A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
19 Adar Aleph 5760
February 25, 2000
Issue number 260
NY Post: Clinton Opens U.S. Coffer$ in Bid For Golan Peace
President Clinton has secretly orchestrated a peace plan for Israel and Syria that gives Syria complete control of the Golan Heights, rights to the Sea of Galilee -- and $15 billion in economic aid. Although the deal has not been signed, sources told The Post Syrian President Hafez Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday gave their consent to the groundbreaking accord. "I believe we have enough here to achieve final peace," Barak said in a top-secret meeting, the minutes of which were obtained by The Post. Quipped one Cabinet member after the meeting: "Maybe President Clinton will get that Nobel Peace Prize he wants." Clinton has been working feverishly to bring the two countries together after peace talks in Shepherdstown, W.Va., ground to a halt last month when the two countries refused to agree on how to divvy up the Golan Heights. Negotiations intensified in the past four weeks -- but had hit a snag again over violent clashes in Lebanon. Hezbollah killed seven Israeli soldiers in a rash of attacks, and the Israelis retaliated by bombing Lebanon power stations. But tensions eased -- and the United States took advantage of the relatively peaceful lull, sources said. Israel seized the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Syria has demanded every inch back -- plus a huge economic package. Israel said it was willing to hand over most of the territory, but wanted to keep control of the Sea of Galilee and the international border. Under the new deal, Israel has agreed to hand over all of the heights, including the sea and its fishing rights. Only two snags remain -- Syria is demanding an additional several billion dollars in arms from the United States beyond the $15 billion in aid. Barak objects to this. Barak also insists Syria should not be allowed to police the border. Instead, he asked Clinton to post U.S. peacekeeping troops there for at least 10 years. In addition to the $15 billion for Syria, Clinton offered Israel an estimated $15 billion in arms and at least another $15 billion in economic aid so that it could relocate its citizens from the Golan Heights, sources said. The three leaders will not meet again until all the details have been hammered out -- but a final peace accord could be signed by May, the sources said. (NY Post Feb 23)
New Map: Six Settlement Blocs to Remain; Not Kiryat Arba
Israeli security elements have prepared a rough draft of a permanent-status map of Judea and Samaria, according to which only six settlement blocs in Yesha will remain under Israeli sovereignty. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the six are:
Some of the blocs will not be contiguous with the State of Israel. Kiryat Arba will not be included under Israeli sovereignty, according to the proposed maps. At the same time, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh denies that he has prepared a plan detailing the future evacuation of 21 Yesha communities. The denial came in reaction to a report Sunday on Galei Tzahal Army Radio that the government intends such a plan.
Huberman reports that according to the new maps and the Galei Tzahal report, there will be three types of communities: "Those that will fully be annexed to and physically connected with Israel; a new category of towns that will come under Israeli sovereignty but which will have no territorial contiguity with the State of Israel; and those in territory to be handed over to the Palestinian territory - these last will be uprooted."The first group of settlements will simply be incorporated into Israel," said Huberman, " - in some cases by making simple border adjustments. In the northern Shomron, for instance, this group includes a bloc of communities in close proximity to one another and to present-day Israel. The same in the Modi'in bloc, in western Binyamin. Other areas will be connected to Israel by way of a narrow strip of territory, such as Ariel and the Karnei Shomron towns. Gush Etzion, too, south of Jerusalem, will be connected to Israel via the current Tunnels Highway. Ofrah and Bet El, which Ehud Barak promised would 'remain Israeli forever,' will be incorporated into Israel, and will be linked territorially by the Ramallah bypass road, as they currently are, to northern Jerusalem. At the same time, it is important to understand that the government plans to hand over Jerusalem's northern neighborhoods, which will effectively become subsumed in the Palestinian entity in the Ramallah region." An example of settlements to be included under Israeli sovereignty but with no physical connection to Israel is the mid-western Binyamin bloc of Dolev and the Talmons. "Travelers to and from this bloc will have to pass through Palestinian territory," Huberman said. "They will be provided with enough land in which to expand, such that they will not be limited...Another bloc of settlements is in northern Binyamin, south of Tapuach: Shilo-Eli-Ma'aleh Levonah-Shvut Rachel will remain a bloc, but the question is whether they will be annexed and connected to Israel's Jordan Valley area, or whether they will remain an enclave unto itself." In Gush Katif, Netzarim, Kfar Darom, and Morag are scheduled to be uprooted, according to the plan, while the northern Gaza Strip towns of Nisanit, Dugit, and Elei Sinai will be annexed to the Ashkelon area of Israel.
