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

March 30, 2001   -   6 Nisan 5761
Issue number 319

News...

IDF Retaliates

The following is the statement of the DF Spokesperson on the attack on terrorist targets Wednesday evening by attack helicopters:

"Israel Air Force attack helicopters attacked targets of "Force 17" and the "Palestinian Presidential Guard" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [Wednesday] evening, March 28th, 2001. In Ramallah the Force 17 headquarter was attacked. In the Gaza Strip the following targets were attacked:

"Force 17 is the security apparatus entrusted in the protection of Yassir Arafat. The organization is comprised of 3,500 operatives.

"The IDF Spokesperson emphasizes that the action this evening is part of the IDF's initiated activity. Their purpose is to strike directly at those responsible for terrorism, following the recent days during which the Palestinian Authority was directly responsible for striking innocent citizens and for the escalation of the situation. The IDF will not allow the harming of the citizens of the State of Israel, and the soldiers of the IDF, and will act with all means at its disposal in order to protect their wellbeing and security and to annihilate the terror.

"It is too early to assess the results of the strike. I can say, however, that we hit one target in Ramallah and four targets in the Gaza Strip. Among these targets were a weapons depot, a Force 17 installation, a training base of the Presidential Guard, and several armored vehicles. Our attack was a well-organized strike carried out by Israel Air Force attack helicopters against objectives belonging to Force 17/Presidential Guard. We have hard evidence that Force 17 bears direct responsibility for the bloodshed, both by perpetrating and supporting terrorist attacks. The Palestinian Authority, which is directly responsible is for the Force, is thus responsible for the wounding of innocent civilians and the escalation of the situation. This week there were 18 attempted terrorist attacks, of which four were "successful." Three people lost their lives and 47 were wounded. This price can not go overlooked. We are sending a message to Force 17, their superiors, and those responsible for them that we will not tolerate any more terrorist activities. We have the obligation to protect the safety and security of the citizens of Israel. We shall decide upon the time, place, and certainly the means by which we will strike at terrorists and those responsible for terrorism. We are not conducting a drawn out campaign against the Palestinian Authority, and certainly not against the Palestinian people whose safety we are interested in protecting. However, whoever engages in terror and perpetrates terroristactivity will feel our long-arm as this evening has proven." (IDF/IMRA Mar 29)

Mubarak: Arafat Alliance with Iraq Could Spark Regional War

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has warned the Palestinians not to form an alliance with Iraq and Syria. Arab diplomatic sources said Mubarak has sent a series of messages to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat that warn of the consequences of his emerging alliance with Iraq and Syria. The sources said these messages warn Arafat that such an alliance would cost the Palestinians both political and financial support and lead the region into war. On Tuesday, the Arab League summit heard an appeal from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for an Arab war against Israel. "We do not agree to any deals on Palestine, all of Palestine from the Jordan [river] to the Mediterranean, including Jerusalem, its crown," Saddam said in a message read by his deputy, Izzet Eddin Ibrahim. Arafat's alliance with Iraq and Syria began after the failed Camp David summit in July, the sources said. They said that by that time Arafat had embarked on plans to launch fighting against Israel amid pressure by the United States to reach a peace accord with the Jewish state. Since August, cooperation between Arafat and Mubarak has been reduced, the sources said. The sources said Mubarak privately blamed Arafat for the widespread protests throughout Egypt in support of the Palestinians and against the regime in Cairo. "They are on speaking terms," an Arab diplomat said, "but there is very little to say. You can say that the cooperation between the two men is on the level of rhetoric." On late Tuesday, Arafat met Syrian President Bashar Assad for 45 minutes on the sidelines of the Arab League summit. The meeting capped months of efforts by Arafat to hold direct talks with the Syrian leader. "There was a discussion on coordination and continued consultations," PA Information Minister Yasser Abbed Rabbo told PA radio on Wednesday. "The relations are moving in a positive direction." The new Palestinian axis with Iraq and Syria also includes increased cooperation with Iran, the sources said. They said that for the first time since the PA was established in 1994, Arafat has given the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad a free hand to strike Israeli targets. The Jihad claimed responsibility for two bombings in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Mubarak is said to have warned Arafat that his alliance with Iraq will torpedo any hopes for Arab financial aid to the PA. Arafat's support for Baghdad has angered Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which oppose the unconditional lifting of United Nations sanctions from Iraq. Jordan has been sidelined as a result of Arafat's new alliance, the sources said. They said Arafat has ended any semblance of cooperation with the Hashemite kingdom and is believed to be supporting pro-Iraqi elements in Jordan that are pressing King Abdullah to sever relations with Israel. (worldtribune.com Mar 29)

