With Passover fresh in my mind, I find myself singing "Dayenu" on Israel's 55th Independence Day. We Jews are fortunate to have a nation of our own that has survived several wars of aggression and escaped the latest Middle-East war with nary a scud attack. For that alone, we could say, "Dayenu!" - "It would have been enough."
Israelis have defended more than their own country - they have saved countless lives around the world through their bravery: Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu was killed when he led a successful rescue mission on the Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976, freeing over 100 passengers from an Air France flight held hostage by terrorists. In 1981, Colonel Ilan Ramon, a victim of the recent Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy, participated in the bombing raid that destroyed Saddam Hussein's nuclear facility and saved America and the Middle East from atomic terror in 1991 and 2003. Dayenu!
But Israel's accomplishments are greater than mere survival and military ingenuity. Israel is a diverse, creative, and free society that has flourished in the face of terror and has given the world the technology that we use everyday. This year, the Jewish community should celebrate Israel's many achievements - which we take for granted - in the arena of technology, medicine, culture, and sports.
Did you know that Israeli scientists from Motorola Israel developed the cell phone? This Independence Day, call five of your friends and tell them to thank Israel for the nifty communicator they slip into their purses and pockets. While you're IM'ing your buddies, pass on the news that four young Israeli programmers developed the technology behind AOL's Instant Messenger.
Did you know that Intel's new high-speed Centrino chip - which doubles battery life on laptops - was developed entirely in Israel? While watching a DVD for hours on your Centrino laptop, thank Israel for the extra battery life.
In the field of medicine, Israel is saving your heart and making innovations in early cancer detection. Did you know that researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with congestive heart failure? Israeli scientists also developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer. Israel's Given Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill to help doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.
How does Israel maintain this hit parade of medical achievements? Israel has more engineers and scientists per capita than any other country. It also produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation. But Israeli heroes of medicine and science don't just stay in the lab; they rush into the fray and save people, not only in Israel, but around the world: When the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day - and saved three victims from the rubble. A year later they were on the ground in Turkey rescuing earthquake victims.
And who said the Golden Age of Jewish athletes is over? Israeli tennis player Anna Smashnova is the 15th ranked female player in the world. Memo to all you Israel-loving tennis fans: In addition to following Venus and Serena this tennis season, add Smashnova to your roster of favorites.
Think Jews can't jump? Israel's Maccabi basketball team won the European championships in 2001, and Europe's SuproLeague MVP was Israeli center Nate Huffman.
At the next meeting of the Galactic Senate in the Star Wars universe, someone should inform Chancellor Palpatine that Queen Padme Amidala (actress Natalie Portman) was actually born in Jerusalem. I hope she can still serve in the Senate. Fans of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers should note that the show was developed by Haim Saban, an Israeli whose family fled Egypt.
Let the hip-hop generation learn that Israel has earned a spot on the map. This month, the rap group Wu-Tang Clan will visit Israel on a solidarity music tour. Wu-Tang member Cappadonna said, "No one thinks that a Hebrew-speaking country has anything do with hip-hop, but hip-hop is alive in Israel."
I assure connoisseurs of "high culture" that Israel has covered its bases. During the 1991 Gulf War, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra played a concert wearing gas masks as scud missiles fired by Saddam fell on Tel Aviv. Israel has more museums per capita than any other country, and Israel has the world's second highest per capita output of new books.
This Independence Day, celebrate Israel for all her diverse accomplishments and tell your friends and family about the unheralded contributions Israel has made to your life. For more information and posters that you can hang up about Israel's contributions, please see http://www.israelcelebration.com.
2. STATEHOODby Charles Krauthammer -Washington Post - May 9, 2003
Last June 24, President Bush announced a radical departure in American Middle East policy. He expressed strong support for Palestinian statehood but only under a new reformed Palestinian leadership that did not include Yasser Arafat.
