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Posts Tagged ‘Yediot Aharonot’

U.S., Israeli Officials Blast Media Reports Claiming Obama-Netanyahu Rift

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

JERUSALEM – White House and Israeli government officials criticized Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper for publishing what they described as two patently false stories during the past week.

The paper alleged that the relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama has significantly deteriorated over the issue of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Yediot Aharonot reported in a front-page story that U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro reprimanded Netanyahu in a private conversation – saying “enough is enough” regarding ongoing Israeli warnings about a preemptive strike – while the White House asked Iranian officials not to attack American installations in the Persian Gulf region if the IDF launches a preventive strike against Iran.

On Monday White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Yediot’s report that the Obama administration had secretly negotiated with Iranian officials about keeping the U.S. out of any armed conflict between Israel and Iran was “false and completely incorrect.” Carney told the Reuters news agency, “We don’t talk about hypotheticals.”

Yediot Aharonot’s publisher, Arnon Mozes, who also controls a substantial share of Israel’s Channel 2 TV network, has made no secret of his antipathy toward Netanyahu. This became evident after American business mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson launched the pro-government Yisrael Hayom in 2007. That free daily paper has overtaken Yediot in circulation.

In an attempt to buttress Yediot’s story about the alleged verbal spat between Netanyahu and Shapiro, Channel 2 News anchorwoman Yonit Levi interviewed Shapiro. When pressed about the alleged verbal row, Shapiro smiled and pointedly told Levy, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it never happened.” The ambassador also said that he had a positive relationship with Netanyahu and that the White House and the Israeli government are constantly updating each other and coordinating their efforts regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.

Earlier this week Netanyahu publicly called on the world’s powers, including the U.S. and EU, to delineate a clear “red line” to the Iranian regime, whereby the Iranians would understand that it would suffer devastating consequences if they continued to enrich uranium as part of their effort to build a nuclear bomb. Within the past month, Israeli intelligence officials have informed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Iran would have enough enriched uranium by early 2013 to build a nuclear bomb.

Reflecting on the debate of whether Israel should bomb Iran, with or without American support, veteran Israeli TV news anchorman and Yisrael Hayom columnist Dan Margalit wrote in Monday’s edition, “As an ordinary citizen, I do not know which opinion to express. Both sides make convincing arguments, and only someone who has all the information can make a decision. But it is also clear to the ordinary citizen that Israel has been forced to spill its hidden secrets in the city square, a process started by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s ‘freak show,’ so the question must be considered as it is.”

Margalit added, “The choice is not between an Israeli attack or international action, but rather between these two possibilities and a third option: the acceptance of a nuclear Iran. Opponents of Netanyahu and [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak are hiding their support for this option.”

Netanyahu Furious Over Security-Cabinet Leaks, Cancels Second Meeting

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled the second meeting of the security cabinet due to leaks from the meeting held yesterday about discussions onIran’s nuclear program.

Yediot Aharonot had obtained and published yesterday evening information regarding the meeting, specifically differences of opinion regarding intelligence on whenIran’s nuclear program would enter a “zone of immunity” from Israeli attack.

The intensive 10-hour long marathon meeting was said to deal with other regional-security topics as well.

Today’s meeting was convened, but when it began, Netanyahu announced that due to the security leak the meeting would be adjourned.

“Yesterday, somebody severely undermined the confidence that Israeli citizens give to this forum,” Netanyahu said. “He violated the most basic rules regarding the conduct of Security Cabinet discussions. He also hurt the good name of those present at the meeting who did not leak its contents.”

Syrian Crisis May Top Agenda At Bibi-Obama Meeting

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Next week’s scheduled White House meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was expected to focus on a possible preemptive Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear installations.

The Iran issue may be moved somewhat down the agenda, however, as flailing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is being pressured by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to move both his WMD cache and long-range Scud missiles to well-protected Hizbullah bases inside Lebanon.

