November 30, 2003

Israel's hard men fight for peace

I rarely write to you about the Israelis and the Palestinians. The truth is simply too divisive and too painful. But this particular story is too important. So indulge me...Unfortunately, both the _resident and Sharon, for different reasons, are psychologically incapable of waging peace. Unlike Begin, Sharon cannot see the strength in peace-making. Unlike previous US Presidents Carter, Clinton and even his own father, the _resident does not accept the vital importance of the US playing the role of even a somewhat fair broker between Israel and Palestine. The _resident's performance -- his 2000-2002 policy of "malign neglect," followed up with the purely cosmetic "roadmap to peace" -- is a disgrace. Sharon, well...Sharon should be housed along side Milosevic in the Hague. And just as the _resident has strengthened and exalated al-Qaeda, so Sharon has strengthened and exalted Hamas...But here we are -- at this incredible moment in history -- many in both the US and Israeli intelligence communities are speaking out against the foolish leadership of these two ignorant men, who have between them (Iraq and Palestine) ignited a fire in the Middle East that could well lead us all into WWIII, one that would look a lot more like WWI than WWII...Here are four more names for the John O'Neill Wall of Heroes, and the piece of course is from America's best newspaper, The U.K. Guardian...Restore the Timeline, Show Up for Democracy in November 2004: Defeat Bush (again)!,6903,1096286,00.html

Israel's hard men fight for peace

As campaigners from both sides sign their own draft treaty, Conal Urquhart meets the security chiefs who insist that Sharon is wrong

Sunday November 30, 2003
The Observer

They are Ariel Sharon's trickiest opponents - four former heads of the Israeli security service who have united to accuse the Prime Minister of pushing the Jewish state to the 'edge of an abyss'. Israel, they say, must find peace or perish.
Between them, they served for 20 years at the head of Shin Bet, the nerve centre of the war on Palestinian militants, but now they have dramatically changed tack to spearhead a new movement for peace more powerful than Israel has ever seen before.

Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Major General Ami Ayalon have fought the Palestinians with as much vigour as Sharon, who commanded an armoured division in the 1967 Six Day War. Shalom reportedly ordered the murder of two Palestinians who hijacked a bus. Under Ayalon's command, Shin Bet perfected the use of booby-trapped mobile phones for assassinations.

The stocky, shaven-headed Ayalon has fought Arabs all his life, but this pugnacious character is the new face of the Israeli peace movement which, after three years of the intifada, is finally beginning to have an impact.

Almost all Israeli public figures have done military service, but Ayalon, 58, has devoted his life to it. At 18 he joined the naval commandos and rose to head the navy. After retiring, he led Shin Bet.

'I am not a leftist, I have been involved in hundreds of military operations and killed many people. I have blood on my hands,' he told The Observer. His military past has given a new respectability to the peace movement, which used to be accused of being insufficiently patriotic.

Ayalon launched a peace initiative with Sari Nusseibeih, head of Al Quds, the Arab university in Jerusalem, which calls on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to adopt a policy of 'two states for two peoples', based on the borders before 1967 when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza. There is nothing new in this, but Ayalon says the timing is right.

It is not the only peace initiative which Israelis are addressing. Tomorrow in Switzerland, Israeli and Palestinian peace campaigners will sign the Geneva accords, a prototype peace agreement. Ayalon says both initiatives undermine Sharon's line that there is no Palestinian partner for peace.

Last month Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon, the army chief of staff, told reporters the government's policy of repressing Palestinians was reducing Israel's security, not enhancing it.

Commentators believe that because of such unprecedented attacks from areas linked to the Right, Sharon has been forced to change direction. Last week, he promised 'unilateral concessions' and hinted at evacuating some Jewish settlements on occupied land.

There has been no action yet and the living conditions of Palestinians are unchanged, but many commentators believe the government cannot ignore the demands of the public and the security establishment.

Ayalon said: 'Deep in our society there is a revolution, a groundswell of opinion. Many Israeli generals are talking; the four heads of Shin Bet have spoken; there are peace plans being proposed. When you combine all this with the economic situation, it will soon add up to a tidal wave.

'If the politicians do not listen to what the people and the security establishment are saying, there will be people in the streets demanding change.'

Avraham Burg, a senior member of the opposition Labour Party, has warned that the Zionist dream of a Jewish state is in danger: 'Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism.'

Avraham Shalom said Israel was heading for an abyss: 'If we do not turn away from adhering to the entire land of Israel [including the West Bank and Gaza] and begin to understand the other side, we will not get anywhere.

'We must, once and for all, admit there is another side, that it is suffering and that we are behaving disgracefully... If we don't change this there will be nothing there.'

Underpinning the fierce criticism of Sharon's administration is fear that Jews will become a minority in land controlled by Israel unless a Palestinian state is created. Ayalon and many Israelis fear that unless there is such a state, the Palestinians will demand equal rights in a single nation, leading to a Muslim majority within 10 years.

Sharon's insistence on stamping out 'terror' before opening talks is like Nero fiddling as Rome burnt, say his critics. 'The status quo is leading us to a place we do not want to be, a one-state solution. We need a two-state solution,' said Ayalon.

A People's Voice petition backed by Ayalon has so far attracted 200,000 signatures among Palestinians and Israelis. He believes 70 per cent of Israelis will sign if they have the opportunity.

The declaration in some ways offers more than the Palestinians could dream of, a state based on 1967 borders and Jerusalem as an open city. However, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they had in Israel before 1948 is rejected.

Ayalon's initiative sees a two-state solution, whereas the Geneva accord includes negotiations on moot points such as which settlements become part of Israel and how the Palestinian state is to be compensated for this.

Ayalon said: 'This is a pragmatic exercise. We are not doing it because we love Palestinians. We are doing it because we want a Jewish democratic state.

'I have clear red lines, things people die for. One is that I do not want to see one Palestinian returning to the state of Israel.'

It is almost eight weeks since there has been a suicide attack in Israel itself, and this unprecedented period of calm has encouraged talk of peace. But just one serious attack in Israel will move the peace initiatives from the top of the agenda to the bottom.

Ayalon insists no attack must be allowed to slow momentum towards a two-state solution: 'Israelis know violence itself does not bring about security. This vision will secure our future.'

Posted by richard at November 30, 2003 01:02 PM