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

December 29, 2000
Issue number 306


Clinton’s Deal

At press time, there was still no determination of the final responses of either Israel or the Palestinians to Clinton’s proposals.  Although no official version of the proposals has been made public, Israel Television reported that the Palestinians have revealed details of the plan which includes the following points:
* The western border of a Palestinian state will be the Green Line, and security will be based on the presence of international forces that cannot be removed except by the agreement of both sides.

* Israel will withdraw within 36 months, and will be replaced gradually by international forces.

* Israel will have three early warning stations in the West Bank, and their existence will be re-evaluated in 10 years.

* Israel will have emergency supplies at a number of points in the Jordan Valley, in case of a threat from the east.

* An international force will guard the Palestinian borders. The Palestinian state will have security forces, but it will not have heavy weaponry.

* Israel will withdraw from 94 to 96 percent of the territories.

* Eighty percent of the settlers will be annexed to Israel, and will be in areas contiguous to Israel. As few Palestinians as possible will be included in these blocs.

* All Palestinian security prisoners will be released, and an end of the conflict will be declared, and with it all claims on Israel.

* Israel will recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the 1948 war, and the need of the international community to deal with this, and will agree to contribute to ending the refugees' suffering.

* The US understands that it is difficult for the Palestinian leadership to give up the right of return, and also difficult for Israel to accept it because it is opposed to its immigration policy, and endangers the Jewish character of the state.

* The US recommends settling refugees in the Palestinian state, and regions of Israel that will come under its control as part of a land transfer. Other refugees will be settled in their host countries or in third countries. All refugees will have the right of return to the Palestinian state, but not to Jerusalem.      (Jerusalem Post Dec 28)

Settlers React to Reported Evictions Plan

The Yesha Council said Wednesday night that, according to reliable sources, Prime Minister Ehud Barak intends to seek the cabinet's approval to hand over 97% of the West Bank to the Palestinians, including Rachel's Tomb.   "We are talking about concessions that were not even mentioned in the US proposals," a Council statement said.  Reports that Barak intends to strike a bargain with the Palestinian Authority that will lead to the eviction of thousands of settlers from their homes in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, and the Jordan Valley and North Dead Sea area, were received with anger and disbelief by settler leaders. 

While exact details of the proposal remain unclear, all were unanimous in their decision to fight the implementation of any such decisions and vowed they would not stand quietly and allow Barak to strip them of their homes and communities.  Apart from evicting settlers from their homes, the government is also considering ceding portions of the West Bank to the Palestinians that include the Jewish community of Hebron and Kiryat Arba.  "Barak's steps are despicable and disgusting, and he is not only betraying the settlers but the entire Israeli public," said Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein. "It appears that he has chosen to act on his own personal interests rather than focusing on what will benefit national interests," he said. 

While it is unclear which communities are under threat, Wallerstein noted that the reports related to scores of settlements in Judea and Samaria.  In the Hebron Hills region: Tene Omarim, Shema, Eshkolot, Yatir, Sussiya, Maon, Karmel, Otniel, Negohot, Beit Haggai, and Penei Hever. In the Binyamin region: Dolev, Talmon, Talmon North, Nahliel, Halamish (Neveh Tsuf), and Ateret.  "Who knows what will happen with Ofra, Beit El, Psagot, and Kochav Ya'acov?" said Wallerstein. "What does Barak plan for those communities?" he asked.  In the north Samaria region: Yitzhar, Hermesh, Kadim, Ganim, Mevo Dotan, Einav, Shavei Shomron, Eilon Moreh, Itamar, Bracha, Tapuah, and Migdalim.  "I doubt the plans also include Kedumim," Wallerstein added, referring to the large settlement west of Nablus.  In the east Gush Etzion area the communities possibly under threat are Nokdim, El David, Tekoa, Ma'aleh Amos and Meitsad.  "The minute Barak gave up the Temple Mount, then he gave up on the Jewish identity," Wallerstein stated. "Jews do not pray toward Kochav Yair [Barak's home] but toward Jerusalem and the Temple Mount," he said, adding, "In addition he is considering to allow the return of refugees and handing over thousands of dunams of land in the Negev."  Wallerstein said that even if the agreement falls through, Barak has already set a dangerous precedent for future governments in negotiations with the Palestinians.  The communities in the Jordan Valley reportedly mentioned in the plan are Shdemot, Mehola, Bekaot, Roi, Hamra, Hemdat, Mehorah, Gitit, Messua, Argemann, Yafit, Nativ Hagdud, Petzael, Tomer, Yitav, Na'aran, and Na'ama.  The northern Dead Sea has five communities reportedly mentioned: Vered Jericho, Almog, Mitzpe Shalem, Kalia, Beit Ha'arava. and the town of Ma'aleh Ephraim. 

For the 8,000 residents of the Gaza Strip, including the Gush Katif area, Barak's plans are considered a mere pipe dream fated to collapse. In Gush Katif,  the 15 settlements are: Rafiah Yam, Bnei Atzmon, Bedolah, Gan Or, Pe'at Sadeh, Gadid, Neveh Dekalim, Ganei Tal, Katif, Netzer Hazani, Kfar Darom, Kfar Yam, Slav, Tel Katifa, and Morag. Other Gaza Strip communities are Netzarim, Dugit, Nisanit, and Alei Sinai.  "No one believes that Barak's plans will be implemented. It is not the first time we have been threatened, but residents are concerned and will not sit quietly," said Gush Katif spokesman Dror Vanunu. "No one will leave, residents have built their homes and developed their communities, farmers here have sweated for years to make ends meet. No one will throw it away" Vanunu said.  Noam Arnon, spokesman of the Hebron Jewish community, warned that no one would sit back and allow the implementation of such plans, and added that the battle was not just for Hebron but all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. He vowed that if necessary, residents would barricade themselves in their homes. No one, he said, will agree to go willingly.   (Jerusalem Post Dec 28)

Olmert Move Elicits Arab Threats

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert moved his offices and aides to a building - known as the Idra - opposite the Western Wall Wednesday night.  Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat actually warned Prime Minister Barak that if Olmert transfers his offices, it could lead to bloodshed.  Olmert was adamant, however:  "Jerusalem - the Temple Mount, the Wall, everything - is ours," he said.  "If the Temple Mount is transferred to the Palestinians, Jews will not even be able to come to the Western Wall." An editorial in Ma'ariv Wednesday noted that Article VIII of the 1949 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Jordan  promised Israel free access to the holy places, "an article that Jordan never honored."  The editorial adds that the Mount of Olives, which is also scheduled to be given to the Palestinian Authority according to the Clinton proposals, had its latrines paved by the Arab Legion with headstones from the Jewish cemetery.  The editorial continued, "Only recently, the Foreign Ministry distributed a 'White Paper' in which it described Arafat as a 'serial violator of agreements...'"   (A7 Dec 27)

Encouraging Words From Katzele

Yaakov (Katzele) Katz, one of the leaders of the Yesha settlement enterprise and Executive Director of Arutz-7, helped lift the spirits of Arutz-7 listeners Wednesday: "It is important that we all know:  We are not only a little minority.  Most of the Jewish public in Israel - 70, 80% - does not want to give away Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and uproot Jews from their homes. 

We must know that the media has enlisted totally in the effort against us - for instance, today they are full of reports about Finance Ministry plans for uprooting settlers and paying compensation...  First of all, we must know that we are the pioneers, and the world's eyes are turned towards us to see if we are strong.  These attempts to weaken us are totally meaningless and empty.  We are the true pioneers, we will remain here forever.  It is exactly because of our strength of spirit that they are trying to fight us with this type of psychological warfare.  But it will not work.  Many of us have been here twenty and thirty years, for three generations already, and we have lived through all these attempts to weaken us...  There are almost half a million people in Yesha, including the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and we must know and remind ourselves:  We are headed only forward!  We must not be alarmed by the reports of weakness on Voice of Israel and Galei Tzahal (Army Radio)...We have arranged that Mayor Olmert will bring his offices and aides to the Idra building opposite the Western Wall, to show the world that Jerusalem, like all of Eretz Yisrael, is ours. 

This is an important message and response to the weakness that has unfortunately overtaken many parts of the Israeli public.  We feel that what is needed now are healthy and positive actions that will arouse the genuine feelings of most of the public - not those of the small, vocal minority.  Most of the public does not want to give away Jerusalem...  The fact our idea [regarding Olmert's offices] has succeeded is proven by the sharp reactions it has evoked among the Palestinians, and we call upon tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews to come visit the new Mayoral offices over the next few days...A word about the protests of the 'right wing:' First of all, I don't like to talk about the 'right-wing,' as if it's some sort of minority - we're talking about close to half-a-million people in Yesha, all of whom are candidates for expulsion from their homes either in the short term or the long term, who represent the healthy majority of the country who don't identify with the plan to give away the Temple Mount and uproot Jews from Jerusalem and divide the city and cause a great disgrace... 

