Reprinted from Ha'aretz, October 28, 1999


By Israel Harel

Israelis rarely see a rain cloud nowadays, yet our skies are darkened by clouds - related to issues of national security and the peace process. While Egyptian generals are engaging in saber-rattling, the Syrians have come out with the threat, highly useful in any internal crisis (such as the one presently developing in that country), that they will call a halt to all the preliminary contacts designed to resuscitate the talks with Israel. In the meantime, a mini-Intifada is transpiring in Bethlehem. Day after day, Palestinian youths attack the Israeli security forces guarding Rachel's Tomb. It has been reported that the attacks are by no means an expression of spontaneity. Furthermore, the conflagration, which has led one of the attackers to get within stabbing distance of one of our soldiers, was started by official Palestinian elements. However, the average Israeli, who is so preoccupied with much juicier issues, has no time to deal with such petty matters.

The same, apparently, can be said for those whose job it is to listen, to understand and to react while those of us who are caught up with the latest scandal refuse to hear or know anything. "Ehud Barak is not listening to us," Yedioth Ahronoth quotes Israeli experts who specialize in assessing Palestinian affairs. In this report, the unhappy experts complain that, in addition to refusing to look at the concrete evidence, the prime minister is keeping them in the dark regarding developments in the official negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and, of course, in the secret talks. According to these specialists, this state of affairs is undermining our national security. The reason for their being kept in the dark, they believe, is their pessimistic forecasts. Apparently, rulers never like to hear opinions that run counter to their ambitions.

One thing worrying the heads of our military intelligence community is related to the practical implications of the extreme statements being made by Palestinian leaders. According to these military intelligence chiefs, such statements should not be regarded simply as threats uttered to fill tactical needs. Instead, these are expressions of authentic feelings that are sincerely grounded in the knowledge that Israelis are so captivated by their own understanding of Israeli-Palestinian relations that they are willing to tolerate almost any utterance, even the kind that generates acts of violence, such as what is happening today in Bethlehem.

A few weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg invited Abu Ala'a, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, to visit our parliament building. In his speech at the official reception held in his honor, this guest of the Knesset spat in the face of his hosts, declaring that Jerusalem is an Arab city. The lands on which the Knesset, the Supreme Court building and the adjacent government ministry buildings are built, he taunted his tongue-tied hosts, are the site of the Arab village of Sheikh Bader.

Declarations of this nature, our intelligence experts now admit, accurately reflect the thoughts - and thus the political and operative intentions - of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority. In addition, such statements prove that these leaders are interested in conducting the negotiations with Israel in an atmosphere of incitement intended to enflame the passions of the Palestinian populace.

What is happening, however, is that these war-mongering declarations are not only creating turmoil in the Palestinian street. They are also arousing the passions of both the opponents of peace in the Arab states, and - as was demonstrated a few weeks ago in Tiberias and Haifa - part of the Israeli Arab population.

The refusal to see reality - just as in the period immediately preceding the Yom Kippur War - has nothing to do with rational thought. The decision by some cabinet members to ignore the air-raid sirens now being sounded stems from blind dedication - one that cannot be refuted even by the facts - to a single goal, and that goal is a Palestinian state. Those who are ready to give up (almost) anything and to receive nothing in return are even prepared to deny the significance of the declarations made by Abu Ala'a, just as yesterday they denied the significance of the declaration made by Arafat on the ultimate goal of the Arabs in this land and just as they denied the declaration of Nabil Sha'ath (who has said that, if the Palestinians' demands are not met at the negotiating table, they will be met through armed struggle).

The peace cult, Israel's leading messianic movement, claims - as we can see, the religion of peace is no different from any other religion - that the journey to the messianic era is an arduous one and filled with pain. Nonetheless, the messiah - that is, peace - will come, in the wake of all the compromises and concessions, and will console us after we have suffered so much in the past.

It cannot be assumed that a rational, pragmatic and suspicious individual like Barak has recently joined this cult because of all the difficulties he must weather. It is therefore incomprehensible why he is not responding to the warnings he is being given. The concept of separation, which he has introduced in recent weeks, is not enough. A much more comprehensive revision of our thinking is needed, especially with regard to the Palestinians

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