Hillary's Visit supports ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
Moledet Party's Elon Is Giving Leftists Fits
By MATTHEW GUTMAN FORWARD STAFF
March 1, 2002
JERUSALEM When Senator Hillary Clinton visited Israel last week,
she didn't pop by the Arafat compound, nor did she meet with leaders
of Peace Now.
Instead, Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democrat, was the guest of
Binyamin Elon, the leader of the Moledet party, Israel's tourism
minister and a long-time advocate of "transferring" the Palestinian
population out of the West Bank and Gaza.
While the right-ward tilt of Mrs. Clinton's brief Middle East swing
is bound to be debated in the United States, it is the increasing
visibility of Mr. Elon that is raising eyebrows in Israel. Indeed,
Mr. Elon is seemingly everywhere of late courted by the media and
honored by international leaders.
Political observers say his recent spate of public appearances is
meant to popularize the "transfer" concept. Thus far, he has
succeeded in snapping up both national support and international
attention. Recent polls show that as many as one in three Israelis
supports the concept of the forced displacement of Palestinians out
of the West Bank and Gaza and into other Arab states.
Israel's leading Russian-language daily, Vesti, published a poll
indicating that 37% of Russian immigrants support this policy, while
35% of respondents to a poll conducted by the daily Ma'ariv said
they support transfer.
Mr. Elon's post as tourism minister, while traditionally considered
one of the weaker portfolios in the Israeli cabinet, has afforded
him a platform to forge close working relationships with leading
American and international organizations among them the Conference
of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. On one of his
two February visits to Israel hosted by Mr. Elon, Malcolm Hoenlein,
executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, praised Mr.
Elon for hosting a delegation of 12 American heroes of September 11.
Mr. Hoenlein, however, dismissed transfer as neither a "viable, nor
Mr. Elon has capitalized on his relationships with American groups,
sharing a stage last Saturday night with Mrs. Clinton. Her short
solidarity mission to Israel, sponsored by the United Jewish
Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council,
was meant to show that Israel is safe to visit, she said.
Mrs. Clinton also endorsed the increasingly heavy pressure on the
Palestinian Authority and its chairman, Yasser Arafat. "Yasser
Arafat leaves a trail of violated vows and death along a path that
could have and should have led to peace and life," she told a
gathering of the Conference of Presidents.
"[Arafat] has failed as a leader to rein in the forces of violence
and terrorism... He can apprehend, prosecute and imprison known
terrorists," said Mrs. Clinton. "He knows who the terrorists are,
where they are, and what they're doing. There is no excuse for his
failure to stop terrorism."
That Mrs. Clinton shared a table with someone who would prefer
crushing the P.A. to negotiating with it did not escape criticism.
"It was embarrassing to see an important representative of democracy
sitting down to dinner with Minister Elon, who openly espouses the
racist doctrine of transfer," said the Knesset opposition leader and
chairman of the Meretz party, Yossi Sarid.
While he is gaining greater international exposure, chiefly in the
United States, Mr. Elon is also flexing his political muscle in
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet.
Pressure from Mr. Sharon's right flank, namely the threat of
resignation by National Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman
and Mr. Elon, moved Mr. Sharon to only partially lift the travel ban
that has left Mr. Arafat essentially confined to his Ramallah
offices. The security cabinet voted to allow Mr. Arafat to leave his
offices but not Ramallah. Both ministers threatened to bolt the
government should Mr. Arafat's travel ban be lifted further.
Lately, Mr. Elon has been a frequent guest on Israel's radio news
shows and is often quoted in the country's daily newspapers. In a
Sunday Washington Post article analyzing Mr. Arafat's confinement in
Ramallah, the views of four government ministers were presented: Mr.
Sharon, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres and Mr. Elon.
One of Mr. Elon's aides told the Forward Tuesday that "there is not
doubt that [Mr. Elon] is working very hard in the media to offset
the voice of Peres and people like him."
Because of Mr. Elon's greater visibility, the aide said, and the
rising death toll in the conflict with the Palestinians, Moledet
offices all over the country have been bombarded with phone calls.
Most call to sign up as volunteers, others "accuse us of being like
But despite increased recognition of late from both visiting
dignitaries and segments of the Israeli populace, Mr. Elon has been
compelled in certain circles to curb his avowed support of the
During his speech before the Presidents Conference and Mrs. Clinton,
Mr. Elon did not once mention the term "transfer." Instead he
commended President Bush for his efforts to end the threat of terror
and called on Israel to do the same. It was Israel's mission, he
said in a veiled reference to transfer, to "uproot the
infrastructure of the terror and to uproot those that cause us those
difficult and hard days."
Mr. Elon, who succeeded former Moledet leader Rehavam Ze'evi as head
of the party and as tourism minister when Ze'evi was assassinated in
October, also shied away from reiterating his oft repeated belief
that a Palestinian state already exists in Jordan.