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The Other Israel _ February 1996, Issue No. 71

Contents

New Realities & Old Patterns
Editorial Comment by Adam Keller

Knock on Every Door

Behind Barricades

Vanunu, Klingberg and Peres, by Adam Keller

Shabak in the Dock but Torture Okay
'Am I Still Invited?'
Elections in the Balance, by Dr. Rateb Sweiti

Mutiny in Lebanon

Adam Keller in Japan

How to Buy a Cow, by Uri Avnery

----------

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
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt

For a free copy of this issue, please send your name and postal address to AICIPP via Peacenet e-mail (AICIPP@igc.apc.org) or to AICIPP@mcimail.com.


THE OTHER ISRAEL
February 1996, Issue No. 71

NEW REALITIES & OLD PATTERNS


During the furious settler campaign of summer 1995, many dire predictions were made regarding the intended evacuation of the West Bank cities; some columnists wrote that it would tear Israeli society apart and bring it to the edge of civil war.

It will never be known how things would have developed without the shock of Rabin's assassination, occurring just as the West Bank redeployment was due to begin. In the event, the evacuation of the Palestinian cities encountered no opposition beyond a few small and dispirited settler demonstrations. A considerable number of religious soldiers and officers took part in dismantling some military installations and making others ready for occupancy by the Palestinian police. Not a single one among these soldiers and officers heeded the famous rabbis' manifesto calling upon them to refuse participation in such activity.

Israeli television covered the evacuation, town after town: the Israeli public did not become excited. Most shared the attitude of the soldiers at the Tul-Karm roadblock, who in a matter of fact tone told journalists: "The road to the left is no longer Israel" (Ha'aretz headline, 11.12.95).

****



The attititude of the Palestinian population towards the departing soldiers varied from place to place, depending on local conditions. In Nablus, largest city of the northern West Bank, the last months saw a sharp increase and escalation of tensions. Demonstrations were brutally dispersed and young Palestinians shot to death -- the last tragic casualty cut down just four days before the army finally evacuated his city. The evacuation night itself nearly turned nasty, with angry crowds besieging the military headquarters -- but the Israeli commander kept a tight rein on his men, and with the help of the Palestinian police succeeded in extricating his force without further shooting.

In other towns, the soldiers departed along streets lined with waving and cheering Palestinians. At Dahriya, in the extreme south of the West Bank, a Palestinian child was photographed handing a flower to a soldier, both of them faintly smiling. Another press photograph taken, in Bethlehem, showed an Israeli officer buying a Palestinian flag from a street vendor, to take home as a souvenir...

The Palestinians had no illusions about the limitations of what they achieved; the evacuation of the cities was by no means a total evacuation of the West Bank. Though some Israeli ministers proclaimed "the end of the occupation," the cities remained ringed around with Israeli settlements and military camps.

Nevertheless, there was an enormous outpouring of jubilance; youths waved Palestinian flags on top of evacuated military headquarters, and old women danced in the streets to welcome the arriving Palestinian police. Hated symbols of the occupation, such as the high fence, which for the past decade surrounded Dheishe Refugee Camp, were torn down by the cheering crowds. Yasser Arafat held a triumphal progress, arriving in his helicopter in town after town, and everywhere speaking at packed rallies in the central squares -- culminating with his appearance at the Christmas ceremonies in Bethlehem, the first in 28 years to be held without the overbearing presence of Israeli soldiers. For all its limited and partial nature, Palestinians clearly regarded the evacuation as a very real and tangible achievement, the first concrete result of all the suffering and sacrifices of the Intifada.

The elections which followed soon afterwards were also received with enthusiasm. First and foremost, the elections were perceived as a Palestinian national act, the creation of national institutions which would embody the sovereignty of the people and express the desire for complete independence. It was undoubtedly this which most Palestinians found appealing. At the same time, there was also a deep-rooted desire for democratization and accountable government, for placing an effective check upon the often arbitrary government structures of the Palestinian Authority which developed out of PLO institutions intended for armed struggle.

Leaders of the Palestinian opposition in the territories -- both of the secularist left and of the radical Islamists -- knew the mood at their own grassroots and realized that a call for boycotting the elections would not be heeded. Indeed, even many determined opponents of Oslo wished to become candidates and present their objections in the elections campaign and on the floor of the Palestinian parliament.

In this, however, the Palestinian opposition leaders in the territories encountered a strong veto from the exiled leaderships of their own movements, residing at Syria, Lebanon and Sudan. These exile leaders reflected the bitterness of the outflung diaspora -- Palestinian refugees in their scattered camps, who were given no part in these elections, who so far got no benefit whatsoever from the Oslo process. With the Israeli stranglehold over the border passes they are even denied entry into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.*

Eventually, the Palestinian opposition parties in the territories came to a compromise solution: they did not officially run in the elections, but also did not campaign for a boycott; some opposition leaders presented themselves as independent candidates, with the tacit consent of their parties.

Many other independent candidates were Fatah activists and Intifada veterans who had been passed over by Arafat on the official Fatah slates, to make place for Arafat nominees recently returned from exile.

By the first week of January, the elections campaign was already in full swing, with hundreds of candidates competing for the 88 available seats and busily canvassing the voters. Election posters covered the walls in Palestinian villages and cities -- including East Jerusalem, where Oslo-2 forbade "outdoor campaigning" and the Israeli police made many futile efforts to tear down elections posters.

On January 5 the electoral process was, however, disrupted by the news that agents of the Israeli Security Services had penetrated into Gaza, and assassinated the famous/infamous Yihya Ayash of Hamas.

* Even most of the Palestinians expelled from Lybia by Muammar Quadaffi's cruel decree were blocked by the Israeli army at Rafah crossing point and barred from entering the Gaza Strip.

****



Yihya Ayash, nicknamed "the engineer" -- had been Hamas' best explosives expert. The Israeli press attributed to him responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks, in which a total of sixty-seven Israelis lost their lives -- though in the course of making him into a satanic mastermind, Ayash may have been credited also with bombs made by others.

These same Israeli articles, quoted in Arabic, made Ayash in Palestinian eyes into a hero -- to whom was attributed an infinite cunning in eluding for two years the massive Israeli manhunt.

With the exception of a few critical articles in the press and a protest demonstration by a handful of Tel-Aviv students, the Israeli society reacted with an electronically multiplied outburst of praise for the Shabak which had "liquidated the monster," as the Yediot Aharonot editorial put it. (Such a public boost was very welcome to the Shabak, which came under sharp criticism after its failure to protect the life or Rabin.)

There was little mention in Israel of the fact that Hamas had observed, for almost half a year, an unofficial cease-fire -- and that precisely the Ayash assassination had put this in jeopardy. Speakers for the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, repeatedly reiterated this with anger and consternation.

On the grassroots level, the anger encompassed Fatah supporters and those of Hamas alike. The funeral of Ayash turned into a massive demonstration; Hamas, whose position in the Palestinian public had long been flagging, gained an enormous new momentum, now designating Ayash its "elections candidate" and calling upon voters to place his photograph in the ballot boxes.

A chasm seemed to open suddenly between Israelis and Palestinians. A few days before the Ayash assassination, a Meretz delegation visited Gaza and met cordially with the heads of the Palestinian police; after the assassination, Meretz heaped public praise upon the Shabak, while the Palestinian police granted Ayash military honors at his funeral.

A week after the killing of Ayash, two Israeli soldiers were ambushed and killed on a road near Hebron. A few days later, on the eve of the elections themselves, soldiers at a roadblock near Jenin shot three Hamas activists to death...

At other times, such events could have disrupted and derailed the whole process. In this case, the move towards Palestinian elections -- carried on by a very determined Palestinian public -- proved resilient. A day or two after the funeral, the elections campaign resumed. Israelis and Palestinians "agreed to disagree" on Ayash -- and to continue to cooperate on other issues.

The Palestinian Authority officially adopted Ayash into the pantheon of Palestinian martyrs, and its representatives appeared at all the huge Hamas memorial rallies held throughout the West Bank. In exchange, Hamas apparently agreed to refrain from sabotaging the elections, nor did they launch (at least until the time of writing, Feb. 13) any of their fearsome attacks on Israeli buses.

On elections day, the father of one of the Hamas activists, killed a day earlier by the army, demonstratively cast his vote. Altogether, some 80% of the voters throughout the Palestinian territories turned out for the polls. This was universally interpreted as a massive show of popular support for the peace process and for Arafat personally -- though in many districts, the voters prefered independents to Arafat's hand-picked candidates.

The only place to have an extremely low voter turnout was East Jerusalem. Each of the post offices serving as polling stations were surrounded with enormous Israeli police and border guard forces -- a virtual gauntlet through which every voter had to pass; officially this measure was taken in order to prevent attacks by Israeli right-wingers (who never showed up).


Last minute detainees


Just prior to the evacuation, the Israeli army conducted night raids in the West bank cities, altogether arresting 270 Palestinian oppositionists. Most were put in 'Administrative Detention' without trial -- as apparently there was no evidence to charge them with any offence. Among the arrested are many names known in the Israeli peace movement from years of common work on political and human rights issues. An appeal for the release of all the "last-minute detainees" lodged via the St. Ives Legal Aid Society on the grounds that their arrest was an interference with the Palestinian elections, was rejected by the Supreme Court.

