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
26 Cheshvan 5761
November 24, 2000
Issue number 301
Sixth Annual Yarzeit Concert For Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Torath Emeth, 1 Viewmount Avenue. Admission: $10. Separate seating for men and women.
Two Killed, Scores Injured in Hadera Car-Bomb
A large car-bomb exploded in downtown Hadera, close to 50 kilometers north of Tel Aviv, alongside a city bus, Wednesday afternoon. Two people were killed; Shoshanna Reis, 21, of Hadera, and Meir Bahrame, 35, of Givat Olga. Some 50 were injured, four of them in serious condition. Nearby stores and the apartments above them were set ablaze when what remained of the bus crashed into them; nothing remained of the car bomb except for the engine and the steering wheel attached to it. One eyewitness described what he saw: "Bloodied bodies are sprawled on the ground. The bus was actually lifted up from the ground as a result of the blast... I can't look at it anymore... There is no security, there is nothing." Prime Minister Barak blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack. Hamas released an announcement after the attack, warning Israel that if it tried to harm Islamic leaders, "we will turn Israeli life into hell." (arutzsheva.org Nov 22)
Two Killed, Many Maimed in Terror Attack Monday on Gaza School Bus
Miri Amitai, 36, a mother of four, and Gabi Biton, 34, a father of six, were killed in the terrorist attack Monday morning near the Magen Junction in Gaza. A large bomb, comprised of a 122-mm mortar shell, was detonated on the road as a school bus passed on its way from Kfar Darom to N'vei Dekalim. Eleven were wounded, including two in serious condition. Three terrorists detonated the explosive from a distance of 200 meters. Although the bus was bulletproof, it was not fortified against bombs. Three siblings of the Cohen family from Kfar Darom are hospitalized in Soroka in Be'er Sheva; a fourth one missed the bus and remained at home. The names and ages of the three children: Orit (bat Nogah), 12; Tehillah, 8.5; and Yisrael, 7. Orit and Yisrael each lost part of their right leg: Orit's foot was amputated above her ankle, while Yisrael lost his leg below the knee. Doctors operated on their sister Tehilla, 8, for 18 hours Monday night, and again Tuesday, in an effort to save her legs; two fingers on one hand have been amputated. Thousands of mourners took part in the funeral of Mira Amitai, in her original hometown of Ofrah. Among them were busloads of her students at the Girls' High School in Gush Katif, where she taught. The government laid the blame for the murders directly on Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian Authority figures, specifically Gaza Preventive Security head Muhammad Dahlan. Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said that the terrorists arrived from Area A - under total Palestinian control - and escaped back to there. Arafat had recently said that shootings from Area A upon Israelis should stop.
Shella Roznak-Shorshan, whose husband Doron was murdered by Arab terrorists in Kfar Darom eight years ago, called upon "Shimon Peres and all the others who were involved in the Oslo agreements to come and take part in today's funerals." She made the same call upon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, which voted for the original Oslo agreement. Speaking with Arutz-7, Mrs. Roznak said that whoever gave guns to the terrorists or supported the government that did so must come and see the results of his actions: "Whoever spoke of 'peace of the brave' should come and realize that we are the ones who are brave, not they - not the ones who rushed to sign agreements with murderers." She related how, a few years ago, she went to the Shas Knesset Members and "told each of them that if they vote for giving guns to the Palestinians, they will never be able to say that their hands 'did not spill this blood.'" (arutzsheva.org Nov 20)
Another Terrorist Attack Tuesday Kills Israeli in Gaza
Itamar Yefet, 18, of Netzer Hazani, was killed in an Arab terrorist shooting attack Tuesday afternoon, in the same intersection as the bombing of the school bus Monday near Kfar Darom. A Palestinian sniper shot him, in his head as he was on his way to the protest encampment erected in a nearby intersection by Gush Katif rabbis. Col. Shlomo Dagan, Commander of the Southern Gaza region, said that the sniper stood very close to a Palestinian police position, and "it is possible that it was a PA policeman himself who killed Itamar." The victim was a student in the pre-military yeshiva in Yatir, and was scheduled to enlist in the IDF next summer. (A7 Nov 21,22)
PA Policeman Murders Soldier
St.-Sgt. Baruch Snir Flum, was murdered Saturday morning in Gaza when a Palestinian policeman penetrated an IDF outpost near the greenhouses of Kfar Darom. His friend, Sgt. Sharon Shitubi, was critically wounded by a bullet to the head in the same attack; and died of his wounds on Monday. Another soldier was injured lightly. The terrorist was an officer of Muhammad Dahlan's Palestinian Preventive Security Service, and the feeling in the IDF is that the attack was carried out with the knowledge - if not the encouragement - of the organization. The officer was praised for his bravery on the front page of an official Palestinian Authority newspaper. (arutzsheva.org Nov 19)
PA Terrorists Killed
An efficient combination of intelligence gathering and offensive action led to the killing by Israeli soldiers of a Tanzim-Fatah leader who had been responsible for some 14 shooting and bombing attacks in Gaza over the past two months. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the IDF set up a roadblock on the Rafiah-Khan Yunis highway Wednesday morning, near Morag. A vehicle with four Tanzim members inside - the one the soldiers were waiting for - did not stop, and attempted to break through the checkpoint. The soldiers opened fire and killed all four occupants, including Jamal Abd a-Razak, who has been wanted by Israel since the beginning of the current battles. The IDF was also successful in liquidating five Palestinian terrorists last Thursday night. In Gush Katif, three Palestinian terrorists were killed after they were detected leaving the Jewish town of Morag; soldiers later found - and safely dismantled - large explosive devices, including gas canisters, in a greenhouse in the town. Three other terrorists apparently escaped. Two armed Palestinian officers were killed near Jericho; they had been responsible for the past few weeks' incessant shooting at Vered Yericho. (arutzsheva.org Nov 22)
Israeli Diplomat Attacked in Jordan
Israel's deputy-consul in Jordan, Yoram Havivian, escaped with light injuries from a terrorist attempt on his life Sunday. He was on his way to work at the Israeli Embassy in Amman when several bullets were shot at his car. Havivian returned to Israel shortly afterwards, and was hospitalized in Hadassah Ein Karem, Jerusalem. The Jordanian authorities said they would seek out and bring the attackers to justice. (arutzsheva.org Nov 19)
Shimon Ochana, the Border Guard policeman who was critically wounded in Gilo by Palestinian sniper fire over a month ago, was released from the hospital Wednesday. His recovery thus far is considered a "medical miracle." He will undergo a long rehabilitation treatment period. (arutzsheva.org Nov 22)
Egyptian Ambassador Leaves
The peace with Egypt, long termed "cold," just about froze over Tuesday when Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa recalled his Ambassador to Israel, Muhammad Bassiouny, for "consultations." The last time Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel was during the Peace for Galilee war; he never returned, and was replaced two years later by Bassiouny. (A7 Nov 21)
Knesset Committee Recommends Book Ban
The Knesset Education Committee recommended Monday that a 9th-grade history textbook, entitled "World of Changes," be disqualified from use. Yoram Hazony, president of the Shalem Centre, drew attention to the severe flaws in the book in an article earlier this year in The New Republic and in his book, The Jewish State. (arutzsheva.org Nov 21)
Palestinian fire continued this week against the Jewish homes in Hevron, Psagot, and in many other locations. Hevron spokesmen said that the army was responding, "but not effectively enough to stop the daily attacks." (arutzsheva.org Nov 17-22)
Hotel Workers Bear the Brunt
Three-quarters of the nation's 20,000 permanent hotel workers will go on unpaid leave for three months, starting at the end of this month - a direct result of the sharp drop in tourism caused by the Palestinian violence. (A7 Nov 17)
"A fighter learns how to give first aid to other fighters, not to little children. A fighter is not trained to face a little girl whose legs and hands have been blown off." - Israeli army paramedic Corporal Yaniv Peretz, who helped those injured in the bus bomb attack. (New York Times Nov 20)
"You promised peace, where is it? [Let the] people have their say. None of our [Knesset] seats is worth the leg of a child." - MK David Levy in the Knesset, following the school bus bombing in Kfar Darom. Levy is calling for new elections. (Jerusalem Post Nov 21)
"The soldiers told everyone not to move and called us one by one, and then anyone who couldn't move they picked up. The soldier wanted to pick me up and I said 'It's okay, I have one good leg.' And then I hopped on one foot to him." -Twelve-year-old Israeli, Matania Daiphani, describing the attack on the Israeli school bus in Neve Dekalim. (Reuters Nov 21)
