...But Hashem Hardened Arafatís Heart
By Shai Gefen

Knesset member Michoel Kleiner in a special interview with Beis Moshiach: "There are many troubling signs with Sharonís leadership." Sharon has been in office only a few months, yet there are already many signs that show his policies to be similar to those of Barakís government: unbelievable restraint, looking the other way, basic guidelines which lean to the left, excluding the topic of Yerushalayim from an important speech, and much more. *Knesset member Kleiner expresses his concerns and explains what troubles him and why.

Why didnít you join Sharonís government?

I didnít join, not because they didnít make great offers - I have no complaints about that - but because ideologically I didnít agree with the governmentís basic approach.

What bothered you?

I could not accept the mistaken and false premise expressed in the approach of striving for peace agreements with Syria and the Palestinians on the basis of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338. There is something worse here than with Barakís government: this is the first time it became accepted policy that Israel agreed to implement 242 even with the Palestinians. At the time, the lawyer, Elyakim Rubinstein, produced a document proposing that U.N. Resolution 242 does not apply to the Palestinians, and now itís the Sharon government that recognizes in principle that the U.N. resolutions also apply to the Palestinians. This is a very serious error, because it is a de facto acknowledgement of a Palestinian state.

They all spoke about a compromising policy platform that they could all agree to, from Gandi to Peres.

Thatís not so. This platform contains positions Gandi cannot accept and which should not have been accepted. As I said, in some ways this policy platform is more dovish than Barakís government. Remember what Shimon Peres yelled at the meeting of the Labor party when he called upon them to join the unity government? He read from the governmentís platform and shouted to his friends, "This is Gandiís platform?" and quoted what I said earlier about Resolution 242.

Whatís your problem with the platform?

Look at all the positions and youíll notice something very strange. It talks about developing the Negev and Yerushalayim but doesnít mention Yehuda, Shomron, and Gaza. I am not opposed to a unity government, and itís important during these days of war to have a unified national government in order to fight our enemy, but I thought we donít need things that oppose our view in the policy platform. There is a difference of opinion, but this is put aside. We established a unity government in order to protect Eretz Yisroel, when it is clear to all of us that the Palestiniansí goal is not peace with Israel, but without Israel.

Do you think Gandi will have to leave Sharonís government?

I donít know. But I do know that Sharon began his government on the left foot. That he didnít respond to the shelling of Kibbutz Nachal Oz, which is within the Green Line, is quite serious. Back in Ď93 I said that if we run from Gaza, weíll get katyushas in Ashkelon. They havenít reached Ashkelon yet, but theyíve gotten halfway there already.

Sharon doesnít react and that reminds me yet again what happened under Barakís government. He always said weíd respond strongly and other statements he never backed up. After an attack, he put a blockade on Ramalla and Beit Lechem, but immediately capitulated once people around the world raised a fuss, and then the next day Mr. Cohen of Gush Etzion was killed. Instead of reacting, we vacillate - and thatís what Barak did.

The same is true for the border with Lebanon, where they divert the water supplies with no response from us. The government says itís just two villages, and forgets that when Syria diverted water in the Ď60ís thatís how it started, too. But then, the Israeli government bombed the pumps. Unfortunately, Sharon is doing just what Barak did. I hope he quickly changes course because otherwise heíll wind up like Barak.

Peres maintains that a great change has taken place in Sharonís political and security positions. Itís not the same Sharon we knew in the Ď70ís. Do you agree?

Itís too early to say, though he has clearly gotten off to a bad start. There are always excuses. One week the reason for not reacting is that Sharon is visiting the U.S., and then thereís a summit, and then itís Earth Day, and in the meantime the Palestinians keep active and we donít react, thus undermining our deterrent capability. If someone thought that the very election of Sharon would act as a deterrent to the Arabs because of the image they have of him, he knows that since he came to power, he has undermined the power of deterrence his election might have given Israel.

He failed his first test?

Absolutely, thereís no doubt about it. If you paid attention in the first weeks after the elections, you saw it was relatively quiet. Then we saw a sharp rise in Palestinian action. They tested Sharon, and he, I am sad to say, failed. I repeat, he will fall like Barak, but much quicker and earlier than Barak. Each time a Jewish leader raises a knife over Eretz Yisroel, he falls.

