Israeli-Arab lawmaker Tibi hails Arafat at Ramallah rite


Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi at a memorial for Yasser Arafat in Ramallah suggested that the Israeli government will soon “propose a ‘death to Arabs’ law.”

Tibi, speaking Wednesday before a massive crowd marking the seventh anniversary of the Palestinian leader’s death, was referring to several bills offered by right-wing lawmakers targeting the left that critics have labeled as “anti-democratic.” He also slammed Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, calling him “the fascist settler that recently came to my homeland,” Ynet reported.

Tibi, a former adviser to Arafat, referred to the late PLO chief as “the father of our homeland.”

Several Israeli lawmakers will likely file complaints against Tibi for his appearance in Ramallah, a West Bank city that is off-limits for Israeli citizens. Many lawmakers had filed similar complaints against Tibi, a member of the United Arab List-Ta’al Party, when he flew with the Palestinian Authority delegation on Abbas’ plane to the United Nations in September in order to submit a bid for Palestinian statehood.

Brazilian president lays wreath at Arafat’s grave


Brazil’s president laid a wreath at Yasser Arafat’s grave after refusing to visit the grave of Theodor Herzl.

President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva met with Palestinian Authority leaders Wednesday in Ramallah.

“I dream of an independent and free Palestine living in peace in the Middle East,” Silva said while in the West Bank. “I believe the Palestinians and Israelis are going to share the land of their forefathers.”

Israel had criticized Lula’s plan to visit the grave of the PLO’s Arafat prior to the visit. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman boycotted Lula’s address to the Knesset Monday afternoon to protest his refusal to visit the grave of Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.

Lula said prior to his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week that other countries, like Brazil, should help mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Clinton Still Can’t Figure Arafat


Although he left the White House nearly five years ago, former President Bill Clinton is still deeply concerned about the Middle East and remains puzzled by his last-minute failure to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“There hasn’t been one day since I left office that I haven’t worried about Israel, terrorism, Gaza and Syria,” Clinton told more than 1,200 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) supporters attending last week’s National Summit on Foreign Policy and Politics of the influential pro-Israel lobby.

Looking regretfully at the past, Clinton said in a Monday plenary address, “I never got a good explanation why [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat walked away at Camp David from a peace treaty that he begged me to undertake.”

Turning to Iraq, Clinton observed, “We went into Iraq too early and should have given United Nations inspectors more time. But now we must stay and try to make the situation work.”

The two-day summit at the Century Plaza Hotel served mainly as a pep rally for the young to middle-aged audience, which gave every speaker a standing ovation and enthusiastically applauded praise of Israel and AIPAC.

There were no questions nor discouraging words about the recent indictment of two former top AIPAC officials on charges that they conspired with a former Pentagon analyst to communicate secret information to an Israeli diplomat.

Among the 48 forums, scholar-in-residence discussions, plenary sessions and dinner addresses, only one small meeting on “What Does AIPAC of the Future Look Like?” focused on the organization itself, and that session was cancelled.

Everything said at the meeting, including the most lavish praise of Israel and AIPAC, was deemed off the record, and top AIPAC officials were unavailable for interviews. Officials did relent regarding the speech by Clinton, after his office approved submitted quotes.

All that seemed fine with the record number of participants, who appeared dedicated to AIPAC’s work and leadership. A few approached a reporter to complain that the Jewish media is overly critical of AIPAC’s shortcomings, while rarely giving credit to its accomplishments.

The topics of the various sessions gave some hints of new AIPAC priorities, including a growing interest in homeland security and an active program to establish AIPAC-style organizations or affiliates in European Jewish communities.

At the end of his talk, Clinton said he would leave for Israel within the week to attend a conference at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and to participate in the dedication of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies. Rabin was killed by an Israeli extremist 10 years ago, on Nov. 4, 1995.

The concluding speaker was Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser. Speaking via satellite, Hadley urged the Jewish community’s support for the administration’s policy in Iraq and Middle East and as “an active participant in promoting Palestinian democracy, security reforms and economic prosperity.”

The White House released a transcript of Hadley’s remarks, sidestepping the issue of whether his remarks, too, were off the record.

Hadley spelled out some of the concrete steps Bush expected Israel to take to boost the Palestinian economy. These included connecting the West Bank and Gaza, improve the ability of Palestinians to travel within their territories, and a start in building a Gaza airport.

 

Letters


Real Intelligence?

I was very disturbed that you chose to publish the letter by Sabi Israel stating that “to believe in evolution takes just as much blind faith as believing in intelligent design” (“Letters,” Aug. 19). This is simply not true. There is no dispute among scientists that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution. Evolution is the fundamental process underlying biology.

There is a difference between publishing opinion and publishing falsehood. If I write how I think traffic flow could be improved, that is an opinion. If I write that there is a four-way stop at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards, that is a falsehood. If you are going to publish falsehoods, you might as well publish letters stating that the earth is flat and the Holocaust did not happen. Given our history, The Journal should be particularly sensitive to the dangers of publishing falsehoods.

Michael Lubic
Pasadena

To the extent President Bush associates the concept [of intelligent design (ID)] with the “origins of life,” one may suppose it has something to do with science or religion (“Junk Science,” Aug. 12). My understanding is that science is based on empirical evidence in support of a postulated theory. It seems the proponents of ID wish to call it science in advance of the empirical evidence substantiating the theory. As well, the National Academy of Science and the Center for Scientific Education have stated that ID is not science.

As a religious concept, ID is also suspect. It is pejorative and anthropocentric to call the origins of life “intelligent design.” These are words associated with the work of man. To the extent one would wish to associate these terms with God, it is an attempt to explain our existence in human terms, at best, or an attempt to make God like man, at worst. Further, it is not altogether irreligious to consider that we are here simply due to a fortunate mistake.

Daniel Hurwitz
Los Angeles

Tisha B’Av’s Future

Thank you for your insightful article on some of the attitudes that Jews hold toward observance of Tisha B’Av (“Marking Tisha B’Av Takes Many Forms,” Aug. 12). A number of synagogues, I suspect, used the opportunity to discuss the current “tragedy” taking place with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

I find curious, however, your observation that some communities have moved away from Tisha B’Av observances because “they don’t want to imply a desire to return to Temple practices, such as animal sacrifice or a priestly caste system.” I believe that a more basic problem with the observance is with the reading of the book of Lamentations. The book recounts, with depressing repetition, how the sins of Jewish people caused God to turn away from “His People,” and leave them to their fate.

It is a mystery to me as to why we continue to read anything that expounds such an untenable belief. I seriously doubt that any modern Jew agrees with the idea that our “sins” are responsible for major disasters like the destructions of the holy Temples; I cannot believe that anyone would seriously use Lamentations to explain “other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people…”

What then is the point of Tisha B’Av? Is it to blame the victim (in this case, ourselves) for tragedy?

Les Amer
North Hollywood

Pullout’s Wake

Rabbi Harvey Field and David Pine are absolutely correct when they call for Jewish unity and support for Israel in this difficult time of the Gaza Disengagement (“We Must Show Unified Pullout Support,” Aug. 12). But they don’t go far enough.

Jewish Americans should not only support Israel, but we must pressure Israel to make the Gaza pullout a success. A success will mean that both Israelis and Palestinians are ready to renew negotiations. The Gaza pullout will be a failure if it is so difficult for the Israelis, and/or if the Gaza Palestinians find themselves in a region that has no economic opportunity, so that either side is soured to renewed negotiations.

If the Gaza disengagement is a failure then the opponents of disengagement will be correct — that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave away land and the Israelis got nothing in return. As Jewish Americans we must work to assure that that does not happen, and that means pressuring the Israel government to follow the Golden Rule by treating the Gaza Palestinians as Jews wish they had been treated in anti-Semitic Europe.

If Gaza is a success, then Israeli and American Jews can look forward to peace.

Jeff Warner
La Habra Heights

Parent Punchline

I read Annie Korzen’s article and found one punchline not particularly funny:

“The day after the show airs, I hear my son talking to one of his friends on the phone: “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. Duh, you didn’t know I was adopted?” (“Death by Oprah” Aug. 19).

I hope there will be a time when some people in the community, including Korzen, realize that adoptive parents are “real” parents. The birthparents or biological parents are a part of our world as well, but we adoptive parents have the joys and responsibilities in celebrating everyday the lives of our precious children. We raise our kids, just like everyone else who has biological children, and love them and stand by them. Duh, we are the real parents….

Delaine W. Shane
Sherman Oaks

Rewriting History

The mock Palestinian academic in “History Happens,” is not the inoffensive character that Tom Teicholz describes (“History Happens,” July 8). She spews venom at the audience in her diatribe against Israel. I was galvanized by her volcanic hatred and rose to my feet to exit the theatre. There in the hall stood two actors ready for their entrance. I commented to them that the Palestinian was as real as the weapons of mass destruction. With anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism rampant around the world, I do not see supporting a play or a theater promoting that hatred and the lies on which it is built.

Fana Spielberg
Santa Monica

Hope in HOUSE

As the Director of Adult Programs for OUR HOUSE, I would like to clarify an inaccurate statement made in last week’s article in Lifecycles featuring the H.O.P.E. Foundation (“H.O.P.E. For Los Angeles’ Bereaved, Aug. 5). Please note that OUR HOUSE groups are led by highly qualified, trained and supervised para-professionals, not by peer counselors as mentioned in the article.

Since 1993, OUR HOUSE has offered grief support groups for thousands of children, adolescents and adults when someone close to them has died. Our groups in West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills are age and loss specific after the death of a parent, sibling, child or spouse/partner. We additionally provide professional and community education, school-based grief support groups, and post-crisis grief interventions.

Fredda Wasserman
Los Angeles

A Scary Ghost Story

I read the David Samuels article (in the September issue of The Atlantic) and even though I knew about Arafat’s incredible corruption and strangeness (who didn’t), it was still pretty horrible to realize the extent of it. As suggested by Rob Eshamn (“Arafat’s Ghost,” Aug. 19), the money that actually could have built Palestine was wasted on favors and bribes and terror or stashed away! What came as no surprise was Arafat’s disinterest in a state while all he really wanted was to destroy the sate of Israel. Since he sabotaged every opportunity to make peace with Israel it became clear that peace is not what he wanted. The question now is — is Abbas any different? He did not give us any sign whatsoever that he is interested in a Palestinian state more then in the destruction of Israel. When he says “today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem and the West Bank,” the immediate thinking is: And Tel Aviv after that? He is not talking about a million shaheeds marching to Jerusalem, but rather about slowly but surely, slice after slice. He is expecting the U.S. president and the European Union to help and he has a reason to be optimistic — they are working on his behalf as if he never was a terrorist, a confidant of Arafat and his disciple. He already invited terrorists from Damascus to settle in Gaza. We have every reason to be afraid of the man who speaks softly and does not wear a kafia but says what his mentor used to say.

Batya Dagan
Los Angeles

Settler Uncertainty

Many Israeli police are also in tears as they compassionately evacuate the settlers and the protestors from their homes of up to 20 years in Gaza (“Evacuees Face Life of Uncertainties,” Aug. 19). The resistance is almost passive as it is done with muted prayers to god. It is a very different scene, absent of the violence that one expects in the Middle East.

