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The cassandras are wrong - Economic Times

Henry Kissinger ()
3 July 1996

This article is being sent to give an idea how the west treats
issues of nationalism in Israel and India. Thus, Hindu
nationalism becomes communalism, while Jew nationalism
is to be encouraged.

Title : The Cassandras Are Wrong
Author : Henry Kissinger
Publication : Economic Times
Date : July 3, 1996

AS the surprise over Binyainin Netanyahu's electoral
victory wears off, a look at its implications is in
order. For it may well turn out that the change of
governments in Israel, far from spelling the end of the
peace predicted by so many Cassandras, will provide the
impulse for its revitalisation.

My friend of three decades, Shimon Peres, will be
credited by history with imagination and dedication in
bringing peace within sight. But when, through no fault
of his, the peace process was accompanied by a decline
in the personal safety of individual Israelis, domestic
support evaporated.

In adapting to the new Israeli reality, two extremes must
be avoided. Like most modern political campaigners,
Netanyahu has made promises more indicative of the mood
of his target audience than of an achievable programme.
At the same time, Netanyahu's opponents-or baffled
friends, like the US administration-must not chase the
illusion that after a decent interval Netanyahu will
resurrect the precise framework against which he

Netanyahu is too veteran a politician not to be wary of
repeating the fate of US President George Bush or
Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, both of whom
suffered an electoral debacle after abandoning dramatic
campaign promises. Moreover, for better or worse,
Netanyahu's programme was backed by more than 55 per
of Israel's Jews. Thus it marked not simply an episode
but a call for a change in the definition of peace.
Peace will require some painful territorial adjustments
from Israel. But peace will be meaningless to Israelis
if diplomatic normalisation is its sole quid pro quo;
to be supported by the Israeli people, it must bring
above all a significant improvement in their personal

The prevailing gap between the Israelis expectations and
their experience is the result of the way the peace
process evolved. When Israel was established in 1948 on
the basis of a UN plan to partition Palestine, its Arab
neighbours invaded the tiny infant state. Israel won the
war and nearly doubled its territory in the process.
The fighting was ended gnised pariah state among
neighbours refusing to have any dealings with it while
trying to throttle it with economic boycotts.

Peace feelers took place with Egyptian Premier Gamal
Abdel Nasser in 1954-55 under British aegis. Nasser
demanded an Israeli withdrawal to the 1948 borders and
the return of all Palestinian refugees. Egypt's quid pro
quo (Nasser was vague about it) was recognition of the
Jewish state. Israel was being asked to give up half of
its territory and risk being swamped by returning
refugees in return for recognition of its existence-which
is where diplomacy begins rather than ends for every
other nation.

The pattern has continued ever since. After a war in 1967
(caused by Nasser's blockade of the Strait of Tiran and
his demand for the removal of UN forces separating
Egyptian and Israeli armies), Israel once again doubled
its territory, acquiring the Sinai, the West Bank and the
Golan Heights. Gradually the Arab position evolved into a
readiness to make peace on the basis of the '67 frontiers
which, totally rejected before the lost war, were
suddenly declared sacrosanct. The quid pro quo offered in
return remained one~sided: assurances of normalisation,
which the recent Arab summit declared to be revocable, in

exchange for territorial retreat.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat broke the resulting
deadlock when he visited Jerusalem in 1 9 7 7,
demonstrating the truth of his oft-repeated proposition
that the challenge of peace was largely psychological.
For it transpired that Israel was prepared to pay quite
a high price for the intangibles of recognition and
diplomatic normalisation until it learned that these did
not necessarily increase the security of the average
Israeli. This incommensurability was obscured in the
Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, which demilitarised the
Sinai, created a 200-mile buffer zone between the
Egyptian and Israeli armed forces and thereby achieved a
concrete gain in Israeli military security. Similarly,
the peace agreement with Jordan in 1994 was based on a
common interest in preventing the Palestinian entity
becoming strong enough to threaten Israel or Jordan, or

But when the negotiation moved to the West Bank and the
Golan Heights, it proved far from easy to reconcile
recognition with progress on security. On the West Bank,
Arabs and Israelis were condemned to coexistence, but
there was simply not enough space for a buffer zone. And
on the Golan Heights there was not even a psychological
quid pro quo. That Syria harbored the headquarters of
guerrilla groups in both Syria and in Lebanon turned the
vision of Israeli doves-that Syria and Israel might live
side by side like Holland and Belgium into a mirage.

