The Other Israel _ June-July 1996, Issue No. 73
*And All Promised Peace...
Editorial Comment by the Editors
At This Hour, Gush Shalom ad 31 May
*The New King, by Adam Keller
Surrealism in Hebron, by Beate Zilversmidt
"We Are All Jahalin"
Dancing On The Watch Tower, by David Shechter
*You Can't Have Peace For Less, by Naif Alarjub
Matti Peled's Legacy
If You Have To Cross A River, by Beate Zilversmidt
*And The Peace Camp Slept, by Uri Avnery
*Deteriorating Perspective, by Israel Loeff
(concluded on p. 15)
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon,
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
For subscription information and 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
June-July 1996, Issue No. 73
AND ALL PROMISED PEACE...
After the elections a group of youngsters, turned peace activists on November 4, gathered at the site of the Rabin
murder, laying wreathes near the monument in the corner of what has been renamed "Rabin Square." Some
of them were openly weeping. Others were just bitter: "The murderer won!"
Just half a year after the murder which made Rabin into "a martyr for the cause of peace," the elections
failed to deliver a "Yes" to Rabin's successor Shimon Peres -- in spite of the devotion of the youngsters,
these "Candle Children" whose appearance had been so overwhelming.
At that time, the shock of seeing where right-wing extremism could lead seemed to wake up the Israeli people. Under
its impact, the peace process regained the wide support it originally enjoyed, and which Rabin, in a too long drawn
out process, had tragically lost on the way. It had become clear once more that the people want peace. (There had
been many who advised Peres, last November, to hold elections immediately!) How come, then, that in less than half
a year it all evaporated? How is it that nothing of the sort was reflected in the elections results? True, the
elections were decided only by most narrow of margins -- but they did bring to power the Likud, with all its extreme
And since Peres already decided not to dissolve but to go on with the old Knesset, why did he not make full use
of the entire year until the original elections date in October -- as his close adviser Yossi Beilin repeatedly
Peres did carry out the military withdrawal from six West Bank towns and handed them over to Palestinian control,
creating irreversible facts. Yet this was no more than implementing the Oslo II Agreement, already signed by Rabin.
As Prime Minister, Peres added nothing of his own, beyond a hasty, soon-aborted new overture towards Syria. Could
he not have done a bit more? Could he not have created a few more accomplished facts for peace?
With a little bit of the daring and the diplomatic skill with which the world credited him, Peres could have laid
before the voters at least the draft of a comprehensive peace agreement with all of Israel's direct neighbors.
He could have stated openly what everybody knew -- that the price of peace with the Palestinians is a Palestinian
state, and of peace with Syria -- withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights. He could at least have started extricating
the army from the death trap of the South Lebanon guerilla war (for which, incidentally, many soldiers' families
-- and the soldiers themselves -- might have expressed gratitude at the ballot box). He could, and should, have
realised that elections are not won by wavering.
It is as if Peres did not have enough trust in the Israeli people. Rather than lead the way forward, he and his
advisers let the weekly opinion polls dictate their policy. But before the Oslo peace process, opinion polls had
given little hint of the broad support which the people would give this process, once started. Nor could Rabin's
low rating at the polls, in the last months of his life, give any indication of the fact that posthumously he would
bring even Likud supporters to favor the peace process. For such things one cannot receive guaranteed predictions
from the Bureau of Statistics -- but one who sits in cafes, goes by bus, stands in line and listens might sense
It seems that Netanyahu in one way or another got this kind of information and knew how to take it seriously. That
is why he decided, just in time, to give up his opposition to the Oslo Accords and promised the voters to continue
the peace process -- while also managing the acrobatic feat of simulateneously attacking Peres for... yes, for
doing the same.
Originally, Peres seemed intent on reaching an agreement with the Syrians, and the negotiations which he re-opened
at Wye Plantation Maryland, were accompanied by high expectations in the media. Yet, within a few weeks, these
negotiations were once again bogged down, and Peres announced his decision to bring forward the elections date,
fixing them for May 29.
As Peres disclosed after the elections, this decision was due to Syrian President Assad's failure to set a date
for a face-to-face meeting (Ha'aretz, 21.6). Without such direct top level talks, Peres saw no chance to resolve
until October the many remaining stumbling blocks -- in particular, the issues of vital water sources and of the
extensive demilitarization of Syrian territory, regarded by the Israeli generals
as an indispensable condition for giving up the occupied Golan Heights. Peres was afraid the negotiations would
stall, that he would arrive at the elections with nothing to show -- and with the opposition sniping at his willingness
to give up the Golan. For his part, Assad may have been apprehensive of moving quickly before the Israeli elections
-- lest a Netanyahu government fail to carry out an agreement signed with Peres. If these were indeed Assad's considerations,
they had certainly acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy...
At more or less the time that the negotiations with Syria faltered, Peres made a fatal blunder: authorizing the
Israeli Security Service to violate Palestinian territorial integrity and have undercover operatives assassinate
Hamas leader Yihye Ayash in the middle of Self-Governing Gaza. As recounted in our previous issue (TOI-72, p.1),
the Ayash assassination ended a fragile unofficial ceasefire and wrecked Arafat's prolonged efforts to draw Hamas
into the political process.
It needed no great perspicacity or political acumen to realize that the killing of Ayash may unleash suicide bombing
attacks on Israel's cities; many ordinary Israelis feared as much, immediately upon hearing of the assassination.
It is still not at all clear why Peres approved it -- if he did. (If such an action could be committed by his underlings
without his knowledge, his responsibility was all the greater.) In any case, by calling early elections within
weeks after such a provocation, Peres definitely became the main player in his own downfall.
To win direct election as Prime Minister, under Israel's new electoral system, Peres needed to get at least fifty
percent of the votes -- which meant welding and holding together a heterogeneous, bi-national coalition: Jewish
and Arab voters, committed peace seekers and "pragmatic hawks", and as much as he could get out of the
undecided "floating vote" at the center of the spectrum.
Up to the time of the suicide bombings, a more or less coherent strategy to bind these disparate elements would
have been feasible for Peres: to seek re-election as the Peacemaker Prime Minister, successor of the by now legendary
Rabin -- and to point out that his main rival, Netanyahu, had no credible alternative road to peace.
Following the terrorist attacks, this strategy was abandoned in despair. Peres swung between different, often contradictory
policies -- with every step taken to please one part of his voters alienating others. First, Peres undertook a
series of aggressive acts, designed to give him a "tough" image: the hermetic closure of the Palestinian
territories; the demonstrative cold-shouldering of Arafat; suspension of the military redeployment in Hebron (the
major West Bank city still under direct occupation); and finally -- the disproportional retaliatory bombardments
Not only morally, but electorally as well, the "Grapes of Wrath" outrage was a complete failure. The
growing brutalization, and especially the carnage at Kana, alienated the voters on Peres' left flank -- mainly
Arabs but some Jews as well -- who were more and more inclined to cast a blank ballot.
And at the same time, the elusive "floating voters" were not greatly impressed with Peres' efforts to
appear tough -- especially since the destruction visited upon Lebanon failed to crush the Hizbullah guerrillas,
in the same way as the closure could not provide real safety against the suicide bombers. The fear of a new attack
on Israeli population centers remained a dark cloud hanging over the entire elections period, creating an atmosphere
of apprehension which undoubtedly drove voters away from Peres. The dire warnings repeatedly made by Labor leaders
of "an Iranian plot to decide the Israeli elections via terrorist attacks" merely served to further exacerbate
the atmosphere of fear, and thus played straight into the hands of Netanyahu.
In the last days before the elections, Labor made great efforts to conciliate the Arab voters and regain their
support for Peres -- yet the growing success of these efforts, with Arab political leaders one by one endorsing
publicly the Peres candidature, was used by the right-wingers for a racist camaign, calling upon undecided voters
"not to let the Prime Minister in a Jewish state be chosen by Arabs." Once again, it became apparent
that in Israel ("the only democracy in the Middle East"), the basic right of Arab citizens to participate
as equals in the decision-making process is far from universally accepted.
In the 1996 elections, the Labor Party possessed an asset it did not have in any earlier campaign: the enthusiastic
and emotional adherence of thousands of young people, politicized by the murder of Rabin. They went out on the
streets in the wake of the suicide bombings to express their continuing confidence in the cause of peace (Yes to
Peace, Especially Now!);
throughout the campaign they continued to stand with elections signs at crossroads throughout the country, sometimes
clashing with right-wingers; to put up posters and stickers everywhere; and to express enthusiastic personal support
at all public appearances of Shimon Peres -- who for them embodied the chance for peace.
On May 4, six months after the murder, the youngsters thonged "Rabin Square" in their tens of thousands,
to attend the Dor Shalom movement's re-enactment of that other fatal rally, hear a recording of Rabin's last speech
echoing once again throughout the square, and express a strong commitment to the peace process.
Such enthusiastic supporters could have been best used in a forceful campaign -- strongly asserting the memory
of Rabin, who was killed because of his quest for peace, and calling for a popular mandate to complete this mission
of peace. Yet such an assertive campaign was the very opposite of what Labor actually decided upon.
Lulled by the public opinion polls, which persistantly gave Peres a 3% to 6% lead over Netanyahu, and assuming
that these 3% to 6% are essentially right-wingers who had come over to the Peres side, the Labor campaign headquarters
decided upon a defensive and quietist, not an aggressive campaign. At all costs controversy and polarization were
to be avoided, on the assumption that these would only drive the hesitant voters back into the Likud's arms. Thus,
big rallies and street actions were avoided. The Labor's elections broadcasts refrained from making "too sharp"
attacks upon Netanyahu and the Likud, and never mentioned the incitement which preceded the Rabin murder.
