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 The Other Israel _ May 1994, Issue No. 61


Incomplete Withdrawal, an Editorial Overview

The Optimist Answer, by Beate Zilversmidt

The Hebron Explosion

To Deplore Is Not Enough, Peace Now advertisement

The Responsibility Of Rabin, statement by ICIPP

Four Days In Haifa, by Iris Bar

The days following the Hebron explosion

Only An End To The Occupation Will End The Bloodshed

Statement by Gush Shalom

Hebron Solidarity Committee Update

Dialogue At Beit Sahour

Generals For Peace

The Conscientious Deserter

The Reluctant Reservist

Chronicles Of Peace Actions

On To The Next Phase, by Matti Peled

Don't Stop At Gaza-Jericho, statement by Gush Shalom

THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P. O. Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.

Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804; E-mail:

Editor: Adam Keller

Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt

The Other Israel
Issue #61


With every passing month, more and more people -- on both sides of the national divide -- started to doubt whether it would ever take place.

The initial enthusiasm which followed the famous handshake in Washingtion had long ago evaporated. December 13, when the Israeli army was due to start withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho passed; so did April 13, when the withdrawal should have been completed; and still the soldiers were there, doing what they have always done: harassing, arresting, shooting...

Meanwhile, at the Cairo talks the Israeli negotiators repeatedly made harsh demands upon Arafat's emissaries, interpreting the text of Oslo in the most narrow and strict way possible -- and gaining full diplomatic backing from the Clinton Administration, which dropped any pretence of being an impartial mediator.

Yasser Arafat's popularity among his people dropped to an all-time low, with many of his former supporters swelling the ranks of the vocal opposition; an increasing number of young Palestinian militants, embittered at seeing soldiers continue to kill their fellows, took up once more the armed struggle -- aimed at Israeli military and civilian targets alike. For their part, these Palestinian attacks increased the feeling of scepticism and distrust among Israelis, gradually eroding their own support for the peace process.

Things came to a head on February 25, Black Friday. The doctor-settler-mass murderer Baruch Goldstein -- a man whose fanatism was, by all accounts, guided by a keen intelligence -- chose well the time and the place for his deadly assault. It was during the prayer of Ramadan, most holy of Muslim holidays, at the Hebron Ibrahimiya Mosque/Cave of the Machpela -- a site venerated by Muslims and Jews alike as the burial place of Avraham/Ibrahim and his sons.

Goldstein's act of murder and desecration left dozens of Muslim worshippers dead and hundreds wounded; many other Palestinians were killed by the army in the riots which immediately broke out all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, spreading also to Arab towns and villages inside Israel. The closure of the Occupied Territories was re-imposed in all its severity -- once more depriving 120,000 already impoverished workers of their livelihood. For more than a month, Israelis lived in apprehension of the coming Palestinian retaliation -- yet when it did come, the country reeled under the two painful blows landed by young Palestinian suicide bombers at the towns of Afula and Hadera*. But though he left behind him a long trail of blood, Goldstein failed in his main purpose: to derail the peace process.

Indeed, the Hebron massacre may have jostled the Cairo talks out the rut in which they were long stuck. With the Palestinian Intifada once more flaring up everywhere, Rabin was faced with the possibility of a total collapse of the whole process, leading to the fall of Arafat and an uncontrollable escalation. Therefore, the decision was taken to start evacuating military installations in the Gaza Strip, even before a detailed agreement was signed with the PLO; and in the ongoing negotiations, Rabin made several concessions which he did not originally intend, such as the introduction of international observers into Hebron, and granting the Palestinian Self-Governing Authority some trappings of sovereignty: a separate international telephone code, the right to issue postage stamps, the right to issue passports...

Still, the negotiations were tough, and the definite agreement contained many provisions extremely distasteful to the Palestinians. A particular sore spot was the very limited dimensions of the Jericho enclave -- a mere 62 square kilometers, surrounded on all sides by Israeli settlements and military bases. Debate on this point continued, indeed, up to the Cairo signing ceremony itself; the grand spectacle, carefully orchestrated by Egyptian President Mubarak, was disrupted when Yasser Arafat refused to sign the Jericho maps appended to the agreement. Only after frantic negotiations and exhortations, carried out under the gaze of an astonished worldwide TV audience, did Arafat consent to sign the controversial map -- under protest, and subject to further negotiations.

Arafat's sulky behaviour at Cairo matched well the mood among his people. On the streets of Palestinian towns, no celebrations were to be seen -- such as characterized the time of the Washington ceremony, seven months earlier. Too much blood had been shed in the intervening period, too many hopes dashed, for the mere fact of one more signature to arouse much enthusiasm. Yet within a few days, the change became manifest. One by one, the Israeli military installations were evacuated. Some of them were handed over to the Palestinians with handshakes and formal, televised ceremonies. However, at "hot spots" such as Jabaliya Refugee Camp -- "Cradle of the Intifada" -- the army pulled out unannounced, in the middle of the night; inhabitants woke up to find the hated and feared guard towers deserted.

With the real withdrawal, the scenes of rejoicing did come. Members of the Palestinian police -- actually veteran PLO fighters who had been dispersed throughout the Arab world -- were given a hero's welcome in the streets of Gaza and Jericho; youngsters were quick to enter the installations at which they had been throwing stones for so long, and hang Palestinian flags everywhere; former detainees returned to the -- now open and empty -- cells where they had been interrogated and tortured... and, for the first time in seven years, inhabitants of Gaza enjoyed the simple freedom of walking the streets at night undeterred by curfew.

The whole process was broadcast day after day into every house in Israel, with the noticeable feature of Israeli soldiers and officers broadly smiling, obviously relieved at the long-awaited Farewell to Gaza (banner headline of Ma'ariv, May 15).


Whether or not by device, the implementation of the Gaza/Jericho deal coincided with the South African elections and Nelson Mandela's inauguration. The comparison was inevitable -- and the differences obvious: where Apartheid had been abolished in all of South Africa, Israeli occupation troops still maintain a brutal rule over most inhabitants of the West Bank; and a full quarter of the Gaza Strip remains under control of Israeli settlers, enjoying extra-territorial status, and of Israeli soldiers who continue to patrol the corridors linking each settler enclave to Israel.

Already within a few days of the withdrawal from Gaza, the grave problems inherent in this situation became manifest: Gaza-based radical Muslim militants started a campaign of ambushes and armed attacks against the remaining soldiers and settlers; the Israelis demanded that the Palestinian police take action to find and disarm them. The not yet well-organised Palestinian authorities were faced with a difficult dilemma: confronting the opposition groups may precipitate a civil war and leave the PLO open to accusations of collaborating with the still unfinished occupation; on the other hand, avoidance of such confrontation might be considered by Rabin a breach of the agreement, and entail a halt in implementation of the Oslo agreement's second stage.

Meanwhile, there is a growing agitation among the Palestinian grass-roots activists, in both the evacuated areas and those still under direct occupation rule. Supporters as well as opponents of the peace process are clamoring for democratization; having made enormous sacrifices during seven years of Intifada, the Palestinian population is not about to submit meekly to any ruler.

