Forty years after the Yom Kippur War, 20 years after the Oslo Accords. Two central milestones on Israel’s circuitous journey to establish its borders. In 1973, because of the pressing circumstances, Israel began a process that ended in a complete withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula in return for a peace treaty with Egypt. In 1993, Israel recognized the need for making a partial withdrawal from the West Bank in return for an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and thus withdrew from the Palestinian cities. In essence, these two withdrawals constitute a single closing of the circle – namely, the circle that was opened in 1967.
To see the internal, profound connection between 1973 and 1993, one must go back to 1948. In the War of Independence, which was fought over this land, the leadership of the yishuv, the Jewish community of pre-state Israel, was unwilling to settle for the new state that was part of the United Nations plan for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Instead, as the war was in progress, those leaders strived to expand the borders of the Jewish state and to annex additional parts of Palestine. That same principle operated in 1967, when the Six-Day War served as a lever for increasing territory, and was retroactively charged with the ideology of a Greater Israel, which was imagined to be the natural heritage of the Chosen People.
The lesson to be drawn from the Yom Kippur War has not been properly digested over the decades that have elapsed since October 1973. During the two decades since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, it seemed as if Israel could hold on to the West Bank forever. Apparently, the hubris of Israel’s leaders has not yet been fully shattered, and they have not yet come to the conclusion that they must return to the principle formulated as part of the Oslo Accords, the principle which states that Palestine is also the homeland of another people.
Much has been written about the Yom Kippur War, but Oslo is a confusing milestone. On the one hand, it was the first time Israelis and Palestinians shook hands in public, the first time Israel agreed to recognize the principle that the Palestinians also have a right to be a sovereign people. On the other hand, this recognition has not led to a Palestinian state and an agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; what’s more, it has actually given birth to further Jewish settlements in the West Bank, to further blows to human rights in the West Bank, and to an increase in the distance from a peace settlement. This paradox casts a heavy shadow over the talks that are being conducted now.
To understand why the Oslo Accords failed, one must shift one’s gaze from the terror attacks and first take a close look at the mood that continues to prevail here. A mood of greed, a mood that is inspired by the idea of the Chosen People. This arrogant attitude brought the disaster of 1973 upon us, and it is also responsible for the collapse of the Oslo Accords. Even today, the lethal blend of arrogance and chauvinism is dictating Israel’s conduct regarding a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The line that connects the Yom Kippur War and the Oslo Accords is a cease-fire line, literal and figurative. Although more and more houses are being built in the West Bank, everyone knows that one day the construction will stop and a convoy of Israelis will set out on its way home. The reality principle that took us out of Sinai and southern Lebanon is the same principle that took us out of Gaza, and that will force us to leave the West Bank.
Anyone who looks at the map of events that have taken place since 1967, especially these two milestones, cannot help but reach the conclusion that the road is leading to the borders of 1967. This road has its twists and turns, with steps forward and backward, and it has its deviations and sharp curves; nonetheless, the direction is clear. Thus, even if the present negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians prove fruitless, the patrons of the West Bank settlements have no firm base on which they can rely. The sight of the homes that were crushed by bulldozers in Yamit and in Gush Katif are clear milestones for what lies ahead.