IMRA interviewed Mossy Raz, political secretary of Peace Now, in Hebrew, on December 19.
IMRA: This week the Prime Minister's Office released a collection of anti-Semitic material which has come out of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including material denying the Holocaust broadcast on the PA's official television station, their Ministry of Information Internet site which claims that there is no archeological evidence of a tie between the Jewish People and Jerusalem, etc. How do you, as a man of peace engaged in dialogue with Palestinians, see this?
Raz: I see it as very serious. I see it as I imagine you or any other Israeli sees similar incidents - in their thousands - in the United States, France or other countries.
IMRA: We are not talking about something from marginal people. We are talking about something which came out from the PA's Ministry of Information. We aren't talking about marginal group. This is the official site of the PA.
Raz: This in on the archeological mater?
IMRA: Yes, the archeological matter - that not even one piece of archeological evidence that there were Jews living in the Old City of Jerusalem has been found. Apparently they are not aware of the Burnt House or the Hasmonean Palace.
Raz: First of all I don't think that there are many such incidents. Again, we both know how unimportant such offices as the Ministry of Information are to the PA.
So they had some kind of failure - not that I take it lightly, but I don't see how this goes any where. We have friendly relations with many countries - something we don't have with the PA, we still have relations between us of hatred and breaking of agreements.
IMRA: Countries which deny the historical connection of the Jews to Jerusalem?
Raz: That isn't the official position of the PA.
IMRA: Only their Ministry of Information.
Raz: They didn't say there is no tie.
IMRA: They say there is no proof of a tie.
Raz: Understand, I don't want to defend every stupidity of theirs. I only say that you have to put it in its proper proportion.
IMRA: I spoke with the Palestinian Minister of Religion Tahboob, and he explained to me that since the Western Wall is the "al-Baraq Wall" if they are in control they will allow Jews to pray facing it but they can't get within two meters of the Wall since it is part of the al-Aksa Mosque.
Raz: Since they will not control that area, the whole matter doesn't interest me.
IMRA: Because you don't think they will control the Wall?
IMRA: Why not? If they control Jerusalem?
Raz: You are drawing me into describing my solution for Jerusalem. I see as the solution that Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem will be like Rehavia and the Arab neighborhoods will be like Ramallah. If it is like that then the Wall will be like Rehavia.
IMRA: So the entire matter is not relevant?
Raz: Yes. Clearly there are struggles between us which are religious - like the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. I don't follow everything he says as you do, but if you were to tell me that he said that if he controls it that he won't let Jews in...
IMRA: He explains a simple thing: The Cave of the Patriarchs is a mosque. And Jews - or for that matter anyone who is not a Moslem - can come to visit inside as a tourist, but he can't pray there.
Raz: Yes. Yes. It is clear that to a great extent there is a religious dispute which makes it difficult to reach a solution where the two sides have the same place holy to them.
IMRA: If you knew a priori that the moment you allow them to control a place like the Cave of the Patriarchs that they will be in a situation that they would have a hard time facing their people if they permitted Jewish prayer, that they would not permit Jewish prayer, then would you say that the site can't be given to PA control?
Raz: No. I don't agree with you. Since the land has to be divided. There are two nations. Certain places require certain arrangements. The City of Hebron will be entirely under Palestinian control beyond any shadow of a doubt. It is impossible that there will be any arrangement except one under which all of Hebron, including the Cave of the Patriarchs, is under Palestinian control.
IMRA: Even if you know, a priori, that that means barring Jewish prayer there.
Raz: As an Israeli I will be very happy if they also permit Jews to pray there but I think that Jews, and in particular Israelis, will find it difficult to protest this matter after we have destroyed hundreds and thousands of mosques and after we have prevented freedom of religion for Moslems in so many places. It would be very hypocritical for us to say 'we found one place in this land where our freedom of religion is denied'. For every place that Jews are denied freedom of religion I can show you a thousand places were Moslems are denied freedom of religion.
IMRA: What's the big deal about the Wall? We are talking about a supporting wall.
Raz: From a religious standpoint?
IMRA: From a national standpoint. From a religious standpoint we are talking about a supporting wall of the Temple Mount as compared to the Cave of the Patriarchs. I am trying to understand why from a national standpoint this is so much more important. That you are so certain and convinced that it has to be held.
