“Give Me Some Credit!”
“Give me some credit!” the new Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, cried
out at the Labor Party convention in February 1965, addressing David Ben-
>From the moment he resigned, Ben-Gurion started to undermine his
successor. Eshkol, who until then had only dealt with finances, looked
pale and ineffectual next to his monumental predecessor, the Father of
the State, the leader in two wars.
Eshkol meant his words quite literally. He said: “Ben-Gurion, I shall use
the language of a treasurer: Give me some credit! That’s all I ask, for
one term in office, four years at most!”
The dramatic cry did not help. Ben-Gurion left the party and continued to
rain fire and brimstone on Eshkol.
Abu Mazen finds himself in a similar situation today. He, too, could cry
out: “Give me some credit!”
Of course, his great predecessor cannot attack him except indirectly, by
way of his legacy. But Abu Mazen has enough opponents in his own Fatah
Television presents this as a personal fight between him and the middle
generation, in particular Marwan Barghouti. That lies in the nature of
television. Since the small screen is at its best when it shows a human
face, but is unable to show ideas, every controversy becomes a matter of
personalities (confirming, by the way, the famous dictum of the Canadian
thinker, Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message” - meaning that
reality is shaped by the character of the media.)
Naturally, the Abu Mazen-Barghouti controversy does partly reflect a
personal and generational confrontation. Abu Mazen represents the Fatah
Old Guard, while his opponents represent the fighters of the first and
second intifadas. But the real confrontation is between two world views
and two grand strategies for the Palestinian national liberation
I heard the name Abu Mazen for the first time in 1974, when I established
contact with the PLO leadership. I asked my first partner, Sa’id Hamami,
the peace martyr, to tell me who was standing behind him. He informed me,
in confidence, that Fatah had set up a three-member committee to direct
contacts with Israelis. I called them the “Three Abus” – Abu Amar (Yasser
Arafat), Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) and Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf).
Among the three, Abu Mazen was directly in charge of Israeli affairs. His
doctoral thesis at Moscow University was about the Zionist movement’s
activities during the Holocaust, and once I was even asked to bring him
books about the Kastner Affair (the negotiations between the Zionist
Rescue Committee and Adolf Eichmann in 1944).
I met him for the first time face to face when a delegation of the
Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (General Matti Peled,
former Treasury Director Ya’acov Arnon and myself) was invited to meet
Arafat in Tunis in January 1983. Before the meeting, we spoke with Abu
Mazen, as in all the subsequent meetings in Tunis: we always discussed
our ideas first with Abu Mazen and then brought our proposals to Arafat,
who spoke the final word.
This experience helps me to understand Abu Mazen’s approach nowadays. His
strategy goes like this: the main Palestinian effort must be directed
towards the United States and the Israeli public. There is now an
opportunity to change the one-sided policy of President Bush. During his
second term of office he can ignore the powerful Jewish lobby, since he
cannot be elected again anyhow.
Israeli public opinion, too, can be changed. For this, the armed intifada
must be stopped. In Abu Mazen’s view, it has brought no benefits to the
Palestinians, but rather hurt their cause.
Most of the young Fatah generation rejects this view out of hand. They
believe that it is based on illusions. Bush is under the influence of
Sharon and, anyhow, he is one of the Christian fundamentalists who
support the most extreme right-wing in Israel. Also, it makes no sense to
rely on the Israeli Peace Camp, which has forsaken the Palestinians in
their hour of dire need. Except for some small groups, they have done
nothing to end the brutal occupation, the killing, the destruction and
starving out, the choking separation wall and the expropriation of land
and water. All it does is issue papers that have no effect whatsoever.
The armed actions, the young Fatah activists believe, do bear fruit. They
have hit the Israeli economy hard. They have created an atmosphere of
fear and a reality of poverty. They have produced a readiness to give up
the Palestinian territories. The Israelis understand only the language of
A more moderate variant of this attitude proposes intensifying attacks on
settlers and soldiers, but stopping the attacks on civilians in Israel
proper. Meaning: the suicide bombings.
While Arafat was alive, the controversy did not get out of hand, because
Arafat, as was his wont, created a synthesis between the two approaches.
He used – alternately or simultaneously – diplomacy and violence,
according to the changing situation. The adherents of both strategies saw
him as their leader. And, indeed, Arafat led the strategy of recognizing
Israel and seeking peace with it, as in Oslo. But when he came to the
conclusion that this effort had run into an Israeli wall, he used
violence. Marwan Barghouti was his pupil.
Now Arafat is gone. The two strategies clash in the Palestinian society,
and perhaps in every Palestinian home.
One thing must be clear: the debate about strategy does not reflect a
divergence of aims. All Fatah factions are united around the aims laid
down by Arafat: a Palestinian state, the pre-1967 borders (with some
possible exchange of territories), East Jerusalem as the capital of
Palestine, sovereignty over the temple Mount, evacuation of the
settlements, an agreed solution to the refugee problem. There is no
argument about these.
So how will the controversy be settled?
It will not be easy for the wearers of suits to overcome the bearers of
Kalashnikovs, who put their lives on the line every day. But the
Palestinians will use their intelligence. They may well ask themselves:
Abu Mazen wants credit? Let’s give him credit. He believes that he can
extract concessions from Bush and Sharon? Why not give him a chance?
Let him try to achieve an end to “targeted liquidations”, “verification
of killing”, demolition of homes, degradation at the checkpoints. Let him
try to get meaningful peace negotiations started. Let’s see if Bush
offers him more than empty phrases.
The first time, when the Americans pressured the Palestinians into
appointing Abu Mazen Prime Minister, he got nothing. Sharon stuck a knife
in his back. Bush ignored him..
If he can really achieve something this time – so much the better. If
not, the Kalashnikovs will speak again. That is the background of Marwan
Barghouti’s decision not to run this time.
Every credit expires sometime. Half a year? A year? Certainly no more.
Abu Mazen has already promised Barghouti to hold elections inside Fatah
within nine months.
If the credit bears no interest, the Third Intifada will surely follow.
3) "In the end, it is the violin which wins" by Meir Shalev
Meir Shalev, well-known writer, writes a regular column for the Yediot
Aharonot weekend edition. Normally it is printed on an inner page, but
last week (NOv. 26) it appeared on the front page, accompanied by photos.
The decision of Israel's largest mass-circulation paper to publish it as
conspicuously as possible ads interest to an article which in any case
would have been well worth the effort of Gush Shalom to translate it into
English and make it available internationally.
In the end, it is the violin which wins