A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

January 26, 2001   -   2 Shvat 5761
Issue number 310

Events...

Tuesday January 30, 8:00pm
Community rally for Jerusalem with Natan Sharansky, MK, at Shaarei Shomayim sponsored by One Jerusalem.

Solidarity Missions to Israel
United Israel Appeal / UJA-Federation mission to Israel February 13-18, Cdn$1,500 (plus minimum 2001 donation to UJA of $500); Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza / Inbal (Laromme); Includes visits to Efrat and Gilo; Optional additional day (without UIA) to Bet El and Shomron, BAYT members speak to David Miller (905) 305-6100.and Michael Lebovic (905)882-8725

News...

Reports: Barak Delegation Prepared to Relinquish Exclusive Sovereignty Over the Kotel!

Palestinian sources in Taba say that Israel has now agreed to give up also the Western Wall and the Mt. of Olives. They claim that Israel has proposed a "special arrangement" for these areas and the entire Old City, involving Israeli-Palestinian sovereignty; the Palestinians have proposed international sovereignty. It was also reported that the Israelis presented, for the first time, a list of towns that they are willing to uproot. Israel Radio also reported Tuesday, based on a "senior source in the Israeli delegation," that Israel had offered an arrangement whereby a "special authority" would rule eastern Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and all places that are "holy to the three major faiths." The Israeli delegation would not confirm the above information, and said only that there had been a "significant closing of the gaps" between the two sides. The Prime Minister's Office issued another clarification: "The holy sites will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any agreement... Israel will maintain the affinity of the Jewish nation and the Jewish tradition to the site, giving expression to the special character of the city as a holy site to all the religions." Later, Prime Minister Barak, appearing before new immigrants in Herzliya this afternoon, denied the reports more categorically: "There is no question. In any arrangement, the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, the City of David [to the south of the Temple Mount], and Mt. of Olives will all be under Israeli sovereignty, period." In short, the future of Jerusalem remains in doubt. (arutzsheva.org Jan 23)

Two Israelis Killed for Dining in Palestinian Town

Two Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists Tuesday and in response Barak halted the talks - for one day. The two cousins - Moti Dayan, 27, and Etgar Zaituna, 34 - were abducted from a restaurant in Tulkarm, where they were dining with an Israeli-Arab friend, and taken to an open field near Israeli territory. There, the terrorists killed them with many shots to the head and chest. The Israeli-Arab who accompanied them to the area was detained until 5 PM today; he told his interrogators that the killers spared his life because he is an Arab, and that he tried to save his two friends. It was learned this morning that the three - the two who were killed and their Arab friend - evaded an army checkpoint on their way into Palestinian territory. The two Israelis were not killed right away, but were rather interrogated for over an hour by the murderers, who suspected that they were connected with Israeli security organs. Natan Dayan, uncle of the two victims, said Wednesday with a broken voice: "The criticism should be directed towards the members of the government, for not realizing with whom they are dealing. They have simply not yet absorbed it, and by the time they do understand, it will be too late. In Germany, too, our leaders did not want to understand that genocide was going on. Here, too, our leaders do not understand that this is genocide." Zaituna and Dayan owned a restaurant on Sheinkin St. in Tel Aviv - a street that is often seen as a symbol of a yuppy atmosphere that is detached from many other parts of the country. Ettie, a clerk in a clothing store near Moti and Etgar's restaurant, told Arutz-7 Wednesday that as of that morning, she noticed a change in the atmosphere: "The people here are generally very supportive of the peace, and Etgar especially was very optimistic... but now, according to the talk and yells I hear outside, people are beginning to feel that it has hit home... They are very shocked... People are disappointed in Barak and believe in Sharon..." The city of Tulkarm was encircled by IDF forces after news of the murder was learned; many checkpoints were erected around the city, some 20 kilometers due east of Netanya. (arutzsheva.org Jan 24)