According to intelligence sources, the Pentagon expressed concern to the Obama administration on Monday after Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, who is aligned with the Hizbullah-dominated government, met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss increased military aid to the Lebanese army in order to “confront the West and Israel.”

Israel’s mass circulation Yediot Aharonot reported that the Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah are in a race against time to secure major parts of the Syrian army’s unconventional weapons arsenal before they fall into the hands of anti-Assad rebel militias, who have threatened to “settle scores” with Hizbullah for assisting in the massacre of Syrian civilians and rebel soldiers.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who met with high-ranking members of the Pentagon this week, told American military commanders that the Israeli air force would attack convoys carrying suspicious weapons across the Syrian border into Lebanon. In addition, IDF ground forces reportedly are preparing to reoccupy large swaths of Southern Lebanon in order to thwart any Iranian order to Hizbullah missile units to launch attacks on Israeli cities.

Last week an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned that his forces would launch preemptive strikes if the regime felt threatened by impending American or Israeli attacks. The Syrian military possesses some of the world’s most lethal chemical weapons, including the VX nerve agent, which can be mounted onto Scud missiles.

On March 14, Israel will conduct a massive anti-missile drill in the Tel Aviv metro region. Codenamed “Hit in the Heart,” the drill will focus on the aftermath of a theoretical missile attack on a major shopping mall in Tel Aviv by either Hamas or Hizbullah, both of which are equipped with Iranian-produced medium range Fajr-5 missiles that can reach Tel Aviv.

According to some news reports, the IDF would need at least ten Iron Dome anti-missile units to defend major Israeli cities against even a limited number of short- and medium-range rockets.

Israeli Students Urge Bibi Not To Trade Them For Terrorists

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

JERUSALEM – A number of Israeli high school students on the verge of being inducted into the IDF publicly called on Prime Minister Netanyahu not to trade high-profile terrorists for them in the event they fall into enemy hands.

On Tuesday, 12th-grade students from religious and secular backgrounds released the contents of a formal letter they sent Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“As soldiers, we understand we are obligated to the security of the State of Israel, even if it means costing our freedom or even our lives,” the students wrote.

“We also call upon you to strictly limit the conditions of the murderers who are currently serving their sentences sitting in Israeli jails. The situation where murderers are able to study for academic degrees and enjoy sumptuous meals is a disgrace and intolerable.”

“History has taught us that the release of terrorists encourages more kidnappings,” 18-year-old Daniel Gabbai of Netivot told the daily Yediot Aharonot. Added 18- year-old Noam Sherlo of Efrat, “If terrorists understand we are not surrendering to terrorism, then the motivation to kidnap soldiers will decrease.”

While Netanyahu’s inner cabinet was set to debate changing the government’s policy regarding prisoner exchanges later this week, Ichud Leumi Knesset Member Uri Ariel filed a parliamentary motion on Monday to create a “pidyon shvuyim” (redemption of prisoners) law under which the government would not be allowed to exceed a one-for-one prisoner exchange, especially in the case of kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Telling The Story Of A New Shoah

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The ongoing war against Israel is most visible at precisely the point where the effects of terrorism are concealed. If that sounds paradoxical, think of the bodies hurled into the void from the World Trade Center – only to immediately disappear from the television screens and the front pages of newspapers.

Israel’s ordeal under terrorism is at the core of my book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism (released last month in the U.S. by Encounter Books).

I spent six years tracking down and interviewing witnesses to terrorist atrocities – as well as people who survived attacks and family members of victims who did not. It was a labor of relentless determination, loneliness and, dare I say it, obsessive moral commitment.

When I was finished, I had thousands upon thousands of words that finally were edited down to the current 400 pages of the book – the first ever devoted to Israeli victims of terrorism.

I began the project knowing it was virtually impossible for survivors themselves to tell these stories. Their testimony is a kind of peripheral knowledge kept locked neatly in the shadows. But given the right circumstances, that knowledge can be brought into the light. And with each witness and each hearing the understanding of truth grows, as does the sense of the past existing within the present.