The lack of a Palestinian homeland has not been the fault of the western democracies nor the fault of Israel. Their grievance should be with Jordan and Egypt who could have alleviated the Palestinian squalor while these territories were under their domination before 1967. When Israel entered Gaza in 1967, financial aid was pumped into the building of homes, schools and hospitals for Gaza residents, as never done by their previous landlords.

In June ’67, Israel was attacked by its neighbors: Jordan, Egypt and Syria. In its counterattack, Israel occupied Western Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza as a protective buffer zone. Israel fought the armies of her neighbors and not a Palestinian army.

When Israel withdraws from Gaza this week, neither the Egyptians nor the Ottomans will rule over the Gazans. When these lands were under Egyptian and Jordanian control, the Palestinians were not given independence. Now that they have attained this independence after hundreds of years, can they rule themselves without a one-sided symbiotic relationship or will they still need a foreign body to leech on to or will the terrorist machine of Hamas take control?

The State of Israel has been instrumental in the creation of this new nation, Palestine. Will it remain so, or will the multinational Islamic panacea rule Gaza?

Harry Grunstein
Hampstead, Quebec, Canada

 

2004 Takes Some Unexpected Turns


 

There’s nothing as risky as end-of-year predictions, as 2004 so painfully demonstrated.

Twelve months ago, otherwise sober analysts were predicting a political upheaval among Jewish voters and that Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, was a cinch to win the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. President Bush, the pundits predicted, would turn to the political center in his fight for re-election. And in Israel, suicide bombers seemed poised to continue their deadly work, apparently still given the go-ahead by Yasser Arafat, the Nobel-winning Palestinian leader who just couldn’t forsake his roots as terrorist-in-chief.

At the dawn of 2005, Arafat is in his Ramallah grave, there are flickers of hope across the Middle East and Dean engineered the most spectacular nosedive in recent political history.

Here are some of the top Jewish stories of 2004 — and some pointers on what could be in store in 2005:

The Jewish Vote

For months, the hype was unrelenting; Jewish voters were on the verge of a great shift to the right, and Bush, thanks to his strong support for the Likud government in Israel, would reap windfall benefits on Nov. 2.

It didn’t turn out that way. When the results were in, Bush had received a mere 23 or 24 percent of the Jewish vote, far below the 40 percent or more some analysts predicted. In the end, Jewish voters ran true to form — driven mostly by domestic politics and particularly by fears about the growing influence of the religious right on the Republican administration and Congress, not by Israel concerns.

That doesn’t mean 2004 was a complete disaster for the Republicans. The GOP continued making inroads in Jewish political fund-raising and building a grass-roots infrastructure that could result in incremental change in coming elections.

In addition, the Republicans continue to benefit from a dramatic shift among the Orthodox minority. According to some estimates, more than 60 percent of Orthodox voters voted Republican this year, giving the GOP a small but important foothold among Jewish voters.

But for now, Jews are mostly where they’ve always been: Democratic, liberal and deeply suspicious of those who claim to be interpreting the word of God in politics.

Arafat’s Death

On Nov. 11, the Palestinians lost the man who symbolized their quest for statehood but also thwarted it. The death of Arafat reshuffled the Mideast deck in ways that won’t be fully known for years.

But several things are already clear. His departure means the Palestinians will have to get serious about whether they want statehood sometime this century, or just continue the political melodrama on the world stage that brings them much sympathy but little real forward progress.

Arafat’s death means that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, focused now on his Gaza withdrawal plan, can no longer sit back and say only that there’s no viable partner for new peace negotiations.

Washington, by most accounts, still has little interest in getting back into direct Mideast mediation, especially not while the administration is preoccupied by the mess in Iraq and a complex, ambitious domestic agenda. Arafat’s death will make it harder to stay on the sideline and much riskier. In the eyes of the world, it’s getting close to put-up-or-shut-up time for a U.S. administration that had demanded new Palestinian leadership as the precondition for new U.S. involvement.

“The Passion of the Christ”

Early in 2004, Jewish leaders were in high dudgeon over the upcoming Mel Gibson movie depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. The movie, with its harsh portrayal of Jews and their role in biblical events, would rekindle an old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism, groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) warned. The movie came and went and had a second coming in DVD form, and the pogroms have yet to erupt.

That doesn’t mean the ADL and other groups were wrong, though. The phenomenal number of Christians around the world who saw “The Passion” — and the even larger number who will see it over and over again on video and DVD — means the film’s perspective is seeping into the religious perspective of millions worldwide.

Exactly how that will play out in terms of their views of Jews and the idea of perpetual guilt for Jesus’ death is unclear. But it’s too early to say “The Passion” was a fizzle. It will be years before Jewish leaders can accurately assess its real impact.

Divestment

In July, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to begin the divestment process against Israel, applying the political action model that was so effective against the apartheid government of South Africa. Since then, Jewish groups have convinced other mainstream Protestant denominations to pull back from the divestment precipice or at least to move more cautiously, although the Presbyterians appear to be sticking to their guns.

Divestment represents a looming disaster for Israel and a community relations crisis for American Jewish groups. Unchecked, the effort would directly challenge and undermine the very legitimacy of the Jewish state by pressing the comparison with the odious former government of South Africa.

Beating back the divestment push will become easier if Israel moves forward with its Gaza disengagement plan and shows signs of a willingness to remove major settlements from the West Bank. But if the Gaza plan turns out to be a ploy to tighten Israel’s hold on West Bank areas, as some officials of the Sharon government have hinted, it will be harder to confine the divestment effort to the Presbyterians, who have traditionally displayed an overwhelming bias against Israel.

Stay tuned.

 

Geneva Peace Plan a Win for Arafat


Yasser Arafat is the one who gains the most from the Geneva understandings. The State of Israel is the prime loser.

During the past months, and especially after the acceptance of President Bush’s “road map” to peace, Arafat was urged finally to take concrete and serious steps against terrorism. Has he done anything to fulfill his obligations? What happens now in reality is exactly the opposite: While he and his accomplices continue to praise suicide bombers as martyrs, they themselves are hailed as partners for peace.

The Israeli architect of the Geneva plan is the former justice minister Yossi Beilin. He is the same Beilin who led Israel into the Oslo accords and then ignored all signs of Palestinian refusal to honor their commitments. By now we should know better. Arafat never used the word “peace” in Arabic. He said explicitly, in Johannesburg and Stockholm, that the prophet Mohammed himself had not honored agreements. He educated a new generation to hate Israel and the Jews. He misused vast funds, intended to advance the well-being of the Palestinians, for the creation of a terrorist infrastructure. And what have he and his followers learned? That regardless of their breaches of promises and agreements, nothing will happen — indeed, they are rewarded. The Geneva plan carries this impunity to new heights, even freeing, in explicit violation of the Oslo accords, terrorists who killed dozens of Israeli civilians. It is a virtual invitation: Terrorize Israel now; release is sure to follow.

Arafat was urged to introduce democratization of his governmental operations. Now he can show the world how Israeli democracy works: Public figures who have lost in repeated Israeli elections are now negotiating a “peace” plan on Israel’s behalf, with financial backing from the democratic government of Switzerland. Israel’s own democratically elected government is left out.

Arafat, who rejected previous peace proposals and made no concrete counteroffers — instead launching a wave of genocidal terrorism — is now favored with new offers from Israeli politicians. Of course, he doesn’t officially endorse them. He just looks on, while Israeli government sources reject them and, as a result, face accusations from Arab countries, the United Nations and the European Union of stubbornly undermining the peace process. Again, Israel is the “bad guy.”

Israeli society, which was once united in its stand against the arch-terrorist Arafat, finds itself divided again because of differing reactions to this Geneva document. Another success for Arafat, whose strategy depends on fostering internal decay in Israel.

Arafat has long described Israel as the last colonial power. He has repeatedly denied Israel’s historic roots in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem. Now comes a group of Israelis suggesting that the Jews give up their rights on their tradition’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, which was for thousands of years the center of Jewish prayers and longings. Anwar Sadat may have come to Jerusalem and prayed toward Mecca; Jews around the world are always oriented toward Jerusalem.

Now, for the first time in history, Israel is asked by Israelis to give up willingly its rights in the heart of Jerusalem, the core of Zionism. Thus the path of Arafat is justified. His historic bonds with Jerusalem are deep, while Israel and the Jews are branded colonialists.

There is an additional irony in the Geneva proposal: that Jewish worship in holy places will again depend on the Palestinians. Don’t we know how they respect religious rights? From 1948 to 1967 Jews were denied access even to the Western, or Wailing, Wall, despite Arab commitments to the contrary. And who doesn’t remember what happened since Oslo to the synagogue of Jericho and the tomb of Joseph in Nablus?

The proposed plan includes — so we are told — a formal retreat from the Palestinian “right of return.” However, there is no such clear paragraph in the agreement. Palestinian participants have denied such an understanding.

By the accord’s own terms, tens of thousands of refugees will have to be absorbed by Israel. The moral responsibility of Israel for the refugee problem is not waived. As in previous documents of this sort, a central issue is dealt with in an ambiguous manner, posing a frightening danger for any true understanding in the future.

What an irony: Israel has to retreat from its historic places, such as Hebron, and make the Palestinian state Judenrein, while Israel, with its minority of a million Arab citizens, has to absorb many more.

No, this new plan is not binding. But it will automatically become the basis for further negotiations — like the Barak plan, which was the starting point of the present Beilin initiative.

Palestinian expectations in regard to a peace agreement with Israel are becoming increasing dangerous with every new peace proposal of this sort. Who is the Palestinian leader of the future who can bargain for less than what irresponsible Israeli politicians agreed to in this Geneva document?

The Geneva document is not bringing peace closer but just the opposite: Peace is being put off to a very distant future.


Arthur Cohn is an Oscar-winning film producer living in Basel, Switzerland

World Briefs


Arafat Calls for Elections

Israeli politicians and pundits alike were skeptical after Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat called this week for new Palestinian elections.

Arafat called on Palestinian legislators to make “speedy preparations” for new elections, but mentioned no date. In an address Wednesday before the Palestinian legislative council, Arafat also said it is “time for change and reform” in the Palestinian Authority. Arafat offered a rare acknowledgment that he has made mistakes, but he placed most of the blame for the current crisis on Israel. At the start of the speech, Arafat vowed that the Palestinians would never give up their dream for freedom, independence and sovereignty. Arafat’s speech came on the day of Al-Nakba Arabic for the “catastrophe” which marks the founding of the state of Israel.

Report Links P.A. to Terrorism

A U.S. State Department report says “there is no conclusive evidence” that Palestinian leaders had advanced knowledge of terrorist attacks against Israel. But the semiannual report, which assesses the Palestinian Authority’s action from July through December 2001, says Palestinian leaders knew about the involvement of the Al-Aksa Brigades, Tanzim and members of the Force 17 presidential guard in terrorist attacks “and did little to rein them in.”

U.S. to Act Against Boycotts

The U.S. Department of Commerce plans to enforce regulations prohibiting Americans from supporting anti-Israel boycotts. “The U.S. government stands firm in its policy of opposing restrictive trade practices or boycotts against Israel,” Kenneth Juster, under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said Tuesday. U.S. law prohibits Americans from supporting unsanctioned boycotts by foreign governments.