Other Israelis Saved from Terrorist Attacks

In addition to the double murder by Palestinian terrorists in Tulkarm Tuesday, there were three other attempted terrorist attacks that day. On the Karni-Netzarim road in Gaza, an IDF force prevented a Palestinian cell from attacking a civilian convoy making its way to Netzarim. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that the soldiers shot the terrorists after spying them preparing to attack from atop a roof at the Netzarim junction. Also, a Jewish taxi driver succeeded in escaping from his cab after a Palestinian para-military policeman and two other Arab passengers put a gun to his head and commandeered the vehicle. The driver safely jumped out near the Shaar HaGai junction on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and another man who was on the phone with him at the time - Danny Bin-Nun - alerted the police. The police caught up with the taxi near the entrance to Jerusalem, and apprehended two of the Arabs. Bin-Nun later told Arutz-7, "He [the taxi driver] called me as soon as they got into his cab, because he sensed danger from the beginning, and he wanted me to be in contact with him. I asked him questions into his earphone, and told him to answer me just 'yes' or 'no.' I asked him if they were two, he said no. I asked him if they were three, he said yes. I asked him if they were young, he said yes. So I told him to get them out of his cab right away, immediately - but he was already on the highway..." The police are questioning two Arabs from eastern Jerusalem who attacked a Jewish woman this morning in downtown Jerusalem. The two, who beat her with a spiked metal rod, were caught soon afterwards and admitted that their motive was nationalistic. Near the village of Bituniya, in the Ramallah area, Palestinians shot at an IDF vehicle; no one was hurt.

Other Palestinian aggression Tuesday and Wednesday:
Two firebombs were hurled at Jerusalem's southern Givat HaMatos neighborhood... Women working in Netzarim greenhouses were evacuated when gunfire was directed at them; Israeli soldiers returned fire... Shots were fired at an army tractor near the community of N'vei Dekalim... Palestinian bullets were fired and hit an Israeli car near Ateret. Shots were also fired on a car on its way to Psagot, and at the town itself. Arabs threw large rocks on a Jewish car along the Husan by-pass road, in the Hevron area, injuring a Jewish child. The boy was treated on the spot, and then taken to a Jerusalem hospital. Palestinians again directed heavy fire towards IDF outposts in Gadid, near N'vei Dekalim, and near Rafiach. They also shot at the town of Netzarim. Heavy fire continued in Gaza, and Palestinians shot at IDF outposts watching over N'vei Dekalim and Gadid, and at other Israeli targets. In addition, a firebomb was thrown at an IDF vehicle nearby. Palestinian fire was opened on an Israeli car between Givat Ze'ev and Atarot; bullets hit the car, but no one was hurt. (arutzsheva.org Jan 24)

Avneri: Stop the Talks

Political Science Prof. Shlomo Avineri, a proponent of the Oslo process, calls the government's moves "practically illegitimate." Speaking with Voice of Israel Radio today, he said, “I turn to [Foreign Minister] Prof. Ben-Ami, who, as a historian and a democrat, knows under what circumstances an agreement can be reached, and knows that the present circumstances [do not fill the criteria] and they hurt our goal. The talks now are fake, because if an agreement is reached now - by a government that has resigned and has not had a majority for six months - this is on the borderline of legitimacy... My astonishment is directed not at Barak, who is an army man... but rather at the professor Ben-Ami, who has written about dictatorial regimes, and who must know that a democratic regime cannot conduct talks under these circumstances with murders and other terrible things going on. The government that is established after the election is the one that must hold these talks, and not one that appears to be doing so as an election trick¼ Ben-Ami should be the ethical spokesman for the government and he must stop this... The elections did not stem from the peace process, but rather from the failed manner in which Ehud Barak directed it. He led an unorganized, unplanned, uncoordinated series of moves, with his government itself not knowing in which way it was going on; he said after [the] Camp David [talks in July] that everything he had offered there was no longer on the table. He failed in his approach, and because of this, the government lost its majority, and he resigned - and yet he is continuing in this failed approach...

Regarding the understandings [being worked on in Taba]: either they will be very general, and not a real understanding - then this is nothing more than deception. Alternatively, if it's a detailed agreement, something that can really be implemented, then the government is presenting the population with an impossible fait-accompli, because any future government will not be able to ignore what a previous government did - [even though] it is a minority government and is on the borderline of legitimacy... They must not put the cart before the horses, and try to come to an agreement that raises false expectations among the Palestinians and among the international community. As a supporter of Barak, I say that the government should stop the talks, and tell the public exactly on what terms it is willing to negotiate - instead of talking with Arafat secretly and having the public finding out only afterwards..." (arutzsheva.org Jan 24)