When asked about Sneh's denial - which was later echoed by Prime Minister Barak - Huberman replied, "I know who my sources are, and I know that this information is accurate. It could be, though, that Sneh is referring to the intention to uproot some of the towns, because that is really not an army decision, but rather a political one. The defense ministry people merely recommend that certain towns should remain outside the final Israeli borders; what happens to them afterwards is no longer in their realm of authority."
The Yesha Council stated that it is confident that a majority in the government and the nation will not allow the minority that wishes to uproot the Yesha settlement enterprise to do so. Binyamin Regional Council Head Pinchas Wallerstein, former Chairman of the Yesha Council, does not accept the concept of settlement blocs. "These maps do not indicate blocs," he told Arutz-7, "but rather that whichever settlements will remain will do so - if at all - in all sorts of niches and enclaves. If not, then why wasn't Kokhav HaShachar [between Ofrah and the Jordan Valley] included in the eastern Binyamin bloc?... This is not just a map of individual communities that will or will not be uprooted, but rather a map of intentions by the government for the entire Judea and Samaria and Jordan Valley. For instance, the cession of Tapuach is not merely significant for the people of Tapuach - it means that the government of Israel has made a conscious decision that Ma'aleh Ephraim ["capital" of the Jordan Valley] will be cut off from the entire Tel Aviv region. There will simply be no Cross-Samaria Highway... Similarly, there was no reason to uproot Kokhav HaShachar unless there is a plan to give large chunks of the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians." His voice pockmarked with sighs and emotion, Wallerstein said, "Leaking this list is a trial balloon of sorts, to see how the people of Israel will react to hearing a list of names of settlements. The expectation is that many of them will say, 'OK, well, it's only the settlers.' But it's really much more than that - it's major portions of the Land of Israel, as well as the tens of thousands of people who will be affected." (A7 Feb 20)
Arab Terrorist Stabs Son of Hassidic Leader
A young hareidi resident of Jerusalem's Beit Yisrael neighborhood was lightly injured Wednesday when an 18-year-old Arab terrorist stabbed him in the shoulder at the Mashbir junction near northern Jerusalem's Atarot neighborhood. The terrorist also tried to stab another man, but was pursued by local residents, who captured and restrained him until police arrived. The same terrorist was responsible for the stabbing of an IDF soldier just four years ago but was released from custody after only three months. Hakol Mehashetach news agency reports that the stabbing victim is the son of the Grand Rabbi of the Avraham Yitzchak Hassidim, a group once associated with the Toledoth Aharon Hassidim. Upon hearing the news, Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami responded: "The solution to Palestinian Arab violence lies in a hastening of the negotiations with the Palestinians." Tuesday, the General Security Service (GSS)announced that it had cracked a 60-member Hamas terrorist cell with roots in both Shechem and Hevron. Under interrogation, members of the cell admitted responsibility for this winter's Hadera bombing and two terrorist bombings in Netanya. Those attacks injured a total of 49 Israeli citizens. The GSS operation thwarted plans by the cell to blow up two Egged buses and a twelve-story apartment building. (arutzsheva.org Feb 23)
Arafat and Palestinian "Discontent"
"Ehud Barak has disappointed me, even though he was elected to the position of Prime Minister because of me." So said Yasser Arafat in an interview with an Italian newspaper earlier this week. Arafat added that, in his opinion, Barak is "even worse than Netanyahu." The publication of Arafat's comments comes against the backdrop of failed attempts by U.S. envoy Dennis Ross, who is presently visiting Israel, to re-start the Israel-PLO talks. Speaking with Arutz-7, Yediot Acharonot journalist Roni Shaked stated that the government possesses the following intelligence information regarding Arafat's negotiating strategy: "Arafat knows that if he tries to pressure Israel to make further concessions by encouraging bus bombings and the like, this would work against him: Israeli public opinion would push to have Israel-PA talks brought to a halt," said Shaked. "In his interview with the Italian newspaper, Arafat gave expression to reported frustrations on the Palestinian street, a sense that nothing has really changed since Barak took power. He's even being called 'Barakiyahu' - to suggest his policies are identical with those of Netanyahu." Shaked said that Israeli security sources have learned that Arafat is planning - after the Pope's March visit - to "heat up" the Palestinian street. His goal will be to create the impression that a popular uprising is on the verge of erupting should Israel not capitulate to Palestinian territorial demands. Shaked said sources are expecting rioting in Hevron, the Yosh junction outside of Ramallah and Bet El, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem - "and other sensitive areas." (arutzsheva.org Feb 23)