The slogan 'Vote for Peres, Vote for Peace,' used spontaneously by the youthful Laborites, was rejected in favor
of 'Israel is Strong with Peres.' It was left to Netanyahu to adopt a "peace slogan" -- the immensely
succesful 'Netanyahu for a Secure Peace,' seen everywhere in the country, which seemed to hold out to ordinary
Israelis the best of two worlds -- a continuation of the peace process, together with an assurance of "Security"
which Peres seemed unable to provide. Naturally, Netanyahu did not go into details, on how he thought to achieve
this wonderful combination. The Labor broadcasts tried to mock Netanyahu as a shallow upstart and emphasize in
contrast Peres' vast experience as a statesman. Yet, in the final TV debate, what many viewers saw was a vigorous
and confident young candidate against an overcautious tired and old one.
After the suicide bombings, Peres seemed rather ashamed of the Labor Government's main achievement: the Oslo Agreements.
When the Labor TV broadcasts showed him shaking the hand of an Arab leader, it was King Hussein of Jordan -- representing
a cheap and easy kind of peace which did not require territorial concessions.
The omission was made good in the Likud's broadcasts, which proclaimed "Arafat is leading Peres by the hand"
and screened again and again, a single footage seeming to show Arafat doing just that. (It was taken years ago
at the Davos Economic Conference, at one of the high points in the stormy Peres-Arafat relations.) At the same
time of these nightly "Arafat horror shows," Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility that he would
himself meet with Arafat -- but "in a different way, firm and demanding."
Feeling that Peres as a peacemaker was a rather problematic image in the prevailing conditions, Labor propaganda
sought to make him rather an economic miracle man: repeatedly emphasizing the phenomenal growth of the Israeli
economy in the past four years, and linking it to the peace process with its concomitant opening of new markets
and attraction of foreign investors. Yet, the images of a beautiful and prosperous Israel, repeated on Labor's
broadcasts, were but a mockery for many voters who had had little or no share in this prosperity; under the Labor
government, the gap between rich and poor in Israel had become more steep than in any Western industrial country
except for the U.S.
For all its decades-long membership in the Socialist International, it is an open secret that the Israeli Labor
Party is essentially the party of the affluent middle class. The elections results showed a clear correspondence
between the wealth or poverty of towns and neighborhoods, and the percentage of votes cast in them respectively
for Peres and Netanyahu.
Nor was it purely an economic question, but a cultural division as well. Like its main ally, Meretz, the Labor
Party draws most of its support from the Israeli equivalent of WASPs -- the descendants of the pioneers who came
from Eastern Europe in the beginning of the century, laid the foundations of the State of Israel and dominated
Israeli political and social life ever since. As in precious elections, this segment of Israeli society gave a
solid majority to Peres -- but this was not enough.
Unlike Rabin in 1992, Peres made no headway in other parts of the Jewish-Israeli society -- the Oriental Jews,
who had come over from the Muslim countries in the 1950s; the recently arrived immigrants from the former Soviet
Union, already constituting some 10% of the Israeli society; and the religious and ultra-orthodox communities.
To varying degrees all of these gave Netanyahu a majority in the prime ministerial elections, while filling the
Knesset with representatives of their own sectoral parties.
Among the religious, a near-total mobilization for Netanyahu to "drive away the secularist-leftists from the
government" was carried out, at the rabbis' orders but also with a lot of enthusiasm, by active young students
at religious seminaries. In this holy war, unprecedented alliances were forged between sects with generations-old
feuds. Altogether, Netanyahu got a staggering 94% in the close-knit Orthodox community. This religious support
was not necessary given to the person of Netanyahu -- the only Israeli politician to admit in public having had
an extramarital affair; rather, it was an utter rejection of the secularist way of life especially propounded by
Meretz, Labor's ally. Peace is seen, in this milieu, as a further threat, an opening up to the wide world of doors
which the rabbis and their fanatic followers wish firmly closed.
The impoverished Orientals and Russian immigrants were not as unanimous as that, giving sizeable minorities to
Peres and many of them altogether refraining from the vote. Netanyahu -- himself very much the Yuppie politician,
with his socio-economic program consisting of privatization and more privatization -- was not exactly their ideal
candidate. Yet, by voting for him, they got back at what they perceived as an alien, arrogant Labor establishment
which failed to keep many of its promises. (The famous loans for immigrant absorption from the U.S. had been used
for a variety of other purposes, rather than for the immigrants -- as Israel's thriving Russian-language press
repeatedly reminded its readers.)
On the other hand, the Arab citizens of Israel mobilized massively for Peres -- in spite of all their grievances.
On the evening of the elections day, loudspeakers on the minarets called inhabitants to the ballot, rather than
to prayer; the result was an exact mirror-image of that among the religious. But it was not enough to save Peres.
The division between Peres' voters and those of Netanyahu also had geographical aspects. An "elections map"
published soon after the elections showed much of the thickly-populated coastal area around Tel-Aviv and Haifa
as "Peres territory," while Netanyahu dominated Jerusalem and most of the poorer periphery. As many commentators
remarked, on both sides of the spectrum, it was "a struggle between two cities," representing two cultures,
two visions of Israel: cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv, affluent, liberal, outward looking, "the mediterranean New York"
-- and ancient, poor, religious Jerusalem, a holy city caught up in its past. (It is perhaps no coincidence that
the first Likud leader to meet a prominent Palestinian, immediately after the elections, was Tel-Aviv Mayor Roni
Milo -- a long-standing Likud Dove who heads a coalition with the local Meretz people. Moreover, Milo's interlocutor
was Feisal Husseini, leader of the East Jerusalem Arabs, whose activities at "The Orient House" have
long infuriated Milo's colleague in Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert.)
We, members of the TOI-staff, did not observe these elections from an aloof vantage point. Like many other peace
activists, we could not turn aside from this struggle between two camps, unfolding on the streets just outside
our doorstep. Barely a month afer demonstrating against Peres' brutality in Lebanon, we found ourselves deeply
involved in the "Peres for Prime Minister" campaign. It was a struggle on two fronts: on the one hand
with the Likud and right-wing, on the other hand with those inside the peace camp -- including some old comrades
in struggle -- who campaigned for a blank ballot.
The "blank ballot" camaign was initiated by the ex-Trotskyite group known as "Nitzotz" (Spark)
or "Democratic Action," together with academics such as Prof. Tanya Reinhardt of Tel-Aviv University.
These initiators had been opposed to the Oslo Agreements from the start, regarding them as "a sell-out"
and denouncing Arafat for having become "a collaborator." From such a point of view, indeed, it makes
little difference whether Peres or Netanyahu is Prime Minister. Up until the Kana bloodbath, the "blank ballot"
campaign remained a marginal phenomenon; but the Lebanese shock wave caused also some of the supporters of the
peace process to declare for the blank ballot. At one moment, almost all Arab political leaders took this position.
Most of them did it in order to pressure Peres, and from the start intended to change their position -- which they
duly did in the week immediately preceding the elections. But words once uttered in anger could not easily be recalled,
and quite a few of our Jewish and Arab friends cast a blank ballot, feeling unable to vote for Peres after all
he had done.
In the Israeli system there is no separate counting of blank ballots; they are counted among the wider category
of "spoiled ballots." This also includes voters who misunderstood the complicated "two envelope"
system, used in Israel for the first time, whose vote was invalidated because they had put the wrong paper in the
wrong envelope. Among the Arab voters, there were some 21,000 "spoiled ballots;" among the Jews, more
than a hundred thousand. It will never be known how many of them resulted from the conscious, deliberate action
of people who support peace; but given that only 30,000 votes separated Peres from Netanyahu, they may have decided
the final result. Now that Netanyahu did win, those who initiated the blank ballot campaign have much to answer
Human beings always judge the past in light of the present. All analysis of the campaign published after May 29
-- including the one offered here -- have perforce looked for early signs of Labor's weakness and Likud's strength,
of Peres' disastrous downfall and Netanyahu's meteoric rise. Yet was it inevitable?
In the simple, technical sense, no. Shimon Peres could well have still been Prime Minister of Israel, had only
some minor factors been different: had the Labor Party's apparatus been a bit more efficient on elections day,
had they thought up some brilliant idea for a last-moment elections broadcast, or alternatively, had one of the
rabbis been a bit less enthusiastic in exhorting his flock to vote for Netanyahu... With the elections decided
by such a narrow margin, nearly anything could have made a crucial difference. Had he won on such terms, however,
Peres would certainly have been immdiately attacked and deligitimized as "the Prime Minister of the Arabs"
and the racists would not have spared any chance to point out that he got only a minority of the Jewish vote. To
gain legitimacy, Peres would probably have sought to include in his cabinet right-wingers such as the National
Religious Party. (Actually, Peres had had unofficial contacts with the NRP before the elections, via the settler
rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, in which he
conveyed willingness for far-reaching concessions to the settlers.)
In any case, though the parties representing the Arabs nearly doubled their share of Knesset seats, the left-center
"blocking majority" by which the Oslo Agreements were passed in the previous Knesset no longer exists
in the present one. In forming a government coalition Peres would have been at the mercy of more hawkish parties.
The new Peres government would have been less committed to the peace process than the old one. Yet, knowing all
this, we nevertheless sat awake through the many hours of that long elections night, hoping against hope that Peres
would still win... and in the coming years, there will be moments when we sigh for what might have been.