Peres Apologizes...to the Arabs

Minister Shimon Peres apologized yesterday to Israeli-Arabs "on behalf of the entire government" for "the pain and suffering caused to the mothers of the thirteen young Arabs" killed in clashes with police last October. They were killed during the violent Israeli-Arab uprising that broke out simultaneously with the Rosh HaShanah Arab Assault. The Israeli-Arab violence featured attacks by Arab citizens on Jewish citizens in many locations in northern Israel. (arutzsheva.org Jan 23)

Israeli Solidarity With Yesha

Some 6,000 students from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were guests of the Tel Aviv municipality Monday. Under a joint program sponsored by the Jewish Agency, the City of Tel Aviv, and the Israeli Solidarity organization, the children were treated to a day at amusement parks and other activities. Further events are planned for next week. (arutzsheva.org Jan 22)

Temple Mount Desecration Reaches New Lows

Desecration of the Temple Mount by the Moslem Waqf continues, with the permission of Prime Minister Barak - although he maintains that he has issued an order to stop it. Archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkai, of the Committee to Prevent Destruction on the Temple Mount, told Arutz-7 today that over the course of this past Sabbath, "We received reports that a tractor worked throughout the Sabbath, and that a 50-meter long trench was dug leading out of the southern entrance of the Dome of the Rock. This is a tremendous violation of the status quo - the ancient floor, which has not been touched for hundreds of years, has been dug up. All the earthmoving works that the Waqf has carried out until now were on the southern and southeastern areas of the Mount, which are a bit lower down, but yesterday for the first time they started digging up the upper level of the Temple Mount - where the Holy Temple itself stood, according to all archaeologists and rabbis." Left-wing thinkers such as Shlomo Lahat, Chaim Guri, A. B. Yehoshua, S. Yizhar, and others have called upon Barak to stop the construction activities, "which is causing irreversible damage to the most important Jewish archaeological site in the world, and will be a cause for 'weeping for generations.'"

Dr. Barkai was not surprised at the ideological make-up of the list of signatories to the above declaration: "This is not a political issue at all, but rather a cultural one - the Temple Mount is not only a national asset, but also a universal asset, and the damage being done now is simply irreversible." When asked what seemed to be the Waqf's goal, Barkai said he did not know. It was reported, however, that Israel's General Security Service believes that the Moslems hope to pave and turn the entire area into one big mosque compound, thereby preventing Jews from entering the Mount. Last week, Prime Minister Barak issued permits for Waqf construction on the Mount, against the recommendations of Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein, the police, and the Antiquities Authority. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, told Itim News Agency that there are no historical artifacts belonging to the Jews on the Temple Mount. (arutzsheva.org Jan 21)

Minyan for Soldiers

Col. Gal Hirsch, outgoing commander of the Binyamin region, granted special permission this past Shabbat for civilians to visit the Ofrah outpost - in order to help the soldiers pray with a minyan [quorum]. The soldiers stationed there had asked that men from Ofrah be permitted to join them in order to form the minyan. It was also learned that last week's reports on a ban by Hirsch on contacts between soldiers and civilians in the area were untrue; when he learned of ban, in fact, he ordered it rescinded. Hirsch is soon to become the new Operations Commander of the Central Command. (arutzsheva.org Jan 21)

Quotes for the Week...

Avital Sharansky at the Jerusalem Rally
“Jerusalem - together with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall - was not all that was liberated during the Six Day War. Also liberated was the spirit of that part of the People of Israel that was caught behind the Iron Wall of the Soviet Union. During the Six Day War, this spirit was revived and came to life, like a sleeping giant awakening from his slumber. For the first time, we - millions of Jews who had been distanced from their land and their legacy - felt our Jewish identity. We felt Jewish brotherhood, we felt Jewish pride. We dreamt of a return to Zion, of our return home.

“This dream drew tens of thousands and millions back to Eretz Yisrael, out of a feeling of great uplifting faith. This belief is that which, in the end, knocked the Iron Wall to the ground, and broke an international superpower into tiny pieces. “Sylva Zalmanson, during her trial in Soviet Russia, read aloud to the judges the verse, "If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither." My husband Natan, at the end of his trial there, when he was in genuine danger to his life, declared in unforgettable words, "Next year in Jerusalem." We always knew that the liberty of Israel and that of Jerusalem are one and the same.

