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Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on May 04, 2000

Peace Now or Peace After:
The Next War

by Uri Avnery

"We shall use tanks and attack helicopters against the Palestinians," declared the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army.
"Remember Karameh, remember Beirut, remember the Intifada," retorted Yasser Arafat. 

The mutual threats are no empty words. Both Israeli and Palestinian officers believe that there will be war. The Israeli army admits that its soldiers train on a model of a Palestinian village and disclosed that the Palestinian forces, too, are training for a confrontation.

The Israelis argue that Arafat is interested in a war, so that history will record that Palestine was born in struggle. The Palestinians are convinced that Israel will agree to a fair peace only after sustaining many more casualties, as in Lebanon. Both Israelis and Palestinians say about each other: "They understand only the language of force."

Israelis read in their newspapers that Ehud Barak offers the Palestinians 92% of the West Bank and wonder why Arafat refuses such a generous offer. The Palestinians see the peace-map published in Israeli newspapers, which shows several Palestinians enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory, and say that it is better to die then accept such a "final settlement".

If war breaks out, what will it be like? Here is a possible scenario:

On September 13, Arafat will announce the creation of the State of Palestine. Israel will declare the annexation of the settlements. Masses of unarmed Palestinians, women and children in front, will march on one of the isolated settlements. The settlers will open fire. There will be casualties. Palestinian soldiers will return fire. The Israeli army will intervene on the side of the settlers. Dozens killed, hundreds wounded. All this live on TV screens around the world.

All over the West Bank, battles will break out. The Israeli army and the settlers vs. the Palestinian "police" and the armed Fatah organization. Hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis dead.

The Israeli army will employ attack choppers and tanks. The Palestinians will use the anti-tank weapons smuggled into their territories (explaining, by the way, what has happened to some of the money "stolen" by "Arafat's cronies".)

The Israeli army will have to decide whether to invade the Palestinian town and villages. It won't be an easy decision. (In 1976, a Syrian armored column was sent into the narrow alleys of PLO-held Sidon and annihilated.) If not, the Israeli army will blockade the Palestinian towns and villages, cutting off water, food and medicines. All this, too, live on the world's screens.

An urgent meeting of the Security Council will adopt a resolution decreeing an immediate cease-fire, the deployment of UN observers and the convening of an international peace conference, with the participation of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. Under intense international pressure, peace will be achieved - a peace much more favorable to the Palestinian side than the present Barak model.

This is only one of many possible scenarios. Every war has it's own logic, which cannot be foreseen. But several basic facts stand out:

  • First, while Israel has an immense military superiority, this is a war it cannot win.
  • Second, The Palestinians can absorb hundreds, and even thousands of killed, without breaking. Not because they are indifferent to human lives, but because they are fighting for their national existence, on their own territory, in their towns and villages. It is well to remember that in the Intifada, 1500 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children. Israeli society, on the other hand, is not willing to absorb even dozens of killed in a war perceived to be solely for the sake of the settlements, which are already quite unpopular. Everyone understands that peace could be achieved now, if Barak would not insist on the support of "eighty percent of the settlers".
  • Third, the world supports the creation of a Palestinian state, and the Barak map of enclaves will not sell. Under international law, all the settlements are illegal.
  • Forth, In spite of the fact that this is an American election year, US support for Israel is no more automatic. The Chinese spy-plane transaction does not help.

And, most importantly, the peace terms that will be adopted after the war will be less favorable, from the Barak point of view, than those that could be achieved today. But then, peoples frequently act rationally only after a blood-letting. Until then, the mothers - yes, even those four - are silent.

(Karameh is a small town east of the Jordan river. Some months after the 6-days war, in which all the Arab armies were beaten, the Israeli army attacked this town, which had become a base of the PLO. During the attack, Arafat and many other PLO leaders were there. In this battle, in which Jordanian and PLO forces fought together, the Israeli army was beaten for the first time. In Beirut, the Israeli army besieged the PLO forces for some eighty days without trying to storm the place, and in the end was forced to agree to an honorable withdrawal of Arafat and all his forces, with their arms.)

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Gush Shalom


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