Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel's Security Cabinet Expresses Doubts about Peace

by David Bedein

Begin May Be Man to Watch in New Group

Benjamin Begin, son of late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, could be the man to watch in Israel’s newly formed security cabinet.

Although he lacks a political portfolio, his importance surpasses other members of the cabinet, which also includes: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former Israel prime minister; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Strategic Affairs Minister Bugi Yaalon; and Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor.

Mr. Begin has a history of opposing, giving concessions to the Palestinians. He resigned from the previous Netanyahu government in January 1997 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relinquished Israeli control over Hebron.

He left Likud following the conclusion of the Wye River Memorandums in October 1998, which called for the redeployment of Israeli forces. This effectively ended Mr. Netanyahu’s last government. Mr. Begin also opposed what he saw as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s corruption and disloyalty from early on.

During a Knesset discussion last Wednesday on Jerusalem Day, Mr. Begin quoted extensively from remarks made by Abbas Zaki, a Palestinian Authority leader, on May 7.

In those comments, Mr. Zaki said: “The Jews view Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as their historic dream. After they evacuate those lands, they will get out of Jerusalem. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. Then they will move forward.”

Mr. Begin used these comments to remind the Israeli public of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) plan of destroying Israel through diplomatic, as well as military means, over the course of several phases.

The other members of the security cabinet share Mr. Begin’s skepticism about the Palestinians.

Mr. Barak has long since lost faith in negotiations with the Palestinians. Mr. Lieberman opposes any form of withdrawal and has often said that the negotiations with the Palestinians have no chance of moving forward.

Mr. Yaalon, who served as the Israeli army chief of staff from 2001-2005, is probably the most severe in his position toward the Palestinians. He has written a recent book, not yet translated into English, where he openly states he does not believe in any peace plan. He writes that peace likely might only be possible three or four generations from now.

The strategic affairs minister believes that the process has to begin from the bottom, step by step, but only on the economic and municipal level, nothing on the national level.

In his book, Mr. Yaalon writes the Palestinian Authority must pass an unlimited number of tests before any progress can be made. They include altering Palestinian school curriculums calling for Israel’s destruction and its existence as a Jewish state.

Mr. Meridor, who was actively involved in the failed negotiations with the Palestinians at Camp David under the aegis of former President Bill Clinton in the summer of 2000, has often expressed how surprised he was with the seriousness of the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” to Arab villages that were lost in 1948, which have since been replaced by Israeli towns, collective farms and woodlands.

View this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
View this story at Israel Behind the News

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