Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Ceremonies

P. David Hornik | 11/14/2008

At the special Knesset session on Monday marking thirteen years since Yitzhak Rabin’s death, outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said:

“…the decisive moment is growing closer and we are standing at its threshold…. Whoever thinks…he can avoid the decision while at the same time maintaining Israel’s international position…and also benefit from the warm and supporting embrace of the leaders of the Western world…is deluding himself…. Whoever thinks it is possible to avoid the decision and continue to build a broad system of relations with Arab and Muslim countries, as we are doing today—is living in a dream…. The Government, any government, must tell the truth, and this truth, unfortunately, will obligate us to rip away many portions of the homeland—in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights….”

At a memorial rally in Ramallah on Tuesday marking four years since Yasser Arafat’s death, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (also possibly outgoing) said:

“The Palestinian leadership will continue to follow Yasser Arafat's path until a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is established…. The path of the shahids—Arafat, George Habash and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin—is the path that we cherish….” Arafat was, of course, the preeminent terrorist of the 20th century whose acts of slaughter against Israelis continued up to his death in the form of suicide bombings. Habash was the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an offshoot of Arafat’s PLO known for decades of terrorism—from a spate of airplane hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s to the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001 and subsequent suicide bombings. Yassin was the Hamas leader who before his assassination by Israel in 2004 compiled a bloody record of suicide- and other terror.

Abbas also said at the same rally:

“We rejected Israeli proposals that stipulated making concessions including on Jerusalem and the refugees…. We either get all six points—Jerusalem, settlements, borders, refugees, water and security—or nothing at all.”

Olmert’s statement stirred sharp reactions in Israel including from members of his own Kadima Party. It was noted that, whereas Kadima had run for office on a centrist platform, Olmert’s statement had veered farther to the Left than any Israeli prime minister ever had in public. Prime-ministerial aspirant and current foreign minister Tzipi Livni, also of Kadima, dissociated herself from Olmert’s words in a radio interview saying, “As the head of the Kadima Party, I am obligated not to the parting words of Olmert, but to Kadima’s platform, which I wrote and in which I believe.”

Many, though, have a hard time being reassured by Livni, who in a speech at Tel Aviv University last June seemed to say that Israel’s legitimacy as a state was a function of the creation of a Palestinian state. The current widespread expectation in the country is that Livni and Kadima will be defeated in the upcoming February elections by Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud.

1. Olmert’s inclusion of the Golan Heights among the “portions of the homeland” to be “ripped away” gives the lie to those who base the alleged need for Israeli concessions on demography and on the alleged moral or prudential need for Palestinian sovereignty. Israel faces no demographic issue in the Golan and if relinquished it would revert to being a tiny part of Syria. Clearly, Olmert bases his message on a perceived need to appease the Western, Arab, and Muslim world, and with virtually the entire Israeli Left sharing his eagerness to cede the Golan along with Judea, Samaria, and parts of Jerusalem, they clearly are basically driven by that same longing for acceptance. Such a bending to international will threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy when fewer and fewer Israeli leaders have the backbone to tell the world why further capitulation—even after the glaring and bloody precedents of southern Lebanon, Gaza, and the parts of Judea and Samaria already ceded to Palestinian rule—is suicidal to Israel and destabilizing to the rest of the world.

2. In conveying a sense of urgency about the need for concessions—“the decisive moment is growing closer”—Olmert’s delusionality, and that of people who think like him, is startling. It is not only that the (nominally) Fatah-ruled West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza are now two distinct political entities that at present are growing farther apart despite attempts at reconciliation, or that not even Israeli leaders like Olmert and Livni have suggested for a moment—at least publicly—that Hamas has any interest whatsoever in peace and compromise with Israel. It is also that Abbas’s “six points” on which he refuses to budge—Jerusalem, settlements, borders, refugees, water and security—signify a fundamental rejection by Fatah of Israeli positions, and of Israel itself, that Israeli and U.S. officials have been ignoring or denying for at least fifteen years.

To take just one of the six points, refugees, at all key junctures of these negotiations—including Camp David in 2000—the Fatah representatives, whether Abbas, Arafat before him, or their various minions, have posed it as an implacable demand despite wall-to-wall Israeli recognition that the “return” of “refugees” (unless—some believe—minor and symbolic) entails Israel’s dissolution. For Israeli leaders and their American backers to continue imperviously along this same path despite its repeated and guaranteed failure is a frightening case of political obtuseness and irrationality.

3. It goes without saying that Abbas’s statement that “The path of the shahids—Arafat, George Habash and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin—is the path that we cherish” has been ignored by the Israeli prime minister and foreign minister; the U.S. president, secretary of state, and president-elect; the UN secretary-general; and the European leadership. In this they are guilty of gross irresponsibility toward matters of life and death, overlooking in their cowardice the fact that Abbas, addressing a crowd of thousands of Palestinians at a major communal event, chose not to give a message of peace but to extol three mass murderers as heroes and models.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

No comments: