Ex-Mossad agent, in S.F., sees no quick fix for Israels woes

When it comes to the dramatic breakdown of the Mideast peace process, Uzi Arad hates to be an I-told-you-so, but, well, he told you so.

Speaking Monday morning at San Francisco's Jewish Community Federation building, the former Mossad intelligence chief and foreign policy adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu said that all of Israel is now realizing what "we in the intelligence business" have known all along: Peace is not on Yasser Arafat's agenda.

"It was a very thankless job, believe me, to be the spoiler when everyone else was celebrating peace with festivals, receptions, prizes and academic grants. When you said, 'Are you sure Arafat really wants it?' people looked at you as if you were a Philistine who had not heard that there is a change," Arad recalled of his life throughout the 1990s. He addressed a group of about 30 at an event sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, AIPAC and the JCF.

"Sometimes we would end up being completely ostracized," he said. "We even had a difficult time getting the ears of some of our ministers. Shimon Peres, given the choice between believing his intelligence officers or sticking to his policies and dismissing his officers, tended to do the latter. He dismissed us offhand as if we knew nothing."

Arad, currently the director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy, an Israeli think-tank, said former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's peace offerings "forced the issue," and exposed the Palestinian Authority as uninterested in sticking to the peace plan. Arad was less than surprised, however, because he claims concessions the Palestinians agreed upon in the Oslo accord were never adhered to.

"They were supposed to forfeit all military force except for those needed for police purposes. This police force grew into being the largest in the world per capita. They never even looked like police or practiced police patrolling — they dressed like paratroopers and trained like paratroopers," said Arad, his clipped, accented baritone voice at times growing intense and even ominous.

"They trained as an infantry, trained with arms in illegal quantities. It was clear to me, in the old Chekhov saying, if you see a gun hanging on the wall in the first act of a play, it will fire in the third."

Palestinian Authority leader Arafat and his inner circle — whom Arad referred to as "a bunch of thugs" — are still intent upon the destruction of the state of Israel, he said. With Jews projected to be a minority in Israel within a few decades, Arad worries for the future.

Gaza, he claimed, doubles its population every 20 years. With 1.2 million already crowded into the strip, Arad said that demographic projections for 2020 show Gaza will be even more densely populated than Hong Kong, with only 5 percent of its gross national product.

Palestinians "have the highest birthrate in the world, and deliberately so. They are winning the demographic battle, just as they are winning the geographic battle," he said. "Within a generation, unless we take very drastic measures, Israel will cease to be a state of the Jews."

Arad decries Israel's "highly socialized" welfare system, which he claims rewards Palestinians, Bedouins and, for that matter, fervently religious Jews for having huge families. He further claimed that Bedouins who practice polygamy are a tremendous drain on Israel's resources, and urged a crackdown on the practice.

"Polygamy is a primitive form of life, and it's not supported anywhere in the world, anywhere. And for good reason," he said.

"[Bedouins] buy their women, that's how they go about it. They're allowed four women, and they go into the Gaza and buy a young bride, 12 or 13 years old. Then they bring her into Israel, so she'll get the nationality of Israel. Immediately she's pregnant, and if she doesn't go into pregnancy quickly, they use Israeli medicine to inseminate her. It becomes an industry. I know some Bedouins who do nothing and have 60 children."

Whatever path Israel chooses for its future, Arad hopes that the "costly experiment" of the 1990s teaches Israelis that there is no quick fix for the nation's problems.

"Israel still deserves the shot it was given 50 years ago," he said, "and that is what we are concentrating on."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.