The only way out is to do it right now. For true negotiations, Israel must first withdraw unilaterally ? as it did in Lebanon. It is astounding how simple it is to do this. Most of the occupied territories can be evacuated immediately, within two or three months.
- How to end the war of 1948,
To appear in the Open-Media series of Seven Stories Press.
Chapter VIII. THE WAY OUT
- False expectations round II-the Taba Negotiations
- The Dead End of Eternal Negotiations
- Out now!
By mid-2002, after a year-and-a-half of bloodshed, there are signs that resistance
and opposition among the Israeli people are finally waking up. The general's
route is facing difficulties reminiscent of their adventure in Lebanon-difficulties
which eventually forced Israel to pull out of Southern Lebanon. The crucial
question now is where will Israel turn, facing failure. The obvious solution,
which is gaining some momentum in Israel, is to pull out. But there is also
a serious obstacle-the doves in the Israeli political system, led by Yossi Beilin,
are not advocating withdrawal, but rather a return to negotiations.
Many in the awakening Israeli peace camp in Israel and abroad are now clinging
to a new myth. Four months after Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount initiated
the current escalation, another round of negotiations took place in Taba, January
21-27, 2001. The new myth is that at this round "the sides were never as
close to agreement."Here is, for example, how Avi Shlaim, a professor of
international relations at the University of Oxford, explains this new dream
On December 23 2000, President Bill Clinton presented his "parameters'
for a final settlement of the conflict. These parameters reflected the long
distance he had travelled from the American bridging proposals tabled at Camp
David towards meeting Palestinian aspirations. The new plan provided for an
independent Palestinian state over the whole of Gaza and 94-96% of the West
Bank (with some territorial compensation from Israel proper); Palestinian sovereignty
over the Arab parts of Jerusalem, Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish parts;
and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem... At Taba the two teams made
considerable progress on the basis of the Clinton parameters and came closer
to an overall agreement than at any other time in the history of this conflict.
But by this time Clinton and Barak were on their way out and Sharon was on his
way in." 166
All we should do, within this myth, is pick up from there and finish up the
"small details" left open. Is it really so? Let us examine in some
detail what happened in Taba.
False expectations round II-the Taba Negotiations
The background for the Taba round of negotiations was a political crisis in
Israel. For reasons which remain somewhat mysterious, Prime Minister Barak resigned
shortly before, and the state was preparing for elections, with Barak and Sharon
as the only competing candidates. Barak's constituency is middle and left votes,
many of whom were furious at the way he treated the earlier negotiations and
Palestinian uprising. (Eventually, this segment of about 20% of the voters abstained
in the elections, as an act of protest led by the Israeli Arabs, which is why
Barak had no chance to be re-elected.) It is this constituency that Barak was
trying to appeal to with a new hope for peace. There was not even a serious
attempt to hide the fact that these talks are part of an elections campaign.
"A senior source in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office says the purpose
of the Israeli-Palestinian marathon talks staring on Sunday at Taba is to neutralize
the Israeli Left."167
It was clear from the start that the purpose of the talks was to produce some
optimistic "statement for the press," a goal which was essentially
obtained: "Ehud Barak sent the leaders of the Left-Shlomo Ben-Ami, Yossi
Beilin and Yossi Sarid-to Taba, with the aim of attaining an "endorsement"
for his candidacy from the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian embrace appears
to be the key to waking left-wing and Arab voters from their slumber. The three
emissaries succeeded in fulfilling their mission. They convinced Abu Ala and
his colleagues to sign a declaration stating that the two sides "have never
been closer to reaching an agreement."168
Sending the doves ( "the Left") on this mission was not without risks,
as they could have accidentally reached some real agreements at least on small
local issues. Barak entrusted his confidant, Gil'ad Sher to watch out for such
Ehud Barak has let the weight of his hand be felt at the peace negotiations
[in Taba]: Ma'ariv has discovered that during one of the meetings between the
Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, the PM's bureau chief, attorney Gil'ad
Sher, took advantage of Shlomo Ben-Ami's momentary absence to announce to the
participants (who included every member of the Palestinian negotiating team)
that proposals will be accepted only in his presence
"It is important
to me that all of the participants here know that, from here on, every proposal
here, or any other suggestion you receive, is not an official proposal by the
Israeli government unless I am here and present when the proposal is made."
