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
May 25, 2001
Issue number 328
Attacks this morning included: Mortar shells on Netzarim, soldiers targeted near Halhoul, and shooting along the Trans-Judea Highway, which was closed to traffic. Last night's violence included the targeting of IDF positions near N'vei Dekalim (southern Gaza) and the IDF's Southern District Coordinating Office in Gaza (no injuries and no return fire). In addition, a soldier was lightly injured in a bomb attack north of the Sufa Checkpoint in Gaza.
Yesterday, a bomb was detonated near a military vehicle near the north-Shomron community of Chomesh, while soldiers in southern Gaza area near the Rafiach Crossing were heavily attacked with grenades and gunfire. No one was hurt. For the second time this week, the eastern Gush Etzion community of Tekoa was attacked by terrorist gunfire last night. Three homes were damaged, including one two doors down from a woman who had just returned from a miraculous journey home on the Tunnels Highway; her car was shot at, but she was unhurt.
A new Jerusalem neighborhood has been added, as of last night, to the list of those targeted by Palestinian Arab terrorist gunfire. Two apartments in Malcha, home to the Teddy Stadium and the city's largest shopping mall, were hit last night. (Arutz-7 May 24)
'...journalists and media organizations are "waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people"')--senior BBC Arabic Service correspondent Faid Abu Shimalla (The Jerusalem Post May 24, 2001
A French government spokesman indicated that France was "satisfied" with Arafat's "genuine efforts towards achieving peace in the region," following a meeting in France with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and French President Jacques Chirac. (Arutz-7 May 24)
Sometime real events occur which are far more surreal then anything which could be scripted for a `B' movie. Last night all over the country celebrations were held for Jerusalem day. Special prayers were recited; the guitars and large floor tambukot ( African drums) were taken out. The old songs connecting us to our city were sung. Tekoa wasn't much different - well at least at the start. Rabbi Bakshi Doron, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi came to lecture which had the synagogue packed. Olim and veteran Israeli, those who lived though the 6 day war and those who read about it in history books, Yeshiva students from the hesder program and youth with dreadlocks. At the end of the rabbi's talk, six large drums came out and the dancing began. My youngest ran home to get his small drums and soon the night air was resounding with passionate singing "Yerushalayim Yerushalayim!."
It wasn't noticeable at first but there was an echo which offset the pulsing rhythm of the drums. It was only after a polyphony of a series of deep double booms countered by the staccato of heavy machine guns did the dancers realize we were being shot at. No one left, no one stopped. The gut reaction was to increase the sound of celebration. We will not allow them to break our celebration. The dancing grew wilder and the drum beat louder as if by this expression of love for Jerusalem and our country, we could overcome the hatred and the fear.
Then the rumors began quickly flying. Two houses were hit by bullet fire, no casualties. One, a family named Bogdanov, had minor damage. The other, in some bizarre twisted joke, was the Mandel's -(parents of Kobi, murdered less than two weeks ago). "Impossible, not the Mandel's, just not the Mandel's"- until you see the upper window. Thank God no one was hurt, at least not physically.
In Israel we are again celebrating Jerusalem day. Celebrate with us "Shaalu Shalom Yerushalayim" - Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem And let the beat go on. Eli Birnbaum, Tekoa
Shalom. Yesterday we celebrated the 34th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and the liberation of our most holy site, during the 1967 Six day war. The 28th of Iyar will be remembered in the annals of Jewish history as the climax of our return to Tzion. The next day, the 29th of Iyar, was equally momentous. On that Thursday, June 8, 1967, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Chaplain of the Israel Armed Forces, led the army back to Hebron, back to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
Jews had been banished from Jerusalem, from the Kotel, for 19 years. Jews had been exiled from Hebron for 31 years, after having been expelled in 1929, and again, in 1936. But a Jewish presence at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the second holiest site to our People, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, was lacking for 700 years. Since 1267, at the conclusion of the Crusader Wars, when the Tomb of our Forefathers was declared to be a mosque, accessible only to Moslems, Jews had not been allowed to worship at this so sacred a site. For 700 years Jews were forced to stand outside the 2,000 year old monumental structure, going no further than the infamous 7th step. Only after our return to Hebron in 1967 were Jews again allowed to enter Ma'arat HaMachpela, the first Jewish possession in the Land of Israel, the final resting place of Avraham, Yitzhak, Ya'akov, Sara, Rivka and Lea.
