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Chat Wrap: David Roet - full text

On Monday, November 6, 2000, David Roet, Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, addressed the current Middle East conflict in Zipple's chat room, The Big Shmooze. Questions by Zipple members are introduced here using the term "Zippler."

David Roet: A few days ago, we marked the fifth anniversary to the tragic assassination of the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, by a man full of hate who intended not only to kill Rabin, but to also kill any hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In the last few weeks, Israel has been confronted by premeditated violence, and by a surge of almost unprecedented hate from our partners for peace.

This surge of violence, attempting to kill the hope for peace, is for many of us, a second attempt to assassinate Rabin's dream to reach an end to the conflict and an end to the blind hate and to violence. And though, we are in doubt today about the Palestinian Leadership's commitment to peace-Rabin's dream to achieve an end to hate and violence does and must continue to flourish. P.M. Rabin understood that peace, like war, starts and ends in the hearts of human beings.

Standing in Oslo while receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, six years ago, P.M. Rabin said, "There is only one radical means of sanctifying human lives; neither tanks nor planes-only peace."

He was determined, as all of us should be today, to continue with efforts for peace, even at the most difficult times, for, when the cycle of blood and tears will reach its end-we shall all come back again to the same conclusion: Peace should prevail.


Throughout the violence and attacks forced on Israel by the Palestinian leadership, both in Israel and in the battlefield for public opinion-Israel remained committed to resolve the conflict in non-violent means as stipulated by the Oslo agreements.

And as we hope that the upcoming days will prove that the violence can end, it behooves us all to make sure that force shall not be used in order to achieve political gains. That Palestinian children should not be sent to the frontline. That Hamas terrorists should be put back to jail. That incitement and hate will not be a part of day-to-day lives and teaching in the Palestinian authority, and that Palestinian leadership will act according to the agreement it has signed.

For those of you who doubt Israel's commitment to peace, or that believe that Israel instigated this violence or has any real interest in its continuation, I would point out that the ultimate price for peace paid by Rabin and the willingness to compromise, as portrayed by Prime Minister Barak.

As a leader, Barak took seriously the task of preparing his people for painful concession needed in the four major issues discussed in Camp David-the future border between Israel and the Palestinian entity (most likely a State), the future of Jewish settlement, the future of Palestinian living outside Israel and the Palestinian authority ("return of refugees") and the future of Jerusalem.

In his willingness to compromise, Barak knowingly risked his political future, only to be answered by a clear unwillingness by Arafat for any compromises at all.


In dealing with Israel, Arafat and the Palestinian leadership should act, as stipulated by the world leader, and really lead their people. Lead them away from violence and hate and toward a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

It is one thing to incite, to lead a mob in atrocities, or to follow the crowd in what is, so called, "Uncontrollable pubic rage" It is another to task to lead you people away from hate and toward a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Arafat had a golden opportunity to lead his people to a new and promising future (as, by the way, did David Ben Gurion in 1948 when he was offered a much inferior solution, which only satisfied a fraction of the dreams and aspirations of the Jewish People). Instead, he has chosen to reject the offer and has preferred to use violence in order to achieve his political goals, and has thus taken a dangerous step backwards towards the abyss.


Upon leaving Camp David, it is our understanding that Arafat felt that he was being portrayed by President Clinton and by International opinion as a "Peace Rejectionist." He then saw how Israel was gaining ground, thanks to its Peace Policy, in the International Arena. He felt his international legitimacy was being seriously undermined by Israel's Peace proposals-proposals he thought he could not accept, for whatever reason.

And in a way, he has used this wave of violence, and continues to use it, in order to improve his International standing to corner Israel and put it under International pressure. He is trying to internationalize the conflict that is to undermine the centrality for the American role. Arafat is troubled not by the fact that the United States is not an "Honest Broker" (as claimed by some even in the United States.)

He is troubled by the fact that the U.S. is too much of an "Honest Broker," and thus, he wants to bring in the Europeans, the UN, and the Russians so that in this forum, with an isolated Israel, he might achieve his "all or nothing" agenda.

Zippler: I don't know if you follow the New York Times recent coverage regarding Rabin's legacy, but it is suggested that perhaps Rabin's choice of Arafat as a partner for peace was misguided from the start. Any thoughts?

