Translation of the unabridged version of
published in Ma'ariv, October 4, 1999
SAFE (FOR WHOM?) PASSAGE
Something peculiar happened to
the two words "safe passage".
When this term was coined in
the Oslo agreements, the intention was that the passage will be "safe" for
the Palestinians. Now it seems that Barak and his people mean that it will
be "safe" for Israel.
Let us remind those that have
forgotten (or who never knew): The "safe passage" was already a part of the
Cairo agreement (1994), and was mentioned again in Annex 1 of the Interim
Agreement (1995). Even in the original Declaration of Principles (1993), it
was said that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute "a single
territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim
period" (Article IV). In order to implement this principle, several safe
passages were agreed upon set out precisely on the map attached to the
agreement. They were to be opened already in May 1994. Like dozens of other
articles, this one too was violated by the governments of Rabin, Peres and
From the wording and context of the
article, it is quite clear that it refers to passages where the Palestinians
will move freely between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in order to
implement the principle that they are a single unit, in spite of the
geographical division. The agreements do not state that the passages will be
exterritorial, because they do not deal with Palestinian sovereignty, but it
is obvious that this was meant in practice.
Now, after a
slight delay of five years and five months, Barak offers to respect the
obligation. Respect in a peculiar way. Because the offer is far from the
implementation of the original agreement.
First of all, only one single passage
is offered. For a Palestinian, it will be easier to fly from Gaza to Rome,
using the new international airport, then to travel by land from Gaza to
Nablus. And, more importantly, the "safe" passage will be extremely unsafe
for him: he will not be sure that he will be allowed to use it at all, and
he will not be sure that he will not be arrested on the way. Every trip will
be subject to bureaucratic harassment, in the best case, and constitute a
wager on his freedom, in the worst case.
The Israeli officers who are
conducting the negotiations (if one can call this diktat negotiations) want
to make sure that every single phase of the passage will be under complete
Israeli control. For the sake of security.
This is a bad omen for the future.
The former Chief of Staff, who is the present Prime Minister, has put all
the matters concerning peace with the Palestinians into the hands of a group
of army, Mossad and Shin-Bet officers. This week it was reported that the
Shin-Bet agrees to the setting up of a Palestinian state. This is, too, the
opinion of the army and the Mossad, and therefore also of Ehud Barak. But
when they say "state", what do they mean?
As far as territory is concerned,
they mean to tear away large chunks of land for the so-called "settlement
blocs", including the settlements and hill-top outposts that are being built
these very days under the auspices of the army. But in the remaining
territory - some 15% of Mandatory Palestine - they do not want a real state
to be created. They want an entity that will be completely cut off from the
surrounding countries. The air and sea ports, the border passages to Egypt
and Jordan, the passages between the separate parts of the state itself -
all will be under total Israeli control. No person and no goods will pass
without an Israeli permit. No Palestinian will come home without Israeli
consent. No Palestinian will serve in the Palestinian Police and bear arms
without Israeli confirmation. All this under the pretext of "security" - a
pretext that justifies practically everything. Even when a Palestinian
breathes he may endanger security - after all, who knows whether he does not
take away air from a settler?
In international parlance, such an
entity is called "Bantustan" - after the "homelands" set up by the racist
white regime in South Africa for the blacks (who belonged to the Bantu
tribes). The territories enjoyed nominal autonomy, even some trappings of
sovereignty, but in reality they where completely under the control of the
The dream of creating a Palestinian
Bantustan is, of course, ludicrous. No Palestinian will accept such a state.
The Palestinians are no Bantus (and even the Bantus did eventually destroy
the apartheid regime). The whole plan is based on an abysmal contempt of the
intelligence officers for the Palestinian people and its leaders - a
contempt that has already brought on us disaster in the past.
The same logic that has already
compelled successive Israeli governments against their will to recognize the
existence of the Palestinian people and negotiate with Yassir Aarafat, will
also bury the idea of the Bantustan. Barak and his people, too, will learn
from experience. Pity for the time wasted and all that will happen on the