Israel News

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

June 29, 2001
Issue number 333

News...

Sharon to Bush: Violence must Be Stopped, Not Reduced

While media around the world are reporting on the "disagreements" between  Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush, both sides are attempting to downplay their significance. A senior White House aide said that there are no substantive differences between the leaders. Sharon himself told Israeli reporters that he and Bush agree on most issues, and that the meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere, but that it is better that the differences should be laid on the table. The disagreements center around the question of whether the Palestinian violence must stop totally or only "significantly." Speaking with reporters before their meeting, Bush insisted that progress has been made towards stopping violence, while Sharon said that there must be absolutely no Arab terrorism or incitement. Before the meeting, Bush emphasized the progress made in stopping the violence and the need to begin "at some stage" implementing the Mitchell Report. Sharon, however, emphasized the continuing Palestinian violence and Israel's insistence on a complete end to terrorism and incitement. Bush said, "Both sides will understand when the level of violence will be reduced to a level at which it will be possible to proceed," while Sharon said, "Israel's position is that we can conduct negotiations only when there is a complete stop to terrorism, incitement, and violence. Just last week five of our people were killed, which is proportional to 250 or even 300 Americans. We can have no compromise with terrorism." Bush responded, "We understand the pressures that the Prime Minister faces, we condemn violence and death, but we believe that there has been progress?"   Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane spoke Wednesday with Zalman Shoval, advisor to Prime Minister Sharon and former Israeli Ambassador to US, who said: "Those who spoke of an unprecedented disagreement last night between Sharon and Bush, exaggerated. It's clear that the Americans have a different approach than we do regarding a total ceasefire, 100% efforts [on the part of the PA to stop terrorism], etc. Our officials have not glossed over these differences, but we must keep the proper proportions: In the past, there were much greater differences between Israeli Prime Ministers and American presidents…… It's surprising that the current administration has adopted [former US Secretary of State] Albright's phrase of '100% efforts' by the PA, but in any event we know that there have not been such efforts - since the Americans now agree that Arafat is in total charge, such that 100% effort would mean at least 90% success in stopping the violence…"  Shoval said that the Americans have not already demanded a settlement freeze in Yesha, "and I believe that Foreign Minister Peres erred when he said that the freeze is already in effect. Bush himself said that this is a step-by-step process, and [Secretary of State] Powell, too, has said that first comes security, then peace - not like our left-wingers at home who say that peace IS security."      (arutzsheva.org Jun 27)

P.A. Continues Incitement, Especially Against Yesha

The Palestinian Authority media continue to incite hatred against Yesha residents. They accused "settlers" of killing an Arab who in fact had been killed in a car accident two weeks ago, and most recently claimed that Jews had kidnapped an Arab boy - when in fact the Yesha residents were performing a kindness by taking the sick boy to a nearby infirmary. One senior PA figure, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, said last Thursday, "They [Jews of Yesha] are not innocent civilians, therefore we will not arrest whoever harms them."    (arutzsheva.org Jun 21)

Two Soldiers Murdered Last Friday

Sgt. Ophir Kitt, 19, of Jerusalem,, and Sgt. Aviv Izak, 19, of Kfar Saba, were killed last Friday when they went to offer help to a jeep stuck in the sand in the Dugit area of northern Gaza, at the behest of Arabs standing nearby. The jeep then exploded, killing the two and injuring a third soldier who had remained in the army vehicle. Immediately after the blast, the IDF troops came under Palestinian gunfire.  Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that the suicide terrorist had planned to carry out a much larger attack within Green-Line Israel, and the assumption is that when he got stuck, he decided to explode his charge on the two soldiers. The jeep had earlier been prevented from passing through a roadblock that the army was in the midst of removing; the roadblock was restored after the attack. PA sources originally claimed that the two soldiers had died in a training accident. The IDF strenuously denied this report, and noted that Hamas had even taken responsibility for the killings. The IDF spokesman noted, "the fact that Israel is carrying out its part in the Tenet Understandings and is removing checkpoints so as to make life easier for the Palestinian residents aided the terrorist in his intentions." Ophir's father said that he spoke with his son 15 minutes before the attack, and that his son told him, "Abba, I'm not afraid to die for the country if I have to." The family lost their older son to cancer at age 16 eight years ago; one son, 16, now remains.         (arutzsheva.org Jun 24)

