Sunday, October 06, 1996
An Israeli explains
Netanyahu is not necessarily as rabid as his most right-wing religious and Likud party-mates, and might be able to use the fulcrum of Clinton's pressure with his party-mates to at least perform some symbolic withdrawals that would show his govenment acting in good faith.
Before the elections Clinton did not act, for fear of losing Jewish support. Now he will be free to pressure Likud. US money and support in the UN and world-wide is an important psychological weapon in keeping Israel hopeful while surrounded by Hundreds of millions of Moslems. A threat of diminished support coupled with an honorable plan that would not result in a loss of face for Netanyahu and Israel would work.
The plan must involve Hebron in Samaria, a holy place for both Jews and Moslems, the burial site of Abraham (Moslem prophet Ibrahim), Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, known as the Cave of Machpelah. Hebron is also the place where in 1929 67 Jews were slaughtered by Arabs, and the sanctuary over the Cave (its Moslem name is Ibrahimiye Mosque) is where the Brooklyn immigrant Dr Baruch Goldstein shot up and killed some 30 Arabs while they were at prayer during the Ramadan (Feb) of 1994, in the mad notion that he could renew the war between Jews and Arabs and stop the peace movement. About 400 Israeli settlers live inside Hebron town, as agreed by the three-part Oslo pact and accepted by President of the Palestinian Authority Yassir Arafat as well as Prime Minister Yithzak Rabin and Foreign Minister x Peres. The crux of the present negotiations is the control of traffic in the Hebron area. The discussions are bogged down in minutia that are extremely significant to the parties. They deal with: patrolling of the roads by Israeli as well as PA cars; the armament of the PA police - handguns vs rifles; number of rifles; tires vs tractor gear for PA vehicles. The discussion deals with a stretch of the road of a distance of maybe 10 miles - from the militant Israeli 20,000 inhabitant Kiryat Arba settlement through a passage between mountains to the in-town enclave of the 400, then on to the Cave on the outskirts of Hebron, an Arab town of 140,000, located on the main Jerusalem highway. Amy patrols on the road are extremely vulnerable to snipers from the hills; the soldiers are unnecessarily exposed; the 400 settlers, half of them American (as are the Kiryat Arba inhabitants) endanger their children for a principle, amid an Arab population still chafing from the Goldstein murders. But it is a matter of principle, and it could be lightened if Netanyahu would agree to to the patrolling. This is where Clinton can come in.
In both Israeli and PA eyes rifles transform the police into an army, as do tank-like tracks on the cars. Members of the uncompromising Likud right faction want to bog down the disputes, in the expectation that they would stall. This could lead to resumption of war, and withdrawal of the aspects of independence granted to the Palestinian authority in Oslo pact phases A and B. That was the objective of the provocateurs Goldstein and xx who killed Rabin.
While seeking a compromise, both Jews and Arabs must beware of the destroyers of peace on both sides. Another Goldman and XX (who shot Rabin) might next attack the obvious high-profile target, Yassir Arafat, and cause another breakup, bringing Hamas and Hebzollah back on war status. Arafat, who is an opportunist witha long-term objective of a Palestinian State, is eager to continue talks which will give him West Bank territories targeted in the Oslo agreements, and is holding down the Arab militants. He sees that it is easier to acquire territory through negotiations than war: part C of the talks, to come after part B (Hebron) is concluded, determines the disposition of the land of the West Bank ("occupied territories"); decides on the degree of Palestinian rule of the West Bank; establishes the final relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Part A gave him the Gaza Strip, free, world's most highly populated area, with 300,000 inhabitants. Even those who mistrust and hate Arafat recognize that today he is a definite advocate of peace, not because the tiger has changed his stripes but for palpably evident selfish reasons. Even when he talks "struggle, fight, Jihad" in the camps and implores refugees to have 12 children, it is recognized as rhetoric by Israelis and shrugged off. But the enemies of peace on both sides may target him, and it is incumbent upon the israelis to close their eyes to his terrorist past and protect him from the potential provocateurs, the highly motivated destroyers of peace on both sides. This also applies to Americans and Europeans visited by Arafat. His selfish objectives are transparent; his need for Western support, in view of his loss of Soviet and Saudi contributions, is palpable; he has no alternative but to be the emissary for peace - and, as such, be exposed. There are not only the Goldsteins; the militants of Hamas and Hezbollah, with Iranian/Syrian Islamic influence, may consider him a lackey of the enemies, and terrorists/provocateurs can assume many identities.
Israel is a country of 4 million Jews, half a million Arab citizens, flanked by 1 3/4 million Palestinians under their control, and surrounded by over 100 million inimical Moslems, including millions of Palestinian refugees. It has not been at peace since its establishment in 1947. In response to attacks in 1948, 1956 and 1967 it occupied Egypt's Sinai Strip, Lebanon's Golan Heights and Jordan's West Bank (Samaria and Judea), and over the years 145,000 Israeli settlers built some 50 settlements in the West Bank territories, rightly or wrongly. That is where the trouble lies. A peaceful settlemet may be un its way, if the enemies of peace can be held back. Similarly, a peaceful settlement may be afoot in Golan Heights, barring no disturbances. President Clinton may be the most important player. Let us do the right thing. We may not be able to stop the trouble in Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda, or Cambodia, Somalia and former Yugoslavia, but in the MIddle East we can.