Appeared in Hebrew (slightly shortened)
in 'Yediot Aharonot' July 8, 2001.
-A simple and human step.
By Tanya Reinhart.
In contrast to the spirit of blood and revenge which is now dominating
the Israeli public discourse, there has been for years a wide consensus
in the Israeli society that peace with the Palestinians requires
withdrawal from the occupied territories and evacuation of settlements.
Many of the withdrawal supporters got indeed confused and paralyzed
by the massive propaganda about the far reaching 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
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 build in the
midst of the Palestinian population to enable future Israeli control
also 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 consider.
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 outposts.
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.