concessions which Barak supposedly offered and which the Palestinians rejected.

But a process of sobering up has began. (According to a poll published in

Ha’aretz, July 4, 2001, 40% of the Israelis support the evacuation of ALL

settlements; 52% support forceful evacuation of part of the settlements in a

unilateral withdrawal.) Many other will join when they realize that the

alternative is, at best, a return to the pre-Oslo days: two months of reserve

service every year and horrible terror attacks.

Despite the wide

support, implementation of this sensible plan seems further away every year.

Since Oslo, the dream of peace was replaced by the myth of negotiations. We are

facing difficult and complex problems – so the Oslo myth has been going – which

require years, maybe generations, of negotiations. And until the whole deal is

agreed upon, it is impossible to evacuate even one tiny settlement. Shortly

after Oslo, Labor MP Haggai Merom tried to organize evacuation with compensation

for the settlers who were willing to evacuate. Thousands enrolled in the office

he opened. But prime minister Rabin announced: not now! Since then, the number

of settlers doubled from 100.000 to almost 200.000, and the negotiations only

became more and more entangled and complicated.

This route has failed.

Even if Arafat will agree to resume the road of eternal ‘negotiations’ (as some

of the Israeli doves are urging him to do), we have lost the faith of the

Palestinian people, who are not willing anymore to listen to vague promises

about a future which never materializes, while they watch more and more of their

lands being taken by the settlers. The lesson is clear. For true negotiations,

we must first withdraw – as we did in Lebanon. It is astounding how simple it is

to do this. Most of the occupied territories can be evacuated immediately,

within two or three months.

The only clear element

of Barak’s plan in Camp David was the immediate annexation by Israel of about 10

percent of the West Bank land. These include the settlement blocks which are

close to the center of Israel and in which there are already over 150,000

Israeli settlers. But the bigger fraud of Barak’s plan, which has not received

any attention in the public debate, is the fate of the rest of the 90 percent

which were supposedly designated to belong to the "Palestinian state". The

situation in these areas is easily visible today: These lands are cut up by 37

isolated settlements which were purposely built in the midst of the Palestinian

population to enable future Israeli control of these areas. As a result, 2

million Palestinians are crowded in enclaves which consist of about 50 percents

of the West Bank, and the other 40 percents are blocked by the defense array of

some 40,000 settlers. As always, inofficial rumors were spread in the media that

Israel intends to evacuate these areas in some future. But all relevant

government offices clarified repeatedly that no plan is being prepared for the

evacuation of even a single settlement. First, the Palestinians need to prove

that our imposed arrangements work, and then we will of course discuss and


These 40 percent of the

West Bank, at least, can and should be evacuated immediately. Many of the

residents of the isolated settlements are speaking openly in the Israeli media

about their wish to leave. It is only necessary to offer them reasonable

compensation for the property they will be leaving behind. The rest, the hard

core of the land-redemption fanatics, are a negligent minority that will have to

accept the will of the majority, and they can be evacuated forcefully, as done

before in Yamit, at the eve of the peace with Egypt. Immediately after the

evacuation of the settlements, the army will also leave all its bases and


This withdrawal will

leave under debate the large settlement blocks, which cannot be evacuated over

night, as well as the problems of Jerusalem and the interpretation of the right

of return. For these, negotiations will still be needed. However, during the

negotiations the Palestinian society will be able to begin to recover, settle in

the lands which will be evacuated, construct democratic institutions, and

develop its economy based on free contacts with whoever they want. Under these

circumstances, it should be possible to carry the negotiations in mutual

respect, and to reach also the core issue: What is the right way for two peoples

which share the same land to build, jointly, their future.

This isn’t just an

imaginary scenario for the far future, and we don’t even have to wait until this

government falls. The isolated settlers are trapped in the occupied territories

as bargaining chips in the hands of governments which are endangering their

lives. It is necessary to help them leave. The peace organizations can reach

those who want to leave with compensation. It is not necessary to have the

government’s approval for resettling them in Israel – This is just a matter of

money, and it should be possible to collect international donations for this

purpose. It is simple, and it is humane.

Appeared in Hebrew

(slightly shortened) in ‘Yediot Aharonot’ July 8, 2001.

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