Jewish Teens Attacked Near Paris

French police are searching for those responsible for a weekend attack on five Jewish teenagers in a Paris suburb. A gang of around 10 people, described by police as being of North African origin, beat the youths Sunday in the suburb of Saint Maur Des Fosses. “According to witnesses, the attackers shouted racist insults like ‘Go back where you came from. You don’t belong here,’ beat them up, then broke into their car and stole some of their CDs,” a local police official said Tuesday.

All briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Questioning Sharon


Since Israel launched Operation Protective Wall five weeks ago, rabbis and lay leaders of national and regional Jewish organizations throughout the United States have urged American Jews to stand with Israel and express their steadfast support for its leaders. Even those American Jewish leaders who have been critical of Israeli government action in the past have suspended their criticism of Israel in the name of unity.

Disgusted with Yasser Arafat’s duplicity and his rejection of ostensibly generous territorial concessions reported to have been offered at Camp David, liberals such as Alan Dershowitz and Arthur Hertzberg have joined the leaders of mainstream groups like American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League in rallying on Israel’s behalf. With a few notable exceptions, liberals have endorsed Ariel Sharon’s policy of incursions into the West Bank and defended this policy against its many critics in the United Nations, the European Union and even the Bush administration.

There is a long Jewish tradition of "circling the wagons" in periods of crisis. At a time when Israelis are afraid to step on a bus or go to a movie and Jews in Europe face burned synagogues and violent assaults, it is tempting to put aside our differences and criticisms in the name of the time-honored principal of kol Yisra’el ‘arevim zeh ba-zeh (all Jews are responsible for one another).

American Jewish leaders must not succumb to this temptation. Critical thinking and clear-headed analyses of Israel’s long-term interests are needed now more than ever. Sadly, many of our rabbis and lay leaders appear to have sacrificed these interests for the sake of easy gestures of solidarity and unity.

Those who have called for American Jews to stand with Israel in its hour of need argue that Israel’s very existence is threatened by the wave of terror unleashed by Arafat, and that the current Israeli policy of military incursions into the West Bank is the only way to eliminate the "terrorist infrastructure" responsible for the murder of many innocent men, women and children in Israel. This policy is justified, they tell us, because every nation has a right to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks.

And yet as many Israeli security experts, generals and journalists have noted, Operation Protective Wall is liable to lead to more suicide bombings, not fewer. The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) assault in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and other towns and villages in the occupied territories has only created more hatred, despair and desire for revenge. The number of desperate, enraged Palestinians who are willing to blow themselves up has surely tripled during the last three weeks.

The most recent suicide bombings indicate that all of Israel’s military might cannot stop fanatics from making their way into Israel. What use are Merkava tanks and F-16s when the only "terrorist infrastructure" required for a devastating attack against Israeli citizens is explosives and a volunteer to make the short walk from Qalqiliya to Kfar Sava?

It is also clear that as horrifying and demoralizing as suicide bombings are, they pose no threat to the existence of Israel. The IDF is much stronger than any army in the region, and for all of the world’s criticism, no country with existing diplomatic relations has cut them off, let alone threatened to launch a war. Indeed, many Arab countries recently offered to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal from the occupied territories. Moreover, the Jewish state still has privileged trading relations with the United States and the European Union.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policy is aimed not at defending Israel’s existence or "uprooting terrorism." Rather, he hopes to prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state by creating "buffer zones" around populated areas of the West Bank and replacing Arafat with a leader more to his liking. To this end, Operation Protective Wall was launched to eliminate the implements and symbols of Palestinian independence. How else to explain the destruction of water and electricity supplies (and the offices which supervised them), the Palestinian Authority police (responsible for imposing order and reigning in terrorists in any future settlement), cultural institutions, even the studio where Palestinians and Israelis co-produced an Arabic-language version of "Sesame Street"?

While there has been no shortage of Israeli critics who have challenged the wisdom of his current policies, American Jewish leaders from across the political spectrum have contented themselves with expressions of support and unity, rather than asking hard questions: Who will fight terrorism after the IDF eliminates all the Palestinian police units? How will Israel’s campaign against the entire Palestinian population help against terrorism? How will it advance peace, or at least the security of Israelis?

What is needed now are not empty expressions of solidarity, but rather the mobilization of wisdom and common sense directed toward a long-term strategy to end the occupation and establish secure borders. Anything less is an abdication of responsibility — and of Jewish values as well.

What to Do About Arafat?


What to do about Yasser Arafat?

For months now, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been convinced that the main problem in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians is the president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.

With virtually any other potential Palestinian leader, Sharon believes he would be able to work out a cease-fire and make progress towards peace. That’s why in January he defined Arafat as "irrelevant," and why in March he made up his mind to expel him from the Palestinian territories.

In fact, when Sharon walked into the Cabinet meeting in late March where Israel’s biggest military operation against Palestinian terror since the 1982 Lebanon War was approved, he was determined to get approval for Arafat’s expulsion as well.

But when Sharon raised the idea of exile, he was met by a chorus of dissent. Defense minister and Labor Party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was furious that Sharon had not told him in advance that he planned to discuss the issue. Moreover, Ben-Eliezer said, he was adamantly opposed to expelling Arafat, and Labor would leave the government if the step was approved.

The heads of Israel’s various intelligence services backed Ben-Eliezer. The coordinator of government activities in the West Bank, Amos Gilead, a former high-ranking intelligence official, said an exiled Arafat would stir up serious trouble for Israel abroad, particularly in Jordan and Egypt.

The compromise between the Likud and Labor ministers was the bizarre decision to "isolate" Arafat in his Ramallah compound.

If the aim was to bypass Arafat or pressure him into a cease-fire, so far it has failed: All it has done is win worldwide sympathy for the beleaguered Palestinian Authority president.

The Cabinet clash reflects a deep dilemma in the Israeli government over what to do about Arafat. A minority school of thought, led by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, holds that Arafat is the only Palestinian with the authority to push through a deal with Israel, and that the Israeli government has erred in trying to undermine his leadership.

The dominant school, to which both Sharon and Ben-Eliezer belong, maintains that Arafat has no intention of cutting a deal with Israel, and that a way must be found to bypass him. Where they differ is over how to do this.

The Sharon-Ben-Eliezer school was greatly strengthened by a series of damning intelligence reports that emerged late last year. For example, according to Israeli military intelligence, the day before Arafat announced a cease-fire in mid-December, he convened a group of Palestinian intellectuals at the Casablanca Hotel in Ramallah and detailed a long-term strategy for the destruction of Israel.

Israeli intelligence also reported that on numerous occasions, after condemning Palestinian suicide attacks on camera for the world media, Arafat celebrated the bombers’ "success" with his confidants, and made it plain that he would like to see more such attacks.

This shows, some intelligence officials argue, that Arafat is not interested in a deal with Israel under any circumstances, and that he has embarked on a fight to the death with the Jewish state.

Others don’t go quite that far: They say Arafat does want a peace deal, but only one imposed by the international community, so Arafat can say he was forced into it.

Sharon’s aides say it makes no difference: Either way, there is no point in talking to Arafat. Moreover, the aides say, the bottom line is that as long as Arafat is around, the Palestinians won’t do a thing to fight terror. They argue that the Tanzim, which has been carrying out most of the suicide bombings, is part of Arafat’s own Fatah organization, and would not act unless it had a "green light," whether explicit or implicit, from the president.

As long as Arafat gives the green light to terror, they say, Palestinian security chiefs like Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub won’t dare lift a finger against it.

Sharon is no longer prepared to tolerate Arafat’s double game of condemning terror while encouraging the terrorists, or to allow the Palestinian leader to subvert every attempt to reach a cease-fire, including the latest mission by U.S. envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni in March.

The trouble is that Sharon doesn’t have very good options. He feels he can’t kill Arafat, because he promised the American administration that he wouldn’t. Sharon made the pledge in his first meeting as prime minister with President Bush in March 2000 — and, he says, the Americans have gotten him to repeat it in every high level meeting since.

In addition, killing Arafat could inflame not only the Palestinian territories but the entire Middle East, and turn world opinion squarely against Israel.

Sharon can’t isolate Arafat indefinitely, because world public opinion also isn’t likely to stand for that, and because he has promised to pull Israeli forces out of Palestinian towns and cities as soon as the current military operation is over.

He also can’t expel Arafat unless the Israeli Cabinet relents — though he publicly stated Tuesday that he would offer Arafat a "one-way ticket" out of Ramallah into exile. Arafat rejected the idea outright.

In an attempt to simply circumvent Arafat, Sharon began meetings in February with other Palestinian leaders, including Ahmed Karia, known as Abu Alaa, the speaker of the Palestinian legislative council; Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, Arafat’s deputy in the PLO; and Arafat’s confidant and economic adviser, Mohammed Rashid.

But those figures very quickly — and publicly — made clear that the meetings had been sanctioned by Arafat, and that they would report back to him. Sharon’s ploy did nothing to weaken Arafat’s hold on power.

Sharon’s problem is this: If Arafat is not killed, expelled or replaced by alternative Palestinian leaders, and if he emerges unscathed from his isolation in Ramallah, he would win an enormous prestige-enhancing victory, and Sharon would have to eat humble pie.

So now Sharon has starting telling visitors, like European Union official Javier Solana, that Solana can see the "isolated” Arafat on one condition: That he take the Palestinian leader with him into exile when he leaves the country.

If Solana or anyone else agrees, Sharon will worry about persuading the Cabinet.

Can Israel Afford to Eliminate Arafat?


So it has come to this. The once and future president of Palestine, father of his people, so-called architect of their national rebirth, is hunkered down around a sputtering candle as his enemies’ jets pound the walls of his compound and grenades explode in his courtyard.

The scene is eerily reminiscent of another that took place exactly 20 years ago in Arafat’s headquarters in Beirut. There the Israelis relentlessly shelled him in his lair before American intervention allowed him a face-saving departure to Tunis. Perhaps others will remember Chilean President Salvadore Allende’s defiance of his own troops as they attacked the Presidential Palace in Santiago in 1973. There, too, the besieged president vowed to die a martyr’s death and fulfilled his promise.

But this new round of events, which has been accompanied by the gravest toll of civilian casualties in Israel’s history, offers to close a door on a situation Israelis have endured for far too long. Burdened with the intrigues of this murderer and terrorist for 40 years, it must now make a crucial final accounting: Is Arafat worth more to them dead or alive?

Killing the leader of any people is certainly not a matter to take lightly. But in Arafat’s case, the balance sheet should make the answer quite clear. By not condemning Palestinian terror atrocities and failing to crack down on the terrorist activities of his own brigades, Arafat gives those groups his sanction. His tepid denunciations aside, it is clear that his implicit avowals of support for ‘martyrs’ have led to an escalation that he no longer can control. His relevance in stemming the violence is therefore minimal, but his continued operation, as a symbol of revolt and a figurehead to incendiaries, threatens Israeli life and thereby imperils the stability of the region.

