If This Be Peace ...
In the euphoria following the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn, opponents of the agreement negotiated in Oslo with the PLO compared Israel to the proverbial man jumping off the Empire State Building. “How are you doing?” he is asked as he passes the 97th floor. “So far, so good,” he replies.
Israel is still a fair distance from the pavement of the peace process’s “final status,” but even the most enthusiastic supporters of the accord are no longer extolling the fresh air en route. For almost everything that could have gone wrong has done so.
At first, the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had good reason to assume that the Oslo agreement would gain broad popular support. Israelis were tired of daily intifada news, of stabbings on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, of televiewing their teenage sons chasing stone-throwing Arab teenagers in Gaza, of world censure, and of long, disruptive, and costly stretches of reserve duty. The agreement with the PLO promised to end all that in exchange for “the territories,” and to many Israelis, perhaps a majority, it seemed like an acceptable deal.
True, Israelis are generally more politically aware and security-conscious than most Westerners; but this time, when it came to the long-range dangers of relinquishing strategic territory, only few were worried. The expectation of relief from terrorism far outweighed any geostrategic considerations. Indeed, the agreement seemed destined to fulfill the promise of the Labor party’s most successful slogan in the 1992 elections: “We’ll get Gaza out of Tel Aviv.”
If disillusionment eventually set in, if polls showed steadily diminishing support for Labor and an advantage to the Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu over Yitzhak Rabin in a head-to-head race, it was not because the population suddenly recognized the strategic risks of forfeiting Judea and Samaria, but because in the sixteen months since the handshake the state of personal safety deteriorated. Over 100 Israelis were killed and hundreds more wounded by terrorists in those sixteen months—more than in any equivalent period since the establishment of the state.
Yet not even these figures were fully indicative of the rise in the number and lethality of terrorist activities. Were it not for sheer luck—and the blessed incompetence of the terrorists—the casualties would have been much greater. At least five suicide bombings (including the one on Christmas day in Jerusalem), each of which could have caused the death of 50 to 100 Israelis, failed, while only a few of the shootings at moving vehicles—an almost daily occurrence—resulted in injury or death.
To combat the corrosive effect of this terrorist activity on public support, the Rabin government has tried to distinguish the terrorists from Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA), which now runs Gaza and Jericho. Terrorists are portrayed as “enemies of the Oslo agreement” (and therefore “enemies of peace”) who belong to the militant Islamic organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is a characterization that has become the conventional wisdom worldwide, and it is parroted by the American media, by Clinton-administration officials, and by the President himself.
The Palestinians have thus been divided into the good kind—Arafat and his secular forces—and the evil religious fanatics who still call for “armed struggle” and Israel’s destruction. Indeed, whenever they refer to terrorist incidents, Rabin and his Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, invariably insist that since the PA has established itself in Gaza and Jericho, virtually none of the terrorists has been a member of the PLO.
This is not quite accurate. In the last six months of 1994, in gross violation of his commitment under the agreement, Arafat’s wing of the PLO—Fatah—carried out at least twelve terrorist attacks, including the murder of eleven fellow Palestinians accused of “collaboration.” The PFLP and the DFLP, also members of the PLO, have claimed responsibility for three additional terrorist attacks.
Arafat has also failed to keep several other commitments he made in Oslo: to discipline PLO members who engage in terrorism; to pursue, apprehend, and extradite terrorists to Israel; to refrain from hiring fugitive terrorists as policemen; and to condemn terrorist attacks explicitly. In addition to all that, Farouk Kaddoumi (who, in another violation of the agreement, has appeared at the UN as the “Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine”) consistently and openly calls for the continuation of the “armed struggle.”
Nor has there been any effort on Arafat’s part to keep his commitment to convene the Palestine National Council (PNC) for the purpose of changing the PLO charter, which calls for the dismantling of Israel. The map on the PLO emblem still shows all of Israel included within the state of Palestine.
How much of the division between the Fatah “good guys” and the Hamas villains is a result of wishful thinking became clear when the Palestinian police (whose size, now 12,000, exceeds by one-third what was agreed on in the accord) conducted graduation exercises for new recruits in Jericho. The slogans they shouted hailed the coming “liberation,” not only of Jerusalem but of Haifa, Beit She’an, and Ashdod, all in “green-line” (i.e., pre-1967) Israel.
