For a year and a half, since the Palestinians launched a war against Israel, the ``peace camp" within Israel has grown increasingly silent. One of Peace Now’s founders commented that he is embarrassed to drive a car with a Peace Now sticker; he feels as if everyone who views his bumper sticker is asking, ``Who is this idiot?"
The Oslo Accords are now widely viewed as a disaster for Israel. The continual terror against Israeli citizens, both beyond and within the 1967 borders, has proven to most Israelis that Oslo was predicated on a false premise: that the Palestinians have made a decision to live in peace with a Jewish state. Once Israelis finally began to pay attention to the daily fare of the Palestinian media and to Palestinian textbooks, they could not help but conclude that the Palestinians have not renounced their long-time strategy of conquest by stages. The next generation of Palestinians is still being educated to believe that the entirety of Israel – ``from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea," in the words of the late Palestinian ``moderate" Faisal Husseini – belongs to them and will one day be theirs.
Already in June 2000, prior to the Camp David summit, Israel intelligence reports predicted that Arafat was planning to ignite the Palestinian-controlled areas against Israel. And the Palestinian Communications Minister candidly admitted to a group of Arab journalists that preparations for war started as soon as Arafat returned from Camp David.
During this period, the vast majority of Israelis came to recognize that the Palestinians prefer to wrest concessions from Israel in war to having a state handed to them on a silver platter, as then Prime Minister Ehud Barak tried to do at Camp David. Each gain won by the Palestinians in fighting would, in turn, become the launching pad for the next war. Already in June 2000, prior to the Camp David summit, Israel intelligence reports predicted that Arafat was planning to ignite the Palestinian-controlled areas against Israel. And the Palestinian Communications Minister candidly admitted to a group of Arab journalists that preparations for war started as soon as Arafat returned from Camp David.
A Palestinian state achieved through negotiation would require Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist – as opposed to the fact of its existence – and the renunciation of some Palestinian claims, chief among them the right of return. Arafat is not prepared to take those steps, nor has he prepared his people to do so.
To be sure a small group of diehard Oslo supporters, led by Oslo architect Yossi Beilin, whose large salary is paid for by the European community, continued to wander the globe pronouncing Israeli guilt at every opportunity. The Beilins and Shulamit Alonis did Israel great harm, particularly in European capitals, where a ready audience can always be found for charges of Israeli culpability and war crimes. They and there cohorts were granted unlimited access to the op-ed page of the New York Times, which could not get too much of Beilin, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Yoel Esteron, Amira Hass – all Ha’Aretz stalwarts.
But at least within Israel itself, the audience had dwindled. Even Benny Morris, the original ``new historian," proclaimed Arafat the central problem.
The trends of the last year and a half, however, are beginning to reverse themselves again. Israelis elected Ariel Sharon prime minister a year ago knowing that he had rejected Oslo from the start. They wanted an end to a process that had brought only catastrophe, and chose for that role the warrior most feared by the Palestinians.
Sharon, however, has manifestly not brought peace to Israel. Israelis are reeling from a seemingly unending stream of terrorist attacks and successful actions against the IDF. The desperate public clutches at any straw. On the same day, in the same poll, a majority of Israelis are likely to both express their support for a return to the 1967 borders and for the transfer of the Palestinian population to Jordan.
The recent spate of suicide bombings has not exactly convinced Israelis of Arafat’s good intentions, but by sowing terror, Arafat has opened the door for the Left to peddle its nostrums. The traditional argument for the Oslo process – What is the alternative? – is being heard again.
After September 11, the Palestinians sought to convince the world that they initiated war was only to end the Israeli occupation of their land. In short, that they are freedom fighters and not terrorists. The Palestinians have now been joined by a growing chorus of Israelis taking the same line. These Israeli allies dub the ongoing war, the ``Peace for the Settlements War," or ``the War to End Occupation," as if all the current violence is only about the settlements.