It is argued, conversely, that only Arafat has the ability to rein in terror. But anyone watching interviews of the Palestinian leader in recent months could comfortably conclude that Arafat refuses to rein in terror, not because it threatens his political leverage, but because he is temperamentally incapable of making the psychological shift in order to do so. This has been starkly demonstrated in recent days by a profound display of self-delusion, wherein he and his cohorts appear convinced that the campaign of suicide terror has given them an advantage over the Israelis, whose surrender may be just days away. The same kind of delusion gripped the Palestinian leader in Beirut when he faced catastrophe. His tack then was simply to declare victory, then flee to fight another day. The same latitude should never be given him again.

Another argument is that Arafat’s death risks the outbreak of a regional war. Such speculation has no basis in reality. As the Arab League Summit in Beirut convincingly demonstrated, Arafat is completely isolated. Prevented from addressing the Summit by even the Arabs themselves, he has, in reality, few sympathetic ears in that milieu. No Arab leader will shed tears for the end of this chronic schemer. Singed by his treachery and duplicity over the decades, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are loath to aid the Palestinian leader, nor are they in any condition, either diplomatically or militarily, to receive the brunt of an Israeli assault — an event that would certainly occur to Syria if it allows Hezbollah to resume an assault on Israel from southern Lebanon.

Finally, there will be no international operation against Israel mimicking the one in Kosovo in 1999. This has been Yasser Arafat’s final card, a desperate gamble on international sanction and concerted military invasion to prevent what he has preposterously labeled a genocide. But even with the Europeans’ fierce denunciations there is no indication of a willingness of any nation to go to battle for Arafat or his corrupt regime. If the world is at war with the terrorist networks, which Western country will risk the ire of the United States to defend a man for whom terrorism is a raison d’etre?

No one in either Israel or the United States, the only two countries who now really count in this conflict, should be fooled into believing that a surviving Arafat will suddenly see the light and seek a peaceful accommodation with Israel. His death may well turn him into a martyr, but isn’t a dead martyr more acceptable than a live terrorist from whom proponents of civil violence worldwide gain inspiration and moral support?

Given these circumstances, the appropriate analogy is therefore not to Allende in 1973 or Beirut in 1982. Instead, its parallel is Berlin of 1945, when another menace to world peace and an inveterate slaughterer of Jews faced annihilation. With this in mind, the true question is not whether Israel can afford to eliminate Arafat. It is whether it can afford not to.

After Arafat


For the first time, Israeli political debate is focusing openly on the prospect of life after Yasser Arafat.

This follows a marked drop in the Palestinian Authority president’s international standing — in the eyes not just of the United States but also among other key members of the international community.

While the world is not yet writing off Arafat, Israelis on all points of the political spectrum seem to feel it is both legitimate and practical to debate the prospect of Arafat’s possible — and perhaps imminent — removal from power.

If such a scenario does come about, it is not likely to be as a result of direct Israeli intervention.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who returned from a visit to the United States in early December, has told his aides that he was asked for, and gave, a firm commitment to President Bush that Israel would not kill Arafat or otherwise harm him personally.

The prime minister’s vow apparently extends to the idea — floated by some Israeli hawks — of deporting Arafat or barring him from returning to the country when he goes off on one of his many jaunts abroad.

Israeli missiles destroyed two of Arafat’s helicopters in an attack in the Gaza Strip last week. Warplanes bombed a compound close to his Ramallah headquarters while he was working inside.

But these attacks were intended more as warnings than as serious efforts to strike at Arafat himself.

Later in the week, Sharon indicated that he was liable to turn down a request from Arafat to fly to Qatar for a gathering of Islamic foreign ministers.

"He is too busy arresting terrorists," Sharon sarcastically told the Cabinet. Perhaps to save himself the risk of humiliation, Arafat decided not to make the request.

Sharon has disclosed to Time magazine that he recently sent his son, Omri, on a secret mission to assure Arafat that he faces no physical danger from Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that Israel was not trying to topple Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority. But he warned that unless Arafat acts firmly to stop terrorism, he runs the risk of being deposed by Palestinian extremists.

"Arafat made mistakes but it is not for Israel to decide who will lead the Palestinians," Peres told a news conference following talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"We are not going to dismantle the Palestinian Authority nor topple Arafat, but we demand he take responsibility" to end the violence, he said.

For Sharon, the issue is not Arafat’s personal safety but his political future. Sharon has been warned repeatedly, by Palestinians, foreign experts and some Israelis that military pressure on the Palestinian Authority could weaken Arafat’s rule to a point where it simply implodes.

To judge by his responses and by the Israeli army’s operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sharon is prepared at least to consider that scenario.

Sharon wants to force Arafat to confront the fundamentalist factions in the Palestinian territories, make sweeping arrests of known militants and hold and interrogate those incarcerated, instead of letting them walk free after a few days.

If that means a situation approaching a Palestinian civil war — from which Arafat emerges diminished or even defeated — then so be it, Sharon seems to be saying.

Significantly, the prime minister has taken issue with the conventional Israeli wisdom that if Arafat falls, more radical forces inevitably will seize power. Sharon suggested in several conversations this week that Arafat’s fall might throw up more moderate leaders with whom Israel could deal more productively.

Even if it doesn’t, Sharon said, it might be better for Israel to deal with a group like Hamas — which makes no secret of its intention to attack Israel — than with Arafat, whose moderate words allegedly mask a more belligerent agenda.

After decades of confrontations and broken promises, Sharon has no patience left for Arafat, whom he invariably refers to as "that terrorist."

Moreover, both from his recent meeting at the White House and from American pronouncements, Sharon knows that the Bush administration also has little patience left for what he regards as Arafat’s lies.

Israeli sources say the American peace envoy in the region, ex-Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, has been scathing in his expressions of frustration with Arafat.

But the Bush administration stops short of actually calling for pulling the plug on Arafat. Washington’s policy is still predicated on its expectation that Arafat can and will rein in the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror networks.

However deep their distaste for the Palestinian leader, therefore, Israeli policy-makers are toeing that same line. Yet they have even less confidence than the Americans in Arafat’s ability or desire to take serious action.

A significant advance this week came from an unexpected quarter — the European Union. In an unwontedly sharp criticism of the Palestinians, the European Union demanded that Arafat dismantle the Hamas and Islamic Jihad "terrorist networks" and also declare — in Arabic, to his own people — an end to the violence that has raged for the past 14 months.

Clearly influenced by public horror over the wave of suicide bombings that hit Israel in early December, the European Union. foreign ministers insisted that Arafat arrest terror suspects and bring them to justice. They also urged Israel to withdraw its forces from Palestinian areas, end closures of Palestinian cities, stop assassinating Palestinian terrorists and freeze Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Given the European Union’s traditional sympathy for the Palestinian position, Israeli officials took the statement as a sign of Arafat’s eroding international standing.

But not everyone in Israel relishes that prospect. Peres and others on the left warn that Arafat’s downfall would mean a hardening of the Palestinian line, given the steady rise in support for Hamas among the Palestinian public.

This camp argues that Sharon and the right want to see hard-liners win out among the Palestinians, so that Israel will not have to negotiate — and make concessions — in the foreseeable future.

One possible outcome of the new Israeli debate may be a strengthening of the "unilateralist" option. A small group, led by ex-Labor ministers Haim Ramon and Shlomo Ben-Ami, argues that Israel should withdraw unilaterally from large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, dismantle settlements there, and build a border fence to seal off the Jewish State from the terrorist threat.

The unilateralists argue that having rejected the Clinton peace package last year, Arafat effectively has closed off the negotiating option as long as he is in power. Therefore, they say, Israel should act alone to better defend itself.

Yet the argument has gained little foothold among most politicians, who argue that the political trauma of dismantling settlements would be possible only within the context of real peacemaking.

Others dismiss the idea of unilateral withdrawal as foolhardy, noting that even after shrinking its borders — and giving up its negotiating assets — Israel would not be able to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering the country.

JTA correspondent Ruth E. Gruber in Rome contributed to this report.

World Briefs


Sharon Defends West Bank Incursion

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended Israeli incursions into the West Bank in a phone call with Colin Powell. Sharon told the U.S. secretary of state Wednesday that Israeli troops will not leave four Palestinian cities until Palestinians comply with agreements to halt violence, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Israel entered six West Bank cities following the Oct. 17 assassination of Tourism

Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, prompting U.S. criticism, and left two of the municipalities over the weekend. Sharon said he may see Powell in a couple of weeks, and that he will make a final decision about visiting Washington in a few days, based on the Israeli security situation.

Peres Prepares New Plan

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is preparing a new peace initiative. According to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the plan calls for a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of Israeli settlements there. The newspaper also said the plan called for the creation of a Palestinian state. The plan, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has opposed in the past, is expected to be presented soon.

Arafat Condemns Terrorism

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat issued a condemnation of “every form of terrorism” during a meeting with the pope. Referring to recent fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem, Arafat also referred to “the recent tragic events that also involved the holy places of Christianity” when he met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Tuesday, according to the chief Vatican spokesman. Arafat arrived in Rome on Monday for meetings with Italian leaders. During the 15-minute meeting, the pope urged Israel and the Palestinians to put down their weapons and return to the negotiating table.

Bronfman: Defend or Abandon
Settlements

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Edgar Bronfman called on Israel to dismantle some settlements.

Addressing a WJC meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bronfman said settlements in the West Bank that cannot be defended should be abandoned. He also said Israel’s presence in the Gaza Strip is a mistake. Israeli President Moshe Katsav reportedly objected to Bronfman’s comments, saying that the settlements did not cause the current violence.

Powder Found At Jewish Office

A letter containing white powder was found at the New York offices of the Conservative Jewish movement. The powder was sent for anthrax testing, and employees were told to go to their doctors. The lower Manhattan building was not evacuated, and was slated to open Friday. “We’re taking this in stride, and not treating this as a panic thing,” said a spokeswoman for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Court Won’t Hear School Case

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a law allowing a moment of silence in public schools. July, a federal appeals court upheld Virginia’s moment of silence law, ruling that a minute of meditation in public schools does not violate the First Amendment’s ban on state-sponsored religion. The high court also refused to hear a case of an employee who was fired after praying with co-workers and giving them Bibles.

Student Paper Runs Mossad Lie

Jewish leaders in Northern California are criticizing the newspaper at San Jose State University for printing a long letter Oct. 22 claiming that the Mossad was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

According to the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, the student newspaper’s editor says it does not regret printing the letter, despite its factual errors.

The letter, by a junior marketing and political science major, repeated a widely circulated canard that Israel’s spy agency framed Muslims for the attacks as a way of gaining world sympathy for the Jewish State.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Cease-Fire Hangs by Thread


The flimsiest of cease-fires continued in name only last week, as Israelis absorbed two brutal terror attacks and struck back at the Palestinians Authority.

Even when Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat met last week at the Gaza airport to discuss a series of steps aimed at bolstering the truce, heavy exchanges of gunfire could be heard nearby.

And even after the two announced the steps each side would take following their Sept. 26 meeting, the situation escalated.

Within days, the Palestinians took to the streets to mark the first anniversary of their ongoing uprising.

On Sunday, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen and rock-throwers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a fourth day in a row. During the day’s clashes, at least two Palestinians were killed, bringing the total to at least 17 Palestinians who have been killed since the two sides agreed last week to bolster the cease-fire.

Israeli officials, who say the Palestinian victims were involved in attacks on Israel’s soldiers, are now questioning whether Arafat was genuine about a cease-fire.

