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Friday, October 26, 2007

Whatever We do, We will NOT get Peace

Last updated: October 26, 2007

July 19, 2007

The Game of Illusion

Yoseff Tommy Lapid, The Jerusalem Post

Jul. 18, 2007

There is something touching about the naivete of presidents George W. Bush and Shimon Peres, who this week outlined the steps needed to achieve the long-sought-after peace settlement in the Middle East.

Perhaps they genuinely believe, or at least hope, that we can reach a settlement. Perhaps they are just going through the motions because, after all, politicians have to strive for peace and promise a better future even if they know in their hearts that it is not really feasible.

There is no chance for peace because there will always be those among the Palestinians and Arab countries and in the Muslim world who will obstruct any attempt to reach a settlement that recognizes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, to say nothing of one that does not guarantee the "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees.

Anyone who claims that the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan prove that peace is possible is forgetting that peace does not end with the signing of an agreement.

The peace in Jordan is being maintained, with great difficulty, by the royal family and the elite surrounding it. They do this contrary to the view held by the majority of the Jordanian public and despite vehement opposition from the Jordanian intelligentsia: academics and students, writers and journalists, doctors and lawyers.

The situation in Egypt is similar: President Hosni Mubarak maintains relations with Israel the way porcupines make love: very carefully. And that too evokes intense opposition from both the general public and the intellectuals.

The Jordanian crown is somewhat shaky, and the Egyptian regime could be overthrown by an uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood - and Israel could find itself surrounded by enemies in the south and east.

The least likely eventuality is that a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians will be found in the foreseeable future, at a time when we don't even actually know who represents them. Moreover, they would be the last to agree to a peace agreement that does not include an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines and the return of the Palestinian refugees.

WE CANNOT deny that Israel has also contributed to the creation of a situation that cannot lead to peace. Is it at all possible to ever form a government that can evacuate all the settlements? And in order to reach a peace agreement with Syria, all of the Golan Heights too? And what about in the north? The government of Lebanon could fall at any moment to Hizbullah, not known for its favorable attitude to Israel.

And we haven't yet said anything about the Iranian threat. Historically speaking, it makes no difference whatsoever if the ayatollahs attain a nuclear weapon in three, five or 10 years. Sooner or later, they will manage to lay their hands on a lethal weapon. Even if they never use it, the mere threat of a Bomb is enough to impede Israel's diplomatic maneuverability.

After the Americans withdraw, defeated and humiliated, from Iraq, Arab ultranationalism and Islamist fanaticism will escalate even further. And what about terror? Hamas, Islamic Jihad - and al-Qaida? To say nothing of the danger of internal terror?

Peace? Vision? A new Middle East? Don't make me laugh.

DOES THAT mean the time has come to pack up and leave? Not at all. Israel is a wonderful invention, an enlightened democracy with a flourishing economy, a wonderful country to live in, even if - paradoxically enough - it is the only country in which Jews cannot live in safety.

All those who know a little history and geography are aware that there are dozens of countries in the world that don't live in peace with their neighbors, and which nevertheless manage over time to maintain a normal lifestyle - even for generations on end. That is our fate too.

What, then, is the point of all the diplomatic efforts - the talks, the Madrid Conference, the road map, the London agreement, the Oslo Accords, the Wye Agreement, the handshakes, the promises and the hopes? The point is in the dynamics of life, which abhors a vacuum.

We have to talk and meet and declare and sign and threaten and hope and predict and promise. All this is fine and good, as long as we understand that what is involved is a game of illusion.

The difficult reality is that there will never be true peace here, and it is important to internalize that fact so as not to set out on paths from which there is no return.

The writer is a former MK.


October 26, 2007

Whatever We do, We will NOT get Peace

Dan Schueftan, a deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa where he is also teaching political science, in an interview for the Jerusalem Post on April 5, 2007.

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If I may put it in a broader context: In 1977, when asked if I would leave the Sinai Peninsula for peace, I answered, "What [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat is offering (a separate settlement removing Egypt from the active violent confrontation with Israel) is so critical for the future of Israel that I would have paid more than merely the Sinai Peninsula, but it has nothing to do with peace. And when we withdraw - indeed, the more we concede to Egyptian demands - the more hostility, hatred and anti-Semitism we will arouse."

I don't expect the Arabs to accept us. Even the elite among the Arab citizens of Israel don't. They would like to undermine our national existence.

Let me stress that I'm not offering concessions because the Arabs deserve them. When they try to destroy us, they deserve nothing. The question is not, "Will we get peace with the Palestinians in return for these concessions?" Because, whatever we do, we will not get peace.

I have one consideration only: How to guarantee Israeli society's continuing to be as strong as it is. Individual Israelis may be extremely unpleasant, but when you look at the Israeli collective, you cannot but be amazed by the strength and resilience of the society as a whole under extreme pressure. Poets should be praising it. Its strength is manifested in the fact that, on the one hand, it does not turn in the direction of capitulation, like the Europeans; and on the other hand, it does not turn in the direction of radicalization, like the Palestinians.

The beauty of Israeli society is that the more pressure you put on it, the more it gravitates to the center. It is the eighth wonder of the world. Look, people are not leaving this country. People don't take their money out of this country. Democracy is flourishing - and if it is threatened, it it is threatened from the direction of anarchy, rather than fascism: In other words, what is threatening the separation of powers in government is not the army, but the Supreme Court. Now, I don't like it, but if you are at war, and your problem is with the Supreme Court, that's somewhat comforting.

Imagine, 25 years ago, we were on the brink of tearing society apart on the Sephardi-Ashkenazi issue. Today, we've got almost a million kids who don't know whether they're Sephardi or Ashkenazi. We all but solve problems of a magnitude and multitude that nobody in the world even encounters. This is a most impressive society, and it's our No. 1 asset. In our arsenal, if there's one thing hostile Arabs should fear, it is the strength of Israeli society.

A few weeks ago, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, I was asked if Israel lost its deterrence after the Lebanon War. I facetiously responded, "You don't understand. If I were a hostile Arab, I'd be frightened of Israel, because this country survives in spite of Amir Peretz's being defense minister."

This is a society that basically says, "If the government doesn't function, we'll function without government." And it works!

This is a country that, after six years of war - with buses and pizzerias and cafes exploding, and then a million people living in bomb shelters - has a booming economy.

We may be able to do with less aircraft and fewer tanks. We can even survive confrontations with the Arabs that we don't exactly win. But if, God forbid, we undermine the strength of Israeli society, we're doomed.

My concern is not whether we will have peace, because we won't. And my concern is not whether the Palestinians will stop turning to terrorism, because they won't. My consideration is whether Israeli society will be as strong today and tomorrow as it was yesterday. In this context, we must understand that the perpetuation of the status quo, in the long run, is not an option.

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