Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Speaking Out: Rabin; Author of His Own Undoing?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Speaking Out: Rabin; Author of His Own Undoing?

Article excerpt

Speaking Out: Rabin; Author of His Own Undoing?

By Paul Findley

It may be only a spasm that will not be repeated, but the Likud Party's sledgehammer campaign on Capitol Hill against Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin elicited a counterattack from several Jews.

One of them was Henry Siegman, long prominent in the American Jewish Committee and now a senior fellow at New York's Council on Foreign Relations.

Another is Amos Oz, famous Israeli author, who now castigates the Likud Party for being "against any kind of peace" and "the best collaborator that Hamas could hope for." He cites Likud as the Israeli counterpart of "Islamic terrorism." Oz is a legendary figure in his own time and occasionally supplies vision--and warning--to his fellow countrymen.

By speaking out about the cynicism of the Likud Party in its exploitation of grief that arises from recent deadly violence in the Gaza Strip, Oz tries to call the Israeli people to their senses. He is taking on a Herculean task. Recent polls show that 69 percent of Israelis, including Israeli President Ezer Weizman, want "negotiations" with the Palestine Liberation Organization suspended. Violence within pre-1967 Israel has tripled since the handshake agreement between Rabin and PLO chief Yasser Arafat. Oz and his compatriots will have to stay resolute in the emotional fray in order to have lasting effect on public opinion.

Sadly, Oz is having little support in America, where Likud is mounting a major disruptive campaign with almost no opposition from U.S. Jews or political figures. Likud has a lobbying office in Washington that is the base of operations for three legislative proposals, two of which would be harmful to U.S. interests in the Middle East and to Israeli-Muslim relations. One measure would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and another would outlaw U.S. official contact with the PLO and prohibit aid to its operations in the occupied territories. The third measure, disruptive but not dangerous, would prohibit the stationing of U.S. troops on the Golan Heights as a consequence of negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Thomas L. Friedman, foreign affairs correspondent for the New York Times, writes: "Let's not kid ourselves, each one of these issues is being rammed through Congress today not by people who want to protect the peace process, but by people who want to destroy it. What is sad is that ever since Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat shook hands they have received only the most tepid support from mainstream American Jewish groups, like the Conference of Presidents [of Major American Jewish Organizations], and out-right hostility from the orthodox and fringe Jewish groupings....They have no positive vision to offer American Jews on the central questions of American Jewish identity or the fate of Israel-Diaspora relations in this new era." Friedman's warning has elicited little support.

Oz is under fierce counterattack from Likud leadership. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, senior Likud member of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, cites as "absurd" Oz's contention that Likud is against "any peace." He declares, "The Likud is for any peace that is real peace," but he defines real peace as one maintained by force of Israeli arms. He writes: "For years [Likud] has argued that the only way of achieving such a durable peace in the [occupied territories] is through an autonomy arrangement under which Israel's security would be in the hands of its own Defense Forces, not the PLO. …

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