Agitation is further increased by the deep economic crisis, with the ongoing closure still depriving tens of thousands of their workplaces in Israel; and even should all promises of international assistance be fulfilled, it would take years before new jobs are actually created in the Gaza Strip itself.

Clearly, the situation after the incomplete withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho is extremely unstable. The second stage envisaged by the Oslo agreement is the holding of free elections throughout the whole West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the redeployment of the army outside all populated areas. This was supposed to take place by July 13 -- but, judging by the long delay in implementing the first stage, it seems highly unlikely that this date will be kept.

Negotiations on the modalities for elections and re-deployment are bound to be long and difficult -- and accompanied by a great deal of violence. Moreover, as long as no settlements are removed, these long negotiations would inevitably end with the West Bank transformed into a maze of armed enclaves, Israeli and Palestinian, linked by criss-crossing narrow and winding corridors, providing endless opportunities for provocations, confrontations and armed clashes, and multiplying the problems already evident in Gaza. According to Oslo, this situation is then supposed to last for a five-year "interim period"...

Contemplating this soldier's nightmare, a growing number of Israeli generals start questioning the whole Oslo concept of Peace in Stages; they find common ground with the more daring politicians and diplomats, who advocate an early start of the negotiations on the definite solution. It is obvious to generals and politicians alike that such a solution must include the creation of a full-fledged Palestinian state.

Whatever course things take in the coming months and years, they will be deeply effected by the new facts created at Gaza and Jericho. The full import was brought home to Israeli viewers by the terse report of a veteran TV commentator: It's over. Today, General Ilan Biran of the Israeli Defence Forces handed Jericho to General Haj Isma'il of the Palestine Liberation Army. This is Ehud Ya'ari of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, speaking from Jericho, Palestine.

The editor

* Rightwing agitators converged on the two attacked towns where they expected large-scale racist riots such as broke out in Afula in 1985, after the killing of two inhabitants. However, nothing similar happened. Though there were some anti-Arab outbursts, the public in general stayed calm. A common attitude at both towns and throughout the country was: `We have the doctor (Goldstein ed.) to thank for this.'


The optimist answer

by Beate Zilversmidt

One of the consequences of what started in Oslo, and led to some touching TV pictures this week, was a period of reconsideration in the peace movement. Are our actions still meaningful?

Not that anybody expects that everything will from now on move by itself. But it has become rather difficult to explain to quite a number of Israelis what more do we want. To the superficial observer it seems that with Rabin in power we have "our man at the wheel". And the same superficial observer feels that Rabin is already giving Arafat whatever he wants. It isn't going quick enough? Come on! Jericho isn't all of the West Bank? And what about the settlers? They will already have problems enough being surrounded by the Palestinian police. Do you want to cut Jerusalem into two?

Now that things became a little bit less immovable, already the slogans which for years sounded good became void and tasteless. The "moral minority" needs
to find new expressions. Women in Black has this problem; the Jerusalemers stopped, the Tel-Avivians continue "as long as there is occupation, and as long as armed settlers are living among the occupied Palestinians."

Among the Yesh Gvul reservists opposing the occupation there is an ongoing discussion. Part feels that time has come to be less critical and support the government. Others still don't want to serve in the Occupied Territories where they might have to shoot impatient stone-throwing Palestinian youths who (like everybody else) saw the "liberation" broadcast on television, but who for the time being -- and who knows for how much longer -- still suffer all the same from the hated Israeli soldiers and settlers in their own towns and villages; entry to Israel is denied to them all the same, which means: no work, no money, every few days a curfew, and (not to forget) the fear that Israel is playing a trick; that it is Gaza and Jericho first -- and last.

On May 4, the day of the definite signature in Cairo, we also had a conflict flaring up in Gush Shalom. It was all about the text of the weekly advertisement. The proposal was for the challenging, optimistic headline A state in the making and only in the small characters the mention of what was still missing. A persistent minority insisted on publishing that we are not happy with the accord. The result was: no advertisement, and only a few Gush Shalomers who went to celebrate that day with Peace Now, at the Gaza Strip border. A week later -- after the first TV pictures of cheering Palestinians -- the advertisement was after all published, albeit under the headline: Don't halt at Gaza-Jericho!

Optimism as a strategy is gaining momentum. Gradually the psychological impact of each visible step forward becomes manifest -- as was the case last September. Even seasoned Israeli nationalists are becoming confused. On Wednesday, May 11, the Israeli parliament had to ratify retroactively the signing in Cairo of the 300-page long accord with the PLO. Gush Shalom decided on what seemed to be a rather daring plan: a demonstration at the spot under the slogan From Gaza-Jericho to the Palestinian state. We expected severe troubles with hundreds of furious settlers, but it ended in an anti-climax. Israeli television broadcasted the day-long Knesset debate, and though it was now and then a fiery spectacle, Gush Shalom demonstrated all alone outside the building.

Perhaps the discussion with one of the bypassers is even more significant. A man started complaining: "You want to give away the whole country! Where should I go? I already once had to pack my bags, I am from Morocco! What Palestinian state -- a state of murderers it will be!" So far nothing new, and we asked him: "What is your solution?" This question took him by surprise. He probably expected us to start shouting at him. He thought for a second until something came up. "Each one should live in his own country, and leave the other alone!" he screamed. At this we wholeheartedly agreed with him. The man laughed a bit, as if thinking: "What did I say?"

+++ In the afternoon of May 4, the day of the Cairo signing, Peace Now buses set out for Gaza and a podium was erected next to Erez Checkpoint. From it, several speakers addressed an audience of some two to three hundred. The mood was cautiously optimistic, and not even Avi Farchan, the notorious settler leader who came to disturb, succeeded in breaking the calm. The organisers distributed roses among the listeners, intended to be given afterwards to the soldiers at the checkpoint.

Then, just as the quiet rally was nearing its end, something did happen which totally changed the atmosphere. On the other side of the barbed wire, some ten Palestinians stood on each other's shoulders, waving Palestinian flags. From one stick, the longest one, they waved an improvised Israeli flag together with the Palestinian Red, White, Green and Black. Soon after the first Israeli saw it, the whole crowd started running towards the border fence, leaving the last speaker to himself. Suddenly, border guards appeared, preventing the Israelis from getting closer to the barbed wire. But they could not stop Dedi Zucker, who as a Knesset Member had the right to go wherever he wants -- within the boundaries of the state. He became the messenger, going with some of the Israeli flags which Peace Now displays at every event, coming back with his arms full of Palestinian flags. Peace Now youths started to dance and sing holding ever more Palestinian flags. The Palestinians were accumulating the Israeli Blue and White. There was ecstasy on both sides of the barbed wire, with the border guards caught in the middle in a state of confusion, and roses in their hands. That was the moment which was broadcast on the television news of the same evening -- a quite incredible scene for those who were not there.


The Hebron explosion

In the early morning hours of Friday, February 25, news of the horror in Hebron spread fast, leaving virtually everybody in a state of shock. Settler provocations aimed at derailing the peace process had happened before, but the act of entering a mosque and cutting down as many worshippers as possible with a machine-gun went definitely beyond the most cynical nightmare scenario evolved by any peace-activist.