All the protest activities have police approval, such as the march around the Temple Mount tomorrow by hundreds and thousands of rabbis and their students.  All these activities over the coming weeks will lead, with G-d's help, to national spiritual health...” Katz then spoke about Ariel Sharon:  "[Another important element is the] victory of Ariel Sharon in the coming election, with G-d's help - but we have to know that we can't only rely on Ariel Sharon.  Sharon is a politician who represents a particular political direction, a war hero, a man with strong national intuition who did great things for Israel - but we rely not on Sharon but on G-d and on our own actions. 

If we are strong, then Ariel Sharon will also be strong; but if we broadcast despair and weakness, then Sharon too will reflect this and will broadcast the same.  We represent the majority of the Jewish nation, and therefore we will win, and we need not relate to the weakness that the other media give over - we must ignore them and march forward."   (arutzsheva.org Dec 27)

War Foreseen

Dr. Lev Greenberg, of the Humphrey Institute in Be'er Sheva University, writes in today's Yediot Acharonot that Ehud Barak's strategy will lead to war.  He explained to Arutz-7 today that although he feels that Israel should make major concessions to the Palestinians, this is not the way to do it: “From whichever way one looks at it, it appears that war will be the result of Barak's 'election campaign trick.'  For one thing, my most basic evaluation is that there will not be an agreement. 

This is because Arafat also realizes that his signature on an agreement now is worthless, because it will not be honored by Ariel Sharon or by Binyamin Netanyahu (who will become Prime Minister later in what I call the 'second round of elections') - so why should he sign on what he sees as concessions?  I therefore think that there will be no agreement, Sharon will form a national-unity government with Labor, Barak will blame Arafat for the failure to achieve an agreement - and the result will be a military escalation. "However, this would be a minor form of escalation.  A worse scenario is if there really *is* an agreement - because Sharon has promised that he will not honor the agreement, and this will cause the world to say that the Israeli public that voted him into office is against peace.  For this reason, Barak will try to scare the public into voting for the agreement, saying that the alternative is international de-legitimization and war. 

If he succeeds [in scaring the public and winning the election], this will lead to a major de-legitimization of the agreement by the right-wing; the Knesset will then not ratify it, there will be new elections, Netanyahu will win, and the situation [with the Palestinians] will worsen...The main fault with the entire conception," continued Dr. Greenberg, "is that the negotiators are trying to make peace only between the leaders.  They are ignoring the fact that the dispute between the peoples is genuine.  It's not over trivial matters - there are real issues, such as sacred things to both sides, and land rights that both sides want.  It is not something that can be solved in forty days...  The way that Barak is going about this is simply not leading to the desired results of real peace between the peoples, but rather the opposite..."   (A7 Dec 27)

Vilna'i Joins Burg, Milo

Culture and Sport Minister Matan Vilna'i has added his voice to the group  of left-wing figures who are against giving away the Temple Mount. "The Temple Mount is an issue too laden with emotions and historical background to give up on it so easily," said Vilna'i today.  Health Minister Roni Milo said earlier this week that he would not remain in a government that agrees to give away the Temple Mount, and Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg has also come out against the idea. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef of Shas instructed his followers yesterday to work to ensure that the Temple Mount remains in Jewish hands.   (arutzsheva.org Dec 26)

Relay-Race of Generations

Israel's two Chief Rabbis - Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron - demand of Prime Minister Barak that he not give away the Temple Mount.  "No one has the right to give away the site of the Holy Temple," they said in a statement, and added, "The Temple Mount is the basis on which rests our right to the entire Land."  Rabbi Lau explained to Arutz-7 Monday, "We are in a relay-race of generations, and it cannot be that in the middle of the race, one of the generations will simply give up and not transfer the torch to the next in line."  He said that Islam was only founded hundreds of years after Judaism had already built two Holy Temples on the site, "such that even if we cannot change the reality, we must certainly not give it official legal status." Rabbi Bakshi-Doron said that the Chief Rabbinate's ruling forbidding Jewish entry to the site should not be misinterpreted as a surrender of the holy spot.  Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said in response that the question of sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not one for rabbis or Halakhic [Jewish legal] decisors.   (arutzsheva.org Dec 25)