According to the witnesses, most of those present at the meeting were surprised
at the PM's bureau chief's blunt words, causing consternation among the Palestinians.
The development is testimony to...the determined decision made by Barak not
to reach a settlement with the Palestinians in the time that is left until the
But there was no particular need to worry. Even Yossi Beilin declared that
"any Taba agreement is not binding... If an agreement is reached at the
Taba talks, it will only be a reference point for whatever government is set
up after the elections, and will not obligate it."170
Nevertheless, we noted that the Taba negotiations have registered in history
as a significant breakthrough, a view advocated most notably by Beilin. In Taba,
as we saw, the Israeli doves took the floor. It is interesting, therefore, to
review what they were willing to offer in this non-committal setting, when they
knew anyway that their proposals would be"non-binding."
The basis for the negotiations was the "Clinton's parameters" that
captured the headlines at the end of December 2000. As became standard in the
"peace negotiations," these parameters also have no written documentation.
"The president did not set out the ideas in writing. He preferred to dictate
them to the sides, word by word." 171Nevertheless, judged by its descriptions
in the Israeli media, it essentially parallels the original Beilin Abu-Mazen
plan, discussed in the first section of Chapter II. In all crucial aspects (some
of which will be mentioned below) it is fully faithful to the Israeli position,
and does not reflect any substantial changes from Clinton's proposals at Camp
David. Nevertheless, both sides announced that they accept it in principle.
For the Palestinians, this was the only option open, given Clinton's threats:
"According to diplomatic and Palestinian sources, Clinton told Arafat:
'If you don't answer affirmatively to this proposal, it will be proof that you
aren't interested in real peace. In such a situation, Ehud Barak will declare
war on you-and we will support him.'" 172
The Taba negotiations themselves, also failed to produce any document, except
for a general declaration of progress. (rThe negotiations ended earlier than
planned, under Barak's order.) However, a year later, detailed documentation
was disclosed, prepared by the EU Special Representative to the Middle East
Process, Ambassador Moratinos, and his team, who were present at Taba at the
time of the negotiations. The document was released after consultations with
the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. It has been acknowledged by both parties
as being a relatively fair description of the outcome of the negotiations. The
document was published in Ha'aretz, February 15, 2002. So it can serve as a
fair basis for answering the question what the Israeli doves are willing to
offer. (Unless otherwise specified, all quotes below are from that document.)
For the first time, both sides presented maps of their territorial expectations.
"The Palestinian side presented some illustrative maps detailing its understanding
of Israeli interests in the West Bank." Israel's map got closer to the
original Beilin-Abu Mazen plan (which Barak extended in Camp David). Israel
offered to return 92% of the territories, where the rest consists of "6
% annexation... and additional 2 % of land under a lease arrangement" (Section
1.1.). The Palestinian map acknowledged "3.1 % annexation [to Israel] in
the context of a land swap" (there). We should note that while the map
of the Israeli doves is not substantially different than what Israel proposed
before, the Palestinian map represents a serious concession. The 3.1% they were
willing to give up is in the center of the West Bank-the heart of the Palestinian
society. What they would get in return is some desert dunes in the south of
Israel (Halutza), with no land contiguity to the West Bank, or even the Gaza
The debate on the issue of annexation centered around the concept of blocks.
The 3.1% of the center of the West Bank that the Palestinian expressed willingness
to concede are the areas of the settlements themselves. The Israeli doves insisted
that the settlements to be annexed would form blocks, including the land between
the settlements and the Palestinian neighborhoods on these lands. "The
Palestinian side stated that blocks would cause significant harm to the Palestinian
interests and rights, particularly to the Palestinians residing in areas Israel
seeks to annex. The Israeli side maintained that it is entitled to contiguity
between and among their settlements... The Palestinian maps had a similar conceptual
point of reference stressing the importance of a non-annexation of any Palestinian
villages and the contiguity of the West Bank and Jerusalem" (Section 1.1).