“What is the connection between Jerusalem and world Jewry? What power does this city have to arouse the entire House of Israel to new life?

“Jerusalem has forever been the heart of the nation. When the heart is healthy and strong, it streams life to the entire body, even to the distant organs. "G-d is the builder of Jerusalem, He will gather all the dispersed of Israel," is written in Psalms. When Israel liberated Jerusalem with G-d's help, vitality was restored to every corner of the Jewish nation; the flow of Jewish oxygen was renewed to Jewish communities in the Diaspora, to Jews in Moscow and Siberia, in New York and Melbourne. The Jews of America, of Russia, of the entire world now live more complete Jewish lives, and their Jewish awareness is much stronger. All this in the merit of Jerusalem - the heart of the nation, the heart that after 2,000 years of exile is now beating strongly once again.

“As we declared a generation ago, let us announce once again all of us together here today: "Am Yisrael Chai" - the People of Israel lives! A live nation does not allow anyone to harm his heart!

“Jerusalem: Thirty years ago, you restored to us our national Jewish identity and awareness. You gave us a gift. Today, thirty years later, we, appreciative of this kindness, gather in the shadow of your walls to assure you: "We have not forgotten, you have not abandoned us and we will not abandon you."

“When we worked for the freedom of our imprisoned brothers in the Soviet Union, we felt that we were the mouthpiece of hundreds of thousands who could not, or who were afraid to, speak out. Today, too, there were people who wanted to speak out - but were afraid. Jerusalem was defined by some as a "political" issue. To our great disappointment, there were those who surrendered and retreated.

“But, 'For Zion I will not be mute, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be silent.' Just like thirty years ago, today too we are willing to be a voice for the Jewry of Silence - for all those who wished to be here but were not allowed to, or who did not find within themselves the courage to come. We speak for them, and through us their voices, too, will be heard.

“Honored audience: You are expressing the silent cries of millions of Jews in the Diaspora who were unable to be here tonight; of millions of Jews in previous generations - our fathers and mothers - who dreamt of Jerusalem but did not merit to fulfill the dream; of millions of Jews - our children and grandchildren - who have not yet been born. “I close my eyes and see with us in this rally - filling the plaza without an extra inch of room - all the generations of Israel. Here is Avraham Avinu, there is Sarah Imeinu, here is David, King of Israel. We will not retreat. We will not be deterred. We will build Jerusalem -- all of it, and we will be built -- all of us, in Jerusalem.

“Next year, and the year afterwards, and after that, and after that - in Jerusalem, forever rebuilt!” - Avital Sharansky, in a speech delivered at the giant Jerusalem rally on Jan. 8th. Mrs. Sharansky led a years-long international struggle for the release of her husband - former refusenik Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky, currently a Knesset Member and leader of the Yisrael B'Aliyah party - from Soviet prison for his Zionist activities. The Barak campaign accused her of calling for a "war" for Jerusalem. Her husband said, "My wife described the Jewish people's love for Jerusalem wonderfully in the rally, and I was very proud. It is a revelation to me that her words of love for Jerusalem can be interpreted as a call for war." Sharansky said that his wife's speech had been praised all across the political spectrum, and that hundreds of requests for copies of the speech, from individuals and schools, had been received. (arutzsheva.org Jan 19)

Commentary...

Safety Isn't the Issue: Israelis feel abandoned by American Jews who refuse to travel there

By Jonathan S. Tobin

Spend a week in Israel this winter, as I have just done, and it's hard to avoid the topic on the minds of most Israelis these days. Where are the American Jews? Other than the solidarity missions organized by the United Jewish Communities and some other national groups and the "birthright israel" trips for college students on their winter break, Israel is largely devoid of American Jews.

Cancellations of tours by American Jews are epidemic. Industry officials say that tourism is down 90 percent since the beginning of the latest round of Palestinian rioting and murder last September. Shopkeepers, restaurant workers, hotel employees, tour guides and all the other Israelis who work in related jobs are hurting. For those Israelis directly affected by this blight on tourism, it is a personal disaster.

