Published by the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies
THE MACCABEAN ONLINE
POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
ON ISRAELI & JEWISH AFFAIRS
"For Zion's sake I
will not hold My peace,
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest"
VOLUME 7 B"H JUNE 1999 NUMBER 6
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THREE SHORT EDITORIALS
IS PEACE GOING TO BREAK OUT? The Harsh Reality...Bernard J. Shapiro
BARAK'S GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES Suggested Freeman Center Additions.....Bernard J. Shapiro
THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE VALIDATES ETHNIC CLEANSING OF JEWS ....Bernard J. Shapiro
THE ELECTION, BARAK & ISRAEL
WHY BIBI FELL ...David Bar-Illan
ISRAEL WILL SUFFER...Cal Thomas
BARAK TO INHERIT AMERICAN PRESSURE...Yedidya Atlas
AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY VOTE....David Basch
NETANYAHU'S DEFEAT....Jeff Jacoby
THE LANDSLIDE THAT WASN'T...Sam Jordan
GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT.....Dr. Aaron Lerner
TIME TO CUT TO THE CHASE....Dr. Aaron Lerner
OSLO AND OTHER APPEASEMENT PLANS
ARAB HATRED GREW AFTER OSLO......Richard H. Shulman
SYRIAN NEGOTIATIONS -- The Syrian trap.....Moshe Zak
AIPAC: NEW ARAB ISRAEL PALESTINE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE......Emanuel A. Winston
CLEAR LINES FOR ARAFAT Threatening Us, Again!....David Weinberg
EUROPE VS. MIDEAST PEACE ....New York Post Editorial, Monday, May 3, 1999
ARAFAT'S LATEST THREAT: '1947 U.N. Resolution'....Uri Dan
STUNNED AND DISAPPOINTED???....Helen Freedman & Charlie Bernhaut
A PALESTINIAN STATE IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI - NOR SHOULD IT BE!......Richard A. Hellman
IS PEACE GOING TO BREAK OUT?
The Harsh Reality
The dangers facing Israel that we have written about are all still there. The election of Ehud Barak as Israel's new Prime Minister has not made even the slightest change in the Arab plans to eliminate the Jewish State from the Middle East. The anti-Semitism of Palestinian radio, television, newspapers and Islamic sermons is as Nazi like as ever. The goal of Arafat and his terrorist cohorts to create a new 'Palestine' from the river to the sea (replacing Israel on the map), has not changed. The use of PA territory as safe havens for terrorists and the terrorist infrastructure has not changed. The hostile diplomatic campaign against Israel, now using the 1947 Partition Resolution, has not ended. The illegal construction by Arabs on Israeli lands continues unabated. The murder and harassment of Jews by Arabs in Israel has also continued. The demand from the Arabs and the Israeli left to ethnically cleanse Jews from YESHA is growing louder.
One fact is clear: The election of Barak was supported by the Arab world, President Clinton, the U.S. State Department and with cheers from Israel's traditional enemies, including the extreme left.
With friends like these, Israel needs no enemies.....Bernard J. Shapiro, Editor
Reprinted from IsraelWire of May 26, 1999
To one and all of my critics:
Unfortunately there was NO rhetoric in my original note (IS PEACE GOING TO BREAK OUT? The Harsh Reality). Everything is easily verifiable. The continued anti-Semitism in the Arab World is a secret only to the Left. Those of you in Israel should turn on PA radio and TV or listen to the Islamic sermons on Friday night. Take a friend who knows Arabic to a PA school and look at the textbooks. And then notice that the murderers of Jews are sipping coffee in PA towns instead of being extradited for trial.
It is time that the Left took a look at the facts and stopped calling everything rhetoric and posturing. There is a REALITY out there that one must pay attention to.
............Bernard J. Shapiro, Editor
BARAK'S GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES
Suggested Freeman Center Additions
Below are some recommended additions to Barak's Government Guidelines:
1. There should be a legally enforced prohibition against calling a Jew, a settler, if he has been living in Eretz Yisrael for at least one year. The same goes for calling a Jewish community, a settlement, after one year. It then must be called a Jewish village, town or city.
EXAMPLE: Jews living in Tel Aviv could no longer be called 'settlers' and Tel Aviv would have to be called a Jewish/Israeli city and not an 'illegal Jewish settlement.'
2. Incitement to violence by Arabs would be outlawed. Now only Jews can be held guilty of incitement.
3. Incitement to violence (or actual violence) by Israel's 'peace partners' should automatically confer upon them a new name e.g. enemy of the Jewish people
4. All agreements signed by previous Israeli governments (even if done with good intentions) that lead to violence, terrorism, loss of part of Eretz Yisrael, appeasement, war, loss of water, loss of military deterrence and eventually the demise of Israel should be voided at once. No apologies, no explanations to rogue state departments.
EXAMPLES OF SUCH AGREEMENTS: Oslo, Wye, Gaza-Jericho I & II
5. Attacking Jews or their property with any object larger than a grain of sand will be considered a lethal attack and may be stopped with lethal force.
SAD EXAMPLE: Israel is the only non-Islamic country in the world where Jews can be routinely attacked with almost no consequences. [Herzl would be very upset if he were alive to witness this situation.]
6. Building religious places of worship on top of another people's Holy Sites will be prohibited. Any offenders will be give 30 days to vacate the premises.
7. There should be a general prohibition on negotiating subjects like Jerusalem, the Golan or Yesha. Some things are really NON-NEGOTIABLE.
The Freeman Center suggests that all of you make Barak aware of the need for these significant additions to his guidelines.
............Bernard J. Shapiro, Editor
ETHNIC CLEANSING OF JEWS IN JERUSALEM AND YESHA
CONDEMNS ETHNIC CLEANSING OF ALBANIANS
In today's Houston Chronicle (May 28, 1999, page 27A) there is an article, Violent Clashes in east Jerusalem, which raises questions about the Chronicle's objectivity, moral perspective, and historical knowledge. The article concerns the building of Jewish apartments in Jerusalem and a violent protest by some Arabs including officials of the Palestine Authority. This is a classic example demonstrating how the media can distort and mislead its readers according to a political agenda. The article contains both significant omissions as well as linguistic obfuscation. I recommend that you read the article and then make note of the following:
1. The area of the disturbances is referred to as traditional Arab east Jerusalem. This is a politically charged misnomer. Jews lived throughout Jerusalem (east and west) for 3000 years. This is approximately 2400 years before the first Moslem stepped foot in the city. During Israel's War of Independence (1948-9) the eastern portion of the city was occupied by the Jordanian army. All of the Jews were either murdered or ethnically cleansed from the eastern portion of Jerusalem. The Jordanians destroyed 56 synagogues, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and made latrines of the tombstones from the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Despite solemn treaty obligations with Israel the Jordanians refused to allow Jews to pray at their Holy Places including the Western Wall. Since the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli has controlled the entire city of Jerusalem and has kept the Holy Places open to all religions. By what right does the Houston Chronicle reach back 32 years and declare that the ethnic cleansing of Jews at that time period should stand as right and just. And, of course by contrast, the ethnically cleansed Albanians have an indefinite right to return to Kosover.
2. Nowhere in the Chronicle article is it mentioned that the land to be built on was legally owned by Jews. Nowhere is it mentioned that building on the property does not dispossess a single Arab. The Chronicle calls it an Arab neighborhood. Jerusalem is a very mixed city ethnically and there are Arabs and Jews in the immediate proximity of the apartment project. But even if it was an Arab neighborhood is the Chronicle suggesting that in Houston it would be OK to keep an Afro-American from moving into a white neighborhood.
3. The most absurd inference in the article is that the Israelis should avoid doing anything in their own capital that would annoy the Arabs who plan to make Jerusalem the capital of 'Palestine'. Is it OK for Israel to demand Mecca as its capital? I would like to make it perfectly clear that the existence of a single Jew between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has annoyed the Arabs. A lot of people have been annoyed with the presence of Jews, including the Romans, the Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Catholic Church, the Nazis, Islam etc ad nauseam. Yet we persist and survive, much to the displeasure of some.
The truth, however disconcerting, is that King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel while most of the world lived in caves and had not yet mastered the art of language. This includes the writers of this Houston Chronicle story.
.......Bernard J. Shapiro, Editor
The Associated Press Says
Israel May Freeze Settlements
Freeman Center Questions:
If Israel freezes settlements, does this mean that they can broken into pieces and used to make a frozen margarita with tequila?
Will YESHA Jews be asked to freeze their heartbeats to please Arafat?
Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio -- June 9, 1999 / Sivan 5759
BARAK TO INHERIT
By Yedidya Atlas
PREMATURE AMERICAN JOY
Immediately following Ehud Barak's victory over Binyamin Netanyahu in the recent Israeli elections, the Clinton administration, together with its fellows in the liberal-left media, crowed with exultation. Barak won by a landslide, and Israel's new government would go back to peace process business as usual (read: Israeli unilateral concessions, continued Palestinian violations, and photo-op ceremonies for the Clinton White House). But the Israeli political reality is a bit different.
Barak's election brought no shift from Right to Left on the Israeli political scene. True, he beat Netanyahu 56% to 44%, but the political parties on the Israeli Left failed to gain a majority of Israel's 120 seat Knesset. On the contrary, even after incorporating into its ranks the dovish religious party Meimad and the Gesher Party of former Likud member David Levy, the One Israel list lost nearly a third of its Knesset representation. And while the Likud also lost seats, its votes went to other right-of-center parties, not to the Left. The right wing and religious bloc increased its overall number of seats as compared to its representation in the Knesset on the eve of the elections. And there's the rub.
As David Bar-Illan, Director of Communications and Policy Planning in Prime Minister Netanyahu's Office, put it in a recent article in the London Daily Telegraph: "It is a personal rather than an ideological victory for Mr. Barak. Or, more precisely, a personal repudiation of Binyamin Netanyahu." Barak didn't win; Netanyahu lost.
BARAK MAY INHERIT NETANYAHU'S GOVERNMENT...
The Clinton administration, beset by a growing foreign policy boondoggle in Kosovo and a domestic explosion over Chinagate, needed this victory. He was relying on a return to the pliant Israeli Prime Minister model in Mr. Barak for vitally-necessary White House photo-op ceremonies to divert attention from the reality of Mr. Clinton's problems. But what they, and many others, failed to realize is that the Prime Ministerial race in Israel is not the same as a presidential race in the United States.
In Israel's multi-party system, there are no dominantly large parties such as the Republican and Democratic parties in the US. Everything must be viewed through probable and conducive coalition partners. A prime minister who fails to put together a viable and stable coalition, will be up for reelection within a very short time. Ehud Barak, long on political expediency, and short on the leftist ideology of his predecessor Shimon Peres, has no choice but to form a broad-based centrist - and possibly even slightly right of center - coalition if he is to have a government to rule. Hence, in practical terms, Prime Minister-elect Barak will have replaced Mr. Netanyahu, but will more or less inherit his government.
AND EVEN HIS POLICIES
Such a situation does not fit in with the Clinton strategy. We can therefore expect the cautious honeymoon with the Israeli election results to cool considerably within six months or so, as Mr. Clinton and Ms. Albright discover that Ehud Barak is not Shimon Peres. He will not, and cannot, continue the great Israeli territorial giveaway they demand. He will not, because as a former Israeli Chief of Staff, he is probably much closer to Netanyahu in these matters than Clinton-crony James Carville realized. (In fact, Barak initially opposed the Oslo Accords on basic national security grounds.) He cannot, because even if he should personally prefer to follow the previous party line, said party has insufficient Knesset seats to rule by itself.
Moreover, there appears to be little substantive difference between Barak's vision of the "final status" agreement with the Palestinians and Netanyahu's. Both are publicly committed to an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, both consider the Jordan Valley to be Israel's strategic eastern border, both oppose withdrawing to the 1967 armistice line, and both have pledged to keep the settlements in Judea and Samaria under Israeli control. Barak may be willing to concede more of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians under certain conditions than Netanyahu, but this will still fall far short of Palestinian ambitions, expectations, and demands.
It is an open secret that Prime Minister-elect Barak dispatched former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Prof. Itamar Rabinovitch to Washington last week. Barak wished to deliver a polite but blunt message to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to lay off pushing him into negotiations with Syria et al, and to allow him to first form a government and work his own way into final status negotiations with the Palestinians.
Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Arafat will soon realize that even after they openly tried to influence the outcome of the recent Israeli elections, they still failed to bring about the narrow left wing coalition government _ including the Arab parties _ that would continue the wholesale unilateral giveaway that so distinguished the Rabin-Peres government. So Ehud Barak can expect to replace Binyamin Netanyahu not only as Prime Minister, but also as the target of renewed Clinton administration pressure and Palestinian violence.
Yedidya Atlas is a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz 7 Israel National Radio. Atlas also serves as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies. His articles appear frequently in INSIGHT magazine and THE MACCABEAN.
Reprinted from the June14th edition of the National Review.
ON 'WHY BIBI FELL'
By Dr. Aaron Lerner
IMRA note by Dr. Aaron Lerner: Bar-Illan's article reveals, in passing, one of the reasons that Netanyahu lost the support of many in the national camp after Wye: Netanyahu made the incredibly naive assumption that he could rely on unwritten understandings with America to bridge vague agreements.
It is IMRA's understanding that Clinton-Arafat-Netanyahu solemnly agreed at Wye that at each stage the Palestinians were to first honor their obligations and only then would Israel carry out the withdrawal of that stage. This was not put into writing to avoid embarrassing Arafat.
Rhetorical question: if Arafat would be embarrassed by putting this in writing would he be able to stomach the implementation of this understanding?
That Netanyahu did not realize that Clinton would turn his back on an unwritten understanding leaves us only to think that Netanyahu was made a fool of by Clinton. [Editor's Note: Why didn't Israeli intelligence warn Netanyahu that Clinton was a sociopathic liar and not to be trusted?]
The hard lesson to be learned by Ehud Barak is clear - if it isn't explicitly in writing it is meaningless.
And if it is in writing from Clinton?....................
WHY BIBI FELL
By David Bar-Illan
An exclusive front-page story in the March 28 edition of Israel's leading Hebrew daily Ha'aretz caused an excited stir in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office. A senior American official "speaking on condition of anonymity," was quoted by diplomatic correspondent David Makovsky as saying, "The Clinton Administration has decided to accept the position of Israel that it need not implement the second pullback from the West Bank under the Wye agreement until the Palestinian Authority has adhered to all its obligations..."
The anonymous official was the State Department's chief Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, with whom Netanyahu's office had pleaded to come out with that rare commodity in diplomatic discourse - the truth. His statement to Makovsky amounted to an admission that Netanyahu was not stalling the peace process, but merely insisting on Israel's right to demand Palestinian compliance before implementing further withdrawal. Since an anonymous statement is virtually useless, I asked Makovsky if he could get the statement on the record. He said he would try. He failed.
Instead of being officially confirmed, the statement was contradicted almost immediately by State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin and later by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "On the Palestinian side, we have seen serious efforts to prevent terrorist strikes, to renounce the Palestinian Covenant and to avoid a unilateral declaration of statehood. On the Israeli side, implementation has stalled and, unfortunately, unilateral settlement activity has persisted. This is a source of real concern to us, because of its destructive impact on the ability to pursue peace," Albright said in a message to the American Jewish Committee.
The anti-Israel tilt was complete. The Ross statement remained anonymous and worthless, while the Albright admonition - a bald bit of skillful disinformation - became the Administration's mantra, part of an unremitting, smoothly orchestrated campaign aimed at causing Netanyahu's defeat at the polls. As John Broder put it in the New York Times, on May 17, "[The Administration] has made little effort to conceal its interest in a victory for Ehud Barak."
This was not the first time the Clinton administration invested considerable energies in helping the Labor candidate in an Israeli election. In the 1996 campaign its endorsement of then Prime Minister Shimon Peres was quite shameless. From the President himself, who made a special trip to Jerusalem in support of Peres's candidacy, to then-ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who harangued every Israeli and American-Jewish leader he could buttonhole with pro-Peres propaganda, the administration was totally committed to defeating Netanyahu. But the transparent, heavy handed tactics backfired. So this time around, instead of an outright endorsement of Barak the administration preferred "active measures" to discredit Netanyahu. In the four months preceding the election, hardly a day passed without a Washington story about Netanyahu's failure to keep his word: on the Wye agreement, settlements, building in Jerusalem, and even on Israel-Russia relations.
A classic example of this disinformation campaign was a report attributed to an American source by television correspondent Emanuel Rosen. Netanyahu, charged Rosen, had asked Congressmen Ben Gilman to call for the suspension of American sanctions against Russian companies dealing with Iran. The request was part of a secret deal Netanyahu cut with then Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, said Rosen, which made Washington furious with Netanyahu.
The story was an outright fabrication which not only implied an intention to undermine American policy toward Russia, but impugned Netanyahu's loyalty to his own country.
But the charge was palpably absurd (not that absurdity has ever inhibited Big Lie practitioners). It was the Netanyahu government that had tenaciously worked for more than a year to persuade the administration and Congress to impose these sanctions. After all, no one is more threatened than Israel by the transfer of nuclear and missile technology to Iran.
In this particular case, Netanyahu was able to debunk the charge almost instantly. At his request, I located Gilman through his assistant's cellular phone as he was climbing the stairs of the parliament building in Madrid, and he agreed to deny the canard to a tape recorder. Within an hour, Netanyahu invited Rosen to interview him, had him repeat the allegation, and gleefully surprised him with Gilman's flat denial on tape. It was one of the very rare instances in which a refutation was almost as effective as the baseless allegation which prompted it, and the irresponsibility of a fiction-mongering journalist exposed.
Nor were the American anti-Netanyahu efforts confined to a disinformation campaign. The three American advisers who ran Barak's campaign - distinguished for a systematic invention of "facts" which recalled the heyday of the Soviet encyclopedists - were Clinton's 1992 election crew: James Carville, Robert Shrum and Stanley Greenberg. Carville told the New York Times that he "regularly briefs the President of the progress of the Labor leader's campaign."
One can only wonder if such progress reports included tales of dirty tricks. A puzzling incident at the beginning of the campaign involved two Watergate-type break-ins into Greenberg's office. The story was reinforced by the testimony of a cab driver who told the police of Hebrew speaking passengers discussing break-in plans on their way to the Greenberg office (presumably shifting to English for the benefit of the Pakistani driver). But this amateurishly manufactured sensation quickly fizzled. The driver confessed he had invented his exotic passengers, and the FBI spokeswoman for the case admitted to a private investigator that "it was an inside job" and that the case was ordered closed. An effort to have this admission repeated to an Israeli reporter failed.
Even more puzzling was the fortune spent on the anti-Netanyahu campaign. The strict Israeli laws on campaign financing were blatantly circumvented. When the election was announced, the Labor party was saddled with a $25 million debt. Yet the cost of the anti-Netanyahu campaign was estimated anywhere between $50 million and $80 million - 10 times what the Likud spent. Much of the pro-Labor advertising was done through intertwining foundations. Most contributors remained anonymous, but prominent Clinton supporters Daniel Abraham and Lawrence Tisch were reported among the heavier givers. The Likud lodged a complaint with the police about this conspicuous violation of campaign laws, but the press virtually ignored the story.
The massive American intervention was undoubtedly effective. One administration official bragged to the New York Times that it had "clearly had an impact in Israel and the polling shows that." But by itself it might not have sufficed to defeat Netanyahu. Some homemade pre-election coincidences, which seemed to occur at precisely the right time for Barak, added to Netanyahu's troubles.