Another area of dispute was expansion of the settlements. "The Israeli
maps included plans for future development of Israeli settlements in the West
Bank. The Palestinian side did not agree to the principle of allowing further
development of settlements in the West Bank. Any growth must occur inside Israel"
Regarding Jerusalem, there was no change over the previous round, except perhaps
in matters of language. The negotiators used the terms "open city"and
"Capital for two states" to describe the same proposal we examined
in detail in Chapter II, where the Palestinian "capital" is the village
Abu Dis, to be named Al-Quds: "The Israeli side accepted that the city
of Jerusalem would be the capital of the two states: Yerushalaim, capital of
Israel and Al-Quds, capital of the state of Palestine. The Palestinian side
expressed its only concern, namely that East Jerusalem is the capital of the
state of Palestine" (Section 2.3). As so diplomatically put here, "the
only" concern that the Palestinians had is that East Jerusalem, rather
than the suburban village Abu Dis should be the capital of Palestine, so the
issue of Jerusalem is still to be solved.
Regarding the right of return, as well, there was no substantial change in
the positions of the two sides, except that the disagreements were coated in
a language emphasizing "much progress." As we saw, there are two issues
here. The first is principled and symbolic; the second, more difficult issue,
is the practical implementation of the Right of Return. The symbolic issue of
"the narrative'" is a matter of principle for the Palestinians, with
no independent practical consequences for Israel. As reviewed earlier, the Palestinians
expect Israel to recognize its responsibility for the creation of the refugees
problem. But Barak insisted at Camp David that Israel is willing to share the
efforts to rehabilitate the refugess, but it is not willing to to take responsibility.
This position is repeated in the "Clinton parameters:" "Israel,
the president states, is willing to recognize the moral and material suffering
caused as a result of the '48 war and the need to share in the international
efforts to rehabilitate them."173 Thus, Israel is willing to "recognize
the suffering," but not willing to take responsibility for it.
Even at the informal gathering at Taba, the negotiating Israeli doves were
not able to offer the symbolic gesture of reconciliation. "The Israeli
side put forward a suggested joint-narrative for the tragedy of the Palestinian
refugees. The Palestinian side discussed the proposed narrative and there was
much progress, although no agreement was reached in an attempt to develop a
historical narrative in the general text." (Section 3.1.) On the other,
practical matters, "both sides engaged in a discussion of the practicalities
of resolving the refugee issue." The Israeli negotiators proposed that
a slightly higher number of refugees be allowed to return to Israel than what
Barak proposed in Camp David, but still rejected all Palestinian claims for
restitution of refugee property.
What is most striking about the Taba negotiations, as depicted in this long
and detailed report of Moratinos, is not so much what is mentioned there, but
what is absent. There is hardly any reference to the central obstacle for a
peace solution-the Israeli settlements scattered in the areas which are not
designated to be formally annexed by Israel. As always in the past, much was
left here for "implication." "It was implied that the Gaza Strip
will be under total Palestinian sovereignty, but details have still to be worked
out. All settlements there will be evacuated. The Palestinian side claimed it
could be arranged in 6 months, a timetable not agreed to by the Israeli side."
(Section 1.2). In fact, no timetable that the Israeli doves would find feasible
for the evacuation of the Gaza settlements is mentioned in the report. Regarding
the Jordan Valley, there does appear to be willingness on the side of the Israeli
doves to give up the settlements there and only maintain a military presence.
However, that exhausts the discussion of settlements in the whole report.
As we saw in Chapter II, the real problem with the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan was
the idea that the Israeli settlements can stay "under Palestinian sovereignty,"
which entails, essentially, keeping the situation as is, with some symbolic
tokens of "statehood"to the Palestinian enclaves. In the absence of
any indication to the contrary, one has to conclude that Beilin still believed
in Taba that this would be a conceivable solution.
In the spirit that characterizes Israeli "peace proposals," creative
language provides the route to bypass reality. One option which has been frequently
raised is that the areas of the Israeli settlements will be "leased"
from the Palestinian "state." As noted above, a 2% "lease"
was how the doves thought to extend the area of the annexed blocks. But it holds
for other settlements as well. Nahum Barnea reported this idea as part of Clinton's
parameters, which was the declared basis for the Taba negotiations: "Leasing
is also an option (Palestinian sources mention an Israeli proposal to lease
Kiryat Arba and the Jewish Quarter in Hebron, and perhaps the northern part
of the Gaza Strip)." (Yediot Aharonot, December 29, 2000). The Palestinians
argued, correctly, in response to the lease request in Taba was "that the
subject of lease can only be discussed after the establishment of a Palestinian
state and the transfer of land to Palestinian sovereignty." (Section 1.1).
