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"The Gaza Strip especially has turned into one
giant detention camp for more than a million
"During the Oslo years, the territorial integrity
of the Palestinian land destined to become a state
was shattered, and social and class gaps were widened."
IT'S GOOD THAT PERES WASN'T ELECTED
By Amira Hass
HA'ARETZ, 9 August:
The period of mourning over Shimon Peres' defeat in last week's
presidential vote ended in a matter of days, yet there is good reason to
examine that event in closer detail. In fact, this defeat can be traced
directly to the stubborn tendency of Israel's peace camp (through its
appointed and self-appointed representatives in politics, the arts,
academia and the media) to continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to
the destructive characteristics of the "Oslo years.".
These characteristics reached full maturity when Peres was foreign
minister and prime minister. They cannot be called characteristics of
peace; they are instead the features of a situation in which one nation
dominates another, although the form of control is not your garden-variety
What is being proposed here obviously is not the adoption of a reverse
personality cult, nor should Peres be held responsible for the
"malfunctions" that Oslo has produced. Peres does not hold the sole patent
for the "Oslo characteristics;" nor can the title of "sole inventor" for
those characteristics be bestowed on the late prime minister and defense
minister, Yitzhak Rabin. These characteristics reflect the interests and
mentality of a broad, solidly based hegemonic class in Israeli society, a
class that encompasses, is intricately interwoven with and successfully
clones military, economic and ideological institutions.
Nonetheless, heavy responsibility for the present state of affairs can
assigned to both Peres and (for a certain period of time) Rabin - because
of the senior positions they held.
The placing of the laurel wreath of glory and peace on Peres' head would
not have been so exasperating were it not for the fact that such
lionization graphically illustrates the way the camp that is supposed to
be interested in peace consistently chooses to ignore what the Palestinian
people have had to undergo.
The principal characteristic of the Oslo years was - and still is -
closure regime. Although this regime was originally proclaimed in January
1991, when the Likud was in power, it was perfected and hardened under the
In accordance with the rules and regulations of this closure regime,
Israelis have the right to move freely wherever they want throughout the
land (within its British Mandatory borders), while Palestinians are denied
the privilege of freedom of movement even between the two physically
separated parts of their area of home rule, that is, between the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank. Obviously, under this regime of closure,
Palestinians are not free to travel into Israel proper - where they have
deep personal, family, economic and historical connections.
The impact of the closure regime has been devastating. It has created
small, isolated social strata defined by the degree of freedom of movement
that has been allotted to the members of any given stratum. It subjects
hundreds of thousands of people to the whims of a handful of
issuers-of-authorizations attached to the Civil Administration, the Shin
Bet internal security services, and to Palestinian administrative and
security mechanisms. It has cut off the Gaza Strip - socially, culturally
and economically - from the West Bank and has destroyed East Jerusalem by
severing it from the rest of Palestinian territory. It has caused the
Palestinian economy to deteriorate to levels that existed during the
Intifada. Only from 1997 onward (during the Netanyahu years), has there
been a moderate improvement.
Israelis like to think that closure is an unavoidable necessity in view
terror attacks. They conveniently forget that it was thought up and
applied long before anyone gave much thought to scenes of exploding buses.
Because of the closure regime, the Gaza Strip especially has turned into
one giant detention camp for more than a million human beings. However,
there are also Hamas members on the West Bank, from which it is very easy
to infiltrate into Israel. Thus, the "security pretext" for the imposition
of closure is very weak.
An essential element in the closure regime is the extension of "freedom
movement" privileges to the Palestinian leadership cadre. The provision of
these privileges reflects Shin Bet-type thinking, namely, that this group
has a tendency to amass for itself economic and social assets at the
expense of its own people. These special privileges do not express a high
level of esteem for this cadre. Quite the contrary, it is the articulation
of a supremacist orientation that manifests itself, when necessary, in
flattery and "gestures" but which can also manifest itself in reprimands
and other forms of punishment used by a regime in its dealings with the
The utter contempt built into this regime hit its lowest point when,
during Peres' term as prime minister, it was decided that Yehiyeh Ayash
would have to be killed. The issuers of this order chose to ignore the
fact that, for several months before the assassination, the Palestinian
Authority had managed - through quiet diplomacy and through its own
suppressive methods - to persuade Hamas to refrain from launching terror
During the Rabin-Peres period, despite the apparent freeze on construction
activity in the Jewish settlements, the settler population increased by
several dozen percentage points. In the context of the Taba agreement
(September 1995), a sophisticated scheme was thought up for dividing up
the West Bank into areas A, B and C and for a closely monitored alteration
of the size of each area, in accordance with the good behavior or lack of
good behavior displayed by the PA.
Area C, the territory under Israeli administrative and military control,
is still the largest and thus the Palestinians - as inhabitants of towns
and villages and as residents of a home rule entity - are being denied the
opportunity of developing that territory. An intricate network of bypass
highways and the decisions to expand Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel
complete the picture that exists today: A West Bank that is fragmented by
an ocean of asphalt and stylish roofs belonging to the homes of settlers.
The PA has no choice but to curse what has been set in place and to try to
live with it.
Thus, during the Oslo years, the territorial integrity of the Palestinian
land destined to become a state was shattered, and social and class gaps
were widened. Israel is now trying to custom-tailor a treaty to fit the
measurements of these "achievements" it has managed to bring about.
During the Rabin-Peres years, the peace camp maintained silence on these
two basic phenomena, while today, even though it is more aware of their
existence, it does not feel that its role includes waging a war against
them. Furthermore, the peace camp has completely exonerated from all
responsibility the personalities - including Peres - who molded the
situation in which those phenomena developed.
Thus, it is a good thing Peres was not elected president. That way,
least, the President's Residence will not be a platform for peace
declarations and for self-congratulatory statements that are totally
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