But the real question isn't whether some Israelis will go broke, but what happens to the already tenuous relationship between the Jews of Israel and those living in America. Some Israelis I spoke to were far from diplomatic (diplomacy is not exactly their strong point, even at the best of times) when discussing the behavior of American Jews. In a conversation over dinner, a resident of the northern Negev city of Netivot, which is situated right next door to Palestinian-held Gaza, told me, "What we need most is not your money, but for you to be with us. They see things on television, and then they refuse to come. Americans are cowards."

"When your own State Department posts a warning for you not to come here, it's understandable that you would decide not to come," said one Jerusalemite. "Who wants a vacation in what they are told is a war zone?" That sentiment is reflected in the fact that many of the participants in recent missions to Israel tell stories about relatives and friends expressing concern about their coming to Israel, even on escorted tours that omit outings to hot spots on the West Bank and include stays in the country's best hotels. Most of the rabbis and community leaders in Israel last week admitted to me that some of their loved ones were worried about their going or had asked them not to participate.

That's significant, because people going on these trips are among the American Jews most committed to Israel. If even their relatives don't want them to go, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the rest of American Jewry isn't turning out either. Indeed, it's important to remember that the overwhelming majority of American Jews have never been to Israel at all, even in the most tranquil of times.

But just how dangerous is a trip to Israel? There is no question that a Jew sojourning into the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority or remote Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is taking a certain risk. And visits to Arab towns and villages in the territories are reserved these days only for journalists who provide favorable copy or pictures for the P.A., or for Jews with death wishes (the fact that, in contrast, Arabs can safely walk the streets of Israeli-controlled territory is a story seldom told).

Yet for those who want to go to any part of the rest of Israel -including Jerusalem and its old walled city - you are generally safer there than in your American home town. Participants in the solidarity missions all told me the same story: They had traversed Israel and Jerusalem without fear. Fear of travel to Israel is fed by an often biased broadcast news media or a politically motivated State Department warning. It is not based on the experiences of those who have been to the country.

Even with talk of all-out war with the Palestinians in the air and the memory of recent terrorist attacks on Israel's cities, the Jewish state is still among the safest places around. Its tourist attractions remain statistically as safe for visitors as any comparable site in Europe or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the perception of peril is far more powerful than the facts. I can't condemn anyone who is reluctant to let his or her child or spouse go to Israel because of a fear of terrorism. There are no guarantees against terror, and an escalation of violence spurred on by the P.A. is always a possibility.

Yet there are also no guarantees of safety anywhere else in the world, even at home in the United States. Visiting Israel is a lot safer than driving while speaking on your cell phone. And when you consider the increasing number of Americans who are using their time off to indulge in high-risk activities, such as climbing mountains or rafting down white-water rapids, it places the largely unfounded fears about Israel in perspective.

The real risk in Israel

The current conflict notwithstanding, maybe what some American Jews are really afraid of isn't the risk of danger, but of being confronted with their own identity as Jews.

Israel is a fun place to visit, but it also has a way of changing the lives of Jews who go there. For anyone who grew up as a minority living in a Christian-dominated country, being in Israel is a profound experience that cannot be adequately described, but must be lived. Nowhere else can you find a majority of the people Jewish - religious or not -- living by a Jewish calendar and speaking Hebrew.

There, you can visit places where Jewish history began and our faith was formed. There, our Jewish identity is no longer peripheral, but must be treated as a central element of our existence. To many of us, that's a lot more frightening than any threat to life and limb.

The fact is, those rejecting trips to Israel in favor of visits to high-crime cities or resorts in the Caribbean or Europe need to recognize that they are sending the people of Israel the message that we don't care about them.They are also sending a message to Israel's enemies to keep up their campaign to isolate Israel - because it is working beautifully. Right now, Israel's people need us to show them that despite Palestinian propaganda and Washington's policy shifts, they are not alone. Throw in the fact that the risks are minimal and that Israel is a fantastic place to be, and there's no reason not to go there.

"Despite what you have been watching on TV, Israel is still beautiful - and safe," declared one tour guide. He's right. It's just too bad most American Jews aren't willing to discover that for themselves. (JewishWorldReview.com)

The writer is executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

John Ashcroft & The Jewish State

By Sidney Zion

Did you know that John Ashcroft was one of the best friends Israel ever had in the U.S. Senate? It's true, but don't blame yourself if you were in the dark, because hardly a word was heard in Ashcroft's confirmation hearing for attorney general. Ashcroft has been there for the Jewish state in every way - on issues ranging from the placing of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem to insisting that Palestinian murderers of Americans in Israel be brought to book by our Justice Department.

