- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2000

Ehud Barak is the first Neville Chamberlain of Israel, and Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is Lord Halifax the two most notorious appeasers of this century. Mr. Barak, the loser, an interim prime minister with an interim minority government, whose coalition partners abandoned him long ago and whose party makes up only about one-fifth of the Knesset, has no legitimate mandate to make concessions.
Mr. Barak violated the most essential strategic doctrines of Israel. In Washington last week, the Ben-Ami team surrendered Israel's most cherished historical positions. They accepted the division of Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and the return to the June 4, 1967, borders of Israel. This is unprecedented.
Most egregious is that the team accepted more responsibility for the Right of Return, which means Israel would be flooded with hostile Palestinians, only strengthening the Israeli Arab citizens, who no longer consider themselves Israelis (but Palestinians), and who resorted to violence at the beginning of Yasser Arafat's organized terror. For all intents and purposes Prime Minister Barak has opened the floodgates for international pressure on Israel to accept hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Arab countries that want to dispose of their Palestinian non-citizens will multiply this number. This act will change the demographic balance of power in Israel and will bring an end to Jewish statehood and to Zionism.
Zionism was a philosophy of Jewish empowerment. The founding fathers of Israel and their successors up to Mr. Barak were dedicated to preserving the essence of a Jewish state, which means a Jewish majority in Israel. The current concessions go far beyond the generous concessions made at Camp David in August. It is a clear victory for Mr. Arafat's strategy and diplomacy of violence.
Mr. Arafat has been vindicated. Violence and terror, initiated by Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, have achieved their goal. Israel has made the most damaging concessions to date. It is a signal for Mr. Arafat to continue the diplomacy of violence in order to wring further concessions from Israel.
If Messrs. Arafat and Barak agree when they arrive in Washington this week to finalize the negotiations, President Clinton's plan is essentially to push Israel into these concessions to help National Security Adviser Sandy Berger persuade Arab states mainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia to accept the "compromise." With an agreement that results in a White House ceremony, supported by Mr. Clinton and the major Arab states, Mr. Barak hopes to save his political life. He believes a Clinton-supported agreement will help him regain his prime ministership.
None of the above will succeed. The most recent Ma'ariv-Gallup polls taken Dec. 24 in Israel consistently demonstrate that Mr. Barak will be defeated in February. The polls show that Ariel Sharon will gain 48 percent to Mr. Barak's 28 percent. If Benjamin Netanyahu were to run, he would get 56 percent to Mr. Barak's 24 percent. When asked "Whom would you prefer to run the negotiations with the Palestinians?" the result was Mr. Sharon 52 percent, Mr. Barak 33 percent. When asked, "Without any connection to your political views, who will win: Barak or Sharon?" The result was 58 percent Mr. Sharon and 26 percent Mr. Barak.
The last question is most significant. It clearly demonstrates that the nation no longer trusts Mr. Barak to negotiate Israel's security. When asked, "Assuming that the agreement will include all the concessions (Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of the West Bank, the establishment of a Palestine State, Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods, Palestinian control of the Temple Mount, concession on the right of return, and a declaration of the end of conflict), will you support, or are you against?" The results were 57 percent against, and 32 percent in favor.
This is Ariel Sharon's last hurrah and greatest battle. He seeks vindication for his 30 years in semi-political exile and justifiably harsh criticism on the Lebanon fiasco, which resulted in the Kahan Commission of inquiry on his indirect responsibility for the Shabra-Shatilla Massacre of 1982 and embargoed his right to become defense minister. But this is not the only reason he runs. Mr. Sharon is a patriot. He is security conscious, and as prime minister will make no such concessions.
Already, he is demonstrating great political skill, rehabilitating and unifying Likud, and organizing the nationalist camp parties for the elections. Mr. Sharon will run the campaign from Likud headquarters, but each party of the nationalist camp will have representatives present. The nationalist camp that Mr. Sharon is organizing is composed of Likud, the National Religious Party, Natan Sharansky's party, the renegade Russian party, the National Front Party, and 17-member Shas. This group can garner between 61 and 63 members of Knesset, enough to tip the balance in favor of Mr. Sharon. Even if he does win the prime ministership, Mr. Barak will again be without a majority in the Knesset.
Ehud Barak's peace camp has some 35 members in Knesset, and Labor hawks will not vote with him on these egregious concessions. Even if the Arab parties do not stay home, as they have threatened, Mr. Barak will not have a majority in Knesset.
Even if Mr. Barak wins the election in February, he will not have a mandate. What determines the fate of Israeli security will depend on the next election for the Knesset scheduled for some time in 2001. Then Mr. Netanyahu will become a member of Knesset and all will change. In conclusion, Mr. Barak has no right to, and will not succeed in surrendering Israel's security to stay in power.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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