Four Terrorist Attacks, Two Students Killed Wednesday

Three Palestinian terrorist bombings were thwarted Wednesday, but one suicide terrorist did succeed in murdering two Israeli high school students. Wearing a bomb pack on his person, the terrorist blew himself up near a group of students waiting for their bulletproof school bus outside Moshav N'vei Yamin (east of Hod HaSharon and Kfar Saba). Two of them were killed, a third was very critically hurt, and another is in moderate condition. Two other students were "lightly" wounded by the bombing. Shmuel Friedman, a fellow student and eye-witness, told Arutz-7: "I was standing at the bus stop with my back to another group of students, a short distance away. Suddenly, I heard a big blast - I turned around and saw bodies on the ground and blood." The two victims are Eliran Rosenberg, 15, from Givat Shmuel, and Naftali Lantzkoren, 14, of Petach Tikvah. The two Jewish youth study at Yeshivat Bnei Chayil in Kedumim. Esther Karish, whose son studies in the school, told Arutz-7 that Bnei Chayil is a "very small school, where everyone is like one big family... The teachers are meeting with the students today; there is much pain, frustration, anger, and crying." Arab terrorists also placed three other bombs in public places in Netanya and Petach Tikva, but the explosives were discovered and safely neutralized after alert citizens noticed the packages and called police. Prime Minister Sharon said, "Yasser Arafat was, and remains, a terrorist leader." (arutzsheva.org Mar 28)

PA Radio Praises Suicide Bomber

The Palestinian Authority's Voice of Palestine radio newsreel described the Arab suicide bomber who killed two and wounded 28 teenage boys at a bus stop Wednesday as "a solider who died as a martyr for the Palestinian people". (Israel Resource News Agency Mar 29)

U.S. Nixes International Force

The issue of an international "peacekeeping" force in Judea and Samaria is now moot. The U.S. imposed a veto on the idea Tuesday night in the UN Security Council. The Palestinians plan to raise the proposal again before the General Council, but it will have no practical effect. Former Israeli Ambassador to Israel Zalman Shoval, a top aide to Prime Minister Sharon, said that not only did the U.S. veto the idea, but the European countries on the Security Council abstained in the vote, "and this is also an achievement for Israel. Arafat's approach of increasing the terrorism has damaged him to the extent that even the Europeans were not willing to agree with the Palestinian proposal." (A7 Mar 28)

Two Terrorist Attacks in Jerusalem

Two powerful terrorist bombs exploded in Jerusalem Tuesday yet miraculously did not claim any Israeli lives. The first one occurred in the Talpiot section of southern Jerusalem; a stolen car was parked on a main street after having been packed with a large amount of explosives, and was detonated as a bus passed it. Four people were lightly wounded. Police spent hours examining the charred remains of the car bomb and attempting to figure out how it was detonated.Less than six hours later, a bomb exploded at the French Hill (Givah Tzarfatit) junction in northern Jerusalem, wounding close to 30 people. One is reported to be in very serious condition, and the condition of another deteriorated from moderate to serious during the afternoon. The others were lightly wounded. The dead body many eyewitnesses reported seeing at the site was that of the suicide terrorist. He detonated a bomb he was wearing or holding as a bus passed by; the bus was making a right turn towards a bus stop, only meters away, at which many residents of Binyamin-area communities wait for rides. Arutz-7's Ron Meir was less than 200 meters away from the area at the timeof the explosion. His report: "I was on a bus headed for the French Hill junction bus stop. We had just been delayed for about 2-3 minutes by a woman who, most improbably, asked the driver to wait for her while she parked her car. Just as surprisingly, he actually waited, arousing the impatience of some of the passengers. About a minute and a half before we were to reach our destination, we suddenly heard a tremendous explosion. There was about 15 seconds of eerie silence. Several soldiers asked if there were any medics on board, and they ran towards site of the explosion. Within a very short time, many police cars and ambulances arrived on the scene... Those who before had been impatient began to thank the woman who had delayed them, and she said, 'I was just an agent...'" The bomb contained steel nails, for the purpose of spreading the bomb's destructive power as far as the explosion can project them. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said earlier in the afternoon that a closed circuit television camera films the major intersection (and 50 others throughout the city) 24 hours a day, on behalf of the Jerusalem Municipality - but it later turned out that the critical minutes before and during the bombing were not filmed. Tuesday night, yet another terrorist bombing was averted in Petach Tikva when an alert falafel-store owner noticed an abandoned package and called the police; the package in fact contained an explosive, and police detonated it safely. (arutzsheva.org Mar 27)