"He Didn't Know Me, Either"
Eli Joseph is in the 46rd day of his hunger strike on behalf of the imprisoned Jonathan Pollard, and shows no sign of faltering. Asked if he has taken this drastic action because he knows Pollard personally, Joseph said, "No, I don't know him, and neither did he know me when he decided to submit information to Israel in order to protect me and other Israeli citizens." Asked why he is protesting in front of the Israeli Knesset and not against the American government that has imprisoned Pollard, Joseph answered, "From the American point of view, he's guilty. From our point of view, he's innocent, and therefore it is incumbent only upon us to do everything we can to get him out." Despite the above, Joseph participated in a demonstration opposite the American Embassy in London on Thursday, and will participate in a similar event on Sunday in Paris. On Wednesday Eli Joseph takes his battle to the doorstep of the White House, where he plans to organize yet another demonstration and call upon President Clinton to immediately pardon Pollard. Joseph will return to Israel for a March 5th demonstration opposite the Knesset. "Ever since I read an article last Rosh HaShanah about Pollard, I have been tortured by my shame that I was doing nothing to help him, and I finally decided to do something," he said. Though he continues to visit and run a school for new immigrants, of which he is the principal, Joseph said that he hopes "G-d will give me strength to continue the strike for 120 days." (arutzsheva.org Feb 22)
Israeli Cab Hijacked, Driver Beaten
Another Israeli cab driver was hijacked and robbed near the Maccabim roadblock Saturday night. The episode began when the driver agreed to transport Palestinian Arabs from the Holon region to PA-controlled Ramallah. Soon after the Maccabim roadblock, the Palestinian passengers began to choke him, beat him, tied him up, and put him in the trunk of the car. As the Arabs approached Ramallah, they tossed their prisoner onto the side of the road. (A7 Feb 20)
Egypt Incites Against Israel
Egypt, via its official radio, publicized a statement of support for Hizbullah, prompting Foreign Minister David Levy to call on Egypt to "prove its commitment to peace and to cease its incitement against Israel." An Egyptian radio commentator said that Israel has adopted Nazi policies, and has even out-done the Nazis in this regard: "Israel is creating a real incinerator, according to the Nazi model, against our Lebanese brothers."
Aryeh Stav, whose Ariel Center for Policy Research keeps tabs on anti-Semitism in the Arab Press, sees nothing unusual in the latest examples accusing Israel of Nazism. "The Nazi caricatures are not new," Stav told Arutz-7. "These kinds of images accompany the media and educational materials in several Arab countries, mostly Syria, Egypt and Jordan, and even intensify following the signing of various 'peace' treaties between Israel and her neighbors. This began with Camp David, continued with Madrid and Oslo, and reached a height when Israel signed a deal with Jordan." Hitler's Mein Kampf has been released in countless editions in Cairo, Damascus, and most recently within the Palestinian Authority" - where it reached the best-seller charts. The deeper reason behind the using of the Nazi imagery in reference to Israel, Stav noted, "is so that the Arab governments may prepare their respective populations for the fateful day on which Israel will be destroyed once and for all. By denying the Jew his human essence, and by removing the legitimacy of the Jewish state, the Arab world is looking for a moral license to eradicate 'the Zionist blight from its midst.'" Stav concluded by observing that the Israeli public is not sufficiently aware of the extent of open Arab anti-Semitism. "Our press does everything it can to hide the facts from the public, especially the intense anti-Israel rhetoric of Israeli-Arab citizens. The facts are simply outflanked by the all-encompassing mantra of peace." (A7 Feb 20)
Syria Lauds Garaudy