Arafat Frees Dolphinarium Terrorists

"There is no better example of the cynical attitude of the Palestinian Authority," and of Arafat himself, to acts of terror than their handling of the Dolphinarium suicide slaughter that claimed 21 young lives. So wrote military correspondent Ze'ev Schiff in Ha'aretz last Friday. He recounted that Israel's General Security Services quickly found out the names of two people who had dispatched the bomber, and although they presented their names to Palestinian security leaders and requested that they be arrested, this did not happen. Instead, the two were summoned for a conversation with PA security agents, admitted their involvement in the massacre, signed their consent not to carry out similar activities in the future - and were sent home! This, despite the Tenet agreement stipulation that the PA arrest those responsible for terrorism. Voice of Israel Radio reported Sunday in the name of German media sources that Arafat had written a letter of congratulations to the family of the Dolphinarium suicide bomber. Arafat reportedly wrote that the killer's self-sacrifice is worthy of admiration.         (arutzsheva.org Jun 24)

Effie Eitam: Break up the P.A. Now

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Effie Eitam, who retired from the army about five months ago and has since given many speeches around the country, spoke with Arutz-7 last week about the current warfare and what, in his opinion, should be done."We must realize that it's not just a question of isolated shootings and the like, but a real war between us and a gang of terrorists that we ourselves armed. It is clear to me that every passing day in which we do not dismantle the PA, just makes it harder to do so in the future; this action is simply unavoidable as something that a state must do for its citizens…It is now time to set out on what is, in the most elementary sense, a justified military mission of self-defense. Its first aspect is, first of all, to make sure that absolutely no private Arab transportation is allowed on the roads… In addition, the top brass of the military and diplomatic leadership of the PA must be made to disappear, either physically or functionally. All the weapons must be taken from within the Palestinian Authority, even at the cost of warfare against the pockets of resistance that will exist. The PA's territorial contiguity must then be broken up, and we will have to hold separate negotiations with each separate area as to how it will run its own municipal affairs. It must be clear that there will no longer be one foreign sovereign entity west of the Jordan… "I retired from the army when my calling Arafat a liar and a murderer aroused such a ruckus [in the public and within the army] that I realized that I could no longer remain in such an army... There has been a deterioration of our military deterrent power, beginning with our retreat from Lebanon last year. It continued with allowing shooting on our capital, evacuating Joseph's Tomb, and a lack of ability to deal with the continued violence of the past few months…… As long as the wreckage of Oslo continues to exist, we'll never be able to set forth on a new way, and this would be a tragedy for both sides."       (arutzsheva.org Jun 21)

Avnery Spurs Palestinians on

In an article in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al Hayat al-Jadida, Left-wing writer Uri Avnery wrote, "The Palestinians have attained a great victory in the battle over the settlements… The conclusion is that you should not stop the intifada, but if you must [stop], then do so only for tactical reasons."       (arutzsheva.org Jun

