What we can learn from Ireland
After a period of calm, terrorism is threatening to raise its head in Ireland again, and prison is one place where it originates, so what does this mean for the Gilad Shalit deal?
DUBLIN - The head of the security service is worried. After a period of calm, terrorism is threatening to raise its head again, and prison is one of the places where it originates. Anyone who is released goes back, and anyone who is not made soft there plans attacks there, as was the case in the past. It's not pleasant to hear, but the head of the security service, a 30-year veteran, a former deputy chief of the service and an appointment of the previous government, believes it's his duty to talk.
No, Yuval Diskin is not the man, but Jonathan Evans, director general of the British security service MI5, who gave a lecture in London last week on the terrorist threats facing Britain. Near the top of the list, once more, is Irish terrorism. At the same time, here in the Irish capital, on the initiative of the European Union, was a conference on "The Media and Conflict." The most senior figure speaking was Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.
Ireland's blatantly pro-Palestinian policy means that Israel cannot expect fairness and balance. Martin's heart goes out to the Palestinian child sitting on the rubble of his school. The Israeli child whose condition is no different is forgotten, and Martin is surprised by questions on this matter and tries, belatedly, to correct the impression he has left.
In Ireland, a growing export field over the past decade has been self-praise: The Irish are proud of the resolution of their century-long bloody conflict and volunteer to pass on their lessons to other regions. They are especially doing this before they take the helm, for the first time, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2012. The message is simple: What worked in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, between those aspiring for independence and those wishing to remain united with Britain, can succeed in a conflict between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs, especially when the mediator in both conflicts is George Mitchell. Very nice and very catchy, but not accurate.
There are now fewer Irish people than Israelis. Inside the Republic, in the larger southern part of the island, there are 4.2 million people, and another 1.7 million in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and unlike the Republic only enjoys some autonomy in its capital, Belfast. Ireland has a large Catholic majority and a small Protestant minority. In Northern Ireland there is a small Protestant majority and a large Catholic minority. It's not exactly two peoples, and not exactly two countries, based on the plan of the 1920s.
The Troubles, an expression that was quickly copied to Palestine, often by British officers who served in both places like the future field marshal Bernard Montgomery, started in the 1960s, mostly in Northern Ireland, on the British home front. The same rejectionists who opposed the division in the 1920s were behind the violence.
The parallel in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and after the collapse of the 1947 partition plan into warfare, would be the opponents of the 1949 cease-fire lines, otherwise known as the June 5, 1967 lines. In Ireland, the rejectionists laid down their weapons following The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, under Mitchell's mediation, and gained a role in governing Northern Ireland. In return, the constitution in the south was changed to recognize the cease-fire line as a border, reflecting an abandonment of the dream of a united Ireland.
Meanwhile, through British eyes, which differ from Martin's viewpoint, Evans warns that the Irish situation is far from over. Expectations that terrorism would cease have proved false. Attacks are sporadic but increasing in frequency because prison terms are coming to an end and the jailed opponents of compromise are returning to their homes and becoming active again (just as one in seven Al-Qaida operatives returning from Guantanamo are ). What does this say about the Hamas members who are expected to be released in a deal for Gilad Shalit? This is something the MI5 head is leaving for Diskin to deal with.