From the Editor
A VOICE OF SANITY
Natan Sharansky has emerged as a voice of sanity in an Israeli society increasingly obsessed with fear of the consequences of standing up to any Arab demands. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Sharansky, now Minister of Industry and Trade, published in Haaretz of November 3.
"Sharansky: I am not a military expert, but from a political standpoint, the way to neutralize threats and reduce the danger, is to show that we are ready for it.
Reporter: Aren't you afraid of the cost in blood if war breaks out?
Sharansky: The best way to prevent costing blood is to break up the State of Israel. Zionism is not worth it from an economic standpoint. As Jews in America, we could have made much more money. We paid with twenty thousand soldiers since the establishment of the state. But if there will be no state, maybe we would not even remain alive. If we go into negotiations with the Syrians threatening and massing forces, and we fear war and begin to make concessions, this is suicide. The cost will be much higher.
I am not familiar with the Arab mentality, but I am very familiar with the mentality of totalitarian regimes. Their stability relies on the existence of enemies. Therefore, they must threaten, and if someone is weak, they go forward. That's how it was in Russia. When they saw that someone was not weak they said, "Let's wait." War doesn't hurt their interests anyway, since they don't mind losing 100,000 men. When he had to, Assad killed 10,000, and it did not undermine his regime. We in a democracy cannot lose even 1,000. This is the nature of democracy. We are aware of our weakness but it is also our strength: to be able to get the people to join in of their own free will."
At this point in time, Israel does not need leaders falling over each other to proclaim their dedication to peace is equal to or greater than that of the Labor opposition. It needs more voices of common sense like that of Sharansky to remind Israelis that freedom has a price and weakness will exact a greater one.
Moreover, as journalist Uri Elitzur recently observed on Israel's Arutz Sheva radio station, the political price for the pursuit of the peace process will fall even more heavily on the Likud than on Labor which initiated it. Netanyahu takes the position that Labor created bad agreements and his government now has no choice but to carry them out. By positioning himself in this way, he seems to think he can avoid the blame for disaster down the road -- it's all Labor's fault which gave me no choice but to implement Oslo.
Elitzur rightly points out that the public will not accept the Likud cop-out. Notes Elitzur: "The snare that faces Netanyahu is much more dangerous than the one that would face Peres in the same situation. Why? Because, when the moment comes that this whole
agreement explodes in our faces and the magnitude of the error that was made becomes clear to all, then--if Peres was in power, he would be able to say, 'I thought sincerely that Arafat wants to live with us in peace in the New Middle East; all I did was to give peace a chance.' But Netanyahu won't be able to say that. The mothers of the soldiers will say to him, 'But you knew that this was a terribly dangerous and catastrophic agreement. Why did you go through with it? You're the one who always warned us how bad it was, so how could you do something that you knew could only have disastrous results?' What will he be able to answer? That he didn't have a choice, because the left entrapped him? Those excuses won't help, and the public will boot him right out of office."
The contortions into which Netanyahu's policies have led him are illustrated by an astonishing interview which Netanyahu's communications director David Bar Illan gave to Aaron Lerner of IMRA that was released over the Internet on November 11. Elsewhere in this Outpost the list of PLO violations of the Oslo accords recently released by the Israeli government is reprinted. Lerner asked Bar Illan if the violations significantly affected Israeli security and he replied that each and every violation, including the failure to change the Covenant, did so. Lerner then asked if there was any linkage between the PLO correcting the violations, and Israel's turning over Hebron to Arafat. Here is Bar Illan's precise reply: "We expect reciprocity after Hebron. Hebron is pending since March so it is a different case."
Hebron is a different case because it is pending since March? The mind whirls. Were the Oslo accords signed in April? Why reciprocity after Hebron? Indeed, from the interview, it is not clear that reciprocity is expected at all. Lerner asks: "Is Israel's obligation to fulfill its obligations under Oslo contingent on Palestinian compliance?" And Bar Illan replies: "It is connected. I don't want to say it is contingent but it is connected." Connected but not contingent? This is Peres-like double-speak, not at all what one would expect from the usually clear-spoken Bar Illan. If Israel's obligations are not contingent upon the PLO's fulfillment of its obligations, it means the Netanyahu government accepts the principle that the Oslo accords apply only to Israel. The PLO's undertakings become an Israeli "wish list" which the PLO is free to ignore.
Outpost - 2 - November 1996