Well, it appears that that's not so
easy. Barak has learned that Arafat is a much harder nut to crack than he
looks, and that the Palestinians are not as weak as they look. Arafat
refused the "offer he can't refuse". On the horizon loomed a different
vision: the Palestinians will declare their state on September 13, 2000
without Israeli consent, Israel will annex the "settlement blocs" without
Palestinian consent, all the world (except Micronesia and the Fiji islands)
will recognize the State of Palestine, no state (except the Fiji islands and
Micronesia) will recognize the Israeli annexation. All this will happen in a
state of confrontation, there may be bloodshed, the conflict will come to a
Barak makes now a much less ambitious
offer. Not a "permanent solution" but another interim period. The State of
Palestine will come into being on September 13 with Israeli consent in 50%
the West Bank and the Gaza strip; Israel will annex "settlement blocs"
comprising 10%, with Palestinian consent. The other 40% will remain open for
the time being. The two states will start negotiations on all the other
problems: the final borders between Israel and Palestine, Jerusalem, the
The proposal is based on the assumption
that an abyss divides the positions of the two sides. The political and
psychological situation in Israel does not allow it to achieve real peace
and reconciliation. The conflict will go on for a long time, but will be
contained and turn into a conflict between two states.
That is the general idea being kicked
around between Barak and his bunch of generals. It leaves many questions
unanswered. For example: What will happen in the territory of 40%? Will
creeping settlement continue there, creating new "settlement blocs" to be
annexed in the future? Will the Israeli army be able to do there whatever it
wants? Will Abu-Dis become the temporary capital of free Palestine? Will
Israel continue to control the Palestinian ports and border passages? Will
the new interim period by limited in time?
It is hard to believe that Arafat can
accept this offer. Of course, it is very important for the Palestinians that
their state be recognized immediately by Israel and the Unites States. But
how can they give up the Green Line (the 1967 borders), which by itself
leaves them only 22% of their original homeland? Even as an interim
proposal, it is hard to swallow.
The Palestinians will make their own
calculations. But even if they would accept, is the proposal good for peace,
good for Israel?
Of course, any agreed settlement is
better than the present situation, which may blow up any minute. But the
question remains: is a "cheap" interim settlement better than an "expensive"
I have already quoted a saying by
Lloyd-George, the British Prime Minister who proposed to give the Irish
their independence: "You cannot cross an abyss in two jumps". I believe that
that is also true now. It is worthwhile to jump over the abyss and finish
this conflict once and for all.
Peace can be achieved even before
September, with the support of the whole world, if we are ready to pay the
price: a Palestinian state in all the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the
evacuation of the settlements, a rational compromise over Jerusalem, a
generous solution of the refugee problem that we can live with.
Perhaps Barak is not strong enough to
carry that through, and perhaps he and his generals are not yet ready for it
psychologically. If so, further interim periods may be needed, until we get
an able national leadership. But it must be clear that the wound will remain
open and continue to fester.
This, then, is the task of the Israeli
peace forces: to prepare Israeli public opinion for the solution without
which there can be no reconciliation between the two peoples -- the
reconciliation which will guarantee their security for generations to come.
the Settlement Special]