David Roet: Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian People. We would love to choose our neighbors, and if we could, we would most likely choose Canada. But, unfortunately, we are in a tough neighborhood of the Middle East, and we cannot choose our Partners for Peace.

Zippler: Oh boy and what happens if the PA is unsuccessful, then where does that leave this whole mess? Arafat will be gone... he will have lost face!

David Roet: We will have to see what the future will be, but we do hope that neither Arafat, nor anybody that would follow him, will come to the conclusion that the only deal is a Zero Sum Game-in which only one side wins. The only peaceful solution is through negotiation.

Zippler: Abba Eban, Golda Meir, Bibi Netanyahu were all articulate international spokespersons for Israel. Isn't there someone Barak could call on today who can present Israel's position to the media in a way that will counteract the horrendous propaganda propagated by the continual repetition of 150+ killed, most of them Palestinians . . . children throwing stones & etc.?

David Roet: The question of the PR was, and is, dealt with. We must take into account how difficult it is to counter nine-second sound bytes. If I would have, in the media, three minutes to explain the situation where a poor boy dies in Gaza, I could do it. But nobody gives us those three minutes.

One way to counter is by you, and other people who know the truth, to keep on following the events being active in your communities, writing to media sources to which you think do not portray Israel well. We believe the truth will prevail, but it does take a lot of time and effort for it to do so.

Unfortunately, Arafat, who knows he cannot beat Israel by force, is using his weakness and the fact that these people being hurt for his advantage in the media arena, which seems to be the arena he is most interested in. The media, unfortunately, seems to be joining in what we can call "The Number Game" in which the number of casualties is being counted-as if it has anything to do with being right or wrong. Israel is stronger, we will not apologize for it-for the fact that we are stronger or more trained does not mean we are the aggressor or at fault.

Zippler: Because of Arafat's weakness do you believe this could cause a world war if he gets an outside country to help?

David Roet: Arafat, and to that extent, the Hizbullah in Lebanon are weak. They cannot change by themselves the balance of power in the Middle East, but they can, and have, allowed to a large extent, the bringing of instability and violence into the Middle East. This effort can be aided with the help of rouge countries, such as Libya, Iran and Iraq, who are just waiting for such an opportunity.

Zippler: The media has been talking about alternative means of riot control. Is Israel considering any of these...e.g., foam, etc.?

David Roet: About alternative means of Riot Control... The problem is that most of the violence is not guns vs. stones, and its not regular riots which could be dealt with using other means. It's about crowds throwing stones, but within the crowds, gunned policemen or Palestinian militia...gunned men, shooting at Israel soldiers from within a demonstration. It's about crowds incited, full of hate, which, unfortunately as we've seen in Ramala, literally killed soldiers...literally killed soldiers with their bare hands.

Zippler: David, do you think failing to enter an agreement with Sharon to form a unity government sends a bad message to the Arabs?

David Roet: No, I think that the political situation in Israel is very fragile at this moment. The government is still trying to put an end to the violence and to go back to negotiating. If we are destined to go to a larger or for a longer time conflict, nobody will ask, "Why did we start too late." But the government feels that we should give as much time as needed, even if it seems that the chances are not very high at this moment.

Zippler: David...what kinds of things would Israel like us to be doing here in the Diaspora?

David Roet: The first week or two of the conflict, we were caught unprepared because we were serious in our effort to appease. At the same time, I think, many in the Jewish Community were also caught by surprise and it took time until we started to receive large public support. It is very important, as I mentioned, to be involved. I'll give one example.

The University Campuses in all out propaganda war by the Palestinian American students have been going on for more than a month. Many of them in which untrue, inciting information is being use and disturbing activities done by pro-Israeli students.

I would urge you to be involved in the University if you are a student, or to assist Pro-Israeli organizations if you have graduated. Another thing, which I would urge you to do, is to follow events. A good place to do it would be at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel. Also, you can email and note in the subject line: ADD ME TO THE INFORMATION LIST.

Zippler: Is there a policy regarding what areas get army protection, particularly on the West Bank?

David Roet: As we are trying to reach peace, one thing which we will not and are not allowed to forget is the security of our citizens wherever they live. This is the first commitment of any government and certainly the commitment of the Israeli government.

Zippler: What is the best way to financially support Israel now.....thru our Federations or Israel Bonds or what?