A New Shoah is not an archival reminder but rather the reliving of a smaller-scale Shoah – a Shoah not of millions of Jews killed merely because they were Jews living in Europe but a Shoah of thousands of Jews killed simply because they were Jews living in Israel.

I had to resurrect the events not as something from the past but as the horror that still exists in the minds and souls of those who witnessed and survived. Israel’s Ground Zero is not limited to a building or plot of land. It is an immense black hole that in fifteen years has swallowed up 1,557 innocent men, women and children and left more than 17,000 injured.

Israel is a very small country – a jet can fly from one end to the other in two minutes and the distance between the Israeli city of Netanya and the Palestinian city of Tulkarem is only twelve miles. Does the reader want proportions? It would take the murder of 53,756 Americans and the wounding of 664,133 others to equal, in terms of percentage of population, the number of Israelis who have fallen victim to Arab terrorism in just the past decade and a half.

* * * * *

 

My book tells this story of a slow-motion 9/11 launched against civilians day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, attack after attack.

While the media were busy falling over themselves in denouncing Israel, the suicide bombers kept coming. Some places were not hit as hard as others; none, though, was completely safe. Jerusalem bore the brunt of the suicide bombings; Jewish communities inside the West Bank came under attacks by terror groups; rural settlements near the pre-1967 border suffered badly; coastal cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Hadera and Netanya were all bombed.

There were times when Ben Gurion Airport had more security guards than travelers. To the relatively few people who did come – I was one, arriving in 2003 to make a documentary about the Intifada – the country presented a surreal spectacle. There were few external signs of damage. Immediately after each terrorist attack, teams of specially trained volunteers and medics would gather the dead, tend to the wounded and literally scrape up human remains before putting them in plastic bags. Municipal crews would then quickly repair the structural damage. It was only a matter of hours before life returned to “normal,” no matter how bloody the atrocity or how high the casualty count.

Israelis’ consuming need for normalcy was on unusually vivid display just a few weeks ago, during the tenth anniversary of the start of the Second Intifada. Surprisingly few articles or reports in the Israel media were devoted to the decade-long trauma. The silence of Jewish writers was disconcerting – as it has been for a long time now.

Maybe it was the duty of a non-Jew, a non-Israeli, a stranger, to enter this realm of desperation and solitude.

In 1968, just months after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, the American writer Eric Hoffer, also a non Jew, wrote an op-ed article for the Los Angeles Timesin response to the proliferation of anti-Israel sentiment in the international community. His words now seem prophetic:

“I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.”

The Jewish condition is again the focal point of an enormous battle of identities. The survival of Israel is the most important – the defining – issue of our time. Tiny Israel matters urgently to the Western world because it has become its most imperiled member – yet widely treated as a sacrificial lamb.

The book I’ve written is not journalism, not propaganda, not political. For me it was an act of witness. A New Shoah is an affirmation of life in the kingdom of death.

Why did I choose to adopt the word “Shoah”? The Holocaust is a unique evil in human history, and I had to be very careful in terms of making false comparisons. What has happened to Israel under the hanging sword of terrorism is a very specific destructive process. The families and stories in the book are like a Greek chorus that gathers an inexorable hypnotic power – a hymn to life that rises above the experience – of death. “Holocaust,” with its sacrificial connotations, was an inadmissible word.

Shoah is an opaque word that, to me at least, links the generation of the Holocaust to the Israelis killed in their homeland. A New Shoah is a lament for the most tragic past, delivered in the present tense. I wanted to show the absolute character of Jewish tragedy. I wanted to show how the Jews were victimized and how they were alone, abandoned by the world – now just as then.

After each terror attack, the media would, with dreary and depressing regularity, boycott the memories of the murdered and the maimed. For me, these innocent victims are all saints and heroes; and those who survive them are the best humankind has to offer because they held on to the value of life. The testimonies, the tears, the emotions of the witnesses are more authentic than historical documents.