That was the beginning of the return to Hebron, the first and oldest Jewish city in Israel. Since then, the renewed Jewish community in Hebron has flourished, today home to 70 families in three neighborhoods, with over 370 children and 200 yeshiva students studying at Yeshivat Shavei Hevron in Beit Romano. These 700 Jews have settled Hebron, have come back home, walking in the footsteps of Abraham, and of King David.
There are those who ask: why stay in Hebron - after all, it is so dangerous why are we placing your lives and the lives of your children in jeopardy?
True, we have been living under fire for almost eight months. This week we again came under fire, Arafat's armed forces shooting at our homes from the hills surrounding us, hills transferred to the PLO four and a half years ago. The cost of these attacks has been very great - less than 2 months ago 10 month old Shalhevet Pass was murdered by Arab sniper fire from these hills.
So, why stay? First of all, where is there to hide? Gilo, Netanya, Kfar Saba? Jews are being targeted wherever they are, for no other reason than they are Jews, living in Eretz Yisrael.
But more importantly, if there were no Jews in Hebron, if the city was Judenrein, it would today be in the hands of our enemy. If Jews were not living in Hebron, Ma'arat HaMachpela would again be off-limits. Does it stand to reason that a Jew, living in, or visiting the State of Israel in the year 2001 cannot pray at the Tomb of our Forefathers, the very roots of our People? That is why we are in Hebron, and that is why we will stay in Hebron because we all know what happens to a tree if you chop off its roots!
So today we celebrate Hebron Day - the 34th anniversary of our return home, of our return to the city of Abraham. Chag Sameach. With blessings from Hebron, this is David Wilder.
A Hebron spokesman issued the following statement in response to recent events.
This is the only place in the world where murderers roam free, shooting at Jews whenever their heart desires. Throughout Israel, when communities are attacked, the army has started to react. When mortars hit Sderot, the army entered Gazza. When Gilo was attacked, the army went into Beit Jala. On Friday Israeli bombed Shechem with F-16 aircraft and attack helicopters. Yesterday Israeli forces shot at Jibril Rajoub's home in Ramallah. Only when Hebron is attacked, there is no effective response.
For almost eight months Hebron has been under fire. A 10 month old baby was killed. The Israeli government did absolutely nothing in response to the murder. Israeli soldiers are forced to literally sit on their hands while Arafat's forces shoot at them and at the civilian population they are supposed to protect.
As long as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Fuad ben Eliezer do not order the army to retake the hills surrounding us, we consider ourselves to have been abandoned. The terrorists shoot freely and we are the target. Ariel Sharon was not elected to ignore our security needs, rather, to solve them. (May 21, 2001 IMRA)
On May 9, two 14-year-old Israeli boys who had been playing hooky from school and hiking on the West Bank were found in a cave battered to death and mutilated. In Western news reports, this horror was not permitted to stand alone. It was routinely coupled with a recent Palestinian Arab death. "The deaths came two days after a 4-month-old Palestinian Arab baby girl was killed by Israeli tank fire and further roiled emotions in a week of spiralling violence that neither side seems able to control," reported the New York Times the next day.
The coupling was invariable. "The deaths of children have enraged both sides," reported USA Today. Or as CNN summarized it, "In a region seemingly numb to violence, the deaths of both Palestinian Arab and Israeli youngsters has struck nerves on both sides of the conflict."
Both sides. Tragedy all around. The presumption of moral equivalence between these two events and, by implication, between the two sides is by now entirely characteristic of the Western view of the fighting. And it is entirely wrong.
Consider these two incidents. The Israeli firings in Gaza were not, as the reader might presume, unprovoked. Israeli tanks did not gratuitously go hunting for babies in Gaza. Israelis had been attacked by mortar rounds fired from PLO territory. Israel was trying to silence the mortars. If, say, Zapatista guerrillas were launching mortars into San Diego, is it conceivable that the U.S. Army would not cross into Tijuana to silence them?
