The Earth Shakes
By Shai Gefen
interview with Mr. Yisroel Harel, one of the leaders in Yesha, who served as the
director of the Yesha Council * "We must bring this country to a halt.
Mothers are being killed, ríl Ė how can we remain silent?!"
Bio: Yisroel Harel
Yisroel Harel is a resident of Ofra. He
fought in the Six-Day War in Yerushalayim as a reserve officer with the
parachutists, as well as in the Yom Kippur War. In 1980 he founded the Yesha
Council and was the general secretary of the council for seven years. From 1987
until 1995 he served as director of the council.
for his articulateness and candor, Mr. Harel was the editor of the councilís
paper, Nekuda. In his time, the Yesha Council waged a great battle against the
Oslo Accords, bringing hundreds of thousands out into the streets.
he writes a weekly column for HaAretz as well as books and is involved in a
number of projects connected with Eretz Yisroel.
* * *
Harel, like all of us, you see whatís going on. We all hear the news and hear
about the shooting in Kfar Darom, but we donít hear the voice of leadership.
Many people describe the settlers of Yesha as sitting ducks. Is this the case?
think that the State of Israel has decided to lose this war, so it is allowing
it to become a war of attrition, and when it comes to a war of attrition we are
lost. Israel can win a short full-scale war, which brings things to a definitive
resolution. We lost all the wars of attrition waged against us. After the
Six-Day War there was a war that led to the Yom Kippur War. The same thing
happened in Lebanon, with the first Intifada, which led to Oslo, and the same
thing is happening now, with the Al Aksa Intifada.
weíre doing today is putting ourselves in a defensive position. They wear away
at public opinion because they know that the Israeli public is weak and can
easily be worn down.
mentioned Kfar Dorom, but Gilo, in Israelís capitol, really symbolizes Israeli
attrition. Theyíve been shooting at it for two months now and instead of
resolving the issue at its source, they erect fortifications and protect the
houses with walls and armored glass, which costs millions. Whoever sees this
realizes that Israel is not interested in winning this war.
this a thinly veiled criticism, along the lines of the slogan "Let Tzahal
not veiled criticism. I say it explicitly and I wrote a number of articles about
it. The I.D.F. doesnít want to win. If the I.D.F. wanted to win, the
government would allow it.
do you think the reason is?
I.D.F. leaders are analyzing the situation in political terms rather than
militarily. They arenít thinking like soldiers, but like diplomats, and thatís
a serious problem.
did the army began mixing political considerations into military decisions?
think it began with the Yom Kippur War. The army had already lost its
self-confidence back then. Since that time, it has constantly retreated and gone
on the defensive. It withdrew from Sinai and the Rafiah altercation, and fled
from Lebanon in shame.
people talk about the "Lebanonization" within Yesha, both because of
the P.A. and the Israeli army. Is this the case?
The Israeli army in Lebanon was mostly defending itself, and in Yesha too, the
army is defending itself. Security rules in the army today forbid travel in
vehicles that are not armored. Instead of the army attacking and taking the
initiative, itís protecting itself. Shooting requires explicit permission from
higher-ups Ė precisely what took place in Lebanon in recent years.
and his ruffians are using the same tactics used in Lebanon. They sent men to
learn the methods used by the Hizballah in Lebanon. Thatís why today there are
a lot of roadside bombs and similar tactics. The bus in Kfar Darom was blown up
by a roadside bomb, Lebanon style.
we doing anything to counteract this strategy?
are playing into his hands with this defensive approach. Instead of attacking,
we complain and try to look good. From a psychological standpoint we are
creating an army that doesnít know what it means to take the initiative.
you sowing despair among people with such harsh words?
say the truth; Iím not involved in commentary. I paint the picture exactly as
can be done?
have to attack those places they are shooting from and not leave any houses
there. The I.D.F. knows where the leaders of the terrorists are, but
embarrassingly, the I.D.F. allows them to fly over areas we have control over,
when in any normal part of the world they would be attacked. The same is true
for negotiations Ė we are negotiating with those who attack us, while they
attack us. We are willing to forego the Temple Mount and make greater
concessions than those at Camp David. This means that Arafat won the war.
this Arafatís War of Independence?
to Oslo he could have gotten a Palestinian state without war, but we were
"smart" and we began explaining why Arafat was attacking Jews Ė he
wants to achieve a state through war, otherwise he wouldnít have the pride of
a conqueror. We justify him attacking our civilians and soldiers. We are
satisfied finding excuses for Arafat. Instead of attacking him, we justify his
there more serious situations than this since the establishment of the State?
were more serious situations (the Yom Kippur War and the War of Independence),
but from a psychological standpoint we are in worse shape because this is the
first time that Israel is fighting a war it doesnít want to win. This is
extremely serious, dangerous, and frightening.
decided to liquidate the settlements. They have become more and more isolated
since Arafat has been in charge of the main arteries. What can be done?
the army wanted to, it could easily take control of the area and the main
arteries without even one shot. The problem is, it doesnít want to. I hope the
settlers have enough strength to hang on.
was talk about local councils providing independent patrol of the main arteries
to accomplish what the I.D.F. should be doing. Is this practical?
donít know whether thereís any point or how long it can go on. I donít
think itís our job; itís the job of the army. If we do it, the army will
then say that somebody else is doing the work and it is excused. So I think our
demands of the army must be strong and insistent.
