The Other Israel _ January 1998, Issue No. 82
The Real Map
Ad from Ha'aretz
So Much for So Little
Ad from Ha'aretz
News of peace activities
About Stickers and Shekels, by Beate Zilversmidt
Boycott in the Spotlight
Update on Gush Shalom boycott of settlement products
Call to Boycott Days Inn Hotels
The Largest Rally Ever, by Adam Keller
Back to Daheishe, by Uri Avnery
Shortage of Cannon Fodder, by Yehiam Weitz
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for
Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
For subscription information and a free copy of this issue,
please send your name and postal address to AICIPP@igc.apc.org
THE OTHER ISRAEL
January 1998, Issue No. 82
In the first half of October Israeli public opinion was concerned, to the exclusion of nearly everything else,
with the botched attempt by Mossad agents to assassinate a senior Hamas member at Amman, Jordan. Among the unfolding
ramifications of that scandal, there was little attention to spare for the meeting held in New York between Israeli
Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Abu Mazen, or to the declaration which the two signed
under U.S. auspices.
The meeting was officially hailed as the long-awaited resumption of the stalled peace process -- but the public
was rather skeptical, considering that the same description had already been applied to half a dozen previous,
inconclusive diplomatic events. Yet the smoke of the Amman Fiasco eventually cleared, with Prime Minister Netanyahu
successfully surviving yet another crisis and the 'New York Declaration', setting out a four-point negotiations
agenda, suddenly loomed large on the political and diplomatic horizon.
Though he had formally assented to these four points, Netanyahu would rather have avoided discussing (and even
more, implementing) two of them: a 'Time Out' in settlement construction, and the overdue Second Redeployment of
military forces on the West Bank (out of three redeployments envisaged in the Oslo Agreements). Netanyahu would
have preferred to concentrate on the other two points of the New York agenda: Security (which, where the PM is
concerned, effectively consists of Israeli demands for the Palestinians to 'fight against terrorism') and the Definite
Status of the Territories (which involves profound issues on which the two sides' positions are so far apart that
they could be spun out indefinitely -- or at least, so Netanyahu hopes). However, the Americans accepted the Palestinian
position that Redeployment and Settlement Time-Out must precede the final status negotiations -- an ominous precedent
for the Israeli side, after decades when it was the Palestinians who faced common Israeli-U.S. positions.
The Americans' anxiety and sense of urgency partially resulted from persistent rumors concerning Yasser Arafat's
failing health -- which, though denied, already led to an incipient succession struggle in the Palestinian Authority's
upper echelons. With none of Arafat's underlings possessing anything like his moral authority among his people,
with Hamas once again gathering support ever since Sheikh Yassin was released from Israeli prison and returned
to Gaza, and with the Palestinian masses increasingly frustrated at the economic deterioration due to the repeated
closures imposed by Israel, it was felt that a deal must be struck quickly, while Arafat was still around to implement
Confidential reports submitted by Israeli Military Intelligence expressed a similar anxiety and urgency to the
government and quickly leaked to the press. Netanyahu, on the contrary, told the Americans that there was 'no reason
to hurry'. Indeed, there were reports of Netanyahu advisers favoring a policy of 'waiting for Arafat's disappearance'.
In the last week of October, Levy and Abu-Mazen were again summoned to the U.S. -- this time for what was billed
as 'an intensive week of negotiations' at a secluded State Department facility. The American sponsors referred
to it as 'a miniature Camp David', and made clear their expectation of 'concrete results'.
Levy, however, failed to gain from Netanyahu a mandate to conclude a deal on any of the substantial issues. The
only authority Netanyahu was willing to delegate concerned several long-standing secondary issues, such as the
Palestinian International Airport south of Gaza (whose opening has already been blocked by the Israeli side for
nearly two years).
The Palestinians were not willing to be fobbed off with such gimcracks -- all the more so since the Israeli negotiators
were unwilling to drop their demand for 'security control' over passengers and cargoes passing through the Palestinian
airport. The week-long negotiations ended fruitlessly, and the State Department 'Middle East Peace Team' marked
Levy down as a well-meaning but powerless figure, and concluded that Netanyahu would have to be tackled more thoroughly
The failure of the Washington talks dealt a death blow to the Middle East Economic Conference, which was due to
be held a week later at the Gulf
Emirate of Quatar. These annual economic conferences had originally been set up by Shimon Peres, who regarded them
as the cornerstone of his 'New Middle East'. Netanyahu had never been really enthusiastic about these conferences
-- but in the meantime they had acquired a certain importance for U.S. foreign policy, being regarded in the Arab
World as a kind of annual muster of American allies. From this point of view, this year's conference was nothing
short of a disaster for Washington.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who had all along made their participation conditional upon a significant advance in the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, altogether boycotted the conference, while smaller American allies sent perfunctory,
low-level delegations. The humiliation was personally experienced by Secretary of State Albright who attended the
failed conference -- and it was greatly exacerbated by the simultaneous crisis between the United States and Iraq,
over the perennial issue of arms inspections.
The specter of a new war, hovering for a week over the Middle East and sending crowds of Israelis to the Gas Mask
Renewal Stations, exposed a salient fact: the Anti-Saddam Coalition which the U.S. had put up in 1991 has become
a thing of the past. The Arab countries joined that coalition when the issue was Iraqi occupation of a fellow Arab
state; they are far less enthusiastic about efforts to prevent Iraq from gaining weapons of mass destruction which
-- even were Saddam Hussein's most ambitious plans fulfilled -- would fall far short of the hundred to two hundred
nuclear missiles assumed to be in Israel's possession. Also, the sharp reaction to Saddam's defiance of UN resolutions
invites comparison to Netanyahu's ability to do the same with impunity.
Meanwhile, the period of Russian passivity in Middle East affairs ended with the appointment as Foreign Minister
of the energetic Yevgeny Primakov -- who had been one of the foremost Soviet experts on Arab affairs, and who seems
bent on restoring to Russia the traditional Soviet role as patron of Arab states and Arab aspirations. To this
was added the bold and assertive Middle East role of France, which increasingly influenced the policy of the European
Union as a whole -- with Chancellor Kohl of Germany, who long blocked the French initiatives, growing visibly tired
of the thankless job of guarding Netanyahu's European flank.
Thus, the international and Middle Eastern configuration left the U.S. no choice but to seek a diplomatic compromise,
establishing no more than an uneasy truce in its row with Saddam Hussein. The administration's decision makers
came out of the crisis with the strong feeling that, in order to be able to take a tougher stand at future confrontations
with Iraq, they would first have to get some highly visible concessions out of Netanyahu. In effect, Israel's present
Prime Minister managed to hand to Saddam Hussein what the Iraqi leader sought in vain during the 1990-91 crisis:
a linkage, however limited, between the United States' treatment of Iraq and its attitude to Israel.
Rabbis and foreign policy
In the past, Israeli Prime Ministers faced with pressure from the U.S. administration could rely on massive support
from the organised American Jewish community -- a support coming from a strong feeling of identification with Israel,
regardless of which party is in power in Jerusalem and what policies are undertaken by the Israeli government of
the moment. But Netanyahu himself, in his previous role as Israeli opposition leader, had in 1994-95 organised
right-wing American Jews into open and vocal opposition to the Rabin Government. Thus, he created a precedent affecting
the present behaviour of his own American Jewish opponents -- though none of them is as virulent as Rabin's opponents
For their part, Netanyahu's Orthodox coalition partners had done much to alienate large sections of the U.S. Jewish
community and deprive the government of their critically important support. Israel's Orthodox Established Rabbinate
altogether refuses to recognise the Reform and Conservative currents of Judaism -- which are but a small minority
in Israel but which hold the allegiance of most American Jews. This long-smouldering issue came to a head due to
the insistence of the religious parties, key Netanyahu allies, on the passage of a Knesset bill explicitly declaring
invalid conversions to Judaism performed by non-Orthodox rabbis.
Many of the Reform and Conservative communities in the U.S. came to regard the impending passage of the 'Conversion
Bill' as an act of rejection by the Jewish State. In early October, things nearly exploded; at the last moment
Netanyahu succeeded in getting a few more months of grace until the end of January 1998, when an arbitration committee
is supposed to
present a compromise solution.
The chances of achieving such a compromise seem dim, given the Orthodox establishment's implacable hostility to
its rivals, which senior Israeli rabbis expressed by publicly referring to their non-Orthodox 'colleagues' as 'Clowns
who spread a travesty of Judaism', 'Worse enemies than the Arab terrorists' and 'They are not Jews at all'. Chief
Rabbi Bakshi-Doron, who invested considerable effort in trying to establish a dialogue with Muslim clerics and
even with the spiritual leaders of Hamas, flatly refused to do the same with Reform Rabbis.
Even without the controversial bill actually passing into law, the non-Orthodox American Jews were infuriated by
this stream of abuse, coming from a major component of the Netanyahu government. Moreover, many of them hold dovish
views and are not at all satisfied with Netanyahu's general policies. At the annual conference of the American
Jewish communities -- a forum where visiting Israeli PM's of all political affiliations were customarily received
with a standing ovation -- the organisers were obliged to call upon conference participants not to boo Netanyahu.
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The eroding of Natanyahu's standing among the American Jewish community was matched at the U.S. congress -- the
other traditional stronghold to which Israeli governments are in the habit of turning when pressed by a U.S. administration.
For the first time in decades, Israel was repeatedly and sharply criticised in Congress and its financial aid temporarily
held up, over a host of secondary issues -- Israel's failure to extradite a teenager wanted in Maryland on charges
of murder; the delay in implementing the Israeli obligation of transferring to Jordan fifty million dollars out
of the three billions Israel received last year; the sales of semi-automatic Israeli weapons to the private U.S.
market, accounting for a significant part of the inner-city violence. By giving in on all of these issues, Netanyahu
soon managed to put out the 'brushfires' on Capitol Hill -- but they boded ill for his ability to stand up in a
major confrontation over the Palestinians and the peace process.