Another example was a much-publicized incident in December. An Israeli reserve soldier who made a wrong turn into the center of Ramallah, an Arab town abutting Jerusalem, was savagely assaulted by a lynch mob. Only the arrival of an Israeli border-police unit, summoned by phone, saved his life. The scene, documented by Palestinian photographers and video cameramen (none of whom lifted a finger to help the victim) was shown on television. Without waiting for verification, the Israeli media described the assault according to the politically-correct script: the would-be murderers were inflamed Hamas youths, and the person who summoned the police was a member of Fatah. Only days later was it revealed that, with one lone exception, the dozen or so attackers who could be identified from the press photographs and arrested were known members of Fatah. One suspect escaped to the Palestinian Authority zone in Jericho, where he found shelter. The caller who summoned help was not a Fatah member but a merchant who worried that murder in the town square would cause a prolonged curfew. To put a final touch on the incident, Fatah distributed a communiqué threatening the Palestinian photographers with retribution for taking the damning pictures.
This is not how Rabin and Peres envisioned the fight against terrorism. Soon after Oslo they gleefully predicted that Arafat would go after the terrorists “without the constraints of human-rights organizations and the Supreme Court,” as Rabin put it. Or, as the more practical Peres said, “Why in heaven’s name should we chase after the terrorists? Let the PLO do it.” But it soon became clear that Arafat had no intention of becoming what his associates term the “General Lahad of Gaza”—an allusion to the commander of the Shiite-Christian South Lebanon Army which cooperates with Israel in guarding the “security belt” there.
The notion that the PLO would conduct a civil war against the Islamic movements so that the “peace process” could proceed smoothly was illusory to begin with. Both parties still consider the dismantling of Israel their ultimate goal, and as Arafat himself has consistently made clear from the moment he signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn, only tactics separate him from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Addressing “the Palestinian people” on Jordan television on the very day of the signing, September 13, 1993, Arafat never mentioned peace with Israel or the cessation of terrorism. But he did say that the Declaration of Principles was the first step in the PLO “plan of phases” of 1974.
That plan, born after the Yom Kippur war of 1973 (which convinced the Arabs that Israel could not yet be conquered in a frontal attack), proposes that the PLO “establish a national, independent, and fighting government over every part of the soil of Palestine to be freed” (Article 2). Then, “After its establishment, the national Palestinian government will fight for the unity of the countries of confrontation, to complete the liberation of all the Palestinian land and as a step in the direction of overall Arab unity” (Article 8).
Since September 1993, Arafat has repeatedly referred to the “1974 plan” in his speeches to Arab audiences. Whether or not he actually believes that Israel can eventually be dismantled is immaterial. He knows that he cannot command the allegiance of his constituency unless he incites to violence and preaches Israel’s destruction. He must promise, albeit more subtly, what Hamas promises: that the armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine will continue until final victory.
This does not mean that Arafat and Hamas will not clash in a power struggle, as they did last November. The Hamas leaders use Arafat’s agreement with Israel as a pretext to brand him a traitor. The PLO’s recognition of Israel, they say, has enabled Israel to make inroads in the Arab world and gain international approval. But they also exploit the rampant corruption, high-handed arbitrariness, and hopeless disorganization of the Arafat regime.
Indeed, life in Gaza is more miserable and hopeless than ever. The standard of living is 25-percent lower than when Israel left in May. At least a third and possibly half of the labor force is unemployed. Work in Israel—when lifting the closure against terrorism makes it possible—is scarce. At best, only a few thousand cross the Erez check-post to the green line—nowhere near the 100,000 who used to find employment in Israel before the intifada.
The government believes that it can help the PLO defeat Hamas by pouring money into Arafat’s coffers. This is what Peres has been preaching for more than a year. With enviable zeal, he and his emissaries have been trying to drum up grants, loans, and investments for the PA. Rich American Jews, European conglomerates, and Saudi business tycoons have all been approached with a plea to make the peace process work by aiding the Palestinian economy.
