Published in The Jerusalem Post on June 6, 1999
Who said last week that “settlement (in the West Bank) is an organized, criminal act of terrorism… a massacre against all human beings and land?” Who threatened that “if this crime is not stopped, the situation will explode in an irreversible way and there will be an escalation in every street, village and settlement”?
Answer: Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and Fatah Secretary-General Marwan Barghouti, at a Ramallah press conference in advance of their planned “Day of Rage” (June 3) to protest Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria.
Just in case any Palestinian missed the signals, a Fatah leaflet issued the same day spelled it out: “The protests will ignite the land under the settlers’ feet, and they will leave forever”.
So, we’re back to the old game of Palestinian threats, telling us that unless Israel acts as the PA thinks it should “the Palestinian Authority can’t be held responsible for the inevitable violent outcome”. Rabbo: “Rather, it will be (the responsibility of) the Israeli government, the Israeli security forces, and the settlers”.
It was, of course, predictable that the Palestinians would revert to this perilous game of threatening, and then instigating, violence the minute they smelled an Israeli government of compromise.
It surprises no-one that settlements (“acts of terrorism”, “crimes” and “massacres” according to our peace partner) are the next front-line issue in the diplomatic process. And it is very clear, that if only allowed to, the PA intends on making the situation in the territories exceedingly intolerable. (Believe them when they talk of massacres: remember the Jewish settlers of Hebron in 1929; of Kfar Etzion in 1948, etc.).
The question is: what will be Ehud Barak’s response? Why is Washington silent? Is the PA’s inflammatory language and violent modus operandi acceptable? Will someone lay down clear red lines for Mr. Arafat?
All this connects to directly to Barak’s coalition negotiations with the NRP and Meretz on settlement policy, and to the PA’s frenzied activity at the United Nations regarding “Resolution 181”.
A truly “centrist”, “national unity” or “broad” Israeli government – of the type that Barak is talking about — cannot ignore the Palestinian attempt to wholly delegetimize Israeli life and settlement across the Green Line. Especially a government that is suing for peace and readying itself to negotiate a Palestinian state into existence.
A centrist Barak government is going to have to defend the big blocs of settlement as historically and morally legitimate and work to permanently include them in our borders. It is going to have to fight for the right of many other, smaller towns to abide in the Jewish People’s historic homeland, in peace and relative security, under some form of Israeli rule, protectorate or condominium. It is going to have to forcefully combat Palestinian talk of settlements as “crimes”.
A broad Israeli government has to show Arafat that terrorism and bullying are going to set him back eons; that he will pay a price every time he attempts to disrupt the completely peaceful, rightful, everyday life of Israelis who live Ofra, Karnei Shomron and Gush Etzion. For they shall not be forsaken.
A “consensus” Israeli government under Barak ought to vigorously defend the plans to connect Maale Adumim with Jerusalem – a plan that was hatched during Rabin’s administration, continued under Peres, and brought to fruition under Netanyahu.
The same applies to the plan to build 3,000 more homes in Maale Adumim, Beitar, Kiryat Sefer and Givat Zeev; the plan to build 3,000 homes in Ir Ganim in Gush Etzion; or the expectation of settlers everywhere that they be allowed to “naturally” expand their living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and neighborhoods as necessary in normal life.
Barak will have to get Washington on board too. Its opposition to such plans – natural expansion of Israeli settlement in non-heavily Arab-populated areas of Judea and Samaria – seriously undermines American credibility as a mediator in my eyes.
In addition, Barak’s “One Israel” government and Clinton’s disconcertingly-jaundiced Mideast peace team will have to respond to the PA’s current diplomatic blitzkrieg aimed at pushing us back to 1947 (!) lines.
At every international forum, Arafat’s representatives are hawking the long-forgotten, Arab-rejected, historically-passe UN partition resolution (Number 181) as a new basis for talks with Israel.
Gaining control over 90 percent of the Palestinian population in the territories (they’ve got that) isn’t good enough, you see. Rolling us back to the precarious 1967 lines with independent statehood is no longer good enough for Arafat either. It is all the way back to the pre-state days, as if nothing has happened since then. With Jerusalem detached from Israel all-together.
So, just as it was in the pre-state days, the sands of settlement are the front-line in the battle for security, legitimacy and peace in this land. An early challenge for the Prime Minister of all Israel, Ehud Barak, is drawing red lines in that sand for the ravenous Yasser Arafat.