Raz: We are entering a theological argument and I am not a religious man. I know that 999 out of every 1,000 citizens in the State of Israel think that the Wall is more important than the Cave of the Patriarchs. Now I am not interested in a historical arguments as to why it is important.
It has another advantage. It is in Jerusalem. In the Jewish Quarter. The Cave of the Patriarchs is in Hebron which has a Palestinian majority, and this has to also be kept in mind. So when you think of the future of the two places there is no comparison between them in terms of their political futures.
IMRA: I heared Shimon Peres when he was on television with Yitzchak Shamir and he said something like this: what is more important, stones or sons. And just last week I spoke with Brig. Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran and he said that if you are concerned only with defending "little Israel" - Gederah to Hadera, that there are areas in the West Bank which are strategically more important than Jerusalem. Why then this bitter dispute with the Palestinians over Jerusalem.
Raz: The approach is distorted because you are explaining to me that we should take additions from the West Bank in order to protect Israel and I say to you that 10% of Israel is Jerusalem so if you take away Jerusalem you give up on part of Israel. It is OK to talk about areas which you think are necessary to add to Israel for its defense but you can't touch anything in Israel.
IMRA: I am raising this for a different reason. When I talk with many Palestinians - not Hamas - members of the PLC, even ministers, and they tell me that they want all of the Old City and all of Eastern Jerusalem. And I think to myself, if Shimon Peres is right, that in every case sons are more important than stones, then why this whole story with the Old City and the rest? They also are stones.
Raz: That's true. Everything is a question of proportions. I can't tell you that today that I know how the solution will be. Of course if we give back 39% it can always be argued that, by the same token, we could have returned 100%.
I say one thing. In my eyes stones are not holy and we have to use the fact that we conquered the territories in 1967 which until now only brought us disasters - with the exception of one good thing - something which is more important than anything else and that is that it can be used to reach a peace arrangements.
Now if it were possible to have a true peace and return 40% of the area then believe me, I would not object. I think I know the cost, more or less, of peace. I do this on the basis of conversations with Palestinians. And I do not think that the Wall is part of the price while the Cave of the Patriarchs is part of the price.
In any case, I think that it is worthwhile to reach an agreement which is based on the principle of our returning territory from 1967.
IMRA: Labor leader Barak talks about separation of the Palestinians from the Israelis as if there will be some kind of Berlin Wall separating the two while in contrast the Palestinians see things more Peres style - something like a binational state or two states with much interaction.
Raz: This is something which I think is very important, very interesting and cuts across the camps in Israel. I believe in a combination of the two. I think most do. In the first stage we have to have separation - and we basically already have this even if it mean violations of the agreements. But in the long range there has to be a situation of living more together - otherwise it isn't peace.
So in the short run I see something like what Barak is talking about and in the long run what Peres is talking about.
Arafat's Gaza ... on CBS TV
Washington - 18 December: Just a few weeks ago when Madeleine Albright made her first swing through the Middle East, CBS News' veteran correspondent Bob Simon broadcast an unusually candid report from Gaza. Network anchor Dan Rather actually introduced the report saying it was "from their point-of-view", from the point-of-view of the Palestinians themselves, though Simon himself gave no such emphasis and appeared to be simply doing his job telling the world what are the popular sentiments in Gaza today, just three years after Arafat's takeover in Gaza. Here is the transcript of this CBS report:
CBS News Anchorman Dan Rather: Four years after the late Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, Israel and the PLO are closer to war then peace, and Palestinians are more angry and desperate than ever. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon looks at the conflict from their point-of-view on assignment in Gaza:
Bob Simon: Remember that bright summer day when Yasser Arafat suddenly popped up in Gaza. No one here will ever forget it.
"I feel that my heart is jumping. I feel that there are drums in my heart, because this is Arafat." Said Mrs. Sobo.
Arafat pops up all over the place now and the primal big brother smiling down on his trip, but Mrs. Sobo is not smiling back. Those drums in her heart have stopped beating.
"I feel sold out .... He is finished."
Mrs. Sobo's husband, Fati, wasn't here to greet Arafat in '94. He was on a Fulbright fellowship in the United States, but he cheered from afar. Fati has been arrested 23 times by the Israelis. Well he's back in the same jail now, except this time the guards are Palestinians.
On June 21, professor Sobo presented his final exam to students on community problems. One of the questions: Analyze the corruption in parts of the Palestinian Authority. Ten days later he was arrested. No charges, but no mystery. The professor has asked the wrong question. It turns out to be his own final exam, and he failed.
