Reprinted from "Ha'aretz" of Sept 27, 1998


By Nadav Shragai

In the past, many Israelis took somewhat extreme positions, but in retrospect told themselves that they were ready to compromise half-way. They believed that in this way, the compromise that would eventually be reached would also take their positions into account.

But this tactic has been shown to be erroneous. Broadening the demands has caused a chain reaction. The Left saw the Right broadening its demands and quickly moved to follow suit, with the Right following in turn. The unceasing insistence on determined positions, which had its origins in tactical reasons, has also led to radicalization. Many people have internalized these positions, and their substance cannot be compromised.

In recent years, especially after Rabin's assassination, awareness of this process has begun to penetrate many minds. The appearance of the Third Way, the Beilin-Eitan document (on Jerusalem's future) and the dialogue between Dor Shalem and rabbis such as Yoel Bin-Nun, are expressions of this.

This understanding regarding the recent development of political camps in Israel is extremely important precisely because of the lack of a similar process among the Palestinians. Among the Palestinians, the tactics -- the Oslo Accords -- are virtually declared to be a means to promote the end, and not a means whose objective is to bring the non-dialogues of the original extreme positions to a half-way compromise. This significant difference is crudely expressed in the issue of the "right of return", which since the Oslo Accords, has ceased to be the subject of an abstract dream like the borders of the Biblical promised land, and become a practical aspiration.

Hundreds of repeated messages based on the non-recognition of the State of Israel, even within the 1948 borders, public activities whose objective is to build a Palestinian identity connected to the entire territory of the State of Israel, and frequent messages expressing the expectation of, and confidence in, the removal of the State of Israel are transmitted daily by the Palestinian media. This relationship also exists in the deepest levels of the Palestinian experience -- such as school books -- and in the daily public exhortations of politicians, five years after the Palestinian Authority committed itself to recognize the State of Israel.

In the Palestinian Authority cities, there are "return" marches, led by old men carrying the keys to their homes in Haifa, Lod, Ramle and Acre. "The fathers and grandfathers," reported Al-Quds on 15 July 1998, "have made their sons swear that when they bequeath them the keys, deeds and municipal records, they will continue the struggle." The Palestinian Center for Training brings its students to summer camps to visit "destroyed villages in the Jerusalem district" and Jewish and Arab photographers on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, emissaries of Orient House, come to the Malha and Ein Kerem neighborhoods in western Jerusalem, in order to document the stolen Arab property.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority's newspaper, reports to its readers that "Samaritans live on Mt. Gerizim in Nablus, and some in the city of Holon, near Jaffa, on the Palestinian coast..." Israeli cities are systematically defined as "settlements" and "colonies". Thus, "settlements in the Negev" and "Israeli colonies" such as Ramat Hashofet and Ein Ha'emek. "Minister Suissa," Radio Palestine recently reported, "visited the settlement of Ma'aleh Hahamisha," and the, "settlers also toured the neighborhoods of East Acre."

For years, Arab states avoided mentioning the name of Israel as a means of non-recognition. They used expressions like, "the Zionist Entity," "the Zionist Enemy," or "the Tel Aviv government." Today, these expressions have become the daily language of the Palestinian media.

"What can be said to someone who still holds the keys to his home in Safed, Acre, Jaffa and Haifa?" the interviewer asks Abdallah al-Hourani, Palestinian Authority Minister for Refugee Affairs (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 15 July, 1998) "Tell him," replied the minister, "to bequeath them to his sons or grandsons, since the day will come when we, or our sons, or our grandsons, will return. The Crusaders lived in our land for 242 years, until the liberation of their last outpost, and Israel is like a tree that has flowered on land not belonging to it. No matter how much it is fertilized, it cannot put down roots, and when the fertilizer stops, it will die..."

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