can be little doubt that something has changed in Israel's public
discourse in the past two or three of months. Israel's rejectionism
the ideology of the Army, turned into a state dogma when, PM
Barak, the Trojan horse, destroyed the Israeli peace camp
from within, and then consolidated by Sharon has been showing
first had the 27 refusing Israeli
air force pilots, "opposed to carrying out illegal and immoral
attacks of the type carried out by Israel in the territories";
new waves of refusing soldiers are following.
We had former speaker of the Knesset Avraham
Burg (Labor), who, in an article that attracted a lot of attention
especially outside Israel, described it as a "nation [that] rests
on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression
and injustice." We had the influential interview with four
former Secret Service heads, warning that Sharon is leading
Israel to "a point where it will not be a democracy or a home
for the Jewish people" and criticizing the settlements, the
Apartheid Wall, the assassination policy, the daily humiliation
and harassment of the Palestinians, and the demagogic abuse of
"preventing terrorism" as "an excuse for doing nothing" to end
the occupation. We had Staff Sergeant (res.) Liran
Ron-Forer's book describing how he had "become an animal"
while serving at a checkpoint in the occupied territories. We
even had the Israeli army admitting that it had intentionally
lied to the media about operational details of an attack in
Gaza that ended in a bloodbath. And we had senior mainstream analyst
Yoel Marcus of Ha'aretz calling on PM Sharon to resign
top of all that, the two most important political developments
are the overwhelmingly successful media launching of the so-called
Accord, as well as senior Likud politician Ehud
Olmert's call for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal form most
of the occupied territories, including dismantling settlements,
which gained significant support even within the Likud. The recent
of PM Sharon, threatening with "moving" (not removing!) some
settlements while strengthening other if and when the Road Map
"fails," can be seen as his response to these challenges, which
seem to show that the Israeli public is not as keen on "letting
the Army win" as the junta was hoping.
for the Geneva Accord, much too much energy has been wasted on
debating words and paragraphs of the unbinding paper, which never
claimed to be much more than a refutation of Barak's pernicious
claim that "Israel has no partner for peace" (translated
into proactively eliminating any such partner, that is, into "Israel
is no partner for peace").
is easy to find faults in the Geneva text; I for my part can go
a long way with it, though a line like "The Israeli Air
Force shall be entitled to use the Palestinian sovereign airspace
for training purposes" is utterly outrageous. But debating
the details is missing the whole point. Geneva enthusiasts who
are generally simply Oslo enthusiasts, a decade older but seldom
wiser tend to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as if
it were SARS: a terrible illness, to which the cure has not yet
been found; All we have to do is find the right medicine, take
the pill and be healthy.
is a grave mistake. The Middle-East conflict is not SARS; it's
more like pneumonia. Its cure has been known for decades. Except
by official Israel, with its vested interest in keeping the status
quo, much too many peace plans have been solemnly launched Clinton's
Peace Plan, the Nusseiba-Ayalon
Plan, the Saudi
Peace Initiative, Bushs
Road Map, now the Geneva Accords, and several more. The differences
between them are like those between different brand-names of penicillin.
They all include clear, practical measures that Israel has to
take in order to make peace: Dismantle the settlements, withdraw
its soldiers and civilians from the occupied territories, let
create a viable Palestinian state, and find a creative solution
for the Palestinian refugees' right of return. In the short
range, these are the necessary and sufficient conditions for peace
between Israel and the Palestinians. "Inventing" them is reinventing
problem is that the patient in this case, Israel refuses to
take the pills. Developing new medicines when the patient doesn't
even consider taking the old ones may be a wise propaganda step
which is why the Geneva Accord is quite important after all
but it is far from sufficient to bring about peace.
1967, Israel has never given up its claim on the occupied Palestinian
territories; Israel has not dismantled a single settlement built
there, and has never ceased to take Palestinian lands by an ever
more sophisticate arsenal of dispossession: the "by-pass roads,"
the "checkpoints," the relentless harassment of the Palestinian
population, and, at present, the project that epitomizes the policy
of dispossession: the Apartheid Wall.
any assessment of where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is heading
to should consider the following points:
is nothing new about Israel's public discourse opposing the
Occupation: Most Israelis have opposed the settlements policy
all along, as all polls
Israel's governments have learnt to live with some opposition
to the Occupation, and even use it in order to boost the Occupation.
A peace rally in Tel-Aviv is an excellent way to divert media
attention from new houses for settlers by nice pictures of "We
is a huge discrepancy between what Israel is ready to say (for
peace) and what it is actually doing (against peace). This discrepancy
reaches its peak with Labor in power (Likud is more honest about
its colonialist objectives), but there is no reason why Sharon
would not adopt the policy of speaking against the Occupation
while doing his best to entrench it.
for time is a central Israeli policy; Sharon is a founding father
of it. Yes, says Israel: we will end the Occupation, we will
dismantle the "unauthorized" "outposts" and even some settlements
but not now. Not before "terrorism" stops for 7 days, or 3
months, or 5 years. Not before the Palestinians stop defying
us. Not without negotiations, and not before a final status
agreement is reached. Not before Arafat is gone, and not before
the Road Map fails. Not before the elections in the US, and
not before those in Israel, and not before the occupied Palestinians
become a true Western democracy. We will end the Occupation,
sure just give us a few more years to boost it first.
has to be either extremely naïve or an outright hypocrite
to overestimate the shift in Israel's public discourse. Since
1967, Israel has "missed" each and every opportunity to end
the Occupation (most notably in the Oslo years, which witnesses
a 100% increase in the number of settlers). The Occupation is
not run by journalists, neither is it decided in elections:
It is deeply anchored in the ideology and in the political and
financial interests of the Army, which in fact runs
the country; it is backed by major parts of the leading
elites, and by the entire State apparatus on all levels, from
the Health and Education to Construction and Agriculture ministries.
The Israeli parliament, where settlers are highly over-represented,
is just the tip of the iceberg.
to estimate whether Israel is steering away from its traditional
rejectionism just when it is backed as never before by the Bush
administration, do not listen to the PM or to his self-proclaimed
interpreters. Look at the occupied territories themselves instead.
There, no sign of an improvement can be traced. Military incursions
with massive killing and wounding of Palestinians, huge "collateral
damage" and ceaseless destruction of houses are the Palestinians'
daily bread, almost uncovered by the media.
all heard of the 4 innocent Israelis killed on Thursday (25.12)
near Tel-Aviv by a suicide bomber, the first such successful operation
since early October. But who noticed the 4 innocent Palestinians
killed alongside with a Jihad activist assassinated in Gaza the
same Thursday? Or the 8 Palestinians killed in Rafah on Tuesday?
Or the 5-year-old Palestinian child yes, Mohammad Al-Arej was
five years old and the 16-year-old Palestinian boy, both killed
near Nablus on Sunday? Or the 10 Palestinians killed and 31 homes
destroyed by Israeli forces the
greatest danger right now is to fall into a new Oslo trap: to
concentrate on speeches and accords, on diplomatic meetings and
photo opportunities, and to ignore the facts on the ground the
dehumanization of Palestinians, the accelerated erection of
the Apartheid Wall, and the systematic destruction of Palestinian
life. As long as this Israeli policy does not change, there is
no room for optimism. Ten years after the Oslo fraud, it is high
time to remember that speeches and texts can be forgotten tomorrow,
but facts on the ground are there to stay.
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was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has
a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and
is currently working on his PhD thesis. He teaches in the Tel-Aviv
University's Department of Comparative Literature. He also works
as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as
a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth.
Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter
from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
There Hope? Where to Look for It
Stories from the Only Democracy in the Middle East
Case for Hizbollah?
the Hudna Scenes
Militarism At War
City of Terror
Cleansing: Some Common Reactions
Cleansing: Past, Present and Future
Elections. So What.
Behind Ha'aretz's Liberal Image
UN From Qana to Jenin
War For Terrorism
New World Order and the Stone Age
Jews Cam Support Israel
Enslavement Entering A New Phase
and Taking Possession
Times of War Crimes
A Suicide Bomber?
Alive and Killing
Now?! Well, Maybe Later
Horowitz Rewrites the Past
Say No to
a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace