SHEPHERD'S TOWN, BARAK AND ISRAELI SURVIVAL
BY Elyakim Ha'etzni
(Translated from an article published in Yediot A'haronot at the beginning of January 2000)
American eavesdropping was already so brazen at Wye Plantation that Netanyahu had to talk with his hand covering his mouth in order to prevent lip-reading. In Shepherd's Town the Israeli Prime Minister is no longer allowed to bring in a cellular phone. At first Barak tried to hold the talks outside the United States, but even on this issue he succumbed to pressure. There was no give and take in Shepherd's Town. Israel at any rate, could not take anything and had to give away everything. What remained for discussion was how to adorn the ugly bride with various "gestures" ranging from handshakes (which did not materialize) to returning the bones of our precious dead. There was also a need to drag out the time in order to obscure the fact that the fix was already in.
Shepherd's Town is now behind us. After a spurious show of force in Lebanon, Barak, still under intense American pressure, made more concessions. He now pledges to retreat from the Golan to the June 4th lines, literally signing on the dotted line dictated by Syria. So sooner or later, the Shepherd's Town talks will be resumed, with Israel surrendering the Golan and surrendering in general. The devaluation of Israeli sovereignty began already on the eveof the Yom Kippur War when we turned the other cheek under American instructions, allowing the Arabs allowing to launch the first blow. Ever since, all Israeli governments, right and left, act as puppet governments.
The question is posed whether we can at all oppose American-Arab diktats, for if the Barak government falls -- what will actually change? Weren't Sharon and Netanyahu at Wye Plantation equally puppets? Nature provides the answer. Nature proves one can survive via weakness -- by shrinking oneself, changing colors, or even posing as an inanimate object. Thus, weak governments, governments which fall every few months or so are less exposed to extortion and pressure, precisely because they are weak. For a weak prime minister can tell the puppet masters: if you compel me to concede further, you won't have a prime minister and you will have to find yourself another puppet, and this puppet government will fall as well.
Do you want proof? Always, whenever they want to weaken us, they pay us the compliment that we are strong. "A strong people makes peace", reads the bumper sticker. "You are strong" the Americans told Netanyahu at Wye. You have a stable government. Netanyahu thought so as well, signed and lost his prime ministership. His mistake was that in reality he was not strong but a weakling who posed as a strong man.
This is not the case with the true victor Arafat. In every public appearance, the Israeli prime minister beams, radiates a macho pose and sparkles with wit. Arafat in contrast, plays it morose, weak, and pitiful. He has no money, he has no power, the eternal "nebisch". Only at the end of this performance, it is precisely Arafat who collects the entire pot. His strength is in his weakness. To Barak he managed to sell the slogan of the French collapse in Algeria -- "the peace of the brave" and our genius of the hour bought it hook line and sinker. But if this passes for courage, a person should prefer to be a coward. Such a coward would be fearful of surrounding the entire north of the country with Syrians from Rosh Hanikra toTzemach, fearful of a modern Syrian army equipped with modern American weaponry, fearful of de-militarization which can be annulled in a single word, as Nasser did it in the Sinai during l967. He would be fearful of being left without water, fearful of the threat posed by an irreversible split in the nation. Sometimes, a coward is preferable to a "brave" fool.
We had a strong army on Yom Kippur's eve with a concept of "strength" which consisted of an over-estimation of our power and an under-estimation of the enemy and his aggressive intentions. We also had a strong government. "The house is in good shape", announced Dayan, and the press displayed a bevy of heroic leaders. If they had fought and acted as prudent "weaklings" who could not permit themselves to be "brave" and take chances, neither for the sake of peace, nor in order to satisfy the United States, thousands of our sons would still be with us and Israel would not have sustained a defeat from which it has not recovered to this date.
The Peace messianism has restored "the strong and the brave" syndrome. We are ostensibly strong enough to donate lands from the body of our homeland to the Middle Eastern pillar of the pro-Arab American global policy, stretching from Pakistan to Kosovo, and from Bosnia to Chechenya. The dangerous image of "strength" and "bravery" which Barak radiates must be counteracted and we should convey to the United States signals of weakness. The United States is not our enemy. She is toying with our fate under the assumption that we are sufficiently "strong" to lose territory, water and strategic ascendancy and turn hundreds of thousands of our citizens into uprooted refugees, while still managing to maintain a stable government and furnish a buttress of support to the west in a region which the United States itself deems unstable.
On the contrary, this is the signal we should be sending: Israel is weak. It has no strength to make concessions in its homeland; she is not brave enough to take risks when her security is concerned and therefore too "brave" a government will fall. Hence America, for the sake of her own interests, would be advised to change her policy and consider us as well. If America refuses to recognize the justice of our case, she should at least make allowances for our weakness.
Elyakim Ha'etzni is an attorney, former Knesset member and Jewish activist from Kiryat Araba.