Gradually the telephone consultations between groups and organizations got started; mid-day vigils were scheduled, and the organizers embarked on hours of urgent telephoning.
+++ In North Tel-Aviv, the normal Friday vigils of Yesh Gvul and Women in Black were extended from one hour to three, being reinforced by Communists and Mapam members. At about two o'clock everybody marched to the Defence Ministry on Kaplan Street, where Prime Minister/Defence Minister Rabin had convened his cabinet for an emergency session.

With the arrival of Gush Shalom and Peace Now some 250 people were crowding the pavement opposite the Ministry gate. The atmosphere was totally different from the normal calm in demonstrations held at this site. Faces were contorted in anger, and there were loud shouts: Disarm the settlers! and The Settlers` Council is behind the crime! When the heavy ministry gate swung open, dozens of youths sprung forward, running across the narrow street. Three actually succeeded in penetrating the Defence Ministry compound -- and were promptly arrested. The rest sat down in the middle of the road, chanting defiantly at the police. The stand-off lasted for some ten minutes; in the end, the youths accepted the appeal of Peace Now organizer Uri Hirschfeld: "You made your point; the police will make no more arrests if you now vacate the road."

+++ At the same hour a demonstration was going on in Jerusalem. Also there: clashes between police and activists after the arrest of one who was carrying an Israeli flag and "desecrating" it with red spray-paint.

+++ Meanwhile, real trouble was brewing up a few kilometres south of the Defence Ministry -- at Jaffa, where an isolated Arab community is living under slum conditions. Even before the national Arab leadership issued its call for a one-
day mourning strike, demonstrations and processions organized by various local groups moved up and down Yefet Street -- main throughfare of Arab Jaffa, whose restaurants are in quieter times popular among Tel-Avivians.

Later, there were many debates on the exact nature of the incident which started the violence in Jaffa; it seems that the first to be violently dispersed by the police were a small group of Arab feminists, who demonstrated separately after being excluded from the earlier Muslim demonstration. But whatever the original cause, the situation escalated rapidly; by Saturday noon, hundreds of Jaffa youths were engaged in full-scale street battles with the police, and most shop windows along a two-kilometre stretch had been smashed by flying stones.

The Jaffa riots exposed the weakness of political contacts between Jaffa and Tel-Aviv, despite the geographical proximity. Tel-Aviv peace activists heard about what was going on in Jaffa only through the radio -- in dramatic news bulletins of "a blind outburst of violence". Phone calls to Jaffa activists were of no avail, since the latter were out on the streets -- if not in police detention. There was practically no Jewish presence at the Jaffa demonstrations on this day.

+++ The Tel-Avivians continued with their efforts of mobilizing for an evening rally in Jerusalem -- called by Peace Now and joined by most of the smaller groups. At seven on Saturday evening, about 36 hours after the massacre, some five thousand people turned up at the plaza outside the Van Leer Institute -- the largest number ever collected by telephone alone. (The weekend papers had already been printed at the time of the massacre.)

The prevailing mood in the rally was of great anger at the settler movement as a whole. The television pictures of cheering Kiryat Arba settlers expressing outright support for "Doctor Goldstein" were on everybody's mind. Youths were chanting: Down with Kiryat Arba! Speakers -- among them cabinet ministers -- vied with one another in calling for stern measures. Knesset Member Ran Cohen of Meretz -- himself a reserve colonel -- cried out: Not only Goldstein committed murder -- also the soldiers who shot at the fleeing worshippers!. And Labor KM Yael Dayan received a loud applause after her declaration: Palestine Now! That is the only way to Peace Now!

Filed back into the bus, some sceptic among the demonstrators remarked: These people are all in the government. What are they really going to do?

+++ On Sunday morning, news came of resumed and extending riots in Jaffa. During the night, police detectives had raided dozens of homes of "known agitators", altogether arresting 48. In the morning angry relatives besieged the Jaffa police station. More arrests followed, bringing the total by evening to 160. Meanwhile, a growing wave of demonstrations, confrontations and riots went through the various Arab towns and villages in the Galilee and the Triangle.

At the Negev town of Rahat, inhabited by Bedouin tribespeople forcibly uprooted from their traditional lands and way of life, the news from Hebron touched off accumulated anger. Confronted with a furious crowd in the hitherto quiet town, police opened fire. Mohammad Abu Jame', a young man with no other ambition than becoming a policeman himself, became the first Arab citizen of Israel to be killed in such circumstances since 1976. His funeral, two days later, became the largest gathering ever seen among Bedouins, with tens of thousands of mourners marching several kilometres to the Rahat cemetary.

The coffin was draped in a Palestinian flag.

By the middle of the week, the wave of Arab rioting inside Israel was over, and the detainees released. In Hebron itself, however, the fury had not calmed down at all. The population defied the army's efforts to impose a curfew -- with the number of Palestinians killed or wounded by the army rapidly surpassing those which Goldstein left behind. From various directions the call was made for more coordination between Jews and Arabs in their protests.
+++ In Jaffa -- at the very spot which had seen such fierce rioting a few days before -- a Jewish-Arab Tent of Mourning was established, manned for three days and nights by young volunteers of the Re'ut/Sadaka youth movement. Numerous candles were lighted at the Memorial Plaque for the Hebron Victims erected on the spot.
+++ Members of the religious peace group Oz veShalom held a public prayer in Jerusalem "to cry out at the horrible bloodshed and desecreation, the killing of worshippers in the very act of abasing themselves before the Lord." The prayer was joined by some members of the right-wing youth movement Bney Akiva, who explained: "We fully support the settlers, but we also fully condemn the massacre." Their nuanced position posed some problems for their allies and opponents alike.

+++ The student councils of the Tel-Aviv highschools held a protest demonstration under the slogan: The doctor hurt us all! (The school administrations supported the idea a bit too much, punishing the right-wing pupils who did not attend...)
+++ As the mourning tent in Jaffa was folded up, a press conference was held on the spot, where Peace Now and The Arab Mayors' Committee declared their intention to organize a massive joint march and rally on the evening of March 5.

It was truly a precedent-setting event; tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs mingling freely during the torchlight march along the streets of Tel-Aviv, and the subsequent hours-long rally at the Municipality Square -- listening to a carefully equal number of Jewish and Arab speakers, and holding aloft their giant banners: Disarm the settlers!, Jewish Hamas out! and No exceptions, down with all settlements! (the last one introduced by Gush Shalom).

The newspapers, in their reports on the following day, greatly varied in their estimates of the number of demonstrators -- from 25,000 to 100,000. The most quoted speaker was author Yizhar Smilanski. His Gaza, Jericho and Hebron first -- that is the peace plan of Peace Now! made headlines. And the photograph appearing on several March 6 front pages showed a youth standing up to his waist in the municipal pool, holding aloft two flags: the Israeli flag in his right hand, and the Palestinian flag in his left.

To deplore is not enough!

The following is the text of the Peace Now advertisement as it appeared in several papers.