There can be endless discussions and interpretations of these elections. Yet, when all is said and done, the bare
fact remains: our camp -- the camp of those who want peace and are willing to pay the necessary price -- has undertaken
a crucial struggle, and lost. Yet we lost only after the opposite camp has appropriated significant elements of
our message of peace. There is no guarantee that the Netanyahu government will actually do anything to keep the
peace process going, and many reasons to doubt it. But the fact that Netanyahu has assumed such a public obligation
-- and that many of his voters expect it to be fulfilled -- does provide a framework for maintaining the peace
struggle under the changed conditions.
Paid ad, Ha'aretz, May 31.
At this hour
Now, more than ever, should we remember:
The basic facts of our existence did not change.
There are two peoples in this land, and without peace between them bloodshed will never stop.
There will be neither peace nor security without the Palestinian people. And we can have no peace with the Palestinian
people until a Palestinian state is created at Israel's side and until a compromise is reached on Jerusalem.
Without peace we face a renewal of the Intifada, more terrorism, another war.
That is the truth -- whatever the results of elections!
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
(Those who share these views are asked to contribute.)
The new king
by Adam Keller
Netanyahu kept a very heterogenous alliance together up to Election Day, without its internal contradictions seriously
exposed -- which is perhaps the Labor Party's greatest failure in this election campaign. Throughout the whole
campaign, Netanyahu managed to avoid having to answer what the slogan "a secure peace" actually meant.
Any probing would have revealed that the term meant different things to different people. To some of them -- the
settler militants, the nationalist and religious fanatics -- the "peace" part was no more than lip-service;
they supported Netanyahu in order to turn back the wheel of Oslo, or at least to freeze the situation and move
no further. Yet, to many others of the Netanyahu camp -- a large part of his voters, and many of the Likud activists
-- "a secure peace" meant exactly what it said: continuing with the peace process, but differently, "with
more security and less terrorist attacks." And evidently these people would not like to pay the price of the
Oslo process' collapse: insecurity, tensions, international isolation and a slide towards renewed violent conflict...
As soon as it became evident that Netanyahu would be guiding Israel's policies for the coming four years, the Prime-Minister-elect
was flooded with urgent requests from all sides to clarify his position. For several weeks, Netanyahu hedged: asking
the country and the world to give him "a period of grace," giving assurances in general terms that he
would continue the peace process, yet also complimenting the settlers as "the pioneers of our times."
His advisers and senior Likud members did make various policy statements -- not always compatible with each other
-- for which Netanyahu himself disclaimed responsibility...
The Netanyahu government's policy guidelines, a document reached in consultation with the extremist National Religious
Party, bristled with hard-line statements: No to a Palestinian state; no to the return of Palestinian refugees
to the Self-Governing Palestinian areas; yes to permanent Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; yes to extension
of settlements. Yet, when he presented his cabinet to the Knesset, Netanyahu refrained from repeating these bold
principles, emphasizing instead the formula of "negotiations without preconditions."
Netanyahu's one clear positive action was his decision, already one day after the elctions, to establish contact
with the Palestinian Authority via his adviser Dr. Dore Gold -- though the possibility of a direct meeting between
Netanyahu and Arafat was put off for an indefinite future date. A protest by the hardline Minister of Science,
Benny Begin, was slapped down quite roughly by Netanyahu during the weekly government meeting ("These are
the government guidelines, if you don't like it you can leave"). Thus, twenty years after the ICIPP launched
its dialogue with the PLO, talking to Arafat has become basic bi-partisan Israeli government policy, with only
diehards on the extreme right opposing it. However, talking in itself is only the beginning -- as the Palestinians
already learned in their contacts with the Labor government; and so far, Arafat can draw little assurance from
the content of the messages Netanyahu sent him via Dr. Gold.
Having rose in just eight years from freshman backbencher to Prime Minister, and being the first Israeli PM to
win a direct popular mandate, Netanyahu sought to create for himself a new, vastly enhanced role -- towering like
a colossus above his ministers, in the manner of U.S. president. At the start he seemed to be fearlessly moulding
a cabinet according to his private masterplan. Netanyahu's intention was, apparently, to keep out of the cabinet
his main rivals
in the Likud leadership, or to degrade them with minor portfolios. For a whole week, Netanyahu seemed able to pull
off his designs. Journalists already started writing with awe about this new prodigy of Israeli politics. Then,
Netanyahu's new cabinet nearly fell apart like a bunch of Kilkenny cats. Factional squabbling was carried out in
front of the TV cameras. Netanyahu had to give in to many pressures, and include in his cabinet all the rivals
he had wanted to keep out.
The new Prime Minister had overreached himself, discovering in the hard way the limitations of the new electoral
system: though directly elected, the PM still needs to get the confidence of the Knesset. For Netanyahu, this meant
setting up a coalition with no less than five small and medium-size parties: three religious ones, the Russian
immigrants' party and a breakaway group of Labor hawks. In addition, he had to deal with the many factions and
power groups inside his own Likud party.
What could be concluded from this charade is that Netanyahu is apt to form bold grand designs, without bothering
about details of implementation -- but that on encountering resistance and counter-pressures, he is quite capable
of backtracking and adopting a more modest, realistic course.
More than anyone in the past decade, Netanyahu -- by his bursting onto the Israeli scene -- helped unify the divided
Arab World. Within a week of his coming to power, the concerned Arab leaders met for a summit in Cairo. While rejecting
Syria's demand for an immediate freezing of the normalization with Israel, the Arab leaders put Netanyahu on notice.
There was a clear demand that Netanyahu give, in the near future, an actual proof of his commitment to the peace
process -- and a clear warning that failing to do so might jeopardize the whole network of political and economic
contacts which Israel is in the process of building up in the Arab World.
It was not without reason that Syria, of all Arab countries, felt the most apprehensive at Netanyahu's accession.
The first casualty of the change of government seems to be the Israeli-Syrian negotiations. It will now never be
known whether, given a full four years more, Assad and Peres would have bridged their remaining differences and
moved towards a ceremonious handshake on the White House lawn. But, however it might have been, Netanyahu is clearly
disinclined to pick up where Peres left off. Netanyahu did make an offer to renew talks with Syria -- but only
on the "no preconditions" base, which means in practice wiping the slate clean of the past four years'
laborious negotiations, and starting again from the point of Israel's claim over the entire Golan -- an option
which Assad is certain to reject out of hand.
David Levy, Netanyahu's relatively moderate Foreign Minister, made a tentative proposal on TV "to meet the
Syrians halfway"; it brought angry protests from the Golan settlers, but stilll fell far short of what Rabin
and Peres already offered to the Syrians. Meanwhile a propaganda duel started with Netanyahu accusing Syria of
being "a terrorist state," and the Syrian government-controlled papers responding by comparing Netanyahu
In seeking to scuttle the Syrian track, Netanyahu can rely on the fact that here the Labor government left him
no binding signed agreements, and also that the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line on the Golan has been completely
quiet since 1974, so that there is no tense situation on the ground needing to be immediately addressed. However,
it would be not difficult for Assad to create such a situation in the Golan, if he wished -- and in any case, the
Lebanese card is by no means played out yet.
Many commentators pointed out that, of all possible concessions, the one most easy for Netanyahu would be to get
the Israeli army out of Lebanon. Unlike Israel's other occupied territories, the South Lebanon "security zone"
contains no places of religious or emotional significance to Israelis, and indeed permanent rule over it was never
claimed even by extreme nationalists in Israel. Yet, with "security" as his overriding byword, Netanyahu
could hardly afford to pull out of Lebanon without some kind of guarantee that there will be no further attacks
upon Northern Israel -- and such a guarantee could only be given by Syria, or for that matter, by the Lebanese
government which is subject to a strong Syrian tutelage.
Syria already hinted at the havoc it could work, if left out in the cold -- by authorizing one of the Palestinian
groups undr its effective control, Abu Musa's "Fatah-Intifadah," to carry out a raid on Israel's exposed
flank in the Jordan Valley. Catching by surprise an Israeli patrol of poorly-trained, second-line reservists, Abu
Musa's men killed three of them and got away, carrying an Israeli machine-gun as booty. The incident proved a three-fold
embarrasment: to the newly-installed Netanyahu government and its promises of security; to King Hussein of Jordan
-- whose territory was used with impunity by the Abu Musa infiltrators, and who had angered Assad by openly flirting
with Netanyahu; and also to Arafat's Palestinian Authority, since the ambush took place very close to the Jericho
At best, proceeding with any kind of diplomatic process from which Syria would be excluded is a highly risky gamble
-- a gamble which, for the moment, Netanyahu seems inclined to accept.
What is barely possible with Syria is utterly impossible for Netanyahu to do towards the Palestinians. Here, he
is bound by quite explicit agreements entered into by his predecessors. First and foremost, there is the question
of military redeployment in Hebron -- the hot potato laid in his lap as a parting gift from Peres. Actually, the
Hebron redeployment is not such difficult test for Netanyahu. Even if it is carried out, the settlers would stay
where they are, under protection of military forces far outnumbering them -- and the settlers' political representatives,
though voicing loud protests, could live with this situation.
Except for Hebron, Netanyahu has another measure close at hand to calm down the Palestinians: easing
the closure, which has brought the Palestinian economy to the verge of disaster (with an incredible seventy percent
unemployment rate in Gaza).
Already, many Palestinian workers -- driven by their urgent need to provide for their families -- are going illegally
to work, taking the risk of police raids and severe punishments. The military and security service reports presented
to Netanyahu clearly indicate that the closure is ineffective against terrorism -- except as a psychological palliative
for the frightened Israeli population. Though after the February suicide bombings Netanyahu attacked Peres sharply
for having lifted the closure he can now do the same. At least in the short run, the Palestinian hard-pressed workers
will remember that Peres imposed the closure and Netanyahu lifted it -- and will be less attentive to those who
call for renewing the Intifada,
Still another factor which would give Netanyahu some respite is the date of the American elections. Clinton is
not likely to put any considerable pressure on Netanyahu so short before presidential elections. With Hebron evacuated,
the closure lifted and a few more gestures, Netanyahu would not have much to fear from the Americans until the
U.S. elections in November, though pressure from the Europeans -- to which Israel is now more vulnerable due to
trade agreements signed by the Labor government -- might materialize sooner.
