Translation of the unabridged version of
published in Ma'ariv, October 18, 1999
It all reminds one of the athlete in
ancient Greece, who recounted that in far-away Rhodes he had jumped to a
height unparalleled even by the greatest Olympic champions. Many people
witnessed the event, he asserted, and if one of them would pass by chance he
would certainly confirm it.
His countrymen, however, new him
as an inveterate bragger and were not impressed. There was no need for
witnesses, they told him, just repeat this feat now. "Here is Rhodes, here
jump!" they said (and in the Latin version of the old Greek saying, "Hic
Rhodus, hic salta!")
Ehud Barak starts to resemble this
athlete. I am a hero, he tells us, I can dismantle the settlements in a
jiffy. When the "permanent status" agreement will be achieved, I shall
dismantle many dozens of settlements, leaving only some "settlement blocs".
In return for peace with Assad I shall give up all the settlements on the
Golan. That's what I am like. A hero.
But unlike Aesop's athlete some 2600
years ago, Barak uses the distance of time instead of the distance of place.
I don't want to jump now, he says. I shall jump only at a certain point in
time in the future. Then you will be amazed by my jumping. It will pit all
Olympic feats to shame.
Very well, but we want to be amazed
right now. No need for an Olympic, Rhodes-style jump. Just a little one is
enough, just a weeny, tiny one. Not the dismantling of dozens of
settlements. Just two. Maybe less. Show us how you dismantle one sole
settlement. Hic Rhodus.
A few days ago Barak made all the
preparations for the fateful jump. He flexed his muscles in view of the
whole world. He described the wonderful jump we were going to witness any
minute now. He would dismantle, oh yes, really dismantle. Well, not the
settlements themselves. But the hilltop outposts that were set up after the
Wye agreement. Well, not all 42 of them, but 15. And if not 15, then seven
for sure. Hic Rhodus.
The great moment arrived - and what
happened? Alas, no Rhodus, no salta. Just a "dialogue" with the settlers.
Dialogue by day, dialogue by night. End result: nothing. A few mobile houses
will be moved from hill A to hill B. Some empty containers will be sent back
to where they came from.
No shouts of admiration from
enthusiastic spectators. Just the hissing of air leaving an inflated
But what happened this week - or,
rather, what did not
happen - resounds throughout the region. The world saw, so did Assad, so did
Arafat, so did we all. The obvious lesson is: If Barak is afraid to move
some mobile homes that were put up as a provocation only a few weeks ago,
where will he find the courage to remove dozens of honest-to-goodness
settlements, not to mention the whole lot of them? If he cannot jump now to
the height of twenty centimeters, how will he reach Olympic heights? Now
that he has shown amazing weakness, all the saboteurs of peace will rise
again, like a dog smelling the cowardice of his opponent.
Many Palestinians are asking
themselves now: What is the sense of entering "permanent status"
negotiations, if Barak does not really mean to dismantle settlements? And if
he will undertake to do it, how can we believe that will he implement the
undertaking? If he is afraid now of the hooligans who call themselves "the
young settlers", will he not be frightened tomorrow when he has to confront
the whole settlement movement? If he is afraid now of political scarecrows
like Sharansky and the Mafdal party hacks, who were soundly beaten at the
last elections, will he not be afraid of the massed right-wing?
Assad, too, probably tells himself:
Just a minute, what's going on? If Barak cannot remove some outposts, what
is the sense in talking with him about the evacuation of all the Golan?
What's the sense of starting negotiations at all, if the only result will be
Many people were ready to forgive
Barak many things - the ongoing bribing of the religious parties, the lack
of any economic plan, the cold indifference to social problems. All for the
promise of the great jump at Rhodes. Peace above everything else. But there
can be no peace without the massive removal of the settlements. If he is
unable to produce that, what remains?
Perhaps Barak has lost his meeting
with history this week. Perhaps we should remember not only the ancient
Greek parable, but also the Aramaic graffiti of the same time: "Mene, Mene,
Translation of the unabridged version
of the article
published in Ma'ariv, October 18, 1999.