And meanwhile, inside Israel the second anniversary of the Rabin assassination precipitated an extensive mobilization
of the Israeli peace camp, the most massive since Netanyahu came to power. There were weeks of continuing small
and large demonstrations and rallies, expressing anger at and disgust with the present Prime Minister as much as
commemoration and mourning for his martyred predecessor. It culminated in a huge gathering by hundreds of thousands,
which was conceded even by political opponents to have been the largest demonstration in the history of Israel
(see separate article).
The massed crowds at Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square were shown on TV screens throughout the world, clearly demonstrating
the existence of a strong constituency for peace inside Israel. A planned counter-rally, scheduled by settlers
for the following week, was canceled when its organisers realised they had no chance of matching this show of force.
The presidential agenda
Originally, the main thrust of Washington's renewed efforts to revive the Middle East peace process seemed to be
towards a stoppage of Israeli settlement activities. One tangible result did come about -- the construction activities
on confiscated Palestinian land at East Jerusalem's Har Homa/Jebl Abu Ghneim, whose start in March precipitated
the breakdown of negotiations and whose halt was a major Palestinian demand, were indeed stopped almost completely,
though without any official declaration. (Netanyahu told his right-wing partners that the Har Homa stoppage was
'purely technical in character' and that 'work there would recommence in early 1998.')
But where a more general halt to settlement activities was concerned, Netanyahu gave only a verbal promise of 'a
settlement time-out' -- which in his view did not exclude 'continuing extension of existing settlements' for the
alleged purpose of an undefined 'natural growth'. And in fact, the increasing indications that renewal of the peace
process was in the offing spurred settlers throughout the West Bank to create ever more 'accomplished facts', so
as to preempt the result of the coming negotiations. Such construction projects were mostly carried out by 'private
settler entrepreneurs' -- but, in fact, with extensive government subsidies.
Meanwhile, the focus of the American effort shifted, at least temporarily, to the issue of the overdue second military
redeployment on the West Bank -- a field where it seemed easier to pin Netanyahu down to a concrete concession,
expressed in unambiguous map references.
In March, when the first redeployment should have taken place, Netanyahu offered a paltry one and half percent
of the West Bank -- which the Palestinians promptly rejected, and which was one of the main reasons for the deadlock
prevailing ever since. The second redeployment, scheduled for September, was avoided 'because the Palestinians
do not fight terrorism' -- as the cabinet resolution put it.
Now the Americans made clear their impatience with Netanyhahu's procrastination, and their expectation that he
would come forth with an offer for a 'two-digit redeployment'. Moreover, the territory to be given up was expected
to be 'of good quality' -- by which was meant that it should be located so as to close gaps between the existing
scattered Palestinian-controlled enclaves and let the Palestinian Authority achieve more of a territorial continuity.
As the norms of pressure applied in the international arena go, the measures taken by President Clinton and his
Secretary of State towards the Prime Minister of Israel were rather mild. The enormous Israeli dependence upon
the U.S. -- in the military, economic and diplomatic spheres -- was not made into a means of exerting leverage.
Clinton confined himself to showing openly his displeasure by 'not finding a free spot in the presidential agenda'
for a meeting with
Netanyahu -- while at the same time holding a highly-publicized meeting with Shimon Peres and Leah Rabin at the
Netanyahu did not get to the White House -- but was summoned to a series of stringent meetings with Albright in
Paris. Officially, everything was held within the forms of diplomatic correctness; off the record, the Americans
talked to representatives of the international media, as well as to selected Israeli journalists, making increasingly
sharp remarks about Netanyahu and his policies (or lack thereof). Each of these 'unofficial remarks' by an unnamed
'senior source in the U.S. administration' immediately reverberated through the Israeli media; the mass-circulation
Yediot Aharonot ran, on successive dates, such banner headlines as: 'Americans Demand substantial Concessions';
'American Political Ultimatum Presented To Netanyahu' and 'Deadline Set For American Dictat'.
In many other countries, such headlines would have infuriated the public and caused masses to rally behind the
government. But in Israel, the general public regards good relations with the United States as the country's most
vital lifeline, and the maintenance of these relations -- as one the most important duties of the country's Prime
Minister. Among Israeli citizens, only the settlers and their hardcore supporters were in a mood to defy Washington.
Fighting fire with fire
Beset by mounting pressure inside the country and internationally, Netanyahu resorted to a favorite tactic: to
confront a crisis by precipitating another one. In this case, Netanyahu -- through his loyal henchman Avigdor Lieberman,
Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office -- initiated a head-on confrontation with his rivals inside his
own Likud Party. In inner-party elections held in highly dubious circumstances (as Netanyahu's opponents charged),
Lieberman managed to pack the Likud party conference and achieve a solid pro-Netanyahau majority. Lieberman then
proceeded to ram through the conference an amendment to the party constitution abolishing the system of electing
the party's parliamentary candidates by primary elections among the party's 200,000-strong membership -- a system
which Netanyahu himself initiated just a few years earlier and which was highly instrumental in his taking over
the party. Instead, the conference arrogated this power to itself -- which, given Netanyahu's control over the
conference, would at the next elections enable the PM to purge 'disobedient' Knesset Members or even ministers.
The move encountered strong opposition from the Likud ministers and other prominent party members who felt directly
threatened -- in particular the group of party elite known as 'the Princes' (because their parents had been among
the founders of the party) such as former ministers Binyamin Begin and Dan Meridor. For a week, the Israeli media
had hardly any other topic but the spectacle of the constant conflict at the Likud conference, with 'Lieberman's
Crowd' shouting down the ministers and resolutions adopted among accusations of vote-rigging and electronic surveillance.
Immediately at the end of the stormy conference -- whose agenda, incidentally, included not a single mention of
the ongoing critical negotiations with the Palestinians and the Americans -- Netanyahu had to leave the country
for another of his tense meetings with Albright. In his absence, the Likud rebels attempted to stage a 'coup' by
mustering an anti-Netanyahu majority in the party's parliamentary caucus -- but the plot was prematurely disclosed
in the media, and the rebels could agree neither on a common program nor on a leader to replace Netanyhahu. Two
rival self-proclaimed candidates, with widely diverging outlooks and tactics, soon emerged within the rebel Likud
group: Ehud Olmart, Mayor of the conservative and religious Jerusalem, who had made his career out of repeatedly
provoking the Palestinians; and Roni Milo, his counterpart in cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv, who had made a point of participating
in the huge Rabin Memorial Rally and courting the peace constituency.
REPLACING NETANYAHU BY OLMART:
LIKE CHANGING CABINS ON THE TITANIC!
Unsigned ad in Ha'aretz,
copied and pasted on walls at Rabin Sq., Tel-Aviv.
Upon his return to the country, the PM took some steps to defuse the 'rebellion': he fired Lieberman from his government
job (though keeping him as the head of an unofficial 'dirty tricks' department inside the Likud) and promised to
put the method of selecting parliamentary candidates to a referendum among the party membership (a promise which,
like many other Netanyahu promises, was not kept).
And then he suddenly announced his decision to carry out, after all, the long-delayed redeployment -- overnight
transforming the focus of the public debate and driving further apart the 'hawkish' Likud rebels and the 'dovish'
The pronouncement alarmed the settlers -- the same who had taken a major part in getting Netanyahu elected, less
than two years previously, and who now started holding demonstrations against his government. On the other side
of the political spectrum, a fall was registered in the level of peace demonstrations against Netanyahu. Even some
of the activists who had spent much of the past months shouting 'Bibi go home!' at various demonstrations started
adopting a 'wait and see' attitude -- however skeptical they still felt about the Prime Minister's intentions.
Meanwhile, the Likud rebellion smouldered on, bursting out a few weeks later in actual fistfights over the (completely
unimportant) leadership of the Likud Caucus at the World Zionist Congress; but the immediate threat to Netanyahu's
position from their quarter was averted.
As the cabinet convened to discuss the proposed redeployment, the media was full of predictions of a government
crisis -- given that many ministers are intransigent nationalists and that some coalition
partners -- such as the settlers' own National Religious Party -- are totally opposed to any giving up of territory.
But a short morning session sufficed for a surprising, virtually unanimous, resolution approving the redeployment
in principle. It had more than one sting, however. No date was attached, nor any hint of the territorial extent.
Moreover, in line with Netanyahu's favorite principle of 'reciprocity', the resolution enumerated long list of
preconditions which Arafat had to fulfill before any redeployment takes place -- such as extradition of Palestinians
wanted by Israel for terrorist activity (of course, the government did not intend reciprocity to include the extraditing
of Israelis charged with the killing of Palestinians).
The hardliners made no secret of their hope and expectation that the Palestinians would fail to comply, which would
absolve the Israeli side of all responsibility. The Americans had different ideas, drawing up a 'Memorandum of
Understanding on Security' which elaborated the concept of 'reciprocity' to the full. Among other things, both
Palestinians and Israelis would be obliged to consult with the other side before releasing from detention any prisoner
charged with politically-motivated violent acts; to confiscate weapons from those of their own citizens who may
use them against the other side; and to take steps against those who abuse religion for the purpose of propagating
terrorism. The extradition issue was not mentioned.
Negotiations on security issues are routinely conducted by representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian security
services and armed forces; both teams originally accepted the document, presented to them by a CIA representative,
who normally serves as arbitrator in these meetings. Netanyahu at first tended to ratify his military officers'
approval of the memorandum (as Arafat had done) but in the end decided to denounce it.
