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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?mador=4&datee=07/12/00&id=84571

Barak's deceptive isolation

By Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, 07/12/2000

Now that the obviously right-wing parties in the coalition have left, Ehud Barak and his government are wearing the shining halo of peace lovers. Peace Now salutes the government, Meretz is behind it the whole way, and the United States is set to congratulate Barak on the personal and political risk he is taking.Barak's splendid isolation has convinced many that he is indeed on the way to a longed for change in our relations with the Palestinians. "No longer [will we] rule another people," he says, and the peace camp now finds him worthy of unqualified support based on these few words. But not on the basis of his words in the recent past, or of his government's policy in the territories, or of the historical significance of his plan for "an end to the conflict."

On December 8, 1999, at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Barak had to rationalize his instruction of the previous day to stop issuing tenders for construction in Jewish settlements in the territories. He explained that there was no reason not to delay the tenders for two and a half months, publishing them after the signing of a framework agreement (which never happened). Those who demanded that he continue to issue the tenders, he said, were proposing a "position that weakens the state of Israel in its struggle to rule over the Land of Israel."

The Israeli peace camp did not stand up then to protest the fact that a Gush Emunim-type philosophy so naturally guided Barak, and that what concerns him in the agreement with the Palestinians are not principles of justice, equality and coexistence, but rather "rule over the Land of Israel." But never mind. Those are only words.

As for actions: Gidi Weitz, a reporter for the Hebrew-language Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha'ir, obtained Housing and Construction Ministry figures revealing "massive construction... 6,500 housing units currently being built in the urban sector of the settlements": 1,000 units each in Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Adam, and hundreds each in Karnei Shomron, Givat Ze'ev, Ofarim and Emanuel. And in the non-urban settlements, Weitz reported, 3,500 housing units are being constructed. "In a rough estimate, the Housing Ministry will invest over NIS 100 million in subsidizing construction and infrastructure work in the territories in the upcoming year." In addition - and this was in fact reported by Peace Now - the defense establishment's decision to allocate NIS 114.2 million for 25 bypass roads in the West Bank was approved in April.

Where are the protests outside Barak's house? Where is the demand that the Meretz ministers and Labor doves threaten to resign and quit the coalition if this construction is not stopped immediately?

Now everyone is blinded by the leaks regarding generous Israeli proposals to "give" the Palestinians 90 percent of the territory. There are so many leaks that no one bothers to look at the maps. The settlements that are to remain in place are precisely those that divide Palestinian territory into three or four enclaves. And let us not forget the Gaza Strip. Even if the isolated settlements are evacuated, the crux will remain: Gush Katif, which cuts the strip in two, and the settlement cluster in the northern part of the strip, which robs it of an important and verdant stretch of beach.

Any settlement means an Israeli military presence, any road to a settlement means IDF patrols. To us the IDF is our children, but to the Palestinians it is an occupying army, and as long as it remains underfoot, it will remain an occupying army serving the strategic goals of the mother-state. Ma'ale Adumim alone will guarantee Israeli control of all Palestinian movement between the northern part of the West Bank and its southern part. Control of movement means control of development programs and the relations between the future state's leadership and its citizens, as well as the right to detain, interrogate and disrupt any form of regular life.

With all this talk about fractions of percentages, the dominant Israeli peace camp has completely abandoned the basic debate: Does Israel plan to impose an arrangement on the Palestinians based on the success of its settlement enterprise (elsewhere named colonialist), or does it genuinely wish to fit in as a neighbor-state in the region? Will Israel justify the historiographic assertions that it is a colonialist phenomenon (and therefore destined to disappear at one stage or another), or will it prove that it is the product of special and difficult historical circumstances, and its people have the right to exist in the state they set up, while fully and honestly recognizing the national rights of the Palestinian people, who had a full life here as a nation before 1948?

A peaceful integration into the region, which will guarantee the security of future Israeli generations, means an arrangement that will respect international decisions. There is a reason that the United Nations - and all the countries of the world with it (even the U.S., though it seems its administration has since forgotten this) - ruled that the settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip are illegal. Now, most of the Israeli peace camp supports a settlement that will legalize them. In other words, the struggle between the peace camp and Gush Emunim is only over percentages, not over substance.


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