Israel is more at risk now than it was while Rabin was alive. Taking human life is a terrible thing. In a political setting, it is even more serious. The public feels an intense pain - and it expressed this pain in its massive attendance at the ceremonies of mourning and identification with the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
Nevertheless, this must not serve to obscure the nation's judgment. We must continue to defend our existence as an independent Jewish state in spite of the heavy blow we have suffered. We must not ignore the fact that, at this very moment, preparations for the partition of Jerusalem are in full swing, beginning with the census of the Arab population conducted by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, Israel's capital.
And are any eyelids flickering over the planned official reception in Jerusalem to mark Palestinian Independence Day? Once again, the government has nothing to say. The deeply felt trauma expressed by the citizens of Israel is certainly not meant implythat a majority of the nation is willing to concede our exclusive jurisdiction over Jerusalem.
Nor has the Golan Heights' strategic importance for our continued existence decreased in the wake of the assassination. Syria hasn't stopped rearming, and hasn't reduced its 4800 tanks by even one tank, or hauled away even one of its 1,100 land to land missiles. It has not announced that, as a sign of mourning, it will stop manufacturing Scud C missiles, which have a range of 500 kilometers.
The Syrian foreign minister's description of Rabin's assassination as "a cloud with a silver lining" shows that we are actually at greater risk than before. The foreign minister knows that, without Rabin, he will gain more, and gain it sooner. The memorial candles we lit and the prayers we said in no way go to prove - except to cynical politicians - that the nation has already given up the Golan. The nation has not given up the Golan.
The Judean mountains and the Samarian hills haven't become any lower in the wake of Yitzhak Rabin's tragic death. They still dominate most of the Jewish population, two thirds of it, living on the strip of land along the coast. Half of the Jewish population is still within a 30-40 km. radius from Tel Aviv, occupying an area the whole of which is overlooked by the Samarian hills.
All those who sincerely mourned for Yitzhak Rabin do not obliterate for one single moment the danger the government has brought down on our heads with the Oslo agreement.
On the contrary: The danger is only increased by the government's desire to exploit the trauma to weaken opposition and accelerate concessions, and to ignore Palestinian violations of the agreement which have already occurred in Jenin. Arafat came to Tel Aviv, which was bad enough. But in Gaza there were displays of joy when the news of the prime minister's assassination broke. The same happened in Lebanon, and in opposition circles in Jordan and Egypt.
The Arab terror organizations have not laid down their arms.
Arafat is already trying to maneuver himself out of his commitment to Rabin to annul the Palestinian covenant, and none of the Arab states have slowed the pace of their rearmament. All this must be borne in mind. The pain we feel must not dull our awareness of these dangers.
We all yearn for peace, but the Oslo agreement will not bring peace. Withdrawal from the Golan won't bring security. The question on everyone's lips is what should we do now. I should like to say, first, what we must not do. We must not ride roughshod over the large community of settlers in Judea and Samaria, over rabbis, the Orthodox and haredim. We must not hold them in contempt, describing them in insulting language. We must put a stop at once to attacks on children who wear kippot, to attacks on religious women, and so on.
Behavior of this kind makes half of the nation feel oppressed. Such feelings date from the installation of the present government, and especially since the signing of the Oslo agreement. The settlers aren't "a cancer in the body politic," as the left has called them. They aren't "bloodthirsty Serbs," and the leaders of the nationalist camp aren't "murderers," as they were recently described at a conference of writers, artists, poets and playwrights, which are hardly marginal groups.
Even 3 percent of the population is entitled to protection. Their settlements were set up by every government of Israel. They are citizens and taxpayers; they all serve in the IDF; some serve in the most elite combat units defending the communities of the north and the Negev. The government is not doing anyone a favor by protecting Israeli citizens, wherever they live. That is their duty.
We must oppose Jewish terror on the part of individuals or groups from both sides, and we must do so forcefully. This awful plague must be stamped out. And we need to sit down and talk at once - and not just about behavior in the Knesset and at public meetings. We need to talk about the roots of the problem, about a political solution. We must reach agreement - and we can.
The government has spent months talking with the Palestinians about different solutions, day and night. Yet it hasn't found one free hour to talk to the opposition, or to the settlers whose fate it is discussing, so as to reach agreement on a solution. The government must talk to the 50 percent of the population of Israel who have deep suspicion and anxiety about the Oslo agreement. This half of the population wants peace just as much as the other, dominating half. But it believes in another plan, which it believes is less dangerous.
It is essential that we turn over a new leaf, and the responsibility for that lies first and foremost in the hands of the new prime minister. I hope that the leadership will turn to the nationalist camp and initiate a calm and serious debate with it; and I pray that we shall reach unity and agreement between Jews.
© Jerusalem Post 1995
Ariel Sharon, MK is a leader of the Likud Party and a former Defense Minister.