The reason is uncomplicated: As long as Yasser Arafat wields power, there can and will be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In 2000, the most dovish Israeli government in history presented Arafat with the most generous offer the Palestinians have gotten from anyone--a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Arafat, intent on getting land without peace, responded by starting a now 31-month-old bloodbath.
For a long time, there was no Palestinian alternative to Arafat. Now there is. Abu Mazen, a close comrade of Arafat for 40 years, wanted to accept the Camp David 2000 deal. Moreover, Abu Mazen has spoken out against the intifada as a terrible historical mistake. Is he sincere? No one knows for sure, but his courage entitles him to at least a test of his sincerity.
On April 30, Abu Mazen was sworn in as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The United States and its peace partners then released the road map to Palestinian statehood by 2005. The problem is that Abu Mazen is not yet in control. And he may never be.
The consistent and principled American policy had been that the road map and the push to statehood would occur only when a Palestinian government dedicated to real reform and real peace replaced the violent and corrupt Arafat regime. That has not occurred.
During the decade of the phony Oslo peace, Arafat had set up seven ``security organizations''--private militias and secret police--under his command. They were supposed to be transferred to Abu Mazen's control. They have not been. Arafat still controls five of the seven, including Force 17, which is actively involved in terrorism.
And Arafat controls more than guns. In pre-confirmation backroom maneuvering, Arafat managed to pack the ostensible Abu Mazen Cabinet with a dozen Arafat loyalists. Indeed, the crucial portfolios of foreign affairs and peace negotiations were given not to Abu Mazen's people but to Arafat's old guard.
The Bush administration can pretend that none of this has happened. It can pretend that Abu Mazen is really in control. It can pretend that Abu Mazen, without control of the security apparatus, is somehow going to stop the violence. That would be a precise repetition of the disaster of the Oslo ``peace process,'' in which the United States willfully and repeatedly ignored the realities on the ground--Arafat's corruption, incitement and support of terrorism--until all hell broke loose in September 2000, and it could pretend no more.
To publish the road map with Arafat still wielding enormous power over security, terrorism and negotiations is simply to step back into the Oslo morass. It can only end as Oslo did.
What to do? The only way peace will be possible is if we stick to the June 24 principle that Arafat must go. That means freezing the road map until Abu Mazen is ceded real control. This is a strategic decision the Palestinians themselves must make. But the United States should not be inducing them to make the wrong one.
The shunning of Arafat by the Bush administration helped bring Abu Mazen out of nowhere. To relax that shunning now, to reward the Palestinians by demanding Israeli concessions and by encouraging negotiations while the violence continues with the support and cooperation of Arafat, will do nothing but strengthen Arafat and doom any chance for a real transfer of power.
But that is precisely what our road map partners, the Europeans, are doing. They insist on having some pompous official--the latest is German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer--ostentatiously visit Arafat in his compound, keeping alive his claim to ``international legitimacy.'' Even Britain's Jack Straw, foreign secretary of our closest and warmest ally, said: ``Arafat is still the person who we are dealing with.'' (Asharq al-Awsat, May 1.)
Nothing could be worse for peace. On June 24, 2002, the United States told the Palestinians: If you want a state, we will get you one. But you won't get there with Arafat, who has led you into a wilderness of blood and with whom we cannot deal because he will never make peace. This brought ferment among the Palestinians and brought Abu Mazen to the fore. But it is diplomatic suicide to stop that reform process now by proceeding along the road map as if Arafat didn't exist, when he is in fact still pulling levers. And triggers.
3. ISRAEL AT 55by Steven Plaut - May 7, 2003
Israel is 55 years old today. The good news is that five years ago it did not look like it was going to make it to 55. The bad news is that 60 is still in doubt. 65 even more so.