But it is naive to suppose that the Arab-Israeli conflict can be reduced to economic terms. The religiously and nationalistically inspired intolerance in the Arab world of Israel’s existence does not stem from economic hardship. Nor is it true that only poverty and ignorance can breed the kind of hatred which produces suicidal bombers. Most of the Hamas and Jihad leaders are intellectuals, professionals, and teachers whose backgrounds are decidedly not disadvantaged. The suicide killer who caused the death of three Israeli army officers in Netzarim was a well-educated member of an upper-middle-class family.
Nor can conditions in Gaza be blamed for the phenomenon of Islamic militancy, which, after all, plagues the Muslim world from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. To assume that it will disappear with the improvement in Gaza’s standard of living is grossly to underestimate the power and seduction of religious fervor. If anything, a more buoyant economy may make the fanatics more dangerous.
That Peres believes in a financial solution is hardly surprising. For the past decade he has been driven by a vision of a Middle East Marshall Plan. He clearly hopes that what worked for war-torn, devastated Europe after World War II will work for the war-torn Middle East of today. But to expect such a plan to bear fruit in the religiously fanatic, hopelessly corrupt, ethnically riven, anti-democratic, and anti-Western Middle East is to ignore the simple realities of life.
Pouring money into the Palestinian Authority seems particularly futile at this point, because Arafat—though a Nobel laureate touted by heads of government and the world community as the only Palestinian leader acknowledged by all his people—is now seen as a mortal enemy by a large minority, if not a majority, of Palestinians.
In a New York Times story of December 3,1994, Youssef Ibrahim reports that the new graffiti in Gaza, painted on walls whitewashed at the cost of over $3 million only two months before, rarely mention Israel. “The villain is Mr. Arafat,” writes Ibrahim, “and his armed Fatah militia and police force, who are denounced over and over again as ‘killers of Palestinians,’ ‘bats of darkness,’ and ‘Israel’s loyal servants.’”
In Gaza’s “war of the demonstrations”—mass rallies intended to show force and following—Hamas has been an easy winner over the PLO. A gathering to mark Hamas’s seventh anniversary in December, in which the main attraction was a televised reenactment of the kidnapping-murder of Corporal Nahshon Wachsman, drew a cheering crowd of 50,000 to 80,000. Fatah barely mustered 10,000 to attend any of its rallies. (Newspapers which reported numbers at Hamas demonstrations larger than the Fatah estimate of 5,000 were banned by the Palestinian police.)
Arafat’s weakness is reflected in his administration, too. Most of his coalition partners have quit. It is not only the Islamic militants who now oppose him, but the Communists, the Jordan-affiliated bureaucrats, the Syrian-supported rejectionists, and most of the PLO factions, including even elements of his own Fatah.
One of the purposes of the Islamic terrorist activity is to gain popularity in the Palestinian street, where the heroes have always been those who kill Israelis. This is also why Fatah cadres are becoming increasingly restive. They have discovered that attacking Israelis is infinitely more popular than running the education system or managing tourist offices.
To keep them happy, Arafat has rearmed and reorganized the “Fatah Hawks,” resulting in what Israel’s chief of army intelligence, Major General Uri Saguy, has called the Lebanonization of Gaza. With Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, PFLP, and DFLP all armed and acting independently of the Palestinian police, the days of the Lebanon militias are back—this time 30 miles from Tel Aviv.
For now, though, there is a symbiotic relationship between the rejectionist factions and the Palestinian Authority, who share the immediate goal of getting Israeli troops out of Arab population centers in Judea and Samaria, as stipulated in the Oslo accord. For Arafat, the Islamic terrorists serve a function similar to that which the Hezbollah in Lebanon fulfills for Syria: it is the shooting arm which complements the negotiating arm in his relations with Israel.
The practice is one that dictatorial regimes often adopt. Since democratic opponents are vulnerable to internal pressures, especially once a general decision to withdraw has been made, the surest way to force them to make concessions and accelerate their retreat is by inflicting casualties. As President Hafez al-Assad of Syria put it during the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon: “I want the Israelis to see at least one funeral a day on their TV.”
The only difference between Hezbollah and Hamas is that while the former is fully controlled by Assad and dependent on him, the latter only has a loose tacit agreement with Arafat which assures it of a free hand in areas controlled by Israel—that is, so long as it does not embarrass Arafat by operating from the PA zones of Gaza and Jericho. Arafat would like to control the dosage of terrorism: enough of it to cause pressure to withdraw, but not enough to turn the Israeli public against the agreement. But since by its very nature Hamas depends on the fanaticism of its followers—suicide bombers are not given to considerations of Realpolitik—the chances are against Arafat’s being able to calibrate their activities.