Israel Will Not Sign ICC Charter

Israel will not sign the Rome Statute calling for an International Criminal Court. In a meeting on the issue yesterday, Prime Minister Barak accepted the position of Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein over that of Justice Minister Beilin and Foreign Minister Ben-Ami.   (arutzsheva.org Dec 25)

Creating Facts on the Ground

The army has begun erecting a fence along the old border between Jordan and Israel - known as the Green Line.  The fence will begin in the north from Mt. Gilboa (near Beit She'an), down to Latrun just north of Jerusalem in southwestern Binyamin.  Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that the fence will prevent terrorists from entering the State of Israel and will cut down on car thefts.  Prime Minister Barak has earmarked 100 million shekels for the project.  Previous governments had refrained from erecting such a fence, lest it demarcate the future border between Israel and the Palestinians.(A7 Dec 25)

Another Terrorist Victim, on Major Highway

Eliyahu Cohen of Modiin, was murdered last Thursday night by Palestinian terrorists as he was driving along the highway to Givat Ze'ev.  The murder occurred along a major artery connecting Jerusalem and Modiin with the Tel Aviv area; the terrorists escaped to the Palestinian Authority village Bitouniya, outside Ramallah.  Cohen is survived by his wife and baby daughter.  The Yesha Council accuses the government for the death, in that its agreement to negotiate with those who dispatch the terrorists - while the shooting continues - is a "green light" to continue the bloodshed. There were numerours other attempted Palestinian terrorist killings this past week, throughout Yesha. Jewish worshipers were distanced from the Western Wall for almost a half-hour last Friday when Moslems began throwing large rocks at a nearby police contingent and at the Western Wall plaza.  The Arabs attempted to break through from the Temple Mount - where they held this year's last Friday prayers of the month of Ramadan - towards the Western Wall area.  The police, who had granted control of the Mount to the Waqf during the Friday prayers, were close to taking over the Temple Mount, but at the last minute the Waqf was able to restore calm.   (arutzsheva.org Dec 22)

American-Jewish Support for a Jewish Temple Mount

A public statement headlined "Israel Must Not Surrender Judaism's Holiest Site, the Temple Mount" has been signed by 25 American Jewish leaders, from the Orthodox and Conservative movements.  The statement will appear as an advertisement in numerous Jewish newspapers throughout the United States and Israel in the coming days.  The statement reads, in part: "In future years, all of us will have to answer to all our children and grandchildren when they ask us why we did not do more to protect their heritage and safeguard Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount).  The holy city of Jerusalem, and particularly the Temple Mount, has been the birthright, the geographical heart and the spiritual soul of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.  It is the place towards which Jews everywhere in the world turn to pray three times a day. 

It is the Zion to which we have yearned to return from exile for millennia.  In 1967, when Jerusalem was reunited, and especially the Temple Mount was returned to Jewish hands, we all rejoiced as we witnessed a true miracle in our time - these holy places coming back to the Jewish people...  We note that public opinion polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Diaspora Jews reject the idea of surrendering the Temple Mount..." 

The statement was signed by former Conference of Presidents chairmen, leaders of the Rabbinical Council of America, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Rabbinical Assembly, and other prominent Jewish groups.   (arutzsheva.org Dec 22)

Hareidi Prayers for Yesha

Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, one of the leading rabbis of the hareidi sector, publicized a call to all those who follow him to "come to the aid of the residents of Judea and Samaria."  He said that every Thursday night, special prayers would be held on behalf of the residents in the synagogues of Bnei Brak.   (A7 Dec 22)

NIF Official: Scrap Hatikvah

At a New Israel Fund dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel a week ago, keynote speaker and NIF executive director Norman Rosenberg wasted no time on soft-soaping, reports Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles columnist Marlene Adler Marks. Rosenberg declared that achieving equality for Israeli Arabs is NIF's "highest organizational priority," a decision he acknowledged might challenge "sound business logic." "The words of 'Hatikvah' are merely an insult; these disparities in investment are rejectionist," Rosenberg said, clinching his case, or, perhaps, sealing his political fate. "They are a rejection of universalistic notions of fairness and the very ideals of the Jewish State." (usajewish.com)

From the PA Media...


