Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 26, 1996


But we live in a harsh and hostile region, and we'd be better off facing it.

By P. David Hornik

Where's peace?

A Jordanian soldier mows down seven Israeli children on a school outing. True, every society, including Israel, has its lone madmen. But there seem to be a lot of "lone madmen" over there in Jordan. A squadron of police has to shield the house of the killer's relatives from throngs of exhilarated admirers. The entire parliamentary opposition expresses warm support for the deed of mass child murder.

A suicide bomber blows up a cafe in Tel Aviv, killing and injuring civilians. News of the event is received with wild enthusiasm by thousands in rallies at Khan Yunis and Nablus. Riots in Hebron intensify, amid chants of praise for the bomber's organization, Hamas. Against this background, do the Israeli supporters of "peace" continue pushing the same old line? Remarkably, they do. Yossi Beilin, architect of Oslo and a Labor contestant for prime minister, writes that "it is precisely completion of the process that will deal the hardest blow to terror, perhaps the death blow." In other words: There haven't been enough concessions. Once we give the Palestinians enough land and power, the terror and military apparatus that they're building by the day will turn into a softball club.

Zionism is a movement to reconstitute the Jewish people in Zion, the Land of Israel, not in Switzerland, Belgium, or Ohio. But this stretch of land that is the only true Jewish home happens also to be surrounded by backward, chauvinist dictatorships to whom a non-Moslem state in their midst is an existential affront.

For Zionism to work, we have to have our feet on the ground of Zion, and to be able to look clearly at the Middle Eastern reality around us. We need to see that the landscape is a harsh and stony one. This is not a counsel of despair. Clear-sightedness includes discerning Arab moderation when it is shown by leaders like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, and dealing with it profitably, even if the moderation stems from expediency rather than a genuine desire for accommodation.

But it also means realizing that - unpalatable though it may be - all possible evidence points to an abiding hatred of Israel among large parts of our neighbors' elite and populace, including the Palestinian Authority, and to their belief that the worst barbaric acts against Israelis are not only justified, but admirable.

IN recent years, a part of the Israeli population that is the least rooted in Jewish tradition and in Zion, and the most desirous of aping American and European way of life, has become dangerously disconnected from this reality. It is one thing to want to live by American and European values; quite another to believe one can remake the Middle East to suit them.

The previous government was largely composed of, and supported by, Israelis with this mind-set, and it performed a curious psychological trick. It decided that the locus of irrationality and brutality was its Jewish opposition, whereas the Arabs were reasonable people who just had a few grievances. The Rabin-Peres government did not stop at projecting this supposed Arab reasonableness onto two of the worst Arab killers and torturers, Yasser Arafat and Hafez Assad - hence the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians and the talks with the Syrians - seeking fervently to transfer land to their control.

Today, rationally speaking, not a single loophole or excuse is left for those who claim that the PA is peace-oriented. The chief of staff and head of military intelligence have confirmed it:

Arafat has encouraged Hamas terror; he has stopped doing anything to thwart it; and his own security chief, Jibril Rajoub, organized the riots in Hebron. Anyone who still calls this a peace process is living in fairyland. Living in Zion can never be easy, but we make it much harder by persuading ourselves that our neighbors can be bribed out of their animosity toward us.

The present government was elected because most Israelis perceived it as more Zionist - both more rooted in Zion and more realistic - than the previous one. It has shown more realism, but not much resolve in acting on it. Therefore, the government's declaration that further dealing with the Palestinians will depend on their really cracking down on terror must be regarded with skepticism, until proved.

It takes great resolve to cope with the problems we face. But if we want to live in Zion, it helps if we love it. If we merely regard the region as a war zone and try to turn it into a Western Europe, we only make it more unstable and more violent. If, however, we see Oslo for what it is - an inevitable collision course - we might be able to plan a forward strategy rooted in realism and good sense.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1997


P. David Hornik is a Jerusalem writer and translator.

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