AND JUSTICE FOR ALL

When it comes to scandals, Labour can hardly claim the moral high ground

"THE hypocrisy cries out to heaven." With these words a Zionist lobby group headlined an advertisement which appeared in Ma'ariv on April 21, following an abortive attempt by the Israeli left to topple the government over the "Bar-On affair".

Labour party leader Shimon Peres called the scandal Israel's most serious ever. Yet there have been cases which could have been far more damaging to Labour than this row has been to the Likud, had the media been more balanced and more thorough. Several follow:

*** BOLSTERING BIBI Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu entered the White House on April 7 with the prayers and encouragement of thousands of Christians ringing in his ears. The Israeli leader had been summoned for a meeting with President Bill Clinton, whose administration was trying to restart the stalled Oslo process. It was the second time in eight months that Netanyahu had been called to Washington, and asked to make concessions in response to violent PLO responses to Israeli actions in Jerusalem. And it was the second time he went to meet the American president bolstered by Christian support. Last September, Clinton "invited" Netanyahu to Washington, where he wanted personally to ask the Israeli to close the exit to the Hasmonean Tunnel. Yasser Arafat called the opening of the new exit a "declaration of war against the Palestinian people", and used it to incite his "policemen" and civilian followers to violence which saw 15 Israelis and 62 Arabs killed. Before he departed for the US on that occasion, Netanyahu was prayed over and exhorted by 5000 Christians celebrating during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, who urged him to "be strong and of good courage" in the face of the enormous pressure he would come under in the US. Three days later, he sent word back to the ongoing Christian gathering that its prayers had strengthened him, and helped him to turn down Clinton's request. As he flew to America last month, Israeli commentators warned Netanyahu he was like Daniel about to enter the lion's den: he would again be pressured to stop the legitimately sovereign Israeli action of building Jewish homes on Jerusalem's Har Homa. The hilltop construction site in southern Jerusalem had been expropriated by the government from its mainly Jewish owners, but the international community universally condemned what the world press unabashedly called Israel's "unilateral action on occupied land in Arab East Jerusalem". On April 7, just hours before he was scheduled to meet Clinton, and in what Netanyahu half-jokingly called "an extraordinary beginning of a day in Washington...just what God ordered", the premier addressed hundreds of enthusiastic participants in the Fourth National Unity Conference for Israel. He was given an overwhelming greeting by the conference, whose stated goal was "A safe and secure Israel", and convened by Voices United for Israel, an organisation reportedly representing "the largest network of pro-Israel groups in the US". Netanyahu, who has often referred to and applauded the part played by Christian Zionists in the last century of Israel's history, told the gathering that attempts to divide Jerusalem were done "sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, sometimes by challeng- ing our rights to build apartments...in our city." He appealed for help in waging "the struggle for truth". "We have no greater friend and no greater ally than the truth. And we have no greater friends and no greater allies than the people sitting today in this room," he said. "We will never allow Jerusalem to be redivided again." Later, when Clinton got Netanyahu behind closed doors once again, and directly requested that Israel stop work on Har Homa, Netanyahu, again, said "no".
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