The tidal wave and the dinghy

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Like the battered wife who returns again and again to her violent husband because “this time he really promised” to behave, so the roadmap takes us back once again to a course that always ends up badly. But with one difference: this time the violent husband isn’t even making empty promises to behave. The empty promise is being made in his name by America.

And if until now it was somehow possible to close our eyes and not see this syndrome repeating itself again and again–the process that is supposed to lead to peace always precipitating a new outbreak of Palestinian violence, terror and bloodshed, until it consumes itself, and so on and on–after the last two years we can no longer avoid the question: why did the Palestinians initiate such a violent and determined war precisely when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and they had reached the phase of end of occupation, removal of settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state?

I know the answers that the fanatical Israeli left likes to give itself, followed of course in turn by all Israel-haters throughout the world: we are guilty. Barak and US President Bill Clinton did not prepare properly for Camp David II; they insulted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. If only Barak had addressed him with greater warmth and given him a little more time to bargain, after all, you know that this is what a man of the East requires. And he didn’t really offer him 96 percent, only 93. And besides, lest we forget, Sharon went up on the Temple Mount and ignited the entire region.

Not only are these not intelligent answers, nor even sad excuses, but they embody something far more grave: a deep denigration of the Palestinians. Would we declare war because someone did not treat Arik Sharon (or even the distinguished Shimon Peres) nicely? Does a people embark on a course of killing and being killed with such brutality because of an argument over three or five percent of the territory (most of which it could have gained by bargaining at the negotiating table)?

If you cannot give an intelligent answer to this question, then you cannot draw a roadmap for peace in the Middle East. One way or the other, the farthest thing from intelligent behavior is when at one and the same time you are unable to explain why thus far the road has caused us to crash, yet you propose once again to take the same road without any appreciable change.

Here is an unpleasant but possible explanation: According to the Palestinian (and general Arab) view, Israel is a colonialist entity of people who came from Europe, invaded a country that did not belong to them, cast out its legal owners and settled in their place. Israel could not exist as a bone stuck in the throat of the Arab nation and a thorn in the side of Islam were it not for the support of the wealthy colonialist West, which has always sought to exploit the resources of the suppressed portion of humanity. Within this context of classic exploitation and suppression, Israel is a vehicle used by the West to rule the Holy Land and its tourist resources. With all our empathy for the Jews after what Hitler did to them, it is still unreasonable and unjust for the wealthy West to solve their problem by destroying our dream, our villages and our cities. The very creation of Israel was an immoral act, and there can be no more just aspiration than to turn back the clock and return Palestine to the status that preceded the Zionist invasion.

I did not invent this diatribe. It is written in hundreds of thousands of books, newspapers and internet sites, spoken in tens of thousands of meetings and conventions, studied endlessly in schools, sermonized every Friday in a million mosques. And confronting this huge tidal wave that assails the Arab consciousness day and night from every direction, there sails a little dinghy that declaims a mild political declaration, heard once every few years as if under duress, concerning recognition of the principle of two states for the two peoples. The Oslo system and the roadmap postpone the confrontation between the tidal wave and the dinghy to the greatest extent possible. Israeli withdrawal, a settlement freeze, additional territory and authority for the Palestinians, even a handshake and cooperation–all these can be neatly interpreted both as steps toward peace and reconciliation and as stages in the big act of turning back the clock and correcting the historical injustice.

This system of postponement has not proven itself. Every time we have reached the moment of confrontation, along came the tidal wave and overturned the dinghy. The only innovation of the roadmap is that it postpones the moment of confrontation to a greater extent than all its predecessors. In other words, it swamps the dinghy at a time when huddled on its deck are thousands of victims.

Uri Elitzur is editor of Nekuda, the official publication of the settler movement, and writes a column for Yediot Aharonot. He was director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau under PM Binyamin Netanyahu.

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