Translation of an article published
in Ma'ariv on April 03, 2000
To leave but to stay
FEET IN LAKE KINNERET
by Uri Avnery
What an awful
nightmare: Israel dreams that Hafez al-Assad dips his feet in the
Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The water reaches his hips. Then his
shoulders. He swims. Assad swims in the Kinneret!!!
At this moment of utter horror Israel
wakes up, all covered with cold sweat. But then the happy realization comes: It
us only a bad dream. In reality the opposite has happened: the awful peace has
exploded. The Clinton-Assad summit was a failure. No peace, no withdrawal, no
dismantling of settlements, no referendum, no need for the votes of Shass. What
a release! What happiness! Israel and Ehud Barak take a deep breath, heard from
Washington to Teheran. We have been saved!
Israel is the realm of myths. Nothing is
ever discussed rationally, facts don't count. TV viewers want drama, newspaper
readers want headlines that cry out. Everything is reduced to pictures. On the
one side, "to eat Humus in Damascus." On the other: "Assad dips his feet in the
I am trying to get upset, and do not
succeed. Assad swims in the Kinneret? So what? What the hell is the debate all
Assad wants to go back to the line of the
June 4, 1967. At that time, the Syrians were sitting on the shores of the
Kinneret, making their Mangal (barbecue) on the stones. Israel says: Impossible,
the "international" border must be restored. This is the border fixed by the
1923 agreement between the French overlords of Syria and the British overlords
of Palestine. It leaves 10 (ten!) meters between Syria and the water of the
Kinneret. The Syrians, by the way, never recognized this "colonial" border.
Well, it transpires that Israel does not really want this border either, but
only talks about it. Israel wants a new border, 100 (hundred!) meters from the
(We Israelis are principled people. Or,
rather. a many-principled people. In principle, we want that between us and
Lebanon the June 4, 1967, line, and not the "international" border, shall be
restored. On the Palestinian front, we do not want to return to the June 4
"Green Line" under any circumstances. On the Jordanian front we have returned in
principle to the international border, but in practice have stayed "by lease" on
the June 4 line. On the Egyptian front, the international border and the June 4
line were identical.)
Back to Assad's barbecue. Two quite
different matters have become mixed up. One: The ownership of the water. Two:
The location of the border.
The water of the Kinneret belong to
Israel (and, indirectly, to Jordan and Palestine too) according to the old
agreements. So does the water reaching the Kinneret from the sources of the
Banias, Dan and Hazbani . Israel cannot give it up, at least not until a future
Regional Union will apportion all the waters in the region by general consent.
The problem is not new. During the 19
years in which the Syrians were sitting on the shores of the Kinneret, years of
much tension and many shooting incidents, the Syrians did not try to take the
Kinneret water for themselves. (One Syrian attempt to divert the water of one of
the sources was promptly stopped when Israel bombarded the bulldozers.)
In short, the water issue is an important
subject in the future negotiations for Israeli-Syrian peace. There, the vital
interests of Israel must be secured. But does that concern the location of the
Aha, say the "experts", of course it
does. We need a strip of land between the sea and the Syrian army, in order to
defend the water. But that's ridiculous.
If the "international" border will be
restored, there will be a distance of ten meters between the sea and the first
Syrian soldier. What shall we do there? Station our tanks? They will hardly be
able to turn around. If the Syrian army will want to provoke us, it will be able
to capture the shore before breakfast.
Aha, answer the experts. That's why we
want a hundred meters. Nu, so what? Will that stop the Syrian army, if it will
want to steal our water, rather than the knowledge that that will be a casus
belli for us?
There is no logic here, only sloganeering
and obfuscation. Peace with Syria is of utmost importance. It will make it much
easier for the Palestinians too to make peace, since the Palestinian rejection
front located in Damascus, which rejects any peace at all, will disappear. It
will make an orderly retreat from Lebanon possible. Together with the
Israeli-Palestinian peace, it will remove the last obstacle on the way to
"normalization" with the Arab world. Not to mention the Humus in Damascus.
For that I am ready to allow Assad to dip
his long feet in the Kinneret. May it add to his health.