"We want to tell the world that no one will force us out of here, whether Arafat wants it or not. This is our country, not Arafat's country. We must have protection so we can live in peace and security and send our children to school safely." - Dorit Tannenbaum, a thirteen year resident of Kfar Darom, following the recent bus bombing. Dorit's five children were taught by one of the teachers murdered in the attack. (Reuters Nov 20)
"Kfar Darom is just like Hanita [in the north] and just like Gilo. Kfar Darom, it happens to be, was purchased by Jews even before the establishment of the State of Israel... we don't need a consensus, and we don't need approval from anyone or from the world - we will do what we have to do, and we will continue to raise our children where we have to. Our spirit is strong... And this is not politics; this is life! ... The pain is not of our families alone, but of all Israel - and whoever does not feel it, should ask himself why..." - Eliezer Amitai, whose wife Mira was killed in Monday's bombing, at her funeral in Ofrah: (arutzsheva.org Nov 21)
"The Fatah movement mourns with pride and honour its martyred hero, hero of the Fatah Hawks, hero of the Preventive Security, hero of the Palestinian people, Captain Baha Said, who was martyred while holding his rifle against the Zionists." - From a statement issued after the terrorist attack which killed 21-year-old Staff Sgt. Baruch Flum and Sgt. Sharon Shitubi. (Reuters 11/18)
The gathering of the winds of war against Israel over the past two months have raised parallels with the crises in 1973, 1967, and even 1948. Yesterday's bombing of an Israeli school bus recalls another year: 1974, the year a school in Ma'alot was attacked by Palestinian terrorists. Perhaps it is not surprising that parents and leaders who proudly send children to die in attacks against Israel would resort to targeting Israeli children as well.
Yesterday, two teachers died and nine others were wounded, four of them children, when a large remote-controlled bomb ripped through a school bus in the Gaza Strip. In 1974, 24 schoolchildren and a soldier were killed by Palestinian terrorists who captured a school in the northern town of Ma'alot. Since the current attacks against Israel began, at least six Palestinian children aged 13 and under have died in the fighting.
Though the ability of a belligerent party to deliberately target or use its own children in warfare is difficult to contemplate, this barbaric phenomenon is impossible to deny. The Palestinian use of children in warfare against Israel is not a marginal phenomenon, but one that has been systematically cultivated with devastating results. Official Palestinian television and schools have saturated young children with hatred of Israel and glorification of warfare and martyrdom. Far from resisting the official incitement, some Palestinian parents have proudly shared the hope that their children will die fighting Israel.
Though Palestinian spokesmen, such as Hanan Ashrawi, have denied that children are deliberately sent into battle (and even labeled such charges as "racist"), the debate among Palestinians on this topic confirm its reality. Bir Zeit University, for example, asked Palestinians in a just-released poll whether they "support or oppose the participation of children (under 18) in the confrontations." Fully 74 percent, to their credit, expressed opposition, but the fact that the question needed to be asked indicates the scope of the problem.
In addition, an Arab journalist writing in a London-based Arabic newspaper has movingly condemned "Palestinian leaders [who] consciously issue orders with the purpose of ending their childhood, even if it means their last breath." Huda al-Hussein continued, "What kind of independence is built on the blood of children, while the leaders are safe and so are their children and grandchildren?"
Now we must hold these same leaders responsible for attacking our children, despite the Palestinian Authority's denial of all responsibility. This barbaric attack demonstrates the uselessness of the "cease-fire" announced by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, which he specifically limited to firing from Area A - under full Palestinian control - against Israelis.
As Israeli security officials have pointed out, this supposed cease-fire clearly permits attacks against Israelis in the territories, such as yesterday's. Nor does estimation that some extremist Islamic group, such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad, perpetrated these murders absolve Arafat. The Palestinian leadership has released such murderers from its jails, coordinated with these groups politically, and all but suspended the security cooperation with Israel that was designed to prevent such terrorism.