At the time of writing, a similar wave of detentions is taking place at Hebron -- the only major West Bank city still under Israeli rule, and which is due to be evacuated in March. The Alternative Information Center has launched a campaign for Sha'wan Rateb Jabarin, field worker of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, who was detained during the night of February 5, and who has severe health problems.
Protests to: Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Hakirya, Jerusalem; fax: 972-2-665838; copies to: Alt. Inf. Center, POB 31417, Jerusalem; fax: 972-2-253151.

Both during the campaign and afterwards, there were complaints by Palestinian and international NGOs concerning violations and unfair practices by the Palestinian Authority as such, or by some of its police at various locations: detentions of journalists and human rights activists, intimidation of the private Palestinian papers and monopolization of the newly-established Palestinian television, interfering at several polling stations.*

The Palestian Authority, for its part, showed itself responsive to criticism. The detainees who aroused international attention were soon released, and when Reporters Sans Frontiäres took up the issue of unfair coverage by the Palestinian TV, there was a sudden hour-long interview with Sameeha Halil, the single candidate to enter the presidential race against Arafat. (In the end, Halil got about 10% -- not a bad result for a candidate running against Oslo and against the Palestinian establishment, and who -- being a woman and veteran campaigner for women's rights -- was not particularly popular among radical Muslims, either.)

Detailed reports on independent monitoring of the elections available from Land and Water, POB 20873, East Jerusalem -- fax: 972-2-811072; and Palestinian Center for Human Rights, POB 1204, Gaza -- fax: 972-7-824776.

****



The Likud, Israel's main opposition party, has been convulsed for months in internal crisis, with its traditional "Greater Israel" ideology becoming increasingly obsolete, and all opinion polls predicting its electoral defeat.

Likud confusion increased with yet another new development: the imminent convening of the Palestine National Council in order to amend its Covenant. This 1964 document -- with its declaration that "Israel is null and void" -- served as the chief remaining propaganda weapon in the Israeli right's armoury. Following the elections, Arafat seems strong enough to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary to at last get rid officially of this document, long abandoned in the practice of the PLO (and even of most opposition groups).

With this development catching the headlines, the hitherto-silent Likud "doves" KM Meir Sheetrit and Tel-Aviv Mayor Roni Milo came out in the open, with a call for the Likud to recognize Oslo and open talks with Arafat; they were confronted by KM Benny Begin -- who, as son of the late Menachem Begin, appointed himself the guardian of the party's doctrinal purity and orthodoxy.

With elections drawing near, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu formulated a compromise of a kind: if elected Prime Minister, he would let the Palestinians keep the 30% of the West Bank they already have, but keep the rest in Israeli hands and build new settlements in it. Also, he would not meet personally with Arafat, but would send his foreign minister (sic!) to meet him.

A similar debate arose at the "Judea and Samaria" Settler Council. Uri Ariel, a central settler leader, had published an article proposing that the settlers start a dialogue of their own with the Palestinian Authority. The aim of such a diolague would be somehow making the Palestinians accept the retention of all settlements under Israeli rule -- in return for settler acceptance of Palestinian Autonomy.

However, while the settler leadership debated this plan, a growing number of rank-and-file settlers feel they have had enough of uncertainty and insecurity. At the notorious settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, hundreds of inhabitants gathered to demand governmental compensations to help them start a new life inside Israel. Meretz and Peace Now leaders, who promised to support the rebellious settlers' struggle, were welcomed warmly in Kiryat Arba -- a quite inconceivable televised scene.

****



For his part, Prime Minister Peres firmly rejected the idea of granting compensation to settlers who wish to leave. He prefers to stick to Rabin's established policy of keeping all settlers in place as bargaining counters until the final stage of negotiations with the Palestinians. (Upon assuming his new job, Peres also gave up the idea of evacuating the small and isolated settlements in the Gaza Strip, advocated by him as foreign minister.)

In general, Peres as prime minister did not take new initiatives towards the Palestinians, but contented himself with smoothly carrying out the items already agreed upon in Oslo-2. At the same time, Peres made considerable efforts to reassure the settler leaders and their political supporters; Peres' trusted emissary Yossi Beilin promised that even in the definite solution, the government would seek to annex many -- though not all -- of the settlements.

The main thrust of Peres' creative imagination was in another direction: reviving the peace talks with Syria, which seemed hopelessly deadlocked during Rabin's last months. In restarting these talks, Peres conceived a bold design, combining three goals: peace with Syria, which would remove the last remaining military threat from a neighboring state; peace with Lebanon, Syria's satellite, which would at last extricate the Israeli army from its guerrilla entanglement in South Lebanon; and peace with other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, who in unofficial contacts made clear that they would follow a Syrian lead.

Peres's scenario included intensive Israeli-Syrian talks under U.S. auspices; a Camp David-style summit between himself and the Syrian president; and a grand finale in the form of a simultaneous signing of peace treaties on the White House lawn between Israel and the whole Arab and Muslim world (except for the "pariah states" Iran, Iraq, Lybia and Sudan). Such a grand new "peace spectacle" would help gild, for the Israeli public, the pill of withdrawal from the Golan Heights -- the indispensable price of peace with Syria.

Rather optimistically, Peres hoped to get all this done in time for the Israeli elections in October 1996, and for the U.S. elections a few days later -- to the electoral benefit of, respectively, himself and Prsident Clinton.



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In January 1996, Israeli-Syrian negotiations did open at Wye Plantation, Maryland, in a warm and optimistic atmosphere -- with the government-controlled Syrian papers praising Peres as none of his predecessors had ever been praised. Some progress was achieved. The Israelis agreed in principle to withdraw from the Golan (though there remains a persistent debate on the exact border line). For their part, the Syrians accepted normalization with Israel: open borders, diplomatic relations, tourism, nature preservation programs, joint economic development... (Peres made headlines by declaring in the Knesset: 'Hotels on the border will protect our long-term security better than military outposts.')

Many difficult issues remained, however: much of Israel's water comes from the Golan, and early Syrian attempts to divert it were among the main reasons for war in the first place. Moreover, the Israeli generals regard as indispensable security arrangements which are intolerable to the Syrians: early warning stations, demilitarization belts up to the Damascus suburbs, reduction of the Syrian armed forces... Foreign Minister Ehud Barak -- himself, until a year ago, Army Chief-of-Staff -- took the generals' side, making a series of negative and pessimistic public remarks.

Both Peres and the American mediators remained convinced that, with time and patience, all differences could be bridged. However, President Assad made clear that he would move at his own pace, not in accordance with Israeli or American electoral timetables. Reluctantly, Peres accepted the advice of Labor Party colleagues, who had ever since the Rabin murder urged him to call elections while he is high in the polls and while things move smoothly on the Palestinian track, and to leave the complicated Syrian negotiations to his next term.

****



On February 11, precisely a hundred days after the murder of his predecessor -- Prime Minister Peres gave a long televised speech, with the expected message: Israeli general elections will take place on June 4. He promised the voters a definite end to the Israeli-Arab conflict by the year 2,000.

On the same day, it was unofficially disclosed that the Labor Party would hold its conference on April 25, a month before the elections -- and that the central issue on the agenda would be to delete from the Labor program the decades-old prohibition on the creation of a Palestinian state. The timing -- close to the scheduled PNC meeting to abolish the Palestinian Covenant -- seems not coincidental.

But while apparently willing to break that taboo at last, Shimon Peres seems apprehensive at the idea of breaking another taboo -- the one against any compromise in Jerusalem. Peres announced: "Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli rule. On this, there is no debate. There is no question of making in Jerusalem two cities or two capitals" (ITV, Feb. 12).*

The Likud has, however, decided to make Jerusalem into the center of the election debate. Already on the same day, the first salvo was fired by Likud Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmart: 'Jerusalem was an official electoral district electing seven members in the Palestinian elections; Palestinians continue to receive foreign dignitaries at Orient House; Israeli police does not exercise authority in any civilian Palestinian matters in Jerusalem, thus paving the way for Palestinian penetration.' (Olmert could have added the unofficial government decision to freeze construction of Har Homa -- the projected "New Jewish Neighborhood" in south Jerusalem, whose establishment on confiscated Palestinian land would certainly ignite an international row.)

It might turn out to be a major mistake for Peres to underestimate what people can see with their own eyes. Moreover, it is by no means certain that the prime minister is right in assuming that the Jerusalem Taboo still stands and that ordinary Israelis are unwilling to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Certainly, recent right-wing attempts to arouse the general public on this issue -- for example on the day of Palestinian elections in Jerusalem -- were far from successful.

Whatever one thinks of Peres and his policy, the coming elections will be considered -- in Israel as among Palestinians in the Arab World and internationally -- a referendum about the peace process. Peace seekers will be forced to execute a complicated balancing act: to help Peres win the elections, while at the same time keeping enough distance to retain the ability of criticising him and voicing an independent position on crucial issues -- which is not going to be an easy test for anyone of us.

The editor

* Peres was in fact referring to the "Jerusalem -- Capital of Two States" petition, signed by a thousand prominent Israelis and initiated by Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033; fax: 972-3-5271108.

