The Jerusalem Post November, 28 2001


By Michael Freund

After months in which tourism has been in decline, now might be a good time for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to sit down and write a proper thank you note to the American government. For while average Americans have been staying away from Israel in droves, it seems as if American officialdom has become one of the most important sources of income for Israel's tourism industry.

First, there was former senator George Mitchell, who visited and wrote a copious report on the situation in the region, one that has already become a classic example of political science fiction. Mitchell was followed by the CIA's George Tenet, who sought to build on Mitchell's "success" by hastily arranging a cease-fire between the two sides. But that, too, did not work out very well. As we all know, Israel did the ceasing, but the Palestinians kept on firing.

Now this week, Gen. Anthony Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns have popped in to say hello, something that is sure to result in more than a few empty mini-bars at one of Jerusalem's finer hotels. Who says tourism to Israel is dead?

The timing of the current Zinni-Burns visit could not have been more ironic. Tomorrow, November 29, marks the 54th anniversary of the 1947 UN partition plan, when the General Assembly voted to dissolve the British mandate for Palestine and establish in its place a Jewish and Arab state in the Land of Israel. Though the resolution called for the painful division of the land west of the Jordan River, and would have created a truncated and indefensible Jewish state, most Jews were nevertheless pleased that it recognized their right to have a state of their own.

The Arab reaction, however, was less than sanguine. Riots began on November 30, the day after the partition plan was ratified, and intensified in the months that followed. In his memoir, Israel: A Personal History, prime minister David Ben-Gurion notes that more than 900 Jews were murdered by Arab terrorists in the four months after the UN resolution. Shortly thereafter, when the British Mandate came to an end and the new State of Israel was established, the Arabs underlined their opposition by launching a full-scale assault on the nascent Jewish state. Their aim was clear: to wipe Israel off the map.

The rest of the story is well-known, but what is less well-known is that in the weeks leading up to the November 29 vote, the Jewish delegation to the UN came under intense pressure from the United States to forego much of the Negev and agree to give it to the Arabs. As former foreign minister Abba Eban, who at the time served as a member of the Zionist delegation to the UN, notes in his memoirs Personal Witness, "Early in November, the United States, influenced by British pressure, requested us to yield the Southern Negev to the Arabs. American representatives were even hinting that without this concession they would abandon support of the partition plan."

It was only after Chaim Weizmann, who would later serve as Israel's first president, met with president Harry Truman, and convinced him of Israel's need for the Negev, that the State Department backed down from this demand.

Now, decades later, an American secretary of state is trying once again to compel Israel to yield parts of the land, calling for an end to "the occupation" and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Then, they wanted the Jews to yield the Negev, whereas now they want Israel to part with Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Such attempts, however, are doomed to failure, if only because the Arabs themselves refuse to cooperate. In 1947, the Jewish people agreed to divide the Land, in the hope that it would bring peace. In 1993, in the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to subtract from the land, giving away parts of it in exchange for promises of reconciliation. In both cases, though, the math just did not add up. The Palestinian Arabs rejected what they had been offered, preferring instead to resort to violence as a means of trying to take it all.

So while they are out touring the sights, Zinni and Burns might do well to brush up on their math, keeping in mind that further land subtractions by Israel will only bring about further bloodshed, something nobody wants. Since dividing and subtracting the land have not worked, Israel now has little choice but to resort to other forms of arithmetic, such as addition and multiplication - because, thanks to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's lethal obstinacy, the only remaining option is for Israel to take back that which should never have been given away in the first place.

The math, as they say, speaks for itself.

(The writer served as deputy director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.)

2001 The Jerusalem Post

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