In any case, the basic dilemma cannot be put off very long. The flimsy structure created by Oslo -- semi-independent
Palestinian enclaves surrounded by Israeli occupied territory -- was not designed to become a permanent solution,
and any attempt to make it such will sooner or later become intolerable to the Palestinians. At a certain moment
in the coming years -- either at his own initiative, or more likely under the pressure of a crisis -- Netanyahu
will have to decide the issue which he avoided during his election campaign: What is he going to offer to the Palestinians
in order to truly achieve 'a secure peace?'
In becoming Israel's Prime Minister, Netanyahu has stepped into the midst of an extensive network of Israeli-Palestinian
contacts, relationships and obligations -- open and secret, official and unofficial -- which was built up over
the past three years. These relationships are on a far from equal basis, in numerous ways institutionalizing Palestinian
dependance upon Israel; still, they are not quite one-sided. In his elections propaganda, Netanyahu heaped scorn
upon Peres for "entrusting Israel's security to Arafat"; yet upon achieving power, Netanyahu fully realized
how much he now depends upon the Palestinian Authority's efforts to block Hamas terrorism -- knowing all too well
how devastating can suicide terrorism be to the stability of an Israeli government. In a very real sense, Netanyahu
-- like Rabin and Peres before him -- is set adrift in a boat together with Arafat, to sail or sink together.
Yet, at the same time, Netanyahu is heading a government filled with outspoken adherents of the Greater Israel
ideology, a cabinet in which the National Religious Party, the settler party par excellence, is an indispensable
coalition partner. Moreover, a vicious power struggle forced Netanyahu into admitting to a senior cabinet post
the notorious Ariel Sharon -- a politician whose sole political raison d'àtre is the creation of ever new
settlements in the Palestinian territories, and who in the past proved himself extremely capable and competent
at the task.
Netanyahu himself has always been a nationalist politician, born and bred of a veteran ultra-nationalist family.
Could he really change his spots? A factor which might influence him is the business community. Though elected
by the poorer half* Netanyahu is a conservative, in the style of the U.S. Republican Party, with whose leading
members Netanyahu has many personal contacts. The new Prime Minister is well-aware that Israeli business is outspokenly
in favor of the peace process, regarding it as indispensable for economic prosperity; that because of that, hundreds
of leading industrialists and businesspeople had openly endorsed the Peres candidature; that the extensive government-sponsored
settlement projects which Sharon would like to erect are the complete opposite of the economic retrenchment urged
by Netanyahu's conservative economic advisers. Can Netanyahu afford to alienate the country's business leaders?
The very fact that most of the Israeli right-wing is represented in the Netanyahu government gives him one enormous
advantage over Rabin and Peres -- if he ever does decide to change and make bold concessions for peace, he would
have the support of the Labor and left-wing opposition, giving him a massive majority in the Knesset and more importantly
among the general public.
A highly respectable precedent exists in the Likud's own history -- Menachem Begin, who in 1978 gave up all of
Sinai in return for peace with Egypt; Menachem Begin, who was left in the minority inside his own party, yet he
went ahead and enacted Camp David with the support of the opposition Labor Party. However, so far, Netanyahu has
not yet shown the character which could make him into a second Begin.
* Both big parties ran on nearly identical economic programs advocating privatization and a 'free economy', leaving
social issues mainly to the sectorial parties.
When the election results became known, many fell into despondency and despair, in tune with Leah Rabin's "I
feel like packing my things and leaving the country." Others in the peace camp exhibited a complacency and
serene belief that, as writer A. B. Yehoshua put it, "the peace process is already set and inevitable"
and that by the workings of some "hidden hand" Netanyahu would be willy-nilly compelled to complete this
process. Still others adopted a "wait and see" attitude towards the new government. But the policies
and actions of the Netanyahu government are far from being an objective given, to be passively observed; the actions
of peace-seekers, the pressures which they can bring to bear, can make a lot of difference in the stormy times
+++ On May 31, with the final counting of the vote confirming that Netanyahu indeed won, several dozen Peace Now
youths went out on the streets of Jerusalem, confronting the celebrating right-wingers with signs reading 'Peace
shall win, despite everything' and 'We have overcome Shamir -- we will overcome Netanyahu, too.' In Tel-Aviv, the
normal Friday vigil held by Women in Black and Yesh Gvul drew many "retired" activists, who felt on this
day the need to come back into action. Three days later, many of the same activists met again, now reinforced by
young Laborites, in a vigil held on the step of the Israeli TV building in Jerusalem. They were protesting the
threats made by senior Netanyahu aides to take revenge on "leftist" reporters and commentators and "purge"
them once the new government took office. (After these manifestations Netanyahu did make some conciliatory statements
towards the State Television employees, and towards supporters of the old government in general).
+++ As it happened, the first big gathering of peace-minded Israelis after the elections was a Tel-Aviv meeting
to commemorate Emile Habibi -- the internationally known Arab writer, poet and political activist who had succumbed
to cancer a few weeks earlier. There was thus a double reason for the somber and gloomy atmosphere with which the
event -- the last to feature Shulamit Aloni still as a minister -- opened. Yet when Habibi's many Jewish and Arab
friends told anecdotes of his life, evoked his incomparable sardonic humor and tried to guess how he would have
reacted to the election of Netanyahu, the atmosphere gradually lightened. Habibi's most famous creation "The
Opsimist" -- the "little man" whose exaggerated subserviance is in fact a subtle kind of defiance
-- together with parts read from his other stories, were especially touching under these circumstances.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
+++ A week after the elections, Hadash activists picketed the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv, calling for evacuation
of Hebron, an international obligation binding upon Israel regardless of the change of governments. A few days
later, the same call was taken up by Peace Now, which burst out in a long chain of activities -- freed by the elections
results from the ambiguity which had characterised the movement's relations with the Labor Government. Peace Now
activists instituted a regular picketing of the weekly cabinet meeting, held fifteen simultaneous vigils throughout
the country on June 28, as well as getting several hundred youths to a procession on the Tel-Aviv esplanade. The
main line adopted was to remind Netanyahu of his elections pledge to make peace -- and to offer him Peace Now's
support if he would honor that pledge, and the movement's uncompromising opposition, should he break it. The media
was very interested to discover among the peace demonstrators Ruthie Ben-Artzy, the new Prime Minister's niece
and a veteran Peace Now activist; her extensive TV and press interviews revealed the fact that the Netanyahu family
is deeply divided, for many years already, on political and ideological issues.
However, all the Peace Now demonstrations were small, relying mainly on the hard core activists. A senior member
told TOI: "So far, Netanyahu is talking in a very conciliatory way, and he has not yet done something really
infuriating which would get masses into the street."
Peace Now, POB 8159, J'lem; Hadash, POB 46081, Haifa.
+++ On July 7, the eve of Netanyahu's departure for talks with President Clinton in Washington, members of Dor
Shalom (Peace Generation) demonstrated outside his Jerusalem residence, with signs reading 'Go in peace, bring
us peace!' A few hours later Netanyahu, in a press interview, promised that his positions on the peace process
"will surprise the whole world" -- but refused to elaborate.
Contact: Dor Shalom, POB 23090, Tel-Aviv 61231.
+++ Until the elections a group of activists had been holding support vigils every Friday in front of the home
of Peres. They now moved their weekly activity to the site of the Rabin murder. Their slogan: 'The messenger of
peace was murdered, but his message lives on.' On July 5, Leah Rabin joined the vigil, as Israelis learned from
the Friday evening TV news.
+++ For several months after the murder of Rabin, singer Aviv Gefen seemed to have become a totally respectable
national figure, appearing at all memorial services together with members of the Rabin family and striving to recreate
those last minutes of Rabin's life when the two of them -- old politician and young singer -- stood side-by-side
at the Tel-Aviv peace rally (see TOI-69, p.4, 5). With the new government in power, Gefen suddenly reverted to
his more usual role -- a controversial figure, whose conflict with the establishment in no way detracts from his
extreme popularity among Israeli youth.
Having never served in the army, and never felt a need to apologise for it, Gefen now took the step of calling
upon soldiers 'not to follow stupid officers to death -- the country is not worth it.' President Weitzmann angrily
boycotted a ceremony in which Gefen sang; later, a Gefen performance at the Negev town of Omer was forbidden by
the right-wing mayor, Pini Badash. The affair aroused a typical Israeli controversy, with endless debates on the
media and a protest demonstration against the banning of Gefen by hundreds of the Omer young... among them the
mayor's own daughter, who happens to be a fan.
The issue was also taken up by the Association for Civil Rights, which intends to lodge a Supreme Court appeal
-- both on the original prohibition and on a pro-Gefen poster being banned from the Omer municipal billboards.
Meanwhile, Gefen himself -- on an immensely succesful tour of Italy -- made only a short comment: "I am fully
booked for the next three months, but still -- if these people in Omer call again, I will ask my impressario to
fit them in."