Stabbing in Ramot Area of Jerusalem

Jerusalem resident Sha'ul Reiss, 17, was wounded in a stabbing attack in Ramot Sunday night. He sustained moderate injuries. His mother told Arutz-7 Monday, "He left the house about 8 PM for evening prayers at the synagogue, and a few minutes later I received word that something had happened. I ran out, and not 20 meters from my house, I saw him lying in his blood. He said that an Arab had stabbed him in his stomach and ran away. I would like to tell the mothers of Israel: We must pray strongly for our children. This war has already reached every house, and only help from above will save us." (A7 Mar 24)

Palestinian Sniper Murders Infant

Ten-month-old Shalhevet Techiya Pas was killed, and her father Yitzchak is in moderate condition, after being shot at by Palestinians in Hevron Monday. The baby was killed with a bullet to her head while being held by her mother. Exclamations of rage and horror at the fact that the murderer placed the baby in his telescopic sights and shot her through the head were frequently heard on the Israeli media. Yitzchak and his wife Oriyah insist that their baby will not be buried until the Israeli army recaptures the Abu Sneineh hills. They came to the decision after consulting with Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior and other officials. The bereaved parents explained, "We hope this will help prevent additional funerals." Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said that he feels the decision is mistaken. The sniper shot at the Pass family from the Abu Sneineh hills, in what was merely the latest and most severe of many shooting attacks originating from there in the past months. The hills, which the Hevron Jewish Community renamed the Shalhevet Hills Monday night in anticipation of building a Jewish neighborhood there, were handed over to Yasser Arafat four years ago. Three other little girls were miraculously saved during the same attack. A bullet passed between two sisters, aged 4 and 6, as they were playing in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood playground's sandbox; one of them came home with a bullet-ripped hole in her shirt. Shortly before the fatal bullet was fired at Shalhevet, another little girl told her mother, who was standing next to her, that she had heard a shot; only later at night did the girl's mother discover that the bullet had scratched one of her daughter's fingers. Yitzchak was operated on and is reported to be recovering at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. (arutzsheva.org Mar 26,27)

Israelis Expelled from Jordan

Six Israeli journalists who arrived in Jordan to cover the Arab League conference were expelled. The reporters, from Yediot Acharonot, Ha'aretz, and Channels 1 and 2, as well as the editor of an Israeli-Arab newspaper, were told to leave by Jordanian security officers. The reason: "We cannot guarantee your safety." (arutzsheva.org Mar 26)

Forty Mayors in Jerusalem

The 21st International Jerusalem Conference of Mayors convened this week, and toured the Old CityMonday. The Fatah leadership in eastern Jerusalem warned the Mayors last week not to dare enter the Old City with Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. Senior Fatah official Hatam Abdel Khader said that letters were sent to them warning that Fatah could not guarantee their safety if they visit their city. Over 40 Mayors from four continents around the globe took part in the conference. The theme of this year's conference is, "Excavating the Future: Tradition and Technology in the City." (arutzsheva.org Mar 26)

Shomron Security Chief Shot Repeatedly by Terrorist

Gil'ad (ben Ya'el) Zar, the security officer of the 32 communities of the Shomron Regional Council, is listed in moderate condition after he was shot several times by Palestinian terrorists Sunday. The attack occurred at the Yitzhar Junction, between Tapuach and Shechem in Samaria. At least four bullets hit him in the arm, side, and chest, but he continued driving northwards until he reached the nearby Horon Base. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reports that his specially-equipped security car was clearly recognizable, and the GSS believes that the terrorists were lying in wait specifically for him. (arutzsheva.org Mar 27) [Gil’ad Zar’s boss, Council Chair Bentzi Lieberman, spoke at BAYT earlier this month. - Ed.]