"The conflict is not with Arafat personally," said Arafat’s negotiating partner, Peres. "It is a conflict between two peoples."

Roni Shaked, the Palestinian affairs analyst for the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, agrees. "The Palestinian street wants riots," he said. "There is a gap between what Arafat wants at this stage and what the Palestinian public wants."

According to Shaked, Arafat is trying to maneuver between the demands of Palestinian radicals and U.S. pressure for a halt to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Washington views such a halt as necessary if it is to line up Arab support for the international anti-terror coalition it wants to create following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

But the likelihood of the halt holding looked even slimmer by Tuesday, when at least two terrorists infiltrated Elei Sinai in the northwest Gaza Strip, murdering Liron Harpaz, 18, of Elei Sinai, and her boyfriend Assaf Yitzhaki, 20, of Lod, and wounding 14 others, including seven soldiers.

Seven Palestinians — four of them PA security service officers — were subsequently killed in an IDF retaliatory operation, according to reports.

The terrorists breached Elei Sinai’s perimeter fence, then threw grenades inside homes and fired automatic weapons before fleeing toward the periphery of the community.

On Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen shot and injured two Jewish women, one seriously, in Hebron outside the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The Palestinian Authority issued a statement condemning the attacks, saying they violated PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s cease-fire orders.

But even if Arafat genuinely wants to enforce the cease-fire, it is now much more difficult for him to do so than it was prior to the outbreak of the intifada, because power is now divided between him and the Palestinian militias.

Moreover, a whopping 85 percent of Palestinians want the uprising to continue.

Despite such sobering statistics, Peres is asking for patience. Since his meeting last week with Arafat, "There are no more suicide bombers, and there is a considerable drop in violence," Peres said.

He also drew a line between those in the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements who "want to annihilate Israel" and "the Palestinians who want dialogue."

According to Peres, Arafat belongs to the second group.

Peres may be correct about Arafat, but with officials from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian militias vowing to continue fighting Israel, it may not make much difference.

This became clear Monday, when a car bomb exploded in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

No one was injured in the attack — for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility — but had there been fatalities, the bombing could have put a quick end to the cease-fire.

The difficulty of enforcing the truce was made clear in the Rafah region in southern Gaza, the site of continued clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

In recent days, Arafat dispatched a force of several hundred Palestinian policemen to the area to try to restore peace.

But, he told Peres in a late-night telephone conversation, the police were encountering fire from Palestinians militias that were refusing to lay down their arms.

Hours before the Peres-Arafat meeting last week, Palestinian militants detonated a large bomb beneath an Israeli base near the Rafah crossing that separates Gaza and Egypt.

For weeks before the attack, Palestinians had dug a tunnel from the town of Rafah to a point underneath the base.

As it was, only three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured when a wall collapsed on them. The attack could have ended with scores of Israeli soldiers dead — and the end of the cease-fire even before it began.

In a mirror version of the debate among Israelis regarding Arafat’s intentions, Palestinian officials are charging that Israeli leaders, including Sharon, want to jeopardize the cease-fire agreement.

On Sunday, Israel’s Inner Cabinet decided to give Arafat at least another 48 hours to live up to the truce. The ministers also decided Sunday to lift a blockade of the West Bank city of Jericho and open the border crossing at Rafah.

Top Israeli officials remain deeply skeptical, however.

When asked if the second stage of the cease-fire plan would kick in, a spokesman for Sharon replied, "What cease-fire?”

Arafat Plays the Religion Card


Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is making Jerusalem the focus of intensified terror in order to accentuate the religious dimension of the 10-month-old conflict with Israel.

This was the accusation leveled at Arafat this week by top Israeli government analysts following a spate of attacks — shootings, bombings, stabbings and rioting — that have brought a new level of fear to Jerusalem residents.

The analysts believe Arafat’s immediate aim is to use the "religion card" to convene yet another Arab summit meeting.

Though several meetings of the Arab world’s leadership since the Palestinian uprising began failed to result in significant economic aid for the Palestinian Authority, Arafat hopes that focusing on the religious overtones of the conflict with Israel will convince the Arab League to provide tangible economic support, according to this view.

This week, violence continued at some of the highest levels since the Palestinians began their uprising last September.

Erupting across the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in Jerusalem, it threw into sharp relief just how thoroughly the U.S.-mediated cease-fire, which Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to just six weeks ago, has failed.

If Arafat’s latest goal is to cast the conflict in a religious mold, events Sunday dealt him something of a setback, as Israeli security officials did not fall into his trap.

After days of belligerent statements from Palestinian and Israeli Arab leaders had stoked their passions, Palestinians on the Temple Mount rained rocks onto Jewish worshipers marking Tisha B’Av on Sunday at the Western Wall.

Israeli police subsequently entered the Temple Mount compound, firing tear gas and stun grenades in skirmishes with dozens of Palestinians. During the confrontations, 15 policemen and 20 Palestinians were hurt. The disturbances forced the evacuation of Jewish worshipers from the Western Wall Plaza.

Just the same, the police action did not lead to any Palestinian deaths — something Arafat could have milked for propaganda value in Arab capitals. Given the number of people involved and the hot tempers, observers — recalling the panicky deployment of Israeli police on the Temple Mount the morning of Sept. 29, 2000 (the day after then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon paid a high-profile visit to the site) — said it was a wonder the clashes did not take a more deadly turn.

Instead of using tear gas and stun grenades — which proved effective Sunday — police last September responded to the Palestinians’ stones with bullets, marking the beginning of the Palestinians’ Al- Aksa Intifada.

Sunday’s altercation was only one in a series of incidents in recent days that have put Israelis on edge. Security forces went on high alert this week following a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, none of which caused serious injuries, including a pipe bomb exploding in a public park next to the King David Hotel on Wednesday, a small bomb exploding in a a supermarket in Jerusalem on Monday, and last Friday, a bomb discovered inside a watermelon on a parked bus in Jerusalem.

On Monday, in response to the series of bombings, Israeli helicopters attacked the main Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City. The army said it targeted a building "used to manufacture weapons and mortar bombs."

Tensions were further fueled Monday after an explosion killed six activists from Arafat’s Fatah faction near the West Bank city of Jenin. Palestinian officials said Israel killed the six, who were wanted by Israeli officials for alleged involvement in terrorism.

Israeli security officials denied involvement, saying the blast may have been a "work accident" while the six were assembling a bomb.

Tuesday, eight Palestinians — including at least two senior Hamas officials and two children — were killed in an Israeli helicopter attack on one of the terrorist group’s offices in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israeli sources said the Hamas members were planning attacks in the Jerusalem area, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The government expressed regret for the death of the two children.

Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’ spiritual leader, said Tuesday that Israel would pay a heavy price for the attack.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to halt the violence held out little hope of imminent success.

Israeli sources spoke of disagreement within the Bush administration, with Secretary of State Colin Powell anxious for an immediate agreement on a monitoring observer team, and the president and other policy-makers less eager for a debate with Sharon about the composition of the team while strife on the ground still rages.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer appeared to reflect the latter approach when he said Monday that a lasting cease-fire was the "necessary prerequisite."

"Only at that time will the question of monitors possibly come up," he said. "It would have to be agreed to by both sides."

As the week wore on, however, agreement by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority about almost anything seemed highly unlikely.

JTA correspondent Naomi Segal in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Israelis Debate Extent of Arafat’s Control


Israeli officials once again are debating whether Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is losing control over his own people.

The debate harks back to seemingly distant days when the Oslo peace process appeared to be on track but was punctuated by periodic attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants.

Now, as then, the debate focuses on whether Arafat truly is calling the shots.

What is new is the stance now adopted by some Israelis that the Israel Defense Force should launch a strike to topple Arafat.

During the past week, there were several events that might indicate that Arafat is losing ground to more militant groups.

Hamas militants have charged that Israeli officials are glad to see such signs of instability. But on the Israeli side of the divide, matters are far from clear.

Some Israeli policymakers eye with relish any sign that a Palestinian civil war is brewing. This, they believe, could mean the end of Arafat’s rule.

According to this thinking, Arafat’s demise would mean the end of a duplicitous leader who for years told Israelis what they wanted to hear — that he was committed to achieving a "peace of the brave" — while making radically different statements to Arab audiences.

According to this school, anyone would be preferable to Arafat — even Hamas, whose terrorist outrages presumably would aid Israel in the court of world opinion. In addition, there probably would be far less backlash in the West should Israel later overthrow a Hamas-led regime.

Then there are those Israeli officials who, despite their disenchantment with Arafat, believe there is no better alternative.

Many officials have suggested that Arafat deliberately creates the impression that he has lost control in order to evade blame for terror attacks against Israel.

As the debate continues, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken no steps to overthrow Arafat.

In that government, the top official calling for continued dialogue with Arafat is Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

On Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry leaked a document that suggests offering large amounts of land to the Palestinians to induce Arafat to return to negotiations.

The document reflected what are viewed as the large differences between Sharon and Peres on how to deal with 10 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Among those siding with Peres is Center Party member Dan Meridor, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Meridor argues that Arafat still has the power to restore peace — and that Israel should put more pressure on him to do so.

Arguing against overthrowing Arafat and sending him into exile, Meridor said this week that "we must ask ourselves not for the momentary effect, but rather what will be the long-term result" of Arafat’s ouster.

"The problem is not Arafat, but Israel’s relations with the Palestinians," Meridor said.

Those who believe that Arafat is losing his grip on power point to two recent events.

One was the recent revival of a family feud that dates back to the early 1990s.

Last Friday, a Palestinian youth shot a Palestinian officer at point-blank range, killing him, in the town market of Khan Yunis. Some 10 years ago, it is believed that the officer had killed the boy’s father on suspicion of collaborating with Israel.

Last Friday’s murder soon developed into a bloody shootout between two families.

In four hours of fierce fighting, at least nine people died and scores of others were wounded before Palestinian police managed to restore order.

In a second incident earlier last week, Arafat cut short a visit to the Persian Gulf to deal with rioting that erupted after Palestinian security officials arrested a number of members of Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committee, a group that wants a more violent uprising than the Palestinian Authority is pursuing.

The July 23 arrests set off a riot in Gaza City, where hundreds of people, including Hamas gunmen, threw rocks and fired at the home of Moussa Arafat, the commander of Palestinian military intelligence and a relative of the Palestinian leader.

No one was hurt, but it was one of the strongest shows of Palestinian anger against the P.A. leadership since the uprising began last September.

Palestinian security officials had arrested the militants for mortar attacks on Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip and within Israel proper.

However, the arrests did not affect events in the field: Palestinian mortar attacks have continued almost daily during the past week.

On Saturday, Israel retaliated by bombing Palestinian targets in Gaza that it described as munition factories.

Last week’s rioting, which later spread to Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, marked a new low in relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority since Hamas announced in June that it would not abide by a cease-fire Arafat had declared.

Last week, Palestinian officials blamed Hamas for deliberately escalating the situation, warning that they would not tolerate "a government within a government." Ismayil Hanniyeh, a senior Hamas activist, deflected the charges onto Israel, suggesting that Israel was deliberately trying to split the Palestinian camp.

