Monday, May 24, 2004

They Lied

They Lied
By Yisrael Medad

During the period when I served as a parliamentary aide to MK Geula Cohen in the 1980s, I was once asked by a journalist if I contemplated entering politics myself. My reply was in the negative and asked for a reason, the first thing that came into my head was “I can’t lie to my friends”.

Politics is a dirty business. Although Ms. Cohen likened its “dirtiness” to that of an obstetrician who, while aiding a mother to give birth, is getting himself dirty, which is not all that bad in the circumstances, I still find the pressures, the ego-challenge and the competition a bit too much. It is one thing, though, to jostle about with your fellow party colleagues. To act mendaciously with your voting public on issues of national importance is another matter.

Take Ariel Sharon’s statement to the Knesset on April 22. If Sharon views the Likud poll now as only an exercise of moral-public standing, can one then assume that if he doesn’t abide by the vote’s outcome he would then be considered, by his own admission, an immoral person? After all, the whole original idea Sharon had was based on the estimation that he could get the Likud rank-and-file to follow him on his lemmings’ route to oblivion. His backtracking on this issue would smack of, at the very least, a lack of morality.

But let us return to the essence of the plan Sharon is promoting in a most deceitful fashion.

Despite its name, this is not a disengagement. We are not separating or detaching ourselves from the Gaza Strip, although some dictionaries, appropriately enough, list “withdrawing troops” as one definition of the word. We will continue to be connected but only to the advantage of the Arab population there. Municipal services will be provided including electricity and water. Funds for Gaza will be deposited in Arafat’s accounts and Arabs will be permitted entry in Israel. And let us not forget that, strictly speaking, Israel isn’t “in” Gaza but only in the Katif Bloc and two other communities.

Sharon is trumpeting two statements made by President George Bush as examples of the tremendous support Israel is receiving from this American administration. The first is the recognition of a new Jewish “reality” in Judea and Samaria as a result of demographic changes. However, as much as Sharon would like to have us believe, the United States has not recognized a right by Israel to “settle” in those areas or to retain those “realities”. The second is the denial of a so-called Arab right of return.

In the first instance, American spokespersons, from Secretary of State Collin Powell on down, have been repeating the same message: this is not an explicit recognition of the Jewish communities. Bush was just taking note of the new reality. After all, he did repeat that final status issues, one of which is the settlements as the road map plan includes, must be mutually agreed upon by the sides. And, by the way, how does the unilateral aspect of the disengagement in Gaza dovetail with the demand for mutuality in Judea and Samaria? Why can’t Israel be unilateral there too? Or are we not being informed about the truth of the American position?

Similarly, Bush said that he “rather” would have the Arab refugees return to the Palestinian state. (But, wait a moment, did we all agree to a Palestinian state? Did not the Likud central committee vote that a Palestinian state was not on the Likud agenda?) Despite what Bibi Netanyahu said in one of his interviews about his command of the English language, I would insist that “rather” in this case means “prefer” but does not indicate exclusivity. Bush was not saying the Arabs cannot return at all to areas of the state of Israel. To suggest otherwise is lying, or, expressing a gross misunderstanding of the usage of English.

The media is playing a large part of this effort by Sharon and his advisors to fool the voting public. They are not pursuing the information openly available on web sites that contain evidence on American backtracking. In their interviews, as well as commentary, they are avoiding pressing home the dichotomy in what Sharon is claiming versus what the Americans insist is the correct interpretation.

The Attorney-General is also contributing to the general befuddlement. If he informs the High Court of Justice that he wishes to restrict the spending of state funds to the councils of Gaza and Samaria only in the campaign against the disengagement plan, why then does he not restrict the Prime Minister from using state funds for an internal Likud affair? Would this not be the fair legal approach?

And now, Sharon has "altered" his plan by chambering it into sections. Nothing else.

That the immediate political issues we face on platformed on untruths, obfuscations and lies is a sorrowful situation. Those who believe that this plan is dangerous and illogical must work all that harder to overcome Sharon's machinations.

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