But Arafat and his men succeeded in bringing the good life to Gaza, villas and beach clubs and affluence the Strip have never known. The trouble is they brought for themselves. The only trickle down to the refugee camp has been the sewage which never stops.
"How do you feel when you see the people from Tunis who came here three years ago living very well?"
"I hate them," he said. "I don't look at them, they don't look at me. They don't want to know there are poor people in Gaza."
Like thousands of others, Raid Abdul Hadi's only hope now is to win this year's American Green Card Lottery, the only ticket out of this place.
If Arafat isn't dividing the pie, it is the Israelis who are keeping it small. All these men used to work in Israel, but with peace came closures. Four years ago sixty thousands Gazans worked in Israel everyday. But the number now is zero. This is a good news for Abdul Aziz Rantisi, leader of the political wing of Hamas, the Islamic organization whose military wing is blowing up Israelis with increasing regularity.
"Is Hamas stronger now than it was when Arafat and the Palestinian Authority came in?"
"Hamas day after day getting more supporters," Rantisi said.
This view is confirmed on the street.
"Hamas is the solution." And Hamas' solution is bombing. And every time there is a bombing, the Israelis tighten the screw which deepens the desperation, drives more people to Hamas and give birth to more bombers.
When Secretary Albright started planning her first trip here a couple of months ago it was to breathe new life into the peace process. Now there is an equally urgent and more daunting task. It's to stop a war.
GAZA: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Martin Indyk, on an introductory tour of various Mideast capitals, said President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remain committed to moving the stalled Mideast peace process ahead "as quickly as possible so we can achieve an agreement and start final status talks as soon as possible."
The senior American official made his remarks here after he had "a very good meeting" here December 13 with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Following is the transcript of Indyk's remarks:
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: [Arabic]
A/S INDYK: I want to thank Chairman Arafat very much. As he said, we had a very good meeting. I came here as part of my introductory tour of the region in my new position, but I also came here to help to prepare the ground for the next meetings that will take place with the Secretary of State and Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I will also be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow evening. As the Secretary said in Geneva, she feels that there is some progress being made; there is still a lot of hard work to be done, but the United States, the President and the Secretary of State, remain committed to moving this process ahead as quickly as possible so we can achieve an agreement and start final status talks as soon as possible. And in that regard we are working with Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Netanyahu to move the process ahead. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.
QUESTION: Mr. Arafat, how do you see the situation in general? Are you still optimistic?
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: I am a pragmatic man! and we have to work very hard to protect the peace process and to push it further.
QUESTION: Mr. Rais [president] an Israeli official said yesterday that without pressure from the American side, nothing will happen in the peace process. Did you call upon Mr. Martin Indyk for pressure on the Israeli government?
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: There is continuous pressure from the American side. This meeting that took place with Mrs. Albright and Mr. Netanyahu and me was a part of this pressure.
A/S INDYK: Can I just say that 'pressure' is not a word that is in the American vocabulary. We are seeking to encourage both sides and to assist them, to play the role as a full partner and the honest broker. The Secretary of State feels after the meetings she's had with both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu that this process is now moving forward and she will continue to work with both of them. In that way, we can hope that we will achieve good results.
QUESTION: Mr. Indyk, what is the purpose of your mission in the Middle East?
A/S INDYK: As I said before, my new position as Assistant Secretary of State, I have responsibilities for the whole region. I have made a tour of the Gulf States. Now I am here in Gaza. I will be going to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon later on. I will also go to the Mahgreb states to have an opportunity to consult with all of the leaders in the region and to discuss with them our policies and to hear from them, from our friends in the region, like Chairman Arafat, how best we can promote our common interests in peace and stability in this vital part of the world.
The Gaza Human Rights Conference
On the 13 of December, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights released a press reporting on the International Conference on human rights and final status issues. The conference was held at the Rashad Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza.
The opening speakers included Amin Makki Madani, who is a representative of the UN High Commission on Human Rights, Hannu Halinen, Special Reporter on the Occupied Territories, UN Office - Geneva; and Jamal Sourani, Ex-Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Jamal Sourani called Israeli Jurisprudence into question when he asked the audience how it could be possible for the Israelis to abide by international law when they only recognize the Tora, the riffle and two bullets.
