Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 3, 2000

LEADERSHIP EQUALS RESPONSIBILITY

By Ariel Sharon

It is well known that a person may be brave in the battlefield, but a public coward. It seems that Prime Minister Ehud Barak lacks the courage to tell the nation openly that he has given up everything. He does not have the strength to tell his people: "I have accepted the Syrian demand to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights all the way to Lake Kinneret. And to persuade Assad to accept my concessions, I even threw in Hamat Gader as a bonus."

Barak has decided to hide behind previous prime ministers and blame them for his own shortcomings. It is a mixture of lack of leadership, lack of credibility and inexperience. I believe he would have acted differently were he experienced. Because someone who shirks responsibility cannot be the leader of a nation.

The prime minister accused former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir of supposedly agreeing to retreat from the whole Golan to the June 4 lines. Shamir denied this fervently. As opposed to Mr. Barak, he was telling the truth. Barak accused the late Yitzhak Rabin, who can no longer answer. He relied on the testimony of aides who were never privy to the negotiations, and who suddenly remembered Rabin's stance on the situation. Advisers that Rabin nurtured were suddenly recruited to slander his memory by distorting his intentions. This is a place where only the past changes. We must remember that secretary of state Warren Christopher clearly stated in a letter to Netanyahu in 1996 that there was no promise by Rabin to retreat to the June 4 lines.

Even former prime minister Shimon Peres denies it. Mr. Barak accuses former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of agreeing to the June 4 withdrawal. Netanyahu denied this. As the foreign minister in Netanyahu's government, I want to state: No map was given to the Syrians. Netanyahu did not intend to retreat from the cliffs to the shore of the lake. Netanyahu spoke of miles east of the international border. I personally stopped the negotiations when I heard about them, because even those demands from the Syrians seemed to me insufficient.

ALL of the former prime ministers whom Barak is referring to now - Shamir, Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu - did not act. They understood the great danger of retreating from the Golan Heights. The only one who is prepared to act and thereby endanger Israel is Barak.

"The window of opportunity" is about to close, Barak explains. Assad is on his last legs. (Is he still functioning as a leader?) This is a mistaken assumption. In the life of a nation there are no closed windows. One closes, another one opens. One only needs time and perseverance.To better understand the dangers toward which Mrs. Barak is leading us, you only need to remember what happened to the prime minister of France at Bir Zeit University when he dared call Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

You have to read the words of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara:"The return of all of Palestine is a long-term strategic goal which can not be achieved in one stage." "The confrontation with Israel will continue even in an era of peace." "Syria will not expel the rejectionist factions from its territory." "Syria will not impose any kind of normalization on its people. That is a red line."

All that along with incessant, vile incitement that has been going on for many years: Holocaust denial, Israel being called a Nazi regime, and more. This is the norm in Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, Israel is expected to make irreversible concessions so that the Syrians can sit at the top of the mountain and we at the bottom.

I am in favor of negotiations; I am in favor of agreements. But the government must remember that the most important thing, especially in view of the atmosphere in the Middle East, is the dimension of time. Agreements should be based on solutions that are carried out over years. Even then, we should not leave the Golan.

They say: "Barak promised." So what. Barak promised to fight unemployment and did nothing. Barak promised to take care of the hospitals and did nothing. He promised to take care of education with no result. He promised to do something about socioeconomic gaps and they are only getting wider.

In the areas that count, Barak hasn't kept his promises. Why does Barak think he should keep the one promise that puts Israel in danger? Maybe this is the answer: Barak says Clinton wants to wrap it up by May. We all know why, but we must remember: Presidents come and go, but Israel must exist forever.

(c) 2000 The Jerusalem Post



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