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December 15, 1989 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

INSIGHT

ZE'EV CHAFETS

Israel Correspondent

T

his week the Palesti-
nian uprising in the
West Bank and Gaza
marked its second anniver-
sary, and after 24 months of
painful trial and error,
Israeli authorities now
believe they have learned
how to live with the uprising
— and possibly to turn it to
their advantage.
One element of this con-
fidence is based on Israel's
growing control on the
ground. The mass distur-
bances of the intifada's first
year have been replaced by
scattered rock-throwing and
occasional terrorists acts; but
in most of • the territories,
most of the time, the army is
in firm control.
This was demonstrated
dramatically by the three
day anniversary curfew im-
posed on the Gaza Strip and
much of the West Bank.
Aside from a serious inci-
dent in Kfar Beni Naim,
near Hebron, in which two
Arabs were killed, the ter-
ritories remained, in the
army's laconic phrase,
"relatively peaceful".
In Israel, on the other
hand, the anniversary of the
intifada was marked by a
week of political debate,
street demonstrations and
media self-examination.
And, while there were the
usual arguments about the
nature of the intifada and
the best ways to deal with it,
it was possible to discern a
note of general optimism;
most observers agreed that
the uprising has peaked, and
that Israel now has the
upper hand. .
This point was made early
in the week during a
Knesset debate on the in-
tifada. "The hard core of ex-
temists is no longer able to
bring masses of demon-
strators into the streets,"
Defense Minister Yitzhak
Rabin told the lawmakers.
"During the first year of
the uprising there was a
high level of motivation [on
the part of the Palestinians].
In the second year, I won't
say that there was none, but
we can discern fatigue,
frustration, a desire to see
the light at the end of the
tunnel, a desire to begin the
diplomatic process," he said.
Rabin's evaluation was
echoed by Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir. "After two
years [of intifada] those who
organized and carried it out

42

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1989

Palestinians demonstrating in the uprising.

Israel Feels Worst
Of Intifada Is Over

have not gained a thing, and
if they continue, they won't
gain a thing in the future,"
he said in an interview on
Israeli television.
Indeed, two years after it
first began, the intifada does
not appear to have achieved
its major goal: To end the oc-
cupation by inflicting
military, economic, diplo-
matic and public relations
damage on Israel.
A year ago, there were
predictions by senior
military correspondents that
the use of front-line troops
for police duty in the West
Bank and Gaza would
weaken the army's readi-
ness by disrupting its train-
ing schedule. In addition,
two reserve pyschologists,
Charles Greeenbaum and
Dan Baron, published a
report warning of serious
psychological and morale
problems for young soldiers
called upon to use force
against demonstrators.
These warnings seem to
have been exaggerated. The
army has found ways of in-
tegrating training with its
patrol duties, and of rotating
units in a way that allows
more thorough exercises.
"It's not perfect," said a

"After two years,
those who
organized and
carried it out have
not gained a thing,"
said Prime Minister
Shamir of the
Intifada.

senior infantry officer, "but
we can live with it."
Nor has there been a
change in the number of
soldiers seeking
pyschological help. Accor-
ding to Dr. Ron Levy, former
army chief pyschologist,
"the [pyschological effects]
are less than they were por-
trayed at the beginning of
the intifada."
The impact of the uprising
on Israel's economy also ap-
pears to be declining. A
study by the Bank of Israel
found that, in its first year,
the intifada cost Israel
roughly $600 million in lost
work hours, fewer tourists,

the drop in sales of Israeli
products in the West Bank
and Gaza, and the cost of
military operations. This
past year, the cost dropped
by approximately half.
One especially notable
trend is the refusal of
Palestinians to abandon
their jobs in Israel; indeed,
on the eve of the uprising's
second anniversary, workers
ignored a written order from
the intifada leadership and
showed up for work as usual.
Perhaps the most signifi-
cant Palestinian gain in the
first year of the intifada was
the public relations victory
it scored. Pictures of armed
soldiers beating Arab youths
garnered them international
sympathy and badly tar-
nished Israel's image. But in
the past year, Israeli leaders
have toned down their rhet-
oric and the army has been
more restrained in the use of
force.
Moreover, the gruesome
murders of almost 150
Palestinian "collaborators"
by their fellow Arabs has
made it harder for reporters
to cast the intifada as a sim-
ple struggle between
Palestinian good guys and
Israeli bad guys.

World attention is now
focused on the dramatic
events in Eastern Europe,
and media experts believe
that it will be difficult for
the Palestinians to re-focus
the cameras on the intifada.
With the uprising under
military control, and
damage reduced to an accep-
table minimum, Israeli
leaders are now thinking se-
riously about a possible next
step — detatching the
population of the West Bank
and Gaza from the control of
the Tunis-based PLO.
In a conference at the Uni-
versity of Tel Aviv's Center
for Stategic Studies, Justice
Minister Dan Meridor put it
plainly. "We are now turn-
ing to the Arabs in the ter-
ritories, and there is a
difference between them and
the PLO. If they join
negotiations with us, and
the talks go well, there will
be several years of quiet in
the areas. And by that time,
who will even know who
Yassir Arafat is?"
The means for this am-
bitious goal is the Shamir
Plan, which envisions elec-
tions in the territories.
"There's nothing that
frightens Arafat and his
friends more than free and
democratic elections in the
territories," Rabin told the
Knesset. "The day isn't far
off when we will see an
awakening and a willing-
ness [for elections] on the
part of the Palestinians in
the territories."
It was with this in mind
that, on the eve of the second
anniversary of the intifada,
the inner-cabinet decided to
send Foreign Minister
Moshe Arens to Washington
for tri-partite talks with his
Egyptian and American
counterparts on the means
for starting Israeli-
Palestinian negotiations in
Cairo. Such talks, should
they prove successful, would
be an important step in
implementing the West
Bank-Gaza election scheme.
The intifada is not yet
over, and Israeli planners
are working on the assump-
tion that it could continue,
albeit at reduced levels, for
some time. But there is now
a sense that it may have
provided the leverage for a
diplomatic breakthrough.
"It's like jujitsu," said a
senior political figure.
"They've taken their
hardest swing, and we've
caught their arm in mid-air.
Now, the trick is to flip
them."



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