Are you afraid that Sharon is going to carry out what Begin did in Ď77 when he wanted to prove to the world that he wasnít so threatening and made an agreement in which he returned all of Sinai and recognized the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people?"

What frightens me more is that Sharon has advisors who speak to him about his place in history and tell him that he has to be moderate. They can adversely influence him, and then heíll take an even more dangerous course than Begin did when he went to Camp David. He will do what Charles de Gaulle did. De Gaulle was a renowned general in World War II and he gave France back its national pride. During the crisis with Algiers he rose to power in order to hold on to Algiers, but he did the opposite and abdicated Algiers, including the coast, which has mostly Frenchmen, and abandoned a million and a half of his loyalists. He put all his friends and the generals who fought with him in jail. That situation was not over France itself but a French-occupied country, but Sharon is going to establish a Palestinian state within Israel which can chalila bring destruction upon the Jews of Eretz Yisroel.

Of all people, Sharon, the celebrated general?

Nobody in France believed that of all people it would be de Gaulle who would abandon a million and a half of his most loyal supporters, the French patriots who lived in Algiers - but it happened.

I still hope and want to believe that this wonít happen, but you asked me to compare Sharon to Begin, and I think far worse will actually happen [chív].

During Sharonís visit to the U.S. there were news leaks about evacuating little settlements in the Gaza strip. The leak came from the prime ministerís office and then was denied. What do you think?

I think itís great cause for concern. Thereís no question that this information is Sharonís way of testing the waters. The direction heís taking is frightening. I hoped that Sharon would be tougher with the Palestinians and would receive broad-based public support after people realized that the Palestiniansí goal is nothing but liquidating the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisroel. Even those who believed that concessions to the Palestinians would achieve peace had their eyes opened.

Sharon avoided mention of Yerushalayim in his speech.

Yes, and thatís also a bad sign. He claimed it was unintentional, but it is certainly cause for concern. Everything together - not reacting, a policy of restraint, members of the Left in key positions - all are cause for concern.

Minister Livnat called upon the Right not to rush to attack Sharon and to give him a longer grace period. Why arenít you waiting patiently?

He got off to a bad start and he needs to be criticized for that. If he recovers, fine. But thereís no reason to sit around and wait. We must begin exerting pressure. We as the opposition will remind him of what he promised.

What would you advise Sharon to do at this point?

The first thing I would tell him would be not to delude himself because he won with such a large majority. The elections were a referendum about all our concessions, and the people rejected Barakís politics because they realized that Oslo was a mistake. I expect Sharon to act based on the understanding that Arafat is the problem. He is the one who gives orders to attack. Nobody denies that. Sharon knows it and the Americans know it. The army talks about it almost openly. The goal has to be to get rid of Arafat and to return him and 40,000 terrorists to Tunis or any Arab nation that would agree to have them.

Is that realistic?

I think so, and this has to be explained to the world. We must start preparing world opinion and let them know we will not accept a situation in which we cannot travel the roads or go to the supermarket. The nation did not vote for Sharon because he is the one who will bring peace. They voted for him because they wanted to get home safely, and they believed that Sharon, with all his experience and reputation, would change the security situation. For now, the people have not gotten the Sharon they wanted.

What will you do? At one time you led the charge in the Knesset which unseated Netanyahu.

We got a seat on the Foreign and Security Committee. I am also part of the Finance Committee and I make my voice heard and try to publicize our positions. I believe that if the policies of restraint and concessions continue, Gandi will leave the government. Iím sure heíll join us in the opposition at the earliest opportunity, and then Lieberman and Mafdal will come.

Do you think that now when he has reached the pinnacle of which he dreamed about for years, that Sharon will just wipe away his rich history in defending Israel and will prefer to make more concessions to the Palestinians?

It would be a great tragedy, but as I said earlier, we were very apprehensive about Sharon. We remember how he evacuated Jews from Yamit with iron clubs, drew maps eliminating settlements at the Wye Accords, and now again we have been receiving hints about his intentions to evacuate settlements. Sharon grew up in the fields of Mapai. He is a security expert, but what is called a pragmatic security man.