On Israeli radio, an unnamed 'senior source at the Prime Minister's office' accused the military officers who had
conducted the negotiations of 'negligence and incompetence'. In response, Army Chief-of-Staff Shahak published
an official statement giving the officers concerned his full backing and support; the already cool relations between
Netanyahu and the IDF High Command dropped, as the commentators put it, 'below the freezing point'. And the Palestinians
once again scored a precedent of political cooperation between themselves and the Americans.
Meanwhile, the cabinet started discussing -- at the hardliners' demand -- 'the definite solution map', i.e. the
staking out of parts of the West Bank to be declared non-negotiable.
Two rival maps were presented to the ministers' attention. One, prepared by Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon,
was based on Sharon's experience of constructing settlements for much of the last two decades; it would leave under
Israeli rule all settlements, all access roads to them and all areas within a radius of several kilometres of each
-- altogether 64% of the West Bank. The other map, drawn up by military officers at the request of Defence Minister
Mordechai and entitled 'security interests map', laid claim to a mere 52% of the entire territory. Though still
falling far short of the most minimal Palestinian demands, Mordechai's map envisaged some forty settlements --
about a third of the total -- eventually becoming enclaves within Palestinian-held territory.
Ad in Ha'aretz, Dec. 19.
The real map
All maps discussed this week by the government and in the media are called 'maps of interests.' A map of security
interests, a map of national interests, a map of settlement interests, a map of the-devil-knows-what.
ALL THESE ARE MAPS OF WAR!
All those maps intend to maintain the settlements at the expense of peace, at the expense of security -- none of
them representing the Israeli interests, the interests which we all share.
All those maps obscure the existence of the Palestinian people. For the Palestinians they reserve no more than
ten percent of Mandatory Palestine. And these ten percent are to be divided by settlements into scattered enclaves,
cut through by Israeli roads, surrounded on all sides by annexed areas. No Palestinian will for one moment seriously
consider such a map.
THE MAP OF THE TRUE ISRAELI INTERESTS
IS THE MAP OF THE GREEN LINE
THERE IS NO OTHER
Contributions towards publication of ads to:
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
With 'The Mordechai Map' being leaked to Ha'aretz and published on its front page, the settlers were aroused to
a new pitch of angry demonstrations, with some of their prominent leaders making dire public threats to topple
the government should the redeployment take place. The 'pragmatic faction', however, cautioned that 'Netanyahu's
successor might be worse.' Broadcasts of the settlers' pirate station, usually filled with fiery nationalist propaganda,
now featured sharp internal debates...
For those wishing to topple Netanyahu and/or pressure him -- for whatever motive -- an obvious place and time suggested
themselves: the Knesset vote on the 1998 government budget, which by law must be approved by midnight on December
31. Apprehensive lest the ultra-nationalists and other dissident groups within the government coalition would ally
themselves with the Labour Party opposition at this crucial vote, the PM asked the Americans to ease off their
pressure until the budget is approved. At their December 17 meeting in Paris, Albright granted that stay of execution
-- giving Netanyahu until mid-January, when he would have his long-delayed meeting with President Clinton, but
to which meeting he would have to bring 'clear and concrete ideas' with no more procrastination.
This agreement was given various interpretations. Netanyahu did his best to imply to the hardliners that the pressure
was off and the redeployment issue
could be put to the back burner. On the other hand, newspaper commentators and politicians from all parts of the
spectrum claimed -- despite the PM's repeated denials -- that Netanyahu had already promised to carry out a redeployment
embracing more than 10% of the West bank, and that the complicated and abstruse deliberations over maps were but
an empty ritual, if not a smokescreen.
But even without the complications of the redeployment, the budget held enormous pitfalls for Netanyahu -- coming
up for approval in the midst of an enormous wave of social unrest, strikes and demonstrations by workers. For the
first time in decades, politics in Israel started to become polarised along socioeconomic issues.
Bibi versus the unions
Ever since 1967, when Israel gained control over controversial Occupied Territories and over a restless, rebellious
Palestinian population, this had become the main issue of Israeli politics, the main characteristic defining the
difference between what is considered 'Left' and 'Right'.
To the extent that differences on socioeconomic policies existed, they were mainly between 'conservative' and 'populist'
factions within the same party, rather than between different parties. Ever since the 1970's, economic policies
were in general guided -- regardless of the party in power -- by the free-market, monetarist theories favored by
the finance ministry's professionals who all happen to be of the Friedman school. The gap between rich and poor
in the Israeli society widened accordingly.
From the very beginning of his term, Netanyahu was faced by the inherent contradiction between his own neo-Liberal
views, modeled upon the U.S. Republican Party, and the fact that most of his voters were from the poorer half of
Israeli society. Many of Netanyahu's coalition partners, as well as key factions in the Likud party itself, are
based in constituencies of the poor and underprivileged; but the group of Israeli, American, British and Australian
millionaires who financed Netanyahu's elections campaign expected him to pursue an aggressive privatization policy.
(Already, one of the PM's main campaign contributors, the multimillionaire Ted Arison, was amply rewarded by getting
to buy the privatized Bank Hapoalim -- Israel's biggest bank -- at a fraction of its real worth.)
After getting rid of his party rival Dan Meridor, who was Finance Minister until mid-1997 (see TOI-79/80, p.5),
Netanyahu handed control of the economy over to Ya'akov Ne'eman -- a tough corporation lawyer whose policies of
high interest and foreign exchange rates gave a total priority to the curbing of inflation, even at the price of
economic recession and unemployment.
Ne'eman seemed motivated by a deep hatred against what remains of the social structures erected by the country's
Socialist-Zionist founding fathers. He provoked a clash with the Histadrut Trade Union Federation by refusing --
in style with the Netanyahu government's general practice in keeping obligations -- to honor the pensions agreement
signed by the previous government. Then, while negotiations were still going on for a compromise solution, Ne'eman
attacked the unions and the organized workers as 'walking, ticking bombs, internal enemies who are more dangerous
than the external ones.' Within hours of this speech, a strike was proclaimed involving hundreds of thousands of
workers throughout the country -- the largest and longest strike in Israeli history.
For several days, the country was brought to a virtual standstill and communications with the outside world cut
off, in defiance of 'back to work' orders issued by the courts. Finally, Ne'eman had to back off on the pensions
issue with a humiliating loss of prestige. The Histadrut Trade Union Federation, a structure which was founded
in the pioneer period at the beginning of the century and which had seemed for many years moribund in bureaucratic
decay, now gained a new lease of militant life. Moreover, the dynamic Histadrut leader Amir Peretz, a member of
the Labor Party, has proven his ability to mobilise a considerable number of Likud rank-and-file members -- who
are among the most militant of unionists -- in struggle against the policies of a Likud government.
Intifada of the jobless
In the wake of the big strike, the alarming rise in unemployment burst into the public consciousness due to violent
'intifada-style' demonstrations, complete with stone-throwing and burning tyres, bursting out at the southern town
of Ofakim where more than 14% of the local workforce are unemployed. For a week, this normally forsaken town got
the spotlight of nation-wide attention.
Netanyahu hastened there, making to a gathering of carefully-selected unemployed workers the promise of 'three
hundred immediate jobs', and got the TV footage of applause which he had sought. (Many of these 300 jobs later
turned out to be fictitious; and outside the hall where the dubious promise had been made, the prime ministerial
bodyguards roughly tore down 'Bibi go home!' signs put up by other, less credulous workers).
In any case, the public soon realised that the problem of rising unemployment was far from confined to this particularly
hard-hit town. More and more 'pockets of unemployment' were unearthed all over the country, and especially at the
poverty-stricken 'Development Towns' at the northern and southern peripheries -- most of them traditional Likud
strongholds where Netanyahu got high voting percentages at last year's elections.
Some politicians blamed the crisis on the peace treaty with Jordan -- a country to which several Israeli textile
factories had relocated, attracted by wage levels far below the Israeli minimum levels. Such accusations were,
however, rather embarrassing -- given that the peace with Jordan, achieved without territorial concessions, had
always been held up as a model by the very same right-wingers...
In the effected towns themselves, considerable resentment was manifested about the generous
government subsidies to entrepreneurs setting up shop in West Bank settlements; Gabi Lalush, a prominent Likud
member and mayor of the town of Dimona (known internationally for its unfortunate proximity to Israel's nuclear
pile) remarked: 'There are now 160,000 unemployed workers in the country. They should get guided tours of the settlements,
to see where the money is going' (Ha'aretz, Dec. 19).
Ad in Ha'aretz, Dec. 26.
So much for so little
It isn't just demagoguery to say that the settlements exist at the expense of the poor and the Development Towns.
Unfortunately, it is nothing but the truth.
Only the smaller part of the moneys allotted to the settlements appear openly in the government budget. By ingenious
camouflage, settlement budgets are hidden under innocent-seeming headings -- in the budgets of virtually all government
ministries, as well as in the government allocations for such officially non-governmental institutions as the Jewish
Agency and The Jewish National Fund.
The government finances the salaries of thousands of settlers, who hold fictitious full-time jobs. Enormous sums
are invested in creating infrastructure, public institutions and private housing at the settlements. Subsidised
mortgages are provided, with housing sold at token prices. Economic enterprises locating at the settlements are
granted huge benefits and tax exemptions. A large part of the defence budget is devoted to protecting the settlements
-- which in many 'hot spots' amounts to providing a personal guard of soldiers to individual settlers. Thousands
of conscripts and reservists spend their entire military terms in the service of the settlers.
Above and beyond this direct cost, the settlements constantly sabotage the peace process and increase the danger
of war. This deters foreign investors, who tend to avoid danger zones. The defence establishment's calculations
and planning are based on the assumption that, with the prospect of peace receding further and further away, Israel
must keep a constant alert and maintain higher and higher levels of ever more expensive new weapons systems.
Many billions have already been poured into the bottomless pit of the settlements. Additional hundreds of millions
-- nobody knows exactly how many -- are now to be added, in the budget to be approved.
