This is the disease of occupation
officers. They are unable to look at Arabs as equals. The contempt for
Arabs has penetrated their soul and disarranged their mind.
When Arafat said in the past that
he will never give up sovereignty over the holy places of Islam, Nobody
listened. An Arab is babbling something, so what. "We know the Arabs".
An Arab always cheats, evades, prevaricates, quibbles, equivocates,
lies, schemes, tricks. He is sneaky by nature.
The attitude towards the Arab - any
Arab - is like that of the border policeman towards an old Arab at the
checkpoint. There is never any real negotiation, which would mean
listening to him, trying to understand his motives, to find the way for
a compromise. What for?
An Arab must be told what to do.
One has to make him an offer he can't refuse and to demand an "answer".
An Arab has to "internalize" what we tell him. An Arab has to "mature".
One has to "make it clear" to him. (All these are now preferred Hebrew
expressions.) If the Arab does not accept what you tell him, "there is
nobody to talk with".
So says the general, and so say and
write his media stooges, correspondents, commentators, "our special
Throughout the summit not one
single word of courtesy, respect, not to mention appreciation, appeared
in the Israeli media about the Palestinian delegation and its leader.
After all, our side is always talking to them logically, offering them
more than is reasonable. We always know what's good for them. And they
always refuse. They are "obstinate".
It sounds like this: Barak "stays
true to his red lines". Arafat "clings to his extreme positions". Barak
"has succeeded to extract from them far-reaching concessions"
(settlement blocs, recognition of the legality of the settlements,
abolition of the Green Line, recognition of West Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel - first in the world - and what not.) Arafat "was
unwilling to give up anything". Barak "took the responsibility" and
decided alone. Arafat does not take advice from his assistants and
"decides everything by himself". And so forth, day after day.
When one comes to think of it,
there is quiet a lot of chutzpah in Barak's behavior. After all, he is
still a rookie as a national leader and, until now, has not succeeded in
anything (except the withdrawal from the "security zone" in Lebanon,
which he himself has helped to set up) - while Arafat has led his people
from the brink of national extinction to the threshold of independence.
He is now the most senior personality in the Arab world.
Everyone who knows anything about
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that it is quiet impossible for
Arafat to give up sovereignty over the holy shrines of Islam. But
Barak's "experts" were certain that there is no problem. One only has to
find the right gimmick, some brilliant formulation, and everything will
turn out O.K. (in our pocket). All the well-meaning wise guys, from
Yossi Beilin to Shlomo Ben-Ami, contributed their part. Al-Kuds instead
of Jerusalem, Abu-Dis instead of the Temple Mount, embassy status for
the Haram-al-Sharif, functional sovereignty, what not. And when Arafat
did not swallow any of the baits and stuck to the simple formula of Arab
sovereignty over East Jerusalem (considered by the whole world as
occupied territory) they got angry. What a fool! How primitive can you
get! He lost everything because of this stupid obstinacy!
It seems that Barak has no advisor
who understands the thinking and feelings of the Palestinians. His
emissaries have met with Palestinian dignitaries in posh villas, but
have never met with real people. Army intelligence evaluations that have
been wrong at every turn in the history of the conflict, were wrong
Arab culture places much weight on
personal contact, personal gestures, the generosity of the strong. But
Barak, who has insisted on calling this summit, has resolutely refused
to meet with Arafat. For 10 days, 24 hours a day, he was staying a
hundred yards from the Palestinian leader without visiting him or
inviting him in, even for a cup of coffee. "His body language expressed
loathing," the Israeli correspondents reported eagerly, "at the official
dinner, when he was sitting next to Arafat, he devoted all his attention
to young Chelsea." Perhaps he wants to make peace with her.
The lack of leadership
True, Barak has gone further than
any of his predecessors. He has helped to demolish the stupid mantra of
"Jerusalem eternal capital bla-bla-bla". But when he reached the brink
of the abyss and had to jump over it, he didn't jump. This was the test.
The de Gaulle test. The Ben-Gurion test. The Begin test at Camp David.
Failing this test dwarfs everything else.
In history there is the split of a
second when a true leader shows his colors. At such a moment Martin
Luther said: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God."
Without squinting sideways. Without looking back. Barak has failed this
decisive test. He was afraid to tell the public that there can be no
peace without giving up sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and rely on
it to support him.
Barak went to Camp David with a
double strategic plan - a maximal and a minimal.
The maximal plan was to achieve
peace - the Barak peace. He wanted to put Arafat between the arms of a
nutcracker - Clinton and himself. The Americans took the Israeli
proposal, changed a little here and there and put it forward as the
American offer. It was far from the Palestinian minimum. Arafat, a tough
nut, didn't crack.
Like the good general he is, Barak
had prepared in advance an alternative plan for this eventuality: to put
all the blame on Arafat. In this he has succeeded, with the assistance
of a vast brainwashing campaign, for which the Israeli media willingly
volunteered. Instead of leading a campaign for peace, he mobilized it
for justifying failure.
His main agent is Clinton. The
President's interview on Israeli TV was disgraceful. Breaking his solemn
promise not to blame either side in case of failure, he put the whole
blame squarely on Arafat. He nearly declared war on the Palestinian
people, vowing to prevent their declaration of independence, to choke
them economically, and worse, if they dare to disobey. He promised to
transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem, to pay indemnities to the Jewish
immigrants from Arab states (of course, at the expense of the
Palestinian refugees) and to upgrade the Israeli army.
Suddenly, the mask of the impartial
peacemaker fell off. No more honest broker, trying to build a bridge
between the two sides. Instead, there appeared again the old American
politician, wooing the American-Jewish vote.
Clinton's motives are both obvious
and cynical: He wants to help his wife to win the elections in New York.
But the damage he has caused this week is irreversible: He has stuck a
knife in the back of the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps. He has
destroyed any chance of further useful American mediation. He has
destroyed Barak's ability to move forward. If the US says that Israel
has already done more than enough, why should the Israeli public agree
to any more concession? He has created among the Palestinians a mood of
"the whole world is against us", discouraging any inclination to
moderation. So much for Clinton and the Nobel peace prize.
The big propaganda machine soothes
us: Nothing bad has happened, this is just the beginning, negotiations
go on, there will be another summit, Arafat will "mature" and accept
Barak's terms. Arafat, too, has an interest in calming the situation for
now, so as to prevent hostilities before the declaration of the state.
But this is the calm before the
storm. Whatever has been spoiled will not be easily put right in further
summits. Positions have sharpened, battle-lines drawn. Now it will be
difficult to bring things back to where they were. Perhaps the "window
of opportunity" has closed, a historic opportunity missed.
They say that Barak learns quickly.
That he can draw conclusions, change directions. Let's hope. Let's hope
that he will do so before the next war.
Otherwise, the final judgement will
The man is a general. O n l y a general.
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