The conventional wisdom in Israel is that in 2000, the Palestinians rejected the "generous" Israeli offer for a permanent solution and its readiness for a Palestinian state, and then the Palestinians initiated the outbreak of the bloody conflict. According to that same belief, many Israelis continue to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, even now - but not before the Palestinians stop the terrorism.
That belief plays an important role in the media and political propaganda effort made by Israel - meaning the IDF - in the West Bank and Gaza, along the lines of: the Palestinians started it, so they can suffer.
How absurd. During the decade of negotiations, which began in 1991 with the Madrid Conference, the idea of a "Palestinian state" as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won ever-increasing numbers of supporters in Israel, and at the very least became a legitimate issue for discussion in the political arena, as it never had been before. But at the same time, the Palestinian lands earmarked for that state shrank, and were carved up and divided. It's all been documented and reported. But like now, back then, most Israelis never went to the territories. Therefore everything that took place was abstract. A bypass road? Land expropriations? Settlement expansion? Uprooted trees? Closure? What's all that compared to talk of Israeli readiness for concessions in some undefined future. Thus the myths became tangible and real - the myth of concessions like the myth of support for a Palestinian state. And those myths continue to feed the nearly unshakable support for the Israeli military policy in the territories.
In January 1991, when Israel began using closures, both to deny freedom of movement for Palestinians into Israel and between the West bank and Gaza, it was perceived by many as "a return to the Green Line." Very quickly it turned out the Green Line was back when it came to Palestinian travel, but for Israeli Jews, it was erased: the "decade of peace" was characterized by unceasing settlement expansion, and the doubling of the number of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza (not counting the areas annexed to Jerusalem) while swallowing up tens of thousands of dunam of land vital for Palestinian planning and development. The large settlement "blocs," about which there's an Israeli consensus that they will be annexed to Israel and not given up, carve the West Bank into zones. During the "decade of peace" huge areas in the Jordan Valley and southern West Bank were declared "closed military zones," making it possible to evict Bedouin shepherds and farmers from the lands they had lived on for decades.
The annexation ambitions were made clear in the interim agreements. First, there was no definition of the areas from which Israel was meant to withdraw the army in the "redeployment," signaling that there would be endless foot-dragging at every stage of the negotiations over every enclave assigned to the Palestinians for civilian development. Secondly, the occupied area was divided into three imaginary areas - A, B, and C. In area C, under full Israeli military and civilian control, Israeli construction was accelerated on huge bypass roads and inside the settlements. On the eve of the second intifada, some 60 percent of the West Bank was defined as Area C, meaning off-limits to Palestinian planning and development.
When the intifada broke out, the army and settlers worked together to cut off Palestinians from their lands and to tear up what they had planted. Now, the construction of the separation wall involves more land expropriations and destruction of tens of thousands of dunam of farm land, annexing some 30 water wells, and cutting off thousands of people from their land. In crowded Gaza, huge agricultural areas, whether destroyed by bulldozers or not, have become fields of death: the settlements, after all, were put in the heart of the agricultural areas. Anyone appearing in one of those fields is shot, according to the army's rules of engagement. And half of the Gaza coastline, the only escape from the crowded cities and refugee camps, has been blocked to Palestinians.
The Israeli tendency is to regard this process as practically predetermined - Israeli responses only meant to counter the terrorism. It's convenient to forget that when the closure order was given in 1991, it wasn't because of mass suicide bombings in Israel, even though access to Israeli cities was far easier then than it is now. It is easy to forget the expansion of the settlements.
It is easy to say that the enormous, painful expropriations of Palestinian land for the separation wall - and the fences around all the settlements - are only for security reasons. It's much more difficult to see the truth - which has perhaps been the intention since 1994: to use the cover of the myth, the negotiations, and the security talk, to reduce to a minimum, the necessary areas that remain for independent Palestinian development, and with Israeli military force, make the Palestinians accept a "state" that more or less resembles Avigdor Lieberman's cantons plan.
As in the Oslo years, most Israelis ignore the fact that the Israeli policy, of building in the large settlements, not the small ones, and expropriation of land along the separation wall, foil any peace agreement that is not imposed or surrendered to, based on a real solution of two states.
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