Forwarded from The Jerusalem Post of November 26, 1996

NETANYAHU'S PR PROGRAM

Compliance & Defiance

By P. David Hornik

A master of PR Netanyahu is still trying to please everyone. He can't.

Here's a sample of Mideast events over the past several months:

Turkey elected its first Islamist prime minister, who proceeded to strengthen ties with Iraq and Iran. Forces loyal to Saddam Hussein invaded parts of northern Iraq. A US military barracks was blown up in Saudi Arabia. Savage fighting raged in Algeria and Afghanistan. In the Arab-Israeli sphere, Egypt staged massive war games directed at Israel; Syria moved troops to the foothills of Mt. Hermon; Yasser Arafat incited his policemen to fire at Israeli soldiers and civilians -- all in reaction to the election of an Israeli prime minister who claimed he was taking a more cautious approach to relinquishing land.

Most of these events came as a surprise to Western intelligence agencies and "experts." Even the General Security Service failed to predict the conflagration touched off by the opening of an exit to the Hasmonean tunnel. The Middle East, far from having anything "new" about it, seemed as violent, chaotic and unpredictable as ever. Emphasis on that fact is in order because we are drawing toward the culmination of a major Western - essentially US - attempt to fine-tune and pacify one area of Mid-Eastern trouble: the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ever since Israel's conquest of land in the Six Day War, US administrations of both parties have acted on an invincible axiom: Peace can be achieved, and US interests promoted, by transferring land from the control of Israel, a stable, pro-Western democracy, to the hands of unstable Arab dictatorships and, more recently, a nominally reformed Arab terrorist organization.

It used to be claimed that this was necessary to weaken Soviet influence in the region and lure the Arabs into the Western camp. But the project continues with undiminished fervor. HAS IT brought us nearer to peace? The three decades of this project have seen the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon War, the intifada, Scud attacks and, most recently, suicide bombings, the Hizbullah war of attrition and the "tunnel" war.

It is nice to think that these were just parting shots, blips on the road to US-sponsored tranquillity. The trouble is too much evidence suggests otherwise. The media of Egypt, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, and even Jordan go on spewing out anti-Israel and antisemitic vitriol. Egypt and Syria continue their massive arms buildups, and there is no sign that the real nature of these societies, including their animus against Israel, has changed.

During the tenure of Rabin and Peres -- the first Israeli government to totally endorse the appeasement project -- the explanation for ongoing hostility and violence was that fundamentalist backsliders, "enemies of peace," were acting as spoilers. After Netanyahu took office, the explanation seemed even simpler: It was all an expression of anger at his hardline stances.

But that claim won't wash anymore, either. Netanyahu is now in principle prepared to hand over Hebron, and it still doesn't seem to help. The Egyptian press portrays him as Hitler; Arafat has again called for jihad; the ongoing attacks in southern Lebanon and warnings of terrorist bombings in Israel suggest a reality that is very far from peace. Given the record of Western attempts to impose order on the Middle East we should not be surprised if the US- directed appeasement project has failed to stabilize our area. The question for Netanyahu is: At what point does Israel stop complying and start defying?

We have already given the PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad a foothold in Gaza and in six, soon seven, West Bank cities. Whether "continuing the process" means that the next step is two further IDF redeployments in Judea and Samaria, as stipulated by Oslo 2, or that the parties go straight to the final-status talks the inescapable result is the extension of the terrorist hothouse to our backyards and a severe constriction of the IDF's ability to operate.

Netanyahu is known as a master of PR. As premier he still seems to be trying to please everyone -- the US, the Israeli public including the left, the Arabs. With all his skill, he cannot bring it off. No one can make the aims of the US and the Arabs compatible with Israel's security needs. Reports that the US is "pressuring both sides" over the Hebron dispute show that Israeli concessions remain a high priority in Washington.

For Israel, the costs of defying the US might be high. But we are reaching a point (some would say we have already reached it) where the costs of complying would be even higher.

Israel cannot go on sacrificing its land and its security to Western fantasies of peace and stability. Netanyahu knows it; soon he will have to act on what he knows. (c) Jerusalem Post 1996

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P. David Hornik is a writer and translator living in Jerusalem.