Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of January 4, 2000
A 'FAIR DEAL' THAT'S NO DEAL
By Yossi Ben-Aharon
(January 4) - The root of much of the evil that has haunted Israel for the past three decades lies in the "territory for peace" equation. After our great victory in 1967, both the public and our leaders were overcome by gross naivete. We believed that some, or most, of the land we had taken in that defensive war could be traded for an end to the Arabs' hostility and rejection of Israel.
Since 1979 we have been transferring large slices of territory, first to Egypt, then to the PLO, and some to Jordan. Now our government is about to give back all the northern territories to Lebanon and Syria. Reducing Israel to the pre-June 1967 ("Auschwitz") lines is no longer a distant, impossible nightmare. It is a growing probability.
There are perfectly normal people among us who honestly believe this massive land transfer will bring us real peace. And our own government, right up to the prime minister himself, tells us that once the deal is concluded we'll be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of peace.
The contours of the "peace map" will look something like this: In the south, the Sinai Peninsula is demilitarized. A small American team monitors compliance with the security provisions of the treaty with Egypt. More than 50 memoranda designed to normalize relations between Egypt and Israel become dead letters. The Egyptian media wage a continuous war of words, some even anti-Jewish, against Israel. And Egypt leads a sustained diplomatic campaign against Israel.
In the east, the Oslo agreements and their progeny have created a hostile Palestinian state-in-the-making. The agreements are monitored by international inspectors in Hebron, the CIA, and UN observers, but none of these prevent continuous violations and unabating hostility to Israel by the PA, its media, its educational system, and its clerics.
In the north, a totalitarian state that has a long record of violating international agreements and obligations will once again be stationed along the eastern shores of the Kinneret. The Golan Heights will be populated by Syrian soldiers posing as civilians or policemen. The UN and the US will maintain monitoring outposts on the Hermon and along the borders. And peace in that sector will, at best, be at least as cold as the one we have with Egypt.
In the northeast, Lebanon will finally lose what slim chance it has of regaining its sovereignty and independence. Syria's stranglehold will be legitimized by Israel and the US. The Syrian army will be deployed not far from Galilee, between Rosh Hanikra and Hamat Gader.
Under Syrian pressure, the Hizbullah might damp its operations, but soon enough the 300,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon will clamor for the right to fight for their "right of return" to Palestine, meaning Israel. Damascus will plead innocence and wink to Habash, Jibril, and the Islamic Jihad to keep up the "legitimate" struggle to regain their "rights." Of course, there will be an international force along the border, headed by a commission that will be convened whenever there's trouble and that will mete out censures to the violators.
Is there a state anywhere surrounded by so many measures - demilitarization, monitoring, observers, "peace" forces, and international guarantees - and whose leaders have the temerity to define its relationship with its neighbors as peace? And if this is peace, how is it different from the situation prior to 1967, when we had a UN force in Gaza and Sinai, a UN Truce Supervision Organization in the east, Mixed Armistice Commissions with all our neighbors, and UN and international guarantees of our borders?
The inevitable conclusion is simple: "Territory for peace" is the wrong equation for this part of the world. It took our neighbors a few years to realize that this ostensibly fair deal could be turned to their favor.
Territory is tangible, and once it is transferred to another sovereignty, it is irretrievable, except by war. Peace, on the other hand, is a piece of paper, and the signatories are free to choose when, how much, or if at all, to translate undertakings in that paper into tangible action toward normalization and people-to-people peace relations.
Egypt and the PA have chosen not to inject peace into their undertakings. Why should Syria and Lebanon choose otherwise?
Yossi Ben-Aharon is a former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office.