One year ago none of us could imagine that a year later Hebron would be something of a war zone. Yesterday Arutz 7 replayed an interview with Arik Sharon, recorded a day after the elections, in which he assured that Hebron would not be abandoned. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
The situation in Hebron is definitely worrisome. The security of Hebron's residents and guests is of paramount importance. This week the IDF managed to keep the agitators from getting too close to the Jewish neighborhoods, as happened during the riots in April. So most of what happened wasn't seen, but it was heard. Booms originating with the firebombs exploding between 200 to 300 meters from Beit Hadassah were answered with the booms of rubber bullets being shot at the terrorists. However, almost none of them were arrested. Israeli security forces refused to attempt to apprehend the Arab perpetrators attacking from within the H2-Israeli controlled part of Hebron. The palestinian police were nowhere to be seen - of course none of the attackers assaulting from theH1-Arafat controlled zone were seized. Today's aggression was unparalleled - firebombs were thrown incessantly. I spoke with one of UN TIPH observers at the scene in early afternoon and asked him if he had any idea how many firebombs had been hurled. When he answered ten I stared at him unbelieving. Seeing my consternation he retorted, "that is, of course, in the last 20 minutes. Since this morning - dozens and dozens."
A few days ago a reporter speaking with me insinuated that Israel was the cause of the current `unrest.' I asked him how the police would react in any US city if a group of fanatics started tossing firebombs at their uniformed colleagues. He had no answer. I've been questioned as to why this has started again. It is very difficult to respond with 100% knowledge that the answer it accurate. Most of what we surmise is just that, conjecture. It is obvious that Arafat is aware of Netanyahu's current political sensitivity. He knows that now is the time to exert pressure. And that is exactly what he is doing, the best, and only way he knows - by using violence. It is not coincidental that Hebron's problems began together with attacks by Arabs in Gazza on the Jewish community of Morag. It is not surprising that Israeli intelligence expects major disturbances in Shechem and other cities in Yesha. What is (or perhaps isn't) surprising, it the lack of any real Israeli response. I have discussed this issue before and see no reason to repeat myself. Suffice it to say that Netanyahu's policies have not yet changed - he hasn't yet learned.
How does Israeli leadership relate to this "war of attrition" as it has been called by the Israeli press? Today General Uzi Dayan, Commander of the Central Region, a die-hard leftist and one of the people who assisted in cooking up Oslo and the Hebron Accords said during a radio interview that he was very satisfied with this week's results in Hebron - "They had 150 injured and we had only 8 injured and there was no escalation of violence. That's the way it should be." His words speak for themselves - nothing more need be added!
How should we relate to this "leader" - a man whose election platform has been turned inside-out? After a year, perhaps we should do a little summing up. Netanyahu is surely not the Messiah we prayed for - but we knew that a year ago. He is weak, indecisive and unassertive. We knew that too. What we didn't expect was a total capitulation - an overall collapse of the ideologies he so succinctly phrased in his book, published before the election.
In the past I have called for the Prime Minister's ousting - believing that we would be better off without him. Earlier this week an article appeared over Internet, written by a highly respected analyst, Emanuel A. Winston, called FORCED EVACUATION OF JEWISH HEBRON . The article began: "It seems amply clear that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has adopted the Peres-Beilin evacuation plan for Hebron and its Jewish citizens." With all due respect, Winston is wrong. With all his troubles and faults, Netanyahu has no intentions to evacuate Hebron's Jewish residents. There are details that I cannot publish over public Internet, but I know that there are Israeli contingency plans in the event of an all-out attack on the Jewish neighborhoods by Arafat's troops. Those plans DO NOT include evacuation on the lines suggested by Winston, according to the Peres-Beilin plans. Not only would evacuation of Hebron immediately bring down the government - it would destroy the Likud for the foreseeable future. Netanyahu knows this. Netanyahu is far from implementing the policies he promised previous to his election, but we have no doubt that he is far from being another Shimon Peres. Peres would have removed us from Hebron. Bibi won't.
In spite of what I have written in the past, today we must do everything we can to prevent the fall of the government. Were elections to be held today, according to most polls, Ehud Barak would easily be elected. His ministers would include Haim Ramon and Yossi Beilin. Who knows - they might even try to make Peres the next president of the country, after Weitzman. Given today's international political climate, this must not happen. Netanyahu has shown a little, (much much too little) strength concerning Har Homa. This is not enough to forgive his errors - but it is something. Rather than continue to weaken him by accusing him of planning to evacuate Hebron, we must find ways to strengthen him.
I am sure that Netanyahu will make policy decisions causing me to attack him again, in the future. But for the time being, we cannot allow the left to come back into power - we have to watch very carefully what we say, so as not to bring an even worse predicament upon ourselves.
David Wilder is the official spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron
[POB 105 Kiryat Arba, Israel 90100, Tel:972-2-9965333 Fax:972-2-9965304]
Reprinted for educational purposes from The Jerusalem Post of June 21, 1997