April 13, 2001

Israeli Left Sells Out Peace

In a previous column we have seen how Barak united an overwhelming majority of Israelis behind the dangerous conviction that "The Enemy Does Not Want Peace." By now, this has been affirmed empirically: According to the findings of a Peace Index survey conducted by Tel Aviv University's Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research, 72 percent (!) of Israeli Jews think the Palestinian Authority is not interested in a peace treaty with Israel, and a similar percentage is convinced that the Palestinians do not recognise Israel's existence and that they would destroy Israel if they had the capacity to do so. So once again, the victimisers see themselves as victims of their own victims.

Pro-peace columnists like David Landau of Haaretz (April 6th) not only acknowledge this warlike legacy – they utterly express their most grateful appreciation of it:

Ehud Barak, it turns out, was quite right. He predicted that by "exposing Arafat's true face" he would get the nation to unite. And the nation did in fact unite. It didn't unite behind Barak – he was wrong about that particular detail – but that's not what is important right now. The important thing is that after a generation and a half of bitter rift, of internal dispute whose scope and persistence created an abnormal situation, there is now a truce. Israeli (Jewish) society in Israel has returned to a state of cohesiveness. […] Unfortunately, there is no peace at present. But the reconciliation which has inadvertently been forged can already now be cherished and developed.

These lines are revealing for the true desires of Zionist Left: the belligerent "cohesiveness" of the "Israeli (Jewish) society" – delicately parenthesising away the 18% of Israel’s Arab population – is welcomed as an appropriate substitute for peace. The ethnic-nationalistic unity in an unquestioning belligerent consensus of opinion should be "cherished and developed" as if it were a noble virtue, not the very precondition of war. Note also the overt nostalgia to the good old days in the battlefield, "a generation and a half" ago.


Straightforward agitation against the Palestinian Authority and Yassir Arafat, a natural outcome of this consensus, reaches unprecedented levels. In an incitation reminiscent of commissars in the darkest regimes, Yoel Marcus, often considered Israel’s most influential political columnist and, of course, a dove, actually accused Arafat recently (March 30th) of having "toppled" (sic!) both Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak from the prime ministership. Marcus also recycled once more the vulgar propaganda about Arafat "dispatch[ing] Palestinian children to the front-line in order to win the sympathy of world media" (I hope the Palestinians love their children too), and again pointed an accusing finger at the (correctly) anticipated victims by claiming that Arafat "is obviously trying to enrage Sharon to such an extent that he will strike very hard at the Palestinians." The collapse of the Israeli "peace camp" is also happily embraced by the columnist: it is actually Arafat who "managed to create a wall-to-wall coalition of despair in Israel and to turn the champions of both peace and the Palestinian issue against him." Marcus actually holds Arafat responsible for everything Israel is doing – from elections results to the last missile fired at Gaza. Arafat seems to replace Jehovah as the national Israelite god.


But a democratic society – and Israel considers itself as one – cannot remain long in a state of ideological cohesiveness. The Israeli Left, the so-called "Peace Camp," is, as usual, the first to recover, inventing a face-lifted platform that satisfies both restraints: preserving its peace-loving image, without giving up the Occupation. A noteworthy voice here – one that has not yet gained much ground, but may do so in the future – is that of professor Shlomo Avineri, a celebrated political scientist from the Hebrew University (Jerusalem), a traditional but critical supporter of Labour. In a column in Haaretz of 21st of March he writes:

The Palestinian unwillingness to end the conflict cannot under any circumstances justify the continued Israeli occupation as it took shape after 1967. Israel must now continue the internal logic of Oslo unilaterally – even without Palestinian agreement. Israel must evacuate the balance of the territories it still controls on the West Bank and in Gaza, with the exception of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. The small isolated settlements that cannot be held without deepening the daily friction and the terrible price in blood on both sides must be given up; most of the remaining settlements should be included in contiguous blocs directly connected to Israel.