 

Quote for the Week...

"That is dependant on your government. When you recapture the hills overlooking the Jewish community, where the gunfire that killed my daughter originated from, then we will have the funeral." - Yitzhak Pass whose 10 month old daughter Shalhevet was killed in a terror attack, in response to PM Sharon. The Prime Minister called Pass to offer his condolences. (Hevron Press Office 3/28)

"We are living in a war zone. Except for that detail, it's very nice. The more they threaten us, the more we are going to dig in." - Ardie Geldman, a former Chicagoan, discussing living in Efrat. He has been in Efrat since 1985. (A/P 3/24)

"Kfar Darom was originally built in 1946... To dismantle Kfar Darom is like dismantling Kfar Saba [an Israeli city in the Coastal Plain]." - PM Ariel Sharon responding to rumors that he would agree to dismantle Jewish communities in Gaza. (Arutz-7 3/22) "We must not let Sharon succeed from the security standpoint because then he will defeat us, politically...There is a difference between the strategic goal of the Palestinian people, who are not willing to give up even one grain of Palestinian soil and the political [tactical] effort that has to do with the [present] balance of power and with the nature of the present international system. The latter is a different effort than the former. We may lose or win [tactically] but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river to the sea. Whatever we get now cannot make us forget this supreme truth." - Faysal Al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, speaking to a forum of Arab lawyers in Beirut. (Al-Safir [Lebanon], March 21,2001.) (Translation courtesy of MEMRI.) "[A] historic mistake because no one has the right, no one, to put Israel on a world trial.'' - PM Ariel Sharon commenting on the work of Mitchell Committee investigating the current Arab violence. (A/P 3/25) "It is true I am working 18 hours a day on security issues, but when they need to decide who will stand at the head of the party, it will ... be about who is going to bring the center back to the party, who will be able to bring it 40-45 mandates [Knesset seats], and who will bring back religious Zionism. If we continue appealing to the left, we shall be in opposition for the next 20 years. Fact - we had a prime minister, whom I supported fully, and who was willing to pay any price, any price in return for peace, and we saw the results." - Minister of Defense, Ben-Eliezer (Labor). (Ha'aretz 3/25) "It [Israeli society] is a racist society and more racist than Nazism. We stretch our hands to our Palestinian brothers and we tell them that we stand by you ... in establishing your Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and we stand by you in support of the intefadeh.'' - Syrian President, Bashar Assad, speaking at the recent Arab summit. (A/P 3/27)

 

 

Commentary...

The Little Flame: The Palestinians murder a 10-month-old Jewish girl.

By Seth Lipsky

It was a quiet day in Hebron. Yitzhak and Oriya Pas, two Jews who chose to settle in Judaism's second holiest city, were taking their 10-month-old baby for a stroll. From a hundred or more yards away, Israeli authorities say, a Palestinian Arab sniper put the baby's head in the crosshairs and killed her with a single rifle shot.

The girl's name was Shalhevet, which means "flame." It may well be too much to hope that her murder will illuminate our understanding of what is happening in the war against the Jewish state. But even against the backdrop of the bloody anti-Jewish riots that swept the West Bank and brought the war to Jerusalem, it is hard to think of a killing as cold-blooded as this.

This is not a case of a child being caught in the crossfire. It is different from the tragedy of Muhammad al-Durrah, the young Arab boy who was famously photographed crouching and clinging to his desperate father as the two of them sought to avoid the gunfire that moments later claimed Muhammed's life. Nor was it the case of someone snapping under stress, as happened when an Israeli soldier, Baruch Goldstein, murdered Arabs as they knelt in prayer at a shrine in Hebron. The killing of Shalhevet Pas, Israel's military authorities believe, was a premeditated, precision assassination by a sniper a long way from his target.

