“A Country Cannot Be Defended With Regrets.”

Normally, JINSA Reports are one page. However, we have found the following to be important enough to warrant a two-page fax. Members of JINSA met with Limor Livnat, MK & Minister of Communications, during her recent visit to the United States.

On December 16, 1997, Minister Livnat addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City. Excerpts from the text of that address follows.

“A Country Cannot Be Defended With Regrets.”…

Normally, JINSA Reports are one page. However, we have found the following to be important enough to warrant a two-page fax. Members of JINSA met with Limor Livnat, MK & Minister of Communications, during her recent visit to the United States.

On December 16, 1997, Minister Livnat addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City. Excerpts from the text of that address follows.

“A Country Cannot Be Defended With Regrets.”… The cabinet meeting which began this past Sunday and continued today, dealt with the issue of Israeli withdrawal in Judea and Samaria, which is called in Oslo terminology – further redeployment. I voted against it in the past and I am opposed to it now. And I want you to understand why… I am a very straightforward person. That is how I am with others, and that is how I expect others to be with me. If I sign an agreement, I will honor it even if it is not easy for me to do so… But I will not be the only one to honor it. If the other side violates it, it would be wrong of me to continue to fulfill my obligations. If anyone did business any other way, he would lose a lot of money. But we are not talking here about money. Nor are we speaking here of me, or any other individual… We are talking about the survival of Israel… The attempt to annihilate us did not begin with the holocaust, and I am afraid, did not end with it either… So, I think we have to be very careful when it comes to promises from people like Yassir Arafat. This was my position right from the start, based on history and intuition. Now my position is based on fact. Arafat promised to extradite murderers who find refuge in areas under his jurisdiction. The fact is that 38 known killers responsible for the deaths of 83 Israelis are walking freely in Area A. Arafat promised that the Palestinian Police Force will not exceed the agreed number. The fact is that there are at least 7,000 militiamen acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in breach of the agreement. Arafat promised that those suspected of terror would be brought to trial. The fact is that 23 Hamas members who murdered 21 Israelis are actually serving in Arafat’s Police Force. Another 14 terrorists, responsible for the deaths of 183 Israelis and one American have escaped (or left) prison and are roaming free. Arafat promised that his forces would not operate in Jerusalem. The fact is that they are operating, and now they have announced that they will carry out their national census in Jerusalem as well. And of course everyone is aware of Arafat’s promise (I lost track already of how many times) to change the Palestinian Covenant. Needless to say, the fact is that it has not been changed.

What troubles me more than these broken promises though – as I didn’t expect anything else right from the outset – are the status of American promises… At the time of the Hebron agreement, the Prime Minister very wisely insisted upon American guarantees that Arafat would be forced to live up to his promises, and if he did not – Israel would be free from making any more concessions. Those guarantees were given by former Secretary of State Christopher and by Dennis Ross. Yet we now have Secretary of State Albright pressuring us into giving up, in her words, a “serious and meaningful” amount of land, and we are being told that it is in our own best interest. Why? Is there no “seriousness and meaning” to U.S. Promises???… It is up to us to decide, and we should not be pressured. The people of Israel chose a new government – they chose Benjamin Netanyahu, because they wanted change. They were not happy with the way things were going. That national will, that democratic will should be respected. If the Prime Minister is humiliated, Israel will be humiliated. If that is not clear at this moment, it will become evident later on.

The main reason this government has chosen to continue the Oslo process in principle, is for the sake of national unity. This has been to the consternation of much of our electorate… But in order to come together, each side must give a bit. Our constituents must understand that what was done cannot be undone, and supporters of Israel’s left must understand that what they had planned, will not be. Self-rule for the Palestinian Arabs yes, but full-fledged statehood, no. Why? Because such a state will: redivide Jerusalem; destabilize Jordan; violate human rights and freedoms; uproot Jewish communities; encourage terror; and through all of the above threaten our existence. Olso created facts on the ground with which we must live, but they do not include a Palestinian State… We are certainly under no obligation to create it. On the contrary. We were elected to change the Oslo course away from such a state. When I say “state,” I don’t mean the symbols of statehood. A flag, national anthem, currency, stamps, embassies and consulates. All that they already have. And of course Arafat is referred to as Mr. President.