The leader of the Sephardic "Shas" party, Arye Deri, whose corruption trial had lasted for nine years, was convicted a few weeks before the election. A partner both in the late Yitzhak Rabin's coalition and in the current Netanyahu government, Deri is known for having no permanent loyalties. But the press was quick to describe him as Netanyahu's ally.
Netanyahu, whose support among the orthodox is almost total, felt obligated to stand by him despite the conviction. And the embrace tainted him, perhaps irreversibly, among the immigrants from Russia who constitute a sixth of the electorate. For the mostly secular "Russians", the Shas bureaucrats - who control the Interior Ministry and regularly mistreat immigrants of questionable Jewish pedigree - are anathema. Following the verdict, Russian immigrant support for Netanyahu, which in January hovered at 75%, began a massive shift to Barak.
During the same period, police launched criminal investigations against Minister of Foreign Affairs Ariel Sharon, Minister of Justice Tzahi Hanegbi, and former director general of Netanyahu's office Avigdor Lieberman. This rash of investigations of Netanyahu associates recalled a similar eruption at the beginning of his tenure, when two of his ministers and Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, a Likud leader, were tried on corruption charges, and Netanyahu himself was interrogated by the police for allegedly trying to rig the Attorney General's appointment. In all these cases the charges were so flimsy as to be ludicrous, and they were all dismissed. The current crop is expected to produce similar results, and Likud leaders can hardly be blamed for suggesting that the investigations - and particularly their timing - were not unrelated to the election campaign.
Yet even against all these odds, Netanyahu might have won had he succeeded in keeping the campaign focussed on issues. If polls are any indication, his policies have consistently enjoyed the support of more than two thirds of the population, a degree of popularity he never reached himself. That he failed to change the course of the debate is a measure of the effectiveness of Barak's campaign, which pounded on Netanyahu's character to the exclusion of almost anything else, and of the rank amateurishness of Netanyahu's efforts.
It is no secret that in a popularity contest Netanyahu is vulnerable. Even his admirers admit that it is easier to identify him with Louis XIV's "L'Etat, c'est moi" than with Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Yet leaders far more arrogant have managed to overcome a reputation for insufferable egocentrism, inconsiderateness and the unconscionable exploitation of others - and win elections.
If Netanyahu couldn't, it was mostly because of the unrelieved enmity of the press. Israel's mainstream media are notorious for their obsessive bias against right wing leaders. Such leaders as Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Shamir, now routinely adulated, were mercilessly savaged when in power. Yet nothing like the monolithic assault on Netanyahu has ever occurred in Israel's history.
I used to believe that this antagonism would help Netanyahu, by enhancing his anti-establishment image and populist appeal. But the constant calumny has had an insidious cumulative effect. Netanyahu's "villainy" and "duplicity" became axioms of political discourse. Leading columnists called him "Prince of Darkness" and compared him with Ceaucescu, Saddam Hussein and Mussolini. News stories about him were object lessons in advocacy journalism. A statistical study shows that more than 90% of all opinion columns opposed him, and virtually all the rest were neutral, not supportive.
By the election, Netanyahu had become the world's favorite punching bag, the enemy of peace, a man devoid of principles and incapable of telling the truth. World leaders would privately admit to his charm, brilliance, talent and negotiating skills. But in public almost none dared deviate from the politically correct perception of him as an intransigent, unreliable and dangerous leader.
In fact, few leaders have been more consistent than Netanyahu. Unlike his martyred predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin - who was elected by vowing never to recognize the PLO, never to negotiate with Yasser Arafat and never to offer to relinquish the Golan, but reneged on all three - Netanyahu stuck to his election promises with exemplary firmness. He scrupulously adhered to the Oslo accords, but insisted that the Palestinians reciprocate by fulfilling their commitment to combat terrorism. With such reciprocity, he said, the Oslo principle of "territory for peace" might work. Without it, the formula would become the sheer insanity of "territory for terrorism".
The dramatic decline in Palestinian terrorism in the past three years is at least partly due to this insistence on reciprocity. It is a considerable achievement, considered virtually unattainable not long ago.
Netanyahu also created a revolution in the thinking of Israel's "national camp". He was the first right-wing leader who made most of his followers accept the partitioning of the Land of Israel. [Editor's Note: The Freeman Center never accepted this policy as either wise or necessary.] His agreements with the Palestinians, unlike those signed by the Labor government, enjoyed overwhelming support both in the Knesset and with the public. It is now fashionably forgotten that the peace process collapsed in 1996, under Shimon Peres, following the worst two and a half years of terrorism ever to plague the State of Israel. All talks with the Palestinians were suspended and the withdrawal from Hebron canceled. It was Netanyahu who rescued and revived the peace process, affirming yet again the historic truism that only political hawks can have the broad support necessary to make peace.
Netanyahu's achievements in the economic sphere were even more impressive. His government started moving the Israeli economy from irresponsible spending and stifling centralization to budgetary prudence and free-market principles. In three years it eliminated double digit inflation, made unprecedented cuts in the national budget, dramatically reduced the trade deficit, privatized more than all previous governments put together, deregulated the currency, attracted more foreign investments than ever, produced 100,000 jobs, and survived the worldwide economic crisis - all without raising taxes.
Why, then, was Netanyahu defeated? Considering his achievements, the powers arrayed against him should not have prevailed. Neither American intervention, nor police investigations, not even a campaign of character assassination should have made the difference. Seen in a larger context, Netanyahu's defeat may be viewed as another in a series of setbacks for conservatives throughout the Western world: in Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and even in the last Congressional elections.
Conservatives everywhere seem to be victims of their own success. With the disappearance of the Soviet Empire and the Communist threat, and with socialist economics deemed about as pertinent today as Sufism, they are left with few issues of mass appeal. The equivalent in Israel is Netanyahu's success against terrorism. He has proved that when Arafat can control the terrorists and will do so if there is a price to pay for abetting terrorism. But the decline in terrorism reduced the Israeli electorate's concern for security. When Netanyahu ran in 1996, 70% of Israelis considered security their number one concern, which is why Netanyahu won then. Now only 27% do, which is one of the reasons he lost.
For conservatives to return to power they must rethink their agenda in terms of today's world. And they must build an effective intellectual infrastructure - in academe, journalism, think-tanks and literature - which will support and propagate this agenda. Nowhere is this truer than in Israel.
David Bar-Illan is the director of the Prime Minister's Office of Communication and Planning and was the editor of The Jerusalem Post for many years.
ISRAEL WILL SUFFER
By Cal Thomas
The election of Ehud Barak as Israel's new prime minister changes nothing: The terms of the Jewish state's surrender and the methods that will be used to annihilate it remain the same.
From the Clinton White House, to State Department Arabists, to Israeli secularists who define evil as something done by Israeli leaders but not by their enemies, there is the misplaced hope that the election is an indication that "peace" is at hand.
A top official in the outgoing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me he believes the "moderate" Barak like the late former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will be quickly pushed to the left by the Labor Party. That party leadership reflects Neville Chamberlain's philosophy that appeasing tyrants satisfies their lusts. Offer them a partial payment, goes this thinking, and the rest of the "loan" will never be called. Throwing the bone of Czechoslovakia to Hitler only increased the Nazi leader's appetite for the entire body of Europe.
Yossi Beilin, a Labor Party Knesset member who will be an influential player in the new government, wrote in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post: "There can be no peace without compromise and without peace there will never be real security." Israel has frequently compromised. It has lived up to its commitments in the Oslo accords, asking only that the Palestinians do the same, which they have not. When Israel relinquished control of Gaza and its sacred city of Hebron, there was a momentary lull. But soon it was back to diplomatic and physical terrorism because the goal of Palestinians is not compromise and coexistence. For them, such things are not ends but means to complete and total control of all the land and the elimination of every Jew (in fact, every non-Muslim "infidel"), living and dead, from it.
When the policies of the Clinton administration (and Bush's before it) of unrelenting pressure on Israel provoke another war, will the weakened U.S. military come to Israel's aid? If we aren't sending ground troops into Kosovo to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, where will we acquire the will to intervene on the ground to save Jews? The United States turned away from the Jews once before in this century. To repeat that error would be an unpardonable sin.
Barak is celebrating the spoils of political victory, but he will be under intense pressure to deliver on a mirage. President Clinton, lusting after a honorable legacy and running out of time, will use the "Jewish Mafia" in the State Department and the anti-Israel cabal in the United Nations to try to force Israel to cave and deliver. Look for Beilin and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres to pressure Barak from within to surrender the Golan Heights down to the border of Israel's main water supply, the Sea of Galilee. But when war breaks out, launched from territory recently acquired by the Palestinians, will the leftists stay and fight? Or will they catch the first plane or boat to safety and indulge in "what might have been" theorizing if Likud had never ruled? Their line will be that Israel didn't compromise fast enough and so made her enemies angry.
This is the stuff of the morally challenged who see not evil but potential goodness in us all. The evil ones use such notions against the naive and allow them to dig their own graves.
Now the Palestinians have resurrected the original 1947 U.N. proposal to partition "Palestine," allowing Jews and Palestinians to live side by side. Then, it might have worked, but it was rejected by the Palestinian side, which began a war against Israel that has never stopped. Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat senses this fraudulent diplomatic ploy might be another means by which he can seize land for his ultimate and never-changing objective: the consignment of the Jewish state to the dustbin of history.
AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY VOTE
By David Basch
How the sheep settled the problem of peace between sheep and jackal.
The Council of Sheep voted yesterday. It gave an overwhelming majority vote for the declaration that, henceforth, there will be peace between the sheep and the jackals. The Council of Sheep decried those who were alarmist and would divide the community and anger jackals.
The vote insured that from now on the barriers between jackals and lambs would be removed since the lambs have declared that both groups would now live in peace. The issue of how many jackals to be brought into sheep areas is still to be worked out, 1,000,000 or 2,000,000.
