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BARAK’S VERSION OF SHARON


Tanya Reinhart

One

of the lessons of the massive protest which followed Sharon’s war in Lebanon

appeared to be that it is no longer possible to drag the Israeli people into

wars of choice. But Barak has managed where Sharon failed – He convinced at

least the center third of the Israelis that peace with the Arab world is

impossible and the next war will be a no-choice war over Israel’s mere

existence. The one who is able to carry out Sharon’s vision is Barak.

Barak’s

election campaign focuses on the horrors of Sharon. Now, those who vote Sharon

will know exactly who they vote for. But who would the Barak voters vote for? Is

it for Dr. Jekyll who, as we repeatedly hear, is the most far reaching Israeli

prime- minister ever, in his willingness for concessions for peace? Or is it for

Mr. Hyde who has recently instructed the Israeli army to "shake out the

dust from every corner to complete preparations" for war, and sent his

special units to assassinate Palestinian political leaders?

Never

before has the Israeli society received so many conflicting signals at one and

the same week or day. This is one of the reasons for the feeling of confusion

and despair that so many Israelis experience.

How

can these conflicting messages be explained? A prevailing account in the Israeli

media is in terms of psychological incidence: Barak is a complicated and

difficult person, non- communicative, and slightly unstable. Hence there is a

certain degree of arbitrariness in his actions and words. (Miraculously, this

account is supposed to help us vote for him.)

But

when crucial decisions are to be based on what appears to be conflicting data,

it is helpful to search beyond just the incidence account and look for an

explanation that may reconcile the apparent contradictions.

Sharon’s

‘vision’ is that one should never give up the state’s lebensraum lands : ‘We

won’t ever leave the Golan Heights’ and in the West Bank and Gaza strip, the

Palestinian inhabitants should be restricted to secluded autonomous enclaves, an

arrangement that leaves about 50% of the land free for Israel’s use. (In other

words, the current situation in the territories, which was created over the

years in cooperation between Labor and Sharon, should be preserved as is, though

in Sharon’s present plan, the name ‘Palestinian state’ would be allowed for the

enclaves, replacing his original ‘autonomy’.)

Barak

- Sharon’s disciple and former subordinate – was raised on this vision. But he

also understood that this can no longer be achieved in Sharon’s way. One of the

lessons of Sharon’s war in Lebanon was that it is no longer possible to drag the

Israeli people into wars of choice. The unprecedented protest at the time, which

continued in the years of the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon, made it

clear that the Israeli society is tired of wars. Did Barak decide to renounce

Sharon’s vision, or did he decide that another way needs to be found to fulfill

it? We have no way to know what Barak decided, but we can certainly examine what

he actually did.

At

the beginning of his cadence, Barak announced a sweeping initiative of peace

with Syria. The text surrounding this initiative happened to be identical to

what we hear today: No Israeli leader has ever offered such radical concessions

as Barak did: withdrawal from all the Golan Heights! Evacuation of all

settlements!. There was only one issue left – the Kineret coast, which is the

heart and the essence of the Israeli being. Assad, who was given everything

already, was not willing to yield even on this one single issue. That’s how it

is with Arabs – explained the text -Whatever you give them, they always want

more. Hence, we won’t leave the Golan Heights, and we must be prepared for the

option of a no-choice war with Syria.

Now

this text repeats with the Palestinians: No one has offered as many concessions

as Barak: 90-95% of the territories! Division of Jerusalem! Future evacuation of

settlements that will not be annexed!. But, again, after we gave Arafat

everything, he is not willing even to contribute the gesture of publicly

renouncing the Palestinian claim on the Haram el-Sharif-Temple Mount site, and

the right of return. Hence we have no choice but fencing the Palestinians in

their enclaves, properly separating them from us, freezing the land situation as

is (with some necessary ‘security expansions’ of the Israeli areas). And there

is no choice but to shake the dust and be prepared for a comprehensive war over

the holy sites of Judaism.

This

is Barak’s text, which accompanies us day and night, like a mantra, and shapes

the collective perception of reality: Barak’s generosity versus Arab

rejectionism. But in fact, there is nothing further than reality.

In

the case of Syria, the official documentation of the negotiations, in the

Shepherdstown document, directly falsifies the claims concerning Barak’s

concessions. Israel insisted that only military forces will be moved, but not

civilians. That is, not a single settlement will be evacuated (Haaretz,

13.1.00). Contrary to the public perception of the events, Barak has not offered

anything like returning the Golan Heights to Syrian sovereignty.

In

the case of the Palestinians, there is just no formal documentation whatsoever

of what Barak actually offered, and certainly no list or designated dates for

dismantling even a single tiny settlement, say the 400 settlers of Hebron who

are ruining the life of a whole city. The only data is the text on Barak’s

generosity. In practice, Barak has not offered the Palestinians anything that

Sharon wouldn’t, but, as with Syria, he managed to create the impression that

the Palestinians would not settle for anything.

It

is scary to observe how successful this text is: Those who believe the lies

about Barak’s concessions despair of the chance of Peace. Since 1993 there was a

constant majority of 60% in the polls for ‘lands for peace’, including

dismantling of settlements. (As for the Golan Heights – in 1999, 60% of the

Jewish Israelis supported dismantling of ALL settlements). Now the support for

peace with concessions dropped in the polls to 30%, on both the Syrian and the

Palestinian front. Barak has managed where Sharon failed – He convinced at least

the middle third of the Israelis that peace with the Arab world is impossible,

and the next war will be a no-choice war over our mere existence.

Barak

and Sharon want the same thing. The only difference is that for Sharon, it would

be harder to fulfill his wish. As much as he will talk about peace, no one will

believe him, in Israel or in the world, that his war is a no-choice war. The one

who is able to carry out Sharon’s vision is Barak.

Also

Appears:

Yediot Aharonot, Jan 16, 2001

 

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