Syria's government-sponsored Tishrin newspaper continued its campaign of Holocaust-denial this week: The paper approvingly records the words of French writer and Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy during his recent lecture at the Cairo Book Fair. "As it is his habit, world Moslem thinker Roger Garaudy did not ...disappoint his readers," writes the paper. "Garaudy spoke about the most current political issues...In response to a question about the Zionist propaganda relating to the Nazi 'holocaust,' Garaudy said mockingly: 'The Jews claim that Hitler burned six million Jews during the Second World War, but all statistics and historical references show that the Jews in all of Europe were no more than three million." PA Communications Minister Imad al-Falouji and PA General-Secretary Ahmed Abdel-Rahman led a public rally in his support in Gaza on January 19, 1998. At the time, Falouji said: "We condemn the trial of the Muslim writer Roger Garaudy, and we ask all believers in human rights and freedom of expression to back him." (A7 Feb 23)
Meridor: Oslo Is Bad
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Dan Meridor (Centrist party) fears that Israel and the Palestinians may be on the verge of an armed conflict. In an interview published in last Friday's Yediot Acharonot, Meridor said that we "must attempt to prevent the clash, but we should be prepared for it." Regarding the Oslo process, Meridor said, "It was bad. A norm was set by which the Palestinians do not fulfill agreements, and we suffice with shrugging our shoulders... Further concessions by Israel will merely increase Arafat's appetite." Turning to the Golan Heights, MK Meridor said he objects to a withdrawal from most of the Golan under the present circumstances: "It's been quiet up there for 25 years, and there is no need to give the Golan to the Syrians in exchange for continued quiet." (A7 Feb 18)
P.A. Expert Refuses to Sit with Yesha Resident
Palestinian Authority environmental expert refused to share a podium last Thursday with his Israeli counterpart, simply because the latter is a resident of Shomron. The events developed as follows: A segment of a television series dealing with Jewish-Arab relations in Israel was being filmed in Tel-Ad studios last night, and two experts on environmental issues were scheduled to appear: Dr. Zhad Ish'chak and Director of the Shomron Cities Association, Yitzchak Meir. When the former saw his counterpart, he tore off his microphone and announced that he refused to sit next to Meir. The producers spent 15 fruitless minutes attempting to convince Ish'chak to change his mind, and then decided to try another tack: They asked Meir to leave. Meir protested, and refused to do so. In the end, the program was filmed without either of the two experts. (arutzsheva.org Feb 18)
IDF Officer Stands up (To) Arafat-Aide
A high-level IDF officer cancelled his meeting with a senior Palestinian Authority leader, after the latter compared Israel's policies to Nazism. Brig.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, Deputy Coordinator of Activities in Judea and Samaria, called off a routine meeting scheduled for this week with Arafat-aide Mahr al-Kurd, who said in Ramallah last week, "Israel is turning Gaza into a concentration camp and is implementing Nazi policy." (A7 Feb 17)
Majority Against Uprooting Yesha Towns
The Yesha Council’s new slogan, "Uprooting Settlement Will Tear the Nation Apart," has apparently succeeded in effecting a change in public opinion. Whereas before the beginning of the campaign, 54% of the public felt that the uprooting of Yesha settlements would in fact cause a major rift in the nation, that number now stands at 65%. There is a majority even among Barak voters - 55% - for this position. 61% of the public feels that uprooting the Golan settlements will cause a similar split in the nation. (A7 Feb 17)
Yesha Population up
The Jewish population in Yesha grew in 1999 by 12.5 percent, the highest growth rate recorded in recent years. In December 1999, the Jewish population in the settlements numbered 193,680, according to the figures. About 66,500 people live in the greater Jerusalem area. That area comprises Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Betar Elite, Har Adar, Efrat and most of the Etzion Bloc. In Western Samaria, comprised of the settlements of Oranit, Emanuel, Alfei Menashe, Elkana, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and Karnei Shomron, there are some 14,500 people. Only in 1991 (15 percent) and 1992 (12 percent) were comparable population growth figures recorded for Yesha, when the Housing Ministry took on extensive constructive projects in Judea and Samaria. (Ha'aretz Feb 21)
The Right as Outcast By David Bar-Illan
Discrimination against Israel's political Right has become so commonplace, that rightists themselves accept it as a law of nature. Some trace the problem to the state's first 29 years, when the Right was treated as a pariah after David Ben-Gurion lumped it with the anti-Zionist communists as unfit to participate in government. But after assuming power in 1977, the Right was in government for 18 out of the next 23 years. A government led by the Right signed the peace treaty with Egypt - a breakthrough that paved the way to the possibility of peace with the Arab world - and it was responsible for one of Israel's greatest contributions to world security, the bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor.