At first glimpse, it seems foolish for either Arafat or Hamas to continue with terrorist activity, which can create second thoughts in Israel about withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. But the notion that terrorism pays has been reinforced by several Israeli government ministers, who have responded to it by calling for the evacuation of the more isolated settlements, and by Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin, who at the beginning of December came out in favor of skipping the interim period altogether and proceeding to “final-status” talks.
This is precisely what the PLO wants, for in the interim period all Israeli settlements are to stay in place and the Israeli army is charged with their safety. To secure the settlements, alternate roads, whose completion may take a year or two, will have to be built. This arouses the suspicion among the Palestinians that Israel does not really intend to leave at all. The Palestinians would thus rather start talking of permanent Israeli departure now. But Rabin, reflecting the current mood of the majority in the government, is still unwilling to risk skipping the interim period.
In fact, questions are now being raised even about the evacuation of Israeli troops from Arab population centers, as required by the agreement. The army worries that confrontations, clashes, and terrorist acts will increase dramatically when such an evacuation takes place. As Major General Danny Rothschild, the outgoing chief negotiator and coordinator of activities in the territories, has put it, “Judea and Samaria are more politically complex than Gaza, and given Arafat’s track record, he will find it difficult to establish authority there.” What this means is that once the army forfeits control of the Arab centers, the armed Palestinian militias (weapons are now sold freely in all West Bank towns) will take over, and every Arab town and village in Judea and Samaria will become a terrorist base.
The general perception, reinforced by government pronouncements, is that the evacuation will endanger only the 130,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. But the truth is that Israelis inside the green line will be as threatened by such a move as those who live beyond it. As terrorist attacks in the past year should have made clear, Afula and Tel Aviv are just as vulnerable to terrorism as the most isolated road in Judea. If anything, the settlers’ constant vigilance makes them less likely victims.
It is this development that Beilin and others in the government think they can avoid by going to “final-status” negotiations at once. They are convinced—as they were when they formulated the Declaration of Principles—that peace will come if a Palestinian state is established in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza with half of Jerusalem as its capital. The Director General of the Foreign Ministry, Uri Savir, another architect of the Oslo agreement, has said that it would be better to have a sovereign democratic Palestine as a neighbor than an ambiguously defined, restive autonomy. Presumably, once the process is finished and the Palestinian state is happily in place, it will suppress Hamas (which, according to this scenario, will anyway fizzle for lack of a cause) and join with Israel in the regional common market envisioned in Peres’s “New Middle East.”
But the entire picture is further complicated by the perseverance and determination of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. At first, Rabin and his colleagues hoped that many of the settlers, faced with government neglect and daunted by the difficulties of living in dangerous areas, would drift away. This would spare the government the need to dismantle the mostly well-established communities. But the opposite has happened. The expansion of Jewish towns and villages in Judea and Samaria may not be proceeding at the pace of the Likud years, but settlements have continued to grow steadily under Labor. The demand for housing is greater than the supply, and if the government decides to allow the habitation of “frozen” apartments, the number of settlers will grow even more rapidly.
Considering that half of the residents of Judea and Samaria are not there for ideological reasons but in search of a better quality of life, and that the transfer of authority over the area to the PA is imminent (excepting the settlements themselves and the roads leading to them), this determination to stay is puzzling. But it does force the government to wonder how easy it will be to get the settlers out by force.
None of these developments is conducive to sweeping optimism. At best, Rabin now expects a long period of negotiations in which a magic formula can be found for maintaining security for Israel while relinquishing control of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.
In an effort to bolster the national mood—and its own standing in the polls—the government points to the “fruits of peace”: the diplomatic triumphs which have resulted from the Oslo agreement. Not only has Israel become popular in formerly unfriendly countries, it has established peace with Jordan and embryonic diplomatic and commercial ties with Morocco, Tunisia, and some of the Gulf emirates. Even the largest Muslim nation—Indonesia—has entertained Rabin and discussed trade.
