JERUSALEM (Jan. 18)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, caught in a cross fire of criticism in the Knesset on Wednesday, delivered an impassioned defense of his latest “get tough” policies, aimed at suppressing the 13-month-old Palestinian uprising.
But he cut short his speech and stalked angrily from the podium when, after warning Palestinian rock-throwers that they will “suffer,” a left-wing opposition member shouted back, “So will we.”
Rabin spoke for the government against eight opposition motions of no confidence, all of which were easily defeated.
He linked the uprising, which the Palestinians call the intifada, to “the overall menace to the security of Israel” from outside.
In that connection, he claimed that four Arab countries were manufacturing “advanced chemical weapons, which are only designed against Israel.”
He insisted that the minimum goal of the uprising is to push Israel out of all of the territories and East Jerusalem.
Even as the Knesset met, rioting continued in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. But it was on a smaller scale than in recent days, which have witnessed an upsurge in Arab fatalities.
Two Palestinians were reported wounded in clashes in Hebron. A bus from Ramallah carrying Arab day workers to jobs in Israel was hit by a gasoline bomb. The driver and one passenger were injured.
The West Bank civil administration closed all schools in Ramallah, El-Bireh, Jenin and Kalkilya. Police ordered a girls school in East Jerusalem closed for a month. They arrested eight demonstrators.
The sharp divisions in the Knesset are along ideological lines. They reflect mounting frustration over the inability to end the uprising.
The right wing demands harsher measures. The left insists the Israel Defense Force response has been inhumane and counterproductive. It urges a political settlement.
Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement deplored the daily casualties.
In 13 months of the intifada, 90 children have been killed, he said. “Even dead children ask questions.
“Why do they say rubber bullets do not kill and yet we are dead?” Sarid asked rhetorically. “This policy is not only killing Palestinians, but also the souls of Israeli soldiers.”
He demanded that Rabin resign “for the sake of our future and our common destiny.”
Geula Cohen of the right-wing Tehiya party, said her no-confidence motion was directed less at Rabin than at Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. She charged that Shamir has joined “the club of those who are willing to give up parts of Eretz Yisrael,” a phrase referring to the biblical Land of Israel.
Rehavam Ze’evi of the extremist Moledet party, which favors transferring the Arab population outside of Israel and the territories, charged that the government is not tough enough.
“Children and teen-agers are running wild in the villages and on the roads,” he said. “For them it’s a festival; for us, a continuous Yom Kippur.”