The Vegetarian Among the Wolves

Shimon Peres told the Labor Party executive committee that Uri Shani denies Amram Mitzna's version. Mitzna said the prime minister refused to put on paper the agreements he reached with Labor. Peres - the leader of the opposition to remaining in opposition - hinted that Mitzna did not really give any accord with Likud a chance.

Shimon Peres told the Labor Party executive committee that Uri Shani denies Amram Mitzna's version. Mitzna said the prime minister refused to put on paper the agreements he reached with Labor. Peres - the leader of the opposition to remaining in opposition - hinted that Mitzna did not really give any accord with Likud a chance.

If it were up to Peres, he'd formulate an agreement with Sharon that would prove an omelet can be made from an egg, painfully conceding his favorite cliche about only making omelets from eggs. It's no accident that the matter was not up to him. Mitzna was warned in advance to prevent any eye contact between Peres and Sharon. But that doesn't mean Mitzna would have refused every offer.

The idea of serving the people for nearly five years in the opposition does not enchant Mitzna. He hasn't got a clue how to turn a nearly bankrupt party into an alternative government, when he's still running a gauntlet of 18 defeated politicians around him, most of whom want to be in the current government.

All Sharon had to do to bring Mitzna down from the tall tree Mitzna climbed up before the election was to spread out the "road map" beneath his feet. Mitzna told the members of the Quartet that their road map to peace would take too long. But he knows that if Sharon were to sign it, no Israeli leader interested in promoting peace could refuse a process acceptable to the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Sharon, who refused to accept the map from the Quartet before the elections, refused to accept it from Mitzna after the elections. MK Gideon Sa'ar, a member of the Likud negotiating team, told Labor's representatives that it's impossible to build a coalition on the basis of a document that has not been finalized. Not everyone in Labor understood what Sa'ar meant. Freshman MK Orit Noked, said she doesn't understand the difference between the Bush vision, which Sharon accepted with open arms, and the road map, which Sharon wants to tear into pieces. No wonder the new MK is confused.

When Peres tells his pals that Sharon has announced he's ready to establish a Palestinian state, it's difficult to explain that a cat announcing it is a dog is not really about to start barking. And a Palestinian leader who would make do with the "state" Sharon is proposing would be a dead dog.

The road map will hover in the coming months over the new "unity government" - why a right wing partnership with 19 MKs from Labor is called a unity government while a coalition with the 15 Shinui MKs is not given such a fancy title?

The lifespan of the current government depends on two related decisions. The first is whether President Bush decides to put an end to the haggling with Sharon, to present the map to the sides and risk a conflict with Israel and the Jews, or adopt Sharon's corrections, which would redraw the map and lead to a dead end. In response to a request by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to present the map before the Iraq war, Bush made a vague promise to work for the advancement of peace.

The second decision is Sharon's. If he decides to adopt a framework that includes a settlement freeze and the thawing of the political negotiations with the Palestinians, Sharon can trade in the National Religious Party for the Labor Party. Mitzna will have to decide whether he wants to be a minister with a portfolio or the chairman of a party without a portfolio.

The latest Labor executive council session highlighted Mitzna's Achilles' heel. He is like a vegetarian in a pack of wolves, or as one of his loyalists put it, "he so much wants a different kind of politics that he doesn't politic at all. He believes a chairman does not have to throw his support behind any member or against any member."

That's how Mitzna lost Yossi Beilin and Yossi Katz, as well as the faction leadership to Dalia Itzik. "Those who don't help their friends," warns the Mitzna loyalist, "shouldn't be surprised when they don't go along with him."

Mitzna's next test will be in Haifa, his home court. Yona Yahav, a former Labor MK, has decided to run for mayor at the head of a trans-partisan list. In a letter to party Secretary General Ophir Pines-Paz, Yahav proposes Labor support him. Broadly making hints about Yisrael Savyon, the local party branch leader who is close to real estate tycoon Gad Ze'evi and an associate of Mitzna's, Yahav writes, "it is impossible to rehabilitate faith in the party when the district branch chief is a representative of a contractor and donor, and is automatically considered likely to mix extraneous business interests in the political system."

According to the polls, if Mitzna decides to support Savyon, Labor, for the first time in its history, would lose the "red city's" municipality.

Fence or corral

The donor countries who met last week in London discussed the separation fence project for the first time. They expressed concern that thousands of Palestinians - at least 95,000, which is 4.5 percent of the population - would be coralled between the fence and the Green Line. Some two-thirds, 61,000, are in the "Jerusalem envelope" area.

