Every devotee of peace will undoubtedly experience a frisson of emotion at hearing the vision of U.S. President George W. Bush. The end of the war with Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein will effect an immediate change in the substance of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. A democratic Palestinian state will be established, terrorism will be eradicated and the settlements will be halted. If only we had known that all that stood between us and peace with the Palestinians is Saddam Hussein, we would have removed him long ago ourselves.
Let's say, if only for the sake of the dream, that a bold American governor is already ensconced in Baghdad, that the Iraqi nation is in the midst of free elections and a senior American official is already on his way to Israel bearing copies of the "road map" for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian prime minister.
During the plane trip the U.S. envoy goes over the members of the new Israeli government, where he finds Effi Eitam and Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Elon and Tzachi Hanegbi, along with Natan Sharansky and Benjamin Netanyahu. He attributes the minor spasm in his stomach to something he ate and focuses on the photograph of the well-known centrist, the hope of the peace process, Ariel Sharon. In the meantime, an aide gives him a document entitled "Basic Policy Guidelines of the Government of Israel." Paragraph 8.2 of the document states, "The government will act to promote peace with the Palestinian people also by means of interim agreements that will include compromises. Within the framework of the interim agreements, the possibility will be examined of Israeli redeployment in the areas of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza District, provided this does not adversely affect Israel's interests."
A truly fascinating statement. But what does the phrase "also by means of interim agreements" mean? What other means does the government have up its sleeve? Will there be a return to the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Report - those failed interim agreements that only interfered with the process? What is meant by the redeployment of the Israel Defense Forces in the territories - tanks around Hebron instead of inside the city? Or is the idea that the IDF will pull out of the settlements? Close attention should be paid to the statement that makes an IDF redeployment contingent on this not adversely affecting Israeli interests: not "Israeli security," but "Israeli interests." Interests are, for example, settlements, water sources, land, passages - indeed, everything that the Israeli government will decide is an interest, whether it has to do with security or ensuring a steady supply of food to the settlements.
"Just a minute," the envoy says to the aide, "here's an encouraging paragraph, No. 11.2, that says `no new settlements will be established during the government's term of office.'"
"Read the rest," the aide says: "`The government will be responsive to and ensure the ongoing needs of development in the settlements." As the envoy's plane descends for landing, a good view is provided of the ways in which the government is seeing to the development of the settlements. Illegal outposts, new "neighborhoods" labeled A, B and C in existing settlements, the "thickening," expansion and fattening of neighborhoods, mobile homes to mark the dividing line between settlements, makeshift farms - all in accordance with another clause in the Basic Guidelines, No. 2.10, which states that the government "views settlement in all its forms as a project of social and national value, and will work to improve the ability of the settlement enterprise to cope with the difficulties and challenge it faces."
"You are the difficulty and the challenge," the aide remarks to the envoy. "This government has declared war on you."
"But look," the envoy presses on, "it says the government will strive for peace agreements with Syria and the Palestinians on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. That means withdrawal, doesn't it?"
"But remember how Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir interpreted 242 and 338 during their terms as prime minister. They stated that Israel had already withdrawn from territories," the pedantic aide points out, "and the previous clause states that Israel will work to promote peace while maintaining its security, historical and national interests. Just a sec, sir, I had a Bible here somewhere. I want to show you the catalogue of interests that Benny Elon and Effi Eitam are going to show you."
"So what are you saying? That we got rid of Saddam Hussein for no good reason?" the envoy says, visibly squirming in his seat. "That we are stuck in Baghdad and won't be able to advance the president's vision?"
"Why `for no good reason'"? the aide asks incredulously. "We brought democracy to Iraq. Isn't that something?"
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