Again, blood mixed with tears is flowing down Aza Street in Jerusalem. All at once the somewhat comforting break from the horror of Palestinian terrorism is interrupted. Pain, fury, and mourning are here again. It is so hard to have them back, and so routine.
There is no reason to wonder "why now" of all times. Palestinian suicide attacks have no preferable timing. It is neither because Sheikh Nasrallah stole the show from the Palestinian Authority with the POW exchange nor because of the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
Terrorism always tries. Recently its successes have dropped, thanks to the success of the IDF and the General Security Service, aided by several sections of the security fence, in stopping the terrorists. But the attempts never ceased and yesterday the defenses failed. There is no absolute success.
It has already been proven, to the chagrin of most government ministers, that in order to enhance prevention, the security fence must be constructed more or less along the Green Line, encroaching on no more than an additional 4% of the West Bank. Now, even as we bury our dead and wallow in grief, is the time to say loud and clear. Just like the fence was able to minimize terrorism in the Gilboa area, it could successfully do the same in Jerusalem. It is more complicated in the capital, because one good fence is not enough. The capital needs two fences.
The first would be an outer fence that would include the whole of Jerusalem within the narrowest city limits possible. The other would be an internal one, mobile rather than stationary, less effective than the outer one but equally necessary, to separate Jews from Arabs in the city that refuses to unite. We shall not mention who was the first to raise this proposal, so the government does not automatically say it opposes it. After all, it is afflicted by “Pavlov’s reflex”.
Yet if the government says it is “impossible”, we must not believe it. It initially opposed the entire concept. When it belatedly adopted it, it proceeded to route the fence down a path of annexationist folly. A security fence without annexation has been often discussed in the past three years. Now, a double fence in Jerusalem must be discussed too. If you build it, it will happen. Terrorism will almost disappear.
Neither a court of law nor of public opinion would rule that the prisoner exchange, “is tainted by extreme unreasonableness”, as the Supreme Court jargon goes. Not even when our blood boils at the sight of Elhanan Tennenbaum, in good condition, and, to our joy with all his teeth still intact, telling the world via Hezbollah’s Al Manara TV station that he was searching for Ron Arad.
It can go both ways. It is possible to sadly accept the need, to find comfort in the slight relief afforded to the families involved in the exchange, and sink back into life’s dreariness. But days like these in the life of the nation are moments of soul-searching, perhaps also soul-cleansing. In situations such as these, the trickery, the manipulation, the “fooling somebody” mentality is particularly abhorrent, and that is exactly what characterized the government, which cynically overplayed the Ron Arad card. In order to ease the pain it began declaring that chances were good that in the near future credible information regarding his fate would be obtained.
Good chances? Fine, but why not before the release of Sheikh Obeid and Mustafa Dirani? There was enough time after all. Suddenly, the IDF developed software that knows that Arad is dead. Why now? After all, several months ago an investigative committee declared there was high likelihood he was alive. What changed the assessment now?
Somehow, the moment the government wanted to dull the feeling of insult over the POW swap and its seeming abandoning of Arad, deus ex machina, “A voice came from the heavens”, bearing two messages at once for public convenience: both that Arad is no longer alive, and therefore the release of Obeid and Dirani does not change a thing, and that soon there would be an official confirmation of this. Moreover, in the framework of the good times we’re expecting as result of the prisoner deal, the fate of missing soldier Guy Hever will also be revealed. What is the connection to the prisoner exchange? It doesn’t matter, it’s more important to divert the public’s attention, to arouse sympathy for the move. The bottom line is that the spin tactics worked. Nobody is talking about the hundreds of terrorists, including murderers, released without batting an eyelash. Anything goes. There’s always the weekend, and then back to following the Tel Aviv stock exchange as if nothing happened.
Back to the overused slogan “Way to go IDF”, thanks to the honest position it is has adopted, to the dismay of most ministers, in the face of the Syrian initiative to negotiate with Israel. Moshe (Bugi) Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi and Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash are well aware of what their government wants from them. It is interested in a professional opinion that Bashar Assad is not serious and does not control his country or the situation, just as long as it is not forced to negotiate with Syria.
But the IDF is a body that functions through proper and orderly thought and planning processes, whether in the majority of its accurate predictions or when it errs, such as when it opposed a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and had reservations about the construction of the security fence. Right or wrong, it is almost the only body in Israel that does its homework.
