Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Upon his return from Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak stated. “We were not prepared to relinquish three things: the security of Israel, the holy sites to Israel and the unity of our people.” However, reports from Camp David revealed that Prime Minister Barak, despite his denials and public relations campaign, had agreed to relinquish these very things.
Any nation, and especially as divided as Israel , needs to have areas of national consensus in order to unite it. Although for many years there have been a variety of opinions among Israelis as to how much of the territories Israel should retain or whether there should be a Palestinian state , there has been national consensus that certain lines in negotiations should not be crossed.
There has been a consensus that Jerusalem should never be divided again and that Jewish holy sites such as Temple Mount in the Old City and the Cave of the Patriarchs , must always remain in Israeli hands, in order to ensure that Jews will have full access to them. Most Israelis believe that Israel must not return back to the `1967 borders and must hold on to the strategic mountainous ranges of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Prime Minster Barak in his arrogance and without a majority in the Knesset or among the public, mistook his election victory a year ago as a moral mandate to shatter these taboos. He was elected to mend the divisions and unite Israeli society, not to sign an agreement with the Palestinians at any price.
At Camp David , Barak agreed that Israel would relinquish 88 percent of the mountainous areas of Judea and Samaria along with its water sources that supply roughly 50 percent of Israel’s drinking water. He also agreed to give up control to the strategic Jordan Valley. Such territorial concessions would leave Israel nine to 15 miles wide in its middle, with a Palestinian state and its hostile army looking down at the commercial heart of Israel where two thirds of its population live. He agreed to dismantle many settlements in the heart of Judea and Samaria and considered leaving others under Palestinian rule.
Despite previous promises, Barak
agreed to divide Jerusalem. He accepted the American idea of giving sovereignty to the Palestinians over Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods which surround some of the gates of the Old City which provide access to the Western Wall only 50 yards away. He also agreed to “share sovereignty “ over the Temple Mount , the holiest site in Judaism. The upper part of the Temple Mount would be given to the Palestinians with an office for Arafat and free access without Israeli inspection. The lower part of the Mount, in which the remains of the Temples are buried, would be under Israeli sovereignty. It is reported that he agreed to hand over the Mount of Olives and that the Palestinians , in renewed negotiations, insist that only they will be responsible for the security of Jews going to pray at the Western wall.
Despite Barak’s denials, Palestinians negotiator Saeb Erekat claims that the Prime Minister agreed at Camp David to” cleanse Hebron of all Jewish residents.” A prominent Minister in Barak’s government already told an Israeli newspaper in June, that Israel , as part of the final agreement , will remove all Jews from Hebron, but will insist on free access fro Jews to pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs , under the protection of the Palestinians. Dismantling settlements in Judea and Samaria and forcing its residents to evacuate their homes could lead to internal Jewish confrontation and another Masada . Abandoning Jews to live under Palestinian rule without Israeli army protection could result in massacres and lasting blame and distrust that would tear Israel apart for generations to come.
Giving Arafat sovereignty over Jewish holy sites in east Jerusalem and Hebron would endanger freedom of religion for all.
During the nineteen years of Arab Jordanian rule over eastern Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, Jordan expelled or killed all the Jews in an attempt to erase the evidence of the long Jewish presence. Jordan destroyed or ruined over 50 synagogues and converted other synagogues into chicken coops. The Western wall was used as a place for slum-dwellers to set up shacks. Jordan also built a road across the Mount of Olives ancient cemetery, desecrating and destroying the resting place of hundreds of Jews. During these 19 years, the Jews were not allowed to live in east Jerusalem or visit their holy sites in the Old City.
In 1967, after Israel unified Jerusalem, the Israeli government granted the Muslim Waqf administrative authority over the Temple mount to care and protect the Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Six months ago, the Muslim Waqf , Arafat appointees, in violation of Israeli Law and without authority , brought to the Temple Mount a fleet of dozen of bulldozers and trucks and dug a huge hole in the temple Mount in which 6,000 tons of earth were removed and scattered at dumpsites. Antiquities dating back thousands of years including the first and second Temples eras were tossed on garbage heaps. The Antiquities Authority managed to salvage but a small part of all these treasures. In violation of the status quo on the Mount since 1967, the Waqf is preparing the area known as Solomon Stables for the construction of a third mosque on the Temple Mount and the first to be constructed on this site in the last thousand years.
Since the Oslo agreement, Arafat has claimed to reporters that neither the Temple Mount nor the Western wall are holy places to the Jews but instead Muslim shrines.
The Temple Mount has been the most sacred site in Judaism for 3700 years and is the place where Abraham was sent to sacrifice his son and where both the ancient Jewish Temples stood. If under full Israeli sovereignty, Arafat and his appointees have been attempting to erase the evidence of the long Jewish history, it is frightening to contemplate what they would do to Jewish archeological and historical remains under Barak’s “shared sovereignty”.
The Cave of the Machpelah in Hebron, the burial site of Judaism ‘s Patriarchs and Matriarchs, is the world’s most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest site for the Jewish people. The cave was purchased by Abraham roughly 3,700 years ago and the present structure was built 2,000 years ago by King Herod, King of Judea, 600 years before the emergence of Islam. In 1267, the Muslims conquered Hebron, declared the structure a mosque and forbade entry to Jews for the next 700 years. Since the 1967’s liberation of Hebron by Israel, the Cave of the Patriarchs have been opened to all worshippers under Israeli protection. Recently the Arab deputy mayor of Hebron, Dweik, stated categorically that should this site come under Palestinian control, only Muslims will be allowed to pray there, since the Cave is a mosque.
Despite Barak’s declaration that every thing discussed in the summit is now null and void , negotiations with the Palestinians continue in an effort to close the “ remaining gaps”. It appears that Barak is ready for new concessions in addition to the ones he made at Camp David. It also appears that an October agreement is in the works that would greatly served Bill and Hillary’s political needs but unfortunately lead to Israel’s national disaster.