In His Own Words
Israels consul to the Midwest shares his views on the Mideast and Iraq.
ings, Sharon's political career seemed over.
But 20 years later, after a string of government
posts — including foreign minister in
Netanyahu's government — Sharon defied the
odds to become prime minister in March 2001,
enjoying stellar approval ratings for much of his
It was as prime minister that Sharon seemed to
Mellow, declaring that "the things you see from
here you don't see from anywhere else." The main
thing he saw was the need to nurture Israel's
strategic relationship with Washington, which has
been the cornerstone of his foreign policy and the
main reason for his newfound moderation.
Netanyahu, 53, served as an officer in an elite
commando unit and nearly drowned in a 1969
operation across the Suez Canal after his dinghy
was hit by Egyptian bullets.
Many of his formative years were spent in
America, where Netanyahu's father, a Jewish histo-
ry professor and staunch Revisionist Zionist,
After his army service, Netanyahu returned to
the United States to study architecture and busi-
ness administration at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. Back in Israel, he was plucked
from a job in a furniture company to serve as an
aide to Israel's then-ambassador to the United
States, Moshe Arens.
It was a short while later, as Israel's highly visi-
ble and extremely articulate U.N. ambassador in
New York, that Netanyahu first made his name.
His rise•in the Likud was meteoric: Netanyahu
became party leader at 44 without having held a
full ministerial portfolio.
His term in office as prime minister, from
1996-1999, was characterized by strained relations
with the Clinton administration, which was heavi-
ly invested in the Oslo peace process and exerted
tremendous pressure on Israel to be more flexible
vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
On the domestic scene, Netanyahu openly chal-
lenged the existing social, political and economic
elites. He instituted important reforms that liber-
alized Israel's economy and attracted foreign
investment, but his term in office was seen as
divisive and as threatening Israel's special relations
with the United States.
If Netanyahu is elected to the top office again,
political observers believe he will want to shed
that divisive image and build better ties with the
United States by taking centrist positions not too
far from Sharon's.
First, though, he will have to beat Sharon for
the Likud leadership — and to do that, he
believes, he needs to play to the right. ❑
HARRY KIRS BAUM
oshe Ram, consul general of Israel to
the Midwest, spoke to the Jewish
Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit advisory coun-
cil, U.S. Rep Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills;
Archdiocese of Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida; and
local media while passing through the Detroit area
on Nov. 17-18.
In an interview with the Jewish News, Ram gave
his take on current events and other topics.
JN: What role does Israel play
in the Iraq situation, besides
being the possible first strike
from Saddam Hussein?
Ram: It is important to under-
stand and emphasize that we
are not part of the military
activity against Saddam
Hussein. It is a conflict between
the international community
and Hussein — we are on the
sidelines. If we are going to be
attacked, of course, it will be a
different ball game....
The notion that Israel is
pushing Bush to go after
Hussein is nonsense. Bush and
America will do what is good
for Bush and America. If it's
good for Israel, too, then it's a
I think that it is a little naive that with another
U.N. resolution you can convince Saddam Hussein
to reveal the sources of his weapons. People who
probably don't know Saddam feel that another
U.N. resolution might convince him to give up his
non-conventional weapons. Using this kind of
non-conventional weapons against the Kurds, using
them against Iran, we know exactly who he is. As
much as I hope, I just don't believe that they will
be able to solve the problem without a war.
United Nations inspectors need to go through
the motion. As far as I can interpret it, it's one
more stage, probably a step — necessary more for
the world community than for the United States
— to be sure to convince the world that you did
everything to solve the problem in a peaceful
JN: What about the perception that Bush wants
to fight no matter what, and he's just going
through the motions?
Ram: Everyone has their own notions. People need
to understand who Saddam is, and what he's all
about. Only the future will tell and we don't have
to wait too long.
JN: What did you discuss with Cardinal Adam
Ram: Cardinal Maida said he was very much con-
cerned about what was happening in the Middle
East, especially with the suicide bombers and the
shooting and killing in Hebron. I told him how
important it is that the voices of the spiritual leaders
are heard clearly, because always the voices of rabbis,
priests and pastors are voices of moderation and rec-
onciliation and compassion.
Unfortunately, it is very problematic in parts of
the Arab world, especially what comes out of the
imams in the mosques — voices of incitement and
"As much as I
hope, I just don't
believe that they
will be able to
solve the [Iraq]
— Consul General Moshe Ram
I told him that it is important to convey this kind
of message through his connections here with local
Arab religious leaders in the understanding that it
might change — that there is a need to see more
moderate messages coming out of the mosques in
the Middle East.
JN: There's been a longer time between terrorist
attacks. Is Israel getting the job done?
Ram: What we've seen for the last couple of months
since Operation Defensive Shield is better intelli-
gence and information as far as the operation of the
suicide bombers and those who are helping them.
We are able to arrest more potential suicide bombers,
and more of those who harbor them, but it's difficult
to get 100 percent.
The terrorists are using all kind of methods —
whatever they feel they can do that will kill as many
Jews as possible. They didn't use a bomber in Hebron
possibly because it as an area with many Palestinians.
This time, they decided to shoot and throw grenades.
Whenever they will be able to use suicide
bombers, they will use suicide bombers — whatever
they feel will be more effective."