'Clinton's Peace Proposals May Lead To Great Jewish Tragedy'
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - President Clinton's latest efforts to pull off an Israeli-Palestinian agreement before he leaves office are being roundly criticized in Israel as a recipe for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak Thursday reluctantly accepted as a basis for negotiations proposals Clinton had presented to Israel and the Palestinians before Christmas.
The Palestinian Authority has effectively rejected the ideas, which provide an outline for solutions on the issues of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and Israeli security concerns. The PA demanded more details before agreeing to continue with negotiations.
But Clinton, with just three weeks left in office, said he is still waiting for the official Palestinian response. Without it, there will be no progress, he said. "There is no point in our talking further unless both sides agree to accept the parameters that I've laid out."
Two terrorist bombings in Israel, which left two dead and 16 wounded Thursday, cast a pall on the diplomatic efforts. But both Barak and Clinton said the violence wouldn't stop their pursuit of an agreement.
Yet a number of Israeli officials and experts have expressed concern over the U.S. proposals, which they say could make the state indefensible and even lead to its demise.
"If Clinton's proposals will be implemented, this is the end of the State of Israel, most probably," said Dr. Yuval Steinitz, an opposition Likud party lawmaker and former peace activist.
"This is not a peace agreement but an invitation for war, with almost impossible conditions for Israel to survive," Steinitz said.
Despite Clinton's friendship with the State of Israel, the president might be presenting an agreement that will bring about a second "Jewish tragedy" in less than 100 years, he said, in reference to the Holocaust.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz shocked ministers at a cabinet meeting this week when he blasted Clinton's proposals, saying that they exposed Israel to serious security risks and greatly reduced Israel's ability to handle future threats.
Mofaz warned that enclaves of Jewish settlements that would remain in place amid PA-ruled areas under the deal would find themselves in an unbearable situation.
He also told the cabinet that if Israel was not able to supervise the borders effectively, the PA could smuggle in large quantities of weapons from Arab states.
Clinton's plan calls for Israel to relinquish some 95 percent of the disputed territories - including the Jordan Valley, which every Israeli leader until now has acknowledged as critical to Israel's defense.
Without Israeli control over the strategic line, Israel will border directly on a swath of Arab-Islamic territory stretching through the PA area and Jordan to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Giving up that territory would also leave Israel just nine miles wide, from the Mediterranean Sea and its heaviest population centers to the border of the PA zone.
Perhaps most painful for ordinary Israelis, the Washington proposals also require Israel to surrender Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount - also the location of Islam's third most important mosque - as well as all the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Wailing Wall below the Temple Mount compound, and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty.
"If we don't have a right to pray on the Temple Mount, what right do [we] have to be in Tel Aviv?" asked Dr. Ron Breiman, spokesman for a lobby group called Professors for a Strong Israel.
Jews have prayed for generations to return to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, not to Tel Aviv, he added, calling the plan a "surrender agreement."
Even it there turns out to be no agreement, Breiman said, the damage would already have been done by Barak's stated willingness to give up Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.
Relinquishing Jewish rights there, he said, meant giving them up "in all the Land of Israel."
Professors for a Strong Israel, a group of 600 academics, is organizing a hunger strike to begin Sunday. Breiman said he expected settlement leaders and high-ranking reserve military officers to participate too.
A much larger demonstration is being organized by one of Barak's former coalition partners, Natan Sharansky, who hopes a quarter of a million people will walk around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem in a show of solidarity.
Sharansky said the gathering would be designed to challenge "the impression that is given to the entire world" that it is the Palestinians, and not the Jews, "who are connected to Jerusalem."
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert has lodged his own protest by moving his office from the western part of the city to a building near the Wailing Wall plaza for a week. He, too, is highly critical of Clinton's proposal to divide the city.
"It is regrettable that Clinton, who has shown great friendship for the people of Israel, should propose such a thing in the final days of his presidency," Olmert said.