BARAK'S VERSION OF SHARON
of the lessons of the massive protest which followed Sharon's war in Lebanon
appeared to be that it is no longer possible to drag the Israeli people into
wars of choice. But Barak has managed where Sharon failed - He convinced at
least the center third of the Israelis that peace with the Arab world is
impossible and the next war will be a no-choice war over Israel's mere
existence. The one who is able to carry out Sharon's vision is Barak.
election campaign focuses on the horrors of Sharon. Now, those who vote Sharon
will know exactly who they vote for. But who would the Barak voters vote for? Is
it for Dr. Jekyll who, as we repeatedly hear, is the most far reaching Israeli
prime- minister ever, in his willingness for concessions for peace? Or is it for
Mr. Hyde who has recently instructed the Israeli army to "shake out the
dust from every corner to complete preparations" for war, and sent his
special units to assassinate Palestinian political leaders?
before has the Israeli society received so many conflicting signals at one and
the same week or day. This is one of the reasons for the feeling of confusion
and despair that so many Israelis experience.
can these conflicting messages be explained? A prevailing account in the Israeli
media is in terms of psychological incidence: Barak is a complicated and
difficult person, non- communicative, and slightly unstable. Hence there is a
certain degree of arbitrariness in his actions and words. (Miraculously, this
account is supposed to help us vote for him.)
when crucial decisions are to be based on what appears to be conflicting data,
it is helpful to search beyond just the incidence account and look for an
explanation that may reconcile the apparent contradictions.
'vision' is that one should never give up the state's lebensraum lands : 'We
won't ever leave the Golan Heights' and in the West Bank and Gaza strip, the
Palestinian inhabitants should be restricted to secluded autonomous enclaves, an
arrangement that leaves about 50% of the land free for Israel's use. (In other
words, the current situation in the territories, which was created over the
years in cooperation between Labor and Sharon, should be preserved as is, though
in Sharon's present plan, the name 'Palestinian state' would be allowed for the
enclaves, replacing his original 'autonomy'.)
- Sharon's disciple and former subordinate - was raised on this vision. But he
also understood that this can no longer be achieved in Sharon's way. One of the
lessons of Sharon's war in Lebanon was that it is no longer possible to drag the
Israeli people into wars of choice. The unprecedented protest at the time, which
continued in the years of the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon, made it
clear that the Israeli society is tired of wars. Did Barak decide to renounce
Sharon's vision, or did he decide that another way needs to be found to fulfill
it? We have no way to know what Barak decided, but we can certainly examine what
he actually did.
the beginning of his cadence, Barak announced a sweeping initiative of peace
with Syria. The text surrounding this initiative happened to be identical to
what we hear today: No Israeli leader has ever offered such radical concessions
as Barak did: withdrawal from all the Golan Heights! Evacuation of all
settlements!. There was only one issue left - the Kineret coast, which is the
heart and the essence of the Israeli being. Assad, who was given everything
already, was not willing to yield even on this one single issue. That's how it
is with Arabs - explained the text -Whatever you give them, they always want
more. Hence, we won't leave the Golan Heights, and we must be prepared for the
option of a no-choice war with Syria.
this text repeats with the Palestinians: No one has offered as many concessions
as Barak: 90-95% of the territories! Division of Jerusalem! Future evacuation of
settlements that will not be annexed!. But, again, after we gave Arafat
everything, he is not willing even to contribute the gesture of publicly
renouncing the Palestinian claim on the Haram el-Sharif-Temple Mount site, and
the right of return. Hence we have no choice but fencing the Palestinians in
their enclaves, properly separating them from us, freezing the land situation as
is (with some necessary 'security expansions' of the Israeli areas). And there
is no choice but to shake the dust and be prepared for a comprehensive war over
the holy sites of Judaism.
is Barak's text, which accompanies us day and night, like a mantra, and shapes
the collective perception of reality: Barak's generosity versus Arab
rejectionism. But in fact, there is nothing further than reality.
the case of Syria, the official documentation of the negotiations, in the
Shepherdstown document, directly falsifies the claims concerning Barak's
concessions. Israel insisted that only military forces will be moved, but not
civilians. That is, not a single settlement will be evacuated (Haaretz,
13.1.00). Contrary to the public perception of the events, Barak has not offered
anything like returning the Golan Heights to Syrian sovereignty.
the case of the Palestinians, there is just no formal documentation whatsoever
of what Barak actually offered, and certainly no list or designated dates for
dismantling even a single tiny settlement, say the 400 settlers of Hebron who
are ruining the life of a whole city. The only data is the text on Barak's
generosity. In practice, Barak has not offered the Palestinians anything that
Sharon wouldn't, but, as with Syria, he managed to create the impression that
the Palestinians would not settle for anything.
is scary to observe how successful this text is: Those who believe the lies
about Barak's concessions despair of the chance of Peace. Since 1993 there was a
constant majority of 60% in the polls for 'lands for peace', including
dismantling of settlements. (As for the Golan Heights - in 1999, 60% of the
Jewish Israelis supported dismantling of ALL settlements). Now the support for
peace with concessions dropped in the polls to 30%, on both the Syrian and the
Palestinian front. Barak has managed where Sharon failed - He convinced at least
the middle third of the Israelis that peace with the Arab world is impossible,
and the next war will be a no-choice war over our mere existence.
Barak and Sharon want the same thing. The only difference is that for Sharon, it would be harder to fulfill his wish. As much as he will talk about peace, no one will believe him, in Israel or in the world, that his war is a no-choice war. The one who is able to carry out Sharon's vision is Barak.
Yediot Aharonot, Jan 16, 2001