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Talking "Peace";
Preparing for War

Moshe Sharon
Policy Paper No. 13, From the book:
Israel at the Crossroads, Arieh Stav (ed.),
ACPR Publishers, 1997, 196 pages
(Presented to the J.E.C. on Capitol Hill,
October 21, 1997)


There has been no change in the language or contents of the material published in the Arab countries about Israel or the Jews in the wake of the political process hailed by the Israeli and Western media as a "peace process". The newspapers and journals are as full as ever of venomous articles against Israel, usually accompanied by anti-Semitic cartoons. There is a spirit of hatred for Israel and the Jews which manifests itself in various ways in the Arab world. The "peace" agreements, including the 15 year old agreement with Egypt, have not changed anything in the attitude of the writers, the intellectuals, the educators and the journalists. There has not been even the slightest attempt to get the Arab public used to what is seen in the West as a "new era" and a hopeful chance for the Middle East. The Arab governments have done nothing to introduce the subject of peace into the schools, and to educate the new generation not to hate the Jews, and create a real foundation for understanding between Arab and Jew.

The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt stipulated the cessation of all anti-Israeli propaganda in the media. This has never been implemented. Rather attacks in the media have intensified. The Arab teachers, university lecturers, writers, and other intellectuals responsible for educating the children and young people are the most outspoken in the rejection of the normalization of relations with Israel, and the most active opposition to any act that could resemble the recognition of the Jewish state.

In the Western world the intellectuals are the leaders of the liberal movement. On the whole, this is also the attitude of the intellectual community in Israel; it is liberal and guided by universal humanistic ideals. Since the fall of the ghetto walls in the 19th century, Jews were at the forefront of the liberal movements in Europe and America. When the State of Israel was established these same humanistic and liberal ideas governed its political, cultural and social life. Against the permanent call for war and constant expressions of hatred which came from the Arabs, in spite of three major wars aimed at the destruction of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants, in spite of thousands of acts of terror, Israel spoke of peace. Israeli and Jewish intellectuals placed themselves in the forefront of the camp that advocated the Palestinian cause, and represented the Palestinians, sometimes more efficiently than the Palestinians themselves.

Peace has always been the expressed policy of the government of Israel also translated into a program of education. In Israeli schools peace is a subject taught as part of the ordinary curriculum. With a long history of yearning for peace, today, there is one straight line of thinkers, educators, artists, writers virtually begging the Arabs for Peace. The Arab side responded favorably only when the Jewish side blamed itself, but were never ready to acknowledge any truth or right in the Jewish side. Moreover, when the time came for the Arab intellectuals to respond to the friendship extended to them all the years by their Israeli counterpart, they publicly disowned them. In many cases Jewish self-hatred has brought Jews, in Israel and in the Diaspora, to side with the Arabs, quick to condemn their own people, their government and the Israel Defense Forces.

In the last two decades, Jewish "modern historians" dedicated their historical research to prove that Israel was always the vicious party in the conflict with the Arabs: they even present the small Jewish community of some 600,000 souls as stronger and better equipped than the seven Arab armies that broke into the newly established State of Israel with the aim of annihilating it. In their dictionary of defaming analogies the self-hating Jews go so far as to desecrate the memory of the Holocaust. The Bible, a Hebrew University professor claimed, was more dangerous to the human race than the notorious Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler. Such and similar evil analogies are readily used by the Arabs, who add them to their arsenal of hatred, and strengthen their arguments against the physical existence of the Jews. There were always Jews who were eager to introduce the foreign cults, religions and cultures into the midst of Israel and eradicate its moral fabric. Their real goal was to see Israel melt away into "The New Middle East", if one may use a modern hallucinatory term coined by the former Israeli foreign minister, namely, the disappearance of Israel as an independent religious and national entity. They disguised this goal with all the flowery terminology taken from the vocabulary of what amounts today to "universalism" and "internationalism," or similar terms taken from the vocabulary of assimilation at the time.

Moreover, the Arabs have never relinquished the belief that the whole truth is on their side. The Jews have been deprived by the modern writers and modern Arab historians even of their history. For the last few decades, the Arab historians have been telling the world that the Canaanites whose land ancient Israel conquered, were no less than Palestinian Arabs, and this means therefore that the Arabs were the original inhabitants of Palestine before Israel. The fact that the name Palestine was given by the Greeks and then the Romans, the fact that the Canaanites spoke a language akin to Hebrew and thus could not have been "Arabs", such is ignored. Yasser Arafat has declared that Christ was no less than a Palestinian freedom fighter, which makes of course all the inhabitants of Judea in his time not Jews but Palestinians. However, this is far from being a joke, because behind these supposedly serious "scholarly" theories lies the basic aim of the Arabs to negate any connection between the Jews and their ancient homeland.

