It is scarcely worthy of comment per se that so far so much surrounding
the Israeli elections has concerned matters of security policy.
This, of course, is not unusual for Israeli politics. But what
is particularly remarkable about it is that it is so little worthy
of remark. Why should this nation have uppermost in its political
debate matters concerning frontiers, safety for its citizens,
threats to security, what is or is not safe? (And this almost
ceaseless and continuous for 50 years, at that!)
Indeed, this issue may legitimately be taken further still. It
should be a matter of the utmost concern that debate over what
the borders of Israel should be exists in the context of Arab
sensibilities. For this fact itself speaks volumes about the nature
of relations with those whose longstanding hostility and trackrecord
of aggressive endeavour still has a profound impact on Israeli
politics and society. Thus when the late Yitzhak Rabin commented
that one made peace with one's enemies, it was what is nowadays
called a 'sound bite' but actually lacked truthful content. One
cannot 'make peace'. It is not an objective reality to be made
by one side. It cannot be readily and easily imposed by one side,
although aggressive desires and intentions may be deterred. Nor
indeed is it made with enemies. Rather it results from changes
of heart that evidently have produced friendship that stands tests
and withstands disagreement, and from this change of heart and
attitude, from the steadfastness of this newfound friendliness,
peace flows. Enemies must cease being so before the reality of
peace can occur.
Trust, in international relations, as in any others, must be earned
and also be seen to be well founded. If it is a matter of gambling
then it is not firmly founded. It is plain enough that if good
will needs purchasing, it cannot at the same time be genuine and
bona fide. The dire fact of the matter is that Israeli politics
reflect the need to try to buy Arab toleration and acceptance
of Israel's right to exist, and also even, of her de facto existence.
Thus, as in no other country's case in the world, the degree of
land to be surrendered in the process of trying to appease and
buy acceptance is a determinant of the platform of political parties.
The level of risk to be taken with citizens' lives has become
an issue separating these parties, one from the other (hence the
disgraceful oxymoron 'victims for peace' characterised one interpretation
of the causes of Islamic murder). Willingness to trust the words
of avowed enemies, hitherto absolutely undependable, marks off
one set of voters from another.
Despite these realities, lurking and prominent, the disgraceful
nature of them passes the rest of the socalled liberal, democratic
world by. So the Israeli right is made to appear as if it does
not really want peace and is morally corrupt for not accepting
the idea of Arab good will on which the DOP and Oslo accords
are predicated. Since however not their school books and not their
professional organisations, not their news media, nor their politicians,
have even begun to speak or broadcast warmly or in friendly attitude
concerning Israel, there are no grounds for accepting strategic
weakening. But the Likud appears to have suffered a loss of identity
and principles. It has suffered major figures departing. The new
'centre' parties are actually further to the left than Labour
traditionally was before the 1992 elections and Israel's true
safety is arguably less than at any time since 1973.
The left of centre 'Jerusalem Report' put on its cover page for
October 12, 1998 '25 Years After the Yom Kippur War Could Israel
Be Surprised Again?' Its finding was that to some extent the answer
rested on the outcome of negotiations with the Palestinians. But
it is not negotiations which make security, any more than pieces
of paper do. Rather, it is changes in outlook and perception which
make these worthwhile. So far no evidence exists to show either
that the PLO leadership's 'constituency', or their own beliefs
and statements, are at all different to what they were. Since
the Palestine National Covenant was declared 'caduq' by Yasser
Arafat in 1988, eleven years have changed nothing. President Clinton's
attendance at the most recent pretence at advertising changes
in the document still made no difference as the body was not the
one cited in the Covenant as the one which could change it. The
committee meeting revealingly about incitement cannot even
agree on a definition.
Corruption and brutality in the PA governing regime, not to mention
armaments smuggling, mean that Israel's neighbouring Arab entity
reveals no trace of those qualities required in a neighbour. It
adheres to the spirit and letter of agreements if at all with
extreme reluctance, builds where it should not and tolerates car
thefts continuously. Why should any of this tempt anyone to vote
in favour of further concessions and transfer of assets? The persistence
of Arafat is worthy of tribute, according to Shimon Peres recently,
but his persistence is that of attitudes of violence, hatred and
murder. That Israeli votes should involve acceptance of appeasement
of dictatorial evil in the form of him and Hafez elAssad is a
tragedy. That, in the face of this, the Right needs to rally,
unite and spell out the realities unequivocally should appear
obvious. It is by no means clear that it does.
Benjamin Netanyahu has purported to seek 'reciprocity' from the
PA. He has, however, continued the process of land surrender regardless.
He knows the original accords were illegal in a number of ways
but has set about declaring that he regards them as binding. He
set out, perhaps, to make them work. That might, even if misguided,
have been a noble objective. One reason his government fell was
that some felt things (at Wye for example) had gone far enough.
Can anyone seriously now think that the accords have worked? If
so then there is nothing to fear for any Israeli choosing to shop
in Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, Kalkilya, Gaza or anywhere else. If
that is not so, then the weakening and costs to Israel of continuing
with the demands of Oslo remain pointless and the process should
If in turn the matters of frontiers and security are so controversial
and undetermined after nearly six years of the 'peace process'
then it is time to say 'no more' and for all reasonable people
to accept the unpalatable reality. It is to be hoped that the
Israeli elections will reflect this sooner rather than later.
Election platforms need to reflect truth and reality, not dreams
which have already failed.