The game whereby Arafat does not engage in terrorism himself but signals a bright green light for others is an old one. It is not enough for Arafat to stop the shooting by his own Tanzim Fatah militia, he must work to put out the fire that he started and that is being used as cover by groups that may or may not oppose him.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, for his part, should start crying foul regarding US President Bill Clinton's refusal to unequivocally blame the Palestinians for perpetuating attacks against Israel. The US refusal to clearly assign blame for aggression is a perversion of the concept of honest broker: It is one thing to be balanced when mediating negotiations, quite another to be balanced when one side replaces negotiations with violence. Israel's military retaliations for terror are necessary, but cannot be as effective as an American decision to render Arafat's continuation of violence diplomatically counterproductive. (JP Nov 20)
Last night's grisly bombing in Hadera demonstrates that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's limitation on attacks from Palestinian areas, far from being a cease-fire, means that Israel itself is a free-fire zone. If US President Bill Clinton's pallid tolerance of Palestinian aggression continues, Israel will have no alternative but further military escalation.
On Monday morning, an Israeli school bus was bombed, killing two teachers and maiming at least three children for life. That day, Israel responded with missile strikes pinpointed on the headquarters and training bases of Fatah, the Tanzim, and Force 17, the forces that have led the armed attack. The State Department did not tarry in its response: Israel should "understand that the use of excessive force is not the right way to go." Though it was the strongest retaliation against the continuing wave of Palestinian terrorism until this writing, the response to the bombing of children clearly fell in the category of a dramatic signal rather than sustained warfare. No one believes that attacks against mostly empty buildings seriously raises the price of Palestinian aggression or will degrade their ability to carry out future attacks. Even the subsequent killing of a mid-level Fatah military leader cannot be considered more than minimal tit-for-tat retaliation, as opposed to an attempt at the decisive use of force.
Within Israel, the government's policy is rightly seen as one of maximum restraint, given the massive pressures to, as the slogan goes, "let the IDF win." Even the reporters at the US State Department were having some trouble understanding what spokesman Richard Boucher would consider a proper response, given his strong implication that Israel had acted excessively.
When asked how the US felt about the economic measures Israel has taken, Boucher replied, "We don't believe that squeezing the Palestinians economically is the right course of action." Nor is the US pincer action limited to the military and economic fronts.
When Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami had the temerity to suggest, in effect, that the international "fact-finding" mission be linked to a cease-fire on the ground, the US responded - no dice. "We understand Israel's concern that it will be difficult for the fact-finding committee to operate in a violent atmosphere," White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "At the same time we believe the fact-finding commission can play a role in assessing the reasons for the crisis."
The US position can be summarized thus: You, Israel, have no right to defend yourself either militarily, economically, or diplomatically. The best thing you can do, friend, is to sit quietly as your soldiers, citizens, and children are picked off and blown up, and wait for Yasser Arafat to return to the negotiating table. It would be some, however minor, comfort if the US refusal to support even minimal and largely symbolic Israeli efforts at self-defense were a function of State Department evenhandedness run amuck, not the will of the president. Unfortunately, there is no basis for such a conclusion.
Clinton has become so involved in the Arab-Israeli struggle that he is informally referred to as the peace process' "desk officer." More fundamentally, it is Clinton himself who has been unwaveringly evenhanded since the Palestinian attack against Israel began.
On Sunday, when asked point-blank by CNN whether the burden for getting back to negotiations lay on one side or the other, Clinton offered, "I can't really say more than that it's a troubling, difficult, and painful situation, and we've got to find a way to end the violence. You don't have to end every single instance of it, but there has to be a dramatic reduction in the violence before the parties can talk again and make commitments again that could constitute a peace agreement."
The theme that both sides are equally responsible for "the cycle of violence" is repeated ad nauseum by Clinton and all senior administration officials, including Secretary of Defense William Cohen during his visit yesterday. The implications of the US refusal to call aggression and terrorism by their name is as simple as it is deadly: Israeli and Palestinian blood will continue to flow.
Before he became president, Bill Clinton told Jewish groups that his beloved pastor made him swear on his deathbed never to turn his back on the Jewish state. This story captures Clinton's image, both here and in the US, as the best friend Israel has ever had. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday Americans celebrate today, Israel must never take for granted that critical and unique bonds of support exist within the US. At times like this, however, Clinton's bear hug foreign policy costs lives. The assault on Israel will only end when the US supports Israel's right to minimal self defense and imposes a steep diplomatic price on continued Palestinian aggression. (Jerusalem Post Nov 23)
A Short-Term Plan for the Long Haul By Evelyn Gordon
Experienced construction and agriculture workers can be imported on short-term contracts from overseas.