This is also the basis of the Palestinian Covenant, which should have long ago been amended or abandoned by the Palestinians according to the Oslo agreements. The Palestinian Covenant is a document in which almost every one of its clauses calls for the annihilation of Israel. In almost every public speech Yasser Arafat calls for the continuation of the Jihad against Israel, in spite of the fact that the Palestinians are supposed to be in peace with Israel since September 1994. There can hardly be a question that the Arab side views any agreement with Israel, as a strategic maneuver in the long war against the Jewish political entity, whereas the Israeli Left regards such agreements as the path to everlasting paradise.

The Israeli Peace Movements have no counterparts in the Arab world. There is no Arab Peace Now movement, not an echo has been heard to the chorus of peace of the Israeli Left. One may ask oneself where are the present negotiations leading to if future generations are being educated on the same programs of hating the Jews as before. Where is the popular basis so much needed to give reconciliation its flesh and blood contents? The peace with Egypt is nothing more than a prolonged armistice with ambassadors. Egypt is keeping this armistice with Israel out of convenience.

It goes in accordance with an overall Arab policy which is now being implemented with the help of the Israeli government. This policy, already promulgated 20 years ago aims at diminishing Israel to its "natural size" to borders that would be totally indefensible. With Syria on the Golan Heights commanding half of Israel, and the Palestinians on the mountains of Samaria, and with the Israeli public, bellies full, dormant and intoxicated with the joy of new cars and travels abroad, a surprise attack on the Jewish state might give her no chance. There is only one thing, the Arabs believe, that has still to be taken care of: the nuclear weaponry, which Israel is supposed to have. This is the only thing that has to be eliminated, and then the doing away with the Jews, Saddamís style would be childís play.

This is why the military fervor in the Arab public has to be maintained. The hatred to the Jews, should not be diminished on all levels. The "peace" should not go beyond the level of what Islam permits, hudna, an armistice for a limited period: postponement of Jihad until the conditions to renew the war are optimal. Hence the Syrians are presenting Israel with a dictate and not with terms of peace. Syria wants to improve positions in the same way that Egypt has done, and the Palestinians and the Jordanians are busy doing.

The present writer has no doubt that Mubarak and Assad are preparing the next war; there is constant cooperation and coordination of activities between these two. They both think strategically alike. They both plan to revive the Eastern front against Israel once Syria is safely entrenched in the Golan and Lebanon plus a huge arsenal of deadly chemical weapons.

The Syrians have no interest in peace.  Assad had no sudden revelation. He dreads the idea of even one Israeli sitting in a Coffee shop in Damascus. He has need of the West but no cards to play. But if Syria only wins from signing an agreement with Israel, what is there for Israel? The Israeli government is offering to gamble on the future of the state, in return for no more than a useless peace of paper. Israel is creating a precedent the likes of which should never be allowed in international relations. Israel is offering Syria a prize for its aggression. And this is a very dangerous precedent. Because it means that the Arabs are free to attack Israel violating international agreements.

In the negotiations, if one may indeed call the steady withdrawal of Israel from every position which had been the guarantee for its existence, negotiations, the mistake has been that the major problems have not been put on the table from the very beginning: the 1948 "refugees" the borders and the future of Jerusalem. If these problems were presented from the very beginning it would have been clear whether there is anything to talk about or not. By postponing the major problems for a later stage while withdrawing from most of the strategic and political positions, Israel will always be in an inferior position. Extra demands will be made and the Foreign Minister may again shout: "What, for a few square kilometers we are going to endanger peace?"

When at the end when every thing had been given away, the Arabs would come with the demand to return to Israel proper the refugees of part of them, they will demand to return to the 1947 partition plan; the Arabs citizens of Israel will demand national self determination. The Arabs have never accepted the outcome of the war in 1948. Then all seven Arab states, in defiance to all UN resolutions and the UN Charter (art. 2(4)) attacked the just established State of Israel with one aim of destroying it. Strangely enough, the UN did nothing to stop this blatant aggression against an independent state (art. 39 and 40 of the Charter), and infant Israel was left alone in the field to fight a much superior military force.