It is perhaps remotely imaginable for, say, France to propose leasing a certain
French-speaking area from Belgium. But pretending that we are talking about
similar situations is the essence of the hypocrisy in this Israeli proposal.
A closer analogy would be if France demanded, at the same occasion, that its
army occupy those parts of Belgium needed to protect its citizens in the leased
areas and secure the "French only" roads connecting them to Paris.
As a further glimpse into what kind of a state the Israeli doves envision for
the Palestinians, we can examine the issue of its borders with its Arab neighbors.
One would think that an independent state has at least full control over its
international borders. But Israel's proposal for the "final agreement"
has yet to include such a concept. This has been a consistent area of dispute,
as was acknowledged in the descriptions of the "Clinton Parameters."
"The sides did not reach agreement on supervision for Palestine's external
borders with Jordan and Egypt. The Palestinians demand full control over the
crossings. Israel demands invisible Israeli supervision or American supervision.
Another problem is guarding the border with Jordan: would this be by Palestinian
forces or international forces who would thwart the infiltration of would-be
immigrants" (Barnea, there). The prevailing impression of the dispute over
the Palestinian Right of Return has been that it centered around the number
of Palestinians allowed to return to Israel proper, but the Palestinians will
be free to absorb refugees in their own state. In fact, Israel demands to have
a permanent say also on that issue. Hence it demands direct control on "thwarting
the infiltration of would-be immigrants."
The Israeli doves did not move an inch on this issue. Again, in the EU-Moratinos
report, disagreements are coated with optimistic language of hopes and expectations,
but the bottom line is that this disagreement remains unresolved. "The
Palestinian side was confident that Palestinian sovereignty over borders and
international crossing points would be recognized in the agreement. The two
sides had, however, not yet resolved this issue including the question of monitoring
and verification at Palestine's international borders." (Section 4.7).
What Israel offered in Taba, then, is essentially the same as it has been offering
since Oslo and before: preservation of the Israeli occupation within some form
of Palestinian autonomy or self-rule. Everything that regards land, water (not
even discussed in Taba), control of the borders and many other aspects will
remain under total Israeli control, but the Palestinians will be allowed symbolic
tokens of "sovereignty," including even the permission to call their
enclaves a state, and Abu Dis-its "capital."
Nevertheless, there was still one significant difference between Taba and the
Camp David negotiations. As we saw in Chapter II, what really sabotaged the
Camp-David negotiations was Barak's demand of an "end of conflict"
declaration and the annihilation of the relevant UN resolutions. The Israeli
doves retracted this demand and the sides restated the validity of these resolutions:
"The two sides agreed that in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution
242, the June 4, 1967 lines would be the basis for the borders between Israel
and the state of Palestine." (Section 1). They also reaffirmed the validity
of UN resolution 194 regarding the refugees right of return: "Both sides
suggested, as a basis, that the parties should agree that a just settlement
of the refugee problem in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution
242 must lead to the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194."
For the Palestinians, this is a significant achievement. It means that no matter
what arrangements Israel manages to force on them, Palestinian demands for Israeli
fulfillment of these UN resolutions still holds legally. So, in effect, whatever
will be decided and signed, in the spirit of Taba, cannot be viewed as the final
agreement, as long as these resolutions are not truly met. There is of course
a contradiction between the mention of the June 4, 1967 border as a basis, and
Israel's intentions to immediately annex 6% of the Palestinian side of that
border. In practice, this means that although the Palestinians would still have
no access to these areas, (along with about a half of their occupied land),
Israel's annexation will have no legal validity, just as its one-sided annexation
of Jerusalem is not legal by international law, violating UN Resolution 242.
This is also an achievement for Yosi Beilin. As we saw, he objected to Barak's
"end of conflict" demand, realizing that this is not something the
Palestinians can accept. For Beilin, it is not as essential that there would
ever be a "final agreement." As a pragmatist, he is interested in
maintaining quiet for as long as possible. If the only way to keep it is with
eternal negotiations and intermediate agreements, that's fine with him. Beilin
represents the other pole in Israeli politics-the route of eternal negotiations,
and determining facts on the ground.
