In the context of summing up the elections in Meretz's institutions after the collapse, I admitted a mistake - I failed to express reservations early enough about Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner soon enough. And I tried to explain why: because I stuck to the principle that each nation picks its own representatives and no other nation has the right to intervene; they don't reject our representatives and we don't reject theirs; and I did not want to play into the hands of Ariel Sharon, who with Arafat's help and Sharon's own machinations, wants to freeze any political process.
There is no doubt that our connection to Arafat was disastrous for us, failed us in the elections. Everywhere, at every meeting, we heard the same thing: You're actually okay, more devoted and more decent than the others, but you're "Arafat lovers," so we can't vote for you.
Now there are those who claim against me that there's no difference between you and Sharon, since you both washed your hands of Arafat and you both refuse to negotiate with him.
That's a totally baseless argument, of course. True, I do not think that political negotiations with any hope of success can take place at this stage. No significant dialogue will emerge between Sharon and Arafat. Even if talks begin, they will break down with the first explosion in a cafe or school. We must be realistic: Arafat has totally lost control over what is happening on the ground, and even if he were to be suddenly filled with an unaccountably large reservoir of good will, even then desire alone won't be enough.
Those who say "negotiate now" as if nothing has happened, are actually saying perpetuate the occupation. Sharon himself is conducting faux negotiations, and he'll propose negotiations from now and forever to the Labor Party as long as it succumbs to his heated courting. It will be eternal negotiations, meant from the start to prove that there is nobody to talk to and nothing to talk about. That is not a negotiation that begins with sincerity for the purpose of a breakthrough, but negotiations meant to serve as an alibi. Those who aren't ready to seriously consider evacuating Netzarim and the Jewish enclaves in Hebron do not plan to reach an agreement, not even a partial one, but are instead looking for a dead end.
Therefore, those demanding negotiations now, are playing into Sharon's hands, since he only wants to drag things out as long as possible through barren talks. It is clear that there will be negotiations one day, but not under the current circumstances. There is no dispute in the history of human civilization that was not eventually solved through negotiations, except for those cases in which absolute, final and total force was used. But that won't happen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, those, like me, who believe that the occupation is the mother of all the sins, the greatest disaster to have struck the Zionist enterprise, putting it at risk, cannot wait for the negotiations whether they are delayed for five years or 50 years. Those who wait for Arafat to be "reborn" and Sharon to reveal himself as a new de Gaulle, will wait for naught.
Meanwhile the occupation will continue its cancerous growth, and Israel will continue to devour its own citizens - first the weakest, the easiest prey, and then the stronger, growing weaker and weaker.
Therefore, Sharon's assumption and mine only appear to be similar. But the conclusions we each draw from the situation are as far apart as east and west. Sharon's conclusion is that the show of negotiations must go on, but it only as a show. My conclusion is that the occupation should be ended immediately. And if real and fruitful negotiations are not realistic now, then we must undertake far-reaching unilateral Israeli steps. That is the reason that Meretz found it appropriate to emphasize in its new platform that it supports unilateral withdrawal to the 1967 borders, with minor corrections that take into account vital interests and constraints imposed by time. The occupation is a burden too great to bear, and therefore getting rid of it is not a "prize for terror," as they try to frighten us, but a victory for the Zionist enterprise and sovereign Israel. Israel can best defend itself from recognized borders and not from the boundaries of each settlement. It is impossible to defend the state from the boundaries of Tel Romeida and Kfar Darom. It is possible to defend it from behind a sophisticated separation fence.
Those who are not imbued with a fateful sense of supreme urgency, will continue pinning their hopes on fake negotiations. Those, like me, who are anxious not about some abstract distant future, but about tomorrow, will speed up the steps to the Green Line that will end the occupation de facto and de jure.
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