In 1967, The Golan Heights was the place in which the Syrian army began its attack on Israel as part of the all Arab plan for the "final solution" of Israel. The propaganda which accompanied this attack, still sends shudders through the bones of those who lived this experience. Throughout the streets of Damascus, Cairo and Amman the frenzied mob marched chanting: "idhbah, idhbah, idhbah, idhbah al-yahud" - slaughter, slaughter, slaughter the Jews! And the Syrian media was busy showing the fate awaiting Jews once the victorious Syrian army conquered Israel. To demonstrate the bravery of its soldiers (including women), the Syrian television also showed how they eat snakes alive and how they slaughter pet animals and drink their blood. Syria was the most cruel in treatment of POWs. A Syrian soldier who killed Israeli Prisoners of war with an ax was decorated as a war hero; and some of the Israeli POW who survived the hideous tortures of the Syrians came back home broken forever.

Syria became the shelter of the most notorious of all the Arab terrorist organizations, that cooperated with terrorists from all over the world. It encouraged and activated endless attacks of terror against Israeli citizens, from Lebanon, from its own territory and abroad, not choosing means places or targets.

In 1973 its army, again in concert with Egypt, opened a surprised attack on Israel via the Golan Heights. Again, the Syrian state controlled media of Hafez al- Assad promised to implement the "final solution". Once more Israel won. But the Arabs know that the outcomes may be changed. The Arabs learnt, with the help of many Israeli advisers, to use the love for peace in Israel, and the intoxicating influence which this word has on the Israeli public in order to create internal pressure on the Israeli government to gamble on Israelís existence by agreeing to such terms which the Arabs dictate as a "price" for peace. The media are available to them.

The word frequently used in the Arab press in connection with the present "peace process", is "withdrawal" not "peace". And territories from which Israel has withdrawn its forces under the agreement with the Palestinians have become not peaceful territories to which Israelis can enter safely, but traps of death. Any Israeli or a Jew who ventures to enter into the Gaza district, with which Israel is supposed to be in full peace, signs his own death warrant. In fact, any Jew who enters any Arab town, neighborhood or village can count himself a dead man. This is the situation after the Oslo Accords and the Cairo agreement in which the Palestinians undertook to refrain from all acts of violence. More Israelis were killed and maimed since the Oslo Agreements were signed than during the 8 years of the "intifada".

In the Middle East region war is readily utilized to achieve the whims of one or the other dictator. In this area Israel stands out like a sore thumb, insulting by its existence the pride of the Arabs and Islam, and representing a strange and unwanted culture. It happens also to be a Jewish state, which adds to the insult of Islam.

And What About the Solutions?

Two points must be taken into consideration in the discussion of any possible solution to Arab Israeli conflict. The first is that peace between Israel and the Arabs, in the usual meaning of the word in the West, with normal and friendly relations on all levels is, as far as the eye can see, an impossible goal. The most plausible peace Israel can hope for is a condition that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was peace based on balance of power, where each side guarded very well its own strategic properties, while maintaining normal diplomatic relations, and providing for as good means as possible to avoid unwarranted war.

This level of relations is probably too much to expect from Syria, for instance, if Israel is to keep the minimum strategic positions in the Golan Heights, which since 1974 have exactly been the major deterrent to war between Syria and Israel. A more formal armistice agreement which would not change the position on the ground but would give Syria a better standing with the Americans and the Western community and some economic and technical aid, which it badly needs, is probably the best bet for many years to come. Any other solution which involves the Syrian army positioned on the Golan Heights and in South Lebanon, is a sure recipe for war.

The second point is that there are no quick remedies, nor instate solutions to the Arab Israeli conflict. A conflict of this kind, with such a depth of hatred, needs scores of years of contact and negotiations, and tremendous amount of goodwill if it is to be ever solved. This is why the Madrid formula was hundred times better than the Oslo agreements. Both sides were coerced into Madrid, and the process of negotiations promise to be long and tiring. But the PLO was out of the game, Israel negotiated directly with the Palestinians living directly under its jurisdiction, and the Syrians came to the table with very weak cards.

It is very possible that Madrid would have given the Palestinians one form of autonomy or the other, and a non-belligerency agreement with the Syrians (formalizing the existing situation). This arrangement, as far as Israel is concerned, is probably better than formal peace. It is not Israel that wishes to destroy the Arabs but the other way round. The Arabs can make many mistakes and they would always be safe. Israel is not allowed even one. Her first mistake would be her last.

Such solutions enable Israel to retain its few remaining strategically vital positions, and prevent her from finding herself, otherwise, in a vulnerable situation - small and easily accessible, a tempting prey to any Middle Eastern despot with an arsenal of missile and Chemical weapons, who would wish to be a new Saladin.