The Dead End of Eternal Negotiations
The essence of the enternal "negotiations" vision is well reflected
in a Ha'aretz editorial immediately after the Taba negotiations. Ha'aretz, like
the majority of the "business community" in Israel, has been for years
supporting the Labor party side in the elections. (This is based on understanding
that the relative calm, as well as the ease of international and Arab pressure
which the negotiations provide, are a better setting for business than constant
"unrest."174) Faithful to the original goal of the Taba negotiations,
namely returning voters on the Left back to the Labor party, Ha'aretz wrote:
True, Barak is unable to offer the voters a framework agreement to assess.
But if Barak and his team remain in office, there is the glimmer of a hope for
serious negotiations, including perhaps some Palestinian comprehension of the
Israeli peace camp's own limits of flexibility. There is a world of difference
between the substance of the discussions at Taba and Ariel Sharon's putative
"peace plan," which leaves no room for any further talks.175
This, indeed, is a painfully accurate description of the only choices the Israeli
political system has produced so far: No one inside the system is talking about
immediate steps towards withdrawal, evacuation of settlements or real peace.
The choices are either a return to road of endless negotiations, which can perhaps
gain a few years of quiet, or the continuous bloodshed offered by Ariel Sharon,
the other political generals and the military. This is how the choices have
been set and presented since Madrid and Oslo.
These are precisely the two poles in Israeli politics that were examined in
Chapter VII-preservation of the present apartheid situation under the cover
of negotiations, or ethnic cleansing and mass evacuation. If all we can do is
select among these two choices, one can understand choosing the first. Apartheid,
as horrible as it is, is better than massive ethnic cleansing, because it gives
the Palestinians the chance of survival. Apartheid can be eventually defeated,
with long struggle, as in South Africa. I confess that often in the dark months
of Israel's brutality, when the cleansers' pole seemed to be winning, I prayed
that Beilin would manage to take us back to the road of apartheid. Nevertheless,
the trap in this line of thinking is the idea that these are the only choices.
A prevailing explanation for why there has been no progress in negotiations
all these years is that in Israeli society there exists no majority for sweeping
concessions. Hence, the well intended and dovish Israeli leaders have to restrain
themselves and offer only what the majority can swallow. In fact, there is nothing
further from reality than this claim. Since at least the early 1990s (1992-93),
there has been a wide consensus in Israeli society that peace with the Palestinians
and other Arab neighbors requires withdrawal from the occupied territories and
evacuation of settlements. For many years before that (following the war with
Lebanon in 1982 and the first Palestinian uprising), public opinion in Israel
formed a clear pattern. About one-third was firmly against the occupation and
the settlements on moral and ideological grounds; another third believed in
Israel's right over the whole land, and supported the settlements. The middle-third
are people with no fixed ideological view on that matter-people whose sole concern
is to be able to lead a normal life. In 1993, at the time of Oslo, the middle-third
joined the end-the-occupation camp. As we saw in Chapter I, two-thirds of the
Israelis supported Oslo in all polls, though it was conceived as leading to
Israeli withdrawal and the evacuation of the settlements.
Even during the current escalation of violence, under the spirit of blood and
revenge which has been dominating Israeli public discourse, the support for
evacuation of settlements decreased only slightly. According to a poll published
in Ha'aretz, July 4, 2001, 52% of Israeli Jews supported forceful evacuation
of part of the settlements in a unilateral withdrawal; 40% supported the evacuation
of ALL settlements. Some of the withdrawal supporters got indeed confused and
paralyzed by the massive propaganda about the far-reaching concessions that
Barak supposedly offered and which the Palestinians rejected. But a process
of sobering up has began. By February 2002 only 38% opposed the evacuation of
An argument often used to demonstrate that the majority of Israelis are against
concessions is the fact that the Israelis elected Sharon (or the previous right-wing
candidate Netanyahu). This, as well, is a mistaken argument. The elections situation
in Israel is identical to that found in many countries of the Western world.
For years now, there have always been two candidates with more or less the same
agenda, so there has been no real choice. The ideological thirds tend to vote
blindly for the party which is
closer to their ideology at the declarative level. But the middle-third has
no means of choosing between the two otherwise similar candidates, and thus,
the results resemble those of flipping a coin-each candidate gets around 50%
of the votes, with a very small margin that decides.