Entebbe Rescue Participant Remembers

This week marked 25 years since the heroic IDF rescue of 100 Israelis being held hostage in Entebbe, Uganda, on the 6th day of Tammuz, 5736 (July 4, 1976). Brig.-Gen. (res.) Effie Eitam participated in the historic mission as the commander of a Golani Brigade unit. He recounted to Arutz-7 Tuesday, "Golani Commander Uri Saguy called me in the middle of an exercise in the Golan to tell me what we were about to do. Even he, an old battle horse, was very excited, saying we were about to embark on a mission about which I would be able to tell my grandchildren proudly. We drove to Tel Aviv, and started looking for Uganda in old atlases..."  Haggai Segal: "The mission [to save the hostages] was a pretty insane idea, no?" EE: "It wasn't insane, but it was daring, based on a good combination of surprise and very detailed planning. It remains an almost classic model of these two elements, allowing us to produce results way beyond what would have been our normal capabilities... "Our group's mission, together with others, was to take over the old terminal where the hostages were and bring them to the plane. One of the most moving parts of the mission was not the actual military part, which was fairly straightforward, but the flight home on the same plane together with all the hostages. It happens very rarely that you actually see in immediate context the direct results of the great risks that the mission involved. To fly back with them was an amazing experience. I remember there was one woman who, throughout the seven-hour flight, kept on counting her family members to make sure they were all there… Very symbolically, the plane was divided in half by a thin curtain: on one side were the joyous former hostages, while on the other side was a make-shift hospital where doctors were trying, in vain, to save the life of the main commander of the operation, Yoni Netanyahu. He died separated only by that curtain from the people whose lives he had saved with his death…" Eitam concluded, "I appeared on a TV program the other day with some self-proclaimed experts - possibly their only expertise was in how to arm the enemy - and they cynically asked me if I thought that Israel could possibly protect each and every isolated settlement. I told them that the trapped Jews in Entebbe were the most far-off and isolated settlement that could possibly be - a settlement 8,000 kilometers away, the sole purpose of which was to gather together and threaten Jews with the idea that they might really be defenseless. But the IDF proved that it is possible to protect a settlement even in Entebbe - if there is the desire, if there is the willingness to be daring, and if there is the proper understanding of what is the true destiny of the State of Israel."       (arutzsheva.org Jun 26)

Hasmonean Town Discovered

Remnants of a Jewish town from the Hasmonean period, well over 2,000 years ago, have been discovered at an archaeological dig between Latrun and Modi'in. The town apparently survived past the rebellion against the Syrian Greeks, but was destroyed by the Romans in the 2nd century C.E. Water cisterns, olive oil and agriculture installations, and others findings have been discovered.    (arutzsheva.org Jun 27)

The War and the Economy

How is Israel's economy faring during this mini-war? A recent report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) finds that it's doing quite well, thanks. Among some of the data: There are around 4,000 high-tech companies in Israel, the highest concentration outside California. The Israeli shekel was one of the strongest currencies in the world last year, appreciating 2.87% compared to the dollar, and almost 11% compared to the Euro. Exports rose in 2000 by 24.4%, while foreign currency reserves reached an all-time high of $22.93 billion. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) was the 6th-best performing market, according to Merrill Lynch's year-end report, and Israel's zero inflation rate was the lowest level since 1951. Ratings companies such as Salomon Smith Barney and Moody's have, as recently as last month, reaffirmed Israel's credit rating. Exports for the fourth quarter of 2000 were $7.7 billion, up by 16.3% compared to the same period the year before. What has been affected, asks the MOIT report? Only agriculture and construction, industries that rely on Arab employment, have experienced a slowdown; Palestinians comprise only 1% of the Israeli industrial workforce. The Bank of Israel estimates that the disturbances have resulted in a once-off cost to the economy of approximately 1% of GDP, still leaving a healthy 5.9% GDP figure for 2000 - a per capita growth rate of 3.4%. The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce estimates the total cost to Israel at $2 billion: $1 billion in tourism, $750 million in construction, and $250 million in exports to the Palestinian Authority. During the first nine months of 2000, tourism arrivals increased by 25%, but during the remaining three months, it dropped 54% compared to the same period in 1999. The International Monetary Fund Report of May 2001 concludes, "The exchange rate, inflation, and market-based inflation expectations have exhibited remarkable stability. This is no doubt a reflection of the authorities' success in establishing credibility, on both the fiscal and monetary policy fronts, for which they should be highly commended. [There is] optimism that the Israeli economy will emerge from the current downturn with financial stability intact, and poised for a resumption of rapid, sustainable output growth… The Israeli economy is mature, stable and strong. Barring an unlikely serious deterioration of the situation, the effects on the economy will be relatively mild and should not affect fundamentals."         (arutzsheva.org Jun 26)

Commentary...