Voted down overwhelmingly was the leader of the alarmists, Tan, who tried to call attention to the fact that the nature of the jackal is to seek the life blood of the sheep. But the new leaders would have none of such defeatist thinking and believed that the sheep resolution annulling such differences would settle the matter.
"We don't need those sheep who would anger the jackals to be a part of our council. Mr. Tan should know that this will not be tolerated by either sheep or jackals."
AND THAT IS THE REAL, TRUE-LIFE STORY OF HOW THE SHEEP
SETTLED THE PROBLEM OF PEACE BETWEEN SHEEP AND JACKAL.
Reprinted from the The Boston Globe of May 20, 1999
By Jeff Jacoby
Five weeks before he was elected Israel's prime minister in May 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was asked whether a Likud-led government would agree to turn over Hebron -- the world's oldest Jewish city -- to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians.
"I see no reason to withdraw from Hebron," Netanyahu said, reiterating his longstanding position. "It will not happen." But in January 1997, Netanyahu's government *did* turn over Hebron to the Palestinians. A cartoon in the Jerusalem Post showed the prime minister looking into a mirror and seeing the face of Shimon Peres, his extremely dovish predecessor, gazing back at him.
It was Peres, as foreign minister under the late Yitzhak Rabin, who had quarterbacked the Oslo accord between Israel and the PLO that was signed with such fanfare at the White House in 1993. And when Israel, in the 2-1/2 years following that ceremony, was rocked by a wave of Palestinian terror attacks, it was Peres who repeated time and again: "The peace process must continue." To Netanyahu and his supporters, this was appeasement of the most suicidal kind, tantamount to rewarding Palestinians for murdering Jews.
Yet here was Netanyahu himself, just weeks after the latest terrorist atrocity -- the gunning-down of Ita Tzur and her 12-year-old son Ephraim -- shaking hands with Arafat and handing over the keys to Hebron.
If you take your cues from US media commentators, you may believe that Netanyahu was tossed out of office by Israeli voters this week because he was a stiff-necked obstructor of the Oslo "peace process." The Los Angeles Times, to pick an example almost at random, editorialized on Tuesday that Ehud Barak, the new Labor Party prime minister, "has made clear he is prepared to move ahead with serious negotiations, after three years of Netanyahu's stonewalling."
But the commentariat has it backward. Netanyahu didn't lose to Ehud Barak because he derailed what Rabin and Peres began. He lost because he *didn't* derail it, after having promised that he would.
"Derail" is my word, of course, not Netanyahu's. When he ran for prime minister the first time, he made it clear that he could not abrogate an agreement lawfully entered into by an Israeli government. What he could do, he said, was enforce it. If Arafat and the Palestinians would not live up to their Oslo commitments -- by turning over suspected terrorists for trial, halting the constant incitement to anti-Israel violence, closing down their illegal operations in Jerusalem, and repealing the covenant calling for Israel's liquidation -- then Israel would surrender no more territory.
In short, the future of land-for-peace in a Netanyahu government would depend on the Palestinians. If they proved themselves serious about making peace, they would get more land. If not, not.
It was a popular position, and it grew more popular with each new terror attack. In the run-up to the 1996 election, polls showed that fewer and fewer Israelis believed Peres capable of making Arafat fulfill his Oslo obligations. On election day, Netanyahu won a solid majority of the Jewish vote.
Whereupon the would-be Israeli Churchill began to morph into a Chamberlain. The rhetoric remained tough, but the deeds belied them. Doves and soft-liners were appointed to key government posts. Netanyahu agreed to meet personally with Arafat, a gesture of great symbolic importance, without receiving any peaceable gesture in return. When Palestinian troops opened fire on Jewish targets in Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Nablus in September 1996, Netanyahu's reaction was to seek another meeting with Arafat.
Israeli leftists and the global media continued to paint Netanyahu as an intransigent warmonger, but it was clear to savvy Israelis that for all Netanyahu's tough talk, the Rabin/Peres policy of unilateral concessions was going to continue.
"He hasn't honored even one of the promises which he made to the Likud before the elections," a pro-Oslo Israeli parliamentarian happily pointed out in October 1996. "He said that Jews would pray on the Temple Mount and it didn't happen. He said, `We will close Orient House' [the unlawful Palestinian headquarters in Jerusalem], and it isn't closed. Netanyahu said he would not honor the Oslo agreements if the Palestinians did not honor every paragraph in them, and now Netanyahu is committed in any case. He said that the Jewish settlement activity in the territories would be renewed, and not even one settlement has been established."
Palestinians still dream of erasing Israel from the map. As Barak's supporters were celebrating their victory on Monday night, Katyusha rockets were fired into Israel's Galilee towns by terrorists from Hezbollah -- the same Hezbollah that repeated its call two weeks ago to "eliminate the Jewish state." Arafat is now demanding not only Jerusalem, but Beersheba, Acre, and Jaffa, too. Three years of Netanyahu's governance have not dampened Palestinian irredentism. They have encouraged it.
By acquiescing in the Oslo "peace process" whose dangers he once decried, Netanyahu fatally demoralized that segment of the Israeli public that had insisted on Palestinian compliance. It was as if Churchill, having denounced the Munich pact in 1938, came grudgingly to support it in 1939. Opposition to Oslo collapsed; what remained was a national consensus in favor of appeasement. When Netanyahu committed Israel to further withdrawals in the Wye agreement last fall, public opinion overwhelmingly backed it.
To my mind, this represents a failure of national will, one for which Israelis will pay an awful price. But I am not an Israeli voter, and for Israeli voters this week, the choice was not between pro-Oslo and anti-Oslo. It was between an enthusiastically pro-Oslo candidate and a pro-Oslo candidate whose support was sullen and halfhearted. They went with the real thing.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE LANDSLIDE THAT WASN'T
By Sam Jordan
The polling booths had barely closed and the final vote count was 2 days away, but that did not stop the pundits in Israel from rushing to declare a landslide victory for the Left and to eulogize the Right. For example, Sara Honig wrote in the Jerusalem Post wrote on May 18: "Gone is the tie between Left and Right. It was decisively broken and it might stay broken for many years to come... It was a rout for the entire right wing." To paraphrase Mark Twain, could it be that the rumors of the Right's demise are greatly exaggerated?
While Barak did win the race for prime minister handily, within the Knesset things are not so simple. He has no blocking majority as the Left, the Center Party and the Arab parties total only 60 seats out of 120. And these 60 seats include numerous former Likudniks that have wound up with Barak for personal reasons rather than ideological reasons. Barak's One Israel bloc has a mere 26 seats, several of which belong to Gesher and Meimad, not his own Labor party.
If Barak wants to prove that he has great support in the country he will not be able to break the long-standing tradition of not bringing the Arab parties into a coalition, nor will he want a minority government. That would be admitting defeat. But without the Arab parties Barak has only 50 seats from the Left from which to make his coalition. He needs 11 more seats to get a majority.
Though the National Religious Party (NRP) dropped from 9 seats to 5 in the election, it is ironically in an excellent negotiating position. The smallest and easiest coalition that Barak can make is with the non-aligned Yisrael B'aliya with its six seats plus the NRP. He will then have 61 seats plus the support of the 10 Arab seats from outside the coalition. Unlike the other religious parties the NRP is acceptable to the anti-haredi parties on the far Left. The NRP is therefore very attractive to Barak and consequently should move immediately to make a partnership with the Likud. Both parties should then refuse to enter a coalition without the other. This will either force Barak to bring in a large nationalist bloc into his coalition or make a deal with Shas, thus forcing out his anti-haredi partners and requiring even more outsiders to get to the magic 61 seats.
At best Barak is looking at a narrow coalition with a record number of small parties. Some of the parties will be from the Center and Right. The leading party will be the smallest in history and therefore the most influenced by its smaller coalition partners. And the coalition will contain numerous politicians that have proven themselves to be Trojan horses willing to break from a party to further their own interests. Barak's position is extremely tenuous. In fact, Netanyahu was in a much better position last time around, with a right-center-religious bloc of 68 seats and fewer small parties. His coalition lasted less than 3 years.
Barak's false aura of a conquering general needs to be destroyed as soon as possible. If the Right and religious parties accept the virtual reality of their being vanquished and merely sue for the best possible surrender terms they will miss a golden opportunity to restrain the Left before it attempts the kind of disastrous adventures that we saw from 1992 to 1996. That must not be allowed to happen.
Sam Jordan is an Internet consultant who lives in Ma'aleh Adumim.
GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT
By Dr. Aaron Lerner
[May 28 , 1999] Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak, by setting aside the destructive finger-pointing and labeling that poisoned the political atmosphere, provides the national camp with an unprecedented opportunity to air its views. This is not just a chance to argue for the sake of the history books. A Gallup poll this week sponsored by Independent Media Review & Analysis (IMRA) provides clear evidence that the national camp can significantly influence the national debate.
For the last seven years, more broadcast time and column inches have been spent on delegitimizing the national camp than addressing its message. But with Barak's election it appears that has changed. And when unhampered by the 'extremist' label, the national camp has a powerful message to share.
The National Union's Michael Kleiner told me this week of plans to get the national camp's message out via various forums - both at the grassroots level and through existing structures. But do logical arguments matter? Aren't the various elements in society, as popular wisdom claims, locked into their positions come what may? IMRA commissioned a Gallup poll of adult Jews this Wednesday evening to put this theory to the test.
While earlier polls simply asked people if they support or oppose withdrawals, this survey, regarding the implementation of additional Wye withdrawals before the final-status talks, brought several factors to the attention of the respondents:
* Ehud Barak has set red lines regarding Jerusalem (keeping it united under Israeli sovereignty), the Jordan Valley, and settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria (under Israeli sovereignty) and the right of return of refugees (no return of the '48 refugees to within the State of Israel's borders).
