«Jewish Observer»
May 2002
5762 Sivan

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Having started a full-scale military operation on the territory of Palestinian Autonomy, Israel has practically put an end to a short-term history of an agonizing over several years peace process in the region. Today we should again ask ourselves a question whether the process whose architects - Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yassir Arafat - were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was a real road to achieving an agreement between Jews and Arabs. Or did it logically lead to another deadlock, which resulted in the escalation of terror on the part of Palestinians and a firm anti - terrorist rebuff on that of Israel? In effect, over all these years the sides have had totally different approaches to the future. Israelis saw the reality in two categories - security and economic reasonability. The peace process itself became possible namely because the majority of Israelis were gradually changing their psychology of a besieged fortress that conditioned survival of the Jewish state in the fierce confrontation against the Arab world and the Soviet Union backing Arabs. It would seem security could be ensured not through control over territories populated by Palestinians and used by PLO as a base for terrorist activity, but through an agreement with the Arab world and PLO. This agreement, in its turn, would deliver the Israeli society from the phantom of constant wars and terrorism and render the country an economic and tourist leader of the Near East. As we see, there is little ideology in these considerations. It is not by chance that authors of research works on the Near East write more and more about the death of Zionism namely during the period of peace process... An ideological component was a key one in the tactics of relations between the Palestinian administration (it represents a numerous detachment of emigrants who arrived in Palestine together with Arafat) and local population. In the example with an Israeli society we deal with an elite existing for over fifty years under the circumstances of a society though at a war and incredibly socialized, but democratic. Whereas in the example with Palestinians we deal with a new elite which has received an unprecedented opportunity to get richer pumping money out of currents of financial aid to Autonomy and exists under a totalitarian regime free of any control by the society.

But, as in any other country where a corrupt elite accumulates all funds directed at economical development, it should explain to the society why this development is marking time. Preference has gone to an ideological explanation: until Palestinians are given an opportunity to create a normal state with Jerusalem as a capital, they should think not about economy but about a struggle for creating such state. The most active in the society- radical militarized and Islamic organizations - ware cajoled with generous financial infusions meant for their terrorist activity, their chiefs became participants in redistribution of resources.

In such a way for a certain period of time two societies existed within a reach from each other. One society was preoccupied with the development of high technologies and tourism, the other was doing its utmost to purchase arms, manufacture explosives and steal whatever possible. A reader on the post-Soviet expanse knows well that in the countries where leadership is corrupt all sober members of the society wouldn't deny an opportunity to steal something...

For some time there was an impression that this situation would not last long, that after decades of life under economic collapse and ideological brainwashing the process of development of a new elite and recovery of the Palestinian society could not be other. It seemed Arafat would secure stability and, sooner or later, other people would succeed him, their consciousness would be more up-to-date in comparison with that of a present Palestinian elite. Everybody was afraid to notice that nobody was going to recover, that Palestinians aspired only to snatch out concessions from Israel which would help them in future to wipe Israel out of the political map of the world (the demand to return refugees to Israel is namely such concession). Nobody was eager to assume that Arafat's successors might become even more radical than Arafat himself (because the leader of Palestinian Autonomy, as any other dictator, over years had indulged in removing everything sober-minded from his environment, and not seldom with the help of Israeli secret services). That would mean to render the peace process groundless. But neither West nor Israel could decide on that.

Another illusion - a past-September 11 one- was that Palestinians would get frightened to be identified with world terrorism, stop their terror and agree to renew peace process. The illusion turned out only partly true: a couple of months later new explosions in Israeli towns proved Palestinians were not scared at all.

A further road lead to the war. But what happened to the opposing parties during these months? They exchanged roles. An ideological component resurrected in Israel as a natural reaction to the atmosphere of total insecurity. Zionism revived, there was no other alternative.

But this is already another Zionism. When Xavier Solana says Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat should leave the political arena giving way to a new generation he, like most of Europeans, considers political leaders, whose names are associated with the confrontation, should be replaced. But does Solana ask himself who will ultimately succeed Sharon or Peres- these proponents of "classical Zionism" who still remember the mother country of their parents or their own motherland? Does he understand that a new Israeli leadership will not represent global Jewish interests, but will simply head a small Near East country threatened to be wiped out by its neighbors? These leaders are unlikely to give a proper thought to the influence of their actions on repatriation or future of European and American Jews. The words "Poland" or "Russia" would mean for Sharon's descendants as little as for Arafat's successors. Thus, today we deal with "inner Zionism" -not Zionism of Renaissance of Jewry, but Zionism of survival of Israelis.

As for Palestinians... Despite all slogans proclaimed by Arafat and his entourage, ordinary residents of Gaza Strip and western bank of the Jordan river are worried not by the opposition to Israel, but by their own survival in the fire of hostilities on the streets of their own towns. In effect, this is also an "economic" interest which, of course, cannot be compared with an economic interest of the inhabitants of medieval Europe in the epoque of wars on the old continent: the crucial thing was not to gain a victory but to survive and preserve one's property. That's why the Palestinian administration - or PLO leadership, if the structures of Autonomy are completely destroyed during military actions - will soon have to change fartics considering new peaceful talks as an opportunity for survival of its own population and preservation of its elite's property. The logic of this crisis is such that Palestinians - Arafat or his successors - can reach a real peaceful agreement only with a strong in their own eyes Israel. They will not hold any peaceful talks with a weak one considering them senseless and unattainable.

"World discussions", Ukraine

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