The cabinet's decision to increase economic pressure on the Palestinian Authority last week was easy enough to understand: Having opted for military restraint, it has few other tools with which to try to end the violence.
What is far harder to understand, however, is why the present government has also declared economic war on its own people, through its mishandling of what is termed "the closure."
The closure, whereby tens of thousands of Palestinian workers have been barred from entering Israel since the disturbances began, is a vital security measure: A comparatively open border, with thousands of Palestinians crossing every day, would make it much easier for terrorists to slip across and commit large-scale attacks. No sane country would open its doors to workers from a country with which it is at war.
The closure is also an important means of putting economic pressure on the PA. Tens of thousands of families who are without a source of income create a powerful lobby for ending the violence - which is precisely why the PA attaches such importance to revoking the closure.
Just last week, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat told US envoy Dennis Ross that ending the closure is a precondition for resuming talks with Israel; PA Planning Minister Nabil Shaath also demanded an immediate end to the closure at last week's European Union-Mediterranean conference.
Unfortunately, the closure also has economic consequences for Israel. The construction and agriculture sectors, which rely heavily on Palestinian workers, have been virtually paralyzed. This creates a ripple effect on other businesses, such as those that supply raw materials for the construction industry. It also creates hardship for ordinary Israelis: Produce prices rise, houses cannot be built. On Sunday, Finance Minister Avraham Shochat told the cabinet that the closure, combined with the slump in tourism, has already reduced projected GDP growth for next year by one percentage point (to 4 percent); if it continues, the consequences could be even more severe.
Fortunately, there is a relatively easy way to solve these domestic economic woes while leaving the closure intact: Experienced construction and agriculture workers can be imported on short-term contracts from overseas. Yet the government has stubbornly refused to implement this solution. This refusal was understandable while one could still hope that the violence would end quickly. But after seven weeks of fighting, with no end in sight, why is the cabinet still clinging to this position?
The official explanation is that the government sees this as a golden opportunity to get unemployed Israelis back to work. With no Palestinians available, the theory goes, contractors and farmers will have to grit their teeth and hire Israelis instead. But even assuming that unemployed Israelis would agree to take these jobs - a highly questionable assumption, based on past experience - this theory is pure stupidity.
No industry can function on a workforce consisting almost entirely of unskilled novices. (This, incidentally, is why the government's interim "solution" of sending high-school students to help the farmers is equally ridiculous.)
The government could reasonably require companies to hire a certain number of Israelis for every so many skilled foreign workers, but a core of experienced employees to train the new recruits and keep the business going until they come up to speed is essential.
The second argument that some ministers have raised - that such a move might permanently increase the number of foreign workers, creating social problems within Israel and making it harder to put Palestinians back to work in the context of some future agreement with the PA - is equally specious. It is easy enough to import foreign workers on relatively short-term contracts. Though some would undoubtedly stay on illegally after their contracts end, a reasonable supervisory effort could reduce this number to a minimum that would have little impact on the overall employment picture.
The government's willingness to risk throwing the country into recession is not only incomprehensible from an economic standpoint. It also severely undermines Israel's ability to stand firm in a protracted conflict with the Palestinians. The government, with its own hands, is creating an Israeli equivalent to those Palestinians thrown out of work by the closure - a class of people who are suffering economically from the conflict to such an extent that they will eventually push to end it at any price.
Cynics might say that this is precisely what Prime Minister Ehud Barak wants: to create so much misery within Israel that the public will accept concessions to the Palestinians that it would previously have considered unthinkable. But assuming that Barak's avowed determination not to reward violence is genuine, his refusal to permit the short-term import of foreign workers is doubly counterproductive: He is inflicting unnecessary harm on his own people while adding a powerful economic weapon to the Palestinians' arsenal. (Jerusalem Post Nov 21)
When the leader of the Hezbollah in Syrian-occupied Lebanon came up with a plan to kidnap three Israeli soldiers six weeks ago, his Iranian sponsors cautioned him to first get the approval of Bashar al-Assad, the new president of Syria.