What has happened in Israel since the 1996 elections is that parts of the Left
third stepped out of the game and developed the blank ballot strategy- a form
of a political struggle against the pattern of pseudo choice. In the 1996 race
between Peres and Netanyahu, there were 4% blank ballots, while Peres needed
less than 1% to be elected. In the elections of 2000, where the hated Barak
was the only candidate against Sharon, 20% of the voters (relative to previous
elections) abstained or voted blank. It is reasonable to conclude that the majority
in Israel is simply not represented in the political system, as is the case
in many other places.
Thus, it is not the Israeli people that hinders progress, but the Israeli political
system, which has been working, in fact, against the will of the majority. To
numb this majority, it has been necessary to keep alive the illusion that the
occupation is about to end, and at the same time, to convince the majority that
this cannot possibly happen over night. Negotiations are still needed to work
out all the details. Since Oslo, the dream of peace was replaced by the myth
of negotiations. We are facing difficult and complex problems-so the Oslo myth
has been going-which require years, maybe generations, of negotiations. And
until the whole deal is agreed upon, it is impossible to evacuate even one tiny
settlement. This is how, despite the wide support, actual withdrawal and evacuation
seem further away every year. The mainstream "peace camp" in Israel
(Beilin, Meretz, Peace Now) has cooperated with this during all the Oslo years.
It seems that their message has been that peace is a wonderful idea, just not
But this route has failed. Even if Arafat agrees to resume never-ending negotiations,
Israel has lost the faith of the Palestinian people, who are not willing anymore
to listen to vague promises about a future which never materializes, while they
watch more and more of their lands being taken by the settlers.
The only way out is to do it right now. For true negotiations, Israel must
first withdraw unilaterally ? as it did in Lebanon. It is astounding how simple
it is to do this. Most of the occupied territories can be evacuated immediately,
within two or three months.
As we saw, the biggest fraud of Barak's Camp David plan is the fate of the
90 percent of the West Bank which were supposedly designated to belong to the
"Palestinian state". These lands are cut up by isolated settlements
which were purposely build in the midst of the Palestinian population to enable
future Israeli control also of these areas. As a result, 2 million Palestinians
are crowded in enclaves which consist of about 50 percents of the West Bank,
and the other 40 percents are blocked by the defense array of some 40,000 settlers.
These 90 percent of the West Bank, along with the whole of the Gaza strip,
can and should be evacuated immediately. Many of the residents of the isolated
settlements are speaking openly in the Israeli media about their wish to leave.
It is only necessary to offer them reasonable compensation for the property
they will be leaving behind. The rest, the hard core of the land-redemption
fanatics, are a negligent minority that will have to accept the will of the
majority, and they can be evacuated forcefully, like done in the past in Yamit,
at the eve of the peace with Egypt. Immediately after the evacuation of the
settlements, the army will also leave all its bases and outposts.
This withdrawal will leave under debate the large settlement blocks, which
cannot be evacuated over night, as well as the problems of Jerusalem and the
interpretation of the right of return. For these, negotiations will still be
needed. However, during the negotiations the Palestinian society will be able
to begin to recover, settle in the lands which will be evacuated, construct
democratic institutions, and develop its economy based on free contacts with
whoever they want. Under these circumstances, it should be possible to carry
the negotiations in mutual respect, and to reach also the core issue: What is
the right way for two peoples which share the same land to build, jointly, their
This plan should not be confused with the various 'unilateral separation' proposals
that Barak circles have been promoting. The essence of these proposals is freezing
and preserving the present situation in the West Bank, using the model of the
Gaza strip. They involve building fences around the Palestinian enclaves to
'separate' them from their neighboring Israeli settlements, and from each other.
As Amy Ayalon, the prominent proponent of the real unilateral withdrawal plan,
put it in an interview with Le Monde Dyplomatique: "I do not like the word
separation, it reminds me of South Africa. I favor unconditional withdrawal
from the Territories... what needs to be done, urgently, is to withdraw from
the Territories. And a true withdrawal, which gives the Palestinians territorial
continuity in a Transjordan linked to Gaza, open to Egypt and Jordan. "
(December 22, 2001).