Never did so many pay so much to so few,
for the sake of so little.
Contributions towards publication of ads to:
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
His defeat in the confrontation with the unions did not deter Finance Minister Ne'eman from pursuing another major
project -- introducing free market principles into the Israeli health system, hitherto still run on fairly egalitarian
Under Ne'eman's 'reform', many kinds of medical service now available to all would become dependent on the patient's
income. The plan aroused an increasing opposition, centered on an unprecedented, newly formed 'Public Health Coalition'
uniting the Israeli Medical Association, the trade unions of the nurses and hospital workers, the main health insurance
fund and some seventy voluntary patients' associations.
The campaign gathered momentum with a heart-rending televised visit of youthful cancer patients to President Weitzman's
residence, who literally pleaded for their lives. The ensuing public outcry forced Ne'eman to approve a special
budget to finance medicines for cancer and AIDS patients -- but otherwise, the Finance Minister went on with his
'health austerity' project.
To help gain parliamentary approval for the measure, the Finance Ministry did not introduce it as a separate bill,
but as an annex to the proposed budget -- so as to let it mingle with the numerous other issues coming up in the
atmosphere of extreme pressure and hurry characteristic of a budget debate.
The budget debacle
The beginning of parliamentary discussion on the budget was accompanied by a strike in all Israeli hospitals. The
Health Bill issue gained wide and sympathetic public attention, and was taken up by various factions inside the
government coalition -- who also raised other social issues, such as Ne'eman's plan to slash social welfare payments.
The government's parliamentary majority was increasingly shaken and threatened.
But soon the social coalition was overshadowed by special interest lobbies, each demanding some hundreds of millions
for its own particular sector (indeed, most of the eight political parties making up Netanyahu's ruling coalition
are little more than special interest groups).
Two interests were the most vocal and conspicuous in this free-for-all: the settlers -- whose generous funding
by the government is resented even among many of the right-wing voters; and the ultra-Orthodox -- whose demands,
inevitably granted whichever party is in power, are even more unpopular among all other sectors in the Israeli
The Finance Ministry raised the cry of 'Blackmail!', joined by the mass media. As the preliminary budget voting
started, the opposition won vote after vote, helped along by an increasing number of defectors from the coalition
parties. The government's end seemed near, and there was open talk of new elections.
But in one sleepless night Netanyahu managed to buy off most of the rebels, promising substantial sums to the settlers
and the ultra-Orthdox, and smaller sums to the immigrants from the former Soviet Union (whose lobby is new and
inexperienced). The government majority was more or less restored, though Netanyahu clearly did not intend to keep
all his promises -- as the various lobbies themselves knew full well.
But the health issue remained -- and was explosively taken up by Foreign Minister David Levy, whose reputation
is to be the champion of the poor and the have-nots. Levy was also angered by the non-inclusion in the budget of
a whole series of social
welfare measures which were specifically promised by Netanyahu in writing during a previous cabinet crisis in July.
In a dramatic press conference, the Foreign Minister railed against 'the heartless, soulless government' in whose
'flight to nowhere' he was no longer willing to participate, and declared his intention to vote against the budget
'Thieves and robbers'
On the 1st of January, twenty unemployed workers from Dimona boarded a Peace Now bus, for a 'guided settlement
tour.' Mossi Raz, an activist with a long experience in settlement monitoring, acted as guide: 'This road with
the two tunnels, to the Gush Etzion settlements, cost 130 Million Shekel. For repairing the Be'er Sheba-Dimona
Highway, where so many accidents happen, they couldn't find even ten Million.' 'Here at Eli they built 700 houses,
but most of them stand empty. And still they now started building more houses in the settlement.' 'This is a very
small settlement, but it already has its own industrial zone -- they give very tempting offers to entrepreneurs
to come here.' Ma'ariv (Jan. 2) reported the workers exclaiming 'These ministers are thieves and robbers!'
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297
Even without Levy and the other four parliamentarians of his Gesher Party, Netanyahu might have mustered a bare
majority for the budget -- but Levy's defection would have left the government so weak, both in the Knesset and
in public opinion, as to ensure its fall in the very next crisis. Rather than risk that, Netanyahu called off the
decisive voting on the budget and the Health Bill, and started frantic negotiations with his Foreign Minister.
Midnight on December 31 came and passed -- and for the first time in Israeli history, a new fiscal year started
without a government budget being approved.
The twenty-fifth hour
It is at this cliffhanger that the account must stop and this issue go to print. Based on past experience, political
commentators and analysts expected Netayahu and Levy to achieve some kind of compromise and predicted that the
PM might even sacrifice his Finance Minister in that cause. Levy, however, seemed more obdurate than at any of
his numerous previous confrontations with Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, in a well-calculated leak to Israeli TV, the Americans make clear that -- regardless of the still-unresolved
cabinet crisis -- the respite granted to Netanyahu was at an end, and the Prime Minister was expected to deliver
on his promises to Albright. The Administration was clearly unhappy with the prospect of a prolonged crisis, hoping
either that Levy would get back to his role as a leading cabinet dove, or that a new and more amendable Israeli
government would swiftly emerge.
Meanwhile, a wave of violent confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians is spreading from the permanent trouble
spot of Hebron to all the numerous other 'confrontation lines' -- as Palestinians feel increasingly impatient with
their concerns being delayed because of internal Israeli quarrels. The reasons for, a quick move have become, if
anything, even more urgent.
It starts being difficult to conceive how, even with a great deal of pushing and pulling, the Netanyahu Government
could still carry out a not too insignificant military redeployment on the West Bank. It seems certain that this
government is neither willing nor able -- nor likely to survive long enough -- to tackle the further, more complicated
parts of the peace process which according to Oslo should definitely wrap up all problems between Israelis and
Palestinians in 'A Definite Agreement' to be signed by May 1999.
However adept at survival Netanyahu has proven to be, the accumulating internal and external contradictions seem
certain to reach the boiling point long before November 2000, the legal end of his term. Indeed, it is reliably
reported that Netanyahu resigned himself to new elections sometime in 1998; his conduct of the negotiations is
calculated with an eye to an elections campaign in which failure of the peace process could credibly be blamed
on the Palestinians.
For his part, opposition leader Ehud Barak already established officially 'The 1998 Labor Campaign Headquarters'.
But despite widespread detestation of Netanyahu, Barak's lackluster leadership fails to really catch up the masses,
and in opinion polls his lead over the Prime Minister is far from decisive. Barak's vague political pronouncements
are always calculated to 'catch the three percent swing vote' -- yet his very equivocation seems to make him colourless
and so far not to attract this notoriously fickle but crucial part of the electorate.
Opinion polls indicate a considerable potential support for a third candidate -- an electoral niche which many
would like to fill, such as Tel-Aviv Mayor Roni Milo, who openly plans to break away from the the Likud and place
himself at the head of a new 'moderate center party.'
And in the Labor Party, there is a growing longing for Barak's predecessor Shimon Peres. At the party conference
in December, delegates gave Barak a cool reception, and greeted with enormous applause Peres' impassioned and militant
dovish speech -- in which he described the creation of an independent Palestinian state as indispensable for Israel's
long term survival.
No longer inhibited by the constraints of office Peres also called explicitly for peace with Syria in exchange
for full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan heights. In his view, the only question is how to avoid going through
an unnecessary bloodbath before coming to these two inevitable conclusions.
For his part, Yasser Arafat already declared that a Palestinian state would definitely be proclaimed by the May
1999 Oslo deadline -- preferably with Israeli consent, but unilaterally if need be. And in fact, in one way or
another mainstream Israeli politicians of all parties are already coming to terms with the inevitability of a Palestinian
state -- even such
hardliners as Likud's Ariel Sharon, the champion builder of settlements.
Many of them, however, would assign to Palestine no more than paltry scraps of territory in which the new state
would be entirely unviable. In particular, some of the supposed 'moderates' would like to maintain Israeli rule
in the Jordan Valley which constitutes more than a third of the entire West Bank, a claim going back to the Alon
Plan of 1967.
Retention of this territory by Israel would cut off the Palestinian state from the rest of the Arab World and turn
it into a surrounded enclave -- as well as depriving it of the only uninhabited territory in which Palestinian
refugees, coming from camps in the Arab countries, could be resettled.
Unofficial but reliable leaks indicate a U.S. tendency to recognise a Palestinian state with the Jordan River as
its eastern boundary; Israeli security demands would have to be satisfied, under this concept, with a continued
presence of limited Israeli military forces for a specified period in the Palestinian sovereign territory. A similar
idea was mooted in the talks with the Palestinians held by Yossi Beilin -- Peres' deputy in the previous government;
but it would be a bitter pill to swallow, not only for Netanyahu but even for the Labour hawks.
Netanyahu's faltering policies and his growing tensions with the U.S. administration brought the Palestinian leaders
to where they could hope for something which would have once been unthinkable: a common American-Palestinian political
and diplomatic position with which the government of Israel would be faced; in the past, the situation had invariably
been the other way round. Should such a startling diplomatic overturn indeed occur, it would go down in history
as Binyamin Netanyahu's most enduring mark on Middle Eastern history.
s David Enoch, a 27-year old Jerusalem lawyer and philosophy student, could have done reserve duty as a military
lawyer, but chose combat duty and was commissioned a reserve Armoured Corps lieutenant. On Sept. 2, he was told
go to the outskirts of Palestinian Ramallah, which he refused: 'I did not become a combat officer in order to help
hold down civilian populations in an occupied area we should have evacuated long ago.'
His commander, Brigadier Yiftah Ortal, a settler, decided not to follow the army's normal procedure in such cases
and ordered that Enoch's case be brought before a court-martial, e,powered to impose years-long punishments for
disobedience. However, beginning Dec. the case came to the attention of the West Bank Commanding General, Uzi Dayan.