The Palestinian Choice     By Edwin A. Locke

There will be no peace in the Middle East unless freedom rather than despotism becomes the Palestinians' guiding philosophy.

The mounting toll of death in the Middle East is indeed a tragedy. But as our politicians and commentators denounce both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the violence, one crucial point needs to be understood: the actions of the two sides are morally opposite. Spontaneous civilian assaults aside, the Palestinians are the initiators of the violence—an indiscriminate violence in which they do not care whom they kill, whether soldier or child. Israel, in contrast, is acting in self-defense, in retaliation for such terrorism. And its response is aimed at those responsible for the violence and at the facilities from which they operate. (Any innocent non-combatants killed in the process are not the targets of the retaliation.)

The two sides are not morally equivalent. The Palestinians are not seeking to gain their freedom—they are unequivocal enemies of freedom. They, along with the rest of the Arab world, reject the whole concept of rights. Virtually every Arab country is a monarchy, theocracy or military dictatorship. Freedom of speech, property rights, free elections, and the separation of church and state are almost non-existent. Speaking out against the rulers or against the Moslem religion leads to imprisonment or death. All attempts to start competing political parties are ruthlessly crushed.

Israel is the sole country in that entire region that recognizes individual rights. It is the only Mideast country in which people are free to voice their opinions. The non-violent, non-PLO-supporting Arab who lives in Israel enjoys far greater freedom than he would in an Arab nation. It is an utter perversion for the collectivized, tribalist Palestinians to claim that they are acting in defense of rights, when their aim is to obliterate rights—the rights of Israelis as well as of Arabs.

The fundamental goal of the Palestinians is destruction. They want their terrorist attacks to lead to retaliation, so that more of their people will become terrorists, so that more killing takes place, and so on, in an endless cycle of violence, resulting in . . . death—death to as many people as possible. For example, the response of a father to the suicide-bombing act of his 23-year-old son, which killed three Israelis and injured 93 in downtown Netanyah last March, was: "I call upon all Palestinian youth to follow in his footsteps."

Why such seething nihilism? Consider that when the Jews came to Palestine, it was a desert. People were living in the same primitive manner as they had been since the time of Moses. The Jews brought Western knowledge and Western values to the Middle East. They turned an almost barren land into a modern, industrial civilization. They raised cities where there had been only dirt; they developed irrigated farms where there had been only dry sand; they built cars and trucks and planes where there had been mainly pack animals. They produced wealth where there had been only poverty. They brought freedom and individual rights to a land where these ideas were unknown. And many of the Arabs hated Israel for doing so—because it was an achievement they could not, and did not want to, equal. That is why they have always wanted to destroy Israel. That is why the Palestinians continue today in that quest.

When a person sees that a different culture can produce a much better life—greater knowledge, greater mastery over nature, greater comfort and security, greater respect for the individual—than his own, he has two choices. He can adopt the new culture as a blessing, or he can seek to destroy it—and himself—because it stands as a reproach to his irrational form of existence.  The Palestinians have chosen the latter. They are guilty of what Ayn Rand called "hatred of the good for being the good." They hate the Israelis not because of their vices, but because of their virtues—their ability to better their lives by embracing reason, science, technology and individual rights. Israel (despite its own, growing crop of religious mystics) represents the triumph of secularism and freedom in the Middle East. Israel stands for the principle of... life.

The only way this conflict can be resolved, short of all-out war, is for a radical change in philosophy on the part of the Palestinians. They need to choose individual rights and a free society as their core political principle. If they don't, they will tragically get their death wish, and will bring about only further destruction. Until and unless that change occurs, our Mideast analysts should not ignore the morally antithetical premises governing the two sides of this conflict.    (www.aynrand.org June 20)

The writer, Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation at the University of Maryland, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.    

The Good People Are Silent:  Peace Movement Silent When Their Arab Allies Murder Israelis     By Ari Shavit

It will be difficult to forget this silence. For several months now, on almost a daily basis, Israeli citizens who live beyond the Green Line are being murdered by the historic allies of the Israeli peace movement, yet that movement is silent. Here and there its members might mumble a word or two expressing their condolences. Here and there they might make a weak-kneed appeal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. However, essentially, they are silent. In the deepest sense, they are silent. They see their allies shooting at point-blank range at Israelis and yet they are silent.