This issue's plenty relevant to his confirmation, because as attorney general he will be able to do what Janet Reno has not done - "execute the laws of the nation." In 1986, the Congress passed an anti-terrorism law that gave us the ability to go after those who killed Americans anywhere in the world. Bill Clinton, like his predecessors, pledged to do this, "whatever it takes."

But after Oslo and the handshake on the White House lawn, Alzheimer's set in regarding Palestinian killers of Americans in Israel and the territories. Since Oslo, 16 Americans, all of them Jews, have been murdered by the Palestinians. Virtually all of the hit men have been identified by Israel and our government. But nothing has been done about it. Everywhere else in the world, we go after the killers of Americans - but not in Israel, where the Palestinian hit men run free to do it again and again. The reason: The Clinton administration wanted a deal with Yasser Arafat at any cost. To execute U.S. law and bring the killers to justice would harm the "peace process." The American Jewish establishment kept quiet, with the single exception of the Zionist Organization of America. The ZOA and its hard-hitting leader, Mort Klein, wouldn't stop. Its best ally in the Senate was John Ashcroft. "He led the fight against terrorism, and I'm certain that as attorney general he will not allow those Americans who were killed by Palestinians to die in vain," Klein told me.

The religious right gave George W. Bush the South Carolina primary and therefore the Oval Office. Bush's appointment of John Ashcroft clearly cashed in that marker. But the grilling Ashcroft got on abortion and religion may make him bend over backward to prove that he's nobody's baby. Funny if the Jews win and the Christians take it on the chin. (NY Post. Jan 2)

Bring the Negotiators Home

Jerusalem Post Editorial

Interior Minister Haim Ramon reportedly told the cabinet yesterday that the talks slated to begin today in Taba "give the peace process a bad name." Meanwhile, the Palestinians cannot believe their luck. As one Palestinian source told The Jerusalem Post, "The offers are getting better, but the settlements around Jerusalem and the settlement blocs are still the problem." In other words, the Palestinians are doing what they have done since Oslo and through Camp David, and will up until Election Day, if they can: pocketing Israeli concessions without ever saying what they will give in return.

The Palestinians have found in Israel the ultimate haggling partner: Israel keeps raising the price it will pay without the Palestinians ever having to make a counteroffer. To say this "gives the peace process a bad name" is the understatement of the year.

The Camp David ground rules supposedly were that nothing was agreed upon until everything was agreed upon. This principle protects both sides, since they ostensibly can be flexible without the other side pocketing concessions without making concessions of their own. When Camp David broke up without agreement, Barak and Clinton reiterated the idea that what ever happened there was "null and void." Now Israel seems hell bent on violating this principle to its own detriment.

Assuming that a comprehensive agreement is not possible in the next few days, all that is possible is a vague document that attempts to preserve the "achievements" of the negotiations to date.

Such a document will inevitably become the opening Palestinian position in any future negotiation. The only possible purpose such a document could have from an Israeli perspective is a highly political one: to bind a future Israeli government to a Palestinian-Israeli agreement along the lines of the Clinton parameters. This would be a political goal, because it would attempt to ensure the failure of a possible Sharon government before that government is elected. The profoundly anti-democratic act of pursuing such critical negotiations without the shadow of a mandate would thus be compounded: negotiations not only for the sake of influencing elections, but to pre-topple the next government. If, despite all odds, a comprehensive agreement were reached, the situation would be even worse. The people of Israel would be presented with a terrible choice: an agreement so extreme and so riddled with ambiguously resolved claims that it would guarantee perpetuation of the conflict, or voting to "reject peace," with all the potential for violence and isolation that such a choice entails.

Ramon, who has never been accused of lacking political instincts, perhaps senses that the public increasingly considers negotiations under such conditions to be wrong and reckless. If, as some speculate, the negotiations are being held to placate those on the Left who are threatening to cast blank ballots, then Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein's fears of the use of diplomacy for electoral purposes have been confirmed.

It would take the political equivalent of a saint to conduct negotiations now without being influenced by electoral considerations, and there is little evidence that Barak is so pure. If Barak were only putting his own political future at risk, it would be one thing; but Israel as a nation will be held accountable for every comma he offers at the negotiating table.