David Roet: Though we don't deal with the financial support, I would certainly think that the Federation or Bonds or whatever helps with Israel would be highly appreciated.

Zippler: In terms of planning a trip to Israel soon, what effects if any has the violence had on freedom of movement in different areas of Israel? Are travelers still going into any parts of the West Bank?

David Roet: As someone who has a son in Israel, I can let you know that life does go on in Israel and people do continue to travel. Violence does exist, and you might have to make some adjustments regarding places you would like to go, but Israel was and still is a great place to visit.

Certainly, the biggest industry in Israel is the hotels. The economy is also naturally suffering, but unfortunately, as unfortunate as this is, Israel's booming high tech and high level industry continues to flourish. It is the Palestinian economy which I dread to say almost purposefully is taking on the biggest economic burden and that, to a large extent, in the same way which the casualty count is being used-that it is being used in order to promote the image of being weak and in need of international assistance. The Palestinian economy has been improving very rapidly since the beginning of the peace process.

It is unfortunate that the political decision to use violence and hurt the Palestinian economy has been made by the Palestinian leadership aiming to achieve in this way political gain which could not be achieved by negotiation.

Zippler: A solidarity mission left for Israel from Chicago a few days ago

David Roet: We get many solidarity missions, and I've heard from people returning that everywhere they go, they hear about the appreciation by the Israeli people. We have also seen great many public support and public meetings of support for Israel and activities by many organizations in supporting Israel and in countering the many false and distorted accusations and information.

Zippler: I have heard reports are that the Moslem Red Cross is using its ambulances for nefarious purposes

David Roet: Your reports are completely true. The Palestinians are using every advantage to receive world sympathy, including ambulances in order to supply soldiers with weapons and to shoot from them. In that way, they gain in two ways-if we do not return fire on ambulances, they win. If we do return fire, they win great international exposure when nobody says the shooting came from the ambulances. The same way the Israeli soldiers are shot at from the top of the hospitals, residential places and nearby Christian holy places around Bethlehem.

Zippler: who do you think would be the best candidate to become president in terms of Israel?

David Roet: As a guest diplomat in the United States, we, of course, do not interfere with internal issues of the United States.

Zippler: LOL! Perfect David.

Zippler:Psst u can tell me I am in Canada.

Zippler:Very diplomatic.

Zippler:That's the real use of "diplomatic!"

David Roet: This year, the candidates are very supportive of Israel and we have always appreciated the bipartisan support, both in the White House and in Congress.

I would like to add a few comments around the propaganda during this conflict.

We are confronted with very able Palestinian spokesmen who know the art of sound bytes in the media. This means saying every nine seconds the words of atrocities, ethnic cleansing, holocaust or any other words meant to incite or to misinform.

One terrible aspect of this conflict is the use of children. We are heartbroken to see children die in conflict and the Israeli Army is doing its utmost to not have a civilian hurt.

But at the same time, as we grieve for the children, we must ask ourselves why are they there at all? Why aren't they stopped by their parents? Why aren't they stopped by their leadership? The leadership that's had more than six weeks to tell children to stay in school, to not go out.

Zippler: The Arabs do not want peace. They want Israel as theirs. The Arabs want this land and that land and they will not be satisfied until Israel is gone. Why don't they go to Jordan? The Israeli's want peace because it is so difficult for them to loose their children.

David Roet: The Israeli government and people have been trying to reach real peace with the Arabs and I do still hope that your statement is not correct. The deal offered to the Palestinians by Barak at Camp David was far going. One cannot see a difference in other Prime Ministers going that far.

Zippler: Why do people FIGHT over land? There is so much more to fight for!

David Roet: Unfortunately, they tried to get more than that by using violence. That will not succeed, but at the end of the day, when this violence is over, we will be back to confront the same issues. And the only solution can be similar to the one offered in Camp David.

Before signing off, I would like to thank all of you for being here and to urge you to do what you can do in order to assist in bringing an end to the violence. It is unfortunate that Palestinian leadership, both in Israel and also in the United States, is not doing enough in order to go back to the peace process, but are trying a way around it.

Israel is willing to compromise, but not to a risk of its existence. Because part of this conflict is intentionally for world and media opinion, it is important that you will stay involved.


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