Diplomats from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada, decided to appoint a body to monitor the project, to mitigate the damage that will be done to the large Palestinian population expected to be harmed .

A detailed report prepared for the conference warned about the dangerous ramifications that the fence will have - and not only on the villages between the fence and the Green Line to the west.

A broad area on both sides of the fence will be forbidden to the Palestinians, and the twisted and poor roads around it will have an influence on many Palestinian townships east of the fence, including Tul Karm and Qalqiliya. The combination of the fence's current route, the existent checkpoints, and the settlers' roads, have already isolated some Palestinian towns and villages. In the future, others will be affected.

The report says the process of building the fence is already directly harming the villages. Landowners say they can't access their land, some of which has been flattened for the fence. Others can only reach their property on foot or with donkey carts, which makes it difficult or impossible to move heavy equipment and supplies - and harvests. Based on their experience with the settlers in their neighborhoods, many farmers fear that the fence will keep them off their land and, in the end, they'll lose their land to expropriations.

In the long run, although gateways to and from Israel will be opened in the fence, it will distance farmers from their sources of water, markets and public services, and will harm their livelihoods and social experience.

If the conference attendees were to have paid attention to the coalition negotiations, they would have understood that a large part of the project doesn't even have a right of way on the ground. And if they read the Israeli business and economics pages, they'd see there's also no money to pay for most of it.

Laundering language

Many years of observing Islamic zealots and an intimate familiarity with the Israeli intelligence services has turned Prof. Immanuel Sivan into a sharp-eyed observer of the war Israel is currently conducting against the Hamas.

In a lecture delivered last week, Sivan referred to news reports abut "the elimination of senior Hamas men," something that has become routine. He said that apparently it's enough to control 13 neighbors to be turned into a "senior" Hamas activist.

Sivan, who was lecturing at a conference in honor of Prof. Bernard Lewis at the Hebrew University's Truman Institute, noted that in light of the situation in the territories over the past few months, the leaders of the Hamas have largely lost their ability to conduct internal communication or coordinate moves.

The phrase, "senior Hamas activist," which has been drafted into service by the IDF, deserves a medal for the wonders it does to public opinion. There's no need to claim he was a "ticking bomb," to extra-judicially execute a "senior Hamas official." Nobody gets excited if half a dozen innocent civilians are killed during the capture of "one of the top wanted men from the Hamas in Gaza."

And while conducting war against the murderers of Israeli teens who went out to a discotheque there's no need to count young Palestinians who get caught and are killed in the cross fire.

Dr. Niv Gordon of Ben-Gurion University conducted a study that shows how the terrible terror bombing of the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv, like the Park Hotel bombing in Netanya and the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem, were turned into events that became useful to justify "eliminations."

He compared the phenomenon to the collective psychological effect on Americans by the 9/11 attacks. The establishment uses the tragic events that have been carved into the collective consciousness and at the same time, relies on collective amnesia to forget the personal details of the murderers.

Examining the newspapers between June 1, 2001 - the Dolphinarium attack - and November 25, 2001, Gordon found that during nearly six months the security forces assassinated 14 Hamas activists, mostly "senior."

According to military sources quoted in the three major dailies, seven of the 14 were involved in one way or another with the suicide bombing outside the Tel Aviv discotheque.

Jamal Mansur and Jamal Salim Damouni from Nablus were assassinated on July 31 (two children who happened to be there were also killed); Abed Rahman Sa'id Hamad from Qalqiliya was killed on October 14, Ahmed Marshud from Nablus was killed on October 15; Iman Halawa from Nablus was killed on October 22; Jamal Jadala from Hebron was killed on October 31, and Mahmud Abu Hanud from Al Fara refugee camp was killed on November 23.

But Gordon notes that every reporter in the territories knows Hamas is broken down into tiny cells and the organization, with the identity of each cell zealously protected from the other members. Therefore, Gordon finds it difficult to believe that activists from Nablus, Qalqiliya, Hebron, and Al Fara were all involved in the same bombing.

But lacking any evidence linking the assassinated men to the bombing, the press relies only on military sources, which attribute various adjectives to the dead men. One prepared the bomb, another ran the lab, a third commanded the cell, a fourth taught the terrorist, a fifth paid for it, a sixth planned it, a seventh enlisted the cell, an eighth "played an important role," and so on and so forth.

The study shows there is an interesting language used to whitewash assassinations, which most of the Israeli public support as a policy.

An ambush or attack on an Israeli tank that invaded Gaza, or an Israeli soldier guarding an illegal outpost in the West Bank, are defined as "terror operations," which justify extra-judicial executions.