* The Palestinians have rejected Barak's red lines and insist on immediate Wye withdrawals.
* The military believes that security conditions on the ground, if the Palestinian-Israeli talks fail, will be worse if the Wye withdrawals take place.
The poll found that, when presented with these facts, 71.4 percent oppose carrying out the Wye withdrawals before the final-status talks.
Only 18.5% took the Peres/Beilin/Arafat/Albright position that the Wye withdrawals should be carried out before the talks.
When one considers that the public was able to comprehend and act on this information within the severe time constraints of a telephone poll, one can only imagine the potential impact of a properly run information campaign.
It is noteworthy that 28.9% (the equivalent of over 30 Knesset seats) embrace the National Union's opposition to withdrawal under any circumstances.
The survey also found strong support for Barak's red lines or positions even harder than Barak's on all three issues: Jerusalem - 84.1%, Jordan Valley/settlement blocs - 64.6%, and refugees - 76.2%.
But hasn't Barak already committed to immediate implementation of the Wye withdrawals? Hardly. Last week, he diplomatically told Ha'aretz political correspondent Yossi Verter that 'this government will move the diplomatic process forward with political responsibility and political intelligence... As of this moment, I do not know what's in it [Wye], what it says, what the understandings are. I don't know which of them have been implemented and which not.'
If the situation is ripe for intelligent discussion of the logic of withdrawing in the West Bank when there is every indication that the final-status talks will ultimately fail, what little support there is for full withdrawal from the Golan (27.7% of Jews in the latest Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research survey) is even more precarious.
Those who support full withdrawal from the Golan rely on the 'mutual security arrangements' promised by the retired officers who are peddling withdrawal. But the public hasn't a clue what is really meant by that innocuous term. Most assume that under these 'arrangements,' Israel would be able to race up the Golan to meet incoming Syrian forces somewhere on the heights.
But that's not the 'clash line' the security talks considered. The previous talks with Syria put the 'clash line' at the Israel-Syria border at the bottom of the Golan. For every Syrian force reduction east of the 'clash line,' Israel was to carry out an equivalent reduction to the west of the line. Yes, Israel argued that for every 10-kilometer-wide band of demilitarized Syrian territory, Israel should have to demilitarize a thinner band, but that was only to adjust for the topographical advantage afforded Syria by the Golan.
These calculations, by their nature, have to make critical assumptions regarding not only force readiness and response time, but also the ability of Israel to rapidly accumulate, assess, and react to Syrian movements - something which goes far beyond simply noting the fact that some Syrian forces are in violation of the understandings.
I am confident that the Israeli public, with its intimate familiarity with the potential for IDF/defense foulups, will roundly reject the notion of a theoretical 'clash line' on the Kinneret.
The public can understand a proper argument and Barak's promise of national referendums on any deal with Syrian President Hafez Assad or Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat makes public opinion critical. The challenge today to the national camp is to get their message out.
Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director of IMRA
(Independent Media Review & Analysis)
POB 982 Kfar Sava, Israel
Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of May 19, 1999
TIME TO CUT TO THE CHASE
By Dr. Aaron Lerner
The only way Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak can effectively pursue the peace process while maintaining the national unity we so desperately need is by jumping now to truly final-status talks. This is a move that friends of peace everywhere should encourage, rather than undermine. Let's get one thing clear: Contrary to Shimon Peres's gloating, Monday's elections do not signify an endorsement of his leftist ideology, but rather disgust with Netanyahu's performance. Only the pathologically blind can really believe that when the likes of Benny Begin vote for Barak they have joined the Peres camp.
The votes for Lapid's Shinui Party were against the haredim - not the Hermon. The vote for Amir Peretz was for paychecks - not Palestine. And the Central Party does not deny that the votes they received came from ex-Likudniks who would never vote Left.
The country remains very much divided over Oslo. Some two weeks before the election, the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace research survey of adult Israeli Jews found only 48.7% favoring the Oslo Accords. And while Peres and others will claim that Monday's vote is a mandate to leave the Golan, only 27.7% support full withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for a full peace treaty between Israel and Syria.
Truly final final-status talks are talks that cover all the issues, leaving nothing open - be it Jerusalem or refugees or any other thorny issue - to shatter an agreement in the future. These are negotiations for an agreement that is not just another "stage" in a program of stages whose "final stage" in much of the Palestinians' rhetoric is a Middle East without a Jewish state.
Unfortunately, Barak now faces pressure, from many of the same people who supported his election, both here and in the White House, to fritter away his public support on painful and dangerous interim activities. Activities that, if the final-status talks fail, would leave Israel in a far worse position on the ground than it is in today.
Here is the puzzle: It is a tenet of faith of these same interim-withdrawal supporters that the only obstacle to a truly permanent agreement was Netanyahu's obstinacy. With Barak at the table what can be gained by wasting time - and national unity - on interim activity? After all, whatever interim steps not implemented to date can readily be incorporated into the final deal.
Barak's reaction to this pressure will ultimately determine if he is leading us to the true, secure peace the nation yearns for or, instead, down the amorphous path of concessions followed by both previous administrations.
While in the case of the PLO, Barak is being pressed to "withdraw first, negotiate later," on the Syrian front he must deal with those who seek not peace for generations, but a deal for the hour.
They will seek security based on technological "solutions" doomed to obsolescence; reliance on the goodwill of neighboring governments with unpredictable futures and would pin Israel's very survival on the guarantees of foreign governments whose future desire or ability to deliver on those guarantees can't necessarily be counted on.
No one questions Barak's intellect. The question is whether, in trying to "square the circle" he will succumb to the temptation to sacrifice intellectual honesty for short-term achievements - the photo opportunities that the Jewish state has been served up during its last two governments. For all of our sakes, I hope not.
If Barak succeeds in cutting a truly comprehensive peace deal with Yasser Arafat or Hafez Assad, then his success will be a blessing for all of us, regardless of our political stripe. On the other hand, if after making a good-faith effort, Barak finds that Arafat's demands in the final-status talks are not acceptable or that truly workable arrangements cannot be reached with Assad, he can rest assured that the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public will accept Barak's decision to reject them.
This is an advantage that Barak enjoys over Netanyahu and any alternative from the national camp. Besides endorsing the jump to the final-status talks, the Clinton administration can promote peace via a series of confidence-building measures to help Barak face the difficult challenges ahead.
These include: agreeing to Israel's use of its own ELTA radar in the ending jet deal; finalizing the remaining funding to bring the Nautilus anti-Katyusha laser defense system on-line promptly (and providing the laser control codes so that its range can be extended beyond Katyushas); and putting the unfortunate Pollard episode behind us.
Ultimately, the choice of path is Barak's alone. But his choices, possibly more than any made by a prime minister since the days of Ben-Gurion, will determine Israel's destiny.
Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director IMRA (Independent
Media Review & Analysis)
POB 982 Kfar Sava, Israel
ARAB HATRED GREW AFTER OSLO
By Richard H. Shulman
[6/8/99] As the Arabs come closer to making war, one think back to the start of Oslo, when hopes were fresh. Israelis used to say that the Arabs have changed. One doesn't hear that anymore.
For a couple of years, lesser Arab states took small steps toward recognizing and trading with Israel. Those steps were exaggerated by Jews thirsting for normal relations with the Arabs or hoping to vindicate Oslo. As soon as the Oslo negotiations faltered, the Arabs started retracting those steps. Those steps proved to have been bait, not meat.
Supporters of Oslo who had exaggerated the importance of some distant sheikdom negotiating with Israel over opening a consulate, now exaggerated the gravity of the consulate negotiations being suspended. They blamed P.M. Netanyahu for destroying the supposed new friendship with the Arabs.
What had Netanyahu done? He made concessions but found the PLO still struggling against Israel, sometimes with arms. Learning from experience, he suspended Israel's further compliance until the PA makes its initial compliance. He was hounded for that and blamed for the relapse in relations with foreign Arab states.
Was his suspension of Oslo justified or unjustified, mild or excessive? Of course he was justified in suspending risky concessions to a party acting in bad faith and therefore turning a risk to Israeli security into a loss of Israeli security. Of course his suspension was mild -- he was entitled to cancel Oslo, especially the Interim Agreement, which has lapsed.
For Netanyahu's justified but mild reaction to Arab violations, the distant Arab states broke off relations with Israel. What a demonstration of bad faith and how tenuous was that relationship! The relationship was more blackmail than a wondrous by-product of Oslo. Oslo has had no value.
Meanwhile, Arab hatred of Israel grows. Not only do the Islamist groups revile Israel. Egypt, in violation of its treaty with Israel, regularly demonizes Israel. Therefore Egypt's expanding, US-sponsored military might is ominous.
Oslo specifically prohibited Anti-Israel propaganda. Netanyahu found it growing more vile and violence-provoking. Should Netanyahu have ignored it? Should the victor withdraw from terrain while the vanquished aggressors continue to campaign for war? No. The suspension of Wye was Netanyahu's finest act.
But the hatred that pours from the PA Media and schools proves, along with its military buildup, infidelity to Oslo. Let it be the faithless Arabs aggressors who make concessions, when they are ready for peace. They have to prove their good faith.
Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of June 9, 1999
The Syrian trap
By Moshe Zak
Today, 32 years ago, the IDF burst onto the Golan Heights. Syria was the last Arab country to enter the Six Day War, and is also the last in the line to make peace with Israel. There isn't anyone in Israel presently suggesting a unilateral withdrawal from the Golan, but the Syrians imagine such a possibility. That's the meaning of their demand that Israel commit itself in writing to a withdrawal to the June 1967 border as a precondition to negotiations. The fact is that Syria has already received several Israeli undertakings of a retreat from the Golan in exchange for comprehensive peace.