Surrealism in Hebron
by Beate Zilversmidt
Gush Shalom had had positive reactions above expectation with a Hebron guided tour for journalists. In all the
Hebrew press senior commentators wrote about their meeting with Mayor Mustapha Natshe on June 22, and the unusual
reality they had observed on the ground. It was decided to rent again a bus and offer a similar opportunity to
a wider public. People were approached individually so as not to give the military authorities a clue as when to
bar entrance to the "suspicious" touring cars. Considering this low-profile mobilization and the always
tense situation in Hebron, the turnout was not bad at all: it soon became clear that a second bus was needed, and
on Saturday, July 6, even two buses were hardly enough to transport all participants.
On the way, a traffic jam in Bethlehem due to a wall in the middle of the main road gave the travelers already
a taste of what was to come: the wall was built by the army before evacuating Bethlehem in order to protect the
entrance to one of those unholy "holy places," the armed Jewish enclave of the "Rachel's Tomb."
In Hebron the reception at the municipality turned out to be not just a stiff formality. First, there was the unexpected
presence of the mayor of neighboring Halhul, Muhammad Milhem, who had just returned from exile. He spoke about
the need to save the peace process, and was visibly moved to meet with Israelis some of whom had fifteen years
ago protested against his deportation.
Hebron Mayor Natsheh gave a vivid report about his endless debate with the Israeli military authorities concerning
the Shuhada ("Martyrs") Road. This road, in the heart of the Old City, had been closed for Palestinians
and remained so ever since the 1993 massacre. Thus, for the bloodbath which they suffered from the settler Goldstein,
the Palestinians had been punished with a further strangling of their commercial center. According to the agreement,
signed by Rabin, the Shuhada Road should have already been re-opened to Palestinian traffic, but the military governor
who dreams of building a Berlin Wall through the middle of this street refuses to recognize this obligation, since
"the settlers have officially renamed the road 'David ha Melech' (King David)."
From the map hanging at the wall behind Natsheh it was easily understood why it is so immensely important for the
Palestinians not to be deprived of this altogether 300 meters-long stretch of road: it is the sole connection between
the northern and southern part of the city.
Then came, in two groups, the tour of the city, by bus and by foot. The Gush Shalomers, joined by a crowd of journalists
and camera crews, went all the way together with the Palestinian guides -- two and a half kilometer through mountain
area -- to get from the north side to the south side of the city's historic (and business) center. During this
trip, a real-size "map" of Hebron was spread out against the opposite mountainside, enabling the guides
to point out exactly where the four clusters of armed Jewish settlers -- altogether not more than 40 families --
had nestled themselves between the 150,000 Palestinian inhabitants: "next to that big blue car you see four
caravans; that is the Rumeidah settler enclave; the low red roof to the right is Hadassa." It was shocking
to see these four dots on this scale which, connected to the nearby settlement Kiryat Arba, are like a fist connected
to a long arm, right into the stomach of Hebron.
One of the most surprizing aspects of this tour was the absence of Israeli soldiers or police in most parts of
Hebron. It was confirmed by the Palestinian hosts that the evacuation of the army was in fact near to completion.
The army was prepared for finishing the official last part of the evacuation in a couple of hours. This situation
-- which already exists for two months -- enforces on the biggest part of this impoverished, big city a kind of
experiment in anarchism; the Palestinian police is not yet allowed in.
One deserted watch-tower had apparently been taken over by settler youths, who had put on it Hebrew "Hebron,
for ever ours" stickers, but covered their faces from the TV cameras.
The closer to the center the more frequent the Hebrew graffiti "Death to the Arabs." In this area --
due to remain under Israeli rule -- the army was present in considerable forces, but seemed undisturbed by the
racist incitement. The young soldiers, heavily packed with communication equipment and guns, looked actually quite
miserable on this hot summer day. It was clear that they had orders to prevent the Gush Shalomers from getting
close to the settlers.
At one place, a quiet square not so far from the Ibrahimi Mosque/Patriarchs Cave hot spot, the distance was no
more than twenty meters. Nervous soldiers produced a document declaring the area behind them "closed military
zone." One of the Gush Shalom organizers, himself a reserve officer in the IDF, noticed that "it's not
legal," since it had a wrong date. The Palestinian guide started to explain with a clear and loud voice that
this was in fact an excellent illustration of the unbearable situation Palestinians have to face daily. The soldiers
were running around and came up with another piece of paper, turning to Uri Avnery and almost pleading for confirmation
that the new document had no mistakes in it, and really empowered them to bar the group's way. One of the Israelis
could not take it: "Why am I not allowed to go there? I see there people! What is the difference between them
and me?" The settler youths watching in the shadow from the other tree seemed swept by the absurdism of the
scene and started chanting... an old left-wing anti-settler slogan, which they must have heard often enough to
know it by heart.
s On the morning of May 18, some two hundred Hebron University students and lecturers arrived at the gates of the
university, which has been closed by the army following the February suicide bombings -- though know student or
lecturer had in any way been involved in them. Accompanied by several dozen
Israeli activists of Gush Shalom and the Hebron Solidarity Committee, as well as the (American) Christian Peacemakers
Team, the demonstrators defied the army's closure order and held a two hours-long sit-in strike inside the campus.
At the time they entered, only a very small military force was present, which did not interfere. When the demonstrators
came out they found several hundred soldiers outside. The Palestinians remarked that an earlier action conducted
without the presence of Israeli peace activists had ended in a violent dispersal, tear gas and several arrests.
Contact: HSC, POB 31417, Jerusalem.
+++ The building of another bypass road by the Israeli authorities -- and therefore, more confiscation of agricultural
lands from Palestinians in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour -- aroused strong feelings. The new road was to serve the
controversial not-yet-built Jewish-only East Jerusalem neighborhood of "Har Homa" -- to be established
at the expense of those Palestinians who own a piece of the wooded hillsides at Abu-Ghoneim Mountain.
The two consecutive major demonstrations, held in Bethlehem on March 30 and April 6, brought out the whole political
and religious spectrum in the Palestinian population, together with Israeli activists of Gush Shalom and a considerable
number of foreigners, especially European and American clergymen (TOI-72, p. 14). Following the demonstrations,
the Israeli authorities agreed to delay implementation of the road plans, and negotiate on the issue with the Palestinian
Early in the morning of June 2 -- less than two days after Binyamin Netanyahu's victory -- an Israeli army bulldozer
appeared without prior notice on the disputed ground, sent apparently by middle-ranking officials eagerly anticipating
the expected policy of the new government.
Starting its work at the Beit Sahour stretch of the planned road, the bulldozer destroyed approximately 45 ancient
olive trees and a wall before technical problems and angry residents forced it to stop. A Palestinian was detained,
the bulldozer removed, and the Palestinian set free again. Some foreign and Israeli activists, hastily mobilized,
went together with the Palestinians to a second site inside Bethlehem to which the army bulldozer was seen heading.
At noon, the bulldozer was found ploughing through approximately a hundred precious olive trees, narrowly avoiding
two Bedouin encampments, and destroying several walls. Altogether it had cleared a wide path, several kilometres
long, through the olive groves, to connect with the Beit Sahour part already devastated earlier on that day. Desperate
Palestinians and determined protesters twice tried to stop the work by sitting in front of the bulldozer, but both
times were forcibly dragged out of the way by soldiers.
A "Land Defence Day" was proclaimed in Bethlehem for June 7, and once again Gush Shalom was asked to
bring Israeli peace activists. Several hundred Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners gathered in the afternoon
at the St. Anthony Society, marching to the site of destruction, where they set to work repairing the destroyed
stone walls and re-planting those of the olive trees whose roots were still more or less intact. Young Palestinians
also planted on mounds of earth Palestinian flags as well as crosses and crescents representing Christianity and
Islam. For the first time in such struggles a Palestinian bulldozer, proudly flying the Palestinian national colours,
was deployed to counteract the actions of the army -- piling earth and rocks on the road, which was not yet paved.
Participants were tensely awaiting the arrival of the army -- which did not materialize. Instead, the Peres government
-- still in power -- reopened contacts on the issue with the Palestinian Authority and once again suspended operations
on the ground. The Netanyahu government, which took over a week later, initially continued the same policy. However,
the respite is likely to be temporary -- especially since responsibility for the creation of Israeli roads through
Palestinian territory seems due to be entrusted to none other than the notorious Ariel Sharon.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033;
Land Defence Committee, POB 49, Bethlehem;
Land & Water, POB 20873, East Jerusalem.
+++ Meanwhile, the legal battle for Abu Ghoneim Mountain/Har Homa continues. On June 20, the Jerusalem District
Court rejected an appeal by thirty Palestinian land owners, allowing the Israeli authorities to proceed with plans
for the new Jewish neighborhood. However, the court's decision does leave open the possibility of further judicial
appeals at a later stage. The Israeli Ir-Shalem legal aid association, linked to Peace Now, declared its intention
to make such appeals and ask the Supreme Court to rule on the basic question: Is it legal for the government to
confiscate land from Palestinians 'for public purposes' and then use it for the sole benefit of Jews?
For his part, the new Interior Minister Eli Suissa declared the Netanyahu government's intention to go ahead with
the Har Homa project, in the near future. However, Suissa added that except for Har Homa, no further large scale
settlement activities are intended in East Jerusalem and that the issue of further land confiscations should be
"approached with extreme caution." This statement is all the more significant since, up to his ministerial
appointment, Suissa was known as a hardliner and an enthusiastic supporter of aggressive, widespread settlement
plans, especially in Jerusalem.
Contact: Ir Shalem, POB 4313, J'lem 91042.