Every single one of us must take to the streets and demand that the murderers and their supporters be cast out from our midst.
We will hold a march and mass rally in the name of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, mutual trust and peace.
Together we shall demand of the Government of Israel:

+++ Remove the settlers from Hebron immediately; their presence will only cause the shedding of more blood, Arab and Jewish;

+++ Remove the settlements from Gaza;

+++ Implement the Gaza-Jericho Accord successfully and move on quickly to negotiations on final peace agreements. Otherwise the opportunity for peace may be lost.

Contact: Peace Now, POB 6733, Tel-Aviv 61066

In the days after the wave of protests, the time seemed ripe for drastic measures. The newspapers published in their headlines that a majority of government ministers supported immediate expulsion of the settlers from the heart of Hebron. It seemed at that time a quite likely outcome, which could have gotten massive support among the public. Yet, like on previous occasions, the dovish majority in the government showed itself unable to confront the Prime Minister. Rabin was unwilling to dismantle any settlements "at this stage of the negotiations," and his threat to bring the right-wing into his government worked once more as an effective means of intimidation.

Rabin did offer a few concessions -- to the doves, to the Palestinians, to Israeli and international public opinion. He agreed to station international observers in Hebron -- but unarmed, and without the authority to really defend the inhabitants from the settlers. He agreed to outlaw the racist Kach movement -- but the arrest of its leaders was carried out slowly and inefficiently by a reluctant police force, and thousands of armed fanatics among the settlers, who happened not to hold Kach membership cards, went scot free.

Rabin's most significant concession turned out to be his reluctant assent to the creation of an independent judicial commission of inquiry. The commission's hearings and the quite intensive cross-examination of junior and senior army officers were broadcast live on Israeli TV; they revealed many things the army wanted kept secret -- the extent of collusion between army and settlers and in particular, the explicit order given to soldiers "not to shoot on a settler, even if they see him shooting at Palestinians."

Yet, exposing a nasty reality does not automatically make it disappear. With Rabin's definite decision to let the settlers stay in Hebron, the right-wing took heart and reorganized. Large military forces were brought into Hebron "to protect the settlers;" and the city was virtually partitioned by a concrete wall -- reminiscent, even in its physical shape, of the pre-'89 Berlin Wall...

The center of Hebron, where the settlers live, is nearly cut off from the rest -- and the Palestinians who happen to live there (and who greatly outnumber the settlers) are subjected to daily harassment, a new pass systemm requiring them to show residency documents every time they enter or leave their homes.

There is still a lot to be done!

The responsibility of Rabin

Immediately after the massacre, at noon on February 25, the ICIPP issued the following statement to the Israeli and international media.

The mass murder of Hebron inhabitants, carried out today by a settler or settlers from Kiryat Arba (we are far from convinced it was only one), is a direct result of the Prime Minister's hesitation in implementing the Oslo Agreement -- which he himself signed and which aroused so many hopes. Mr. Rabin did not keep to the schedule stipulated in the agreement, and instead made enormous efforts to appease the settler opponents of the peace process. He carefully avoided stating the obvious: that the settlements have no future in the framework of any conceivable peace agreement. By this ommission, the Prime Minister gave the various armed settler factions, from Gush Emunim to Kach, the hope that their provocations -- to which the authorities turned a blind eye -- would have the desired result: ending the peace process. The massacre in Hebron is not the act of a single psychopath, but the culmination of an armed campaign declared quite openly, months ago, by the settler leadership.

The natural and minimal reaction to today's massacre, perpetrated by settlers from Kiryat Arba, should be the immediate removal of this provocateur population and the return of the land to its rightful owners, the inhabitants of Hebron. The absence of such a clear response would constitute an invitation to the settlers to continue with ever more gruesome deeds, until they do succeed in destroying the chance for peace.

The Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
P.O.B. 2542, Holon 58125

+++ On March 5, a Jewish-Arab delegation organized by Hanitzotz/El Baqa (opposed to the Oslo accord) visited bereaved families, who all lost a son in the riots after the Hebron massacre: Fahdi El Issawi (17) from Issawiya, West Bank; Amjad Shahin (17) East Jerusalem, and the Israeli citizen Mohammad Abu Jame' (24) in the Bedouin town Rahat, Negev desert.

Four days in Haifa

In Haifa -- Israel's northern port town -- Jews and Arabs are living less segregated and are, therefore, more aware of each other than in other parts of the country. That is evident from the account of the days following the Hebron massacre -- written down by peace activist Iris Bar.

These were very intense days on the streets of Haifa. A great many people were involved, often going under the name "Patriotic Youth", though some were young only in spirit. Going into the streets on Friday, hours after the blood-
curdling news from Hebron, meant for most going back to normal only after four days of street action. Many belonged to the loose coalition known as Ibna'a Haifa (Sons of Haifa), but there were others, from different organizations and groups -- or belonging to no group at all -- with a wild variety of political opinions.

The first demonstration took place at noon on that Black Friday. Some hundred and fifty people gathered outside the Shekem Department Store in the Hadar neig
hborhood, at that hour an area crowded with weekend shoppers. The act was initiated by Amir Mahul of the Equality Covenant -- a veteran activist who is on good terms with all groups.

After an hour, many of the participants started marching down Mount Carmel, to Wadi Nisnas -- the largest Arab neighborhood of Haifa. There, many inhabitants joined them. For the first time, the Palestinian flag -- prohibited for so many years -- was openly carried through the streets. There were very emotional reactions to the appearance of this symbol of national identity. Old women went down from the balconies, snatched the flag from the youngsters, kissed, danced with it...

The procession dispersed at two o'clock. Thereupon, activists of different groups gathered at the Communist Club, to plan further action. First, a campaign of collecting money and medical equipment for Hebron's Aliya Hospital was launched. (It went on briskly, during the following weeks, efficiantly coordinated by the local Educational Association which gave its premises for the purpose.) Next, black flags were made, and some of the youths went out to distribute them; within the hour, they could be seen flying from many houses. Meanwhile the discussion went on about how to organise a bigger demonstration.

In a meeting of Arab Labor Party members, Arab town councillors, and Haifa "notables" -- held at the same hour in the Beit Hagefen Jewish-Arab Cultural Center -- the condolences of Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna to the Arab population were expressed , and his cooperation offered. Telephone calls and activists going back and forth between the two simultaneous meetings succeeded in bridging the considerable gap in temperament and political orientation. Two demonstrations were unanimously decided upon: one on the following morning, Saturday, at the Nisnas neighborhood; the other, a Jewish-Arab demonstration under municipal auspices, to be held two days later.

Meanwhile, a general strike of the Arab population throughout the country was decided upon by the national Arab leadership, in an emergency meeting at Shfar'amer. Unfortunately, the news arrived at Haifa too late for effective organization of a local strike. The Nisnas merchants, under the impression that the strike was scheduled for Monday, the time of the big demonstration, opened their shops as usual on the following day.

From the morning, crowds gathered at the entrance to Nisnas neighborhood. At eleven, about a thousand people started marching, with dozens of Palestinian and black flags fluttering in the wind. There were cries of anger against the merchants who kept their shops open. As the procession wound its way through the alleys, shop shutters went down, and some of the merchants joined the march. The strike was observed for the rest of the day.

