To judge by the polls, the political system in Israel is very far from
representing the positions of the majority in Israeli society. For several
months the polls have shown a 60% majority or more in favor of dismantling
settlements, even in the framework of a "unilateral separation". The
questions in the polls are not always unequivocal, but in a 'Da"haf' poll,
on May 6th, which was solicited by 'Peace Now', the questions were clear,
and so were the answers:
But what precisely was the call? Since it was introduced, in February
this year, the call has been wrapped in words about massive fences and
"isolation areas", but at its start, it was clear and sharp. Its prominent
proponent is Ami Ayalon, who comes from the heart of the security system
(as former head of the General Security Services). In an interview with Le
Monde Diplomatique he said: "I favor unconditional withdrawal from the
Territories. What needs to be done, urgently, is to withdraw from the
Territories. And a true withdrawal, which gives the Palestinians
territorial continuity in a Transjordan linked to Gaza, open to Egypt and
Jordan. " (December 22, 2001).
In February, Ayalon was joined by one of the most mainstream bodies in
Israel: "After four months of intense discussion, the Council for Peace and
Security, a group of 1,000 top level reserve generals, colonels, Shin Bet
and Mossad officials, are to mount a public campaign for a unilateral
Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza and much of the West Bank. About 80
percent of the full membership has signed on to the campaign. Unlike some
of the other unilateral withdrawal plans, 'Life Fence,' for example, the
council's plan involves evacuating some 40 50 settlements..." (Ha'aretz,
February 18, 2002, Lily Galili).
Underlying this plan is the understanding that the route of eternal
negotiations, as Israel stays in the territories, has failed. The solution
should go the other way: first an immediate unilateral withdrawal, as in
Lebanon, and then real negotiations would start. The evacuation will
include all of Gaza, and 90-95% of the West Bank, excluding the Jerusalem
and central settlement blocks, whose 150,000 settlers cannot be evacuated
I add from what I wrote in this page (of Yediot Aharonot) in July 8,
2001. "This withdrawal will leave under debate the large settlement blocks,
as well as the problems of Jerusalem and the interpretation of the right of
return. For these, negotiations will be needed. However, during the
negotiations the Palestinian society will be able to begin to recover,
settle in the lands that will be evacuated, construct democratic
institutions, and develop its economy based on free contacts with whomever
they want. Under these circumstances, it should be possible to carry the
negotiations out in mutual respect, and to also reach the core issue: What
is the right way for two peoples which share the same land to build,
jointly, their future."
I believe that if we follow this plan, no fences will be needed. In other
'unilateral separation' plans, such as that which Barak's circles have been
promoting, a fence will be built around the Palestinian enclaves to
'separate' them from their neighboring Israeli settlements, and from each
other, following the model of what Israel has done already in the Gaza
strip. According to this plan, indeed, massive fences will be needed, as
well as reserve services forever. But an unconditional (unilateral)
evacuation, immediately, is a route towards peace.
An amazing and encouraging fact is that, contrary to the prevailing
impression in Israel, support for just peace and reconciliation is still
strong in the Palestinian society. A survey by the Development Studies
Program at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, which was conducted in
February 2002, found out that "77% believe that both Palestinians and
Israelis have the right to live in peace and security. 73% find it
necessary for Palestinians and Israelis to work together to achieve
peaceful coexistence once a Palestinian state is established"(2). This poll
was conducted before the destruction and hatred we sowed there in the last
invasion, but the conclusion is that we should get out immediately, before
we destroy even more.
Although the majority in the Israeli polls supports the immediate
withdrawal solution, this majority does not yet have a voice. Instead of
calling for immediate withdrawal ("latzet myiad mehashtachim"), the
spokesmen of the 'peace camp' are talking about separation and fences. "I
do not like the word separation, it reminds me of South Africa." - said Ami
Ayalon in the interview mentioned above. Why didn't they let Ayalon speak
in the mass demonstration of the peace coalition?
The political side of the Israeli 'peace camp' has, on its record, years
of experience in diverting the majority of the opponents of the settlements
to the route of preserving the situation as is. Barak's people are pushing
towards separation and fences, Peres and Beilin's people are pushing to
"resume negotiations", while continuing to remain in the territories. (Amos
Oz spoke in that demonstration about resuming the dead end of Camp-David
and Taba.) "Peace now" is dragging behind them. If the majority does not
stay on guard, they will succeed again.
A fuller analysis of the immediate withdrawal solution, as well as the
obstacles posed by the leadership of the Israeli 'peace camp' can be found
in the final chapter of Tanya Reinhart's book: 'Detruire La Palestine, ou
comment terminer la guerre de 1948', La Fabrique, France
(www.lafabrique.fr/livres/detruire.htm). The book will appear in
English in June, as 'Israel/Palestine - How To End The War Of 1948', Seven
Stories Press, US.
For the full chapter, see:
Quotes and references added in the English translation.
(1) Ha'aretz online, May 10, 2002 ( 'Poll: 59% say W. Bank, Gaza exit
would renew peace process', by The Associated Press). Full results:
(2) The survey of 1,198 respondents was held on February 7 9 in 75
Palestinian communities in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East
Jerusalem. Its report ('Palestinian Public Opinion Poll # 6) can be found
at: home.birzeit.edu/dsp/polls/p6/. A summary was given also by
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, February 19, 2002.
Tanya Reinhart is a Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University
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