****



+++ Between November 24 and 26, 1995, the 3rd Conference on Solidarity and Cooperation in the Mediterranean was held at Madrid, Spain. This joint framework of "solidarity committees" from Mediterranean countries was set up four years ago at the initiative of the Greek and Egyptian committees. It aims at enhancing political, economic and cultural relations between the countries and peoples of the region, which is the encounter area of three continents and very different civilizations. Our organization, the ICIPP, has from the outset participated on equal footing, its representative Yossi Amitay playing an important role in overcoming sensitivities of certain Arab parties. Meanwhile, more Israeli groups got involved and built up good relations themselves.

The Madrid conference was attended by delegations from over 20 countries. Israelis present were Latif Dori (Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue), Ahmad Sa'd (Emile Touma Institute) and Amitay (ICIPP). The three of them were actively involved in the discussions of the respective workshops on peace, culture and decentralized cooperation.

The conferences have provided an appropriate setting for left-wing rapprochement. Several of the Arab participants are long-time "rejectionists" and not especially enthusiastic about the Oslo process. As a result of the constructive and lively dialogue between Arab and Israeli participants in Madrid, the three Israelis have been invited to Cairo by the Egyptian Solidarity Committee, and will travel on February 21. President of the Egyptian committee, Ahmed Hamroush -- himself a leftist and a long-time organizer of meetings with Israelis "with whom there is a common langange" -- wrote in his personal column in the Egyptian weekly Rose el-Youssef about the need to intensify the dialogue between Israeli and Egyptian peace groups.

He already succeeded to persuade more hardline leftists on the Egyptian committee to agree to a visit to Israel, due May 1996.

+++ The withdrawal of the Israeli army from the town of Qalqilya, on the edge of the West Bank, effectively re-created the old border (the Green Line) which until 1967 passed between Qalqilya and the nearby Israeli town of Kfar Saba. On February 2, the mayors of the two border cities met at the dividing line, together with 700 Israeli and Palestinian youths, for a joint tree-planting ceremony of good neighborliness.

For the Israelis, members of Young Labor and the Labor-affiliated Young Workers and Students, this was their way of marking Tu Bishvat, the traditional Jewish Tree Holiday (marked in Israel as a day of tree-planting).

For their part, the Palestinians -- brought by the Fatah movement from different West Bank and Gaza Strip cities -- carried signs reading Planting -- no more uprooting!, referring to the wave of destruction of Palestinian orchards and vinyards during the last-minute creation of "by-pass roads" before the army evacuated the towns. (These roads are intended to provide corridors for the Jewish settlers scattered all over the West Bank, for the years of the interim period.)

Previous to the event, the Israeli Laborite organizers -- who included the party's Secretary-General Nissim Zvily -- had to struggle with the military bureaucracy, in order to obtain permits for young Gazans to cross Israeli territory and participate. At the beginning of the event itself, Border Police tried to hinder the young Israelis, "for their own safety," from freely mingling with the Palestinians.

Reference to these problems was made in the speech made to the assembled Israelis and Palestinians by Avraham Burg, the dovish Laborite head of the World Zionist Organization: "There are military bureaucrats who are still caught in the old ways of thinking, who don't understand that peace is on its way. In matters of peace you need to think and behave differently. But don't worry! In the end, they too will understand."

(Labor Party spokesman Yoram Dori told TOI how difficult it had been to get this event into the news: "Journalists were not impressed. For them such events start looking already like 'more of the same' -- which is in itself proof that we have achieved something.")
Contact: Young Labor, 110 Hayarkon St., Tel-Aviv.

+++ A few years ago, there would have seemed nothing in common between General Nasser Yussouf and Rabbi Itzhak Bardea: the one is a founding member of Fatah, graduate of military academies in the Soviet Union and China, and a veteran Palestinian fighter who fought against the Jordanians during "Black September" and against the Israelis in Lebanon; the other -- a pillar of the Israeli Orthodox establishment, Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Ramat Gan, Chief Rabbi of the Lybian Jewry, a firm believer in the Jewish sanctity of all Eretz Yisrael.

On February 4, 1996, the two came together most cordially in Tel-Aviv , in a ceremony where both were awarded the Rothfield Peace Prize by the Center for Peace for their share in promoting peace and understanding between the two peoples.

Since being placed in command of the Palestinian forces in Gaza, General Yussuf initiated and organised numerous meetings between groups of Israelis and Palestinians with common interests: academics, students, econimists, business people, and veteran soldiers. He also works to establish dialogue between Palestinians and settlers, and has made a well-known call upon the settlers to stay on in the territories as full-fledged Palestinian citizens.

For his part, Rabbi Bardea is a founder of Harish -- an organization of rabbis supporting the peace process. He has been lecturing and preaching to numerous audiences, reiterating the position that giving up sacred land is permissible for the sake of peace -- since human life is the most sacred of all. He had also been engaged in extensive dialogue with Muslim religious leaders, including the Muftis of Egypt and of Jerusalem and the leaders of the Israeli Islamic Movement.

At the ceremony in which the two received the prize from Israeli Minister Yossi Sarid together with his Palestinian colleague Freh Abu-Medien, much attention was given to an unscheduled participant: Imad Faluji, a prominent Hamas member recently elected, as an independent candidate, to the new Palestinian parliament. As the first Hamas member to ever pay such an official visit to Israel, Faluji attracted the journalists, who photographed him embracing Rabbi Bardea and got from him unequivocal statements favoring peaceful contact between Israel and Hamas.
Contact: Charles Lenchner, Center for Middle East Peace, 13 Kalisher St,. Tel-Aviv; fax: 972-3-5160340.

****


Knock on every door


The Rabin murder brought out thousands of young Israelis into the streets and squares of Israel's cities. It started as a spontaneous outburst of mourning and lasted a whole week. By the end of that week, various groups began to form. Discussions started to replace the singing of mournful songs at the Tel-Aviv square where the murder took place; various petitions and manifestos were drafted, some handwritten and others neatly typed or printed, and stalls were placed to collect signatures.

Many of these initiatives petered out after weeks, or were absorbed by pre-existing organizations; in particular, numerous teenagers were attracted to the youth organizations of Meretz and the Labor Party.

By mid-January, however, a movement under the name Dor Shalom (Peace Generation) has crystalized in Tel-Aviv and made its presence felt. With about 700 adherents at present, the group's backbone is drawn from young Tel-Aviv yuppies in their middle twenties -- lawyers, economists, copywriters at advertizing agencies -- who became strongly politicized by the murderous act of their fanatic peer.

"I was there on that night." says Noam Kedem, a 26-year old computer expert and lawyer. "I was hoping for a chance to shake hands with Rabin and wish him good luck, not more. After that I intended to leave him to do his job, and get back to mine. I moved through the crowd and then it happened just in front of my eyes. Like a film, but this was reality. I run to the hospital and heard the horrible announcement, and then spent the night lighting candles in front of the Rabin home. In the morning, I knew that my life could not go on as usual, that I must do something, that I must become much more committed and active. I talked with friends, and everybody felt the same" (Zman Tel-Aviv, Jan. 26).

The first idea which occurred to Kedem and his friends was to demonstrate outside Peres' home to support continuation of the peace process. "This does not mean that we have all become Labor Party supporters. We support Peres because he is working for peace. If now had been the time of Camp David we would support Begin in the same way. We want to be involved in what happens in the country. Political parties turn us off. We don't want to draw up detailed programs, just to make clear that the peace process must go on" (Yediot Aharonot, Jan. 25).

Gradually, the idea arose of a big campaign -- to spread throughout the country big signs with the slogan Dor Shalem Doresh Shalom! ('A whole generation demands peace!'). "We want to hang the signs in public places," explains copywriter Rafi Barzilay, "but more importantly, we want to convince people to hang them from their own balconies. We will just knock on every door and ask people to hang them. The right-wing could do it two years ago, in their Golan campaign. So why couldn't we -- for peace?

We are spending very much time on this. Most of the faxes coming to my office are now about Dor Shalom, not about my work. We are all young people with careers to start, but this is worth neglecting them for a while."
Contact: Dor Shalom, c/o Zarmon Advertizing (attn. Rafi), 12 Sderot Yehudit, Tel Aviv; fax: 972-3-5612042.

****


Behind barricades


Two and a half year afer Oslo the release of Palestinian prisoners remains a bitterly slow, long drawn out process, a permanent sore point in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

From the Palestinian point of view, all those who got imprisoned while fighting the occupation are Prisoners of War whose release should follow the end of the conflict. Israel never accepted this definition, legally defining them as criminals from an area subject to Israeli military law, to some of whom pardon could be considered -- as a favour.

Each Palestinian prisoner to be released must pass two kinds of veto inside the Israeli political and security system.

From the start, the Shabak has been pressuring the government to conduct a selective release, and keep hold of prisoners deemed dangerous. The security experts act on their assessment of a prisoner's future intentions rather than of his past; as long as prisoners are in support of the peace process the Shabak has no objection to their release, whatever they did in the past.

For political considerations, however, the government is reluctant to release prisoners who have been involved in acts of violence against Israelis. The opposition parties are always quick to exploit the emotional associations and monstrous images built up in decades of conflict -- "Arab terrorists" with "(Jewish) blood on their hands." Any time that the idea of releasing political prisoners comes up, the right-wingers mobilize the immense moral authority which bereaved families enjoy in Israeli society.* (Far less politically sensitive is the release of Palestinians imprisoned for the killing of Palestinian collaborators; and hundreds of these were indeed released.)

