The Eye of the StormJuly 2, 1999
Yesterday Bill Clinton said during a news conference "I would like it if the Palestinian people felt free and more free to live wherever they like, wherever they want to live." He also said that "settlements are a provocation." He expects Israel to immediately implement all agreements signed with Arafat, i.e., the Wye River Accords.
Mossy Raz, head of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in Israel, in an interview with Aharon Lerner of IMRA said
IMRA What is the position of Peace Now on the right of return?
Raz The right of return exists.
Raz They have the right of return. But they don't have the right
to realize that right. Basically, those who want to return to Jaffa
are exactly like the Jew who wants to return to Hebron. Both the Jew
who wishes to return to Hebron and the Palestinian who wants to
return to Jaffa are extremists who will have to forego their desires.
Well folks, it's beginning. And this time, it may be the real thing. No beating around the bushes, no agreements that can be interpreted 50 ways in 20 languages. The crunch is upon us.
The pressure is going to come from all sides. Here we have it. The President of the United States has one year left in the White House. His place in history is heavily stained with the stamp of IMPEACHMENT. He would like nothing more than to go out in a blaze of glory, in the shape of a major international peacemaker Israeli peace with Syria and Israeli peace with the palestinians.
Arafat is on his way out. He is very ill and everyone knows it. He too would like to see the materialization of his dreams a palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria and Gazza, paving the way, in his eyes, to the end of the State of Israel.
Hafez Assad, President of Syria is in a similar situation. He would be very happy if his son's inheritance includes all of the Golan Heights.
And then there is the Israeli left. Who is leading the Israeli left is yet to see. Nominally, Barak is in charge. But there are those looking over his shoulder who have the ability to take him by the nose and lead him down their path. People such as Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid, Haim Ramon and others are just waiting for their chance.
This is no secret. Barak knows it. The big question is whether he will control them or if they will control him.
Where is Barak? The truth is that nobody really knows. On the one hand he sees himself as successor to Yitzhak Rabin. On the other hand he replied in no uncertain terms to Clinton's remarks, dismissing them out of hand.
Barak also knows that, in spite of the large coalition he has put together, at best it can be described as fragile. The far left, sitting together with Shas and the Mafdal (National Religious Party) is not going to be an easy marriage. Already, astute political commentators are not giving this government a full four years. (From their microphones to G-d's ears.) Yossi Sarid as Minister of Education, in the same cabinet with Rav Eliyahu Swissa in Religious Affairs and Rav Yitzhak Levi in the Building Ministry isn't a very appetizing stew.
Therefore Barak knows that whatever he is going to do, he must do in a hurry, before it all falls apart. He saw with his own two eyes what happened to Netanyahu and realizes that he could easily face the same fate.
What then, are we to do about this bizarre scenario, which is due to begin down the yellow brick road next Wednesday? There are no hocus-pocus solutions. Barak has promised that a final status agreement with Arafat, and/or treaty with Syria will be brought to a national referendum. We then have few choices either to try to prevent such a referendum from every occurring, or to make sure that if it does occur, we win and they lose.
Either way, it is not going to be easy.
For quite a few months now we have been perched in the eye of the storm. In reality, the winds, lightening and thunder continue to convulse all around us, while we have been sitting relatively quietly on the sidelines, waiting to see what will happen. The time for sitting and waiting has come to an end.
We must now, all of us, go back to full time work and help to prevent the calamity in the planning. Our efforts must be both short term and long term, perhaps first trying to explain to an uncomprehending Israeli public why Arabs who want to live in Jaffa are NOT the same as Israelis who want to live in Hebron. Perhaps if they understood what Hebron is, they would not think this way.
In any event, this is what we are up against. We cannot and should not live under any illusions. The road ahead is going to be rough. Our job is to do everything we can, within the frameworks available to us, to prevent an international onslaught aimed at chopping up the Jewish State of Israel into indefensible little pieces of land that would leave us with very little left.
With G-d's help, we will succeed.