Now that Bill Clinton is the husband of the junior senator from New York, and Ehud Barak seems headed toward being the shortest-serving elected prime minister in Israel's history, there is simply no excuse for continuing negotiations before the election 15 days from now.

Yasser Arafat said no at Camp David, he reinforced that no by launching a shooting war against Israel, and he has rejected the Clinton parameters. According to a Palestinian source who spoke with this newspaper, the two dozen Palestinian reservations to Clinton's plan amount to one thing: "In fact, we have rejected the plan." The only basis for talking to the Palestinians now is if Israel is willing to go even further than the Clinton parameters, in which case an agreement will be soundly rejected by Israelis.

If Barak wants to do something that is right, democratic, and will help him electorally, he should say that the people of Israel know the kind of agreement he stands for and if they want it they should vote for him. If Barak is returned to office and the Palestinians are sincere about peace, there will be plenty of time to negotiate an agreement without the sword of an election over the head of Israel's leader. It may already be too late for Barak to convince the public that he has a scintilla of respect for democratic principles, but the longer his negotiators remain in Taba the harder that task will be. (Jerusalem Post Jan 22)

Arab Anti-Semitism Grows: Were America's Founders Anti-Semites?

By Joseph Farah

Yes, if you are to believe the vicious propaganda increasingly seeping into periodicals and speeches in the Arab world.

In December, Egypt's General Hassan Sweilem authored a two-part series in the weekly October titled "The Jewish Personality and the Israeli Action." The series was translated by the Middle East Media and Research Institute, or MEMRI.org. Here's an excerpt: "Historians, race-studies professors and sociologists agree that humanity, throughout its long history, has never known a race such as the Jewish race in which so many bad qualities -- base and loathsome -- have been gathered.

"The Jews had a quality which distinguished them from others: whenever they gathered in a particular place and felt comfortable there, they turned the place into a den of evil, corruption, incitement to internal strife and the spreading of wars," the reserve wrote. "The Jews took advantage of the lack of attention by the people and rulers to the plots and traps designed by the Jews."

Sweilem then retraces his version of "history" right up through the Holocaust, which he proclaims a "lie." "This is a huge lie which they managed to market around the world," Sweilem writes.

Well, those kinds of claims have been made before by many prominent Arab leaders as Joan Peters documents so well in her history of the region, "From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine. (This 1984 book is available through the WorldNetDaily store by special arrangement with the author.) But what is particularly noteworthy about the Sweilem slander is his use of false "quotations" about the Jews from America's founding fathers.

"The first American presidents warned against the danger of Jewish hegemony over American life," Sweilem claims. "First and foremost was President George Washington who warned in 1788: 'It is troubling that the ¼ nation has not purified its land from these pests. The Jews are the enemies of America's well-being and the corrupters of its prosperity.' Further, Washington writes about the Jews: 'They operate against us in a way much more effective than the enemy's armies. They endanger our liberty and our interests one hundred times more than the enemy. It is most troubling that the states have not begun long ago to follow them, because they are a plague (threatening) society.'" Of course, anyone who has read the precious writings of George Washington can instantly recognize from the style alone, not just the substance, that this statement is a forgery through and through. But Sweilem continues to libel another of America's early statesmen.

"American President Benjamin Franklin said in his speech to the 1789 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia: 'A great danger threatens the United States -- the Jewish danger,'" Sweilem writes. "'When the Jews settle down, we will discover that they are weakening the determination of the people, shaking up the ethics of trade and establishing a government. When they meet resistance, they will suffocate the nation economically."

There's more, but you get the idea. You might be wondering which U.S. history textbook Sweilem used to find this quotation from Franklin, who, of course, never served as an American president. It turns out the forgery first appeared in 1935 in German in the Nazis' "Handbook on the Jewish Question."

There's a rising strain of anti-Semitism in the Arab world's popular press, its schools and its official and unofficial rhetoric. As an Arab-American Christian, it repulses me -- it offends me. Moreover, it makes me wonder how peace -- true and lasting peace -- can be achieved between Jews and adversaries with such enmity in their very hearts and souls.

