Saturday, December 3, 2011

Upon Remembering A Lost Chance At Peace

After reading an article in Haaretz by Ephraim Sneh, I am reminded of the times when I ‎sat at Labor party meetings in Tel Aviv after the 1993 Oslo accords when the hopes for a ‎real peace where still alive. At that time we knew that there was a window of opportunity ‎to reach a peaceful solution to the “Palestinian Issue” and Yitzhak Rabin was brave and ‎understanding enough to attempt it. His vision was one of a peace built on the ‎understanding that a step must be made to advert continuous bloodshed and to give hope ‎to both our peoples.‎
"We can continue to fight. We can continue to kill – and continue to be killed. But we can ‎also try to put a stop to this never-ending cycle of blood. We can also give peace a ‎chance. We also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel – Muslim, Christian, ‎Druze and others – will enjoy full personal, religious, and civil rights, like those of any ‎Israeli citizen. Judaism and racism are diametrically opposed.
‎...We view the permanent solution in the framework of the State of Israel, which will ‎include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British ‎Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity, which will be a home to most of the ‎Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank…We would like this to ‎be an entity which is less than a state, and which will, independently, run the lives of the ‎Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent ‎solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not ‎return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”

Yitzhak, as was in the case of most the Labor Party and it's members were against,“…the ‎establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria...” by those of the religious movements and their Likud associates who aspired to ‎the revisionist policy of the Greater Israel. ‎

It must be clearly stated here that ALL of Israel was created by re-settlement and yes the ‎pre-state settlement policy was similar in many cases. And it is true fact that ANY Jewish ‎presence in the “Palestinian Mandated Areas” was cause for Arab resentment and acts of ‎violence for over 100 years. The influx of Jewish refugees from Europe in Holocaust era ‎and most particularly that of the 900,000 displaced Jews of Arab lands, has fanned the ‎fires of hatred in the Arab world.
What is ignored in all this debate is the fact that the disputed area of Judea and Samaria ‎was once part of the “Palestinian Mandated Area” allocated to the still born “Palestinian ‎State of 1947 whose leaders created the tragedy of the “Nachba” or Debacle. It was only ‎after it’s capture and occupation by Jordan from 1947 to 1967 that the area was termed ‎the “West Bank”.‎ And it was only after the defeat and withdrawal of the Jordanian Occupation forces that the Arab residents of the "West Bank" begin to consider themselves different as "Palestinians".

The brazen acts of many members of the “Settler” movement policy of “In your Face” or ‎‎“this was ours and will always be” heavy handed settlement policy in most cases did not ‎instill good neighborly relationships. It was and in many cases still is, the total lack of tact; by many of these New ‎Immigrant ‎settlers to the “West Bank”- the historical heartland of Judea and Shomron ‎whom ‎attributed to the rising Arab animosity and inspired the local “West Bank” ‎population to ‎rise up in the “Intifada. The brashness, defiance of any authority and superiority complex ‎of these Settlers who had no prior knowledge of the orient have made life unbearable to ‎most secular Israeli’s. ‎
The Arabs on the other hand have not been the perfect angels either. They have reacted ‎with some of the most heinous and revolting barbarous acts of violence.‎

Yes Israel should be able to create land swaps with the Palestinians as was proposed in ‎the Oslo Accords and to turn over some intensely Arab populated areas, such as Wadi ‎Ara and in compromise receive Rabin’s envisioned plan for the future border between ‎Israel and the new “Palestinian State” “...Changes which will include the addition of ‎Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar, and other communities, most of which are in the area east of ‎what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.‎"

Knowing Yitzhak personally through my meetings with him in the framework of the ‎Labor Party, as assistant local party secretary and as a backer of his, I knew of the deep ‎personal commitment he had to the people of Israel. Many of Rabin’s detractors ‎conveniently forget or choose to ignore the fact that Yitzhak was not naïve. He was born ‎in Jerusalem; to a Russian Born mother Rosa Cohen and an American father Nehemiah ‎Rabin, who was a veteran of the “Jewish Legion”- the 39th Royal Fusilier unit that helped ‎liberate Eretz Yisrael from the Ottoman Turks. As someone born in Jerusalem Rabin ‎knew the importance of Jerusalem
".‎..First and foremost, united Jerusalem – which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and ‎Givat Ze'ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the ‎rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and ‎freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths."‎
As a Sabra and a Jew growing up during the 1930’s in the “Palestinian Mandate” he was ‎well aware of the growing Arab hatred of the Jews lead by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, ‎Amin al Husseini. He experienced first hand the murderous attacks upon innocent Jewish ‎residents by Arab “Marruaders” specifically during the "Arab revolt" in Palestine, which ‎took place between 1935-6 and 1939. Rabin knew fully well the difference between the ‎Moslem and Christian Arab mentality. ‎

