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November 28, 2003 - Image 35

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

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Suicide by Democracy

n a fair world, the rising chorus
of threats from Palestinians and
their boosters to stop support-
ing a "two-state" solution in the
region and revert to the demand for a
single bi-national state would be
blown off as cynical gamesmanship.
After all, it was Palestinian
Authority President Yasser Arafat's
panicked flight from a two-state deal
in 2000 and the subsequent refusal of
his government to rein in the terror
groups that are the primary causes of
the renewed bloodshed, not Israel's
settlements policies as one-state advo-
cates claim.
But fairness has nothing to do with
it. And in this harsh world, the grow-
ing one-state movement represents a
clear and present danger to Israel, one
that it may be reinforcing through its
current policies.
For the Palestinians, it is a shrewd
strategy that plays on Israel's demo-
cratic character, international bias
against the Jewish state and the poli-
cies of the Jerusalem government. The
goal is to do what the 1975 "Zionism
is racism" U.N. resolution failed to
achieve: delegitimize the very idea of
the Jewish state.
The basic argument is simple: Israel,
by allowing a major expansion of set-
tlements since the Oslo days and by
pushing its new security fence into
Palestinian territory on the West Bank,
is creating conditions on the ground


James D. Besser is Washington corre-
spondent for the Detroit Jewish News.
His e-mail address is jbesser@att.net

tional Jewish value of giving each per-
son a proper burial, the prisoner swap
is a highly sensitive issue.
The dispute centers on the price and
security consequences of the deal.
Opponents argue that:
• Israel is yielding to extortion that
rewards terrorists and will only
encourage future kidnappings;
• Acquiescing to such a grossly
uneven exchange will boost the stand-
ing and strength of Hezbollah in the
Arab world;
• In making such a deal Israel sends
a signal of weakness;
• Based on past experience, many of
those released will carry out murder-
ous attacks against Israelis;
• By including in the swap Musafa
Dirani, a Lebanese terrorist leader who

that will make any kind of viable
Palestinian state impossible.
Therefore, the Palestinians say, they
may have no choice but to forgo the
idea of two separate states and seek
instead a single entity — Arab and
Jewish — between the Jordan and the
That new country, supporters hypo-
critically argue, would be a real
democracy, with the citizens — Arab
and Jewish — ultimately deciding its
character. You don't need a particularly
high IQ to understand this is code for
the effective elimination of the Jewish
Within a decade, the burgeoning
population in Gaza and the West
Bank, along with Israeli Arabs, would
surpass the Jewish population. In short
order, "democracy" would work its
wonders, producing an Arab state with
a precarious Jewish minority.
Israel rightly rejects the plan out of
hand, but its government has helped
boost its attractiveness around the

Impact Of Settlements

Settlements aren't the cause of the cur-
rent violent impasse, but they have
always served to reinforce doubts
about Israel's motives. Even many
staunch supporters of the Jewish state
concede that the more entrenched set-
tlements become, the harder it will be
to find a solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. Indeed, that was a
stated goal of some of the architects of
the settlements network.
Settlements are a vexing problem for
negotiators, not the cause of the cur-

held Ron Arad for more than a year
after his capture, the government is
effectively abandoning Arad.
(In 1994, Israel seized Dirani to be
used as a bargaining chip.)
These arguments are not easily dis-
Yet there are strong humanitarian
factors behind the transaction. The
pain of the families of the dead sol-
diers and Elhanan Tannenbaum has
had a strong influence on ministers.

What About Arad?

Nevertheless, the deal is perplexing.
The most emotional point concerns
Ron Arad.
Since his capture 17 years ago, he
has become a folk hero for Israelis, a

rent violent impasse, but few
grow and we are committed to
around the world will make
democracy, we have no con-
that distinction. The growing
vincing response to offer."
Palestinian chorus demanding
Settlements aren't the cause
a single state indirectly chal-
of the bloodshed and the
lenges one of Israel's greatest
diplomatic gridlock. But every
moral and public relations
new outpost, every expanded
strengths — its democratic
settlement, every government
character, unique in the
expenditure to provide new
housing in existing settle-
It's an idea that provides a
ments, will reinforce the
thin veneer of democratic
Correspondent emerging Palestinian strategy.
respectability for those whose
The Palestinians understand
real goal is to wipe Israel off
Israel will never accede to sui-
the face of the earth, and it will be
cide by democracy, but that's beside
appealing to those around the world,
the point; this is a gambit to gain even
especially in Europe, who may offer
more of an upper hand in the forum
nominal support for the idea of a
of world opinion, and to deflect world
Jewish state but whose sympathy is
attention away from the Palestinians'
reserved entirely for the Palestinians.
own responsibility for the bloodshed
It's a case of back to the future, to
they bemoan.
the days of the PLO covenant, when
There will be international confer-
the goal was a single state for the
ences on the subject, summits, diplo-
Palestinians, nothing for the Jews.
matic meetings in world capitals —
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the
none of which will produce a state,
Union for Reform Judaism, said that
but every one of which will be one
appeal may resound strongly on U.S.
more little chink taken out of the
college campuses — a kind of false
foundation of Israel's legitimacy in the
idealism that will be all the harder to
challenge because of Israel's settle-
The movement will foster growing
ments policies.
debate over whether the creation of
"This is not a doomsday scenario for Israel was a big mistake. And Israel's
the distant future," Rabbi Yoffie told
government, with Sharon at the helm,
delegates to the group's biennial con-
seems intent on helping it along by
vention. "This argument is being
fostering the impression it is changing
made right now on talk shows and
facts on the ground.
college campuses and is evoking a pos-
Fair? Not by a long shot. But it's a
itive response.
smart move by the Palestinians, and
"Americans see little reason to
it's going to require smart, realistic and
oppose a single state for Palestinians
farsighted responses by Israel and its
and Israelis that offers equal rights for
friends here. ❑
all. Yet, if settlements continue to

brave soldier lost in action in defense
of the country. His continued absence
and unknown fate haunt the nation.
It's surprising the government would
accept a deal that doesn't involve Arad.
In the late 1980s, he was reportedly
transferred to Iranian officials.
Hezbollah claims it knows nothing
of his whereabouts. Give me a break.
Surely with one phone call to their
paymasters in Tehran, Hezbollah lead-
ers could ascertain the fate of Arad, if
it was made important enough.
Equally mystifying is the deal's arith-
metic. The numbers just don't add up.
In all the extensive coverage, I've yet
to see any explanation of how the two
sides arrived at such hugely lopsided
terms: Israel firms 425 prisoners
(including many terrorists) for one live

civilian and three dead soldiers.
True, Israel has made similar outra-
geously imbalanced prisoner exchanges
in the past based on its readiness to
sacrifice more than others to obtain
the release of its citizens.
But how many Israelis were later
murdered at the hands of many of
these freed prisoners?
For all the inconsolable grief of the
families of those held by the enemy,
the government owes it to all Israelis
to hang tougher in any future negotia-
It's high time Hezbollah came clean
on the fate of Ron Arad. The cabinet
must demand no less. Like all Israelis,
I pray he is still alive and will come
home soon. ❑




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