were publicized about a ten percent growth in the territories despite the
situation. On the one hand we hear that people want to leave, and then we hear
that new people are moving in. Whatís the truth?
statistics are based on movement over the past year, not the past two months. I
believe that in the strongly ideological settlements, not only wonít they
leave Ė more people will join them. In the settlements where people live
because of pleasant conditions and quality of life rather than ideology, as soon
as the situation turns bad, theyíll want to leave. If the present situation
continues, they will leave. This is why the government has to do something to
stabilize the situation, and if it doesnít, itís a sign that it wants the
settlers to leave.
say there is a secret collaboration between Arafat and the government, with the
current situation serving both sides until the settlers are forced to leave.
say that, but I have seen no proof. In any case, the results are the same. It
makes no difference whether Israel winks from the side or not.
there really be a collusion like that?
donít believe itís a plan that was agreed to beforehand. The proof is that
in Lebanon they responded the same way, not just here. As I said, the army is a
defensive one. The Arabs are writing the rules of the game; they take the
initiative and we run after their tails. Instead of doing to them what theyíre
doing to us in order to get them to start running, they write the script and we
arrive after they shoot at us.
is talking about clearing out 20% of the territories.
are mistaken. He is talking about an 80% withdrawal from the territories and 20%
of the settlers. He wants to get rid of the little yishuvim that are not
in the block of settlements.
you think Barak will achieve an agreement before the elections?
canít say because I donít have enough information. It looks like an
acceleration of the political process, yet elections are coming up and he knows
that if he goes too far, he wonít be elected. Itís hard to say what might
if the Right gets into office. Will this madness cease?
it wonít. If the Likud gets in, I donít expect much better. The Likud would
be under the pressure of the whole world and under pressure from the Israeli
media, while the Left will squeeze from the opposition side.
whatís the solution?
really a paradox. Part of the solution is to weaken the ruling government and
establish an opposition to oppose any government that wants to make concessions.
Itís better than a prime minister who wants to show how liberal he is and how
willing he is to make political agreements.
Sharon the solution?
may be stronger and more experienced, but the fact is that he supported Begin in
the first Camp David agreement, which conceded Sinai. Without his support, Begin
wouldnít have done it. The same with the Wye Accords. Sharon drew the maps
dismantling yishuvim, and he is the man who gave the nod to the
unfortunate Wye Accords for Netanyahu.
someone who led the Yesha Council for years, how do you see the public relations
work of the Right. Is it sufficient?
political/public-relations activities being done now are not enough under the
circumstances. In the face of the brutal killings of mothers of large families,
the country should have turned over and cried out. All that happens is they cry
out a bit and go home. The country should have been closed down until Barak felt
the earth shake. There were a few demonstrations, but nothing of consequence,
and they did not convey a strong message. We have to turn the country over and
not leave a stone unturned under such terrible circumstances!
this is the silencing of the Right, which began with
goes way beyond that. They kill us almost daily and we do nothing. Weíre
silent. What has happened to us? How can we remain apathetic to Jewish blood
being spilled? I really find it hard to understand the silence in the face of
the awful situation we are in.
sound very pessimistic.
not pessimistic. I am realistic. We have to fight back. When they shoot at us,
we have to enter the places they are shooting from and take over and destroy
them. If we have to, let us take prisoners, letís stop them from flying. Letís
get them away from our roads and our settlements. They have to know that if they
start with us, they will lose. Itís utterly irrational to allow them to shoot
at us and kill our citizens, while we act as we do during peacetime.
can people do so that the government wakes up?
should take to the streets, not only as a one-time action and then go home, but
to shake up the entire country. They should close roads and junctions and
disrupt daily life. Iím not talking about strikes because of pay cuts, but
because of daily acts of murder! Mothers are being killed! Mrs. Rina Didovsky, a
mother of six, was killed on her way to teach. How can we be silent? Children go
to school and are maimed. Why are we quiet?
the leadership the main problem?
donít think the problem is the leadership. We must guard the inner fire which
creates the atmosphere. When Gush Emunim got started, we didnít have publicity
or money for publicity, and nevertheless, tens of thousands of people showed up
to our events. The government realized it couldnít do anything against us.
something happen to us?
donít know exactly what happened, but the fact is that Jews are being killed
and young mothers are not returning home, while we are sitting around.
you have a connection with Chabad regarding the fight for shleimus
had a connection with Chabad after the Oslo Accords, when we organized the
largest demonstration ever outside the prime ministerís office. Without
Chabad, we wouldnít have succeeded in organizing that demonstration. I greatly
esteem Chabad for the work they did then based on the Rebbeís orders.
can certainly bring about a great change in public opinion and I am surprised by
their silence. Why have they stopped taking an interest in Eretz Yisroel? I call
upon the Chabad establishment to wake up and not stand aside while Jewish blood
is being spilled. Chabad can also use its influence worldwide to change world
you have a connection with the Rebbe?
the Six-Day War I wrote to the Rebbe and asked that he send his Chassidim to
Chevron to resettle it. He wrote that the time would come for that too. Thereís
no question that Chabad can strengthen the people in Chevron, who protect the
Chabad holdings in the city.
going to be? Tens of thousands of Jews feel the earth burning beneath their
hard for all of us, but this is our test. I think we will pass it and I hope
that the government will sober up. I think that in the past weeks we have
undergone very difficult tests. There is no yishuv without casualties,
but the settlers are strong and believe in what they do.