Today, to speak the name of Israel in friendly tones, especially in journalistic and academic circles, is to risk facing a firestorm of condemnation. Doors are often closed to authors who refuse to use lies and hatred against Israel. Anti-Semitism assumes many masks, and anti-Zionism is certainly one of them.

Since few people admit to believing in the devil anymore, the state of Israel is a handy substitute, a convenient secular replacement for Satan. The Jewish state has become the object of unremitting demonology; Israel, the Collective Jew, has become the purveyor of all ills; Zionists are considered the instigators of every type of disorder.

This ontological hatred of Israel can be seen in many people, mainly, these days, on the political left. It is ontological because it is beyond reason; it sees the creation of Israel as a latter day Original Sin. And if Israel’s existence is attributable to sin, both the sin and the state need to be expunged, and so Israeli victims of terrorism become nothing more than insignificant and faceless casualties. The “civilized” world easily accepted the daily massacres during the Second Intifada and the unending waves of Kassam rockets because Israel’s sins had to be washed away by Jewish blood.

* * * * *

 

You listen carefully to the way the families and survivors speak and you see it is not about the past. Their testimony – like the book itself – is about Israel’s future. A New Shoah is daunting and draining; its moral and emotional weight slowly accumulates until it is inescapable.

I decided to locate the Israeli victims at the center of two stories, different and extraordinary: the great story of their original societies – European, North African, Yemenite, Russian, American – and the little story they created in coming to Israel. The story of pioneers who refused the title of “settlers,” the story of doctors who healed Arabs before being killed, the story of soldiers and professors, secular and religious people – the humanity of a small country guilty of one unforgivable fault: surviving.

I decided to start the story with the destruction of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. I chose that terrible event because those Israeli athletes were killed, in front of a worldwide television audience, just because they were Israelis. Those athletes were rays of light and beauty in the darkness of pure hatred. For me, they belonged to a different moral order.

I could not, of course, tell the stories of every Israeli who lost his or her life to terrorism, so I had to make a sad but necessary choice: I had to rescue significant stories from Israel’s various communities. My book challenges the reader to enter a new, probably unfamiliar world – a world where Zionist triumphalism is conjoined with an inherent vulnerability. An invincible people confesses its bewilderment while the world isolates it and deepens its wounds.

It was very hard to enter a world where journalists and other outsiders rarely, if ever, venture. They’d rather not have to confront the infinite martyrdom of the Jewish people, who instead of mass shootings and gassings conducted by Nazis now confront a continuous drip murder administered by terrorists.

As I plunged, one by one, into the lives of those killed, I found wires connecting the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews of Europe to the contemporary jihad launched against the Jews of Israel.

The book’s protagonists are all branches of the great and hopeful “kibbutz galuiot,” the union of nations that is Israel, and their stories are cautionary tales of the maniacal hatred of Jews that has pursued this people through the centuries.

And yet The New Shoah is not only about the suffering of the Jewish people as a whole but about the suffering of individuals, individually remembered. The terrorists direct their explosives and guns and rockets not against military outposts or armed soldiers but against a pizzeria, a discotheque, a school bus, a restaurant, a hotel, a railway station – wherever there are civilians to exterminate.

Civilians like the father, mother, brother and grandfather of Menashe Gavish, who lost his loved ones in a night of terror. Civilians such as Malka Roth, who was simply returning home from school. Civilians like Gabi Ladowski, studying at the university. Civilians like Yanay Weiss, who was playing the guitar in a Tel Aviv caf? just beside the U.S. consulate.

I wanted to show just how monstrously determined so many of Israel’s enemies are to kill Jews – but I also wanted to show the determination and spirit of the survivors. These families are a moral example to the whole world. I portrayed the beauty of their lives in order to make the unbearable bearable.

I hope I am able through my words to dramatically illustrate the appalling costs the rebirth of anti-Semitism, fueled by an absolute and undying hatred of Israel and its citizens, is imposing on the whole planet, not just Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Sixty years ago my country betrayed its Jewish citizens, allowing them be deported from Rome to Auschwitz. They were separated from parents, siblings, spouses and children. They were stripped naked, their documents, their identities, thrown into the fire. They were pushed into a room with a low, heavy ceiling and no light. And they were gassed.

