by Jonathan Rosenblum
May 3, 2002
Ever wonder how Kofi Annan came up with the members of the U.N. commission to convict Israel of war crimes in Jenin? I hereby offer the fruits of some recent lucubrations on the topic.
First clue: Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was in New York at the time that Annan was assembling the prosecution team.
Second clue: Alan Baker, Foreign Ministry legal advisor, rushed to defend the appointment of Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the International Red Cross. Sommaruga once defended his organization’s refusal to recognize the Magen David as a symbol, by asking: "Why not the swastika?" He only meant an old "Indian symbol" said Baker. (Baker admits that he has difficulty thinking unkind thoughts about Annan, who once found him a job at the U.N.)
Baker’s defense was on its face absurd: Sommaruga’s remark makes no sense but for the association of the swastika with the abhorred Nazis. Moreover, Dr. Bernadine Healy to whom the remark was made, and who as head of the American Red Cross withheld dues from the International Red Cross on the grounds that Israel is the only non-member nation in the world, completely refuted Baker’s version in a letter to the Washington Post.
Based on these clues, we can deduce that Annan called Peres and together they picked the team from Peres’ Rolodex. Or maybe, they just went through a list of those who have recently been awarded $100,000 prizes from the Peres Center.
The preceding paragraph is parody – at least I hope it is. But as parody it works because Peres is so deeply enmeshed both psychologically and financially with the European and international communities.
Of all the many reasons for the failure of Israel’s efforts at hasbara, none looms so large as systematic undermining of those efforts by the Foreign Ministry, which commands by far the largest budget for such activities. The majority of the cabinet may vote as it likes; the Foreign Ministry will defend only those decisions of which Peres approves. Rather than defend the government’s decisions or resign, as would be the case in any functioning democracy, Peres simply carries on with an independent foreign policy.
Thus after the cabinet voted in December not to permit Arafat to attend Christmas ceremonies in Bethlehem, Foreign Ministry Director-General Avi Gil ordered Israeli diplomatic missions not to defend the decision. A month later, Gil declared that the Foreign Ministry finds it "increasingly difficult to defend government policy," including its insistence of seven days of quiet prior to negotiations and its classification of the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization. The Foreign Ministry didn’t, and Israel was effectively left without any defense in the international arena.
Some will attribute the Foreign Minister’s independent foreign policy to financial conflicts of interest. Lending credence to such claims was his impassioned defense of Terje Roed-Larsen, after the latter proclaimed that Israel had lost "all moral standing" as a result of its actions in Jenin. Larsen and his wife, the Norwegian ambassador to Israel, were recipients of a $100,000 undeclared prize from the Peres Center. Not coincidentally, one suspects, the Peres Center, which exists primarily to pay large salaries to old Oslo hands, like Ron Pundak and Uri Savir, was itself the beneficiary of a $1,000,000 gift from Norway. Yes, the same Norway that refused this week to allow the import of Israeli produce.
Yet I doubt that financial venality ultimately explains Peres. True, Peres and his former protégé Yossi Beilin have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Europe to support their recent endeavors. But Peres and Beilin feel no qualms about accepting that money because they essentially see the world as Europe does. Indeed, an insatiable desire for legitimacy in the eyes of Europe was, as Martin Peretz has observed, one of driving forces behind Oslo from the beginning.
Defending Oslo has become for Peres more important than defending Israel. He would be as dismayed to have Yasser Arafat stripped of his Nobel Prize as to lose his own (though the latter is far more likely.) For if Arafat remains the same arch-terrorist as always, then Peres received his prize for being a champion dupe.
That is why Peres can never criticize Arafat for anything more than "mistakes" – mistakes like purchasing fifty million dollars in weapons from Iran for use against Israel or authorizing payments to leading Palestinian terrorists. From the outset of Oslo, Peres has played the role of Arafat’s defender. In 1995, for instance, when the House International Relations Committee was scheduled to screen film clips of Arafat calling for jihad and praising suicide bombers as "holy martyrs," then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres did everything possible to prevent the film from being shown.
Peres’ sympathy for Arafat and the Palestinians is even expansive enough to encompass their terrorism. That terrorism, he told a meeting of the Labor Party political committee is simply "the way a people expresses its aspirations through weapons."
OF late, Peres has defended Israel against the "blood libel" that Israeli troops carried out a massacre in Jenin, and even supported government reservations concerning the ambit of the U.N. investigation. "Israel will not give up its sovereignty," he declares.
The concerns about Israeli sovereignty are well founded. Clearly the U.N. investigation is a thinly veiled pretext for both Kofi Annan and Yasir Arafat to realize their common goal of introducing international peacekeepers into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Those peacekeepers would have only one purpose: to protect the Palestinian Authority from Israel, while leaving suicide bombers and other terrorists undeterred.
Anyone who doubts that should consider the following. Hundreds of Israeli civilians were deliberately targeted by Palestinian terrorists without a single call for an investigation from international and humanitarian organizations. Yet the destruction of buildings in Jenin alone is sufficient, according to the International Red Cross, to create a prima facie case of violations of "international humanitarian law."
Yet it is the Oslo die-hards themselves who have done the most to undermine Israel’s sovereignty. From Peres to Meretz, they have been consistent enthusiasts for international monitors, even though only one side would be monitored.
The motor powering the Oslo process, through thick and thin, has, from the beginning, been American pressure on Israel to be more forthcoming. That is why Peres perks up every time the Secretary of State visits.
And Yossi Beilin continues to wander around Europe, on Europe’s tab, with new "solutions" to be forced upon Israel by the international community. Having decisively lost the war for Israeli public opinion, he now seeks outside parties to impose his vision – all for our own good, of course.
The Oslo die-hards are thus not only anti-Israel but anti-democratic.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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