'We are all Jahilin'
In 1950, members of the Jahilin Bedouin Tribe were forced by the Israeli army to leave their ancestral lands in
the northern Negev and move across the border into the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule. After several years
of wandering, they found for their herds of goats and sheep a parcel of semi-arid land about a dozen kilometres
east of Jerusalem. During the period of Jordanian rule and in the first years of Israeli occupation, they were
entirely alone in their scattered encampments. In 1976, however, the Israeli government chose precisely this area
for creating Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Designed to be a suburb of Jerusalem,
it is mostly inhabited not by nationalist and religious fanatics, but by ordinary Israelis -- many of them Jerusalemites
attracted by the government-subsidized housing, provided regardless of wheather Likud or Labor was in power. Now
numbering about 20,000 inhabitants, the ever-expanding Ma'aleh Adumim threatens to engulf entirely the Jahilin
At the end of 1995, the Jahilin and their supporters seemed to score an important point in their prolonged legal
and public struggle: Advocate Linda Breyer challenged in the Supreme Court the legality of the proceedings by which
the Jahilin area had been declared "state land"; the state had to admit that all documents regarding
the original confiscation decision have been destroyed "by accident" at some unspecified time, and could
not be produced in the court. Thereupon, a temporary injunction was issued, forbidding the building contructors
from approaching within a hundred metres of the Jahilin encampments.
After a tense nine-month intervening period in which the contractors infringed several times upon this injunction,
the Supreme Court rendered a definite verdict on May 28 -- and decided to uphold the confiscation of the land,
despite the still unclarified disappearance of all the original documents! A single judge, Dalia Dorner, dissented
from her colleagues and asserted that the authorities must provide the Jahilin with a suitable alternative site.
Her opinion retains, however, no more than moral value. The majority two judges accepted as suitable the only alternative
site offered by the authorities -- a rocky hillside close to the Jerusalem garbage dump, declared by several experts
to be dangerous to human health, and where no pasturage is available to their herds. Fourteen Jahilin families,
about a hundred people, were ordered by the court to vacate their encampment -- the one closest to the advancing
edge of the settlement -- until August 28. Further eviction orders are likely also against the other encampments,
slightly further away, altogether providing a meagre home to between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
Accidentally or by design, the verdict was rendered one day before the general elections, when very little attention
could be given either by the media or even by most peace activists in Israel. Israeli radio did report on a hastily-organised
press conference held on the site, featuring lawyers, Israeli and international activists and, last but not least,
Palestinian leader Feisal Husseini.
At the time of writing, the Jahilin Action Committee is trying to mobilize public opinion on the issue. On July
3, the campaign was joined by the 60-year old Boudewijn Wegrif, a veteran peace activist who had spent many years
in South Africa, opposing the Apartheid regime. Now on a 15,000 kilometre peace walk from Kiruna in North Sweden
to Capetown in South Africa, Wegrif decided to break temporarily his journey and set up camp with the Jahilin "for
as long as they want my presence." Other activists intend to join him at the new peace camp, to monitor and
have a permanent presence on the site before and after the expulsion date of August 28.
Contact: Jahilin Committee, POB 32213, Jerusalem; ph: 972-2-746010 or: 972-2-286729.
Protests to: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Hakirya, Jerusalem, Fax 972-2-664838.
+++ On the morning of May 4, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians gathered on a field, half a kilometre north
of the A-Ram military checkpoint -- one of the points at which access to Jerusalem is daily denied to West Bank
Palestinians. Supporters of the Hadash Communists and of the Palestinian Trade Union Federation joined forces to
hold a rally: marking the International Workers' Day, protesting the closure and calling for peace. After half
an hour's listening to speeches, the demonstrators set out towards the hated military barrier, waving Israeli,
Palestinian and red flags, with the reverberating slogans: 'Israel and Palestine, two states for two peoples!',
'Enough hunger, enough closure!', 'Soldiers and settlers -- out of Arab Hebron!'
A police force followed the march, getting more and more nervous. When the demonstrators got near the forbidden
spot, military jeeps were spread across the road. The shouting grew louder and louder, as the demonstrators strained
against the double cordon. Just as a confrontation and violent dispersal seemed the inevitable end of the event,
several of the Palestinian organisers took up a megaphone and pleaded with their fellows "Brothers, brothers,
we have not come for this! We have made our point!"
As the Israeli demonstrators returned to their bus, there were wavings and handshakes with the Palestinians. Some
of the soldiers watching the scene smiled shyly, visibly relieved there had been no explosive confrontation.
Contact: Hadash, POB 26205, Tel Aviv 61261.
+++ After getting numerous urgent messages from Palestinians on the deteriorating situation caused by the closure,
a meeting between activists of Gush Shalom and the women's group Bat Shalom resolved to undertake a new kind of
action: a bazaar in Tel-Aviv, at which Palestinian-made merchandise would be sold -- to give a modest concrete
help to the Palestinian economy, while also making the Israeli public more aware of the Palestinians' plight.
On the morning of May 10, activists arrived at the park on Shenkin Street -- a bustling center of Tel-Aviv's social
life, especially of Friday mornings (such as this was) when the street is closed to motorised traffic and stalls
of all kinds are set up -- for the sale of handicrafts, for disribution of political propaganda, for the brochures
of various associations and religious sects... It was decided in advance to arrive early in order to stake a claim
to part of this much-sought-after terrain. And indeed, there was soon a confrontation with Likud supporters, who
wanted to use the same space for distributing Netanyahu campaign leaflets. After some angry words, a formula for
partitioning the disputed territory was achieved...
Aside from the initiating organizations, several
other peace groups joined in and set up their own stalls: Women in Black, Physicians for Human Rights, Democratic
Women, the bilingual Hebrew-Arabic children's magazine Windows... The real bazaar part was smaller then originally
planned. Getting Palestinian merchandise into Israel at closure time, even with trust and friendliness on both
sides, needs much complicated and delicate logistics, and some of the expected items did not arrive. Still, there
was a lot of well-made handicraft items -- mostly created by Palestinian women's cooperatives in West Bank villages
-- together with numerous bags of herbs. The selling of the Palestinian items -- each proudly marked with the name
of the village where it was produced -- went on briskly. After a few hours, in which some peace activists showed
quite good mercantile talents, about 4000 NIS ($1200) could be dispatched back to the Palestinians.
It was more difficult to sell to the strolling Tel-Aviv Yuppies and intellectuals the idea that the closure is
a wrong policy that must be lifted. Leaflets in large numbers were distributed, enumerating the dislocation of
the Palestinian society under the closure: unemployment, impoverishment, denial of medical treatment, disruption
of educational institutions; it was pointed out that the suicide bombers have many ways of evading the closure,
and that it mainly harms the mass of workers, that worsening economic situation plays into the hands of the Hamas...
and still, the traces of fear, pure emotional and unreasoning fear of the suicide bombings two months earlier,
were still very apparent in the reactions of well-dressed Tel-Aviv residents on this placid spring day.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033;
Bat Shalom, POB 8083, Jerusalem 91080.
+++ At noon on May 14, several dozen members of the Peace Now Youth arrived at the Erez Checkpoint on the entrance
to the Gaza Strip, and held a vigil in protest against the ongoing closure of the Strip, with the slogan 'Yes to
Peace -- No to Closure.' Palestinian youths held a demonstration with similar slogans on the other side of the
military area, some two kilometres away. In the past, many of these youths had participated in joint actions, but
this time it was impossible for them to stand together or even within sight of each other, because of the phenomenon
which they were protesting about: the closure. The army, which controls tightly all passages between the Gaza Strip
and Israel, refused either to permit the Palestinian youths to enter Israel ("they might be terrorists")
or the Israeli ones to enter Gaza ("for their own safety").
Contact: Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.
+++ On July 1, a month after the elections, the Peace Now youths were able to hold a joint action -- the first
in nearly a year -- with their Palestinian peers. Considerable effort and lobbying were needed to obtain permits
for fifty Palestinian youths to enter Jerusalem. Arriving with their placards, reading in Arabic and English We
want peace -- the occupation must go!, the young Palestinians joined their Israeli partners in a demonstration
outside the Prime Minister's Office, calling upon the Netanyahu government to continue the peace process and keep
the interntional obligations of its predecessor.
At the Palestinians' explicit request, Peace Now had scheduled for the mixed youth group a meeting, the first of
its kind, with a Likud Knesset Member: Gideon Ezra, a former Deputy Director of the Security Service who seems
one of the more pragmatic and open-minded representatives of the new regime. Asked by one of the Palestinians about
the closure, Ezra was quite unequivocal: "I think the closure is a mistake, a big mistake. It does not prevent
terrorists from slipping in, and it denies jobs to solid family men who have no intention to do anything against
Israel." (Though KM Ezra claimed to be stating only his own private opinion, numerous disclosures in the press
showed the Netanyahu government inclined in the direction of a "controlled" lifting of the closure.)
The youths were less pleased with what Ezra had to say on more long-term issues. Several of the youths were especially
incensed when Ezra said "Israel gave up Gaza and the West Bank cities and got nothing in return." One
of the Palestinians burst out: "I am very much for peace, but if Israel does not give us a state I will myself
throw stones in the new Intifada!" (Ha'aretz, 2.7.96). Nevertheless, the meeting ended in a very cordial atmosphere.
Dancing on the watch tower
The following 'reservist's diary' appeared in the Rishon leTzion weekly Bamakom on March 15. It was written by
David Shechter -- an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and a leading writer in Israel's blooming Russian-language
(...) As always, we met in a bus station, somewhere in the south. There was a feeling of a reunion, with people
slapping each other's shoulder, asking about wives and children, exchanging memories from past years. Gradually,
we left civilian life behind -- to enter the atmosphere of being soldiers again. We started to wonder what will
our duties be this time, and at this stage there is still nothing wrong with your morale. It comes later, when
you get the assignment of guard positions and enter the routine of action around the clock that you start asking
yourself Why? What for? For whom?