Clearly, what happened in Gaza was the inadvertent death of an infant in the urban warfare the PLO launched eight months ago. Such deaths happen in every instance of urban warfare, from the post-Normandy fighting in the villages of France in World War II to the more recent NATO bombing of Serbia.
There is a difference, an immense moral difference, between this kind of unintentional death and what happened to those two Israeli boys. It is the difference between tragedy and infamy. From the 1972 Munich massacre of Israel's Olympic athletes to the suicide bombers of today, the world has long since grown accustomed to PLO terrorism. But even terrorism --the deliberate murder of innocents, pales beside what happened to those two boys. Terrorism at least has a perverse logic: It is murder as a means to some political end. What happened in that cave was murder as an end in itself.
These boys were not targets. They were not deliberately sought out by a terrorist on a mission. The most chilling part of this story is that the boys were merely chanced upon. And then were torn to pieces.
Last year, two Israeli reservists lost their way and strayed into Ramallah, where they were lynched by a frenzied mob. The Palestinian Arabs then made up the story that the Israelis were suspected undercover agents.
What could the story be this week? Fourteen-year-old boys are neither spies nor soldiers. Yet they were bludgeoned to death with stones, their blood then dabbed on the walls of the cave.
This is not war. This is not even terrorism. This is bloodlust. It is savagery so grotesque that it might not have been believed had we not all seen that picture last fall on the cover of Time of the Palestinian Arab, having just beaten to death the two Israeli reservists in Ramallah, exultantly holding out his blood-stained hands to the crowd in a gesture of triumph.
People are not born with bloodlust. They learn it. It is no mystery where the Palestinian Arabs have learned it. For years Arafat's mini-police-state has been feeding his people the rawest Jew-hatred since the Third Reich. In television, radio, newspapers, and textbooks, Arafat has created the psychic infrastructure that sustains his endless war on Israel and gives us the barbarism in the cave. "I hate the Israelis," declared PLO first lady Suha Arafat only two weeks ago. That hatred is in the air Palestinian Arabs breathe. A few days later, Syrian president Bashar Assad in the presence of the pope, no less accused the Jews of trying "to kill the principle of religions in the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus and in the same way with which they tried to kill the Prophet Muhammad." His defense minister then said on television: "When I see a Jew before me, I kill him. If every Arab did this, it would be the end of the Jews."
This is not from crackpots. This is not from the political fringes. This is from the highest level of the leadership among Israel's neighbors. Keep that up for years, and you have raised a generation prepared --no, designed, to bathe in the blood of 14-year-old boys.
When practiced during the Cold War, moral equivalence (between East and West) was a form of moral obtuseness. As practiced today in the Middle East, it remains so. The plain fact is that Israelis are not raised on bloodlust. They are not taught to hate Arabs. On the contrary. On the 50th anniversary of independence, Israel TV produced a historical series so sympathetic to the Palestinian Arabs as to raise the question whether Israel had taken sympathy to the point of self-flagellation.
When Baruch Goldstein committed a massacre of Palestinian Arabs in Hebron, he was vilified by every major leader in Israel. His name became anathema to Jews everywhere. When the "Engineer," the terrorist behind a string of deadly suicide bombings, was assassinated, Arafat declared him a martyr and national hero.
When that child in Gaza was accidentally killed by Israeli gunfire, Prime Minister Sharon immediately expressed his regrets and apologized. What of the lynching of the two boys? Utter silence from Yasser Arafat. (2001, News Corporation, Weekly Standard)
Last night Prime Minister Ariel Sharon answered questions following his dramatic press conference, announcing Israeli acceptance and compliance with the Mitchell Report. One of the final questions dealt with settler security. Sharon remarked that he guaranteed the security of all Israeli settlements. With that, David Bedein, Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, interrupted, what about Abu Sneneh? Sharon, who until that moment appeared relaxed and poised, look down at his notes and stiffened. Again, Bedein asked, what about Abu Sneneh? Sharon, looking more than mildly upset, walked off the stage, not answering the question, not saying a word.