Yet the effect of such diplomatic triumphs on the public is short-lived. The signing of the peace treaty with Jordan, with President Clinton’s participation, was an impressive ceremony which gave Rabin an eight-point boost in the polls. But two weeks later, following two terrorist incidents, he was trailing Netanyahu again. That they can now visit Amman and Petra without risk obviously matters less to Israelis than the safety of a girl waiting for a bus in Afula.
It is claimed that the treaty with Jordan—a move popular with a vast majority of Israelis—could not have been signed had there been no Oslo agreement. But this is by no means clear. True, Israel’s recognition of the PLO, demanded by all Arab countries as a sine qua non, helped Jordan’s King Hussein overcome fears of Arab ostracism. But, as Hussein himself pointed out, there was also the matter of Jordanian national interest. The Jordanian economy is in desperate straits. Having alienated the Saudis and the Gulf emirates by aligning itself with Saddam Hussein, and having had to absorb 250,000 Palestinian refugees from Kuwait after Saddam’s defeat, Jordan cannot survive without American help. The administration, and particularly Congress, would have found it difficult to extend such help had the Jordanians not made peace with Israel.
If the Oslo agreement served as a catalyst, it was not because it met Arab conditions by recognizing the PLO but because King Hussein—like every other intelligent observer—realized that the unhindered implementation of the agreement would inexorably lead to a Palestinian state on his doorstep. With the vast majority of his kingdom’s population being Palestinian, the threat to the Hashemite throne from a neighboring Palestinian dictatorship is self-evident.
Israeli leaders may like to talk of a confederation between Jordan and Palestine—or, better still, a Benelux-like union which would include Israel—but Hussein has not survived every other Arab ruler by being addicted to pipe dreams. If anything points to his real concern, it was his unprecedented invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to come to Amman within a few weeks of the signing ceremony, a move which enhanced Netanyahu’s standing in Israel. For ever since Jordan lost Judea and Samaria in 1967, it has counted on Israel to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. And until 1992 all Israeli governments were unequivocally opposed to such a state. But the Oslo agreement has changed all that. It is possible, then, that the Jordanians see a prospective Likud government, unwavering in its commitment to preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, as their best guarantee against a repeat of the “Black September” coup attempted by the PLO in 1970, only this time mounted not by an organization but by a sovereign state.
Another factor which may have entered into Hussein’s calculations is that Syria is in a predicament similar to his. Damascus, too, needs American good will. It is in this area rather than in the military sphere that the demise of the USSR has changed the Middle East equation. Syria can buy all the weapons it wants—long-range missiles, modern tanks and fighter jets, and unconventional weapons—from North Korea, Russia, and China. And, indeed, it has built up a military machine which—at least quantitatively—surpasses Israel’s. But lacking Iraq’s and Iran’s major oil resources, it cannot ensure round-the-clock electricity in Damascus without Western cooperation.
This is why Assad did not try to prevent Jordan from making a separate peace with Israel, as he did in 1985, when King Hussein made overtures to Jerusalem. At the time, a series of Syrian-sponsored terrorist attacks against Jordanian officials and institutions—in Jordan and in other countries—put an end to these overtures.
Clearly, Syria’s “strategic decision” to make peace with Israel is directed at the U.S. Those billboards in Damascus which hail Assad as a peacemaker and which so impress visiting Americans never mention Israel. Nor has Assad agreed to promise full normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for the Golan Heights—which, as the American negotiators have been assured by Rabin, Israel is willing to give up. If Assad does agree to promise the kind of peace Israel demands—full diplomatic relations, free movement of people and goods across open borders, and normal cultural and commercial exchanges—it will be only if and when he attains the kind of American assistance he expects.
That Assad is not at all eager to build Israeli confidence has been obvious since the negotiations began. He reneged on his promise to Clinton to condemn terrorism in their press conference in Damascus. And he has continued his proxy war against Israel through Hezbollah and the ten anti-Israel terrorist groups headquartered in Syria. Radio Al-Quds, run from Damascus by the Jibril terror group, broadcasts unbridled incitement to the Palestinians in the “occupied area”—a term it applies not only to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza but to all of Israel. One of Hamas’s most dangerous leaders, Mousa Abu Marzouk, who disappeared from the U.S. as soon as the organization’s activities in America were exposed, has established his headquarters in Damascus.