Fatah Head: “Israeli Blood Will Be Shed Everywhere”

The Palestinian media has reported extensively during the past few weeks on events carried out by Palestinian organizations opposed to accords with Israel, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others. High ranking members of Yasser Arafat's organization, Fatah, as well as of the Palestinian Authority, participated and spoke at many of the events. The statements were usually sharp, and not in the same spirit as efforts to revive the dialogue and reach an agreement. Fatah Secretary General Ahmad Hilles spoke at an Islamic Jihad rally in Gaza, and said the 'Intifada will go on and will continue hurting Israelis, and causing their blood shed everywhere, so that the Palestinian people won't be the only ones who shed their blood every day". Hilles spoke in front of a large audience, which shouted slogans denouncing the Washington negotiations, and waved Hizbulla flags and posters of Ayatollah Humeini. Across from him, at the head of the rally, stood tens of masked men wearing white shrouds on which were written 'Hizbullah  Jerusalem Regiments', while holding explosive charges in their hands. [Alhayat Aljadida Dec 23]  (PMW Dec 24)

PA Minister Promises Return to Beer Sheba, Jaffa, Jerusalem...

At the funeral procession in Rafiah, in which masked men had participated, the minister of supplies in the Palestinian Authority, Abu Ali Shaheen, said “The Palestinian people, who are burying their martyrs today, will be celebrating tomorrow the return of Jerusalem, Jaffa and [Beer] Sheba, and won't give up on the soil of their homeland." [Alayyam, 22/12/00]   (PMW Dec 24)

Voice of Palestine Incitement

VOP accused Israel of planning-with extremist settlers-provocative acts in Jerusalem, and it interviewed both Feisal Husseini (PLO Executive member, responsible for Jerusalem) and MK Muhammad Barakeh on what it said were strong rumors that Mayor Ehud Olmert would move  his municipal offices to the Old City tomorrow. Husseini said the Palestinians were preparing for this possibility, and would respond with force to any attempt to change the "arabness" of Jerusalem.   (Voice of Palestine Dec 26)

Quotes for the Week...

"Israel has reached the end of Zionism's territorial stage."
- Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, during a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony with Foreign Ministry employees in Jerusalem.   (Israel Radio/IMRA Dec 26)


The End of Israel 

   By Cal Thomas

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak regrets that he has only one country to give for his political life. President Clinton, still searching for a legacy that would be his if he had done something worthy of one, has so dishonored his own country he has no shame in dishonoring another one -- in this case Israel -- by helping Barak help Israel's enemies destroy the Jewish state. Just what part of "annihilation" do these two not understand?

The latest round of "peace" talks were as big a sham as the talks between the Nixon administration and the North Vietnamese 25 years ago. North Vietnam used the agreement to allow the U.S. to save some short-term face but it got all the land it wanted. Peace wasn't "at hand" then and it isn't now in the Middle East.

The latest to join the Israel-as-oppressor chorus are leaders of most of the Christian faiths in Israel, including Greek and Armenian Orthodox, Roman and Greek Catholics, Copts and Syriacs, Lutherans and Anglicans. In a joint statement, the various patriarchs suggested that the "Palestinians" are oppressed and that Israel is the oppressor. Do these people think their religious freedom will be preserved if Jerusalem is run by Yasser Arafat?

It wasn't when Jordan occupied the land. Because many Christian denominations refused to come to the aid of Jews during the Holocaust, and some still oppose any Jewish presence in the land, they are overdrawn at the bank where they once kept their moral capital and should not be taken seriously.

Arafat will settle for nothing less than total domination. One cannot name a single agreement he has honored. He gets land and Israel gets no peace, only more grief. Arafat gets American and European money but spends hardly any helping his people. Instead, he uses it to shore up his power base and create significant wealth for himself and his cronies.

Arafat takes our importunings about peace and spits in our face. He hates Israel and he hates America. He and his friends will never make peace with the Jews. How many more wars, terrorist acts and pledges never to settle for less than all the land will it take before the West and liberal politicians in Israel wake-up from their self-deluded peace nap?

Much is being made of the few days remaining before the Jan. 20 inauguration of a new U.S. president and the Feb. 6 election for a new Israeli Prime Minister. Arafat is using these two events to pry more concessions from Clinton and Barak. He has no intention of reciprocating them. He hasn't done so before and he has acknowledged the possibility of assassination should he fail to satisfy the various factions who want everything.

The crux of the agreement being brokered by the Clinton administration is that Arafat will relinquish any more claims of land from the Israelis if he gets what Barak is willing to give up. Arafat might conceivably sign such a document (though I doubt it) but neither he nor his colleagues will honor it. The so-called "right of return" for Palestinians living abroad that is part of the negotiations is simply an invitation for more of Israel's enemies to come in and finish killing off the Jewish state.