Rather than open a prolonged court case with a lot of media attention, General Dayan sent Enoch back to 'disciplinary
proceedings' where he got a 25-day punishment.
Information provided by Yesh Gvul, POB 6953, J'lem
+++ On the night of Oct. 13, fire was set to the door of an apartment rented by three Palestinian women students,
Israeli citizens, living in the Musrara slum neighborhood of Jerusalem. The arson followed a series of threats,
harassments, and spray-paintings of swastikas and abuse outside the door. When the students earlier complained
of harassment to the police, they were answered with contempt and disregard -- and even after the arson attempt
got wide media attention, the police had 'no manpower' to guard the Arab girls. (The same Jerusalem police regularly
stations a large force to protect Jewish settlers in their fortified enclaves at East Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods.)
Following a demonstration at the site, organised by the Palestinian feminist organization Al-Fanar and a newly-created
Committee Against Racism, Arab and Jewish volunteers maintained a regular presence at the apartment each night.
But though giving moral support and encouragement, they were not able to prevent a new assault -- a bomb placed
near the door late at night on Nov. 29, wounding a police sapper. This new assault, again catching headlines, resulted
in a personal visit to the girls by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert -- but the police still had their 'manpower problems.'
Al-Fanar POB 44477, Haifa; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ Some fifty Israeli students organised by Dor Shalom and the religious Netivot Shalom movement spent the weekend
of December 19-20 in Gaza, meeting with a similar number of Palestinian students. The following is excerpted from
the account given by Tzafi Geva of Haifa: 'Having served as a soldier in Gaza, I went back as a civilian and a
guest. Walking in the streets of Gaza with Palestinian students and representatives of the Palestinian Authority,
we heard about the difficult aspects of the conflict, about the motives leading to terrorist attacks, about the
enormous difficulties of daily life. We sat in one room: Yitchak Frankenthal, whose soldier son was kidnapped and
killed by the Hamas -- and Hisham Abdul Razek, whose body is scarred from fragments of the bomb which he intended
to place in an Israeli town and which exploded prematurely in his hands. The people who were there found it possible
to overcome private tragedies and traumas. It is an example which I hope others will follow' (Ha'aretz, Dec. 24).
Netivot Shalom, pb 4433, J'lem;
Dor Shalom, 10 Ben Gurion Rd, Ramat Gan.
+++ On the evening of Dec. 25 -- the beginning of Hanukkah -- several dozen Peace Now youths gathered at the Tel-Aviv
Rabin Monument, lighted torches and, joined by Gush Shalom and Hadash activists, set out on a march entitled 'Lighting
the Road to Peace.' On their route through the tree-lined Chen and Ben-Tzion Boulevards, to the Likud Party headquarters,
the youths chanted defiant slogans, as well as singing Hanukkah songs with the wording slightly changed. Thus,
in the traditional 'We have come to drive out the darkness/ Each one of us is a small light', the first words were
replaced with 'We have come to drive Bibi out'...
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297
s The same theme of 'driving out the darkness' was repeated at four simultaneous vigils held by The Mothers on
Dec. 28, at locations from the Lebanese border to the Defence Ministry gates in Tel-Aviv. Here, too, candles were
lighted and 'Drive out the Darkness' sung -- but in this case, 'the darkness' referred to soldiers' continuing
exposure to the Lebanese guerrilla war.
+++ For the Hanukkah school holiday, Takam (United Kibbutz Movement) decided to have a thousand youths go on a
four-day bicycle tour, through the Negev Desert and across the border into Jordan -- as a measure of 'building
peace between peoples, not just between politicians'.
The Education Ministry which insisted on having the youths accompanied by hundreds of armed Israeli security guards
became very hostile when the organisers decided to rely on the protection of Jordanian police. The Ministry's broadcast
warning did frighten away some three hundred youths (or rather, their parents) but the remaining seven hundred
set out as scheduled. At the border crossing, one of them told Israeli TV: 'If we don't trust King Hussein's personal
promise to protect us against terrorists, where is the peace?'
Upon returning the youths were described as ecstatic from two and a half days of meetings with 'warm-hearted Jordanian
youths' and 'extremely kind and helpful officials'. Many of the three hundred drop-outs expressed regret at having
missed the experience.
Contact: Yoel Marshak c/o Takam, 1 Hayasmin St., Ef'al
+++ On Jan. 1, the papers published a grim statistic: 39 Israeli soldiers had been killed in Lebanon during the
past year -- by far the worst year since the so-called 'security zone' was created. The press also noted a related
development: the past year saw the creation of the movement of soldiers' mothers calling for withdrawal from Lebanon,
and their unceasing demonstrations and protests were credited in all papers with having significantly influenced
the country's decision-makers. As if to confirm this assessment, on the very following day Defence Minister Mordechai
declared a startling diplomatic turnaround: the government of Israel accepts U.N. Resolution 425, which as long
ago as 1978 mandated complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
Contact: The Mothers, POB 23630, Tel-Aviv
+++ On October 20, several hundred Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators gathered at the West Bank village of Anata,
northeast of Jerusalem -- where no less than 23 families received demolition orders for their homes -- built without
permits since the military authorities refused to issue them. Organised by the Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions and the Palestinian Land Defence Committee, a rally took place at the village main square, addressed
by Palestinian Minister Abd El Jawad Salah and Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom.
This was followed by a special symbolic act: on each of the endangered houses was stuck a 'Housing Rights Protection
Order', similar in form to the Demolition Order used by the authorities, and setting out the basic human right
to adequate housing -- and the (internationally recognised) obligation of the State of Israel, so long as it maintains
its position as an Occupying Power, to provide such housing to the occupied Palestinian population. The document
ended with the words 'This house is protected by the principles of law, justice, and morality. This house has a
right to stand. This house must not be demolished!'
Later, participants divided into groups and visited the families who had received the demolition orders; some Israeli
families 'adopted' individual Palestinian families and promised to flood the civil and military authorities with
letters on the case of their chosen charge.
Both demonstrators and villagers knew that the action was a gesture of moral support which might draw some media
attention, but would not in itself prevent the houses from being demolished. Indeed, several weeks after the demonstration,
large military forces descended on Anata Village, demolished two houses and departed before any journalist or activist
Contact: Amos Gvirtz, Kibbutz Shefa'im 60990
+++ On November 20, The Be'er Sheba District Court heard 'Nuclear Prisoner' Mordechai Vanunu's appeal against the
Prison Authority which -- in contravention of previous court ruling -- refused to let him have in his isolated
cell a computer, donated by British sympathisers. As usual, the police took extreme precautions to prevent Vanunu
from communicating with the press; he was handcuffed, and a motorcycle helmet placed on his head -- with the visor
painted white so that he could neither see nor be seen on his way in and out of the court. However, several Vanunu
Solidarity activists managed to arrive quite close, shout loudly, wave placards and get interviewed on TV news.
A few weeks earlier, the singer Bono of the U2 group, appearing before tens of thousands of Israeli fans north
Tel-Aviv, cried out: 'A great country is a tolerant country. I hope this new year you will remember a man named
Mordechai Vanunu, who has been in prison for eleven years.' And in her new radio program, former minister Shulamit
Aloni called for an end to Vanunu's continuing solitary confinement: 'He was sentenced to imprisonment -- but driving
a man crazy is not a punishment recognised in Israeli law'.
Police Minister Avigdor Kahalani was far less friendly. His visit to Vanunu's cell apparently degenerated into
a shouting match ('You have damaged state security. You are a danger to our very existence!' 'I have saved the
country. Now you will never use atom bombs!' -- as reported, with big photos of Vanunu and Kahalani, by Ma'ariv
Meanwhile, Vanunu supporters found it useful to found a parallel association, Whistle Blowers Against Nuclear Holocaust,
to struggle for nuclear disarmament of the Middle East, without explicit mention of Vanunu. 'If I were to go to
schools saying I want to talk to the kids about Vanunu, I would probably be thrown out -- but by saying 'I want
to talk about the nuclear problem', I already got invited to several high schools' activist Akiva Orr told TOI.
Orr was also interviewed at length by a local radio station at Ra'anana, where he lives.
The well-received Whistleblower leaflets state their case in matter of fact terms: Israeli nuclear power is based
on an outdated doctrine from the 1950's, never seriously discussed or reexamined, which was based on the erroneous
assumption that the Arabs will never obtain nuclear arms of their own; a Middle East 'balance of terror' would
place Israel, with most of its population concentrated in a few dozen square kilometres, in a serious disadvantage;
therefore regional nuclear disarmament, under strict international control, is in Israel's vital and urgent interest.
Contact: Whistleblowers c/o Blueweiss, Zofit 44925.
+++ On October 20, Israeli soldiers stopped a Palestinian bus east of Jerusalem and arrested the 35-year old Etaf
About stickers and shekels
The November 8 mass commemoration of the Rabin murder was preceded by weeks of preparation in all kind of headquarters;
the small Gush Shalom office, too, was full of feverish activity. A hundred thousand people were expected, which
later proved to have been far too low an estimate (a quarter million actually showed up). But even so, one thing
was clear from the start: this was the golden opportunity to promote the Gush Shalom boycott of settlement products.
Actually, in a rally for the late Rabin we didn't expect everybody to support our boycott, but it would last long
before there would be a better occasion to reach out to so many and: our activists are not easily intimidated.
'The left opposition powerless? Yes of course, it's not enough to lament and commemorate. Here is something concrete
which doesn't cost time, in which everybody can participate -- even while shopping you can fight the fanatic settler
lobby, those who, with the help of their very substantial friends abroad, were at the back of all the past year's
big troubles: the Tunnel Affair with its three day shooting match between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian Police
-- with a hundred real deaths; the bulldozers which prepared the ground for houses on Har Homa -- and closed the
door of peace talks; and on top of that the Ras el-Amud house-robbing affair.'
