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August 1998 
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" P E A C E P R O C E S S "   D E C E P T I O N S


MER - The myths of "peace" are many; the very term "peace process" itself so deceptively seductive. In the following very significant column Professor Tanya Reinhart exposes the myths of the Israeli "left" and their supposedly "Peace Now" minions. Rabin was no martyr for peace, Netanyahu is not really that much different than his predecessor, and Yasser Arafat is either being taken to the cleaners (repeatedly!) or serving in the role of 'collaborator' -- to use Edward Said's bold term. Meanwhile, the "peace process" itself is certainly not what the Israelis, their American patrons, and the weak co-opted Arab "client regimes" want the world to believe it to be. (originally published 3/97).


Prof Tanya Reinhart

Looking at the columns of the liberal media in Israel, one cannot avoid the conclusion that nothing has changed: Again (so we are told) we have a government committed to peace, working ("even against its will") to carry out the vision of Oslo, despite the objections of the right wing, and with the support of Labor and left. It is fully agreed that Netanyahu is building new settlements and pushing the Palestinians out of the center of the West Bank, only as an unavoidable token of compensation to the right-wing, for the drastic steps Netanyahu has taken in the peace process. "Netanyahu has never wanted to build in Har-Homa, but was forced to do that" says Deddi Zucker of the left-wing Meretz, in his vote-of-nonconfidence speech in the parliament. This is precisely what they said also about Rabin, in whose time the Har-Homa plan was conceived and approved (in May 1995).

Because in Israel, we confiscate, expel and settle only for the sake of peace.


In September 96, it appeared that Netanyahu will not be able to control the territories, and to keep portraying the occupation as the road to peace. The match was his acts on the tunnel beneath the Aqsa Mosque, and the occupied territories seemed on the verge of a new Palestinian uprising. A wave of anger at Israel and solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinians swept the world. The Israeli doves were seriously worried. But in a few days, Arafat has managed to crash the uprising and Netanyahu proved that his control of Arafat and the territories is just as solid as that of Rabin and Peres. Now it was possible to turn to the nuisance of Hebron, which Israel has been planning for about two years - to transfer the police job to Arafat's security forces, and thus release Israeli soldiers for other missions.

Since Israel wanted this, anyway, Arafat could present it as a courageous demand in return for his cooperation, and, thus, market himself as a winner.


The "crisis" was over. "The peace process has won". The Gulf companies returned to business with Israel, and the Israeli doves realized that Netanyahu can do the job of keeping things quiet as well as Peres. With a slight sigh, the peace-camp placed itself behind Netanyahu: The government is corrupt, but the peace process goes on! The Palestinian state is a sure fact to come, so we can move away from this topic now! This is the common theme in the columns of the doves.


But compared to 'Har-Homa', the Aqsa tunnel is a marginal issue of a symbolic nature. The tunnel can be easily closed again, if the Palestinians ever get any rights over Jerusalem. But the new settlement is an irreversible act which eliminates their chances to ever get such rights.


Although in the Israeli maps, the whole center of the West Bank is defined as Jerusalem, Jabel Abu R'neim-the Palestinian land on which Har-Homa is to be built - is the land reserves of the Beit-Lehem region, and much of the land was confiscated from Beit-Saxur owners.

(Other parts of this land were appropriated over the years by Israeli business speculants, like David Mir, who took advantage of the owners fleeing away. The government paid Mir the modest sum of 60 million dollars for his share of the land, a transaction which is being called, mysteriously, 'confiscation'.[1])

Building in this new area is not just one more new settlement (disguised as a new neighborhood of Jerusalem). This is the only unsettled stretch of land between the south of the West-bank and the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem - the only area where it was possible, in principle, to keep a territorial link between them. If it is built now, then the south is completely separated from Jerusalem with a thick belt of Jewish residence. This is the final link in the plan prepared by the Rabin government to dissociate Jerusalem and the center of the West bank, from its south. Once this happens, the Palestinians loose access to the center, and whether they will be allowed to visit Jerusalem in the future, will depend solely on Israel's mercy.


This is a serious matter. That's why the previous government did not hurry to carry out its plan. Before Israel starts building, it is necessary to guarantee that Arafat's headquarters can indeed control the territories, and crash any uprising, since Israel cannot do that without Arafat. It takes at least 30 thousand 'policemen' and a spy in every house to oppress the Palestinians struggle for independence. The Israeli army just does not have the 30 thousand soldiers needed to replace, daily, Arafat's policemen. To make sure that Arafat can indeed do that, one has to supply him, along with the usual threats and pressures, also with another fictitious victory. This is where Clinton enters the picture.


While the Palestinian opposition organizations demand that Arafat stops negotiation with Israel as long as it keeps expanding settlements, the Chief was brought to Washington. The headlines declared: "USA denounces the decision to build Har-Homa!" But what does the body of the text say?[2]. What Clinton told Israel was "I would have preferred that this decision was not taken". As for Arafat, Clinton clarified that "USA cannot prevent Israel from building in Har-Homa". On the other hand, the USA "will look gravely at any violent uprising that could risk the peace process". In other words, it is permitted to deplore, and even carry some protest-rituals against Israel's acts, but it is forbidden to do anything that may threaten to stop them. As always in the language of power, it isthe victim who is accused of 'violence'.


In return for his cooperation, Chief Arafat was given honors: dinner with Allbright, interviews, and a bunch of nice words like "half recognition of a state". For Arafat, this is enough. He agreed, as expected. He will keep his promise even after the USA vetoed the security-council decision to denounce Israel. When it will be clear that his security services are ready to deliver what he promised, Israel will start building. The peace-camp will continue to tell us that all, in fact, is fine. Why should we bother to think of what we are doing to the Palestinians? Why should we think of what would happen when, one day, Arafat and his secret services will be called to pay for their deeds?.


Tanya Reinhart teaches linguistics at Tel Aviv University and is on the Advisory Board of THE COMMITTEE ON THE MIDDLE EAST. This article is translated from Hebrew and based on a column written by the author for the Israeli daily "Yediot Ahronot" on 3/10/97].


(1) Ziv Maor, "Har-Homa -- much politics and no less money", Haaretz, February 23, 1997, /Real-estates section.

(2) Haaretz, March 4, 1997.



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