Again and again, the government rejected Palestinian demands for the release of all prisoners; instead, each round of negotiations, haggled about for months, ends with the setting of a quota -- usually 1000 to 1200 prisoners to be released. Often, the Israeli authorities resort to the trick of including in the quota hundreds of Palestinian workers arrested for illegally working in Israel, or making up the number out of decidedly non-political Palestinian thieves, rapists and the like.

In the meantime, Israeli forces continue to arrest "suspicious" Palestinians in the areas still under their control, as well as at the border passes -- smaller numbers than those released, so that the total does gradually go down. The various prisoner releases, each released prisoner having to pass both the calculated security operatives with their detailed computerized files, and the hysterical nationalist rabble-rousers, resulted in reducing the total number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel from about 6,000 before the first Oslo Agreement to between 3,000 and 4,000 in January 1996. This effectively means between 3,000 and 4,000 embittered Palestinian families, enjoying in the Palestinian society... an immense moral authority.

* 'The Committee of Victims of Terrorism' is a well-financed organization including some bereaved families but also a lot of extreme right militants. Actually, many bereaved families support the peace process and object to the right-wingers speaking in their name. Only recently did they start to organise. The new committee's first public appearance was at the dramatic peace rally of November 4, 1995.

****



The Palestinian women prisoners -- a small part of the whole, never numbering more than a few dozens -- always received special attention from Israelis and Palestinians alike. Regarded as heroines in the Palestinian society, they were often singled out for special praise in Arafat speeches -- though the fact of their independence aroused did some unease in more conservative Palestinian circles. (Indeed, girls who attempted to stab Israeli soldiers were often motivated by a mixture of opposition to the Israeli occupation and desire to break out of the social constraints placed upon them as women.)

During the intensive talks held in the summer of 1995 at the Taba Red Sea resort, the Palestinian negotiators achieved the inclusion in the Oslo-2 agreement of a completely unambiguous article stating that, upon signature of the agreement, all female prisoners and detainees will be released. The Israeli negotiators agreed to this part only reluctantly, because of the political problems entailed in releasing such prisoners as 26-year old Abeer Al-Waheedi of Ramallah.

Waheedi is one of the few Palestinian women to have founded and commanded an entire armed underground cell. Before the Oslo Agreement, this cell was responsible for repeatedly ambushing Israeli soldiers and settlers traveling in the Ramallah area, until uncovered in 1992. Waheedi is actually a Fatah member and supporter of Oslo. (Her father is a senior Fatah member, who took part in the Oslo-2 signing ceremony in Washington.)

Waheedi is very popular among Palestinian public. On the Israeli side, the name Waheedi became connected to the killing by her squad of Zvi Klein -- well-known member of the Ofra settlement and activist of the settler movement.

After the terms of Oslo-2 became known, Zvi Klein's widow made an emotional appearance on television, and a furious right-wing campaign was carried out against Prime Minister Rabin. The campaigners also met with President Weitzman, who promised not to grant pardons to "prisoners with blood on their hands." Apart from Waheedi, there were four other Palestinian women who had been imprisoned because of their connection with cases involving the killing of Israelis -- though none of the five had actually been charged with murder.

In fact, the president's signature was not legally needed; two alternative legal means of granting the pardons existed, from the general commanding the West Bank or from the special Pardons Committee, established for the specific purpose of implementing the Oslo-2 Accord. This would have meant, however, the government taking full political responsibility for "releasing the murderer women," as the rightist put it. Rabin, in what turned out to be the last weeks of his life, preferred to shift responsibility to the president.

As recounted in our previous issue (TOI 69-70, p. 14, 19), upon the Israeli failure to grant pardon to these five prisoners, the other women imprisoned with them in Hasharon Prison decided upon a remarkable act of solidarity, all of them remaining voluntarily behind bars, refusing to accept their own pardon and insisting upon complete adherence to the promise of Oslo-2.

****



After the murder of Rabin, the unresolved Women Prisoner Issue moved to the desk of the new prime minister. On December 19 Peres' sidekick, Minister Yossi Beilin, attended a memorial meeting to Zvi Klein held by the Ofra settlers; together with Beilin came Gideon Ezra, a former senior operative of the Shabak. Addressing Klein's family and friends, Ezra said: "I will not conceal from you my view: the killer of Zvi Klein should be released. We have brought from abroad her superiors, and we negotiate with them. There is no logic in keeping this lady in prison, we need her and Arafat in order to fight the Hamas" (Ha'aretz, Dec. 20).

This having been said, Peres nevertheless remains cautious. When the issue was raised in meetings with Arafat, Peres did no more than promise "to talk with Weitzman" -- making no mention of other possible solutions. And with the approach of the January 10 prisoner release, Peres apparently authorized Police Minister Shahal to carry out a drastic step: expel by force from Hasharon Prison all the women who refused pardon, leaving the five "problematic ones" alone and isolated.

As the prisoners later told, on the morning of January 10 they saw a considerable number of prison guards and policemen, armed with clubs and tear gas containers, approaching their wing of the prison. The male prisoners of the adjoining wing were told "to stay in their cells and not to react to shouts or screams from the women's wing." A phone call made its way out of the prison to the Tel-Aviv office of Women for Political Prisoners (WOFPP), which immediately alerted the printed and electronic media, as well as Knesset Members. Meanwhile the women prisoners barricaded themselves in two cells, piling furniture against the doors and sealing the windows, to prevent the throwing of tear gas canisters.

The many inquiring journalists were told by the Prison Authority that there had never been any intention of releasing prisoners by force. The armed guards did move away from the women's wing, but the supply of water and electricity to the cells was cut off. WOFPP got wind of that also, and got the move publicized on the radio news. The perplexed Prison Authority -- subjected to protests from Knesset Members -- gave soon up on this tactic.

The women prisoners at Hasharon remained barricaded in two cells for three whole weeks -- refusing to admit prison staff or anybody else. This meant, among other things, that they did not receive food. It was not a complete hunger strike since the women had hoarded some food days in advance. More difficult was the crowding, twenty-nine women in two cells intended to house not more than six prisoners each, with the barricades further reducing the available space and with most of the time the windows firmly closed. The women had to sleep in shifts, sharing out the few mattresses.

For their part, the prison authorities refused to let lawyers or other visitors -- such as Knesset Member Tamar Gozanski, who hurried to the prison -- to approach the cells' doors. Thus, the women were cut off from direct communications with the outside.

The Tel-Aviv office of WOFPP became a hive of frenzied activity, with a handful of volunteers drafting and faxing press releases, phoning journalists, lawyers and Knesset Members, and organizing solidarity vigils. Contacts were also made with ministers' aides, via sympathetic Meretz members. Other groups were drawn in as well -- activists of Gush Shalom and the Hadash Communists, and women's organizations such as Bat Shalom in Jerusalem and the Democratic Women with their mixed Jewish-Arab membership.

The first vigil outside Hasharon Prison took place immediately after the affair began; more than fifty women demonstrated outside the Presidential Mansion in Jerusalem, on the day of the Palestinian elections; then, another vigil outside Hasharon Prison, by Israeli women together with prisoners' mothers, followed by dozens of Arab women demonstrating in the center of Nazareth. The issue also figured prominently in demonstrations held by prisoners' families during the run-up to the Palestinian elections.

The demonstrations and protests did get an occasional mention in the Israeli media, but not enough to really get the prisoners' struggle into the public consciousness.

On January 29, a hugh-ranking delegation from the Palestinian Authority was allowed to approach within speaking distance of the cell doors; they said that the Israeli authorities had pledged not to use force against the prisoners, and that the matter of the five non-pardoned prisoners was still under discussion on the highest levels. On the following morning, the prison warden came and repeated the same pledge, in the name of his superiors.

After a short debate, the 29 women voted to end their sit-in strike, open the doors and resume normal prison routine. According to the lawyers who soon afterwards visited them, they were much thinner and very tired, but with their morale and feeling of solidarity high.

Palestinian leader Feisal Husseini introduced the issue to Israeli TV journalists. Asked about the changing of the Palestinian National Covenant, he answered: "Certainly, we will convene the Palestinian National Council to change the Covenant. That is our treaty obligation. But before the PNC votes, its members might ask the leadership to report how well Israel is keeping its obligations. What about the release of the women prisoners?"

+++ A WOFPP activist's account of the Jan. 23 vigil:

(...) When we arrived at the prison gates, we found there a group of settlers, mostly women and some men, among them two right-wing Knesset Members. They had just finished a demonstration for some of their friends suspected of planning violence against Palestinians, who had been put in Administrative Detention at Hasharon Prison in the weeks following the murder of Rabin. As long as they saw only the Israelis of our group they engaged in a more or less civilized debate ("For whom are you here?" -- "Oh, for these Palestinian women, they do behave in a strong way, but why don't you demonstrate for Jewish prisoners?") Then the prisoners' mothers arrived in their traditional Arab clothing -- and the right-wingers, as if thunderstruck, suddenly changed into furies, pouring out a stream of racist insults, with their faces contorted by hatred.

It was quite a nasty scene, especially since they outnumbered us and we were not prepared for such a confrontation. At that moment I was happy that police came and hurried them away from us.

We stood some time facing the prison gates with our signs: No peace without prisoner release! / Fulfill the promise of peace / Agreements must be kept!. The mothers carried large photographs of their daughters; one held a printed poster, with five faces surrounded by barbed wire.