The Intifada has been operating for over half a year now. How do you see the situation?

The Palestinians want to escalate matters and look at Yugoslavia as their model. They want to do to us what they did to the Serbs. When one side wants things to escalate, you canít stop them except with the force of deterrence, which is why we have to respond strongly to every disturbance. If the Palestinians knew we would respond harshly for every mortar they shot, and they also knew they couldnít broadcast from the frequencies given to them by the Oslo Accords (today they use their television and radio only for incitement), then Arafat couldnít give his murderous orders and things would quiet down.

You can cut off Arafatís lines of communication, attack his headquarters, and pressure him to run with his people like he ran from Lebanon, like when Hussein threw him out of Jordan in the Ď70ís when he tried to undermine him. We have to ensure that he and his gang of murderers are out of here. Itís easy to do and the world will understand. The idea of Oslo was that we would bring Arafat here and he would bring order, but heís doing the opposite and so he has to go. He broke all the agreements, even according to international law.

After Sharonís election, Arafat was scared somewhat. He tested Sharon a number of times and saw there was nothing to be afraid of, and thatís when the mortars against Nachal Oz started to boom. When they saw that Sharon continued Barakís policy and that he wasnít that frightening, they intensified their attacks.

One would have the impression that the government is more hawkish with Uzi Landau, Lieberman, Gandi, and others; why are they quiet?

Lieberman is someone who tried to sell the Wye Accords to the settlers. Heís a hawk when Labor is in power. Gandi is really different than the other parties, which is why I think heíll soon be in the opposition.

What is the fate of the settlements in Yesha? Are there any changes?

Sharon committed to expanding the settlements. I donít think heíll give a reason to the Labor party to leave his government. In the policy positions it explicitly states that they wonít expand the settlements.

Whereís all this going?

Itís hard to say. G-d is hardening Pharaohís heart. I am not religious, but I canít ignore the fact that three car bombs were planted in Meiía Sheíarim and miraculously none of them exploded. I canít ignore the fact that Barak made all those concessions at Camp David, which, if they were implemented, could have brought an irreversible churban upon us. But Hashem hardened Arafatís heartÖ

Is there a change in the way the army talks?

The army operates according to government guidelines. Thereís one directive it was given - to stop the terror. The big question is whether they will follow through, or the situation will carry on as it has until now. If Sharon had responded immediately, it would have quieted down Arafat.

Are you planning on reestablishing the "Front for Eretz Yisroel" in the Knesset?

Iím always working among the Knesset members. We are signing up Knesset members who will not support Sharon if he makes political concessions. Itís just the beginning, and weíre giving Sharon a chance. As time goes on I think there will be more and more Knesset members who will realize they have to do all they can to prevent Sharon from dismantling the State of Israel.

What message do you have for Chabad Chassidim?

I know that Sharon highly esteems Chabad and what the Rebbe said about shleimus haíAretz. Chabad must take a strong stand and not allow Sharon to move towards the Left.

Iíve been reading what the Rebbe said about shleimus haíAretz for years now, and also about halachic conversions, which we supported all these years. I wrote to the Rebbe a number of times about shleimus haíAretz, and feel ideologically close to the Rebbe. I think the Rebbe was the first to say things so sharply and clearly. The Rebbe said Torat emes, and truth is recognized, so itís no wonder the Rebbe has so many admirers. Many people began keeping Torah and mitzvos because of the truth of the Rebbeís words on the security and political fronts, as well.

Chabad should definitely proudly hold up what the Rebbe said and chalila not support the terrible things the Sharon government does. Our people greatly admire the fact that we did not join the government because of ideological reasons. We get inquiries from all over the country, and we hope we wonít have to create an ideological alternative to Sharon since heíll bravely and boldly wipe out terror and return our security.


I canít ignore the fact that Barak made all those concessions at Camp David, which, if they were implemented, could have brought an irreversible churban upon us. But Hashem hardened Arafatís heartÖ





The goal has to be to get rid of Arafat and to return him and 40,000 terrorists to Tunis or any Arab nation that would agree to have them.





After Sharonís election, Arafat was scared somewhat. He tested Sharon a number of times and saw there was nothing to be afraid of, and thatís when the mortars against Nachal Oz started to boom.


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