Israel's Beilin Rips U.S. Jews For Undercutting P.A. Chief
     'Does the ADL Have Another Partner for Me?'

               By RACHEL DONADIO

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

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

"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.

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

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

"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."