We started walking in the direction of the women's wing, along the narrow strip between the prison fence and the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway. Many drivers slowed down to take a look at our placards. To our surprise, two prison guards pointed from inside the prison fence the direction in which we had to go.

We could not get very close, but stood opposite the women's narrow windows at a distance of a few hundred meters. We waved our signs, held high also the white cardboard dove which we brought, and then the windows were suddenly opened, the girls waving back with clothes. This was a big surprise; on the previous vigil the windows had remained closed and sealed. We started shouting and waving wildly. The mothers of Abeer Waheedi and Rula Abu Dahu burst out into tears. They talked about their worry for their daughters; there were rumours that the prisoners intended to set themselves on fire, should the guards break in.

After a few minutes, police came and sent us away. Still, with our little vigil we had succeeded, in spite of the high fence, to reach out to the embattled women with a sign of solidarity (...).

Protests to: Shimon Peres, Minister of Defence, Hakirya, Tel Aviv; fax: 972-3-6917915; or to: Israeli embassy in your country.
Copies to: WOFPP, pob 31811, Tel Aviv; fax: 972-3-5286050. (English-language brochure available.)

****


Vanunu, Klingberg and Peres

by Adam Keller


The 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony was an occasion of special pleasure and prestige to Shimon Peres; as Israel's foreign minister he shared the prize with Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Exactly a year later, on December 10, 1955, the same ceremony featured a bad surprise to the same Peres, now Israel's prime minister: this year's winner, the British-Jewish physicist and anti-nuclear activist Joseph Rotblat, made an impassionate plea for Israel to release Mordechai Vanunu. Once again, the world was reminded of the former nuclear technician and of his revelations about the bomb production at Dimona.

Not all Israelis were aware of Rotblat's message; Israeli television in its coverage of the Oslo event censored out the passage where Rotblat refered to Vanunu, showing only more "innocent" parts of his speech. The following morning's papers, however, did quote Rotblat's call: "It happens that governments or industries conceal the evil nature of scientific research. It is the duty of scientists to expose such secrets to the public. Giving a warning should be part of a scientist's ethos, even when doing so entails retribution. The price may be very heavy, as we can see from the severe, completely disproportionate punishment meted out to Mordechai Vanunu. In my view, he has already suffered enough, more than enough" (text re-translated from the Hebrew version in Ha'aretz, Dec. 11).

Meanwhile Vanunu himself presented on December 24, one of his challenges to the Israeli judicial and political system in two new appeals to the Supreme Court. Security measures, even more stringent than at Vanunu's previous court appearances, were implemented by the police: Vanunu was brought from jail in a sealed car, and was taken from the underground parking lot to the courtroom via a closely-guarded elevator -- giving not the merest glimpse to the waiting press photographers. (Several commentators contrasted Vanunu's treatment with the one afforded to the assassin Yigal Amir, who after killing Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was given the freedom to hold impromptu press conferences in the courthouse corridor and expound at length his racist and ultra-nationalist theories.)

The Supreme Court consented to disclose the subjetcs of Vanunu's two appeals: in one, he had asked the court to order the government to return him to Italy, from where he was kidnapped in 1986.Vanunu's other, more intriguing appeal challenged the legality of Shimon Peres' election as Israel's new prime minister. All further information on Vanunu's arguments and reasoning was declared secret. From some hints in the press, it seems that his main argument was that the Mossad agants who kidnapped him from the sovereign territory of another state had violated international law -- and that Shimon Peres, who was prime minister in 1986, was therefore unfit to hold the post again. (Another argument which Vanunu may have used is Peres' major role in Israel's secret nuclear build-up.)

Both appeals were rejected out of hand by the special Supreme Court panel -- as Vanunu probably knew in advance they would. Yet -- whether or not by coincidence -- Prime Minister Peres chose the very same day to make a startling pronouncement. Meeting with the assembled editors of the Israeli press, Peres was asked on the outstanding issue of Israeli nuclear armament, and replied: 'Give me peace, and I will give up the nuclear capability.' This was the nearest that any Israeli prime minister had ever come, either to admitting possession of nuclear arms or to considering the idea of their elimination.It took the political system, including Peres' political allies, by surprise. For the first time, soemthing resembling a debate on the nuclear issue was conductd among mainstream politicians and columnists. Likud leader Netanyahu -- whose standing in public opinion has been steadily slipping since the Rabin murder -- attempted to bolster his position by pledging "never to give up the nuclear capability, peace or no peace." Peres was also criticized by some supposed liberals, such as the editorial writers of Ha'aretz; these "nuclear doves" reiterated the position that Israel needs a nuclear deterrent in order to counterbalance the strategic loss involved in giving up occupied territories.

The same position is known to be shared by Environment Minister Yossi Sarid -- leader of Meretz, Peres' dovish coalition partner. On the other hand, Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni -- the original founder of Meretz, increasingly thrust aside by the ambitious Sarid -- not only endorsed warmly the Peres declaration, but also drew in public the logical conclusion: since the prime minister has effectively admitted in public the existence of Israeli nuclear armaments, there is no longer any point in keeping Mordechai Vanunu imprisoned for having made the same disclosure...

Peres let the furore go on in the press for several days; then, the Prime Minister's Bureau issued a "clarification:" Peres' statement was no more than "a re-statement in different words" of government policy established by the late Yitzchak Rabin -- namely that Israel would be willing to negotiate on the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East, but only following the achievement of peace treaties with all states in the region, including Iran, Iraq and Lybia (see TOI-65, p.12). All this, however, is far away; the declared aim of the present peace process is to conclude peace treaties with all Middle Eastern countries except for these three "pariah states."

Peres' new nuclear image seems connected with the informal agreement he achieved in a meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak, soon after becoming prime minister. On that occasion Mubarak agreed to suspend for some time the Egyptian demand for Israeli adherence to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- a demand which bedeviled Israeli-Egyptian relations over the past year. In return, Peres apparently promised to open negotiations on the subject at some future time. On the time and circumstances when that would take place, however, different and conflicting versions were published. (The Middle East Arms Control Committee, formed at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, would be the logical venue -- but is deadlocked over the Israeli refusal to place the nuclear issue on its agenda.)

According to the well-informed military correspondent Amir Oren of Ha'aretz, the nuclear issue already created tensions between Peres and Gideon Frank, head of the "Israeli Atomic Energy Commission" -- which in fact deals with the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. Under previous prime ministers, Frank -- a person almost completely iunknown to the general public -- got used to having considerable autonomy. To a great degree he defined, as well as implemented, Israel's nuclear policy -- to the irritation of the foreign ministry officials. Any drastic change in the nuclear policy would probably require Peres to replace Frank -- his nominal subordinate.

Peres, more than previous prime ministers, is equipped to interfere in the Israeli nuclear affairs; he had been deeply involved in them from the start, as deputy defence minister under Ben Gurion, in the 1950s and 1960s. By what seems more than mere coincidence, the military censorship now permitted, for the first time, the publication of snippets of information on Peres' earlier dealings with the atom.

Thus, Ruvik Rosenthal wrote:: "(...) having always been attracted to major strategic decisions, Peres was the right man to establish the Dimona Nuclear Pile, bypassing the entire command structure of the army and carrying with him the hesitating Ben-Gurion. He was also involved in the details of implementation. At a certain moment, he threw his weight behind a cardinal professional decision, causing the resignation of most of the scientists involved" (Davar Rishon, Dec. 5, '95). Another article, that of Yossi Melman in Ha'aretz, Dec. 10, added that the scientists at the time considerd Peres' design to be "megalomanic," but that Peres was subsequently proven right. Neither article, however, gives the exact nature of Peres' dispute with the scientists.

The timing of these disclosures, getting the go-ahead from censorship after so many years of secrecy, seem designed to bolster Peres' image as the founder of Israeli nuclear power. This might give Peres some immediate political dividend among more hawkish voters -- but in the long run could also give him more legitimacy, if needed, for a decision to curtail that same nuclear power. For the moment, however, Peres intends to do no more than drop hints about the future.

****



To judge from the situation of the Palestinian prisoners -- thousands of whom are still incarcerated more than two years after the historical Rabin-Arafat handshake -- even a significant change in the Israeli government's nuclear posture will not necessarily end Mordechai Vanunu's plight.

Neither the plea for his release by the Nobel laureate, nor the similar call by Shulamit Aloni -- a leader respected by many left-leaning Israelis, but having hardly any influence inside the cabinet -- seems to effect the security establishment's attitude to "the nuclear prisoner." Nor did a series of articles, prominently published in the Ha'ir weekly, describing in detail Vanunu's conditions of imprisonment, and giving detailed expert opinions by psychologists on the dangers of prolonged isolation -- backed by testimonies of former prisoners who underwent similar conditions (for shorter periods).

The intransigence and power of the security apparatus have been demonstrated in another case, that of Dr. Marcus Klingberg. Like Vanunu, Klingberg had worked at an Israeli secret installation developing unconventional weapons of mass destruction -- in his case, the Nes Tziona Biological Institute, where according to the foreign press the state of Israel prepares for bacteriological warfare. And like Vanunu, Klingberg revealed what he had seen and has been sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment, on charges of espionage.

