By Dr. Aaron Lerner

February 4 , 1999

Tonight I'd like to say a word about the linkage being apparently made between the early release of Jewish murderers and Palestinian terrorists, some things you may not recall about Yitzchak Mordechai ­ including a Gallup Poll we commissioned last week, and Barak's "E" word.

1. Israeli Murderers Are Not "Our" Murderers

President Ezer Weizman is commuting the long sentences of seven Jews who were serving time for murdering or attempting to murder Arabs. Arye Shumer, speaking on behalf of Weizman, explained that the move was to "encourage the peace process." Releasing Jewish murderers encourages the peace process?

Let me explain the theory: Weizman, and apparently Justice Minister Hanegbi, think that those who oppose the release of Arab terrorists will soften their stand if they are paid off. And the "payoff" is the release of Jewish murderers. Now I am not going into the backgrounds and stories of the Jews who murdered Arabs. If they were crazy, or acted because of extenuating circumstances or any other explanation that might be offered to justify a reduction of the sentence of an individual murderer. Such matters should be considered on an individual basis. These murderers should face the same system that any other murderer in Israel faces. It should have absolutely nothing to do with the so­called peace process.

The point is simple: when Weizman and Hanegbi think that they can "pay off" opponents of the release of Palestinian terrorists by releasing Jewish murderers they are asserting that these opponents identify with the Jewish murderers.

Let me make it clear, and I am confident that I speak for the overwhelming majority of those who oppose the release of terrorists ­ the Jewish murderers are not ­ repeat not ­ on "our" side. I do not consider there any gain whatsoever in the release of Jewish murderers. I am deeply insulted and offended by the very idea that my president, Ezer Weizman and Tzachi Hanegbi think that I and others identify with these Jewish murderers.

It pains me that while the overwhelming majority here in Israel do not identify themselves with the release of Jewish murderers, the opposite is the case for the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership calls for the release of all terrorists regardless of how heinous their crime. The Palestinians argue that all terrorists, regardless of what they did, were essentially soldiers. And as soldiers, they maintain, the terrorists should be released since the "war" is over.

But even wars have rules. That's why Adolf Eichman ended up at the end of a noose in Israel rather than a ticker tape parade in Berlin.

2. Some Things You May Not Recall About Mordechai

Just some quick reminders about ex­Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai: when he pressed for Israeli withdrawals he rarely remembered to make withdrawal conditional on Palestinian compliance. As Akiva Eldar noted this week in Ha'aretz, at a critical stage in the Wye negotiations Mordechai had the hutzpa to reveal Netanyahu's hand by telling US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the suitcases Netanyahu ordered put outside to signal an imminent departure were empty.

Mordechai says he opted "many times" to leave cabinet meetings in order to avoid hearing inaccurate reports. Talk about fulfilling his duties as a cabinet member! If he thought someone was lying it was his obligation to do something about it. That's what's needed and that's what the public wants. An IMRA­commissioned Gallup Poll of adult Israeli Jews last Thursday found Israelis opposed Mordechai's walkouts almost five to one.

On June 19, 1996, Netanyahu began his first full day in office by establishing the National Security Council (NSC), a council first proposed by the Agranat Commission that investigated the foul­ups that preceded the Yom Kippur War. This was to be the start of his hundred days. Unfortunately, Netanyahu dropped the plan because then­defense minister Mordechai feared that the NSC would encroach on his turf.

3. Barak's "E" word

As I noted several weeks ago, Ehud Barak has chosen to make the use of the "E" word as an integral part of his campaign. He keeps calling his political rivals extremists. He labels people from the camp that opposes him "extremists".

It seems that in every interview he manages to fit in Zion Square, the Rabin in a Gestapo uniform photo montage and the coffin at Raananaa Junction. This is out and out incitement. When Netanyahu was in Zion Square ­ and every place else ­ he made a point to admonish those in the crowd with unacceptable placards to take their signs down and denounced unacceptable slogans. That Barak should even mention the photo montage is incredible since the only reason it is known to the public is that a GSS agent, Avishai Raviv, made a point of getting it televised in order to hurt the nationalist camp.

As for the coffin in Raanana Junction ­ Barak doesn't even try to claim that it is Rabin's coffin anymore. He just calls it a coffin. One of scores of coffin used in protests as a prop by Israeli students, workers, Arabs and others.

Hopefully this heavy use of the "E" word will backfire on Barak. After all, when you label such a large part of the population "extremist" that's a lot of people who won't vote Barak.


Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis.

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