Only moments before, Sharon outlined the measures to be taken:
1. A total and unconditional cessation of violence and terrorism.That having been said, Defense Minister Ben Eliezer issued a new military command:
2. A meaningful cooling off period.
3. Implementing confidence building measures.
4. Resuming political negotiations.
Due to the cease-fire, all pre-emptive shooting must be halted, excluding life-threatening situations, or a reaction to firing on Israeli soldiers or rescuing of wounded soldiers. Any entrance into Area A territory requires political authorization.
What has happened since?
*Last night, at 12:00 midnight, Arabs started shooting in Hebron. The IDF was not able to identify the “source of shooting” and did not respond.And finally, to climax this wonderful day, (at least, up to this writing), the Sharon administration announced that, despite today's shootings, despite the murder of another Israeli civilian, the cease-fire would continue! The question that begs to be answered deals not with the Arabs. It concerns Ariel Sharon. What is his problem? What is preventing him from lashing back at those who are attacking Gilo in our capital, at those shooting and killing innocent civilians, at those sniping from the Shalhevet (Abu Sneneh) and Harat A'Shech hills, into Hebron neighborhoods and apartments?
* Early this afternoon two men were shot at the community of Ariel in the Shomron. One of the men died on the operating table a short time ago. The other was wounded.
*Gilo was again attacked by Arafat's armed forces. An 84 year old man was hit and seriously wounded. A woman was also injured. Other homes were struck by Arab gunfire.
* The Jewish community Tekoa was again shot at and 3 houses were hit, no one was injured.
* Kol Yisrael radio announced that Israeli security forces arrested a Gazza resident, owner of a metal-casting factory. This man admitted that he cast thousands of parts for mortars for Gaza Civil Police head Brig. Gen. Ghazi Jabali. He said that he recently had an order for 10,000 improved 120mm mortars from Jabali. The GSS says that Yasser Arafat was aware of the operation. The Arab also reported that Gaza Preventive Security head, Col. Muhammad Dahlan, also ordered 120mm mortars from him.
When King Saul stared out at Goliath in the Elah Valley, less than an hour from Hebron, he saw what looked like a giant, ranting and raving, taunting, cursing the G-d of Israel. When David looked at Goliath, he saw Israel's honor defiled. When Saul gaped at Goliath he was filled with dread. When David gazed at Goliath he said, “Let no man's heart fail within him.” And the Philistine (Arafat) said to David (Israel): 'Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.' Was this not perpetrated in Ramallah and again, two weeks ago, at Tekoa?
Then said David to the Philistine:
“Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin; but I come to thee in the name of the L-RD of hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast taunted.”Arafat, like Goliath, is toying with Israel's honor, he is taunting and cursing our People, our Land, our G-d. The peoples of the world are observing. All Israel is watching, waiting, expecting. Our eyes are on our leader, anointed by the people to annihilate the enemy.
Who is Arik? Is he David? Or is he Saul? (Hebron-Past, Present and Forever The Jewish Community of Hebron May 23)
IAF planes dropping poison chocolates on Palestinian Arab children? Lethal coconut candies falling out of the sky? They're only the latest bid in a systematic and clearly organized attempt by the Palestinian Arab media to maintain a level of hatred against the Jewish people by publishing articles against Israel, Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus said yesterday.
The Palestinian Arabs' latest attempt to score sweet propaganda points appears in the Palestinian Arab daily Al Hayat Jadida, accusing Israel of launching a new plot to kill Palestinian Arab children in the Gaza Strip by having aircraft drop poisonous sweets over elementary and junior high schools in the area. It claims a large quantity of the multi-colored sweets, some coconut-flavored, were scattered in schoolyards. Quoting a Palestinian Arab hospital official, the report says eight children were hospitalized with stomach cramps, nausea, and signs of high fever, and the head of internal medicine at the hospital says only Allah's intervention saved them. The Hamas Web site adds a little more flavor to the candy story, claiming the sweets were also dropped by Israeli planes and helicopters in the West Bank, and were discovered by villagers in Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron and found to be poisonous. It claimed that the sweets were packaged to appeal to children, prompting the Palestinian Arab radio and television stations to warn children and parents not to touch the "deadly" sweets. Even PLO Secretary Tayeb Abdel Rahim chimed in, declaring yesterday that Israel was not only bombing the Palestinian Arab people, but planes dropped poisoned chocolates. He claimed the police collected all the candies.