That's because Israel was expected to retaliate against Hezbollah forces in areas controlled by Syrian troops. Ever since Israel pulled its troops out of its Lebanese buffer zone, Hezbollah's terrorism has been closely coordinated with Bashar in Damascus.
Usually reliable intelligence sources note that the inexperienced Bashar, eager to establish credentials in the Arab world as a militant enemy of Israel, gave his approval to the kidnap plan. This despite the danger that the Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers could lead to armed confrontation in Lebanon between Syrian and Israeli forces.
On or about Oct. 8, Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah, reported directly to President Bashar that the kidnapping had been carried out as planned. Bashar was heard to have congratulated him on its "smooth execution," goes the undercover account, and assured the terrorist leader full backing against anticipated mild U.N. reaction as well as a stronger response from Israel.
The risk accepted by Arab and Persian leaders in a daring provocation within what Israel considers its territory was evidence of what is emerging as Yasir Arafat's strategy.
From his turnabout that so surprised President Clinton at the Camp David fiasco, to his reluctance to speak out to restrain the rioting of Palestinians and sniping of his gunmen-police, his plan can be deduced:
First step is to transform the "peace process," which was in danger of succeeding in establishing a small Palestinian state, into a religious "war process" for control of Jerusalem and a state incorporating Jordan and Israel. What keeps Arafat in power is not the dubious economic promise of a struggling dictatorship but his militant followers' dream of driving the Jews out of the Middle East.
Second step is to whip up support in world opinion by creating innocent victims of Israeli guns. Palestinian snipers draw fire into civilian crowds for the sole purpose of sacrificing innocents, creating anguished funeral demonstrations and spreading hatred. Every casualty is exploitable; every picture of a boy with a slingshot rather than a gun is a small victory; the gut- wrenching film of the boy dying in a crossfire was a propaganda triumph.
Though such a war process does not win military victory, it delivers results: in a much less well-armed form of intifada a few years ago, it led to Oslo and ultimately to Ehud Barak's stunning concessions. But to attain a goal of stimulating the defeat of Israel by Arab armies far stronger than his own, Arafat needs more than sustained low-level belligerency that wears down the Israeli will; he needs to provoke a new Middle East war.
That explains the campaign to sacrifice Palestinian women and children, opening the possibility for a stray Israeli shell to inflict horrific tragedy. Infuriated Muslims throughout the region then put pressure on shaky sheiks to support another such war.
That's why we see Arafat's allies in the Hezbollah enticing Syria's strongman into taking risks his dictator- father Hafez having learned a bloody lesson that cost him the Golan would have avoided. Arafat also knows that Iraq's Saddam Hussein, developing weaponry to counter Israel's nuclear deterrent, is spoiling to send his tanks and Scuds through Jordan into his enemy's homeland.
The possibility of such a Palestinian-sparked conflagration must be foremost in Barak's mind as he deals with the rioting and kidnapping. He must respond with seeming toughness, lest Israelis scorn him for being weak; yet he must not use too much firepower, lest he fall into Arafat's wider-war trap.
Barak's demonstrated dovishness may force him to err on the side of using ever-greater force and thereby be drawn into Arafat's war process. The paradox is that the Israeli opposition leader Arik Sharon's longtime reputation for fierceness would enable the Likud leader to enforce separation, control military escalation and stop that war process.
America's mind is fixed on its own affairs, but thanks to Arafat, whoever wins the White House is sure to have a stressful first 100 days. (NY Times Nov 20)
What lurks behind Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's invitation to former president Ezer Weizman for a visit? And why would Yasser Arafat call for a cease-fire in area A of the West Bank - Palestinian territory?
These two gestures created an illusion that there was a reduction in the level of Palestinian-Israeli violence. The illusion was shattered within 24 hours.
A few hours before Weizman met Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh a highly powerful explosive was discovered and defused not far from the Egyptian border. It had been placed there by the Palestinians on the main route used by IDF vehicles near Rafah.
The next morning, while the Israeli media was discussing a reduction in the number of attacks in the previous 24 hours and attributing this to Arafat's instructions, a Palestinian bomb exploded next to a bus full of schoolchildren on their way from Kfar Darom (a village which was destroyed by the Egyptian army in the war it launched against Israel in 1948 and which was rebuilt after the Six Day War). Israeli intelligence discovered immediately that this attack was masterminded by Gaza Preventive Security Service chief Mohammed Dahlan.