This opening statement set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
Francis Boylein spoke about Israeli "genocide" against the Palestinians. He suggested that the Palestinians sue the Israeli in the World Court in order to demonstrate "this undeniable fact before the entire world."
He then went on to trivialize the holocaust by saying that "what the Nazis did to the Jews ... is identical to what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians."
It is the opinion of Hebcom that by cynically perverting this conference for obvious political reasons, these speakers did a great disservice to the cause of Human Rights.
The rights of Palestinians and Israelis; Moslems, Jews and Christians, are issues which should have been addressed in a more productive manner.
By the time these two men had finished speaking the real human rights activists in the audience had stopped listening.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran
IMRA interviewed former senior intelligence officer Brig. Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran, in Hebrew, on December 14th.
IMRA: The IDF's "security map" is now public and it shows a security area of three kilometers depth as compared to Sharon's map with a ten kilometer deep security band on the Green Line. What's the difference from a military standpoint between the two?
I want to say at the outset that I don't support the concept of a security zone - be it a 3 kilometers or 10 kilometers wide. I also have not seen the maps. But I can definitely say that there are advantages to a 10 kilometer zone as compared to a 3 kilometer zone.
If you have only a three kilometer security zone you put the flight paths from airports within range of anti-aircraft missiles.
IMRA: Netanyahu's most memorable contribution to the 1992 Likud election campaign was the television spot he did near Ben Gurion Airport in which he made this very point. Ironically, Mordechai's security map, which Netanyahu reportedly now tends to support, does not include Beit Arieh which is four kilometers from Ben Gurion International Airport.
Levran: Jets taking off from the airport would still be at a low enough altitude to be hit by anti-aircraft missiles in the area of Beit Arieh.
A ten kilometer zone also has significance because it puts the shorter range Katyushas out of range as well as light weapons. Artillery and long range Katyushas would, of course, still be well within target range.
IMRA: Would these weapons truly tilt the scales?
Levran: You don't need heavy weapons to win. When you consider what has happened to us, the Palestinians have succeed in beating us with the lightest of weapons. Clausewitz defines successful war as gaining one's goals. And when you consider what the Palestinians have done - the territory which they have gained - then truly they have demonstrated that terror is not simply a nuisance - it is in and of itself a strategic threat. We have already seen how short range light weapons, when used to carry out a campaign of terror, can be just as effective in achieving the Arab's goals as heavy weapons. After all, terror has achieved something which, traditionally, one side only loses after a crushing defeat - territory.
That's not to say that I support a ten kilometer zone. I think that it is ridiculous. I spoke with Sharon about this years ago and I thought I convinced him about this but I was wrong. Consider that Sharon was one of the leaders of the anti-Oslo movement. I told him then that his "security zone" approach was mistaken because it creates Jewish "security pockets". It's as if you are basically saying that the country isn't ours but that you want some security areas within which to survive. Forget about the land being ours and ideological matters - they aren't important - just give me some security. This turned the whole matter from a question of national spirit and ideology to a matter of horse trading - some here some there. This is the way to treat the Land of Israel? The homeland?
He has to do all of this? The leader of the opposition to Oslo - just to sit in the government? He knows that he has a prime minister who is a sham but he continues to sit with him. He has lost all of his integrity.
And the biggest lie of all of these people is "we don't want to interfere with their lives - let them live their lives." What is this "let them live their lives?". They won't give us solace.
Now there is talk: yes state no state as if it doesn't matter.
The authority today in an embryo. It can still be aborted. But a state - God forbid. And every day it will get worse. We can't let things develop this way.
IMRA: Your objection to security areas sounds more like an objection on Zionist rather than security reasons.
Levran: There were once two very smart people in the country - Yigal Alon and Moshe Dayan. Alon and the Alon Plan and he said 'let's hold onto areas where there aren't many Arabs and it will also serve our security needs.' And Moshe Dayan told him, to paraphrase: but what can you do when those who control the hilltops control Western Israel?
We are going to give up the hilltops? All this talks of security areas sounds so pleasant - that we will be satisfied with having just some areas - just what is really required for our survival.
I would go even further. If I had to chose between holding onto Jerusalem and holding Western Israel I would choose Western Israel. Because we stand or fall depending on if we hold it. It's not that I am minimizing the spiritual importance of Jerusalem. It is our spiritual survival and symbol of our existence etc.. For years now there are people who say "Jerusalem forever" but are willing to give up the rest.