If one takes a deep breath and steps back, much of the picture in Jewry now looks very good. In the past few weeks, one of the most viciously anti-Jewish powers on earth was annihilated in a few weeks without Israel lifting a finger, reminiscent of the Biblical command before the exodus from Egypt of the Israelites, You just sit back and be silent and watch. Iraq, once the center of the Moslem Caliphate, is today an American protectorate and may now undergo thorough denazification at last, the first and hopefully not the last Arab fascist regime to do so. Its fall may destabilize and threaten Iran and Syria. In a Purim-like inversion, instead of Israel being surrounded by hostile regimes, Syria suddenly finds itself completely surrounded by hostile regimes, every single one allied with the United States. Syrias economy continues to fester in Third-World poverty and Soviet style mismanagement, limiting the regimes options. Whereas historically the first military power on earth was generally balanced off by numbers two and three, who if they combined could balance number one, today the number one power cannot be balanced off even by the next 20 or maybe 30.
Israels military deterrence gained enormously from the effortless defeat of Saddam by the Americans. Israel uses the same arms as the Yanks, and the Arabs use the same methods and arms as Saddam. North Korea may at long last be on the American hit list. Despite a deep current recession, Israels economy has solid healthy fundamentals, a First-World first-class labor force and a high tech sector at the forefront.
Most importantly, there has never been an era of such Jewish security as the past 55 years. Let me repeat that because it may strike you as absurd, given the daily atrocities and the Oslo bloodbath. Never have the Jews been so secure.
Yesterday Israel marked its Memorial Day. Around 21,500 Israelis have died in battle or in belligerent attacks by the Arabs since 1947. Of those, about half died in the War of Independence. Around 1300 were murdered in the Oslo bloodbath of the past decade, mostly civilians, many of them children. So how can I say this is an unprecedented era of Jewish security?
Because since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, there was probably never an era of two generations in which ONLY 21,000 Jews were killed by anti-Semites! During World War II, at their height of "efficiency, that many Jews were killed each day by the Nazis.
21,500 dead is an outrage and those responsible especially for the 1300 of the past decade must be held accountable and answerable. But it is still a pittance in terms of Jewish history. It is a bi-product of the complete denial and intentional erasure of Jewish history by the Israeli school system that Israelis have no idea of how to put that 21,500 number into perspective. The Rabbis here have ruled that on Israel Independence Day the Hallel prayers, said on special festive days, should be recited. Contemplating that number makes this decision seem very wise.
Finally, Amram Mitzna, arguably the potentially most dangerous Israeli politician in the past decade, has crashed and burned. He not only got whipped in the national election, he has been forced to resign as head of the Labor Party, he has lost control of the Labor Party machine, he has been forced out even as Haifa mayor, and his corrupt local Haifa party machine is about to be creamed in the coming municipal elections, ending once and for all the Era of Mitznagate at the local Haifa level.
The problem with this rosy picture is that there are still existential dangers to Israels very existence and in some ways they are growing. Israel has been so undermined by Oslo and the countrys Left that much of the population has lost its will to survive and its instinct to resist national self-annihilation. The Likud itself is increasingly Beilinized and striving for yet another nice Oslo deal with the PLO, one that will be yet another unilateral appeasement by Israel that buys nothing but increased Palestinian savagery and atrocities. The US and the Eurotrash are still demanding that Israel place its neck into an existential noose by "giving a Palestinian state a try". While there are still some question marks about whether Ariel Sharon really has some idea of what he is doing buried beneath his facade of Oslo Lite, this seems to be becoming less and less plausible by the minute.
The Israeli Left is becoming more radicalized by the day. The extremist traitors now increasing dominate it, as the Satanic Left nudges aside the Stupid Left (or the Oslo Left). Israeli Leftists are now at the forefront, not only of world anti-Zionism and the movement to destroy Israel, but also of world anti-Semitism. There are Israeli leftist professors featured on the web sites of neonazis, Islamist fundamentalists, and Holocaust Deniers. Israeli leftists are spreading every anti-Jewish blood libel imaginable (just this week, an Israeli leftist anti-Semitic web site www.indymedia.org.il spread two newly fabricated blood libels that Israeli soldiers are carving Jewish stars into the limbs of Palestinian children and that Jewish settlers are throwing two year old Arab children out of windows). If these people have not yet adopted as their causes proving that Jews drink gentile blood for Passover this is just a matter of time.