"The primary obstacle today, to implementing the peace process between us and the ‎Palestinians, is the murderous terrorism of the radical Islamic terrorist organizations, ‎Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are joined by the rejectionist organizations…We are ‎also repeating our demand that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its obligation, in ‎accordance with the agreements that we have signed with it, intensify its actions ‎against the murderers and enemies of peace in the area under its control…"

Rabin had been raised in a pre-state culture of the Hagannah and the Palmach and he was ‎well aware of the price for Israel’s birth. These pre-state Sabras gained unique toughness ‎and a resilience from their clashes in defiance of the British rule. The oppressive ‎Imperialist British occupation force imposed upon the Jews of Palestine restrictions and ‎hardships in deference to the Arabs. These restrictions on weapons for defense forced the ‎Jews to use their wits to combat their Arab enemies.‎

Bravery in the face of death was known to Rabin as it is by all of us who have been in ‎combat. The famous term –“with you backs to the wall” is part and parcel of the ‎Israeli/Jewish mystic. Our knowledge of this term in Israel and as Jews is far greater. We hear ‎it constantly in the hysterical chants of the Islamists in all of the Arab countries that surround us who cry for our blood almost daily as ‎they cry to “Drive them into the Sea” or "Death to the Jews". As Israelis we know the truth of genocide when we ‎stand in reverence on Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of SIX million ‎coreligionists who were murdered in cold blood simply because they were Jews and that there was no homeland to go to. The Arabs under the Grand Mufti made sure that the British kept the doors of the promised "Homeland Of the Jews" closed.

Yitzhak bore his sadness at the full knowledge of the cost that his soldiers under his ‎command paid for the establishment and continuation of the Jewish people in our ‎homeland inside of him. At a ceremony for the fallen soldiers I once noticed his deep ‎personal pain in his eyes, the quote often used 'Ut imago EST animi voltus sic indices ‎oculi'-"The eyes are the window to the soul" best describes what I saw that day in his ‎face.‎

In a conversation that we once had at the party offices on HaYarkon Street before his re-‎election to become head of the party and his subsequential election as PM, I told him ‎about the 26th president of US Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919) and I mentioned to ‎him two of my favorite quotes of Teddy’s from his Speech in Chicago, 3 Apr. 1903; ‎‎"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything" and ‎in reference to speaking with Arafat and the PLO I recommended to him; "Speak softly ‎and carry a big stick; you will go far.".‎
We are also repeating our demand that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its obligation, in ‎accordance with the agreements that we have signed with it, intensify its actions ‎against the murderers and enemies of peace in the area under its control…
Being a smoker is odious habit yet it allowed me to share many cigarettes together with ‎him in close conversation. Our times spent together were exceedingly short, with the ‎exception of a long conversation that I had the rare privilege of experiencing prior to a ‎meeting he had in the Birmingham JCC in 1983. His warmth, his honesty and ‎humbleness were exceptional for a man of his stature. On a personal basis one of my ‎greatest regrets is that I did not accept his invitation to be in Tel Aviv that fateful night.‎

If Yitzhak had not been murdered by assassin “the little man” Yigal Amir there would ‎have been a solution to the conflict. Yitzhak knew the Arabs, like Yigal Allon and ‎Alexander Zaid did and he knew how to pin Arafat down and make him understand. (In ‎the fashion of the original settlers of Eretz Yisrael) ‎
..From the depths of our heart, we call upon all citizens of the State of Israel, certainly ‎those who live in Judea, Samaria, ..., as well as the Palestinian ‎residents, to give the establishment of peace a chance, to give the end of acts of hostility a ‎chance, to give another life a chance, a new life. We appeal to Jews and Palestinians ‎alike to act with restraint, to preserve human dignity, to behave in a fitting manner – and ‎to live in peace and security.
..We are embarking upon a new path, which could lead us to an era of peace, to the end ‎of wars. "That is our prayer. That is our hope
It is too bad that dreams do not come true except in fairy tales. Where have all the real ‎brave leaders gone? The post Oslo scandalous and nefarious actions of the “Leader” of the Palestinians, ‎Yasser Arafat, destroyed the future of not only his own people but will cost the lives of many future ‎innocent Israelis and Palestinians.‎