Yet the Israeli Right has never achieved true respectability. A typical example was provided by the Conference of Presidents, the umbrella organization of major American Jewish organizations, which held its annual meeting in Jerusalem last week. Presumably eager to listen to the whole gamut of Israeli opinion, it kept right-of-center spokesmen (who represent a clear majority of the Jewish population) to a bare minimum.
Yet the organization did invite a "new historian" to speak, giving legitimacy to views of a fringe group of history rewriters headed by Ilan Pappe, a communist party candidate for the Knesset.
They also listened to a panel of four journalists, all identified with ultra-leftist views of the Arab-Israeli conflict. No opportunity to be heard was afforded to representatives of the 200,000 Judea-Samaria-Gaza residents, whose fate will be determined by the final-status agreement the government is hoping to reach before year's end.
American Jewry's leftist-liberal leanings are no secret. It votes for Democratic presidential candidates almost indiscriminately. Ronald Reagan, a dedicated friend of Israel running against Jimmy Carter, an avowed antagonist of Zionism, managed to get only a third of the Jewish vote. And President Clinton, who has unconscionably and brutally intervened in Israel's internal affairs and negotiation process, is hailed as Israel's best friend ever.
But the Presidents' Conference's conduct is not just a reflection of American proclivities. If anything, its partiality to the Israeli Left is due more to Israel's own attitudes than to American preferences.
The moral perversity and intellectual warp of these attitudes were recently demonstrated by a prominent journalist and close aide to the late Yitzhak Rabin, who published a self-abasing apology to the Communist Party. The reason for the abject mea culpa, he wrote, was that despite the abuse heaped on it, the party was right all along: it foresaw peace and coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian state. Incredibly, no one protested this obeisance to a rabid anti-Zionist party, supportive of regimes second only to the Nazis in committing mass murder.
The communist party in this country, financed by the Soviet Union and spying for it, opposed the establishment of a Jewish state, objected to the war against Hitler until he invaded the USSR, supported the Stalinist persecution
and execution of Jews and the prevention of Jewish emigration from the USSR, and justified the arming of the Arab regimes sworn to Israel's annihilation.
Today the party is not only eminently legitimate but trendy. Popular radio personality Shelly Yechimovich recently announced she was proud to have voted for it. One can only imagine how long she would have kept her job had she announced she supported a radical rightist party.
No wonder, then, that a Presidents' Conference invitation to a "new historian" does not raise an eyebrow. On the contrary, any objection to his appearance is considered "McCarthyism," while opposition to the appearance of a rightist is not only politically correct but a sign of supreme enlightenment.
The political Right attributes this double standard to the predominance of the Left in universities, think tanks, the media, the arts, and even in the business community. But it is largely a result of the Right's own intellectual passivity.
In the US a similar situation begat the neo-conservative movement. It was led mostly by Jewish intellectuals sickened by the Left's proclivity for "blaming America first," and by its indiscriminate identification with revolutionary tyrants and murderous national liberation movements. In a few short years the neo-conservatives created one of the most intellectually fertile and politically influential forces in recent American history. They were a central factor in achieving American victory in the Cold War, restoring America's self-confidence, and making conservatism part of the mainstream.
The odds against a similar development in Israel may be formidable. But what is at stake is nothing less than Israel's survival as a Jewish, Zionist state.
(Jerusalem Post Feb 23)
Topsy-Turvy JINSA Report
The Syrians are running Nazi propaganda that would make Joerg Haidar blush, and have announced that the time is ripening for a Syrian-Iraqi rapprochement, while Iran ships weapons for Hizballah through Damascus. Egypt's President-for-Life Mubarak visited Lebanon to encourage Hizballah's war against Israel. Hizballah Chief Nasrallah told The Washington Post that if Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon, how to expel "Israeli occupiers" from "northern Palestine" (i.e., the Galilee) would remain an open question. The PA canceled talks with Israel aimed at increasing the scope of PA rule, causing King Abdullah of Jordan to cancel his planned visit to Israel.
