Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 11, 1998
I’m having difficulty explaining to myself why we’re about to hand over more land to the Palestinian Authority. Let me tell you why.
When I lived abroad, I was trained to brook no anti-Semitism, take no bullying, and confront the detractors of Israel and the Jewish people with defiance and self-confidence. You don’t overlook Israel or Jew-bashing, the community elders taught me, because quiescence in the face of prejudice only emboldens the adversary and leads to worse things.
These verities made up the ground-rules when I worked for the pro-Israel lobby, countering the misrepresentations of Arab lobbyists on Parliament Hill and battling anti-Israel groups on campus. I even worked for the Anti-Defamation League, and boy, did we ever know how to sniff out latent anti-Semites. I learned how to stand up for Jewish rights, and to keep political score. If a local or national politician made a promise to the Jewish community and failed to deliver – well, he or she could forget about Jewish support ever again.
Now, were I a civil rights or Jewish defense organization staffer back in America judging Yasser Arafat as I was taught to evaluate homegrown Jewish detractors, I’d long ago have issued a ‘community alert’ urging action against him. We’d do a well-documented expose of his duplicity, and launch a campaign to halt Arafat in his tracks. And I wouldn’t give him my vote nor any of my land.
Why? Because Arafat’s mini-state has broken every promise made to Israel, including the central one (fight terrorism); cozied-up to bigots and radical Imams, like Farrakhan and Iran’s Khameini; racked-up for itself an awful human rights record; dangerously lapsed into the language of plain, old anti-Semitism in its press and official communiques; sought to undermine our international status and relationships, in Europe and at the UN; and ignored other important treaty commitments, like amending the Covenant for real.
Am I, a liberal Jewish rights activist, supposed to disregard all this for the sake of the process?
Let me clarify: I’m not part of the crowd that searches for every possible Palestinian misdeed, no matter how tiny, in order to justify Israeli procrastination. It’s all too easy for the Netanyahu government to charge Palestinian ‘failure to live up to commitments’ as cover for its unwillingness to make a deal or for its internal difficulties.
Moreover, I know that Israel is committed under Oslo to make a second redeployment, and even a third. I don’t really want to alienate Washington and be isolated internationally. More pointedly, it is in * our * best interests to move in *some * direction beyond the current stalemate.
But, heck, the Palestinian Authority is turning out to be one nasty, unlikable, unreliable neighbor. And while the vicars of Arafat-land may have good reason to mistrust our current government, you can’t fool me into believing that the PA’s wretched behavior and uncivilized language is all because of us.
Why then, should I — why should any of us Israelis — have to reward our detractors down in Gaza? We wouldn’t allow ourselves to be ramrodded into such a defensive posture were we living anywhere else in the free, democratic world! We’d be fighting back, angling to improve our political odds, and making it clear that the offending party must clean-up his act if he wants a decent relationship with the Jews.
That’s why I, a supporter of peace and peace processes, have decided to buy into Netanyahu’s ‘reciprocity’ line, argued eloquently this week by former C-o-S Dan Shomron. We’ll live up to our Oslo commitments precisely as much as the Palestinians do. It’s something like what prime minister Rabin said about the Golan: the depth of withdrawal should match the depth of peace.
Practically speaking, this means that in exchange for IDF redeployment the PA police agrees to stop stealing our cars, and to reduce itself in size to the 24,000 lightly-armed officers allowed under Oslo – from the current high of 40,000. Weeding out Hamas activists and former terrorists might help the slimming-down effort. It also means that Arafat will instruct his official newspaper editor to edit out phrases like ‘Jewish fangs’ and ‘Zionist nazis’, curtail daily mentions of the Protocols, and terminate the constant use of libel – like Israeli plots to poison Palestinian kids with flu- and cancer-causing vegetables grown in the settlements.
The Chairman also needs to tell security chief Rajoub to make room in his solitary detention chambers for the hard-core jihadniks who’re out to bomb us. This could easily be accomplished by freeing dozens of Palestinian human rights and democracy activists currently languishing in these cells. Arafat also might think about the company he’s keeping. Try smooching with someone respectable like Vaclav Havel, instead of Farrakhan.
So for now, the 6 or 8 percent Bibi is offering as a second redeployment seems about right to me, even generous. Giving up our land gives us the right to keep political score.