Politically, choice in Israel remains one between leftist treason and rightist incompetence. Israel has not yet emerged from the era of the Oslo death wish and national self-destruction. It has not yet shown it is prepared to fight for its survival at long last, against not only Arab Nazism but also Oslo appeasement and leftist delusions.
Celebrate 55. But if Israel does not soon wake up, 60 is still in doubt and 65 more so.
To put things in perspective, have a look at the 3-year old: When Israel was 52:
President George W. Bush revolutionized US policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict on June 24, 2002, when he declared that a "new and different Palestinian leadership" was required and that the Palestinians must elect "new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."
Israel had uncovered incontrovertible evidence, months earlier, that Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority, had authorized, in his own handwriting, payments to those who organized suicide bombings against Israeli civilians; he had dispatched emissaries to Iraq, and had purchased weapons from Iran that were intercepted by Israel aboard the Karine-A in the Red Sea. Given this background, Bush concluded: "Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism."
In order to rectify the situation, Bush insisted that new Palestinian leaders "engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists."
It would not be sufficient for the new Palestinian security forces to just foil attacks against Israel. Bush demanded that they "dismantle their infrastructure" before the US would back the establishment of a Palestinian state.
With the Egyptian-brokered agreement between Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) over the formation of a new Palestinian cabinet, it becomes necessary to give a preliminary assessment as to whether the Palestinian government that is being formed will be able to fulfill the US policy requirements established by Bush.
What are the chances that the new Palestinian government will constitute a real break from the past?
For Israel, the litmus test of the new Palestinian government will be its readiness to fight terrorism, instead of supporting it as it has done in the past. There are a number of reasons for skepticism about this new regime:
Arafat remains the head of the Palestinian Authority. Rather than choosing new leaders who replace those who were "compromised by terror," the Palestinians have created the new position of Palestinian prime minister, to be filled by Abu Mazen, who will share powers with Arafat. Yet Arafat will still control many aspects of Palestinian finances, negotiating strategy, and security organs. Thus, he has not been sidelined and simply relegated to a largely ceremonial position.
Pro-Arafat forces remain dominant in the new Palestinian cabinet. Arafat has succeeded in retaining powerful ministers in the new Palestinian cabinet. They include Saeb Erekat, Nabil Shaath, and Yasser Abed Rabbo. Erekat, who was originally sidelined as a minister-without-portfolio will be "Minister of Negotiation Affairs." Nasser Yusuf who was slated to be Abu Mazen's deputy, was dropped entirely. It is expected that Abu Mazen will be appointing about four ministers in the new 25-man cabinet, while the majority of ministers will come from the previous Arafat-appointed cabinet.
Despite Abu Mazen's control of the Preventive Security Organization, Arafat still commands other, larger security organizations. Abu Mazen succeeded in bringing his own prot g , Muhammad Dahlan, into his cabinet. But there are still a large number of redundant security services in the Palestinian Authority that owe their loyalty to Arafat. The General Intelligence Organization of Tawfiq Tirawi, as well as the uniformed Palestinian security forces of Haj Ismail (West Bank) and Abed al-Razak al-Majaida (Gaza Strip), are together much larger than Dahlan's Preventive Security Organization. Arafat still controls Force 17, his personal security apparatus. Last June, Bush insisted that the Palestinian security services be reformed and that they have a "unified chain of command." This has not occurred; the other security services have not been disbanded.
In recognition of Arafat's ongoing authority in sensitive areas of security, the Palestinian Authority Web site in fact states that while Abu Mazen is supposed to control the more limited area of "internal security," Arafat is still responsible for overall Palestinian "national security."