Mubarak's urgent invitation was connected to President Bill Clinton's request for an additional $750 million from Congress as emergency aid to Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Several senators have objected to the Clinton administration's recommendation to give $255m. to Egypt in addition to the $2 billion it receives annually in aid. Egypt needs good PR in order to overcome the Senate's opposition to the extra funding. This would mean improving its image as a country which contributes to peace and stability in the Middle East.
Egypt's PR advisers assumed that a quick visit by the ex-president could contribute to this objective, even if it doesn't bring about pacification in the region.
The chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, objected to the granting of additional military aid to Egypt, and asked, "What is the military danger facing Egypt?" Administration officials have no answer except to admit that the military aid is intended to reward Mubarak for his assistance in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The fact is that American and Israeli administration officials were deceived: Egypt claimed responsibility for coming to Israel's rescue during the Arab summit in Cairo. They say they diverted dangerous resolutions, such as a call to Egypt and Jordan to annul their peace treaties with Israel. The Egyptians won praise, even though one of the resolutions at the Arab summit in Cairo called for the establishment of an international court, before which Israeli war criminals would be tried. In order to obtain the extra funding, Egypt needs an immediate publicity stunt which will broadcast a message of reconciliation between itself and Israel. If Egypt intended meaningful steps toward an Israeli-Egyptian agreement, Mubarak would have invited Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Instead, he invited the former president so that they would have a friendly chat as two ex-pilots, with no possibility whatsoever of tangible results.
In Arafat's case, however, his announcement of a cease-fire in Area A was not a publicity stunt. Its aim was deliberate deception. The announcement was so cunningly phrased, even Barak fell into its trap. On Sunday evening, Barak even contacted the Palestinian leader to encourage him to take additional steps to reduce violence. But this illusion collapsed instantly on the following morning, with the explosion of the school bus from Kfar Darom which shook the Israeli public. The next contact between the two leaders was not by phone, but by helicopters and gunboats which targeted terrorist units in the Gaza area. The short-lived dream of a lull in the Palestinian-Israeli clashes had vanished.
It is obvious that Mubarak preferred to pressure Israel rather than Arafat. Yesterday's decision to recall Ambassador Mohammed Bassiouny for consultations in Cairo was more a gesture of protest against Barak and an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians than it was a practical move.(JP Nov 22)
Israel has been taking it on the chin from the Palestinians. It offers them an incredibly generous package at Camp David in July; the Palestinians (and Israeli Arabs) reward it in October with the worst-ever outbreak of violence.
Likewise, the IDF fights in a careful manner intended to return the Palestinians to the negotiating table (as opposed to defeating them); in reply, Palestinians respond with heightened violence (uniformed "policemen" are now shooting at the IDF).
Nor are the Palestinians the only ones to assault Israel:
* The UN Security Council thanks Israel for its "policy of restraint" limiting Palestinian casualties - even though this adds to the injuries and deaths of its own troops - with a resolution lambasting its "excessive use of force."
* The international media ignore Israel's absorbing a range of provocations almost without retaliation (the abduction of soldiers to Lebanon, the lynching of soldiers in Ramallah, the desecration of Joseph's Tomb) and instead vilify it.
* Governments around the world respond to hundreds of incidents of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions on six continents, carried out almost entirely by Moslems, with near-silence.
Why this barrage of aggression and unfair treatment, far worse than Israel has experienced in decades?
Here's my answer: The world despises a weakling and Israel is now reaping the bounty of the soft foreign policy in place since 1993.
Israeli policy toward the Palestinians over the past seven years has been to sign about one agreement a year and then hardly insist on implementation. Of course, this laxness did not go unnoticed by Palestinians, who took advantage of it routinely to break their promises.
With a record like this, how can Israel now demand the Palestinians fulfill their promises and expect anything but derision? After letting its enemies get away with so much for so long, its citizens now wonder if they have become the mat on which anyone can trample.
Accepting this analysis means that tamping down Palestinian violence - as well as the Arab and Moslem saber-rattling, the international finger-wagging, and global violence against Jews - requires Israel to shed its weakling image.