And believe me, it was hard work. We got to do guard duty at Jordan Valley bases: 12-hour shifts in stifling dry
heat, and the wheather was against us from the start, throughout those 25 long days. (Some units, poor guys, still
serve up to 40 days a year!)
Many of our guard positions were located at the offices of an Israeli-Palestinian District Coordinating Committee.
The Palestinian policemen, with their guns, pistols and knives, walked among us all the time. Relations were cordial.
Once they even shared with me the grapes they had brought from Hebron. And still, we felt a bit nervous all the
time. Who can tell when one of them will decide, for whatever reason, to take revenge on Israelis?
The most nervous duty was at the gate. There was a constant stream of Palestinian petitioners from the
Jericho area. The soldier at the gate had to find out what is the problem of each petitioner, and to call an Israeli
officer or a Palestinian policeman, as needed, to deal with the problem. With each petitioner you would ask yourself:
does this one look like a suicide bomber, with an explosive belt under his clothes? How can you tell until he blows
up himself -- and you?
Chaim, a 23-years old guy from Rishon leTzion, was a new member in my team. He seemed a bit strange from the start,
smiling all the time. Soon it was clear that he was cracking. "It's difficult," he said. We all agreed.
"It's all shit here: the food is shit, the quarters are shit, the guard posts -- everything is one big shit!"
Nobody responded. Chaim continued: "Damn the whole reserve duty! I have better things to do! I am a musician,
I play at weddings. Do you know how much I am losing because of the fucking army? I don't need this!"
I could not restrain myself and burst out: "Somebody has to serve here. If you don't, who will?"
"I don't care! Let them find another sucker. This is the first and last reserve duty in my life!"
Usually, reservists talk like this at the end of their term, not at the beginning -- and even so you see them again
next time. But Chaim was really determined.
First, he claimed to have strong pains in his belly and demanded to see a doctor. The doctor found nothing wrong
and sent him back to the camp. He returned in the evening, gloomy and frustrated.
On the following night I went to sleep at the end of my shift, but after an hour the duty officer burst into the
room, waking all of us in panick: "Your Chaim! Your Chaim! He is.., he is on the guard tower. For God's sake,
help me get him down!"
It was really a sight: Chaim, stark naked, dancing on the roof of the guard tower, tossing and catching his rifle,
while singing "The Peace Song" at the top of his voice.
I told the duty officer: "Don't worry, nothing will happen to him. He will get down by himself, as soon as
the commanding officer gets here." And that is how it happened. Chaim got down and handed over his rifle.
He and the commanding officer were closeted in the headquarters room for an hour. Then, the psychiatrist arrived
and took Chaim with him.
In the evening, Chaim came to pick up his things. He proudly waved the psychiatrist's recommendation: Unfit for
military duty. "So long, guys! Keep up the good work. The state of Israel will certainly reward your loyalty."
The other night, I shared the guard post with Moshe, whom I knew from former tours of duty. "Why did Chaim
do this to himself? Does he not realize that he is ruining his life, that he will never get rid of the stigma of
shirking his duty? Surely, he has destroyed all his chances for a career."
Moshe looked at me with a kind of pity. "You are very much out of date. It was like this once. Now, who cares?
The normal thing now is to go and see the psychiatrist. Ideology is bankrupt. People just want to enjoy life. I
myself, once I was like you, a red-hot patriot. But now, I feel disgust as soon as I see the call-up order in my
postbox. Once, I was a section leader. But I asked to serve just as a private. Why should I take responsibility?"
I felt it was futile to continue the discussion. When I talked about duty to the country, he just said: "You
brought this nonsense with you from Russia. When you really get used to this country you will get over it."
+++ Reservists' Motivation is Plummeting -- this was the banner headline carried by Yediot Aharonot on May 1. State
Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat, an intrepid independent investigator whose position gave her free access to military
documents and personnel at all levels of the military hierarchy, has exposed a problem which the military authorities
hitherto tried to play down. The comptroller's report noted that "there is an increasing inequality in the
division of the annual reserve service" and that "an increasing number of units find it difficult to
fill the needed quota of reservists." It went on to note that "numerous officers interviewed by the comptroller's
investigators reported continuing erosion of the reservists' motivation leading to difficulties in mobilisation
-- in particular, mobilisation for operational service in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (sic). To meet the quota, units
need to call up far more than the required number of reservists -- in some extreme cases, the units called up five
times the needed number, and still needed to 'borrow' soldiers from other units to make up the quota."
+++ Dr. Ya'akov Katz of Bar-Ilan University published similar findings on the motivation of conscripts. Since 1986,
Dr. Katz has been repeatedly interviewing youths about to enter the army, and has found a continuous increase both
in the number of those who wish to avoid military service altogether and of those who want to avoid combat service
and any difficult or dangerous task. (Yediot Ahronot, 5.5.96).
The intensive public discussion encouraged a growing number of reservists to publish their own experience, some
of them being invited to TV talk shows, sometimes giving senior generals a hard time.
You can't have peace for less
After the elections we asked our friend, the Palestinian peace activist Naif Alarjub, for a reaction.
In the first democratic elections we Palestinians had a chance to hold, we proved our clear support for peace by
coming out strongly for a leadership which has made its commitment for the road of peace. During the past hundred
years our people suffered immensely -- dispossession, occupation, carnage upon carnage. Meanwhile, we were branded
the terrorists and the murderers of children, yet all that we suffered -- the bloodletting during the Intifada,
the killings by the Israeli "Special Units," the bombings of the Lebanese refugee camps which ravaged
the population -- none of these were counted as terrorism.
After all those years of suffering, we have at last decided for peace and, I must say it, we expected the Israelis
to do the same. We counted on an election victory of the Israeli peace camp. The fact that the other side won,
the side which mocked the agreements
which were signed with our leadership, came to all of us as a great shock, as a thunderbolt out of the blue. We
really did not expect it. Do the Israelis not understand what peace means? Or, do they think they don't need it
-- the arrogance of power!
My first reaction was: now everything is lost. I was so deeply disappointed, I felt sick and could not eat for
days. I spoke to others in my village who had had similar reactions.
As after any other blow, when time passes one starts to look at things more calmly. True, the old government, the
Peres government had signed agreements with the Palestinian side which aroused very much hope. Peres had talked
about the dream of the New Middle East, but meanwhile he starved a whole people, our people. He did a lot to lose
these elections. He did not act in the spirit of peace: the murder of Yihya Ayash, the long closure of the Palestinian
territories and the bombing of Lebanon -- his "Grapes of Wrath." Also in internal politics Peres failed.
He showed no consideration for the religious public, which punished him for letting his partners from Meretz offend
them again and again. Nor did Peres respect his electoral rival, he just did not take him seriously. He talked
a lot of peace and did not implement it, which is fitting for his long reputation of being unreliable.
In our village, while watching the Israeli elections on TV, I heard an old man say: "Take off Netanyahu's
mask and you may find behind it the real Netanyahu, but behind the mask of Peres you only will find seventy masks,
one on top of the other."
We should judge the new government, the Netanyahu government, by its actions. We will have to wait and see which
course it will take. There are in fact only two possibilities: the peace process will move on, or it will collapse
into a new period of war and violence. I hope Netanyahu understands that the peace process is a treasure to both
peoples and therefore will lead the process forward; that he will start negotiations with the Palestinian Authority
on the definite solution. Even before that he could already carry out the longed-for military redeployment in Hebron,
and, why not, remove the closure which is strangling us.
The other possibility, the bad one, is that Netanyahu will be the puppet of the extremists in his government, will
start extending settlements, building new ones. If he really means to have "peace in exchange for peace"
-- which means not giving up any territory -- this could lead to a very dangerous situation; the whole region could
explode into violent chaos and a deepening of hatred for years to come.
Now more than before it is up to the Americans to do something, not to let the whole peace process collapse, but
to help it come to conclusion. It would not be a bad idea to show themselves more impartial, not so biased for
We, the Palestinians, will make our demands known to the new Israeli government as we did to the old one. We will
not give up our rights. We want our own state on our soil, and the capital must be East Jerusalem. You can't have
peace for less.
Matti Peled's legacy
More than a year passed since the ICIPP lost its founding president, Matti Peled. The readers of The Other Israel
had come to know him from his penetrating analysis of the political developments -- based on his multi-faceted
experience as general, scholar, and parliamentarian.
Matti Peled wrote regularly for academic periodicals, had his views published in the mainstream papers, and his
articles could also be found in different radical magazines. The writings he left behind span the history of Israel
and the Middle East in the past decades.
Following the first anniversary of Matti Peled's death, some friends resolved together with his family to collect
and publish the most significant of his articles. The idea is to have them published as a book, first in Hebrew,
and with an English translation as the possible next step.
Dr. Menachem Brinker, academic and veteran peace activist, and the well-known columnist Aryeh Na'or, both of them
personal friends of Matti, undertook the job of preparing and editing the posthumous publication of his works.
A Jerusalem publisher has already been found to bring out the book.
In order to make this last book of Matti Peled available to the Israeli public at a reasonable price, some initial
funding must be provided. Therefore, we ask those readers of The Other Israel who still miss his column -- and
who feel that what he had to say is now more relevant than ever -- for a donation.
Contact: Matti Peled Memorial Book Project
c/o Daliah Beker, P.O.B. 7400, Jerusalem 91073.
If you have to cross a river
Excerpted from a letter to friends by Beate Zilversmidt.
(...) These days I am again and again asking myself: could the pessimists have been right, after all? The early
pessimists who said from the start that the Oslo Agreement was a disaster? Or, for that matter, the new pessimists
who had first been the most delirious Oslo-optimists but who feel now that "everything is completely lost"?