Sixty years later, I offer this book, this labor of love and tears, as my memorial chant for the martyred Jews and my own personal protest against the immorality of silence, then and now.

Earlier on I described A New Shoah as being a draining and daunting book. But it is also a comforting book. In its way, by giving identity to the Israeli victims of terrorism, it honors the words of Simone Weil, who wrote: “If, as is only too possible, we are to perish, let us see to it that we do not perish without having existed. ”

One cannot write a book like this without being condemned to solitude. Yes, I drew inspiration from the shining example of the families and witnesses I interviewed, but the more I involved myself, the lonelier I became. I began this article on a paradoxical note and now I’ll close on another one. In order to deliver such a book to the world, an author has to be very much in love with life. And – even more so after being in the presence of those families and witnesses – I am.

Giulio Meotti is an Italian author and a journalist with the Il Foglio newspaper. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and Yediot Aharonot.

A Newspaper That’s ‘Proud To Be Israeli’: An Interview with Yisrael Hayom Foreign Editor Boaz Bismuth

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

At a time when media pundits are calling daily newspapers “print dinosaurs,” Las Vegas casino mogul and Zionist philanthropist Sheldon Adelson tweaked the “experts” by investing millions of dollars in the creation of Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today), a free Hebrew-language tabloid newspaper that was launched on July 30, 2007.

Written off by the dominant local newspapers – including Yediot Aharonot, Maariv and Haaretz – as nothing more than a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Adelson hired an all-star staff of respected editors, journalists and columnists, who created an alternative voice for the Israeli public.

By the end of 2008, Yisrael Hayom had not only succeeded in luring readers away from the aforementioned Israeli dailies, the paper announced a plan to increase circulation by offering free home delivery. A year later, Yisrael Hayom announced that circulation had surpassed 250,000 copies and a weekend edition would be launched to compete with the major dailies.

By early February 2010, more than 300,000 copies of the weekend edition of Yisrael Hayom were being printed and delivered across the country. With Yisrael Hayom’s circulation and advertising revenues climbing faster than anyone anticipated, at least two Israeli newspaper owners lobbied Knesset members to pass a law that would ban foreign ownership of any major Israeli media entity. The proposed law, aimed at undermining Adelson, stands almost no chance being passed.

Veteran Israeli journalist Boaz Bismuth, who has written for both Maariv and Yediot Aharonot in addition to serving as Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania (2004-2008), was recruited by Yisrael Hayom Senior Editor Amos Regev to serve as the paper’s foreign editor. In an exclusive interview with The Jewish Press, Bismuth spoke of the keys to Yisrael Hayom’s unprecedented success.

The Jewish Press: What was the lure of joining Yisrael Hayom, which was considered anything but a sure thing in the highly volatile Israeli newspaper market?

Bismuth: First of all, I had a unique opportunity to return to my beloved profession. Uniquely, I saw that the paper was able to easily recruit respected journalistic soldiers such as Dan Margalit (Maariv, Channel 10). So I look at myself as a lucky editor who joined the paper on September 16, 2008. That was the day when people packed their bags at Lehman Brothers in the midst of the economic crash, while I became part of something new and different. We became a symbol of sorts for the newspaper industry, which was and still is having problems.

What was different about the Israeli newspaper marketplace that allowed Yisrael Hayom to put down firm roots?

From day one, the object was to create a free paper that was a fast read and interesting, though we did not want a paper that would be read and thrown away in five minutes. Immediately, we saw that readers appreciated the paper. When people in Tel Aviv, the key to the newspaper market in Israel because of the population that lives and works in the metro region, were changing their reading habits by taking the time to read the paper in a coffee shop, at home or at work, we knew that the paper was having an impact.

The editors of Haaretz, Maariv and Yediot openly criticized Sheldon Adelson for allegedly creating a paper with an agenda – namely, supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How do you respond to this criticism?