A reasonable person could conclude that in the face of an Israeli government determined to create normal relations with its neighbors by resolving the issues that might be the cause of their hostility toward Israel, those neighbors are getting cold feet. Why? Maybe because the issues that could be the cause of Arab hostility toward Israel are in fact not the cause.
These issues are not the issue; Israel's existence is the issue. In fact, eliminating issues simply brings everyone closer to having to acknowledge the ugly, but fundamental truth. Syria, Hizballah, and the Palestinians (at least) have never acknowledged the legitimacy of ANY Jewish sovereignty anywhere. Anwar Sadat did, as did King Hussein, but they are gone and their successors face pressure to minimize relations. Iran and Iraq are implacably hostile to Israel and exert their own pressure against resolving specific problems such as the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, or establishing a mutually agreeable border between Israel and a Palestinian entity/state.
But the United States still seems to believe that if only Israel would offer one more inducement, one more inch, one more gesture, the Arabs would respond. Thus U.S. policy has been largely aimed at changing Israel, not changing Arab rejection. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk revived the largely discredited notion of a U.S.-Israel defense pact (more about this next time), presumably to give Israel the confidence to come down from the Golan regardless of what Syria does. At the same time, he is trying to gin up support for the proposed Golan referendum among Israel's Arab community -- an egregious foray into the internal affairs of the country to which he is posted. Anonymous "senior sources" in the American government have expressed displeasure with Israel's position in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, insisting that the Barak government do more to meet the Palestinians "halfway." Halfway from where?
Enough. The goal of Arab-Israeli negotiations remains what it always has been -- demonstrable Arab acceptance of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. Anything less is unacceptable. The Arabs have had more than 120 years to adjust to Jewish nationalism, and 53 years to adjust to the reality of the State of Israel. If they need more time, OK, but the adjustment is still for them to make to Israel. (JINSA Feb 23)
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch By Ariel Sharon
As part of the efforts made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak's advisers to assure a referendum majority for an agreement with Syria, the idea of a defense treaty between Israel and the US was once again raised.
If buying advanced military technology and Tomahawk missiles is not sufficient to convince the public that withdrawing from the Golan Heights is a good idea, a signed defense treaty with the US can be waved in its face. With such a treaty, the advisers say, it will be possible to leave the Golan Heights for the shore of Lake Kinneret without fear.
This is another example of a deceitful marketing campaign.
As minister of defense, who in 1981 signed a memorandum of strategic understanding with the US, I have always supported the traditional position of all Israeli governments that a defense treaty with the US can be an important addition to defense strategy, but can under no circumstances replace defendable borders or assuring the IDF's ability to protect the country on its own.
One must always remember that Israel is the only place in the world where Jews have, and will always have, the right and ability to defend themselves when attacked. We cannot allow ourselves to ask others, especially American soldiers, to do it for us.
This position led to the expansion and strengthening of strategic cooperation with the US without a formal defense treaty. Under the Likud government, this strategic cooperation was expanded in many areas.
Defense treaties, like modern weapons technology, have not in themselves prevented wars or guaranteed security; in fact, they have in many cases caused escalation. During the Gulf War (1990-1991), it took the US over five months to establish a coalition and deploy the necessary forces to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi aggression and occupation. If Israel was ever to face a similar nightmare, it would not have even five days of grace: It would face total annihilation long before any US forces could even reach the scene.
A defense treaty will neither deter nor halt limited terrorist activities and minor infringements of the law. The US will not wish to be involved in such incidents, but will instead press Israel to show restraint.
What would Israel do, for instance, if, while bound by a treaty with the US, the Syrians one night introduced small antitank forces into the demilitarized zone in the Golan, or if Hizbullah attacked a northern border community, or an IDF outpost? What if there is a Hizbullah attack within Israel, or against Jewish and Israeli targets in the Diaspora (as is already planned)? Is Israel willing to defy the US if the superpower demands restraint, so that it can avoid direct confrontation with the Arab countries that are becoming its allies?