All this will no doubt be familiar to those who remember the Four Mothers campaign for withdrawal from Lebanon. (The organizers of that earlier effort are now active in the campaign to dismantle the settlements.) Israel’s incoming chief of staff, Gen. Boogie Yaalon, predicted at the time that withdrawal would only encourage the Palestinians to believe that Israel will flee in the face of sustained guerilla warfare against it. And indeed since September 2000, the Palestinians have repeatedly cited Lebanon as the precedent for their war. As a consequence of having thus emboldened the Palestinians, today more Israelis are murdered in a week than were lost in the average year in Lebanon.
A panicked public has a short memory. Well, perhaps not a short memory -- just a talent for ignoring uncomfortable facts. Israelis have not suddenly forgotten that the current war was launched after Israeli had offered to dismantle one hundred settlements. Nor are they unaware that most of the terrorist attacks have been in the heart of municipal centers well within the 1967 borders. So much for the ``Peace for the Settlements War" and the ``War to End the Occupation."
But they are increasingly vulnerable to those who tell them, as did Ha’Aretz owner Hillel Schocken last week, that they are losing today because their cause is unjust. Every week, Ha’aretz’s weekend magazine begins with another interview with a bereaved Palestinian family or some tale by Gideon Levy of IDF atrocities against Palestinians. Ha’Aretz and its sister paper the New York Times have given maximum play to the few hundred reserve officers who have announced their refusal to serve in the territories, in order to portray Israel as a brutal occupier.
Amos Oz, in last week’s Times, described Arafat and Sharon as a double-headed Nero fiddling as Palestinians and Israeli children die. He was being relatively generous. At least, he did not write that Sharon is solely responsible, or more blood-thirsty than Arafat. But by equating the arch-terrorist and the one fighting to uproot the terrorist infrastructure, he denied any moral high ground to Israel for being repeatedly victimized by suicide bombers bent on killing as many innocents as possible.
The nadir of self-flagellation, however, was yet to come. Professor Danny Gur placed a large front-page ad in last Friday’s Ha’Aretz to explain why Arafat ``must continue the terror until the problem of Israeli occupation is resolved, since a cease-fire today on his part would be considered giving legitimacy to the settlements." Previously a few Israelis, like Hebrew University Professor Zev Sternhall, had advised Arafat to only target Jews beyond the Green Lines. Gur went even further urging the murder of Israelis wherever they might be found.
Opponents of the settlements as immoral no doubt believe that they are only delegitimizing the settlements. Yet the terms of their argument against the settlements can be applied to the entirety of Israel.
Opponents of the settlements do not primarily base themselves on the niceties of international law. They care little about whether U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 called for Israeli withdrawal only from some unspecified territories captured in 1967 or from all those territories or whether the Geneva conventions apply to areas conquered in a defensive war in which there was no previously recognized sovereign, etc.
Nor are they much interested in history, i.e., in the fact that after her lightning victory in 1967, Israel became the first nation ever to emerge victorious from a defensive war and almost immediately offer to give back the fruits of victory. The Arab response was the resounding no’s of Khartoum to any recognition of Israel or negotiations with her.
If there is one thing that virtually all Israelis agree upon today it is the undesirability of any involvement in the day-to-day lives of the Palestinian population. To the extent that any such involvement continues over 98% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, it is due solely to the war launched from those areas against Israel.
For the Left, however, there is only one salient fact: There are more Arabs than Jews in the West Bank and Gaza. And for them it follows that the Palestinians must not only have sole sovereignty but the exclusive right to live there.
That argument, however, proves too much. By the same logic, large areas of the Negev should be turned over to the Beduins and most of the Galilee should become part of an Arab state.
Moreover, the argument ultimately undercuts the moral basis of the state of Israel. For it is uncontested that at the beginning of large scale immigration to Palestine, which immigration ultimately gave birth to the State of Israel, that there were far more Arabs than Jews within the area that became pre-1967 Israel.
My point is not that Israel has no right to exist. I believe that Israel’s right to exist is on firmer moral footing than most existing European nation states. Rather my point is that the resurgent Left has embarked on a course that will not only delegitimize the settlements but the entire Jewish presence in the Land. They have unleashed a genie that will end up convincing Israelis that they are, in the words of Ha’Aretz’s Avirama Golan, ``a people dwelling on another people’s land."
And when that happens the last remnants of the strength required to persevere in the Land will be lost.