, Israelis have been flocking from Giza to Abu Simbel, and there's hardly a traveling Israeli who hasn't been to Petra at least once. As soon as peace feelers with Syria emerged, tour companies put Aleppo on their drawing boards. But the traffic is all one way: Tourists from Arab countries to Israel are practically nonexistent.
Israeli tourists may be tolerated, but interpersonal contact, whether organized or impromptu, is discouraged. Arabs who transgress may face severe consequences. If an Egyptian applies for a visa to visit Israel, he becomes the subject of an internal loyalty investigation.
When the head of the Fulbright Foundation in Israel visited the Egyptian Fulbright offices last fall, he was not given the visible welcome accorded the other guests of honor. At the 1999 international film festival in Cairo, Israel was not invited to participate. The American International School in Israel is not welcome as a member of the Mideast region's international school association. At an international medical conference to be held in Cairo this month, the Israeli physicians invited as faculty by the American organizers appeared minus their country of origin on an official printed list. Despite assurances from the American society organizing the conference of efforts to send out a midnight-hour correction, none arrived.
These are but a few examples of the deliberate and open ostracism practiced by the two Arab countries that maintain formal peace with Israel and among which there exist full diplomatic relations. As the Jordanian journalists learned the hard way, what they thought was dialogue became forbidden "normalization" and almost robbed them of their livelihoods.
So why keep trying to go where you are unwelcome, to gain entry into the
club that doesn't want you? At least peace means there are no armies shooting at one another. But bowing to this status quo is too facile a response. Peace in name only is no peace. If dialogue in the present is prohibited, bullets in the future are inevitable. Hatred can only die by de-demonizing stereotypes.
A few years ago the Egyptian Nobel laureate novelist Naguib Mahfouz was injured while eating in a Cairo cafe, the victim of a terrorist attack by his compatriots. The author's crime? He had been indiscreetly outspoken in supporting the peace process. In December a tribute was held in Jerusalem in honor of Mahfouz. An Egyptian playwright in attendance said he heard the flapping of the wings of peace, and journalists termed the event an auspicious occasion.
In light of the concerted policy of cultural and personal exclusion practiced with official sanction in Egypt and Jordan, such optimistic predictions smack of naivete - or delusion. As long as Israel and Israelis are persona non grata across the border, what masquerades as meaningful dialogue is merely a sham. Like love, neighborliness is a two-way street. (Christian Science Monitor Jan 12)
The writer is an American lawyer living in the Tel Aviv area.
Syria's Chutzpa Jerusalem Post Editorial
For a long time, Syria's demand that Israel accede to a withdrawal to the de facto border that existed just before the Six Day War - the "June 4" line - could have been interpreted as maximalist posturing designed to prevent talks from starting at all. The pointed absence of a mention of the June 4 line in Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara's speech opening the talks was taken as confirmation that Syria was finally ready for business. It is therefore a serious step backward on Syria's part to once again refuse to talk until Israel completely capitulates to its demands.
Though President Hafez Assad has never been accused of possessing expertise in Hebrew or Yiddish, his current stance neatly defines the concept of chutzpa in two respects. First, Assad is again stipulating not only that his demands be fully met, but that they be met as a precondition for beginning negotiations.
There is no reason for Israel to formally accede to such a demand, which would effectively leave only Israel's demands subject to negotiation. From a legal standpoint, Syria's demand for a total withdrawal is contradicted by the primary basis for the negotiations, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.
Resolution 242, which marked the end of the Six Day War, speaks of the right of every state in the region to "secure and recognized" boundaries. The plain meaning of this phrase is that Israel's pre-'67 borders were neither secure nor recognized. The resolution pointedly referred to "territories" rather than "the territories" in order to further clarify that Israel would not be expected to withdraw completely from the areas captured in a war of self-defense.
In case there is any question regarding these points, the proof is provided by Syria itself, which for years after Resolution 242's passage opposed that resolution on the grounds that it did not require a complete Israeli withdrawal. This interpretation was confirmed by a 1975 letter from US president Gerald Ford to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, asserting that "a peace agreement must assure Israel's security from attack from the Golan Heights" and that the US would give "great weight" to Israel's position that it must "[remain] on the Golan Heights." Though Israel did withdraw from every inch of the Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel has no intention of withdrawing completely from the West Bank and Gaza. Since the geographic realities in each case are very different, it is not clear why it is assumed that a Golan deal must follow the Egyptian precedent.
Given this legal background, Israel would have been on solid ground coming to the table with its own precondition, namely that it would not withdraw completely from the Golan. Rather than stressing Israel's strong legal case, the diplomatic efforts of the last four prime ministers have made it clear to every Israeli that what is being discussed is withdrawal from most, possibly all, of the Golan Heights. In this context, the Syrian demand to short-circuit the negotiations further by submitting completely to its position as a precondition should be rejected out of hand.