Not only was there an overwhelming turn out of people, demonstrators were actually in a militant mood. The many
thousands stickers of 'I don't buy from settlements -- each Shekel for the settlements is a Shekel against Peace'
were grasped from our hands -- as was the pamphlet with the list of not-to-be-bought products.
Having been on our feet for six hours (starting before the demonstration and continuing during the slow dispersing
of the huge crowd) we sat exhausted but satisfied in the last bus to Holon. The bus was overfilled with enthusiastic
young Holoners who had covered their clothes with a variety of Rabin and peace slogans. Never before were peace
fans so dominating the Saturday night scene.
When we arrived home it was a quarter to midnight and the telephone rang: our Palestinian friend N. from Hebron.
Probably he wanted to hear how it had been. He would have liked to come himself, but the border between Israel
and the West Bank, the border which is not recognized as a border by the State of Israel has become an insurmountable
obstacle... for Palestinians.
It was, however, not so much curiosity about the happening in whose spell we still were which made N. phone us
at such a late hour. It was a new financial setback in his heroic efforts to keep afloat. Being confronted with
the unchanged reality of the ever more painful Palestinian poverty, our euphoria suddenly evaporated.
N., whom we know from the many years that he worked in Tel-Aviv, had decided to start his own business. His years-long
job as an unprotected -- and during closures "illegal" -- Palestinian worker in the kitchen of a small
Tel-Aviv restaurant was over. In spite of all his caution -- day and night he had locked himself in the kitchen,
virtually a prisoner -- he was caught on the way home when for once he had decided to take the risk and spend the
weekend with his wife and six children.
From left and right he borrowed money, bought a refrigerator and oven, and brought stores of food to a rented place
in Idna Village, there to open his own canteen. Idna is on the road which tens of thousands of Palestinian day
labourers take on the way to their Israeli bosses, and back home.
But just after N. had started and when with all his long opening hours he didn't yet earn back his expenses, he
received a financial blow. The newly-rented place derives its electricity from the connection of the neighboring
house. During thirty years of occupation such things remained unnoticed, but recently the Palestinian Authority
took over civil affairs and embarked upon a clean sweep. Such unofficial passing on of electricity to a neighbor
is no longer allowed, and unless N. installs for much money his own connection he would be from now on without
electricity. We promised to try to collect some cash. It isn't easy. Others have their own Palestinian contacts
whom they want to help...
Two days later, when we had an appointment in Jerusalem we made a roundabout and passed the Gilo Checkpoint to
hand a check to N.'s wife H., who awaited us with her two youngest children. (N. couldn't leave the restaurant
at that hour.)
H. insisted that we accept a present: a pot full of self-harvested wine leaves filled with rice, which we had enjoyed
so much while being their guests, as well as a jar of preserved olives.
Boycott in the spotlight
Ever since Gush Shalom launched the boycott on settlement products at the end of September (see previous issue,
p.12), the ripples have not stopped widening.
There was much demand for the list, detailing foodstuffs and consumer products to be boycotted, under the headline
'A shekel to the settlements is a shekel for war!' The all-volunteer staff at Gush Shalom's small Tel-Aviv office
was flooded with thousands of calls asking for a copy; many others got the list from the constantly-updated internet
website. At the various peace demonstrations great bundles of boycott lists were distributed and eagerly taken
up by grassroots activists of all movements and groups.
On the leadership level of the same movements, reactions were far more mixed. In particular, there were reservations
about the inclusion in the boycott list of settlements on the Golan Heights which, having been founded by the Labour
Party and inhabited by its adherents, enjoy a moderate image in public opinion.
In response, the boycott initiators reiterated their single criteria -- Israel's borders as of June 4, 1967,
which are still the only internationally-recognised ones -- and added that any individual or group is welcome to
hold a partial boycott of particular settlements, under any criteria they choose.
The settlers themselves, and their supporters, responded with the fury which could have been expected -- sometimes
reaching panic proportions, with their papers and pirate radio station repeatedly pouring abuse on the boycott
and its organisers, often using the argument that 'the leftists' boycott on the settlements is reminiscent of the
Nazi boycott on the Jews' (sic!); the Gush Shalom telephone received threatening calls. Some imaginative settlers
suggested a counter-boycott... against the Kibbutz movement.
The public debate was enormously increased with the publication of a petition supporting the boycott, signed by
68 prominent academics, artists and public figures. Among them were Labor Knesset Member Ya'el Dayan, together
with Shulamit Aloni, former minister and Meretz Party leader who -- though now holding no official position --
still possesses a considerable moral authority.
The petition was published on December 26 -- only in Ha'aretz, since the organisers could not afford the price
of ads in papers with larger circulation. But for once, a wider paid publication turned out to be unnecessary:
during the following week, the petition was quoted endlessly in the other papers and the electronic media -- despite
the stormy budget debate in the Knesset, which attracted much of the media attention that week.
Numerous pro and con articles appeared in all the papers, and petition signatories were invited to participate
in debates on the various radio and TV channels -- including half an hour's prime time debate with settler leaders.
At that debate, the 'Nazi' argument was rehashed by the notorious TV commentator Yosef Lapid -- only to be answered
by Prof. Moshe Zimmerman, a boycott supporter and Israel's foremost authority on modern German history: 'I do not
think that examples from the history of Nazi Germany are in any way applicable to either side of this debate; but
since you already introduced this subject, let me remind you that at that time World Jewry also declared a boycott
on the Nazis...'
More sophisticated arguments also turned up, such as 'the boycott hurts Palestinians who work for the settlers'
(a reasoning recycled from the armoury of apologists for the former Apartheid regime in South Africa).
The words of many 'soft left' personalities opposing the boycott -- such as Ammnon Dankner, newspaper and TV commentator
-- revealed an unexpected undercurrent of emotion: 'After all, the settlers are our brothers, we are all Jews --
even if we have deep disagreements with them. Sooner or later they will have to go away from where they are now,
but in the meantime they must live' (First Channel TV, Dec. 29).
Indeed, a principal reason why the public call to boycott the settler products became so controversial is because
it introduces the breaking of ethnic ranks, a refusal to regard the struggle between peace seekers and settlers
as 'a family quarrel among Jews' -- in which Palestinians are no more than casual victims.
The ad in Ha'aretz even resulted in an emergency meeting at the Foreign Ministry, at which Deputy Director Victor
Har'el voiced concern that the boycott campaign would encourage 'elements in the United Nations and The European
Union' to take anti-settlement measures of their own (Yediot Aharonot, Dec. 30). In an official statement to the
foreign press, the ministry described the boycott as 'legitimate internal politicking' but 'urged the international
community to remain neutral'(Reuters Dec. 29).
The senior diplomats' anxiety was not entirely unfounded. Already, the settlement products issue was at the back
of a row between the European Union and Israel over the practice of Israeli citrus growers transshipping to Europe
large quantities of Brazilian-made orange juice, which would have been subject to high customs duties had they
been exported directly from Brazil.
A Gush Shalom delegation, participating at a M-E conference in Brussels, was told by European officials that the
issue is rather similar from the legal point of view: Brazil or the settlements, in both cases the products sent
to Europe marked 'Made in Israel' actually originate outside the territory covered by Israel's trade agreement
with Europe -- and the longer the peace process remains deadlocked, the stronger the tendency at the European Commission
to state this officially.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; ph 972-3-5221732
+++ One of the Gaza Strip's few natural assets is the beautiful, nearly unspoiled sea shore, which -- should suitable
political conditions emerge -- might become a touristic resort, and economically benefit the overcrowded, impoverished
Palestinian population. At present Gaza does not profit much from tourism -- and a considerable part of its seashore
has been reserved for the use of 5,000 Israeli settlers, with access denied to Palestinians. Several years ago,
the settlers stated a tourist venture of their own: a seaside hotel, under the name Palm Beach Israel.
Despite alluring brochures, in which the hotel's location in the occupied Gaza Strip was blurred, the hotel did
not thrive; the idyll of its admittedly-beautiful beach is somewhat spoiled by the guard towers, constantly manned
by armed soldiers. The guests consisted mainly of settlers from other parts of the Territories. The hotel's losses,
however, are more than compensated by the Israeli Treasury -- enabling the settler hotel to become part of the
major international chain 'Days Inn' -- whose hotels are spread through the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Holland,
the Philippines and China.)
Readers of The Other Israel are asked to refrain from staying at any of the chain's hotels for as long as they
collaborate with the settlers, and to inform the main Days Inn office (339 Jefferson Rd. Persippany, NJ 07054,
USA (att. Joseph R. Kane, President).
Further details from: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights,
POB 1204, Gaza; ph/fx: 972-7-824776.
Continuation from p. 10 [Etaf]
Aliyan -- one of the Palestinian women prisoners released a few months earlier, as explicitly stipulated in the
Oslo Agreements. She was neither charged with any offence nor even interrogated, but promptly placed under 'Administrative
Detention' without trial -- and immediately started a hunger strike, which she said would only end with her release
or her death. The news caused an increasing unrest at Bethlehem, where she lived and studied in the university;
violent confrontations broke out daily between students and soldiers at Rachel's Tomb, the Israeli settler enclave
in the midst of Palestinian Bethlehem.
In Israel, protest actions were organised by the veteran Women for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) and the new Open
Doors, an association of university lecturers struggling for abolition of Administrative Detentions. By what retroactively
seems to have been a misinformation campaign, news of an expected terrorist act on Aliyan's behalf was leaked to
the Israeli media, wreaking one of the protest vigils at the Defence Ministry.
The authorities seemed greatly concerned about the implications of Aliyan's hunger strike. Eventually, after forty
days, a compromise was achieved: Aliyan ended the strike in return for a tacit promise that her Administrative
Detention order, due to expire on January 20, 1998, would not be renewed. She also successfully insisted upon her
husband -- who is himself serving a long prison term in another prison and who had been holding a solidarity hunger
strike -- being brought to her cell, so that they could have together their first meal after the strike, a very
unusual treatment of imprisoned spouses.