So first we have "the Palestinian unwillingness" once again (Barak’s Legacy), but we do not stop here. The writer pays an impressive lip-service by saying the occupation is unjustifiable, at least not in its present shape, and then, finally, we get to his reorganisation plans for that unjustifiable occupation. Not only Jerusalem (itself about 30% of the West Bank according to Israeli calculations) but the Jordan Valley too will remain Israeli; inconvenient settlements should be given up for the sake of convenience, but "most of the remaining settlements" will be massively expanded. The last words are not explicated, of course – we are not dealing here with a fanatic settler – but this is unambiguously implied: forming "contiguous blocs" simply means annexing all the areas in-between settlements, and making them "directly connected to Israel" means annexing the areas between these blocs and Israel. This has always been the platform of hard-line supporters of the occupation, but now it comes from a devoted opponent of the occupation, a prominent left-wing intellectual. Similar ideas have already been echoed by opposition leader Yossi Sarid of the left-wing Meretz party. While this article is being written, an even more detailed version of the very same unilateral annexation plan (under the cover name “unilateral withdrawal”) has been proposed also by the prominent leftist columnist Gideon Samet, as an "outline for an address to the nation" by prime minister Sharon.

Text-only printable version of this article

Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel. He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv, teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His column appears monthly at Antiwar.com.

Archived columns

Israeli Left Sells Out Peace

Barak's Legacy


Nevertheless, talks between the highest ranks of Israeli and Palestinians have been resumed, applauded by the Zionist Left as an ultimate evidence that even warrior Sharon had "chosen the way of peace." This applause is all too familiar from the first days of Netanyahu – he too "surprised the Left" by "going the Oslo way" – but this time it is facilitated by Shimon Peres as Foreign Minister (who was overheard whispering to Sharon, "I’ll repeat whatever you say"). It is interesting to observe the terminology used for the renewal of talks on each side.

Israel has conveniently divided the give-and-take with the Palestinians into a ‘give’ and a ‘take’. The ‘give’ is termed "political negotiations" and involves further Israeli redeployments agreed upon in previous accords but never implemented, negotiations about future retreats, about the final status, about water, borders etc. – in short, about ending the Occupation.

The ‘take’ is termed "security talks" and aims, according to the official phrasing, at "reducing the level of violence." But remember that "violence" (a.k.a. "terror") in newspeak simply means "Palestinian resistance to the occupation"; by definition, there is no Israeli violence. Therefore, "security talks" actually mean harnessing the Palestinian Authority to suppress resistance to the occupation. On the ground, this means informing Israel about "wanted terrorists," or putting them in prison, or simply killing them, or even releasing them out of prison so that Israel can assassinate them, and other dirty jobs of this kind. All this is performed with the generous assistance and professional supervision of the CIA, whose representatives participate in each and every "security talk."

Naturally, Israel has no interest at the ‘give’ and every interest at the ‘take’. This is what Sharon is saying when he is saying that "as long as the violence persists, Israel will hold only security talks, no political negotiations."

The Palestinian Authority has just the opposite interests. It does not wish to expose its role in the so-called "security talks"; or, in plain words, it does not wish to expose its collaboration with Israel in suppressing resistance to the occupation. The Palestinian Authority therefore tries to present the "security talks" as if they were "political negotiations" that could harvest the crop of the Intifada.

Whose version should we believe? The Israeli version of "security talks," or the Palestinian version of "political negotiations"? I think we can rely on the CIA. Its participation in the talks has not been kept secret.


The Palestinian people seem to see rather clearly through this American-sponsored ideological bulwark. In a demonstration in Gaza shown on Israeli television a couple of days ago, Palestinian demonstrators burned an unidentified object with the words "security coordination" written on it in Arabic. So the Palestinians know what "security coordination" means for them; they can tell truth from newspeak. Israelis, as is probably clear by now, cannot. The blinding "cohesion" embraces the entire political system and mainstream media, and thus almost the entire population. Israelis project on the Palestinians their own misunderstanding of what is going on: "What logic can there be in the decision Arafat took to launch the Al Aqsa Intifada, which looks, to this very day, like an uprising in search of a cause?", Yoel Marcus wonders is his above-mentioned column. Indeed, from the ideological Israeli point of view the Intifada is irrational: if "violence" persists, Israel will not end the occupation because it cannot "reward aggression." But this ideological blindness obscures the fact, known to each and every Palestinian, that once the "violence" does cease, Israel would have even less reason to leave the crushed occupied territories.

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