November 1, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 149

Peace Camp Figure: Peace Process Truisms Still Relevant

November 1, 2000
Special Dispatch No. 149

Since the recent outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, MEMRI's Israel Studies Program has been closely monitoring Israeli reactions to the new state of affairs. MEMRI detected a trend of disillusionment by Israeli public opinion with the peace, which includes prominent left leaning figures (particularly intellectuals, writers, and media figures) who traditionally belong to the peace camp. In an op-ed entitled “What Was Valid Remains Valid” published in Yediot Aharonot on October 23, 2000, Yaron London[1] – a prominent Israeli columnist and a well-known figure of the Israeli peace camp – voiced a different opinion regarding recent events, according to which the old assumptions of the peace process need not be dismissed. Following is London's editorial:

"In two weeks [we] will mark the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. [Although] the leaders of the religious right dodged their indirect responsibility for this act - one must admit that they have drawn the necessary conclusions regarding the boundaries of public debate. The assassination's trauma, and the fear of a mark of eternal guilt silenced them and incapacitated their ability to spur the masses for action."

"And it so happens that for a long while [they] abided by the Netanyahu government's commandments, which continued, step by step, slowly and reluctantly, in the [same] path set by its predecessor. Only sometimes – as happened following the Hebron Agreements – the young settlers rebelled but quickly acquiesced."

"Having said that, [Rabin's] assassination, per se, did not undermine the Right's basic arguments, and it certainly did not damage the psychological envelope encircling its entire standpoint. It did not undermine their to the greater land of Israel, it did not rebuff the strategic arguments in support of the settlements, it did not erase their doubts regarding the Oslo process, and it did not cancel out their deep suspicions regarding the [true] intentions of the Palestinian leadership. These arguments, their dubiousness aside, are as firm and abiding [today] as they were before the villain pulled the trigger [and killed Rabin]." "The state of affairs that the Left is experiencing today is somewhat similar to what the Right was experiencing then: the new Intifada shatters its basic foundations and disrupts its ability to convey its belief to the agitated public, but it does not change the history, the demography, the economy and the society, and thus it can not change the basic positions."

"Actually, the contrary is the truth: the outbreak [of violence] is a note of confirmation to the strong-minded [far] Left who deserved more credit than that which was given to it by the lukewarm Left. Those who claimed that the tranquility during the years of the Oslo Accords was only temporary, since the Palestinian situation is so desperate, were right. The continued Israeli control over most of the West Bank and Gaza territories, cutting in half the potential territory of a Palestinian state to units lacking territorial continuity, the postponement of the implementation of the 'Safe Passage' between Gaza and the West Bank, the multiplication of the [Jewish] population in the settlements, the insistence on controlling Jerusalem in its entirety, the aggressive discrimination between the Jewish citizens and the Arab residents of Jerusalem, the acts depriving the Arabs of water while at the same time distributing water without any limitations to the Jews, repeated displays of humiliation and violence against the Palestinians who are forced to pass through military and police check points, all these shattered the expectations of most Palestinians who hoped for a better situation to come out of the Oslo Accords."

"The thinking mechanism of [people who are from] the Left is based on empathy, which is rooted in one's ability to walk in another's shoes. Not too long ago, in a flickering display of a precious and rare frankness, Ehud Barak admitted that if he were a young Palestinian, he would probably join one of the resistance movements that fight the Zionist occupier. It was before he acquired experience in the arena of politics - experience which usually hardens the hearts of those involved. If he had the courage to hold on to his empathic ability he would say now that it is only normal that a young Palestinian throws stones. Sometimes people are willing to sacrifice themselves when they are driven by insane ideologies, or when manipulative leaders are cheating them. Popular resistance movements rarely appear unless the vast majority of people feel such a profound humiliation, such an overwhelming despair, [which brings them] to a point when they rather risk their safety than resign themselves to the reality."

"These, and not Arafat's chicanery, are the multifaceted driving elements of the new Intifada. The left must recuperate swiftly from the shock of the latest events and present these truisms, which are more relevant today than ever before."

[1] For other articles by Yaron London see MEMRI Special Dispatches:

  • No. 85: "Leading Israeli Journalist Understands Arab Holocaust Denial." April 11, 2000.
  • No. 87: "The Rabinowitzes and their Ilk." April 14, 2000.
  • No. 114: "Interpreting the Israeli Public Opinion Polls." July 12, 2000.

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