Arafat refused to accept Abu Mazen's demand that the armed factions of Fatah be dismantled outside of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat still controls armed groups such as the Tanzim of the Fatah movement and the elite Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, both of which have engaged in terrorism against Israel. Moreover, Arafat still controls Palestinian funds that enable him to financially maintain these groups.
ABU MAZEN'S appointment as Palestinian prime minister is significant largely because he, at least, has openly expressed his opposition to Arafat's strategy of employing terrorism as a political instrument to advance Palestinian political aims. Yet, in a March 3, 2003, interview, it should be pointed out, he still justified "armed struggle" against Israeli civilians over the "Green Line."
Moreover, Abu Mazen still has hard-line political positions on Palestinian-Israeli final status issues such as the refugees' right of return, borders, and Jerusalem: at Camp David, he even insisted on Palestinian sovereignty over the Western Wall. Israeli negotiators during the Barak government recall that Abu Mazen was not a positive force at the failed 2000 Camp David summit only to make novel concessions.
Despite his being the most personable of the Palestinian leaders, it would be a mistake to assume he is sympathetic to the Israeli view. In fact, back in 1983, just a decade before he signed the Oslo agreements, he wrote an infamous Holocaust-denial book. It is doubtful that Abu Mazen, alone, can or will implement the necessary changes in Palestinian policy that Bush demanded last June. His reputation as a peacemaker has been over-rated, largely through inaccurate historical accounts of the Oslo period; for examples he has repeatedly denied ever signing the so-called 1996 Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement.
Abu Mazen's key ally in security affairs, Muhammad Dahlan, also has a checkered past when it comes to security issues. It is widely believed that he hid Hamas mastermind, Muhammad Def, for years. Dahlan's deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak, was responsible for a bomb attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000. It is likely that Abu Mazen and Dahlan prefer to achieve a hiatus in armed attacks against Israel by rejuvenating their internal dialogue with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Cairo, rather than by forcibly disarming these groups.
Nevertheless, the US reportedly intends to publish the "Quartet" road map after Abu Mazen's cabinet is approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The road map represents an effort on the part of the European Union, the UN, Russia, and the US to draft a joint policy for implementing Bush's June 24 vision. It is surprising that the US, at this stage, is incorporating European, Russian, and UN positions in its policy on Israel and the Palestinians after all three utterly failed to deal properly with the crisis over Iraq. If these three were willing to continue inspections of Iraq for months instead of confronting Saddam Hussein, won't they be prone to giving Arafat a passing grade in security affairs, even while he backs ongoing violence?
Bringing into the Israeli-Palestinian equation the parties who let the US down on Iraq is not a recipe for diplomatic success. While Washington has sought to isolate Arafat, European Union representatives have visited him. Given the current state of US-European relations, the US and its diplomatic partners can be expected to continue to work at cross purposes, while the Europeans seek to outflank the Americans and undercut their positions in Arab opinion. It is not wonder that the Quartet suggests that Israel make premature concessions before the Palestinians fully live up to their security commitments. Should Israel follow this advice and pull back from Palestinian cities prior to a demonstrable effort on the part of the Palestinian government to uproot terrorism, then an escalation of terrorist attacks against Israelis could be the result.
The best outcome that can be realistically hoped for after Abu Mazen's appointment as Palestinian prime minister would be an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire. But a diplomatic breakthrough in peace-making remains unlikely, despite Abu Mazen's tactical flexibility on the issue of violence, as long as Arafat is still pulling the strings of government.
The appointment of the new Abu Mazen cabinet thus will not automatically lead to new Israeli-Palestinian understandings. Only after the Palestinian security organizations demonstrate a sustained fight against terrorism should reciprocal actions on the part of Israel be expected, regardless of the language of the Quartet's road map.
The writer, currently president of the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and the author of Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (Regnery, 2003).
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