But unlike Vanunu, who made his disclosures to the whole world in a British newspaper and who refuses to consider himself a spy, Klingberg had revealed the Nes-Tziona secret to an agent of a foreign power -- the Soviet Union. (A holocaust survivor, whose entire family perished in Auschwitz and who himself survived by escaping into Soviet territory, Klingberg is said to have been motivated by a feeling of gratitude for the Soviet role in crushing Nazism.)

In 1983 -- apparently several years after the end of his spying career -- the security services uncovered Klingberg; he was arrested and underwent a secret trial. For several years, he was held secretly, with a false name entered into the prison records, and the authorities denying all knowledge of his whereabouts.

The affair was first published by European newspapers in 1987. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fact of Klingberg's incarceration was officially admitted.

Members of the Klingberg family, together with a few devoted friends, have been working ceaselessly to secure his release. They have found increasing support in the past year, from newspaper columnists -- by no means all of them radical -- who pointed out that Klingberg is 78 years old, that his health is fast deteriorating, and that he is unlikely to survive the eight years of imprisonment still left of his term. It was also pointed out that the Soviet Union for which he spied no longer exists, and that no conceivable harm could come of letting him spend his last years with his daughter and grandson.

The same arguments were reiterated in a petiton signed by twenty-five professors, some of them veterans of secret defence projects, and supportd by political figures from various parts of the spectrum -- including Likud Knesset Member Binyamin Begin. Finally came an unprecedented move by Ya'akov Peri, former head of the Shabak security service, who testified at the Supreme Court that, in his expert opinion, no danger to state security could arise out of Klingberg's release. The Supreme Court judges chose, however, to accept the counter-testimony of an unnamed "senior security official," who testified before them in a closed session from which Klingberg and his lawyer were excluded. According to this man's opinion, quoted in the court's verdict of January 28, Klingberg still "keeps in head extremely sensitive information," which if released, he may divulge intentionally or unintentionally" (sic). Such disclosure could, according to the verdict, have "catastrophic consequences."

At the time of writing, Klingberg has presented a further appeal, to which was appended an affidavit in which he promised to abide by severe limitations after being released: not to meet with any person not authorized by the Shabak, not to talk to journalists, never to leave the boundaries of Israel...

Meanwhile, the interest in the Klingberg case is steadily growing, with his daughter Sylvia giving extensive, emotional interviews to the weekend newspaper supplements.

****



In the same week that the Supreme Court rendered its verdict against the release of Klingberg, Interior Minister Haim Ramon proudly announced the granting of Israeli citizenship to Jonathan Pollard -- the American Jewish former naval officer, imprisoned for having passed U.S. militaery secrets to Israel.

The Israeli establishment -- which in 1986 abandoned Pollard to be caught by the FBI -- has by now adopted him as a full-dress hero, as does the American Jewish leadership which orignally kept their distance from him. Labor Party leaders broadly hinted to President Clinton that the release of Pollard before the Israeli elections could be helpful. To the government's embarassment, the U.S. security apparatus objects to the release of Pollard -- using terminology nearly identical with that used by its Israeli equivalent with regard to Vanunu and Klingberg.
Contact:
Klingberg Support Group, c/o Adv. Avigdor Feldman, 6 Simtat Beit Hasho'va, Tel-Aviv 65814.
Vanunu Solidarity Committee, POB 7323, Jerusalem 91072; fax: 972-2-254530;
Postcards with Vanunu's poem 'I am your spy' available from: Campaign to free Vanunu, 2206 Fox Avenue, Madison, WI 53711, U.S.A.

****



Shabak in the dock
but torture okay...


In the early years of Israel, censorship forbade any publication even on the existence of such a thing as the security service (in Hebrew abbreviation: the 'Shabak'). And up to the late 1970s, allegations of torture during Shabak interrogations were dismissed as "Arab propaganda." These times are long gone. Nowadays, cliques inside the Shabak regularly conduct their power struggles via leaks of juicy inside information to the press, and many details of the service's structure and internal hierarchy -- once top secret -- are now discussed on the pages of daily papers.

Media attention to the Shabak increased after its dismal failure in protecting the life of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The service's top officials were required to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, where they had to answer some difficult questions. After a period of each attempting to shift blame upon the others, the Shabak head himself had to offer his resignation.

Another blow was the disclosure, published in banner headlines, that four senior agents were caught embezzling sums of money intended for the payment of Palestinian collaborators.

Eager to further unveil the Shabak secrets, the press succeeded in defying censorship and publishing the hitherto-classified names of the outgoing Shabak head Karmi Gilon -- as well as of his successor, Admiral Ami Eilon. (Actually, Gilon's name was already known quite widely, long before being published in the papers; a group of highschool pupils posted it on the internet, together with his home address and telephone number.)

Yet, on the same day that all papers so triumphantly proclaimed the unveiled names, their front pages carried another, less conspicuous headline: "Supreme Court permits Shabak to torture terrorist suspect" (Ha'aretz, January 12; other papers used -- instead of "torture" -- the euphemism "shake").

The prisoner in question, Abd-el-Halim Bilibisi of Jebaliya Refugee Camp in Gaza, had been arrested at a military roadblock a month earlier. He confessed to having taken part in planning the January 1995 suicide bombing attack at Beit Lid, in which 20 Israeli soldiers were killed. The Shabak claimed that he was concealing information on plans of another, inspecified terrorist act, and that "physical pressure" was required in order to extract the information from him.

The Supreme Court provided the requested authorization, canceling a previous injunction which had for two weeks prevented the Shabak from "using physical force" against the prisoner (Ma'ariv, Jan. 12). The three judges remarked that their verdict was in reference to this particular case only. Nevertheless, this first-ever explicit judicial authorization for torture bodes ill for three appeals by human rights organizations pending before the Supreme Court: an appeal by the Committee Against Torture against the infamous Landau Commission Report and its endorsement of "moderate physical pressure;" another appeal by the same organization, to have a Shabak interrogator put on trial for a case of torture resulting in the death of prisoner Abd-el-Samed Harizat, on April 1995 (TOI 67-68, p. 18); and an appeal by the very respectable Civil Rights Association (ACRI) to declare illegal the interrogation method known as "shaking", the use of which caused Harizat's death.

While these three appeals are slowly proceeding through the court, the government has undertaken a legislative initiative which may render them effectively moot; introducing the draft of "A Shabak Law," purporting to regulate the legal position of the Shabak. In fact, this law -- if passed -- would allow Shabak interrogators to "apply pressure" on detainees in order to extract information, provided only that they don't cause "severe pain." The proposed law does not offer any definition of "severe pain" -- and it does provide Shabak agents with a practically complete immunity from criminal prosecution for "reasonable acts, committed in good faith in the course of fulfilling their duties."

The presentation of the draft law aroused a considerable number of protests by human rights groups, newspaper columnists and well-known jurists. Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Hebrew University Faculty of Law wrote: "Only in form would this be a law; in its essence, it would be manifestly illegal" (Yediot Aharonot, Feb. 4). On the political level, the law drew a loud protest from Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni, followed by a more muted criticism from her rival in the Meretz leadership, Minister Yossi Sarid.

The law is also getting increased international attention. It figured prominently on the agenda of Pierre SanÇ, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who in early February paid a week-long visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, to take up the issue of torture by the Israeli and Palestinian security services.

After a prolonged meeting with Justice Minister Liba'i, SanÇ explained to the Israeli press the reasons for his organizations' special concern: "You are not the only country where torture is practiced. We know of at least ninety, but they all try to deny and hide it. If Israel becomes the first state in today's world to openly and officially legalize torture, it would be a grave setback to human rights in the entire world, and you must expect to become the focus of international criticism" (Yediot Aharonot, 11 Feb.).

The Israeli establishment already got a sample of that coming storm when Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm Wallen took up the matter during her meeting with Prime Minister Peres -- who answerd that a draft law presented in the Israeli parliament is an internal Israeli affair. His visitor pointed out that the International Convention for prevention of Torture -- to which both Israel and Sweden are signatories -- makes no distinction between "severe" and "non-severe" pain... As this goes into print, the European Union clearly hinted that passage of the law could jeopardize Israel's economic agreement with the Union, which Israeli negotiators worked for three hard years to achieve.
Protests against 'Shabak Law' to: Justice Minister Liba'i, POB 1087, Jerusalem; fax: 972-2-285438;
Copies to: Committee Against Torture, POB 8588, Jerusalem 91083; fax 972-2-630073.

+++ This year's International Human Rights Day, December 10 -- a month after the Rabin murder -- got a lot more attention than ever before, from organizers as well as from the public and the media. A powerful coalition of human rights groups prepared a series of events centered around the cinematäques of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and Haifa. For a whole week the three cinematäques were showing Israeli and foreign films with human rights-related subjects. There were also theatre, pantomime and dance performances at Be'er Sheba, Acre, Nazareth and the Arab Village of Abu Gosh. Themes dealt with included freedom of speech, dangers to democracy, rights of women, the specific situation of Arab women, and the prospects for Arabs in a "Jewish Democratic State" -- Israel's official self-definition.

On December 15, stalls were placed on the square outside the Tel-Aviv cinematäque together with giant signs reading "Torture in Israel -- a ticking bomb?" In this way, the public was invited to come into the building and listen to lectures as well as participate in discussions on such themes as 'the legal definition of torture and the complicity of doctors.' A similar event was enacted at the Jerusalem cinematäque.
Contact: ACRI, POB 8273, Jerusalem; and: Physicians for Human Rights, POB 10235, Tel Aviv 61101.