At Halisa, the poorest and most isolated Arab neighborhood in Haifa, initiative was taken by the Islamic Movement. The strike and demonstration were announced from the loudspeaker at the minaret of the local mosque. Ten minutes later, five carloads of policemen arrived at the mosque and dramatically broke in -- only to find the place empty. The police refrained, however, from interfering with the demonstration itself, where about a hundred people raised green Islamic flags and carried symbolic coffins.

At the evening of Sunday -- the third consecutive day of demonstrations -- another symbolic funeral, held by some two hundred youths, started out from Nisnas. It turned up Mount Carmel, into the mainly-Jewish commercial center of Haifa. The proclaimed aim was to address the Jewish public opinion, rather than stay within the Arab neighborhoods. This time, the Haifa police abandoned the uncharacteristic restraint of the previous days. When the Nisnas marchers arrived at the Shekem Plaza, a large police force suddenly attacked them, arresting twelve. The rest were chased all the way back to Nisnas.

People became very furious: anger at the Hebron horror mixing with the many local grievances of this grossly under-developed neighborhood. The main street was blocked again and again by demonstrators, with policemen repeatedly charging and chasing them into the alleys, from which volleys of stones were thrown; altogether, twenty-three people were arrested. Twelve of them, considered by the police to be "the main agitators" were kept locked up overnight.

Unlike the previous demonstrations, attended mainly by Arabs with a sprinkling of Jewish activists, there was a conspicuous Jewish presence at the municipal demonstration. Zionist parties and movements -- such as Meretz, Labor and Peace Now -- made a considerable mobilization of their members -- as did the Haifa Boy Scouts. But the Palestinian flag was in the air during this demonstration, as well; TV cameras captured the image of Haifa Mayor, the former general Amram Mitzna, marching under the same flag against which he had fought for many years.

After a relatively short march, the demonstration ended in a rally, with the activists relegated to the passive role of spectators and listeners. There was loud cheering at the unusually sharp speech by the Peace Now speaker Ruthie Du'ek.

Shortly after the demonstration, the police released the previous day's detainees. Afterwards, Mayor Mitzna confirmed to the press that they had been detained overnight at his request. Reverting to the terminology of his days as a military governor, Mitzna outlined his two-pronged strategy of "enabling the people to let off steam, while using selective force against extremist agitators."
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About two months later, Iris Bar informed the TOI-staff that police in Haifa had started to interrogate dozens of the Arab participants in the four days' demonstrations (mainly the youngest). They got a warning to `stop making trouble'; some got offers to become paid informers for the police and security services.
A Haifa Campaign Against Police Intimidation is being launched, involving local papers and the Haifa branch of ACRI (Association for Civil Rights).
Letters of protest to: Yitzchak Bar, Commander of the Minorities Section, Haifa Police, 26 Yafo St., Haifa;
Copies to: Iris Bar, 10 Yarden St., Halisa, Haifa.

Only an end to the Occupation
will end the bloodshed

The following Gush Shalom statement was published prominently in the Jerusalem Times of April 8, the week of the bus attacks:

With great pain Gush Shalom mourns the innocent victims of the assault in Afula.
With disgust we hear that before the victims were laid to rest the leaders of the right-wing have already seized upon them for political gain.

After the massacre of Afula, as well as the massacre of Hebron, the government should redouble its efforts to speed up the negotiations and withdraw -- not only from Gaza but from all the Occupied Territories. Occupation leads to bitterness and hatred on both sides, and only an end to the occupation will end the bloodshed between Jews and Arabs.
Gush Shalom POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110

In our February issue we published an extensive article on the already then explosive situation in Hebron and the activities of the Jerusalem-based HSC (Hebron Solidarity Committee), a group of about 20 Israeli and foreign activists. Here follows an update.
+++ Following the settler doctor's massacre, the IDF placed the Palestinian population of Hebron under curfew for almost an entire month, preventing them from leaving their homes to work, buy food, donate blood, or receive medical treatment. Meanwhile, settlers continued to enjoy the freedom of walking the streets, brandishing their weapons.

During the curfew, the HSC initiated an international fundraising campaign to provide desperately needed medical supplies to Hebron hospitals and to supply food to curfew-bound residents. On February 28, the HSC -- with already a record of entering Hebron at unlikely times (TOI-60, p.4-5) -- succeeded in getting emergency medical supplies into Hebron; in subsequent weeks it organized several successful food deliveries to Palestinian families. Donations raised in the campaign were directed to the Hebron Emergency Committee formed by all the Palestinian political factions in Hebron.
+++ On March 6, the HSC organized a demonstration in West Jerusalem's commercial center. The demonstrators held up life-size effigies of Prime Minister Rabin, Foreign Minister Peres, and Army Chief-of-Staff Ehud Barak, as well as of the murderous Dr. Goldstein -- all four with signs reading Guilty. The street-side exhibition included makeshift coffins, a black mourning flag and a reading of the names of the victims. To judge from the reactions of bypassers, the demonstrators did succeed in making their point against the establisment version of the massacre, which attempted to limit responsibility to "a single deranged extremist."

+++ On April 11, the HSC participated, invited by the Hebron Emergency Committee, in a protest march held by Hebron inhabitants to protest against the extended curfew in Hebron's Old City, against collective punishments, and against the barring of Muslim worshippers from the Ibrahimi Mosque -- site of the massacre.
+++ The HSC has started a project with a Hebron women's embroidery workshop, assisting the women with sales to interested organizations in the U.S. and Euro
pe. Meanwhile funds are also raised for the renovation of Palestinian homes in the Old City of Hebron -- where every neglected, deserted house is an invitation for more settlers to come in. A political seminar for Israeli, Palestinian and foreign activists is being planned.

Donations to, and information from:

HSC, POB 31417, Jerusalem; fax: 972.2.253151.

Dialogue at Beit Sahour

On March 17, the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement (PCR) at the West Bank town of Beit Sahour hosted a dialogue meeting between Palestinians and Israelis, the first to take place after the Hebron massacre. The 70 participants assembled in three age groups and discussed the massacre and its impact on future Israeli-Palestinian relations. A further meeting took place on April 7, immediately following the retaliatory carnage in Afula. The participants in the dialogue meeting did not have great difficulty in agreeing upon the need to stop the cycle of violence.

Also discussed was an issue of primary importance to the inhabitants of Beit Sahour: plans by the Jerusalem municipality, supported by the Rabin government, to build another exclusively Jewish neighborhood on lands confiscated from Beit Sahourian families and annexed to Israel to become part of "Greater Jerusalem."

Under the name "Har Homa", a settlement-neighborhood is to be constructed just north of Beit Sahour, at Abu-Ghoneim Mountain; eight thousand houses, two hotels and a central prison(!) are planned at the site. Both before and after Oslo, Palestinians brought up the issue -- but the Israeli negotiators claim that the area, being "part of Jerusalem", is excluded from the present negotiations, thus buying time to create facts and settle tens of thousands more Jews on Palestinian lands.

