Barak’s Stockholm syndrome

Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 21, 2000

Kidnapped hostages who come to identify with their abductors, whose sympathy for their captors increases the more they are tortured, are said to be stricken with the Stockholm syndrome. Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now negotiating in Stockholm, seems to have been snared by the syndrome.


The more the Palestinians hate us, the more they raise their demands, and the more they employ violence in their struggle against us — the more we shower concessions on them. “Gestures”, Barak euphemistically calls our charitable concessions. Like giving the Palestinian Authority Abu Dis and El-Azariyah for free, in the vain hope that this magnanimity will make Yasser Arafat easier to negotiate with.


Understand the illogic here. We’re handing over these villages strategically encircling Jerusalem as a “gesture” — so that what? So that the Palestinians will allow us to continue the negotiations and give away even more land in the future! Do you understand this?


You see, we wanted to withdraw from the Golan Heights, but Hafez Assad wouldn’t let us. In Lebanon we *are* withdrawing, even though the Arabs don’t like it. In Jerusalem we are withdrawing too, *in order that* the Palestinians will deign to accept *even greater* Israeli withdrawals across the entire West Bank.


In Chelm, they couldn’t have dreamt-up a more ridiculous negotiating posture!


Alas, we’re now learning that Barak has his own personal code for negotiations, which includes the following rules:


Rule No. 1: If the PA “behaves”, we give them land. If the PA “misbehaves” we give away land even faster in order to mollify the PA and get it to behave.


And so, when the PA shoots with live ammunition at IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens, threatens to unleash a new intifada and continues to demand the right of return – we accelerate the process of handing over land. For every Palestinian stone thrown, we push ahead even faster. (Got that Mr. Arafat? Now, you know what to do….)


Barak said as much this past week. “This is what happens”, he said, referring to the Palestinian rioting, “when we don’t move fast enough”. In other words, the Israeli government, with its deadlocked and fractious coalition, is responsible for the rioting. Had we handed over Abu Dis sooner, the rioting could have been avoided…


Rule No. 2: If the other side refuses to accept our offer, we give them more so that they’ll agree to accept our concessions in the future.


And so, when the PA rejected our second ‘further redeployment’ offer of eight percent of West Bank land, we negotiated it up to thirteen percent. This additional largesse was necessary so that we could progress to the third ‘further redeployment’ and give away more land.


Rule No. 3: We’ll accept almost any tiny, microscopic Palestinian quid pro quo as an acceptable “concession” on their part, in exchange for our concessions.


And so, we’ll agree to begin taking apart the greater Jerusalem security zone (that is the upshot of the Abu Dis withdrawal) – an irresponsible retreat we’ll be stuck with for generations, in exchange for the PA’s arrest of Hamas mastermind Mohammed Deif – something unlikely to last for more than few weeks. (No-one really expects the PA to hold Deif for too long. If Israel is releasing Hamas murderers, why shouldn’t the PA?)


Rule No. 4: If we are retreating from strategic territory, convince the Israeli public that it’s not so strategic. If we are retreating from historic territory, convince the public there never really was any Jewish historic/religious attachment to this territory.


And so, Barak now tells us that our security in Jerusalem can be *enhanced* by Palestinian security control of the villages bordering Jerusalem, something that flies in the face of reality as we know it Hebron and Nablus, and that contradicts the security doctrine for Jerusalem of every Israeli government until now.


Even more disturbing is the flippant Barak remark to the effect that “we haven’t prayed ‘Next year in Abu Dis’ for thousands of years”. With this arrogant demagoguery, Barak slaps the face of believers for whom “Next Year in Jerusalem” is more than a political argument over borders, and unwisely weakens our bargaining hand.


A wise Israeli negotiator would have made a very big deal out of our Abu Dis concession. A wise negotiator would say: “Despite the fact that this village is within eyesight and a stone’s-throw from the holy Temple Mount; even though Abu Dis is an important part of the greater Jerusalem security zone – we might be willing to painfully compromise with the Palestinians for the sake of moving forward” – or something like that. That way, we might secure some Palestinian quid pro quo.


Instead, Barak rashly and thoughtlessly throws our concession down the toilet by demeaning and degrading the importance to Israel of Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of Jerusalem. And thus, he recklessly enfeebles our negotiating posture in the battle for the rest of united Jerusalem.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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