Syria has also promoted and honored men involved in the 1986 attempt to plant a bomb on an El Al flight in London. The mastermind of the operation was the then-head of Syrian air-force intelligence, Muhammad Khouly, who soon after lost his job and disappeared from public view. At the time, the dismissal was seen as a sign of Assad’s dissatisfaction with such terrorist ventures, and as an effort to dissociate himself from the London crime. But this past December Khouly was appointed head of the Syrian air force, and two other Syrians implicated in the bombing plot and expelled from Britain were also promoted to key positions.
The Rabin government knows that it will not be easy to sell the public, war-weary as it may be, a deal with Syria that would require relinquishing the Golan to an unregenerate dictator who makes no secret of his territorial ambitions over all of Israel, which he considers part of “greater Syria.” Even Peres, who expressed Pollyannaish optimism about the “sensational” changes in Damascus soon after the Labor government took office in 1992, seems to have developed doubts about the nature of peace with Syria.
Thus, last October 4 in Washington, after presenting his vision of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, he was asked by Barry Schweid of the AP, “If there is going to be peace, why is Israel interested in early-warning systems and U.S. troops on the Golan?” Why indeed? If peace is to reign—which is the premise on which the idea of Israel’s relinquishment of the Golan is based—there is no need for troops and early-warning systems on the Heights. But if true peace is not assured, there is no reason for Israel to withdraw.
Peres did not reply that American troops would be needed only temporarily, until it became clear that Syria was living up to its commitments to normalize relations with Israel, reduce the size of its army, and demilitarize the Golan and the area abutting it. Instead, he repeated what opponents of withdrawal from the Golan have been saying ever since the Rabin government embarked on its present course:
The new danger [sic] does not annihilate old ones. There is still a possibility of conventional wars. You still need—and you know, not everyone joined in my vision. There may be somebody else in Syria that didn’t notice the change, and they can again employ tanks and planes. We must be careful. We have so many old-fashioned people living around us that you must have also old-fashioned answers to stop them from doing mistakes.
But this is tantamount to saying that a peace agreement with Syria is meaningless. Such an agreement may not bind the “somebody else in Syria” who, being old-fashioned, refuses to recognize the advent of Peres’s “new Middle East.” And this is assuming that only “somebody else” might break the agreement, and that Assad himself has become a born-again man of honor who, after violating every pact he has ever signed, would now live up to his treaty with Israel.
Even Shimon Peres, then, recognizes that relinquishing the Golan is a high-stakes gamble. To hedge its bet, the Rabin government wants American troops there. But no sober observer can suppose that an American military presence can serve as a tripwire and deter the Syrians.1 According to the CIA, it was Damascus which was directly responsible for forcing the evacuation of U.S. peacekeepers from Beirut in 1983, at the cost of 241 Marines killed by one Islamic suicide bomber. More recently, the telecast of only a single American soldier being dragged through the streets in Somalia played a major role in getting U.S. peacekeepers out of Africa.
It is all too easy to envisage a scenario in which the American public would similarly demand the return of U.S. troops from the Golan. A few casualties inflicted by Syrian-sponsored “terrorists” (whom Damascus would publicly disavow) would suffice. Instead of serving as a trip-wire for American intervention, American casualties would poison American-Israeli relations.
The Israel government likes to dismiss these problems as historically insignificant hurdles on the way to a European Union-like peace in the Middle East. (Yet, paradoxically, Rabin also keeps saying that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is total separation between the two peoples.) What matters, the government insists, is that the world now approves of Israel and that the flags of Arab countries will soon be flying over their embassies in Israel. Yet if this does happen, it will be a direct consequence of Israel’s willingness to do what the Arab regimes and the world community have wanted it to do for 27 years: retreat from all the “occupied territories” and return to the 1949 armistice lines.
The trouble with this is that, once Israel is back behind those untenable lines, the “old-fashioned people living around us,” as Peres describes them, may mount an old-fashioned war. Israel will then have to defend itself from a position of inferiority. At that point, the presence of Arab embassies in Tel Aviv will be of no help at all.
1 For a fuller discussion, see “U.S. Forces on the Golan Heights?: A Special Report,” in the December 1994 COMMENTARY.—Ed.