Published in The Jerusalem Post on April 25, 1999
Imagine that the withdrawals from Lebanon and the Golan are behind us, and final status talks with the Palestinian state have been completed. The left-wing Israeli government elected in 1999 is busy making important sacrifices for peace, implementing the treaties. Here is what may all-too-likely happen, in my phantasm:
May 01: Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Uri Savir cuts an agreement with Faisal Husseini over reparations for homes previously owned by Arabs in San Simon and Katamon. The funds are to be raised by a restitution tax on home-owners. “This hurts, but we must sacrifice for peace, and act to strengthen our moderate partners in the Arab world”, Savir tells the press.
July 01: The Israel-Palestine deal to jointly administer Jerusalem is rocked by a fourteenth molotov cocktail bombing in the city in one month. President Shimon Peres urges the government not to make too big a deal of the matter. “We must not let the enemies of peace sidetrack us, or lead us into rash action that might weaken Yasser Arafat’s central government”, he says.
September 01: After a month of closure due to Ramadan, the Western Wall plaza re-opens for Jewish-only prayer throughout the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance. Ultra-Orthodox Jews complain of humiliating body-searches by Palestinian security guards participating in joint security patrols in the area. Religious Affairs Minister Avram Burg expresses concern, but claims that “compromise is a central theme in Judaism, and we are courageously sacrificing for peace”.
November 01: Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai surprises with a “major Palestinian concession”: Israeli food-and-medicine relief conveys will now be able to resupply some 40 isolated settlements every 7 days, instead of every 21 days as per the peace treaty. In addition, he negotiates 350 State of Palestine permits for residents of the isolated settlements Talmon and Dolev, allowing them to expand their bathrooms and kitchen porches in accordance with size of family. “We, too, sacrifice for peace”, avers Erakat.
January 02: Terrorists strike on the outskirts of Kfar Saba, roiling public opinion. Palestinian Affairs Minister Uzi Baram says on TV that “the enemies of peace are behind this. We have to understand the root causes of terrorism and act to redress these causes”. He suggests a 600 meter Israeli pull-back along the eastern border of Kfar Saba, which lies in too-close proximity to Kalkilya — in order to not to provoke Arab residents of that city. At the funerals, government ministers tragically speak, once again, of “the victims of peace”.
March 02: Full administrative and cultural autonomy for the Arabs of Galilee is declared by Interior Minister Ahmed Tibi. Press reports indicate that land transfers in the Negev are under consideration, as well, something proposed years back in the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan. The international community hails Israel for “its inestimable, boundless sacrifices for peace”.
May 02: Military Intelligence reports with concern of joint Fatah-Hamas military maneuvers outside Jericho; of hostile activity in the Iranian Embassy in Ramallah; and discovers Palestinian ground-to-air missiles in the hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport – clear violations of the peace accords. President Peres discusses the matter with President Arafat, and dismisses IDF concerns as “Old Middle East paranoia”.
“Territory and missiles are not important in the New Middle East”, Peres avers. “Tomatoes over tomahawk missiles; General Motors over General Dynamics! Economic cooperation cements our peace, not archaic security provisions”, he concludes definitively. Peres then gaily announces a French, Belgian and Austrian-sponsored, Jimmy Carter-endorsed, and Norwegian-funded Israel-Palestine hi-tech wheat-growing project outside Nablus.
July 02: Foreign Minister Beilin announces that in return for an Egyptian and Jordanian abstention on a UN resolution decrying Israeli “obstructionism” in the development of Palestinian national institutions, Israel will agree to admit 250,000 more Palestinian refugees with claims going back to 1948. Up to 15,000 will be allowed to return to Jaffa. The accord allows Israel to absorb a similar number of new immigrants from Russia, providing that the immigrants have first-degree relatives already in the country. “The smart thing to do is to sacrifice for peace and strengthen the Arab moderates in this region”, Beilin explains.
Beilin also begins the import of water to Israel from Turkey, to offset the shortages incurred as a result of peace treaty provisions providing 70 percent of Samarian aquifer reserves to Palestine. Given the new dependency on Turkey, the Rabbinate introduces a prayer for the well-being of the Turkish regime, similar to the text for the Welfare of the Empire used in Ottoman times.
August 02: For the new school year, Education Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami introduces a high school study unit on the “Nakba”. The Israel Prize in history is awarded to two “new historians” whose books were central proof-texts in the refugee return accord. Peres wins another Nobel Peace Prize….
Sacrificing for peace. Is this our national fate after next month’s vote?