Nor is it just the Israeli peace movement that is silent. Silence is also being observed by Israeli human rights groups. These human rights groups have taught Israelis for years that every drop of human blood is precious and that one must not distinguish between the blood of one group of human beings and another. Yet, the good people who are members of these human rights groups are proving day in and day out that they find no problem making such distinctions.

For years, Israeli human rights groups have reported - and they are to be commended for having done so - every act of injustice committed at every Israeli roadblock in the territories. Yet these same human rights groups have not seen fit to publish even one comprehensive report on the blood-soaked closure that has been imposed for the past nine months on the residents of some 150 Israeli communities. In their press releases and in their appeals to international agencies, these groups have never mentioned even one name of any of the Israeli citizens whose bodies have been fatally riddled with bullets on their way home. The members of the Israeli human rights groups can find no place in their heart for any description of even one instance in which Jews have been killed on the highway by the special killing squads of the Palestinian dictatorship.Apparently, in the eyes of the members of these human rights groups, the lives of Israelis living beyond the Green Line are not as precious as the lives of the Palestinians living there. In their eyes, the Israelis who live beyond the Green Line are persons who have no human rights - persons who are both nameless and faceless.

Nor is it just the Israeli human rights groups that are silent. Silence is also being observed by Israeli intellectuals and by the majority of the columnists in the nation's newspapers. Silence is being observed by those who - justifiably - condemned the blowing-up of Palestinian houses, and silence is being observed by those who - justifiably - condemned the administrative detentions. Silence is being observed by those who had sufficient courage, in the past, to reveal the true nature of the evil committed by Israelis but who today do not have sufficient courage to reveal the true nature of the evil committed by Palestinians as well.

Silence is being observed by those who talked ad nauseum about the Other without bothering to consider that, sometimes, the Other can also be a 16-year-old boy from Homesh or a mother of six from Neveh Tzuf. Silence is being observed by those who have spoken here for an entire generation of the principle of universal justice without understanding that universal justice today requires all decent human beings to stand up for those who are being shot at, to stand up for them without asking questions or getting into philosophical arguments. To stand up without hesitation in order to protest the attempt being made right before the eyes of all Israelis to conduct a violent ethnic cleansing process on the West Bank. To stand up publicly to protest the attempt being made by Palestinian chauvinism to execute mothers and fathers and little children in order to drive from their homes a population of a quarter of a million Israeli citizens.

The Israeli citizens living beyond the Green Line are not naive human beings. They set up their homes there after having been warned of the dangers. They set up their homes there as they attempted to impose their own particular outlook on all of Israeli society and as they chose to ignore the needs and rights of their Palestinian neighbors. However, what the Israeli citizens living beyond the Green Line have done cannot in any way justify the idea that their blood is cheap and cannot in any way justify the continuing silence that is indirectly promoting the idea that their blood is cheap. Since that is what is being produced by this silence, it is an unforgivable silence. It is a blood-chilling silence and it raises the question whether what has been marketed here for the past few decades as humanist liberalism was really what it purported to be; whether what has been presented here as the hallowed value of universalism was not in fact only an extremely particularist value that was intended to serve the specific needs of a specific cult of enlightened human beings.

However, what is most disturbing is that this silence prompts many to suspect that the silence of the silent ones is no coincidence, to suspect that their silence is somehow linked to the fact that it is their secret political dream to see the Settler Other simply evaporate. To get up one morning and to discover that the hated Settler Other has quite simply vanished.

However, this massive silence not only arouses moral disgust, it is also destructive from the political standpoint for all those who believe that, after all the shooting is over and done with, Israelis will have no other alternative but to conduct a heart-wrenching debate over the future of the settlements and ultimately to call upon a significant segment of the settlers to return to the soil of the sovereign Israeli home.

After all, there are those who understand that, within a short while, they will have to stand up before Israeli citizens and to demand that they tear themselves from everything that they have built. It is precisely those with this kind of awareness who should realize that such a demand can be made only in the name of Israeli solidarity. And it is this very Israeli solidarity that is being undermined by the present silence.

Thus, in the final analysis, all those who are not prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with their partners in Israeli democracy and who are not prepared to publicly demand that the Palestinians stop murdering those partners will lose their moral right and their political ability to demand that those partners obey, at some point in the future, the authority of that Israeli democracy. All those who are not prepared to do those two things will also lose their moral right and their political ability to call themselves moral individuals who believe in both human rights and peace.   (Haaretz 26 June)

Remember the Bible     By Michael Freund

It almost seems axiomatic that regardless of whether the current cease-fire takes hold, the propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians will continue. Even if the Bush administration succeeds in silencing the guns on the ground, the battle for public opinion will endure on our television screens, with each side trying to paint the other as the primary culprit. As in any conflict, Israel’’s defenders will have to consider the tools at their disposal and use them as wisely and judiciously as possible. It is therefore perhaps time for advocates of Israel to reconsider an unfortunate taboo that has taken hold in recent years, one that has weakened Israel’s position and requires a thorough reassessment: “Thou shalt not mention in public the Biblical right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.”

Afraid of turning off various audiences, those entrusted with explaining Israel’s position focus their energies entirely on the diplomatic, military and security realms. They spell out why Israel is a bulwark against militant Islamic fundamentalism and explain the need for the West to support the only democracy in the Middle East. They rightfully point out that that the responsibility for the outbreak of the current unrest lies squarely on Yasser Arafat’s shoulders.

These points are important, and they need to be reinforced as much as possible. But at the same time, Israel is making a grave tactical error by failing to address the underlying question behind the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: whose land is it anyway?

By turning down the previous government’s unprecedented proposals, Arafat made it clear that in his view, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about boundaries and normalization, but about “us or them.” It is a struggle between two entities, the Jews and the Arabs, over one piece of territory, the Land of Israel, and it behooves Israel’s defenders and supporters to begin focusing on this point.

That is where the Bible comes into play. Years ago, Israeli leaders, whether religious or secular, would not hesitate to cite the Bible as the source for the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel. In 1937, when David Ben-Gurion appeared before the British Peel Commission, established to investigate the situation in the British-controlled Mandate for Palestine, he vigorously defended the Jewish people’s right to the Land of Israel, asserting that “The Mandate is not our Bible - the Bible is our mandate.” When was the last time you heard an Israeli official speak so forcefully and, pray tell, so Biblically?

Opponents of using this argument assert that it would be counter-productive, because not everyone believes in the Bible. Ostensibly, they would seem to have a point, because mention of the Bible can lead some listeners to shift uncomfortably in their seats, worried they are about to hear a mid-week sermon.

But as any good salesman will tell you, effective public relations requires a person to tailor his message to suit the audience that he is addressing. There are tens of millions of Jews and Christians across the globe who do believe in the Bible and view it as the Divine instruction manual for the world. By ignoring the Bible entirely, Israel’s supporters are abandoning one of their most powerful and effective arguments, one that much of the Western world believes in and accepts.

The 20th century is replete with examples of the powerful impact that the Bible has had on Western public opinion. Writing about the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which the British government reaffirmed the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in Palestine, historian David Fromkin has noted, “Lloyd George [Britain’’s Prime Minister] wanted his country to carry out what he regarded as the Lord’’s work in the region… Biblical prophecy was the first and most enduring of the many motives that led Britons to want to restore the Jews to Zion” (A Peace to End All Peace, pp. 274, 298).

American presidents throughout the 20th century have similarly been moved, or at least influenced, by the Bible’’s vision. Indeed, it has become standard fare in the United States for a president to finish his speeches with the solemn intonation, “G-d bless you and G-d bless America.” Democrat or Republican, the leaders of the free world have not been ashamed to invoke the Divine when addressing the public. Why, then, should we?

Israel’s defenders must stop being embarrassed by the Bible, and start using it to make Israel’s case. Military and political arguments must also be made, but in the final analysis, much of the Western world looks to the Bible as its guide. The time has come for us to do the same. The Jewish people need to state with unhesitating pride, in a voice that is both loud and clear, that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel because the G-d of Israel said so.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1996 to 1999.    (Jerusalem Post June 26)

Oslo Revisited: The Left must recognize that Oslo ITSELF is a failure - not just Arafat       By  Ehud Ya'ari

Israelis have reached a general consensus about Arafat, but not about the process that brought him into our neighborhood It has become very fashionable in Israel to sit around taking Yasser Arafat to pieces. He's being swamped with invective from the right, of course, but also from the left regarding his personality, his character traits and his political conduct. The image of the rais wasn't exactly snow-white even before the new intifada. It is now, in my view, absolutely and indelibly stained. Even Prof. Amiram Goldblum, one of the founding fathers of Peace Now, recently saw fit to mention the "sausagey fingers" of Arafat, "a man who hasn't done a decent day's work in his life," and even went on to relate how he was overcome by nausea when Arafat once slopped wet kisses on a colleague. Suffice it to say that Arafat is now perceived across the board as a leader with zero credibility, a rich repertoire of lies and an obsession for bloodshed.

We are coming to the end of an important process: the redefinition of the image of Arafat. A resounding majority of Israelis believe that he can't be trusted, even if they see no better alternative than continuing to negotiate with him. The confusion that reigned in the first months of the latest violence - over whether Arafat had wanted the confrontation in the first place and whether he controlled it - has been belatedly resolved: It has become patently clear that Arafat has the ability to impose a cease-fire of 80-90 percent efficacy without having to go to any more trouble than handing out orders and holding a few heart-to-hearts with the heads of Hamas and the Tanzim.  Arafat is aware that he has exposed his flank with his instruction for a cease-fire. From this moment on, he is to be held responsible for everything that has happened so far, and for everything that happens from here on. Hamas is no longer seen by the average Israeli as a rival to Arafat, but rather as one of his more sophisticated weapons. He may have, in a few perfunctory words, condemned the terrible suicide attack at the entrance of a Tel Aviv teenagers' nightclub, but there isn't a single clear-headed Israeli who doesn't hold him responsible for the terror.

What is amazing is that Israelis have reached a general consensus about Arafat, but not about the process that brought him into our neighborhood. Both in the political community and among the wider public, a bizarre distinction is made between the Oslo Accords and Arafat, with whom they were reached. According to various public-opinion polls and the political laboratory of TV and radio talk shows, the 60-70 percent majority which supported Oslo is still not ready to subject that process to a reassessment in the same way that it has reconsidered the attitude to Arafat. It is as if Arafat the man and what he represents are not the very essence of Oslo. Thus, Oslo still hovers in the throes of death over the shattered image of its co-architect.

Ironically, it is Arafat and his various spokespeople who have totally stopped referring to Oslo in the past few months. At most they talk of the need to implement "previous agreements," without specifically naming them. The name Oslo is articulated only by those Palestinian forces eager to see its public, official and immediate burial.  In Israel too, the name Oslo mostly appears in the lexicon of its opponents. Even Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin refer to Oslo, and their role in it, as little as possible. Oslo has almost, though still not quite, become a dirty word.

The inherent contradiction between the change in perception regarding Arafat and the sticking to positions regarding Oslo raises a serious danger: Any further dealings with Arafat will remain within the general outline of Oslo. It will mean yielding other bits of territory - like Haim Ramon's suggestion of a 10 percent third redeployment and/or the voices being raised in favor of evacuating the settlements of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. Peres probably has this kind of approach in his saddlebag as he presses the Americans to present Sharon with a written proposal, backed up by wide international support, for the implementation of the Mitchell Report.