Even more serious, from the moment that Israel fails to retaliate after the first infringement because of US influence, new rules will apply that will permit both the Syrians and the terrorist organizations to erode the Israeli deterrent and apply constant pressure for further concessions. Jerusalem, water, negotiations with the Palestinians, and other issues will all be pressed upon Israel even after signing an agreement.
The critical problem is that the smaller the infringements and attacks, the more difficult it will be for Israel to act on the scale and with the intensity required to restore the situation to its former state; Israel is thus liable to find itself in a process of uncontrolled escalation.
We have seen this scenario recently following Hizbullah's attacks on IDF soldiers and outposts. The Barak government failed to react to this terrorism in the requisite manner, among other reasons because of US pressure, even before the signing of a formal treaty with the Americans.
A defence treaty would neutralize Israel's major element of deterrence. A treaty would restrict Israel's freedom of action at any time when there is a fear of American involvement in fighting.
Any American force deployed here as part of such a defence treaty would become a target and would conflict with American interests. If such a force were to be used and casualties occurred, the American commitment to Israel would dissolve fade under the pressure of US media and public opinion.
Israel would cease to be a strategic asset and would become instead a burden, with Congress and public opinion pointing an accusing finger at us.
A defense treaty in which Israel gives up strategic assets such as the Golan Heights and security areas in Judea and Samaria, which provide strategic depth and room to maneuver, would force a shrunken Israel to re-adopt (as in 1967) the doctrine of a preemptive strike - a doctrine the US has always opposed.
So our position must be "yes" to increased strategic cooperation with the US, but "no" to a defense treaty that would relinquish Israel's power to defend itself.
It is important for the public to know this now, even if Barak's public relations people don't want to say it: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
(Jerusalem Post Feb 21)
His Own Medicine By Yosef Goell
It took only 48 hours for the Israeli muscle-flexing exercise - with threats to bombard Lebanese towns from which the Hizbullah had been rocketing IDF emplacements and other civilian infrastructure - to fizzle out.
The Clinton administration, which went along with Israel's low-key response to the murderous Hizbullah attacks for the previous three weeks, finally responded to frenzied Arab demands that it rein in its Israeli vassal.
This course of events should have been obvious to Prime Minister Barak when he began the exercise, clearly out of frustration over the IDF's inability to put an end to Hizbullah attacks which have killed seven IDF soldiers over the past few weeks. Ever since it had its nose badly bruised in Lebanon in the early 1980s, the US has always stepped in to prevent Israeli retaliatory acts from escalating the conflict in Lebanon.
My guess is that that the most non-political of IDF chief of General Staff ever, Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz, would never have dared suggest such a step publicly without prior collusion with his civilian boss, Barak.
The sorry result of that crude exercise in ballyhoo was that while Israel did not actually resort to shelling Hizbullah targets in villages, we were roundly excoriated for even threatening to do so, and for Foreign Minister David Levy's thundering that all of Lebanon would burn.
The very idea of Israel's intentionally bombarding civilian towns, with all the attendant civilian casualties, and in a world recently sensitized to such atrocities as Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya, is the dumbest thing to contemplate, much less carry out. The main result of such a horribly misguided act would be to help achieve one of the major aims of our Arab enemies: undermining our position in the public opinion of the US and the entire democratic world.
IT IS legitimate to ask: What alternative do we have if we are constrained from attacking Hizbullah where it has positioned itself, behind a human curtain of hapless, if not totally "innocent" civilians?
The problem is one of adhering to a modicum of morality, even in warfare, while choosing a form of retaliation that promises to be effective by hitting the
enemy at its weakest point and forcing it to stop its proxy attacks. The Lebanese civilians whom we have threatened have no influence on the Hizbullah and its actions, and Assad in Damascus couldn't care less if many of them are killed as long as it redounds to Israel's detriment.
The answer lies in determining what influences the decisions of the Syrian military and political heads who have been abetting Hizbullah attacks on the IDF. That answer has been staring us in the face for quite some time, but our leaders have been too scared to resort to it.
If there is anything Assad cares about more than getting back every inch of the Golan - which he personally lost to Israel - at virtually no cost in Syrian concessions, it is his own continuance in power, and his ability to bequeath that power to his son Bashar and other members of his Alawite junta.