The IDF Spokesman strongly condemned what it described as "the ridiculous Palestinian Arab claim," calling it a further level in the ongoing Palestinian Arab incitement against Israel. "Whenever there is no news to report, they fabricate these fantastic, libelous accusations, and lately we have noticed an increase in the frequency with which this kind of article appears," said Marcus.
Other Palestinian Arab claims are sinking to belt level. Al Hayat Jadida carried a warning four days ago from PLO head of general investigations Abdel Rahman Barkat against buying Israeli-made leather belts, claiming they have magnetic attachments which cause many diseases and can cause terrible pains. The article warns the Palestinian Arabs against buying the cheap belts, claiming that the low price is because Israel provided $10 million in subsidies to ensure wide distribution not only to Palestinian Arab markets, but the entire Arab world. However, Marcus noted that on Monday, three days after the original belt story, officials claimed that the belts were tested and it was found that none of the "metal attachments" gave off radiation. (JERUSALEM Post May 23)
It was just before 8 p.m. Monday night, and the Reuveni children - Linoi, 11, Idan, 10 and Dor, six - were watching their favorite cartoon show on television. Then two bullets from PLO gunmen in Beit Jalla whizzed through the room, grazing the living room wall of their Gilo home. Glass shattered all over the living room floor. The children, accustomed to eight months of Palestinian Arab shooting attacks on the neighborhood, hit the floor immediately. They were lightly injured by the flying glass, and were treated at home by MDA medics.
"We were just sitting here on the sofa," mumbled Dor yesterday. "My foot became bloody as we ran to the shelter in the basement, and then tons of people came to see the hole," he said, pointing to their living room window which still bore the marks of where the bullets hit. "When I heard the huge boom, I felt so frightened," added Idan, who proudly showed a visitor the pieces of the bullets that he had gathered in a plastic bag from their living room floor - much in the same way an American boy his age would show a friend some baseball cards.
The boys' mother, Tami, was putting away the dinner dishes in the kitchen when the bullets hit. "I hard a tremendous explosion, and I saw bullets flying in my house. Everything became gray, the kids were screaming, and there was glass all over the floor," she recounted. "I was trembling all over, barely able to stand up myself, as I carried the three children down to the basement for shelter," she said, adding that she could not sleep all night after cleaning up the glass until early in the morning.
The Reuvenis, and many other Gilo residents on the neighborhood's periphery, were angry that after eight months of shooting, their homes have still not be given bullet-proof protection from the Municipality. "I called them over and over," Tami recounted, "and begged them to come, but they were so indifferent and apathetic and have done almost nothing."
Clearly exhausted from their harrowing experience, the Reuvenis were still trying to take it all in. "It used to be that the Palestinian gunmen wanted the shooting to be on the 8 p.m. news," Tami said, "now they want to be on already at 5 p.m."
"Once the view here was nice," said Linoi, "but now there is nothing good about this place. "Nobody comes to visit us. Even our own grandma is afraid to come visit," she said. Linoi said she thought of having a birthday party at her house last month, but asked: "Who would come?"
In a cynical tone unbefitting an 11-year-old girl she added, "At least we would not have had to order a DJ, since the bullets would [make] the music just fine."
Last night the Reuvenis stayed with relatives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv. The Reuvenis were scared, but lucky: just blocks away, 64-year-old Haim Galernter was hit in the face by a bullet, losing an eye. He too was watching television, his son Aviv recounted. He was recovering from surgery at Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem last night and was listed in fair condition.