Which is one reason why it elicited not even a note of remorse from the Palestinian Arab leadership. Reuters did manage to find a member of Yasser Arafat's cabinet in Amman, Jordan, at a meeting of Arab dictators exploring ways to keep financing the attacks on Israel. It quoted the minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, as saying there is no evidence that the baby was killed by Palestinian fire. "We believe that the atrocities of the occupation are responsible for all crimes that have claimed the lives of Palestinians and Israelis," he said.

The war against the Jews of Hebron began long before Yasser Arafat came of killing age, and in the struggle between East and West in the Middle East, Hebron plays a seminal role. Jews have lived in Hebron for centuries, not far from the Cave of the Patriarchs, burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But in a classic pogrom in 1929, the Arabs turned on them and began a slaughter that claimed the lives of more than 60 religious Jews, including women and children.

The pro-communist left sided with the Arabs and sought to portray the killings as a grass-roots uprising against British imperialism, for those were the days of the British Mandate in Palestine. But the anticommunist left understood the killings for what they were and began to swing behind the logic of a Jewish state.

This group included the Jewish Forward newspaper, which was allied with the anticommunist labor movement and, much to the astonishment of many on the left, ran out a famous editorial. It sided squarely with the Jews of Hebron. It also contrasted Hebron with earlier pogroms, such as Kishinev, where Jews "were slaughtered like Oxen in a butcher shop." In Hebron, it reported, yeshiva students fought back against their attackers, filling Jews the world over with admiration.

Nonetheless, the Jews were largely, if not completely, driven from Hebron by the pogroms of 1929. They didn't go back in any numbers until after Israel's victory in the Six Day War of 1967. Years later, when I was editing the Forward, I more than once went back and read that editorial to try to understand the roots of the left's loyalty to the Arab struggle--and, for that matter, the eagerness with which the Clinton administration tried to pressure Israel's government into pulling out of Hebron.

Even at Oslo, Israel had refused to do so entirely. It clung to the Cave of the Patriarchs. But it did agree to turn over the remaining parts of Hebron in pieces. The Oslo map in Hebron gave the commanding ground dominating the Jewish neighborhood to the Palestinian Authority. One such domineering position was Abu Sneina Hill, where Shalhevet's assassin lay in wait.

Israel's commitment to pull out of Hebron was given by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin back in 1995. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiated hard on the details, fearing the kind of tragedy that has just occurred. Security arrangements agreed to at the time even included limiting long-range rifles in the hands of Palestinians. But the Clinton administration cajoled and pressured Mr. Netanyahu, and in January 1997, he and Yasser Arafat signed a protocol on Hebron. Within weeks, Israel began pulling back, setting the stage for Shalhevet's murder.

What Israel's new premier, Ariel Sharon, is going to do now is an important test, and not only because there is an Arab summit in progress. The Jews living in Hebron are reported to be in an angry mood and moving to take matters into their own hands. Reuters quoted an Israeli colonel as saying that the Israeli army might have to restrain the settlers.

Mr. Sharon, however, issued a statement saying he "holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the instances of violence and terror which brought about the murder today of the baby and the wounding of her father in Hebron."

If it turns out that Monday's assassination marks the end of Israel's retreat from Hebron, the little flame of Shulhevet Pas will burn in Jewish memory for generations.

Mr. Lipsky is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal. His column appears Wednesdays. (Wall Street Journal Mar 28)

 

 

Annan Fails the Reality Test Jerusalem Post Editorial

In between yesterday morning's car bombing in Jerusalem's busy Talpiot industrial and shopping area and the afternoon's suicide-bomber attack in the capital's French Hill neighborhood, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calmly said the world has every right to criticize Israel for occupying Arab land and for its "excessively harsh response" to the Palestinian uprising.

Speaking at the opening meeting of the Arab League summit in Amman, Annan said: "Blockades and closures have paralyzed the Palestinian economy, isolated the West Bank and Gaza, and prevented the delivery of medicine, food, and fuel. Collective punishment has cast a pall of anger and despair over the already tense occupied territories." The UN leader also insisted that there "is no solution to be found in violence, and no sense in postponing the day when the parties return to the [negotiating] table."