Syria wouldn't need a written commitment from Israel if it really intended to pay for the withdrawal in the coin of peace. But Damascus aims to get an undertaking from Israel to withdraw unconditionally from the Golan without any quid pro quo. President Hafez Assad doesn't reveal his reasons, but apparently his hidden intention is not to sign a peace treaty with Israel, unlike Anwar Sadat and King Hussein.
It's possible that after he has an Israeli commitment to a total withdrawal, he will wriggle out of his obligation to sign a peace treaty, as he did in May 1974 when he asked an Egyptian general to sign the Golan disengagement agreement instead of the Syrian representative.
Already on June 19, 1967, 10 days after the IDF entered Kuneitra, Israel informed the Americans that it was willing to discuss a peace treaty with Syria on the basis of the international border. The same was true for Egypt. The US was indiscreet and informed the Syrians and Egyptians of the contents of the Israeli proposal, but the Syrian leaders were in no hurry to accept the generous Israeli proposal.
After the Yom Kippur War, Israel tried to open negotiations with Syria on the basis of Israeli recognition of Syrian sovereignty over all the Golan Heights, on condition that the territory be leased to Israel. The Syrians were unwilling even to hear of such a suggestion. In the summer of 1976, Israel officially made an offer to Assad, via the Americans, to make a meaningful withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for a non- belligerence agreement. The Syrian leader dismissed the proposal, even though shortly before, Assad had used the Americans and Jordan's Hussein to reach a secret understanding with Israel on the "red line" for deployment of the Syrian army in southern Lebanon.
Finally, Israel's most recent attempt: the hypothetical question that Yitzhak Rabin put to Assad via the Americans: If Israel withdrew completely from the Golan, what kind of peace would Syria be prepared to offer Israel in return?
THE Syrians understood this question as an unambiguous Israeli undertaking to make a complete withdrawal, and asked to receive it in writing, while refusing Israel's conditions. The Americans made it clear that Rabin's hypothetical question wasn't to be considered as a promise, but the Syrians insisted that it meant a commitment to total withdrawal.
As Israeli society displays more signs of impatience concerning the evacuation of southern Lebanon, Syria's patience concerning the Golan increases. The Syrian leaders act as if they have all the time in the world to gain the commitment they want from Israel. That's why Damascus was quick to deny this week a report that Assad had sent a message to Ehud Barak before the elections that he would be flexible in negotiations with Israel.
Indeed, the Syrians don't need to be flexible. After this week's coalition negotiations, they concluded that Israel has no options of maneuvering, and that Israel is willing to part with its strategic assets on the Golan in order to be free of the burden of the IDF presence in Lebanon. The Syrians concluded that they don't have to make a clear promise to give anything in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.
In talks with diplomats, Assad makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't accept the international border between Syria and Israel, since it is the outcome of an imperialist conspiracy between the French and the British. This is a signal of additional territorial demands, which will be made in the future.
Negotiations with Syria, therefore, should not depend on indirect mediators and hazy formulas. We must aim for direct negotiations without preconditions, and therefore we must be very careful, even if evacuating Lebanon is urgent.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1999
Moshe Zak is a veteran journalist, comments on current affairs.
AIPAC: NEW ARAB ISRAEL
PALESTINE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
By Emanuel A. Winston
"AIPAC DROPPED ITS OPPOSITION TO A PALESTINIAN STATE" 5/25/99.
AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's official lobby in Washington, has come a long way since I served on the Executive Board in the days of Isaiah L. "Si" Kenen and Morrie Amitay. There has been a drift in its management from aggressive lobbyists defending Israel to a more pro-Left Dovish position. They have violated Si Kenen's warning:
"Ever since the State of Israel was established in 1948, the Arab states have waged war against her on four fronts: military diplomatic, economic and propaganda. Punctuating the gunfire, there has been a never-ending propaganda fusillade to capture world opinion and isolate Israel." *
This posture seemed to be driven by those who gave or raised large amounts of money for AIPAC. They became "advisors" who could set policy or at least bend it to fit their ideas. Some were often close to government officials, all the way up to the President of the United States. It appeared as if their motivation was their personal enjoyment of power at being "close" to the American Administration. Their molding of AIPAC's policies too often reflected the political position of the American Administration and State Department which was usually not consistent with what was best for Israel.
Some wags are beginning to use the acronym: "Arab Israel Palestine Affairs Committee". Why? Because at this year's annual policy conference for the first time, AIPAC has removed its objection to a Palestinian State in Israel. Only the Israelis can make this political-military decision of approving the establishment of a Palestinian State.
While AIPAC plays a vital role of shepherding certain funding programs through Congress, they have no business taking a high profile position that says: "AIPAC DROPPED ITS OPPOSITION TO A PALESTINIAN STATE". AIPAC members I have spoken with were astonished and angry. Who in the world asked AIPAC to say anything? If AIPAC has now become the spokesman for Yassir Arafat, then it should indeed be called the Arab Israel Palestine Affairs Committee.
Congressman Michael P. Forbes and NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind denounced this reversal of AIPAC's policy saying: "The only impression AIPAC can make is one of surrender and impotence...Does [AIPAC] represent the views of the American Jewish community or Yassir Arafat?...If a strong Israel is in the best interests of the US, how can AIPAC support the surrender of any of Israel's limited territory or the violation of its sovereignty?"
As I said earlier, AIPAC has drifted too far off course in the intervening years. They want a certain social acceptability where its principals can rub shoulders with Congress. Once they were serious, respected and even feared. Now, they seem to be tame and politically bent. It's really too bad that the once feared AIPAC has joined the ranks of many other bureaucratic Jewish organizations where bestowed honors and chicken dinners are the important things.
*Myths & Facts 1989: A Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli Conflict" by Leonard Davis for the Near East Report: AIPAC's weekly newsletter.
Emanuel A. Winston is a Middle East analyst & commentator and is a research associate of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.
Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of June 6, 1999
CLEAR LINES FOR ARAFAT
Threatening Us, Again!
By David Weinberg
Time for Ehud Barak to draw some very clear red lines for Arafat.
Who said last week that "settlement [in the West Bank] is an organized, criminal act of terrorism... a massacre against all human beings and land?" Who threatened that "if this crime is not stopped, the situation will explode in an irreversible way and there will be an escalation in every street, village and settlement?"
Answer: Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo and Fatah Secretary-General Marwan Barghouti, at a Ramallah press conference in advance of their planned "Day of Rage" last Thursday to protest Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria. Just in case any Palestinian missed the signals, a Fatah leaflet issued the same day spelled it out: "The protests will ignite the land under the settlers' feet, and they will leave forever." So, we're back to the old game of Palestinian threats, telling us that unless Israel acts as the PA thinks it should, "the Palestinian Authority can't be held responsible for the inevitable violent outcome." Rabbo: "Rather, it will be [the responsibility of] the Israeli government, the Israeli security forces, and the settlers."
It was, of course, predictable that the Palestinians would revert to this perilous game of threatening, and then instigating, violence the minute they smelled an Israeli government of compromise. It surprises no one that settlements ("acts of terrorism," "crimes," and "massacres," [sic] according to our peace partner) are the next front-line issue in the diplomatic process.
And it is very clear, that if only allowed to, the PA intends to make the situation in the territories exceedingly intolerable. (Believe them when they talk of massacres: Remember the Jewish settlers of Hebron in 1929; of Kfar Etzion in 1948, etc.).
The question is: What will be Ehud Barak's response? Why is Washington silent? Is the PA's inflammatory language and violent modus operandi acceptable? Will someone lay down clear red lines for Yasser Arafat? All this connects to directly to Barak's coalition negotiations with the NRP and Meretz on settlement policy, and to the PA's frenzied activity at the United Nations regarding UN Resolution 181.
A truly centrist or broad Israeli government - the type that Barak is talking about - cannot ignore the Palestinian attempt to wholly delegitimize Israeli life and settlement across the Green Line. Especially a government that is suing for peace and readying itself to negotiate a Palestinian state into existence.
A centrist Barak government is going to have to defend the big blocs of settlement as historically and morally legitimate and work to permanently include them in our borders. It is going to have to fight for the right of many other, smaller towns to abide in the Jewish people's historic homeland, in peace and relative security, under some form of Israeli rule. It is going to have to forcefully combat Palestinian talk of settlements as "crimes."
A broad Israeli government has to show Arafat that terrorism and bullying are going to set him back eons; that he will pay a price every time he attempts to disrupt the completely peaceful, rightful, everyday life of Israelis who live in Ofra, Karnei Shomron and Gush Etzion. For they shall not be forsaken. A "consensus" Israeli government under Barak ought to vigorously defend the plans to connect Ma'aleh Adumim with Jerusalem - a plan that was hatched during Rabin's administration, continued under Peres, and brought to fruition under Netanyahu.
The same applies to the plan to build thousands more homes in Ma'aleh Adumim, Betar, Kiryat Sefer, Givat Ze'ev and Gush Etzion; or the expectation of settlers everywhere that they be allowed to "naturally" expand their living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and neighborhoods as necessary. Barak will have to get Washington on board, too. Its opposition to such plans - natural expansion of Israeli settlement in non-heavily Arab-populated areas of Judea and Samaria - seriously undermines American credibility as a mediator in my eyes.
In addition, Barak's One Israel government and Clinton's disconcertingly jaundiced Mideast peace team will have to respond to the PA's current diplomatic blitzkrieg aimed at pushing us back to the 1947 (!) lines. At every international forum, Arafat's representatives are hawking the long-forgotten, Arab-rejected, historically passe UN partition resolution (181) as a new basis for talks with Israel.
Gaining control over 90 percent of the Palestinian population in the territories (they've got that) isn't good enough, you see. Rolling us back to the precarious 1967 lines with independent statehood is no longer good enough for Arafat, either. It is all the way back to the pre-state days, as if nothing has happened since then. With Jerusalem detached from Israel altogether.
