Of Noteworthy Items in the Press

Simon Says, “Vote Mitzna!”: Profiled Sunday on “60 Minutes,” the Israeli Labor Party’s candidate for prime minister, Amram Mitzna, couldn’t have had a better showing had he written the segment himself. Correspondent Bob Simon introduced the mayor of Haifa as “an ex-general and a war hero wearing the mantle of the late warrior peacemaker Yitzhak Rabin,” and then it got friendlier. Simon recounted Mitzna’s war record: “In the Six-Day War, he was a 22-year-old lieutenant. In a single day, he was wounded twice, and then when his commander was killed, took charge of a battalion and stormed an Egyptian position. He was wounded again during the 1973 war. And by the time the first intifada began in 1987, Mitzna was running the occupied West Bank of the Jordan and the lives of the millions of Palestinians who lived there. When his mentor Yitzhak Rabin said break their bones, Mitzna’s soldiers obliged. Mitzna ran the West Bank with an iron fist.”

Simon described Mitzna’s campaign promises: “Mitzna says the day he’s elected he’ll start talking to the Palestinians, even if Arafat is still their leader, even if on that same day, there are terrorist attacks. He’ll also withdraw from Gaza, and open negotiations to withdraw from most of the West Bank and for the creation a Palestinian state. If the negotiations fail, he will unilaterally evacuate Jewish settlements from the occupied territories and impose total separation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

But Simon does challenge Mitzna at one point, asking if Mitzna’s plans for a unilateral withdrawal would not merely embolden the Palestinians to intensify their war. “The unilateral withdrawal will not let them be so happy, because it will not be to an agreed border and it will not be from places which I feel that we must keep for… military and security reasons,” Mitzna says. “But we will pull out the settlements, which are just [an] obstacle. You know, they have no military or security reason to be there.”

Simon also notes that while a majority of Israelis agree with Mitzna, most will vote for candidates to the right. Why? Explains Israeli historian Tom Segev: “The only explanation I have is that we have lost our ability to think rationally. And this is what terrorism does to rational democratic societies, because terrorism doesn’t threaten Israel. It does not threaten the existence of Israel. It threatens me, personally. I go out to a café, I talk with my friends, we talk peace, we talk Palestinians, we talk human rights. If we are lucky, the café explodes only after we leave and not while we are there. So you feel stupid, and you lose your willingness to believe. I think that’s what happened to many, many Israelis. And so what they think they should do now is to vote for somebody who will punish the Palestinians.”

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