Jewish World Review May 7, 1999 /21 Iyar 5759
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Responding by e-mail to a list of questions, Netanyahu told me: "That the Palestinians have no intention of being satisfied with (a) state is made obvious by their campaign to return to the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which would be tantamount to dismantling Israel. It would cut off half the Galilee and half the Negev and the Jerusalem corridor from the State of Israel and internationalize Jerusalem.''
That resolution was rejected at the time by the Palestinians and every Arab regime, which then vowed to evict all Jews from the land, eradicating the embryonic nation. Now, after four wars and numerous terrorist acts, we are asked to believe that Israel's enemies have suddenly had a change of heart and that a diplomatic land grab is not a prelude to seizing the rest of the country.
Netanyahu's uphill reelection battle -- polls show him trailing Labor's Ehud Barak by eight points in a multi-candidate race -- is focused on his fulfilled promise of reducing terrorism and "a dramatic improvement in the personal safety of Israelis.'' It is also based on the principle of reciprocity. Netanyahu said Israel has given, while the Palestinian side has taken and made only token responses. "If peace is to prevail," he told me, "the Palestinians must not have a large army equipped with tanks, missiles and artillery, a contiguous border with Jordan and the capacity to form alliances with such regimes as Iraq and Iran.''
Press reports indicate that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat is working behind the scenes to raise the level of diplomatic relations with several nations, including Iraq, in a flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords.
Close advisors to Netanyahu believe that if he can survive the first round and enter a runoff, his reelection chances will improve. Seventy-five percent of eligible Arab voters are expected to support Labor. In a runoff, analysts say only about half the Arab voters would return to the polls.
Netanyahu's mistake was succumbing to pressure from the Clinton administration and signing the Wye agreement last year. He had counted on winning the support of at least some centrists, but few, if any, have crossed over and he has eroded his own base.
The 1999 Netanyahu does not resemble the pre-1996 Netanyahu who correctly analyzed the philosophy of the Palestinian leadership and much of the Arab world in his book "A Place Among the Nations": "...the Arab world's antagonism for the West raged for a thousand years before Israel was added to its list of enemies. The Arabs do not hate the West because of Israel; they hate Israel because of the West.''
The turbulence in the Middle East is not Israel's fault. Giving up more land to Israel's enemies without requiring them to live up to the agreements they signed is a death sentence for the Jewish state.
Again, as Netanyahu correctly stated in his book: "The Arab campaign against Israel is hence rooted not in a negotiable grievance but in a basic opposition to the very existence of Jewish sovereignty. To hope for the abandonment of such a deeply entrenched animosity while Pan-Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism -- both of which thrive by fueling this fire -- wrestle for control of the Arab psyche is to hope for too much, too quickly.''
Had Netanyahu talked more like this during the past three years, he might be ahead in the race today. There can be no peace if one party wants to eradicate the other. Israel is willing to live in harmony if its security can be guaranteed and the agreements it makes with its enemies will be honored.
The question in the May 17 election is who can best do this job. The obvious answer is
Netanyahu. Whether that will be obvious to a majority of Israelis we will soon
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