'Am I still invited?'


Readers of Davar Rishon's Letters to the Editor column were treated, during last December, to an astonishing echange between Naif al-Arjoub, a Palestinian from Dura Village on the West Bank, and former general Recha'am Ze'evi, leader of the ultra-nationalist Moledet (Fatherland) Party. Al-Arjoub happened to be an old TOI-contact; we found and talked to him at the kitchen of a Tel-Aviv restaurant where he was working -- illegally, since he was denied an entry permit to Israel.

"The whole thing with Ze'evi started when I saw him on television, swaggering through the streets of Nablus and threatening to shoot any Palestinian policeman he met.

I wrote a letter in Hebrew to the Israeli papers. I wrote that the renowned Israeli general Ze'evi is actually a coward, who is hiding behind his gun and his boasting and threats. I invited him to visit our village without his gun, as a guest and not a conqueror. He wrote a haughty answer to the paper, mentioning that he had already been in Dura in the 1970s -- as governor of the West Bank. He also gave the names of people from Dura killed or arrested under his command, asking: 'Am I still invited to Dura?' I immediately wrote a second letter, telling him that he should stop looking backward, to the dark years of bloodshed and hatred, and had better participate in making peace. He answered again and I answered his answer -- it went on like this three times, and then he gave up answering me.

You should know that this was not just words. If he had accepted the invitation, I was going to host him with all respect and introduce him to my family and neighbors, even to get kosher food especially for him. We should try to make peace with all Israelis, not just with the moderates. We should try to draw in the right-wingers. You know that the Likud leader Netanyahu is already starting to accept the Oslo Accords. I wrote a new letter, congratulating him.

(...) I have been unemployed for a long time. For nearly twenty years, until the Gulf War, I had a job here in Tel-Aviv. I worked legally and openly. I walked the streets and went to the sea and to football matches. I made many Israeli friends. In 1991, they took away my permit, like they did to so many others.

More than half the people in Dura are now unemployed. I did not like to enter Israel illegally to come to work. Not only because of the danger of arrest but also because of the degradation. But there was no choice. We have only a small piece of land, with a few olive trees. You can't feed a family only on olives and olive oil. Our neighbor, the store owner, was very kind and let us run up a huge debt -- but I knew that he has a family too. So I had to take the risk and come here to Tel-Aviv. I am lucky with Moshe, my boss here, who treats me as a friend, not just an employee. But still it is difficult. I am safe inside the kitchen, but if I go out I could get arrested. So I stay here day and night, like a prisoner, and only go home every second weekend. But at least I paid much of our debts.

I was here when the army left Dura and the Palestinian police came in. I missed the celebrations, but I got home in time to see the arrival of Arafat and participated in the big rally to which the whole village came. On the following day the Hamas made a memorial meeting to Yihye Ayash, who was killed in Gaza by Israeli secret agents. The same people who had come to greet Arafat also showed up at the memorial -- not only Hamas supporters were angry about the Ayash assassination.

It is such a big change in Dura now, such a feeling of security. People walking in the street in the middle of the night, visiting friends without looking over their shoulder. Until now, we could never know when the army would come, in the day or the night. When we saw strangers, even if they looked liked Arabs, we always thought: 'Are these Mista'aravim (pseudo-Arab undercover soldiers), who will open fire in a moment?' Now, this is all behind us. We now have in the streets the Palestinian policemen, who came from exile, boasting about their exploits in Lebanon; and the young men of Dura are boasting back -- about the Intifada days.

A few weeks before the elections, I was in Dura at the Fatah election meeting with Arafat's Political Secretary. During question time, I got up and spoke about the arrest of [human rights activist] Bassam Id by the Palestinian police. I said that Id had been working very hard against the occupation, to expose what the army did to us. I said: 'What kind of democracy is it, to arrest such a man?' Several others joined me. The Arafat man started to stammer "we will have democracy, we will have democracy, but please let me speak!"

I took care to have my week-end off on the elections day. I and my wife went to vote. After that I did my share in helping Fatah win: I went to neighbors and told them how important it is to vote, that it is part of creating our state. I also talked about the Fatah candidates. Some of the people said they don't know anything about the candidates who came back recently. 'Who are they? Why should I vote for them?' I told that these are good men who worked for our people. Nabeel Amer was our ambassador in Moscow during the Gulf War, and Abass Zaki commanded the Force 17 commando unit. Everybody knows about Force 17, there are songs about how they fought.

It was not very difficult to talk with my neighbors. The elctions were like a holiday, a celebration. We had a very high percentage of voters. I also saw many Hamas supporters come to vote. They smiled and shook hands with me.

Now we have our representatives, our parliament, and we feel good with it. Of course, there are still many problems, many remnants of the occupation. We have the settlers in Hebron, very near to us, walking with their guns. And we have the unemployment, the economic problems. Just today, I heard Arafat say to Peres -- at the economists' meeting in Switzerland -- that peace is impossible when one side lives in luxury and the other side is starving. But I am optimistic. We can build our own economy, if only the donor states give the money they promised. And when we have jobs in our territory, we are ready to give up the jobs in Israel -- although I like Tel-Aviv, especially the sea shore. But you can't have everything. And we will have our state. Even Netanyahu, if he wins the elections in Israel, will have no choice but give it to us; he might even do it quicker than Labor.

We will have peace, two states and two peoples, peace and quiet and a great pleasure to live in this country.

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Elections in the balance
by Dr Rateb Sweiti


Unlike other Arab countries, the Palestinian people by virtue of their long revolutionary struggle and contact with the West are more prone to modern democracy. Their conflict with Zionism lasted for a century in which they underwent all kinds of oppression, and from which they learned to love freedom and justice. These are the most valuable concepts which the Palestinian people cherish. On this basis, they accepted free and fair elections to be the way of selecting their representatives. The twentieth of January 1996 was the day on which the Palestinian people exercised their right to vote, and thus a new era in their history had begun. In this context, we must answer the questions of what is the significance of the Palestinian elections, and what is the prospect of success for the nascent Palestinian democracy.

By the natural scheme of things, the right to determine one's own destiny is considered an inalienable right of a nation. Nonetheless, the Palestinians had to earn such rights with blood, a price they were willing to pay for their freedom and their democratic rights. They have only started to relish the taste of their accomplishments toward building the long-awaited Palestinian state. And the past elections were the first significant step on the way of achieving that ultimate goal.

The elections came as a continuation of deeply established democratic traditions developed over decades of national struggle. The Palestinians have accepted political diversity to be the pivot of their unity, indispensable for victory. The political differences served as unifying forces for the common cause of liberation. Regardless of where they lived or had been educated, the Palestinian people always joined forces in the push for reaching self-determination. Democratization of their struggle meant not to exclude any political grouping from contributing in the crusade for liberation.

Undoubtedly, the principle of democratization was carried to the political front with the recent elections. For the first time people were given the chance to vote on a national agenda under a Palestinian flag. The majority of them participated in the elections, while those who objected were not forced to do so -- in observance of the principles of democracy and freedom. However, the political arena remains open to everyone to participate at a time of his own chosing. It could easily be understood that non-participation itself is an act of practicing democracy and that the abstinence percentage could be counted as a balance of opposition.

Of the mainstream Palestinians, 90% voted for Yasser Arafat to be their president. This means an endorsement of his policy of aiming at returning all the lands occupied in 1967, on which a Palestinian state should be established with its capital in Jerusalem. Arafat's impressive record of sacrifice for the Palestinian cause was the main reason for him being chosen against his competitor, Samiha Khalil. Likewise, Palestinians chose the council members for their record of fighting against the Israeli occupation. Among the elected council members are 60% of Arafat's group of Fatah and 40% are independent but with pro-Fatah stand. With the absence of the Hamas movement, this would enable Arafat to have his way in the Legislative Council. It makes, aside from Hamas absence, a fair representation of the Palestinian people, while if Hamas participated in the elections, it could have gotten between 20-25% of the votes.

In fact, the outcome of the elections was expected to be in favor of Arafat due to the people's support of his approach to the Palestinian-Israeli politics. This tilt towards Arafat's side appeared in a poll of 580 persons conducted by Dr Asameh Shahwan of Hebron University in the areas of Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and published a week before the elections: 65.3% of the people said they would participate in the elections; of these 59% said they would vote for Arafat's bloc, while 43.7% said they would include independent candidates. The elections confirmed that these two are the dominant groups in Palestinian politics. Arafat's men came up winners, to be followed by independent candidates who are not threatening opponents. And the percentage of people who participated in the elections came close to that of of Dr Shahwan's poll, 70% as mentioned by local media. The opinion poll confirmed the confidence with which Arafat welcomed the elections and his insistence on the correctness of his policy.

It remains to be seen, however, how much of the support for Arafat in the elections could be translated into support in the Legislative Council. The Palestinian people are anxious to see whether the council members will really represent their interests. Still, Israel occupies 70% of the land, including the many settlements, besides Jerusalem; water resources, sovereignty and borders: all of them thorny issues to be resolved. There are also societal issues to be tackled, such as employment, education, health, women's issues and development, in addition to reinforcing democratization.

