Preferring Regional War to Chances of Peace

It is a shame that so many Israelis still prefer the risk of a regional war to the chances of peace.

The Arab Spring, it transpires, is not exactly what we thought it would be.

The Egyptians have exchanged the secular oligarchy led by Hosni Mubarak for the theocracy of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Syria, the Sunnis and Alawis are killing one another and the global Jihad is dancing on their blood. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day after the incident on the Egyptian border last week that we have no one to rely on but ourselves. Here we have proof that his biological father, Benzion Netanyahu, and his political father, Yitzhak Shamir, who opposed the peace treaty with Cairo, foresaw the future. Give the Palestinians "Judea and Samaria" today and they will shell Kfar Sava tomorrow. It's lucky that when they were prime ministers, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and now Netanyahu did not give the Syrians the Golan Heights.

The last sentence is the outcome of some self-contemplation by my colleague Ari Shavit, in a recent opinion piece on these pages ("Soul-searching on Syria," Aug. 9 ). Shavit foresees the future retroactively. "The idea of peace, which may have been correct in its time, would turn into a nightmare reality that would be difficult to tolerate," he wrote.

Before that, Yossi Sarid also had done some soul-searching on these pages ("The zealots have 'won' again," July 27 ). He asked forgiveness of intellectual and scholar Meron Benvenisti, who realized already in the 1970s that the occupation was irreversible. History in reverse. Had the governments of Israel, including the one in which Sarid served, acted with wisdom and courage in the 1980s and '90s, and blocked the ravenous hunger of the settlers, then the occupation would have been reversible - and how!

Even today the occupation is reversible. Perhaps a responsible government will be established here that will decide to influence the course of history and will not be afraid of correcting the distortions of its predecessors. Perhaps Israel's true friends will do some soul-searching and stop the country on the brink of the abyss. But perhaps not.

Where does Shavit get the idea that "if we had gone to bed with Assad a decade ago, today we would be waking up with jihad"?

Perhaps we would have gone to bed with Assad and today be living in peace with a neighbor that gets billons of dollars every year from the West, that is open to the world and that has a regime which is more acceptable to its citizens? Maybe in a different Syria this chaos, which is being exploited by the jihad, would not be raging now?

If peace were to prevail, perhaps the Israelis who would stop in Damascus to shop on their way to Antalya in Turkey, would change the attitude of the Syrians toward the Jewish state? Had Ehud Barak's hand not frozen, then perhaps instead of the unilateral flight from Lebanon we would now have an embassy in Beirut and the young men who were killed in the Second Lebanon War would still be with us today? Perhaps a peace agreement with Syria would have weakened the axis of Iran-Syria-Hezbollah, improved Israel's strategic position immeasurably, and promoted normalization with the Arab countries and the Muslim world, in the spirit of the Arab peace initiative?

And perhaps, when the storm calms down, a pragmatic regime will be set up in Syria that will propose peace to Israel in return for the Golan? (So far, the global jihad has not taken control of the government in any country ). Will we turn it down because we don't know what is going to happen with the neighbor above us?

If it's a good thing that we missed peace with Syria, and we kept the Golan, maybe it would have been best to give up the peace with Egypt and to remain with the Sinai? Who knows, perhaps in another year or another 10 years, Al-Qaida will gain control of Sinai? And what about the evacuation of Gush Katif? Does that not deserve a little soul-searching? (Recommended to those who supported a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza instead of a diplomatic move ).

Moshe Dayan, who declared that "Sharm el-Sheikh without peace is better than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh," later did soul-searching following the Yom Kippur War and the peace initiative by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Dayan stood at the side of Menachem Begin, the Revisionist who had sworn to set up a home for himself in Neot Sinai. Begin described the results of his own self-reflection with a wonderful phrase: "The difficulties of peace are better than the sufferings of war."

The strength of these words holds true even today, but it is most regrettable that Begin himself and his political heirs mixed things up. It is a shame that so many Israelis still prefer the risk of a regional war to the chances of peace.