The Coastal Post - December, 1998

Israel And The Wye Accords

By Karen Nakamura

A recent letter in the Coastal Post complained about articles the writer deemed to be anti-Semitic. There is no question that anti-Semitism is a painful and unfortunate reality in our world. Semites, of which Palestinians are members, are not the only ones to have faced extermination at the hands of a totalitarian government in the past. There have been far too many examples: The Hutus and the Tutis, the Serbs and Bosnians, the Kurds by Saddam and the Turks, the Palestinians by the Israelis. What is particularly horrifying is for one group of people who have faced this horror themselves to perpetuate mass destruction against another.

That's why it was so inspiring to see Palestinians recently given back a small portion of their homeland by Israel. It was a lovely moment-the cheering crowds, the proud police coming to take their rightful place on their own soil, the country of Palestine. While Arafat claims he will declare Palestine a free nation in May of 1999, on a certain level, it'll be redundant. Palestine already exists. It's up to the rest of the world to realize it, especially the present Israeli government. The majority of Israelis have already accepted Palestine's right to a homeland.

It's also inspiring to see the power of the right wing of the Israeli government eroding in favor of those who want peace and the ultimate security that comes from a Good Neighbor Policy. Seventy to 80% of Israeli citizens support the Wye, Oslo and Madrid agreements. That means only a small minority is holding up the peaceful coming together of the Semitic family.

This desire for peaceful co-existence is despite the fact that the vast majority of Israelis are Orthodox. Reform, Conservative and other factions have been suppressed by the contentious Conversion issue. While there has been some hopeful movement recently with the opening of the Institute for Jewish Studies to teach and incorporate all ideologies, groups not strictly Orthodox are still the "" of their world.

For the peace-loving, consensus building, majority of Jews the world over, the resignation of Newt Gingrich was well received. Gingrich and Benjamin Netanyahu were very close, and according to the reputable Jewish Bulletin, "frequently coordinated strategy to blunt Clinton administration pressure on the peace process."

The new Speaker of the House, Bob Livingston, is not such an easy mark. He's been characterized by a Republican Jewish activist as not "in Netanyahu's shoulder holster." According to columnist Douglas M. Bloomfield, Livingston lacks two things Gingrich had: a sympathetic staff and close ties to the national Jewish community. Actually, that should read the right-wing Orthodoxy. Gingrich was in the pocket of the powerful and very conservative American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Gingrich's Chief of Staff, Arne Christensen, was at one time a legislative director of AIPAC. None of these people cared much about other Jewish opinions.

However, the good news is that with the November 3rd election, the American Democrats, the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Labor Party, the Reform and Conservative movements will have a greater chance to make their consensus building a reality.

The coming fight will really amount to whether the Jewish community in Israel is ready to commit to a Good Neighbor policy. This should be no problem for the many who have led efforts to get along with their cousins, the Palestinians, many of whose ancestor were already established when Moses declared their property an Israeli state or split off with the argument between Abraham's sons. Either way, the moderate majority should be ready to live and let live with mutual respect as the peaceful country envisioned 50 years ago.

As Daniel Bloch, a former editor of Davar, stated in the Jerusalem Post, "From the Israeli perspective, it is now clear and evident that the Olso process is the only path to peace and there is no way back. That is completely a vindication of the courageous decision of the late Yitzhak Rabin, who himself hesitated before entering the Olso path."

He goes on to say, and many agree, "It was a pity that only Jordan's King Hussein and Arafat mentioned Rabin at the White House ceremony, while President Clinton and Netanyahu ignored his memory."

Here is the Wye Accord timetable as originally drawn up:

Week 1(Nov. 2-8) Accelerated final-status negotiations begin. The Palestinian Authority shares its work plan to combat terrorism with US officials. The two sides resume bilateral security cooperation. A trilateral committee begins work to address steps being taken to combat terrorism. The two sides resume committee work to resolve remaining issues from interim agreement, including establishment of safe-passage routes for Palestinians traveling between Gaza and the West Bank and to open a Gaza seaport, with the opening of the airport and industrial zone in Gaza.

Weeks 2-6 (Nov. 9-Dec. 13) The Palestinian Authority begins implementing its anti-terrorism work plan and begins biweekly meetings to inform the US of actions it has taken to outlaw organizations with a military, terrorist or violent character. The Palestinian National Council publicly revokes anti-Israel clauses in the Palestinian Charter. The PA presents a list of its policemen to Israel, and subject to previous conditions, sets a specific limit on the size.

Weeks 6-12 (Dec. 7-Jan. 24) The final stage of the 13% Israeli redeployment is completed. Collection of illegal weapons in the self-rule areas begin. There will be continued meetings of all bilateral and trilateral committees that oversee security, economic and legal issues.

If the joy of peace and mutual understanding is anti-Semitic, then so be it. The last word should go to Israeli Daniel Bloch quoted from his column in the Jewish Bulletin, "Jewish State Must Oust the Right-Wing Coalition."

"It is only fair to renew the voters' mandate and to elect a Knesset that will more truly reflect the vast majority that supports the continuation of this peace process. Whoever wins the role of prime minister will have to build a coalition based on all the forces that support this process and leave in opposition all those who want to turn our backs on the future."

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