On the domestic front, the Legislative Council is empowered by the Oslo Agreement to carry out legislation regulating peoples' daily life. Its weak spot is its limited political power, concerning the disputes with Israel still to be resolved. A poor performance, however, on questions of basic national interests might determine the council's fate. In order to survive, the council must show political strength and prove itself by handing successfully issues of national gravity. With a deadlock in the council, Arafat could not proceed well in his dealings with Israel. Nor should Israel expect the council to be a rubber stamp institution ready to sign deals as they come. The council must resist Israeli pressure endangering Palestinian national interests.

It could truly be said that the legislative council is a de facto foundation of an independent Palestinian state. It came into being by a Palestinian will which must be reflected in its debates and resolutions. It must work for removing all traces of occupation and consolidate the new-born democracy.

Hebron, January 27.

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Mutiny in Lebanon


For months, tensions had been growing at an Israeli paratroop company stationed in Lebanon. The conscripts, who had completed more than two years of service under difficult conditions of guerrilla war, did not get along with their newly-appointed commanding officer, a captain. They felt that they were being treated like raw recruits and that he ignored the vast experience they had accumulated. They were denied the right to be consulted -- a right not mentioned in any military regulation, but customary in many units.

On the night of December 21, while the unit was engaged in manning an outpost facing the Hizbullah-held villages, several soldiers got into an argument with the captain over some trivial issue and refused a direct order. They were backed by the others. Within an hour, all the forty-five soldiers present decided to leave the outpost en masse. They packed their belongings, and started marching in the direction of the Israeli border to the south.

The company commander immediately informed his superiors of what had occurred. The deputy battalion commander and deputy brigade commander rushed to the scene. The two met up with the soldiers about half a kilometer from the outpost, and convinced them to return. The soldiers did so, after detailing their complaints to the two senior officers.

The affair soon leaked into the media; politicians and senior army officers attacked the mutinous soldiers for "unforgivable, irresponsible insubordination." The radio also broadcast extensive interviews with the soldiers' parents, who backed their sons and gave details of their grievances.

According to the parents, about forty soldiers were ordered to do the work of a hundred, often being kept awake for 72 hours at at time, lying down in ambush on guerrilla routes and suffering from frostbites.

The affair was particularly embarassing for the army because only only a few weeks earlier, the same paratroop unit was commended for its success in a skirmish with the Hizbullah guerrillas, which had been made into a major media event.

Rather than haul the rebellious soldiers befrore a regular court martial, for a prolonged sensational trial that may have ended with the imposition of years-long sentences, the army decided to finish the affair quickly. On the same day, all the soldiers had undergone disciplinary proceedings by the commanding officer and were sentenced to 56 days each -- the maximum punishment possible under this proceeding. The company was disbanded, the soldiers to be dispersed to different units upon their release from prison.

A month later, the commanding general reduced the soldiers' terms by two weeks each, since "they had acted in a moment of foolishness" (Ma'ariv, Jan. 22).

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Adam Keller in Japan


For the seventh consecutive year, the outstanding Japanese human rights lawyer Yoko Tada, who died at the age of 29, was commemorated with a ceremony in which three activists were given the Yoko Tada Human Rights Award. This year TOI-editor Adam Keller was one of the recipients, together with Jun-ichi Kaneko, leader of the Japanese Railway Workers Union which went through a very stormy decade, and Kimura Tohru -- a political prisoner during World War II, until today active in bringing to light cases of torture and murder of prisoners which took place in Japan during that war.

Speaking at the ceremony in Tokyo on December 16, Keller described to a very attentive audience, the pioneering work for dialogue with the PLO, started by the ICIPP 20 years ago on a platform which sounded at that time very radical: a two state solution -- to be negotiated with the PLO. Keller also analysed the situation of the peace process after the murder of Rabin, and the challenges which still await the peace movement. (The Japanese readers of TOI among the audience could for once see 'the man behind the editorials.')

Keller got invitations to lecture at the universities of Kyoto and Kobe and was interviewed by the dailies Asahi and Mainichi, as well on Japanese radio. Furthermore he met with a variety of smaller and bigger groups involved in Middle Eastern issues, among them trade-unionists, Christian and Buddhist communities, as well as Israelis, Palestinians and other Middle Easterners living in Japan.

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How to buy a cow

by Uri Avnery


Soon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority will have to sit together again and start dealing seriously with the tricky issues which so far have been delayed. According to Article 5 of the Oslo Agreement, 'permanent status negotiations will commence (...) not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period (...) [and] these negotiatons shall cover (...) Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with neighbors.' The interim period officially started with the signing of the Cairo Agreement on May 4, 1994, which means that its third year starts on May 5 this year. Therefore, time is running out for sweeping knotty problems under the carpet: in about three months they will all be placed squarely on the agenda.

The Oslo timetable was probably among Shimon Peres' considerations for putting forward the Israeli general elections. (As opinion polls stand now, new elections would give him a renewed mandate.) It would of course be possible to delay the moment of truth. The Israeli foreign service has in its ranks many diplomats expert in dragging out negotiatons for many months over trivial technicalities. But in spite of the elections fever already gripping the political system, conversations with confidential Peres aides show them to be seriously preparing for the upcoming negotiations with the Palestinians. It seems that in this case delaying tactics are not considered fit, as the Palestinian position is steadily gaining strength.

The Palestinian elections succeeded beyong all expectations, the Palestinian Authority consolidated its hold on the ground and gains growing international recognition. In Arab East Jerusalem, the precedent of Palestinian ballots was created despite the Israeli police's obstruction, foreign ministers insist upon visiting Palestinian headquarters in the Orient House, and in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu-Dis -- within sight of the Old City Walls -- the Palestinian flag was already ceremoniously hoisted on top of the former Israeli military outpost...

From incidental statements by the prime minister, and from information filtering out from those close to him, it seems that Peres has his negotiating strategy already formulated: not to beat about the bush, but get directly down to business -- and to present a tough, intransigent Israeli position, making maximum demands and offering no more than cosmetic concessions.

Concessions in Jerusalem are "unthinkable;" return of refugees "out of the question." Furthermore, the main settlement blocks in the West Bank should stay in place under full Israeli control; at most, some smaller, inaccessible settlements would be given up; "no Palestinian state" -- only some kind of vague "entity," and the borders of this "entity" would fall far short of the pre-'67 Green Line, because of all the settlement blocks which must be annexed to Israel...

This tough language shows that not so much has changed after all in thirty years. I remember a conversation in June 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War, with then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. After I had publicly called upon him to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state on the newly-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, I had an opportunity to speak to Eshkol privately. I explained to him why I felt that now was the moment; why the shock of Israel's overwhelming victory could create a unique chance for peace -- if only Israel's leaders would show themselves to be generous victors, a role which has many precedents in the Arab tradition.

Eshkol listened to me patiently, and then burst out: "But if I make such a declaration, I am giving up everything in advance! What kind of merchant are you? When a merchant begins negotiations, he always demands the maximum and offers the minimum. The other side does the same, and in the end they hammer out a compromise. What other way is there?" I told him that this was a perfect strategy for buying a cow -- but that a historic compromise between millions of people, after generations of bloody conflict, has completely different rules. Here, a dramatic gesture could break down mental barriers and achieve in one day more than years of argy-bargying. Eshkol listened to me, but it was clear that I was getting nowhere.

He may have been sincere, he may indeed have intended to compromise with the Arabs after prolonged haggling. In the event, Eshkol did not live to see even the very start of any peace negotions. Victorious Israel gave itself up to nationalist euphoria, the embittered Arabs retreated into extremism and intransigence, and the unique chance for peace was lost. Three further wars were to be fought -- with the life of a whole new generation on both sides blighted by occupation, hatred and bloodshed -- before the real issues between Israelis and Palestinians would start to be tackled seriously.

Now that this crucial moment is at last approaching, I would like to reiterate the same message and address directly those who will conduct the upcoming talks: Peres, his ministers and aides, and all the diplomatic officers and security agents who will staff the negotiating team. Dear friends, these are not routine negotiations with yet another religious faction, in order to gain its parliamentary support. This is a historic event! The results could determine for generations the fate of the two peoples who live -- and will continue to live -- in this country. Therefore, I propose that you abandon the common patterns.

Already on the first day, at the ceremonial opening of the talks, the authorized representatives of the State of Israel should deliver a clear message to the Palestinian people, that Israel is ready to accept three general principles as basis for the talks:

-- that the Palestinian people have the right to establish their own state;

-- that the Green Line will be the border between Israel and Palestine;

-- that united Jerusalem will be the capital of both states.

All other problems -- the future of the settlements, the fate of the refugees, the exact relations between the two sides, the arrangements on the border, the mutual security arrangements -- could be solved in talks based on these three principles.

I already know that my proposal will not be adopted. Already I got unofficial messages, from government supporters who consider themselves leftists, pleading me not to talk about such things, since "it would weaken the government's negotiating position." Even veteran peace supporters are now endorsing in their public appearances the government's three No's: No Palestinian state, No compromise in Jerusalem, No return to the Green Line; this, they claim, is needed "for tactical reasons."

The negotiations we face require creative imagination. Generosity could be reciprocated. Each side's representatives must understand the values and sentiments of the other, and free themselves of prejudices. For our side, this means getting rid of the patronizing and racist attitudes accumulated during 29 years of occupation. Above all, we must keep sight of the goal of these talks: not to retain control of a few square kilometres here and there, but to create a new reality, a partnership of peace, in this country and in the entire region.

(Adapted from Ma'ariv, Feb. 5, '96.)