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November 28, 2003 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-11-28

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The End Game


ver the past three years, we
have witnessed a devastating
string of homicide bombers
and other horrific acts of
terror. We watched rather helplessly
how violence and senseless killing is
quickly overtaking hope. During this
period, the Israeli conflict with the
Palestinians has become part of the
global war against terrorism.
For all the anti-terror rhetoric and
Israel's unwavering moral superiority,
the ultimate price to an impossible sit-
uation — where 5.2 million Jews are
occupying a hostile Palestinian popu-
lation of 3.5 million — continues to
take its toll on the daily lives of both
Israelis and Palestinians.
The founding fathers of Israel did
not envision a situation where a newly
created Jewish state would be responsi-
ble for the daily lives of almost 4 mil-
lion Palestinian Arabs. Indeed,
between 1948 and 1967, as Israel was
busy fighting to survive, most Israelis
accepted the notion that their survival
was a work-in-progress.
Between 1948 and 1967, Israel's
Arab neighbors shamelessly manipulat-
ed the Palestinians for their political
benefit, hoping that Israel would
somehow vanish from the map. Until
1967, most Arab regimes viewed
Israel's existence as a temporary state
of affairs. Yet by 1967, history had
defied everyone's reality; by the end of
the Six Day War, Israel emerged as a
regional super power.
Unfortunately, it took another war

Hannan Lis is a Farmington Hills resi-


is more militarily secure than
The second turning point
ever, yet its politics remains
was Ben-Gurion's reconcilia-
helplessly stalled. The politics
tion with Germany starting in
of "wishing the Palestinian
the 1950s. That was followed
away" is undermining Israel's
by his decision to establish full
future, both as a Jewish home-
diplomatic relations with
land and a democratic coun-
Germany and his acceptance
of significant economic aid
Many Israelis, including
from Germany. Ben-Gurion
some of Israel's military and
felt a modern Israel had to act
intelligence mavens, are going
in its best interests, even when
with their concerns for
Yet just as the Arabs have spent 19
the survival of Israel as a
evoke anger, anguish and lots
years wishing Israel away, Israelis have
viable democracy. In a joint interview
of controversy.
spent almost 55 years wishing the
published Nov. 14, the four immedi-
The third turning point was the
Palestinians away. How else can we
ate former heads of the Shin Bet secu-
peace accord with Egypt. Then Prime
explain creation of settlements, annex-
rity service spoke publicly of their crit-
Minister Menachem Begin, for a long
ation of land and suppression of
icism of Israel's tough military policies
human rights? How else can we
toward the Palestinians, proclaiming
faced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
explain how a democratic nation that
that Israel urgently needs a political
to make peace with the largest Arab
aspires to be a light to other nations is
rather than a military solution to the
country in return for the Sinai, a land
democratic only to the Jewish settlers,
conflict with the Palestinians.
but not to the Arab residents
"We are taking sure, steady
of the West Bank and Gaza?
steps to a place where the state
For 55 years, we have been
The need to end the occupation of Israel will no longer be a
"wishing the Palestinians
democracy and a home for the
away," but just like Israel, they
is pragmatic rather than moral.
Jewish people," said Ami
are not going anywhere.
Ayalon, the Shin Bet chief
The need to end the occu-
from 1996 to 2000.
pation is pragmatic rather than
The current feeling of helplessness
mass four times the size of Israel and
moral. Israel came into existence
and anguish is not just a result of ter-
with oil resources sufficient to ensure
because of a pragmatic vision. When
rorism and violence, but also a symp-
we view the history of modern Israel,
tom of the absence of a pragmatic
we can identify three historical turning choice marks a turning point since it
leadership that is able and willing to
enabled a first-ever acknowledgment
points that brought about a funda-
by an Arab leader that Israel cannot be act decisively in Israel's best interest.
mental positive transformation for
The lack of a current partner for peace
"wished away."
Israel and the Jewish people.
_ _ on the Palestinian side should not
The first is the acceptance of the
obscure the real issue, which is the
partition plan by Israel's first prime
ultimate need to relinquish Israeli con-
minister, David Ben-Gurion, a plan he
trol over 3.5 million Palestinians in
It's amazing to view current events
viewed as an imperfect, but a crucial
order to ensure the ultimate survival of
against the backdrop of Israel's prag-
compromise required to establish an
matic past. It is ironic that at 55, Israel Israel as a democratic Jewish nation. 0
independent Israel.

in 1973 before the first Arab govern-
ment, Egypt, came to the conclusion
that Israel was a permanent reality;
hence, the peace treaty between Israel
and Egypt. The Six Day War also
served to transform Israel from a
David to a Goliath, from a sympathet-
ic underdog to a regional super power.

Dealing With The Deal



very Sunday morning,
Israeli government ministers
converge on the Prime
Minster's Office in
Jerusalem for the weekly cabinet
Under the watchful eye of journal-
ists and TV cameras, they arrive in
state-issued white Volvos, enter the
non-descript building and climb a
flight of stairs, all the while doing

Robert Sarner is a senior reporter/edi-

tor on Israel's only English-language
daily TV news show. Before moving to
Israel in 1990, he was a writer and
magazine editor in Paris and Toronto.
His e-mail address is





their best to look very serious and
Once the photo-op is over, the 23
ministers meet behind closed doors.
The sessions usually last a few hours
during which ministers tackle issues of
state, later providing waiting reporters
fresh fodder for the evening news.
Earlier this month, the cabinet
endured one of the lonGest most
emotionally charged and heart-
wrenching debates in recent years.
The business at hand: a proposed
German-mediated prisoner swap with
the Iranian-backed, Lebanese-based
Hezbollah terrorist organization.
By all accounts, it was the most
anguishing meeting of the Sharon
government. The issue is an excruciat-
ing one — one that most countries

intense non-partisan debate
never have to grapple with.
and strong pressure from
Ministers had to decide
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
whether to accept a German-
the cabinet narrowly
mediated deal that would gain
approved the prisoner swap
the freedom of one kidnapped
12-11. The division among
Israeli (Elhanan Tannenbaum)
the ministers reflected a simi-
and the bodies of three Israeli
larly charged debate among
soldiers (Benny Avraham, Adi
the public.
Avitan and Omar Sawayid)
There is no debate about
killed by Hezbollah in 2000.
the desire to bring home all
In exchange, Israel would have
Sp eci al
those held (alive or dead) in
to pay dearly, releasing 425
Coin 1 nentaiy Lebanon. Their continued
Palestinian and Lebanese pris-
absence gnaws at the hearts of
oners. All this without
Israelis who know it could
Jerusalem receiving even a
just as easily have been their relatives
shred of information on the fate of
or friends captured by Hezbollah.
missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron
Given the deeply rooted Israeli doc-
Arad who was captured in Lebanon in
trine of getting all its boys home and
the importance attached to the tradi-
In the end, after eight hours of

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