A 47-year-old Romanian construction worker, Yorga Marin, was released from the hospital yesterday after being treated for chest wounds he suffered from bullet fragments. Marin, who lives a few blocks away from the neighborhood's periphery, thought his apartment was safe enough that he could be on his own veranda. (Jerusalem Post May 23)
The recent rocket attacks coming out of Lebanon and directed against Israeli troops, followed by a tough Israeli response, serve as a poignant reminder that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon a year ago tomorrow did not exactly live up to expectations. It may be useful to recall just how high those expectations were. By a nearly four-to-one margin, Israelis endorsed the retreat from Lebanon as an excellent strategic move. On the left, Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami thought Syria's President was "very stressed by Israel's decision to withdraw from Lebanon." On the right, Foreign Minister David Levy declared the pullout would weaken Syria's position. Others speculated further. Dan Margalit of Ha'aretz newspaper forecast it would "spur Syria to come back to the negotiating table." Novelist Amos Oz boldly predicted about Lebanon's most aggressively anti-Israel organization: "The minute we leave South Lebanon we will have to erase the word Hezbollah from our vocabulary." A year later, how do things look?
The idea that an Israeli retreat would scare Damascus into restarting negotiations turns out to be as silly as it sounds. Hafez al-Assad went to his grave without returning to the bargaining table and his son Bashar has so far shown no willingness to talk. The expectation that Israel would enjoy a peaceable northern border proved similarly misguided. Hezbollah concocted a new claim to a piece of Israeli-held land (the Shebaa Farms) to justify continued hostilities. No longer restrained by Israel's security zone in Lebanon, it threatens to use Katyusha rockets against Israel proper, prompting an alert as far away as Israel's third-largest city, Haifa.
Hezbollah has already attacked Israel seven times, attempted many infiltrations, abducted three Israel soldiers, and killed two others. In response, Israel's government has deployed helicopter gun ships and attacked a Syrian radar site, killing three Syrian soldiers. In brief, Hezbollah has hardly been erased from the Israeli vocabulary. But the greatest consequence of the Israeli retreat was felt among the Palestinians. That impact is partly practical, with Hezbollah providing instruction and arms to the PLO. For example, Hezbollah reached an agreement with the PLO "to train fighters and provide weapons against tanks and aircraft," reports the Middle East Newsline. Arabs took up Hezbollah's distinctive tactics and tools -- suicide bombings on the one hand, roadside bombs detonated by mobile phones on the other. They even adopted the Hezbollah technique of filming themselves carrying out attacks on Israelis, then making the film available to the Arab and Muslim media. The impact is also psychological. Arabs watched Hezbollah impose every last one of its demands on Israel, without having to sit around a table with Israeli diplomats; this served as an object lesson. Arabs concluded that if they used enough violence, they too could get all they wanted from Israel, without having to compromise.
This "Lebanonization" of the Palestinian Arabs has had major consequences. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon draws a connection between the Israeli retreat from Lebanon and "what happened later on" with the Palestinian Arabs. The head of Israel's former Lebanese allied force puts it more strongly; Israel's every concession to Hezbollah, he says, has been "very costly" for it in dealing with the Palestinian Arabs. Specifically, Hezbollah's success first inspired the Palestinian Arabs to turn down even the amazingly generous terms that Ehud Barak subsequently offered them, confident they could do better on the battlefield. It prompted the Palestinian Arabs to abandon the bargaining table and revert to violence against Israel. It helps account for the escalation in that violence, which started with rocks and now includes long-distance mortar shellings.
The great majority of Israelis a year ago lived in the sweet delusion that unilateral concessions to neighbours would eventually win acceptance and quiet. After eight months of Palestinian Arab violence, violence partly attributable to their withdrawal under fire from Lebanon, the hollowness of this hope is becoming increasingly apparent. As they shudder back to reality, Israelis can console themselves with the knowledge that by abandoning their Lebanon delusion, however painful that process is, they are taking the necessary first step toward dealing with today's crisis. The second step will be to understand that acceptance by neighbours will result not from Israel's making unilateral concessions but from its being respected and feared. Daniel Pipes is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, and can be reached via www.DanielPipes.org. (National Post May 23, 2001)
The complaints about the performance of the IDF do the army an injustice not only because of the unrealistic expectations on which they are based, but also because the army did in fact prepare itself properly for the confrontation with the Palestinian Arabs. The IDF correctly foresaw the eruption of the Intifada and deployed itself appropriately, at the tactical level, to deal with it: the army's weapons and modes of reaction estimated the character of the violence accurately and came up with a focused operational response.