During the April 7 meeting a decisiom for joint Israeli-Palestinian protest action was taken; the Committee to Defend the Lands of Abu-Ghoneim was officially launched.

For more details: PCR Newsletter `The Voice of the Voiceless', Beit Sahour, POB 24, West Bank via Israel; fax: 972.2.745254/741889.

Generals for Peace

On several occasions during the past year, Israeli Newspaper readers encountered full-page advertisements, with long lists of retired generals and colonels who declared themselves in support of the peace process, signing such statements as Leaving Gaza and Jericho is an act of peace-making and a test for the maintenance of security. Making peace requires no less courage than going to the battlefield. We congratulate the leaders of the peace process. The ads were placed by the the Council for Peace and Security (CPS) -- an organization whose 850-strong membership is composed mostly of retired senior officers of the Israeli Defence Forces, plus their colleagues of the Israeli Police, former operatives of the Israeli Security Services, and several -- not neccesarily retired -- of the richest and most influential business managers in Israel.

In April, members of the CPS became concerned at the increase of right-wing "junction demonstrations" against the peace process (see previous issue, p.6-
7). The newly-chosen CPS Chair Shlomo Lahat -- whose record includes command of the IDF Armoured Corps, twenty years as Mayor of Tel-Aviv, and a rather dissident membership in the Likud Party -- took the initiative for a more direct kind of action.

At noon on April 15, some seventy retired generals (among them ICIPP President Matti Peled) stationed themselves, holding signs reading "Peace and Security", at a junction in north Tel-Aviv which had already seen many political events. However, no previous demonstration on the site received as much media coverage, or generated as much public debate, as "The Demonstration of the Peace Generals". It was not a one-time affair, either; the generals persisted in holding weekly vigils, alternating between the Tel-Aviv junction and Jerusalem's France Square -- vacated by the no longer active Jerusalem Women in Black.

On the evening of April 22, Israeli TV viewers were exposed to a curious sight: Extreme-right leader Rehav'am Ze'evi -- also a retired army general -- advancing on his former comrades-in-arms, shouting "Traitors! Bastards!" and attempting to tear up their placards. Shlomo Lahat, interviewed shortly after Ze'evi and his follwers had been thrown back, was unruffled: "I know Ze'evi from the old army days. He was always like this".

Contact: CPS, P.O.B. 29051, Tel-Aviv 61290; fax: 972.3.5442171.

Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.

The conscientious deserter

Over the past year, the army adopted an attitude of repressive tolerance towards reserve soldiers refusing service in the Occupied Territories. In most cases, when such soldiers appear at their units and declare their refusal, they are either sent home or given an alternative assignment inside the boundaries of Israel. However, the case of 42-year old photographer Peter Wiener, long-time member of Yesh Gvul, was different. He was ordered to show up at a base camp itself located in the Occupied Territories (at Anatot, north of Jerusalem, in the heart of Intifada Country). Wiener's commanding officer made clear that a refusal voiced over the telephone is not valid, and that unless Wiener showed up in person he would be declared to be a deserter and a fugitive from military law.

Wiener's Open Letter to the Military Authorities was published in several newspapers: I am not a deserter, nor do I seek to avoid military duty; I am a conscientious refuser, who refuses to take part in the repression of the Palestinian people. On the same evening, a team of the military police "Deserter-Cathers" appeared at Wiener's home in South Tel-Aviv; the leader stated, a bit apologetically: "Sorry, as far as the Army is concerned, you are a deserter."

In practice, it did not make much of a difference: Wiener got the same punishment (28 days) as is usually given to refusers. A solidarity campaign was organised by Yesh Gvul; the Davar article published by Rayna Moss, Wiener's wife, was copied and disrtibuted; and the by now traditional form of solidarity -- a demonstration on the mountain overlooking the Atlit Military Prison -- was enacted once again. Wiener also got warm greetings from Palestinian prisoners at Nablus Prison (sentenced to far longer terms). On the Israeli Day of Independence, Wiener got a pardon (without having asked for one) and was released before the end of his term.
Contact: Yesh Gvul, P.O.B. 4172, Tel-Aviv 61041.

The reluctant reservist

One of the army's main missions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is to escort the settlers during all hours of the day and night, on public and sometimes private journeys, so that they could safely reach their destinations. Reservists immensely dislike this duty for which they don't even receive appropriate training. After completing their reserve duty, most try to forget about it as quickly as possible. Some get angry enough to send letters to the Chief-of-Staff or to the Defense Minister. From time to time such a letter finds its way into the press. The following fragments were taken from Yerushalayim (April 8), which published at length reservist Moshe Zigdon's report.

"The first escorting I was ordered to do was of high school students from Rimonim settlement, going to a Purim party in Ma'aleh Ephraim -- an escort duty between settlements far from Arab villages. In the coming days I got to know the less comfortable journeys: nightmare rides into tiny settlements in the heart of dense Arab populations. Settlements such as Psagot, Kochav Ya'kov, Kochav Ha'shachar, Dolev, Talmon, Eli, Shilo, Ma'aleh Levona, Nachliel, Neve Tsuf, Chalamish -- enclaves of several dozen families each, which require the allocation of massive forces to secure the roads and maintain their very existence there.

Friday was supposed to be one of the lighter days. On the eve of Purim, the children were on holiday and there was no transportation to schools. But in the early hours of the morning reports started arriving about the massacre at the Machpela Cave in Hebron; though no one yet fully appreciated the scope of what happened, alertness in the field rose to peak levels. The residents of Ramallah went out on the streets despite the closure, and we were sent to make sure that none of them went in the direction of Israel. The only escorting done that day was at 10:00 p.m. We had to accompany a car of nurses from Dolev and Talmon to their shifts at the hospital.

We set out for Dolev, myself and two combat-trained soldiers, but in order to reach the settlement we had to pass through Ramallah. The road was dark, and the fear of Palestinian revenge attacks made all three of us rather nervous. At the main intersection we faced youths barricading the road, setting tires on fire and stoning every passing vehicle. We were stuck in the middle of unfamiliar territory. The two combattants jumped out of the jeep and found cover. I, new in that business, remained stuck in the jeep.

Two shots passed just above our heads and the two soldiers returned fire, without knowing exactly where the shots came from. I shouted to them and requested instructions: do I abandon the jeep and hide? Flee? They did not even hear me. I drove in reverse and hid behind a house. Suddenly we heard Border Guards shouting: "Don't shoot, don't shoot, we are in control of the area."

We returned to camp and announced that we would not do the job without an additional jeep to support us. Despite their greater experience, the soldiers who had been with me appeared to be under no less pressure than myself. Nor did they understand why they had to escort settler transportation on such a crazy day.

We left with another jeep in the direction of Talmon and Dolev. On the way to Dolev we had to pass through the Arab village of Ein Kinya, but passage was impossible. Along dozens of meters of road were piles of rocks that had been rolled down the mountain. The jeep commanders went out to recruit local residents to clear the road. On this matter the army's orders are clear: "Barricades and rocks on the roads are to be cleared only by locals." The procedure is simple: you enter a home, take the ID cards of the father and the grown sons, and give them back only after the road is cleared. The residents of the territories know that they cannot manage without ID cards.

