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Teives: Time For The Darkness To Illuminate

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Shleimus HaAretz
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Until The Earth Shakes
By Shai Gefen

An 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?!"
 

Snapshot 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.

Known 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.

Now he writes a weekly column for HaAretz as well as books and is involved in a number of projects connected with Eretz Yisroel.

* * *

Mr. 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?

I 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.

What 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.

You 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.

Is this a thinly veiled criticism, along the lines of the slogan "Let Tzahal Win?"

Itís 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.

What do you think the reason is?

The 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.

When did the army began mixing political considerations into military decisions?

I 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.

Many people talk about the "Lebanonization" within Yesha, both because of the P.A. and the Israeli army. Is this the case?

Definitely. 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.

Arafat 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.

Are we doing anything to counteract this strategy?

We 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.

Arenít you sowing despair among people with such harsh words?

I say the truth; Iím not involved in commentary. I paint the picture exactly as it is.

What can be done?

We 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.

Is this Arafatís War of Independence?

According 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 actions.

Were there more serious situations than this since the establishment of the State?

There 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.

Arafat 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?

If 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.

There 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?

I 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.

Statistics 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?

The 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.

Some 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.

People 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.

Could there really be a collusion like that?

I 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.

Barak is talking about clearing out 20% of the territories.

You 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.

Do you think Barak will achieve an agreement before the elections?

I 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 happen.

What if the Right gets into office. Will this madness cease?

Unfortunately, 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.

So whatís the solution?

Itís 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.

Is Sharon the solution?

He 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.

As someone who led the Yesha Council for years, how do you see the public relations work of the Right. Is it sufficient?

The 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!

Perhaps this is the silencing of the Right, which began with Rabinís murder?

This 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.

You sound very pessimistic.

Iím 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.

What can people do so that the government wakes up?

People 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?

Is the leadership the main problem?

I 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.

Did something happen to us?

I 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.

Did you have a connection with Chabad regarding the fight for shleimus haíAretz?

We 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.

Chabad 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 opinion.

Did you have a connection with the Rebbe?

After 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.

Whatís going to be? Tens of thousands of Jews feel the earth burning beneath their feet.

Itís 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.
  

   

 

 

 

 

 

The country should have been closed down until Barak felt the earth shake. We have to turn the country over and not leave a stone unturned under such terrible circumstances!

 

 

 

 

 

The I.D.F. doesnít want to win. If the I.D.F. wanted to win, the government would allow it.
 


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