The Palestinian media report what their side believes but diplomats ignore them. High ranking members of Arafat's Fatah organization and the Palestinian Authority have participated in events at which speakers have denounced the latest round of negotiations in Washington. Ahmad Hilles, Secretary General of the Fatah faction in Gaza, said Dec. 23 at an Islamic Jihad rally, "(the) Intefada will go on and will continue hurting Israelis, and causing their blood shed everywhere..." (as reported by the Palestinian Authority newspaper, Alhayat Aljadida). That's not the kind of language one associates with a people preparing for peace.

Neither is the action by Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. According to the Dec. 24 London Times, Hussein has ordered his scientists to resume work on a nuclear bomb program. The Times quotes a defector from Hussein's nuclear program, Salman Yassin Zweir, as saying that Hussein "will never give up the dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb." Ask yourself which nation would be Hussein's most likely target?

Fortunately, the Israeli Knesset would have to approve any agreement with Arafat. It is unlikely that they would, but who can say for sure? Jews have a habit of being their own worst enemies, worse sometimes than their declared enemies.   (Los Angeles Times Syndicate Dec 27)

(Un)holy Agreements  

     By Israel Harel

When Jericho was transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction, it was promised - in written agreements and in solemn declarations - that Jews would not be hampered from continuing to visit Jericho's ancient synagogue, which has a mosaic with the words "Peace for all Israel" (shalom al yisrael) and that they would also not be hampered from praying or studying there. "The fact that our neighbors have agreed to allow us to continue to pray at those sites which are holy to Judaism," said Shimon Peres at the time, "is cogent proof of their sincere desire for peace.".Two months ago, our neighbors, the ones with the sincere desire for peace, burned down the ancient synagogue in Jericho. As the synagogue burned, the army of the Jewish people, which was established, inter alia, to prevent such pogroms from taking place, just sat and watched, entrenched behind its fortifications and in a strictly defensive position. The soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces just sat and watched, little more than a stone's throw away from the flames, and did not prevent this act from being carried out. Ever since that incident, Israel has not demanded that the former status quo be restored nor has any Jew stepped foot on that site. The Palestinian Authority, if only for propaganda or tactical reasons, is not being accused of having set fire to a Jewish holy site or of showing a total inability - or a total lack of desire - to protect other Jewish holy sites.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has again proven that, even though he is a serial violator of written agreements, he always comes out on top. The facts are undeniable: After every act of aggression, including the sinful and abominable terrorist attack on a bus transporting children from the settlement of Kfar Darom, the efforts to woo him grow more vigorous instead of abating. A vivid example is the recent pilgrimages of Public Security Minister and Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, Tourism Minister and Transportation Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and a delegation of members of Israel's parliament for meetings with Arafat.

For generations, but especially over the past 33 years, Jews have visited Joseph's Tomb. It could be argued that this is not where Joseph, the son of Jacob, was really buried, but it cannot be denied that the PA made a commitment in writing, as was the case in Jericho, that this site, which had been handed over to its jurisdiction, would remain open, that Jews would be able to study Torah there and that the PA, together with a small Israeli security contingent, would be responsible for the lives and well-being of all Jews present at that site.

Since the outbreak of the Oslo War, Joseph's Tomb has been transformed from a holy site to a battlefield. Every Israeli television viewer can vividly recall the shots that were fired, from point-blank range, into this holy site. Nor will the senior commanders of the IDF be able to forget - even if they continue to claim complete innocence - the trauma that the Israeli army experienced after a Druze Border Guard, Madhet Yosef, was abandoned on that battlefield where he died of his wounds. Nonetheless, the most painful sights, from the standpoint of Israel's national conscience, were those of Joseph's Tomb being smashed to bits, rock by rock, and of the burning of holy Jewish books. Here again, the IDF stood by, idly watching (from its vantage point a few hundred meters away) and did nothing to prevent this sacrilege - just like the armies of the gentiles during pogroms in Eastern Europe.

Rachel's Tomb has always occupied a special place, especially from the emotional standpoint, in the collective Jewish heart. "You can stop your sobbing and you can stop your tears," Jewish women would recite the Biblical verse, as they themselves cried bitterly, "because God will reward your efforts, because there is hope on the last leg of your journey, and because your children have come home."

