Ha'aretz Military Editor Ze'ev Schiff: Lessons from Arab riots in Israel, attack at the Lebanese border, Joseph Tomb destruction, seige of settlements, France, etc.
Many useful lessons to be drawn
By Ze'ev Schiff Ha'aretz 10 October 2000
The riots in the territories and in Israel, and the attack at the Lebanese border, should serve as eye openers. The lessons are important from an operational point of view, and primarily, should be of use to Israel when the negotiations are reopened - perhaps after a military confrontation, and perhaps with the heirs of Arafat and the present generation of leaders.It is doubtful whether those responsible for the riots among Israeli Arabs took into account how this behavior would influence negotiations on the sensitive issue of the Palestinian refugees. So far, Israel has shown a willingness to absorb into its territory, in stages, tens of thousands of refugees. Now it is clear that it would be madness, from a security as well as a demographic point of view, to add to the Arab minority - many of whose members raised the banner of revolt against Israel - tens of thousands of Palestinians who feel cheated and oppressed.
The victory of the Tanzim at Joseph's Tomb is the political-strategic failure of the Palestinian Authority. The affair has repercussions for the Western Wall. Whoever destroys a religious site belonging to the other side, on territory under its own sovereignty, particularly after promising to preserve it, cannot be depended on not to behave the same way at other religious sites.
The blocking of traffic arteries and the siege of Jewish settlements demand a reassessment of the concept of "Judaization of the Galilee." Some saw in this an expression of racism, but conditions have changed. The tight situation of Kibbutz Lotam, which lies between Arab villages, is now an example of that. We must act soon to repair the damage caused by long-term neglect of the Arab minority, and especially of the Bedouin, but at the same time, we must strengthen Israel's hold in the Galilee and in Wadi Iron. Instead of investing in isolated settlements in the territories, we should invest in settlements in Israel.
The large amounts of arms and ammunition held by the PA, contrary to agreements, came to light during the riots in the territories. This is a result both of too many concessions on the part of Israel, and of massive smuggling. The lesson to be learned in this case affects Israel's position on the issue of border crossings. As long as there is a danger of military confrontation with the PA, we must insist on supervision of the border crossings. We must do everything possible to ensure that the Palestinian ammunition dumps dry up after a few days of fighting.
Not only are the Tanzim and the Palestinian police shooting at settlements and at Israeli vehicles, it turns out that people are shooting from rooftops with their private rifles, and if the bullets fly toward a settlement, they think that's great. This is an example of "Lebanization." A Palestinian leader who experienced the civil war in Lebanon told me: "With the Syrians, such a thing wouldn't happen." The danger is that the settlers, and others in Israel, will contribute by their independent actions to the process of Lebanization of the conflict, a process which Arafat is better accustomed to that we are.
When the agreement to withdraw from Lebanon was reached, through the mediation of the United Nations, Israel submitted to demands to discontinue all its flights and naval patrols in the sovereign territory of Lebanon. By doing so, it granted a strategic achievement to the Syrians, and in fact, to the Iranians as well. In the view of the Intelligence service, this will be a continuing source of damage. The attack of Hezbollah on Har Dov proves that we were too quick to give away something which should have been given in the context of a peace agreement. In the wake of Hezbollah's violation of the agreement, it is important that we revoke our agreement to discontinue the flights necessary for warning.
There is no need to be angry at French President Jacques Chirac. By expressing his one-sided positions, he has done Israel a favor. This lesson should teach us to oppose international intervention of countries like France in the conflict. In the past, Chirac spoke rudely to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he did so in private. This time he behaved that way toward Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in public. Three days before the outbreak of the Six Day War, De Gaulle declared an embargo on arms to Israel. He thought that would help France to mediate in the conflict, but in fact, by his actions he removed that option. Chirac has made the same mistake. Israel must do everything possible to prevent France from becoming involved in direct mediation. Like Saddam Hussein, who is once again threatening the existence of Israel, France, too, is fulfilling a suspicious role in the conflict with the Palestinians, and with the Arabs in general