As America nears Washington's birthday, it might be a good time to recall what Washington actually wrote about the Jews, a people whose history he studied in the scriptures for clues about building a new civilization in the New World. In an August 1790 letter to Moses Seixas, the warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., the president wrote, "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

Washington then concluded with a quotation from Micah 4:4: "May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, there shall be none to make him afraid."

Sadly, that, of course, is a Washington quote you're not likely to see reproduced anywhere in the Arab world today. (WorldNetDaily.com Jan 24)

The Mistake of Oslo

By Natan Sharansky

The encouragement of an enlightened and democratic regime in the Palestinian Authority is imperative.

The recent executions conducted before cheering mobs of suspected collaborators in the Palestinian Authority – who were denied fair trials – are reminiscent of the Stalinist show trials held in the Soviet Union's darkest periods, of which Russia is certainly not proud today.

The similarities run much deeper than that between the respective leaders of the two regimes. At root, they lie in the dictatorial nature of regimes which impose the rule of fear and brutal force in order to attain stability. Democratic leadership is based upon the measure of the people's satisfaction with their leadership; dictatorial leadership is based on the ability of the leader to rule over the people and prevent any change, which might threaten his leadership. History has proven that a precondition for dictatorial leadership is the ability of a tyrant to suppress all independent thought and mobilise the nation around a struggle against an external enemy.

When the Oslo agreement was initially composed, a question arose as to the possibility of conducting peace with the leader of a terrorist organisation. The goal was to assist Yasser Arafat in transforming from the leader of a terrorist group to the leader of a nation. The underlying conception was that if we grant Arafat the right economic and political conditions, along with international support, his need to provide for the welfare of his people would overcome his need to operate a terrorist organisation. With Israelis and Palestinians dealing with sewage problems and the establishment of factories, a true meeting of peoples would occur and the new Middle East would indeed become a reality.

A basic failure existed here from the start, in our lack of understanding of the ability of implementing such agreements. By definition, a regime built entirely on hatred towards the Zionist enemy is incapable to transforming overnight into a partner for peace.

It follows that the sole way to succeed in implementing the Oslo agreements is to create a process of bringing the two sides closer to each other. The only way to ensure that such a process is indeed taking place and developing is by insisting on the principle of reciprocity, which has instead been relegated to the margins. The most important component of reciprocity – the prevention of incitement and the teaching of hatred in schools – has been ignored nearly entirely.

Yossi Beilin has claimed that if we strengthen Arafat's position amongst his own people, he will cause the hatred to die away, and there is therefore no need to box him in a framework of monitoring the propaganda and school lessons of the Palestinian Authority. This assumption is fundamentally mistaken. Arafat is indeed strong, but his strength has not reined in hatred for the external enemy, Israel.

While the “Seeds of Peace” program sends a few dozen children from the Palestinian upper class to a well-publicised seminar in the United States, half a million Palestinian children are taught hatred of the Zionist enemy in their schools. None of Israel's governments have given the subjects of Palestinian propaganda, hate-filled school plans and spreading corruption the serious attention they deserve. On the contrary, we have granted them legitimacy, by transferring money intended for public spending in the Palestinian Authority directly into Arafat's private bank accounts and by ignoring the violations of human rights by the Palestinians – when the opposite would have been the best way of helping the security of Israel.

In a conversation I conducted with President Bill Clinton at Wye Plantation the President agreed with me that the basis for implementing the agreements lies in monitoring incitement and school lessons. Despite this, he also failed to turn the subject of dealing with the hatred against Israel into a necessary condition for continuing the peace process. The fault lies not with Clinton, but with us. We are to blame for the failure of Oslo, because we by definition sustained a regime of darkness, and because we hoped that the central authority and power granted Arafat would crystallise around peace. We discovered, to the contrary, that our concessions in these matters only encouraged Arafat to continue to solidify a regime of fear and use hatred towards us in order to stabilise that same regime. The solution today is not loud objections to the show trials and the public executions, but reformulating all the agreements around the concept of reciprocity. Monitoring of propaganda and incitement must be implemented, and we should not hesitate to use Arafat's dependence on the support and financing of the enlightened world in order to encourage the establishment of an enlightened and democratic regime in the Palestinian Authority. The political gains to both nations from such an approach is very clear. The result can be translated into a sustainable peace process, which today looks farther from reality than ever before. What Palestinian society will gain from this will be far greater than any founding of a textile factory in the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz Jan 22)


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