Sunday, October 05, 2003

Another suicide bombing, this time in Haifa

Another suicide bombing, this time in Haifa earlier today - 19 people killed, including "three children, a baby girl, three members of the same family and four Israeli Arabs." Will this ever end? The Ha'aretz editorial, entitled "Awful Days" (a pun, because these are the "awe-filled days" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur -- the "Yamim Noraim" in both cases) calls for "With the help of the international community, led by U.S. President George Bush, they [Israel and the Palestinian Authority) must fulfill the obligations they assumed with the road map and remove the religious extremists and those thirsty for blood. The blood of the victims of the bombings and [Israeli] assassinations cry out to them - enough is enough!" A sane and moderate call that will probably be ignored by both sides.

Uzi Benziman, also in today's Ha'aretz, predicts a dismal future if both peoples refuse to recognize each other's legitimate rights.
The lesson to be drawn from the last three years is that the two sides refuse to relinquish the original sources of the dispute - the Palestinians are unwilling to give Israel unconditional recognition of its right to exist; Israel refuses to abandon its conquest, and it continues to expand the settlements while it negotiates with the Palestinians about a peace settlement.

The violent conflict stems from these obstinate starting positions. As though to offset the grueling experience the Israeli public suffers after each terror attack, the Palestinians provide evidence about the grim results of preventive anti-terror actions and assassinations carried out by Israel. This balance of atrocities does not exempt Israel from its obligation to change the course on which it has deviated since the 1967 Six Day War.

Seen from the historical point of view, the occupation of the territories is a justifiable result of Arab aggression and attacks on the state of Israel. The 1948 Independence War and the 1967 Six Day War expressed the Arab peoples' refusal to recognize the Jewish people's right to establish a sovereign state on a small piece of territory in its historic homeland.

In retrospect, it appears that the use made by the state of Israel of its military success in 1967 has transmogrified, and become a threat to its own existence. Territories which Israel occupied and settled present a demographic threat, a security danger, an economic burden and a diplomatic problem. The effects of the occupation have maddened decision making processes undertaken by the leadership, scrambled public ethics in the country, and distorted values held by a number of constituencies in the state.

The occupation is a circumstance which must be brought to an end so as to preserve the state's moral fiber, and its capacity to survive. Should Israel's control in the territories persist, processes that cause the two sides to clash will intensify, and this fighting will eventually exhaust resources needed by both.

The recent decision reached by the government regarding the construction and placement of the separation fence reflects its hasty, imprudent thinking. What was once a legitimate defense measure that emerged as a result of murderous terror attacks like the one in Haifa yesterday, has become a lever for land-grabbing.

The government is wrong to believe that its sophistic explanations will dupe the world, and that the Palestinians will placidly accept the suffering caused by the places chosen for the fence to stand on.

The separation fence is designed to eliminate prospects for a viable Palestinian state. For this reason, settler leaders have accepted it with equanimity. Under the design endorsed by the government, the fence will create a South African reality whose result is easily predicted.
For a time I thought that the separation fence was making the best of a bad bargain - since negotiations were going nowhere, at least build a fence that would give Israelis more physical safety. But with the way that the Sharon government is using the fence to annex further West Bank land, and in particular the way it is being used to cut off Palestinian cities (for example, Kalkilya, which is now surrounded either by a wall or by a fence, and which can only be entered through one entrance, an Israeli checkpoint), I think that it is further driving Israel down a hellish path.

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