So, just as it was in the pre-state days, the sands of settlement are the front-line in the battle for security, legitimacy and peace in this land. An early challenge for the prime minister of all Israel, Ehud Barak, is drawing red lines in that sand for the ravenous Yasser Arafat.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1999
New York Post Editorial, Monday, May 3, 1999
EUROPE VS. MIDEAST PEACE
Although it went largely unreported by the mainstream news media, the prospects for peace in the Middle East took an ominous turn last week. In Geneva, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, with the full support of the European nations, officially endorsed Yasser Arafat's latest diplomatic offensive, of which we recently took note. The commission voted to support both Palestinian statehood based on the UN's original 1947 partition vote (Resolution 181) and the so-called "right of return" for all Arab refugees.
What is significant about the vote is that it mentions none of the subsequent bases for negotiating Middle East peace. Not UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which recognize the need for secure, recognizable borders. Not Camp David, the first Arab-Israeli peace agreement. Not the Oslo Accords, which mandate bilateral, direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
By endorsing Resolution 181, the UN also in effect approved its call to make the entire city of Jerusalem - including its western section, which has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1948 - a "corpus separatum" or separate entity. This concept, which has no basis in international law, is anathema - and rightfully so - to Israel, where there is a national consensus that Jerusalem must remain its eternal, undivided capital, a claim rooted in 3,000 years of history.
Israel has long considered this resolution null and void, noting that the Arab world rejected it in 1947. But Arafat has revived Palestinian interest in 181, seeing it as a way to undermine Israel's claim to Jerusalem and perhaps to shrink Israel's borders dramatically. For the resolution could empower the UN to claim all Israeli territory beyond the narrow 1947 borders - land that was universally recognized, even before the Six-Day War, as belonging to Israel.
By endorsing this insidious resolution, the Europeans have disqualified themselves from playing any meaningful role in the peace process.The Clinton administration, to its credit, refused to play along - Washington was the only Human Rights Commission member to vote against Arafat's ploy and has reaffirmed its commitment to Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiations.
Arafat may be winning praise for agreeing not to declare a Palestinian state when the Oslo Accords expire on Tuesday - a unilateral step that violates his legal commitments anyway. But as the Geneva vote demonstrates, it would be naive to think that Arafat's intentions toward Israel no longer remain hostile.
A post-script to the above comes from the Ariel Center for Policy Research, via Bernard Shapiro of the Freeman Center:
"The UN Human Rights Commission 53 member nations (Israel's candidacy was rejected due to the claim that Israel violates human rights), voted in favor of the resolution (181), including all the European nations, and 8 abstained. Though the United States voted against, it adamantly refused to accede to the Israeli request to expend efforts to prevent the resolution's adoption."
New York Post of May 2, 1999
ARAFAT'S LATEST THREAT:
'1947 U.N. Resolution'
By Uri Dan
WHOEVER is elected Israeli prime minister will face a new demand from Yasser Arafat - to revive a 52-year-old U.N. plan for dividing Israel into a larger Arab state and a shrunken Jewish one.
Nabil Shaat, one of Arafat's chief negotiators and someone well known to the State Department, has repeatedly said this is the Palestinian president's message during his recent travels to 50 states around the world. The explosive demand has stunned and disappointed Arafat's ardent sympathizers among Jews affiliated with the Israeli left and the opposition Labor Party.
Arafat is no long asking for just the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He is demanding control of regions that include the Negev city of Beersheba and the western Galilee - and the installation of an international regime under U.N. auspices in charge of Jerusalem.
While the world's attention was diverted last week to the Balkans, the Palestinians presented their demand - and were backed by more than 40 countries - at a session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Only Israel and the United States said no. The call is for reaffirming General Assembly Resolution 181, dated Nov. 29, 1947, which divided the land west of the Jordan into two states - one Jewish, one Arab - to replace the British mandate.
Since it was adopted, a lot of blood has been spilled, beginning when the Arabs rejected the partition and went to war with Israel in 1948 - and lost. After that, Israel regarded Resolution 181 as dead. As David Ben-Gurion, founder of the Jewish state, said: "They started the war and they will pay for it."
The Arabs began another war in 1967 but Israel gained full control of Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Gaza. After that, the U.N. Security Council passed two resolutions, 242 and 338, which called for Israel to turn over the captured land in return for peace.
Those resolutions started to be respected after Israel completed its turnover of the Sinai desert to Egypt in 1982 in return for peace and later when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres agreed in principle to return the West Bank and Gaza in the Oslo agreements of 1993.
Benjamin Netanyahu, then the Israeli opposition leader, rejected Oslo, claiming Arafat was, using "salami tactics" to cut off one piece of Israel at a time. Nevertheless, when Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996, he accepted Oslo, 242 and 338 and eventually agreed to turn over 80 percent of the holy city of Hebron.
After he agreed at the Wye Plantation in Maryland last year to withdraw from another 13 percent of the West Bank, his ruling coalition broke apart and he had to call for new elections, 18 months before his term was up.
Meanwhile, the United States approved when Arafat announced last week that he would not declare the creation of a Palestinian state May 4 but would wait until after the Israeli elections. But few noticed when Arafat was in Moscow on April 6 and made a more dangerous assertion: "The right for a Palestinian state to exist is based on Resolution 181 and not on the Oslo agreements."
Therefore, Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of foreign ambassadors to Jerusalem last week and told them plainly that 181 is "null and void." It will remain that way if Netanyahu is re-elected, either on the first round of balloting May 17 or if, as expected, a runoff is needed June 1.
But if a rival wins, a 52-year-old skeleton might emerge from, the attic and provide a new haunting challenge to the survival of Israel.
Letter to the Editor:
STUNNED AND DISAPPOINTED???
By Helen Freedman & Charlie Bernhaut
In response to Uri Dan's article (Arafat's latest threat: '47 U.N. resolution - NY Post-5/2/99) one can only feel fury and disgust for "Arafat's ardent sympathizers among Jews affiliated with the Israeli left and the opposition Labor Party" who Dan believes have been "stunned and disappointed by Arafat's explosive demand" that the 1947 U.N. resolution be revived.
The Arabs rejected this U.N. plan that would have given Israel a thin strip of land, with the Arabs having a huge chunk of it. They went to war against Israel - and lost -and then made war against Israel four more times - losing each time. Despite this, they have the support of more than 40 nations in their demand that Israel retreat from areas of the Negev, the Galilee, and all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The final insulting, impossible, outrageous demand is that Jerusalem, Israel's eternal, undivided, capital city - unrecognized as such by almost every nation, including the United States, be controlled by "the installation of an international regime under U.N. auspices." This is the same U.N. that delights in spending most of its time passing resolutions against Israel, such as "Zionism is racism."
It is no surprise to us that Arafat is making these demands. It was clear from the day Oslo was signed that the Arabs, unable to win a military battle, had chosen the diplomatic path to Israel's destruction. But our anger is not directed towards Arafat. He has said, from the beginning, that he will push Israel into the sea, and make Jerusalem the capital of his PA state. There are no surprises here. He's doing his job, with the help of the radical Jewish left and the EU, the UN, and the U.S.
Our anger is directed towards those Jews who today are "stunned and disappointed." Where were they when bombs were blowing up Israelis in buses, and cafes, and terrorists made sport out of drive-by shootings? When the "police" force turned into an army of 50,000 soldiers armed with Kalishnikov rifles? When murderers of Americans were allowed to roam free in PA protected territories? When children's TV programs preached martyrdom for suicide bombers? When hateful anti-Israel words filled the PA media? Those were words and actions showing Arafat's true intentions.What excuses and apologies will Arafat's Jewish friends come up with now?
Submitted to the Freeman Center on May 4, 1999 by the Prime Minister's Office
Authority Radio Broadcasts
Sermon Forbidding Recognition of Israel
Following are excerpts from the April 30, 1999 weekly Friday prayer sermon broadcast live on the official Palestinian Authority radio station Voice of Palestine:
"Our position has not changed at all. The land of Muslim Palestine is a single unit which can not be divided. There is no difference between Haifa and Shechem (Nablus), between Lod and Ramallah, and between Jerusalem and Nazareth. The division of the land of Palestine into cantons and the recognition of the occupation is forbidden by religious law, since the land of Palestine is sacred Wakf land for the benefit of all Muslims, east and west. No one has the right to divide it or give up any of it. The liberation of Palestine is obligatory for all the Islamic nations and not only for Palestinian nation . . .
All Israeli politicians across their entire political spectrum, regardless of their labels, they all have a single Zionist view embodied in the occupation of the land and the establishment of the Zionist entity at the expense of the Muslim Palestinian land . . .
Allah shall free the captives and the prisoners, Allah shall grant victory to our jihad warriors."
The Middle East Research Center, Ltd. (MERCL)
2013 Que St. NW, Washington, DC 20009
TEL: (202) 234-3600 FAX: (202) 332-3221 Email: email@example.com
A PALESTINIAN STATE IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI - NOR SHOULD IT BE!
By Richard A. Hellman
President, Middle East Research Center, Ltd.
We generally have applauded Israel's efforts to engage her neighbors in the pursuit of peace, but increasingly have been concerned in recent years over the potential effects of those efforts on the security of Israel and the Middle East and on other vital, long term, U.S. interests in the region. Our concern has been amplified greatly by the resumption of heavy public and private involvement by Americans close to the White House in Israel's elections for the Knesset and for prime minister.
Our concern stems specifically from the apparent lack of a coherent vision by the State Department as to how the agreements they are promoting between Israel and such Arab neighbors as the Palestinians and Syrians would protect Israel's security and strength as a U.S. ally, or the stability of the Middle East and other vital U.S. interests.
To allay this concern, and in keeping with the Congressional leadership's expressed desire to be more fully involved as a partner in shaping U.S. Government policy, we feel that several critical problems should be explored by the Congress as soon as possible. This would help the State Department develop a coherent vision of the desired outcome for U.S. policy interests from any continuation of the Madrid/Oslo/Wye process. Some of the key elements of policy which need to be explored toward this end follow.
