The Process’s Sad Secret, Nov 2000

I was sitting with my ten-year old son Evyatar, when the Mahaneh-Yehuda car bomb went off on 2 November, killing two innocent civilians and injuring ten. The sense of deja vu was really acute, as both of us went through the same routine three years ago. Thursday’s lunch (my responsibility), an amused and complacent chat with the editor of this magazine, and then, a deafening noise, the sound of sirens and the shouts, “death to the Arabs”, by the sickening fascist mob of my native city, Jerusalem.

Evyatar diagnosed the bomb at once, like a seasoned and calm expert that he isn’t, but I still tried to delude myself that this was a supersonic fighter in the clowdy sky above Jerusalem. Surrealisically, we had a bet, like we always do in our municipal football stadium. The routine was followed to the letter: first, the radio, then the balcony, to listen. Police sirens are the safest proof that new casualties litter the tiny allys of Mahaneh-Yehuda.

It was 3 PM, our serious conversation about Evyatar’s less tham satisfactory behaviour at school was rudely interrupted by the news, and the boy seemed almost relieved. He rightly anticipated the stream of telephone calls, which surely mean a timely reprieve from the weekly discussion about his teacher and her endless complaints. But within half an hour, when I was supposed to fetch the baby from his nursery, Evyatar refused to wait at home alone. I heaved a great sigh of relief: fear and anxiety are normal under such circumstances; the arrogant pretensions to be calm and collected are not.

The first week of November is invariably gloomy here, at least since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin  exactly five years ago.    The situation is even worse for us, since we had detested Rabin before his death, and became sincere mourners because of the nature of his assassin and his fellow fascists. Rabin has become a symbol of the moderate peace camp, and it is hardly relevent now to delve into his true personality and the hawkish views which he had held for most of his career.

Some 12 percent of all Israelis support now a presidential pardon for Yigal Amir, who murdered Rabin on 4 November 1995. Many others condemn the assassination, but also deplore Rabin as the architect of Oslo, universally regarded here as a massive fiasco. Oddly enough, Most Israelis still favour the “peace process”.

This is an important omen. The general public loath the very idea of a major war with the Palestinians, let alone with much of the Arab world. Most Israelis have internalised the simple truth that they are not in a position to gain anything from future wars, since Israel can win tactically, but not strategically. This conviction does not mean, that the major concessions that a lasting peace requires, are accepted (or “agreed upon”, Arafat’s favourite phrase) by them. The real price for peace has never been made clear to the Israelis. The issue was blurred deliberately by Labour and Meretz politicians, who are in the business of winning elections rather than intimating the hard truth to their buffeled voters. The average Labour voter wants a peace agreement but refuses to pay the real price for the coveted goal. Moderate leaders like Yossi Beilin, for instance, have always gone out of their way to misinform the relatively dovish electorate.  The rude awakening that now takes place, is therefore their fault.

Beilin has always reiterated, that Oslo would enable Israel to evacuate only 30 percent of the settlers in the occupied territories. The vast majority, so lied Beilin, would stay put with impunity and with Yasser Arafat’s consent. The second lie was equally facile: Beilin and his fellow sleek operators who had negotiated Oslo, reassured the public that the bizzare concept of “united Jerusalem under Israeli souvereignty” was acceptable to the PA. Arafat, according to Beilin, would be perfectly happy with Abu-Dis (a Jerusalem neighbourhood) as his capital. This is tantnmount to saying to the British, that they can make do with Edgware as their capital city.

The cheap illusions were eagerly embraced by the Centre. Ironically, the extreme right was far more realistic in transmitting the prospects to its public. Since they wished to deter Israel from making “massive concessions” to the Palestinians, they emphasised the price for peace rather than hidind it. Hence the tragic results: the right wing public was aware of the real demands of the Palestinian negotiators, but rejected them; the crucial centre was kept in the dark. Leftists and Israeli Arabs, who understood the Arab position and were sympathetic to it, remaimed an isolated and increasingly hated minority. The hawkish Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein, a well-known supporter of Gush-Emunim and the settlements, is now persecuting and prosecuting Arab MKs with impunity. The policy of the AG is now openly racist, and the government, including the Minister of Justice Beilin, do nothing to stop him.

It is highly important to understand the nature and the magnitude of the deception. All the polls, which have been conducted since Oslo, reflected an overwhelming majority of keen supporters of the agreements. This was interpreted by the outside world, many Arab leaders and the Palestinians as a sign, that Israel, government and public alike, were prepared to withdraw to the pre June 1967 boundaries, perhaps with some minor, mutually agreed alterations. This has never been the case. Hence the disillusionment and sense of betrayal among the moderates on both sides. The Israelis have regained the self-righteous paranoia that has been their tradesmark for years. The Palestinians feel that the Zionist doves, at the helm between 1992 and 1996, and again since 1999, have simply deceived them.

As an Oslo sceptic, I have always warned my fellow doves of the potential perils of the consistent deception on the part of the Beilins. I have have faced Beilin himself several times in news programmes on the Israeli State TV, and told him that he misrepresented the Palestinian positions much to the detriment of the peace camp here. But he has never abandoned his supercillious manner and knowing smile: “I speak constantly with the PA leaders, Haim, They are much more moderate tham you”.

Labour as a party and Ehud Barak as Prime Minister have won elections by lying to the general public and especially to their electorate, and their policies are now completely discredited. Barak will go to Washington on 7 November to meet Bill Clinton and Arafat, because the Americans and to a lesser degree Shimon Peres are his last hope. In the meantime, Israelis live in fear, Palestinians mourn their dead and nurse their wounded civilians. Peace has become a dirty word because of the lies and the sheer expediency of the Barak government. Yet, it is still inevitable and necessary for everyone. It is also worth fighting for, since all the alternatives are immeasurably worse.

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