We remained outside in the jeep, two drivers and a combattant who did not know exactly what they should do in such a situation: the road was blocked with rocks, from the mountain on the right stones were thrown, and from the forest on the left came the whistles of the masked youths. We tried not to show how frightened we were. Both of us, the drivers, had not fired a weapon for at least ten years (except for the three trial bullets on the day we were mobilized).

The young soldier next to me aimed his rifle at the mountain. "I don't care what the commander said," he says, "if I identify a figure, I shoot. I promised my parents that I would come home safely, and even if I have to go to jail -- I prefer to shoot rather than to die." The other driver and myself do not hesitate and load the rifles.

In the meantime the soldiers recruited an elderly local who began clearing the road. The old man had a hard time lifting the heavy rocks and I tried to understand how a soldier who was barely 20 years old was yelling at an old man in a language he did not understand to clear the road. Those daily frictions, not only extraordinary cases of massacres, are what inflame the great hatred.

By chance a Mercedes car passed by, full of local Palestinians. The soldiers took their ID cards and demanded that they clear the road. They finished and asked to get their cards back, but the sergeant told them that they had to make sure that the road remained clear until we returned. They did not have much of a choice. When we returned they were waiting for us.

[Chronicles of Peace Actions]

+++ On the day after the massacre, February 26, a group of Jews and Arabs organized by the Hadash Communists, and representatives of Gush Shalom succeeded in visiting Hebron. On later days, however, such visitors were stopped by the army on the Jerusalem-Hebron highway, as a Peace Now delegation experienced. (The army did allow through delegations of right-wingers on their way to support the settlers.) On March 22, Peace Now and the Hebronites succeeded in outwitting the army and holding a much-publicized meeting at Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem.

+++ On March 15, the B'tzelem Human Rights Watch presented, at a Jerusalem press conference, its latest report, detailing sixty-two cases in which Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians -- mostly settlers -- the Hebron massacre not included; in only four cases was the civilian in a life-threatening situation. B'tzelem charged the authorities with looking the other way, while settlers are doing violence to Palestinians and their property.

Full report available from: B'tzelem, 43 Emek Refa'im St., Jerusalem 93141; fax: 972.2.610756.

+++ In early March, Jerusalem investigative journalist Hillel Cohen uncovered a curious land deal, whereby the government was to sell land at Abu-Dis -- a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem -- to a settler association linked with the extreme right. (The land came into government possesion in 1967, when its Palestinian owner escaped from the advancing Israeli army and was declared an "absentee".) Cohen published his findings; Peace Now appealed to the Supreme Court, with evidence showing that the land was offered to the settlers at a small fraction of its market value and that the government had made no effort to find a higher bidder. On March 16, when the court convened, the state announced the deal to be cancelled.

+++ On March 20, the General Federation of Young Workers and Students in Israel (GFYWSI) held its yearly national conference. The gathering, representing some 100,000 members, was taken quite seriously by the Labor government. Not only President Weitzman, but also Rabin and Peres found the time to come and address the youths. There were some sharp debates among the delegates. GFYWSI has active branches also among Israeli settlers on the Golan Heights, whose representatives spoke out against a peace with Syria which would involve withdrawal from the Golan, and threatened to split away should the conference support such withdrawal. But also present were youths from the four Syrian-
Druse villages occupied in 1967, who cried out: "You must respect our right to choose whether we want to live under Israeli or Syrian rule!". In the end, a resolution was adopted "supporting the government's efforts to reach peace with Syria, even at the price of territorial compromise."

On another issue, the conference went a step further than the official government and Labor Party policy, calling explicitly for the creation of a Palestinian state as the only possible way to peace. Prime Minister Rabin declined to comment on this decision by a movement of which he himself, in his youth, had been a member...

Contact: GFYWSI, attn. Ephra Cohen, 120 Kibbutz Galuyot St., Tel-Aviv 66877.

s On March 24, following a two-day battle in the heart of Hebron during which the army demolished two houses and killed four "wanted" Palestinians hiding in them, the Hadash Communists initiated a picket of the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv demanding withdrawal of both army and settlers from Hebron.
+++ Following the renewed closure, activists of the Tel Aviv-based Association of Isr. & Pal. Physicians for Human Rights made endless calls to military government officials and Knesset Members, in order to get such basics as a transportation permit for the truck bringing oxygen to Gaza Strip hospitals, or entry permits into East Jerusalem for Palestinian doctors and nurses from the West Bank working there. Numerous patients also got to these hospitals only after their cases were taken up by AIPPHR -- among them Tarek Riyan, a 12-year Gazan suffering from cancer, and Rafat Abassi, who needed a blood transfusion.

A full English-language chronicle of the daily struggles with the military bureaucracy can be ordered from: AIPPHR, POB 10235, Tel-Aviv 61101.

+++ On April 3, the entire population of the Dugit settlement in the Gaza Strip abandoned the settlement, asking the government to give them an alternative site inside the boundaries of Israel. Peace Now representatives were welcomed at the settlers' protest encampment. "We never wanted to live in the Gaza Strip. We just wanted a place near the sea, and this is the only site which the Likud Government was willing to give us" they said. Peace Now promised to use its contacts in the Kibbutz Movement in order to help find an alternative site for the Dugit settlers.

+++ On April 4, members of Peace Now and Meretz demonstrated during the cabinet meeting, calling for immediate expulsion of the fanatic armed settlers from Hebron. "We want to remind Rabin that the settlers are still there, that they continue their provocations, and that many people wait for him to remove them" the Peace Now spokesperson told Davar.

+++ On April 16, after another retaliatory terrorist attack within the Green Line, about a hundred Gush Shalom activists stood in front of the North Tel-Aviv home of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The Prime Minister, who left his home short after the vigil began, could not avoid seeing the huge banner reading: How much more blood must be shed before withdrawal?
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110.

+++ On April 23, a large group of Peace Now activists arrived in Hebron, at the invitation of local Fatah leaders. Together with newly-installed Hebron Mayor Mustapha Natshe, they visited the main "trouble spots" near the settler enclaves, spoke with inhabitants who suffer daily harassment, and made a common statement calling for removal of the settlers from Hebron.

+++ At noon, on April 29, several dozen Israeli and Palestinian women activists of the newly-formed Jerusalem Link arrived at the a-Ram military checkpoint north of Jerusalem in order to hold there a vigil calling for an end to the closure.

Meanwhile, soldiers at the checkpoint barred the way of eleven Palestinian dentists, who had wanted to participate in the internal elections of their The Association of Palestinian Dentists, which has its headquarters in East Jerusalem. The dentists who were not allowed passage decided to join the women.

Contact: Jerusalem Link, c/o Bat Shalom, 43 Emek Refaim St., Jerusalem.

+++ On May 2, a few days before the withdrawal from Gaza, three leading Peace Now activists -- Jeannette Aviad, Avishai Margalit and Haya Noah -- visited the Gaza home of Dr. Mahmud Zaher, unofficial spokesperson of the Hamas. Both before and after his year of exile in the South Lebanese no-man's-land, Zaher had met with Israelis -- among them Abie Nathan and Uri Avnery -- but this was his first contact with the mainstream Israeli peace movement.

The meeting was described in detail by the Tel-Aviv weekly Shishi (6.5.94). Zaher opened with his view of the ideal future: a single Muslim state encompassing the entire Middle East, replacing both Israel and all the present Arab states and regimes; Jews would have a respected place in this society, as they had in Medieval Muslim Spain, but Zionism and all its works would be destroyed. While totally rejecting this solution, the Israelis searched for a pragmatic -- if not ideological -- common ground. At their question, Dr. Zaher emphatically stated that the Hamas is willing to engage in negotiations with Israel, with no preconditions: "Your government is making a big mistake by dealing with one part only of our people, the Fatah. In the beginning of the Intifada, both Rabin and Peres personally came to Gaza and talked to me, but nothing came of it. Now you hand Gaza over to Arafat's police. If they try to oppress us, there will be much trouble, and your people will also suffer."

"We did not expect an immediate agreement. Ten or fifteen years ago, PLO speakers were also making intransigent ideological statements. The Hamas seems quite eager to have a dialogue with us, knowing that we are Zionists and that we have no intention to start living in an Islamic state. That is the most important thing. This dialogue will continue, however things develop in Gaza" said Margalit afterwards.

+++ At a joint press conference held in East Jerusalem on May 17, Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists denounced the government decision to make the release of Palestinian prisoners conditional upon their signing declarations "renouncing terrorism and supporting the Israel-PLO agreement." Many prisoners -- including a part of those who do support the peace process -- regard this as humiliating, and refuse to sign. As a result, most of the 5,000 prisoners Israel already agreed to release remain behind bars.

Letters of protest to: Defence Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Ministry of Defence, Hakirya, Tel-Aviv;

Copies to: AIC (attn. Yif'at), POB 31417, Jerusalem.

On to the next phase

by Matti Peled

May 13, 1994

After almost eight months of tedious, detailed and unnecessarily drawn-out negotiations, the agreement between Israel and the PLO stipulated in the Oslo Declaration of Principles (DOP) was finally signed in Cairo. The unexpected misunderstanding concerning the status of the maps attached to the agreement, resulting in Arafat's momentary hesitation before putting his signature to them, highlighted the deficiency of the method chosen for conducting the negotiations. For the maps show a territorial configuration which is not final and is still subject to further negotiations. Other issues as well have not been finalized as yet and will be negotiated at a later date. Thus, the process of negotiations has in fact been split into two phases: phase one dealt with issues which had to be finalized before transfer of authority, phase two dealing with issues that could be delayed until afterwards.

Such division of the procedure was not foreseen but has been adopted in order not to let the negotiations drag on endlessly. The Israeli negotiators and decision-makers finally realized that the mere fact of the negotiations taking so long, in clear violation of the timetable agreed to in Oslo, became a factor threatening its successful implementation. In the first weeks after the signing of the DOP, both peoples were overwhelmed by the surprise and the hope generated by the event. But as the negotiations dragged on, doubt crept in and the opposing elements gathered their forces. Opposition on both sides became both vocal and violent and the difficulties faced by the negotiators multiplied daily.

The lengthy procedure was dictated by Mr. Rabin, who maintained that each and every item of the agreement -- altogether several hundred of them -- had to be negotiated in detail, agreed to and signed before the final draft could be ready for approval. His attitude was one of complete distrust. He felt that no loophole should be left which may enable the Palestinians to extract from the agreement more than he was ready to concede.

The result became clear soon enough. The mountains of paper which the numerous teams produced became unmanageable while their contents allowed the opposition to shoot at each item as it was reported by the media, arousing greater doubts and dissatisfaction among ever growing segments of both populations. Eventually it became clear that a distinction must be made between items which have to be finalized prior to the signing of the agreement and those which can be taken up at a later stage. Such an understanding, had it been reached some six months earlier, might have resulted in a speedy implementation of the agreement and a much less active opposition.

This observation should become the guiding principle in the next phases of the negotiations stipulated by the DOP, and in particular in negotiations on the definite solution. These are to begin as soon as possible and no later than the end of the second year after the conclusion of the first phase. The subjects to be discussed in the second phase are the most difficult, including such questions as the fate of the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, 
Jerusalem and the problem of the 1948 refugees. It is clear that the time table set out in the DOP, requiring the negotiations to be concluded within three years, would in all probability be disregarded -- just as the schedule set for the first phase had been. But it is also clear that the longer it would take to reach an agreement the greater will be the chances of the opposition to torpedo it. Therefore, the most promising course would be to start the second phase of negotiations immediately and already divide the issues to be negotiated into those which are critical and must be dealt with prior to agreement and those that can be taken up at a later date.

After all, we and the Palestinians are destined to stay together for a very long time, and we can safely leave some items for further discussion once we have reached an agreement on the basic issues.

Such a procedure, which is clearly suggested by the experience of the negotiations so far, may avert the great dangers involved in any delay. The presence of the settlements and the continuation of the Israeli occupation over the West Bank create a situation fraught with great dangers. One means of minimizing the chances of their eruption is to speed up the negotiations and reach an agreement without unnecessary delay

Don't stop at Gaza-Jericho!

The Gush Shalom statement was published as a paid advertisement in Ha'aretz, May 11.

The Palestinian Self-Governing Authority is being established. The Israeli army evacuates Jericho and most of the Gaza Strip. A great chance for peace is opening up. There are grounds for rejoycing.

But stopping at this point would be asking for trouble. Giving self-government to part of the Palestinian people while leaving the rest under occupation is a sure way to perpetuate the conflict. The same is true for the government's insistence upon keeping all settlements intact, to be used as bargaining counters at further stages of negotiations -- against the will of a considerable part of the settlers themselves, who wish to leave already.

What could be done?

+++ The immediate start of talks about the permanent solution, i.e. the creation of the state of Palestine, side-by-side with the state of Israel. The Oslo agreement does not rule out that these talks be started immediately, on the contrary. They are to start "as soon as possible, and no later than at the beginning of the third year of the interim period."

+++ Fair compensations to any settler family willing to evacuate voluntarily. It was successive Israeli governments who sent these people to live there. The present government has a moral obligation to see to their rehabilitation and resettlement in Israel.

+++ The lifting of the closure and a drastic change of the economic situation in the Occupied Territories, in the time remaining before complete withdrawal.

What is happening now could mean the turning of a new page in the history of the two peoples. It could be the first step towards to the solution -- Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace.
We Israelis have the possibility of breaking out of the ghetto where for the past 46 years we lived a life of siege and war. The recent visits by Israeli diplomats to Oman and Qatar could be the harbingers of Israel's full acceptance by and integration in its Middle Eastern environment. Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to our future.

It all depends on us!

Today, as the Knesset meets to ratify the definite Gaza-Jericho Agreement, we will be there. Come and join us, as we demonstrate outside and point to legislators and policy-makers the way forward:


Contributions to help cover the expenses of this advertisement to: Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110