Sharon Champions Restraint


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected four months ago on a pledge to restore Israel’s sense of security, finds himself holding back the dogs of war as Palestinian militants continue picking off Israelis on West Bank roads and firing mortars at residential communities.

After Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party took credit for murdering two Israelis this week in drive-by shootings, Sharon found himself under intense pressure from his right wing to stop complying with Israel’s end of the cease-fire and to unleash a punishing — perhaps even mortal — blow to Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

Due in Washington for talks early next week, Sharon, however, has chosen to heed the broad international consensus on maintaining the cease-fire agreed to last week, in the hope that diplomacy and political pressure will impress the Palestinian Authority.

"I am not going to drag this nation into war," Sharon declared at a meeting of his Likud Party on Monday. "This is not the time. This would be a grave mistake."

Members of his party looked grim and downcast. One of them, a West Bank settler, heckled Sharon, insisting that settler leaders do "not want war — just security."

The next day, at the funeral of one of the murdered Israelis (38-year-old Doron Zisserman) settlers spoke openly of their bitter disillusionment with the man often depicted as Israel’s arch-hawk, whom they supported in the elections for prime minister earlier this year.

"What kind of cease-fire is this?" asked Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a leading figure in the National Religious Party and the settlers’ movement. "We cease, and they fire."

Compounding the outrage for Israelis, Fatah officials said the group’s militia would continue attacking Israelis, arguing that the cease-fire applies only to those areas under sole Palestinian control, not to Israeli settlements and surrounding areas.

Zisserman, a father of four, was shot Monday by a Palestinian sniper as he was driving into the West Bank settlement of Einav.

The attack took place as a funeral was being held for Danny Yehuda, a 37-year-old father of three young children who was killed in a drive-by shooting earlier that day.

Likud critics told reporters that Sharon had fallen under the spell of his dovish foreign minister, Shimon Peres of the Labor Party.

They offered this view despite the fact that Sharon and Peres feuded openly at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting over Sharon’s refusal to let Peres meet with Arafat. Sharon has repeatedly stated that there will be no negotiations until the Palestinians halt all attacks on Israelis.

According to another analysis, Sharon is adopting a policy of restraint because there is no clear recipe for a successful Israeli military campaign against the Palestinians, no matter how widespread the desire for revenge.

The past nine months of conflict, during which the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has tried all manner of weapons and tactics, have shown the complexity of the military challenge that guerrilla warfare presents to a regular army, especially in areas of high population density such as the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, many messy so-called "successes" on the ground are wiped out by the price Israel pays in the court of international opinion.

Some analysts believe Sharon is merely waiting until evidence of Palestinian belligerence is so overwhelming that the Israeli response is met with broad international understanding. Under this scenario, Sharon does not believe Arafat will adhere to the cease-fire, but must give Arafat every opportunity to demonstrate his treachery.

In addition, attempts to contain the violence by a broad array of foreign diplomats plainly are having an effect on Sharon.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told CNN on Tuesday that a remarkably broad international consensus is evolving around the cease-fire negotiated last week by CIA director George Tenet.

Annan’s high personal standing in Israel has enabled him to engage Sharon in a meaningful diplomatic dialogue. Annan, who visited the Middle East this week, said the United States, European Union, Russia and other world powers are united behind the cease-fire.

This is noteworthy in a conflict that for decades put superpowers and other nations at odds as they sought to wield influence in the region.

According to another view of the situation, Sharon’s restraint is born of his desire to maintain the close relationship he has forged with the young Bush administration, which clearly would like the cease-fire to take hold.

According to this view, Sharon therefore will continue to grit his teeth and rein in the IDF — at least until after his visit to the United States next week.

Arafat’s motives are similarly opaque. Charitable souls say that after the June 1 disco bombing, he realized Israel had reached the end of its tether and was about to respond with massive force, perhaps toppling the Palestinian Authority itself.

Skeptics, however, believe Arafat is not motivated even by this level of self-preservation but merely chose the cease-fire as a tactical step until international attention moves from the Middle East to other issues. Under this scenario, Arafat then will ratchet up the violence little by little, gradually undermining the cease-fire without openly repudiating it.

Arafat told reporters this week that he had given strict orders to prevent attacks on Israelis, adding that Palestinians "do not commit acts of violence."

If this sort of Palestinian "pacifism" continues at this pace, however, observers here and abroad say a violent Israeli retaliation is inevitable.

Arabs Against Arafat


"I look at my little boy, and I ask myself, ‘What did he do to me that he should deserve this punishment?’ I tell you, if I could leave here tomorrow for America, I would."

We’ll call the speaker Mahmoud.

He is a taxi driver who lives in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. He is a member of what could be called, if not the Palestinian silent majority, at least the Palestinian silent but substantial minority.

"We should have taken Barak’s offer. But the Arab leaders screwed us, they wouldn’t let Arafat accept the deal," says Mahmoud. He’s not a Zionist, no lover or even respecter of Ariel Sharon, and he doesn’t think the Israeli right, especially the religious right, will ever be prepared to make a "peace of the brave" with the Palestinians.

But neither is he a lover or respecter of the intifada. "It’s gotten us nowhere. We’re worse off than we were before," he says. At the start of the intifada, Mahmoud owned a clothing shop in the Old City. Now, with the Palestinians living in destitution, Mahmoud’s customers are making do with their old clothes.

He has taken to driving a cab for a Jewish-owned company, driving into the West Bank killing fields with Israeli license plates. "I don’t worry too much. If it’s my time, it’s my time," he says.

With a slight break in the action and a flurry of would-be peacemaking since the Tel Aviv discotheque bombing, a reality check on the Palestinians — the regular people, not the politicians — shows that a pall has come over them. They are deeply ensnared by a Catch-22.

On one hand, the intifada has brought them nothing but 500 or so deaths, thousands upon thousands of injuries, and the suffocation of their daily lives by torrents of Israeli soldiers surrounding their cities and villages. Politically, the intifada has destroyed whatever flexibility existed in the Israeli body politic, ousting the country’s most conciliatory prime minister, Ehud Barak, and leaving in his wake Ariel Sharon.

Yet for all the futility promised by a continuation of the intifada, giving up on it and trusting in negotiations with Sharon may seem, to Palestinians, as the greater of two evils. Sharon offers the Palestinians nothing, compared with what Barak was ready to give them; after choosing guerrilla war instead of Barak’s offer, if the Palestinians were to throw down their guns and sit down at Sharon’s table, they would be the laughingstock of the world. It would be tantamount to surrender. Peace may not be an option for them.

All one hears in the media from Palestinian leaders is hard-line talk: insisting on full Israeli withdrawal from the territories, totally blaming the Israeli side for the violence. The crowds at funerals and political rallies likewise show no give, only fight. But there are other Palestinian voices, Palestinians who don’t have to toe the party line, who are thinking more practically about their futures and the futures of their families, and these Palestinians sound like the kind of people Israel, or at least the pre-intifada Israel, could have made peace with.

"It’s too bad we didn’t take Barak’s offer. But Arafat was afraid that if he tried to share Jerusalem, the Moslem world wouldn’t have allowed it," says Khalil Ansar, a resident of the West Bank city of Tulkarm, on his way home from another day’s work inside Israel. The right of return didn’t have to be such a great obstacle, he says. "I think the Palestinians who are living abroad should stay there. It’s inconceivable that somebody who lives in Israel should be made to give up his home to somebody who lives in Lebanon," Ansar says.

As for Arafat, Ansar says, "His time is finished." Asked whom he favors as the next leader of Palestinians, Ansar mentions the West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub and Palestinian diplomat Abu Mazen.

When people speak of Palestinian moderates, these are the first two names mentioned. Asked if there is a party or movement that speaks for people like himself, Ansar says, "Yes. It’s called the Peace Movement." It even has a leader, although Ansar does not know the leader’s name.

Yet even among these moderates, the suffering of the intifada has taken its toll. Taher, who lives in a Palestinian village near the Green Line, has worked for Israelis and served Israeli customers for some 20 years. He has many, many Jewish friends. Yet, these days, an anger has come into his expression that wasn’t there before.

A few weeks ago his sister, in her mid-30’s, was having chest pains and was driven by her husband towards Ramallah, where she was to be taken to a hospital. "But they were turned back by the army before Ramallah, and she died in the car," Taher says. His son recently did $10,000 worth of remodeling for an Israeli homeowner in Beit Shemesh, but after paying the young man a little over $1,000, the Israeli refused to pay more, threatening to call the police if the young man persisted in demanding money, Taher says.

He blames the failure of the cease-fire on the Israeli side. "Arafat has done everything he can do. The Tanzim also agreed to the cease-fire. But when the settlers enter a village, break windows, uproot olive trees and start shooting, where is the cease-fire?" Taher asks. His moderation is cracking. His forecast is gloomy. "There are bad times ahead," he says.

On this point, there is no division of opinion, here there is true unity between Palestinian moderates and Palestinian militants — no matter whether they support the intifada or wish it would end, whether they believe in peace with Israel or hate the idea, virtually all Palestinians see it as an impossibility.

Increased Insecurity


Yasser Arafat is floundering. Six months into the new intifada, he has achieved nothing for his people. More and more openly, Palestinians are questioning whether their suffering is worthwhile. The world is in no hurry to intervene. Arab leaders, gathered in Jordan this week, were long on sympathy, short on substance, military or financial.

Ariel Sharon, for his part, is striving to reconcile his twin images of "Mr. Security" and "Mr. Pragmatic Leader" who has put his adventurist past behind him and cherishes his rapport with the new man in the White House. The Palestinians are not making it easy for him.

The intifada is all tactics and no strategy. Marwan Barghouti, the mainstream Fatah commander calling the shots on the West Bank, announced one day that he wanted a popular uprising with the masses taking to the streets in peaceful protest, then declared the next day that the armed confrontation would continue.

The bombers and the gunmen interpreted this as a license to go on targeting Jews. Israeli commentators suspected Arafat was trying to provoke the hawkish prime minister to order drastic reprisals, which would rally support for the Palestinian cause — at the Amman summit and among Israeli Arabs, who are staging their annual "Land Day" demonstrations this Friday.

The attacks plumbed new depths In Hebron on Monday, when a Palestinian sniper shot dead a 10-month-old baby, Shalhevet Pass, as she was being wheeled by her parents through the West Bank city’s Jewish neighborhood. The same night, a police disposal crew defused a bomb placed outside a falafel bar in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv. On Tuesday, a car bomb went off in Jerusalem’s Talpiot shopping district. Then a suicide bomber struck at a bus stop across town near the Jewish suburb of French Hill. A total of 35 were hurt in the two operations.

Wednesday dawned with another atrocity, this time on the Israeli side of the border between Kfar Sava and the West Bank town of Qalqilya. A second suicide bomber blew himself up among a bunch of teenage boys waiting outside the "Mifgash Hashalom" ("Meeting Place of Peace") gas station for a ride to a West Bank yeshiva. Two of the students were killed on the spot, four others were wounded. One was in critical condition, another required extensive eye surgery. Both were riddled with iron nails that had been packed into the bomb strapped to the terrorist’s chest. The Islamic nationalist movement, Hamas, acknowledged responsibility for both suicide raids and announced that it had seven more bombers ready to sacrifice themselves.

