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   FEBRUARY 2001 -  Issue #132    


A Demoralized Israel

Herbert Zweibon

During the waning days of Israel's election campaign, the media accorded front-page treatment to an incident at a speech by Ariel Sharon before high school students. A teenage girl wearing a "Vote for Barak" tee-shirt castigated Sharon over injuries her father suffered during the Lebanon War.

The Israeli media, almost unanimously hostile to Sharon, brushed aside the girl's demonstrable bias and seized the opportunity to focus attention on Sharon's role in Lebanon, an issue that Sharon's enemies hoped would arouse negative memories among voters. As usual, the media and the pundits missed the real story.

Sharon missed it, too. He responded to the young lady's complaint by pointing out that it was not he, but rather then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who first moved Israel's forces into Lebanon back in 1975. And it was Ehud Barak who was the (much-criticized) commander in charge of the battle in which the girl's father was wounded. But Sharon was talking about trees when he should have been talking about the forest.

In recent years, Israel has undergone a frightening deterioration of its national morale. A nation that once shared common values, common goals, and a powerful sense of patriotism has steadily unraveled to the point where Israelis constantly blame each other, instead of uniting and recognizing that Israel's enemies are the ones to blame.

Israel was not in Lebanon because Sharon was "reckless," nor because of anything done by Rabin, Begin, Shamir, or Netanyahu. Israel was there because Arafat's killers used Lebanon as a base from which to rain death and destruction upon the Galilee. After Sharon expelled Arafat's gangs in 1982, Hezbollah took their place, and Sharon's successors, Labor and Likud alike, had no choice but to wage war against Hezbollah's Lebanese encampments.

Barak's flight from Lebanon last year made no sense from a military point of view, but that was not the point. It was a retreat motivated by the mood of national demoralization, weakness, and desperation that has set in. Although the demoralization process did not begin on September 13, 1993, when the Oslo accords were signed, there is no doubt that the accords greatly accelerated the collapse of Israel's national convictions and the triumph of defeatism.

The principle of punishing terrorists instead of rewarding them was replaced with the embrace of Arafat and the mass release of imprisoned terrorists.

The principle of resisting the creation of a Palestinian state was replaced with a "self-rule" scheme that would inevitably lead to the creation of such a state.

The principle of preventing the Palestinian Arabs from building an army within the territories was replaced by a policy of supplying Israeli rifles to Arafat's "police force," and consciously looking the other way while the "police" became a de facto army.

And the principle of preserving Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty was replaced with Jerusalem being put on the negotiating table--and, within a few short years, being put on the chopping block.

The behavior of Israel's leaders, and the themes constantly propounded by the Israeli media, have taught a large segment of the Israeli public to believe that nothing is sacred, that any part of Israel can be surrendered for the sake of "peace," and that if peace has not arrived, it must be the fault of some other Israelis.

The primary task for a new leadershp will be to rebuild morale. That process requires speaking the truth: that there is no peace. Israelis must regain belief in their rights and demonstrate a will to defend against all those who seek to destroy their nation.

Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.


Clinton's Mideast Policy: An Epitaph ...3

Thanks for Arming Us ...4

More Lessons for Barak from the Arabs ...8

Energy Independence ...12

February 2001               - 1 -               Outpost


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