For 19 years, before the Six Day War of June 1967, the enlightened, noble King Hussein of Jordan did not allow any Jew to step foot on this much-cherished site. It was only after this war that Jewish women returned to Rachel's Tomb to resume their tearful prayers. Then along came Oslo 2 and the Israeli government, which turned its back on the emotional, national and religious implications of those women's tears, handed over the site to the Palestinians. Angry demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of Jews, most of them ultra-Orthodox, were held without let-up at Rachel's Tomb and awakened the government's sensitivity - primarily political (Unlike the Temple Mount, Rachel's Tomb was daily visited by thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, mostly women). In the wake of the demonstrations, the evil decree was rescinded.

However, even though Rachel's Tomb remains - ostensibly at least - in Israeli hands, the visits have stopped. The tomb's surroundings have become a battlefield and even those women who used to visit the site day in and day out are, in effect, prohibited from praying at the site. Another one of Arafat's conquests, another example of Israel's capitulation.

Ever since the start of the Oslo War, no Jew has set foot on the Temple Mount. Very few Jews visit the Mount of Olives to pray at the tombs of important figures in Jewish tradition. Jewish visitors are also scarce at dozens of other Jewish holy sites, some of which are less known, but all of which have been captured by the Palestinians.

It is logical to assume that many, if not most, Israeli Jews have no particular sentiments toward these holy Jewish sites and do not really care that other Jews, who long to pray at those sites, are no longer able to do so. (These same Israeli Jews who have no special feelings for Jewish holy sites, of course, feel very differently when the subject is the safeguarding of the right of Palestinians to freedom of worship at their holy sites, for example, on the Temple Mount.) This is probably another reason why Arafat can so easily seize control of those holy Jewish sites without eliciting any opposition from the Israeli public, which could pressure the Israeli government - if that government felt a real political threat - in order to try to block this Palestinian takeover.

The fact that the government has made peace with the Palestinians' seizure of nearly all of the sites held sacred by Jews - in contravention of written agreements - should sound the alarm bells in the minds of all Israeli Jews, even those who have never set foot on such sites. If the government is willing to stand by and watch the Palestinians fail to honor written agreements, what possible reason is there for the passionate, obsequious, debasing wooing of Arafat so that he will deign to sign another series of agreements? Has he not proven to Israel (and the leaders of Lebanon and Jordan have a thing or two to say that can attest to this minor fact) that his signature is not worth the paper it is written on.    (Haaretz Dec 21)

Sit down and Protest!  

  By Yossi Olmert

Prime Minister Ehud Barak's downfall and the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority are creating an unprecedented situation - how to deal with an illegitimate government which is engaged 40 days prior to elections in fateful discussions about the very existence of the State of Israel. 

The government is illegitimate because it has no majority in the Knesset, at most being able to enlist the support of 30 to 40 MKs. Moreover, the prime minister who stands for reelection gets 25-30% approval in public opinion polls. Even more so, when asked about the various components of the proposed agreement with the Palestinians, over 60% of the Israeli public expressed their objections. By all accounts, the government and the prime minister operate without any real mandate, neither from the legislator nor from the people. 

Even the legal adviser of the government forbids any political appointments before the elections in order not to oblige the next government to decisions taken by an outgoing government. Under these circumstances, can people of honesty and integrity accept Barak's stampede to make crucial historic concessions which stand no chance of being approved by the people in parliament, but will still be the basis for any future negotiations? Clearly, what Barak is doing justifies a fierce reaction, but what and how?

The Right can pass another Knesset resolution on top of the many which have already been passed, and which are supposed to inhibit Barak. So what? Barak already says that he cares only about the people and not the Knesset.

The Right can mobilize yet again hundreds and thousands of people for a public rally as has happened on umpteen previous occasions. So what? It did not matter in the past and it does not matter now.

The gravity of the situation is such that something ought to be done and it has to be a new tactic: civil protest and disobedience. 

The key factor is the Jerusalem issue. It is Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Old City, and the Jewish Quarter which are at stake. Barak believes wrongly that sacrificing Jerusalem will appease Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat over the issue of the so-called "right of return." 

But Arafat will make no concessions on this issue. He really means to send to Israel one to two million Palestinians because the Palestinian masses care about this much more than they care about Jerusalem. This question concerns every Palestinian, both inside and outside the territories. Arafat has always been very receptive to the popular sentiment of his people and the sentiment is loud and clear: no to any compromise over the right of return. 