The increasingly fierce character of the fighting stems from the impasse at the political and ideological level, which for the time being is preventing the sides from reaching an understanding - and the responsibility for this cannot be imputed to the General Staff. The trouble is that the IDF's success in reading the situation correctly came late, because in the first years after the signing of the Oslo Accords Military Intelligence was in the thrall of the same conception that ruled at the political level. That, at any rate, was the analysis of Benny Begin when he was an active politician, and it is appropriate to recall his views now.
Begin's contention was that the Oslo accord was not an opportunity that was missed but an irresponsible gamble that did not pay off, to say the least. As he sees it, the writing was on the wall from the first minute after the agreement was signed, but the government in Jerusalem was bedazzled by the events and its position affected the judgment of the intelligence agencies which are subordinate to it.
In Begin's analysis, both Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security service were duped by the mistaken conception, to which the Shin Bet continued to subscribe until the last minute (up to the start of the present Intifada), while MI went back to realism in the wake of the devastating series of terrorist attacks in February-March 1996. Begin pointed to the following series of crucial events: A few days after the signing of the Oslo accord, PLO leader Yasser Arafat delivered a speech in Washington in which he defined the agreement and his imminent return to the Gaza Strip as the beginning of the realization of the Palestinian Arabs' right of return. He concluded his remarks with a declaration: "Long live the liberated Arab Palestine."
Half a year later, speaking in a mosque in Johannesburg, Arafat drew the famous analogy between the Oslo accord and the deceptive agreement the Prophet Mohammed made with the members of the Quraysh tribe. In the wake of this, the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, Yoel Singer, said that the basis for the accords was null and void, but no one in the Israeli establishment took heed of his warning.
In July 1994, when Arafat arrived in Gaza, he took the opportunity to draw direct connection between that development and Israel's Arab citizens: "From this place I send a cordial greeting to all our brethren who are located between the Negev desert and Galilee, and I quote the words of God from the Koran: 'That we make them leaders of their people.' May it be so, may it be so, may it be so." When the PLO took control of Bethlehem, in December 1994, Abu Ala asserted: "Inshallah, the return is near." In June 1995 Arafat declared that he and his people would continue on the road of jihad and the road of sacrifice to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine.
Begin also warned against the manner in which the anti-Israeli clause of the Palestinian Covenant was annulled.
Arafat, he said, had deceived Israel in this matter and had mocked the enthusiasm with which Shimon Peres accepted the move ("the most important conceptual event in the Middle East in the past hundred years"). Few people paid attention to Yoel Singer's implicit support for the position taken by Benny Begin: "I never gave an opinion to the Israeli government stating that the formulation of the amendment [of the Palestinian Covenant]... met the Palestinian Arabs' commitments."
As for the decision by the cabinet to confirm Arafat's clarifications regarding the procedure through which the Covenant was amended, Singer said: "That was a saliently political decision." Five years later, Salim Vaanun, the chairman of the PLO National Council, stated: "The Covenant continues to exist." Begin's main point was that even though in the first three years after the signing of the Oslo agreement the government in Israel was fully committed to the accord, Arafat nevertheless went ahead and undermined it by turning to terrorism. It was only in retrospect, in November 2000, that MI confirmed (in an official pamphlet issued by the government) that from May 1994 Arafat resisted the continuing Israeli demand that he rein in Hamas and limit, if not destroy, the infrastructure that was established in the territories by the terrorist organizations.
This tardy analysis had ongoing implications on the ground, including: the dialogue Arafat held with Hamas, which led to a draft agreement that gave the rejectionist organizations the go-ahead to continue operating against Israel and Israeli citizens, as long as the areas under PLO control were not used as the staging ground for such operations; the green light Arafat gave for the suicide bombings in 1996; and the present Intifada.
This week, in his speech on Nakba Day, Arafat effectively confirmed Benny Begin's analysis: He demanded a full Israeli withdrawal, the division of Jerusalem and the realization of the right of return. (Ha'aretz 18 May 2001)