The case increased public attention for the issue of Administrative Detentions in general. On December 10, the
International Human Rights Day, a vigil was held at the Defence Ministry, followed by a public meeting at a packed
hall, organised by ACRI (Civil Rights Assoc.) and addressed by former minister Shulamit Aloni as well as -- quite
surprisingly -- Knesset Member Maxim Levy, the Foreign Minister's brother and political associate. There was also
an exhibition, with works donated by Israeli artists displayed together with ones made by detainees in their cells,
to which Ha'Ir weekly devoted a supportive seven-page article (Dec.5).
WOFPP POB 31811, Tel-Aviv; Open Doors c/o Dr. Anat Biletzki, Tel-Aviv University; ACRI, 12 Bialik St., Tel-Aviv.
+++ Between Israeli and Palestinian positions at Erez Checkpoint (main entry point to the Gaza Strip), an unusual
ceremony took place on Nov. 23: the unveiling of the Message of Peace Billboard by the Australian artist Dominic
Ryan, together with Palestinian Minister Yasser Abd Rabo and the Israeli former Minister Shulamit Aloni as well
as mayors of nearby Israeli and Palestinian cities -- among them Likud Mayor Tzvi Tzilker of Ashkelon. The surrealistic
ceremony was attended by peace activists, and seen from a distance by the passing stream of commuting Palestinian
The eleven meters long billboard shows Ryan's chilling anti-war painting (a tableau in magic realism) which was
earlier exhibited in Moscow, 1993, and Sarajevo, 1995.
The Millennium Trust, attn Dominic Ryan, 5 Bedford St. Colinwood 3066 Melbourne, Australia.
'The largest rally ever''
This year's November events commemorating Rabin took place against the background of growing anger and frustration
at the government's anti-peace policy, the ongoing scandals and worries about a worsening economic situation. The
awakened memory of the murdered Prime Minister gave all these feelings an emotional dimension. In retrospect, Rabin
seemed the very opposite of Netanyahu: honest, warm-hearted, completely dedicated to peace even to the point of
offering the ultimate sacrifice...
On the wall of the Tel-Aviv Town Hall, near the place where Rabin received his fatal wounds, a graffiti slogan
was daubed -- and persistently daubed again and again, as often as the municipal inspectors erased it: Amir murdered
Rabin -- Bibi is murdering peace! Other slogans in the same vein received the recognition of the mainstream peace
movement. 'We won't forget, nor forgive!', the Biblical quotation 'Shalt thou murder, and inherit too?' and 'Bibi
leads to war' were all taken up officially by Peace Now. The famous graphic artist David Tartakover designed a
poster made up of two carefully selected photos: a smiling, benign, fatherly Rabin counterpoised to the sneering,
arrogant Netanyahu. Tens of thousands of copies were seen pasted on walls all over the country, sending an unmistakable
Some activists, with genuine pacifist instincts, were appalled: after all, a peace movement is not supposed to
be vindictive, even towards the enemies of peace. But there was no stopping the tide of pent-up anger and frustration
of people who for more than a year watched helplessly the Prime Minister systematically wrecking the peace process,
and who had felt that the peace movement was offering no adequate answer.
The quickly unfolding developments of the weeks leading up to the Rabin Commemoration, with their mounting polarisation,
got nicknamed 'The Cold Civil War'.
It was, in fact, PM Netanyahu who struck the first blow, declaring during a televised visit to the charismatic
octogenarian kabbalist Rabbi Kadouri: 'The left has forgotten how to be Jewish.' Within hours, angry demonstrators
appeared outside the Prime Minister's Residence and on intercity road junctions, with the hastily-drawn placards:
'Bibi has forgotten how to be human!' On the following day, an ad appeared in Yediot Aharonot, signed by 102 veterans
of the elite Matkal Commandos where Netanyahu had been an officer: Bibi, it is hard to believe you have ever been
one of us!'.
The following days saw a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of events, of which it was difficult to keep track: demonstrations,
big and small; vigils and pickets; confrontations and acts of violence... In Jerusalem, the Dor Shalom office was
burned down -- the police was unable to locate the arsonists; at Bat Yam, sharply worded anti-Netanyahu and anti-settler
slogans were daubed on the local branch of the
Religious Nationalist Youth; when the Knesset opened its Winter Session, Labour Members adopted the quite unparliamentary
measure of suddenly standing up, all of them together, and waving 'Bibi Go Home!' signs; 120 motorbike riders drove
through Tel-Aviv, with 'Save the Peace!' banners streaming behind; Peace Now held torchlight vigils at the Rabin
Monument, every evening for two weeks; youthful activists accosted drivers at road junctions and traffic lights,
offering a great variety of pro-peace and anti-Bibi bumper stickers; at a stormy session of the Jerusalem municipal
council, Labor councillors demanded that Zion Square, scene of the violent anti-Rabin demonstration which preceded
the murder, would be renamed Rabin Square; the same councillors were arrested late at night, when they attempted
to unilaterally place a two-ton Rabin Monument in the square; four Be'er Sheba high school students were roughly
thrown out of the hall where they had dared to heckle the visiting Netanyahu; a handful of extremists expressing
support to the murderer Yigal Amir, outside his prison, were saved by police from the anger of more than a hundred
Meretz activists; at a Peace Guards vigil in north Tel-Aviv, police arrested activist David Ovadiyah, with his
Bibi go to hell! placard, and made his bail dependent on non-participation in any demonstration in the next two
weeks; Hatzofeh, newspaper of the National Religious Party, published the 'theory' that Rabin's murder was the
result of a conspiracy by Shimon Peres and the Security Services; police restrained angry activists from bursting
into the Hatzofeh editorial offices; Finance Minister Ne'eman declared that 'the conspiracy theory of the Rabin
Murder should be investigated; a giant graffiti reading 'Bibi, we are the writing on your wall!' appeared on the
arches of the bridge over Tel-Aviv's Yarkon River. In the midst of it all, Shimon Peres held the glittering inauguration
of his new Peace Center, with dozens of international diplomats and VIP's who would not meet with Netanyahu, and
solemnly led his guests to lay a wreath at the Rabin Memorial.
It had been decided to hold the main memorial rally not on the actual anniversary date of Nov. 4, but rather on
Nov. 8, in the weekend, so as to ensure maximum participation. For Nov. 4 itself, only a minor preparatory gathering
at the Rabin Monument was planned. It proved a bit more than that; thousands of people poured in from all directions,
far more than anybody expected, though this event had not been much advertised.
The original plans called for a small select crowd to pass through metal detector gates into a small enclosure
prepared below the podium -- so as to protect the participating VIPs such as Labor Party leader Ehud Barak. This
careful planning broke down almost immediately; the crowd overflowed the pavements and completely blocked the wide
Ibn Gvirol Street.
The police shouted in vain 'you got no permit to block the road!' and started detaining demonstrators. These were
accompanied to the patrol cars by a protesting crowd, expostulating with the police. Only after half an hour did
the police give up and turned to rerouting traffic to other streets.
The thousands stood there for hours, listening to speeches and to Shlomo Gronich's piece, performed for the first
time: a quiet and harmonious melody, suddenly disrupted by three rapid drum beats -- at the very same hour when
three pistol shots had rang, on the same spot, two years before.
And when the formal ceremony ended and the VIP's drove away in their cars, the crowd did not disperse. As soon
as the barriers were taken down, they surged forward, covering the monument with mountains of flowers, lighting
thousands of the special 'Rabin Candles' offered for sale at stalls placed on the pavement. Hundreds of youths
stayed on the spot throughout the night.
The Big Rally was already a news item weeks in advance. Some of the debates in the preparatory committee were leaked
to the press: Peace Now wanted to preface the rally with a massive, kilometer-long torchlight march. This idea
was flatly vetoed by the Shalom, Haver! Association, the official organizing body, backed by the Rabin Family and
-- more discreetly -- by Labor Leader Barak. In accordance with his general policies, Barak wanted to purge the
event of anything which could be interpreted as 'radical' or 'leftist', and keep the pretense that it was 'a non-political
commemoration open to all Israelis, Left or Right.' Indeed, he would have liked to ban altogether all banners and
signs -- but the extra-parliamentary movements made clear that such a prohibition could not be enforced.
The rally was called for eight o'clock -- but it was far better to be an early bird; punctual protesters had no
hope of getting anywhere near the square, which already an hour before the official opening time was filled to
overflowing. Soon afterwards, the streets around started to fill up as well, and the side streets radiating from
them -- a human sea whose like was never seen before, even by the veteran activists and the experienced reporters
scanning the crowd from the press helicopters above. And it was an active crowd, militant, clearly expressing its
likes and dislikes. Yossi Sarid of Meretz was cheered enormously when he poured abuse on Netanyahu, and Peres was
also a clear favorite of the crowd. Barak took care not to repeat the hawkish cliches which earned him a booing
at a previous rally, and was cheered -- but not as loudly as his predecessor in the Labor leadership -- when he
vowed 'to keep alive the flame of peace.' Trade and Industry Minister Nathan Sharanski, the surprise speaker from
the government camp which Barak succeeded in bringing, was received with boos and catcalls, drowning out his speech
calling for National Unity. No representative of the Netanyahu Government could expect a warm welcome here -- and
Sharanski's record in Israeli politics compares unfavorably with his past as a courageous human rights dissident
in the Soviet Union.
On the following day, a brief radio interview with a youthful demonstrator summed it up: 'We gave Bibi a blow in
the face. This he can't ignore.'