But I always come back to the same old conclusion: whether "Oslo" is "right" or "wrong"
is not the question. The question was and is how to act upon "Oslo" and use it as an instrument. Things
never were, and still are not moving on their own. The force which will move things in the direction of the only
real solution, the two-state solution, always had and still has to come from pressures exerted by interest groups,
among them the Israeli peace camp.
The Oslo agreement is like an old boat with many shortcomings and no motor: when there is no wind blowing into
its sails and nobody rowing it, it does not bring you very far. But still, if you have to cross a river the availability
of a boat -- however miserable -- can make all the difference. (And who am I to tell my Palestinian friends --
who try to make the best of the
little bit they could get hold of -- that they are wrong, when I am not able to offer them anything better?)
The defeat of Peres is in a way like the loss of a beloved one by whom one had often been disappointed and with
whom one never succeeded to reach full understanding, but still there was always the feeling that it should be
possible, one day relations might improve. Such an ambiguous relationship does not make the mourning an easy process:
that was it, that was all, no more hope, no more expectations.
Before the elections, it was clear that one should do everything to keep Netanyahu out, since the young and ambitious
Likud leader could easily bring a new war to the region. But after he succeeded to come to power, one gradually
tries to look from another angle: the new government does not have to fulfill all its promises, all the terrible
(And when one starts to become again one's cautiously optimistic self then... it is time to prepare for the next
TOI, the newsletter about those who never give up hope.)
And the peace camp slept
by Uri Avnery
On February 12, 1995, a handful of people stood across from the Prime Minitser's Office with a large sign saying:
'Rabin and Co. -- you are burying peace. You are going to lose the elections.'
Not one paper reported the demonstration; not one TV station covered it. But its message was prophetic.
A dozen Gush Shalom activists had found time in the middle of a working day to come and sound a warning. They saw
the writing on the wall. They sensed that the faltering momentum of the peace process might well doom its architects.
The oft-voiced opinion is that the left lost the election because it went too fast along the road to peace. In
fact, the very opposite is true.
I was in Jerusalem the day the Oslo agreement was signed in Washington. While euphoria prevailed in the eastern
part of the city, the atmosphere in west Jerusalem was more restrained. Israelis were surprised by the pact. The
great majority viewed it positively, but weren't truly convinced.
And, indeed, it would have taken a miracle to banish, with a stroke of the pen, the psychological legacy of 100
years of strife -- the fears, the hate, the prejudices, the stereotypes, the moral superiority, the scorn for Arabs.
From the moment the Oslo Accords were signed, the fate of the Labor Party and its partners was inextricably linked
to the success of the peace process. It was clear that the next elections would serve as a referendum on this.
And to succeed, the Israeli public (and the Palestinians), had to be electrified with it, to be instilled with
the steely faith that this turning-point would open the door to a flourishing and secure future.
But Yitzchak Rabin and his party acted as though they didn't give a fig for what Israelis thought and felt.
On the eve of the signing in Washington, Labor Party secretary-general Nissim Zvilli arranged a meeting of all
the peace organizations in Israel. The whole spectrum attended: Labor members, youth movements, Peace Now, and
smaller secular and religious peace groups. There was a sense of great excitement. It was decided to hold a giant
joint rally, which proved an impressive success.
Not long afterwards, Zvilli held another meeting in which he quietly disbanded the newborn "peace staff"
-- apparently on Rabin's orders.
From then on until Rabin's assassination nothing was done to win over the hearts and minds of the masses.
The peace camp simply went to sleep. Every now and then, as in the wake of the Hebron massacre, they woke up briefly.
Here and there, minor activities took place. But the street remained in the hands of the right.
The prevailing attitude in the peace camp was: "We can rely on Rabin. He'll do the work. We mustn't disturb
him." A very comfortable approach -- and, as it turned out, ripe for disaster.
Rabin and Peres failed to comprehend that it isn't leaders or diplomats, and certainly not General Security Heads,
who make peace -- it is the people.
We saw a historic opportunity lost. The momentum for peace dissipated in a thicket of petty conflicts with the
Palestinians. The government exuded lack of confidence in its chosen direction. Instead of strengthening its negotiating
partner, it humiliated it at every step. Palestinian prisoners were freed only gradually, and for a price. Settlement
activity wasn't truly stopped. Israeli soldiers continued humiliating Palestinians at roadblocks.
The economic situation in the territories deteriorated, in no small measure because of Israel. Palestinian euphoria,
which had held terrorism at bay for several months, evaporated, and Hamas regained its strength. New attacks shattered
any hope for peace that remained. Extremists took to the street, calling Rabin a murderer and a traitor, without
significant protest from the left.
It's been said that the attacks decided the elections. But how could several attacks, horrible as each one was,
persuade the masses that the revolutionary peace process was a failure? It could only be that they never believed
in it to begin with. The old Israeli war mentality never metamorphosed into a peace mentality. It just went underground
for a while.
Labor, Meretz and their partners were punished for three sins: arrogance toward the Israeli public, close-mindedness
toward the Palestinians, and cowardice toward peace.
(Appeared in Ma'ariv and Jerusalem Post, 1/7/96.)
by Israel Loeff
The results of the recent elections in Israel came as a surprise not only to the foreign observers but also to
many of the Israeli voters. As is common in the Western World, the public had been fed on a huge number of public
opinion polls, nearly all of which continued to predict a victory to the Labor Party and to its old-new Prime Minister-candidate
Shimon Peres, even after the series of Hamas suicide-bomb attacks on Israeli population centers (though in the
aftermath of the attacks Peres' lead did dwindle to a considerable extent).
As was disclosed after the elections, the Labor Party had been in the possession of other polls (ordered and financed
by its own headquarters) predicting their defeat -- but had suppressed them. In their despair, the Labor Party
leaders had decided to concentrate on fighting for the floating votes which were supposed to be somewhere in the
between the two major parties. Labor did make considerable moves to minimize political and ideological differences
with the Likud. The Likud adopted similar tactics and promised to realize all the obligations made by the previous
government -- hinting even at the possibility of continuing the talks with Yasser Arafat, previously depicted as
the arch-satan. The result of these manoeuvers led to a phenomenon not unknown to Israeli politics: an electoral
contest between two Likud parties, "Likud A" and "Likud B," not differing too much from each
other in the mind of the voters. The result should have been clear: the original Likud is preferrable to the copy.
In order to attract Jewish voters the Peres government initiated a very long blockade of the Gaza Strip and of
the West Bank, inhibiting the movement of both people and goods. The result was massive unemployment, shortage
of food and of raw materials used by the local enterprises, in short: a terrible crisis. At the same time, the
Peres government started massive bombings and shellings of vast territories in Lebanon, culminating in the killing
on one day of more than a hundred Arab refugees. While this failed to bring Peres an increased Jewish support it
nearly alienated the Arab voters, though in the end they saw no choice but to cast their votes massively for Shimon
Peres. It is not the Arab voters who turned the scale, and it is unfair to accuse them of being the ones who brought
Netanyahu to power.
The new election system that had been adopetd added quite a lot of confusion even among experienced politicians:
the voters had to cast two different ballots, one for the party which they favored in the parliament and a second
for the person they preferred to stand at the head of the new government. Thus a parliamentary democracy was transformed
into a mixed presidential-parliamentary system -- unprecedented in the world and very different from the American
system to which is being compared. The arrangement was supposed to abolish all the political and financial bargaining
which had always accompanied the establishment of a new government in Israel. It turned out that Israel still got
its bargaining only that now it took place before the elections, with all the usual promises and commitments. Many
of those commitments were contradictory and Netanyahu was therefore unable to keep all the promises he had made.
The new situation produced some confusion in the Israeli peace camp. There is a serious delusion, due to B. Netanyahu's
so-called move towards the centre and his promise of "peace with security," that after all the new government
will fulfill all the obligations made by the previous one. They tend to forget the condition attached by Netanyahu:
a demand from the Palestinian Authorities to meet a long list of real and imaginary obligations, drawn up by the
present government as a condition for any Israeli compliance. In fact it is very difficult to foresee how a government,
supported by the most fanatic settlers and the most ardent nationalists would be able to withdraw its forces from
most parts of Hebron which is the next Israeli move scheduled to be implemented, nor how it could move on to evacuating
parts of the "C" area in the West Bank which is the following step due. Of course, international pressure
on Israel can be expected, though the U.S. government will certainly refrain from it, at least up to the presidential
elections in America. More serious is the possibility of the different Arab countries severing their relations
with Israel. It is to be remembered that in addition to countries already having full diplomatic relations with
Israel, there exists quite a long list of Arab countries having different degrees of diplomatic and economic relations.
Finally, the worst possibility has to be taken into account: the reopening of hostilities. The most difficult problems
between Israel and the Palestinians have been postponed to the "final negotiations." The issues of the
establishment of an independent Palestinian state, a solution for the Palestinian refugees, territorial and border
questions, the fate of the settlements, and most of all, the problem of Jerusalem -- all those questions will render
the negotiations extremely difficult. True, even the Peres government refused to have any practical discussion
on some of these issues, such as the status of Jerusalem. Labor also made informal territorial demands for slices
of the West Bank, far beyond the 1967 lines and in the spirit of the so-called "Alon Plan," which the
Palestinians could never have accepted. Nevertheless, the Peres administration's attitude towards Israel's position
in the world, its more positive attitude with regard to Israel's place in the new Middle East -- all this had given
us some hope that a basis for peace might finally be found. In the absence of such a desire on the part of the
new government a new Intifada of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is probable, an uprising none of
the Arab countries would be able to ignore.