The Syrian chutzpa does not stop, however, with the attempt to preempt the negotiation process, with Assad's refusal to personally negotiate with Israel's prime minister, or the refusal of his foreign minister to shake hands with Israelis. Perhaps the greatest chutzpa is the demand that Israel withdraw to the June 4 line, and not to the 1923 border between the British and French mandates. Though it is difficult to tell them apart on most maps, there are fundamental differences between the 1923 line, often called the "international border," and the line as it stood on June 4, 1967. Syria claims the entire Golan on the basis of, in the words of Resolution 242, "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." Yet the difference between the June 4 and 1923 lines is precisely the Syrian forcible encroachments on territory that belonged to the British Mandate, became part of Israel, and to which Syria never had any recognized claim of sovereignty.
Under the 1949 armistice agreement, Syria withdrew from territories it captured during the War of Independence to what had been the border between the British and French mandates. Though Syria never recognized what it called "colonial" borders, neither did it claim sovereignty over the territory it had captured. The areas that Syria withdrew from were designated "demilitarized zones." Over the following 18 years, Israel asserted its claim to sovereignty by cultivating the demilitarized zones, while Syria shelled the Israeli tractors and encroached over the line with its forces.
By demanding that Israel return to the June 4 line, Syria is asserting that for Israel to keep what it acquired by force is "inadmissible," while what Syria acquired by force is sacrosanct.
Israel's negotiating position cannot be determined only by practical considerations relating to security and water resources. Syria has a right to claim that its sovereignty is inviolate, though that claim must be reconciled with Israel's right to secure borders. At the same time, Israel must continue to assert its own sovereignty by starting negotiations from the 1923 line, and not from a line defined by Syrian incursions in violation of the 1949 armistice agreement. (Jerusalem Post Jan 20)
Slapped in the Face By Uri Dan
Assad the dictator has something the beadle of Jerusalem has lost - national pride
The ringing slaps in the face Hafez Assad gave Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton prove once again that neither Barak nor Clinton has grasped whom they're up against. Thanks to Clinton, Barak is now on a sprinter's schedule. Two months from now, he and Clinton have said repeatedly, there will be an agreement with the Syrians: Barak, because he has decided to give up the Golan, in the delusion that he will be creating a New Middle East, and Clinton, because his window of opportunity to win the Nobel Peace Prize will close when his term of office ends.
Though Hafez Assad's foreign minister, Farouk Shara, agreed last week in Shepherdstown to come for another round of talks this week, Assad decided otherwise. He doesn't care what his lackey promised. He doesn't care that Barak had already prepared his departure ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport.
He doesn't care that Clinton himself and Madeleine Albright called to persuade him to carry on the "process." He's not excited by the billions of dollars flaunted in his face, as are the political speculators purporting to be leaders in Jerusalem.
Assad isn't impressed, either, by the flattering assessments by Israeli Intelligence that he is a great and respected leader, to the tune of the serenades Barak has been singing in his ears while begging to shake his hand.
That's because Assad the dictator has something the beadle of Jerusalem and most IDF generals have long since lost - national pride.
True, he has already heard from the Americans that Barak is willing to withdraw from all the Golan to the international border. But even that is not enough for him. He wants to hear it, through Shara, from Barak himself. Not in sports briefs in the fitness room of the the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, but openly, around the negotiating table, and in the presence of the Americans, who will guarantee its implementation. And in exchange for all that, Assad is willing to let a few bedazzled Israelis eat humous in Damascus.
The US can recover from the knockout punches from Assad, who has not halted terrorism against Israel. But the Israeli government, begging to give up the Golan and to uproot its residents, is degraded, and Israel is weakened. In the old and familiar Middle East, that Barak, like Shimon Peres before him, claims to be changing, the danger to the Jewish state is growing.
Barak is keeping his negotiations on this fateful issue secret from his people and his government, while he is all openness and transparency to Clinton, Albright, and through them, of course, to our archenemy, Assad. After all, Barak is an honorable man, "not like Bibi who lied all the time," his supporters say proudly. To the Americans and the Arabs he tells all the truth.
The average person, like many in the media, might think that in that sequestered hotel Barak is suddenly showing himself to be an outstanding negotiator. But it's enough to read the signs, as the Intelligence people would say, to understand that this isn't the case.
Have you forgotten how he handled the protests of the handicapped? Then consider the embarrassing show this week, how only by pleading with his ministers he just barely got his cabinet to approve the appointment of the Bank of Israel governor. This is how he handles an ordinary problem. He knew for 16 months that Jacob Frenkel was leaving, yet he couldn't find a replacement until the last minute. Do you think he'd handle the fate of the Golan settlers any better?
This is another warning sign to Barak himself that he must reexamine his assessments and his decision making. Doron Cohen is his brother-in-law and loyal adviser and apparently also a successful lawyer. But with Doron and the charming Nava you can't run a Jewish state which is at a fateful crossroads. Or there will be more ringing slaps in the face, and not just from Assad. (Jerusalem Post Jan 20)