Perhaps surprisingly, opposition to immediate unconditional withdrawal comes
not only from Israeli expansionist circles, but also from the proponents of
the bi-national solution (one multi-ethnic state). They fear that this first
withdrawal from Gaza and most of the West Bank will dictate a permanent two
states situation, without a solution to the crucial questions of Jerusalem and
the right of return. However, I believe it would be a grave oversight to give
up now a concrete chance to get back much of the Palestinian lands, in the hope
that in the future one could get more. Whichever solution the two peoples select
in the future, it must be based, anyway, on the Palestinians having lands, resources,
and the freedom to develop. So the process of acquiring these basics should
start now, regardless of the final vision.
This plan is now becoming realistic. It is getting clearer every day that the
general's route is failing. The Palestinians not only managed to resist the
Israeli pressure and maintain their unity, but developed patterns of guerilla
warfare against the occupying army, as in the precedent of the Hizbollah's strategies
during Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon. During the first months of the
Palestinian uprising, the Israelis got used to pictures of well trained Israeli
snipers aiming to the eyes and knees of Palestinian civilians. But since early
2002, they need to get used to new pictures, of a burning Israeli tank, or a
single Palestinian sniper killing six soldiers in a road block (and walking
away). As in Lebanon, the price of the occupation is becoming again intolerable
for the army and the Israeli society, which has to endure also the terrible
and unforgivable terror attacks of desperate Palestinians.
At the same time, an amazing and encouraging fact is that support for just
peace and reconciliation is still strong among the Palestinian people. A survey
by the Development Studies Program at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank,
which was conducted in February 2002, at the peak of Israel's brutality in the
territories, found out that "77% believe that both Palestinians and Israelis
have the right to live in peace and security. 73% find it necessary for Palestinians
and Israelis to work together to achieve peaceful coexistence once a Palestinian
state is established" . After a year and a half of unbearable suffering,
the Palestinian majority (bigger in fact, than the majority in Israel) is still
striving only for its own liberation, and is not transforming its struggle into
hatred and denial of the other side. This stands in sharp contrast to the official
Israeli propaganda that "there is no partner for peace" and clearly
marks an open alternative road.
And on the other side of the barricade, opposition is mounting in Israel, not
just against the price of the occupation, but against its moral grounds and
the loss of human values. Most notable is that draft resistance, which was there,
in smaller numbers, from the very first day of the uprising, is now spreading
into wider circles. At the end of January, a group of reservists issued the
following call, which is presently signed by 300 reservists: "We, reserve
combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon
the principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and
to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were
the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the
State of Israel and strengthen it... We hereby declare that we shall not continue
to fight this War of the Settlements. We shall not continue to fight beyond
the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire
people. We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense
Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense. The missions of occupation
and oppression do not serve this purpose and we shall take no part in them."
For the first time, the idea of a unilateral unconditional withdrawal is gaining
support also in the Israeli mainstream. Amy Ayalon, who comes from the heart
of the security system (as former head of the General Security Services), has
had a significant effect. "After four months of intense discussion, the
Council for Peace and Security, a group of 1,000 top?level reserve generals,
colonels, and Shin Bet and Mossad officials, are to mount a public campaign
for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza and much of the West Bank...
About 80 percent of the full membership has signed on to the campaign... Unlike
some of the other unilateral withdrawal plans, like 'Life Fence,' for example,
the council's plan involves evacuating some 40?50 settlements..." (Ha'aretz,
February 18, 2002, Lily Galili).
Most of the Labor party doves, including most notably Yossi Beilin, still oppose
this plan, and stick to the mantra of 'return to negotiations' (Ha'aretz, there).
This is not surprising, as they represent the 'enlightened' apartheid pole.
But for the first time since Oslo, there is a big Israeli peace movement which
no longer obeys them. At its core, there are many local protest groups which
got active right at the start of the uprising. This is the kernel of left Israelis
who did not get confused, and stood up immediately against the new phase of
the occupation. Among them are Yesh-Gvul ('There is a limit') - the old draft
resistance movement, which resumed activity from the first month of the Intifada
and supported already twenty five of its members in jail; New Profile - women
supporting draft resistance; the Coalition of Women for Just Peace, which comprises
of several women organization, and whose members were demonstrating in Tel Aviv
already in October 1st, 2000; Gush Shalom; Ta'ayush Arab-Jewish; the International
Solidarity group, and many others.