Sharon, projecting a new, statesmanlike image, was reluctant to be provoked. The last thing he wanted was to revive memories of Arik Sharon, the 1950s special forces commander who killed Palestinian civilians wholesale in reprisal raids, or the defense minister who allowed Lebanese Christian militiamen to massacre refugees in Sabra and Shatilla three decades later.

Having promised his voters to restore their sense of security, however, Sharon could not wait too long. In particular, his own nationalist constituency was losing patience. Avigdor Lieberman, the hard-right infrastructure minister, said: "The state must provide security for its citizens everywhere, and Israel must act with determination against the terrorism which is afflicting us." Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the Hebron settlers, said of the baby girl’s killers: "We have to annihilate these monsters." Shalhavet’s young parents refused to bury her until the army retook the hillside from which the sniper fired.

Alex Fishman, a sober military analyst, wrote in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday: "It is true that revenge is no substitute for policy. Decisions on the national level must not be made with the gut. But it is inconceivable that the murder of a baby in cold blood be left hanging in the air with no response. A murder like this must have a price."

Whatever that price turns out to be, the violence is cutting the ground from under Sharon’s quest for a "long-term interim agreement." Arafat could not swallow the permanent solution to the conflict offered by the former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, at Camp David last summer. But nor, it seems, can he contemplate anything less.

Sharon will not be able to play the benign grandfather much longer, but a more vigorous response will risk straining the alliance with Labor’s Shimon Peres and thus the stability of a his national-unity coalition. Nor will he have the free hand he enjoyed when Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, unleashed him on retaliation raids against Arab villagers half a century ago. CNN’s cameras will be there before him.

With bombings turning into a daily ordeal, Sharon was forced on Wednesday to abandon his "business as usual" pose. His aides announced immediately after the Kfar Sava suicide attack that he would not call the inner security cabinet into session. The prime minister’s declared policy was to convene it only once every two weeks. Before the morning was out, however, Sharon backtracked. His ministers insisted that they had to be heard. It was too much of an emergency to be left to one man.

Whle the ministers were still talking, Israeli helicopter gunships rocketed Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday night. A military spokesman said they hit specific targets. Sharon had preferred pinpoint blows, for which read assassinations, against the men behind the bombers, picking them off one-by-one over a period of weeks. But he clearly felt something more dramatic was called for. It remains to be seen whether Israelis will be reassured, or the terrorists will be deterred.

Arafat’s tactics are making Sharon squirm, but they solve nothing for the Palestinians. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s Labor defense minister, began lifting the economic siege. He was repaid with bombs, mortars and sniper fire. The roadblocks will have to stay. There will be no early relief for the one million Palestinians living below the poverty line. There will be no jobs, in Israel or the Palestinian territories, for the 250,000 unemployed.

Despite Arafat’s claim that he is still pursuing the "peace of the brave," the Amman summit did nothing to convince Israelis or comfort hungry Palestinians. While the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution in New York calling for an international force to "protect" Palestinian civilians, Bashar Assad, Syria’s supposedly westernized young president, sounded no different from his brutal father. He denounced Israel as a society "more racist than the Nazis." Ze’ev, Ha’aretz’s veteran cartoonist, summed it up with the image of the week: a beaming Arafat launching a verbal dove of peace polka-dotted with black bombs.

Walking the Tightrope


Prime Minister Ehud Barak has launched an election campaign amid violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

He hopes to conclude the campaign some time in the spring with renewed peace hopes, or, better yet, with a draft peace agreement that he can submit to the public as his election platform.

If Barak achieves a deal with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, he may yet pull back from the brink of political defeat and win the election.

If he fails — and the odds at this time have to be on his failure, given the Palestinians’ present and recent intransigence — it is hard to see Barak defeating the presumptive Likud candidate, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently leads Barak by 20 percentage points in public opinion polls.

After acceding Tuesday night to the Knesset majority’s obvious desire for early elections, Barak made it clear that vigorous diplomatic efforts would continue during the coming months of “lame-duck” government.

In a television interview, Barak bemoaned the Palestinian rejection of ideas put forward by Israel and the Americans at July’s Camp David summit and in subsequent diplomatic contacts.

But, he added, “it may not be over.”

Barak insisted that his diplomatic efforts would continue alongside the Israel Defense Force’s efforts to contain and reduce Palestinian violence.

Israeli military sources reported a sharp decline Tuesday in the number and intensity of violent incidents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

If this reduction was orchestrated by Arafat and was intended to help Barak out of his parliamentary predicament, it plainly came too late.

But there is no doubt that the Palestinians are closely following Israel’s intricate political drama. And they will have to recognize the fact that their behavior — on the “war” front and in the peace talks — could directly and critically influence the outcome of Israel’s domestic contest.

This confluence of domestic and diplomatic circumstances could therefore become a catalyst, driving Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward a comprehensive or partial agreement before the election deadline draws near.

On the other hand, some skeptics contend that the Palestinians are not genuinely interested in a peace agreement and would prefer to face a harder-line Likud government that would take the international blame if peace talks founder.

In any case, events between Israelis and Palestinians on the ground could prove to have a negative and even dangerous impact in the election run-up.

Barak seemed aware of this danger in his televised interview, when he vowed that the army, under his direction, would not “play to the gallery” by overreacting to violent Palestinian provocations.

Too often, Barak said, Israeli governments pandering to the public’s natural urge for revenge have ordered the army to overreact to Arab violence, only to regret the harmful effects to Israel’s international standing and overall strategic strength.

As the election campaign moves forward, Barak will come under greater temptation to strike back ever harder after Palestinian acts of terror or violence because he cannot afford to be perceived by sections of the electorate as soft and hesitant.

For its part, the Likud will be tempted to criticize Barak for softness and hesitancy, and to demand ever harsher military measures.

The election probably will take place in May, but who will the candidates be?

Barak announced on Tuesday that he would run as the Labor candidate. He appeared to share the widespread assumption that Netanyahu will be back to head the Likud, noting that he had beaten Netanyahu before and would beat him again.

But Barak’s candidacy is not a foregone conclusion, however unconventional and messy it is for a party to dislodge a sitting prime minister and party leader.

Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, for one, certainly sees himself as prime ministerial material, and Israel Radio reported Tuesday night that the speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, would also contend for the Labor leadership.

In the Likud, chairman Ariel Sharon shows little willingness to vacate the party leadership for the more popular Netanyahu. This week, political wags were joking that Sharon might prefer to serve as Barak’s No. 2 rather than as Netanyahu’s.

Arafat’s Culture of Hatred


In 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin began the process he hoped would lead to peace, he understood that the chances of achieving a real peace depended on the Palestinian Arab leaders creating a culture that would encourage their people to embrace peace and coexistence. Rabin insisted that the terms of the Oslo accords include a provision specifically prohibiting Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority from engaging in “hostile propaganda” against Jews and Israel. But instead of creating a culture of peace, Arafat created a culture of hatred.

The books used in Palestinian schools teach that the Jews are “evil,” “racists” and “treacherous”; that Israel is “the Zionist enemy”; that “Jews foment wars”; and that Zionism is equal to Nazism. The books feature maps that omit any reference to the existence of Israel. The new sixth-grade primer, “Our Beautiful Language,” declares that “perhaps Allah brought the Jews to our land in order to annihilate them.”

American reporters who recently observed the summer camps run by the Palestinian Authority described how for the 25,000 campers, “there is the chance to stage a mock kidnapping of an Israeli leader by masked Palestinian commandos, ending with the Israeli’s bodyguards sprawled dead on the ground … [T]here is the opportunity to excel in stripping and reassembling a real Kalashnikov rifle.” The songs sung at the camps feature lyrics such as “We’ll throw them into the sea” and “My children in the suicide squads.”
In addition to promoting violence, the Palestinian Authority denies previous violence against Jews.

Palestinian newspapers describe the Holocaust as “a deceitful myth which the Jews have exploited to get sympathy … when demanding financial compensation, donations and grants from all over the world.”
Palestinian cabinet ministers have led public rallies in defense of Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy. Arafat’s number-two man, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), is the author of a book which claims that the number of Jews killed by the Nazis was “less than 1 million,” not 6 million.

Every year on the anniversary of Israel’s creation, the Palestinian Arabs hold protest marches to mourn “Al Nakba” — the “catastrophe.” They are not taught to aspire to coexist with Israel. Arafat and his cabinet ministers encourage the Palestinian Arab masses to believe that they will destroy Israel one day.

“Our nation has hope for the future, and the conquering state [Israel] will not continue to exist in spite of its strength and arrogance,” said Imad Falouji, Arafat’s communications minister.

Consider some of the speeches made in the weeks leading up to the current outbreak of violence.
“The resurrection of the dead will not occur until you battle with the Jews and kill them!” proclaimed an Islamic preacher on a July 28 Palestinian Television broadcast.

In late July, Palestinian Television repeatedly broadcast military parades and video clips of violence against Israeli soldiers, and on July 21, the announcer described Israeli soldiers as “Satan’s agents” and “enemies of mankind.” An Aug. 18 Palestinian television broadcast featured a Muslim preacher declaring that “Jews are the enemies of Islam.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf” is a best-seller among Palestinian Arabs.

The Palestinian Authority’s official newspapers, television and radio stations regularly urge their audiences to engage in jihad (Islamic holy war) against Israel. Arabs who participate in suicide bombings against Israelis — like the bombers who have killed nearly 300 Israelis during the past seven years — are glorified by the Palestinian media as “heroes” and “martyrs,” and the Palestinian Authority names streets after them. Special scholarships are set aside for the killers’ children.

Arafat’s media, schools and summer camps are teaching Palestinian Arabs, young and old alike, to hate. Palestinians rush into the streets to practice what they have been taught. Taking innocent children and raising them to be violent haters is the worst form of child abuse imaginable. As long as Arafat’s culture of hatred persists, peace between Israel and the Arabs cannot be achieved.

Morton Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.

The State of Play


September 13 has come and gone and we are, thankfully, without a Palestinian state – one that Yasser Arafat threatened to create even if it meant a unilateral declaration on his part. That he has backed away from this action – and persuaded a number of reluctant PLO leaders to go along with him – is cause for some cheers. Perhaps only two cheers are merited, and those for not very long.

Almost from the day that negotiations at Camp David broke off this past summer, foundering over Jerusalem, Arafat has been traveling the world meeting with heads of state – in Europe, the Arab countries, the U.S. – and trying to rally support. Their message to him though, has been remarkably clear: Hold off or you will be abandoned both politically and economically. The potential loss of funds we have to assume was particularly telling. Added to this were the political pressures at home – national aspirations of many Palestinians accompanied by militant demands from Hamas and some of the more intractable PLO leaders. Nevertheless, Arafat prevailed, and the September 13 date was set aside.

He has opted for a short-term delay – two months – which seems both sensible and politically smart. By mid-November the American elections will be over, at which point the acting president of the U.S. will have about six weeks before Clinton departs the White House. His successor will be in motion, searching for advisers, putting together a cabinet, looking towards his inauguration speech and probably grabbing some much needed holiday after an exhausting campaign. If no agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has been reached (and it seems unlikely that the issue of Jerusalem will be resolved within this limited time) America’s role is likely to be somewhat muted.