With that in mind, what is currently being said in the army’s corridors is hair-raising. Because the IDF, with professional persistence, without arousing a political commotion, is sending a clear message that there is someone to talk to in Damascus, that Israel is responsible for 60 percent of the reasons for the failure of talks with Syria since the process was initiated by Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990’s; and that the current peace-refusal will be regretted for generations. The price is foretold, the Golan in exchange for full peace, security arrangements and demilitarization.
The government has countless excuses for its peace refusal. The United States is not enthusiastic because Syria is a terrorist state and Israel must not provide it with an alibi by talking to it. This is totally false. It is true that George W. Bush is being considerate of Sharon’s refusal to talk with Damascus. It is certainly true that Syria is a terrorist state. But the obvious move that emerges from the IDF’s assessment is not for the army to turn a blind eye to Syrian terrorism, but rather, to include its dismantlement in the peace treaty with Assad.
We must make cautious distinctions between the concessions that Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak were willing to make, and those that may be required in any new round of negotiations. Previous negotiations were about exchange land for peace, demilitarization and early-warning stations. Now a larger package could be on the table, one that includes dismantling Syria’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That is more than Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak could have achieved. In that light Netanyahu’s repudiation of what he himself agreed to as prime minister is incomprehensible. He claims “conditions have changed”. So what? Indeed, Syria is weaker than it was during the 1990’s. Indeed, the natural logic is to exploit its weakness in order to improve the terms, but the strategic thinking is that what was good enough for Israel without Syria disarming itself of weapons of mass destruction, is even better when Damascus is weak and willing to do so.
The Israeli-Syrian dialogue since the Yom Kippur War is laced with missed opportunities. Israeli history is full of evidence that Abba Eban was wrong in his claim that only the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace. The Jews can compete with them for the title of champion of missed opportunities.
Rabin secretly provided Warren Christopher with a “deposit” – a willingness to fully withdraw from the Golan, and didn’t have enough time to finalize a deal. Peres had a proposal, but he preferred to call early elections and did not wish, in his words, to run for office with a torn and bleeding stomach. Netanyahu went far with his surreptitious willingness for concessions, exposed in a debate with Yitzhak Mordechai. Ehud Barak had a chance, but recoiled in light of public opinion polls. The missed opportunity hurts. They all wanted to, but none was bold enough to dare. But Sharon does not want an agreement, neither with a powerful Syria nor with a weak one .
Remember: This government opposed the security fence when it could have been constructed, built it belatedly and with misguided annexation intentions that led to The Hague, and is now, under pressure begrudgingly rerouting it. It was wrong when it refused to heed the warnings of former National Security Council head Ephraim Halevy about the Road Map, it rejected a unilateral withdrawal until Sharon decided to hang on to it like a drowning man.
Now, Shinui Ministers and Likud moderates are sitting in the government and not pounding on the table in the face of Sharon’s failure. At the first opportunity there will be Katyusha rockets. After the Golan, until now the quietest of Israel’s borders begins to resemble Lebanon, another “Four Mothers” movement will spring up. We will end up unilaterally withdrawing from the Golan under cover of darkness. A pity.
Dr. Menahem Klein is a scoundrel under the guise of religious piety. He dons a black skullcap. He is a clean-shaven orthodox Jew. He is the darling of the extreme Left in the media and one of the top figures behind the Geneva agreement. This week he traveled all the way to Europe in order to declare that “the establishment of the State of Israel was a catastrophe”.
Most of our Hassidic leaders described Israel as a disaster. They are equipped with a suitable verse: “Do not rise against a wall”. It means, do not fight for your interests. That is how they left their followers in Holocaust-stricken Europe and fled to America.
I have no problem with Klein. But I do with Yossi Beilin and Yuli Tamir and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who kept him company during the Geneva talks, because I backed its substance, and I continue to do so. But I cannot persist if Klein remains an inseparable part of their leadership. They are like the “Three Musketeers” from Alexander Dumas’s book, “One for all and all for one”. Please tell me, Dr. Beilin, what is going on.
I watched how the BBC reported on Lord Hutton’s report, which reprimanded the British Broadcasting Corporation for its conduct, meant to hinder Tony Blair prior to the Iraq War. Particularly how BBC Chairman, Gavyn Davis, immediately resigned without a word. Without lip service. Without diverting the report. I compared. I was jealous of you, Great Britain.