Proceeding along such a track would be an evasion of extracting any lessons from the mistake Israel originally made by bringing Arafat in. If the working assumption of Oslo was that the accords would serve as a kind of filter for the purification of Arafat and of the PLO, it has now been proven that no such transformation has occurred. Indeed, any future arrangement of a similar ilk won't work either, and at the end of the day, we'll be facing the same Arafat, only stronger. Instead of neutralizing his explosive force by penning him into a "sovereign fold," he'll be hopping over to new autonomous bridgeheads.

The sobering-up about Arafat must be coupled with the conclusion that Oslo was a bold experiment with positive goals but, expectedly, a failure. Tremendous value could be gained from a public recognition of that fact, particularly by the Israeli left, which has shown itself ready to engage in open soul-searching when it comes to Arafat. Only by revisiting Oslo will the way open up for new, more effective formulas. (Jerusalem Report Jul 2)

What the Palestinians Think - Want to Destroy Israel    By Ze'ev Schiff:

Many things have changed in Palestinian society since Arafat launched the military campaign against Israel. Everyday life has changed in many aspects, and so have public opinions and positions.

Israelis diligently used to read public opinion polls conducted by Palestinian research centers or experts; today such polls are rare, and hard to carry out properly because of the closure imposed by the Israel Defense Forces on Palestinian towns and villages. Nevertheless, even if the scientific accuracy of these polls is now somewhat faulty - they are still worthy of our attention. Results of the latest poll conducted this month to examine Palestinian opinions on relations with Israel were published this week by the Jerusalem Media Center, headed by Rassan al-Hatib. It is the 41st such poll carried out by the center.

There is no good news in the results of this poll, although 38.1 percent said they still support future peace agreements with Israel. Like many Israelis, most Palestinians (53.9 percent of those polled) oppose the Oslo Accords. A very high percentage of Palestinians - 79 percent - continue to support the Intifada, representing a rise from 70.1 percent in December 2000. Furthermore, 68.6 percent say they now support suicide attacks against Israelis, compared with 66.2 percent in April, and only 26.1 percent in March 1999.

These figures naturally reflect a high level of frustration among Palestinians, who now believe that only the use of force will enable them to achieve national goals.  But most troubling is the way in which the Palestinians polled see the goals of the current Intifada. One could assume that a vast majority would have replied that the aim of the current conflict is to end "the Israeli occupation" and set up a Palestinian state, as declared by the Palestinian leadership. But only 45.6 percent gave that answer, while 41.2 percent said that the goal of the current Intifada is a "complete liberation of Palestinian land" - "complete liberation," in other words the destruction of the state of Israel. Some 9.2 percent believe that the Intifada's goal is to achieve a tactical improvement in conditions for negotiating with Israel.

An additional expression, which effectively means an end to the state of Israel, was used in another question included in the survey. In that question, participants were asked to express their opinion about the possibility of solving the conflict and military confrontation by setting up a "binational state" on the entire territory of Palestine.

This tendency toward expanding the goals of the current Intifada is also apparent in the attitudes exhibited toward the Jewish settlements in the territories. On this issue - which is a central goal of Palestinian propaganda - the Palestinians have already clinched a significant achievement, in the Mitchell Committee's demand to freeze all settlements, even with regard to their natural growth needs. Furthermore, this freeze is supposed to only be part of confidence-building measures, while the future of the settlements is left by the Mitchell Committee to the final status negotiations.

Yet, even if an end is put (to use the terminology of the pollsters) to the settlements in general - 67.1 percent say that they do not agree to stop the Intifada. Only 25.1 percent say that if "the Jewish settlement" is stopped, the Intifada can come to an end.

In light of these answers - specifically the view which sees the goal of the current Intifada as the liberation of the entire territory of Palestine - the Palestinian claim that Israel is responding to the Intifada with too much force and causing undue suffering is surprising. It is strange that the Palestinians on the one hand wish to bring an end to the state of Israel, while on the other hand complain about its anger and response.

Finally, the Palestinians have a clear answer to one question troubling many Israelis. Is Arafat in control of what is happening in the Palestinian Authority? Some 71.6 percent believe that he has full control.   (Ha'aretz June 27)


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