Reprinted from Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio August, 1998 / Av, 5758
In This Article:
1. Barak's Novel Message
2. Pressuring the Americans to Pressure Israel
3. Countdown to Violence
4. Don't Bother Me with the...
1. BARAK'S "NOVEL" MESSAGE
As I write these words, Israel's opposition leader Ehud Barak is in Washington at the head of a Labor Party delegation. The purpose, according to Mr. Barak, is to meet with U.S. administration officials and members of Congress and to show them that "there are different views in Israel."
On the face of it, it is a remarkable statement. Could the former IDF Chief of Staff-turned-politician actually believe that the policy makers in the Clinton administration - some either members of Americans for Peace Now, or highly visible fellow travelers - not be aware that there are "different views in Israel" other than those of the Netanyahu government? This, after President Clinton and his then-Ambassador to Israel, now Under-Secretary of State, Martin Indyk, personally and blatantly campaigned for Labor Party candidate Shimon Peres in the 1996 Israeli elections?
2. PRESSURING THE AMERICANS TO PRESSURE ISRAEL
Barak's opposition party visit to the United States came under fire from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said that the trip could harm Israel. Responding to Labor charges that he himself attempted to undermine the Rabin government during visits to Washington three and four years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out two basic differences: When he and others of the nationalist camp went to Washington, they met with members of Congress, not with administration officials. Secondly, they worked towards having the Americans exert pressure on the Arabs, whereas Barak's Labor opposition of today wishes to have the Americans pressure Israel. "If they were meeting with the Americans in order to demand that the PA release terrorists, or reduce their police force to Oslo levels, then I would give them my blessing," said the Prime Minister. "But their purpose is to encourage the Americans to continue pressuring us, instead of the other side."
But Barak should not take all the blame for establishing a precedent of leading a disloyal opposition. After all, it is now a matter of public record that his predecessor, Shimon Peres, actively worked in Washington to undermine the policies of the Shamir government when he was both head of the opposition Labor Party and even when he was a member of the National Unity Government.
3. COUNTDOWN TO VIOLENCE
Some of Barak's statements in Washington were puzzling, at best. Speaking at a Tuesday press breakfast in Washington, he told the assembled reporters that for the people of Israel to win long-term security, they need "to separate [themselves] physically from the Palestinians" and to reach a peace agreement with them and the Arabs in general, while preserving security "red lines." Conveniently, the former Lt.-General - who initially opposed the Oslo Accords based on the very accurate assessment that it was a security disaster, but changed sides, chameleon-like, when told by then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that if he didn't like it, he could always resign as Chief of Staff - failed to outline what exactly are these security "red lines."
According to a Reuters report, Barak's reference to physical separation from the Palestinians "implied the surrender of substantial parts of the West Bank to PLO control, although Barak said he still insisted on Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem." On the one hand, then, he is being quite generous in his obsessive support of the Oslo process, involving blind, one-sided, tangible Israeli concessions, in exchange for incessant Palestinian non-compliance of even the most intangible type. On the other hand, he selectively forgets that these same Oslo Accords also call for Jerusalem to be a subject for negotiations in the final status talks. If he IS in favor of a united Jerusalem - which his political platitudes on behalf of a united Jerusalem, just like motherhood and apple pie, imply then why does he openly oppose the building of Jewish homes in certain sections of Jerusalem?
4. DON'T BOTHER ME WITH THE...
In a thoroughly confused statement in Washington, Barak said that if there is no separation of the two peoples - implying a granting of equal weight to his own nation's interloping competitor - a "rapid countdown" toward new violence could start after next May, when the current Oslo peace process is due to end. "My judgment is that this kind of agreement with the Palestinians is achievable, and that the alternative is at best a kind of South African apartheid, and at worst a Bosnia- or Belfast-type situation in Israel," he said.
The Labor Party leader significantly overlooks the inherent injustice involved in South African apartheid, where the new-comer whites were the ruling majority over the indigenous blacks. Can this possibly be compared to the situation here in the Land of Israel, where the Jews, historically the true natives, are the overwhelming majority ruling over a minority of Arabs? Furthermore, even if one accepts that today the Palestinian Arabs are an independent ethnic group (distinguishable from their relatives in Jordan, for example), under what logic and morality can they demand that the indigenous Jewish majority simply cede its Biblical heritage and allow the Palestinian Arabs - who are congenitally in a state of active war against Israel's very existence - an improved strategic position from which to pursue their oft-stated goal of destroying the Jewish State?
Finally, when Mr. Barak talks of "separation", he must assume that no one recalls that in the early days of Oslo, the official Rabin-Peres government line was that a "new Middle East" would be created. There was to be an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, with total personal and economic interplay between the peace-struck Israelis and the "peaceful coexisting" Palestinian Arabs. How did this idyllic vision cede its place to mere "separation?" Alas, when things did not work out the way the falsely-euphoric Jews expected, and the Palestinian terrorists continued unabatedly to kill Jews - now from an improved strategic position, including areas of refuge safe from avenging Israeli security forces - the official line changed. It then claimed, in Big Brother propaganda style, that the thrust of Oslo was no longer the intermingling of "the two peoples in peaceful coexistence," but rather their "separation."
In the final analysis, Ehud Barak himself admitted that his statements cannot be taken at face value. In one of his last appearances in Washington, he told representatives of the American Jewish Committee that, "Being right is not relevant. I cannot take a more dovish line because I want to make sure that I'm elected." As opposed to the American statesman Henry Clay, who once said that he would rather be right than President, we have Ehud Barak, who would really rather choose to be wrong, as long as he can be Prime Minister.
Yedidya Atlas is a senior correspondent for Arutz-7 Israel National Radio, and comments on geopolitical and geostrategic affairs in the Middle East. Atlas is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies. [Arutz-Sheva Educational Radio is a project of Bet-El Yeshiva Center Institutions.]