Interestingly, Annan thought it of no importance to tell the esteemed Arab gathering that the deliberate murder of a 10-month-old baby by sniper fire or the steering of a speeding bus into a crowd of soldiers and pedestrians waiting for a ride to work also did little to promote the cause of peace. Nor did the world statesman see fit to point out that the Palestinian decision to resort to violence, after the failure of last summer's Camp David talks, was hardly the way to win over Israeli confidence in the trustworthiness of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace.

In failing to raise these unpleasant truths at the first regular meeting of the Arab world following the Gulf War of a decade ago, Annan missed an opportunity to inject some realism into the summit's discussions. (To give an example of the flights of fancy receiving a respectful hearing at the summit, consider these remarks by the supposedly modern Syrian ruler, Bashar Assad, who told the assembled leaders that by voting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into power, Israel had proved itself to be "a racist society, a society more racist than the Nazis.") By simply going along with the prevalent tone of Arab rhetoric, the UN leader has not only achieved nothing, he has actively hindered his stated desire: to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table. Annan must surely know, even if just from reading newspaper reports of Sharon's visit to the United States last week, that Israel has made it perfectly clear it will not hold negotiations with the Palestinians as long as the PA continues to encourage terrorism. Moreover, the Sharon government has taken a series of steps in recent days to ease the economic conditions in the territories, only to be met with bullets and bombs. The minute last week's closure on Bethlehem was lifted, for example, Baruch Cohen was murdered in a drive-by shooting as he made his way to work in Jerusalem from his home in Efrat.

Yesterday's two terror attacks, and the cold-blooded murder of infant Shalhevet Pass in Hebron on Monday, were clearly linked to Palestinian desires to provide an escalation of violence on the eve of the Arab summit, in the hope of provoking an Israeli response which would then result in further sympathy for the Palestinians. Much to their surprise, and the dismay of some of his supporters, Sharon has so far not taken the bait. The prime minister, sensibly, is insisting that Israel will react in the time and place of its choosing and not be drawn into a tit-for-tat exchange with the Palestinians, an exchange that carries with it the danger of escalating out of control.

At the same time, Sharon was elected on a promise to restore a sense of security to Israel's citizens and he will not be able to avoid taking any action for much longer. There is no simple remedy for the fight against terror - if there were, Israel would have already used it - but simply standing still in the face of exploding bombs is no solution either. In the past, Sharon has pledged to single out those responsible for attacks against Israel while allowing the mass of innocent Palestinians to go about their daily lives free of Israeli restraint. Now is the moment to implement this policy. (Jerusalem Post Mar 28)

 

 

Same Old Sharon - Whole New Welcome By Zev Chafets

New Israeli prime ministers, especially Likud prime ministers, always hit New York after their first meeting with the President of the United States. Typically, they get roughed up at the White House and arrive here in a fighting mood, intent on rallying Jewish support for their policies and making their case to a skeptical media.

Yesterday, Ariel Sharon came to town. But, unlike his predecessors, he wasn't huffing and puffing. He left Washington a winner. New York was the victory lap.

This is a city with bittersweet associations for Sharon. Back in the '60s, after his son was accidentally shot to death by a playmate, he sought consolation from the Brooklyn-based Lubavitcher rebbe. More recently, he accompanied his wife, Lilly, to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she was treated for what proved, last year, to be a fatal illness.

New York holds some good memories for Sharon, too. In 1982, during the war in Lebanon, Time magazine published an article claiming that he, as Israel's defense minister, gave an order to Lebanese Christian militiamen to massacre Palestinian refugees in Beirut. Sharon sued and, in one of the most storied libel trials in the city's legal history, won a declaration from the court that Time's account was false.

That was a sweet victory for Sharon, but it didn't do much to counter his image (in Israel as well as America) as a military adventurer and enemy of peace. Over the years, he consistently refused to apologize for the invasion of Lebanon, loudly supported the West Bank settlement movement and denounced the Oslo peace process as a Palestinian trick. When Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, Sharon called him a terrorist and a murderer. But it was Sharon, not the Palestine Liberation Organization leader, who was regarded by Washington as a dangerous rogue.

