By Dr. Aaron Lerner

How did the philosopher get out of the pit? He assumed he had a ladder and climbed out. Here is a short review of popular "ladders" making the rounds in Israel today:

* Netanyahu's "Big Bang Theory": The Netanyahu team is convinced that sooner or later the peace process will blow up. Netanyahu wants to make sure that when the "big bang" comes, Israel isn't blamed for it. And if the explosion is going to be over an issue, the argument goes, its best that it be over a "red line issue" and not something which only part of the Israeli public really cares about. One of the "permanent status negotiations" issues which would only come to a head after the completion of the "further re-deployments".

As incredible as it may sound to an outsider, the most important operative implication of the "Big Bang Theory" is that Netanyahu has effectively abandoned any serious insistence on PLO compliance. He can't seriously insist that Arafat close the scores of PLO offices in Jerusalem, transfer terrorists, disarm militias etc. because most of the world, and much of the electorate, may not consider them "red line issues".

Of course, Netanyahu can't just come out and say that all his rhetoric about compliance is just that - rhetoric. But there is an easy public relations solution: Just like he did last summer, Netanyahu can demand that out of the scores of offices in Jerusalem, Arafat close a symbolic handful - or at least change the stationary.

The problem with the "Big Bang Theory" is that the "red lines" aren't "lines" at all. How big does an army have to be to be called an army? If the Palestinians can have armored cars, what about tanks and attack helicopters for crowd control? If 20,000 refugees can enter Israel why not 50,000? If Jews can't pray on the Temple Mount why should they be allowed to pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (the Al Ibrahim Mosque)? If the Palestinians are already smuggling in anything they want why insist on any serious border control? If Jibril Rajoub already controls East Jerusalem what's the big deal if we formalize the arrangement?

While Netanyahu waits for the "Big Bang" his silence on PLO violations fritters away support for the Jewish State. Yasser Arafat doesn't play down so-called Israeli violations. He and his team complain about them day in and day out, and with great detail, to anyone who is willing to listen. It should come as no surprise that this has had an impact on even how Israelis see the situation. The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Studies survey of Jewish Israelis found last August that less than a third believed the Palestinians were complying, last month the figure rose to 44%.

* "Land for Peace" on the Golan: The paradox of peace with Syria is that, as Hebrew University Professor Avraham Sela points out, it could very well destabilize Assad's regime by opening it to liberalizing Western influences while stripping him of the Zionist threat which serves to justify the repressive policies which keep his minority Alawite regime in power.

What happens then? There's nothing better for a tottering dictatorship (or those who overthrow it) to do than to divert the people's attention from domestic problems by rallying them against an external enemy.

That's right: it's not "land for peace", its "land for peace for instability for war".

* "The Egyptian model in Syria": For almost two decades the peace with Egypt has been pointed to as a resounding success. But as Minister Kahalani recently noted, when Mubarak shakes his American built army in Israel's face one begins to wonder just how good a deal it really was.

* "Technological alternatives to strategic depth": The Air Force has a museum outside of Beersheva which is full of what were once the last word in arms technology. Even if Uncle Sam could offer some mysterious technology to take the place of the Golan and the West Bank, it too, eventually, will find itself relegated to a museum. And considering America's arms sales polices, it will find its way to Israel's Arab neighbors well before then.

* "The Palestinian-Jordanian state as a 500 kilometer buffer". While we all wish King Hussein well, he will eventually go the way of all mortals. What might replace him is anyone's guess.

* "Russia is dead - America can call the shots": The "sleeping giant of Asia" already has woken up. Next year Russian arms sales are expected to outstrip even America's. And they aren't just selling antiques. Russia is offering long range missiles and advanced fighter jets - not to mention non-conventional weapons technology.

It may feel better in the short run to embrace shaky assumptions which promise a short cut to the future. But, unlike the philosopher in the joke, those who build their world on false assumptions inevitably find themselves trapped in an ever deepening pit. [February 6, 1997]


Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director, IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
POB 982 Kfar Sava

Tel 972-9-7604719 / Fax 972-9-7411645

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