This article went to Print a few hours before Israel’s attempted assassination of Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. With the attacks in Gaza and the resulting suicide bombing and further attacks against Palestinians, the “cease fire”, as well as the roadmap appears to be finished. Even so, Tanya’s piece carries a particular relevance as it explains in detail why Hamas’s offer could not be tolerated.
The Israeli public discourse has been storming around “Sharon’s revolutionary change of mind”. The extensive debate on his psyche focuses on the question whether he has changed from the inside, or whether it is all just U.S. pressure. Either way, Sharon has turned suddenly into the beloved leader of the Israeli “peace camp”. The right wing is furious and the peace camp celebrates, yet both sides agree on the substance of what they perceive has occurred: Sharonâ€™s Israel has already taken the fatal historical step, and gave up on the occupation. – â€œIn Akaba, the State of Palestine was foundedâ€! – declared the headline of Yediot Aharonot on June 5. This is because, following in the tradition of Oslo, the mere declaration of a willingness to give away something at some future time, is by itself the most painful and crucial of concessions. As stated by Abraham Burg in his excited address of appreciation to Sharon, “even if you will regret this later; even if you will not stand the pressure of your own party, you already made your contribution, because you said occupation, you said evacuation, you said peace, you started to believe” (Yideot Aharonot, June 5, 2003 ).
In the Israeli consciousness, it is not the test of actions that matters, but the test of words – the complex art of the simulation of peace, which so eased our conscience during Oslo. In this perception, Bush and Sharon are the indubitable proponents of world peace. Who would stop to notice what actually occurs in the real world?
From May onward we began to hear that
“Hamas leaders openly declared their willingness this weekend to enter a temporary cease-fire (hudna) with Israel, for the first time since the establishment of the movement in 1987. If such a cease-fire is attained, it would mean a cessation of terror attacks against civilians in Israel. A senior Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who usually represents movement hardliners, said on Friday: ‘The Hamas movement is prepared to stop terror against Israeli civilians if Israel stops killing Palestinian civilians … We have told (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister) Abu Mazen in our meetings that there is an opportunity to stop targeting Israeli civilians if the Israelis stop assassinations and raids and stop brutalizing Palestinian civlilians” (Ha’aretz, Arnon Regular, May 25, 2003).
What could be more suitable for a new peace initiative then starting with a period of some calm – quiet for the Israelis without terror, quiet for the Palestinians without the constant presence of the IDF in their midst? Not in Sharon’s view, who repeatedly rejected this proposal. On the eve of the Aqaba summit, the headline in Haâ€™aretz declared: â€œThe prime minister: A Palestinian ceasefire is not enoughâ€; and the text continued to explain that
“in his meeting with U.S. president George Bush at the Aqaba summit, prime-minister Ariel Sharon will seek the U.S. backing of his demand that the Palestinian authority will use forceful [military] means against the terror organizations and their infrastructure in the territories, as a precondition for any diplomatic advance. Sharon will tell Bush that it is not acceptable to settle just for agreements between the Palestinian organizations to a cease fire (Hudna)â€¦ In return Sharon will promise Bush that Israel will evacuate illegal outposts in the West bank â€ (Haâ€™aretz Hebrew edition, Aluf Ben, June 2, 2003).
(1) In other words, until the Palestinian organizations willingly begin to kill one another, the IDF will continue to do this job for them.
In the plans of Sharon and the army, the situation in the territories will remain precisely where it stands today: IDF soldiers present everywhere, demolishing, killing, abusing, and causing starvation. Each week, another piece of Palestinian land is stolen under the auspices of the Separation Wall project. Even during the week of the peace summits, when in the world of simulation the headlines heralded an easing of the closure, the IDF made sure to clarify that nothing would change. On the contrary, the restrictions over Palestinian movement were increased. (Haâ€™aretz, June 3, 2003, see (2) below). The diabolical aspect of this plan is that from now on, only the Palestinians will be accused of whatever happens. Since the Aqaba summit, Palestinians shouldnâ€™t show any resistance to the IDF, because in the Israelisâ€™ perception, Israel has already fulfilled its part of the bargain when Sharon declared that he has had enough of the occupation, and will even evacuate a number of outposts (most of which are empty). Now it is the turn of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its part of the generous agreement and to prove that it is capable of controlling terror, even without any change in the situation on the ground.
Thus, the People of Israel are left to wait for the next inevitable terror attack, following which, we will sigh and declare, â€œwhat could we do, we tried again, but with the Palestinians, making peace is just impossible.â€
No doubt that the deterioration of the Intifada into armed struggle brought disaster upon the Palestinians. No doubt that it would be better to return to a path of non-violent struggle, but for that, one basic condition must existthat Israel will make this path possible for the Palestinians. The only significant sentence in the Road Map text requires that already at the first stage, Israel should withdraw from Palestinian areas that it entered since the beginning of the Intifada and allow for a restoration of the status quo existing then. If a peace camp had actually existed in Israel, instead of marveling at the wonders of Sharonâ€™s soul, it would demand that he implements at least this minimum requirement.
(1) Is it just an incident that in the internet English version of Ha’aretz, this piece of information was eliminated altogether, and the headline announced only Sharon’s willingness to evacuate outposts?
(2) Here is the full report of Arnon Regular on the closure situation at the week of the summits, in Ha’aretz, Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Tanya Reinhart is a professor at Tel Aviv University and the University of Utrecht. She is author of Israel/Palestine: How to End the 1948 War (Seven Stories Press, 2002).
More articles by Tanya Reinhart