A basic principle of these groups is that the struggle for peace and against
the occupation is a joint Israeli Palestinian struggle. Right from the start,
Israelis and Palestinians were extending hands to each other, across the IDF's
barricades and checkpoints, in joint peaceful demonstrations. On the Palestinian
side, more voices have been gradually heard of those calling for months already
to return to a popular and civil uprising, among them the voice of Bir Zeit
University and many others, calling to strive for cooperation with the Israeli
opponents of the occupation, like in the previous uprising.
From the Palestinian Diaspora, Edward Said phrased the clear spirit of this
message in an article of March 2001. He quotes Mandella's words: The struggle
of the Blacks in South Africa could attract the imagination and dreams of the
entire world, because it offered the whole society ? even the Whites who apparently
benefited from the Apartheid ? the only way that enables the preservation of
basic human values. The Palestinian struggle, says Said, must be based on the
understanding that the Jewish people is here to stay. The struggle must strive
towards a settlement that will enable coexistence based on human dignity, a
settlement that "will capture the imagination of the world".
On the Israeli side, 140 academics published on the 20th of March 2001 an ad
in three Palestinian newspapers. "We extend our arms to you in solidarity
with your just cause" they open, and express their wish "to cooperate
with you in opposing the IDF's brutal policy of siege, closure and curfews".
In the spirit of Mandella and Said, they too believe that this cooperation "may
serve as a precedent?setting example for future relations between the two communities
in this country, our shared country".
In the village of Rantis near Tul Karem (in March 2001), I watched, bewildered,
about 200 Israelis ? youth along with old veterans ? demolishing with their
bare hands the stone?and?ground battery erected by the IDF (-just one of the
tens of events of that kind that took place during the Palestinian uprising).
They knew that as soon as they leave the liberated road, IDF bulldozers will
reconstruct the barricade. Still, they looked happy. Because they knew that
they too will be there again. They will be there for the only future worth living
? a future based on basic human values.
166. A reply to Benny Morris, The Guardian, February 22, 2002.
167. Yoni Ben Menachem, Israel Radio, Januar 20, 2001.
168. Ha'aretz, January 28, 2001, Aluf Benn.
169. Ma'ariv, Jan 23, 2001, Ben Caspit.
170. Jerusalem Post, breaking news, Jan 24, 2001.[is "breakign news a
section of the paper?]
171. Yediot Aharonot, Dec 29, 2000, Nahum Barnea.
172. Ma'ariv, Jan 4, 2001, Ben Caspit.
173. Yediot Aharonot, December 29, 2000.
174. This is openly explained in the Israeli media. For example, Ha'aretz conservative
commentator Nehemia Strasler, alarmed by the economical effects of the present
"state of war," explains the benefits of the peace-negotiations policy
which started with Oslo: "The turning point for the Israeli economy was
on September 13, 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo agreement. Within
a short time, the world changed its attitude toward Israel. From a state that
appeared on television screens as a country at war, Israel was transformed into
a site of pilgrimage. The Arab boycott was canceled, 30 states renewed their
diplomatic relations with Israel, foreign investments reached the level of several
billion dollars a year, exports went to countries where Israel previously did
not have a foothold, and the Israeli economy began to grow at the dizzying rate
of 7.0 % in 1994 and 6.8 % in 1995, with unemployment declining to a welcome
low of 6.6 % of the work force." ("The Arithmetic of War," Ha'aretz,
February 22, 2002.)
175. Ha'aretz, January 29, 2001.
176. Yediot Aharonot, February 22, 2002.
177.For more on the interesting blank ballot struggle in Israel, see my article
"The blank ballot strategy", Zed magazine, September 1996, and later
articles in 'Yediot Aharonot', whose translations can be found in http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/politicalE.html.
48.The opening paragraphs above are from my article 'Out now!', Yediot Aharonot,
July 8, 2001.
i.The opening paragraphs above are from my article 'Out now!', Yediot
Aharonot, July 8, 2001.
ii.The survey of 1,198 respondents was held on February 7?9 in 75 Palestinian
communities in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Its report
('Palestinian Public Opinion Poll # 6) can be found at: http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/polls/p6/.
A summary was given also by Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, February 19, 2002.
iii.This text and further information can be found at the group's site:
iv.The last three paragraphs are from my article 'Right for both peoples',
Yediot Aharonot, March 27, 2001
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