Israel's Beilin Rips U.S. Jews For Undercutting P.A. Chief 'Does the ADL Have Another Partner for Me?' By RACHEL DONADIO www.forward.com American Jews should stop acting "more Israeli than Israelis" by undermining Yasser Arafat at a time when Israel is trying to negotiate with him, Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said last week. Addressing the editorial board of the Forward, the controversial minister singled out the Anti-Defamation League for particular criticism, calling the league's recent advertising campaign against Palestinian violence "a mistake." "Why should the ADL publish an ad in the American press to tell the world that Arafat is not my partner?" Mr. Beilin asked. "The ADL doesn't have another partner for me. If they had somebody else, I would love it." Since they do not, he continued, campaigning to delegitimize Mr. Arafat "doesn't help Israel. It doesn't help anybody, it doesn't help peace." The national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, called Mr. Beilin's remarks "ironic," and suggested that his group might have been more in synch with Prime Minister Barak than Mr. Beilin is. Mr. Beilin's remarks were part of a wide-ranging discussion of Israeli policy, Palestinian violence and the prospects for a renewed peace process. Mr. Beilin said there was blame on both sides for the current failure of the peace process that he helped launch in Oslo seven years ago. "There are no saints in this story," he said. "On both sides we breached the agreement." Nonetheless, he insisted, peace was still achievable if both sides were willing to compromise. In particular, he said, the Palestinians would have to give up their demand for a right of return to former homes within the State of Israel. (Please see related article, Page 6.) "If we can find compromises — on the borders, the settlements, on Jerusalem, and if they understand that the right of return for us, as Jews, as Zionists, is the most important red line, then I think that we can cut a deal in a short while," he said. Mr. Beilin was en route to Washington, where he met the next day with National Security Adviser Samuel Berger and had an unscheduled conversation with President Clinton. According to Israeli press reports, Mr. Clinton promised the Israeli minister that he would make Israeli-Palestinian peace talks his highest foreign-policy priority in his remaining weeks in office. Mr. Beilin told the Forward that he was not intending to dictate the role American Jews should play in expressing their views on Israel. "I don't want American Jews to march in the streets of New York to say that peace is the only solution," he said. "Although I would like to see them doing it, I don't demand it." What he was asking, he said, was that mainstream Jewish organizations refrain from campaigns that hurt the chances of peace. "I just believe that it is important that the mainstream organizations will not make such mistakes," he said. On November 19, the ADL ran an advertisement on the op-ed page of the New York Times. "If you really wanted peace with Israel," the ad asked, "would you: teach your young children anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hatredÖ. Put your children in front of your own snipersÖ. Walk away from negotiations with the Israeli government after it has offered more than any government before it?" Answering its own question, the ad continued: "Of course not. Mr. Arafat: Put down the violence, pick up the peace." "[I did] not think I was saying anything unique or new in the ad. I thought I was being supportive of the Israeli government. That's not what Yossi Beilin was. He's not always in synch with the prime minister. I was," Mr. Foxman said. Ironically, Mr. Foxman noted, Mr. Beilin has been a champion of the rights of Diaspora Jews to challenge the Israeli government and voice their own views. "Yossi Beilin used to tell me that I had an obligation to tell Israel what to think. I said no, I'm not a citizen, I don't bear the consequences of my opinions," Mr. Foxman said. "Now he comes and criticizes what I believe I heard his prime minister and his fellow ministers say." "He can't have it both ways," Mr. Foxman said. "On the one hand, he says that Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews are equal partners — which I don't think we are, because when it comes to consequences, we are limited partners and they are general partners. The consequences for them are total and for us are limited." "I continue to respect him," Mr. Foxman said. "And I will continue to disagree with him." One of Mr. Beilin's potentially most controversial statements to the Forward was his assertion that both sides were to blame for the failure of the peace talks. Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Israelis and Palestinians were to begin negotiations toward a permanent solution on May 4, 1996, Mr. Beilin said. That day, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's then-director general, Uri Savir, and a senior aide to Mr. Arafat, Abu Mazen, met at the Egyptian resort of Taba to start talks on a final-status accord. "It was a big ceremony and nothing happened," Mr. Beilin said. "There was never a second meeting after that." "It's not that we negotiated with them and were not successful," Mr. Beilin said. "It's that we did not negotiate about the permanent solution. Moreover, he said, Israel failed to honor several other provisions of the Oslo accord. "We did not hand over territory to them according to the agreement," he said. "We did not establish the passage between Gaza and the West Bank, which made their lives awful." "On the other hand, they were not saints either," Mr. Beilin continued. "They did not end the incitementÖ. They did not collect unauthorized weaponsÖ. I think today we are all paying the price of the fact that we both breached the agreement." The most immediate fallout from the agreement's collapse, it appears, is the fall of Prime Minister Barak's government and the move toward early elections. Current polls show Mr. Barak losing badly to the man he beat in 1999, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the likely Likud contender. Mr. Beilin acknowledged that a strong "feeling of insecurity," compounded by "frustration, the feeling that everything is falling apart," would affect Israeli voting trends. Nonetheless, he said, it would not necessarily translate into a victory for Mr. Netanyahu. He said reminders about Mr. Netanyahu's corruption scandals might be enough to sway voters. "It's been a year and a half, and people tend to forget," he said. "They actually chose Barak mainly because they didn't want Netanyahu. And I'm not sure that they're going to chose Netanyahu only because they don't want Barak, although it's possible." As for Israel's image in the media, Mr. Beilin said, "It is a very strange situation. In Israel we are being criticized for restraining our force, by the world we are criticized for using excessive force." The reason Israel uses force, he said, is because it has no other options for confronting Palestinian violence. "We cannot just take a bus of kids from Jerusalem and send them to Gaza to throw stones at their peers. There is no such arrangement." "We have an army, and we use it. We don't have slingshots," he continued. "This is the way we know how to use our force. By definition it may be excessive force, but the feeling in Israel is that there is no excessive use of force, rather we are restrained." Citing "the hunger and poverty" in the territories, Mr. Beilin said that Palestinians were suffering from their own use of violence. "I think that the Palestinians understand today much better that at least up to a certain point they are paying the price for this ongoing violence," he said. "But it is more difficult for them than for us to stop it." "The irritating thing is that we were so close to an agreement," Mr. Beilin said. "We went such a long way toward an agreement, and they went a very significant way too, [although] not as far as we went." "The question I ask myself is why did it happen now?" he said. "Why didn't it happen 15 years ago or 25 years ago? Why did it happen on the verge of the end of occupation, on the verge of having a Palestinian state recognized by us?" "But, you know, I'm old enough to understand that I won't have the answers to all my questions," Mr. Beilin said. "I'll have to be satisfied with changing the future rather than with understanding the past."