Israel will be caught up in its own political crisis come mid-November. Prime Minister Barak’s fate will probably have been decided. He will either have been forced to disband the Knesset because of a no-confidence vote from that body and be in the midst of an uphill election campaign, fighting for his political life, or caught uneasily in a national unity alliance with the Likud bloc on his right along with several other secular parties to his left.

Meanwhile, Israel will be divided, caught in a secular-religious conflict that plays itself out in the political arena. Not the most auspicious time to deal with a unilateral declaration of independence from the Palestinians.

There are, of course, some probable mitigating factors. There is nothing quite like a declaration of statehood from the Palestinians to bind together all Israelis, sealing over political cracks and divisions. And the consequences of such an act on Arafat’s part would all but lead to a quick and firm response from Israel. An incipient guerrilla war could follow, both sides suddenly in a no-win position, and with the additional recognition on Arafat’s part that he is both mortal and not in the best of health.

Of course it may take just such a rush towards the brink before Israel and the PLO can contemplate the notion of concessions on Jerusalem. That unpalatable choice may then look more appealing than its alternative.

Finally, the Solution?


Unlike previous efforts at Middle East summitry, this week’s Clinton-Barak-Arafat meeting in Oslo did not aim at achieving any dramatic breakthroughs.

Instead, the three leaders had the more modest goal of creating a positive atmosphere as Israel and the Palestinian Authority embark on their most difficult negotiations to date — the final-status talks.

Given these goals, President Clinton had little difficulty in hailing his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

“We have just completed a very good meeting. I feel we have revitalized the peace process,” Clinton said after Tuesday’s meeting, which took place amid commemorations in the Norwegian capital of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

He offered no details about the hour-long meeting, which was intended to lay the groundwork for the final-status talks.

Those discussions — which will tackle such seemingly intractable issues as the future of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and final borders — are slated to begin next week in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Barak and Arafat have agreed to reach a final peace agreement by September of next year. They have also set an interim Feb. 15 deadline for achieving an outline of that pact.

Clinton also said Tuesday he would hold another summit with Barak and Arafat to work on the outline, adding that they “agreed with me that we might well have a summit at the end of this process if enough progress has been made” in the weeks before the February deadline.

During the summit, Barak and Arafat agreed to meet regularly in the runup to the February deadline and to have their negotiators meet as often as three times a week. They also vowed to avoid inflammatory speeches during the talks.

As part of the U.S. effort, President Clinton plans to dispatch Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Middle East envoy Dennis Ross to the region to help bridge any differences holding up a deal.

Earlier in the day, the three leaders invoked Rabin’s memory in a bid to kick-start the final-status talks.

Yet, for all three of the principals who assembled along with other leaders in Oslo — where secret Israeli-Palestinian talks led to a historic breakthrough in 1993 — the summit was a high-stakes diplomatic poker game.

They knew that if they were unable to create the appropriate mood music in Norway’s placid setting, the task of negotiating the really tough issues back home in the pressure cooker of Middle East politics would be far more difficult.

No one was underestimating the enormity of the task ahead, the consequences of failure — or the very real benefits that success will bring.

For the Israelis, a final settlement with the Palestinians will still leave unfinished business in Syria and Lebanon, but it will remove the major obstacle to normalizing relations with much of the Arab world and help secure the legitimacy that has eluded the Jewish state in the region.

For the Palestinians, a deal would mean not just a homeland but, for the first time in history, the very real likelihood of an independent Palestinian state, with the promise of international diplomatic recognition and aid for reconstruction and development.

For Clinton, it is his last best chance to redeem his presidency and associate his name in history with the achievement of a lasting peace in the Middle East.

A hint of Clinton’s eagerness to score this achievement could be detected at the Oslo town hall before the summit, when he joined other speakers in paying tribute to Rabin’s legacy.

“If Rabin were here with us today he would say, ‘There is not a moment to spare. All this honoring me and these nice words, they’re very nice — but please finish the job,’ ” the president told the hundreds who had gathered to pay homage to Rabin.

“We have now a chance, but only a chance, to bring real and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors,” Clinton said. “If we let it slip away, all will bear the consequences.”

Both Barak and Arafat joined in the drama played out before a cast of dignitaries that included Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Rabin’s widow, Leah, as well as representatives from the European Union and senior officials from several Arab states, including Jordan and Morocco.

“I vow to you, Yitzhak, a soldier who fell in the battle for peace, that we are determined to give your death meaning by following your legacy until we achieve peace,” declared Barak.

“We will strive to ensure Israel’s security interests and vital needs; but, at the same time, we will seek to achieve a fair settlement which reflects the needs and sensitivities of our neighbors.”

For his part, Arafat gave a military salute to a large portrait of Rabin that graced the stage.

But he struck a harsher, perhaps more realistic, note when he focused on issues that will dominate the final-status negotiations.

He called on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders and declared that peace meant resisting “violence, terror, occupation, exile and settlements.”

In Gaza, Palestinian officials later defended Arafat’s decision to make his demands clear at the Rabin memorial ceremony.

“We are more than a year behind an agreement which should have already been completed,” Palestinian official Hisham Abdel Razek told Israel Television. “Yasser Arafat must use every forum to present the needs of the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, Peres, speaking to Israel Radio from Oslo, came out in favor of a Palestinian state, adding that Israel needs a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

Earlier in the day in Oslo, at a formal royal banquet hosted by Norway’s King Harald V in Rabin’s memory, Leah Rabin received a standing ovation from the 220 guests when she urged Clinton, Barak and Arafat to fulfill the dream of peace for which her husband had given his life.

“It’s up to you now,” she said. “Is that too much too ask?”

What is at stake in the final-status negotiations are core issues that go to the heart of a seemingly intractable dispute.

In the coming 10 months, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators face those issues, they will know that the destinies of their peoples will be riding on the outcome of their deliberations.

They will know, too, that this is a rare opportunity to strike a deal — if, indeed, a deal is politically possible for the two sides.

History will weigh heavy on their shoulders.

JTA correspondent Naomi Segal in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Partisan Bickering


Israel’s backers in Washington have long sought to ensure that foreign aid to the Jewish state remains above the partisan fray. This year, however, that has not happened.

With Congress and the White House battling over the budget, Israel’s nearly $3 billion in annual aid as well as funds to help Israel and the Palestinians implement last year’s Wye River accord have been caught in the political wrangling.

A $12.6 billion foreign aid bill narrowly passed both houses of Congress last week, but President Clinton will veto the bill because it falls $2 billion short of his request and does not include funding for Wye, a Clinton administration official said.

Nonetheless, the annual aid for Israel — as well as nearly $2 billion for Egypt, $225 million for Jordan and $75 million intended for the Palestinians — is expected to ultimately find its way to the Middle East.

Less certain, however, is when and how an additional $1.3 billion — which represents the first two installments of a proposed $1.9 billion, three-year package in Wye aid the administration is seeking — will be funded. After the signing of the Wye accord last October, Clinton asked Congress to provide Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians with special funds to help implement the deal, which, among other things, called on Israel to undertake a further withdrawal from the West Bank in three phases in exchange for an aggressive Palestinian effort to root out terrorism.

At the time, congressional Republicans raised questions about how to pay for the package. Those questions became moot after implementation of the agreement was halted by then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But now, with the agreement moving forward after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reached a new understanding in Egypt last month, funding for Wye has become an issue once again.

In a sign of the political showdown over spending priorities, all of the Jewish Democratic lawmakers in both the House and the Senate — in an unprecedented move — voted against the foreign aid bill.

Nearly all of the 21 Jewish Democrats met late last month at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the senior Jewish Democrat in the House, and decided as a group to vote against the bill.

The Jewish lawmakers, who have routinely been the driving force in advocating for passage of the foreign aid bill, say they voted against the measure because it did not provide funding for Wye and because it shortchanged assistance programs in Africa and Latin America.

Despite their opposition, the bill passed by a vote of 214-211 in the House on Oct. 5 and by a 51-49 vote in the Senate the next day. The only two Jewish lawmakers to vote for the bill were Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y.

Lewis Roth, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a group that has actively lobbied for the Wye aid, said it was important for the Jewish lawmakers to take such a stance.

“Jewish lawmakers in Congress recognize that U.S. policy vis-à-vis Israel does not take place in a vacuum,” Roth said. “If Israel is going to exist in a stable environment, then it is very important for the United States to be engaging as much as possible throughout the region and the world.”

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed.

“A bill that is dominated by the Middle East is not a good idea,” the official said, expressing a view echoed by Jewish lawmakers and activists who say such a bill becomes an easier target for cuts.

But Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, criticized Democrats for holding “Israel’s aid hostage for their own political objectives.” He said the razor-thin vote was a “tremendous defeat for foreign aid in general.”

Democrats, however, did not seem concerned about being attacked for voting down a foreign aid bill that included assistance to Israel.

“The pro-Israel vote was a ‘no’ vote,” said Amos Hochstein, a top aide to Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.

Republicans have also accused Democrats — who overwhelmingly supported the foreign aid bill when it first passed Congress during the summer — of voting against this legislation as part of a larger effort to scuttle passage of the various spending bills required to fund the government. After passing the House and Senate, the foreign aid bill then went to a conference committee to iron out differences between the two houses. The new measure was what was voted on last week.

By defeating these measures, the Republicans charge, the Democrats are trying to force congressional Republicans to provide more funding for the president’s initiatives.

Republicans have also said the president did not specifically ask Congress to include money for Wye in the foreign aid bill.

The administration official acknowledged that the White House did not specify that Wye be included in the foreign aid bill, but he said the measure was a “tailor-made vehicle, and they chose not to use it.”

A top aide to Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Ala., chairman of the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said Republicans would be more open to looking at ways to fund Wye and other of the administration’s priorities if he would sign the foreign aid bill.

“Good will begets good will,” Jo Bonner, Callahan’s chief of staff, said, adding that the Republicans were constrained by tight budget caps imposed as part of the 1997 balanced budget agreement.

Meanwhile, the partisan fight over spending priorities put the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in an awkward position concerning the vote, observers said.

The pro-Israel lobby usually leads the way in urging members to back the annual foreign aid bill. Although the group said it supports the bill because it includes Israel’s aid, Capitol Hill aides and others said AIPAC did not aggressively lobby for it, because the Wye funding — which it has been strongly lobbying for — was not included.

After the president vetoes the bill, it will go back to House and Senate negotiators who could work with the White House to revamp the bill and send it back to the president.

What is more likely, observers said, is that the foreign aid bill and possibly the Wye aid could be wrapped up in a catch-all spending bill, known as an omnibus bill, for fiscal year 2000.

“Serious observers of the congressional budget process understand that the push for the Wye money is only just beginning,” said Kenneth Bricker, an AIPAC spokesman.

As they await the outcome of the budget battle, the Israelis, who are hesitant to talk about the partisan fighting, are concerned there could be a delay in receiving the aid. Each year, Israel normally receives its nearly $3 billion in economic and military aid in a lump-sum payment on Oct. 30. The provision, known as “early disbursal, allows Israel to accrue interest on the money.

“Israel has started to implement Wye, specifically territorial movements that require the movement of forces and bases and all of the involved expenses,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. “We are already doing our part, and we hope other parties would do the same.”