Thus Barak is not going to have an agreement, but Jerusalem is in actual danger. The concessions of today will be the basis for tomorrow's negotiations.

So hundreds of thousands of concerned Jews should go to Jerusalem and "liberate" it, again - pure and simple. A constant mass sit-in at the Western Wall; a constant mass sit-in throughout the Jewish Quarter and the Prime Minister's Office; a constant and peaceful reminder to Barak that his government is in virtual authority only, and that no one, not even an illegitimate prime minister, can obliterate 2,000 years of Jewish life. It is Jerusalem now or maybe no more.   (Jerusalem Post Dec 27)

Fight Now, Sign Later: Get it All 

   By Evelyn Gordon

Based on Palestinian assessments, which have traditionally been more reliable than Israeli ones, there is still a strong chance that the current talks will end in failure. If so, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his negotiators will doubtless express bewilderment at the Palestinians' intransigence, just as they did after the Camp David summit in July.

But based on Barak's performance over the last few months - and on that of Israeli governments over the last several years - the truly bewildering development would be if Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat did sign now, before having achieved 100 percent of his demands. Both Israel and the world have given him every reason to believe that more time, and more deaths, will eventually make those demands attainable.

Consider how far Barak has traveled just in the last three months. In late September, when the current wave of Palestinian violence began, Barak was still adhering to three principles.

One was that Israel would neither negotiate under fire nor improve its offers in response to violence.

The second, which was in some ways an outgrowth of the first, was that the basis for territorial negotiations would not be the pre-1967 borders: What the Palestinians could have obtained had they been willing to recognize Israel then is no longer available now, after a 33-year campaign of terror, during which time reality on the ground has changed.

The third was that Israel would not concede sovereignty over the Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism, towards which Jews have prayed three times a day for the last 2,000 years.

By last week, however, not only had Barak agreed to negotiate under fire - yet another Israeli civilian was killed and several Israelis were wounded in the dozens of attacks that week - but he had also, in response to the violence, significantly improved his offer to the Palestinians by sacrificing principles two and three. Israeli negotiators reportedly agreed last week that the pre-1967 borders would be the basis for negotiations; they also agreed that Israel would cede control of the Temple Mount. At least for this latter concession (and probably for the former as well), Israel did not even request, much less receive, any Palestinian quid pro quo. Foreign Minister and chief Israeli negotiator Shlomo Ben-Ami simply declared publicly, in a speech to American Jews, that Israel would have to cede control of the Temple Mount in any deal.

And the upshot of these new concessions? Arafat declared over the weekend that an agreement is still impossible, because there is one point on which Israel has not yet conceded: The "right of return" - i.e. permitting a few million Palestinians (the exact number varies with the speaker) to immigrate to Israel. Israel has so far rejected this demand because it would mean the end of the Jewish state. A few million new Palestinian citizens could simply vote Israel out of existence. Arafat undoubtedly understands this, but he also apparently thinks that Israel can be persuaded to improve its current offer, which is in the neighborhood of 100,000 returnees. And based on the history of the negotiations to date, why should he think anything else? 

During the seven years since the Oslo process began, the Palestinian position has not changed one iota. The demands raised by Palestinian negotiators last week were the same demands they raised at the start of the process in 1993: the entirety of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (with minor adjustments of a few percent in exchange for equivalent territory inside the Green Line), all of eastern Jerusalem, and the right of return.

In contrast, the Israeli position has shifted dramatically over this period, because each new Palestinian refusal and each new round of Palestinian violence has had the same result: massive world pressure on Israel for more concessions, massive internal pressure from the Israeli Left for the same, and eventually, actual concessions at the negotiating table.

And though world leaders occasionally pay lip service to the idea that the Palestinians must also demonstrate flexibility, they are always quickly persuaded to redirect their pressure towards the easier target. This is because for Arafat, "no" has so far always meant no; for Israel, "no" has never yet meant anything more than "not this month."

Bill Clinton's latest "bridging proposal" is a classic example. In July, he urged Arafat to show flexibility by accepting Israel's already generous concessions in Jerusalem. Now, having found that pointless, he is instead reportedly demanding that Israel simply give Arafat all of what he wants from its capital.

Thus it is hardly surprising that Arafat has not yet been willing to sign a final-status agreement. Why sign now, when neither Israel nor the world has ever given him reason to believe that he cannot increase his gains still further with more time, and more blood?    (Jerusalem Post Dec 26)

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