What I mean is a functionally sovereign state… A functional state means territorial contiguity. It means connecting Area A together, from northern Samaria near Afula, to southern Hebron close to Be’er Sheva… It means that movement between this area and other Arab countries will go unchecked. It means that this state will be able to sign military pacts with countries like Iraq, Syria and Iran. This by the way is not even something they take the trouble to keep secret. Together with the Palestinian flags, you can come to Ramallah and Schechem and see the Iraqi flag flying high. This at the same time that the U.S. is once again facing off with Saddam Hussein. I cannot understand why this doesn’t seem to trouble the U.S. mediators as they shuttle in and out of meetings with Mr. Arafat in these cities. This is fast becoming another March of Folly which can be added to Barabra Tuchman’s classic list.

A Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria means putting the safety of our entire population in the trust of Yassir Arafat, a cornerstone of Oslo, which has already failed us miserably. The intelligence data that we are privy to is clear. All our intelligence agencies agree that Arafat is not fighting terror. That is also apparent from the figures I gave you before. You cannot lionize terrorists and claim to be fighting terror at the same time. Terror is also verbal. A few days ago in Teheran, Arafat said that Israel is intentionally damaging Muslim and Christian holy sites in order to build on top of them. When that is said to an audience of terror sponsoring states such as Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria, it can only invite one thing – terror.

All this talk of percentages is really not the issue. The issue is statehood. Arafat’s U.S.-backed demand for a large percentage is so that he can connect his areas, so that a proclamation of statehood will have meaning. The Prime Minister’s insistence on a smaller percentage is intended to prevent contiguity, in order to prevent statehood. I must point out how troubling the U.S. position is to me and should be, I believe, to everyone. I find it appalling that at a watershed period in history when so many countries have moved toward democracy, the United States should be supporting the evolution of an authoritarian, dictatorial regime. There are no precedents for autocratic revolutionary movements becoming democracies once they attain power, and there is no reason to assume that the PLO will be any different. All indications already make it clear that this will be the case. The most salient fact being that there is no freedom of the press where Arafat rules. And we all know that where there is no freedom of the press, there is no real freedom. Abetting the creation of such a state is politically foolish and morally wrong…

Are we going to invade Palestine every time Arafat or Shiek Yassin signs an agreement with Saddam Hussein? What if the State of Palestine begins to foment unrest not only in Israel, but in Jordan? If our presence in Hebron was something we had to end, then why is it going to be easier to re-enter later on, if terror continues, when it will be a sovereign state we have to occupy?… This too, is why it is so important for us all to back the Prime Minister in his perfectly reasonable insistence that we stop with the interim agreements and go straight to final status talks. This means that the Palestinian Arabs will have no choice but to really come to terms with our existence. It means that we will stop surrendering the tangible for empty promises. The verbal promises made by the previous government to handover 90% of the territory in the interim phase, would have left us nothing to negotiate about, except of course Jerusalem. And after giving up so much would it make sense to hold out on eastern Jerusalem, with its Arab population, its proximity to the Palestinian State surrounding it, and with all the international clamoring for Israel to compromise! To give up 90% would have meant giving up on crucial national interests – on one third of our natural water source, and on strategic hilltops and areas imperative for our national defense. Once all this was given up in the interim phase did anyone think that we would get it back in the final phase? That is why the government decided to move ahead only after a consensus was reached in the cabinet over a map which would clearly delineate our red lines. Any further redeployment will be cut from this map. This way we ensure that those natural and national resources absolutely necessary for our future will not be forever lost. Giving everything up now and regretting it later is not the way to lead a nation. A country cannot be defended with regrets.

In addition, to continue to concede to Arafat without forcing him to live up to his commitments in the interim phase, would condition him into thinking that after a final settlement he will not have to live up to his promises either. Most importantly, going to the final status talks now, means that we will come to terms with each other and be at peace with ourselves…

At 50 it may seem to be more difficult to love Israel as much as when she was 30, but she is still very beautiful. She needs and still deserves your love, perhaps now more than ever. And such love, given at the most difficult of times, when its tiring and unpopular, is true love. Thank you very much.