First, while Palestinian Authority leaders push for statehood and try to dredge up such dead letters as U.N. Resolutions 181 on partition and 194 on the return of refugees, no one has defined what the optimal final result from the viewpoint of U. S. interests should be. We must consider the fact that:
* Many ethnic groups of far older vintage than "Palestinian Arabs west of the Jordan River" do not enjoy national status, even in liberal, democratic, Europe (e.g., Basques, Flemings, Scots, and more).
* Some 95% of the Palestinian population already enjoy more democratic self-rule in their daily life than any other Arabs.
* The push for full independence is not justified by the record. All those who have assessed the track record of Chairman Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO objectively have found substantial noncompliance to date with the accords they have already signed. These deficiencies include, e.g., official incitement to violence and terror; a great excess of all types of arms beyond those authorized and agreed to, including anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other heavy weapons; a virtual army at least twice the size of the authorized "police force"; little or no effort to disband the existing terror organizations or to seize illegal arms as promised; revolving door justice for murderers; fraud, waste and abuse of foreign aid; and pervasive violations of the most elemental human rights of their own people.
* Meanwhile, Arafat and other top P.A. officials continue to make it clear that whatever they do not achieve by negotiation will be taken by war, including Jerusalem and most, if not all, of pre-1967 Israel. This is hardly the kind of rhetoric which inspires confidence in their peaceful intentions, or that Egyptian or Jordanian rulers have voiced in seeking peace.
Thus we perceive that a Palestinian state is by no means a fait accompli - or a "done deal", if you will - nor should it be from the standpoint of U.S. national interests. The Congress should examine the entire issue afresh, i.e., whether a new over-armed, terror-sponsoring, irredentist, Arab mini-state allied to, e.g.,Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya - which is what the Palestinian entity clearly promises to be - would accord with U.S. interests in the region.
Second, the fate of Jerusalem, with all that it means to Americans, especially deserves new oversight by the Congress, and probably further legislation, in view of the Administration's refusal to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act. This law was passed almost unanimously by the Congress in 1995 but enacted without President Clinton's signature. Jerusalem must not be left up for grabs, with the potential that it may revert to the terrible status of the 1948-1967 period. Some may forget that Arab occupation of the holy shrines of all faiths and misrule over the people of the three predominant religions then spelled an almost total denial of rights, protection, and religious practice to the Jews and severe restrictions on Christian and even Moslem religious observance.
Furthermore, Congress needs to look at U.S. policy regarding Israel's northern border with Syria and Lebanon. Amazingly, as a result of the State Department's shortsighted and misguided policy, Israel, which offered to enter into unconditional new talks with Syria and Lebanon, and even to withdraw unilaterally from the Southern Lebanon security zone, has received no praise or encouragement for its initiatives. On the other hand, Syria's Hafez al Assad, the authoritarian violator of human rights, sponsor of terror, partner in narcotics trafficking, and occupier of Lebanon has been termed a "partner for peace."
Surely we all desire Middle East peace with security, none more than the Israelis, but Congress must do much more to help the State Department develop a coherent U.S. policy likely to achieve that goal. The results of fuzzy, unclear thinking in Foggy Bottom are all too evident in the ongoing Kosovo fiasco. Let us pray that Israel and the other nations of the Middle East are spared more of the same.
Richard A. Hellman, President of the Middle East Research Institute Ltd. and of CIPAC, lived and worked in Israel for seven years and has studied the strategic and geopolitical situation of Israel in the cultural and historical context of the Middle East for many years.
Yes, We Americans Do Have A
Stake In Israel's Elections:
The One That Should Be Driven Through the Heart
of Syria's War And Terror Aims
By Richard A. Hellman
Our April study mission to Israel revealed that, in the run-up to Israel's elections for prime minister and the Knesset, personal attacks and popular, media-driven, questions have crowded out meaningful consideration of the most vital issue by the electorate. Largely overlooked, or submerged psychologically because of its inherent intricacy and potential painfulness, is the issue of Syria, the most threatening but paradoxically promising of Israel's confrontational situations. The dirty little secret that Labor can't admit, that Likud's fractured components can't quite straddle, and others don't even see, is that the door is open through which a Labor government would rush headlong into a comprehensive agreement with Syria (and hence Lebanon), on skids already greased by the State Department (and by advocates from past U.S. administrations and from Europe).
Invoking Ehud Barak as the virtual reincarnation of the martyred Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a Labor government would resume the almost-concluded negotiations where they left off over three years ago and proceed to give Syrian President Hafez al Assad all that he wants. This would include a handover of virtually the entire strategic Golan Heights and Israel's withdrawal from Syrian occupied Lebanon. Barak would give the green light to Washington to sweeten the deal for Assad with massive foreign aid, preferred trade, acquiescence in Syria's continued occupation of Lebanon, commitment of U.S. troops as Golan Heights peace keepers, and a whitewash of the Syrian human rights violations, sponsorship of terror and other crimes. In all likelihood, Assad would get at least the deal that Egypt's President Anwar Sadat received, without any requirements that Assad emulate Sadat by visiting Israel, forswearing war, etc.
What would Israel obtain? A "peace" likely to be so frosty as to make the present situation with Egypt seem positively toasty by comparison. And, in the memorable words of Israel's last ambassador to Washington under Labor, the opportunity to "subcontract" to Syrian forces the security of Israel's northern border.
Skeptics may ask whether this scenario would differ much from that under a renewed Netanyahu mandate. After all, Bibi has said that he is ready to negotiate with Syria, without preconditions, a position consistent with Israel's acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 last year and the Israeli offer to withdraw unilaterally from the Free South Lebanon security zone, an offer amazingly refused by Syria (and thus Lebanon) and unsupported by the State Department. The answer is yes, it would differ, for two reasons: because Bibi is seen as a far better whipping boy than a negotiating partner by Syria's Assad and other Arab rulers (and their State Department guidance counselors) who refuse to take him at his word (or call his bluff, if you will), and, because with Labor, even the pretense of negotiations will be unneeded as Barak resumes the old practice of preemptive concessions, and, if need be, the State Department presents precooked deals like that pushed through at Wye II.
As Barak plans to lead Israel back to the future, already emerging from the closet are Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, and the key hands-on Israeli and American negotiators who got so close to a deal with Assad in 1995 that they could taste it (before Senate emissaries to Damascus spooked Assad by casting doubt on how sweet a deal he could expect from the United States). The momentum to complete a "comprehensive Middle East peace agreement," begun at Madrid and advanced fitfully by Oslo, Wye I and Wye II, will be so great, proponents believe, that no voices of moderation (e.g. in the Knesset or the Congress) will be able to mobilize quickly enough, or have the temerity to try, to block the "results of the peace process," tenuous as the prospects - or mendacious as the proponents - may appear.
Why would such an Israel-Syria-Lebanon arrangement be anything but good for the parties, and, in any event, why should thinking Americans care one way or the other ? First and foremost, Israel (with State Department midwifery) would be rescuing Assad's corrupt and almost bankrupt regime. Remember that this regime is regularly described in governmental and other responsible publications as an:
* Unabashed violator of the human rights of Syria's population and that of Lebanon;
* Hospitable landlord and tacit sponsor of such terrorist groups as Hamas, Hezbollah an the most radical PLO factions;
* International narcotics growing and trafficking center;
* American currency counterfeiting and distribution center, and most important,
* Occupier of Lebanon, no less than Iraq was of Kuwait in 1990 and 1991 (before western intervention), with an estimated 35,000 Syrian troops and over one million guest workers taking Lebanese jobs and sending funds home to bolster Syria's economy.
Still more threatening to U.S. interests in Middle East peace and security are Assad's ongoing purchases of sophisticated conventional and non-conventional weapons systems from Russia and other suppliers, and his crash program to produce deep tunnels to protect from any conventional air attack his arms factories and scud missiles capable of reaching all of Israel. Not one to hold a grudge and a proponent of Arab unity when it serves his purposes, Assad has made continuing overtures to Saddam Hussein, including offers to resupply Iraq's depleted stocks of war materiel.
Incredibly no one in the State Department seems to view Assad's present economic distress, growing questions as to whether he can perpetuate his dynasty through his son and heir apparent, or the tacit Turkey-Israel-Jordan alliance, as opportunities to press him to cease his war preparations, abandon Lebanon, and desist from his criminal action.
Similarly none of Israel's leaders (except possibly Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens) seems inclined to talk Turkey to Assad, i.e., to tell him that, as with Turkey's fiat to Assad in the case of Ocalan, Israel expects Syria to expel terrorist leaders who send coded signals from Damascus for attacks on Israel (e.g., the March 1996 Jerusalem bus bombings), to leash Hezbollah, and to find Israel's POW's, or suffer dire consequences.
Given Assad's track record and the opportunities for policy changes, why should anyone blindly continue to treat his rogue regime as a "partner for peace?" Clearly a Barak-led Labor government would not be hindered by such concerns or even by the reasonable restraints under which Netanyahu has acted. The momentum will be too great. The prospect of a Labor government-State Department rush to a false peace should have the most profoundly sobering effect on every thinking American or Israeli, policy-maker or ordinary citizen. There are other important issues in the Israel elections but none with such import for Israel's peace and security, with such a clear division between the parties' prospects, or with such profoundly adverse potential effects on vital U.S. Middle East interests. We indeed do have a stake in Israel's elections - the one which may be driven through the heart of Assad's imperial and criminal ambitions by adroit new initiatives , or ignored in the rush to peace at any price. Pray that all Israeli voters think soberly and vote wisely, for their peace and security - and ours- may well depend on it!
Richard A. Hellman, President of the Middle East Research Institute Ltd. and of CIPAC, lived and worked in Israel for seven years and has studied the strategic and geopolitical situation of Israel in the cultural and historical context of the Middle East for many years.