There are still a few foreign policy types who consider Sharon disreputable, and they were scandalized by the exceptionally warm reception he received this week at the White House. "It was a total honeymoon," one told me disapprovingly. "For the first time in memory, an Israeli prime minister left here with no prescriptions from us, no do's and don'ts. Basically, Bush gave him a free hand to do whatever he wants."

Sharon's new best-friend status is partly a matter of politics. Last month, he won a landslide electoral victory in Israel, and Israel has never been more popular on Capitol Hill. No one in Washington missed the fact that there was massive congressional turnout for a dinner held in Sharon's honor. No one missed his endorsement of the Bush anti-missile program, either, or the payback he got when the President let it be known that Arafat isn't welcome until he calls off the violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

But there appears to be more than mutual back scratching to the Bush-Sharon relationship. If the two didn't establish the famously warm father-son tie Bill Clinton had with Yitzhak Rabin — Bush has a poppy daddy of his own, after all — they got along just fine. They share a ranchers' hard-bitten view of the world — Bush, if he were an Israeli, would be a Likudnik, Sharon is a natural-born Republican — common enemies (especially Saddam Hussein) and a powerful desire to keep the United States out of an active peacemaker's role in the Middle East.

So Sharon didn't have to come to New York to rally the troops or appease the media. For once, he's not the villain. He's a Friend of George, the President's pal, the darling of Washington. It's a new role for the old warrior. No wonder he wanted to bring it to Broadway. (New York Daily News Mar 22)

 

Enough Evenhandedness Jerusalem Post Editorial

When US President George W. Bush took office, he inherited Bill Clinton's refusal to take sides regarding the Palestinian attack against Israel that began almost six months ago. In his speech to AIPAC last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made an important baby step toward lifting this Clintonian fog of moral equivalence when he pledged not to "strive for some arbitrary measure of evenhandedness when responsibility is not evenly shared."

Denying evenhandedness, however, is not the same as stopping to practice it, as Powell has shown in his own statements then and since.

Evenhandedness is so deeply ingrained as a way of relating to the current conflict that even Powell's pledge not to be evenhanded was itself infused with evenhandedness. As Powell explained to AIPAC, "The United States will not be silent. We will speak out if we hear words or see actions that contribute to confrontation or detract from the promise of negotiations." Whose words? Whose actions? Powell leaves these as open questions, as if there were a doubt which side has chosen confrontation and which side has wanted all along to return to the negotiating table.

The US is acting as if a microscope were needed to assign blame, when the Palestinians not only openly admit to have chosen violence over negotiations, but routinely proclaim their right to continue attacking Israel during negotiations. As the latest Israeli submission to the Mitchell Committee visiting Israel points out, the essence of the Palestinian argument is that "violence against Israel and Israelis is somehow explicable, understandable, legitimate.... There is no mistaking the message. The violence is part of an orchestrated policy of the Palestinian leadership. It will not stop until Israel gives in to Palestinian demands." The Bush administration, to its credit, is not buying this Palestinian logic, in that it agrees with Israel's demand not to negotiate under fire.

Powell's latest caveat, that violence need not drop to zero before negotiations begin, is tempered by the statement that it is the parties (i.e. Israel) that will decide when violence has dropped sufficiently to warrant negotiations.

The US has also pointedly not invited Yasser Arafat to Washington and will only do so, according to Powell "in an appropriate way and an appropriate time." It would be useful if the US said why Arafat was not being invited, but actions can speak as loud as words, and the contrast between the warm welcome to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the implicit snub to Arafat is an important and positive action.

On the rhetorical level, however, the supposed new opposition to evenhandedness has not been evident. On the same day as Powell's AIPAC speech, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stuck to classic evenhandedness: "The president would like to see an easing of [Israeli] economic pressure. The president would also like to make certain that the Palestinians take steps to end the violence." Why pretend these are independent variables? Why not say the truth - namely that the US expects that Israeli economic pressure will cease when the Palestinians cease attacking Israel?

The standard excuse for bending over backwards not to cast blame or acknowledge a cause and effect relationship between Palestinian attacks and Israel countermeasures is that the US must maintain its credibility in the region.

The Palestinians, American diplomats point out, are already very upset that the US is not more critical of Israel. But the pursuit of "credibility" at the expense of being soft on aggression is a very poor trade.

