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January 13, 1989 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LIFE IN ISRAEL

Is Israel Winning The Battle
But Losing The Long War?

ROY ISACOWITZ

Special to the Jewish News

erusalem — In Novem-
ber 1987, on the eve of
the Arab League sum-
mit in Jordan, Palestine
Liberation Organization
Chairman Yassir Arafat sent
envoys to the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, urging mass
street demonstrations by the
Palestinians under Israeli oc-
cupation. His call went
unheeded.
Almost a year to the day
later, on Nov. 15, 1988, Arafat
proclaimed the establishment
of a Palestinian state from a
flag-bedecked podium in Al-
giers. Only a massive deploy-
ment of force by the Israeli
army kept the inhabitants of
the occupied territories from
celebrating in the streets.
1988 was the year of the
Palestinian intifada, the
uprising against Israeli oc-
cupation. It began in Gaza on
Dec. 9, 1987, when the deaths
of four local laborers in a road
accident ignited the Strip's
teeming and highly charged
refugee camps, and it reach-
ed its apex with Arafat's
historic proclamation follow-
ed by Washington's decision
to open talks with the PLO.
And after a year of violence,
repression and confusion, the
only certainty is that the in-
tifada is far from over.
Neither Palestinians nor
Israelis are able to predict
what shapes it will continue
to take.
The uprising has dramatic-
ally altered the strategic and
psychological balances in the
Middle East and beyond. The
previously cowed and apa-
thetic inhabitants of the oc-
cupied territories have
become a force in their own
right and have dramatically
asserted their claim to a say
in their future.
Fatah, Arafat's mainstream
resistance organization, has
shown flexibility in its
diplomacy and effective con-
trol over events in the ter-
ritories: It has managed to
convince the United States
that it may prove to be a true
partner in peace.
For Israel, the uprising has
been an unmitigated disaster.
Its moral currency has lost
much of its lustre in the eyes
of the world, and its diplo-
matic standing has slipped in
reverse ratio to the rehabilita-
tion of the PLO.
It has also had its more sub-
tle repercussions, such as the
renewed self-confidence of the

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An Israeli soldier argues with a Palestinian: An unmitigated disaster

occupied Palestinians and the
radical enhancement of the
status of the Palestinian
woman. Young Israeli soldiers
putting down the uprising
have come face-to-face with
their own limitations; several
dozen have been charged with
brutality or worse.
Once arrogant and disdain-
ful Israeli settlers in the West
Bank now wear motorcycle
helmets while driving in
their cars. Stone and petrol
bomb throwers are
everywhere. The settlers no
longer talk of beating the
Palestinians at demography;
today, they talk of harsher
military measures and
"transferring" the Palesti-
nians to neighboring Arab
states.
This is not to say that
Arafat's proclamation of
statehood is reflected in the
situation on the ground in the
West Bank and Gaza. There,
Israel is still firmly in control.
If anything, Israel's grip is
tighter and more secure than
it was during the dreadful
days of last December and
January, when rioters were
being shot at a rate of two or
three a day.
The intifada of the second
year is very different com-
pared to the frenzied mob
violence and the hysterical
Israeli reactions of the first
few months. It has not died
down, despite repeated pre-
dictions that it would by
senior Israeli officials, but it
has certainly changed key.
Where thousands of youths
once rampaged through the
alleys of the refugee camps,
today the streets are largely
deserted. Where Israeli troops
once waded into the crowds

with batons, today they fire
plastic bullets from a
distance. Where budding
Palestinian revolutionaries
once saw freedom within
their grasp, today they are
settling in for a long haul.
If the goal of the uprising
was to dislodge the occupied
territories from Israel, then it
has failed. Israeli troops are
everywhere and the Israeli
electorate, in the recent elec-
tions, gave little indication
that it had lost the stomach
for occupation.
But if the goal was to shake
things up — to grab interna-
tional attention, delegitimize
the occupation in the eyes of
the world and prod the lead-
ers of the PLO out of their
luxury-in-exile — it has been
a profound success.
The inhabitants of the West
Bank and Gaza were pre-
viously the poor cousins in
the Middle East dispute. A
largely rural and unsophisti-
cated population, they ac-
cepted occupation more or
less meekly, as diplomatic ini-
tiatives and strategies
swirled around them.
No one, least of all the
Israelis, expected them to
have the gumption to revolt
and the courage and deter-
mination to stick it out. The
Palestinians have suffered ap-
pallingly. lbwns and villages
have been under curfew for
days and sometimes weeks on
end. Commerce, when it has
taken place at all, has been
limited by the Unified
Leadership of the Uprising to
only four hours a day. Food is
scarce and economic activity
has dwindled significantly.
More than 300 Palestinians
have died during the uprising

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