The Middle East...the Israeli View
Last week I listed the "Statement of Understandings" that
resulted from the Arab Summit, as well as an opinion from one of
Egypt''s leading newspapers. This week, I thought I would take
advantage of some reports from Israel I have been forwarded by a
good friend of mine. In addition I have some other opinions from
the Israeli side.
The following is from Rabbi Micky Boyden in Israel, unedited.
Monday, Oct. 23
I thought I''d give you an update on events in Israel. Things are
not good here. A bus carrying Israeli soldiers today took a wrong
turn and mistakenly approached a checkpost (sic) where it was
fired upon by Palestinian policemen. Several of the Israelis were
injured. Palestinians are throwing rocks at an Israeli checkpost
on the edge of Kalkilya - not more than five miles from where I
Our colleague, Jeff Bearman, lives in the Jerusalem suburb of
Gilo, which is being sporadically fired upon from Palestinian
controlled territory. Israel Radio said that helicopter gunships
were being used against the sources of these attacks.
El Al flight LY316 from London yesterday was reportedly full of
Israelis, but with few foreign visitors. The Sheraton Hotel in Tel
Aviv - and I am sure many others - has closed off certain floors
because of the fall-off in tourism. Late this afternoon a terrorist
bomb that had been placed in Ibn Gavirol Street in Tel Aviv was
successfully defused without injury.
Hizballah (ed. Hezbollah or Hizbollah are used more commonly in
the U.S. press) is calling on all Muslims to follow the way of the
Palestinian "martyrs" by carrying knives and using every possible
opportunity to kill Jews. The sermon delivered at the El Aksa
mosque on the Temple Mount today was used to enflame
Palestinians even further against Israel and to revive the Intifada.
I wish I could paint a prettier picture, but I would be kidding you.
Ehud Barak and Arik (Ariel) Sharon have just concluded a one-hour
private meeting alone to discuss the current situation. There was
no statement following the meeting.
The present violence has left many "peaceniks" very
disillusioned. No Israeli prime minister would or could have
offered more than Barak did to Yassir Arafat - indeed, it was
unclear whether Barak would be able to sell the deal to the Israeli
public at large. Nevertheless, Arafat rejected his proposals and
the Palestinian mob responded with violence. I think most Israelis
- although I have obviously not conducted a survey - now agree
that we do not currently have a partner with whom we can reach
a peace agreement. This is sad for Israel and sad for the
Palestinians. It leaves the future uncertain for us all.
Wednesday, October 25
As many of you know, the centre of attention in Israel has now
switched to the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo which has been under
repeated attack by gunfire from the adjoining Palestinian town of
Beit Jalla. Our colleague, Jeff Bearman, whom I spoke to this
evening, tells me that he and his wife are currently living in the
basement of their home for fear of attack. Two apartments in his
building have already been hit by Palestinian gunfire. After
repeated warnings, Israel responded today by firing two tank
shells at the buildings from which fire had been directed on the
civilian population of Gilo. [ed. I saw this action on BBC.]
Israel is deserted. Few tourists, except the most courageous (or,
some would say, foolhardy) are coming here these days. Hotels
have reduced staffing levels and the tourist industry is suffering
terribly. The unrest of two weeks ago between Arabs and Jews
within Israel proper has also left its scars. Jews are no longer
frequenting Arab cafes and restaurants or taking their cars to be
repaired at Arab garages. There is a general feeling of
disappointment with how many Arab citizens have behaved over
the past weeks. We are used to the Palestinian intifada, but did
not think that Arab Israelis would react so violently against the
forces of law and order in their own country. It will take a long
time to heal the wounds and reduce the level of animosity that has
The peace process that started at Oslo is seen by most Israelis as
being dead. And that is the tragedy, because if Arafat is not a
partner in the peace process, then who is? The peace camp in
Israel is disappointed and disillusioned. If there is no peace
process, then there is little that divides Labour from Likkud in
their respective security agendas and political strategies. In that
sense, Netanyahu was right, but I believe that, as opposed to the
Likkud strategy, we had to go the whole way to check out
whether our Palestinian neighbors were ready to make peace.
No one can say that Israel under Barak''s leadership did not try.
It is, therefore, now conceivable that Arik Sharon could join
forces with Barak in a government of national emergency even
though there are many in Barak''s present government that are
opposed to such a move. The question that most Israelis are
currently asking themselves is "What now?" And the tragedy is
that there are few ready answers. It may just be that there are
some issues that are unresolvable and that the Israeli / Palestinian
conflict will just have to continue dogging us for the years ahead.
As things stand today, Barak would appear to have little chance
of winning an election were one to take place at this time. After
all, his peace initiative has failed. However, maybe the time has
now come for a change of agendas and a realigning of political
forces with Labour and Likkud working together to address the
various social, economic and religious issues that confront Israeli
Excerpts from an op-ed piece by Natan Sharansky, opposition
member of parliament, which appeared in Monday''s Wall Street
"What appears to have caught those dreaming of a quick solution
to the conflict completely by surprise is the depth of hatred that
the Palestinians evince toward Israel. The animalistic mutilation
of our soldiers and the calls of ''Death to the Jews'' that are now
echoed in the Arab world have raised eyebrows of even the most
ardent supporters of compromise. Unfortunately, most of those
taken aback by recent events have focused attention on the
symptoms rather than the disease.
"Long ago, Andrei Sakharov taught me that a society that does
not respect the rights of its own citizens will never respect the
rights of its neighbors. The reasons for this are simple.
Democratic leaders are dependent for their rule on the will of a
free people and as such have a vested interest in promoting the
peace and prosperity that all free societies desire...
"Leaders of authoritarian regimes, on the other hand, aren''t
beholden to an electorate and devote their energies to controlling
the minds and bodies of their subjects in order to maintain and
"...countries with cultures as diverse as the former Soviet Union,
Cuba, North Korea and Iraq all share one thing - hate.
"While the West coddled him...(Arafat) has used every means at
his disposal, from the Palestinian-controlled media to newly
printed textbooks, to speeches by his own wife, to inculcate
hatred of the Jews and their state."
Recent statements from Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
"Even if there is a delay, peace will be achieved. It is not we who
chose the path of violence, it was the choice of Arafat and the
"We were ready to consider an unprecedented compromise with
the Palestinians. We understood that peace, if achieved, would
carry a price that would be painful and heartbreaking, but never
will we agree to peace at any price, a peace that means giving in
to all the demands of the other side."