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Archivierte Meldungen aus den Jahren 1995 - 1999

Das Land

Miflegeth haMerkhas - Zentrumspartei
Mut zum Rückzug

By Dan Margalit
© copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

How low is Benjamin Netanyahu capable of stooping in a 20-minute television interview?He answered this question just the other day in his conversation with Nissim Mishal. Bibi declared that when Ehud Barak heard Tikki Dayan's condescending speech, he should have "pounded the table." This much is true. Barak's denunciation of her haughty remarks was indeed too feeble.

Jizhak MordechajBut look at who's doing the criticizing here. This is the man who, standing on a balcony overlooking a demonstration in Jerusalem's Zion Square that was boycotted by Ehud Olmert, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor, did not so much as raise an eyebrow at the sight of placards proclaiming, "Yitzhak Rabin is a traitor."

This is the man who only belatedly condemned the "traitor" sign in a personal statement made for the records of a Knesset session. This is the same Netanyahu who didn't "pound the table" during the demonstration in which a coffin designated for the still-living Rabin was borne aloft.

Barak's biography, "Number One Soldier," written by Ben Caspit and Ilan Kfir, mentions that Barak's friends Menachem Digli and Sami Nahmias suggested to him that he purchase land in East Jerusalem. Barak's response was that he "was ready to purchase land in the eastern part of the city only if it were abandoned land, and not the private property of Arab residents."

When the biography was translated into Russian, this passage was altered - either with deliberate malice or by simple error - to convey that Barak had rejected his friends' suggestion outright, and had said, "This land is not ours...[It] belongs to the Arabs."

On television, Netanyahu trumpeted this sentence as proof that Barak does not support a Jewish Jerusalem. But Netanyahu has been caught in a lie. Had Barak wanted to doctor the translation, he would have had this passage deleted from the Russian version since it doesn't serve his interests to be depicted as a moderate in the eyes of Russian Israelis who tend to be nationalists.

Netanyahu should have realized on his own that such a quote from Barak was inconceivable. But just to remove all doubt, five hours before the television interview, Avraham Burg publicly announced that the Russian edition was fraudulent. When Netanyahu triumphantly disseminated on TV the false passage from the Russian version, he was already well aware of its inaccuracy. It's chilling to contemplate.

The Center Party did not need Netanyahu's two latest ploys to prove that the prime minister is not worthy of being in office. The party was established for the express purpose of putting Netanyahu back in the opposition. Three of its leaders - Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Dan Meridor and Dalia Rabin-Pelosof - vowed not to be a part of any government headed by Netanyahu.

Now they find themselves smack dab in the middle of a political crossroads, facing a momentously historic responsibility. The polls show that support for Center Party prime ministerial candidate Yitzhak Mordechai has shrunk to just seven percent. Yet Mordechai has committed himself to staying in the race for prime minister until the bitter end, thus playing right into Netanyahu's hands by forcing a second round on Ehud Barak.

But Amnon, Dan and Dahlia must understand that if they don't save Mordechai from his noble determination to keep his word and stay in the race, they will bear the onus for a fateful error - allowing Netanyahu to gain time until the second round.

The trio also knows that Mordechai's candidacy is hurting the Center Party's chances of winning mandates in the Knesset. Some voters who are angry with Mordechai for stealing votes from Barak in the first round would be ready to dedicate their vote to the Center Party Knesset list if only Mordechai would get out of the race for prime minister. These voters are interested in seeing a coalition with a strong Center Party faction to balance out Barak and the elected representatives of One Israel.

Mordechai, a man with an illustrious biography, is treating his word of honor with admirable seriousness. He promised to stay in the race until the bitter end and he will probably do so. But Lipkin-Shahak, Meridor and Pelossof have other public considerations to take into account. They remember that when Mordechai left the Likud and joined the Center Party, he sent Netanyahu a letter with a quote by the prophet Samuel to King Saul, "God has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and given it to your friend who is better than you."

Now it's the Center Party's turn to quote Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) to Mordechai: "Who is strong? He who conquers his impulse.

17.Mai 1999

haGalil onLine - Montag 10-05-99

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