Trouble is, the longer the Palestinians get away with their criminal misbehavior, the more heavy-handed must Israel's response be. In 1993, normal protection of Israel's rights would have sufficed. Today, a crackdown is needed. It might include several steps:
* Assert political goals. These days, Israeli policy aims only at a return to the bargaining table. It would do well to emulate the Palestinians, who have a well-articulated set of goals (end Israeli occupation, establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital). If it did, Israeli equivalents would include a complete end to violence by Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, and the Arab and Moslem states.
* Enforce agreements already signed. At present, the government asks only for a "drastic" drop in violence before returning to the bargaining table. (And the Likud wants hardly more, demanding merely a complete cessation of hostilities.) Better would be to demand complete implementation of all agreements reached since 1993 before even considering another round of negotiations.
* Choose the time and place of confrontations. If Palestinians insist on continuing the violence, stop letting them decide its terms. Actively choose the who, when, where, and how favoring Israel's interests.
* Don't worry about world opinion. Israel is so unfairly treated in this regard, it has little left to lose. Anyway, a strong Israel criticized for defending itself is far better off than a weak Israel no less criticized when it fails to defend its interests.
Such moves by a self-assertive Israel would go far to heighten the country's morale while boosting its international standing. (Jerusalem Post Nov 22)
The writer is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.
It is a terrible thing to live in a country in which there is no such thing as an act of war.
Go ahead, shoot into our living rooms, blow up shoppers in the marketplace, shoot at cars passing on the nations's highways. Desecrate our synagogues. Plow under our holy places. Call Judaism a fake, deny all Jewish claims to ever having had a Temple on the Temple Mount. Demand all of Jerusalem as your capital. Teach your children to hate Jews, and to give their lives to kill them.
We will still come to the town square and hold up signs begging you to love us. To forgive us. To please, please give us the peace and quiet we have already given you 92% of the West Bank for.
And if you tell us to go to hell, we will send our authentic Nobel Peace Prize winner crawling on his knees to you, to advise you on how to fool the people in Israel into meekly handing over what it is you want, even if it is all of Jerusalem tied up with a big bow.
"Give them one week of peace," Shimon Peres reportedly told Arafat, assuming that seven days would probably be enough to make the idiots in this country forget that for the past month Arafat and his followers have been trying to gather the entire world together for a Final Solution in the Middle East.
Wrong, Mr. Peres. Some Israelis don't even need a week. Watching the pathetic fools in Rabin Square cling to a delusional and disproven political concept was like watching those fools in the movie Independence Day holding up signs welcoming the aliens who were getting ready to blast them to smithereens.
And just as there is no such thing as an act of war in Israel, there is no such thing as an act of treason.
Want to drive a Volvo as an Arab Knesset member and still call on Israeli Arabs to join in murdering our soldiers in the intifada? No problem.
Want to advise people to break the hands of our policemen when they try to restore order? Go right ahead.
Want to found one more whining mother's organization to undermine our soldiers and give aid and succor to the enemy? Be my guest. Mothers in Favor of Dismantling the State? Mothers Encouraging Mass Desertion from the Army? Mothers for National Suicide? It's your right. And every news program will give you hours of air time to share your dangerous stupidity with the nation.
After all, we are a free and democratic state, are we not?
But what about my freedom as an Israeli citizen? I know that if I lived in Boston and someone shot into my window, or threw rocks at me in my car, and elected officials encouraged it, and public organizations then suggested the "solution" was for me to move out of Boston, they would be arrested and prosecuted. They'd all be in jail. Because you cannot do such a thing to an American citizen - or to a British citizen, or to a French citizen.
My fellow Israelis, what is the matter with you? Oslo was called a "process" for a reason. It was to be an acknowledged series of risks taken to answer the questions: Can we trade land for peace? Is there someone to talk to on the other side? Are they trustworthy? Like it or not, we have gotten our answers. All those who talk about "continuing the process where we left off" totally misunderstand the real situation. The "process" is over, and we are left where we began, with only one option: to gird our loins and start acting like citizens of a free and independent state, answering acts of war with war.
Because if we can't do that, then the Jewish State has already ceased to exist. (Jerusalem Post Nov 16)