[Continuation of Daheishe (Avnery)]
The average Israeli, accustomed to Israel's media reports of the horrible tyrannical rule enforced throughout the
Palestinian territories, would be astounded at the openness. Everything was discussed -- the corruption within
the Palestinian Authority (it exists but is not widespread), the behavior demonstrated by Palestinian police forces
(it used to be very bad, but has been improving lately), the possibility of something happening to Arafat, Hamas
and terrorist attacks, Netanyahu, the peace process. Each subject led to a heated debate, as is customary among
friends who subscribe to different, and sometimes opposing, views.
Everyone agreed that, should something happen to Arafat, it would be a disaster of national proportions. Most of
those present were critical of him for a variety of reasons, but all were in agreement that there is no substitute
for him. And yet, what if? "The Fatah Central Committee would convene and elect a new President. For instance,
Abu-Mazen or Abu Ala. There would be unified support for the person, because everyone understands that at a time
of such a crisis, national unity is of vital importance."
Even Hamas? "Absolutely. Hamas shares the awareness that a violent internal struggle must be avoided at all
costs. This is why Hamas accepts the authority of Arafat's national rule, despite its opposition to the Oslo Accords.
Netanyahu must not delude himself into believing that he can provoke a rift between Hamas and Arafat, nor between
Hamas and Arafat's heirs. It won't happen. There are no bombings because Hamas knows that each such attack would
be a gift for Netanyahu."
There is total disillusionment with the peace process. But Arafat is not being blamed for it. It is generally understood
that the Netanyahu government wants to bury the peace process. There is a measure of hope when speaking of support
from Europe, the U.S. and even from the Israeli left, in spite of profound disillusionment with its inaction. But
what is most instructive is the fact of the debate itself: even high-ranking officials are not afraid to loudly
voice their sharp criticism
Translated from Ma'ariv, Dec. 30.
[Continuation of Cannon fodder (Weitz)]
scholars). Moreover, it is clear to everybody -- and in particular, to our soldiers and to the youths approaching
conscription -- that this exemption of the religious will remain a fixed and sacrosanct feature of our public life,
regardless of whether the government in power is of the Right or of the Left.
It is not that the majority of Israelis wants it this way -- far from it; the entrenched exemption of the ultra-Orthodox
youths derives solely from that unique power position which the Orthodox parties always manage to maintain, whatever
else changes on the political scene. Nor is this special privilege due to consideration given to particularly pacific
opinions held by this part of society. On the contrary, the rabbis who control these parties often take the most
intransigent of nationalist positions -- but feel that their own youths are too precious to risk themselves in
the resulting war, that they should be left alone to devote themselves to prayer and holy studies in the safety
of the cloister.
The military service of conscripts and reservists is no longer a normative experience shared by all Israelis, as
it had been in the early years of the state. It has become a burden falling upon an increasingly narrow sector
of 'suckers', who naturally feel less and less motivated to throw themselves into the battlefields of the next
The same 'suckers' also feel that any war breaking out now would be unnecessary, and far from inevitable. This
is not completely new. To a small degree, such a feeling already existed at the Yom Kippur War. It became much
stronger during the Lebanon War, and was manifested in refusals and evasions of military service; in the same war
also occurred the famous case of The Regiment Which Was Not Mobilised (because the commanding officer could not
provide his soldiers with a clear answer to the question 'For what are we going to kill and to die?'). The Intifada
deepened these doubts, underlining the indissoluble tie between a prolonged occupation and the erosion of the occupier's
But all of these experiences would be nothing compared with what may burst out in the next war -- should such a
disaster indeed fall upon us. It would be extremely difficult to market among citizens and soldiers the completely
outworn idea that all Arabs are bent on our destruction and that we have only come to this country in order to
live forever in an armed ghetto. After all, peace was virtually within our grasp. Peace was only derailed by the
irrational choice of 0.4% of the electorate, and by three pistol bullets fired at night in a Tel-Aviv square.
There is one thing which Netanyahu -- the world champion at 'Steadfastly Confronting The Gentiles' -- should know:
the economic recession which his policies caused also involves a severe shortage of cannon fodder. (Translated
from Ma'ariv, Dec. 28.)
s On December 31, a mutiny broke out in a company of the Golani Brigade in the Jordan Valley on the West Bank.
Sixty soldiers gathered in a big tent, declared a strike and refused to start the day's training. Later, they also
started a hunger strike. The soldiers claimed that their newly-appointed commanding officer had ordered them to
sleep in the field, in freezing temperatures and without warm clothing provided, while himself driving away to
sleep in a heated room. 'We will not follow such an officer to Lebanon' they declared, referring to the brigade's
impending northern tour of duty.
Upon arrival at nightfall of a higher officer, who promised to look into the soldiers' complaints, the mutineers
agreed to end their strike. Thereupon, they were put through disciplinary 'instant trials.' Most were given 28
days' imprisonment. Several, including two sergeants and a sergeant-major -- a career NCO -- got 70 days each.
In addition, the authorities disbanded the company, with the mutineers to be transferred to 'less prestigious'
units. At the same time, an investigation of 'the commander's conduct and his competence as a commanding officer'
was also announced.
The soldiers' parents organised swiftly, asserting in a letter to the Defence Minister that their sons' action
had been 'correct under the circumstances' and declaring their intention to hold protest demonstrations until the
sixty are released and rehabilitated.
Back to Daheishe
"Has anyone here not been in Israeli jail?" I asked. The people present, all in their late thirties,
looked at each other, as if in a silent roll-call. "No", declared the host. A quick calculation revealed
that each had spent an average of eight years behind bars.
We had gathered at the home of our friends Ahmed and Mona in the Daheishe Refugee Camp, before setting out to celebrate
Christmas together in neighboring Bethlehem. We stood shoulder to shoulder in the crush of tens of thousands spilling
into the plaza of the Church of the Nativity, amidst the tall, decorated fir trees, the strings of colourful lights,
and the singing U.S. guest choirs. Palestinian flags flew from rooftops. One could see young and old, observant
Moslem women with their white head covering, young women made up in the last fashions, young men with pony tails
and earrings, bearded sheiks, and everywhere children holding balloons. The Moslems celebrated alongside Christians
-- after all, they said, "Jesus was a Palestinian." (In the view of the Palestinians everyone who has
lived on the land has therefore been a Palestinian, and Islam regards Jesus as one of the prophets, like Moses
and King David).
The large numbers of Palestinian police and soldiers seemed superfluous. The atmosphere was one of tranquility
and festivity. My wife Rachel and I seemed to be the sole Israelis in this large crowd. Every few minutes we were
addressed in Hebrew.
Daheishe is hard to find these days. I had been there on numerous occasions, both before and during the Intifada,
when it was surrounded by a four-meter fence, all accesses blocked by barrels and soldiers manning the rooftops.
Of all this there is no trace left, today.
What has remained is the poverty. But this, too, is changing. Ahmed and Mona, who had invited us to stay with them
throughout the holiday, showed us the improvements made to their home since our last Christmas stay in 1993. They
had added on a living room, turned a niche in the wall into living quarters for the elderly mother, and brought
in light by means of a skylight, all with their own hands. "When we had money we built. When the money ran
out, we stopped. The next time we have money, we will plaster and paint the walls and will repair the leaky roof."
It is a very simple house. But for Ahmed, born in Daheishe when it was still a tent camp, this is a dream come
For a long time both were unemployed. Now Ahmed works in one of the PLO offices. He is in charge of a project which
sets an international precedent: twin-city agreements between European towns and Palestinian refugee camps. Mona
writes for a Palestinian publication in English. In the bedrooms, where moisture is eating away at the ceiling,
sits a state-of-the-art computer. A satellite dish brings in about sixty channels from all the Arab countries and
from around the world.
When we returned from Bethlehem, family and guests feasted on chicken on a bed of rice, prepared by the neighbors
(in Daheishe everyone helps everyone, and in particular, women help women). Conversation flowed freely. Among the
guests was a top official of the Palestinian Authority, one Communist, a young sheikh, one of the leaders of the
camp, a journalist and a teacher.
[Continued on p.15]
Shortage of cannon fodder
But two years ago, had somebody spoken of 'The Next War', one's first thought would have been that a new rock group
has chosen for itself a particularly provocative name. We felt so sure that these words no more referred to a possible
reality, that we were beyond the period of special radio bulletins and emergency mobilization orders dramatically
announced by the army spokesman. We were actually so naive as to feel that such cliches as 'In Death They Gave
Us Life' or 'They Will Stay Young Forever' had become part of history, that they no longer had anything to do with
our young generation.
The longer Likud stays on, the bigger the chance that these words, 'The Next War', will regain their traditional
chilling power -- with which we are so unfortunately and intimately familiar. The peace process remains deadlocked,
the ministers engage in endless pussyfooting over the proposed West Bank redeployment, and a Damocles' Sword of
settlers and hardliner Knesset Members hangs over the government's head -- ready to fall should the smallest positive
step be taken. We get driven home to us the realization that the smell of vomit, sweat and blood could again become
the nightmarish reality.
Will the next war be like its predecessors? It might be totally different, at least where soldiers' motivation
and the will to fight are concerned. At the outbreak of previous wars -- even of the controversial Lebanon War
-- we witnessed Israelis abroad fighting for places in Israel-bound planes, determined to enlist and fulfill 'Their
Duty to the Country'.
In the next war, we are likely to see a reverse situation, with Ben Gurion Airport being the starting point --
rather than the destination -- of military-age Israelis on the move. Already, there is growing discontent, among
conscripts and reservists, about lack of justice in the division of the military burden. A growing number of ultra-Orthodox
youths take up the option of exemption from military service which is offered to them -- and to them only -- by
the state. An exceptional measure in the first years of the state, which then applied to no more than a few hundred
students of the religious Yeshiva seminaries, this state-sponsored evasion has grown to embrace tens of thousands
of religious scholars (and pseudo-
[Continued on p. 15]