When the peace process became the backdrop for growing
terrorism, the Israeli domestic consensus broke down. Two
increasingly influential groups began to question the
underlying strategy.

The generation of Peres had created the state, sustained
its pariah existence for a generation, armed the country,
fought four wars and started the peace process. For them,
recognition was the near miraculous fulfilment of a
distant dream. Having overcome so much, they could
believe that a final reconciliation with Syria and the
Palestinians was just an act of faith away.

But the younger Israeli generation and recent immigrants
from Russia (by now numbering more than 15 per cent of
the total population) consider Israel's existence to be a
given. In return for Israeli concessions, they demand
concrete benefits, not promissory notes.

Israel's inability to crush the intifada left it with
four options: ethnic cleansing; an apartheid state;
incorporating the Arab population into the Jewish state;
or some form of agreed separation of the two communities
in other words, creating a Palestinian entity. Ethnic

cleansing and apartheid were incompatible with Israel's
moral convictions and political necessities. Israel could
not survive the moral isolation from its principal ally,
the United States, and other democratic states. Nor was
it prepared to incorporate all the Arabs of the West
Bank into Israel (assuming they would accept such an
outcome, which is more than doubtful), for that would
end the Jewish character of the state. In this manner, a
negotiated coexistence between the Israeli and Arab
populations of Palestine emerged as the only solution.
This was the reason for a poignant comment by Rabin to
the Australian foreign minister who had called him a
convert to the peace process: "I am committed, not

Similarly, Arafat arrived at the negotiating table only
after it became clear that he had no military option
left. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had cut of
the military supply line: in the aftermath of the Gulf
War, Saudi Arabia ended financial support; and Kuwait
expelled all Palestinians. When I met Arafat I asked
him why the Israelis should trust him. "Because the
Saudis have cut us off," he replied, "'the Jordanians
are trying to weaken us, and the Syrians are seeking to
dominate us. "

It is too late to evade the implications of a process
that began with Israeli leader Menachem Begin's offer of
autonomy for the West Bank in 1978 and has continued
through the Oslo agreement of 1993. Sooner or later,
self-government for the West Bank will acquire the
attributes of statehood. Whatever the formal legal
status of the Palestinian entity, the rest of the world
will treat it as if it were sovereign. The security
aspects of the entity are a vital subject for
negotiation; nor should it he permitted to turn into a
centre for undermining its neighbours. But a Palestinian
entity will emerge unless the peace process is ended
altogether, with the consequences that would entail.

For their part, the Arab negotiators must not play games
with the normalisation of relations with Israel that has
already been achieved; they need to take account of the
concern of the Israeli people for personal security and
not only strategic security. Too many terrorist groups
find sympathy and support in Arab countries. Even
moderate leaders seem reluctant to take measures to
reduce assaults on the Israelis' personal security for
fear of being accused of neglecting the Arab national

Stamping out terrorist groups altogether may well be
beyond the capacity of even the most well-disposed Arab
leader. It is reasonable for Israel to ask for a more
serious effort, including removing the headquarters of
guerrilla organisations from nearby Arab capitals and
withholding financial support from them.

The slogan'land for peace'should be modified to 'land for
personal security.' Palestinian negotiations should
complete the separation of the two societies on the West
bank, setting aside the issues of Jerusalem and statehood
for later.

With respect to Syria, it missed an opportunity for a
settlement when Israel's negotiators were eager to

conclude it. Syrian President Hafez el Assad's desire to
improve on the outcomes achieved by Egypt and Jordan
caused him to overstate his demands and blinded him to
the psychological intangibles of the Syrian Israeli
negotiation. In the present situation in Israel, it would
require a humiliating reversal for the new Israeli
Cabinet to resume Syrian negotiations where they were
left off.

A new framework needs to be created, perhaps focusing at
first on Lebanon-for example, an exchange in which Syria
removed the Hezbollah guerrilla bases in the Bekka Valley
for Israel's abolishing its security zone in Southern
Lebanon. This would provide a test case for the
possibility of the ultimate arrangements on the Golan
Heights, which must also include an end of Syrian
toleration of guerrilla groups based in its capital. In
such a context, the shock provided by the Israeli
elections may turn out to have moved the Middle East
toward a long-term and sustainable, agreement.

-Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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