I maintain that the ideological argument is the stronger one to go into negotiations with. If you argue solely on security grounds you are bound to find your demands whittled away. "Take another cannon instead of land", they will say. "Take another million dollars". They don't understand.
If there was some area which theoretically we could do without it would be one thing. But there isn't such an area. I need the high ground and the areas from the Alon Plan and the connecting roads. So what's left? Arab pockets. Fine. Let's change them all to Area B. Joint control - our security control and they have their own municipal lives. That is the true implementation of our not having anything to do with their lives. Everything else is cities of refuge and traps.
IMRA: "Maariv" reporter Ben Caspit claims that Israel was on the verge of an agreement with the Syrians which would include as one of its provisions that a division of Syrian tanks would be deployed between Damascus and the Golan but that the tanks would not represent a danger to Israel since they would only have a "belly" of ammunition with supplies located at a distance.
Levran: This is ridiculous. Can we really trust Assad. Especially today after the Teheran Islamic Conference? All of these attempts to micro manage arrangement are absurd. You have to look at the situation at the macro level when you want to consider if given arrangement is workable. You have to appreciate the dangers involved in leaving the Golan from a macro level.
IMRA: You were in the army when the Egyptians immediately violated the terms of the cease fire agreement which came at the end of the War of Attrition on the Suez Canal by advancing their SAM sites. How did people react inside the army when the Americans claimed that they needed to study the situation and examine the evidence. Did you know at the time that the Americans were photographing the area the entire time and were fully aware of the situation?
Levran: We were apoplectic. They kept reviewing our photographic evidence. We knew what was happening but , already then, we were caught up in this feeling of dependence on "Uncle Sam" so we couldn't do anything.
This wasn't the first time. Recall that the Americans also stalled when the Straits of Tiran were closed to Israeli ships back in 1967.
You have to keep in mind though, that at that time the country was war weary. Sure we enjoyed success with our deep penetration raids in Egypt, but then we lost some Phantom jets and the mood was very low. When the Egyptians violated the agreement the country was not geared to respond.
IMRA: So Israel was happy to get American "black boxes" instead of acting against the missiles?
IMRA: Do you feel that there is any danger to Israel in sharing weapons technology with Turkey?
Levran: The relationship with Turkey is an important one. No one wants to be alone. Not to mention that the alliance with Turkey is designed to weaken the Syrians and the Arab-Iranian camp. We face this problem all the time when the defense industry wants to sell weapons systems. I would say, however, that our policy is to sell systems when we have the next generation of the system for ourselves so that we maintain a technological edge.
IMRA: What's your view of the Arrow systems? Will they tilt the balance in our favor?
Levran: When you talk of defense against ballistic missiles there are two stages when you can stop them: when they are launching and on re-entry. It is very difficult to stop them while they are in outer space. I would say that while the Arrow system is important, systems mounted on pilotless planes which can shoot down missiles as they launch can also play an important role. If they are not too expensive we could have a considerable number of them deployed. It is difficult, however, from a command and control standpoint to operate continuously at such great distances. It is one thing to carry out a deep penetration operation - as we did in Entebbe and in bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor, but continuous operation is something else.
I would however, note that some critics of Arrow have incorrectly claimed in the face of a nuclear threat that a system which is not 100% effective is useless.
Consider the situation for the enemy's standpoint: If they launch a nuclear or other nonconventional strike against Israel they face odds that the missile won't get through and then they will face an Israeli response. By the way, even if they would succeed, Israel would still be able to launch a devastating counter strike many fold graver. And our enemies have to consider all of this.
IMRA: America has shown its great concern for creating power vacuums. Even in the middle of the Gulf War, the fear of power vacuums stopped America from defeating Iraq. If Israel were to be attacked, would the Americans allow Israel to counter strike with the possibility the move would create a power vacuum?
Levran: You have to consider the conditions which you are describing. Let me tell you something. Before the war in Lebanon, I met with Harkabi, and he said he was concerned about the hundreds of artillery pieces in the hands of the PLO. If the Palestinians were to start firing at the Northern settlements, he argued, the Americans surely would not countenance our invading Lebanon. I explained to him that if the PLO started with us we would go into Lebanon regardless of what America thought. I was right. The same is the case if Israel were to be struck today by such an attack.
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