ALTERNATIVES

By Boris Shusteff

The issue is not a debate between the Zionist and non-Zionist parties: here we have an argument between the tendency to life and the tendency to death.

.....Zeev Jabotinsky, article "On National Education," 1903

If it were not so tragic it would be funny to watch Benjamin Netanyahu's pitiful attempts to find excuses to postpone the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces from the lands of Yesha, the one to which he agreed in Maryland. It is like the idea of a woman being partially pregnant. She is either pregnant or not. It is impossible to be only a little bit pregnant. The situation with the Israeli government is identical. It has only two choices: either to go ahead with Oslo and to forfeit Jewish rights to Yesha and eventually to the rest of Eretz Yisrael or to terminate the Oslo agreement as mortally dangerous to Israel's existence.

For the Jewish people it does not really matter whether the abandonment of Yesha is authorized by the "leftist"Rabin-Peres government or by the "rightist" government of Netanyahu, a "hard-liner," who, on November 3, said in an interview with the Israeli daily Hatzofe:

"I believe we are all profoundly distressed by having to part with every bit of the Land of Israel. It's what distinguishes us from them. We truly care. We do not feel the joy of giving. Quite the contrary. Our action is always accompanied by a profound love for the Land of Israel."

It is hard to comprehend that this statement is made by the Prime Minister of the country that at one time had one of the best military forces in the world. It is hard to fathom that these words are uttered by a person who was once a member of an elite commando unit. It remains only to ask the Israeli Prime Minister whether he really believes that through "parting with every bit of the Land of Israel" without "feeling the joy of giving" but with "a profound love for the Land of Israel" he "truly cares" about the Jewish people?

By signing the Maryland Memorandum Netanyahu has demonstrated the bankruptcy of the "right wing"camp. Likud, having abandoned its central tenet of "not relinquishing any part of Eretz Yisrael," cannot be called a nationalist party any longer. In an article published on October 30 in the Israeli daily Yedi'ot Aharonot, Yaron London quoted Elyakim Haetzni who said:

"the real situation is that Israel has two major left-wing parties, the Likud and Labor. It will be good to topple him [Netanyahu], because he is the worst alternative. Note the romance between him and Peres, which is aimed at setting up a national unity government in which Peres will have everyone doing his beck and call. If that is the alternative, I prefer Barak, even if only to ensure that Labor will be responsible for the disaster of giving up parts of the Land of Israel."

Haetzni's suggestion to topple Netanyahu touches a nerve for the remains of the nationalist camp. The memory is still fresh of the disaster in 1992, when a split in the right wing camp brought to power the Labor government. As Netanyahu said in the Hatzofe interview, "This is precisely the line Levinger and Ze'evi spearheaded in 1992. And what did it get us? The Oslo agreements. The only place to wage a struggle is inside. Not fighting me, but waging a struggle against the excessive Arab demands together with me."

The fears of the rightist camp were articulated by Transportation Minister Sha'ul Yahalom who, on November 15, told Israeli radio Arutz-7:

"If we move to new elections, Ehud Barak will be running against a right wing divided into two or three groups: a centrist party headed by Roni Milo or Dan Meridor, the proposed new right-wing party headed by Chanan Porat or Benny Begin, and Netanyahu. This will hand Barak a victory on a silver platter, and his first phone call will not be to Porat. We have to understand the alternatives."

When one speaks of "alternatives" one should put them in proper perspective. We are not choosing between giving up 42% or 92% of Yesha. It is obvious that Arafat and the PLO are not going to be satisfied with Israel's fulfillment of her part of the Wye Memorandum. They view the "final status talks" as a tool to secure their control over all of Yesha and Jerusalem. As Nayif Hawatimah, one of the PLO's leaders, wrote on November 3 in the London Arabic newspaper Al-Hayah, "the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are Palestinian territory, our sovereignty over which is incontestable and over which there can be no compromise or negotiation."

That the current government will be unable to withstand the PLO's demands to cede more territory was demonstrated on November 12. The mini-security cabinet "approved in principle but delayed actual paving" of the El-Aroub by-pass road due to Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai's vehement opposition. Mordechai maintained that the "expropriation of Palestinian agricultural land for the road will result in violent confrontations with the Arabs." The Arabs can easily read the signal that Mordechai is sending them: if Israel is afraid to expropriate this tiny piece of land it is obvious that she will surrender the rest of Yesha too.