It is in our power to prevent such an orderly succession. We must make it absolutely clear to Assad, not publicly but persuasively, that we have the power, and the determination, to make sure that neither Bashar nor others in Assad's preferred line of succession, will outlive him.
To make such a threat as persuasive as possible, it is essential that Israel retaliate for the next Hizbullah attack, not by targeting hapless civilians but by killing a top commander in Syria's army of occupation in Lebanon.
Simultaneously, it is essential that we take a leaf out of Assad's book: pursue terrorist warfare while ostensibly engaging in a peace process. Two can play at that game. It is also essential that Israel mount and persevere in an anti-Assad and anti-Syria information campaign in the US and the West - no difficult feat given his murderous record - to retaliate for Syrian proxy warfare palatable to Western opinion. Under no circumstances should we be the ones to break off the negotiating process.
Such a two-tier approach may not go over well with the State Department, but demonstrating how one can effectively strike at the heart of a terrorist state should have most of the American public applauding in the midst of an election year. (Jerusalem Post Feb 20)
The Friendly Republicans By Daniel Pipes
What do the four leading candidates for president of the United States, two Democratic and two Republican, have to say about the Middle East? It's a timely question because the campaign for president has begun in earnest.
Perhaps the clearest insight into the candidates' positions comes from James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and a leading Arab-American political operative. He's a man President Bill Clinton has praised as a "remarkable voice for calm and clarity, no matter how heated the issues" and "one of the most forceful, intense and brutally honest people who ever came to the White House to see me." He's also a liberal democrat and one of Israel's most determined foes in the United States.
Zogby's recently-published report, "The State of the Middle East Policy Debate," begins with a look at public opinion. He finds that "a significant partisan split" exists on Middle Eastern issues. Specifically, Republicans are "more hard-line and pro-Israel" than Democrats.
This difference is very substantial, with Republicans three times more friendly to Israel than Democrats. Thus, in response to the question, "With regard to the Middle East, how do you feel the next president should relate to the region," 22 percent of Republicans said he should be pro-Israel, while only 7% of Democrats opted for this reply.
Not surprisingly, the presidential candidates reflect this difference in their ranks, with Republicans far more pro-Israel than Democrats. On the key issue of US policy toward the peace process, for example, Al Gore and Bill Bradley endorse the current even-handed approach of pressing Israel and the Arabs alike for concessions. In stark contrast, George Bush and John McCain (as well as every lesser candidate) denounce this approach and insist that, if elected president, they will not pressure democratic Israel into making concessions to the likes of Yasser Arafat and Hafez Assad.
Same goes with the question of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On one side, Zogby found, "every Republican candidate has promised to make the embassy move a priority for his administration." In contrast, both Gore and Bradley "have taken more cautious stands," not endorsing a move of the embassy outside the context of Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians.
And so too on Iraq. All four leading candidates endorse the current tough approach to Iraq, leading Zogby to describe their outlook as one of "near consensus." But Republicans take what Zogby calls "a characteristically tougher approach," with all of them advocating steps to bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein, something the two Democrats shy away from.
In all, whether the question is Israel or Iraq, the candidates agree on basics (friendly to Israel, hard-line on Iraq), with the Republicans more emphatic in their views than either Democrat. This has several important implications.
First, the Arab and Moslem lobbies remain unable to affect the policy outlook of presidential candidates. Zogby can rail against the candidates' agreement as "pandering" to Jewish voters with "worn-out cliches" and "dangerous and provocative posturing," but he can do little about it.
Second, several times more members of the Republican Party are friendly to Israel than are Democrats, and their leaderships reflect this disparity.
Third, Jews nonetheless still overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party.
This is because they care less over time about policy toward Israel and more about domestic American concerns. An insightful observer of the US Jewish scene, Jonathan S. Tobin, explains that "a pro-choice stand on abortion and a willingness to vilify the National Rifle Association is the red meat that most Jewish audiences hunger for, not speeches about Jerusalem."
Finally, despite a diminished focus on the Middle East among American Jews, a consensus exists in the United States as a whole about the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq, and this consensus no longer depends on a Jewish lobby to sustain it. (Jerusalem Post Feb 15)
The writer is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.