Powell is right that the US should speak out against actions that "contribute to confrontation," but the strained attempt to criticize both sides contradicts such a policy. By refusing to blame the Palestinian leadership by name for violence it is proudly defending, the US is not gaining credibility, but prolonging the conflict. What is the point of the US saying it is deeply committed to Israel's security, on the one hand, and criticizing every measure - even economic - that Israel takes to defend itself? Evenhandedness buys nothing in credibility. Either the US is for negotiations and against aggression or it is not. Trying to fudge on who wants to shoot and who wants to talk will not gain the US credibility, but will postpone an end to the current bloodshed. (Jerusalem Post Mar 26)

 

Land Day? No: Call it 'Lie Day' By Yosef Goell

This week the organized Israeli Arab community will be marking the 25th Land Day. What exactly is being commemorated? According to the Arab version, the unprovoked shooting on March 30, 1976, of six Arabs by the police.

They are commemorating a lie. I was present as a Jerusalem Post reporter collecting material for a series of articles on the Israeli Arabs, in central Galilee, for a number of days before that March 30 and on that day itself. Tension had been building up throughout many Arab communities in Galilee and the Little Triangle over the issue of the expropriation of Area Nine lands near Sakhnin. (In the mid-1980s those lands were returned to their original Arab owners).

What actually set off the rioting that led to the deaths was a wild attack by hundreds of inflamed young Arabs on an unsuspecting IDF convoy driving on the road by the villages of Sakhnin, Arrabe and Deir Hanna.

There was no prior provocation on the part of that IDF convoy, unless one insists on seeing a provocation in the very presence of an Israeli army unit in the heart of Israeli Galilee. Radical Israeli Arab political leaders, however, have for the past 25 years been promulgating the lie that the IDF had cold-bloodedly shot and killed "innocent" Arab demonstrators.

There is very much of a sense of deja vu in the Israeli Arab uprising of last October. The recent rebellion has all the signs of being much more organized, by the radical mainstream of the national and local Israeli Arab leadership, than was the more spontaneous 1976 uprising. It also has all the hallmarks of being coordinated with the current intifada in the Palestinian territories, which did not yet exist in 1976.

NEITHER THE IDF nor the police were prepared to confront such an uprising in 1976 and in some instances responded in panic. The police were again caught by surprise by the timing of the October 2000 rebellion. But police planners have for some time taken into account the likelihood of such an uprising, given the rapid anti-Israel radicalization of Israeli Arab politics in recent years.

Israeli Arabs in 1976 were shocked that the army and police response to the rioting of their young people would include a readiness to shoot them down. In the more recent rebellion Israeli Arabs seemed just as shocked that the police would actually shoot, with both rubber-coated and more lethal steel bullets, at the rioting sons of a generation that knew not the lessons of 1976.

Israeli Jews were just as shocked, both in 1976 and in 2000, at rampaging local Arab youths shouting "Itbah el yehud!" (slaughter the Jews) as they attacked Jewish motorists driving by their towns, as in Umm el-Fahm, and organizing for pogrom-like raids on neighboring Jewish communities.

Arabs and Israeli Jewish liberals have justly been demanding that Jews be more aware of Israeli Arab sensibilities and their sense of dignity. But this argument cuts both ways. Arabs should be just as aware of Jewish sensibilities to the "itbah el yehud" battle cry.

It may be difficult for Israeli Arabs to believe, but many Israeli Jews have not forgotten being threatened and attacked as Diaspora minorities. What makes the situation so dangerous for the Israeli Arabs is that those Jews are no longer helpless but are in command of an army and police. It is sheer madness for a minority to seek to provoke such a majority.

I have written before that the events of last October have set back the state of Arab-Jewish relations in Israel by at least a generation. This has been further exacerbated more recently by the intolerable behavior of the Arab members of the audience in the sessions of the Or Commission of Inquiry, who have twice physically attacked police witnesses on the stand.

It will be important to pick up the pieces of that broken relationship after the Or Commission submits its report. One can only hope that the report does not limit itself only to the question of the police response to the Arab rebellion. It is of even greater importance that it address the responsibility of the Arab political and religious leadership for the outbreak of that rebellion. (Jerusalem Post Mar 26)


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