The Arabs know how to read these signals. On November 19 Dr. Aaron Lerner interviewed Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah West Bank, saying that Netanyahus "public position is that there must be a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty." Barghouti replied:

"His position is very clear. But you know, two years ago Mr. Netanyahu said that he would not withdraw from one inch of the West Bank and yet, three weeks ago he signed an agreement according to which the will withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank. This is the situation. So if he said now that Jerusalem will be united under Israeli sovereignty, well... ."

Haetzni was right when he said that there are two left-wing parties in Israel. It does not matter what their leaders say, what matters is how they act. There is no real difference between Netanyahus "profound distress" to abandon Yesha and Peres's and Beilin's "happiness" to do so. University of Washington Professor Edward Alexander wrote in The Jewish Wars:

"Contemptuous of the notion that modern Zionism is a continuation of the ancient Zionism of the Bible, they [Peres and Beilin] see no reason for staking any claim to the biblical heartland of Eretz Yisrael. But they have yet to face the question of whether the State of Israel can casually abandon that claim and nevertheless insist that it is in Tel Aviv or the land of the Philistines by right. If Jews have no claim to the highlands of ancient Israel, to Hebron, Shiloah, and the Old City of Jerusalem, why should they claim the Philistine coast? By what right?"

Netanyahu's signature in Maryland by default brought Likud and the current Israeli government into the category of those who "have no claim to the highlands of ancient Israel." That means that the alternative is not between Likud and Labor but between Israel's survival and her demise.

The situation today is different from that of 1992. The right-wing camp cannot be split up simply because it does not exist anymore. The day after Chanan Porat said that "Likud has failed in its ideology and in its leadership," the National Religious Party (NRP) followed suit. Israeli radio Arutz 7 reported on November 16 that, after the NRP voted not to topple the government, Michael Kleiner, the head of the Land of Israel front in the Knesset, said that "the NRP missed a historic opportunity to become the political and ideological leader of the nationalist camp in Israel." The call to topple the government is a call for unity. A call for the unification of all nationalist forces. The nationalist camp in Israel should be created anew. Procrastination with the creation of the new party is inadmissible. It is cowardice to run away from making decisions. Every wasted day brings the disaster closer. Actually, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The main principles that should go into the Program of the nationalist party are well known, they should be simply reinstated, and reinstated in a way that makes it clear that there will be no deviations from them. One way to do this is by including a provision into the program that will require a vote of 75% of the Party Central Committee and a subsequent referendum among all the Party members to amend any articles of the program.

On November 15 Member of the Knesset (MK) Hanan Porat in an interview with Arutz-7 stressed the urgency for the creation of this movement when he said, "NOW is the critical point for us: Will we be a movement that will be led by its faith, or will we continue to bleat like sheep that there is no choice? We must say, 'No more!,' and not settle for 'minimizing damages.' "

After the National Religious Party failed to vote to topple Netanyahu, MK Tzvi Hendel told Arutz 7 that "if we don't act on our threats to resign we become irrelevant, and we won't be able to put the brakes on this destructive process." Hendel is right. It appears that the whole right-wing camp has become irrelevant. It is too late to "put the brakes" on the Oslo process from inside the government, this has to be done from outside. Netanyahu was bluffing when he said, "The only place to wage a struggle is inside. Not fighting me" The latest municipal elections in Israel have demonstrated the peoples indifference. The creation of a new party with a strongly emphasized nationalist Jewish values could awaken the voters.

The split between Jewish votes in the last elections was 57% to 43% in Netanyahus favor. It is likely that this time the Labor candidate will receive less Jewish votes since Labor plans to abandon Yesha and create another Palestinian state are not secrets anymore. According to some prognoses a real Zionist party with a real Zionist program will be able to get over 25 seats in the Knesset. Even if its candidate does not become Prime Minister in the nearest elections the party will present a formidable force that will struggle for Eretz Yisrael. If the people see that the new party stays true to its announced principles and leads the real struggle for Eretz Yisrael they will follow it.

The Jewish soul is not dead yet, it just needs to be awakened. However all this can happen only if the representatives of the nationalist camp from the existing parties put aside their own ambitions and join together in one authentic Zionist movement. They are all Jews, the Jews that love Eretz Yisrael, and this love should help them to make the decision. They still have the chance to look inside their hearts and make this first needed step. They must ask their hearts now so they do not have to look into each others eyes later, when it is too late. They have to choose life. It is either now or never. [11/19/98]


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