Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

27 March 1997 Edition

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Israel's vision of peace

By Dara MacNeil

It didn't take Binyamin Netanyahu long to deliver on his electoral promise. Campaigning last May, he stated his intention to reverse the entire `peace process'. He was later forced, albeit begrudgingly, to revoke that explicit threat. However, since assuming office in June 1996 Netanyahu's actions have made it abundantly clear that his original intention remains his truest.

Under his stewardship, the supposed peace process has lurched from crisis to catastrophe. His decision to proceed with the Har Homah settlement merely confirms that trend. It prompted Ahmed Abdul-Rahman, a senior aide to Palestinian president Yasser Arafat to remark: ``For the first time, I see absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. I think that, as things stand, we have lost Jerusalem and the peace process is over. We cannot go on pretending otherwise, playing games with our people, giving false promises that are never delivered.''

In 1993 Netanyahu characterised the PLO as being committed ``sinews, tooth and nail to the eradication of Israel by any means,'' while last year he compared them to the Nazis. What Jewish leader would ever advocate peaceful compromise with that party?

It appears increasingly likely that Netanyahu's regime see the Oslo Accords as a vehicle for the final destruction of the PLO and the aspiration for a return of the Palestinian homeland. This is their version of peace - destruction of the enemy. In truth, it is no different from a central tenet of the sectarian Israeli state as preached down the decades: peace through strength.

Thus, Arafat's leadership has been consistently undermined by the Israeli regime; shown consistently to be powerless in the face of Tel Aviv's overwhelming military, economic and (international) political muscle. The Har Homah decision exemplifies this.

By emphasising those aspects of the Accords which demand that the Palestinian authority act as Israel's surrogate henchman in certain occupied territories, Israel appears intent on creating resistance to Arafat's rule (Arafat's dictatorial tendencies have merely strengthened this process.)

Israel knew that violence would erupt if they proceeded with Har Homah. They were also aware that Arafat would either have to crack down hard to prevent its occurrence - thus further alienating the Palestinian grassroots - or move towards rejecting the process altogether. Thus Israel sets itself up as the injured party.

It's a win-win situation for Israel. As the Palestinians become more riven with dissent, so their ability to successfully prosecute a political campaign against Israeli occupation is diminished.

And as that occurs, Palestinians will see violence as the only option. If that occurs, Israel - with the sanction of the West - will be allowed to resort to the war they have of late practised across the negotiating table.

Last week, the Israeli Justice Minister implicitly endorsed this strategy when he conceded that if Arafat ``exerted force'', Israel would either exile him from the territories, or simply kill him.

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