The criticism leveled against Yisrael Hayom is hypocritical and cynical. Every newspaper has an agenda. Does one really think Adelson created the paper as a philanthropic venture? No one in the local newspaper industry is a philanthropist. Do the editors of the other papers or readers truly believe Adelson has the time for influencing daily editorial policy at the paper? If he does, he’s Superman.

I can tell you from having worked at major Israeli newspapers in the past, Yisrael Hayom is an extremely professional operation. Every evening, the editors choose from a variety of articles and editorials to publish. This is the business of true professionals. You don’t think the paper publishes stories that are critical of the Netanyahu government? Of course it does. I’m proud to be a part of this enterprise.

So the claim that Yisrael Hayom is imposing its editorial will on readers is journalistic sour grapes?

We have a created a new economic model for newspapers that has spurred a revolution in the marketplace. It’s a model that functions well and people like the paper. If we are imposing our will on the public, then how come there is an additional waiting list of nearly 50,000 people who want daily home delivery? I’m revealing this as a scoop. Circulation is already over 250,000 copies during the week. Thanks to my opponents’ crying and their criticism, I can see how well I’m doing my job at the paper.

But that hasn’t stopped people associated with Yediot and Maariv from trying to get Knesset members to pass a law banning foreign ownership of newspapers, which was obviously aimed at Adelson.

When, where do we put the limit? It’s an outrageous, anti-democratic law. Ironically, it’s OK for Knesset members and other members of the Israeli business community to accept investments and donations from Jews in the Diaspora. It’s OK for Diaspora Jews to purchase shares in Bank Leumi, or a controlling interest in Israel Discount Bank. But to invest and participate in the market of public opinion in Israel it’s not OK?

Trust me, if Yisrael Hayom were a flop, none of this would have ever been discussed. The other papers feel threatened. Yediot was considered a monopoly for years. Maariv has been in financial trouble for a while. Ironically, when Adelson was originally in negotiations to buy Maariv, the owners made him out to be the Vilna Gaon. Now they make him out to be like some Saudi sheikh.

Is some of the opposition due to ideological differences?

Yisrael Hayom is not a “stylish” left-wing newspaper. The difference is that we promote the fact that we are proud to be Israeli. And, thank God, we have Zionists abroad who take an interest and want to invest in the Israeli economy.

Why Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon Is Wrong About Surrendering The Golan

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

Speaking recently to Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper, Israel’s Chief of General Staff commented that withdrawal from the Golan Heights would not endanger Israel’s security. According to Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) could defend the country’s borders even if a political decision were taken to leave the 620-square mile strategic plateau. Israel formally annexed the Golan in 1981 after defeating Syrian aggression earlier, in 1967. Long very important in Jewish history, the Golan area’s population of about 35,000 is divided evenly between Israelis and Druse Arabs. Notwithstanding General Yaalon’s assurances, an Israeli Golan withdrawal, from an area less the 1 percent of Syria’s total size, could leave the northern region of Israel open to Syrian or even Iranian invasion through the Jordan Valley. (History records that more than 60 assaults on the Land of Israel west of the Jordan were launched from or through the Golan.) Such a withdrawal could also destroy and uproot 32 Golan Jewish communities and threaten fully a third of Israel’s water supply.

Yaalon’s rationale is almost certainly based on the following presumption: Without an Israel-Syria peace agreement (there is still, at Syria’s sole insistence, an official state of war between the two countries), a major war could result at any time from confrontation with Hizbullah terrorists on Israel’s northern border. And any Israeli plan to prevent such a war with Syria, which backs these terrorists in Lebanon, would require a demilitarized Golan Heights. The problem here, is that Syrian demilitarization of the Golan, which is roughly the size of New York City’s borough of Queens, would never work.

Unlike the concept of Palestinian demilitarization, which is often discussed with reference to creating a “safe” Palestinian state, the key issue here has nothing to do with “legal personality.” Rather, in the matter of Golan demilitarization, the issue concerns more traditional international obligations of “good faith” and various associated difficulties of enforcement. In essence, the problem of Golan demilitarization stems from the undeniable shortcomings of legal guarantees in a world where the very idea of an “international community” has now become self-parody.

A Golan agreement with Syria would surely permit Israel to operate its own early-warning stations, but these facilities could not be an adequate substitute for effective defense. In order to get such permission, Syria might be offered certain reciprocal ground station oppotunities. Indeed, in July 1995 then-Prime Minister Rabin even offered the Syrians stations within pre-1967 Israel as compensation.

For real security, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) must retain its positions on the Golan for constant surveillance of the Syrian army. Pre-1967 warning stations do not have a clear line of sight deep into Syrian territory. Not surprisingly, a large number of former Israeli intelligence officers, regardless of party affiliation, continue to oppose any Israeli dependence upon third parties for information concerned with national survival decisions. Even a demilitarized Golan with early warning based upon an expanded American role and on the most technologically advanced satellite systems would not be enough. In the event of a warning failure, which is always possible (e.g., the case of the Yom Kippur War in 1973), Syrian tanks could conceivably penetrate into Israel.

What can Israel hope to achieve from a so- called peace agreement with Syria? Talks between the two countries have effectively been stalled since 2000 because of Syrian intransigence. As Yaalon himself noted, Syria already has “missiles that put all of Israel in range, and chemical capabilties.” An Israeli departure from the Golan would do nothing to change this primary strategic situation. Nor would it likely reduce the prospect of an escalation to all-out war on the Lebanese front or reduce the influence of certain Palestinian terrorist factions still based securely in Damascus.

What about American troops on a demilitarized Golan, an idea still fashionable in some circles associating an Israeli withdrawal with a Syrian “peace.” Stationed in a very small area, such deployment would surely place these troops in grave danger from well-armed terrorists and from proxies of hostile regimes. More than likely, American forces would be drawn into both inter-Arab and Arab-Israeli disputes.

Further, Israel’s military dependence upon the United States could grow to unmanageable levels; and Syria might even come to see the American presence as an affront to its own sovereignty. In that event, Syria’s President could be expected to push for prompt removal of the U.S. force, a demand similar to Egypt’s 1967 demand for U.N. withdrawal from Sinai. Ironically, that demand led to the Six- Day War, which gave rise to Syria’s Golan loss in the first place.

For all these reasons a demilitarized Golan could not assure Israel’s basic security. According to an informed statement several years back by four Israeli (res.) generals (Y. Sagui; M. Ram; D. Hagoel; and A. Levran): “Israel’s presence on the Golan Heights constitutes the optimal strategic balance with Syria and insurance against a massive Syrian attack. The IDF’s proximity to Damascus is also a guarantee against a Syrian missile launch into Israel’s rear. Any change in this balance would lessen Israel’s deterrent against potential Syrian aggression and jeopardize the quiet and stability that have characterized the Golan since 1974.” As for the use of American troops: “Involving American troops on the Golan Heights, whether as ‘monitors’ or ‘peacekeepers’ or in some other role, would be a blunder.”

The Golan, which ranges up to a height of 2300 feet, dominates the Jordan Valley, the lowest point on Earth. On this strategic plateau, there are only two natural terrain bottlenecks. These choke points are defensible. But with the Golan in Syrian hands, however “demilitarized,” thousands of enemy tanks, backed up by missiles and aircraft, could still penetrate Israel.

Demilitarization of the Golan Heights can never be consistent with Israel’s security. From the standpoint of international law, such proposed Syrian demilitarization would cause great strategic and diplomatic difficulties for Israel. Recognizing this, it is now up to the government of Israel to ensure that the Golan remain firmly in Israeli hands and that Gen. Yaalon’s ill-advised recommendation be rejected.

(c) Copyright The Jewish Press, 2004. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on international law.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/why-lt-gen-moshe-yaalon-is-wrong-about-surrendering-the-golan/2004/09/15/

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